Feature / Cosmic Trajectories: Interview with Acid King’s Lori S and Review of New Album, Beyond Vision

Acid King has been a driving force in doom metal for three decades, and counting, led by the face and sound of the band, Lori S. On March 24, 2023 Beyond Vision was released by the West Coast outfit, the fifth studio album in their tenure. With previous releases the core of Acid King were raw riffs and enormous sound emanating from giant amplifiers. Lori S and company extend this formula into an exploratory and atmospheric soundscape with Beyond Vision. It’s a perfect offering for the band’s thirty years of riff writing while also marking a direction into new territory. I was fortunate to be able to spend some time in conversational orbit with Lori S to better understand the scope of Beyond Vision, and Acid King over the years so as to help transmit important data from a multidimensional realm of doom to the masses.

Lori S: This record is totally different. It was co-written with a friend of mine; someone I never wrote a record with before. Usually, I don’t co-write with anybody. The music with the band in the past has been a group effort. I would write and come in with riffs, we jam for however long we felt like it until something, or nothing, came out of it; and it would progress from there. I usually would write lyrics once there’s a body of music that gives me a melody that I feel I can work with.

Acid King’s intrepid leader into the sonic ether, Lori S, was explicitly clear about Beyond Vision being a step into something new. The use of electronics and synthesizers, the new ensemble, the trajectory of collaborative composition, and the state one intersects with the musical experience, all driving forces in the journey.

GT: Does the album title allude to a psychedelic experience, a spiritual moment, possibly a combination of the two, along the way?

LS: I think it’s a combination, and I also think it depends on the listener. It’s your journey, whatever it is. I’m not telling you what it is. I feel like it’s up to the listener what kind of journey they’re on whether it’s spiritual, psychedelic, or enhanced psychedelics. Whatever is going on in your life the experience will be different.

GT: So you’re treating it as this sonic vehicle, hop on in.

LS: Exactly! Take the journey!

GT: On the topic of a psychedelic concept, and having said about the synths, that’s something I’ve not heard on your records. What led to the desire to utilize them? Did that play into the vision?

LS: I was always interested in space rock. I love Hawkwind and Farflung. I also love industrial music. When I had this opportunity to write this record for the Post Wax Series, I thought well here’s my chance. When I was approached by this record label I could write 45 minutes of whatever I wanted to do. Amidst all this, a huge influence to me was Apollo 11 (2019). I saw the documentary and Matt Morton had written the soundtrack. All analogue synthesizers and effects. I was blown away. I think on the way home from the movie I downloaded it, and I listened to it a million times. It’s a great soundtrack and a big influence to me.

Other influences poured forth, with David Bowie being a strong impact on Lori’s musical sphere.

LS: There probably isn’t a song where there is some David Bowie subliminal riff in there. I am a huge Bowie fan. I find any reason to throw in a Bowie reference. Granted you might not notice it unless I pointed it out.

The Thin White Duke was certainly not the only influence. Coinciding with her interest in industrial music Lori brough up Author & Punisher. Additionally, she mentioned Yoko Ono as another direct influence on Beyond Vision.

LS: On this record, Author & Punisher had an influence on me. I love Tristan Shone. I saw him a long time ago when he had a little ‘drone machine’ at this record store down the street from my house. It was so cool. I love industrial music. Yoko Ono had an influence as well. One of the songs on Beyond Vision is influenced by a song of hers from Rising. It’s this Tibetan singing bowl and Yoko recites a poem over it.

It’s an all-encompassing experience. The riff-centric genre of doom and stoner metal, and by association psych and stoner rock, have long been steeped in the transcendent experience of mind altering substances from marijuana to acid. However, the experience of this particular music that orbits Planet Iommi is a journey everyone can take. Tripped out or sober, and Lori makes that crystal clear.

LS: I’m not a fan of the term stoner rock, to be honest. I’m not a stoner. I don’t even smoke pot. Sorry everybody that thinks I’m a stoner. That term is used for music I guess to get stoned to. I don’t even know who coined that term, but it’s been around for a long time. It’s definitely not me, but I think that music has been more accepting for everybody because it’s not a shredding metal. You don’t go out there and people expect you to be cranking out Eddie Van Halen leads. It’s not that kind of music. It’s more of a riff, and a groove, and a feel. I feel for me that’s much more comfortable to play because I’m songwriter and a singer, and I don’t have any interest in shredding. I’m not interested in being the fastest, most technical player in the world. That’s not interesting to me. I like to play, I play what I like, I play what feels good and what comes out, and some of it might be more technical than others. I feel like this kind of music is more open for everybody, as it should be when you’re looking at musicians. What I really love about it is it’s all encompassing.

