'Oh, cool, Psychedelic Juggernaut - it must be like all tape reverse, twenty-minutejams, childlike circus melodies, meditative drones, confusing sound effects and ominous sci-fi poetry.' - Well, not entirely. This CD is not intended to be a retro copy of the '60s; it's meant to express my allegiance to the many phases and tangents of psychedelic music from the past into the future. No other kind of music speaks to me with the same clarity and resonance. This may come from the fact that I was born within a few months of the beginning of the psychedelic movement. I think it has more to do with the spirit of experimentation and the progressive outlook that the music embodies. It might simply be that my mind was permanently twisted during infancy by repeated exposure to the Beatles' Revolver. Whatever the cause, here are some of the results: 1. Ghost Waves 5:33 This one sounds like Asian Dub Foundation playing the soundtrack to a Tim Burton film while a fuzz-guitar thunderstorm disrupts the proceedings. Written from the dream image of my ancestors climbing the dark path up the volcanic hill to reclaim Edinburgh Castle. This track was kept instrumental because the lyrics made it sound like a Black Sabbath dance remix. Quite spooky, really. 2. The History of Rock & Roll 4:10 Oh, the humanity! Nothing makes you feel better about your own life than a good episode of VH1 Behind The Music. The mesmerizing Rolling Stone History of Rock & Roll book is full of rousing stories of random fleeting success followed by bizarre, protracted downward spirals. This song came to me after I met a 43-year-old rocker who lived in his mom's garage and was thinking of getting a band together. Some typically lurid rock star details blend to form the story of one fictional band. The alternating British/American vocal sound is a nod to Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices. 3. London District Atlas 6:54 This techno instrumental was done as a cut & paste job, using the Roland XP-60 multi-tracking synthesizer. Once the parts were in place, the song sounded a bit like a trip through several neighborhoods of varying character. The sitar, church organs, '70s synths and rave percussion seemed more English than American; thus the title. The part near the end where everything happens at once must be Oxford Street or Piccadilly Circus. I had John McEntire's remix of Blur's 'Theme From Retro' in mind as I did the arrangement. 4. Let Op! 4:37 Yeah! Let's hear it for Amsterdam, the psychedelicest place in on earth! The drums and bass on this track stagger along, drunk on Heineken and constantly in danger of falling into a canal. The vocals and the organ try to keep it together enough to lead the way to the nearest Rokery as closing time fast approaches. The guitars vibrate with an unfocused electricity that let's you know things are getting out of hand but not in a bad way. I can't hear myself think over those guitars! 5. Driving Obsession 5:55 What makes a man put 10,000 miles on a rental car in two weeks? Why is the River Road always more enticing than the freeway? What's left to explore on a fully settled continent? Everything! The extended guitar solo is a driver on a singular mission, slightly shaky but energized by the constant movement of the journey. Those Seinfeld-theme sounding fake slap basses are charming in their own way, like worn-out springs on a bumpy sonic back route. 6. Portland Is The Place 5:13 'C'mon!!!' This foreboding number was inspired by the novel The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin as well as by my own impressions from traveling through the Pacific Northwest. Soundgarden taught us well that the vibe of the Northwest sounds like a slow blues riff topped with a mountain of sinister lead guitars. I have to say that the guitar solo after the second verse is my favorite thing on the whole album. When the vocal effects were applied during mixing, I was as surprised as anyone to hear that Brooklyn and Oakland also seemed to be 'the place'. 7. Lunar Standstill 1:30 This is just a short interlude for the blunted, providing a clean break between two monster guitar songs. I always really enjoy the instrumental segues on Cypress Hill albums; that stripped down DJ Muggs production is killer. 'Toasted... nicely toasted'. 