Erik chats with bassist, composer, and visual artist Evan Lacksmer about his artistic sensibilities, creative processes as a musician, Evan’s background, history in the Chicago music scene, and how he developed his unique style of playing. During the episode Evan previews three brand new tracks from his latest project.
Evan curated a companion Guest List playlist of some of his influences and favorite bands from Chicago. Following the Spotify and Youtube playlists is a track-by-track feature written by Evan.
|Jesus Christ Pose – Remastered||Soundgarden|
|Shoots and Ladders||Korn|
|Preacher||Kiss It Goodbye|
|Staring Contest||Dazzling Killmen|
|The State Is Bad||U.S. Maple|
|Crowbar At Crescent And Cricket||Grand Ulena|
|Dirty Blue Gene – 2006 Digital Remaster||Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band|
|Recorded Inside a Pyramid||Daughters|
|Times Square||Ornette Coleman|
|(Let Me Take You To) Chinatown||Glazed Baby|
|Geez (Berne)(For Craig)||Tim Berne, Craig Taborn, Marc Ducret, Tom Rainey|
|The Pyrite Wink||Golden Oriole|
|Glistening Vivid Splash||Lovely Little Girls|
|Umami Syntonic||Imelda Marcos|
|Mommy Is a Mummy||Toupee|
|Gift Shopping||Spirits Having Fun|
Featured Artists, Track-By-Track
SOUNDGARDEN - Jesus Christ Pose
I was very young and impressionable when I first encountered this band and it and this song in particular started a lifelong obsession [this band was definitely my first musical obsession!] with abrasive guitar sounds and my continuing preference for propulsive rhythms and sonic catharsis. To this day I still consider this song a masterpiece and I often think that Soungarden’s music also planted the seeds for my comfort with angularity very very early because they often did it so nonchalantly.
KORN-Shoots and Ladders
My second band obsession to even amusing extents if I reminisce on it. This band more or less sealed for me that I viewed dissonance as a beacon that would guide me forward for as long as I ever cared to try and make music involving guitars. I can appreciate a melody as much as the next person but give me ugly droning chords and clashing tones and that’s where I find purity and beauty and truth in sound. Of note also: bass as an unusual lynchpin element in the mix whether through sound or approach or both.
KISS IT GOODBYE-Preacher
After being led by whatever interesting music would filter through television or radio media, I started digging deeper and going to all ages shows and reading zines and diving into underground currents. I went through a phase where I got into hardcore and on a fluke purchase based on a small zine glowing review I stumbled onto the band Kiss It Goodbye. Enter band obsession number 3! Their only full-length, She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not, is to me still the best hardcore rooted record I have heard in my entire life and the band is the aural embodiment of barely controlled catharsis. The rhythm section in this band was a huge influence on how I view and measure the role of a bassist and drummer in the context of aggressive music. And I’m a lifelong fan of Keith Huckins’ guitar playing and his track record with Rorschach, Deadguy and Kiss It Goodbye is, to me, untouchable when it comes to aggro guitar driven music.
DAZZLING KILLMEN - Staring Contest
The record this track is from, Face Of Collapse, is possibly single-handedly responsible for my equivalent of a descent into the rabbit hole when it comes to music, and for sure my very first exposure to the music being released by the now venerable and always wonderfully mutant Skin Graft record label. St Louis’ Dazzling Killmen’s music is still to this day quite difficult to describe properly as it rejects any simple and facile genre tagging attempt, and I can’t even imagine how sore of a thumb it must have appeared at the time it was being made and alive out in the world. I also easily consider its bassist, Darin Gray, one of my biggest influences on the instrument with his relentless propulsive elasticity that sometimes borders on maniacal.
U.S. MAPLE - The State Is Bad
As I started to get exposed to more and more unusual takes on guitar “rock” music, another blinding jewel in the crown of the Skin Graft label stopped me in my tracks upon first encounter. I still very much consider U.S. Maple one of the best live bands I’ve seen in my life [undoubtedly the best Chicago band I have ever seen!] and it’s a topic I could discuss at length if prompted to. The guitar tandem of Rittmann and Shippy is unrivaled, in my opinion, when it comes to pulling consistently engaging and ingenious magic tricks with interplay, separation, independence, tension, ingenuity, boldness, defiance of expectations, and I really could go on for a while here … I really wish this band still existed. Also the track of theirs I really wanted to include on this list was Missouri Twist from their sophomore record Sang Phat Editor [their best imo] but unfortunately that record is not on stupid Spotify … do me a favor and go listen to that track, it’s a mindbender and none of it is improvised … none!
GRAND ULENA - Crowbar At Crescent And Cricket
Bassist Darin Gray’s second appearance on this list and another legendary band from St Louis in my personal list. A good friend of mine who was very aware of and tuned to my burgeoning tastes in music recommended I go see this band she had seen and would not describe me and just told me to trust her and go … so one one day they played a show at The Hideout opening for local prog eccentrics Cheer-Accident and I went without knowing anything about the band’s music other than the fact that Darin Gray was involved. They played. I went home. Slept. And for the next entire 3 days I couldn’t stop replaying in my head bits and pieces of what I had seen and heard during their set and thus began band obsession number 4! A lot of people will just resort to describe this band as math rock and that’s idiotic if you ask me because 99% of math rock has nowhere near the audaciousness and maniacal obsessiveness and elasticity and almost comically focused defiance of expectations and amount of rigor and discipline contained in this music … and that’s just scratching the surface. A jaw dropping live band btw.
