Today we have the privilege of hosting a stream of ‘Paradigm Shift‘, the latest record from Leeds, England-based psychedelic doom rock duo AMON ACID. Though the project is fairly new, having formed in 2019, this talented pair of Greek and British musicians already showcase a considerable knack for thickly flowing layers of stoney, timeless psychedelia from a worldly perspective. Their mantra-heavy, personal and hypnotic muse now slithers amongst increasing waves of classic doom metal riffs. If you are a fan of psychedelic doom that pushes boundaries yet manages to maintain its own distinct groove ‘Paradigm Shift’ will prove a fine introduction to the world of Amon Acid. The band have been kind enough to answer a set of questions to accompany this stream, which celebrates the vinyl release of ‘Paradigm Shift’ via Regain Records this Friday, February 26th. Thanks goes to the band, Regain/Shadow Records, and their representation for the opportunity to share this captivating ritual alongside an interview. Note that all questions were answered as a unit unless otherwise indicated.
I’d more or less first approached Amon Acid via ‘Psi’/’Ψ’, being a fan of the classic Turkish psychedelic/Anatolian rock influences suggested on that album. It was one of my favorite releases of 2020 though technically it’d been just one of three from the group, the original (digital/cassette) release of ‘Paradigm Shift’ included. Was 2020 an unusually prolific year for the project? Had it been for the sake of setting a regular pace, or does this triad of releases represent a growth spurt towards a larger goal?
It’s actually great to hear you found us through that link to Turkish psych/Anatolian rock. We tend to work two of three albums ahead of releases – getting lots of new ideas down in between rehearsing. It usually feels overwhelming how many tracks we have recorded but we like to be selective so often put some to the side – these tracks might be reworked later or become part of another project. Last year was strange because of lockdown we definitely wrote more during periods when we’d usually be rehearsing. Some new developments mean things are taking longer but we’ll talk about that later.
What typically triggers a songwriting session? Is it a matter of jamming and layering ideas or do you tend to map out an experience sans any measure of improvisation? I suppose I’m interested in how much of your songcraft happens in rehearsal spaces rather than in studio.
Almost everything happens at home – we have small home studio where we write, record and mix everything. When we have a live show we’ll go to the practice studio to make sure we can set-up quickly and play loud but everything is written at home. Usually Sarantis will lay down a drum pattern based on a guitar riff and we just jam over that for a while until things take shape. Sometimes it will be a synth patch or a new pedal that inspires a song. We use synth pedals and designing patches on them can be as inspiring for ideas. We also use a midi pedal board to send note messages to a normal hardware synth that’s being used for drones and dub siren type of sound fx . So as we are jamming we can add the layers and trigger other effects. We started by programming drums on a laptop which we used for gigs as well.
As we’ve accumulated more equipment and especially now we’re working with a drummer we’re trying to move away from using the laptop. We still write songs the same way though with drum machines at home, making the first demos for the drummer to expand on, I think this process helped us create our sound.
From what I gather, a relationship is at the heart of Amon Acid. Was the formation of the band a matter of speaking the same language via shared musical goals/interests?
We met in 2018 and immediately realized we had a lot in common in terms of our music taste – we were bonding over nostalgic alt-metal (early White Zombie in particular), Doom, loads of psychedelia, techno and even modern RnB and Rap at that time. Briony had tried to make music and join a band in the past but it had just never really gone anywhere so we started jamming together and it kind of spiraled from there. I can jam the same riff on bass for hours and enjoy listening to what Sarantis does with it and that helped me to improve technically and it gives me the freedom to explore more without any pressure. One thing that has really helped to shape our sound early on was listening to 1930s Greek music, Rembetiko, when we were dating Sarantis played me some Roza Eskenazi and explained what the lyrics meant and I was in love. She was a total bad ass – she ran away from home to join the circus as a teenager and ended up singing about drugs and the women she’s loved in these Greek Café aman in New York. The Greek scales really work with psychedelia and doom, Rembetika really originates in the areas where there was a lot mixing between Greek and Turkish people so the links with Anatolian Psych make sense.
Will the collaboration functionally expand over time in terms of songwriting? Or, when live performances become more frequently possible?
