Six strings: Ben Chasny chooses guitar over philosophy
As Six Organs of Admittance, Ben Chasny has mixed acoustic guitar influences like Leo Kottke with unusual sounds and Eastern drones, though he's also gone into other genres, such as psychedelic rock with the band Comets on Fire, or the more experimental work of Rangda. Despite song titles like "S/word" and "Leviathan," and the frequent critical commentary floating around about Chasny's philosophical leanings, the latest Six Organs album, Asleep On The Floodplain, stays true to Chasny's folk roots and remains a more accessible work than might be expected. Stripped of that contrived context of heady ideas, the album provides an immediate approach to Chasny's playing itself, which is as strong as ever.
The Hook: Is there an attempt here to get to a simpler sound?
Ben Chasny: The record before that was really produced, and I had a good time with that. Whenever I put out one record, I usually try to make the other record go in the opposite direction. The opposite direction of that was recording at home and having a more acoustic-oriented record.
The Hook: Are you feeling an especially strong connection to the acoustic guitar these days?
Ben Chasny: Sometimes you reach a wall when you're playing music. I hit a wall with acoustic guitar, so I took a break from it for a while. I feel more energized playing it now.
The Hook: Does the frequent collaborating you do have an effect on your work as Six Organs?
Ben Chasny: Maybe, because I'm able to do these ideas that might pollute Six Organs. I try to keep each project along a similar aesthetic trajectory. I just listen to so much stuff. I listen to AMM and "I love these guys!" and then to Blue Cheer and "I love these guys!" I don't want to do a band that sounds like AMM meets Blue Cheer. This way I can do more of a pure thing for each of these aesthetics. That's why I play in so many different projects.
The Hook: "Pure?"
Ben Chasny: It's not absolutely pure. It's not like a fascist aesthetic where nothing can change.
The Hook: One of your tracks is inspired by theologian Catherine Keller's writing. Is that typical for you?
Ben Chasny: No. I read different things, I'm interested in different things, I look at different things. I'm not trying to push any ideology or theology or philosophy or anything.
The Hook: Your music isn't given to autobiography, but there's a cycle where you talk about big ideas, and people approach you that way. We don't want to talk about theology here.
Ben Chasny: And who wants to read it? Ten years ago when I first started to do stuff, I would answer like that. When you're in your 20s, you're excited and think you know everything there is to know and you want to tell everybody: "Let me tell you how the world is!" Ten years later you're like, "I have no idea what the world's about!"
Six Organs Of Admittance performs at the Southern on 8/17. Mss. opens. $10, 9pm. Would you like to go for free? Just let us know which organ you'd be willing to part with to attend this show, and we'll give two tickets to three lucky winners, selected at random unless your answer is especially funny.