I first met Dave Read when I invited his thrash metal band to play live on my Toronto FM radio program in 1989. Back then his band, Sing Along With Tonto, were so loud and so funny I laughed until I cried while my ears bled.
Almost twenty-five years later Read and I have both found ourselves well established on Vancouver Island. I’m still on the radio, and Read, I’m stoked to discover, is still laying down thick slabs of sonic scorching lava rock with his most recent project, Moths And Locusts.
Here we are a quarter century later and Read, now 46, is looking mellow and quite comfortably settled in on his living room couch in South Nanaimo. Compact and sturdy and sporting a robust mountain man beard, the Moths And Locusts bassist’s look is now that of a friendly yogi, warm, forthright and casual.
Since our original meet up back in 1989 Read continued to play guitar in a number of bands, first in Toronto and then later in New York. After Sing Along With Tonto folded Read formed Toronto sludge metal band Substack. A couple of years into it he then decided to join his future wife, Valentina, in New York where she was studying acting.
The move to New York turned out to be a 10-year stint for the couple and Read paid the bills working for various record labels while rehearsing and gigging with his American music projects The Fantastic Four and Carlito Verde.
After a few years living in Brooklyn Read scored a job at a New York music pressing company. It was a time when Compact Discs had become the dominant format in the marketplace and the company had made some serious investments in CD printing technology.
Because of Read’s past experience working for electronic and dance music labels, the astute music addict knew that there was a thriving underground DJ market out there hungry for the old vinyl format, and Read used his connections to keep the vinyl pressing part of the business solid and consistent.
Problem was, investments in the new CD printing technology had put his bosses in serious debt, which in turn limited the venders they could do business with. His customers, the dance music underground, wanted to explore the creative side of vinyl marketing and Read was getting loads of enquiries for coloured vinyl and specialty gatefold cover art design, which he was enthusiastic to deliver. Excited by the possibilities, he unfortunately found himself seriously constrained by his bosses’ short-sighted business investments.
Still, for Read the experience was golden. It gave him the opportunity to learn about every aspect of the record manufacturing business, from cover manufacturing to ordering replacement parts for the specialty pressing and printing equipment. While at the same time Read’s passion as a musician provided him with a DIY education in the customer side of the experience. “All the while, being in my own band — we made our own tapes, we made our own T shirts, produced a CD and created our own stickers — and you just kind of learn how these things work.”
With the birth of his son, Read felt the pressure of stepping up to the plate as a provider and decided to free himself of any constraints so he could offer musicians a multifaceted approach to producing vinyl music product. “I had the idea that if I could just approach all the various venders myself, then when a customer asks me if I can do this and this and this, I can say yes! because I can work with everybody.”
This multifaceted perspective of the industry was the birth of Read’s product management business, Vinyl Record Guru, a specialty vinyl production company that allowed him to work from his home and move from the concrete jungle of New York City and settle with his family in a the more serene and natural environs of Vancouver Island.
With no desire to return to Toronto, Read thought, “Let’s just move where people go on holiday. The west coast was definitely a good choice. Now shoveling the snow is nostalgic for me. If I have to do it more than twice a winter then the novelty begins to wear off,” he admits with a sly chuckle.
After a couple of years in Nanaimo running his vinyl business Read was itching to get back into playing music. But, even at middle age, you weren’t going to find this guitar shedding sage signing up to churn out old pop rebel anthems from his youth in some eighties cover band. This is because musicians like Read are always inspired by originality and the collective music making experience.
Read first hooked up with Nanaimo guitarist Angus Barter and started to jam a bit. “He and his brother had a drum kit and a bass amp, so I thought, why not play bass. We cleared out space and got busy. It was like starting over again.”
