Blue Crystal Fire - Interviews - Soundblab

Blue Crystal Fire

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

I stumbled on the music of William Fewer-Reed, aka Blue Crystal Fire, by accident while searching on MySpace for another band with a similar name. So entranced was I by the collection of disorientating, psychedelic, delightfully lo-fi sounds I heard that I immediately forgot all about the other band. Today, I can't even recall their actual name. Instead, I was moved enough to drop William a message and ask if he'd mind being interviewed.

It turns out this kind of serendipity is something William believes in. This is a guy who chose his musical moniker after waking from a dream about an eruption of ice flame in Central Park. He's a Pennsylvania resident who's lived the kind of free-wheeling life depicted in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. You can hear it in songs like 'Smile Marigold Galactus', an aching spectral lament which suddenly becomes a raging storm, or 'Ghost Fingers', which sounds like it was recorded by a chain gang of hobos seriously ripped on industrial grade LSD. The music he makes is witty, friendly but simultaneously twisted and constantly shifting. Imagine Devendra Banhart unmoored from the last vestiges of his sanity. In a good way. That's Blue Crystal Fire. Check 'em out.

Hi, William. So who's in Blue Crystal Fire? How did it start and how long has it been going?

It's just me! I'm hoping to meet more people and hopefully have them play on my songs you know, with some weird psychedelic pedal manipulator guy and some drums or something, but for now, it's just me and my guitar Sheila. So far, I've put out two albums by myself, one in 2006 called The Bedroom Rock Monstrosity, and one just last year called Lazersabersnakejuicepurplelashjavelin or simply Both.

Where does the name come from?

The name comes from an old song by this guitarist named Robbie Basho. He was this kind of spooky mystic guy who died young and never got his due, though he was on the same label as Leo Kottke and John Fahey. I thought the name described really well a feeling I was going for of like a holy or sacred feeling almost, or like a day when everything's perfect and you feel infinite (to borrow a phrase). Then I had a really cool dream about it after I heard the song where a huge ice fountain pushed through the ground in Central Park, but the ice was made of a flame that burned inside it. So I said, oh weird, cool. And took it up. Have you heard the song 'Videotape' by Radiohead? That song has the feeling I'm trying to describe there.

You're based in Pennsylvania. What's it like there. Is there much of a music scene? If so, what's it like? Do you feel part of it?

Hmm…it's a dingy dirty rust bucket 'o grease and decaying houses, but the music's great, the food's great, the people are awesome, and the history is just mind-blowing. There' so many venues, and little house shows and different scenes within the town, I'm only just now sorting it out. I actually just moved from Denver, Colorado a little under a year ago, so I'm still kind of breaking into the scene here and feeling my way around in this city.

You've travelled America a fair bit. Has that influenced your music?

Oh man, travel has been the name of the game for me since I was very young. I grew up jetting back and forth from Alaska to Colorado every 4 years or so when I was young, so that was always an influence, but it really became a factor when I started hanging out with these cats who taught me how to start hitchhiking and hopping freight trains across America. I remember one time my friend Baxter and I had hopped a coal train, and were riding down to Texas at 3 in the morning completely covered in coal after two days of riding, and when I finally saw the control towers and lights of Amarillo I thought about how beautiful they looked, and started singing this melody really loud that ended up becoming one of my favorite songs.

It's like the more you travel, the more you know about yourself and life and about people in general.

How would you describe the Blue Crystal Fire sound?

Ha! I didn't know I had one! If I had to describe my music though, I'd say it's equal parts melancholy songs (blue), funky drummer holler songs (yellow), and big guitar rock songs (green), with little tentacles of psychedelia and noise sandwiched in there for fun.

Your music is quite trippy, I think. What's your background? How did you get into making this kind of music?

Trippy music's just always been my favorite. I remember being like four or five and sitting in my mom's car before the sun came up one morning and listening to the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life' and 'I am the Walrus' on the radio and thinking that those songs had an almost magic quality to them, and they always stuck with me. Something about the way they bend sound. And of course I've always been a Hendrix freak since I was 10 or something I think. In college, I had a show on the college station in Denver called Sunglasses at Night with my friend where we played the most psychedelic cuts we could find from way back in the day everything from Hawkwind and CAN to the stuff coming out nowadays with this band Racc-oo-oo-oon I really like. I think what it boils down to though, and this will probably explain a lot of things, is that it sounds most like what I hear in my head. I'm constantly trying to reproduce the sounds I hear when I'm just walking and there's leaves crunching and birds chirping, or there's a truck going by, or when I'm drifting off to sleep sometimes and there's a melody playing in my head. Something about a weird ass phaser pedal just turns me on for some reason.

What and who are you influenced by?

Hmm, it's hard to narrow down. It's like a big pool y'know? It's like you throw in movies and music and friends and adventures and that pretty girl who caught your eye on the corner, or that really snarky remark that guy made in line at the grocery store, and you shake it all up and squirt it out through what you hope is a cool filter, and you mold it and go ha! It's a song!

My biggest influence though, is probably a really cool guy in Denver I knew named Hunter Dragon. He just taught me so much about myself and how to treat people and music, and he really lived the life he wanted to everyday y'know? I think he just lives for truth, and is really an honest and genuine person. So just trying to be like that is a huge influence. I can tell you though that lately I really love The Mars Volta, R. Stevie Moore, Nels Cline, Marvin Gaye, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Brian Eno, but my all time favorite jam is Live at the Filmore 1970 by Jimi Hendrix Band Gypsys. I think that's the most funky damn soulful album I've ever heard.

That and psychedelic westerns like Holy Mountain, David Lynch films, and this one really weird Japanese movie called Tenchu Iron Man.

What's pissing you off in music right now?

So-called copyright infringement. If I may go on a rant, I think that we're in a bit of a cultural renaissance right now that hasn't been seen for a little while, and I think that electronic music is really a big part of the future of that, all fueled by the proliferation of information and new technology. If we're to get anywhere with new music, I think we have to stop regarding music as private property in regards to sampling and sound manipulation, and realize that 4 bars of music isn't a song, and that the cultural wealth that can be built upon sampling far outweighs that to be made in dollars from one guy who made the music 30 years ago. I think if you bought the record, you should be able to use part of the song to make something new and creative. Reuse and recycle. Sorry for the run-on sentence there. Also, people making 'indie' music and selling it on car commercials. That makes me grit my teeth now and again.

What new sounds are you into right now?

It's changes from week to week, but today it's "Neo-Soul" if you can call it that. I think" neo" and "post" and all those labels are stupid and pretty uncreative, but the music itself is amazing. Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, even Andre 3000 , all these cats that were coming out in '98 had the most blissful, positive and music I know. So I'm really trying to get into that, and even some of that old funk I don't even know about yet. I just get a sound in my head and I gotta find the old records that match it, or make the sound myself. But a lot of James Brown, and Fela Kuti, Etta James, Mad Scientist, the Meat Puppets and Venetian Snares. But mostly, I guess I listen to the cassettes this guy brings into my work every Thursday of old prog bands like Genesis and King Crimson. Even some old Arlo Guthrie like "I don't want a pickle, jus wanna ride my motorsickle."

What's next for Blue Crystal Fire?

Right now I'm going to start going to school for music and audio production so I can learn to record, master and put out my own records, and hopefully my friends' as well. I'm also hoping to play some shows here in Philadelphia particularly on a radio show called Z Radio (which plays a lot of the more obscure weirder stuff around here). Also, I'm working on a new record, and I'm going on tour with a band called TBA up the east coast and into Canada in June. So busy, busy! But just trying to have fun, hang out with friends, and grow more music!

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