Always Bored, Never Boring

Black Moth Super Rainbow's hourglass may be running dry, but the man behind the vocoder has plenty of ideas for the future

The latest Black Moth Super Rainbow album is just as perplexing as the ones that came before, and it gets us no closer to illuminating this enigmatic band.

All that bullshit aside, though, it's just really good music.

"I do what I do and curate what comes out," says Tom Fec, the man behind Black Moth Super Rainbow. He's pretty nonchalant about the whole thing. Seven months out from

Cobra Juicy's October 2012 release, he's also pretty ready to just let the whole thing roll off his back. As always, he's looking toward whatever sunburnt horizon lay ahead.

Fec, who often goes by the name Tobacco, splits his creative output between the Black Moth stuff and his solo ambitions. He's dabbled with plenty of each over the past decade-plus, blazing a distinct trail into psychedelia and away from any semblance of Standard Music Business Protocol.

Shying away from the whole industry, Fec prefers dicking around with effects pedals and vocoders. And for that, we thank him.

"As far as I was concerned, I wasn't really looking to make an album," he says, adding that the past several years have gotten even more experimental for him. Fec divides his material into two areas of utility: There's the self-indulgence he peddles as solo stuff and there's the music that comes off a bit more accessible. In the case of Cobra Juicy, he says, the music walks the line between those two schools of thought. The album is kinda what he's been trying to achieve for years, and he finally got it by relenting and, you know, just not really giving a shit how things turned out.

Because he pretty much put the album together on his own, it's also very indicative of where his head is at these days. And while Cobra Juicy may be a more constrained evolution of the ideas kicked around on Tobacco's 2010 solo outing, Maniac Meat, the album comes off mostly as a robotically polished cherry topping off Black Moth's dynamic tenure.

If Fec's ambivalence about the future of Black Moth Super Rainbow is to be taken at face value, listeners should be encouraged to dive into this collection of far-flung tunes.

A juxtaposed one-two punch slaps its way through the soundwaves as "Hairspray Heart" and "Psychic Love Damage" arrive early in the album. The former is a point of pride for Fec, who says it's nothing like he had expected out of this batch of songs.

"The last thing I ever thought I would be able to pull off was almost like a snotty electric guitar song," he says of the tune. "I accidentally stumbled into it." Fec's songwriting process — less a process and more an exercise in the obliteration of inertia — involves toying with whatever ideas and devices are at his disposal. When he picks up a new pedal, for instance, he'll hit record and fuck with it for a while. Something may come of it or something may not. Sometimes, a really killer album like Cobra Juicy flits out of Fec's recording sessions. Sometimes, he goes back to bed. "I get bored really quickly now," he says.

So in the present, we have the opportunity to put the needle to the record and let the crunchy demons of "Hairspray Heart" fill the room. Consider for a moment the hypnosis set to descend on the Beachland Ballroom once Fec arrives. Regardless of the setlist — a lot of the new stuff, nothing earlier than Dandelion Gum, Fec says — the Cleveland show is must-see shit for anyone into the band. They won't be back in town for a while. ...At least not in Black Moth form.

The rest of 2013 paints a broad picture for Fec. This will be the last Black Moth tour for the year — and maybe indefinitely. He'll hit the road this summer with Demon Queen, a project he's cooked up with Zackey Force Funk. There may also be another Tobacco solo album waiting down the line.

However the ship sails, Fec's confidence remains undeterred. He's been doing his thang for years, and he'll continue with no quarter given to his contemporaries and none asked.

The origins of Black Moth Super Rainbow — the seedlings of this present-day psychosis — are found in the swampy underbelly of western Pennsylvania's Allegheny mountain range. Fec spent his teenage years siphoning the tastes of various record collections and gathering his own musical desires.

"I tried to take in as much as I could back then. I'm not trying to absorb it anymore," Fec says. Then came the four-track, a little electronic escape toward distant worlds.

His high school band, Allegheny White Fish, later spawned satanstompingcaterpillars, both of which were attempts of varying degrees at bottling the experimental lightning that would flash from time to time in the back of his mind. With the addition of band members Father Hummingbird, The Seven Fields of Aphelion and Iffernaut, the band coalesced into something resembling what Black Moth Super Rainbow would become. Ryan Graveface and Ponydiver would later come onboard, as well. In 2007, the band released Dandelion Gum, which has sat atop a fairly successful pedestal since then.

But at no point in their history has Black Moth been viewed with any sense of legitimacy from the rest of the music biz.

"I just feel what I do doesn't belong in the music world," Fec says. Dispelling any sense of illegitimacy is his up-and-down trip to the Kickstarter well for this most recent album. With a stated goal of $45,000, Fec's proposal actually attracted more than $125,000 in donations from fans the world over. That's a pretty solid chunk of change for a band with no mainstream cred and little more than a snubbed nose from industry types.

With that snubbing, however, comes freedom. And that's a precious asset for any artist, whether the goal is churning out loops on a four-track in the basement or dropping a highly anticipated full-lengther.

"There's nobody telling me what to do. There's no input from anyone ever," he says. "If I make another Black Moth record, it could literally be anything."

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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