Deep dives are one of the great things about new music. Particularly when collaborations are concerned.
As we get older, some people become set in their ways and close off from new music. Whatever works for the individual of course, however to me music is endless, therefore it’s vital to keep going down those rabbit holes and explore the potential of a piece of new music that can be defining.
And so we come to Newcastle’s Mike Vest. One of the many artists causing tremors in the underground music landscape, Vest has spent years collaborating with some of the most notorious purveyors in this space.
Vest has played in bands in the past with Russell Smith, Gordon Watson from Terminal Cheesecake and ’90s Skullflower to Adam Richardson, and Mark Greening from Ramesses and Electric Wizard. And now with Junzo Suzuki, Aoki Tomoyuki from Uptight and Mitsuru Tabata from Zena Geva, Acid Mothers Temple and Leningrad Blues Machine.
2022 has been big for Vest, but I get the impression every year is. An artist constantly in the creative capsule, Vest first came to our attention via his collaboration with Empty House’s Fred Laird as Artifacts & Uranium, who earlier this year released their second album, Panscosmology via Echodelick Records / Weird Beard Records. With laser beam drones and a wild cacophony inspired by The Stooges, this was the gateway into the constant evolving world Vest has created.
Following on was Neutraliser (Echodelick Records), the collaboration with volume worshiper Charlie Butler, which sees the pair marching the fuzz for jams that make a road trip complete. Windows down, volume up.
And speaking of fuzz, Vest stretches it out in protracted ways during the excellent collaboration alongside Suzuki and David Sneddon as Mienakunaru, who released Starto Areology (Riot Season and Echodelick Records).
In and around the aforementioned 2022 releases, Vest has continued his march towards hellish frontiers, namely with his other projects, LushWorker, releasing a split alongside José María Málaga’s Forellia16 (Echodelick Records) – an amalgamation of noise and meditative jams inspired by black pits – and Zodan, Vest’s take on drone psych madness in the way Absolute (also via Echodelick Records).
Recently we caught up with Vest who answered some our questions about his creative endeavours, what it means to collaborate, and what the future holds.
Sun 13: Have your influences changed over the years?
Mike Vest: “I absorbed and researched music way deeper when I was younger. Around the age of 15-27, everything was about records. I spent years and years just surrounded by records and people who were also surrounded by records. Specifically when I was 20-21, I was exposed to a whole new world of lo-fi experimental CDR culture, as well as Japanese Noise Samplers, HighRise, Up-Tight, Swedish, German & Turkish psych, broken flag, Total and Majora Records, Ramleh, Skullflower, Crawlspace, Sun City Girls, Terminal Cheesecake, Nurse With Wound, Mars NY NoWave, Vibra-Cathedral Orchestra, Jazzfinger, Astray Navigations, just to name a few.
“I’ve always played in bands that have elements of improvisation and experimentation on a landscape of punk, noise, drone and or psych rock. I’m more influenced by who I’m working with at the time. When mixing albums, I don’t try to make it sound like anything in particular. More just like a stream of consciousness approach. It’s hard to talk about what influences, I guess it just becomes part of your being, whatever music has resonated in the past, will just stay in your sub consciousness. Almost like auto-pilot.”
S13: You collaborated with Charlie Butler this year for the Neutraliser release. How did you guys meet and begin working together?
MV: “[I] met Charlie in Reading a few years back when was touring with 11Paranoias, [it] was when Asterismal was out. First time I had played there, BONG played there a year later. Charlie was the promoter. Great drummer, saw Head Drop. Really liked his tapes and his approach to home recording. [It] was a perfect fit.
“We have just finished our next tape called Capsule Bowed Space coming out on Cruel Nature Records (UK) and Echodelick and WeAreHere & Now Records in the US and Canada. Should be out early next year.”
S13: You also release music with Fred Laird as Artifacts & Uranium. Pancosmology is probably my favourite release of yours this year. How did your paths cross?
MV: “I had already recorded a few albums/LPs remotely, [a] couple of years before the pandemic. Even before that, I would record my guitars at home, then send my guitars on to be mixed. 11Paranoias’ Asterismal and Melting Hand’s FacesOf Earth were recorded this way this was back in 2017-2018.
“So…. just before the pandemic, I got in touch with various artists/friends, Junzo Suzuki, Sned, Charlie Butler, Fred Laird and then Mitsuru Tabata and Aoki Tomoyuki. And then started piecing together albums remotely.
“Naturally, they all have different styles and techniques and have their own style/sound, but their ability to record and produce music independently, solo projects, run their own music pages etc. makes things a lot easier. I find its best to collaborate with other musicians that are generally prolific.
“Fred Laird, had a new project called Empty House at the time. Fred is a great multi-instrumentalist and mixer. [I] just thought it would be a good collaboration, more of a prog vibe. He is great at creating space within tracks and his instrumentation is always vary varied and interesting. [I] always liked his Earthling Society and Taras Bulba albums. He has a new Empty House album out now digitally The Rituals Of Romance tapes coming soon I think. But the digital has been up for a while now.
“Our debut and Panscosmology were all mixed really quickly. Our third LP, The Gateless Gate comes out on Riot Season/Echodelick Records next year, [and] you can still pick up a copy Panscosomology from Echodelick and Weird Beard Records.”
S13: Then there’s Mienakunaru…
MV: “A lot of these collaborations were pretty natural and organic. With Mienakunaru, we did three LPs during the pandemic, I think. [I] sent drums and bass tracks to Junzo and he would overdub. Strato Areology, our third album, came out in August on Riot Season and Echodelick Records.
