The Warlocks: Fevered Dreamers

Before they unleash <i>The Mirror Explodes</i> - their most accomplished album to date - <b>Mark Shukla</b> talks to uncompromising LA outsiders <b>The Warlocks</b> and finds out what keeps them awake at night

Feature by Mark Shukla | 03 Jun 2009

Ten years is a long time. But ten years in a psychedelic rock band is a hell of a long time - no matter what drugs you're on. One has to wonder what occult forces have been holding the Warlocks together during the past decade; a decade that's seen the band weather innumerable line-up changes, drug dramas and industry convulsions and still emerge on the other side with five great albums under their belt.

They've made it this far, but there's no doubt that the industry in 2009 is as volatile as it ever has been. Taciturn frontman and creative mainstay Bobby Hecksher is candid about the prevailing cultural climate in the US: "It’s a nightmare for musicians and labels. The first thing a lot of people cut back on is in areas like music, movies and the arts. Everything that we do feels like a struggle, and with little reward sans the joy of the music itself. I see it first hand with touring circuits and people downloading music for free. It's just another battle we have to deal with which was already a mess to begin with! It's not all gloom and doom though... I do feel everything comes in waves and things will catapult back in the right direction soon. I love songwriting and that makes me happy even if the current mood may not seem that way."

With song titles such as There is a Formula to Your Despair and Slowly Disappearing, a casual observer may find that last comment hard to swallow, but Hecksher is clearly an advocate of the old adage "If life gives you lemons...". The only real difference being that Hecksher's lemons are filled with sadness, paranoia and vivid lysergic dread. Red Camera, the first single from their new album, is as adept a dissection of the pathology of fear as you could wish to hear. Fuzz, feedback and five minutes alone with your psyche are all the Warlocks need to do the job. "It's about nightmares of being in hospital," Hecksher explains, before adding with frightening abstruseness, "it's something that plagues all touring musicians."

The Mirror Explodes marks a genuinely impressive progression from the slightly caricatured histrionics of their last LP, a maturation that gives the record tremendous replay value. "It's the completion of a certain period of sound for us. It's everything that’s been on my mind the last few years," says Hecksher. Anyone interested in the architecture of noise or the use of production as an artistic tool rather than just as a means to make music sound loud on the radio will find many sonic worlds to explore on this album.

As for what the future holds for the Warlocks, it seems that their ability to find beauty in the darkest spaces will stand them in good stead as the century progresses. Let's face it, they'll have no shortage of material to inspire them. Theirs is a heavy trip, and Bobby Hecksher is in no mood for sugar-coating: "What I can say is that things are messed up out there. We live in a very selfish world. We take, take, take until everything is destroyed. We breed animals and then slaughter them for our Big Macs. We squeeze every last dime and soul out of everything around us. And for what? To secure profit margins? Look up in the sky my friend, do you see smog? I do. Lots of it. I care about these things. I could go on and on but it's not my place, it's not my forum and I’m certainly not the best speaker in the world. Having said that, The Warlocks still get along great and still love making music together, even if the current mood may not seem that way. I go through phases, but hopefully I'll slingshot out of it into a positive motion. One can only hope."

The Mirror Explodes is released via Teepee Records on 15 June.