As part of our build up to Milwaukee Psych Fest, we’ve set up a series of interviews with some of the amazing acts that make up this years lineup. First up, Chicago music legend, writer, artist, & historian, Steven Krakow AKA Plastic Crimewave.
You’ve been a huge part of the psych/drone rock scene in Chicago for years now, what’s the dynamic like with Plastic Crimewave Syndicate as opposed to some of your other music projects you’ve been a part of, such as Moonrises?
Well, Moonrises is much more compositionally-oriented band, we’d work on songs for months before playing them live, where as the Syndicate we will start developing a groove live after one practice! Plus PCWSyndicate has a bass player (the excellent Anjru Kettering) whereas Moonrises doesn’t, so a whole different sort of musical dynamic occurs there.
Your record collection is legendary, I’ve only heard tales of it but I hope to see it in person one day! What local records are you listening to lately?
Legendary? Wow–who knew? I have to admit I don’t listen to much new music, even local bands–though I have jammed recent releases by Toupee, Running and Ono–who are my fave band In Chicago, maybe ever?
How does your musical style inform your artwork and vice versa; are they one in the same sometimes?
Yeah they are basically the same, I guess my “Galactic Zoo Dossier” mag is sorta proof of that, the comics and music sort of bleed into each other–I am pretty equally influenced by comix, paintings, poster art, album art, paperback book covers, films, etc.
What’s in the works for Plastic Crimewave Syndicate? Do you guys have any physical releases planned? I’d love to hear The Golden Cage on vinyl.
We are looking for a label to put out our LP! Also, we have Milwaukee Psych fest coming up (obviously) and a Summer east coast tour… a few exciting local shows too…
With festivals like Austin Psych Fest and Milwaukee Psych Fest getting bigger every year, it seems like more and more people are getting into psych music. What do you think of the psychedelic music scene these days, which are your favorite acts?
Well, I’m just happy “psychedelic” isn’t a dirty word anymore like it was in the 90s, when everyone just thought of Grateful Dead-like smelly hippie jams. There are now enough “psychedelic” bands in Chicago that we have our own sold-out “Psych Fest” every year now for 5 years (I think we were 2nd after Austin to have one) when before we had about none. To nitpick a little, I think the term “psych” is overused these days, sometimes to describe bands that are essentially indie rock with a little reverb, classic rock, or haircut popsters enthralled with the boring jangle of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. That said, some of the “sub-genres” of modern psych ala “stoner doom” “psych funk” or “experimental soundscapes” I can definitely get behind.
You’re not just a musician but also an artist, writer and a music historian; Did you ever have a day job? How do you find the time to dedicate yourself to so many great endeavors?
Oh yes, I worked crappy jobs from age 13 (a janitor) to 30 (a record store wage slave) without a break, but I have been “freelance” for 10 years now. It’s a struggle at times, but ultimately worth it, for the reason you name–to have time for all my endeavors!
I’ve always loved your Secret History of Chicago Music articles/illustrations, do you think you’ll ever run out of great, undiscovered Chicago musicians to write about or is the list too long to ever complete?
Honestly, Chicago is such an amazing place for music, when you consider even just the blues, jazz, garage bands, and soul groups that come from here, I am convinced I will never run out of subjects. I think in other cities I would run out fast.
You’ve done a lot of exploration into using drones in your music, how do make those sounds your own and stand out among other drone rock acts?
I just do what I do, I am largely untrained as a musician, but have been working with sonics/effects pedals/sound devices/collaborators for over 20 years, so I hope some of that experience/knowledge/feel morphs into something interesting–if not just for me! I am still exploring and tend to learn something every time I play, otherwise I think it would be boring, not just for me, but for everyone.
Plastic Crimewave Syndicate’s drummer Karissa also runs Eye Vybe Records, how has her record label and influence helped the band along the way?
Karissa is def. in touch w/the new generation of psychsters, and I have never given up on my love of tapes (rocked a cassette walkman non-stop for over 30 years) so its great to have that energy.
Who is one person you would love to collaborate with? (Musically, artistically, or in any other capacity.)
I’ve been luckily to collaborate with a lot of my heroes, like Michael Yonkers, Djin Aquarian, Damo Suzuki, Acid Mothers Temple, etc, but someday would love to play/record w/Keiji Haino or maybe Jandek?
With such a massive collection of records, comics, posters, and other memorabilia, how do you go about collecting more? How do you keep track of it all?
Uh, its hard, I have finally come to the point where I am buying things I already have. I do keep everything in order though, so I can at least determine if I own it, though sometimes a bit too late.
It’s exciting for me to have the chance to interview you when you yourself have been running your own amazing psych rock magazine, Galactic Zoo Dossier, for years now. You’ve interviewed countless legends in the psych world, who was your favorite?
Oh man, that’s a tough call–it’s like picking your favorite child, you love them all. I guess Arthur Brown, whose LP the mag is actually named after. Meeting up with him in a small medieval town in England was beyond magical. But my first “big” interviews were Michael Karoli/Damo Suzuki of Can and Simeon of Silver Apples, so those are special to me, too. But meeting people like Vashti Bunyan, Rodriguez, Edgar Broughton, Martin Carthy, Michael Chapman, Mark Fry, it’s all been wonderful.
Who are you excited to see at Milwaukee Psych Fest?
Sadly, we can just stay for the day we are playing because of other commitments, but luckily I will check my heroes Loop in Chicago! Whew…wish I could see Electric Citizen again too, that guitarist smokes!
Plastic Crimewave Syndicate play Day 2 of Milwaukee Psych Fest on Friday April 25th. For the complete schedule and ticket information, visit the Cactus Club’s Event Page. And for more on Steven Krakow and his many projects, follow the links below.