“Sadly, in February Junzo had a major accident and suffered from cerebral and subarachnoid haemorrhage. He went into rehabilitation. During this time I was in contact with Mitsuru Tabata, sending him all the digitals of all the Mienakunaru albums, I had also remixed a couple as he was setting up a Bandcamp page for Junzo and he was helping Junzo to sell his cut from the press. Junzo also introduced me to Aoki Tomoyuki, so in January I was in touch [with him] about working on something together.
“Rewind/back story – I got in touch with Dave Sneddon right before the pandemic, great drummer and he had moved back to Newcastle a while back. [I] got in touch about doing a band. We started Mienakunaru with Junzo. Sned is great at editing and looping drums, he also runs a publishing house called Amorphous Pieces, [and] puts out books on punk rock, outsider art, fanzines. Sned is a perfect fit for all these new projects, he understands improvisation and has a vast knowledge of punk rock and music generally. He is open to all ideas and works hard at what he does. Much respect.
“Generally, I don’t like recording and mixing in studios with engineers. However, recording and engineering drums independently is a headache. So Sned and I, would go in to 1st Avenue Studios in Newcastle and record isolated drums and bass for a couple of hours. All improvised and chilled out. Then I would take all the stems from the session, mix them at home. Remove guide bass tracks and then start to record to the drum tracks. Thanks to Dave Curle for letting us just go in for a couple of hours. Many studios wouldn’t be cool with this ‘drop in’ approach.
“Then the Tomoyuki Trio project was born. Our debut MARS is fully mixed now, I’ve just finished the artwork and layout. Tomoyuki’s guitars are so so good. It’s a great album and privilege to make music with someone who has inspired me over the years. I discovered Up-Tight when I was way younger. The Beginning Of The End is a great album.
“Whilst being in contact with Mitsuru, we thought it would be cool to also do some music together. Same method applied, go in to 1st Avenue studio and record some drums. Record some bass lines at home studio. [I] sent the tracks to Mitsuru, before I knew it, our first album was fully mixed in a couple of weeks. Modoki was born. Atom Sphere our debut LP comes out on Riot Season Records and Echodelick Records next year. I’ve also just finished our second album, Luna To Phobos.
S13: What would you consider your key ideas behind the approach to producing music?
MV: “Anything goes, everything generally gets included in the final mix. [There’s] not much point in collaborating with someone to then tell them what to play, [it] doesn’t make sense. I respect the other members visions and ideas. I normally handle all the mixing, but Artifacts & Uranium is mixed by Fred, as he is better at mixing than I.
“It’s great to see albums form over time. Hearing what the other members contribute. Sometimes it may take a while to process, a track I may dislike or think it could be better, after adding more to it, sometimes it becomes a gateway to the entire new album or a recurring theme. You never know.”
S13: Because you’re working on so much, is it a case of finishing one thing before moving onto the next thing, or do you revel in the chaos and jump between projects?
MV: “It depends, generally I will have a few things on the go at once. Sometimes methods that can’t be used on one project can be used on another. It all flows together sometimes. It just depends on when I get overdubs.
“Once I get tracks coming in, I just work on it accordingly. Some things come together scary fast and other times the mixing can be tricky and take longer. To be honest, I do prefer the chaos of making art, whether its mixing, recording or painting. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t run my own label. I don’t like admin.”
S13: What about daily routine when you’re in the creative process. Do you have any?
MV: “Yeah, I think the key is to do something creative every day. I try not to do long sessions of mixing, I’ll mix/record for a couple of hours, then go do something else. Rest my ears and brain. So instead of having a studio, I have a setup in my ‘dining area’ which has a patio. So I can look out onto my plants and vegetables growing in the yard rather than a walls of a small room. The living room flows into the dining room and then the kitchen to the side, so it’s just one large room. If you have stuff setup near you, it’s easier to be proactive I think.
“So my dining area is kind of like an minimal ‘office’ and studio, but you would never know if you were sat there. Very minimal setup.
“I don’t really have a routine as it’s so ingrained in my life. It just becomes part of one of the things you do in your days. Once it becomes an effort to get working on something, maybe you need to change your surroundings or fellow ‘collaborators’.”
S13: I’d imagine there are a swathe of new releases in the offing for 2023?
MK: “As I very rarely get any coverage, I’ll list what I have out now:
Mienakunru – Starto Areology LP is out now on Riot Season and Echodelick Records.
Artifacts & Uranium – Panscosmology LP is out now on Echodelick Records and Weird Beard Records.
I think Echodelick still have copies of our debut, too.
Neutraliser (w/Charlie Butler) tape is available from Echodelick Records.
LushWorker split LP with Forellia16 is available from Echodelick Records.
Zodan – Absolute tape out on Echodelick Records.
Due in 2023:
Modoki: trio featuring Mitsuru Tabata & Sned Atom Sphere LP (Riot Season Records (UK) Echodelick Records (USA))
Neutraliser: Capsule Bowed Space tape via Cruel Nature Records (UK), Echodelick Records (USA), WeAreHere&Now (CA).
Artifacts & Uranium The Gateless Gate LP – Riot Season Records (UK), Echodelick Records (USA).
Downtime: Neurotics tape – Cruel Nature Records (UK), Echodelick Records (USA), WeAreHere&Now (CA).
Tomoyuki Trio: Featuring Tomoyuki Aoki and Sned Mars LP
Modoki: Luna To Phobos LP.”
Also visit David Sneddon’s publishing house, Amorphousepieces here.