INSECT SURFERS
Infra Green
(Marlin Records)

 

Since the late 1970's, guitarist Dave Arnson has tested the waters, so to speak, when it comes to instrumental surf-rock. Completely dedicated to the West Coast American surf-rock vision, Dave and his band, The Insect Surfers are back in top form in 2013 with the 15 track Infra Green. Commenting on the long wait since the last Insect Surfers album, Dave explains, 'I can’t believe it’s been ten years since our last release! Which also explains why it’s an hour long, we had so much material to get out!' The Infra Green CD is filled with a sonic array of original guitar instrumentals—well recorded and quite well matched with a musical precision that can’t be beat. Arnson’s Insect Surfer band mates—fellow guitarist Michael Abraham, bassist Jonpaul Balak and drummer Jeff Utterback—are joined by a number of guest guitarists and musicians including Croatian guitar ace Ferenc Dobronyi, American surf-rock giant Paul Johnson and the one and only king of surf-grunge Davie Allan. From the ultra cool neo-insect inspired cover art, to the immaculate recording style and execution, the Insect Surfers breath new Infra Green energy into the art of 21st century surf-rock. www.InsectSurfers.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
DAVE ARNSON of The Insect Surfers



mwe3: It’s been a while since the last Insect Surfers album so it’s great to see the 2013 release of Infra Green. Can you provide some background into the genesis of the CD and why did you chose to call the CD Infra Green? When and where were the Infra Green tracks written and recorded?

DAVE ARNSON: Insect Surfers have been through a few personnel changes over the past decade, and the lineup has finally solidified. I can’t believe it’s been ten years since our last release! Which also explains why it’s an hour long, we had so much material to get out! Infra Green, of course, is a play on the concept of ‘infra red’, and I thought Infra Green would be a great science fiction concept and color. The 1920 sci-fi fantasy classic book A Voyage To Arcturus has the protagonist experiencing two completely new colors, so I figured ‘infra green’ could be a possibility! Also, most of the Insect Surfer release titles are similar oxymorons, such as Death Valley Coastline or Mojave Reef. This past spring 2013 we found an incredible producer/engineer in Steve Refling, and his Lincoln Lounge Studio in Venice, California, and I think it’s sonically the best thing that we’ve recorded.

mwe3: What’s the band chemistry like in this lineup of Insect Surfers, and how does the addition of guitarist Michael Abraham add to the Insect Surfers sound?

DAVE ARNSON: The chemistry is just amazing. Jonpaul Balak on bass has been nothing short of awesome the past several years, and our old drummer Jeff Utterback just came back to bless us with his magic. Jonpaul also currently plays in famed and acclaimed exotica band The Tikiyaki Orchestra. He’s played with The Boardwalkers, Counselors, and is a ‘go-to’ bassist for countless local instro projects. Jeff has played with Surfaris, Huntington Cads, Boardwalkers, Surfaris, Neptunas, Tiki Tones, and a host of others. He also currently plays in a fantastic atmospheric instro band Casino 66. Our new guitarist Michael Abraham moved here to Los Angeles from San Francisco last year. His chops are through the roof, he's played with Stanley Clarke’s violin player! But Mike totally ‘gets it’ and is a spectacular addition. He’s definitely added some new textures and techniques to the band’s sound. On our song “Vaquita”, I make dolphin sounds with my guitar, and he came back at me by making seagull noises with his!

mwe3: Can you tell us why you chose to cover a track by Pell Mell? How were you influenced by that band and why did you decide to revisit an early Insect Surfers track called “Del MarVa”? What other guitar bands and artists are catching your ears these days?

DAVE ARNSON: Pell Mell were a very unique instrumental band from Portland Oregon that started in the early 1980s and actually ended up recording a few CDs for Geffen Records in the ‘90s. They had a guitar sound somewhere between the B52’s and Gang Of Four, and they also added the amazing keyboardist and producer Steve Fisk about a quarter of the way through their career. We chose to cover their early song “Par Avion” as it had a fascinating and compelling groove. Keep in mind that they weren’t really a surf band, but a very creative “instrumental” band. Another band that they shared some instincts, and bills with, were Athens, Georgia’s very creative Love Tractor. I think that the common root of those two bands was being influenced by Athens, Georgia’s very powerful Randy Bewley of Pylon, who was in turn very influenced by the B52’s’ guitarist Ricky Wilson. It’s sad that neither of those two guys are still with us.

I wrote the song “DelMarva” as an Insect Surfer song in 1981, and thought it was ripe to be finally recorded properly! The title references the Delmarva peninsula (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) which encloses the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a tribute to Link Wray, who used to live there, in Accokeek, Maryland.

