Revelling in the GloomLightning Dust finds Black Mountain-eers trading psychedelic rock for Goth
By Michael Elves
No carting in a generator and a clutch of recording equipment to capture the sonic nooks and crannies of a dark, dank hole for these two as electronic artist Matthew Herbert did on last years’ Scales record. Instead, when Wells refers to the cave they used as a recording space, it was a dark, dank basement. “That’s what we call our jam space, which is sort of like a cave ‘cause it’s underneath a hotel in the downtown East side and one wall of it is basically a cave,” Wells explains, adding: “it’s a really old hotel and it’s really decrepit and this whole one wall is just this crumbling rock, and it’s full of mold and it’s really moist and dank down there.”
The use of the ‘cave’ as a recording space was important to Webber and Wells because “we tried to kind of set up a dark atmosphere for when we were recording – the atmosphere helps a lot.”
Webber has been quoted in prior interviews as viewing Lightning Dust as an opportunity to explore her Goth side, and Wells is quick to confirm this in his interview with Earshot. “I’d say we’re definitely on the same page there. Although I’d say it’s just more of our basic conception was that it was going to all be about melodrama. We didn’t want it to just be a ‘band’ sort of thing – we wanted to incorporate a bit more theatricality, more of that ‘non-band’ type stuff. … If it comes off as a bit over-the-top at times, then that’s good,” Wells divulges.
As much as the pair pre-conceptualized their material, when it came to recording the album caprice played a hand in the final results: “Everything just sort of ‘appeared’ the way it is on the album as we went along. We didn’t really have everything worked out in advance. But usually I find if you do that’s going to change anyways because it’s never possible to totally translate what’s in your head onto a recording – that’s a good thing because it’s nice to free yourself of those constraints,” relates Wells.
Speaking of We didn't want it to just be a 'band' sort of thing - we wanted to incorporate a bit more theatricality, more of that 'non-band' type stuff constraints, Wells notes that Lightning Dust allowed both he and Webber to explore sounds that just wouldn’t fit in the canon of Black Mountain. “Amber and I both have our little things that we do in our spare time and one of the things that she does is she writes a lot of songs and she’s really good with lyrics and she just had all this stuff floating around that wouldn’t really work in a rock band context.”For Wells, Lightning Dust provided an opportunity to utilize material he’d been developing for quite some time: “I mess around on the piano a lot in my spare time and I had written a bunch of instrumental things that weren’t really just good enough to be instrumental, they needed to be used in some way,” he says, “and we sort of brought our stuff together for this.”
Their collaborative efforts wouldn’t have been known beyond a small circle of friends had they not been so pleased with the results of their recording session in the ‘cave.’
“We had played a couple shows as “Amber & Josh,” just sort of our friends’ functions and stuff so we weren’t really that serious about it,” Well notes, “and then we made this record and didn’t really intend it to be a record but it sounded like one and we liked it a lot, we were proud of it and figured we might as well put it out. Which meant we had to come up with a real name.”
This final hurdle to sharing the record proved more difficult than recording it as Wells reminisces: “We had a pretty gargantuan, month-long brainstorming session about it and I think eventually that came out of Amber.”
Principally tied up with musical responsibilities involved with Black Mountain – Joshua Wells has somehow managed to find time for a pair of other projects: Lightning Dust and Blood Meridian. Asked how he finds the time to accomplish all of this, Wells responds:
I guess you just kind of make opportunities, and if you’re totally obsessed with music like I am then you just naturally do it all the time. And sometimes it’s fun to just not play with other people, or it’s fun to throw yourself into a different situation where you’re playing an instrument that you’re not quite as familiar with. There might be a certain amount of boundary testing but I think it’s more just about staying interested in things and keeping yourself diverted at all times.
On Lightning Dust, Wells frequently plays piano – not an instrument he spends a lot of time playing in Black Mountain. Wells sees this less as a challenge than as an opportunity:
I think it’s generally true that if you’re a certain kind of musician you can put yourself on a different instrument and not necessarily know how to play it that well but it’ll force you to come up with something different then you normally would because you can’t rely on your established patterns.