Music Is A Mission

To content | To menu | To search

Interview of Mushroom (english)




Mushroom / Pat Thomas
(Interview by Mr. Moo, for Paris DJs - summer 2011)

Mushroom, the only one worthy of a well-deserved name, is a very potent band...

Originally from The Bay area, home of the freaks, this rather instrumental combo channels every style there ever was in progressive music: californian psychedelic, electric jazz & funk, kraut-rock, afro-beat, avant-garde, ragas, garage, british folk & jazz, soul, prog & space-rock.

Read the in-depth interview
Download Mr. Moo presents Mushroom mix pt.1

Mushroom-Title.jpg

Mushroom, the only one worthy of a well-deserved name, is a very potent band...

Originally from The Bay area, home of the freaks, this rather instrumental combo channels every style there ever was in progressive music: californian psychedelic, electric jazz & funk, kraut-rock, afro-beat, avant-garde, ragas, garage, british folk & jazz, soul, prog & space-rock.
If a scene gathers revolutionaries, poetry, drugs, civil rights activists, space travels, surrealistic hedonism, radicals, hippies sharing music, painted foxy ladies & communal hang-outs, then like a feast of friends at a beggars banquet, they will revisit the legend and melt it down in a giant pot we can all drink from.

The jamming like the line-up is ever-evolving around Pat Thomas (drums) & Erik Pearson (Guitar/Sax/Flute), and it grows and it sprouts like... mushrooms.
With whimsical talent & wit, they gently changes musical identity with each new release, a new skin for the old ceremony.
The ensemble thrive on improvisation, wisely using time & silence, harmonies & dissonances, playing the moment, shaping reality together.
The long pieces like Isle of Wight or The Beards Are Back In Town, through great telepathic conversations, will slowly but surely expand, blossom and flower in radiant musical gardens.
Mushroom will pick up a vibe and juggle with it until the music plays the band. Whatever the tempo or the mood, our San Franciscans freaksters will always take you on a journey, ending some places you would never have guessed... they might even drive you back home after that.

On the top of it all those guys have a knack for hilarious titles, funky mysterious cover-art, that include many a nod to 60's-70's counterculture.
Let me toss you a few, specially hand-picked for inducing apoplectic fits in the music industry executive's spheres:

- "I Had Some Dreams, They Were Clouds in My Coffee"
- "Americans Own The Moon, They Bought It From The Germans-Who Won It During A Poker Game In World War II"
- "Just Because Nobody Understands You, That Doesn't Mean You're An Artist"
- "A Letter From My 5th Grade Teacher To My Mom, Letting Her Know I'm Not Living Up To My Potential - 5 Years Later I Was At A Party At His House Smoking A Joint With Him, I Guess We Made Up"

Hard to sell on T.V. !

In these time and age it's a freak brother's dream come true, a kaleidoscopic vision that merge so many elements that never really collide up until then:

Electric Miles Davis, Traffic, Jack Kerouac, Sly Stone, Fairport Convention, Sun Ra, Jefferson Airplane, Soft Machine, Eugene McDaniels, Television, Jerry Rubin, King Crimson, Funkadelic, Pink Floyd, Can, Martin Scorsese, David Bowie, Herbie Mann, Nucleus, Capt. Beefheart, Fela Kuti, Embryo,The Last Poets, Talking Heads, Agitation Free, Brian Auger, The Monty Python, Spirit, Herbie Hancock, Grateful Dead, Carla Bley, Dr John, Curtis Mayfield, Hawkwind, Sandy Bull, Jimmy Smith, Albert Hoffman, Alice Coltrane, War, The Beatles, Martin Scorsese, Les McCann, The Velvet Underground, Nina Simone, Jack Bruce, William Burroughs, Jethro Tull, Tim Buckley, The Black Panthers, The Graduate...
A complete bohemian rhapsody!

Mushroom, being both animal & vegetal, is the perfect link between, its pure energy is at the core of everything, the secret it shares with the universe is how to luxuriate from very little, to broadcast life's inner vital force.

Following is an exploring conversation I had with Pat Thomas, musician, writer, producer, journalist, social-political historian & musical archivist. While there is no bandleader, Mushroom is his brainchild. the band has more than 20 records out and too many great members and collaborations to list. Pat Thomas as a producer has reissued more than 60 albums (a cream selection) and has a book coming out soon: Listen, Whitey! - The Sounds Of Black Power 1965-1975 by Pat Thomas.

Brothers & sisters, enjoy your trip, have a bliss

Mr. Moo - September 2011

Mushroom

01. We have briefly met before in 2002 at one of your gigs, probably not your bets, The Agenda Lounge in San José, which felt as the most inappropriate place on earth to see you guys play! (Though I got an "Analog Hi-Fi Surprise" CD & tales of Mushroom's legendary requested latin jams - When the crowd would request a latin jam, Ralph Carney used to grab a table cloth before a dining audience, wrap it up like a toga and chant in latin!)
>> Yes, I remember meeting you at one of the worst Mushroom gigs ever in San Jose! (and that club was run by a German! ) So yes, you know what I mean when I say most German booking agents have brain damage!

