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Isaiah Mitchell, Earthless

Stoked to be chatting again! Since we last spoke we’ve had a pretty decent upgrade in your Orange gear, can you run us through it?
Isaiah:
I just recently got the Custom Shop 50 which I’m really enjoying. It’s my favourite amp of all the new stuff you guys are making. I’m still getting used to it, but I think it’s gonna do the trick! I also got the Tremlord 30 which is a great combo! The reverb and tremolo together is very spacey and beautiful, and it’s very easy to get lost in this amp. I also just got another 4×12 cab and an amazing 2×12 cab that I’m really digging, and think needs to come on tour with the Crowes. I’ve been an Orange cabinet guy since I was a teenager, they’re just the best cabs out there.
 
Yeah, on the subject of that, you’ve joined The Black Crowes which is rad – Congratulations! How did that all come about?
Isaiah:
Thanks! Chris Robinson is a buddy and he asked me to audition. I was surprised when I got the call that I got the gig. They can get anybody, and I’m very grateful that that anybody was me. 
 
So far the only Black Crowes dates out there are across the US, are you hitting Europe and the UK too?
Isaiah:
This is gonna be a full on 30 year anniversary reunion tour. It’s going beyond the US. 
 
Will you be able to fit some Earthless in between the battles?
Isaiah:
We’re working on new material as we speak, and will try to release a new album before I start getting really busy, we’ll fit it in where we can. That’s always been our dynamic. Individually we do different projects from time to time, which keeps things fresh. I can’t ever see not doing Earthless. 

As well as being a recording artist and touring musician, you also teach guitar – how did you get into that?
Isaiah:
I started teaching at a guitar shop called Moonlight Music in Encinitas California when I was 17. I love working with kids, so that’s where it started. I really loved teaching, and that was also another way to make money with a guitar in my hand. I wanted to be a school teacher when I was young, so this was the appropriate marriage of the two different worlds of work. Now I teach online classes, and I have a handful of in person lessons when I’m stationary in the Bay Area. If anyone’s interested email me at eyezaya1@gmail.com. I’m always taking new students!

What would be your main advise to aspiring musicians?
Isaiah:
Be yourself. Play from your heart and play your ass off. Keep your ego in check. Stay humble. Ask questions. It’s about music and creating……..at least to me it is.
 
Which albums are you currently listening to?
Isaiah:
Early Johnny Winter, Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchidananda”, J.J. Cale’s “5”, a bunch of Rory Gallagher and Joe Walsh & Barnstorm bootlegs, been pretty guitar heavy lately. 
 
Any final words of wisdom or stories from the road?
Isaiah:
Don’t burn the candle at both end. Give em a good show. Don’t rip your fans off. That’s why you’re doing what you do. Treat it with respect and give them a performance they’ll never forget. 

Once again Desertfest London has gone and done it and put together yet another cracking lineup for this year’s festival featuring bands and artists such as OM, Fu Manchu, Earthless, All Them Witches, Kadavar, Electric Citizen, Witch and more. We might still be a while away, but we’re impatiently waiting as we count down for the festivities to begin.

The festival is held every so slightly later than usual this year as it’s taking place over the weekend 3rd to 5th of May, and as spring should have properly sprung by this point we’re hoping for even sunnier conditions than last year – there is just something beautiful about casually bumping into about 98% of the people you know drinking sunny pints at 3.45 on a Friday in the designated Desertfest area outside the Black Heart, browsing through records and merch while chatting along. 

Desertfest means madness to us at Orange, and we’d probably all clone ourselves if we could to stretch out between the different venues to catch all the bands as well as conducting all the interviews, shoots and unsuccessfully trying to upload Instagram stories while in our favourite but 4G-less basement at The Underworld. In many ways, it’s very much like a wedding, our wedding – lots of planning and excitement during the months leading up to it, until day one’s all of a sudden there and you’re jet launched into an overwhelming experience of people to talk to and a gallon of booze thrown into the mix. Not your average day in the office, and sometimes it’s hard to differ between working hard or hardly working – somehow the two go hand in hand delightfully during this weekend.

As always, there’s always some acts that excite me to the point of explosion, last year it was Hawkwind who’s set timed perfectly with me finishing all interviews for the weekend, allowing embrace the space and go full Rainbow Rhythms in the crowd during their set. This year I’ve got my heart set on Earthless at The Roundhouse despite having seen them a whole bunch a times before, the last one being at Brighton’s The Haunt where I for a second thought I’d take off into hyperspace during the 20 minute long into. My heart sings for Earthless, the finest psych connoisseurs and masters of their instruments, and some of the kindest people in the industry. I spoke to guitarist Isaiah about his expectations towards the gig, and being one of the bands chosen to close the festival at Roundhouse on the Sunday;

Earthless at Islington Assembly Hall April 2018

“We’re stoked and honoured and excited to be playing with all these bands that we love, and to play a venue such as the Roundhouse makes the whole thing even sweeter! We can’t wait to get to London and let it all out.”
– Isaiah Mitchell, Earthless

Another band I’m genuinely stoked to see at the Roundhouse is All Them Witches – having first seen the band play London’s Lexington just three years ago it’s incredible to think how much they’ve grown during those years, from Lexington to Scala to Koko to the Roundhouse – almost sounds like a classic case of “dreams come true”. Having recently parted with their keyboard player the band is now performing as a three piece, so seeing how they’ve adapted their music to be performed one man down is pretty exciting. Everyone loves a power trio, and ATW might just be the next big one.

