Local cosmic sound maven Ayal Senior has been keeping busy since Hershel Savage and the American Flag dissolved, notably compiling the writings of John Fahey for the book Vampire Vultures (Drag City) and collaborating with Fahey on the Three Day Band (Important) disc of motel-room-recorded improv scree. More recently, Senior’s been playing with Crystal Fingers and will be casting six-string spells opening for MV & EE with the Golden Road at the Tranzac (292 Brunswick), tonight (Thursday, June 26), 8 pm. $5. myspace.com/ayalsr.
Whatever happened to Hershel Savage and the American Flag?
We got a big grant from the Canadian government to do an East Coast tour with Guided by Voices and then recorded some sessions at the CBC, and all of what was happening was going to our heads. Evan Weisblott and I had a clash of egos and split over artistic differences while recording our second album, but mostly it was a lot of fun being in that sunshine super party band.
Were you a fan of John Fahey’s music before working with him?
We began a friendship without my knowing anything about his recorded output and his immense contribution to the geography of American independent music through his Takoma label and later Revenant. We shared interests in just about everything apart from music. I think we connected because I have a special interest in the history of spirituality with respect to Judaism, and he had an affinity for Jewish people and told me he suspected he might be Jewish himself.
How did you end up recording together?
Our relationship didn’t really have a musical aspect until we got into a room together and just started to throw down unpretentiously. We certainly had no intention of recording an album, but once we had something down, I think it’s safe to say that he wanted it to be heard. I don’t feel it’s as significant as anything he did for Takoma, but he’s such a giant figure on the scene. All kinds of students of his work are really curious about what he was doing during the last decade of his life, when he was moving away from playing music and expressing himself more through painting. Three Day Band gives you a good impression of his last weird days when he was trying to reinvent himself.
Fahey spent his life as an outsider artist and championing the work of fellow fringe characters, and now you’re following the same path. What’s the attraction?
There are certain artists who have this incredible capacity to see into the future. They drop their one or maybe two records and then vanish from the face of the earth, leaving behind a mysterious legacy to be uncovered by the generations that follow – people like Sandy Bull, Jackson C. Frank, Karen Dalton, Peter Walker, who seem to reach a very limited audience during their own lifetime. They each create such a deeply spiritual, hermetic form of music that gives a rare joy when hearing it because it feels like you’re listening to a kindred spirit similarly searching for something.