Q&A - The Oscillation
Amongst this year's Liverpool Psych Fest congregation are the utterly hypnotic, The Oscillation. In advance of their performance we exchanged words and thoughts with the man at their creative core, Demien Castellanos. Prepare to be beguiled and fascinated in equal measure. Here’s what Demien had to say about how he learned to play guitar and what it is to be human.
Q. As part of your 2016 tour you will be playing at the Liverpool Psych Fest this September, what can we expect to see from you?
A. It's been a lot of fun touring Monographic and felt quite cathartic so I hope that people listening will have a similar experience. I like the blurred lines between escapism and catharsis so that you feel like you are going somewhere else but also dealing with or trying to rise above things that get you down.
Q. ‘Psychedelia’ and ‘psychedelic’ music has morphed and evolved into something more expansive than the (perhaps) narrow confines of the 1960s ‘psychedelic rock’ era. Discuss.
A. It seems to me that psychedelia now is more like an umbrella term that encompasses lots of different genres so it's kind of hard to know what it means now. You see it being used all over the place and generally it seems to imply a kind of open-mindedness to lots of music (in a good way). Maybe in the 60s there were a few very influential albums like "S.F Sorrow", "Revolver", "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" or "The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators" and "Are You Experienced" and loads of others which had either loads of editing, layering and/or effects like phasing, flanging and delay to replicate the feeling of being on LSD or whatever they heard when they took it, and then that became a fashionable sound which loads of other people followed.
On the other hand I suppose technology really grew in the 60s enabling bands to make a lot of new sounds, mess around and experiment, so maybe it was just a load of fun which is probably how I approach it.
Years later there's The Cure's "Pornography" which has all the same kind of effects and you'd probably say was psychedelic or "Juju" by Siouxsie And The Banshees but I'd never think of them as psychedelic bands, just phases they went through as part of their musical journeys. Spritiualized sounded really trippy for the first two albums but I'd say the same of them, they ended up making/defining their own sound and production as did Loop or MBV.
But I don't really know how you pin it down and how you categorise what it is. I don't really think of Spacemen 3 or The Velvet Underground or The Cramps as being psych, although they've all done loads of stuff that sounds really out there. I get a bit lost the more I try to think about it to be honest. I don't think I'm really qualified to comment that much, it gets me totally lost as you can probably tell!
Q. In terms of your own journey, can you give us an insight into your own influences and perhaps (in particular) what artist or genre inspired your love of music?
A. I think The Cure was the first band to really make me want to make music. Before that I was always into music but hadn't discovered or looked beyond whatever was fed to me by the radio or whatever. I'd started to get into Pink Floyd and Hendrix a bit before then but musically it was a bit overwhelming and made me feel that you had to be a virtuoso or some kind of super-human to be able to write music. I spent endless hours trying to learn how to play like Hendrix or Jimmy Page and learned how to twat around on the guitar really quickly but it didn't really lead to me coming up with any real ideas of my own.
I got really into 17 Seconds and loved the simplicity and the space in the music and you could actually learn to play it and that gave me the confidence to think I might actually be able to do something myself. From them I got into Siouxsie And The Banshees and The Sex Pistols and other punk, psyche and goth music. Later on I discovered Jesus And Mary Chain, Spacemen 3 and Loop, Galaxie 500 and the shoegaze stuff, which again you could figure out how to play. I probably discovered at least half the bands I love now through reading interviews with S3 and Loop, things like Suicide, Neu, Cluster, Blue Cheer, Velvet Underground, The Cramps.
Q. The band have taken on other incarnations/projects – namely Mesma and The Orichalc Phase. Can you tell us how you came to settle on The Oscillation and your musical identity.
A. It's an eternally confusing tale. Basically I did a single as The Oscillation which was pretty rocky in a Loop/MBV,Spacemen 3 vibe and thought The Oscillation would be just that kind of thing or a bit garage rock as well.
Alongside that I did an E.P for Static Caravan as Mesma which was more kind of funky or whatever thinking that I'd do those 2 projects alongside each other.
I ended up signing a contract for 2 albums to DC Recordings off the back of the Mesma thing, so I needed yet another name which was The Orichalc Phase. I promised them I'd put my main efforts into that as I was getting an advance etc so the other stuff went on the back-burner. After 2 E.Ps as Orichalc Phase they came back and said no-one could pronounce the name and it was confusing everyone so I decided to just call that project The Oscillation when the album "Out Of Phase" came out. DC were quite keen on rejecting tracks that were too "rock" or song-based but after I left the label I started incorporating other influences and felt a bit more liberated. Although, there's been a quite logical path from album to album. It was quite hard to get away from "Out Of Phase" and the strong identity DC Recordings had as a label. I'm really glad I made that album but I didn't want to repeat it so "Veils" was a good stepping stone into "From Tomorrow" (which is the kind of album I thought I'd originally do as The Oscillation). Monographic is quite a different beast to "Out Of Phase" so I feel like it could go off on whatever tangent I'm drawn to now which is cool. But to be honest I don't know if I really have any musical identity that's really fixed.
Q. You released your fourth recorded album this year, ‘Monographic’ this year. Can you tell us a bit about the ambitions and inspirations behind this work?
A. I was quite keen to do some more aggressive tracks that tackled my disillusionment with government and "the powers that be" controlling us in some way. I think I wanted to write about some more weird stuff and what it's like to be human on this planet which is continuously a confusing thing. I'd been listening a lot to The Deviants and The Stranglers towards the completion of " From Tomorrow" and I find the lyrics really touched a nerve with me and still do. I also wanted to go a bit more post punk in some areas which was an area I hadn't really channeled on previous albums. I just want to make each album a bit different from the last really so I just went with what I was feeling at the time.
Q. Demian – you performed your first live shows last year to much acclaim. Is there a synthesis to your solo work and The Oscillation or do you see them as entirely different and separate creative forces?
A. It definitely overlaps sonically but the solo tracks are more abstract. Playing live solo was a bit of hurdle to overcome so I'm glad I did it and sort of surprised I didn't bottle out!
The first solo album that came out is from when I was a teenager on a 4-track but I think you can kind of see how it would progress in to what formed some of The Oscillation sound. I have a couple more albums from that time that are gonna come out over the next year, Kyvu Tapes Vol.2 and another album of feedback which is the only real coherent thing I did back then. After that's out the way I'll start putting out new tracks that I've been recording this year and last year. It's mainly vocal free and drum-less, or at least very minimal percussion. But having said that I do have some stuff I want to do that's more whimsical like Durrutti Column with vocals that will probably come out as a solo thing eventually too.
Q. Bearing in mind some members of The Oscillation are also playing in Tomaga and Vanishing Twin, what other bands/musicians are you looking forward to seeing at Liverpool Psych-Fest?
A. I'm not sure if I'll be able to catch them all but:
Cavern Of Anti Matter