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Dead Meadow: Psycho Las Vegas Preview

12 August 2019

Photo: Tim Bugbee

As we near the end of our Psycho Las Vegas 2019 interview series, today we take a moment to revisit the festival’s inception with help from perennial participants Dead Meadow. The psych-rock band’s cofounder, singer/guitarist Jason Simon, reminisced about his days touring with future Psycho creator Evan Hagen as part of a wide-ranging phone conversation a couple of months back.

“After we met him, he came with us as a roadie and merch guy on an epically long, three-to-four-month tour in the U.S. and elsewhere,” Simon recalled about Hagen. “He was talking about this festival he wanted to create — and he did it. He said he wanted to have us play it.”

Sure enough, Dead Meadow was one of the top-billed acts at the first edition of Psycho, named “Psycho de Mayo” and held in May 2013 in Santa Ana, California. (Black Mountain, who are also playing this year’s installment, headlined the first affair.)

Dead Meadow’s bond to the Psycho deepened when the trio played the second Psycho de Mayo the following year, a date on 2015’s The Road to Psycho Tour, and at the inaugural Psycho Las Vegas in 2016. When the shoe-gazers play the festival once again on Sunday, they will return after their longest absence from it — but also become the band with the most Psycho appearances to date. (Their set will take place from 5 to 6:15 p.m. at the House of Blues.)

Simon also noted that Dead Meadow’s next Psycho performance will be their first with new drummer Juan Londono, who replaced original member Mark Laughlin after he went on hiatus from touring. The band will be supporting their 2018 album, The Nothing They Need (Xemu).

Simon — who spoke with us before the Original Misfits replaced Megadeth as Psycho Las Vegas 2019’s headliners — dished on how Psycho has evolved over the years; whether he’ll be hitting the tables at Psycho’s home base, the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino; and how Dead Meadow keep their performances fresh 20 years into their career.

[Watch our YouTube playlists for videos from each band playing at Psycho on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.]

Why are you particularly excited to play Psycho? From your point of view, what makes the festival special — both from a performance perspective and as a personal experience?

SIMON: It’s a well-curated, good time. Lots of friends’ bands are playing there. Evan’s built up a really cool destination festival.

How has the festival evolved in your opinion?

SIMON: It’s gotten a lot heavier. The first was a psych-heavy fest. Now [Evan is] expanding out again to bring in different genres of music.

It seems like, in some ways, Dead Meadow is the quintessential Psycho band.

SIMON: We try to bring in something special each time. We have the Mad Alchemy light show produced by Lance Gordon, who does the best job in the industry.

How do you feel about the venue you’re playing?

SIMON: We’re playing the HOB stage. [Evan] gave us a choice, and we thought it’d be a cool vibe. It seemed like having our show inside, we’d be able to bring in our own atmosphere.

How will it feel playing without Mark?

SIMON: We played a lot together, so it’s OK not to play every tour with him. It was the timing; he thought he’d give us a break. It’ll just change things up.

Have you ever thought about recruiting a second guitarist?

SIMON: Yeah, I’ve thought about it. I’m more into it than any of the other guys in the band. I’ve got someone in mind … . I think at some point we’ll do it, to keep things changing.

It’s hard: Once things become stagnant, you start to lose it. Our songs have a lot of space in them, so live, we keep changing them up and find room to improvise, even though there is somewhat of a structure. We are playing a few songs we’ve been re-approaching, and there will probably be some stuff people haven’t heard.

Will you be there for the entire weekend?

SIMON: I’ll be there for the whole festival, but I’m not sure if the rest of the band will be. I think it’ll be a lot of fun. There’s a holiday aspect to it.

What friends of yours are also playing at the festival? Who are you planning or hoping to hang with in your downtime?

SIMON: There’s so many people we’re friends with … these bands, we’ve grown up with them in the musical world, so it feels like a family convention. It’ll be cool to catch up with Evan.

Black Mountain and Spindrift are super-old friends of ours. But we know a lot of people who are going to the show. Some people we saw on tour are flying out for it. It’ll be a good time.

What other bands are you most excited to see perform at Psycho?

SIMON: Excited to see Megadeth, I haven’t seen them in so long. It’s super far-out to see them headlining. And Beach House is such a juxtaposition.

Do you guys gamble much?

SIMON: Not really the band, but a couple of different sound guys we have are actually really good at gambling.

Tell me something that happened to you in Vegas that was supposed to stay in Vegas.

SIMON: I wish I had crazier times in Vegas. I never had a really wild time there. Mark [Laughlin], he had some fun adventures.

There is a actually a really funny story: When we played the Matador 21 anniversary party in Vegas [a 2010 celebration for Dead Meadow’s former label], our album Three Kings had just been released. Our sound man Coatsie and his friends went out and ran into these models who thought they were these big directors — like the Coen Brothers or someone like that. [Laughs.] They whisked them away into this whole world of billionaire penthouse partying, where there was a private beach and pool.

I’ve heard a couple of stories like that. Vegas is a unique town, to say the least. Are there any special spots you like to visit in Vegas?

