The twisted tales and cosmic horror of Luna Sol
Featuring guest spots from John Garcia, GN'R's Dizzy Reed and Nick Oliveri, the haunting debut album by Luna Sol might just be one of 2015's best
Dave Angstrom is one of rock'n'roll's most underrated heroes. The Kentucky born n' bred singer/guitar-slinger made his bones with dope-rock almost-weres Supafuzz during the dark and abysmal days of nu-metal's reign in the early aughts. Supafuzz laid down thick riffs and huge hooks, and in a more fair and righteous world, they woulda-coulda been a homegrown AC/DC. But they were ultimately brought down by the hordes of Korn kids and the slow, agonising implosion of the music industry.
Angstrom bounced back with Hermano, the stoner-rock supergroup fronted by John “Kyuss” Garcia, who have delivered three stellar slabs of high-impact desert jams over the past dozen years. But on the on-again off-again band has been silent for half a decade.
More recently, Angstrom moved to the woozy high-elevations of Denver, Colorado, where he teamed up with a trio of local legends and formed Luna Sol, a hard rock band with a penchant for late 60's proto-metal crunch topped off with a whiff of psychedelic motor-grunge. Heavy in every way, Luna Sol's debut album, Blood Moon, is littered with celebrity cameos (John Garcia, GN'R's Dizzy Reed, Kyuss alumni Nick Oliveri, Kentucky Headhunters guitarist Greg Martin), but even without the star turns, it's a killer, as big and weird and all-encompassing as the mountains that loom over its creators.
Fifteen years ago, when Angstrom was still in Supafuzz, they released one of the best albums of 2000, the aptly-titled All About the Rock. If Blood Moon is any indication, his position on this issue has not changed.
By any metric, Dave Angstrom is a rock survivor. And considering that his salad-days in rock n' roll dovetailed with the complete and utter destruction of the music industry at the turn of the century, that's really saying something.
“As a whole, I could give two shits about the music industry,” he says, looking back on the Supafuzz days. “It's full of a lot of varmints and snakes. I've been blessed that I got to meet a handful of people who were really cool in the industry and I continue to work with them today, but really, Caligula comes to mind when I think about the people I had to hang out with sometimes.” Even when Supafuzz faltered, he was able to keep things moving with Hermano, and although they have not released an album since 2007's Into the Exam Room, he assures us that their story is not over.
“We're still making records,” he says. “In fact, we just made a new record. That band is really just a bunch of friends and whenever we get together, we make music. We just did, and the new songs are smoking. It's really cool.”
New Hermano looms somewhere on the horizon, but in the meantime, there is the Blood Moon to contend with. Luna Sol is a labor of love on several fronts for Angstrom. In fact, it all started on a romantic evening in back in 2007.
“I just came off a Hermano tour and I came here to see my girlfriend who is now my wife,” he explains. “She's from here. She took me to see her friend's band, The Swanks. That was Shanda Kolberg's band, she sang and played guitar. I looked at my wife and said, “Someday I'm gonna be in a band with her, she's bad-ass.” A few years later, after visiting a few times with the kids, we decided to move out here. And when I did, she was the first person I called. She wanted nothing to do with me at first,” he laughs. “She was in retirement and didn't want to get into the drama of being in a band. I was like, 'Look, I there's no drama, I'm old, I'll write all the songs, you just show up and be a bad-ass and play guitar'. It took months to get her on board, but I finally did.”
Soon after, he recruited Pat Gill on drums. Another of his wife's friends, the two sat down for a night of tequila drinking, and came away band-mates. His current bass-player, Shannon Fahnstock, was actually at Luna Sol's first show, opening for Fu Manchu in Denver.
“Yeah, they were coming to town and I begged them for an opening slot. Shannon was at that show. I had another bass player at the time and he just wasn't right for it. Shannon was drunk and made a comment that she would come out of retirement to be in this band. She had just recently been diagnosed as being cancer-free, she'd been battling cancer for three years. Anyway, I took her up on her offer. It's been a good time. We're doing this on our terms and for ourselves.”
The entirely cinematic Blood Moon is half road-map, half unhinged cosmic horror novel, dotted with odes to Angstrom's new home, both dark and fantastic.
“Man, Kentucky and Colorado are two different worlds,” he says. “There's creepy and twisted stuff in Kentucky, but it was more like when I was a kid I saw a cross burning from the Klu Klux Klan. That was kinda fucked up. Moving here, the creepiness is more like old wild west, and more criminal than ignorance and hatred. I'm not knocking Kentucky, there's some amazing people there, I was just drawn to how vast it is here, to the mountains. And I think about how it really was the frontier. I mean, it wasn't that long ago that this was all people in horse-drawn carriages defending their lives with shotguns. I just thought it was cool. But I'm a weird guy,” he laughs.
Some of the tracks on on Blood Moon are based entirely on events that occurred in Colorado. Like the dark and brooding Standley Lake.
“When I first moved out here, a young girl had been brutally murdered and they found her body not far from Standley Lake,” he explains. “I live right by there. It really affected me, I mean I've got kids, so I was freaking out about the whole thing. A friend of mine is a cop and he had given me more information about the murder than was out there, so it really struck a painful chord for me just thinking about the family and this girl. That song was pretty much written on the spot when I found out about that. That was like the first week I moved to Colorado. That kind of started the twisted-ness of the whole thing, you know, just going to different places and soaking up the strange vibes. I kind of see things differently than most people. I'm getting weirder as I get older. So anyway, it's kind of a storybook of different moments that are tied to events and areas of Colorado.”
And, as mentioned, the album is also packed with celebrity guest-spots.
“Yeah, I'm really lucky man,” says Angstrom “I don't know why people put up with me, but they do, so that's nice. I was working on John Garcia's record and asked him to sing a song, and then Nick Oliveri, I asked him one night when we were hanging out in Denver and he was up for it. Dizzy Reed, I had done a show where I sat in on guitar for him and we became really good friends. His track really blew me away. That organ part is so smoking, and he's such a nice guy. He can really play his ass off. Greg Martin from the Headhunters was my guitar teacher when I was thirteen years old, I took lessons from him. I grew up around those guys. So they were playing out here, and I met them at a record shop. We're shopping around for Lovin' Spoonful and Vanilla Fudge albums and having a good time and I told him that Dizzy had just played on this track, and he said 'How come you didn't ask me to play on this record?' And I was like, 'Because you're a legend and one of my heroes, man'. And he said, 'Send me a track, I'll play on it.' So I got to harmonise on slide guitar with my favourite guitar player in the world. That was an amazing moment for me.”
Blood Moon is about to hit the streets and the airwaves. Angstrom is obviously happy about that. But he's not particularly concerned about what happens next.
“I don't have any plans, man,” he says. “My only restriction is I'm gonna do it when it feels good to me. There's no strategy, which is nice. We're just having fun making music. I have tons of guitars and tons of Marshall amps and I have just as much fun playing in my home studio than I would loading it all up into a van and playing for, you know, 20 people. I play music for myself. I just really like jamming with Luna Sol. So that's my only plan, to keep doing that. We'll see what comes from it.”
Indeed we will. Only one question remains: is it still all about the rock?
“Yeah, unfortunately, “ laughs Angstrom. “I'm not pretty enough to play country these days.”