“Ultimately, this music is our attempt to add a tile or two to the fluid mosaic that is California and its mythology,” says Eric Nielsen, one half of experimental space-rock duo High Mountain Tempel.
“It’s our reflection of the waterfalls of Big Sur, the pre-bummer Haight-Ashbury, the traffic and gangs and smog of L.A., the wind-bent branches of Torrey Pines, the falling cinders of canyon fires, the witch covens and guru love nests, the sheer audacity of the Central Valley aqueduct, the Buddha calm of the High Sierras, the gnashing teeth of 1980s punk rock, and the skin-cracking power of a Santa Ana wind.”
Nielsen draws inspiration from such unlikely sources as Terry Riley, Lustmord, Philip K. Dick, and H.P. Lovecraft. He helps run local website blogsandiego.com and performs with outfits like Maquiladora, Buzz or Howl, and various Japanese underground bands (Astro, High Rise, and others).
High Mountain Tempel released a CD late last year on their Lotushouse Records label, A Screaming Comes Across the Sky. According to Nielsen, “It’s the soundtrack to your next apocalypse.”
WHAT’S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?
1. Akron/Family, Love Is Simple: “I’ve heard their live show converts the weary and the reluctant and raises spirits from their vacant lives back into their bodies.”
2. Einstürzende Neubauten, Alles Wieder Offen: “Germanic chants and soundscapes to soothe the rough edges of the day.”
3. Pink Floyd, Obscured by Clouds: “It houses the true, honest underground of spirit and ’70s psychedelia.”
4. Mountain Home, self-titled: “Spooky, subtle drones, haunting vocals, and reinterpretations of old standards.”
5. The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, Ekranoplan: “This album is heavy rock in an articulate and heady format.”
1. Fast Times at Ridgemont High: “I was an impressionable 15 when the movie came out…the songs from the soundtrack still move me.”
2. The Last Temptation of Christ: “I’m not a big fan of the world music genre, but this [soundtrack] is a classic.”
3. The Last Waltz: “The Band’s epic last show…these songs are American legends, and so are the guest musicians.”
4. Grizzly Man: “This amazing movie by Werner Herzog focuses on wild Alaska, a man living on the edge of sanity, and the line where humans and the wilderness meet.”
5. Eraserhead: “David Lynch is the Faulkner of American film.”
BEST BAND EVER?
“Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso. These guys are masters on their instruments, and they continuously work on their craft. They tour nonstop through Europe, Japan, and the U.S. three times every year. They drink, smoke, and enjoy life more than most folk. They plan their tours around their favorite restaurants and Japanese hot baths. They sleep in their boots on the hardwood floors with no pillows or blankets for three hours a night.”
DREAM LUNCH DATE?
“The Dalai Lama. Maybe we could plan a world peace conference in the U.S. to focus on diplomacy and discussion instead of killing and supplying the military industrial complex. The war costs dollars, lives, uprooted families, and karma for the U.S.…if Al-Qaeda wanted to disrupt the finances of America by attacking the World Trade Center, they have accomplished their goal through our wasted spending in Iraq.”
LIFE’S DEFINING MOMENT (SO FAR)?
“At 13 I moved to the Bay Area and was able to experience the underground punk scene, the social consciousness of Berkeley, and the other world that is San Francisco. I really believe California should secede from the U.S. and become the Switzerland of North America. This place is like no other in the world, and it’s too often taken for granted. When I’m on tour and people ask me where I’m from, I never say ‘The U.S.,’ I always say ‘California.’ ”
HOTTEST LOCAL PERFORMER?
“Pall Jenkins of the Black Heart Procession. You really have to see it to understand it. Maybe it’s the soul voice or the beard; I’m not sure.”
LAST BOOK READ?
“The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq. The greatest French existentialist of our time, with a story about a future where humanity has vanished. It’s sci-fi, religion, sexuality, and pop culture mixed into a story where DNA is saved, individuals are cloned, and you never die…but you never really live.”