SYD ARTHUR’s Psychedelic Daydream Sounds: Talking Shop with Liam Magill and Raven Bush

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Syd Arthur’s Liam Magill showing off his supercool electric fingerstyle

Syd Arthur, psychedelic rock virtuosos from Canterbury, opened last night for Sean Lennon at the Great American Musical Hall in San Francisco. Both bands were fantastic. Thanks to Liam for hanging out with us to talk shop at the expense of time, tobacco, sleep, and beer.

Syd Arthur’s music is like a stream of consciousness soundscape of psychedelia, rock, and funk, with undertones of folk and jazz and blues and more. It all makes for a really unique sound infused with some real history. Both Syd Arthur and Sean Lennon’s The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger are rarities in a psychedelic music scene dominated by electronica. It’s great to see a 21st century English psychedelic rock band with solid influences. It’s great to hear psychedelic music performed by people who can actually play instruments. It’s great to see two bands in one night that would both make a young Syd Barrett proud.

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Syd Arthur is Liam Magill (vocals, guitar), Raven Bush (violin, mandolin, keys), Joel Magill (bass, vocals), and Fred Rother (drums, percussion).

You know a band is good when they sound even better live than when all tracked up and mastered. These guys are great musicians. Raven Bush (violin, mandolin, keys) explained that his music background is academic; he knows his music theory. It shows. His mandolin solos are a thing to behold. And I’m sure it made his night that he got to play violin with Bob Weir from The Grateful Dead in Sean’s encore.

Liam Magill (guitar, vocals, songwriter) says he comes at music more organically. His guitar style is a great mix of technicality and forceful attack, the kind of style that does develop organically over time as you find your own way. Liam does the lion’s share of the songwriting, and while touring can suck, I was amused to hear him say he just takes his electric keyboard on the road and does some contemplative composing. He also said he composes a bit on the flute, which is pretty damn cool, because there is definitely a little Jethro Tull in there somewhere.

Here’s what really got me, though: Liam has a vicious guitar fingerstyle. It’s something you don’t expect to see played on a Stratocaster, on rhythm, in front of a wall of sound. He brings the plectrum out as needed, but where everyone else would use a pick, Liam uses a sort of aggressive funk clawhammer with percussive slaps, downstroke strumming, and string-assaulting upstroke plucking. He’s got that aggressive Neil Young attack (although Liam actually moves his wrist) and the hard strumming of an angry John Lennon rhythm, but he does almost all of it without a plectrum. It’s an aggressive technique, it really stands out, and it works wonderfully in their music. Who needs a guitar pick after watching that? Not me.

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So, you should really check out Syd Arthur. Go see them touring with Sean Lennon or at Bonnaroo. Take some 2c-e, 2c-i, 2c-whatever, DMT, LSD, shrooms, mescaline, maybe even some peyote if you can find it. Take them all together. And check out what real psychedelic music is, based on solid influences, performed by people who play real instruments.

Syd Arthur is touring with Sean Lennon and will be at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in a few weeks.

Syd Arthur’s new album, Sound Mirror, is out now in the US and coming out in June in the UK. Check it out.

Online: http://sydarthur.co.uk/index.htm

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sydarthur

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/sydarthurband/

On Band Camp: https://sydarthur.bandcamp.com

Kurt Cobain Murder Theory Flaws: The Overdose

 

Tom Grant and murder theorists contend that Kurt Cobain’s blood levels of morphine were so high when he died he could not have pulled the trigger of his Remington Model 11 20 gauge shotgun because he was unconscious from a heroin overdose with blood levels of 1.52 milligrams of morphine per liter.

Tom Grant writes:

Cobain’s heroin, (morphine), blood level was 1.52 mgs per liter. This would require a minimum injection of 225 mgs of heroin, three times a lethal dose, even for a hardcore heroin addict. The drug Diazepam, was also found in Cobain’s blood system.

The problem is that the reality of drug tolerance renders the theory impossible to prove without knowing exactly what his tolerance level was, which is exactly what the toxicologists have said. Addicts routinely inject huge quantities of heroin and experience no more than typical highs, while nurses at methadone clinics have been known to die from stealing a sip well under 30 mg, the (low) starting dose for an addict; while there are people on hundreds of milligrams of methadone per day. I’ve read of a case of a patient exceeding 800 mg of methadone daily. I doubt there even is a tolerance ceiling to opiates, just increasing side effects. So, one man’s poison is another’s painkiller.

