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Desert Mountain Tribe - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 29 / 6 / 2018

Desert Mountain Tribe - Interview


John Clarkson speaks to London-based rock act Desert Mountain Tribe bassist Philipp Jahn about their just released experimental second album, 'Om Parvat Mystery'.

Desert Mountain Tribe are a three-piece, self-described ‘rock act’ from London. They are often labelled by fans and critics as being a psychedelic or a shoegazing band, yet their epic and panoramic music has a broader sound. 'Om Parvat Mystery', their just released second album, reveals an increasingly experimental act, and includes two tracks 'Himalaya' and 'Chemical Genius' recorded with Indian singer Najma Akthar, who has previously worked with Page and Plant. 'Om Parvat Mystery', which was largely recorded in the Faroe Islands last year, is the last album to feature the group’s original line-up of Jonty Balls (vocals, guitar), Philipp Jahn (bass) and Felix Jahn (drums). Felix Jahn has since left the group and been replaced by Frank van der Ploeg, Pennyblackmusic spoke to Philipp Jahn about Desert Mountain Tribe’s new line-up and 'Om Parvat Mystery'. PB: You are frequently described as being a psychedelic or a shoegazing band, yet you tend to describe yourselves as simply a 'rock act' or 'rock trio'. How do you feel about the psychedelic/shoegazing monikers? Do you find them in some ways limiting? PHILIPP JAHN: I think the term ‘psych’ is thrown around way too easy these days. Recently I walked in to a ‘psych folk’ band at the Old Blue Last. Not sure what it had to do with ‘psych’ music, but it almost feels like it’s the new ‘indie’. So, we are just not massive fans of using the term. PB: 'Om Parvat Mystery' was largely recorded in the Faroe Islands. It is an unusual place to make an album. Why did you decide to go there to record it? How long were you there for? PJ: We were invited to play G! Festival on the island. Unfortunately the flights on the weekend were quite expensive but fairly cheap the week before. Since we wanted to record the album in some remote place outside of London, we thought we would give the Faroes a try. The guys from the festival hooked us up with the best studio on the island and we just went from there. It was a great experience! PB: It is a very unpredictable album. On every single one of the nine tracks you do something unexpected or unusual with the guitars or drums, taking it in a direction that few listeners would guess. Did you have a plan for the album before you went into the studio and was that unpredictability intentional? PJ: I think the plan was to have no plan. If that makes sense… Our first album (‘Either That or the Moon’, 2016 - Ed) was very much planned, and the songs were set in stone before we went to the studio as we had been playing them for years. We wrote the new album in a month before we hit the studio because we wanted to leave room for experimenting and spontaneous ideas. So, a lot of ideas happened at the spur of the moment and we are really happy with the results of that! PB: 'Om Parvat Mystery' was co-produced with the band by James Aparicio who has worked with Spiritualized, Depeche Mode and Nick Cave. What do you think he brought to the recording? PJ: As I just mentioned, we left a lot of room from experimenting and James helped us, with his experience, to fill that room! He was a great help in trying out new things and coming up with sounds. Credits also to Steve Nichols who came with us to the Faroes and brought some great ideas to the table. PB: The final two tracks 'Himalaya' and 'Chemical Genius' feature the Indian singer Najma Akthar. How did you first discover her? Was it through her work with Page and Plant? PJ: We met Najma’s manager when we were on tour in the US and he put us in touch with her. Najma lives in London as well, so she visited one of our shows and we exchanged some ideas afterwards. When we wrote the two songs, we instantly had Najma in mind for singing then and were thrilled that she agreed to sing on them. PB: Those two tracks are absolutely breathtaking. How much of them came about through improvisation and how much of them were conceived beforehand? PJ: They are 90% improvised, I’d say. Of course, after some time you put thought into the structure of the songs but we just jammed the hell the out the them. PB: This album has seen the departure of Felix Jahn and you recruit Frank van der Ploeg into the line-up who appears on one track, 'World'. What's Frank's previous musical background? Have the dynamics of the band changed dramatically since he joined the group? PJ: Of course, dynamic change a little if you change a member. Especially if you are only a three piece. Frank has played in many bands before and we used to live in the same neighbourhood in London, so I knew him from random nightly encounters. He dived straight into the band and helped us out a lot in the beginning when we already had a big tour planned and only one month to find a replacement. He is very talented so he quickly found his way into the songs and is now a full part of the band! PB: You have just played one show so far to promote the album in London. Will you be touring a lot during the next few months? PJ: We have a few more festivals booked over the summer and do a little Rough Trade in store tour. The big tour I, however,s coming up in September and October. PB: It feels listening to 'Om Parvat Mystery' that you could go in any one of several directions next. The majority of the material on it was recorded about a year ago before Felix's departure. Have you done much songwriting or recording since then and do you know musically where you are going next? PJ: We are always working on some new ideas but with the post production of the new album, integrating a new member and a lot of touring, we didn’t really have time to go back to the studio yet. No idea what we will do next. Probably not death metal… PB: Thank you.

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Desert Mountain Tribe - Interview

Desert Mountain Tribe - Interview

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