- Posted on Mar 7th 2011 4:00PM by Arielle Castillo
Since 2007, White Hills have issued more than 13 recordings, many of which have enjoyed widespread popularity in Europe. The band isn't ignoring the States, though. Later this month, the Hills will make their maiden voyage to SXSW, and in an interview with Spinner, Dave W. chatted about the true meaning of psychedelia and the pleasures of floating in space.
Did you grow up in a particularly musical household?
Neither of my parents were musical. The earliest memories of music were being around kindergarten age and being at home when my mom was at home, doing stuff around the house. She'd put on music and we'd dance. I'd thumb through the records and pick out records whose covers struck my eye.
Do you remember any of those early ones that appealed to you?
Ones that stuck out in my parents' collection were things like Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys' 'Live at the Fillmore,' Jefferson Airplane's 'Bark,' and the Woodstock album, because those were really, really different than anything else in their collection.
It's interesting that you chose those, because the music you play now is kind of psychedelic. So do you think those records were influential?
Jefferson Airplane are really influential to me in my development as a guitar player. Personally, outside of the fact that those were bands from the '60s that dropped a lot of acid, I don't necessarily consider Jefferson Airplane to be super psychedelic, nor do I consider Jimi Hendrix to be super psychedelic, nor do I consider White Hills in general to be psychedelic.
I've always said White Hills are a space-rock band, and I think that they're two different things. I think there are some things that White Hills have done that are very psychedelic, but I think the term psychedelic gets used way too liberally for what it really means. Truly psychedelic music is discomforting and disorienting. It comes out of left field, and it knocks you in the face, and you don't know where it came from, in the same way that taking acid is like that. It's like one minute you're feeling fine, and the next minute, you're in the fiery depth of hell.
What is the difference between space rock and psychedelic music?
The whole essence of space rock -- it's different in the sense that it floats. The music White Hills makes floats. It rides like a plane, like an astral plane, if you want to say, so there's this feeling and peaks and valleys. It goes up and down and swerves from side to side, so it's like flying in space.
You grew up and started playing music in San Francisco. When did you move to New York? Did you move specifically to pursue music?
I moved to New York 12 years ago. I'd been playing in bands in San Francisco throughout the better part of the '90s, and San Francisco really started to change by 1996, '97, with the whole dot-com boom. Venues were closing. Spaces that were industrial spaces were now being built up in the same way that [Brooklyn neighborhood] Williamsburg is being built up.
There wasn't anything to do. All the people I was playing music with started getting married and having children, which wasn't anything I wanted to do. The woman who plays bass in White Hills was experiencing the same thing, so we decided to move out here together.
From when do you count the real beginning of White Hills?
In 2003, I'd been playing in various bands around New York City and wasn't really enjoying myself or the music scene that was going on. I bought myself a version of Pro Tools and basically, in a couple of weeks, sat down and put together what was the first record. There was no thought of putting a band together around it. I just wanted to satisfy my need to create space music. There were no space-rock bands. Oneida was around at the time, but I think Oneida was just considered an indie-rock band.
What made you want to start a specifically space-rock band at that time?
It's just something that I've always done. The bands I was in in San Francisco, I would consider to be space-rock bands. Who doesn't like a little traveling in outer space? Why not have the closest experience you could have of it through music?
Were there any particular influences you had in mind at the outset?
A lot of German music from the '70s, like Amon Duul and Neu, and a band called Hairy Chapter. Then all the bands like Hawkwind, because Hawkwind are such an amazing band that will never, ever get the due it deserves.
They were true rebels, true outlaws who made some seriously f---ed-up space music, and they were punk rock as f---. They were punks! They were DIY before DIY was anything. In 1970, at the Isle of Wight, Hawkwind went there as a full band, brought an inflatable tent and set up outside of where the main venue was and played. How DIY and punk rock is that? That's super punk rock!
They are high energy, and I think White Hills are very high energy. It's a mix of a band like Hawkwind and a band like the Damned. It has that really in-your-face, aggressive, late-'70s punk kind of attitude, but also with the floatiness of a band like Hawkwind.
Catch White Hills' SXSW Set on Friday, March 18 at Emo's Jr (603 Red River St.) 10PM.
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