Plankton Wat is Portland-based musician Dewey Mahood, who also moonlights with heavy-psych mainstays Eternal Tapestry. As Plankton Wat, his expressionist compositions exude a supernatural grace and patience, reflecting the beauty and mythical energy of the West Coast’s wild places. Pieces blossom from low-lit, porchside ambience into powerful head-trips, ushering the listener through ravines of feedback to peaks of lysergic bliss. Future Times, Plankton Wat’s newest for Thrill Jockey, lays out a sprawling cinematic and psychedelic survey of a planet in crisis that weaves a path of hope through the darkness.
1: Water is life.
2: It is always best to be one’s true self.
3: Peace cannot be achieved by violence.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Being alive on this planet, the beauty of nature, my family and friends. Wanting to create things and share it with people I care for. Being a part of the community.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
My mom had an old acoustic guitar when I was little, and I loved to strum on it. I had no idea about how music works at that time, but was instantly curious about how notes changed as I moved my fingers on the strings. My first love was drums though, and at my elementary school we had a music class where we learned to tap rhythms with drum sticks. I’ve been exploring music ever since.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
This changes daily, and typically whatever I’m currently listening to is my favorite in the moment. Albums I always return to are:
Electric Ladyland – Jimi Hendrix
Rock for Light – Bad Brains
Ege Bamyasi – Can
Another Green World – Brian Eno
A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the city yet, but hope to some day! I saw the film Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders when it came out, I was in high school at the time, and that film has always stuck with me. I’ve owned a copy on VHS for 30 years and revisit it like an old friend. It’s my clearest feeling of Berlin.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
We have this little volcano in the middle section of SE Portland, Oregon where I live called Mt. Tabor. It’s a beautiful and lush wooded hike to the top, and an awesome panoramic view of the city. Going up there and watching the sunset behind the downtown area with our high rise buildings never gets old.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Well, that would be a very sad world indeed. Besides playing and listening to music, my favorite thing to do is explore towns and forests on foot, and take photographs. So I suppose I’d be a full time photographer.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
I bought Morning and Evening Ragas by Ali Akbar Khan a couple days ago from a thrift store by my house. It was recorded in 1955 and is excellent!
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
That’s a tough one as there are so many wonderful musicians I love, but Hamid Drake and William Parker are the first to pop into my head. They’ve been my favorite bass and drum duo since I first saw them live in the 1990’s. Last time I saw them they were playing with Peter Brötzmann in Portland a couple years ago. Actually, I’d just like to join that trio!
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Playing Supersonic Festival in Birmingham, England with my band Eternal Tapestry was definitely a career highlight. It’s such a cool venue, and we played with labelmates White Hills and Barn Owl. Tony Conrad also played that day, and Silver Apples. It was really special! I’ve been fortunate to see 100’s of incredible shows going back to the 80’s, but Fugazi shows were always the best back in the day.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
As far as making music technology doesn’t really come into play much for me. Most of the stuff I play I first hum or sing to myself, and later try to recreate it on an instrument. Honestly I’d say drumming with my hands on tabletops or my legs is my main music playing. I’m pretty into the whole idea that music can be created anyway you choose. Tapping two rocks together and singing along can be just as expressive and fun as anything else. There’s is great old FMP record from the 1970’s by Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink called Schwarzwaldfahrt. They went to the Black Forest and used a handheld tape deck and recorded themselves playing sticks and rocks. I bought that record when I was in my early 20’s and it made a big impression.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
Yes, I have a wonderful sister, and I’m sure she thinks I’m a little crazy, but we love each other very much. I’m lucky in that all my family is supportive of who I am.
Photo © Plankton Wat