Nebula – To the Center – Interview

Nebula

To the Center (Sub Pop)
An interview with singer/guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Rubin Romano
by Craig Regala

Psych Tunes and a Power Trio Frame, the House that Riff Rock Built

I talked to 2/3’s of Nebula via cell phone on Friday the 5th of November in the year of our Lord 1999. They were in Austin, TX, at a coffee shop or restaurant or whorehouse OR some fucking place named Clacks. I think I have the name wrong. No matter. The talk of the rock was hot, many names were thrown out, jesting was done, signals were lost, and some sense was made. If you are unfamiliar with this band, here are a few facts (they are but three): Two are late of Fu Manchu, one from Olivelawn also with ties to Fu Manchu. Make of that what you want, but it’s unimportant to the end product. Nebula rides no coattails, lives no past glories, and needs no lineage to prove they’re the real thing – a goddamn full-bodied rock band working within the language set forth by their forefathers in the ’70s,1 and beaten into shape and bent to their will in the ’90s.

Rubin (drummer): Yeah, we’re here in Austin, it’s a good place for us. We like to play here. There are cops cruisin’ back and forth every five minutes or so… Dunno what that’s about…

Cops will rock on occasion, esp., in Sweden.2 So how did you come to the point where you wanted to play the kinda music you do? Were you always focused in this direction?
Well, I was always around a buncha punk kids and that music, you know? It was just the thing to do, to jam it out. We still do that – we jam and practice some stuff we know, and jam some more. It’s not like a real conscious effort to tap into anything really specific… We just go after it and come up with some stuff we like, or a good riff, and go from there.

Do you tape your practices?
No. Usually, if I come up with a really good riff, it’ll stay with me for a day or two. That’s kinda proof. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to tape some of our practices though, ’cause sometimes you come up with some cool stuff that evaporates after the moment.

You’re no stranger to touring, how is this one going? Do you think the bands you’re out with are your peers?
We call this the Riff Rock tour. Both Atomic Bitchwax and Core are similar to us in that they jam pretty hard and get out there sometimes… It’s not like it’s always the same three minute tunes, things can really get going. Its a good line-up. Chances are if you like one of the three, you’re probably gonna like the other two.

[I get disconnected: sunspots, technical problems, whatever. Hell, maybe Rubin needed to pee, I dunno. I called back a few times before I got them about five minutes later. In that five, I skipped thru the three Nebula discs I have, the split with Lowrider (on Man’s Ruin and the kinda thing that’d fit well on the shelf with the Unida/Dozer split), the Let it Burn disc, and the new one on SubPop, To the Center.

I really dig this stuff, it’s right up my alley, but skipping thru as I did, I was surprised at how many really good tunes there are spread over their catalog. I think SubPop recognizes that this could be the unit that puts enough tunefulness and space in their rock to hit hard, and possibly big. I recommend Nebula to anyone who can point to a couple of Monster Magnet tunes and go, “I like that,” Fu Manchu fans who don’t mind LSD’s effect on rock, or anyone who’s looking for some rock that kicks good and opens doors other than the kiss-ass one without ignoring the forward propulsion and cohesiveness “rockin’ out” gives.

Hello, hello? Please talk to me… My Editor will ruin my career if you don’t talk to me. You can talk about anything.
Eddie: Sure, man. You wanna know how I hooked up with these guys? Actually, I had some, uh, plants that needed tending while I was moving and Mark [I could have this wrong – I dropped the phone, surprised that a young person was as interested in horticulture as Eddie and yelt to my wife, a green thumb in her own right] put ’em up for me, and then we found out we were both ready to get something going.

It’s interesting that you guys are mining a certain period, but not acting like a retro band in any sense. How’d you guys come to the two covers you do on the new disc (the Stooges “I Need somebody” and Randy Holden’s3 “Between Time”)? They’re kinda indicative of the reintegration of two streams of hard rock; proto-punk and post-blues rock melted-down psychedelia…
We love to play around, and Mark Arm (of Mudhoney) has been a friend of ours for a while. He was gonna mess around on some other stuff, like bring his Hammond B3 down ’cause we like to throw some other instruments in there to see how it goes. There’s a sitar and a Moog in there. The Holden tune sits between “Fruit and Iceburgs” and “Fruit and Iceburgs (conclusion)” on the Population II CD. It’s kind of an interlude, but it’s a really good song. We could’ve done any of ’em, I suppose.

