Having reviewed their latest album “Weird Feelings”, Soundwave’s Adam Maghout was eager to meet up with the members of Leeds-based fuzz and garage rock outfit Magick Mountain. Having particularly enjoyed the cello cuts on the project, he decided to reach out specifically to Lins Wilson, the band’s guitarist, singer-songwriter (and occasional cellist) for an interview.
Stating that Lins’ sole contribution to the Leeds musical scene is through Magick Mountain would be an insult to her extensive and artistically varied career as a musician and artist. From her debuts in Mother Vulpine and Grammatics, in 2003 and 2006 respectively, to “Weird Feelings”, Lins has had the opportunity to perform with widely acclaimed bands such as Pulled Apart by Horses and Menace Beach, putting her creative mind to work on genre-defining projects lead by Lord Whitney, a studio based in Leeds. Magick Mountain is simply a new step in her career, packaged with a new sound and a new aesthetic, that she took on with the help of her fellow bandmates Nestor Matthews (drums) and Tom Hudson (bass and vocals).
To help us understand how all of this came together and get an insight into Lins Wilson’s and Magick Mountain’s creative tools and future projects, Adam sat down (virtually) with Lins for a few questions.
Firstly, I must ask: why is there a ‘k’ in Magick? Where does the name come from?
It’s a funny story, actually. We started off without a “k”; it was “Magic Mountain”, as you would expect to spell it. While picking the name, we had carefully checked online that it hadn’t already been taken and everything seemed fine. Then, after we had already released our first single under the name Magic Mountain, a band from Nottingham got in touch with us and told us they were already called Magic Mountain and were still active, so we had to change the name and Tom [Hudson] thought of adding a K to make it sound more occult. It fits with our lyrical content.
Magick Mountain has been active for years now; there’s plenty of material online of you performing together at different festivals and some of the singles on the album came out two or three years ago. Considering the current pandemic and the fact that it’s impossible for bands to go touring, why release it now?
I think this is because the three of us are very busy people. The band started because of me; I wanted to start a guitar band where I could be the lead songwriter, which is something I hadn’t really done before. When the band started out in 2016, we were just sort of playing together and Pulled Apart by Horses [lead by Tom Hudson] was still touring so it took us until 2017 to release our first 7-inch [vinyl] and until the end of last year to have enough material for an album. We’d also already planned to release it this year so the wheels were very much set in motion and we had spent a good part of last year recording on weekends. We were also involved in the production on the album.
Since I had been reading up on the pandemic a lot, I felt like it would probably be around for a while and we really didn’t want to sit on it. We knew we’d learn a lot through releasing it and also gain some fans. Maybe our music could even help people in these bad times. Obviously, there’s been some downsides, like not being able to tour and stuff but, as a DIY band, you can’t really put everything on pause for a year. We’ll write some more after it anyway and we’ll be able to improve so, why not release it?
You seem to have been very involved in the songwriting on the project. This is a tough one but do you have any “favourite” track?
I really did enjoy playing “Infinity x2” because there’s two guitar solos and a big slow down towards the end. It’s quite punky and it’s got a little bit of everything Magick Mountain stands for on it. On the other hand, I do also really like “Dream Chaser” because it’s not one that we’ve ever played live. It’s definitely something different and I got to put some cello on it, you know, express the other side of music I really enjoy too. The two songs are pretty contrasting but I’d probably say they’re my favourite ones if I had to answer.
The album features some psychedelic and heavily processed vocals from you and Tom Hudson in the recording mix. Is this something you’d think of while writing the songs or is it something that you decided on after recorded them?
Tom’s voice is very distinctive so one of the things we found very interesting was to get him to sing a lot of the falsetto higher parts. My voice is quite mid-range and I sing where I feel comfortable which meant that a lot of the vocal lines I sang actually ended up being lower than the parts that he was singing. Because of this, we went for a weird effect where you can’t really tell who’s singing what.
In the recording and mixing process, we pulled a lot from bands that we had bonded together over. There was obviously the heavier side with bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Death from Above but recently we’ve all gotten into a lot of LA bands too and we really liked their delayed, slightly trippier vocal style rather than very close and clear vocals. The rest came naturally because the vocals’ aesthetics were one of our main focuses, rather than very lyrical or political content. We wanted to find a balance where it sounds a bit like you’re in a practice room with us but at the same time the vocals are a bit more ethereal and trippier.
It feels like Magick Mountain put a lot of effort into making sure you’re fully in control of your music and publishing rights. How important is this to you and how easy was it to put in place?
We’ve all had different experiences where we hadn’t got as much control as we would have wanted to have and there’s been difficult situations to get out of in terms of contracts or people not earning money where they should be. The three of us have been involved in the music world and industry for a while now so we know very well how easy it is to get “robbed”.
Now, it feels like we’re in this middle ground of being an entirely independent band and getting a massive indie label to sign us. We’re pushing more in the direction of being a self-sustaining band and I hope that that can inspire other people to do the same. It’s still very DIY; we don’t owe money to anybody. It’s so easy nowadays to just get your music on Spotify without the backing of a label or anything. You can do everything yourself.
Is this sometimes scary or confusing? How would you qualify the experience?
