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Interview: Samsara Blues Experiment Talk Touring and Independence

Interview: Samsara Blues Experiment Talk Touring and Independence

Fluffy / Monday 10th September, 2018 12:52PM

Berlin's Samsara Blues Experiment have been combining 70s-style prog rock with the low end of modern stoner rock and a pinch of world music since their 2010 debut Long Distance Trip. The formidable three piece has showed no signs of slowing down, having dropped their excellent fourth album One With The Universe in 2017. Fluffy caught up with band leader Christian Peters ahead of tonight's show at Auckland's Whammy Bar and Tuesday's appearance at Wellington's Valhalla to chat about playing in South America, running a label and making ends meet as an artist...

For the uninitiated, can you please tell us a little about Samsara Blues Experiment - how did you guys come to play music together?

Going back like eleven years in time, in 2007, my previous band fell apart so to speak and like any really passionate musician, you have to start something new, I was looking for new people and it took me a bit more than one year to to find the guys with whom I’m playing now. Since then we did a lot, played many, many shows and played many countries.

You’re alluding to your old band, was that Terraplane? What sort of style was that?

That was Terraplane yeah. It was pretty similar I’d say, it’s not so much different. It was this kind of 70s influenced stoner rock kind of thing.

I find that listening to your music is very much like a journey. I believe that you can hear solid chunks of the world, all the more so because your debut full length was titled Long Distance Trip. Is that alluding to a physical trip or more of an ethereal one?

Nah it’s actually kind of a word play I think haha. I was really into this stoner psychedelic scene which is always connected with trips and drug references and also we were also on this first, big long tour all along the West Coast in the United States and it was this kind of word play about not tripping and then like, what did you call it? Ethereal thing. Just describing the whole thing somehow in an appropriate term.

Cool, so you came up with the title for the album while you were on that tour?

Shortly after. We came back to Berlin and pretty much immediately began to record the songs which took quite a long time actually and of course you have to find a title because I find it kind of boring to call it Samsara Blues Experiment self titled or something like this. I like words, poetry and stuff like this.

Do you have any favourite poets or wordsmiths that have influenced your lyricism?

Not in particular anymore but back at the time I was into Jim Morrison and if you read about Jim Morrison you find all the French guys, Rimbaud and stuff like this, the more Romantic poets, lets say. It's mid 1800s, mostly British Romanticism I think it’s called. This is more than 10 years ago, nowadays I’m not reading like I used to but back then it was like this.

I imagine that playing music has taken you to some far reaches of the world. Are there any tours or shows that stick out in your memory?

Just recently, the South America tour last year because it was the first really unexpected... like Australia is really unexpected to be honest and also New Zealand. I mean on one hand every rock fan in the world is kind of similar [expect] from the setting I mean, everyone wearing similar shirts or whatever but the mentality is much different from the European mentality because the people are so euphoric and optimistic and it’s so overwhelming to just play for these people and they all have stars in their eyes. It’s so unbelievably gratifying and I don’t know how to say it... it really pushes you to another level.

So you found South American audiences to be quite energised? Maybe they don’t see so many psychedelic / stoner doom acts roll through?

Absolutely, they don’t see many European or American bands but they have quite a... maybe not big but they have a scene. They have a lot of bands there, pretty cool bands actually but it’s always different when a European band plays such a remote place as Uruguay. They told us that maybe ten bands from Europe played there maybe the whole year. We are very busy now, we’re going to Greece this weekend, having one day of rest, going to Australia, on to New Zealand, coming back, resting two weeks, or in the others guys’ position, they have to work two weeks. Then we go to South America, then we come back and tour Europe, so it’s good to be busy.

Have you got any cool South American bands that we should check out?

Absolutely, just today I am supposed to get a new release because I am releasing a band from Brazil, one is called Necro, really young, not even 25 I guess. But they’re really great musicians, it’s just kind of 70s prog music with Portuguese lyrics which makes them kind of interesting.

You mentioned that you run Electric Magic Records. How did that come about? The first few Samsara Blues records were on World In Sound and Rough Trade.

Right, basically I’m still working with World In Sound. World In Sound is kind of the big brother to all this stuff still but basically we decided that were doing so well that it would be stupid to not receive the money that we should have. You have to understand that when you sign a label contract you get something like 10% to 20% of the whole sales which is not much. When a band starts out its just what you have to do but at some point when you release two or three albums and they sell pretty well and you’re constantly touring, it just makes sense. When there’s some guy who can do it, who has the ability to be organised, to run a label. Its work, its not all just fun or partying when you play in a band.

