There’s so much that went into French psychedelic trio Wall of Death’s new album Loveland. There’s the band itself: Gabriel Matringe, the guitarist and ex-cello player, and Brice Borredon, who grew up in the country in the south of France and who dedicated himself completely to the piano at age 6, and Adam Ghoubali, who taught himself drums after hearing the Doors. Then there’s Innovative Leisure’s Hanni El Khatib, the genre-smashing guitarist who shares songs with GZA and who’d devote his most ambitious production work yet to Wall of Death. There’s the giant stack of vintage equipment—organ, synthesizer, electric piano and a positively luscious Mellotron. There’s the live chicken named Chickpea, who guarded the outside of the Jazzcats studio in Long Beach and wouldn't let anyone pet her except Borredon. (“We directly understood and respected each other,” he explains.)
And of course there are the decades of inspiration and dedication that push Loveland past the limits of what “psychedelic” means in 2015—a connection that sparks to life with 60s groundbreakers like Soft Machine and King Crimson and leaves a comet trail across Creation Records on its way to Radiohead (and past Tame Impala!) to a destination beyond the horizon. With able and agile studio help from El Khatib and engineers Jonny Bell (also of Innovative Leisure’s Crystal Antlers) and Sonny DiPerri, Wall of Death have created a dense and deeply individual album that makes an instant into a lifetime and more: “Loveland is like the last steps you do in the desert,” says Matringe. “Dry and exhausted, one minute before dying.”
Produced by Black Angels compatriot (and BBQ expert) Texan Brett Orrison, their 2012 debut Main Obsessions on France’s Born Bad label was like if Ennio Morricone had taken over for John Cale on that first Stooges LP—an album as desolate as it was heavy. But for their new album, Wall of Death wanted something ... well, new, in every way. They wanted to take that extra step—to make modern music with the most exquisitely vintage equipment possible, explains Ghoubali, and to seek out a new producer with unfamiliar ideas to make it happen. The idea, says Matringe, was pure and simple: “I was interested in getting lost in some uncomfortable ways.”
Enter Hanni El Khatib, who met Wall of Death on tour in 2013. El Khatib was then fresh off his Head In The Dirt album and full of his own ideas about music production, thanks to particularly instructional sessions with Dirt producer Dan Auerbach. That same year, he’d do his first official production work on California psych-garage band Feeding People’s LP, and then in the spring of 2014, he’d lock himself in L.A. studio the Lair for 30 days and emerge with his ferociously experimental and album Moonlight. While on tour, he discovered that Wall of Death were just as ready to break the rules, he says: “I saw a fresh group that was open-minded and ready to do something drastically different. They talked about risk and experimentation and that’s what drew me to working on this record.” And when Wall of Death heard Moonlight, that sealed the deal: “It’s hard sometimes to let people touch your music,” says Matringe. “But he found what we were looking for."