SIMON: There’s a tiki bar a little outside the Vegas world called Frankie’s Tiki Room. It’s a rad spot, well worth checking out, especially if you’re really into garage music.

It’s Vegas, anything can happen.

For previous installments of the Big Takeover’s Psycho Las Vegas preview series, check out our interviews with:

• Archaon, longtime guitarist for Norwegian black-metal vets 1349
• Colin H. Van Eeckhout, vocalist for Belgian post-metal purveyors Amenra
• Jason Shi and Scott Key, singer/guitarist and drummer, respectively, for melodic hard-rock masters ASG
• Jay Bentley, founding bassist for politically progressive punk pros Bad Religion
• Alex Mass, frontman for Austin psych-rock princes the Black Angels
• Stephen McBean, singer/guitarist of long-running psychedelic-rock project Black Mountain
• Zak Quiram, vocalist for hardcore newcomers Candy
• Jean-Paul Gaster, drummer for “the quintessential American rock band,” Clutch
• Jeff Walker, vocalist/bassist for extreme-metal behemoths Carcass
• Greg Meleney, vocalist/guitarist for Portland psych-rock mainstays Danava
• George Clarke, vocalist for shoegaze/black-metal powerhouses Deafheaven
• DJ Painkiller, an L.A.-based metalhead who will be spinning between sets
• Darkest Prince, lead guitarist for black-metal punks Devil Master
• Victor Vicart of Scottish progressive-metal quintet Dvne
• Laura Dolan, vocalist for Cincinnati rock ’n’ roll purists Electric Citizen
• Todd Fink, frontman for electro-pop punks the Faint
• Scott Hill, singer/guitarist for desert-rock demigods Fu Manchu
• Dylan Walker, frontman for brutal grindcore quartet Full of Hell
• Zack Simmons, drummer for blackened death-metal demigods Goatwhore
• Emil Amos, drummer for experimental post-rock band Grails
• Julien Chanut, guitarist for French sludge-doom band Hangman’s Chair
• Tim Macuga, one-half of experimental “doom-gaze” project Have a Nice Life
• Tony Campos, guitarist and founder of thrash revivalists Hell Fire
• Nashville cosmic-riff connoisseurs Howling Giant
• Gabriel Franco, vocalist/guitarist for gothy post-punks Idle Hands
• Joshy, drummer for crusty death/doom-metal outfit Ilsa
• Tiger, drummer for German psych/stoner throwback trio Kadavar
• Irita Pai, bassist for all-female punk-rock trio L.A. Witch
• Julian Porte, frontman for L.A. psych-rock collective Levitation Room
• Johanna Sadonis, vocalist for “heavy magic rock” band Lucifer
• Invincible crooner and former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan
• Stuart Braithwaite, founding guitarist/vocalist for beloved post-rock legends Mogwai
• Kelly Finnigan, frontman for Bay Area psychedelic-soul quartet Monophonics
• Thomas Eriksen, centrifugal force behind true Norwegian black-metallers Mork
• Teddi Tarnoff, frontwoman of “Vegas-based dirty rock ’n’ roll band” Mother Mercury
• All-female Motörhead tribute band Motorbabe
• Justin Anthony Maranga, lead guitarist for L.A. hard-rock quintet Night Horse
• Wino, godfather of doom metal and frontman for the Obsessed
• Mikael Åkerfeldt, frontman for Swedish progressive-metal kings Opeth
• Ben Bloom, frontman/guitarist for funk-soul octet Polyrhythmics
• Riley Gale, vocalist for Dallas crossover-trash specialists Power Trip
• Ethan Lee McCarthy, frontman for blackened-doom trio Primitive Man
• Mlny Parsonz, singer for Atlanta hard-rock diehards Royal Thunder
• Tobias Grave, frontman for shimmering post-rock trio Soft Kill
• Kirpatrick Thomas, vocalist/guitarist/conceptualist for acid-rockers Spindrift
• Joey Dalo and Mario Rubio, vocalist and guitarist, respectively, for L.A. metal quintet Thrown Into Exile
• Experimental rock, alternative hip-hop and dance music guru Tobacco
• Derrick Vella, guitarist of death-metal arsonists Tomb Mold
• Niklas Källgren, guitarist for Swedish fuzz fanatics Truckfighters
• Los Angeles Satanic doo-wop duo Twin Temple
• Kevin Starrs, frontman of British fuzz royalty Uncle Acid and the deadbeats
• Sean Killian, vocalist for cult-favorite Bay Area thrash band Vio-lence
• Mike Hubbard, vocalist-drummer for reunited Massachusetts doom-metal band Warhorse
• Bruce Lamont, frontman for experimental heavy-jazz project Yakuza and Led Zeppelin tribute band Led Zeppelin 2
• Aaron Rieseberg, bassist for Oregon doom-metal dealers Yob

Also, don’t miss our special feature in which Deafheaven’s Clarke and Mogwai’s Braithwaite discuss their mutual affection for each other’s bands, whether Deafheaven should play their Mogwai cover at Psycho Las Vegas — and the possibility of a collaboration between the two projects.