Even when you do overdose, you can often fight to maintain consciousness and stay awake, at least for a while. But most deaths from so-called “heroin overdoses” aren’t caused by heroin at all. They’re usually caused by a combination of drugs, especially alcohol, which is such a toxic poison that it can kill you if you mix it with just about anything.

Did anyone at the Seattle Police Department look for possible signs that Kurt was unconscious before death? The telltale bluish-white skin and blue lips? Who knows if those signs would be observable three days after death, or noticed at all by ignorant, inept SPD investigators (who can be seen contaminating the crime scene in newly released photos), or even noticed by the doctor who performed the autopsy, who was an ex-concert promoter and friend of Courtney Love’s, and who probably didn’t conduct a very meticulous investigation. And if Kurt was given a hot shot, as Grant seems to allege, who placed his works, spoon, syringe, etc. back in the cigar box? Would a murderer do that? At the risk of leaving fingerprints? Unfortunately, the idiots at SPD probably didn’t bother checking any of the paraphernalia for prints. They didn’t even check the shotgun until the following month, and it had already been contaminated by the cop who handled it at the crime scene.

Basically, when you screw up an investigation, you invite conspiracy theories. But the idea of an instant, fatal overdose is far-fetched to say the least.

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Kurt Cobain’s Heroin Kit

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You can tell a lot about someone’s personality with a simple glance at their works. An unkempt cigar box. A dirty spoon. Cotton Q-Tips. The inescapable black marks of carbon from flame on metal. The hyper-real clutter of a ritual made to escape reality.

The world’s most famous heroin kit belonged to Kurt Cobain, and now we can stare at it in misery and angst thanks to the Seattle Police Department and their newly developed crime scene photos that are just back from the lab, twenty years too late.

An old cigar box named after an Irish singer and poet. It isn’t very dirty but it’s a bit spartan. Maybe he didn’t use this kit much. Maybe it was a backup. Maybe he just wasn’t as much of a junky as he’s been made out to be. The spoon is dirty and it looks like it has been used two or three times without cleaning. When he cooked up he let the heroin really cook, which left rings of the drug where the water evaporated. He wasn’t compulsive about it, he didn’t try to soak up every last drop clean from the spoon or save every used cotton. It didn’t matter.

There’s some cut left in the spoon. The heroin is street quality black tar. He wasn’t trying to score better gear. Maybe he just didn’t care.Two standard 1cc BD insulin syringes, but at least they’re fresh and new. Nothing to stir with except the plunger end of the syringe. Not even a cup for the water from the sink.

The cotton in the spoon is a huge misshapen lump. Those adept guitarist’s fingers working the cotton off a dirty Q-Tip and fumbling to make a pathetic cotton ball. The dirty towel laid out. A chunk of the drug chosen and placed in the dirty spoon. Going to the sink to drip water in, no longer caring if it spills. Watching the drug liquefy and cook above the flame of a cheap disposable lighter. Stirring with the plunger, carefully removing the cap, tying up with a piece of towel and sending the drug home, wondering if it will change things but knowing nothing will.

There’s nothing to clean up with. Just the dirty towel. No alcohol swabs. Just the open, oozing tube of Dr. Hauschka’s Rosencreme to anoint the burning, sensitive skin.  It may be a mess, but everything’s in it’s right place. And when the ritual is over, it will all go carefully back in the box.

Put the cap back on the syringe, put the spoon back in the box and close the lid and smoke an American Spirit without an ashtray and write about your life in red ink and stab the words into the dirt in an act of defiance against the terrible and absurd rituals of a life in pieces. That’s who Kurt Cobain was. And if you ever find yourself in the Northwest of the United States, go out at night and head west to the water. Stare into the cold darkness of the Pacific. If you feel that darkness staring back at you, then you’ll understand in the moment before you turn away what it might have felt like to be Kurt Cobain.

 

Kurt Cobain crime scene gear

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