‘Stars Are the Light’, the luminous seventh album by the American psych explorers Moon Duo, marks a progression into significantly new territory. From a preoccupation with the transcendental and occult that informed Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada’s guitar-driven psych rock, and reached its apotheosis in the acclaimed ‘Occult Architecture’ diptych, ‘Stars Are the Light’ sees the band synthesize the abstract and metaphysical with the embodied and terrestrial.
Says Yamada: “We have changed, the nature of our collaboration has changed, the world has changed, and we wanted the new music to reflect that.” Branching out from ‘Occult Architecture’ Vol. 2, the album has a sonic physicality that is at once propulsive and undulating; it puts dance at the heart of an expansive nexus that connects the body to the stars. These are songs about embodied human experience – love, change, misunderstanding, internal struggle, joy, misery, alienation, discord, harmony, celebration – rendered as a kind of dance of the self, both in relation to other selves and to the eternal dance of the cosmos. Moon Duo are performing at Volksbühne in Berlin on Monday, 21.10.2019
1: Lou Reed’s song “Street Hassle” contains an uncredited spoken word performance by Bruce Springsteen.
2: Bruce Springsteen was a huge fan of the band Suicide.
3: Errol Flynn rode a motorcycle.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Just raw human emotions. I was thinking about this recently. No other art form can convey or touch emotions like music. It cuts to the nerve, no thought required.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I just fell into it as a kid. I felt like it was something I had to do.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidananda
Träd Gräs Och Stenar – Mors Mors
Neil Young – On the Beach
Link Wray – The Swan Singles
The Stooges – Fun House
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Mixing records, and various friends and characters. We’ve mixed numerous albums at Kaiku Studios in Berlin. It’s always a challenging, emotional process for us, so the associations with Berlin are very strong. We feel tied to Berlin because of those experiences.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
The Hollywood Theater, a local movie house. They show a lot of old, weird, and just great, films. They have 35mm and 70mm projectors too. It’s a beautiful place. I go there a lot. I saw “99 River Street” there last night, a great cult noir.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Impossible to imagine but I’ve always thought I would be making films if I didn’t make music. The visual, rhythmic elements are similar to music, just not as direct.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Just yesterday I bought “The Music of Idris Ackamoor”, and The Collective’s “Idrissa’s Dream” —both Idris Ackamoor-related. Idris & The Pyramids are playing the Le Guess Who festival in November as part of our curated section. I was filling holes in my collection, getting fired up.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
We mixed our latest record with Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 / Spectrum fame. That was great. A step toward collaborating a bit more. We’re pretty controlling of our music. Martin Rev would be cool.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
It was a “secret” Neil Young & Crazy Horse gig at a small club in San Francisco. Jim Jarmusch was in town for a “Year of the Horse” film premiere. They played every song you could want. I shouted out “Prisoners of Rock ’n’ Roll” and then they played it. Mind blowing. Incidentally, one of the best gigs I’ve played was when Moon Duo did a set with Jim Jarmusch in Brooklyn. So, full circle.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
It’s everything. I like to work alone, and I write songs by building up layers of sound. Without technology, even just a basic tape 2-track, I’d be fairly lost.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have two brothers. I don’t know if they think much of the music, but they respect that I’m out here making it happen.
Photo by Jody Hartley