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All eight charges fire right in sequence. Once the dust settles, I peek over the pile and see the once open adit is gone, replaced by an impenetrable pile of rubble.
I motion for Eva to remove her earmuffs and tell her we must wait around 30 minutes to be certain there are no stragglers.
We retire to my truck, I pull out a small camp stove and brew up some water for coffee.
We still have two other mines to do in the area. I want to get both of them done today.
We sip our Jamaican Blue Mountain, high up in the Rocky Mountains. Black java for me, Eva has to make do with non-dairy creamer and raw sugar. It just seems fitting.
I grab a sign we were given by the Bureau, add my signature and Eva adds hers as witnesses. We go to plant it next to the once and past mine entrance.
I pound in a stake and attach the sign. It’s something we need to do at every job. Eva documents it with photos.
The next mine is about 20 minutes distant. We decide to just drive there together and get her car later.
This mine was loaded with bats.
No blasting here. Well, OK, a little.
No strong outward airflow, so wearing a respirator, I go into the mine and shoot off a couple of Eva’s bat-annoyance charges. She’s laughing as I had to run to get out of the mine before being dive-bombed by a colony of angry, flapping, and irritated bats.
They flew out, annoyed at being roused so early in the day. They flew out and kept coming and coming and coming. Shit. Thousands. Many thousands. Tens of thousands. Perhaps hundreds of thousands. A whole shitload in any case.
I got a quick case of the retroactive jibblies thinking I was in there alone with all these flapping, screeching winged rats.
She tells me that they appear to be one species of Mexican free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis. They’re not endangered, or even on any conservation list. But, they’re bats, and we have to provide for their well-being whilst keeping other mammals out, particularly the bipedal mammalian ones.
I break out a bag of cement and several lengths of extruded aluminum U-channel stock. I go back and measure the portal of the mine. It’s ragged, jagged and needs pruning. A few light applications of C-4 will solve this little problem in a trice.
I explain to Eva that all blasts are exactly the same, whether it’s 5 grams of binary or a case of dynamite. Safety first, last, and foremost.
So, I prune the entrance of the mine down to some less weathered and jagged rock. I even go so far as to shoot some small retents into the rock so I can slip in the aluminum bars and cement them in place. Once dry, ain’t no way, short of explosives, anything bigger than a bat’s getting in here.
The average spacing between the bars when gating for bats is based on species. These critters here are getting a custom job, with 14 inches between the bars, which I’m setting at a 450 degree angle. It makes it more difficult if someone wants to pry the bars off to traipse around inside the mine.
Don’t bother. It’s icky in there.
I fire up the generator and plug in the power hacksaw. Come to find out it can do 12 VDC or 120 VAC. Spiffy. I slice up some of the necessary bars of aluminum and ask Eva to take them over and start setting them in place. I’ll drag over the concrete tub, and concrete ready-mix later, and start to plaster them in place.
I’m busy with my sawing and measuring, and Eva’s transported all the cut stock so far. She’s sitting under a rocky ledge at her worktable close to the mine’s portal, making a tally, or knitting a hat, or baking a cake, or whatever the hell wildlife biologists do out in the field.
The noise of the generator and saw are just a steady drone. One gets complacent just positioning the channel aluminum, letting the saw do its bit, moving it up for the next cut; shit, it’s like assembly-line work.
I’m debating having a beer or six, but remember we have another mine after this one, so it’s Grape Shasta until the next mine’s done. I root around in the cooler and find a soda, I turn to ask Eva if she’d like anything when I see some movement from the ledge immediately above her.
Eva’s so intent on her documentation and has gone ear-blind from the noise of the generator and power saw that she doesn’t hear or notice the puma on the rock ledge directly over her head.
The big cat is pacing back and forth, eyeing down the unassuming Eva. This doesn’t look good.
I skin my .454 and crack off two extremely loud shots in the cat’s direction. There was a large pile of rocks directly behind the cat, so I knew I had a good backstop. Of course, I don’t want to hit the feline, I just wanted it to bugger off, preferably before making a snack of Eva.
The 300-grain hollow-point bullets slam into the rock ledge just to the left of the big cat and send rock chips flying everywhere. The cat is long gone before I can re-holster my Casull.
Eva looks at me aghast. There are rock chips all over her worktable and she looks pissed.
I go kill the saw and generator, and walk over to Eva.
“Well, that wasn’t very funny”, she says in genuine irritation.
“It wasn’t supposed to be”, I reply.
“Then want was that all about?” she asks.
“Oh”, I reply, striking a fire back to my cigar, “I just wanted to scare off that puma which was sizing you up for lunch.”
“Oh, sure”, she mocks. “Right...”
“Come with me”, I say and motion her to climb up about 10 feet.
There are a couple of respectable gouges in the rock where my shots landed. Fresh rock chips everywhere.
“So”, she chides, “What puma?”
I look down on the ground, just a bit to the right in the fine sand, are a couple of very fresh cat tracks. I can barely cover one with my outstretched hand.
“The puma that made these”, I say and point downward.
She looks down and I see all the color drain from her face. Her eyes go as big as dinner plates.
“You weren’t lying…” she stammers, clearly shaken.
“No, I wasn’t”, I reply, “Must be old or sick to be this brave. The sounds of the saw and generator should have kept it miles away.”
I lead a contrite Eva back down to her worktable. She decides she wants to relocate it closer to my truck and out from under that ledge.
That is why I carry a sidearm in the field”, I remark.
Eva just looks at me and nods in agreement.
It took a couple of hours to nail that damn mine adit shut. I’d place the bars and Eva would help with the cementing. We received no extra points for neatness so there was concrete everywhere. We splotted those bars in good and solid. Had enough ready-mix left over so I could cement in a signpost so we could affix the obligatory signage.
Clean up took another half hour and I decided I was hungry. Field food a la Rocknocker.
Beans, grilled dry sausage, corn, and my famous peach cobbler via Dutch Oven for dessert.
Eva was querulous at first, but once she got hold of the sausage’s 11 herbs and spices, she went back for seconds. Afterward, we cleaned up, and I sat in my special field chair with a cigar and a cold soft drink.
Eva was envious. All she had was a lawn chair. Mine was a camping chair, complete with built-in drink holders, a footrest, and ashtray. I knew how to rough it…
We sat there, taking our obligatory break and we were discussing the next mine. It was only about 10 or 15 minutes distant, by my reckoning, and since we’ve already done one of each type of mines, we were developing a pattern. It would only go faster from here on out.
I was really enjoying my cigar and the conversation. I slurped my Grape Shasta and Eva was enjoying her tea. She broke the solitude.
“Rock”, she says, “I never thanked you for the puma incident. Thanks. Now I get why you are like you are.”
“I guess I’ll take that as a compliment, no matter how left-handed” I chuckle.
“You’re a geologist. I get that.” she continues, “But you do drink…”
“Damn right. Hell, I’ve seen me do it.” I laughed.