02. So brain damage is hardly a german booking agent monopoly, hm?
>> Ahh, yes - 'brain damage' can be witnessed all over the place - governments, corporations!

03. Hey, Pat! Any lead for a cure?
>> Hahahah, I wish.

04. Or the only alternative is like the Elliot Smith 's song: " A distorded reality is now a necessity to be free" get a good drug connection and run for shelter?
>> Mmmm. I dunno.

05. And in the smaller scale of things: How come you haven't play that much around in a music world where record sales are dropping as the theaters & bars are full?
>> Actually, Mushroom does pretty well for live concerts since we start performing in 1997. We opened for Krautrock legends Faust, have performed as the 'backing band" for Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen. Mushroom toured Germany and Switzerland in 1999. We opened for YES at a giant football stadium once. The show you saw in San Jose was a 'step down" - but it's true, we generally play small to medium places (around 100 to 200 people).

06. YES & Mushroom sharing a bill in a stadium sounds like a peanut butter & tabasco extravaganza...
>> Well, I like early YES!  it was honor to be asked.

07. Was is it german booked?
>> No, it was booked by a Democratic American.

08. Should I wish I was there?
>> There's a video, but the video has no sound.

09. Rats! More seriously, How was that show & how do you adapt to a stadium crowd & acoustics?
>> To be honest, we did NOT get to play the big stage, we were on a smaller stage, just outside the 'stadium' - but that said, it was still the largest stage that Mushroom ever played - we played to maybe 1000 people! Some of whom really dug us and others ignored us while they drank beer and ate hot dogs.

10. Did you have a Port-a-potty for a backstage area while they rehearsed in a glass pyramid?
>> We did not get much expensive and delicious food backstage, in fact we got almost none. But this is not the fault of YES, it was decided by the 'stadium' owners that Mushroom needed very little to eat, drink and be merry.

11. You obviously are an avid record collector, some titles you came out with certainly nod in that direction: what was the first LP you bought?
>> Well, the first record I owned was in the early 1970's; The Who's "Who's Next" - a couple of years later, the first album I bought with my own money was The Beatles "1967-1970''. Now, I have about, 20, 000 LPs and about 20, 000 CDs > mainly 1960's to 1980's; rock, jazz, soul, folk, pop, experimental, prog, etc

12. Your first "out there" musical experience as a listener?
>> My first "out there" experience as a listener? That's a difficult one. I remember when I moved to San Francisco in 1987, I was a big fan of bands like Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, Green On Red (bands that were basically continuing the sound of the 1960's that I already liked - such the Velvet Underground, Neil Young, the Byrds, etc).  But arriving in San Francisco in the late 1980's, I start hearing bands like Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 and World of Pooh. These that bands were already 'hip" to things like Krautrock and Capt. Beefheart; stuff that I had yet to dive into too deep, so they opened my eyes to the fact that there was more than "folk rock" out there.

13. Your first "out there" musical experience as a performer?
>> One time I played a concert in Rochester, New York at a college called R.I.T.  A friend of mine named Jon Hull played a guitar with just 2 strings and screamed into an empty sea shell (like you'd find at the beach) and I just beat on one single drum. This was around 1985 and people wanted to beat the shit out of us, because we were making 'noise' and not music. Most of the audience was what we call "frat boys" or "jocks" (meaning they played sports more than they liked music). Jon and I laughed at them, despite their threat of bodily harm. It was fun!

Mushroom-Today_Many_Covers.jpg

14. Last time we met you seemed reluctant to talk about your collaboration with Daevid Allen & Kevin Ayers…
>> I think the last time we met, was at the worst Mushroom gig of all time, playing a restaurant in San Jose for a dinner crowd, so I was not so eager to discuss anything else!