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART AND HIS MAGIC BAND - Dirty Blue Gene
Where do I even start with Beefheart!?! It was even difficult to choose which song to represent what I love about this musical entity … Dirty Blue Gene just happens to be the song that best fits my current musical preoccupations [funky discombobulated music that zigs and zags]. I first tried cracking the Beefheart puzzle early on when I first dove into “weird” music and it didn’t click right away but I credit my drummer friend Phil Plencner as being the person who goaded me into giving it another try. Once the dots connected in my brain or, rather, once my brain aligned itself to properly process the music I was thoroughly and utterly blown away by how unique and deep a creation it is on every conceivable level. Beefheart has since been, is and will always and forever be my favorite band of all time and possibly space!
DAUGHTERS - Recorded Inside A Pyramid
In the aughts a lot of cool unique rock music was being made in Providence and many of the bands in the scene and could rightly all merit their own entry on this list but the one that somehow stuck the most with me is definitely Daughters who somehow managed to successfully marry the blurred barrage of grindcore with the trebly beeswarm molestation high-wire act of Providence luminaries Arab On Radar. It’s funny that I play bass because what initially draws me to certain music is still guitar to this very day. This slashing and whiplashing blurry chatter of the guitars in this band sold me instantly and this track marries it with disco leanings to great and exhilarating effect, hyper panic disco for throbbing seizures.
YOWIE - Talisha
Something must be in the water in St Louis. 3rd band on this list of mine that resides in such a seemingly drab and anonymous environment [sorry, residents].
Yowie is such a unique creation that describing it will never be as effective as the actual listening experience of their music. This was another recommendation from the same friend who hipped me to Grand Ulena. Her words were “You need to see this band! It’s your new favorite band and you don’t even know it!’. She was 100% right. This music is the virtuous embodiment of the challenge inherent in making music that is as highly controlled as possible while also being the continuously shifting and recombining puzzle piece exploded view of someone’s nervous system. Listening to it always brings a smile to my face. Witnessing this music for the first time many years ago changed me.
ORNETTE COLEMAN'S PRIME TIME - Times Square
At some point everyone who ever bothers to try and learn how to play any instrument in any fashion has to grapple with the existence and value of jazz relative to one’s own taste and mindset leanings. That rabbit hole is so so so deep that it is easy to get lost in it and the currents below are very many and they can take you to so many disparate places that you are neither initially expecting nor prepared for, so it’s one that can yield as much or as little as you allow it to. Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time music immediately connected with me in a myriad of ways and its effects show up pretty consistently in my thoughts and ideas and decisions about music making. I’m still feeding on it as a source and I suspect the need to feed from it will only increase with time. This track was my initial entry into Coleman’s music and specifically the video of the infamous/infamous live performance of it on SNL, yep that SNL. Here’s a link to its magnificence
GLAZED BABY - (Let Me Take You To) Chinatown
The funny story with this track and band is that I had been initially introduced to their music by a friend who had near encyclopedic knowledge of underground music currents and movements … and it barely connected with me at all. I think my taste at the time was too steeped in stuff like Korn and early metalcore bands, I just wasn’t ready to receive this music yet. I believe, in retrospect, that Hector had an inkling that this particular music was something that made sense to push in my direction and he was absolutely right. Years after the fact I rediscovered this particular record and become obsessed with it … especially the guitar tandem in it [dual guitars wreaking havoc is sort of a recurring theme in my taste and a big part of my decision to want to start a project with 2 guitars in it]. I’m not sure what people mean or refer to when they bring up the term noise rock these days but, for me, this is one the finest noisy rocking records I have ever heard and I will continue to push it perpetually upon unsuspecting venturers into the realms of sonically vitriolic music. Simple … you say you dig noise rock? go and get yourself a copy of Glazed Baby’s Atomic Communists record then. You’ll thank me later. And thanks, Hector, wherever you are.
BIG SATAN - Geez
Picking the jazz thread back up here. During my rabbit hole excursions under that great gigantic umbrella of the J word, I started wondering about what and who was sorta dealing with the more modernist strains of the free and avant-garde of the 60s and kept stumbling onto the name of saxophonist Tim Berne so I decided to check out some of the music. There is a lot of it out there and under various groupings and collaborations but it is clear to me that Berne has a distinct voice that seeks to reconcile melodicism and the askew by tackling them concurrently and very head on in a sort of a playfully tumbling and unspooling fashion. His trio with guitarist Marc Ducret and drummer Tom Rainey is so goddamn good that I can’t even deal with it. When they are all fully going toe to toe it is a fucking marvel and listening to them just sparks a multitude of ideas and that’s when I know that I’m listening to special music.
