Making “The Three Poisons” New: A Conversation with Rishi Dhir about Elephant Stone’s “ES3PRMX”

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“For a remix record, people say, ‘Well, it’s not really new material.’ But it is in a way.”

So says Elephant Stone leader Rishi Dhir about his band’s latest project: ES3PRMX, an album of remixes of songs from the 2014 LP, The Three Poisons.

ES3PRMX, which comes out today (2 June 2015, and is available for download here), isn’t the standard remix album. In fact, it’s far from it.

Dhir has released a record that gives seven of today’s leading musicians a chance to, in essence, collaborate with him and his Elephant Stone bandmates, Gabriel Lambert and Miles Dupire, on the creation of a new version of The Three Poisons. And this new version bears traces of the record that came out last year, but it’s really a brand new work that deconstructs and reassembles The Three Poisons in extremely creative and unpredictable ways.

ES3PRMX is its own beast.


And how could it be otherwise, what with the cast of musicians that Dhir has assembled?

Anton Newcombe (of The Brian Jonestown Massacre) and Fabien Leseure work together to transform the title track into a cinematic and atmospheric wonder, while Tom Furse (of The Horrors) adds a slice of groovy house to “Child of Nature.” Al Lover contributes funky beats and brings out Elephant Stone’s vocal harmonies on his version of “Echo & The Machine, Alex Maas (of The Black Angels) lends his inimitable voice to “Living for Something,” and Peter Holmström (of The Dandy Warhols) emphasizes Dhir’s backwards bass and Lambert’s guitar effects on “Knock You From Yr Mountain.”

And then there’s the mother load: JM Lapham’s (of The Earlies) astonishing, 18-minute opus, “ES3PLIE – 3 Poisons Lost in Edit.” This track must be heard to be believed, and you can listen to it below.

As Dhir got ready for Elephant Stone’s upcoming West Coast tour (see the dates and purchase tickets here), he was kind enough to take the time to offer his insight into ES3PRMX and update us on the activities of Elephant Stone.

SEM: So you’re starting work on your new album this week?

RD: Yes! And we’re actually going on tour next week – the West Coast.

SEM: I was talking to Fabien Leseure about his remix of “Three Poisons” with Anton [Newcombe, of The Brian Jonestown Massacre]. He was telling me how autocorrect doesn’t like his French last name and changes it to “Leisure” – it actually shows up that way on iTunes!

RD: (Laughs.) Yeah, all the YouTube channels and videos had to be changed back to “Leseure.” And for the album, I actually asked Anton if he’d spelled Fabien’s name right because it said “Leisure” – Twitter actually “corrected” it when he was sending me the message, but he didn’t know it. So this remix album is going to say, “Fabien Leisure.” But it should be Leseure, Leseure [emphasizes the French pronunciation].

SEM: Tell me about the remix album. How did it come about? How did you get all of these artists and bands together to create the tracks?

RD: Before the release of Three Poisons, Jeffrey Smith [Elephant Stone’s publicist] was encouraging me to do remixes. So I started asking around – people I know who I thought might want to do it. I’d known Peter [Holmström, from The Dandy Warhols, who is credited on ES3PRMX and as a solo artist as PIA] and Anton the longest, and I also asked Alex [Maas, from The Black Angels]. I talked to Tom [Furse, from The Horrors], and I had heard him before because he’d done a mix of “Silent Moment” [from 2013’s Elephant Stone] for Austin Psych Fest, which was really cool with its psychedelic breakbeat stuff. I had asked Temples to do it, and they were enthusiastic about it, but they’d been so busy…I actually asked a lot of people, but everyone was so busy, and there was no timeframe.


Three Poisons came out. In the meantime, this whole remix thing was still happening, so I was just going with it, even though I was getting the tracks back and didn’t really know what to do with them. I had been planning to release the remix album sometime in early summer, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. We were talking to labels about releasing on vinyl, but we were hesitant because they’d be like, “We want first dibs on the new record then.”

