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Axel Mundi Music & Press: Axel writes

Return to the news page - January 26, 2017

It has been quite a while since we posted any news. Well, there has been plenty of it; in fact, so much that we had to let some things take a rest, and this website was one of them. So was the producing of music, for most of 2016. Axel and the entire team have relocated to Southern Utah, where he is continuing his retirement from gainful employment (as compared to making music, which is hopeful employment. If you see what we mean.)

Now we are presenting a new album, titled "Music For Painting"; but it is the second since opening the new studio, and the third if we count the last one finished in Manette before the madness of selling, packing, and moving cross country. You can check the Audio Samples page and the Things To Buy page to get caught up. But you've probably been watching all along and have kept up with all that.

New album finishes old business - September 12, 2015

Some years ago a couple of songs were born out of Axel's lyrical side: "Don't I Always Do" and "The Ballad of Rennie" were story songs that were unlike most of what he was doing in the studio. So, he created a folder where they could await their moment. The time is now. "Songs From Harvard House" has been forged from those songs and a bunch of new ones. With a band of three other musicians who he says are his "fantasy group" but who are largely unknown by the general music fan, and with the guest vocals of Elizabeth Carpenter, the Seattle-based singer best known for her performances of standard repertoire, the album project morphed from a simple "country" approach to something more like an "alt-psych" session. And what with paying the musicians and obtaining a mechanical license to record the Screaming Trees song "Cold Rain" (again), it has become one of the frugal Scotsman's most expensive productions.

And now for something differently complete - June 15, 2015

After living in Xan for several months, this reporter thought it was time for a change of climate. So, I moved my head to a different place and found myself sailing on a sea? lake? river? of psychedelic washes and waves, sometimes with a deliberate and deliberately upfront drum beat, and once with no drums at all, though a rhythm nonetheless. Yes, it is the prog or Frippish side of me coming out to play. Well, I needed that. And when I was done I was not done. A little gem of a song came down to the shore to meet me as I pulled my craft out of the water--a song about the truth of fairy tales, even the Warner Bros kind with Mel Blanc voices. This is the best album I have made since the last one.

Can we "Escape From Xan"? - May 13, 2015

I hope so. To be immersed in a traditional cultural landscape that is being systematically dismantled by a dominant society (sound familiar, fellow Americans?) and to be helpless to do anything about it, at least until you can get out and back to your own world, is the dilemma of an American writer who visits Xan on an entirely different mission than the one which turns out to be his own immediate safety and that of the woman he has come to love. Of course this is all deep sub-text to the music itself, which I am very pleased with. Having another opportunity to explore the aural atmosphere of Xan was something I just had to give myself after having so much fun with The Land of Xan. This new one does not focus on a musical phrase as I did with Dave Fuglewicz's drum track last time, but it continues to explore the sonic personality of that semi-imaginary world where echoes of Ravel's "Bolero" bubble up through the Himalayan snows and Central Asian mysticism and where ancient society can be blended with coffee culture.

"Press" Release - April 7, 2015

The company has had a publishing side all along in terms of song lyrics and album art, but it reached a new level last summer with the publication of two books pertaining to Gollyism, A Man Called Oval by Ethyl Rubber and The Surprise of Your Life by Oval Rubber. Oval and Ethyl, the founders of The Church Of Golly, selected me to oversee the issue of these books, partly because I have been closely associated with them for some time and consider myself a Gollyite, and partly because I offered them a deal they couldn't beat.

My desire to help promote these books, and also to make my part in this more visible, led me to decide I would expand this website to include the literary side along with the musical side of my interests. The result: a new company name, Axel Mundi Music & Press. Please look through the web pages and see the changes and additions.

The Land of Xan - March 24, 2015

As I mentioned last time, I have been working with some sound files contributed by audio artist Dave Fuglewicz. The resulting album is now finished, and I am well pleased, to use God's phrase when introducing his son into Society. Not that this album will be a musical messiah, but it may well be a musical prophet. I have come up with some songs that seem quite different from my usual style--if there is such a thing. Anyway, listening to it knocked my socks off, or would have if I had been wearing socks at the time. I think I was in my slippers, sitting in the studio. But for God's sake (speaking humbly) get this album. Get it from me in disc form, or get it if you must from your favorite download site, but just do it. Yes that's an order. And see Dave's website to learn about his amazing and totally different from mine music.

