Two musical projects, begun decades ago, thousands of miles apart. Suddenly two very impressive talents meet over the vast interwebs, and begin a beautiful collaboration. We interviewed Dan Ballek of Angel Falls (St. Paul, Minnesota), and Paul Lopez of Spell 336 (Central California), to talk a little about this amazing joint effort. Press ‘play’, and read what they had to say about this particularly dreamy collaboration. If the Cocteau Twins-esque bassline doesn’t strike you upside the head right from go, you may be reading the wrong blog. Just sayin’. By the time the hazy guitar chime kicks in, sonic heaven is commenced.
DKFM: First, for Dan. Tell us a little about the Angel Falls project, and the music you’ve been releasing this year?
Dan, Angel Falls: My previous band, which was together for 20 years, broke up a couple years ago. We didn’t get too far, although we did put out a CD in 1997. I was the songwriter, and I had a few songs left over that we never properly recorded. So, I decided to finally learn how to use this new-fangled digital audio workstation technology and record a few of those old tracks, and maybe try my had at writing a few new ones, to see if I “still had it”.
The first EP, “Part 1”, was one old track (“Angel Falls”) and a couple of new ones, which didn’t turn out too bad, I think. “Painting After Midnight”, “Carousel” and “One Hand Clapping” followed a short time later, and that was all older material that never got proper treatment. “Anonymous” was two new tracks that I’d written this spring, and quite frankly I was suprised at how well they turned out. I guess I still had something to say, or at least I could still write songs!
DKFM: Next, for Paul. Spell 336 has had a few tracks out for years now, but isn’t this the first time you’ve lent the 336 moniker to a collaborative project, and the first NEW 336 music in years?
Paul, Spell 336: The Spell 336 tracks have been around since 1992. At that time the tracks were written and recorded and that was it. I felt that the tracks could have been recorded and mixed better. Only a few individuals at that time heard what had been recorded. After a short period of time I grabbed all of the master tapes and put them at the bottom of my dresser where they stayed until 2008. In ’08 I retrieved the tapes and created a Myspace page for Spell 336. It started off a little slowly but quite a lot of people were listening to the tracks and started to spread the music to everyone and it just started to have a life of it’s own. And it is all still here.
This is my first collaboration with Angel Falls (Dan) and I really hope that it will continue. I don’t think that technically it be called Spell 336 and Angel Falls. Spell is on a very long hiatus. The other individual who was part of Spell left the group quite a long time ago. I would love to carry on Spell. I could find other musicians to create a working band and see what happens. I would love to have Dan in the group. But performing live is a sore point with me and especially Dan. I know we can pull it off easily. I have not performed live since 1994 and that was a show for Spell. But who knows what the future may hold?
As for new music from Spell you guessed correctly. There is a backlog of songs that were written for Spell but were never recorded. I was the one who wrote the tracks but I concentrated the most on writing lyrics. Collaborating with Dan has pulled me out of my slumber and has given me the chance to write once again. I must confess the last time I actually had written a song was in 1992. But I am feeling inspired by Dan and what he has done in the studio and I am glad we are doing this. Speaking to Dan via telephone we have the same ideas when it comes to writing music and recording, etc…. That makes me happy!
DKFM: How did the two of you become aware of each other, and what made you decide to collaborate?
Dan, Angel Falls: We’d been in touch via Facebook and other social media and Paul had expressed how much he liked what I was doing with AF. Truthfully, if it weren’t for him and The Shoegaze Collective (and via TSC, DKFM), I doubt anybody else would have heard of AF. He was an early fan and a big supporter. We talked a bit online and realized that we had very similar tastes in music– not just shoegaze, but also a lot of other stuff you’d never suspect (I won’t go into it, but let’s just say I think we both have an affinity for ’70s AM Radio pop. It’s what we grew up listening to!).
Paul, Spell 336: I blame Greg (DJ Heretic) at DKFM. He posted a link on the TSC wall, tagged me and told me to listen to the track to see if it sounded familiar. When I listened to the track I thought that it was a new Kitchens Of Distinction track. Everyone knows I am a big fan of KOD and Dan’s vocal are a spot on match for Patrick Fitzgerald who is the lead vocalist for KOD. After listening over and over to Dan’s music I sent him a message of how much I liked his music and maybe in the future we can do some music together and he also agreed after hearing some of my music.
DKFM: It started with an exquisite cover of Spell 336’s “Silence”. Dan, what motivated you to take that on, and how do you feel about how it came out?
