Christian Nightmares - interview with Jeff Conaway

Jeff Conaway of The Psychic Paramount on the Band’s Current Tour and Christian Nightmares

Anyone who has been following Christian Nightmares for a while knows I’m a huge fan of The Psychic Paramount. Hailing from New York City but unlike any other band in the five boroughs (or anywhere, for that matter), the brutally loud instrumental trio are masters of manic chaos and sonic subversion, and somehow possess an occultic aura that is both disconcerting and alluring. This is the band your Sunday school teacher warned you about. CN caught up with TPP’s drummer Jeff Conaway recently to discuss the band’s current U.S. tour and to get his thoughts on Christian nightmares.

How’s the tour going? Any highlights so far?
The tour is going well! For me so far, the highlights have been both shows in Chicago. Playing at the Cobra Lounge on Friday night was great. Saturday we played Pitchfork (watch videos here and here), which was awesome. They did a great job. The sound was killer, which you can’t always count on at large shows like that. I also enjoyed our show in Columbus, Ohio, where we played with Dirty Projectors. I had never seen them, and they were really good.

I think the shows on the West Coast with Phil Manley Life Coach (of Trans Am) are going to be awesome as well. We have done a lot of touring with Trans Am, so it’s going to be fun. I’m also looking forward to playing in Lawrence, Kansas, where I used to live. We are playing with Major Games, the new band of one of my ex-bandmates from Panel Donor. That should be a blast.

You guys have been working on new material. Are you playing new songs on this tour? How do they compare to the others? Still improv-based?
Yes, a few of the songs are new, some are from II and a couple are from Gamelan into the Mink Supernatural. The new songs are culled from improv material, and then we take those core ideas and compose around them. They are still evolving as ideas, so it’s a little hard to pin down exactly how they are different.

TPP recently got to play with Melvins in Paris. How was that? Do you consider them to be an influence? Do all three of you guys have similar musical influences?
Playing with Melvins was great! They are sort of a rare band, one that has been active for a long time, is still making very interesting music, and put on an amazing live show. I really like seeing a band do that. That in itself is influential, it’s something to aspire to, and we are all fans of them.

Ben, Drew, and I share some influences: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Can, This Heat, My Bloody Valentine, Yes, King Crimson, James Brown—just to throw out a common range we all share. Some of my personal favorites are The Flaming Lips Embryonic, The Roots Rising Down and Game Theory, and The Dustdevils Struggling Electric and Chemical. Those are all great records, and I also think of them as records where there is something great about the production and performance when it comes to the drumming. The Flaming Lips vamp on heavy grooves, I think of it as their own version of Krautrock. The Roots start with a live drum kit, then tweak the production and come up with some amazing sounds as well as performances, and The Dustdevils take that New York sonic intensity of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and pair it with dexterous, nuanced drumming. 

Rock critic Greg Kot recently said the following about you: “If the reunited Black Sabbath still need a replacement for Bill Ward, this guy deserves an audition.” How would you feel about that?
That’s a pretty great compliment! I’m definitely a Black Sabbath and Bill Ward fan, so I appreciate the comparison. Maybe Greg Kot picked up on my secret homage to Bill Ward in one of our songs? That could have planted the seed.

Do you have any Christian nightmares?
Sure. Any time people are convinced they have the answers to unanswerable questions, that has the potential to become a real nightmare. But, on the other hand, I really like some of the jams Christian Nightmares has dug up and posted (like that “Thief in the Night” song, check out the pink drums!), so maybe there’s something to it. 

Also, check out this link to an audio interview with Jeff Conaway on the topic of drumming featured in FLABmag -