Photo: Matthew Eloy
A Million Billion Dying Suns, the project of San Francisco’s Nate Mercereau, released its debut Strawberry EP last month. Nate is a busy dude – just last week he played three shows in three nights with Banks at the Rickshaw, Sheila E at Yoshi’s, and an AMBDS performance at the Knockout.
I chatted with Nate via email about transcending, precise drum mic placement, and hashtag genres among other things, in a conversation you can read below. After the interview, see the video for “Plush”, which features the most shredtastic solo I’ve heard in a long, long time, and then take in the sounds of “Hey Man”. Both tracks will melt your face, and coincidentally are on Strawberry EP, which is available for download on Bandcamp. AMBDS plays the Stork Club in Oakland on December 20.
The Bay Bridged: Why “A Million Billion Dying Suns”?
Nate Mercereau: I’ve watched enough Cosmos to know that when explosions happen in space, everything collapses in on itself, forming one super dense thing of matter. To me it means, “we’re all one, man.” It’s a positive thing and reminder of perspective.
TBB: Who is “A Million Billion Dying Suns”?
NM: AMBDS is me in the studio, + my friends The Park when we play live. They are also an integral part to the creative process with their general moral support and high fives.
TBB: How was this album recorded?
NM: I recorded this set of songs in San Francisco between my apartment near Ocean Beach and our rehearsal studio in Bayshore. The drum sounds are from a cocktail kit for which I found the perfect mic placement (1.5 iphones from the snare, 3 from the kick, closer to the hi hat side, you can keep that). Lots of old guitars thru terrible fuzz pedals, weird yamaha keyboards with the speakers in them (the kind your parents gave you in 5th grade cause they weren’t sure if you were serious or not). Brought my pile of sound to my friends at Different Fur and Patrick Brown made it crispy. I love those guys.
TBB: You’ve played crazy number of genres – how did the AMBDS sound come to be?
NM: Playing a lot of different styles has taught me a lot about how to perform live, regardless of genre, to get the point of the music across, which is ultimately transcendence. The Suns sound is more guitar/rock focused because that’s what I want to hear right now, but I try to maintain the idea of transcendence through everything we do. If the song doesn’t take you somewhere else, it’s not happening, regardless of genre.
TBB: Is AMBDS the ideal style/genre for you to play, or is there an ideal sound/genre for you to play?
NM: There’s no ideal, I want to make AMBDS an open enough of a platform that we can do our interpretation of whatever ideas we want to work with. The only criteria for our sound is for it to have that instant transcendental quality. There are things we do that I’ve learned from working with R&B and funk artists, but you wouldn’t recognize it as that from just listening to the recordings. It’s a feel thing, we respond to our surroundings.
TBB: What’s the biggest difference between playing a show at the Greek and a show at, say, Brick and Mortar? Is it difficult to shift gears to play these different environments, or do you need to?
NM: Everything is mostly the same. They can both be huge/small in their own ways. Playing in front of 8,000 people can be a rush, but so can playing in front of 5 people in your living room, which is possibly more intense.
TBB: With all your session work and touring with other artists, how do you find time to write and record AMBDS?
NM: I’m always writing for AMBDS even when I’m working with other folks. It’s easy getting inspired being around so many other musicians and creative people. I can’t help but take those experiences and put it into my own work.
TBB: Have any artists you’ve done session work for been especially inspiring?
NM: I recorded with Chaka Khan recently and that pretty much blew my d off.
TBB: Please make up a hashtag genre for AMBDS (or as many as you’d like).
NM: #Transcendental #TotallyShredding #HeavyChill #Damn
TBB: What is on the horizon for A Million Billion Dying Suns? (Get it?!?)
We have a lot of music we are ready to share and we’re gonna be traveling a lot this next year, we just wanna hang out with you guys.
Creepers, A Million Billion Dying Suns, What Fun Life Was
December 20, 2013