“None of my business, really.” she says quietly, “But why the cigars?”
“Because I like them.” I reply, “Old habit I picked up from my Grandfather and Uncle.” I give her a Reader’s Digest version of times past.
“I could never understand that”, she remarks.
“Ever tried it?” I asked.
“Oh, my no”, she replies, “I never saw the appeal. But now, well…”
“Look. You tried one of these”, as I point to my current stogie, “It’d take the back of your head off. However, I have some delightful little whiffers from Amsterdam in the truck. You’re more than welcome to try one if you’d like.”
“Thanks, but I’ll pass.” She says.
“Coolness,” I say, waving my hand. I’m not some pusher. She wants a smoke, she now knows where they are.
“Although I’d like to learn about firearms.” she says, “That was quick thinking today. I don’t think a couple of thrown rocks would have had the same effect.”
“OK”, I reply, “But like my cigars, this hand cannon would knock you off your pins,” I say, patting the Casull. “Let me see what I can do. Maybe we’ll try something later.”
“OK, you’re the ‘hookin’ bull’, Rock”, she smiles.
“Fuckin’ A, Bubba”, I think.
We pack up a bit later and make it over to the Morning Glory mine, and old, disused silver and tungsten mine. Lots of old, rusty mining tat lying around, and a huge spoil pile. This was once a thriving community, now, it’s just a fucking eyesore and bloody health hazard.
As per usual, I go into the mine and Eva holds down the fort. It’s twisty, with loads of side tunnels, dark as hot death, and wet. Lots of mud and standing, putrid water. No critters as far as I can see. Bones here and there; rats and probably a coyote, a couple of snakes, and lots and lots of leftover worthless quietly rusting mining debris.
This is one fucking long and complex mine, with several horizontal levels. It takes me two and a half hours to make certain it’s totally abandoned. No bats, but lots of 1930s and 1940’s miner’s graffiti. I make sure to photograph them because once I’m done here, ain’t no one ever getting back in.
Back at the entrance, I report my findings to Eva. She is taking copious notes, for which I’m pleased. I can cross-reference hers with mine, no pun intended.
“No bats, just a lot of open tunnels. Luckily, only one adit, so close this one and the mine’s sealed.” I tell her.
“How will we do that?” she asks.
“Oh, I’m going Old School on its ass.” I grin.
Eva wonders what I had in mind.
Sixteen sticks of 60% Extra Fast, eight back about 50 meters, eight about 20 meters from the adit. Prime and cap each one, run the demolition wire and galv every connection.
I show her the plunger I had appropriated from the Bureau’s stocks and said “Old School”.
Back in the mine, I set and prime the charges. There are enough of the old workings that I can shove the dynamite behind clips, roof bolts, and in the gobbing to get good physical contact with the walls and roof of the mine.
I come back out of the mine with the spool of demo wire rapidly unraveling behind me.
My truck is already outside the line of fire, so I set up the plunger on the lee side of the truck. I galv everything one last time and tell Eva to prepare for ShowTime.
We hunker down behind my truck and Eva is already clearing the compass. She is a quick study.
I tootle the area with vigor and look around one last time for any mammalian interlopers.
Bugs and birds are on their own.
I hook up the blasting machine and put on my earmuffs. Eva follows suit.
FIRE IN THE HOLE! Quite literally.
I try and knock out the bottom of the blasting machine. The dynamite detonates with a hellacious roar.
Thirty minutes later, after setting the official closure sign, we look at our handiwork.
“We make a good team”, Eva pronounces.
I have to agree.
We police the area and pack out our trash. Eva hops in my truck and I stick a cigar in my yap but don’t light it. We drive off to relocate her car.
“Rock, don’t mind me”, she says, “Go ahead and light up if you want.”
“Oh?” I say in mock indignation. “I have your official permission?”
She chuckles, calls me something biological I’ll need to look up once I get back home, as we bounce along down the mountainside.
We find her car right where she left it. I say that we should probably bunk in Pagosa Springs tonight as I need to source a few supplies. I know there are plenty of cheap but serviceable hotels there.
We drive back to the Springs and wheel into a Motel 13. It’s cheap, clean, and available. I park, lock up the trailer, and grab only the junk I need for overnight. Eva follows suit in her room.
After a quick dram, I whip into town to find a pawn shop. There are many to choose from, but I quickly find one that had what I was looking for. It cost me $25 bucks, but it’s a nice little addition.
I lock it in my truck next to my Casull, and head to the liquor store for a few bottles of Old Thought Provoker, a couple of slabs of beer, and some ice. Then to a grocery store to replenish my larder, adding some extra bits and pieces for Eva.
I stop at a gun shop and pick up a box of .454 hot loads, and some .22 long rifle rimfires.
Back to the hotel, I knock on Eva’s door. She answers and I explain that we need to plan out our next piece of the project.
She agrees and notes she’s a bit peckish as well. We head over to a famous-for-their-food 24-hour breakfast place across the way from the hotel.
Over skillet scrambles and a tower of dollar cakes, we have one last mine in Colorado before we hit Utah. We’ll be spending at least a week in Mormon-land, so I remind myself to make sure my cooler’s fully replenished before we cross state lines.
After dinner, it’s back to the motel. I am working away on my field notebooks, having a tot or eight, and am just about to finish up my notes when there’s a knock at the door.
It’s Eva. I’m not really surprised.
“Rock,” she asks, “Do you think I could borrow a beer from you?”
“Eva”, I reply, “I’ll do you one better. You can keep it. I really don’t want it back.”
She laughs and I ask her to come in as the cooler is in my room.
She chooses a Foster’s Lager. I know, it’s not Australia’s favorite beer, but I like it.
She asks what I’m doing and tell her I’m just updating my notes. I mention that the Drinking Light is now lit, however, and I saunter outside to retrieve a bottle of Kentucky’s finest.
She follows and since I already have the tailgate down, she sits and sips her beer.
I pour a stout draught of bourbon and sit as well.
We chat. Just small talk. She’s not married, but I relate a story or two about how Esme and I met, married, and had kids. There was never anything other than strictest professionalism between us; but I appreciate the time to chat and get to know her as a person. It was purely, and always platonic.
I am puffing away on the tailgate of my truck, drinking some fine bourbon, when Eva asks if I have any of those Dutch cigars handy.
“Of course,” I say and open the cab of my truck to retrieve one.
I have this horrible effect on people. I make them watch hard work. Then I make them watch serious relaxation after the day’s chores are through. Usually, both rub off on the other person and they relax slightly and show their more human side.
I show Eva how to clip a cigar and correctly light the thing. She coughs a couple of times when I explain that inhalation is not required. She asks if she could borrow another beer. I immediately go and fetch her one.
I’m such an evil bastard.
Sitting there, watching the stars over the city lights of Pagosa Springs, I’m feeling one with the universe. I mention that to Eva as one of myriad reasons I am the way I am. I mention how my father died three months after his retirement and that if I’m destined to follow suit, I’m not going to wait on anything. Besides, I have plans never to retire. I want to have experiences, not regrets.