Tune That Name: Fuglewicz - March 4, 2015

I have been away from the sound board for a while now, mainly due to helping with the video sessions for Alex Monday's reading of A Man Called Oval, about the Church Of Golly founder. (See their website.) Now I am working on a series of short pieces using a drum track by Dave Fuglewicz as the foundation of each. That is, there is one drum track, and I am using it in various ways in each piece. I met Dave through the Tapegerm Collective (see Links page about both). He does music totally different than mine, and quite wonderful stuff. He generously consented to my use of his percussion track, which dates from the prehistoric analog times--say, twenty years ago.

Free Christmas music - December 4, 2014

I think it was in 2008 that Pierre Poodle, President of Axel Mundi Music, approached me with the idea of doing an album of Xmas songs. His concept was to produce a set of traditional faves in very stripped-down, instrumental versions that would attempt to get at the core spirit of each song.

I challenged him: "Why don't you do the music yourself and I will supervise the recording?" He was a bit surprised at this, I think. He told me he was not sure he could play the instruments well enough. I said, well, since we own the studio, the time is free, so let's see what you can come up with.

The results were astounding to me. I have a background in music theory a la Bach, and I watched in amazement as Pierre took instruments in paw (including our own Wurlitzer theater organ) and developed his interpretations of some of our combined favorites of the seasonal repertoire. I sequenced the album in the order that he recorded them, so that the development of his skill can be seen from each song to the next. I released the album in 2009.

As our Christmas present this year, each song will be available here, day by day, as an mp3 download from our Axel Mundi Music website (axelmundi.com). Finally, the whole album will be put up for sale for anyone who would like it. Happy holidays, in memory of Pierre Poodle.

Creating music for Pierre - October 27, 2014

I have a new album out, called The Poodle Album. The first half is my musical tribute to the faithful dog, Pierre, who was with me for over fourteen years and who died in late August. This music and creating it were both therapeutic and spiritual processes. It started with a six-minute piece with about five clearly distinguishable themes laid out. While making a video from photographs of Pierre, I realized that the piece was like an overture announcing a larger work. So I took each theme and developed it until I had seven short songs from the five parts of the original. These I think of as representing parts of Pierre's life story and our relationship. The resulting "suite" was about 19 minutes long. Not long enough for an album, but I had been thinking I might not release this music into public space anyway. I didn't feel like trying to come up with more Pierre music to fill out a respectably long CD. (For the two of you out there that remember what a CD was, anyway.) Then I noticed that I had four pieces tucked into another folder waiting to be part of an album, which had been sitting for some months because I had been in a period of low motivation due to personal problems. I decided to combine the two sets of music into one album so that I could get it all released and move on to something else. That is the story of The Poodle Album.

Raccoon Dinner - May 18, 2013

The new album is a departure from the last few. For one thing, there is almost no singing. The music is more "progressive rock" style, although there is plenty of psychedelic as well. The raccoon skulls on the cover art were found in my back yard. In July I will be making a pilgrimage with my brothers to the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon, where our grandmother spent time as a youth. Her parents ran the mission there for a time back in the early 1900s. Perhaps that will be the source of some music.

West Edge Trio is here - November 16, 2012

As promised earlier, Fear Of Hemispheres is now available. The groundbreaking album, which was recorded when CDs were still the newest thing but which never came out in any format, has been released by Axel Mundi Music. It can be bought on disc at this site or by download at CD Baby and most of the world's download sites. We are proud to offer this long-lost music so that the sounds of this infamous ensemble can be heard again for the first time since the late 1980s. Below is Axel's story of the group and their album:

The members of The West Edge Trio met at an espresso cart under the Monorail in Seattle in 1985. Electric-bass player Stuart Gregory had been in and out of a dozen or so local rock bands since coming to the Northwest in 1983. He had begun to find it difficult to get into a group after his main musical interest had become chanting to a minor Buddhist deity in Japanese. Tenor saxophonist Dave Christos, an ex-postal worker from the Bay Area, had moved to Seattle about ten years earlier after having been fired for allegedly offering sax for hire through the mail while on duty. He had been ekeing out a living as a session musician for what he called New Age Elevator projects. Finnish cellist Fron Kristenborg, having paid her dues in the New York avant garde scene since coming to the United States in 1974 at the age of sixteen, had recently arrived in Seattle hoping to get into a grunge band. At the time she was working as a sales clerk at Nordstrom Rack. The three hit it off when they found that they all had eclectic musical tastes and that they all liked quad tall lattes.

