As a testament to the deep bonds formed on the New Zealand sets of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, actor/musician Viggo Mortensen has tapped three of his co-stars to contribute to his upcoming album, Pandemoniumfromamerica.
The collection of experimental songs, spoken-word pieces and instrumentals will be released through Mortensen's media company, Perceval Press, on December 5 and will likely surprise new fans who only know him as the hunky warrior from one of the biggest grossing movie serials in Hollywood history.
"Buckethead and I were almost done with the record and planned on working one more day," Mortensen said of the enigmatic Guns N’ Roses guitarist, who has collaborated on all five of Mortensen’s albums and switched from his usual KFC hat to a witch's mask during the sessions. "Billy [Boyd], Dom [Monaghan] and Elijah [Wood] were in town and ... expressed an interest in coming by the studio. They had heard his music [and] Buckethead was also excited about meeting them, being a fan of their work in ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ So, it was sort of a mutual admiration society. We had fun playing, improvising for a few hours."
The results can be heard on songs such as "Gone," on which Wood sings backup, and "Shadow," which features Wood on percussion, Boyd on bass and Monaghan on lead vocals. Monaghan and Wood also share vocal duties on "Half Fling," on which Boyd plays drums. Mortensen’s teenage son, Henry, also lends a hand, playing bass, keyboards and drums on songs such as the title track, singing with his dad on "I Want Mami," on which Mortensen is credited with playing keyboards and "wheelchair." The album will drop two weeks before the final installment in the "Rings" series, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," which hits theaters on December 17.
The recording sessions were an extension of the easy camaraderie the actors shared on the set of the films, according to Mortensen. "Dom sang a lot and spontaneously came up with lots of good material to complement what we were playing," he said. "Apart from offering a few words to be sung, I did not do much other than trade instruments with them [and] went along for the ride. Out of the mayhem came some gems. ‘Half Fling’ is a genius bit of improvised gibberish by Dom and Elijah."
The songs with the "LOTR" co-stars were all recorded during a marathon four-hour improvisational session this summer.
Mortensen has released more than half a dozen collections of poetry, paintings and photographs through Perceval over the years, as well as a series of five experimental albums that have featured Buckethead, as well as former wife Exene Cervenka of the band X, and X drummer D.J. Bonebrake. Among the songs on his album is "One Man's Meat," which he describes as "an exploration of meat and meat byproducts, conceived and performed by carnivores and vegetarians, for consumption by all."
From the way he characterized it, Mortensen’s latest music project isn’t likely to put much of a scare into the Clay Aikens of the world. "There are references to history, fragments of prophetic poems by William Blake and Jonathan Swift, a piece of an old Danish soldier song from the 19th century wars with Germany, distorted thoughts, melodies, points of view, wheelchairs, rainwater, happy and sad chatter, sighs, beginnings, endings, some middles, babies, arguments, streets, lots of swerving and no safety nets," he said.
Mortensen’s longtime producer, Travis Dickerson, said the album will be available in a limited run of several thousand copies. "Because he’s a painter and photographer it can be quite abstract and expressionistic," Dickerson said of the new songs. "But this album is quite accessible and musical, but also a bit challenging." Mortensen said he has no plans to tour in support of the album, but you can expect a "pile of outstanding T-shirts" instead.
Pandemoniumfromamerica track list, according to Dickerson’s Web site:
- "Den Gang Jeg Drog Afsted"
- "Back to Babylon"
- "They Ate Your Family"
- "I Want Mami"
- "Red River Valley"
- "Leave It"
- "Fall of Troy"
- "Cuba on Paper"
- "Half Fling"