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Australian trio Comacozer recently released its first album ‘Astra Planeta’ on the Dutch Headspin Records label. We talked with drummer Andrew and asked him how an Australian underground band ended up on a Dutch label and what it’s like being an “Instrumental dark psych space doom band” in Australia.

By: Jan-Simon | Archive under stoner

Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. Over here in the Netherlands we do not know much about Comacozer. I read a bit online such as that you are from Sydney and have been around since 2013. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
Hi Jan-Simon and thanks for this opportunity and great to chat to you. Myself and Rick (guitars) got together back in early 2013 as we had similar tastes in music and wanted to do something quite different and both really into psych and space rock. We were playing with another bass player for an extremely short time and I had jammed with Rich (bass) before and the three of us got together and it just worked. The three of us have such varied musical tastes and influences. We started writing together and the first track we wrote was ‘Helios Hyperion’ and then ‘Einherjar March’. We hit the studio to record and unfortunately the experience and recording was so poor. We had a legend engineer Dan Byrne fixed the two tracks up which became ‘The Sessions’ recordings. Dan salvaged what he could of the recordings which were OK. I’d love to record ‘Helios’ again to the way we play it live which is awesome! We kept writing new tracks which became the ‘Deloun’ EP which we recorded with Frank Attard at his studio and we were wrapped with the results. He absolutely harnessed our sound and atmosphere. We were so lucky that Clio from Headspin Rec got hold of a copy of the ‘Deloun’ recordings and signed us for a new album. It was a dream come true for us! Even better was that Clio decided to re-master the ‘Sessions’ and ‘Deloun’ recordings and release them on vinyl which is the ‘Deloun Sessions’ release in 2015. We hit the studio again in early 2016 with Frank and recording the 5 tracks for ‘Astra Planeta’ album (which is really our debut full length) which was released in October on Headspin with amazing gatefold sleeve with artwork by Danny Graham from Fever Dog (US) and coloured vinyl. To say we are ‘ecstatic’ is an understatement. We have been playing shows of late to support the recording and now back writing again for a split LP release with Frozen Planet 1969 on Headspin Records in 2017. Busy times but more music to come..

What does the name Comacozer actually mean – if it has a meaning?
It’s actually a slang meaning for a ‘big fat joint’. I always had it in the back of my mind that I’d love to use it for a band name one day as it sounds really cool and everyone seems to ask what it means and it just sort of stuck when I suggested it to the other guys. We had a friend of ours Jas from Harley & J Designs come up with the logo and we were all in consensus that it was perfect. I made sure I never told anyone so they wouldn’t steal the name. Hehehe.

Are there contemporary (rock) bands you feel connected to? Bands that have the same philosophy and the same way of making music?
Absolutely! There are so many current bands we adore and are making amazing music from varied genres. The three of us are into so many different styles and we feed off these different styles whether its psych rock, acid rock, doom, sludge, drum & bass, international music. I suppose there are a few bands that have a similar structure and tone that we like. We are huge fans of Electric Moon, Blown Out, My Sleeping Karma, Glowsun, Spelljammer and Ufomammut. We actually had the honour of supporting Ufomammut and Monolord on their Australian Tour back in October and it was amazing! What a buzz for us and we’ll never forget it. It was so memorable to watch Ufomammut play and the atmosphere they create.

The new album ‘Astra Planeta’ has a very distinctive oriental touch. Was this intended from the start and how come?
I wouldn’t say it was intentional from the time we wrote the album but it’s quite organic overall. Rick and Rich are extremely open minded to lots of different international styles of music whether Middle Eastern, oriental or the like. I’m of Hellenic descent and I would also say that there’s probably a little influence there as Greek music has elements of Middle Eastern tone and structure and we like to experiment as much as we can with various instruments. We are starting to work on tracks for a split LP for 2017 and another full length and I can guarantee you that the new full length will be on another level as we’ll be experimenting even more with unusual instruments/tones/effects to create and even more journeys taking sonic experience. With every new track we push ourselves as much as we can but to make sure we can keep it organic and create the same experience on the live stage as well which is obviously very important. Hence why Frank joining us in Comacozer will add to the live element. Its critical for us to be able to re-create our recording experience live. We played ‘Navigating the Mandjet’ live with Frank earlier in the year and it was sensational! I don’t think the crowd knew what to expect from it.