So I decided pretty early to do this. This whole thing appealed to me, doing the label work is interesting. You get to meet many people, it’s a nice way to make a living. We did this in 2012, we started with the first EP that we released when we were touring the States the first time. It was more like a fun project actually, when you don't know whats going to happen, when you create your own label and you have to spend a considerable sum of money to get it started and you have to see how it goes but it went pretty well.

The first releases went super well. I had a Swedish band that didn’t even exist for more then 10 years, they re-released their album on vinyl and I sold out in like two months or something. The next band sold out in one month, it went really well. I did a lot of promotion of course, you have to find contacts and stuff but like I said if you’re organised and connected well within the scene, it’s the next logical step. Nowadays the label releases maybe two or three releases a year, not much more. It’s more like a labour of love. So I find bands that I really really like, I put in a lot of work and I promote them and I sell them but it’s not like a big business. I try to have it run like a work of passion.

To follow on from that, what are your thoughts about the way that people consume music these days? You strike me as someone who might be more interested in vinyl then streaming things from Spotify.

You know, speaking for myself, I’m not really a collector any more. I totally appreciate all the new digital services that we have, like Bandcamp, like Spotify and Youtube for discovering music is great. If I find something myself, I actually still buy CDs. There’s a whole lot of complaints and crying among the big players, like the bigger labels that do this business thing more. They all complain about the internet and about how it all changed.

The only thing that I am kind of skeptical of is that really young people, like 20 or less than 20 year olds, they may not really understand that music or any art is not for free. We all have to make a living, so you have to understand that somehow a band needs support. If I like the music I’ll buy a T-shirt, or I buy the CD even if I don’t really collect. This is something that needs to be switched back from the mentality of “everything is free” to thinking about, these guys need to make a living somehow.

Spotify, is the best thing in my opinion. It feels like everything is free but it’s not because you pay and I just realised that we make the most of our digital incomes from Spotify, which was sweet. I didn’t know, I just saw like two days ago because the guys in the band always asks “do you think Spotify even pays us?” and I was like “I don’t know, I’ll have to check” and I checked and I was really impressed. Spotify really increased, it feels like 200% to 300% increase from last year. The thing nowadays is everybody can record their album because there's is all the digital things that you can buy, like a recording device for 200 Euros and you can start recording your band.

More affordable technologies has made it much more accessible.

There’s people on YouTube that show you how to do it. It’s not some kind of witchcraft anymore like it was in the 90s when you had to go to studio and you had to record analog and all this stupid stuff that you had to do back then. Nowadays you can just start and we started, to be honest with Long Distance Trip, it was recorded on a MacBook. It was so crazy and we sold 20,000 records of this album. It's good and it's bad. You can have like a flood of bands. There’s hundreds of records coming out every week and you follow scene channels like Stoned Meadow of Doom and there’s an unbelievable amount of bands in this genre release stuff all the time, it’s interesting but it can make it hard to even overlook the whole thing. It’s kinda crazy but that’s the times we live in. I don’t want to complain actually, it’s just like it is.

Just to round off, you’re playing in New Zealand this week. Have you heard much about music and life in general down these ways?

Not so much, but I have a sort of buddy, a guy that I met online he’s called Craig Williamson, he plays in Arc of Ascent.

Cool, they're awesome.

I was really curious to meet him and that started the whole thing, that’s why we're playing in New Zealand actually. I made contact with him and I told him “listen, there’s a guy in Australia who wants to bring us to Australia, how can we arrange to play in New Zealand?” We stuck our heads together and it’s amazing. This is another thing, the internet really helps like minded people to connect and exchange ideas and stuff. Like I said in the beginning, there’s people around the whole world who have a similar mindset, no matter if they’re in Rio De Janeiro or in San Francisco or New Zealand or Berlin. We all kind of are similar in the one hand and it’s super fun to connect with these people and make things happen. Like this tour, its amazing I think. But aside from that I don’t know anything about New Zealand, it’s an island right? But we’re really looking forward and I hope we get to see a bit of the country.

You can catch Samsara Blues Experiment tonight, Monday 10th September at Auckland's Whammy Bar and Tuesday 11th September at Valhalla in Wellington.


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Samsara Blues Experiment
Tue 11th Sep 7:00pm
Valhalla, Wellington