Day passes and weekend tickets are up for grabs via Desertfest London’s website, so get your hands on yours before it’s too late.

As far as current music goes, not many bands, most likely none, can compare to Earthless. Their musical craftsmanship is out of this world, and they’ve created an explosion of emerging psych bands coming out of San Diego and the surrounding areas. But then again, when Isaiah Mitchell used to be the local Encinitas guitar teacher, what else can you expect? Having obsessed over Earthless since I first came across them years ago in my bedroom back at my mum’s in Norway, they’ve always seemed like these unattainable gods from sunny California, so when I recently was told Isaiah would be playing Orange during their next UK and European tour… Ahh, yes, I was so stoked. About freakin’ time, he’s only the Hendrix of our generation.

You’ve been pretty busy touring lately as well as just releasing your latest record ‘Black Heaven’ on Nuclear Blast Records, which is an amazing record, but also pretty different from your earlier stuff.
Isaiah: It’s super different, we didn’t expect it to be exactly the way it was when it came out, but we’re all happy with the end result. We knew we were gonna do at least one song with vocals, but we didn’t expect it to be four songs, that kind of just happened. Those were the strongest songs, so by natural selection they ended up on the album.

You’ve obviously been singing in Golden Void for years, and I also heard rumours about a band from way back called ‘Juan Peso’ where you also used to sing?
Isaiah: Oh wow, yeah that’s from when I was about 19, and you have to do a lot of digging to find any of that online. You might get lucky on youtube but that’ll be it. I’ve always sung in bands, but for Earthless we just didn’t want to do it, it wasn’t our thing. It’s been fun not doing it, but it’s also been fun throwing it in there, do something different.

Last time I saw you guys in California you were using an old Orange cab, and tonight you’ve got a full Orange backline! Care to run us through the two?
Isaiah: I got that 4×12 cab when I was 17 or 18 from a music shop in Encinitas called ‘Moonlight Music’, I used to work at this shop and my boss Russell had two brand new Orange 4×12, I think both early 90s, maybe even late 80s cabs in the garage of his house. We didn’t have any other 4×12’s in the shop, so he told me I should get one of them, and I was just shocked when I saw them, they were so – Orange! At that point in my life I’d never seen an Orange in the flesh before, I was just a kid and they weren’t very common in the US at the time, my only ever encounter at that point was this old Black Sabbath video with Paul Shaffer in the background, and Sabbath playing ‘Iron Man’. Sabbath were using Orange amps there instead of their usual Laney amps, and they just stuck right out due to the bright colour!

I ended up taking the cab of his hands, and putting it up against any other cabs like old Marshalls or whatever, my Orange would just always sound better. Maybe it’s because the walls on the Orange are so thick compared to others, especially Marshalls’ who’s really thin, I don’t know, but there’s just no competition in any other amps, the Orange would just always do it better. For this UK and European tour, I’ve also got two Orange heads, a Rockerverb MK II and a Rockerverb MK II and they’ve been treating me well. Our sound guy’s really into Orange as well so he’s happy – we’re all happy!

There’s a lot of emerging psych bands coming out of San Diego at the moment with you guys being one of the first ones on the scene more than a decade ago, and Radio Moscow and Sacri Monti bassist Anthony Meier even described you as ‘the godfathers of San Diego’ last time I spoke to him, singing your praises, as most people do – it must be crazy though to have had that sort of effect on your hometown and the place you’re from, leading the way for all these other bands and artists. Obviously, they’ve all had Earthless to look up to, who was it that stood out to you when you guys first got together and formed Earthless?
Isaiah: First of all, I love Dukke (Anthony), he’s just great! We’ve toured with Radio Moscow and it’s always a good time with those guys. To answer your question; Definitely Jimi Hendrix, Cream and all the other great British blues guys who played loud amps. Blue Cheer, a bunch of German kraut bands as well as Japanese bands. When I was a kid growing up I didn’t know of any current bands that were doing that whole Cream style of playing where you’ve got half stacks or full stacks, I had never seen that before in my time. Then I met Mike and we started playing together in Lions of Judah which kinda made my dream come true as he was into all of those things as well. Then one day, someone sat me down and made me check out Nebula’s ‘To the Center’ album and I saw the picture on the back where they were just using all this old, rad gear, and I just had no idea that kinda stuff still existed. All that stuff was influential to me, and still is. I’m also really stoked about the whole emerging San Diego psych thing, it’s a really cool thing to be a part of, especially when you have all these rad bands citing us as influences, it’s an honour.


As I finish typing, I schedule this post for posting 19th of April at 2pm, knowing very well that mere two hours later I’ll be attending the first of three Earthless shows at this years Roadburn festival, and my endorphin level is through the roof just thinking about it.

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