Eva coughs a bit and explains this is her first cigar ever. She sips her beer and says that she never really liked beer, but it just seems the proper thing to have here and now.
“Congratulations”, I say, “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.”
The next day we drive over to Cortez, and up once again into the mountains. We abandon Eva’s car and head for the Famous Claim mine. It takes some doing, but after this and that, and a bit or step retracing, we finally find the adit.
We do the needful and there are no bats. I close this mine’s gaping maw with some of the new binaries, Kinestik, I acquired from the Bureau. I let Eva pull the fuse on the detonator as I ran Primacord to a five-pound bundle of the binary stuff I left on the floor of the mine, next to a couple of old ore chutes.
Back hunkered behind my truck, Eva hands me my protective earmuffs. She had her lawn chair and was sitting there like she’s an old pro in all this.
Seven minutes later, there is a cataclysmic KABOOM as the binaries go from solid form instantaneously to gas. We felt that shock wave both in the air and through the ground.
Seismometers in Denver probably picked that blast up as well.
The mine is well and truly sealed. We place the necessary signage, police the area, and then back into the truck to haul ass over to Utah.
At her car, we go over our maps. We’ll stop in Dove Creek, Colorado and acquire the necessities before we descend into Utah.
We make Dove Creek early due to the lack of traffic and the good roads. I fill the water bowser and get some more ice for the trip ahead. I also find a liquor store and purchase a few bottles of necessary do-it fluid.
We have plenty of field beer and cigars. Eva goes to a grocery store for some dinner and breakfast bits, as we’re going bush. I don’t know this part of Utah as well as the rest of the journey.
Be prepared, as I always say.
Off to Utah, we drive along to our next port of call, the Hyperion gold mine, outside of Blanding, Utah.
I’m keeping an eye on the weather. Lots of fluffy white clouds today, and we’re going back high into the mountains.
Be prepared.
We drive as far as Eva’s Toy-Auto will allow. She parks it in a conveniently flat area and trots over to my truck.
“Eva, you need to move your car”, I say.
“Why?” she asks, “It’s nice and flat. It’s a good place to leave it for a while.”
“Umm, Eva”, I say, “You’ve parked it in a wadi, or arroyo. It’s a dry creek bed.”
“So?” she asks, “it’s not raining.”
“Not now”, I reply, “But if there’s some rain up in the mountains, we’ll find your car, beaten and bashed, where the creek finally loses its energy. Somewhere shy of Medicine Hat.”
She mulls that over as I point out a flat bedrock promontory a few hundred meters distant.
“Think you can wrestle your car up there?” I ask.
She shakes her head and I ask for her keys.
It took a little doing, but, ‘eh, it’s a rental. It’s one of the two types of off-road vehicles. The other is four-wheel drive.
Car rental companies hate geologists.
Back in my truck, I pop her into 4WD and we head up the path to the mine portal.
It took near an hour and a half. I almost needed to use the winch in a couple of places, it was that rough. But, we made it to the mine more or less intact. Even the trailer followed with us.
The mine adit was huge. It was an opening in the side of the mountain some 10 meters tall. There was a lot of breakdown and debris in the mine further back as our lights would illuminate. But the opening was like a huge maw, and clear for some tens of meters.
I went into the mine as usual after Eva set up her worktable right on the inside of the mine. There was cool air flowing from out of the mine, no untoward gasses, and no running water. It was a nice little cave-like shelter in the shade and out of the blistering sun.
It took me hours to traipse through this mine. It was fucking huge. All sorts of mining debris and it looked like it might be a gathering place for some locals. Remnants of recent campfires, and fresh litter everywhere. Beer cans, broken booze bottles, a couple of ratty blankets. Yeah, this place was a bad accident waiting to happen.
The mine had several levels. Raises, winzes, shafts full of gloopy black water, ore chutes looking like they were ready to release their last load at any minute. Rotted ladders, rusty chains; tangle-foot everywhere. The shoring timbers were barely holding back the earth from filling in this hole. I re-doubled my pace.
I’m not spooked easily, but this place gave me the shakes. I made to the last working face and had found no signs of bats or other creatures except idiot humans closer to the entrance. I documented the area with pictures and called Eva on the radio.
“No bats. I’m outta here,” was my cryptic message.
Two clicks of her radio was answer enough.
I was out of that cave within 30 minutes. I made a beeline to my truck, right past the shocked Eva, to peel off a few layers of weighty mine investigating attire. Once I was back to sub-normal, I turned to go back to the adit and report in with her.
Then I noticed the sky.
The previously white fluffy clouds had transmogrified into roiling masses of black evil-looking thunder-boomers. It was just that the show hadn’t begun here.
“Eva”, I said, “Get your tent and sleeping stuff out of the truck. I’ll back it in as close to the adit as I can. We are due for some serious fucking weather. Soon.”
Eva looks out, but the sky to the south was still clear. As blue as a newborn baby’s veins.
I motion her to come out here and look north.
“Holy shit!” she exclaims.
Yeah, I have that effect on people.
I manhandled my truck and trailer in line with the adit of the mine. It was a good 10 meters distant, but out of the way, close at hand if we needed anything desperately, and protected a bit by the walls of an outcrop that formed the western edge of this mine area.
I grabbed the cooler, my backpack with my emergency provisions: cigars, flasks, and spare lighters.
We had a bit of time before the storm hit. We could hear the not terribly distant thunder and see reflections of the snazzing and snapping lightning. I was glad the adit was open. I’d hate to have to ride this out in my truck.
I dragged out my worktable and piled our clothes, lock-box, and provisions on it in case the mine flooded.
After checking the mine floor and seeing it was composed of very, very fine sand; I felt relieved. A torrential flow would have stripped all that fine stuff and sent it down the mountain. It was a gentle flow that deposited this stuff, so we were OK in that regard.
I grabbed the camp stove and whatever else I figured was an absolute necessity as the storm was growing closer. I made sure to get my camp chair, as this was going to take a while, I feared.
Back in our spur-of-the-moment abode, Eva was looking very nervous. She hadn’t experienced a Wild West gully washer in the field before. Sure, Dallas gets swacked all the time with thunderstorms and even tornados. But being in a building versus the wild makes the two events hardly comparable.
I assured her we were safe as houses. No flooding, as I explained the sand floor. No cave-in as the adit was heavily gobbed and supported with some still stout support timbers. Unless the wind blows horizontally, and around those jutting outcrops, we won’t even get our hair mussed.
Eva relaxed a bit, went outside, and snapped off a series of pictures of the encroaching storm.
Sonic-boom levels of crashing thunder caused her to rapidly scurry back to our spontaneous domicile.
I had set up my chair so I could watch the storm. I’d do the same back in Houston with the kids. Open the garage door, have a beer and a sit-down, and watch Mother Nature go nuts.
