In praise of Sleep
Two local busters cap off an evening of indie rock with a visual exploration of stoner metal
The first time local artist and rapper Aye Jay Morano discovered the viscous heavy metal of San Francisco band Sleep, he saw that it was good.
“My friend Noel Ficken played me ‘Jerusalem,’ which is an incredible 52-minute song based around one metal riff,” says Morano. “And after I read the lyrics—which are basically all about weed—I realized that it was an amazing work of art. It was ambitious and something that I immediately thought would lend itself well to a visual interpretation. … I’m actually looking on E-bay for an unedited version that is even longer than an hour.”
A recent father heavily involved in the local scene for years, both as a poster artist and member of hip-hop duo The Becky Sagers, Morano soon enlisted the help of fellow artist and DJ Matt Loomis. The two planned a live visual-art project to be titled, “High on Jerusalem: a Visual Interpretation of Sleep’s ‘Jerusalem.’ “
After a busy night of guitar rock held at the Senator on Friday, Dec. 14, that will include performances from Chico’s own North Magnetic (fronted by respected songwriter Kelly Bauman) and Portland’s visiting The Swords Project (featuring former Chicoan and Land of the Wee Beasties guitarist Corey Ficken), Morano and Loomis will take the stage with a large blank canvas. Cranking up the slow, molten groove of “Jerusalem,” they will proceed to paint their undoubtedly heartfelt impressions of the song (à la Peter Max)—a song that includes garbled lyrics such as the following:
Drop out of life with bong in hand
Follow the smoke toward the riff filled land (repeat)
Proceeds the Weedian, Nazareth …
Lungsmen unearth the creed of Hasheeshian Lebanon
Desert legion smoke covenant in complete …
Herb bails retied onto the backs of beasts
Ride out believer with spliff aflame
Grow room is church temple of the new stoner breed …
Earthling inserts to chalice the green cutchie
Groundation soul finds trust upon smoking hose.
Loomis explains that although Sleep has broken up since cutting the 1998 song, the group is a popular cult favorite featured in such counterculture magazines as LSD (Life Sucks Die). He also says that the original group boasted a Chicoan as member, guitarist Justin Marler.
“When I moved to Chico, everybody was talking about that band,” Loomis says. “Right now, stoner metal is getting popular again—real metal, not the new garbage. That’s basically what this project is for me, a tribute to metal.”
Loomis says that after the performance the artists hope to keep the finished painting on display in the Senator if possible, or perhaps locate a member of the band Sleep and present it to him as a gift.
“There are a lot of artists in this town,” adds Morano. “We think that a lot of local art is either taken for granted or taken too seriously.”
“Yeah,” agrees Loomis. “Nobody’s doing it for the giggles-'n'-shits fun of it anymore.”
Morano says that it should be interesting for audiences to watch and experience the creative process—even backed by an hour of one non-stop heavy metal riff.
Loomis has currently started his own metal band in Chico called Razor Death Squad, a group that combines three bass players, a drummer and Loomis spinning various guitar solos on wax. Though shut out from the local Painfest Metal extravaganza, Loomis said the group hopes to play its first gig possibly on New Year’s Eve. He is also actively trying to bring Oakland’s High on Fire, a spinoff metal group consisting of members of Sleep, to Chico soon—a gig his band would like to open.
“We’re the most dangerous band in Chico,” Loomis adds. “And we’re still looking for a singer.”
Interested lungsmen can find Loomis working the used side of Tower Records.
As of press time, original Sleep guitarist Matt Pike—who penned the song "Jerusalem"—had yet to return an email for comment on the visual dedication.