Interview feature by Emily Saex / Photo by Lemuel Thornton
Anyone that’s seen Los Angeles based music/performance art collective P L a N E T S live can attest to the grand and striking performances that they give, nothing short of 110% every time. P L a N E T S currently have a Halloween themed residency at The Satellite every Monday in October where freaks, geeks and everyone in between are welcome to rock out and get weird. As fan and avid local music guru Derek William Scott so accurately put it, “So P L a N E T S October reign of terr…I mean their residency, at The Satellite continues next week, it just gets better and better folks. So fucking stoked for this. If you have the means to attend one of their residency shows and you’re not exercising it, you’re fucking up hardcore.”
We chatted with founding members Adam Stillwell and Adam Cotton to get the scoop on what tricks and treats you can expect at their remaining residency gigs, what songs give them the creeps, the story behind the robot in their live shows, and more. Read on, if you dare!
GG: For those unfamiliar with P L a N E T S, how would you describe your music / performance art?
AS: The easiest answer is “Psych Rock Theater.” A garage band that turned Pan’s Labyrinth into a musical and took it on tour with Dr. Parnassus.
AC: Live there’s this surrealist psych(-adelic/-ological) thriller rock theatre show that’s based around the music and which walks the line between creepy and absurd, and can teeter in either direction, depending on where you drop the needle during the night.
It’s challenging to describe something you’re so close to, but I guess I’d think of P L a N E T S, both the music and the shows, as some sort of dark dreamy rock thing that makes about as much sense off the bat as the final episode of Lost.
GG: How many members total in the group and how did P L a N E T S grow to be the beast it is today?
AS: 10 core members and up to 25 on a full blown production. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something big and creative…like a party with a point. I’ve always been surrounded by creative people and felt it was one of my duties to extract the creativity that was happening alone in our bedrooms and get it out and into the world. Cotton and I started writing songs…Nathaniel built a robot out of cardboard…Natasha started choreographing dances to the songs…and I started telling a story with the music. We’ve always been a band of gypsies and freaks. This band is a focus of all that energy. We’re a bunch of art kids who like to party.
GG: What inspired you guys to do a Halloween residency at The Satellite?
AS: We’re a Halloween band. We’ve grown to love The Satellite. 10 years ago some of our heros such as Arcade Fire graced that stage. To have an entire month to make a place our home away from home…it’s what we do best. Create an atmosphere. Throw a party. Without knowing if it actually would happen, I had it in my calendar at the beginning of the year that we’d be playing this residency in October and sure enough…here we are. We couldn’t be happier or having more fun.
AC: It’s the one month of the year when new people who see us might think, hey I think I get why they’re doing this.
GG: This past week you had a Horror/Slasher theme. What scary movies did you like / freaked the shit out of you as a kid?
AS: I wasn’t allowed to watch horror/slasher movies as a kid. One night, though, I was over my Aunt & Uncle’s and they put on “Legend.” I had to ride my bike home…alone…in the dark…a dirt road…dark woods on both sides….TERRIFYING. I knew one of those little goblins was going jump out of the bushes and get me. You will see a lot of that film’s influence in our upcoming show this week, TheDarkWoods, which is our first album as well. Instead of watching films/TV as a kid, I’d run around out in the woods making up stories. Literally, coming across snakes and mountain lions with the threat of Grizzly Bears. That’s what scared me as a kid. You’ll hear that in the music and see it in the stage show.
GG: Can you give us a sneak peak or hint as to what you’ve got up your sleeves for the remaining two residency shows?
AS: This week’s theme is “Heroines Of Horror.” Think Carrie, The Exorcist, The Ring, Misery and all that good stuff. The next week all hell breaks loose and we’re bringing back all of the characters and horror tricks we’ve done the previous weeks; a full blown Halloween-Horror celebration! As far as our stage show goes, we’ll be doing a two part story: Part I being TheDarkWoods: Abduction and the following week Part II – TheDarkCity: Museum.
GG: What is the most important element to having a great Halloween?
AS: Friends. The most important element to just about anything is friends.
GG: What songs give you the chills or the creeps?
AS: There’s this Charles Manson song that he recorded in prison. It starts out really really good, like a Bob Dylan song or something, but around about minute four he gets pissed. His lyrics go dark. Then darker. Then black. It’s incredible. You can feel his anger grow and before you know it, it’s cutting your throat. So, yeah, that and Leatherface’s version of “Rockin Robin” which he sang at last week’s happy hour karaoke at our residency.
AC: Riders on the Storm still gets me every time. Also during the inception of The Dark Woods we were working on a super creepy soundtrack album called “I Was a Bad Boy” for a short film Stilwell wrote and produced—the music was terrifying to mix and I still find it very unsettling when played back.
GG: What’s your most memorable on stage moment?
AS: The first thing that popped into my mind is Night One of our residency, we were playing “Scared Coyote” and the whole audience was singing the lyrics back to us. It blew my mind and I flubbed a line of lyrics, but the crowd kept singing. It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life. That song in particular, I wrote about feeling alone. The story of the song takes place in TheWoods, but personally I wrote it as a metaphor for how I was feeling a couple years back, lonely in Los Angeles and wanting to go “home”…but not knowing where the fuck that was. So, it kind of came full circle. The last couple years has been incredible for this band. The incredible people that make up our little LA music scene have been loving, inspiring and helpful. I’m proud to be a part of it. I’ll never forget that moment, it felt like home.
AC: Apparently Nathaniel (Peterson – Ukelele, percussion, art department, robot) disguised as an old man in a wheelchair stage dove right in front of me last week at the end of the show, but there was so much fog I didn’t see a thing!
GG: You guys feature the most amazing, lovable robot in your performances…tell us about the robot and how it came to be.
AS: When P L a N E T S first formed in Whitefish, MT there was myself and Cotton making the music…and Nathaniel Peterson making a robot. He built the first one out of a cardboard box for a Halloween Costume contest in Montana, it was also an open mic that we were playing, the night before heading to Los Angeles. The Robot joined us onstage for a maniacal version of Fischerspooner’s “Emerge,” and (we) won the $100 prize to put the gas in the car to get here. He’s been part of the show ever since and he’s an integral part of the grander story arc that lives in our music. Also…he just loves to dance.
P L a N E T S – Live at The Satellite
Video by Zb Images
P L a N E T S – Cover of “Dance Motherfucker Dance” (Violent Femmes) – Live at The Satellite
Video by Zb Images