He laughs when he recalls how he connected with Moths And Locusts drummer and vocalist Dave Bean. The two new fathers only seemed to run into each other exclusively at functions revolving around parenting. “For at least three years Dave and I would only bump into each other at these kids birthday parties,” Read explains. “we would talk about music and always say we should jam, we should jam! This went on for a few years until finally I got an email from Dave saying, ‘I’m totally serious this time. I’m free this Thursday and I want to Jam.’ So, that’s how the band really came together.”
It’s hard not to see the irony in this when most bands tend to break up over new marriages and the resulting family obligations. While in stark contrast Moths And Locusts rose from the joyful chaos of punctured party balloons, manic musical chairs and cake face.
Soon after the core group began bringing in a few other musicians and eventually got confident enough to release their first vinyl seven inch 45 called The Astronomical Significance Of Moths and Locusts, which included a digital download card with an extra bonus track. Another brilliant method of marrying old school and new school music formats.
Read then recruited second guitarist Mike Breen from the band The Happys and this solidified the band’s current line-up of Bean, Breen, Barter and Read who have now performed as a solid unit for the past three years.
Their follow up release was also a celebration of vinyl grooves. Escape From Sector C, a 13-minute psychedelic space rock opus, takes up side A, while the B side is a complete reverse playback version of the same track. The Sector C release was pressed on 180 gram vinyl and also included an enclosed sci-fi story written by Read’s wife, Valentina Cardinalli, and a digital download card of the tracks, once again showing off Read’s love for the vinyl record medium.
Next came a seven inch shared single on pressed on coloured vinyl featuring Moths And Locusts on one side and Victoria’s The New Colors on the flip. The single was released through Read’s NOISEAGONYMAHEM Records, an indie label that “has also issued acclaimed vinyl only releases by Toronto rock outfit C’mon, death metal band Death Militia, and pop-punk duo, Bash Brothers.”
On the cover of every one of Moths And Locusts releases you’ll find a sticker instructing the owner to “File Under Space Rock.” It’s as much a warning as it is bait for hard core psychedelic rock junkies.
Read is a music fanatic who can wax on the subject of obscure seventies Nigerian afro rock bands as passionately as he talks about taking his young son to see Motorhead live for the first time. The guy knows his shit and the band’s influences are wide. They drop everything from Japanese hardcore band Boris to Krautrock to The Ramones, Stereolab and even Tangerine Dream as some of their many influences. The band was in fact thrilled to recently back up improvisational vocalist Damo Suzuki during a recent performance in Nanaimo by the former Can frontman.
What Read is really excited about is the release of the band’s first full length album, Mission Collapse In The Twin Sun Megaverse. Released this November on CD, online as a digital download and, of course, on 180 gram vinyl, which includes a full gatefold sleeve, band photo inserts and a poster designed by Read’s wife Valentina, the record is a labour of love celebrating the art of album design and the unbridled power of rock ’n roll.
Traveling between ethereal effervescence and mind bending sonic tsunamis, Mission Collapse In The Twin Sun Megaverse goes straight for the third eye and converts precious grey matter into a psychotropical fruit smoothie.
What’s enchanting about the whole experiment is how Moths And Locusts’ schizophonic space ship is fuelled by the patience and knowledge that naturally comes with age and experience. Rather than coming off dated and cliché, the band’s music benefits from time, and Read is proud to still be putting out original music decades after I first encountered him as a rambunctious young guitar maniac ripping up the airwaves on my radio show.
Read admits that Moths And Locusts’ only true ambition is to be able to keep doin’ what they’re doin’. “We want to make records that we’re proud of, the whole band feels that way, and the friendship of the band and the community around us — it’s the most important thing.”
Moths And Locusts host the Vancouver Island Psych Fest on November 16 at the Vault in Nanaimo BC where they will be joined by a full line up of special guest artists to celebrate the release of Mission Collapse In The Twin Sun Megaverse. The band’s new full length release will be available to the general public on November 26 through bandcamp, RED Distribution, various record stores and through the Moths And Locusts Facebook page. Make sure you file it under Space Rock!
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