15. Would you tell us a bit about it now & how you became their "backing band"?
>> Yes, of course. Kevin Ayers; I have been a fan of for a long time - back in the 1990's, there was a Kevin Ayers magazine published in England and the guy who ran that magazine was a Mushroom fan, so he suggested to Kevin that we play together sometime. Through various people, including another guy, Jos Starmans, who released the first ever Mushroom CD "Alive and in Full Bloom" in Holland, we got in touch with Kevin and invited him over to San Francisco to play a show. He flew over and we spent about a week rehearsing (he mostly let us pick the song list) and he stayed at my house and we had a great time (although Kevin does like to drink a bit more than I do), but he was a fun and excellent house guest and we discussed early Soft Machine, Jimi Hendrix, Richard Branson and all kinds of groovy stuff. Meanwhile, the concert was very successful - lots of people come from hundreds of miles around - as Kevin so rarely plays in San Francisco.
Daevid Allen, I was less of a fan, only because I only owned a few GONG albums - but Daevid needed a place to stay in San Francisco for a week and I opened my home to him. Again, we had great discussions about Paul McCartney (and his early tape loop experiments), William Burroughs, Paris in the 1960's and all that stuff. At the end of the week, there was already a Mushroom show planned, so Daevid just 'joined in' for that one show! The next day, we recorded an album, and the next thing I knew - we had a band called "The University of Errors" and a couple of other CDs - we toured and played Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle.  Daevid has a lot of 'groupies' - (mostly older guys with beards and sweaters) who really get into his music - he's like the "Jerry Garcia of space-rock" - at the time I did not appreciate how cool it was to play with Daevid.  Unlike Kevin, . Daevid rarely told me 'what to do" - Kevin barked out a lot of orders of how he wanted me to play, Daevid generally let me do what I wanted! At the end of the day, I prefer Kevin's music over Daevid's but both men are amazing and cutting edge musicians.

16. Krautland only! What experiences did you gain from touring across the pond?
>> European audiences listen better and more closely than American ones. European clubs pay us more money than American ones. European clubs feed us better and more feed. Overall, playing in Europe is 100x better! Also, most American clubs only want us to play for 1 hour and share the stage with 2 other bands we never heard of. but in Europe, most nights, we had the stage to ourselves and played for 2 hours!

17. One can tell a wide musical spectrum is at the basis of your inspiration, how do you go through all those different doors? All at once….?
>> The way we do it, is we don't try too hard to be influenced by ONE thing. Many bands decide, 'well, I just want to sound like King Crimson 1974" - so that's all they do or perhaps they just wanted to be "Peter Gabriel with Genesis" - so the band’s music becomes very generic. Our thing is to sound like 20 different bands, which makes us sound 'unique' - makes us sound like ourselves!

18. How was your musical path from receiver to transmitter?
>> Listen, Listen, Listen, then Play, Play, Play!

19. I've read somewhere that prior to Mushroom, you travelled around Europe pursuing musical cult figures to play with & learn from: When & how was it? Anyone you sought but missed…?
>> I did NOT travel around to 'play' with them, I travelled around to meet them and learn and hear their stories, at the time, I loved 1960s-1970's British Folk-Rock (and I still do), so I get to meet and hung out with Clive Palmer (of Incredible String Band), Polly Bolton (of Dando Shaft), Ashley Hutchings of Fairport Convention, guitarist Davy Graham, singer Shirley Collins, guitarist Michael Chapman, etc - it was wonderful!

20. I love that scene, beautiful musicians; it must have been an amazing quest! When was that?
>> It was mainly in the early 1990's that I did that adventure around England, although the results were not revealed until about a decade later, when some of the interviews I did got published in a Davy Graham fanzine, on a website called Perfect Sound Forever, and many of them appeared in a magazine called Ptolemaic Terrascope, of which I edited and published the final issue in Oakland, CA. (for years before, it had been published in England).

21. Did you travel elsewhere with the same purpose?
>> No, not really. During the early 1990's, when I was travelling around England, I was actually living in Germany, but I wasn't really into Krautrock at that time, so I was not tracking down German musicians. That happened later, after I started Mushroom.

Mushroom-Albums1.jpg

22. Your resumé is like a who's who of the underground culture. How do you meet all those great artists? Eddie Gale? Pete Brown? (the list goes on & on) Plain karma?
>> I suppose Instant Karma has something to do with it, I think it's a combination of having a lot of knowledge and contacts from all my years of being in the 'music business' side of things (running record companies, doing A&R, and publicity) and then being an actual musician - so it has allowed me into 'doors' that would not normally be open to the casual fan. Also, frankly, I think it's got something to do with my deep knowledge of 1960's - 1970's music of all styles; Jazz, Folk, Rock, Pop, Krautrock, English folk - so that when I meet these people, I usually have something interesting to talk to them about, perhaps something to offer them besides just "I'm a fan"

23. Just to put things in perspective: when & where were you born & raised?
>> I came onto the planet in April 1964. From age 0 to 10, I was near Binghampton, New York. From age 10 to 18, I was in Corning, New York. Then I was in Rochester, New York (where I formed my first 'professional band' called Absolute Grey - we released several albums of 1980's indie-folk-rock (we sounded a bit like REM and bands like the Rain Parade).

24. How did you start to play music? 
>> It was about 1974, and I saw these older students playing in a school 'jazz band' - I was watching the drummer and said to myself "I want to do that!" - later on, about 1976, I saw a TV special about the Paul McCartney and Wings 1976 World Tour, and I said to myself "I want to do that!"