They began jamming in a storage garage Gregory was renting (and living in), playing as loudly as possible in keeping with the local tradition. Before long they had taken the name The West Edge Trio because, as Christos put it, “we always felt like the music scene here was about to fall into the Puget Sound”. They hooked up with a sound engineer who was working at the local college station, and with his help began playing at open mic and new band nights, sharing the stage with a variety of flannel-clad thrash groups. Their style, which tended to consist of twenty- or thirty-minute improvisations on compositions by group members, quickly earned them a reputation in the local music scene as a group to avoid being billed with. Still, they were noticed by local New Music promoters and soon were being invited to play at arts venues where people actually bought season tickets and had wine and cheese during intermission.

A local indie record producer, Steve Fiskar, heir to the Fiskars scissors fortune, who had recently become even richer by selling a Seattle grunge band to a major label, met the group at the Alligator Clip Cafe. He asked them if they would like to make a record for his new label, Before Fading Out Records, which he hoped would establish the Northwest as the new center for intellectual art music. The three leapt at the chance, after leaping at a local music business lawyer. They spent the next three months in a retreat center on the Oregon coast, composing two hours a day, sleeping in a yurt, and eating brown rice and tofu. They emerged with about two hours-worth of pieces written specifically for their instruments and which were no more than ten minutes each.

Recording sessions for this album have become legendary not only (nor primarily) for the musicianship produced by the group, but also for the roster of rock, jazz, and classical stars who showed up to watch the three at work. They began to receive offers from newly-rich grunge musicians to appear on their albums, and from regional film producers to write soundtracks. Gregory, Christos, and Kristenborg seemed unphased by these offers, focusing all their attention on their own recording process. The album, which the group had decided to call Fear Of Hemispheres, was completed in the summer of 1987.

At that point things began to go awry. Fiskar decided that the music was too good to put out on a local label, even his own, and he took off for New York and Los Angeles to shop the band to a major. While on the road he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and found himself embroiled in the legal system, unable to promote his product. Meanwhile, the group had been playing shows locally to advertise their new music. This led to tension among the three as Kristenborg developed a drinking problem due largely to the endless free drink tickets the clubs gave the band, while Gregory and Christos began a rivalry for who should be the frontman on stage. Their performances gradually became more like free-for-alls than the disciplined playing that had been in evidence in their recording sessions. A couple of skeptical reviews in the local press caused their audience to swell, but unfortunately not with the kind of listeners who could actually appreciate what they were trying to do with their music.

Ultimately Fiskar was cleared of his charges and Kristenborg went into treatment. But the momentum had passed and the album remained unreleased. Disheartened by the whole experience, the members of the group drifted apart. Stuart Gregory, who had become enthralled with gamelan music, moved to Bali, where he still lives. Fron Kristenborg went to Austin, Texas and got a job in the offices of South by Southwest. She has occasionally appeared on albums by Indie and Tex-Mex bands. Dave Christos, as Steve Fiskar put it, "fell into a hole in his head and never came out." He eventually became interested in video production and now makes music videos for Seattle bands.

With the release this year of a newly remastered Fear Of Hemispheres by Northwest musician Axel Mundi on his own label, there is renewed interest in the story of The West Edge Trio. Mundi says he got in contact with all three members of the group (he found Gregory, in Bali, via Skype) after hearing the original tapes at Steve Fiskar's house. Fiskar and the three group members gave him permission to put out the CD. He hopes he can convince Christos, Kristenborg, and Gregory that the time is right for a reunion and maybe some new recording sessions at his studio in Kitsap Peninsula. "There's nothing like old New Music for inspiring new music from old musicians," said Mundi.

Updates - September 29, 2012

Axel has been busy during the summer working on his side project, the resurrection of the never-released album by The West Edge Trio, Fear Of Hemispheres. The Seattle-based New Music group's experimental album was abandoned in the late 1980's and the tapes have sat in producer Steve Fiskar's studio until recently, when during a visit Axel heard them and offered to put the disc out on his own label. Fiskar gave him the tapes and he has been remixing and preparing the tracks for release this winter. "I am very excited about this," says Axel. "I had seen West Edge in about 1989 and there had been rumors of an album, but the group broke up and it never happened. I didn't realize until now that it had been almost ready for release when it all fell apart. This will be a historic bit of musicology coming to light after all these years."

Meanwhile, Axel has recorded a song of his own, (I Want To) Go To LA, which may foreshadow the tone of his next album. He calls it a "pop song with a twist", and it is available for free listening and downloading on this site.