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Have you used typical regional instruments to (re)create that almost Middle-Eastern sound?
On the track ‘Navigating the Mandjet’ we used two instruments. First being a ‘BAGLAMA’ which is a Greek instrument like a small version of a ‘Bouzouki’. It has three sets of 2 strings and has a high pitched tone. We used it twice on the track. The other instrument we used is ‘Toumbelecki’ which is also called ‘Tabla’ or ‘Darbuka’ in Middle Eastern countries. It’s hand goblet drum. The one we used was a Turkish model made out of brass. Both instruments really brought out the elements of the song and the experience we were trying to create.

How do you compare ‘Astra Planeta’ with your first two EP’s?
I don’t think it compares as we have developed with every recording. Unfortunately with the ‘Sessions’ recordings, the entire experience was rubbish and it was a mess that we had to salvage so that’s not a good one to compare. “Deloun’ was our first time recording with Frank and the relationship was still building and we were still working on our sound and direction. I think with ‘Astra’ you can really understand what Comacozer is all about. Recording with Frank again was awesome and we can’t wait to do it again. Hindsight is a lovely thing and I believe that every band sometimes goes back and wishes they changed this and tried that and had more time but you can certainly over think everything which can also work negatively in the end. We are so proud of ‘Astra Planeta’ and the tones and sounds of the tracks on vinyl are spot on. It’s definitely a journey taking album.

The album combining your two earlier EP’s and the current album ‘Astra Planeta’ have both been released by Headspin records. How did you end up with a Dutch record label?
We recorded ‘Deloun’ tracks and we had a few promo CD’s printed which we sent out to Radio Stations, Magazines, Bloggers and I can’t remember correctly but I think I sent one to Headspin as they have released some top notch vinyl by Elder, Eternal Elysium, Black Pyramid, Astral Son and some wicked bands and we thought we try. We received a message from Clio (Label Manager) saying that she would like to work with us and release an album. Honestly we thought it was a joke at first. We are so excited like Kids on Xmas Day. Clio is so supportive of Comacozer from day one. The one thing with Headspin is that the quality of the releases is second to none. From the packaging, wax quality, recording quality and pure professionalism and flexibility is fantastic and like I said we are so honoured to have partnered with Headspin and so grateful for the support from Clio and the label and hopefully it can be a long friendship.

It would be awesome to see how you guys perform live, but Australia is a bit far away. Are there plans to fly over and do some shows here?
That’s the one issue with Australia. It’s such a beautiful country with great people and so multi-cultural but damn hard to get anywhere as it’s long way away. We would love to play overseas at some point. Our dream would be to play Desertfest, Roadburn or another Festival and then tag on to some other shows. I think it’s on the bucket list for all of us in Comacozer but with work/family commitments we have to make sure the planets align for us and the event/shows overseas. Would be a dream come true to meet overseas supporters and bands and have a good time all round. Australia can be an absolute logistical nightmare for touring bands.

Being an instrumental band, there are no lyrics to tell us what your songs are about, just intriguing song titles like ‘Navigating the Mandjet’ and ‘Hypnotized by Apophis’. This certainly has a spacey ring to it, but can you tell us what inspires you?
With all of our song titles, we are influenced by ancient history, mythology, astrology and the cosmos. We are definitely not a band to be talking about politics, religion or stuff like that as we’ll leave it to other bands with lyrics and message to do that and do it well. We don’t want to force any ideas on anyone but rather to hopefully have punters listen to our music and enjoy the journey that we are trying to take with them. From a musical perspective we are more influenced by tone and atmosphere than anything else. We have been labelled as “Space Doom’ (whatever that means?) and it’s not intentional at all. We get into the groove of writing and all of our songs have different elements. We generally don’t sit there and dictate that this song needs to be heavy or this song needs to be psych. It’s more just want happens as we improve and jam a riff or melody and we just feel it in the end. A new song we have just finished for the album is called ‘Axis Mundi’ and is much heavier than our usual stuff but it has a psych middle section with some cool groove. We couldn’t help but to play it that way but that’s the fun of it all to actually keep the listener interested with variation and experience something different all the way thru an album.