Since I was settling in all comfy-like, Eva did the same. Pulling up her chair to watch the storm, she pulled over the cooler as a footrest.
“Now you’ve done crossed the Rubicon”, I told her.
“What did I do now?” she asked.
“Being the closest to the cooler”, I noted, “It’s your responsibility to provide the cold drinks.”
“I think I can handle that”, she smiled.
Before the storm hit, I ran back to my truck. One, to ensure the doors were locked. Never know when a carjacker might appear spontaneously out of the hullabaloo.
I’m weird that way.
I also grabbed a few Dutch cigars and something out of the glovebox.
Back in the mine, I sat down, got comfy, and fired up a new cigar. The rain was coming, that much was certain. You could smell the ozone in the air and almost feel the static electricity from all the Cretaceous dust being whipped up by the storm.
Eva sat there on her chair, looking somewhat nervous. She told me she never really cared for storms and was a bit anxious.
Laughing, I handed her a paper bag.
“Use this if it gets too up close and personal,” I said.
In the bag was a Ruger Toggle-Top .22 pistol. Just the thing for a novice shooter.
“That’s for you. It’ll help keep the cougars at bay.” I chuckled.
“Seriously?” she asked.
“Yep”, I replied, “You could never handle my Casull. But, you looked so disappointed when I mentioned that, well, I decided that you need something for your protection.”
“Rock”, she said, “Thanks so much. Now all you have to do is show me how it works.”
“Not now”, I replied, “It’s too close to show time.”
The thunder that underscored that statement couldn’t have been timed more perfectly.
I took back the pistol and placed it along with mine in the lockbox on the table, making certain both were unloaded. Target practice later. Now, cigars, drinks, and an atmospheric spectacle.
Eva got a fresh beer. I opted for one as well, along with a few fingers of Russian Export vodka. I explained to Eva what a Yorshch was.
“Geologists…” Eva snorted, shaking her head.
There was no time for a witty reply as the world chose that moment to go totally black. The storm slammed us with all its fury. The wind was blowing a gale, lightning counterpointing the thunderous thunder, and rain like a great lake was being dumped on the area.
My truck was rocking on its heavy-duty springs from the onslaught. This wasn’t a thunderstorm; it was a full-on, all-out atmospheric attack.
Safe and secure in our bedrock bunker, we watched the storm with rapt attention; pausing only to revive our drinks.
My, it did carry on. Hours and hours of thunder, lightning, and torrential rain. Glad I wasn’t camping in the lowlands at any of Utah’s many lovely nearby state parks.
During lulls between thunderclaps, we just sat and chatted. Once we determined that the storm was going to last a while, I dragged out the camp stove and set to making dinner.
Grilled hamburgers, fresh potato rolls, all the condiments including hot peppers, beans, corn, and my desert dessert specialty, pineapple upside-down cake, cooked in a Dutch oven.
The storm dwindled somewhat in its fury, but it became clear that we were tenting it inside tonight. No way, even with 4WD, I’d attempt a downhill mountain trek after that gully washer. Plus, we still needed to close this mine down. It was all going to have to wait until tomorrow.
The rain continued, but the mine’s adit remained bone-dry. I helped Eva set up her little pup tent back a couple of meters. I decided I’d snooze in my field chair as I wanted to keep an eye on things given the weather’s capriciousness.
We fired up the Coleman lanterns and sat there, watching the storm ebb and flow. I had a cigar and a drink. Eva decided it was time to turn in.
She retired to her tent and I just stayed put, enjoying the atmospheric activities out here in the great outdoors.
A couple of times, I shone my flashlight around the camp and swore I saw reflections from some critter’s eyes. With the storm still blowing, I wasn’t about to investigate any further.
The next morning, the smell of coffee and frying bacon and eggs coaxed Eva out of her tent.
“Good morning”, I said, “Ready for a day of unbridled destruction?”
“How long have you been up?” She asked.
“A while” I replied, “Enough time to make coffee and fry up breakfast.”
“Lovely”, she smiled, “I could get used to this.”
“Don’t”, I replied with a snicker.
We broke camp, stored all the paraphernalia we dragged out before the storm and went to have a look around the area.
That storm rearranged the surficial geomorphology overnight. Lots of rills and channels cut in the Cretaceous dust and debris that floored this area. Sand piles moved and removed.
Amazing what water with a gravity assist can accomplish.
Back at the mine, I looked around trying to figure out the best way to close the thing. It was a big job, so required a big boom.
I decided to try out the Torpex. It’s a finicky high explosive, but really handy in moving rock around.
I pull my truck down the ‘road’ out of harm’s way. I return with the Torpex and go about setting it and priming the charges to best close this mine down forever.
It was so big that I decided to set the shots off only about 25 meters into the mine and ladder a few smaller shots outward. Those closer ones would go off first, sealing the portal. The rest deeper in and larger would follow briskly moments later. It’d drop the roof down, completely and permanently sealing the mine.
Eva had the signage all ready for posting after my signature. I decided to shoot the hole electrically, and after galving everything, running the demo wire, I advised Eva to join me behind my truck.
We cleared the compass, tootled with vigor, and I looked around to see if there were any animals about.
None were found.
I yelled FIRE IN THE HOLE thrice and handed Eva Captain America.
“At your discretion. Hit the big, shiny red button.” I instructed her.
Smiling, she took the detonator, yelled one more FIRE IN THE HOLE, and aggressively mashed down that big, shiny red button.
Holy shit, but that Torpex is some fine explosive.
My truck was rocking on its springs again as we felt the Earth shake, shimmy, and shudder from the blasts.
I retrieved Captain America and looked over the hood of my truck.
The adit was gone. Dust clouds were rising. The mine was sealed. Permanently.
Fuck you and your private party place, you dizzy locals.
A sign nailed in place, we policed the area and headed down the mountain to recover Eva’s car.
The trip down was considerably different than the trip up. Everything appeared to be rearranged. The trail was gone in places, covered with mud, sand, rocks, and boulders. There were chunks of trees that were chewed by what looked like nuclear termites.
It took us the better part of two hours getting back to Eva’s car.
The ‘dry wash’ where she had initially parked was still flowing with a good trickle of water.
I chanced it and blazed across. It was gloppy, but we made it. Up the wadi, it looked like it had been Hoovered by Satan’s own vacuum. Down the wash was a collection of boulders, tree trunks, and other jumbled desert debris washed down by the force of the rapidly flowing water.
Eva’s car was high and dry, though fairly dusty.
“See?” I said.
“Remind me to listen to you”, Eva goggled at the twisted destruction down in the wadi.
The next week was spent attending to several gold, talc, and silver mines around Bluff, Tselakai Dezza, Montezuma Creek, and White Mesa, Utah. It was almost a perfect 50-50 split. Half blasted close, half set up for those batty little bastards.
