Josh Meakam of The Fantastic Imagination and Keith Greiman of Prowler | photos courtesy of the artists
Two To Tango: The Fantastic Imagination’s Josh Meakim and Prowler’s Keith Greiman
When two veterans of the Philly odd-tronica scene get together for a party, there’s always the promise of menace and mayhem. For neither Prowler‘s Keith Greiman (and his brand of boogie-space-glam) nor A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s Josh Meakim and his wonky electronic The Fantastic Imagination are easy listens. That’s why they’re each brilliant in their own way.
While Prowler is currently out-and-about with a new EP whose release is celebrated at Ortliebs on February 24, The Fantastic Imagination is still recovering from its cassette EP party for its Good Knight, Sweet Dreams – also at Ortliebs and also with Prowler – as well as its more recent Moonphases Vol.1.
The Key: What do you two know of each other, or the other’s work, and how long have you known that?
Josh Meakim: I had seen Prowler once or twice in the past and was definitely familiar with Keith’s art for a while. Things really took off when, together, we started serving Sunday brunch to the good people of Kensington. We usually hash out a lot of our show plans, art direction, and lyric ideas while pouring coffee and carrying plates of eggs. Since we’ve met each other properly, Keith has done all the artwork for my stuff, and is one of my favorite people ever. It is at work that we decided to form our side project, Prom Acid. It refers to the kind of acid you could take at the prom. Not TOO strong, and high enough to have fun and not like, freak out. In summation, since we’ve met each other properly, Keith has done all the artwork for my stuff, and is one of my favorite people ever.
Keith Greiman: I started really getting down with Josh and Fantastic Imagination about two years ago. I love him and I try to hang out with him as often as possible. Which is still hardly ever. His music is grandly weird and I dig it.
TK: Have you, in your respective bands or solo excursions, crossed paths…played on the same stage? What was the interaction? How did it all go?
KG: I think The FI and Prowler have played almost every show together over the last two years. At least on our end. Maybe he has some side gigs he’s been hiding from me. Josh has helped with recording some recent Prowler stuff and we collaborated together on band called Prom Acid.
JM: We’ve played together quite a few times. Keith is really good at setting up shows and making posters. I’m terrible at doing all these things, so whenever I’m asked to play with Prowler I say yes. I know it will be fun and some nice folks will show up. Prowler is one of the weirdest bands I’ve ever played with. It is in no way remotely like anything else that exists in the world. It’s magically confusing and captivating. We also just put out the first Prom Acid album, which is 14 minutes long. I think it’s highly un-listenable, which I am very happy about.
TK: How do you feel as if your newest or most recent music is radically different than that which we usually know you from? Is this so much a different Prowler than it was 10 years ago? Is Fantastic Imagination so much of a shift from Sunny Day in Glasgow?
JM: I’ve done Fantastic Imagination, even before I joined ASDIG as a tour drummer back in 2008(ish). Fantastic Imagination has always been the outlet for my own writing and home recording. I definitely bring things from my own sensibilities into ASDIG, as does everyone else in that band. The music I make on my own tends to be sillier at times, and less palatable than ASDIG. My last few EPs were sort of intended to be Yes influenced mutant prog music about a fantasy creation myth. The newest one is a collection of magic spells written in accordance with moon phases, which was influenced mostly by early, dawn of the synthesizer electronic stuff.
KG: For sure [this is a different Prowler]. Hopefully things on the whole have evolved and gotten better. We still aren’t quite Skinny Puppy dark but for us I think things have gotten a bit heavier. We’re trying.
TK: Considering your respective new / recent albums, what song came first in the process of recording? What one defines the album and why?
KG: We have lots of new stuff that we are slowly but surely finishing up. I’d say “Jupiter” off of the last EP Hand Disease is fairly indicative of our current and future vibe. It’s a tad grungy but still able to make you wiggle a bit.
JM: For the Moonphases thing I was trying to record something new every night and then come back to it around the same time the following moon cycle. I know this sounds like some goofy new age nonsense, but it was nice to set a guideline like that. After a few months I had about forty three minute ideas that I then went through, selected ones that fit, and mixed together. Because of that process nothing really happened before anything else, it was all happening at the same time. Its all heavily steeped in occultism and magick. I guess I’m in my Jimmy Page wizard sleeves phase.
TK: Will the two of you chat or hang out before this show and is there a plan of attack going into this showcase?
JM: Well I’m sure I’ll see everyone when we load in. I know Keith is probably going to walk in as I’m playing because he has a dinner thing. I’m definitely going to text him though. He taught me how to use Emojis so I’m always trying out new combos with him before I use them on my other cell phones friends.
