Feature Photo by Ksenija Lu
Mythic Sunship are four guys that like to paint their music with very broad, but definitive strokes. These four Danish dudes go into a record with a skeleton of an idea and once the record button is punched they cover that skeleton with flesh and blood. They create the concept that becomes a soul within those bones of a track. There’s a certain amount of high wire walking when Mythic Sunship make a record. The band, which consists of Emil Thorenfeldt, Frederik Denning, Kasper Andersen and Rasmus Christensen approach their brand of chugging rock much like Coltrane, Sun Ra, and Miles Davis approached making jazz in their most adventurous phases. Much like modes of jazz, Mythic Sunship find a cozy pocket to explore and then set the controls for the heart of the sun, so to speak.
With each successive release Mythic Sunship have pushed their sound forward to new territory. From their debut with El Paraiso Records Ouroboros, to the follow-up Land Between Rivers the guys honed their sound. They made those chugging and pummeling riffs more expansive and atmospheric, while still keeping that adventurous spirit alive and well. Earlier this year Mythic Sunship dropped their best record yet(up to that point) in Upheaval. That album feels like a finish to an “anaconda rock” trilogy of sorts. It was their most diverse group of songs yet, and their most epic.
There was a sense that a new direction should be taken. Ideas of where Mythic Sunship should head sonically and spiritually were thought of and long time dreams were open to be made into a reality. Adding saxophonist Søren Skov to the mix and heading into Causa Sui guitarist Jonas Munk’s studio, the band set out to create something special and something they felt they were meant to create from the band’s very beginning.
Welcome to Another Shape Of Psychedelic Music and the awakening of Mythic Sunship.
With the guys getting ready for an album release show with none other than Causa Sui, Mythic Sunship sat down to talk to Complex Distractions about the album, its concept, and their vision for the band from here on out.
J. Hubner: Hi guys. Last time we talked at the beginning of the year you were readying an album. Now you’re readying album number two for 2018. How have things been in-between these massive bouts of creativity for Mythic Sunship? Did you get out and play some shows? Did you drink a pint or two?
Emil Thorenfeldt: 2018 has been bloody incredible. We went on tour in April and played 16 shows in 17 days in 8 countries all over Europe and while it took a little while to recover from two-and-a-half weeks of drunken debauchery I’m already itching to head out again. Thankfully that looks set to happen in the not too distant future.
Creatively, it’s been a slower year by design. We poured everything into the recording sessions for Another Shape of Psychedelic Music in Winter 2017 and have so far mostly spent 2018 on honing our skills as a live band. We’re not heading back to the studio this year, but there’s already new ideas, some born during the tour, that we’d like to capture at some point.
J. Hubner: So back at the beginning of the year you guys released the excellent ‘Upheaval’. A pretty epic record I might add. Now, Mythic Sunship, along with Jonas Munk and saxophonist Søren Skov have just unleashed a massive record called ‘Another Shape of Psychedelic Music’. A double LP of improvisational excursions into psych, doom, fusion, and pure molten rock and roll.
Can you tell me a little about the concept of the album? Where did the idea come to head into Jonas Munk’s studio with a saxophonist, hit record, and see what would happen?
Frederik Denning: We had been talking about getting a saxophonist on board for a while, and honestly it had been a dream of mine since we started the band almost ten years ago. Back then it seemed like something that was very far away (I guess 10 years is kinda far away), but it has always been something that has been a prevalent “vision” for the band throughout its existence. Last year, we started feeling like we were in a place where it would be logical to take the music and our ambitions for it the next step, and we all agreed that recording with a saxophonist would be the ideal way to do this.
While the tracks are improvised, we had a very clear vision for the album, and I’m happy to say that it ended up very much like what we had in mind aesthetically. A lot of it has to do with the way of playing music that is always in motion, always moving ahead. A very clear inspiration is some of the mid 60’s Coltrane recordings. Something like ‘One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note’ comes to mind. For some reason, people just stopped playing music that way when Coltrane died. Jazz almost entirely moved in a different direction and became either much more quiet and contemplative or outright electric. The irony is that our rock album with a jazz saxophonist is much more inspired by the mid to late 60’s acoustic jazz than the 70’s electric jazz. It’s so rare to see a jazz act that just plays like the devil’s behind them, and longing for that way of approaching music is, to me at least, what brought us to record ‘Another Shape of Psychedelic Music’.
Rasmus Christensen: This vision of taking things a step further, creating an even freer music in a less genre-strict form with a saxophonist onboard also required for us to go to an actual recording studio. While the first three albums are technically home recorded, the possibilities of the professional recording studio ended up having a huge effect on the music and the way we played. There was room for much more subtlety and finesse –– much of it having to do with being able to really listen to what every member of the band was playing.
J. Hubner: Can you tell me a little about the recording process? Were you going in pretty much free of song ideas and just seeing where things would lead?