8. Monolith 7:38 Winding way down through the Utah desert, a canyon trail is guarded by solemn ravens perched on dry, gnarled juniper branches. Over rocks like giant fingerprints and through a waterfall oasis, the monolith finally comes into view. World's largest, as I understand it. I spent the better part of a week working out the complex fusion drum patterns and then haphazardly improvised the guitar parts during recording. There's sort of an early Allman Brothers feel to sections of this groovy jam, while at other points it brings to mind a garage version of Mahavishnu Orchestra or Yes. It could be twenty minutes longer; that would be fine with me. 9. The Answer Withheld 4:31 Anyone who tells you they have all the answers doesn't even know the right questions, man. This song grew out of an experiment in layering loops, beginning with the Terminator bass. The distorted yet melodic piano later became the focus. When I wrote the words, I wanted to go with a loose, expressive vocal approach like Steve Malkmus of Pavement but, within the somber context of the music, it ended up sounding cold and distant like David Bowie (in Berlin, 1977) or Ultravox. My mother-in-law Joyce mistook the synthetic percussion for engine trouble in the rental car. 10. El Nopal 3:48 Imagine that the original Santana band forgot to bring guitars to a big street party in the Mission in 1968. Fortunately, there are plenty of vintage keyboards on hand. Let the celebration begin! This is the peaceful conclusion to all the madness that came before. All instruments, vocals, engineering and production by Nick Bensen All words and music © 2000 Nick Bensen (BMI) Artwork by Nick and Heidi Bensen, liner notes by Nick Bensen © 2000 Free City Media Biography Nick Bensen was born in 1965, the son of New York hipsters. Raised from infancy on a steady diet of The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Doors, Nick was lucky enough to witness late-sixties/early-seventies shows by The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, Strawberry Alarm Clock and Yes. Lou Reed once played an informal set at a party in Nick's family's apartment. At the age of seven, Nick began learning to play guitar. His first teacher was a teenage neighbor named Ira Kaplan, who went on to become the front man of Matador recording artists Yo La Tengo. 'Ooh, I Hate Them Gophers', an improvised comedy number set to the tune of the Beatles' 'Eight Days A Week', was Nick's first public performance. Nick wrote his first songs 'Pine Tree' and 'Fisherman's Lament' in 1975. Influenced by Neil Young, they were depressed, worldly dirges, odd for a ten-year-old to have made up. The pretentious Sears chord organ epic 'Tribal Ritual' (1976), a weak attempt to copy Tales From Topographic Oceans by Yes, was the first thing Nick committed to tape (along with a choppy 15-minute take of Neil Young's 'Dangerbird'). The Led Zeppelin-flavored but childishly incompetent Realize You're Wrong followed in 1977. The Acid Trip (a scheme to weasel out of doing a proper 7th grade science project by submitting an ambient space jam recorded on his Crummar electric piano) won Nick a visit with the school counselor. Judged to be disturbingly convincing, the master tape was confiscated and destroyed. Starting at thirteen, Nick became a regular fixture on the Westchester County, NY band circuit, playing guitar and singing with bands including Lost Civilization, The Croton Dammed, The Idle Hands and Mirkwood. The cassette The Croton Dammed Live At The Ossining Armory captured the sound of a band of freaky ninth and tenth graders from sheltered Croton getting their asses kicked at a varsity football party in the tougher, more conservative town of Ossining. In collaboration with Dave Stevens, Nick developed the Bruce Springsteen parody Barry Wiinsteenn and the F Street Band in 1980. The group's songs had titles like 'Rhapsody In Rutgers' and 'Streets Of Pavement'. The Assassins, a duo with Matt McDermott (drums), brought punk rock to Northern Westchester and resulted in one locally popular album called White Noise. As a singer/songwriter/ guitarist, McDermott later recruited former members of The Croton Dammed to back him on a live session for Putnam Valley Cable TV in 1982. Nick saw McDermott's sweet new James Taylor-style songs as a perfect canvas for occasional bursts of arty noise. Ed Champagne, the show's producer, advised Matt to 'lose the big scary kid who beats on his guitar with a screwdriver'. The Croton All-Star Ska Band recorded excellent versions of Nick's songs 'Bo's House' (a humorous profile of friend Adam 'Bo' Gross to the tune of 'Our House' by Madness) and 'I Mean It' (an uncharacteristically upbeat love song). Unfortunately, the master tape was lost or stolen at a party on the day of recording. At Emory University in Atlanta, Nick briefly played with a Cheap Trick cover band called Surrender. As he only cared about REM, Talking Heads and Violent Femmes at the time, it was a poor match. Disillusioned by bad times in Georgia, Nick went home to New York and recorded an album of over-wrought acoustic