Six Organs of Admittance's epic Ascent was inspired by a dream
Rather than seeming disappointed or bitter, Ben Chasny has a pretty good sense of humour about being one of the most criminally overlooked guitar heroes currently toiling in the rock ’n’ roll trenches. Part of this is because he knows he’s definitely got his fans.
“I think people would be shocked at how not-popular I am compared to the amount of press that I get,” Chasny says with a laugh, on the line from a San Diego tour stop. “People are probably like, ‘Whoa—that guy is everywhere.’ It’s more like, ‘No—this is still pretty cult-style.’ But as far as that cult goes, by this time there’s a pretty core group of people who are into what I do. And I can’t ask for any more than that.”
As the guitarist—who performs under the name Six Organs of Admittance—hints at, more than a few of those who’ve been following his decade-and-a-half solo career tend to write for a living. That explains why you’ll find Chasny being championed by everyone from basement-dwelling bloggers to respected glossies like Guitar World, the latter recently profiling the Massachusetts-based axeman in the wake of his stellar latest record, Ascent.
It’s pretty easy to see what the fuss is about, especially this time out. Chasny had grand ambitions, to the point where—while he hesitates to use the term “concept record”—he will allow that Ascent tells a story inspired by a dream he had. The quick sketch of that story goes something like this: dude escapes Earth and looks to find life elsewhere, presumably drifting through the cosmos to the album’s spacier meditations like “Solar Ascent” or the acoustic number “Your Ghost”.
Chasny has never chained himself to any one particular genre, both with Six Organs and his other project, hi-test psych-rockers Comets on Fire. On 2009’s Top 10–calibre Luminous Night, which came together while he was living in Seattle, the guitarist was in a melancholy mood, the songs having an exotic vibe suggesting he’d spent more than one night hitting a hookah in Turkey.
Flash forward three years—and three records—and Chasny is in a louder and more trippy space. Which is another way of saying that if you’ve been waiting for Comets on Fire to follow up its 2006 scorcher Avatar, you won’t be disappointed by massive wah-wah freakouts like Ascent’s “Waswasa” or “One Thousand Birds”. Onboard to give the songs maximum punch are his Comets bandmates. But even though Chasny is still the star of the show, he doesn’t see things that way.
“I don’t see how anyone who would pick up one of those magazines like Guitar World would even slightly listen to this record,” he says with a self-deprecating laugh. “I think there are a lot of guitar players who’d listen to a song like ‘One Thousand Birds’ and be like, ‘That’s fucking awful—I could do better than that.’ ”
Six Organs of Admittance plays the Waldorf on Tuesday (October 2).