25. How & when did Mushroom sprout in your brain?
>> In the mid 1990's, I was writing songs and singing them, in sort of a Lou Reed / Bob Dylan style, I did several tours of Germany under the name 'Pat Thomas' - I released several Pat Thomas albums, but I was getting a bit bored of this style of music, during the 3rd and final Pat Thomas tour of Germany in 1996, I began asking my band to 'jam' during the beginning of each show - the band included Erik Pearson on guitar - the next time we went into the studio (I think it was November 1996), it was to make recordings for another Pat Thomas CD, but instead of singing, I played drums, and we just 'jammed' and recorded 'instrumentals' - half of these songs went onto the last Pat Thomas CD called "Valium", the other half become the first Mushroom recordings "The Reeperbahn" 12 inch vinyl, the Dutch CD "Alive and In Full Bloom" and the German CD "Cream of Mushroom" - in May 1997, we played the first Mushroom show and I never did another "Pat Thomas' singer/songwriter thing again.

26. What did you say to your band-mates before the first session?: "We're gonna explore every psychedelic vibe there ever was?" or "Let's concentrate the whole counterculture in one band?"
>> Hahahaha, very funny, but what is more amazing, is that's true!  I mean, I didn't say all that, but that's what happened over a period of time, didn't it?  Again, I think what separates Mushroom from other bands that explore a retro-vibe - is that they focus their attention on 'recreating' the sound of just one band, like maybe King Crimson or Can. We recreate the sound of like 50 different bands, sometimes all at the same time!

27. How do you lead a session? Any indications...verbal or else? Do you use poetic words or references for cues & clues?
>> Sometimes I come into the studio with some verbal instructions, for example, I might say, let's trying to record something 'slow and acoustic' or something 'fast and jazzy." I might occasionally play a sample of someone else's music that I'd like to capture that vibe, maybe like an old Bert Jansch or Sandy Bull record. Once in a while, I might have an actual 'riff' or 'beat' in my head and I'll play it on the drums. Sometimes the other guys, have a 'riff' - on "Naked Stoned and Stabbed" Erik Pearson came in with a couple of 'songs' already written. The other way, I lead a session is to add and subtract the number of musicians playing in the studio - as you can hear on "Naked Stoned and Stabbed" - there's three musicians on some songs, just two on others, sometimes six... this is one way of changing the sound, sometimes I do that in the mixing, by just removing a few instruments by not including them in the final mix.

Mushroom-13.jpg
Erik Pearson and Ralph Carney on dueling saxophones

28. Can you tell us some on how you pictured & then realized "Foxy Music"?
>> "Foxy Music" was recorded during two studio sessions, spaced about a year apart. The main thing about "Foxy Music" was that I decided that I would edit the songs while mixing them, so for example, on "Analog Hi-Fi Surprise" - if we played a song for 10 minutes, then probably you heard the whole 10 minutes on the final CD. On "Foxy Music" if we played a song for 10 minutes, we chopped out, perhaps 2 minutes of an 'un-interesting' part, or we removed a minute of a 'bad or wrong notes." Many of the songs on "Foxy Music" are 3 to 5 minutes shorter than the 'original' recording. Also "Foxy Music" was during an era, where I wanted a lot of  horns in Mushroom, I wanted more of a Miles Davis or mid-period Soft Machine vibe.

29. And later on the dual album "Glazed Popems"?
>> This was recorded pretty much all in one weekend! All one session, except perhaps a bit of Mellotron that Matt Cunitz overdubbed later on.

30. The London side -where one can trace some of the folk origins of "Naked, Stoned & Stabbed - feels like one of them cottage albums...how did you captured that pastoral essence?
>> After listening to all the songs we recorded during that weekend, I noticed that we had some very mellow, pastoral music - not unlike some mid-period Pink Floyd and perhaps like the band Traffic as well and perhaps even a little Pentangle in there as well.

31. And the late-night atmosphere of the Oakland side?
>> And I noticed we had the usual Mushroom sounds, more jazz, more aggressive, but with its own dark edge. So we decided to 'divide' up the songs into a "London" and an "Oakland" side - almost two separate albums. I think the "London" side is much stronger, although the "Oakland" one has some nice moments as well.

32. Do you have a favorite release?
>> Well, it’s hard for me to pick just one, since there are several Mushroom albums that ‘capture’ a specific sound or time period. Of the early days, I think my favorite one is “Analog Hi-Fi Surprise” - that’s our ‘Canterbury’ album. Of the middle period, it would be ‘Glazed Popems’ - especially for the “London” side of the album that we discussed earlier. I know it’s a cliché to say that our newest one is a favorite,  but I like the acoustic and ambient vibe of ‘Naked Stoned and Stabbed.’  In terms of my favorite obscure Mushroom album, one that had limited distribution and never got reviewed widely - I really love the Mushroom album “Oh, But They’re Weird and They’re Wonderful” - it’s a collection of some amazing live recordings coupled with ‘remixes’ (very organic remixes in which the re-mixer just took elements of Mushroom live songs and just looped and edited them, he did NOT add in any extra beats or music of his own).