I ran through most all the binary explosives, the Torpex and a lot of C-4. I blew one mine’s support timbers with charges directly place in the holes that were drilled for clad-bolts. That mine was so rickety, just blowing out the timbers allowed for a slow-motion implosion.
The charges went off, the dust blew out like a smoker’s O-ring, and all you heard afterward were the screams of timbers shearing and splitting under the weight of thousands of tons of loose rock. Even I had to admit is sounded like the death cries of the old mine.
We got so good at blowing detents into the adits of mines we closed for bats that Eva ran the saw and chopped up the aluminum U-tubes. I was able to set molded and shaped C-4 charges and blast little U-shaped channels in the face of the adit. That way, we could pound in the bars, and glop them over with Ready Set quick-crete.
We made a good team after all.
After the Utah mines, we desperately needed a town that had a hotel, laundry, and fax machine. We had been camping rough this entire time. We looked and smelled like it.
Besides, we were nearly out of toilet paper.
Also, provisions were running low. Even I was getting sick of my ‘famous’ grilled hot dogs with mac and cheese and baked beans.
And beer. Lots and lots of beer.
I have also had enough of Utah. I made the command decision that we would drive down to Kayenta in Arizona. They would have all that we needed and none of that ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control] store nonsense.
We fueled up in Mexican Hat, Utah on the San Juan River, waved to the river tubers, and headed due south. We found a nice, reasonable hotel in Arizona that had laundry facilities and walls that didn’t flap in the breeze.
Safely in our rooms, I gathered up a couple of weeks’ worth of work notes and ask Eva to go to the hotel lobby as I noticed they had a fax machine there. I said I need to restock our provisions so if she can handle the paperwork, I’ll go out and get us some chow and potables.
It’s fairly early in the afternoon, so she agrees. We’d had lunch at a WacDougald’s on the road in, replenishing our depleted grease quotients, so we could last until dinner.
I whipped over to a local strip mall that has a grocery store, a liquor store, and a small cigar shop.
“How convenient”, I muse, “One-stop shopping.”
Into the stores and in an hour or so, I’m back at my truck, getting ready to load up. As I am approaching my truck, I see a local cop standing there. He’s reviewing the stickers plastered all over the back window of the truck’s cap.
I walk up and greet the officer. I’m pushing a fully laden cart of food, drink, and accessories.
He responds in kind, and taps the window; wondering what all the official stickers are for: OSHA, ANSI, DOT, BLM, BIA, DOI, and GHS…
It must be a slow crime day in the old Arizona neighborhood.
To be continued…
submitted by Rocknocker to Rocknocker

Really Interesting HTLT Era Interview

Cool interview that hints at touring with Naked Giants, re-recording Twin Fantasy and even the use of masks/costumes for live performance.
February 16th, 2015
A recent addition to the Seattle scene, Car Seat Headrest have gained a small but devout following for their prolific and deeply affecting body of work which currently clocks in at 11 releases in 4 years.
Car Seat Headrest is primarily the creative vehicle of Virginia native Will Toledo, who records all his music at home, drawing on influences from Swans to They Might Be Giants. Lo-fi yet surpassingly ambitious, the music of Car Seat Headrest is both epic and intimate, creating sprawling narratives of love, death, youth, depression and hope. Will’s work explores a variety of sonic and thematic territory, from the angsty, reverb-soaked idealism of Twin Fantasy to the layered electronics and eclectic stylistic flirtations of his 2-hour opus, Nervous Young Man.
What’s guaranteed, however, is a disarming sense of longing and vulnerability, as well as an admirable dedication to self-expression and artistic exploration regardless of budget or audience. Released October 31st, Car Seat Headrest’s latest release How to Leave Town takes listeners on an introspective journey across the country accompanied by intricate psychedelic arrangements. I got to sit down with Will for a two-hour conversation about artistic inspiration, moving, and some intriguing possibilities for Car Seat Headrest’s future.
/J: For starters, your album is called “How to Leave Town”. When were these songs conceived in relation to you leaving town?
W: The concept and the album name came at the same time. The songs came later, for the most part. It was an obvious concept to choose, since I was planning on moving out of my home state. I thought about it at the time and sort of discarded it because I was working on what was gonna be my next album. Then I got here and started recording music just for the fun of it and ended up feeling like I should structure a release around it, so I went back to the idea of the “How to Leave Town” EP and filled that out with the music that I’d been making since I got here.
J: You were working on another release. Has this release come out, or will it come out in the near future?
W: I’ve written it mostly. I kinda want to get in a studio to record it right, but I might also want to do a limited cassette release of demo versions. One thing that will happen is that some of those songs will be introduced into the live setup.
J: Many of your works, especially your earlier works, were a one man project. What challenges and new opportunities have you faced in adapting these songs into a live context?
W: Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of live music – it was all about the album. When I started creating music, I was thinking “how can I put this into an album?”, but people were interested in me playing live, so I was like “okay, I’ll try it out”. In college, there were several lineups that were mostly friends, and it never quite worked the way I wanted it to. I had this specific image of the songs in my head which I had translated onto the album, but it was a lot harder to translate that live because you’re relying a lot more on the other people to do it. Only in the past year I realized that it’s not that important for that image to remain exactly the way it is in my head, and that I should be more focused on doing what sounds good with the people that I’m working with. That’s the ethos that I’ve brought to the new lineup, and I think it’s worked really well so far. We’ve got a much rawer, more punk sound but I think it’s a lot of fun.
J: Which of your works would you say you best captured the sound you were envisioning? Is there a particular part of your discography that you’re the most proud of?
W: That’s an interesting question. There’s no album that fully captures what I was envisioning. Maybe Twin Fantasy is what I’m most proud of because that was something where I had a concept and worked knowing it was going to be final. The earlier stuff I worked on thinking “maybe this is just a demo”. Twin Fantasy was originally that way, but the material I had ended up being the final product. Now I’m much more in the mentality that I should make what I’m working on good (in the first place).
J: I’ve noticed there’s a lot of recurring themes across and between your albums. Do you see your albums as unified conceptual works?
W: Well, it’s something that both emerges naturally and I try to encourage it, just because for me they’re forms of self-expression and it would make sense that they’re connected since they’re all coming from the same place. With artwork, I’m working with a small circle of artists, so they keep popping up in different places. Musically, I’m always going back into the past and listening for stuff. There’s a lot of old material I’m not particularly fond of, but if I listen to an hour of bad stuff there might be one cool lick that I never did anything with and there’s no reason not to bring that back.
J: Do any of your albums tell a unified narrative? On Twin Fantasy in particular there’s a feeling of a narrative with multiple acts.
W: It’s never something I consciously plan on. If they end up being made during a section of my life where something is unfolding, then it ends up representing that in some way. In the same way that How to Leave Town is about me moving and starting a new life in some aspects, Twin Fantasy is about a past romantic relationship, so what narrative there is just a natural reflection of the narrative of my life.
J: Do you bring concepts that are more fictional and abstract into songs that are at core about autobiographical subjects? Do you bring in concepts from multiple sources often?
