INTERVIEW // Psychedelic Porn Crumpets: Jack McEwan on isolation, Mr Prism and PPC’s upcoming album

INTERVIEW BY THOMAS FREEMAN

Recently, I caught up with Jack McEwan from the Western Australian band Psychedelic Porn Crumpets to chat about their latest single Mr. Prismthe possibilities of any new music, how Covid-19 has affected the band in 2020, and how everything has been going in the West Coast music scene. The new single is out now and continues the bands new direction after their last album, And Now For The Whatchamacallit.  

Here’s what Jack had to say: 

Where did the name Mr Prism come from? 

When we get sick we give each other nicknames, like if we go out and someone gets too drunk and makes a fool of themselves, we call it “Norton”; then you get “Full Norton” when you’re absolutely gone at a bar and you’re talking smack, and you’re like “I need to leave; I’ve gone Full Norton”. Mr Prism came from when I was sick and trying to come through and get a little buzz from all the meds I was on for the pneumonia, which wasn’t really the best thing to do at the time, with trying to play all these festivals whilst severely sick. So, I became Mr Prism, and even though it was only a short time, it seemed like a cool name for the song.  

How did you go from getting sick and turning that into a song? 

After coming home, I needed to pull myself to one side and be like “mate, do not get yourself into that position again”. I was just trying to have fun, and it’s hard when you’re at a festival and everyone is giving you all kinds of “sweeties and bags” and trying to drink beer, and so everything started to taste like sawdust. I was so sick that when I was home, I needed to remind myself that if I ever was that sick again, I need to go home and try to recover instead of making it worse. I spent a week in bed really feeling the repercussions of that festival, being like “what have I done?”, and so Mr Prism was an ode-to-self not to get into that position again. I hope that it works and that it sinks in.  

What inspired or influenced the track? 

Definitely a lot of T. Rex; we were cranking a lot of that in the tour van as were driving across The States, and after a while we all ran out of new stuff to show each other, and when you’ve got the aux it’s like “well what does everyone not know” because we’ve run out of bands that we know. So, we went back to the bangers and classics, and it was so much fun. We’d finish playing a show and put on some T. Rex records, some of The Kinks, The Beatles, Elton John – a lot of that glam pop that was rock in the 70’s, and it sounded so fun (and it still it does), so we really wanted to replicate that sound with the new record. Mr Prism was a good example of that and so we wanted to release it as a single.  

What were some challenges when making Mr Prism? 

Apart from being deadly sick, recording at home actually – I’m in that position now where I know more about production, like how the bass should sound, how the drums should sit, what guitars we should use and what vocal range I should sing in. When I mixed it with Jelly, who’s done all our albums, it was like our 30th mix and even now we’re like “maybe the bass could be sharper”. Once you get into the whole world of thinking like a producer, it ruins music for you because you’re constantly critiquing yourself, and so it’s harder to write or to flow naturally with a song. So now, I’ve tried to put all that behind me and just pick up a guitar and not think about the end version of a track, and it’s managed to help for a while. With Mr Prism, it took a long time to get those tones right or what I wanted it to sound like, so I definitely over-thought it 

Is it hard getting those tones and sounds right in psychedelic rock? 

I suppose so. There’s a lot more room to make mistakes with so many fuzz pedals and blues drivers, and so many ways you can go with the mastering, like going lo-fi or 70’s, or something more newish sounding, or even have a bit of jazz to it where it’ll shimmer like an old record. I think vinyl helped with psych-rock making a bit of a comeback because I think everyone was used to listening to those old records, like Sabbath, UFO or Cream records; there’s something about vinyl which just makes the sound come right off the wax and it just resonates so well with the tone of the guitar. I think when we’re recording here, we always keep that in mind. We started making some metal tracks and it’s just like the complete opposite, like Nine-Inch Nails crossed with Slipknot, and the guitars are just so much easier to record because there is no clashing with vocals or drums, and it’s at a lower register so it’s easier to mix 

The guitars in the song sound really great. How did you make them sound like they do? 