I think it’s confusing; it’s definitely not straight-forward. You have to ask people to learn things and we’ve had some good advice and support from people at Music:Leeds and their Launchpad program. We also worked closely with Scott Lewis from Clue Records. All this really encouraged us to self-release and whilst we were doing stuff, I would just casually ask “How do we do this?” and “How do we do that for Spotify?” and “What’s this preset thing that I don’t understand?”. You can easily get some practical tips if you’re not too scared to ask. We also talked a lot with Tom’s manager for Pulled Apart by Horses. We asked him about physical production and some other things and I really think researching stuff and looking for advice is all you can do, but it was daunting at the start.
I’m one of those kind of people that needs to know stuff before it happens; Tom is a bit more spontaneous and Nestor pretty much goes with the flow. There were moments where I’d be like “I have no idea how to set up an online shop” and then I’d have to ask someone else and spend two days doing that. It’s made me a lot more confident that we can do more than we think we can on our own.
In my review of “Weird Feelings”, I compared you to the Beatles and one of the songs off the project is called ‘The Shitty Beatles’. Do you think you bear any resemblances to the actual Beatles?
You should just write: “Yes, I think I am as good as the Beatles.” That should do the job [laughs].
If you had to recommend me three artists or albums right now, who would they be?
If you haven’t listened to Neil Young yet, listen to Neil Young. Newer stuff I listen to probably includes the likes of Ty Segall and Meatbodies; they’re great, you should definitely check them out. I also like some surfy stuff like La Luz, an entirely female band, and we played with this group called Death Valley Girls a while ago that I’d recommend.
What are the lyrics of the different tracks about and how did you come up with them?
“Some of them are about something in particular, like “Zodiac”: we wrote that one after having watched the film Interstellar. The lyrics are about space and time; Tom wanted to call the song “Matthew McConaughey trapped behind a bookcase” but I told him that I didn’t think we could go that far haha! “Infinity x2” is about a relationship, it’s a little bit more introspective. In the lyrics I imagine that everything belongs to everything and that love is endless. That’s why it’s called “Infinity x2” because what’s bigger than infinity? Infinity times two! That one sounds like a weird punk love song.
“Bart Cobain” is a bit more abstract. I mean, it’s called that because Tom reminds me of Bart Simpson and Kurt Cobain mixed together, so I thought it only made sense to call a song like that! There’s no other reasoning or logic behind the decision; the titles are silly but there is more meaning in the lyrics themselves. It’s about everything and it’s nothing. That’s what Magick Mountain is all about, too.”
I really liked the cello parts on “Dream Chaser” and “The Creeper”. When was the decision taken for them to be featured on the album and on the two tracks? Was it planned before writing the songs?
It wasn’t really planned, I think. The end of “The Creeper”, which is also the end of the whole album, was inspired by a track on Iggy Pop’s “Post Punk Depression” album. There’s some wonky strings that appear in there and I really wanted to try something like that, to just wander off in a totally unexpected direction in one of our tracks. That was the first time I tried the cello out on the album. “Dream Chaser” was the last song we wrote and we didn’t really know if it was going to be on the album. It was just an acoustic track that I’d started writing and then I let Tom have a go with the vocals and lyrics and stuff. We realized quite quickly we could build it into an epic song and the cello just worked great on it to break things up on the album a little bit. It’s a really fun instrument to play and it adds another level of emotion.
For eight years more or less you’ve been working closely with Lord Whitney, a creative studio based in Leeds. The studio works on various forms of art; not only music, but photography, videos and commercials. Do you have a different way of approaching art depending on what form it’s presented in?
My work as a producer with Lord Whitney has been in a lot of immersive projects: everything and anything from photography and film, for advertising to theatre, to an exhibition and all sorts of other stuff. I’ve always been like a facilitator, in a project manager role, but with some extra creative input. It depends on who’s leading the project; I’m not the visual designer, Amy [Lord] and Rebekah [Whitney] are. I have a completely different role and way of working than I do when I write or play music.
I’ve also ended up doing the sound for four or five Lord Whitney immersive projects with Jon [Foulger], the other guy in Buffalo [an arts collective] and it’s been a bit of an unusual creative collaboration with those guys, I guess. I think I’m always coming at anything I do from the point of view of telling a story and wanting to connect with an audience, whether it’s to write a punk song, to write a meditative cello piece, or to tell a story through immersive theatre. There’s definitely a crossover but it really depends who you’re working with.
Networking has always been a key aspect of succeeding in the music industry. Is this something you paid a lot of attention to from the start? If you had to give one tip to a musician just starting in their career, what would it be?
I also think all this comes over time. If you’re just doing your stuff, whether it’s online or not, and speaking to people, it’ll come naturally because you connect with other people and you realize very quickly what they’re able to do for you. You also have to make sure that you’re offering something in return and not just sort of taking from people. It’s easy for anyone to see if they’re talking to someone that just wants to further themselves and not actually have a human conversation. For me, it’s been a very natural thing that just happened with gigs and that’s why I’ve ended up playing in so many bands. I just told people “I play these instruments and this is what I do” and then they might ask me to come to a rehearsal or something. Then, from there, I’d end up getting in contact with someone else or playing at a show, maybe. I don’t want to perpetuate the whole “it’s who you know” thing because I don’t necessarily believe that’s true. I think you can totally do stuff yourself but meeting people and asking the right questions definitely helps.
Any new projects on the horizon for Magick Mountain?
Yes, actually. We’ve just recorded and filmed a session with session makers – is that what you could call them? They’re film makers, producers and sound engineers – for a new venture called “Taboo Sessions”. It was all recorded at Eiger Studios and is set to come out on the 30th of January. As well as that, we also have a live EP planned; that’s quite exciting.