W: The way I write is fairly fragmented in that it’ll just be a couple lyrics at a time and it usually isn’t consciously for one song or another. I just come up with a couple lyrics and save them until there’s enough to form a song. There’ll be autobiographical stuff at one point, and at another point, there’ll be something based on something that I read or something in the newspaper or something, and I put it all together because it has thematic resonance with me. You do end up with the autobiographical stuff being complemented or abstracted by other stuff.
J: A lot of your work has a very literary feeling and scope. What non-musical influences have been a major part of How to Leave Town?
W: The main other thing I draw from is books. I majored in English instead of music because I thought it would be more inspiring than just learning an instrument. After I got out of college I went through a lot of biographies. There was one on Frank Sinatra. His music ended up being an inspiration – not really in a recognizable format. At one point I thought the opening track might turn into a cover of one of his songs. It didn’t, but that ended up shaping it. There’s actually going to be a thematic subplot that involves Frank Sinatra on the other album I’m working on. I was also reading a biography on Franz Kafka. I stopped because it was too depressing, but I got far enough in when he started writing his first novel, America. It’s about this dude who goes to America and Kafka was writing it even though he had never been and would never go to America. That’s what influenced the song “America” – the chorus being both “I’ve never read America” because I hadn’t actually read the book, and “I’ve never been to America”, referencing the content of the book.
J: Of course Dramamine is a song from the first Modest Mouse album, and they’re a Seattle-area band with a lot of themes about travel, the road, isolation, cars… Were these parallels with Modest Mouse conscious?
W: I’m a Modest Mouse fan and I see definite similarities in our songwriting. I try not to directly rip them off – sometimes it happens accidentally. The title is a reference to a friend of mine, Degnan Smith, who fronts a band called Naked Days. We had this conversation once about weird stuff that used to frighten us and he mentioned that the ending of “Dramamine” just goes on this weird, ominous loop at the end that kind of freaked him out. He would fall asleep to music, but he wouldn’t want to fall asleep to that. I wrote down that one lyric, “the ending of Dramamine scared Degnan”, and that ended up being the title of that song.
J: On “How to Leave Town”, there’s some elements on a couple of the tracks that are more like the dronier end of psychedelia or even Swans. What got you interested in incorporating more of these sounds?
W: You put your finger on it with Swans. I really got into them at the end of this spring when they put out To Be Kind, and I’ve become a devout fan of them ever since. I saw them when they played here in September.
J: What sort of electronics do you use for a lot of the spacier and more psychedelic elements on “How to Leave Town”?
W: Actually on this album it was all from the Logic Recording Studio software – just the built-in synths they had there.
J: Despite all your work being considered “lo-fi”, there’s definitely been a progression in sound quality. Do you see a transition to studio recording in Car Seat Headrest’s future?
W: I always had that idea of the official studio recording, but I felt like I was powerless to really achieve it just doing my own home stuff. One thing that has become clear to me recently is that there’s no line where it does become official, just a process of getting higher and higher quality as you learn more until eventually you can go into a studio or do it by yourself and it sounds good enough to be official.
J: Do you find that you take inspiration in terms of production from other home recording/DIY artists?
W: I used to, but I haven’t come across a lot of contemporary lo-fi musicians who I’m super into. It’s just really overwhelming nowadays, because every lo-fi musician has a bandcamp or whatever, and there’s millions of them, so it’s hard to sort for what’s the top of the heap.
J: Sometimes the lyrics you print seem to differ from the lyrics you sing. Is there an aesthetic statement in this duality between the printed lyrics and the sung lyrics?
W: I was influenced by the albums I got growing up, where due to I guess negligence of the studio or the label, the artist would submit the lyrics sheet and not necessarily sing the exact same thing. That was always entertaining for me because you’d be reading along with the lyrics sheets and zoning out and then it’d be like “wait a minute, where’s this on the lyrics sheet? I don’t see it”. It forces you to listen a little more closely to the music.
J: Is packaging an important part of your albums?
W: I think packaging is very important. That’s why I haven’t really done much in that arena. With the options I have it’s either do it by hand or just mass order it from a company with a one page sheet. If I make a physical product I wanna make it look great and be an unimpeachable object and not just something I tossed off because people wanted it.
J: Realistically, do you think that in the relatively near future we could see Car Seat Headrest mass CD releases or even a Car Seat Headrest vinyl release?
W: You can look forward to one at least small run of Nervous Young Man CDs. I’m working with a label in the UK. They were into the album and offered to do a couple hundred of them. Those are gonna be on sale sometime next year. I would imagine that more opportunities like that will come. Maybe a permanent American label for several releases will come along in the near future, and we’ll start to see more physical merchandise in that case. In the meantime there will probably be at least one more cassette run if I remain unsigned.
J: What other bands in the local scene interest you? Was the Seattle music scene an aspect of your decision to move here?
W: I knew people, but I didn’t know any bands. Since coming here, I haven’t been to too many shows but the shows I’ve been to have been great. At the first and only show so far that the whole Car Seat Headrest band lineup has played at, we met a guy who was drumming for another act. That night he invited us to see his other band, which is sort of a punk act, and they’re totally awesome. They’re called Naked Giants and I imagine you will see some upcoming stuff with them because they said they wanted to play some shows with us.
J: Could you see future studio involvement from your live bandmates on later album releases or will that stay mostly a one-man project?
W: I would certainly keep a tighter control over the recording aspect than the live music, but I don’t see any reason why I would exclude them from it. If we were to record a new thing in the upcoming months it would probably be a full-band effort.
J: At what point did you decide “okay, I have to move, I have to leave town”?
W: I’d been thinking about it for a while, because after college it made sense to leave Virginia. I was afraid that otherwise I would just sort of be in this post-graduation limbo where I wasn’t really doing anything new, and I knew that I wanted to focus on music, which would be hard in Virginia. There’s a lot more focus on it in Seattle, and I have got some close friends that I have here who were eager to have me up, so I decided I’d go ahead and come up. That was all about last year.
J: How has your experience as an artist here compared to your prior experience in Virginia?
W: I feel a lot more hopeful now than I did in Virginia. It seemed very unlikely that I would be able to get a live lineup going that I was really satisfied with and to do shows that felt meaningful. Whenever I’d go to a show it seemed like there was always something going wrong. No one would be there, or it wouldn’t be the place where we expected it to be, or it would be in a basement instead of an arena or whatever [laughing]. I’m sure that the same sort of experiences will be the case now that I’m here, but I can expect and manage that now and just be happy to play the music and not be so concerned with how many people came or what the venue was like.
J: What would a Car Seat Headrest arena show look like?
W: If I eventually work it up to an arena size there’s gonna be more musicians. Not a huge amount, but probably a keyboardist and two guitarists. I would probably not play an instrument and just sing or dance around or whatever. The focus would still be on the music, but I think I’d be able to play around with the setlist a bit more and maybe have some costumes involved.