But then, we got offered the Psych Fest Vancouver gig [on Saturday, June 6]. That gave us the impetus.

SEM: What’s exciting for you about the release of a remix album?

RD: For a remix record, people say, “Well, it’s not really new material.” But it is in a way.

For example, if you listen to the Anton remix, it’s cool because it’s really got the Anton stamp on it. He had told me, “Just give me a song to work with,” and I tried to think of a song that would suit his aesthetic but that would also challenge him – a bit (laughs).


“Three Poisons” is dark; it’s kind of out there as far as the chord progression – it goes from A to B-flat to D. Coming from a pop songwriting zone, I thought that was cool. And I let Anton do his own thing with it; I didn’t want to tell him what to do.

Anton’s remix is like his own version of shoegaze, but I wouldn’t quite call it shoegaze – it’s very atmospheric, very cinematic – which is what he’s into these days. But it ties back to his earlier stuff, too. So I hope people will listen to his remix version and recognize that, and then wonder what the original track is like.

SEM: Did you give the same free rein to the other artists on the remix album?

RD: When you get to Tom Furse’s track, “Child of Nature,” he totally turned it into this house track, but I asked him to do that. As a band, we’d been listening to a lot of house because, you know, Frankie Knuckles died, and I knew that Tom, when it comes to electronic music or house, he’s an aficionado – he knows everything about it. I originally asked him to do “Knock You,” but he picked “Child of Nature,” got inspired, and created this whole new, groovy thing out of it.

But it was kind of a mystery to me when I got these remix tracks because for most of them, I just gave it [the original album] to people and told them, “You pick whatever song you want. You do whatever you want with it.”


SEM: How did that work out for the rest of the songs on the album?

RD: It just worked out that no one picked the same song (laughs).

Al Lover picked “Echo & The Machine” right away, I think because of the drum machine – you can just add your beat and layer your other parts right on top of that. It’s cool because he actually starts the remix with our vocal harmony part, which is in the middle of the song on the original. When we heard that, we thought, “Wow, that is genius.” In fact, for a few shows, we actually tried opening the song like that, with all four of us doing the harmony.


Alex Maas’s remix of “Living for Something” was the last one we got in. Again, he picked a song that seemed to fit his sensibilities. He sent his remix to me, at first kind of hesitantly because he had kept his vocals really low, beneath mine. So I told him, “I think you should make it your vocals, not mine.” After that, he was doing harmonies that I couldn’t have even thought of – I loved it.


As for Peter Holmström, who remixed “Knock You From Yr Mountain,” he came out to our gig in 2013 and was one of the first to say “yes.” He used the stuff that we didn’t use, like the DI-signal of the guitar. He didn’t use sitar. He did use the reverse bass solo I did, but added other stuff. The song, as it was originally released, was made to be a single. What Peter did, made it not that at all.


SEM: So then how did you determine the sequencing of the tracks? What made you decide to put Anton’s and Fabien’s remix first and then Tom’s and so on?

 RD: I thought it was appropriate to put Anton and Fabien’s track first because it was the title track off of Three Poisons. It was close enough to the album version but also different enough, especially when he brings out this horn section and a counter-melody. I thought it was all really interesting – it’s a strong track. I played it for the band, and we got really excited.

For sequencing, I wanted Anton’s big song, then bring it to this more down-tempo house thing, bring it back up with a breakbeat but drop it again in the middle with “Living for Something,” then bring Peter in, and finally, close with JM [Lapham, from The Earlies].

SEM: The masterpiece – the whole Three Poisons album in 18 minutes.

RD: Yes! The masterpiece. It’s interesting because it opens with an interview that I did with someone at Austin Psych Fest. I don’t know how JM got that. His whole thing for this remix was, “I want it to be a journey through your life” (laughs). I said, “What do you mean, a journey through my life?” He said, “Just listen to it.” I’ve listened to it so many times; I just think it’s genius.


Transcribed and edited by Katie Gleason

Featured image by Steve Gerrard