I'm losing it up there all the time, almost knocking my own stuff over. At gigs there are times I can't hear myself too well but that has more to do with no one else wanting to hear the shit I do in their monitors. It's disorienting. You hear weird phantom sounds that sound like another guitar or a ghostly kick drum. I do have to keep myself a little isolated for the continuity of the group.

-Noel Von Harmonson


Other Music

Most of the band has other projects that shine further light on their varied musical personalities. Besides Chasny's previously mentioned outlets and Kushner's spectacular soft rockers Colossal Yes, the most well known is Miller's mutated '70s Camaro rock franchise, Howlin' Rain, whose self-titled debut last year ended up on almost as many Best of 2006 lists as Avatar.

Howlin' Rain
"In Comets I'm a fifth of the writing and I'm trying to seek the abnormal or maybe the perfect heavy riff. Both of those are harder than writing good time tunes," observes Miller. "It's fun to attempt a folk-jazz-soft rock record. That's not something Comets is going to do. Nor should we! We came as close to that as we should come [on Avatar]. The next thing is going to be a brutal holocaust [laughs]. Actually, there's no way to know what the next chapter will be with Comets. It's all down to different methodology each time."

The 2007 edition of Howlin' Rain is guitarist Mike Jackson, bassist Ian Gradek, drummer Garrett Goddard (Colossal Yes, The Cuts), keyboardist Joel Robinow (Drunk Horse), and occasionally Eli Eckert (Drunk Horse), who Miller says is joining the new sessions "as a super human guitar dude to lay down some sweet solos."

Miller is attempting to build their sophomore release around "a loose literary theme of outlaw-ism." He explains, "There's one song about this guy with sadistic tendencies who goes to fight in Iraq and becomes involved in the torture scene there. He finds it's the ultimate realization of his abilities and desires, but when he comes back there's no place for a torturer at home. He ends up in El Rey, the mythical place in crime fiction where once you pull off your perfect heist you can pay to live in this crook's paradise in Mexico. There's another song about some riverboat people after the Apocalypse. It's got some dark spots but this [album] will be folkier, jazzier."

Ben Chasny
Six Organs of Admittance
"I like classic albums. You throw on a Clapton record, a Crosby-Nash record, and they're not trying to pull one over on you. Some of the hooks are almost embarrassingly fun, like the 'doo doo doo' part at the end of 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.' Come on! I think there's just as much a place for that kind of stuff. I don't believe that low art and high art are separate," continues Miller. "I know a lot of people who think the Allman Brothers or The Dead are too soft or grooving. They're not trying to beat you over the head. They're on a different trip. People these days like to be attacked a bit more, but that kind of stuff sure moves me."

Unquestionably, the biggest freak bomb in the solo stuff is Von Harmonson's one-man mind-fuck, Born On The 4th Of July. "I always laugh when I listen to it. It's inhuman to a level that it seems like it couldn't be born of a human mind," remarks Von Harmonson. "It's only mixer feedback. There's no input, no sound going in. There's no first sound. I turn the gear on and it makes this feedback and I constantly play catch-up with it. I got into this after hanging out with the Wolf Eyes dudes. [John] Olson asked me about my Comets rig, 'So, those two PA heads you have, do you just plug them into each other and make a bunch of noise?' I told him no, and asked what's up with that? He told me if you plug the output into the input it will start doing stuff. It's what his whole rig is about. I went home and did it and was instantly elated at how I could make sounds that reminded me of '60s electronic records like [Morton] Subotnik. That stuff blows my fucking mind. Have you heard The Andromeda Strain soundtrack? That's sort of what I'm going for, that no holds barred, spontaneous, linear composition. I turn the rig on and it's like getting on the saddle of a wild horse and riding it until it stops."

Chasny and Von Harmonson also have a duo record in the wings. "We went into our practice space about a year ago with a four-track to record live - me with electronics and Ben doing total Keiji Heino guitar stuff, punching his guitar, us jamming long and hard," enthuses Von Harmonson. "It's got eight-minute tracks and it's fucking brutal! It's gonna be a monster. Chasny's playing on it is so great that if I played it for you and didn't tell you who the other player was or even what instrument he's playing you wouldn't even think it was guitar."

Lucky Enough

Comets On Fire
Their success, critically and otherwise, sort of baffles them. On the surface, they make some of the most non-commercial music anyone has ever conceived. Yet, the truth and power of the Comets reaches folks if they've got the right ears. Kushner says, "We've had a lot of luck. It's unbelievable that we've done such little touring and had day jobs and our own lives. I'm surprised we've gotten away with what we have. I think we're lucky Sub Pop realized we're really weekend warrior guys [laughs]."

Miller reflects, "I was talking to Utrillo the other day on the way home from practice about this. There was a time we worked really hard for everything we got. We still do [work hard] but there was a moment where we had to work extra hard for every thing we got. I kind of have this perspective that we've worked so fucking hard for this that we're now getting what we deserve for that hard work AND we're fuckin' lucky, too! I took that for granted but luck is a part of reality – in life, in this band, for anyone. You can work your ass off and still not have these kinds of crazy breaks."

JamBase | California
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[Published on: 3/15/07]

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PattyK starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/15/2007 10:54AM
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Love it!

kyuss1313 starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/15/2007 07:40PM
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these guys are fucking amazing. kudos jambase for having the balls to mention this band. they are truly innovative and mind-blowing and anyone who has an ear for truly progressive sounding rock/folk/whatever you want to call it should give 'em a whirl. avatar is one of this decades finest releases...

mcmanust Fri 3/16/2007 07:50AM
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this is one the craziest bands out there, I love Howlin' Rain too

Tan starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/16/2007 12:04PM
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Band rocks. Straight up.

jimsan Sat 3/17/2007 06:19AM
Show -4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
snappy Sat 3/17/2007 06:41AM
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Why is it that a LOT of people think one thing can't rock if another one does? Clearly, someone who thinks Papa Roach rocks but Comets doesn't has vastly different tastes than Tanner or myself (the writer of this piece). But, I rarely feel the need to piss on someone else's parade. Sometimes, for musical reasons, I can be critical but I try to allow for the love others have for an artist.

You'd have to put a fisherman's hook in my head to get me inside a Dave Matthews gig but I fully respect how someone might dig him. Respect is easier to give than enthusiasm but maybe that's not true for everyone.

jimsan Sat 3/17/2007 08:08AM
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deftone984 Mon 3/19/2007 08:35AM
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dude, shut up.

All Loving Liberal White Guy Mon 3/19/2007 03:31PM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

this is a righetous band. rock on jambase!!! keep the hard heavy music for the mind a comin.

mreezal Tue 3/20/2007 06:13PM
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hey man, are you really down with papa roach and fall out boy?? you, jimsan, are the phoniest baller around

All Loving Liberal White Guy Wed 3/21/2007 05:13PM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

papa roach? whatever happened to them? boy, did they suck. didn't they do that "losin my strength, losin my mind song" with that video with all the emo kids who cut themselves? either way, this comets on fire piece is the real shiznit, go get their new album. it'll blow you away. while thier album avatar is mezmerizing, the one before it (blue cathedral) takes 30 years of psych rock to the level of DEFCON 1.

recked Wed 3/28/2007 08:23PM
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Anyone heard Noel's solo cd "Born on the 4th of July"?

kdringg starstarstarstarstar Tue 4/3/2007 11:00AM
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Very well written piece about a great underground band who everyone should check out.

JamMasterJizzle Sun 4/8/2007 01:54PM
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Six Organs on Fire!!!