ballads. Although Nick thought better than to release the mopey solo album, it did help him get into Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Bard was the spawning ground of such noted bands as Steely Dan and Beastie Boys. Adam Yauch and Nick lived in the same dorm for a year or two. Nick studied composition, sound consciousness and performance at Bard but found real inspiration at home in Croton during school breaks. He had the chance to play with underrated keyboard genius Ian Mader (whose less apparently talented buddy Dave Matthews is a huge star - go figure). Working under the misguided name of Dead Nuns (which seemed perfectly fine in the era's context of Black Flag, Sonic Youth and Raymond Pettibone cartoons), Ian and Nick, along with Dave Stevens on drums and bass, developed a high level of musical communication on extended explorations of Velvet Underground classics. The cassette Sister Ray contained one jam that clocked in at 116 minutes. The 1984 double album The Passion Of Saint Louis (featuring Westchester club mainstay Bill Ryder on drums) consisted of a 132-minute version of 'Sweet Jane' along with a forty-minute dance remix. Excerpts from the Dead Nuns' infamous jams were collected on For Those About To Rock - We're Going To Shoot You! Nick and Ian formed the more focused band Three Globe Banana Monte (with Matt McDermott on drums) later in 1984. The resulting recording Like Four Really Intense Hits, Man featured the modern psychedelic classics 'Frobisher Awakening' and 'Impressionistic Panhandle'. The very best moments of Dead Nuns and Three Globe Banana Monte were compiled as Nick Bensen and Ian Mader - Jam Or Die! Nick still considers Ian the best musician he has ever played with. Back at Bard, Nick developed a solo act heavily influenced by Hüsker Dü. Working for the college's entertainment committee, Nick had the chance to meet alternative greats like Billy Bragg, Camper Van Beethoven, Dinosaur Jr., Firehose, Meat Puppets, The Minutemen and Sonic Youth. Late in 1986, Nick joined Bard's political post-hardcore band A Subtle Plague. The band played shows around the Hudson Valley with headliners such as Agitpop and the Feelies. You can hear Nick playing bass on A Subtle Plague's first album, recorded in 1987. More recently based in San Francisco, A Subtle Plague has released a string of well-regarded CDs and is quite popular in Europe. Nick also appears on the band's 1997 retrospective Independent Study. A solo shot opening for Soul Asylum at the last big Bard show before graduation in 1987 seemed like the break of a lifetime to Nick. Dave Pirner said he loved Nick's playing and encouraged him to move to Minneapolis. 'Better than Bob Mould himself,' Pirner said. 'You have to come on out! We'll get you set up with a band and a job at a cool record store.' When Nick and his girlfriend (now wife) Heidi Reischuck showed up in Minnesota, Pirner had no idea who they were. They were trapped in the upper Midwest, watching the scene crumble around them. Although he did get to know Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü and Tommy Stinson of The Replacements slightly, the Minneapolis experience moved Nick to give up playing music for five years. At least Heidi got to trick Dave Pirner into eating cat food at a party one time. When funding for Nick's job as a deaf school counselor/teacher in Brattleboro, VT was cut off by the State in 1992, he began appearing as a solo 12-string performer at the Mole's Eye Café, the top local club (Live At The Mole's Eye documents this period). A spot on the lineup for a Dutchess/Ulster (NY) Humane Society benefit resulted in the EP Nick Bensen At The Rhinecliff Hotel which included a version of 'New River Head' by The Bevis Frond. Suddenly prolific, Nick recorded two albums of fusion jams with Burrie Jenkins (guitar) and Paul Cress (drums) called Homegrown Masters and Scarified, and a space/ metal/ bluegrass collaboration with Dave Stevens and Heidi Reischuck known as The Green Album. Nick's own solo album from the time, an early version of No Resistance, would have been issued except that the unreliable speed of the four-track recorder caused inconsistent pitch and put the instruments slightly out of synch. The material was strong enough that Nick is planning to record new takes of most of the songs for his next CD. An electric performance at the Mole's Eye (backed by Hy Ginsburg on rhythm guitar) earned Nick the attention and friendship of legendary NRBQ keyboardist/singer Terry Adams. Nick was invited to jam with members of NRBQ and other veteran musicians at a party in Putney, VT in 1994. A variety of tracks from Nick's early-nineties output were compiled as Anthology