Sons of Alpha Centauri may not have had a prolific career, but, as the recent, limited edition box set (split with Karma To Burn) shows, a lack of quantity most certainly does not translate into a lack of quality. To celebrate the release of the box set, we caught up with Nick Hannon, the band’s bassist, to discuss the creation of the set, the band’s history with stoner legends Karma to Burn and the possibility of new material from one of rock’s most recalcitrant recording artists. Step into space with Sons of Alpha Centauri…
When you first collaborated with Will Mecum for Alpha Cat, did you have any inkling that the collaboration would become such a long-running thing – did Will himself have any idea that KTB were likely to return at that point?
When I first managed to get through to Will he thought that I was pranking him! We had no idea that it would evolve into what it became – it just started as a track for Alpha Cat and then we really pushed to get the full three tracks.
Will really did not envisage KTB getting back together at any point in 2007. I think that as we were working on ‘Last Day of Summer’ and I was in contact with Rich Mullins the idea of the KTB reunion seems to creep into discussions but it was Rob Oswald that convinced Will to do it in the end. In fact, the first release that KTB put out after the reunion was the ‘Live in London & Chasing the Dragon’ CD was a recording that I got from mixing desk the show in 2001 which is when I first met those guys so I kind of knew that the two bands were going to be entwined at that point but didn’t expect as many releases and tours as we did.
As a huge fan of physical formats, it’s great to see the series repressed for this box set – how long has this collection been in the making? How involved were the band in the art work and included elements?
NH – Pretty much since the release of the third vinyl H42 Records have been planning the boxset. So around two years I guess… most of the artwork was delivered by Alex von Wieding who has worked with KTB since 2009. Alex designed the KTB/SOAC universe of characters with the Goataneer, the Alpha Cat character and the SOAC druids – these characters have been used across tour posters as well as the releases. The SOAC artwork was landscape photography of the Offshore Wind Farm in Kent.
It’s quite a powerful affirmation of the body of work that SOAC produced with Karma to Burn that this box set is coming out, does this mark the end of the collaborative union with KTB, or do you hope to work on something in the future?
NH – I think that we might do a split EP at some stage. Will and I have some ideas so we might see something again at some stage for sure but not for a while I don’t think.
What was the high point of the collaboration for you – do you have a favourite track or memory from producing the releases?
NH – The track ‘Last Day of Summer’ was worked on to be more of a debut album ‘Karma to Burn’ esque track with SOAC atmospherics and the ‘Joy Division’ esque bass shared by both bands (or at least from the debut KTB album).
The ultimate pay off was when Nathan Limbaugh (the original KTB drummer) hooked me up with the actual statue of the girl on the motorbike from the debut KTB album to say thanks for all the help. That ruled!
You’ve had a lot of support from the organisers of the mighty Desertfest, how important would you say events like that are for keeping independent music alive and accessible to fans?
NH – When Reece and Jake first started about wanting to do Desert Scene and then Desert Fest back in 2009 they spoke to Ben Ward first and then myself. I completely threw myself into it with them and SOAC played the first 5 or Desert Scene shows in 2009 and opened the main stage on the first day of the first DesertFest in 2012.
Since then, I’ve been working on the vinyl release series for DesertFest with H42 Records and trying to maintain and reinforce how awesome Desert Scene is. Known those guys nearly 10 years now and totally support them as much as I can – was there from the start and seeing it grow has been awesome – so yeah, so important for the music accessible and keeping it real!
Musically, to what extent is it a challenge to fill the void where vocals, by convention, are almost expected?
NH – We play a lot off the dynamics of the bass and the guitar and try to ensure that the passages evolve and stay interesting and organic. His approach really helped to work with both Karma to Burn and Yawning Man – different approaches but similar concepts y’know?
You have an album scheduled, I believe, for release in 2018 – how far are you along in the process of producing that album?
NH – It has taken well over a decade but yeah, should be 2018! Tracks are currently being mixed and then mastered. H42 Records in Europe and Cobraside Distribution in the United States are putting it out. Electric Valley and RobustFellow are also involved with different format releases and it’s great to have so much support for the album.
Is it still the case that you get lost in the process of the writing, heading off at tangents and having to spend time getting back to the core themes, or have you streamlined the writing process since your inception?
NH – Man.. yeah, we certainly did go off at some tangents and while by now a ‘normal band’ might be on album 4 or 5 by now we have learnt so much more from taking those tangents and learning from bands who were inspirational to us and are now our friends and contemporaries.
Completing the boxset drew the end of quite an extensive arc for SOAC man. Like we did the debut, three splits with KTB, Last Day of Summer and the debut Yawning Sons record and all the associated releases from that so besides a likely second Yawning Sons album we are focussed solely on dedicated SOAC records now.
What’s the situation with members – do you have a full-time drummer at the moment, or are you going to be working with a session drummer?
NH – Steve has withdrawn from SOAC. It was becoming clear that me and Marlon really wanted to go in a particular direction and it became apparent that as we were preparing to build up for the touring cycle, promotional work and work for the second record just it wasn’t for him this time around. He’s just chilling back on the local scene again playing the venues in the Bourne and Sheppey. He has done all the drumming on the second album and it sounds phenomenal.
Any final words for your fans?
NH – This band is truly just getting started and the real material is yet to come – thanks for the support and patience over the past few years. If you want us to play your town – let us know and we’ll do what we can! Peace!
Just two special boxsets remain at the SOAC store, point your mouse here, now, or remain forever disappointed.