J: What sort of costumes would Car Seat Headrest wear? Would there be dog masks?
W: Yeah, and maybe grim reaper costumes, or those crow masks that doctors during the plague would wear…
J: Do you listen to a lot of masked musicians such as the Residents or early Animal Collective stuff?
W: I’m definitely into Animal Collective and the earlier Residents stuff is pretty good – I’m not so much into their MIDI era. I would’ve loved to see some of those early Animal Collective shows, like that Hollindagain album full of live improvised stuff that they did.
J: I find earlier Animal Collective to be their most inspiring era because they were doing all these wildly ambitious things on this very limited budget. I get that same feeling with Car Seat Headrest.
W: Animal Collective is a very good model for people to be looking at because they’re always working with the situation that they have. I think with Feels they were working with this piano that was funky and out of tune –
J: And they tuned all the instruments to the piano, and for that reason they can no longer play the songs live.
W: Right. [chuckling]
J: Do you feel like there are any Car Seat Headrest songs that are impossible to reproduce live?
W: Probably some of them, although all of my favorite stuff is stuff that I think is playable. The less translatable it is into live performance the less appealing it is to me now. That would probably mostly be the very early, very experimental stuff, which I have kinda moved past in terms of songwriting.
J: Could you give a top 5 favorite songs you’ve recorded?
W: That’s hard, but I’ll try. “Broken Birds” would definitely be one because I was really happy with the very natural way all the lyrics fell together even though they’re very disparate in subject. “Hey Space Cadet” I like. It’s a big, fun, interesting song that keeps the spirit from Twin Fantasy alive in a way. “Cute Thing” live is one of my favorites. I like “Oh! Starving” because it stood the test of time. I re-recorded it and it still seemed good. “America” gets the 4.5 spot because I forgot about it until now. I also like “I Want You To Know That I’m Awake (I Hope You’re Asleep)”. I was hanging out with Degnan a lot last year and picked up his fingerpicking acoustic style and ended up writing this song as an homage. It was a solo effort, but also collaborative in that my friend affected me to write this song.
J: I noticed a melodic similarity in “Hey Space Cadet” with “My Boy”. Was that a parallel or just a similar vibe you were working with?
W: I was not conscious of it until you pointed it out because I hadn’t really played “My Boy” live in a while or sung it. But I think that most artists have certain types of vocal lines that they turn towards just as something that’s comfortable and sounds good. I guess that’s one of mine, [singing] “aa-aa-a-aa”, going from the first to the fifth and back.
J: It was a great melody the first time, it was a great melody the second time. That’s all I gotta say.
W: [laughing] It’ll probably be a great melody the third time.
J: Since you re-recorded “Oh Starving” on “Starving While Living”, could you see yourself re-recording any future materials?
W: That’s something that would come if we get signed. There would be talk of what albums to put out and at that point I would like to re-record some of the older stuff that was good but I was never happy with the quality of. I would like to do a full album of re-recorded songs, and then at some point I would also like to re-record Twin Fantasy and just see what it sounds like. It wouldn’t be too much different, it would just have a higher production quality.
J: You’ve increased the amount of electronic sounds in Car Seat Headrest’s music over time. When did you first get this inspiration to include more electronic textures?
W: For one thing, it’s easier to make it sound good since it’s coming from the computer and there’s no aspect where I need to use a microphone to record it. That is my main limitation – the physical equipment. I was also influenced on “The Ending of Dramamine” by William Onyeabor. He is this Nigerian musician from the 70s who did a lot of 10 minute funk songs with a very simple groove – drums, guitars and a keyboard, basically. I just fell in love with the music. Keyboards were not a big part of recording studios in Africa in the 70s, so his music is special in that it includes that. “The Ending of Dramamine” and the first 5 minutes especially was an ode to William Onyeabor, whereas the last 5 minutes are more of an ode to Swans and their drone freakouts.
J: Do you plan on adding a noisier, more droning spin to future Car Seat Headrest releases? What experiments do you think that you tried out on that album prove the most fruitful for the future?
W: We’ll have to see, because the next album is the one I was already planning. There’s parallel ideas going on that aren’t necessarily influenced by this one. That album is a lot more punk rock and straightforward, but obviously some of these songs are going to get blown up because I like long songs. I think you’re gonna see a lot of noisiness and electric guitar drone. If anything, that’s going to be the element from How to Leave Town that makes it onto the next album. I like to keep loose threads of where it could go next so I can come back to them later.
J: You speak of trying to maintain an optimistic outlook. Would you be frustrated if Car Seat Headrest were pegged as a depressing band?
W: We are, and it does frustrate me. One reason I’m not really into the lo-fi scene nowadays is it’s often synonymous with this sort of loser slacker kid who is suicidally depressed and has no optimism in life. I have my share of negative emotions, but I don’t want that to define my music.
J: How do you think that line is defined between music that has to do with depression in a constructive way and music that wallows in negative emotions?
W: There’s no clear line. My approach is “would people only be interested in this because they feel the exact same way, or am I offering something that is a little more universal than that?” I think also the process where I write a lyric down and then forget about it before going back to it in helps me analyze it objectively and determine whether there’s some universality to it.
J: Do you ever write lyrics that are from a completely constructed perspective or character and depart entirely from autobiographical themes?
W: Sometimes, but usually those are my worst efforts and I abandon them.
J: Have you ever run into someone who knew you from Car Seat Headrest?
W: I just got a text today from one of the people who drummed for me back in Virginia. She’s in New York now and just ran into a guy who had bought a Twin Fantasy t-shirt, and she was very emotionally moved by that. It’s sort of a global spread of people instead of a local spread. I sent those t-shirts all the way across the globe – some to Australia, and some to Sweden, and the UK, and it’s just very humbling and honoring to know that people everywhere are checking me out.
J: Were you a fixture of the local scene in Virginia?
W: We were in Williamsburg, but all that amounts to is being able to play at the local pizza place.
J: Do you feel like a lot of the appreciation people have for Car Seat Headrest comes from personal identification with your lyrical themes? If so, how do you feel about that?
W: That’s probably true and I feel glad and proud of that fact. One of the things I really focus on in my music is trying to write something that’s true and genuine to myself and my life, and to see other people recognizing that and associating themselves with it is very cool. I’ve gotten a writeup in a French magazine and I think there are people who don’t speak English who are into my music. I guess they’re just into the lo-fi sound.
J: A lot of your music can be appreciated on that level but also speaks to people even if they don’t have a personal connection with the lyrics.
W: Yeah, that’s the goal.
J: Who are your biggest vocal influences?
