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Chris Schlarb: Psychic Temples

Ian Patterson By

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CS: Psychic Temple II was an album that I did not want to finish. I was enjoying the process so much that I did not want it to be over. I probably spent three months mixing the album [laughs]. I wanted to be listening to it. I wanted to be analyzing it. I just wanted to be experiencing it. Of course, the whole time I'm working towards completing it [laughs], which is the contradiction. I never sabotaged it or prevented myself from finishing it but I knew that a beautiful period of time for me was coming to an end. Each album is an epoch, an age, and I knew it would be but I didn't want it to be over. Part of it is a communal experience. Everybody who was involved with the recording would ask how it's going and do you need anything else, when's the next recording session and when you say the album's done then we have to come up with new things to talk about [laughs]. We have to come up with new reasons to get together.

I'm sure that's part of the reason I'm always so busy. Music is a communal act for me and all of my best friends are musicians. It gives me an excuse to have lunch with them and talk with them and collaborate. I don't think sadness is right. I wasn't sad that it was over. Maybe melancholy is a better description.

AAJ: Do you think Psychic Temple II will be easier to recreate live than Psychic Temple?

CS: Definitely, without question [laughs]. I have a six-piece band that I'm taking on the road. It's pretty much all the main players on the record; Steuart Liebig, Kris Tyner, Aaron Roche on vocals and guitar and then Andrew [Pompey] and Tabor [Allen] on drums. We've been rehearsing for about two months and these songs are so much easier to distill and convey to an audience. They still contain all of the things I love about music—it's just that they're easier to convey to everyone else. I think this album is more accessible than anything else I've done.

AAJ: Was that somehow a conscious decision?

CS: I don't think about those things until after the album's done. An album like Interoceans (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2008), which I listened to for the first time in years the other day, I feel that the people who enjoy it the most have a certain vocabulary; they've maybe been exposed to the music of [trumpeter] Don Cherry, [Robert] Fripp and [Brian] Eno, maybe Steve Tibbetts—there's a certain language that you'll start conversing with when you listen to some of that music. With this new album I feel that the barrier to entry is a little lower. You don't need to speak quite as fluently and you can still enjoy it. Maybe I've become more subversive. The things that are twisted and intricate and maybe heavy are just buried. With this new music I was trying to speak on multiple levels at multiple times to different audiences. It's maybe the first time I've considered that and maybe the first time I've had the creative ability to do that.

Some people are very good at doing that; I think of [singer-songwriter] Joni Mitchell who are such a popular band but many people don't realize that they were singing about all these strange things like drug dealers and murderers, and people are singing along absent-mindedly. To me that's a subversive success. I think Psychic Temple was an attempt, a concerted effort to say okay, let's see if I can operate on these different levels. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn't but I really enjoyed the process.

AAJ: You are usually juggling more than a few balls at the same time; what else are you working on at the moment?

CS:At the moment I'm working on a record of a friend of mine, Paulie Pesh, who plays on Psychic Temple II. I've been producing and collaborating on his album for about a year and a half. We've been working on it little by little and I'm hoping to finish that up by the end of the year. That's a very different type of record but a lot of the same musicians are on it. They're Paulie's songs but sort of through my lens, maybe.

My plan, once I get back from this tour with the six-piece band, my wife and I are going to take a little retreat up to some remote cabin somewhere and I'm going to record a solo guitar album.

AAJ: You mean just you and one guitar? I find that hard to believe.

CS: Yeah, [laughs] just me and one guitar.

AAJ: We'll look forward to that, although I'm sure there'll be a few twists and turns in the plot before it's finished.

CS: [laughs] Of course, it's another extreme but it seems like a very natural thing after months working with this big ensemble. It seems the place where my heart wants to go.

Selected Discography

Chris Schlarb, Psychic Temple II (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2013)

Chris Schlarb, Night Sky (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2011)

Chris Schlarb, Psychic Temple (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2011)

I Heart Lung, Interoceans (Asthmatic Kitty Records, 2008)

Chris Schlarb, Twilight & Ghost Stories (Asthmatic Kitty, 2007)

I Heart Lung, Between Them a Forest Grew, Trackless and Quiet (Sounds Are Active, 2007)

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