33. Any album you're dissatisfied with and why?
>> A couple of years after ‘Analog Hi-Fi Surprise’ came out and was out of print, I allowed myself to get talked into re-issuing it as an expanded edition with bonus tracks, overall I’m not happy with it, I should have just left the ‘original’ album alone or been more careful about what songs I added and why.

34. On paper it looked like a rock'n roll dream coming true: How was the "Lifehouse" performance?
>> It was great, we played the entire "Who’s Next" album (minus “My Wife”), plus the songs “Pure and Easy”, “Too Much of Anything” “Time is Passing” and “Naked Eye” - we spent 6 months rehearsing it.

There are some great videos of us playing it on youtube:





35. Did you record any of it?
>> We did record it, but sadly, not well enough, just some rough tapes. Hopefully we are going to perform it again this summer, in celebration of my friend Richie Unterberger’s  new book about “Lifehouse” which is called “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in that book, he interviews our keyboard player Matt Cunitz about those difficult keyboard parts to “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” which Matt played all by ‘hand’ - not by computer!

36. The Who never played it entirely, did they?
>> No, not really.

37. Who sang?

>> We decided to use my friend Patty Spiglanin (a long time Berkeley folk-country-pop singer) who did an excellent job as “Roger Daltrey” and Mushroom member Erik Pearson did a great job singing the “Pete Townshend” vocals.

38. Does Pete Townsend knows?
>> I don’t know. I told a friend of his about it, and I think she mentioned it to him.

39. What's next?  Pink Floyd's "The Man and The Journey"? (Please...)
>> No.

40. Dr John's " The Sun, Moon & Herbs" restored?
>> Yes, that would be cool!  Ideally this ‘restored’ version is being officially released by Rhino/Warner Brothers later this year.

41. I'm joyfully ready for anything…
>> I have thought about Eric Burdon and War: “The Black Man’s Burdon”,  I once even considered New Order “Power Corruption and Lies” and I’d consider something like David Bowie’s “Hunky Dory”.

42. Exciting selection! I know "Hunky Dory" is not an easy album to perform especially the vocals, though when it's so well written the songs read & play themselves, don't they?
>> Yeah,  sort of. Actually, I just sort of tossed off the "Hunky Dory" idea as I answering your last round of questions - the truth be told, I think Mushroom could do a better job with either the "Space Oddity" album or "Low" or "Heroes".

Mushroom-Make_Out_Nov_2010.jpg
Dan Olmsted on guitar, Pat Thomas on percussion, Alison Levy on vocals, Josh Pollock on electronics
at the Make Out Room in San Francisco, CA in November 2010


43. What was the first song you ever learned?
>> Well, on drums, you don’t really “learn” a song the way you might “learn” it on guitar, piano or bass, but I know what you mean. I started off playing songs by the English band Free, the Southern Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, various songs by Eric Clapton and Cream, “Evil Ways” by Santana. This was around 1976-1977.

44. Was drums your primary instrument?
>> Yeah. I tried piano for about 5 minutes, that didn’t work. I did play guitar for a couple of years in the late 1980’s and wrote and recorded several songs as a singer/songwriter/guitarist. Very “Bob Dylan” in style. But I haven’t picked up a guitar in years. I have been drumming since the early to mid 1970’s.

45. It's a wild guess but going through your discography I felt that when the space- rock period refined itself into a funkier jazzier sound...
>> After the first couple of Mushroom CDs, I decided I wanted the band to be more ‘jazz funk’ with albums like "Foxy Music" (using saxophones, trumpets and trombones), then I got bored with that sound - although we kept coming back to it from time to time.

46. ...You somehow tried to make it more commercially viable musically "Mad Dogs & San Franciscans" than as it didn't...
>> No man, you misunderstand the idea of “Mad Dogs” - we didn’t do that for money and fame, we did it because we love those old classic songs and because the vocalist Gary Floyd (in my opinion) could sing the shit out of those classics - he’s the real deal as a blues-rock-soul vocalist!

47. ...you shrugged and said: "Fuck it! let it all hang out! " and took a left turn again (hard as it is in San Francisco!) into "Glazed Popems" (which I feel is one of your best )
>> Ok, I agree, I did say “Fuck it, let it all hang out!” with Glazed Popems, I decided I would NOT edit down the length of songs and that it would be a double album and we would just “go for it” - I agree with you, that’s one of our better albums. “Glazed Popems” was not made to sell a million copies, but in the hopes that we’d really freak out the freaks!

