Take Aim: Everest's Elijah Thomson vs. Amy Sciarretto
Mon, 25 Jun 2012 14:35:26
Everest bassist and vocalist Elijah Thomson was the latest willing victim of a Take Aim sesh with Amy Sciarretto. The band's latest, Ownerless, is out now. Thomson spoke about desiring the affection of a sugar mama, the title track, blown amps, playing with Neil Young and Wilco at MSG in NYC and more. Don't you want to be said sugar ma?
Do you have any non-music hobbies or skills or talents?
Of course, I think everyone in the band has non-musical hobbies and skills. Russell enjoys the hobby of organic gardening. Jason is a chronic eBay-er. Joel likes surfing and has recently taken up sailing. Joel and I are both avid followers of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball franchise. Roller Skating is universally enjoyed, though rarely practiced, unfortunately.
If you were not doing music, you would be...?
I would probably be the contented husband of a sugar mama, while working out my writing career. If not that, then perhaps I would get into submarine archaeology. I mean, if you think about it, the ocean floor is the forgotten final frontier. And if those flood myths from the ancients (like the Epic of Gilgamesh, Atlantis, Noah, what have you…) have any basis in true history, that means some of the greatest archeological discoveries of the future will be underwater. Yours truly would be ahead of the curve. But for now… music will suffice.
Pick one song on Ownerless and give us the inside scoop, be it a writing or recording story. Something intimate we could not know simply from hearing it, something you have to tell us.
Well, the title song "Ownerless" actually has a good story behind it. This album was essentially recorded in two phases, with some interactivity between the two. The first phase was a group of sessions with our old friend Richard Swift in a little town called Cottage Grove, Oregon. These sessions were primarily recorded live with the whole band set-up in one big room, and we recorded directly to Wilco's old Studer A80 (which was in the same room) 16-track tape machine. Not a computer in sight. (Mind you, we didn't steal this idea from Dave Grohl. A lot of people have been doing this all along.)
One night as an experiment, we decided to put the tape machine in red and let it roll at 15 inches per second (giving us 30 minutes of recording time). And then for 30 minutes we tried to create some spontaneously conjured musical landscapes. Some might call it a "Space Jam." Clearly, this was not a decision made sober-mindedly.
What's interesting about this type of improvisation over 30 minutes is that the ego of the musician goes through several shifts. At the beginning of the jam, everyone is trying to impress everybody else, playing their hottest licks. But after about 10 minutes everyone's run out of riffs and settles into a type of unconscious state. Everybody can feel it. Inside you're thinking, "damn, this sounds pretty cool" and you're just trying to maintain the sweet-spot for as long as you can until inevitably everything falls apart. Long story longer, we took the sweet spot egoless unconscious part of that Space jam, and turned it into a song.
Interestingly enough, quite a few people have commented on that song as being different from the rest on the record, but in a profound way. At this point I'm wondering if there's more something to all of that spontaneity, and its effects in some universal sense… I don't know, I'm still trying to figure it out…
Neil Young inviting you on tour is a big deal. How much did that blow your mind?
I would equate it to the entirety of the U.S. nuclear arsenal going off at the same time.
Most memorable tour story of your life so far?
Well, I have to cancel out the best ones for fear of self-incrimination… but wow, how could I possibly choose? My whole life? That's a lot of tour stories… Here's a good one: Playing with Neil Young and Wilco at Madison Square Garden on a two night end-of-tour extravaganza. Crazy amazing to have played in a building we've seen since we were kids watching Led Zeppelin in Song Remains the Same. Not to mention getting to play before 2 legendary artists (Neil and Wilco) in our minds. So, in the middle of our set, just as some members of Wilco are about to join us on stage for a song, my amp blows the transformer… As you can imagine, my heart sunk and I started to panic inside... OH MY GOD, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW! So the show was miserable for me, and I was walking around sulking for most of the rest of the night… nobody even noticed, of course.
However, restoring my sour mood, all the members of Everest, along with all of the Wilco guys, rushed the stage during Neil Young's set and sang background vocals on "Keep On Rockin' In the Free World" in front of 22,000 screaming New Yorkers. Nels Cline was to my right… tears streaming down his face for the privilege to be sharing the stage with Neil. To my left was Neil's wife Pegi Young, who was ecstatic to have us joining her on the platform… smiling and hugging and kissing us. Then we did the final bow with Neil. Wowzers.
Are you Ownerless?
Photo: Zoran Orlic