Fear, love, beauty and pain

Black Angels bring psychedelic religion to Southgate House Revival

By Gary Spencer
Photo: Black Angels perform at Southgate House Revival on Feb. 7; photo: Alexandra ValentiOne trend I’ve noticed in the past few years is the resurgence of interest in music rooted in ’60s psychedelic rock. The annual Austin Psych Fest keeps getting larger each year, and it’s not a coincidence. Austin is often regarded as the birthplace of psych rock, going back to the days of the 13th Floor Elevators, a band that is often referred to as the ones who coined the term “psychedelic rock n’ roll” as a sound, a vibe and an experience back in the mid-1960s. While psych rock seemingly lay dormant as an underground musical movement since then, another band from Austin has chosen to resurrect the revered subgenre and bring it back to the forefront of the modern musical consciousness. That band is the Black Angels.Formed in 2004 by singer/bassist Alex Maas and guitarist Christian Bland, the Black Angels have worn their classic psychedelic influences on their sleeves since day one in both their music and stunningly hypnotic live shows. Armed with vintage amps, drone machines and an entrancing light and live projection show, the Black Angels will be coming to the Southgate House Friday, Feb. 7, to arouse the masses.

Coming along for the trip will be none other than psych rock legend and founding member of the 13th Floor Elevators Roky Erickson. His story is a redemption tale of the highest order. Caught up in the 1960s drug culture while making what is often credited as the first true psychedelic rock music, Erickson caught a case for possession of marijuana and was sentenced to a years-long sentence at the now-infamous Rusk State Hospital where he was subjected to electroshock therapy and other experimental treatments that affected his mental state for years to come. After numerous failed attempts to get his mental health on track, Erickson finally began performing music live again in 2005. In 2008, the Black Angels were summoned to be his backing band for a West Coast tour and the two musical entities collaborated on some recordings of their own. This upcoming tour will feature Erickson and the Angels joining forces again to celebrate the release of a joint 7” single and an album for release later this year. I caught up with the Angels’ Alex Maas about their work with Roky and why psychedelic music has become en vogue again. Here’s what he had to say.


You started working with Roky Erickson as his backing band. How did that come about? What’s it like working with him?

His manager called us to be his backing band. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Roky’s attention span was maybe about 15-20 minutes. We had to be very patient. We taught him some old 13th Floor Elevators songs. He remembered them all, even though he hadn’t played them in 40 years.  We’d rehearse and record a song and he’d be like, “Oh yeah, I remember writing that when I was 16 years old!” After playing a song, his mind became a lot clearer. It’s proof of the therapeutic nature of music.  -Alex Maas

Why did you decide to bring Roky back for this upcoming tour?

We were looking to do another tour, as we’d only done one tour on this new record. We never did the East with Roky and people were like, “why not?” We saw it as the perfect opportunity for that. I pushed for the release of this new 7” that we’ll have on this tour. We recorded with Roky in 2008 and for whatever reason that project lost steam. This 7” has two songs and we have seven more (songs) for release in March. -AM

What do you think about the resurgence of
psychedelic music?

There’s several factors why trends are happening faster and stronger. The Internet propels the resurgence of styles. The resurgence of psychedelic music was probably gonna happen anyway. While not as big as it was in the ’60s, I’m seeing other popular genres incorporating psychedelia.  I hear it in hip hop records coming out. A lot of things Outkast has done have psychedelic elements, and even Jay-Z and Kanye make references to psychedelic music. If psychedelic music came back full force, it would be good not just for music culture but for the world because psychedelic music takes things that define us as humans and explores it sonically. -AM

Tell me about your live show. 

We’ve always believed in the visual aspect, going back to our influences like Velvet Underground with live projections on the band like Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable.  The music is there to invoke an emotion, a memory or image in our heads. Our music sets the scene for what’s about to happen in that scene. It’s like a narrative and having a visual aspect adds to the narrative. We try to evoke some ritualistic experience where you get turned on. If you get turned on in any way, it makes it more believable. -AM

Why should our readers come see Black Angels and Roky Erickson at Southgate House Revival?

They should come see the show because I don’t know how much longer he’s gonna be playing.  Roky’s a pioneer of psychedelic music. He’s still together and he’s still sharp – when he’s playing music, it’s very obvious. There are so many people who have been inspired by this man and we’re honored to play with him. People who are trying to get into psychedelic music who think it’s too weird or drug-oriented – drugs have nothing do with it. The music should take you there. When you listen to music that’s full of soul, it should be like a religious experience. That’s the goal of the show. -AM


The Black Angels will perform on Friday, Feb. 7 at the Southgate House Revival, 111 E. 6th Street in Newport, Ky. Roky Erickson and Golden Animals are also on the bill. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day of show. Doors open at 8 p.m. For more information, please visit theblackangels.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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