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How do you create the songs? Is it the result of endless jamming, or do you enter the studio with a finished song that only needs to be recorded?
Usually one of us has an idea of a riff or melody and then we just work on it during rehearsal to see where it goes. There are times where we just jam a riff and then it becomes an improvised piece (we have a bad habit of jamming songs for 20-30 minutes at times) and we have to pull it back. We try to be as prepared as we possibly can before we hit the studio to record but in saying that a lot of the time we still improvise during recording as well and we’ll change things up. Even with overdubs Rick has gone in and done one take of a guitar overdub and it just works. We really do just enjoy trying new things and overall having fun.

Do you share a fascination for ancient civilizations with bands like Nile?
Funny you say that and mention NILE. Those guys are absolutely insane musicians and George Kollias (Greek brother) is an absolute machine on the drums. I remember the first time I heard ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’ I was blown away! Yeah, you could say we are fans of ancient history, mythology and the like. I’m an absolute history buff and my family gets so annoyed when I sit there at home and watch back to back History Channel. We love history on civilisations such as Hellenic, Roman, Sumerian, Aztec, Egyptian and Norse. It’s fascinating on how these civilisations prospered, their beliefs, religions and associations with astrology. Obviously we are an instrumental band and all our song titles intertwine into a story on each recording and we specifically choose the song titles that have the same feeling as the tone/mood of the tracks. On ‘Astra Planeta’ even the cover art is a story on itself which gels with the song /album title. For us the album art and song titles are all one long story and journey and we hope the listener hears that as well.

Your album almost sounds like an advertisement for the clever use of effect pedals. Can you tell us what it takes to create your specific sound?
No real secret here. Rich (Bass) goes thru his Orange head and cab with Big Muff Fuzz and Wah Wah pedal which he uses at times and Rick (Guitars) has his usual Cry Baby, Phaser, Reverb but also has a few other special pedals he likes to throw in there from a guy here in Australia that does custom effects pedals. He definitely wants to experiment with pedals. He goes thru Blackstar Valve Head and Cab. Pretty basic overall. I’m a huge drum whore and I change drum kits like it’s going out of fashion. I’m into big ass acrylic kits at the moment.

What other gear have you used on this album?
In the studio we have access to a lot of retro and analogue gear. Rick used a Matamp head in studio and we utilised a few other instruments like tambourine, gong, table and baglama on certain tracks and then Frank worked his magic with some analogue effects in certain sections. To be honest it’s an overall quite basic set up as we do want to be able to replicate the songs live and create the same journey and atmosphere live.

Can you tell us a bit what it’s like being an “Instrumental dark psych space doom band” in Australia? Is there a big scene of similar bands?
Yeah, good question. I think it’s great as we are very different to most other bands here. First of all being instrument is altogether different and some don’t get it or can’t handle it. The scene in Australia is obviously very small compared to Europe or the US but it’s extremely close and everyone knows everyone. Geographically it’s a nightmare as Australia is one huge Island in the middle of nowhere and it can be hard to play the bigger cities outside of Sydney but we all try to. Everyone in the scene is very supportive as well. The biggest problem in Sydney is the lack of venues at the moment but a few good live places are popping up. Melbourne has a much better live music scene than Sydney and always gets really good support and has more bands. The interesting thing that I may have mentioned is that you have a good variety of bands playing together in different genres which are really cool and a fair few members play in different bands. It’s always fun.

