Black Mountain
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Black Mountain

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Blending together the atmospherics of Pink Floyd and the heavy riffs of Black Sabbath, Black Mountain discovered the golden formula of seriously addictive psychedelic rock back in 2004.

Blending together the atmospherics of Pink Floyd and the heavy riffs of Black Sabbath, Black Mountain discovered the golden formula of seriously addictive psychedelic rock back in 2004. Three albums later, they’re getting even more experimental as the Black Mountain army further expands to the other side of the globe all the way to Australia. With one foot in the past, and one foot in the future, keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt reckons recording Wilderness Heart (from 2010) at the infamous Sunset Sound Recordings Studios was like getting sucked into a time-warp.

"The sheer amount of names that put down some of the greatest albums of all time there was enough to blow my mind," he recalls. "You’re kind of just in awe to be standing in a space like that. It’s like one of those places where history has taken place and you can’t believe you’re privileged enough to be given a chance to make some history of your own.

"We were in there thinking, ‘wow, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac and Prince, all these people made some of the best music right here where we stand,’ – and all of a sudden it’s a feeling of being small yet big. We got told that when Prince was recording there, he actually moved into the area and lived there because he was just so into the vibe and the atmosphere of the place. And he’s right, because it really is great."

The coolest part, according to the keyboardist, was the vast amount of vintage gear available to the band as they set up camp and took to putting together their third offering. With Oasis, Nine Inch Nails and LCD Soundsystem producer Dave Sardy by their side, Schmidt says Wilderness Heart found Black Mountain in their tightest, most concentrated form yet.

"Originally we were just going to keep it really simple and just hire a whole lot of gear and just do the record ourselves," begins Schmidt. "But then we realised that it probably wouldn’t sound like anything much different to our previous albums. The thought of surprising other people as well as ourselves really appealed to us, the thought of taking a risk, you could say. And we had the option to work with not one, but two, awesome producers."

With Sardy back in Los Angeles, and with a second helping hand thanks to Randall Dunn (Sunn O)))) in a Seattle studio, Schmidt says the band spent much of the year back and forth between the two states. Add to that relentless touring across America and Canada, as well attempts at spending some quality time back at home in Vancouver, Schmidt reckons it’s a wonder the record even got finished on time.

"And we definitely had a deadline," he states. "Because we knew that working with people like that, you could spend forever taking your time! It was an amazing experience but we also knew that we had to stick to the plan time-wise. I think we’re also getting more critical on ourselves as a band, I’ve probably noticed that more on this record than ever before.

"As you make more things, you become more demanding on yourself about what you’re going to be satisfied with. Bands that still have a creative force that propels them will never ever rest on their laurels or rely on the tried and true, but they’ll always push to improve on the last best thing they did. There’s no way that process could get easier with time. If each record you do seems like it’s getting harder and harder to make, that’s probably a good sign that you’re pushing yourself."

For Schmidt, it’s other projects outside of Black Mountain that keep the creative juices flowing and help to inject fresh energy back into the band seven years since their formation. Having recently contributed to the original score of the paranoid sci-fi motion picture Beyond The Black Rainbow, Schmidt claims it was nice to take a head trip of a different kind.

"I still get weirded out that people even go out and buy our albums or come out and see our shows!" he laughs. "If we’re on stage and I look out into the crowd, I’m always thinking, ‘wow, so all these people know our records, they actually know our music’. Beyond The Black Rainbow just had a screening the other day and I went to see it. It’s like a science fiction/horror/art film which is the director’s first feature-length movie. It was something that I hadn’t worked on before, so it was very exciting for me to take part. It was that same kind of feeling when we were at the screening – all these people are going to see this film!

"It’s always good to work on something that has a totally different focus to what you spend most of your time on," he adds. "It allows you to come back feeling a lot more ready when you’ve worked on something else for a while. That probably goes for everything in life, really. It’s like going on vacation and then coming home – when you’re at home you’re sick of being home and when you’re away you’re ready to come home and start cleaning your house up…"

On the eve of the band’s return to Australia this month, Schmidt claims he’s already finished the chores around the house and is packed and ready to head back in our direction. Hot weather, good friends, and a string of dates around Australia – Schmidt agrees he isn’t likely to get homesick during this upcoming vacation.

"I love the venues and the people just seem really grateful that your band made it all the way there to play. It’s a long way to go for a North American band, that’s for sure. I’m so sick of the winter weather here, though, so I’m ready to switch gears as soon as possible. I have a lot of friends that are from here in North America who I grew up with and who ended up moving to Australia – actually, I know a lot of people who have done that. And then you see them years later and they’ve changed so much, they’re so much more laid-back and carefree.

"I don’t know what you guys do to them."

BLACK MOUNTAIN return to Australia this week and play The Corner Hotel this Monday February 21 with The Night Terrors and Matt Bailey (solo). Tickets from: handsometours.com, The Corner box office, 9427 9198, cornerhotel.com and Polyester. Wilderness Heart is out now through Inertia.