(Today, Comrade Aleks brings us his interview of Chris Sigdell of the Swiss band Phased.)
Phased is a heavy psychedelic doom band from Basel, Switzerland. This project was founded in 1997 as its creators were influenced by achievements of scientists in the sphere of deep space exploration, researchers of parallel universes, and slow doom stuff as well. They never make haste, they always use their time well, and so Aeon (Czar of Bullets, 2015) was released in November 2015, six years after their previous album A Sort Of Spasmic Phlegm Induced By Leaden Fumes Of Pleasure had seen the light of day.
Will we wait for the next album so long? Chris Sigdell, Phased’s mastermind, knows the answer. But will he give this information? Let’s try!
Hi Chris! How are you? What is Phased’s current state?
Hello. I am fine, thank you! Well, what can I say? Phased is a quartet since last December, and the band is alive and well. We played two shows with Farflung this month and will play Rock Altitude festival in August — together with Neurosis and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
A quartet? Really? Whom did you lose on the fields of doom? Doesn’t this loss stop the band’s activity?
We changed bass-players for a while and then we got our current bass-player Harald, and he brought along Flo, the second guitarist, so no loss really, more an enrichment! But you’re right, the many changes with the bass kept the creativity on hold.
Your latest album Aeon was released one year ago. Did you get enough inspiration since then for the next release?
There seems to be no lack of inspiration, it’s more a matter of collecting, arranging, and editing all those ideas. We have begun with a first new song and more will follow, so yeah, I’d say we’re back on track and will be ready for a next release some day. But you know how it is, time passes… and all of a sudden it’s another year gone by.
Do you have some artistic dreams you want to fulfil in the next record? Do you have a vision for the future development of Phased?
It’s hard to say what the others’ visions might be… as for myself — more spaced-out tunes and general weirdness. Maybe record some pure jams? As we usually don’t get to play longer than 45 minutes, it would be artistic suicide, but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to create really long songs, some droning mantras instead of the standard song-formula…
Aeon received praise and high ratings. Do you feel that Phased is a demanded band?
I don’t know about us being in demand. It sure would be nice, but no, we do not sell out venues and it’s not like bookers keep knocking our doors down either.
But how do you solve promotional and organizing questions? Don’t you have a booking agency behind you or maybe some help from the label?
We do have a booking agency since January, but they are not doing very much I must say. It’s all down to ourselves doing the organizing, which is and always has been very exhausting. It’s not what any of us exactly wants to do, you know. We want to play music. The label we’re on, Czar Of Bullets, has been doing a great job promoting our album. They sent out promos to many magazines, we got interviews and articles, but unless there is a sudden hype, I don’t see how it’s going to affect sales really. We need to establish a cult, ha!
You recorded the albums regularly, but there was a six years’ long break between A Sort of Spasmic Phlegm Induced by Leaden Fumes of Pleasure (2009) and Aeon (2015). What did you do all this time?
Hibernate? OK, no, we went through a number of bass-players and that slowed down the whole process more than usual.
What were your methods of working out this right sound that you have on Aeon?
Duh, I couldn’t say really. A lot of it has to do with giving Richard (Whittaker) free hands and letting him feel what our sound is all about. We just let him mix the album with as little input from our side as possible.
Phased was started with noise / stoner music, and now you follow doom, psychedelic, and space rock directions. How did Phased’s sound evolve from album to album? What influenced this?
It just felt natural to go this way. We didn’t exactly get bored or make a conscious decision, it just slowed down and got more drawn out on its own. The spacey elements have always been there. Maybe not so prominent, at least on record, but surely when we were playing live. Richard just brought it more to the front, and that is very good.
Phased – Seed of Misery
As you’ve said, there were a few changes in Phased’s lineup. Did that influence the songwriting process?
Not really. I don’t think so. Maybe it did keep us from developing faster material and going with the slower stuff? It’s hard to say.
How did you compose Aeon’s material? Do you have a man who is responsible for doom metal and another who’s responsible for the space rock elements? How do you share duties among each other?
Some of the material for Aeon, we already had, and they had had time to evolve naturally, while others we took from more or less finished demos we’d done. We didn’t have time to work on riffs and vague ideas, and so the writing process was a more conscious effort than on previous albums. Generally though, no one is directly responsible for a special element. We do influence each other all the time anyway, since we’re into a variety of different musical styles.
The band makes the impression of a sci-fi outfit. How does this topic reflect itself in your lyrics? What do you prefer to sing about?
