Wellwater Conspiracy: Plotting Mainstream’s Downfall

by Chris Chandar, Pulse Magazine

Somewhere, Colonel Sanders is resting uncomfortably in his grave. In what used to be a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Seattle, former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron and Monster Magnet founding member John Paul McBain have found a home for their band Wellwater Conspiracy– turning the chicken shack into a studio with all the trappings of a musical bomb shelter. The deep-fried guitar riffs being concocted today are a far cry from the offerings formerly doled out of the building. On Wellwater’s The Scroll and it’s Combinations (TVT) the duo rip through a myriad of influences including the Music Machine, Gary Neuman, the Yardbirds, ’60s Dutch underground and early Black Flag. “Basically, there’s nothing original about our music,” says Cameron with a laugh. “It’s all been done before.”

The guys are far from being the Puff Daddies of stoner rock, though. Cameron and McBain use a dream lineup of friends and musical contemporaries to craft garage/psych rock against the grain of bland “modern” rock. “I just don’t get that [music] at all.” Cameron says. “If that’s what’s popular now, I’ll be blissfully ignorant.”

Sidestepping the mainstream, Cameron and McBain make a hypnotic blend of their musical sensibilities on Scroll, with an accent on McBain’s guitar sounds. “There’s the clean, then there’s the slightly clean and then there’s the fuzz. Most of my songs will
have one of those, if not all. So I come from that approach. Matt’s got more of the Bowie thing going on– more of the pop sensibilities. But it mixes nicely.” Cameron, who is drumming for Pearl Jam, does the bulk of the vocals on Scroll, handing over the mic to Eddie Vedder (credited as Wes C. Addle) on “Felicity’s Surprise”. Ex-Soundgarden members Ben Shepherd and Kim Thayil also appear.

What about the deeper message hinted at in the album’s liner notes (“Encoded within these 11 songs is your personal passport into the green undertow”)? Is it logical to assume the song “The Scroll” offers a glimpse into the album’s subtext? “I think our lyrics are mildly suggestive,” McBain says. “We try to take these grandiose titles and have the message fit that.”

So there’s no hidden philosophical meaning? Both Cameron and McBain laugh. “The message throughout the album is,” says McBain before lowering his voice to a whisper, “guitar tuner, guitar tuner.” All joking aside, the two have a genuine love for the music they create. “That’s the fun thing about this project,” says Cameron. “We have no desire to crack any market. It’s just us playing the music we like playing.”

Wellwater’s “older-brother rock,” as McBain describes it, has unprofessional edges that the two are fond of. “There’s an unlearned quality to it. It’s kind of honest in it’s buffoonery.”