Emil Thorenfeldt: Yes and no. As has been the case so far for all our recording sessions, we’ve brought a handful of clear ideas that we wanted to do a couple of takes of, and then the rest just happens.Two of the tracks on the new album feature Jonas Munk and they literally represent the first and second time we’ve ever jammed with him. I personally love that freedom of knowing that the four of us who have played together for years now have a core understanding that means we can add a saxophonist and a guitarist and just hit record.
Rasmus Christensen: As with all our ideas, they are pretty vague or open and mostly consist of a key to play in and maybe a mood or vibe. Of the six tracks that ended up on the album, only the first one builds upon an idea we had prior to going into the studio. And that idea, as I recall, was just “the saxophone and the bass starting a track together”. From there, it is mostly free improvisation, but we did add some overdubs of percussion on the track ‘Backyard Ritual’, which is also a first for us.
J. Hubner: There are some pretty epic pieces of music here. Double LP, gatefold sleeve, and album side-length tracks that get loud and crazy at times. When I’m listening I’m reminded of discovering records like Miles Davis’ ‘Big Fun’, ‘Panagea’, and even Hawkwind’s ‘In Search of Space’. Big, epic chunks of music laid out over an hour of listening.
Going into this, were you guys wanting to create your own little piece of epic album history? Who or what were some influences in the creative process?
Emil Thorenfeldt: I think we had a hunch going into the recording sessions that we could produce something special, but it wasn’t until we actually heard the recordings that we agreed that rather than splitting this into two or even three very good LPs, we would cram the very best stuff into a mammoth double LP with a fitting title. Thankfully El Paraïso Records were on board with the idea.
As far as influences, they’ve remained the same for me as always: a bunch of free jazz (Sonny Sharrock, Coltrane, Joe McPhee), Japrock (Mainliner especially) and bits and bobs from all over the place.
Rasmus Christensen: Of the records mentioned, I’ve probably listened to ‘In Search of Space’ more than any Miles Davis record, but with that being said, I think we all had an idea that this album was going to be “jazzier” than the previous ones. For obvious reasons like adding a jazz saxophonist to the mix, but also in the improvisational qualities we dig into on this album, that might be more jazz than rock. I don’t know. For me it’s about that feeling of collective improvisation and music flowing from an organic unit where several solos on guitar, saxophone, whatever can play against and with each other at the same time. I draw inspiration for that in a lot of different places, but probably mostly in freejazz, kraut- and japrock.
J. Hubner: Can you tell me a little about Søren Skov? Were you guys aware of him prior to recording the album?
Frederik Denning: So when we had decided that we wanted a saxophonist, we had to find one that had that Coltrane vibe. And as I touched on earlier, for some reason those are really, really difficult to find. I went to a concert with Søren’s previous band (I believe they recently split up) Debre Damo Dining Orchestra at a festival in Denmark called Fanø Free Folk Festival. I had seen the band before and noticed Søren, but this time he got a little more wild, overblowing the horn in some pretty crazy solos and I just thought: ‘Wow: That’s our guy”, went up to him afterwards and said that he had to come and play rock in the spirit of Coltrane with us. Maybe he thought I was crazy, but fortunately I’m good friends with a couple of the guys he played with and he agreed to join us. The first jam we did was really good, but after we told him that it was okay to play a little more wild than he was used to and to overblow the horn, the roof of our rehearsal space just went off in the next jam.
Rasmus Christensen: I really can’t stress enough how much of a musical kindred spirit we have found in Søren. What are the odds, that you can just throw this guy into a rehearsal space with a well-knit band through several years, and he just gets it?
J. Hubner: If you’re lucky that happens once in a lifetime.
Frederik Denning: Haha, yeah, it truly was a crazy experience! This guy just walks in the door, we tell him: Ok, we’re gonna play a jam in E or whatever, and he just went off the rails.
J. Hubner: So on October 5th folks can see Søren and Mythic Sunship go off the rails live. Tell me about this album release show you guys have planned.
Rasmus Christensen: It’s going to be at Loppen, a venue inside Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen where we’ve played a few times before. It’s a cool place –– low ceiling, lot’s of wood, huge speakers –– so the atmosphere is going to be just right. We won’t play our new record in full. We never do that. The records are hard to recreate that way. But we are going to use some of the musical ideas from the album to start off on and see where it takes us. We’re also trying some brand new things out. This is probably going to be one of our longest shows ever, so get ready!
J. Hubner: Okay, so Mythic Sunship have released two of the most epic, heavy, and heady musical trips of 2018. I know ‘Upheaval’ and ‘Another Shape of Psychedelic Music’ will both be in my top ten for the year. What’s next?
Rasmus Christensen: As Emil said in the beginning, we do have some new stuff we would like to put on record someday, but we’re not planning on hitting the studio this year. We’re much more keen on exploring the potential of this new band constellation –– not least the live potential of this branch or shape of psychedelic music, that we would like the ears of the world to pay more attention to.
Head over to El Paraiso Records and grab a copy of Another Shape of Psychedelic Music on CD. Double LP vinyl has sold out at the site, but if you’re in Denmark go see the lads play Loppen and grab a copy of the vinyl from them there.