Q&A with Christian Bland of the Black Angels

Categories: Interviews

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Christian Bland, guitarist and occasional vocalist for the Black Angels -- Austin, TX's leading psych-rock band -- knows his evil '60s rock. From the Velvet Underground to Syd Barrett to the 13th Floor Elevators, Bland and his bandmates dig the slow-churning, drone-filled jams that highlighted the darkside of the decade that brought us free love and the Monkees. Excerpts of our recent conversation with Bland, in which he discussed the band's influences and the group's upcoming tour with Elevators legend Roky Erickson, appear in our October 16 issue. Here's the transcript from that exchange in its entirity.

Westword (Adam Perry): The vision behind Directions to See a Ghost seems very cohesive and premeditated, with short, explicit meanings behind each song listed in the liner notes. What inspired the album's theme and how you'd sum up that theme?

Christian Bland: The 13th Floor Elevators song 'Roller Coaster' was the inspiration. These lyrics sum up our sole intention as a band:

"After you trip life opens up,
You start doing what you want to do
And you find out that the world that you once feared,
Gets what it has from you
No one can ever hurt you
But you know more than you thought you knew
And you're looking at the world
With brand new eyes,
And no one can ever spoil the view

Come on, and let it happen to you
Hey, hey, hey come on, and let it happen to you
You gotta open up your mind
And let everything come through

Open up your mind,
Let everything come through"

WW: What caused the desire to have the band members switch instruments several times during each live show? Does it take away from a singular experience or actually make you more present and excited?

CB: Switching instruments keeps things fresh and interesting for us. None of us are technically trained in any instrument, so we just make up our own way of playing. It keeps things more creative.

WW: What bands have you seen live that really affected and inspired the way you guys perform?

CB: Seeing the Warlocks open for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in 2003 in Austin was the seed that got the Black Angels started. I was going to school for advertising at UT at the time, and after the show, Alex and I knew we wanted to start a band. The Warlocks had eight members at the time, with two drummers, and they created the most amazing wall of sound. Another band that inspired us was seeing Psychic Ills at SXSW in 2005. It was like they had dropped in from 2525. They were tribal and spooky.

WW: Can you talk about how your writing and recording processes have evolved since your first studio recordings?

CB: Passover was mainly written by Alex and I. Directions to See a Ghost was more collaborative. The songs came from live jams during practice that we worked out as an entire group. The third album will be a blend between Passover and Directions. Some of the songs will be created by individuals and some will be group efforts.

WW: How do you feel about touring with (The 13th Floor Elevators frontman) Roky Erickson? Will there be live collaborations?

CB: Touring with Roky will be surreal. I've been listening to the Elevators since I was a kid, and now we get to play with the voice of the 13th Floor! It's like a dream. We'll be opening for him and then we'll be his backing band as well. We've been practicing with him for the past month. We're working in more 13th floor Elevators songs into the set, with electric jug and all.

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