What other Aussie bands do you recommend for us to check out?
You would be surprised on how many amazing bands we have here. A lot are having recordings being released by international labels which are amazing! Frozen Planet 1969 from Sydney will have their new album out in the New Year on Headspin Records. Frank who plays drums in Frozen Planet 1969 is also in Comacozer and handles sound modulation/percussion and is also our engineer/producer and we have recorded our ‘Astra’ and ‘Deloun’ in his studio.

We have a great array of bands in OZ in the stoner/psych/doom genres. Ones to mention are: Holy Serpent (Riding Easy Records), Witchskull (STB Records), Ahkmed (Elektrohasch), AVER (Ripple Music), Looking Glass (Goatsound), Watchtower (Magnetic Eye), Dawn (DHU Records), Arrowhead (Ripple Music), Sumeru (Whitewinter/Arrest Records), CHILD (Kozmik Artifactz), Horsehunter (Magnetic Eye), Seedy Jezus (Blown Music), Mt Mountain, Hawkmoth, Dreamtime, Hobo Magic, Megaritual, Way of the Wolf, OLMEG, Witchfight, Yanomamo and so many more... It’s a pretty cool scene here and everyone knows each other and is quite close and extremely supportive. We’ve forged such amazing friendships with local and interstate bands and always. It’s a pretty diverse scene too with psych bands playing with doom bands and everything in between which is so damn cool. In my opinion, I love going to a show and seeing a good variance of bands. Not to the point of psych vs death metal but where it fits, it’s really cool.

Suppose you’d end up stranded on an uninhabited tropical island with only your iPod (or other music player), what songs or albums would you absolutely need to survive?
Oh wow! I reckon I would have to have complete Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Hawkwind, Led Zeppelin and The Doors back catalogues as a first. This is actually a really damn hard one! My other standout albums at this point in time would be:

• Kyuss – ‘Welcome to Sky Valley’
• Electric Moon – ‘Flaming Lake’
• Godflesh – ‘Streetcleaner’
• The Cult – ‘Love’
• Bolt Thrower – ‘The IV Crusade’
• My Sleeping Karma – ‘Soma’
• Celtic Frost – ‘To Mega Therion’
• Sir Lord Baltimore – ‘Kingdom Come’
• Sleep – ‘Holy Mountain’
• Cathedral – “Forests of Equilibrium’

Somehow it does not even seem too farfetched to imagine you on a tropical sandy beach. Is that a correct assumption or are you guys more city dwellers?
Ha Ha Ha! I could imagine us playing on a beach (aka Dunajam) with groups of friends, beverages and complete serenity, relaxation and good music and everyone having a blast of a time enjoying Sydney summertime. The funny thing is that we live in the City and are City dwellers. I must say I love aspects of both. I love the peace and quiet of the country but also love the hassle and life of the city as well. How cool would it be thought to organise a show in the country/beach/forest with good psych/stoner bands ripping it up. What an atmosphere and oasis that would be. You might have just put an idea into our heads for a future show. Insert light bulb here!

Is there anything – apart from good music – you cannot do without? Or things you’d like to get rid of immediately? Does this in any way affect the music you create?
Interesting question? I can’t speak for the other guys but our instruments would be one. I couldn’t imagine not having drums or a guitar around to play. I couldn’t do without my beautiful family either. I don’t think Rick could go without VB (Australian Beer – which in my opinion taste like crap!) and Rich couldn’t go without Free Snags at rehearsal (Sausages, Onion on Bread) Ha Ha Ha! I could probably do away with politicians, R’n’B music, traffic and negative people.

Thank you for your time. Any final words or wise thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
Thank you once again for the chat and we really appreciate it all the way from Down Under. Hopefully we can get to Europe sometime soon and play a few shows for you guys. Check out Shiny Beast Mailorder for copies of our latest album ‘Astra Planeta’ on vinyl and stay tuned for new releases next year. Support your local bands and scene.

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