They had their instruments stolen whilst touring in NYC with Coldplay. They lost at ping-pong to Gwyneth Paltrow. One of their songs was featured in a Kevin Bacon flick and also a Spiderman 3 movie.
Yes I’m talking about Vancouver’s psychedelic rock band Black Mountain. Having been a week in Berlin getting used to clouds, cold and rain, indieberlin sent me to meet up with lead guitarist/vocalist Stephen McBean and keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt at the retro Michelberger Hotel.
indieberlin: You’ve teamed up once again with Randall Dunn for your new upcoming album ‘IV’. What made you want to work with him again?
Black Mountain: He came to Vancouver and sat at one of our rehearsals. It’s very informal with Randall. We’re friends, we enjoy his sensibility. He’s not dogmatic, he’s very experimental. We love his bands – Sunn O’ and they made some of the best records in the last ten years. So that’s why we decided to work with Randall again.
indieberlin: Jagjagwar states that you’re at the peak of your powers.
Black Mountain: It’s all downhill from here!
Berlin is a trilogy of collective consciousnesses
indieberlin: Berlin – what does this city mean to you?
Black Mountain: History with the wall. It’s been 10 years since we last played here. The East/West separation, the musical history especially with David Bowie. Everyone comes to Berlin to seek inspiration. Well not a sunny inspiration. Berlin is a trilogy of collective consciousnesses. Great musicians lived here like the Bad Seeds, Nico, Iggy Pop, there’s a darkness yet it’s romantic. Lots of cement, very industrial. Yes there is a certain romantic darkness.
Everything is beautiful because we’re different
indieberlin: What’s the beauty of having round pegs, and square holes?
Black Mountain: The five of us share a similar passion for music. It stems from different places. Everything is beautiful because we’re different!’
indieberlin: What was it about Jagjagwar, which made you think that this is the label for you?
Black Mountain: We sent them a bunch of stuff. Stephen – I remember sending them a Pinkmountaindrops demo. It wasn’t quite Black Mountain yet. But what attracted us to them, was that we grew together as they were starting out just like us. Plus they were the first label to say yes to signing us.
I was kind of “Who’s Pitchfork?”
indieberlin: Was it true that you once said you did not know what Pitchfork was?
Black Mountain: Jeremy: At the time I worked in a retail store. And my colleague told me that there was a piece on us on Pitchfork. And I was kind of ‘Who’s Pitchfork?’ So yes to answer your question I did not know what Pitchfork was, but you have to remember that back then, there was no internet and we didn’t have cellphones.
We did end up sounding a bit like Coldplay towards the end of the tour
indieberlin: You were asked to support Coldplay. Didn’t you mind that you performed a different genre of music to them?
Black Mountain: It’s pretty cool to be asked by Coldplay to support them. For us it meant performing at larger venues which we weren’t used to. We wanted people to hear the music. If anyone liked it, it was fine with us. However we did end up sounding a bit like Coldplay towards the end. Their music rubbed off on us.
indieberlin: Your new album mentions influences from AC/DC, King Crimson, Kraftwerk.
Black Mountain: We didn’t deliberately do it. In our world they just co-emerge. We let it be.
indieberlin: Stephen, you talk about the power of Youtube. That there’s a new scene with a different set of headphones creating a postmodern futuristic fantasy island.
Black Mountain: Yeah it’s kind of creating your own rock videos I guess. Like a montage. You have these Youtube formats blasting off. Unusual combinations creating mixtapes.
Tame Impala opened up for us before they were big back in 2000, and we were like ‘Who are these dudes?’
indieberlin: Who chooses the bands that support you when you’re on tour?
Black Mountain: It’s usually a booking agent. Or us. We tend to pick friends, or people we like. Tame Impala opened up for us before they were big back in 2000, and we were like ‘Who are these dudes’. Same thing with MGMT when they opened for us in Seattle, before they had released their first album. We remember they needed a show, and we needed a show, so it was a good combination.
Moutains? Vancouver is full of them, they’re like monsters
indieberlin: What’s the fascination with mountains?
Black Mountain: Vancouver is full of them, they’re like monsters.
Black Mountain will kick off their album ‘IV’ tour on the 19th of March in Portugal. They will perform at the Lido in Berlin on April 16th.
Write to win at indieberlin.de or write into the comments below if you want to win a pair of tickets to Black Mountain in Lido!
Interview by Shawn James
Photo by Magdalena Wosinska