by Dan “The Mouth” Lovranski
Chart Attack, August 2003
While you may not be familiar with the The Wellwater Conspiracy, chances are you’ve heard of the two principals that hold the group together. John McBain was the guitarist in Monster Magnet until 1993 and Matt Cameron has been the drummer for a couple of bands you may know, Soundgarden, and now, Pearl Jam.
The two met back in the early ’90s when their respective bands toured with each other and they first worked together as part of the Hater project, a one-off garage punk album that was released in 1993 and also featured Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepard [sic].
“We just wanted a change from all the heavy music of both of our bands,” says McBain, “and Matt and I had the same ideas, so we began to work together.”
Now, with the release of their fourth album, simply titled The Wellwater Conspiracy, the band has really come into their own, creating a dazzling hybrid of classic psychedelic sounds with solid songwriting and some great hooks.
“We made a concentrated effort to really focus with this album and the last one [The Scroll And Its Combinations],” says McBain. “They are definitely more us and less our influences.”
The first version of the new disc that made the rounds in advance was quite different than what became the finished product.
“I didn’t even know that had been sent out,” says McBain. “It was just a version we put together for friends to listen to and let us know what they thought. When we got to the mixing stage, we just let the machines roll and we mixed everything we had.”
There were several tracks that never made the final version, like “Fleischmann,” which sounds like a dance track.
“That was going to be our party tune,” he says, laughing. “It and a couple of others may end up as B-sides.”
The second version of the record showed up with a beautiful cover and the title Daybed, which like the extra tracks, has now been dropped.
“It was called that for about an hour,” says McBain, again laughing. “Unfortunately it was that hour in which the record company decided to fire up the presses. As far as we’re concerned the record is self-titled. I think it was a reference to Matt’s grandmother who had a daybed when he was little.”
Now, as to what’s actually on the new disc. For fans of their last effort, you are going to love this one just as much. There are a few garage rock style cuts with the lead off track “Wimple Witch” and “Night Sky.” However, the track that really stands out on initial listens is “Sea Miner,” an exquisite and haunting song. After I gush that I love that cut, he says “we weren’t even going to put that one on the record. We’ve never sounded like that before, it’s very sparse sounding and beautiful, two things we don’t usually do.”
There’s also a cover of ’60s hit “Something In The Air” which was a huge in the summer of ’69 for Thunderclap Newman. “It was a song that both Matt and I grew up with and we love. We are, after all, the children of AM radio.”
The most surprising track for long-time Wellwater buffs may be the instrumental “Sullen Glacier,” which, according to McBain, “was pieced together from old riffs and done in one day. It certainly is the heaviest track we’ve ever done and it’s probably the most like anything our other bands have done.”
A pounding, swaggering juggernaut, it crashes around in your head like a wild water storm and perfectly breaks up the rest of the disc.
One thing that you won’t see on this record, however, is any of the demented conspiracy liner notes McBain wrote for the other releases.
“There will be none on the new disc,” he says. “Although I did write a very simple one that they wouldn’t put in it.”
And what was that conspiracy?
“We are all equally fucked.”
I explode with laughter and exclaim that it’s, indeed, a very important message.
“Well,” he says, also laughing, “it’s certainly the clearest and most to the point of all the others.”
There will be no videos for the new disc but McBain says they will do a small tour.
“It’s really tough to get it together because Matt is busy with Pearl Jam and we would also have to get a touring band together. But we will do it,” he says. Expect some Canadian dates included amongst those shows.