New JFK Compilation: Conspiracy A-Go-Go

November 22, 2013, will be the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. Readers of this blog know I’ve compiled a list of every song I can find that references the JFK assassination and I’ve been going into some depth analyzing many of the songs on that list. Earlier this year I got the idea to ask bands to contribute garage, punk and psychedelic tracks for a new compilation of JFK songs. On November 1st, I published a collection of 26 tracks on Bandcamp called Conspiracy A-Go-Go.
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Dark Fog on Dig the Now Sound

Dig the Now Sound (Thursdays at 10:00 pm eastern on Turn Me On, Dead Man Radio) plays standout recent garage/psych. The featured track this week is (((Get the Feeling))) by Dark Fog, who are from Chicago. (((Get the Feeling))) is on The Seaside Sounds Of Dark Fog At Doctor Officer Quimby’s House, which is available on Bandcamp.

I corresponded recently with Ray Donato, guitarist for Dark Fog.

Turn Me On, Dead Man: I’d like to ask you about your influences. I’ve seen Dark Fog compared to several other bands but I’d like to know what you think are your key influences.

Ray Donato: I’d say that after these 10 years as a band psychedelic drugs and the sonics of our amplification are what really motivate us, but the main thing that I think keeps our sound unique is the fact that neither of us are of the ‘chameleon’ type of player who listens to a genre and can regurgitate back the teqniques and styles…I’ve always learned to play things my way, and as such my style is a personal evolution of the different musical tastes I’ve had over the years…It probably helped that I was born in the early 70’s and my parents still played alot of the great music from their era, so I bounced from Neil Young and Hendrix to Metallica to Sonic Youth to Captain Beefheart to Syd’s Floyd to Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman, along the way learning the endless possibilities that music could go in and trying my damnedest to incorporate the spirit of each into my own style of playing. Today I listen to a lot of the original rock/pop composers, arrangers and producers such as Hazlewood, Spector, Bacharach, Goffen and King, that type of thing- I am really trying to soak in the genius of those melodies and arrangements. As a band we really envision that playing psychedelic rock in 2013 just means that there are a few more decades of rock to choose from…

Turn Me On, Dead Man: Dark Fog has a distinctive sound. What sorts of gear/effects do you use?

Ray Donato: As far as gear I use tube and boutique analog gear almost exclusively, a wah , few types of delay and one fuzz (only 6 pedals actually) my low watt amp I hand built myself also I use a 50 watt EL34 style and my fuzz is an NOS Tychobrahe Octavia…Yt uses mostly a DW kit that I believe is standardised for heavy rock players (large bass and floor toms)…

Turn Me On, Dead Man: Who does your cover art? It’s consistently great–I love those trippy images.

Ray Donato: I’m guilty of doing the cover art drawings, a tattoo artist friend did coloring on the df3 album and our former bass player Matt did the lettering on the cassette and the space mouth cartoon on the split 45, other than that it’s all me, as Dark Fog is also an outlet for my artwork as well…

Turn Me On, Dead Man: Have you released everything on your own label? How is it running your own label? What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of doing things this way?

Ray Donato: Our first few records are all on the OSR label which was run by our old guitarist/bassist- it was great because we had full creative control but unfortunately we watched him sink tons of money into the label, only to see our records massively downloaded- in 2007 our very expensively made double LP we tracked from the bit torrent sites over 50,000 downloads, which I always assumed was from the word psychedelic appearing in the title, it would pop up on searches for ‘psychedelic music’…but who knows…?

I’ve always known that selling underground records was a lengthy process that requires perseverance, but he became extremely bitter and frustrated until finally quitting the band about four years back… Anyhow, since then we’ve released our records on our friends’ labels- Commune, Galactic Zoo Disc, and now Eye Vybe…we strive for creative control as much as possible, and we’ve always recorded ourselves, when we were on OSR we had a really fancy home studio setup including a British Trident board (like the Beatles used), now we have a simpler digital 16 track with handbuilt vintage style analog mic preamps…

Turn Me On, Dead Man: Have you read a book called Turn Off Your Mind by Gary Lachman? He was in Blondie but the book is a pretty serious study of the “dark side” of occult influences in the 1960s. I was just looking at the “Influences” section of your Myspace page and I was curious if you were familiar with it.

Ray Donato: Yeah, that Gary Lachman book is one I plan to read soon…my fascination with the occult happened as a teenager helped by my Jimmy Page worship and the band Venom, my first job was at a public library where i devoured the occult section, and especially read into Crowley and the Golden Dawn…now my occult studies involve mostly watching Kenneth Anger films, reading seems to be something I do less these days unfortunately, so alot of my lyrics I must admit are culled from my past, but I’m pushing 40 so there is alot floating around this drug addled mind of mine, which is basically how I write lyrics- the sub conscious mind and inner psyche, or is it thin air…?

Turn Me On, Dead Man
: I highly recommend Turn Off Your Mind. I don’t know what I was expecting when I bought it but it was much more thought provoking than I had anticipated. He talks a lot about the literature that the counter-culture embraced and he does it in a way that made me want to read or re-read all of those books.

So, do you venture out of Chicago very often?

Ray Donato: We have done SXSW twice and an east coast tour, but for the past five years we have played Chicago and the Midwest exclusively, though we hope to tour again in the future, or get on one of the psych fests outside of Chicago…we’ll see what the future holds…