We like to work with other people at different stages and when we play live it’s definitely nice to have more people involved. We’ve played with a keyboard player and second guitar live in the past and continue to work with new people as they pass through. We would love to find a great percussionist who can play Iraqi drums, generally we’re open minded to playing with anyone who is interested.
Is Amon Acid meant to be stylistically nomadic by design? I ask for the sake of your movement or, frequent crossing of sub-genre borders. Is it a matter of enthusiasm for the broad world of heavy psychedelia that you’ve eased into psychedelic doom metal territory? Is ‘Paradigm Shift’ meant speak directly to this nod unto heavier spheres?
When we first started we were thinking of playing really stripped down doom St. Vitus style but we couldn’t find a drummer – so decided to make the most of the limitations of the drum machine and focus on making really hypnotic repetitive sounds. When we wrote the first EP we were listening to a lot of old 60’s dark psych and the link to hip-hop and even dub was there because of the drum machine and using a dub siren to add layers. We didn’t want those influences to be really obvious but they were inevitably part of the sound. We go through phases of listening to different music depending on the seasons really. In winter we listen to a lot more Rock and Doom and then as summer approaches we end up listening to more world music and electronic stuff. Every summer in Greece we go record shopping and try to pick up stuff that’s hard to get back home. The stoner/doom scene is massive over there and it’s easy to find old hard-rock and psych records too. Last year we bought mostly bellydance and hard rock albums – we’re still playing Salisbury by Uriah Heep a lot. The year before it was mostly Rembetiko. So the phases just kind of flow naturally depending on what pops up on our radar but we’ll try to keep them together and do a really focused EP followed up by an album that encompasses those themes but also is really ‘Amon Acid’. With Paradigm shift we deliberately set-out to make a ‘Doom EP’ the response was great and we’ve always loved heavier music so we want to keep making music more along those lines now but fusing our influences into it as we go.
Could we consider change, metamorphosis, fluidity a general theme of ‘Paradigm Shift’ as a whole? Is there a concept or narrative informing the whole of the experience? I figure there is a bit of sci-fi narrative undercutting whatever obvious take I might have.
We love Sci-fi and have no shame about being obvious! We want to make trippy music and the concept is usually the genre or sound rather than a specific theme. Paradigm shift and Monarch are really love songs but we generally take our inspiration for lyrics from sci-fi, alien conspiracy documentaries, horror and fantasy. There’s a conscious intention of multiple layers and meanings in our lyrics in a surrealist type of way where the listener can come up with their own narrative. A lot of the times Sarantis wont even remember what he meant when he first written some of them. Usually they re about a simple idea filtered through loads of metaphors , like reality on LSD.
Back in 2002 I’d probably overdone it while experimenting with hallucinogens, leading to a somewhat unoriginal (in hindsight) hours-long vision of aliens seeding the world with humanity. I suppose insight didn’t necessarily blossom from my own early recreational use but… Do you have any fantastic LSD inspired stories or personal insights gained via hallucination? Or, is there a story or particular idea behind the name Amon Acid?
Sarantis: To be honest I feel that most of the Acid Revelations I have experienced came in the form of really crazy deep philosophical thoughts about reality of the universe, thoughts that were forgotten when the effect wore off. Every time the morning after when I m trying to recall them I don’t think my level of perception is there anymore and I start thinking that I need a notebook for my next psychedelic experience which is something that I still haven’t managed to do. One time I felt like I was going through parallel realities, everytime I closed my eyes I would be somewhere else but still at the same place. It was at a free rave under a railway bridge in Manchester but I would flicker between a post apocalyptic version of the same place, a forest version and also others I clearly recall.
Briony: The first trip I had was on salvia when I was pretty young – I figured I’d seen the answer to everything and just needed to learn how to describe it so got really interested in physics. I’m an X-ray crystallographer now and I think that’s how I ended up here. Over the years I’ve found that for me it’s best not to do it too often – because the experiences start to become pretty mundane or even dark eventually. But it’s always different – back in like 2005 I ended up taking Ayahuasca in the middle of the amazon rainforest – I hadn’t deliberately set out to be in that situation and hadn’t tripped for a long time – it ended up like a really introspective therapy session with a weird rainbow fish but the ‘purge’ is not something I’d ever want to repeat.
