Interview: Sonic Boom

PTV talks to the former Spacemen 3 leader ahead of his April 10th show with Magnétophone, at Malé Nosticovo Divadlo

An unashamed advocate of psychedelic drugs, former Spacemen 3 leader Sonic Boom (real name Pete Kember) remains one of music's true mavericks.

Born in Rugby, in the English Midlands, and educated at the town's prestigious boarding school, Kember has since dedicated his musical career to coaxing cosmic sounds out of the simplest compositions.

Currently touring with young British band Magnétophone, Sonic found time to discuss technology, techno, and "punk soul."

Darrell Jónsson: Your press release quotes you as saying one of your ambitions is to "use technology to free the spirit." Can you tell us more of this goal?

Sonic Boom: I believe music itself "frees the spirit." By using equipment that enables complex creation of new sounds I believe it is possible to perpetually continue the evolution of music. This can't be an especially original process, but is perhaps not pushed as far in the general field of popular music. Technological advances and unexplored avenues make possible an amazing array of possible sounds - many of which I believe are created specifically to "free the spirit."

DJ: What, if at all, do you see as the failings of techno and what is called "ambient"?

SB: I'm not sure I'm qualified to really evaluate techno or ambient music. I don't especially subscribe to either type to start with, and it's very wide a subject to be able to generalize in. Like most music forms - jazz, blues, etc. - there are always brilliant exponents of the form but they are often drowned in a deluge of less "interesting and worthy" artists.

DJ: As a former resident of Detroit, I've a personal interest in your reference to "Punk Soul". What groups do you associate with this sound and why do you find this style of music so powerful or interesting?

SB: I used that in the past to describe the Spacemen 3 oeuvre in particular. The street attitude of punk allied with the emotion of soul music. I guess there are other bands I could apply that too also. While we're talking Detroit let's mention the Falcons - the raw early soul/R&B band that included Eddie Floyd, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, Diana Ross, Wilson Pickett, Joe Stubbs and Mack Rice - pretty much the seeds of Stax and Motown. Also, the MC5 could equally be accredited in this way, though they enveloped jazz and rock elements too. I find it interesting because it is at once honest, emotional, powerful and intense, with equal mind paid to all the elements.

DJ: Has there been a strong following for your music in Central and Eastern Europe over the years?

SB: I have no idea. It is something I find hard to gauge. The prime method of distribution there is probably tapes and CDRs from the internet and word-of-mouth. I hear there are pockets of interest. It will be interesting to see. I haven't been east of Berlin since 1989 when Spacemen 3 played in Budapest.

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