48. If you never were not part of Mushroom and hear their stuff do you think you would like it?
>> Hahaha, that’s a good question, would I seek Mushroom out and keep an ‘open mind’ or would I be too cynical to even search for and like my own music? I don’t know. Our first bass player was a guy named Alec Palao - who loves a lot of 1960’s music but likes less ‘new music’ than me - and certainly is not a fan of 1970’s ‘prog rock’ and I used to tease him that, if he was not in Mushroom, he would not even like his own band!

49. What I'm getting at is that you probably put everything in your band that you saw disappear from music (Freedom, genuine communication, imagination, egoless involvement, balls, humility, style, humor, poetry, colours...) and cared so dearly for...
>> Of all the people who have interviewed me about Mushroom, you are the one who really ‘gets us’, you can see the larger picture of what I’m trying to do - and all that comes into it - the freedom, the imagination, the ego and the egoless, the balls, etc.  I would love to sit down and have a drink with you or better yet - get into a car and cross the United States or Europe, I can imagine we would have a lot to talk about. All of this means “A LOT” to me - yes, it does!

50. ...And many musicians from our generation & the next & the next feels the same and consequently each through his own spectrum followed a similar brotherly path hence my numerous questions about this or that band.
>> Yes, I love that chain and connection -Elton John loved David Ackles and Lean Russell, Soft Machine loved 1950’s jazz, etc.

Mushroom-Berkeley_July_2010.jpg
Josh Pollock on samples and electronics at the Starry Plough in Berkeley, CA in July 2010

51. What made you switch from singer/songwriter to instrumental psilocybin music and why...?

>> I was bored with singer/songwriter music, I was bored with myself, I wanted to ‘explore’ some ‘new’ music for myself to write and perform and record. I wanted to become somebody else musically. I remember Erik Pearson (Mushroom’s guitar player and before that - the guitar player of the Pat Thomas band) - he had a girlfriend back then (1997) named Alice Bierhorst and she told me that I could NOT become someone else musically - well, actually she said it would be very difficult when I told her that I was going to stop being “Pat Thomas” and that I wanted to start something new, but I think “Mushroom” has proven Alice wrong. I became something different (musically) than I was before. “Pat Thomas” music sounds nothing like Mushroom music - but that’s also because of not just me - but the other musicians too, such as Erik. I don’t think she had faith in either one of us.

52. ...Exchange your lead role in a cage for a "walk on part" in a war?
>> Sorry, I’m not getting this one (...)

53. Really? Beside the obvious reference to "Wish you were here" which can be taken literally or not...
>> Of course, I know the song “Wish you were here” - but I don’t know all the words, so I did not get that reference, sorry.

54. I meant that in a jamming collective band you blend your personality into a whole, while fronting a band that backs up all your songs is like directing a movie, ego is dearly needed for the task.
>> To be fair, I don’t write the songs, everyone writes - but my ego is what keeps the whole machine going. Several band members have told me “remove Pat Thomas and there is no Mushroom” - which is interesting, because I’m “only the drummer”! But then again, I am the “band leader and producer”

55. Also it seems you share more light (& receive) within Mushroom than doing the Pat Thomas thing.
>> In so many ways - not only has Mushroom music reached more ‘ears’ than Pat Thomas ever did, it’s way more rewarding for me in so many ways, you got that right! Musically, spiritually, etc. (...) But I would take a ‘walk on part’ to have been part of the 1960’s revolution (I was born in 1964, so a little too late to take part).

56. Really? Man, you're totally an extension of those times! Many seeds have been planted, yet to flower. It's not over. Mutations & diasporas of the freaky kind are endless & worldwide. It's always time to make a stand, is not what you're doing? Giving lectures, writing the Black Panther book & collecting their music while keeping a free mind?
>> Thank you, you are right when I think about it - having been involved in so many album projects, I’ve put a lot of music into the world - not just my own, but lots of other peoples - having worked in the music business for some 20 years now - and my book on Black Power music and all the colleges I’ve lectured at - and all the young students I’ve spoken to about the Black Power and Black Panthers has inspired some younger kids for sure. The thing is - ever since I was young, I never wanted to do ‘just one thing” - when it comes to music, I wanted to do many different things, I wanted to play rock and jazz and folk and whatever - and I’ve done that - through Mushroom, Pat Thomas band, my early band Absolute Grey that released 5 albums in the 1980’s and many other bands. I’ve never understood why people would join just one band - and stay in that same sound for 10 or 20 years at a time - I’m glad that Mushroom is totally different than Absolute Grey - and I’m proud of both things. Meanwhile, I never wanted to be just a musician, I wanted to write, travel, teach, produce, etc - most people start with one sound ‘rock’ or whatever and just play it and play it - forever.