GOLDEN ORIOLE - The Pyrite Wink
This band is definitely my current musical obsession and probably my favorite active band going and I’m very impatiently waiting for some new music from them. They are a young guitar and drums duo from Norway who trade in a type of music that practically ticks off 90 percent of the boxes of what I’m immediately drawn to in music, namely a reliance of dissonance, rhythm as a driving element, unusual interplay between the instruments, a pervading sense of encroaching chaos that is being expertly navigated with tremendous control, ugly sounds, playful but tense rhythms, unique guitar playing and unique drumming, etc etc. Seeing them live further cemented how strongly I feel about them and they are still so young too. The band I choose to push the most nowadays when people ask me for recommendations on new music.
LOVELY LITTLE GIRLS - Glistening Vivid Splash
Sometimes it saddens me just how unheralded and underappreciated this band is. There so many ingredients that are effortlessly merged in their grotesquely glamorous mutant musical stew and definitely the product of very specifically singular visions from the main creators involved, Gregory Jacobsen [singer/lyricist and an intriguing artist to boot https://www.gregoryjacobsen.com ] and Alex Perkolup [bassist/composer/arranger who has done time in fantastic bands like The Flying Luttenbachers and Cheer-Accident]. The musical content is a lot more sinewy, graceful, “funky” and even immediately superficially enjoyable as music despite its quirks of turns and dynamic detours. If you couple that with a very unique visual presentation [a seemingly lost art these days], you have a band that a lot more people should be aware of and champion, and not just on a local level.
IMELDA MARCOS - Umami Syntonic
I’m glad these friends of mine are starting to gain the attention and recognition they have deserved for a while now. A guitar and drums duo that truly makes the most of what many people would consider limitations and shortcomings. Add to the equation the fact that the guitarist, Dave Cosejo, has internalized his influences to such a fine point that he exited the personal style formation tunnel, so to speak, with a seemingly fully formed identity and an immediately recognizable style … something people spend a lot of time trying to arrive at and either fail at or resign themselves to copping someone else’s shtick. I always appreciate guitar driven bands where the guitar playing distances itself from rock or jazz cliches in sound and approach and that is happening in spades in this band. I’d also add that tagging Imelda Marcos as either an instrumental math-rock band or noise rock band is ridiculously reductive and short-sighted, but that’s a conversation for another time.
TOUPEE - Mommy Is A Mummy
Local band that had been on my radar for a decent amount of time but I, like the absolute fool that I am, had not fully latched onto what they were up until they seemingly feel into either inaction, dissolution, or hiatus [the epitome of ambiguity status]. And then earlier this year I revisited their last and this song just held me in complete thrall somehow and I found myself playing it on a loop for several hours while working on a design project and it energized and propelled me through the tedium that tinkering with pixels and fonts can often be. I especially love the singing in it and the ingenuity, outsize personality and emotional complexity it communicates to my ears at least. And very recently I have come to find out that the band has resumed activity and is, in fact, working on a new record and I can’t wait to hear the results. And yes if I haven’t spelled it out just yet, this is a fantastic song. Listen to it and you will no doubt agree.
LOWER AUTOMATION - Dread
I was exposed to this band by pure happenstance when coming into contact with its singer/guitarist, Derek Allen, when trying to find a replacement for a guitarist in my last band. It is unfortunate that the band situation was not entirely salvageable at that point already because I firmly believe that the partnership could have yielded interesting results. His band was already good then but I think that they have made even further and more impressive leaps with their current self-titled record. The are a ton of influences being stirred into the pot even if the glue that binds is hardcore and as such it definitely feels like music that is making true attempts to transcend genre constraints as much as possible and I expect successive work will do this even more and I very much look forward to that. A lot of the guitar work in this track bears the marks and characteristics of what I appreciate when it comes to how guitar is utilized in the context of aggressive music.
SPIRITS HAVING FUN - Gift Shopping
In the last band tour I was involved in, my band at the time shared a couple of dates with the fantastic NYC band Creative Healing and I was immediately enamored with them and as a bassist thoroughly impressed by what Jesse Heasly was doing in that band. Fast forward to a couple years later when I find out that Heasly and Creative Healing’s guitarist Katie McShane have a new band with local badasses guitarist Andrew Clinkman and drummer Phil Sudderberg. Had to check it out and, unsurprisingly, it is great and now they have a new album out called “Two” and I have some new listening up to do.
BRUGES - Not Here
Relatively new to this band, to be frank, but I have crossed paths many times with one of its members, Dylan Pyskula, the epitome of a great guy. And while I’m still listening to the record this track is from and coming to appreciate it more and more, this track immediately sold me and fully. Unrelentingly heavy yet nuanced and measured and controlled with a solid and confident handle of tension dialing. I’ll add that I think that the vocals are equally fantastic and perfectly suited but they are also imbued with subtlety, which might be a funny word to use for this type of music but if one listens to the types of bands most frequently associated with what Bruges seems to be navigating in musically, you’ll likely understand what I’m trying to say here.