Northern Transmissions caught up with Ben Asbury, AKA Axxa/Abraxas. His self titled debut LP on Captured Tracks comes out March 4th.
NT: The new album is full of new wave and textured pop sounds, which fits in well within the Captured Tracks roster. Did you know from the onset that this was the label you wanted to work with?
BA: I’ve been a big fan of the music that Captured Tracks has released since I first found out about it around 4 years ago or so, but I almost didn’t send them a demo. It was kind of a last minute thing, where I had one blank CD left and the Captured Tracks website said that they listen to demos and preferred cds over tapes. I’m very glad to be working with them, but I really didn’t expect to hear back from them. Just something that worked out way better than I could have imagined.
NT: You developed an appreciation of analog synthesizers over the last few years, which has a strong influence on the record. What attracted you to this technology?
BA: While I’m very much a rock-n-roll kinda dude, I also listen to a lot of experimental music. I got into synths so I could make electronic/ ambient/drone stuff and analog synths just seem to sound better. The organ synth I use for all the Axxa stuff sounds so sick. It just fits with the music well. The synth interludes on the LP are culled from a tape of spacey synth music I put out on my tape label “RTA Art Collective” that I made with my more sophisticated synth. The limited version of the LP comes with a reissue of that tape, as well as a cloth print I designed and hand screened, on red vinyl. It’s a pretty sick package.
NT: When you talk about the track “I Almost Fell”, you’ve said that it “touches on how ideas and experiences that seem significant at one point in time can seem so trivial in retrospect.” Can you talk a bit about that quote?
BA: It’s like the mind encompassing itself repeatedly into infinity, layer upon layer. New experiences change how we view the world and more recent changes seem more impactful. You repeatedly think you’ve figured ‘it’ out, just to find that there is still another layer to peel back to get to the core of it all. Human existence is a weird experience, but I think we all overthink everything to make sense of it.
NT: Did your studies in religion, psychology, and sociology have an influence on you while writing the album?
BA: Lyrically yes, definitely. I start developing lyrics through stream of consciousness, so all the things floating around my head find their way into the mix. I’m extremely fascinated by how people think and how that leads them to interact with others in their particular way. People are weird, period. It’s interesting to think about that.
NT: You started collecting music in the third grade. How big is your record collection? Is their a title that has eluded you after all these years, one you are still looking for?
BA: Well, when I moved a couple months ago it took 10 boxes to pack up my records, so my record collection is entirely too big. There’s always a giant list of records I want, but I’m a record store kind of guy so I’m limited to what they’ve got in stock. It’s really hard to find records that just don’t come in all that often, so I end up getting a lot of reissues. I was recently introduced to a band from the 60’s call the Kitchen Cinq. I’d like to get their LP but it appears to have never been reissued, and its like $40 or more on Discogs. Maybe someday.
NT: Tell us a bit about the name Axxa/Abraxis. What’s the origin of it? What inspired you to use it?
BA: Axxa came from my dad and Abraxas came from ‘Demian’ by Hermann Hesse. Axxa is ambiguous in meaning but can fold into itself and definitely meant something important to my dad. Abraxas is a gnostic godhead that’s all encompassing, light/dark, good/evil, that kinda thing. Karl Jung wrote about Abraxas when an early AD gnostic prophet was speaking through him during the time when he was writing what became the Red Book. I continue to find more about both concepts, so the meaning changes over time, just like our understanding of life. I just gradually started using the name. I don’t think I ever had a sudden revelation that I should use that moniker, it just kinda happened.
NT: Which five albums are inspiring you these days?
The Human Expression – Love at a Psychedelic Velocity (cool 60’s psych reissue on Mississippi Records)
Television Personalities – The Painted Word (when TVP started getting less poppy and way more depressing. Awesome songwriting on this record.)
Circulatory System – Signal Morning (Post Olivia Tremor Control band with a lot of the same members. This record came out right after I moved to Athens, GA. The way this album transitions and flows is incredible.)
Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum (This album is incredible, all of the songs are super well written, all the instruments have great tones, her voice is beautiful. The LP came with a cd and its literally been in my car for the entirety of the time I’ve lived in Asheville.)
Neu! – Neu! (Krautrock jams for days, definitely finds its way into how we play my record live. This record is such a classic, it really never gets old to me.)