W: When I was learning to sing in middle and high school, I was listening a lot to Michael Stipe, Kurt Cobain and Jeff Mangum – pursuing that raw, untamed, hit the high note or don’t, it’s all up to you approach. That’s a good basis because if you don’t have innate talent, all you can do is sing loud and proud, but since then I’ve experienced more of a range of singers and my taste has changed slightly. Frank Sinatra influenced the new album (by making me) a lot more conscious of how I was delivering the lyrics. I’m no Frank Sinatra but I put a little bit more finesse into the singing of it this time. I really like Angel Olsen too. I think she’s schooled in the sort of “sing it loud” approach, but she’s also a very talented singer, able to tread that balance very well of emotive and hitting the right notes.
J: What eras or recordings of REM do you think are the best and speak most to the Car Seat Headrest aesthetic?
W: The early stuff was very influenced by earlier REM, where it’s just Michael Stipe mumbling stuff that isn’t necessarily actual lyrics or anything comprehensible. REM grew out of that and started writing intelligible lyrics – Car Seat Headrest has gone the same way. REM is very hit or miss in terms of meaningful lyrics, but songs like “Losing My Religion” or “World Leader Pretend” are really hard-hitting and emotional. I would be happy if Car Seat Headrest was on that level.
J: You often sing in a low register, but on for instance “My Boy” or “I Hate Living” you can go into this falsetto too. How do you do that?
W: I used to do a lot of double-tracked vocals and harmonies. If you’re good at arranging the melodies it can sound good regardless of your singing. Some people don’t have a falsetto at all, but I can use it because I have been for years. It’s all about practicing.
J: Were you expecting the pointy-eared dog to become a mascot?
W: That one had started off as just a preliminary sketch. I was going to get my friend to do a more colorful or abstracted version, but they said “that looks good as it is”. I realized that it had power as it stood. I’ve always been fond of simple but striking album art.
J: Are there any underrated Car Seat Headrest tracks or releases that you’d like to draw more attention to?
W: It seems like a lot of people didn’t like Nervous Young Man that much, maybe because it was really long and that could make it a difficult listening experience, but I never intended it to be something you listen to all in one sitting. It was always meant as two or three tracks at a time , and I think taken as that it’s got a lot of great stuff on it and I wish that people had taken to it more.
J: Do you think people make assumptions about you that aren’t really accurate?
W: I think that’s inevitable if you’re making music that is based on representing emotional states or life situations. As an artist, you’re never really into the idea of making things explicit, but as a listener, you always want things to be explicit in a way. Why not let it be unspoken, and not have a definite form?
J: Who would Car Seat Headrest ideally tour with?
W: I would want to personally do a duet with Angel Olsen because I am very fond of her music and often sing along to it. I think I could really offer something to her sound, but who knows? It’d be great if I could play a show with them at some point, and it’d be fun to get together with Deerhunter. We could cover each other’s Monomania albums. In terms of touring I’m not really sure. Naked Giants would be fun, but touring is something that I usually think of in terms of what my own show is going to be like and not so much the other acts.
J: I’ve heard that Car Seat Headrest’s name arose because you recorded your early work in your car. What’s the story? Are there any other layers to the name?
W: It’s true. I was living with my parents and was uncomfortable doing the vocal style I was after – singing loudly and not necessarily in tune – in a place where I knew that people were listening in on me, so I resorted to recording in the car because that offered some sort of privacy. But I do think that the name has some connotations that I like to it. There’s this sort of OK Computer-era Radiohead-style neutrality to it. It lets you imprint what you want on it to an extent. Also, the headrest itself is sort of a substitute for a human head in some aspects. Visually, you’re looking at a car seat and it has arms and the headrest as the head. I’ve always been into that idea of anthropomorphization and simultaneously the concept of dehumanization.
J: Going back to discussion about the name Car Seat Headrest, would you say that cars are a thematic element that has value for you personally?
W: Yeah, in a way. I’m not sure how much it’s actually manifested on the albums, but it does interest me in that I’ve spent a lot of time in cars just like anybody growing up in America has. It’s interesting being on roads and being surrounded by people in their cars, but you’re all very separate and you’re each in your own environment. It seems symbolic of me to being with people in general – each person is living inside themselves as their own system. Within themselves is some sort of sanctity, and outside themselves or outside the car is the external world, which is a strange and threatening place. Learning to drive was a big ordeal to me, relatively. It was symbolic of some sort of maturity or adulthood which I didn’t feel I was ready for at the time, and I’ve never been a great driver. I’m still not, but at this point I’ve driven enough and I’ve driven across the country that I’m used to it now and I feel like that also is some indication of maturity that I can drive a car.
J: Do you feel that your current material is more contemplative and detached than the emotional storm of your earlier work?
W: That’s an apt observation and I’d agree with that. The earlier stuff is a lot more desperate because I was having a lot more emotional turmoil at that point. It was nothing unusual, just teenage angst for the most part, and the past four years I have been growing out of that and into more of an adult phase. There’s still a lot of emotional difficulties and life struggles but there’s a sort of detachment or self-assuredness that wasn’t there before that’s definitely reflected in the music.
J: How much has the budget and recording methods changed in the four years of Car Seat Headrest up until this point?
W: I started out on Audacity with a computer microphone so that’s a zero dollar investment. Then my parents got me a MacBook for college, and it definitely jumped up on the ladder of quality because I started using GarageBand. Around Starving While Living I got Logic and a new microphone. Since then I haven’t really purchased any more recording equipment. I’m starting to recognize the importance of the original performance and how that gets reflected in the final recording. When I set up a drum set here, I went out and bought out a crash cymbal. I wouldn’t have done that years ago; I would’ve used a hi-hat or something as a crash and tried to obscure that in mixing. Now I’m putting a lot more focus and care into starting out with something that sounds good so it’s easier to end up with something that sounds good.
J: How much theoretical or traditional musical knowledge do you have and how much of it is just sort of intuitive for you?
W: I think one of my major influences looking back on it is that I was in the school symphonic band in middle school and high school and that exposed me to a lot of practical musical theory. We didn’t actually learn musical theory but we skirted around it. Basically, we took as much information as we needed in order to play the songs we were given. A lot of my sense of composition comes from being given those long-form pieces that I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise – playing through those and really getting to know pieces from the inside that featured a lot more transitions and key changes and were thematic compositions rather than just rock songs.
J: When you write a 10+ minute track, are you setting out to write an extended epic?
W: Usually with those I do have it in mind that it’s gonna be a longer piece. Lyrically, I don’t necessarily know what’s going to go. As usual I’m writing piece by piece, not thinking of any particular song. Sometimes I am writing for a particular song, but it always starts off just taking lyrics from experience or whatever and not having a larger scheme in mind until it comes time. Often small ideas end up on the bigger works just because I found that they fit well on there.
J: What do you think people who are interested in recording things at home could learn from your experiences?
W: Don’t stop doing it and don’t be afraid to take advice from people. I think one of the main reasons why my music has improved a lot since I started is that when people tell me “you know, you could be doing this and this and this”, I listen to it and consider it. So it’s just about being willing to recognize where you are in your abilities and (that) you can always be better. Find people who are willing to be honest with you while caring about you and stuff that you do, and listen to them and follow their advice.
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