WORDS BY KATIE DOHMAN
The story of how Southeast Of Saturn Vol. 2—from Third Man Records, Jack White’s empire—came to life, and why it matters, starts with Southeast Of Saturn Vol. 1, of course.
Rich Hansen, an avid record collector and former promoter in the Detroit rock scene, had started collecting shoegaze records, a hole in his personal collection. From his collection he—what else?—made a mixtape for his brother-in-law, who called him up upon listening and told him he better make a compilation record, for posterity. After brief disbelief, Hansen pitched Third Man on the idea of compiling Detroit shoegaze bands onto one album, et voila: Southeast of Saturn Vol. 1 was born. But in the process of compiling, he knew he’d have to leave a lot of great Detroit shoegaze on the cutting-room floor—and that there must be more great shoegaze both regionally and nationally.
“While we were finishing Vol I, I was very aware of the fact that I couldn’t fit every Michigan band and then became aware that these labels had bands from other cities,” he says. “It wasn’t just a Michigan phenomenon—other people embracing this very British-associated music in America. I realized very quickly that if the compilation did OK, I should be ready to pitch Vol II.”
Well. You know how that went. Volume II was a go. “It was very quickly apparent to me that, in parallel to what’s going on in southeast Michigan, Minneapolis had its own version happening.” In his internet digging, he found a Shapeshifter track he fell in love with, and he was familiar with Colfax Abbey, which toured with Brian Jonestown Massacre (and some members were absorbed into it) and then he found a Red Eye record compilation with no name on it, but a little digging around led him to Chris Strouth, who was Peter Jesperson’s successor at Minneapolis label Twin Tone—and who produced several notable Minneapolis shoegaze bands.
“Shoegaze in Minneapolis was an interesting era for those that weren’t around for it,” Strouth says. “What had been the Minneapolis rock sound (the Replacements, Soul Asylum) had been sort of co-opted into the Seattle sound, while the new underground here found its inspiration in bands like Slowdive, Spacemen 3, and My Bloody Valentine. These bands were all sizeable at the time, drawing huge crowds and national tours.”
But, Strouth says, despite all that, despite the support from Twin Tone and Ed Ackerson’s Susstones (and own shoegaze band on the compilation, 27 Various) the scene here was overshadowed by the reputations and media coverage of The Replacements, Prince, Husker Du, and Soul Asylum. But when Strouth took over at Twin Tone, his first project was a record for shoegaze band Fauna—a record, Feral, he says, “absolutely stands the test of time” (and is featured on the compilation).
“This is very much Rich’s album—him and Third Man,” Strouth reiterates. “They put it all together. I’m just kind of helping as the guy who was actually here. What’s cool about this album is that of 18 tracks, five are MInneapolis bands, and we’re the biggest representation [of any one city]. And of those five, four were mine at Twin Tone.”
But neither Hansen nor Strouth say they approached this project with any sense of nostalgia: It’s more like a sense of duty to history and to musical knowledge.
“I’m fascinated by a scene that’s able to thrive separate from what you’re most known for,” Hansen says. “I’m further fascinated when people do it as well as I found when i started to get into the Minneapolis bands . . . There’s obviously an incredible quality. The music stands with what anyone was doing anywhere else, including the UK, and there is also a very unique spin on it that the bands don’t all sound like one another, which is always super exciting, and don’t sound like slavish recreations. For example, I can tell Fauna liked My Bloody Valentine, but they’re doing their own thing with that influence. The quality is intense, and the music is absolutely deserving to be heard again.” He admits getting involved really “tweaked my inner librarian—it’s amazing and no one knows it exists and we must do something about it.”
Strouth says the impact of shoegaze bands has been huge. “It’s never gone away. What started as a little seed with the My Bloody Valentines and Slowdives…well, half of what we hear now you hear now is influenced by it: Muse, long droney things like the Drones Not Drones festival. You see it in in a band like Low that is beyond seminal and legendary . . . That’s the thing: it’s now part of the language, it’s part of our musical lexicon.”
Plus, he adds, it’s not just the sound itself, though that’s a huge part of it. “Colfax Abbey eventually became part of Brian Jonestown Massacre. Fauna’s lead, Zachary Vex, quit playing to concentrate on making guitar effects, and forming Zvex Effects, one of the most important boutique pedal makers in the world, Shapeshifter’s Tim Ritter moving to a long lineage of bands from Astronaut Wife, Bella Koshka, Paris1919, and most recently Muun Bato. And the 27 Various’s late—and great—Ed Ackerson moving directly to this to the major label with the band Polara, and the producer to a zillion-and-a-half great records. …We’re all just standing on Ed’s shoulders,” he adds.
“I think you’ve got a style of music that is, incredibly at its core, psychedelic and a lot of times depending on how people wield tones of it, pleasing and soothing. Putting those two things together creates a very transportive, transcendent feel,” Hansen says. “It’s remarkably appealing. What’s super interesting are those techniques pioneered by Kevin Shields and his ilk are being applied across many genres of music right now.”
WHEN YOU GO
Dec. 2, 5 PM
27 Various release party Electric Fetus
2000 S 4th Ave., Mpls.
612-870-9300 • electricfetus.com
Original members Bart Bakker and Mike Reiter will be joined by notable special guests.
Dec. 3, listening party with DJ Christian Frize (MPLS LTD) and super-secret special stuff
Bev’s Wine Bar
250 N 3rd Ave #100, Mpls.,
Find limited-edition copies on Full Moon & Great Lake colored vinyl available at Electric Fetus