Q&A: Seven That Spells

Seven That Spells: Future Retro SpasmSeven That Spells: Future Retro Spasm (Beta-Lactam Ring, 5/20/10)

Seven That Spells: “Olympos”

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Croatian space-rock outfit Seven That Spells deals in extended psychedelic guitar freak-outs in the vein of Magma, Circle, Zappa, Trans Am, or Hawkwind. Perhaps its biggest musical influence, however, is Kawabata Makoto, who appears on the 2007 album Men From Dystopia. Founder and guitarist Niko Potočnjak modeled his collective after Makoto’s Acid Mothers Temple; lineups are transient, albums sound raw and live, and though recorded material is certainly released, the band lives for the performance.

The following Q&A was conducted with Potočnjak. He is extremely passionate about the music that his band creates, preferring danger and experimentation over consistency. The most telling quote from his dialogue demonstrates a singular philosophy that eschews genre: “We play music.”

How do you describe your music?

Psychedelic rock for the 23rd Century. New old religion of super loud! Polymetrics and occasional Viking funeral rites.

Can you give us a history of the band?

STS was formed in 2003. The main purpose was to have fun and play rock. Eight years, 60 people, and nine albums later, the purpose remains the same. We believe in the power and sincerity of rock music. I say “we” because STS is a collective — I just happen to be a guy with good organizational skills and a strong vision.

What is the current lineup?

Niko Potočnjak – guitar

Stanislav Muškinja – drums

Jeremy White – bass

When did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?

Very early in life — when I saw how easy it was for guys with acoustic guitars (at some parties) to get lots of chicks.

How did you get from that realization to Seven That Spells? Previous bands? Formal training or school?

I was always an improv musician — I never learned other band’s songs. But I practiced a lot and had some formal training — some basic jazz lessons. Prior to STS, I didn’t have a band, but I jammed and smoked lots of pot, which is pretty self-explanatory. In the ’90s, I got hooked on the Japanese underground scene — Ruins, early Boredoms, Fushitsusha — intense stuff like that. I wasn’t into psych rock at that time. After I saw my first Acid Mothers Temple concert in 2001 and my head exploded, I decided that I wanted to form a psych-rock band. The rest is history.

Your albums sound very live. I imagine that the process varies from album to album, but what is your preferred way of capturing the band?

Albums don’t mean much to me; we are primarily a live band. The preferred way is to play and record everything in one take — get the live energy and save lots of money in the studio.

How much recorded material are you sitting on?

Actually, not so much. Only one album remains as a remnant from the past that needs to be published: Superautobahn. It should be out at the end of 2011. We are currently recording a trilogy of albums entitled Death and Resurrection of Krautrock. Really excited about it!!!

I played Future Retro Spasm for a friend, and he labeled Seven That Spells a jam band. I don’t agree with him, but I can certainly see his point. What do you think of the label?

Well, on some STS albums, that label holds some truth, but in my opinion, we are not a jam band. We have too many influences — metal, jazz, psych rock — and we want to play modern rock music and not lazy psychedelic stuff. But labels are not important — we play music.

How do you write songs? Are songs brought in by individuals, or are they worked out through collective rehearsals?

Some stuff is impromptu; the other more-complicated arrangements are rehearsed. But the riff is still the main point around which we produce songs. Everyone is involved in the creative process.

What was your favorite show of 2010?

Secret Chiefs 3. They blew me away!!!

You churn through musicians. Over 50 have been in the band since you started it. You also don’t seem to have many connections with the Croatian music scene. Do you worry about burning bridges?

Ha ha! NEVER! STS is a bridge burner. I am a rock musician and will always tell people what I think of them, their opinions, and their bands — usually with bad results, but I don’t care. I never get offended if someone says bad things about STS. Everybody has the right to an opinion. But lots of folks are oversensitive and egomaniacal these days. Eh…

Do you have any side projects outside of Seven That Spells?

No time for that. STS is more than enough for me.

What musicians or bands would you like to collaborate with in the future?

Only the ones who share the same interests in life: food, alcohol, and women. Preferably in that order too!

What are some of your favorite bands? What other current bands should we paying more attention to?

Psychic Paramount, Shora, White Hills

Outside of music, who are your idols?

No idols. No hope. No destiny. Only enjoying life without the help of gods or idols of any kind.

Any chance of a US tour?

Yes — when the time is right. Hopefully 2013. In 2012, we tour Japan.

What plans do you have for 2011?

European tours, lots of new recordings, world domination, and lots of good food and alcohol.

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