The Quietus: In Conversation With Moon Duo?s Ripley Johnson


Kategorie: Roadburn Festival
geschrieben von: Roadburn Festival geschrieben am: 20.07.2010 um: 11:21 Uhr

The Quietus’ Ben Graham talks to Ripley Johnson about Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips and the three R’s.

“Are you really in Bermuda?” Ripley Johnson‘s soft Californian accent asks me down the line. It’s easy to imagine Johnson – main man behind Wooden Shjips, leading lights of the current garage-psych, neo-kraut, drone-rock revival- getting regular, late night calls from somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. From the other-dimensional resting place of lost airplanes and maritime vessels, with whispered messages from drowned pilots in the small hours, abducted sailors trapped on alien worlds and some distant echo of Glen Miller, jamming on Jupiter these past sixty years, inspiring his hazy, hallucinated, out there muse.


But no. In this case it’s just a mundane Monday night in Brighton, and early afternoon for Ripley in San Francisco, where his phone is playing tricks on him. I’m calling to talk about Moon Duo, the band Ripley started last year with his partner (in life, as well as in art), Sanae Yamada; a project that’s already produced two singles, an EP (all in highly limited editions on obscure underground labels, natch), and now an album, Escape, consisting of four long pieces in which a tight, minimalist rhythmic chassis of drum machine and keyboards supports Ripley’s extended guitar wig-outs, exercises in texture, tone and sustain for the most part as opposed to any kind of flash, masturbatory technique.

The results are blurred, hypnotic, enervating and highly psychedelic, influenced by two-piece avant-rock antecedents Silver Apples and Suicide, as well as a heavy helping of Velvet Underground. And, superficially at least, they also sound extremely similar to Wooden Shjips, which perhaps isn’t that surprising, although Moon Duo’s tighter, more streamlined sound has been winning over many as yet unconvinced by the Shjips themselves.

But it’s inevitable that, at this stage at least, Moon Duo are going to be seen as a side project to the more established group; inevitable, too, that our conversation should end up being as much about Wooden Shjips as Moon Duo, and the ways in which Ripley sees the two bands progressing. “I’m hoping that I can balance the two, so that people in the bands don’t get upset as far as where the resources are going,” he says, “but as far as the way people perceive it, I don’t have a problem with the idea of a side project myself.”

How did you and Sanae first start making music together

Ripley Johnson: The impetus was really to have more of a slimmed down band, to be able to go on the road with just sort of a lighter load, you know. To be more flexible and to try to travel as much as possible, to play a lot of shows. Because economically it’s difficult to take an entire band on the road, that was one of the things. And the other was just having more ideas than we could use with the Wooden Shjips, my other band.

Continue reading: The Quietus | Features | Escape Velocity | Repetition, Repetition, Repetition: Moon Duo Interview.

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