I’ve seen references to Finnish and British doom metal in terms of vibe and influences for ‘Paradigm Shift’ thus far. Reverend Bizarre, Electric Wizard, and I’d posit maybe a Cathedral record or two somewhere down the line. Are there any absolute go-to records in recent memory that’ve had you wanting to hit upon doom metal riffing lately?
From more relatively recent records Mephistofeles – ‘I am Heroin’ is something we keep going back to. We love Dungeon Weed’s Mind Palace of the Mushroom God, there’s hints of rebetiko in that record, Dimitri actually also plays in a Rebetiko band in the USA too. Also it might be obvious but stuff like St Vitus, Electric Wizard, Pentagram, Black Sabbath never get old. They’re on constant rotation in our house.
On that same note, are you purveyors of the present who keep up with modern releases? Is the bulk of Amon Acid’s most essential insipiration vaulted in the 70’s-80’s?
Our music taste is all over the place so I suppose so it makes it really hard to follow scenes as such. We tend to prefer older bands and records just because of how they sound but inspiration can come from all sorts of places. There’s definitely a lot of more output these days given that recording music has become more accessible which makes it harder to keep up but at the same time a lot of interesting stuff are happening too.
I’ve always got about ten records I’m itching to throw at folks, do y’all have a “You’ve got to hear this!” record, old or new, in hand lately?
Choubi Choubi! Folk And Pop Songs From Iraq, a compilation by Sublime Frequencies label, which unfortunately we haven’t managed to own on vinyl yet, it is so good and not a lot of people know about it. It introduced us to a lot of music from that part of the world.
Wicked Lady – the Axeman Cometh, great record! It makes it more special that this band only recorded live demos at the time( late 60s, arly 70s) and this is a compilation of those ,we almost never got to hear them.
Its so hard to choose, I’m thinking Omar Khorshid, Third Bardo, Poobah, Bodkin and more. I’ll just leave it to the two mentioned above.
Will ‘Paradigm Shift’ be the first of your releases to hit vinyl? Are you fans/collectors of the format?
We are modest collectors, we end up spending most of our money on studio gear but whatever is left it goes to records.
I’ve heard rumblings of new recordings in the works. What is next for Amon Acid? Assuming that the world won’t be ready for full-blown touring cycles for a year or so.
We are working on our first album with a drummer, it is our heaviest yet. We had to do it over the internet due to covid but the demos we got back are sounding great. Should be recording the album versions over the next 3 weeks.
What is the best way for fans to support Amon Acid?
Buy our music, you can pay as you feel on Bandcamp for digital releases. Even a really small amount really helps, it’s the sum of those small donations that helped us release our first physical tape and upgrade our studio. Also come to the gigs when these are happening again.
Per the press release:
HELTER SKELTER PRODUCTIONS (distributed & marketed by REGAIN RECORDS) is proud to present AMON ACID’s striking debut album, Paradigm Shift, on CD and vinyl LP formats.
Hailing from Leeds, UK, AMON ACID formed in 2018 to make psychedelic doom metal. It started as a bit of fun between two people, jamming at home, but after self-releasing their first EP, which received a positive response, it became a serious mission. Indeed, the core duo of Sarantis (originally from Athens) and Briony (from UK) are serious, and one listen to their debut album, Paradigm Shift, is enough to convert unbelievers into fanatics, so hypnotically addicting is their sonic drug.
However, to merely call AMON ACID “psychedelic doom metal” is a misnomer, for the duo’s interests and ethnic backgrounds bring together a swirling soup of unique sensibilities. Across Paradigm Shift, one can hear trace elements of space rock, doom, psych, rebetiko, and Anatolian music as well as their love of horror and science-fiction. In this way, they fuse together a world of sounds which is consistent and unpredictable at the same time. And, unlike so many doomers past and present, AMON ACID acutely know when to lay off the heaviness – the “pedal to the metal,” as it were – and allow the listener to float along to their eerily ethereal textures. Thus, Paradigm Shift is likely to draw in fans of Spiritualized, Acid Mothers Temple, and old Skullflower as surely as those of the paradigmatic Electric Wizard and Reverend Bizarre.
And AMON ACID are just getting started: their forthcoming material is reportedly heading in a heavier direction, with a clearer doom/stoner influence without betraying their broad psychedelic roots. In the meantime, drop out to their Paradigm Shift!
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