Mushroom-16.jpg
Matt Cunitz on keys, Ned Doherty on bass, Pat Thomas on drums, Ralph Carney’s ass at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley, CA

57. Do you feel good jams are necessarily a telepathic field?
>> It’s a mental and emotional and music chemistry thing for sure! Yes it is!

58. Your FB page reads: "Thank you on behalf of the group and myself and I hope we passed the audition?" What was that about, if you may?
>> That’s what John Lennon says at the end of the album "Let It Be", it’s from the Beatles final ‘roof-top concert’ in 1969.

59. Can you live on Mushroom?
>> Sometimes I can have a nice meal from Mushroom or pay the other guys like $10 for driving across town and playing a concert. We make very little $$$$.

60. When you're turning somebody on Mushroom which album do you pick? (I usually play "Foxy Music"...)
>> I most often give people “Glazed Popems” - before that came out, I would have said “Analog Hi-Fi Surprise”.

61. Have you heard "Super Numeri" that improvisational collective that hailed from Liverpool 'round 2003 released by Ninja Tune?
>> No, I have no idea. I actually listen to very little ‘new’ music, I listen to very little music recorded after 1990 - and if I do, it’s more likely to be a “singer/songwriter” like Elliott Smith or Beth Orton, than a band that does what Mushroom does.

62. How about Flanger (Burnt Friedman & Atom Heart )& the Nonplace scene from Koln germany (sometime joined by Jaki Liebezeit drummer from Can)?
>> Actually, I have never heard Flanger - but I do have a little connection to Burnt Freidman and Jaki - they sometimes used the bass player of the “Pat Thomas band” that toured Germany during the 1990’s. His name is Daniel Schroter. I’m not sure what recordings he’s on,  but I know he’s played live with them - but this was several years ago.

63. How about the whole global "revival" thing in funk, soul, jazz, afro, folk, reggae, krautrock & psychedelia lately?
>> Overall, I’m pleased to see “old” music get rediscovered by “new” fans.  I generally prefer the old stuff to “new” music by young kids.

64. Are you into Zappa or Funkadelic?
>> Zappa, I’ve come into from time to time over the past 25 years, but in very small amounts, a song here or there - or listening to a whole album at a friend’s house, but more recently, I did dig into "Live at the Fillmore East!"

65. Do you dig Reggae, Afrobeat or Brazilian music?
>> In small amounts I like all this stuff, I love Peter Tosh in the 1970’s, Fela Kuti in the 1970’s is wonderful, I like some of the Brazilian psychedelic stuff that has been rediscovered in recent years. But none of this is my main food, if I had to pick one, I mostly dig the weird Afrobeat stuff of the 1970’s.

66. Any musical allergies?
>> I don’t like “opera” and I don’t like “rap” and “hip-hop” (except in some rare cases, where I like early stuff by Grandmaster Flash).

67. How do you see the future of music?
>> It seems all spread out now - too much new music coming at us from all directions, it’s hard to soak it all in, it’s hard to hear it all. But I keep hearing “old” stuff that I’ve never heard before - there’s always some old krautrock or prog-rock or English-folk thing or some good soul or jazz thing that I’ve never heard before that turns me on!

Mushroom-Cafe_du_Nord.jpg
Ned Doherty on bass, Pat Thomas on drums, Dave Brandt on percussion, Ralph Carney on sax,
Matt Cunitz on keys, Josh Pollock on guitar at the Café Du Nord, San Francisco, CA


68. What difference do you feel there is between the music now and then...?
>> I think the main difference between now (1980’s until 2010) and then (1960’s - 1970’s) is that music was connected in the 1960’s and 1970’s to social-political change - there was the riots in Paris in 1968, the riots in Chicago in 1968, the Kent State University student shootings in 1970, long hair and hippies,  the anti-war protests of Vietnam, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, the Black Panther Party, Amiri Baraka - all this was reflected in the music of Dylan, the Beatles, Neil Young, but also John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Rock and Jazz was plugged into ‘the movement’ and ‘the revolution.’ In the 1970’s, we had The Clash - an amazing political band. We don’t really have that now. There is some ‘rap music’ that talks about the problems for African-Americans in today’s society. But now, most people are NOT political. Most people don’t give a shit about war and the government and the music reflects that “I don’t give a shit’ attitude.

69. ...Equipment?
>> Well, NOTHING beats the sound of a ‘mellotron’ or the sound of a Fender Rhodes piano or a Gibson SG guitar. So equipment does have something to do with it!  But it’s also cool that now, I can record my own album at home without a lot of money and send it to you on a CD-R.