KG: I assure you there is never a plan. Hopefully there is an attack. And I will be hanging with Josh until he needs me to carry him to the stage to play. I don’t want him wasting any of his energy on walking. He needs to shred.
TK: How long have you been in the business of music and how do you think that time in has affected what you do, musically and lyrically considering your newest project and this tour…. I mean, does it wear on you?
KG: Prowler has all grown up together. So we are talking decades of friendship. We have been playing music together for 18 years(ish) and have been fairly active in some capacity for the duration. We take it light but we still take it.
JM: I guess my first “real” show was at the upstage in Philly as the Blueberry Dewdrops back in 1999 at the tender age of 19. Id say Ive been pretty serious about making and performing music since then. Deciding to be a musician was probably a terrible choice. I don’t know what “equity” is when my friends talk about it, I haven’t had a fancy job in a while, and Im not what most people would call wealthy. On the other hand, Ive travelled tons and had way more fun than most. I think I stopped trying to “make it” a while ago, and realized the best part of making music is actually making music. I think this realization helped me to be true to my inner weirdo. My friend Autumn was telling me that your thirties are the age of acceptance, and that rings true I think. Like you spend all this time trying to decide what you’re going to do with your life and then one day you realize you’ve just always been doing it. The business part of all this is terrible though. Its very hard to make a living doing this sort of thing these days. That’s why I bring the people their pork roll egg and cheese sandwiches.
TK: How do you see your audience? Is there a distinct level of interactivity between you and them — new or old fans — or is there a deep, but passive listenership? And are there still fans from your start here that come to see you faithfully, and what is that interaction about?
JM: I don’t think I have an audience? I usually put out an EP on the internet and do absolutely nothing to promote it. I’ve been getting orders for tapes as a result of a review that was posted on a blog that I really like. It made me realize that maybe I should try a little harder to make my presence known, but that’s never been my forte. With any luck in 30 years someone will find my tape at a thrift store and reissue it on their private press record label. I’m so happy for my future fans and their super cool obscure music taste. If you’re reading this, YES you have my blessing to put it out. And make sure its on transparent black vinyl.
KG. I find that there is a good mix of old friends who are still gracious enough to come out and new folks that are down to have some fun.
TK: Is there any trepidation going into an unknown live setting or songs you have not performed live previously, or is that the fun and drive of it? What song are you most curious as to how it will go over in a live setting and why?
KG: No trepidation. In the end, even a bad show is a pretty good show if you have a nice time. Playing new stuff isn’t always that exciting for me because there is a bit more concentration involved instead of just doing it. It’s healthy to have to try sometimes though.
JM: At this point, I’m mostly improvising over loose themes from the album. I’ll take a sample or some loop that is the basis of one of the songs and just make it up as I go. This goes pretty well sometimes and other times can be a complete disaster. It’s a different set of variables than if you’re playing with a band, which I’m still getting used to. But I guess it’s comparable. My synths and drum machines are like my little robot band. The only thing I get anxious about before I play is plugging everything in. There’s nothing worse than being on stage and staring at a caterwauling malfunctioning mess of wires and lights and having no idea why its misbehaving. This is a warning to all would-be synthesists or pedal operators – get stoned after you set up. This should be etched on the back of every Boss delay pedal.
TK: What two songs of yours — perhaps, performed in a row — are geared toward having the most impact/biggest punch when played live?
JM: When I still had a big live band we had this song called “Slack Ghosts Get Stoned,” which is about a group of ghosts that smoke too much weed and are too lazy to scare the people out of the house they live in. They eventually get it together and murder everyone, which makes it a song about hope and triumph. It’s about 7-15 minutes long live and in the end we usually spit blood and have a ghost spit blood and play Theremin. It was either a crowd pleaser, or it would totally clear the room. I’m cool with both of those outcomes.
KG: We try to ebb and flow a bit with the energy of the songs. “Alligator” is tucked nicely in the front of the set and “Creepy Crickets” closes things out. They are both pretty groovy and have a good drive to them. Both are song all 3 of us like to play.
TK: What will you do as soon as your set is over?
KG: Kiss ‘Mike the Dude’ and Ryan goodnight then go immediately home and go to bed.
JM: I disassemble my music spaceship, get a beer, and then explain to people why cassettes are still a valid medium for music distribution.
The Fantastic Imagination and Prowler play Ortlieb’s on Saturday, February 24th; tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.