New album: friends, heros, goats - June 7, 2012

Axel's new CD is called J P And The Goats From Outer Space. The references are to his eccentric crew of browsers in his back yard and to a current hero of his. The songs developed independently about one per month since the beginning of 2012. There is a song about his doomed love affair and one about his beloved bald eagles which fly above the landscape where he lives. There is one in which he addresses an elderly musician. There is an almost-cover of one of his favorite 60s British bands. It does not sound at all like the original. Altogether it is a very introspective collection which he feels is some of his best stuff.

"Anthology" - March 17, 2012

While working slowly on a new album, Axel has decided to keep the fans' attention by releasing a collection of some of his favorite songs from previous albums. This apparently blatant attempt to keep his name in the public eye is justified, he says, by the fact that "everybody does it." Recovering from personal tragedies in his life, Axel's usual proliferate pace has slowed in recent months while he gathers his thoughts about what is important. The new music is a reflection of his losses and will probably add up to a more sombre offering than his recent records. "I am feeling my age," he said at a recent press conference. "I am also feeling yours." The "Anthology" album will be available as usual on this site.

"Matrimonia" released - July 9, 2011

The new album, Matrimonia, is out. This disc, which may become part 1 of a trilogy, is a set of psychedelic portraits and scenes from an imaginary kingdom where a royal wedding is about to take place. The bride is the king's daughter, the groom is the king's favorite musician. Although there is a theme and it might be considered a concept album, the pieces are independent and there is no burdensome exposition or crossover. The songs are straight rock with touches of jazz and classical, and have some of my best instrumental and ensemble playing.

Axel launches a new site - May 20, 2011

There's a new website under the AMM umbrella. It is all about the Church Of Golly, a semi-serious but mostly satirical religion that was born in the days of Babylon Theatre in the 1970s. You can find it here:
Church Of Golly

New album: Cloud Of Light - May 9, 2010

I have reached a defining moment with the recording of this new music. It is my most personal work, at the same time being from somewhere "out there".

Debut of Axel Mundi Press - April 5, 2010

I have published a book on the art of my departed partner, Peggy Nomura. It is called Spirit House On Pilgrimage, and it is for sale at Amazon.com.
Please check it out.

Childhood Ends! - March 14, 2010

On an album, that is. The new CD Childhood's End is out now. Nine new songs, two featuring poems written about 25 years ago, when I was being a poet in Salt Lake City. This album continues my trend toward stripped down (for me!) psych-rock. Tips of the hat to Ozzy, Fripp, and a few of the others. Get it now, before you become too grown up. Or get it because you are grown up.

Julius/Axel collaboration - February 9, 2010

I'm pleased to present a new video with light artist Julius Brown (see Links page). We've combined one of my songs with one of his streaming visual montages. This is the first new collaboration since we did live shows in Seattle in the 90's. See Videos page.

Psychedelic Metamorphosis! - January 2, 2010

Another new album! Well, that is what we are about here at AMM (Pierre and I and our creative team). This one is kind of like a back story to one of my favorite novelettes by one of my favorite writers. It is called One night in the life of Gregor S. All the tracks are short (3-5 minutes) and each one portrays a dream. Another cover: Dylan's St Augustine. And a website-only bonus: a booklet containing a short story version of the album. This is a great one.

Ladakh Highway - December 12, 2009

The new album is kind of a road movie. It seems every song has a road, street, or trail in it. I am doing more singing lately, and more lyric writing for something to sing. There is another cover song, too--"White Bird", the old It's A Beautiful Day number--but done much differently than the original. I hope David Laflamme approves.

By the way, please visit my page on Jamendo.com, and write a review if you feel inspired. (See links page.)

Northwest Passage - November 9, 2009

Northwest Passage is released on the website today. This album starts out with a very different piece, "Bidi-bidi", which was born while driving onto the ferry and hearing hip-hop coming from the car next to me. The title cut is over 25 minutes, and I am calling it a symphony. There is a cover of one of my favorite's from the psychedelic 60s, "Time Has Come Today" by the Chambers Brothers. And a piece examining my mystical experience at Chichen Itza in 1986.

The Chemical Marriage - September 23, 2009

The new album is about alchemy--the ancient science of changing coarse materials into precious metals, and the occult guide to elevating the soul. My work is a process of changing basic sound into psychedelic (mind-elevating) music. The second half of the album depicts a seeker's transformation from alchemical scientist to initiated shaman.
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