These days the Europeans are really bursting with creativity on the instro scene, look for Denmark’s El Ray, Germany’s Kiluaeas, Belgium’s Los Venturas, Croatia’s Bambi Molesters, Netherlands’ Phantom 4 and Space Guards, Spain’s Los Coronas and Italy’s Surfer Joe Combo!! We played with most of them on our 5-week European tour this past summer. Here in the USA I’d have to list about 25 bands or so!

mwe3: The Insect Surfers have appeared on a variety of compilation albums over the years. What are some of your favorite instrumental guitar compilations you and the band have appeared on and can you mention some of your favorite soundtracks, movie and TV shows that have featured your music?

DAVE ARNSON: The Henry Mancini tribute Shots In The Dark (song - ”Mr. Yunioshi”) on Del-Fi and the Blood Red Records’ Mondo Drive-In (song - “Zorba's Theme”) would be two favorites and definitely the Rhino Records surf music box set Cowabunga! - A History Of Surf Music (song - ”Polaris”). Sadly they’re all out of print now, although if you can still find our Greek 'best of' compilation Satellite Beach on Green Cookie records, they're all on there! We’ve appeared on over twenty comps in the past few decades. We recently did a nifty version of Bowie’s "Speed Of Life" from the UK Ziggy Played Surf Guitar compilation.

We’ve had our own music featured in TV shows like Las Vegas and Californication, and have had music in a lot of surfing videos like Wingnut's Guide To Longboarding, Girls Rip, Longboard Fever, and a few others. Only movie action so far has been a couple of 1996 triple Z-grade-direct-to VHS heinousities called Toad Warrior and Alien Beach Party Massacre.

mwe3: In the CD liner notes for Infra Green you mention your guitars, especially the 1961 SG. That’s been your go-to guitar for years. What do you like best about the SG? How about other guitars you like and can you tell us about which pedals and amps you used on the Infra Green CD?

DAVE ARNSON: The old SG has a great tone, neck and whammy bar. From 1980 to ’88 I played a Ventures Mosrite and a G&L, but they were both stolen out of my car! So, going back to the first guitar I ever bought, in high school, the SG, I realized that it sounded great through a Fender amp! It takes kind of a beating with my constant jumping around and Townshend wind milling, so I have a couple Epiphone copies, a white 3-pickup and a Pelham Blue model that I use for backups as well. I sometimes use a Danelectro Innuendo, which I like, and an Italia green sparkle Modulo.

Pedals I use/used include a 1983 widebody MXR compressor and Phase 90, and Boss Tremolo and DD6 delay. I also used a Danelectro Cool Cat Fuzz on the “Radar Road” track. Mike uses a Memory Man delay and an RC booster among a couple of others. We both use Fender Super Reverb amps.

mwe3: How does your guitar sound balance out with Michael’s 335 and Tom Anderson guitars? On Infra Green you even have your guitars and Michael's guitars coming out of separate speakers, which sounds cool.

DAVE ARNSON: Eschewing the traditional Fender guitars, we are truly the heathens of surf music! However, we do use Fender amps! Even though we are both using Gibson's and other guitars, we have enough of a tonal difference to separate our sounds. The separation of each of our guitars in different channels simulates our live sound. I took a hint from Television’s great record Marquee Moon about crediting specific solos, so we just separate the channels, Mike in the left and me in the right!

mwe3: One track on the Infra Green CD getting a lot attention is the 9+ minute “Radar Road” track. How did you assemble such a stellar range of guitarists for that track which features guests Davie Allan, Paul Johnson, Jim Thomas and Ferenc Dobronyi too. Can you give some insights into that track?

DAVE ARNSON: I like to describe "Radar Road" as our ham-fisted version of “The Peter Gunn Theme”! It's a pretty basic groove, and so I had the idea of inviting other cool instro guitarists to contribute a 1-minute lead to the track and make it a fest! Fuzz-guitar god Davie Allan, Pollo Del Mar's Ferenc Dobronyi and the Mermen's Jim Thomas all sent their tracks in, but we did have the pleasure of having surf legend Paul 'Mr. Moto' Johnson live in the studio. They all have such different styles and it was a gas to get them to participate. Kudos to engineer Steve Refling on actually sync-ing everything up, as our backing tracks were recorded at another studio!

mwe3: What’s coming next for The Insect Surfers in 2014 and what other sonic avenues are you and The Insect Surfers planning to drive down next?

DAVE ARNSON: We are hoping to play some more dates outside of LA, and keep up with some new songs! We are currently deciding what song to pick for an upcoming compilation of 'surf bands doing Stones songs', it's the same label as did the Bowie comp, Cordelia Records. And we keep hoping to spread more positive Insect Surfer energy throughout the galaxy!


Thanks to Dave Arnson of The Insect Surfers @ www.InsectSurfers.com

 

 
   
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