Six Organs of Admittance bring beautiful obscurity to Ohio
By Zach Rogers
Photo credit: Christopher Altenburg of MonsterFresh.com
The music of Six Organs of Admittance, the name given to the noisy psych-folk project of Ben Chasny, is airy, melodic and ear-biting all at the same time. It leaps out of the speakers, wrapping itself around you like a warm blanket of guitar fuzz. Chasny has been recording and performing under the moniker since the late ‘90s, and as he prepares to head back out on the road in support of his newest album, Ascent, he sat down with me to discuss a variety of topics, from the pros and cons of studio recording to the current state of being a working musician. Fun fact: Ohio State Troopers are scary looking people!
So how long have you been performing under Six Organs of Admittance, and how did it all begin?
I started playing live with the project in 1999, and it’s one of the first things I started that I’ve actually kept going. I was doing projects before but they didn’t really hold up. It all started with some 4-track recordings I was doing at home in the psych-folk vein, and it’s gone through different changes throughout the years. – Ben Chasny
Did you have a specific goal in mind when you first started recording?
I guess the original idea came from listening to different types of music and thinking, “Well, I kind of want to listen to this noise record, but I also want to listen to this folk record at the same time.” So I started thinking about how I could combine those two sounds into one. – BC
You mentioned different types of music – what were early influences on you when you were forging your own sound?
Well, it’s weird because I always worked with electric guitar and acoustic guitar in separate realms. When I did acoustic stuff I was always finger-picking, and with the electric guitar I always played really loud. Acoustically, people like Bert Jansch and other ‘60s finger-pickers inspired me there. With the electric stuff I was into louder, freer, more obscure guitar playing, stuff like Rudolph Grey, which hasn’t necessarily crept into Six Organs as much but it was still a big influence on me. – BC
After experiencing both, what’s better: recording at home or at a professional studio?
I think they both have their pros and cons. The record I did before last was a home recording. I went back and started doing a lot with a combination of computer and 4-track, then went and had it mastered. So I like them both. When you record at home you can think about something for a long time, like a year or two if you really wanted to. When you’re in the studio it’s nice to bounce ideas off of different people and there’s a lot more equipment to use and more sounds to explore. – BC
So the studio’s better as far as collaborating with people and having more tools at your disposal?
Yeah, especially if you’re working with someone who knows what they’re doing. It can really open up the possibilities. But the clock is always ticking at the studio. It costs money which is good and bad. It puts you on the spot and makes you think a little more quickly.
Was the transition from home recording to studio recording weird? You talk about the pressure – did you feel any of that when you first got to a studio?
I had already recorded in a studio with this band Comets on Fire I was in before, but I just hadn’t done anything on my own yet. I’d say the first time I went in with Six Organs I was excited more than anything else because I finally had more than four tracks to work with. – BC
You just got back from touring Europe. What was that like?
I’ve been there before and people are always really nice over there. It’s weird though, I think certain countries are just more open to guitar music in general than others. Once you get down to Portugal or Spain they’re really receptive to anything with a guitar. – BC
Does being on the road inspire you to write new songs?
I never write new songs on the road. I don’t know how people do it. I’m too worried about not crashing and making it to the next show on time. Maybe on a day off when I’m hanging out in the hotel room or something, but even then I don’t really write on the road. I think I’ve written a total of three songs on the road. – BC
Have you been through Ohio before?
Yeah it’s cool. For some reason I’m more scared of the state troopers here than anywhere else. I don’t know what it is. I think they just look extra scary with those hats on. But yeah, I like it. I’ve got friends in the area so it’s a cool place to come and visit. – BC
Six Organs of Admittance will perform on Thursday, Dec. 6 at the MOTR Pub, 1345 Main St. in Cincinnati. Also on the bill is Blues Control. Admission is free for 21 & up. Doors at 9 p.m. For more information visit www.sixorgans.com or www.dragcity.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer and intern Zach Rogers at ZachRogers@daytoncitypaper.com