Dan, Angel Falls: “Silence” was a true gift from Paul. He asked if I’d like to try my hand at “Silence”, and I jumped at the chance. It’s a beautiful song, and something I could absolutely relate to. It’s the first time I’d ever recorded a track by someone else, and I think it turned out beautifully. Sometimes I listen to it and get shivers, it’s such a beautiful song. When I was doing it, I was so worried that it wouldn’t turn out well enough. I was really unsure, and I ran things by him at least once a day to make sure they were heading in the right direction. I bet I did half a dozen mixes and numerous takes before I thought it sounded well enough to show to Paul. I think it turned out really, really well, and I know we’ve gotten some great feedback on it.
DKFM: Paul, were you aware that the “Silence” cover was in the works, or did you wake up to a surprise? And what was your first reaction when you heard it?
Paul, Spell 336: I was aware of the cover of “Silence.” I approached Dan after a few weeks and asked him if he would be interested in doing a cover of the song. I knew from listening to his music that he could give the song some justice and he agreed to record the track. I believe I told him to record the track his own way and I never pressured him into recording the track my way. It was all Dan. I had “Silence” covered a few months ago by a great female, singer songwriter named Anna Madorsky. She is a good friend and put a different twist on “Silence” and I loved it. To be honest I feel the tracks have been covered beautifully and that will be it. I just want those two covers of “Silence” to be the only ones in the world. Period!
As for my reaction to Dan’s version of “Silence”, it left me speechless. He covered the track as how I really envisioned and heard it in my mind. I was stunned! I still am. I played the finished master of the song over and over. It really made me emotional and to this day it still does. I listen to Dan’s cover every day! It also resonated with a lot of listeners who have embraced the track which made me feel good. But Dan is the one who hit the home run on this track. I am grateful for his version and as far as I am concerned I could not have been happier!
DKFM: Tell us about the process of collaborating, writing and recording together, thousands of miles apart.
Dan, Angel Falls: After “Silence”, we vowed to work again. I can usually put music together with not too much trouble, but lyrics have always been difficult for me for some reason and they always come last when I write alone. Thankfully, Paul provided a few inspiring lines I was able to set to the music and they matched up PERFECTLY with the mood of the songs. He was also an invaluable sounding board, sonically speaking, on what each song needed as far as sounds– more/less guitar, more drums, different melody– even if the track was mixed too far to one channel! I think the material on “Touch The Sun” is probably the best stuff I’ve ever had a hand in. And I doubt it would have turned out as well as it did without Paul’s input.
Paul, Spell 336: It really is not that difficult. Especially when you are collaborating with someone who shares the same mindset as you. We are both on the same wavelength and it shows in the music. We bounce ideas off one another, lyrics, recording…. Everything! And because of that chemistry it works.
DKFM: Describe the sound. If you had to describe this project to someone who’d never heard it, what would you say?
Dan, Angel Falls: Hmmmm…. that’s a tough question, actually. Think Cocteau Twins meets Kitchens of Distinction while Ride-ing to a gig with Catherine Wheel where Loop are attempting to cover 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” with three singers, one of whom might possibly be Morrissey but with less cool hair. 😉
Paul, Spell 336: I agree with Dan’s description of our sound! How can you argue with that???
DKFM: Do you expect this to be an ongoing collaboration?
Dan, Angel Falls: Absolutely. It’s amazing what you can do with technology these days, and it’s great to work with someone like Paul who seems to get where I’m coming from and where I want to go next. We haven’t actually “played” on a recording together yet, but I imagine that’s the next step. I’ll be out his way this summer to visit family, and I’m sure we’ll finally get to meet face to face. I don’t know if I’ll have room enough to pack my guitar rig, but I’ll have a laptop with me, for sure.
Paul, Spell 336: YES!!!!
DKFM: What’s next for each of you?
Dan, Angel Falls: More writing, more recording, more of the same, I hope! I really enjoy working with Paul and he’s got lots of great ideas and together I think we make a very good team. I’m looking into getting some of the previous releases remastered and putting out something physical (CD, Vinyl, 8-Track, whatever), in the next few months. I stopped making music for a long time, but it really is in my blood. It keeps me sane, keeps me happy, keeps me balanced. I will keep doing it until they pry my guitar from my cold dead hands.
Paul, Spell 336: Continue writing as much as possible, working on The Shoegaze Collective sites spreading the word on what we are about musically and continue collaborating with Dan. There is so much music left for us to do and I am excited about the future. Music also keeps me as sane as possible. I need music to function and to breathe. So far everything is right on schedule. Going to travel on this ride for as long as possible and make some beautiful music along the way….
Grab a copy of “Touch the Sun” single on Bandcamp, follow Spell 336 on Bandcamp and Facebook, follow Angel Falls on Bandcamp, Facebook and Twitter, and do follow Paul’s monster Twitter news conglomerate, The Shoegaze Collective (highest recommendation).