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
cant believe its been ten years since our last release!
Which also explains why its an hour long, we had so much material
to get out!' The
is filled with a sonic array of original guitar instrumentalswell
recorded and quite well matched with a musical precision that cant
be beat. Arnsons Insect Surfer band matesfellow guitarist
Michael Abraham, bassist Jonpaul Balak and drummer Jeff
Utterbackare 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
mwe3.com presents an interview
DAVE ARNSON of The Insect Surfers
Its been a while since the last Insect Surfers album so its
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 cant believe its been ten years since our last release!
Which also explains why its 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 its sonically the best thing that weve recorded.
mwe3: Whats 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. Hes 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 Clarkes
violin player! But Mike totally gets it and is a spectacular
addition. Hes definitely added some new textures and techniques
to the bands sound. On our song Vaquita, I make
dolphin sounds with my guitar, and he came back at me by making seagull
noises with his!
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 B52s 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 werent really
a surf band, but a very creative instrumental band. Another
band that they shared some instincts, and bills with, were Athens,
Georgias very creative Love Tractor. I think that the common
root of those two bands was being influenced by Athens, Georgias
very powerful Randy Bewley of Pylon, who was in turn very influenced
by the B52s guitarist Ricky Wilson. Its sad that
neither of those two guys are still with us.
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. Its 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 Denmarks El Ray, Germanys Kiluaeas,
Belgiums Los Venturas, Croatias Bambi Molesters, Netherlands
Phantom 4 and Space Guards, Spains Los Coronas and Italys
Surfer Joe Combo!! We played with most of them on our 5-week European
tour this past summer. Here in the USA Id 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 theyre 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! Weve appeared on over
twenty comps in the past few decades. We recently did a nifty version
of Bowies "Speed Of Life" from the UK Ziggy Played
Surf Guitar compilation.
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
mwe3: In the CD liner notes for Infra Green you mention
your guitars, especially the 1961 SG. Thats 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 Michaels
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.
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 Televisions 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
mwe3: Whats coming next for The Insect Surfers in 2014
and what other sonic avenues are you and The Insect Surfers planning
to drive down next?
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
Thanks to Dave Arnson of The Insect Surfers @ www.InsectSurfers.com