The sitar and stuff work really nice. They’re not just tacked on, they’re part of the song and the sound. Mark’s got a voice that works well on the ballad side of the Stooges.
Yeah, we jam around with him and get the stuff to fit. If it doesn’t work, we don’t use it, but if it does, it adds up to something else that works in the music. Mark’s singing on the Stooges’ tune worked out pretty well. I used to play on “In and Out of Grace” when we toured with Mudhoney, and we goof around with Mudhoney riffs. Jack Endino4 produced our record, did some of theirs, and a lot of the SubPop stuff. That SubPop stuff was cool, you know? We come outta that, much more than metal, but people lump us in with the heavier stuff, more Sabbath metal-influenced stuff.

Black Sabbath lit the sun, Black Sabbath created the moon, Black Sabbath is…
Well, the metal thing I’m thinkin’ of was so cheesy, like, that ’80s hair metal thing…

I think some of those SST bands were the real heavy metal of the ’80s, rather than the spawn of Kiss. Are you into diggin’ stuff out, like that Randy Holden record?
Yeah, there’s a buncha cool stuff that kinda got buried or was forgotten about. There are a couple of real good Groundhogs records that weren’t as straight “blues rock” as that first Captain Beyond record. Stuff like that…

People are often surprised at the early Fleetwood Mac records, back when Peter Green was writing stuff like “The Green Manalishi.”5 I even hear some of the early Pink Floyd stuff in your records, but at an energy level like when the Dictators covered Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine.”
Yeah. That guitar stuff really rocked out on those early Fleetwood Mac records. I like a bunch of that early Pink Floyd stuff, but The Wall, man… Jesus, that was just so, like, Andrew Lloyd Webber… I liked damn near all of it up until then. Even the first David Gilmour solo records.

Did you ever like any of the arena rock mid-’70s stuff like Thin Lizzy or UFO?
Man… well, I like the first two UFO records when they were psychedelic. That later stuff though…

You might like some of the early Scorpions, especially In Trance and Lonesome Crow. Maybe we can prevail upon your fans to tape ’em for you… I know it’s hard to carry stuff on tour; things got lost, stolen, worn out, or broken… Is there anything you guys need people to bring to gigs for you? Kinda like fan-provided rider stuff?
Yeah! We need weed and painkillers, also if people would give us tapes of their favorite cool unknown stuff, that’d be great.

Is there a lotta pain involved in touring?
Yes.

We’ll see what we can do about that. I have a standard question I ask; Name three bands you’d like to take out on tour. All expenses paid, any band from any period of their existence.
I’d go with the Detroit scene around ’70. I’d love to get some good live video of the Stooges, MC5, SRC, Alice Cooper band. If anyone out there has any, please help us out.

Yeah, there’s a template there that can take you far. I haven’t seen the album cover yet, I just have the promo from SubPop. Is it anything special? Does that matter as much now anyways since you only have a 5″ by 5″ surface to work with instead of the LP’s full square foot?
To The Center is out on vinyl.

I think I saw the back of it, is it kinda like a Cactus album cover?
Close, it’s inspired by this real cool band from Cleveland, Granicus. Well, we have to go soundcheck, thanks for calling.

1. The ’70s were a time previously regarded as a mere ghost of the “sainted ’60s” by the simps, cowards, old men and other fellow travelers and fools engaged in writing the Spin/Rolling Stone/Crawdaddy history of rock which has become the default “truth.” So view me as a revisionist. Personally, I’m just here to take back my culture instead of letting the manipulative singer/songwriter fans in rock clothing neuter the essence of the music. Any decade that barfs up the birth of heavy metal on the fore, punk retooling on the aft and kick ass in the middle speaks for itself. It’s too bad the aforementioned enemies of rock controlled the press.

2. Sweden. A country so mighty, even good-looking women are in actual power rock bands. Also the home of two other SubPop bands, The Hellacopters and Gluecifer, both fine rock and roll units. Actually, the Hellacopters were pulled over in a car without a windshield and thought they were gonna get a ticket but the officer asked’m, “when’s the new record comin’ out?”

3. “Between Time” is from the Randy Holden album Population II. It is a very good slice of pure post ’60s psychedelic rock. Byron Coley tagged its sound as “sustain plus sustain equals sustain.” Mr. Holden played on Blue Cheer’s New! Improved! LP. It includes the stupendous, “Fruit and Iceburgs,” a song so wonderful it’s always played each time Mark Arm gets married.

4. Jack Endino has a great feel for rock as rock without any extraneous BS in the recording. Check the video “Hype” for a snippet of his philosophy and his astonishing ready-for-the-’80s radio announcer voice. Also, his bands are worth a listen esp., Endino’s Earthworm. He also has a brief “spoken word” part on one of those real good Supersuckers records, La Mana Cornuda, which he did not produce.

5. “The Green Manalishi” has been covered by both Judas Priest and Melvins. The Melvins also did a Cars cover. Priest have not.
(1932 1st Ave. #1103 Seattle, WA 98101) 

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