GT: And like we said at the start it takes you on a trip, and cradles you in the sound space.

Her influences compound and mix together like gasses in a planetary atmosphere, or burning with intensity in the core of a star. Everything is pouring into each other like a lifelong process of data gathering and nurturing. However, all these experiences over three decades didn’t come without some changes and figuring out how to move forward in time.

GT: You’ve gone thirty times around the sun with Acid King. You’ve had some lineup changes over the years, how has working through these changes helped push Acid King forward?

LS: The original drummer of the band was with Acid King for over 20 years. Different bass players came and went throughout the years. This last round, I’ve had two members from 2016 – 2019 who hadn’t recorded any records, and they both left by 2019/2020. After that I just thought: “Acid King is my band”. It’s me and whoever plays with me at this point. I don’t need to have permanent members that are going to be with me forever. That came and went almost immediately. The bass player left after two records in the early 90s. There were a number of bass players, and then Mark Lamb was in the band. He was the longest standing one and was in the band for about ten years. He recorded on Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (2015), and then left. After all of that I really just came to terms with it was gonna be me and whoever wants to play with me at the time. If the guys wanna play with me next year, awesome! If they don’t, that’s awesome, too.

Lori explained further about the coming and going of band members and some of the ties to the writing process and how that can impact membership.

LS: You honestly may never find people who wanna stay. Especially when they haven’t had the history of recording the songs. They might feel like they’re in a cover band playing these old songs that they didn’t write. It’s difficult. It’s fine with me just to see what happens at this point.

Another aspect that the arbiter of Acid King expounded upon was how these changes had led to not just to an awareness of growth of working with an ensemble, but also how it amplified her own musicianship during the process.

LS: The entire band on this record has definitely bumped up my skill set. It’s put me in uncomfortable territory with technology that I didn’t want to go to, but had no choice to. I have way more pedals than I ever really wanted, and now I need a pedal board. Ultimately, nothing bad has come of these transitions. It’s all been good. It’s allowed me to spread my wings in different directions than before.

GT: All positive growth.

LS: Exactly!

All of this growth and lifelong influence compresses and coalesces into a unique body like the birth of a star. In this case Beyond Vision is the celestial body born forth from Lori and Acid King. The fifth in their recorded cosmic system. As Lori had said, the analogue ideas from Matt Morton’s Apollo 11 soundtrack loom heavily on the record. The opening tracks on the album ‘One Light Second Away’ and ‘Mind’s Eye’ billow forth a sense of wide-eyed wonder and anticipation. The churning analogue waves mimic the systems engaging on a Saturn V rocket system, eventually erupting into churning waves of riffs that burn like a liftoff from Cape Canaveral. Lori’s vocals on ‘Mind’s Eye’ have an ethereal quality to them that instantly transports the listener into a transcendent experience. It’s as if she took the moment when David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) became “The Star Child” and channeled that surreal moment into the lyrics. ‘Electro Magnetic’ grinds along with a deeper industrial influence, reminiscent of Tristan Shone’s “dub” and “drone” machines. Acid King forges an organic experience out of the inorganic as the machinery sounds inhale and exhale. What’s truly astounding is how Lori and company have put together an album that exudes both the real and the surreal. The combination of influences that evoke the wildest and most defining moments in the history of mankind into space, and the nature of how our imagination has fantastically created universes within our own minds. This is perfectly summed up with Lori S singing over a glorious wave of riffs on the eponymous track: “You are beyond vision”. The whole experience makes Peder Bergstrand’s otherworldly artwork that leads beyond the event horizon for Beyond Vision all the more special. For Acid King it’s not just a triumphant return to orbit above Planet Iommi, it’s an incredible sonic odyssey.

Beyond Vision is out now via Blues Funeral Recordings and can be ordered here.

Words: Garrett Tanner

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