Carlton Melton seem to reside in a musical space all their own. They’re one of those bands that completely transcend their influences into something wholly original. Classic rock, alternative rock, noise rock, and mother nature herself seem to collide and coalesce in the improvisational jams that make up a Carlton Melton record.
When I first started listening to albums like Country Ways, Always Even, and Out To Sea I had in my head that these three dudes recording in a geodesic dome in the wilds of Mendocino County in California were on some serious trip. Heady jams with roots in metaphysical concepts and inspiration drawn from crazy science fiction. In reality, three friends enter the dome, they plug in and just see what happens. They let the space, location, and moods lead them down the paths that lead to a Carlton Melton record. No theories or heady concepts. Each record is a document to essentially letting go and seeing where things lead.
That idea is far cooler than mine.
Last year Carlton Melton released the excellent Hidden Lights EP, then earlier this year the 2LP Mind Minerals. The band headed to Europe for a few dates but cut it short due to Rich Millman and Andy Duvall both getting Pneumonia. They returned home, rested up, and are back at full geodesic rocking capacity.
I sat down and talked with Rich and Andy about the new music, their improvisational jams, and what it’s like playing for people while feeling as if burning glass is in your chest.
J. Hubner: It’s been a couple years since we’ve spoke. What has Carlton Melton been up to since ‘Out To Sea’ was released in 2015? Have you prepped the dome for our inevitable post-apocalyptic future?
Andy Duvall: I moved to Sacramento. It’s hot. There’s a great record store here, Delta Breeze. I work in the foothills and pass other geodesic domes every day; seeing them makes me happy.
Rich Millman: Staying safe , yes. We had a blast at the Dome last Labor Day weekend in September for Andy’s 50TH. It may have been the hottest weekend ever recorded in Point Arena. You can hear the heat in the recordings we made.
J. Hubner: Last year you released the Hidden Lights EP, then back in February you dropped the epic 2LP ‘Mind Minerals’. Is ‘Hidden Lights’ the short story that leads into ‘Mind Minerals’?
Andy Duvall: You could say that.
J. Hubner: Between those two albums, is there a theme you three were trying to hit on throughout? Sort of a sonic or psychic vibe you wanted as a through line?
Andy Duvall: No theme for me; just a night’s vibe caught on tape. The tricky part is piecing together the heavy rockers with the space jams to make the album.
Rich Millman: I don’t think we try to have any themes going into these recordings. I think the entire ‘hidden lights’ record came together pretty good vibe-wise while ‘mind minerals’ maybe has more stand alone tracks like each track is it’s own mineral for the mind.
J. Hubner: Did you guys work with Phil Manley again like you did with ‘Out To Sea’?
Andy Duvall: Yes.
Rich Millman: Phil Manley is the best.
J. Hubner: What albums do you still go back to and are blown away by?
Andy Duvall: My Bloody Valentine ‘isn’t anything’, Jimi Hendrix Experience-‘Electric Ladyland’, Sonic Youth ‘Daydream Nation’, Dinosaur Jr, ‘You’re Living All Over Me’, Neil young ‘On The Beach’, Rites of Spring ‘s/t’, 13th Floor Elevators ‘Easter Everywhere’, Spacemen 3 ‘The Perfect Prescription’, and Schoolly D ‘Saturday Night!- The Album’.
Rich Millman: All the old Jimi Hendrix , Led Zeppelin , Black Sabbath stuff. I go back to a lot of Classic Rock stuff all the time. Guitar players like Dave Murray from Iron Maiden and Glen Tipton of Judas Priest I can always go back to and appreciate. Nothing like driving around with the windows down blasting that stuff.
J. Hubner: What have you taken away from those records that helped you when you started writing and recording yourself?
Andy Duvall: The sloppiness, the looseness, the mistakes- the vibe.
Rich Millman: There still isn’t any drum sound as consistently good as John Bonham’s and Alex Van Halen’s.. stuff like those sounds that last over time. You could always depend on those bands and recordings.
J. Hubner: Earlier in the year Carlton Melton made their way over the pond to Europe for some dates. How did those shows go? You had to cut it short because of illness, didn’t you?
Andy Duvall: The first 3 weeks were the best we’ve ever played live. Then came the pneumonia.
Rich Millman: Shows were pretty awesome. We cancelled the last two shows due to Andy and I both catching pneumonia.
J. Hubner: How long were you guys on the mend when you got back to the States?
Andy Duvall: It took me about a month to fully recover after I returned home. In the beginning, in England, it was truly horrible- felt like shattered glass was on fire in my chest whenever I coughed, which was easily a couple hundred times a day for the first week.
Rich Millman: I had never had pneumonia before. Yeah, I was useless for about a month after returning to the states.
J. Hubner: Despite the illness, the gigs were good? Decent turnouts?
Andy Duvall: The gigs were great, even the last four or five we played when I could barely eat, sleep, or stand up. A couple times audience members came up to me after the show and said they thought for sure I was gonna fall flat on my face on stage; I think I came fairly close a couple times.
Rich Millman: All were killer gigs from what I remember, pretty amazing some of the people turning out and bands we played with. People were very enthusiastic for our records and t-shirts. The last show we pulled off being sick in Lille France and our bass player Clint said afterwards it was the perfect tempo , like one of the best sounding shows ever or something like that hahaha. We were sounding pretty tight.
J. Hubner: You guys recently played a show with Wooden Shjips. How did that show come about?
Andy Duvall: We are buds.
Rich Millman: They get in touch every time they tour West Coast.. very cool of them.
J. Hubner: How was the show? So you’ve played with them in the past?
Rich Millman: The show with Wooden Shjips was pretty great.
Andy Duvall: Yes, they are wonderful people. The show was a blast. It’s always a pleasure to play with those dudes.
Rich Millman: If I remember correctly our second gig ever was playing with Wooden Shjips and Sleepy Sun at New Parish in Oakland Jan 2011.. I have the poster somewhere.
J. Hubner: How’s the rest of 2018 looking for Carlton Melton? Have you guys already commenced to the dome for new jams and tunes?
Andy Duvall: We’re hoping to hit up the Dome in July for our 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!! Fingers crossed!!!
Rich Millman: Yes , hoping to record some jams and hang out for the CM 10 year anniversary in mid-July , and then we can chant “””10 more years,,10 more years”””
For all our sakes, I’m hoping Rich, Andy, and Clint are jamming and vibing at the dome for as long as they can remember how to get there. The world is a better place with those geodesic dome jams.
Head over to Midheaven and snag a copy of the wonderful Mind Minerals, and any other Carlton Melton wax you might be missing from your collection. Keep up with all of Carlton Melton’s doings right here.