There’s two ways to record guitars: the old school method of recording through an amp and try to capture the best guitar tones that you can in a studio for thousands of dollars; or you can DIY and just DI everything with an interface. I have a program called Guitar Rig and you basically just build your own amp simulators, and that to me has so much manoeuvrability because you can keep changing the tone, even when the song’s finished. We’re always changing the guitar tones; like making them sit deeper, bringing them out more or even adding more fuzz to them. Usually you’d get your guitars down, then your bass and then your guitars because a higher register sits on top of a lower register, but we recorded the guitars first here and the drums last just because, you know, and so that then bought the challenge of the guitars sounding bad because their clashing with the drums. Doing it at home, it’s so easy to get carried away recording that I feel like I didn’t want to wait around for the drums to be written and recorded. A lot of the time, we (Danny, the drummer) and I clash on it and I suppose it’s a healthy relationship to write music because you need differing opinions on it in order to get a rounded opinion on it. I’m still trying to find the best way to write a song, and I don’t think I ever will, but if someone did then they’d be too egotistical to ever write anything – you’ve always got to have room to grow  

What made Mr Prism different to the other songs/albums that you’ve already released? 

There’s more of a concept to this record, like the shimmery old 1970s record. We wanted to make something like Youth and Young Manhood from Kings of Leon; Nirvana’s Nevermind meets Sgt Peppers by The Beatles. Those three were a staple idea, and like I said, there were a lot of metal songs I was writing at the time. The record opened really dark and then it sort of went light, and I was like “would either of those songs be on that record?”, and then I was like “no”, so I had more of a guideline in what to write with rather than a compilation of tunes that just mashed together to try and make an album. I really thought about the album vibe from start to finish. It was kind of like a session; I wanted it to sound like a 40-minute big jolt of adrenaline and then it comes down. You could chuck it on at a BBQ or at a birthday party, or just wherever people listen to music, like through their headphones.  

Are there any more details we are allowed to know about the new album? 

It’ll be 14-tracks long, and Mr Prism will be a part of it. We’ll be hopefully releasing another single later on in the year. It would have been out about now, but Covid-19 kind of restricted everything and vinyl manufacturers are taking months to get anything into production; you obviously don’t want to release anything without any physical products. We’ve been waiting around with it, but it’s given me time to tinker with it and I think that’s been something really positive of Covid-19 and isolation with all the deadlines being lifted, so instead of being in Europe in August, I’ve had way more time to work on the record and get it the way I want it to sound. Going forward, it’s something that I’d be quite adamant with, and that if we’re going to make a record that I’m proud of and happy with at the end of the day. I feel like with Whatchamacallit, it felt a bit rushed and the whole original concept of a circus from the 1940’s that had somehow travelled to the present, and the ringleader was trying to keep all his staff in work whilst they’re all trying to keep up to date with what the future is, yet still having bears doing juggling. But then the whole circus feeling got diminished and it was just the 10 best tracks we have instead of the original album concept. I’d like to sit down one day and finish the whole record and be like “here’s the whole 50 minute version”, but now I have the time to work on the next record which is a lot better, and I think it’s the best work we’ve ever done to date of what we’d like to release 

Temporary Dreamer Signature Question: If you could describe the track as a colour, what would it be and why? 

I don’t really know, maybe like a violet or a purple. Maybe like a reddish-purple, or even something a bit brighter.  

How has Covid-19 affected the band or any of your plans for 2020? 

We had to cancel a few of our tours in America and Europe. Before everything happened, the line-ups for the festivals during the English Summer looked amazing, and obviously they’ve gone down now, but having that break has given us time to write this new record. We have to look positively at it, and we’re going to aim to be stronger when we do come back. We’re up against every other band in the world in 2021, and so I really want to be prepared for that and not just be another psych-band. It’ll be good to establish ourselves with this record, to move forward and be someone to be reflected upon, like having a bit of a breakthrough… again. It’ll be a challenging year, but it’ll be sick to come out blazing with a record. 

Being from WA, how has that affected your band and the music you’ve made? 

It’s definitely the reason why we exist, and if it wasn’t for the local Perth scene, I’d still be making garage beats or production music. I’ve always been in bands since I was in school, and I remember my first gig seeing a band called The Floors. Hearing rock and roll like that, it was face-melting to hear a fuzz guitar could sound, and that just got me hooked. Tame Impala and Pond were coming around just as I was leaving school, and so I had time to catch them in their early days, and then bands like Red Engine Caves, Foam,  Love Junkies and Hideous Sun Demons, so by the time we came, this path was already set for us, and so we wrote songs that just affiliated with this kind of music scene without knowing that the rest of the world was going on too because Perth is just in a bubble. Going over to LA and Europe, we had no idea how much of an impact the music scene had an impact on the world, or even just the Australian psych-scene or just in general, with bands like King Gizzard, The Babe Rainbow and ORB. It was just such a nice time to write and release music, and it’s nice to see it getting traction worldwide rather than just in Australia, so we must be doing something right. 

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