and The New England Tapes. Nick Bensen & Three Globe Banana Monte - From The Vaults paired highlights from Nick's 1980s work featuring Ian Mader with more recent selections from The Green Album. Out in San Francisco in the mid-nineties, it was all about the money. Confronted with the relatively incredible expense of living in the city, Nick worked in product design, manufacturing planning, marketing, human resources and public relations for four years. It was a dark, stagnant time, enlivened only by the music of Built To Spill, Guided By Voices and Pavement. It took a family tragedy for Nick to rethink his priorities. Nick and Heidi left their jobs to found the renowned on-line magazine, gallery, and record label Free City Media. Encouraged by the low cost of digital recording technology and inspired by a very nice meeting with Nick Saloman (of The Bevis Frond, Woronzow Records and Ptolemaic Terrascope Magazine), Nick Bensen began work on Psychedelic Juggernaut in 1999. Woronzow artist Adrian Shaw (a veteran of Hawkwind) and old Croton friend Ian Mader supplied Nick with the information he needed to put together a digital studio. Nick started the album thinking of himself as a guitarist/singer. When the tracks were done, he saw himself as a keyboard player/drum programmer/producer. Psychedelic Juggernaut combines acid rock, progressive, indie and electronica to create a distinctive contemporary sound that matches the album's European dreamscape artwork. Nick played his San Francisco solo debut at Baobab on July 19th, 2000. It went very well; Nick earned some new fans and the management invited him back for another appearance (date to be determined). He is thinking about finding a bass player and a drummer to put together a power trio. Free City is planning to release Nick's second and third CDs as a 2-disc set called No Resistance/On The Fractal Landcape. It should be out in Spring 2001. Bio (c) 2000 Free City Media CD Review from Bay Arts and Music Magazine (July 2000, Vol 1, No 3) Nick Bensen: Psychedelic Juggernaut By: Robert Morris Nick Bensen is a San Francisco-based musician and composer originally from New York, and a veteran of the New England jam scene. His new album, Psychedelic Juggernaut, released just last month on the Free City Media label, is definitely worth checking out. The album is, in Bensen's words, a 10-track exploration of 'the acid rock thread running through Britpop, heavy blues, progressive, alternative and techno.' As 1960's acid-rock bands mined the catalogues of blues musicians and interpreted their music through a modern, psychedelic sound, so Bensen, using entirely original songs, has interpreted 'the acid rock' in an entirely contemporary mode, combining electronica and indie sounds to create something new. What results is a progressive fusion of today's 'science fiction' techno with 60's psychedelia, a sound reminiscent of Beck, or the British artists The Bevis Frond and The Lucky Bishops. Bensen plays all the instruments on the album, and although that only consists of electric guitar, a Roland synthesizer, and the master's voice, Bensen has layered the tracks to produce as lush and rich a sound as anything you're likely to hear in clubs right now. The beats are spread thick throughout, and it came as no surprise to learn from Nick that several of the songs had begun, not as chord changes as in his previous songwriting, but as layered polyrhythmic sequences he had worked out as a programmer on his synthesizer. His jazzy, bluesy, Zappa/Allman style guitar, however, proves a sharp contrast to the jungle-ish electronic percussion-it is the fire streaking out over the ice. Simply put, it gives something for your head to do, while the drums and bass move your body around, a trait I find lacking in much of the electronica I hear. Sounds on the album range from the liquid drum and bass of 'Ghost Waves' and 'The Answer Withheld,' to the European Gothic of 'Portland is the Place,' to the extended guitar solos on 'Driving Obsession' and 'Monolith,' to the straight ahead acid-rock of 'Let Op!' The rather mellow New Wave-esque 'The History of Rock and Roll' rubbed me the wrong way, although it is proof that Bensen can write a catchy pop tune that will stick in your head. Far better fare, and just as accessible, is the last track, 'El Nopal' which roars like a party in the Mission on layered multiple-keyboard sounds. Nick will be performing on solo guitar at Baobab at 3386 19th St. in San Francisco on July 19, 2000. You can find his record at fine music stores around the Bay Area. For a list of stores, to order a copy online, or to find more information, visit FreeCityMedia.com. Review (c) 2000 Robert Morris.