70. Old stuff versus new, what turns you on then & off now?
>> I do love the fact that we now have so much music to ‘draw from’ - I can listen to Miles Davis or Can or Dylan all within 10 minutes by getting onto a computer or pulling out a CD off my shelf - it’s much ‘easier’ to find music now. I like going to ‘small’ clubs, not big concert halls. I like the fact, I can visit an artist’s website, maybe even send them an email - and maybe they will write back. I dunno. On one hand it all seems more ‘down to earth’ now and yet it was perhaps more ‘down to earth’ back then. You could show up at the Fillmore East with a camera in 1969 and just take pictures without asking anyone, now you would have to have a ‘special pass’ to bring a camera into a concert. Everyone is uptight about their image, about ‘copyrights’ - and this makes sense in one way and is total bullshit in another way.

71. How about the sound of the times?
>> As I just discussed just a minute ago, the music was plugged into the politics and the politics was plugged into the music. Now there is ‘no’ special time and no special sound for it.

72. About the sound of the times what I meant to say was: Music being THE vibrational art it's always a reflection of a world at a time, it's not only that but it counts.
And there's the sound environment where musicians grow up in that includes everything from flora & fauna but also machines, room acoustics, language, an infinity of possibilities and surely music too.
>> Yes, I agree - it includes everything; machines, room acoustics, language, an infinity of possibilities and surely music too.


73. Some disappeared & new ones came along, now my childhood street doesn't sound the same anymore.
>> As Van Morrison said in a song he wrote and sang; “The street only knew your name”

Mushroom-14.jpg
Matt Cunitz hands on the keyboards

74. I remember being endlessly stuck for the very first time in my car before railroad tracks in Texas where Mark, my friend and passenger, shouted out:"Listen!"
Under the heavy white & blue sky, captivated, we spread our ears to the chuggling sound of a never ending freight train goin' nowhere. He cupped his hands together & blew a harmonica riff imitating the rhythm of the train then a guitar riff in a blues phrasing then a country one, speeding up the tempo he merged into rhythm & blues then rock'n roll.
>> Wow, that’s great - that reads like something Jack Kerouac might have written in 1958, except he’d use the words “jazz” rather than rock n roll. Beautiful.

75. Suddenly he stopped & claimed: "Freight trains! Hobos! Blues and The Big depression! Okies! Woody Guthrie!"
>> Very much like a Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady kind of thing - wonderful!

76. American music to him was always intricately connected to our means of transportation through locations: Bluegrass - Mule riding upon a hill; C&W - Horse riding through plains; Blues & Jazz - Train, Automobile; Rock'n Roll - Motorbike, Airplane; Space Rock: Jet-plane, Rockets, Astral traveling (Rudimentary examples, I must confess)
>> No, it’s perfect, I like it - a lot!

77. Then when our technology in transportation stagnate to the profit of an era of communication: Electronic music: Telex, computer sound glitches, fax noises, cellphones rings, video games beeps, technology... less movement, less craftsmanship. In brief, music follows motion. As important as political & social changes are in giving shape to music I think it's quiet reducing (& paranoiac...) to assume they're the only factor. In that regard I can relate to Jerry Garcia's saying: "For me, the lame part of the Sixties was the political part, the social part. The real part was the spiritual part."
>> I disagree with Jerry, because I love the politics and the social part as much as the spiritual part, but to be fair - Jerry was an adult in the 1960’s and I was only a baby - so I can’t say for sure. I wasn’t really there.

78. Seems to me revolutions get perverted from their original purpose of changing contents to changing forms, same shit different mask while the world gets worse. We address the symptoms rarely the illness. Great combination of small scale thinking & mass control. We have to change ourselves to save ourselves.
>> Agreed.

Mushroom-Hotel_Utah.jpg
Matt Cunitz on piano, Dave Brandt on percussion, Josh Pollock on electronics, Ned Doherty on bass,
Pat Thomas on drums, Erik Pearson on guitar at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco, CA


Links
Pat Thomas : official
Mushroom : official | discography until 2008 | discogs | facebook | myspace | parisdjs
4 Zero Records (label) : official | facebook | myspace
The Royal Potato Family (US distribution) : official | facebook | myspace | parisdjs | soundcloud | twitter | youtube
Djouls

Djouls

Stay informed of all things Paris DJs and beyond thanks to our Twitter news

Comments are closed



You might also like

Hazmat Modine - Extra-Deluxe-Supreme

Interview with Wade Schuman (Hazmat Modine) #2

A few years ago we published an interview with Hazmat Modine frontman Wade Schuman just before their unforgettable show at Studio de l'Ermitage, Paris. They have just released a brand new album ('Extra-Deluxe-Supreme', maybe their best to date) loaded with great blues anthems and ballads. I was in...
Mocky Key Change

Interview with Mocky

We last saw producer and multi-instrumentalist Mocky six years ago at an unforgettable show at the world's smallest cabaret, Le Zèbre de Belleville, in Paris. He was presenting the songs from his masterpiece 'Saskamodie'. Here at Paris DJs, the album has been in heavy rotation - and still is. Now...