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The Black Angels: Psycho Las Vegas Preview

6 August 2019

Photo: Tim Bugbee

Since its move to Sin City in 2016, Psycho Las Vegas has become the pre-eminent music event for heavy music in the U.S.. What originally began in Los Angeles as a modestly size, psychedelic-focused festival is now a mammoth, four-day (including the daylong pre-party) gala featuring the cream of the crop in metal, indie rock, punk and more.

If Psycho Las Vegas has a kindred spirit, it is most likely Levitation, a four-day festival that will take place in Austin in November and feature a smattering of bands also playing Psycho: High on Fire, Power Trip, Deafheaven, Black Mountain, Danava and Devil Master.

Like Psycho Las Vegas, Levitation started in 2013 under a different name and has since expanded beyond just psychedelic rock. It is staged by the Reverberation Appreciation Society, a creative collective consisting of members of the Black Angels. The Austin quintet will play both Levitation and Psycho Las Vegas this year, performing at the latter from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. (after the Original Misfits and before the Obsessed) on Saturday, August 17, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Proving there is no competition between the festivals, Black Angels frontman Alex Mass — who sings, and plays bass, drone machine and organ for his psych-rock group — gamely granted us an email interview for our ongoing series on Psycho Las Vegas. He shared about what the Black Angels have in store for their set, his penchant for poker and how tough it is as a festival organizer to please everyone who attends.

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

Had you heard of Psycho before being invited? How did the invitation come about? I’m surprised you haven’t played it before, since Black Angels seem like such a strong fit for the festival.

MAAS: I have heard of it, [tour mates Brian Jonestown Massacre] played it before and some of the guys were telling me about it. Other friends of our friends have played it too and had nothing but good things to say about it. I love hold ‘em, so you can find me there when the fest isn’t running any longer.

What are your expectations for Psycho? Will you be there the whole weekend?

MAAS: I expect it to be nothing less than a psychotic experience.

Do you have any surprises planned for your set, whether they be songs you wouldn’t normally play, added stage elements, etc.?

MAAS: I’m sure we will be test-driving some new material.

Do you prefer playing in the heat or in the cold? Indoors or outdoors? What are the advantages and disadvantages of playing at the time and on the stage where you’re scheduled to perform?

MAAS: I prefer playing inside in the cold. I’m not sure about the disadvantages versus advantages. Festivals are a tricky thing to book. You can never please everyone, but I firsthand programming an event like this in hopes that everyone will be able to see everything is near impossible. We are just glad to be playing.

Tell me something that happened to you in Vegas that was supposed to stay in Vegas. (Or, if you’re not comfortable answering that question, tell me a colorful Vegas anecdote.)

MAAS: Let me not tell you about the counterfeiting story.

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

MAAS: Dead Meadow, Tobacco, Black Mountain, Godspeed, Mark Lanegan.

[Check back soon for our interview with Dead Meadow.]

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

MAAS: The same ones as above, haha!

What can fans and newcomers expect from your performance(s) at the festival?

MAAS: Fuzz, vintage organs, mellotrons, delay, reverb, menacing drums, trippy visuals by Bob [Mustachio, the Black Angels’ visual artist].

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
• Stephen McBean, singer/guitarist of long-running psychedelic-rock project Black Mountain
• 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
• 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
• 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
• Irita Pai, bassist for all-female punk-rock trio L.A. Witch
• 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
• Tobias Grave, frontman for shimmering post-rock trio Soft Kill
• Kirpatrick Thomas, vocalist/guitarist/conceptualist for acid-rockers Spindrift
• 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.