That’s nice to hear. I am a fan of sci-fi since childhood. But it does not reflect much in the lyrics I’m afraid. Lyrically I tend to gravitate towards abstract word playing and humorous twists instead. They are more on the murky side than of the fantasy kind. The sci-fi impressions may be found in our music, as that is where we want to take the listener — but the lyrics are more down-to-earth observations on human life and its absurdity. I actually did write some sci-fi themed lyrics, but I found them to be too much Hawkwind and too little Phased and so they remain shelved.
Why don’t you use these sci-fi influences in your songs? It would suit the music perfectly and it is something rare amongst doom bands. By the way, from where does this kind of inspiration come — from books or movies?
As I said, it’s there… in the music, but I can’t see myself singing about spaceships and alien encounters. It’s rather childish. I prefer the serious topics, ha ha ha.
We’re into good sci-fi movies, sure, and I do read many sci-fi books as well, but the spacey sound, it has more to do with the so-called “drug” experience, trying to make the music be a trip. It’s not like we smoke tons of weed and throw a lot of acid, far from it, we just want to get high on music. Space off in the universe of sound!
Phased – (Return of the) Son of the Sun
Phased have a few curious song titles. For example, there’s the track “Nachspiel in Oslo” on the Schtomp… and Decadence album. What is it about?
I used to have friends in Oslo and go there sometimes. The main riff came to me while on a train-ride from Gothenburg to Oslo during the winter. The title is a pun on the local party culture. Before going out they begin with a “Vorspiel” and have some drinks at someone’s home, then they go out — and after that there will be a “Nachspiel”, where drinking is presumed. The lyrics, incidentally, are about a certain woman, a kind of party gone wrong. It spins the sordid tale of a man sobering up until you realize he is ready to explode.
Music for Gentlemen has such cool titles as “Alien Think Tank” and “Illiterate Snob”. What did you put into these names and into the name of the album?
With Music For Gentlemen we just wanted to play with the scene’s expectations and limitations and play with its clichés. The original idea ran Music For Gentlemen And Assorted Ladies, but the shorter version is more fun as a pun. “Alien Think Tank” is just a word play and “Illiterate Snob” is the tale of a man who pretends to be literate in order to get laid, a literal, illiterate snob!
I have the same question about the Medications album and its song “Sausage Tricks” What will you say?
It’s just the wicked sense of humor at play again. I wouldn’t be able to tell you what a sausage trick is. It’s just a play with words, the whole song, trying to avoid the usual cliché and approach obvious themes in a more subtle way. It is my very own shtick.
And the last one… It’s about “The Osteopath” song from A Sort of Spasmic Phlegm Induced by Leaden Fumes of Pleasure. Do you have some problems with your spine?
No, fortunately not. It came to me while sitting in the back seat of drummer Marko’s car. All of a sudden there were these lines: “I was born on a crowded freeway, mother at the wheel…”, about this infant that is born while its mother actually drives the car! It comes out feet forward and hurts its little hand, and so, as a grown man he becomes an osteopath — just a weird little story out of the blue.
Which period in Phased’s life would you mention as the most active one?
Hmmm, I don’t know. What does active mean? Playing much live? That’s on and off, even if we try our best in getting shows. There was a time in the beginning where we would practice twice a week, and though that was very creative, it wasn’t necessarily an active time — we didn’t get to play live very often. Active to me can be when we’re in the studio, or when we’re working out new songs, or when we are on stage, those are the most exciting times.
What is the most comfortable way or schedule for you to work with the band, to compose, to play gigs?
I don’t really know what to answer. I’m not really sure I understand what you want to know? Making music should not be comfortable. It should be a thrill, sure, but if we got comfortable, we might as well stop. And a schedule… we just take it as it comes, follow the muse.
I guess that the Swiss doom scene is a small one — you, Pylon, maybe SheVer… How often do you play gigs in your region?
It’s funny but we actually played here quite often this year! We hadn’t played in Basel for about two years, and all of a sudden here we are playing four times in half a year… but I’d say this is pure coincidence. Yes, the scene is very small, and it is not normal to play the same city this often.
Chris, you have been involved in different musical projects since 1987. How do you keep this high tempo of composing and performing your music?
By being driven? Maybe I’m a monomaniac to a certain degree, who knows? I’d say I just like to be creative. Before I focused on playing music, it was drawing and painting I was at, non-stop.
Chris, I would like to thank you for your time and wish you all the best with finishing a new Phased record. So… okay… how would you sum up Phased’s general message?
Thank you Aleks, you’re welcome. It was a pleasure.
Our final message is that there is no message! There is no meaning! The reality we see is just a figment of our minds. It’s all about oblivion. Zen.