Justin Maranga (Musician/Dune Altar)

Justin Maranga

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In this offering, we are extremely pleased to get up close and personal with musician and label owner Justin Maranga. Justin is the proprietor of Dune Altar Records, an Los Angeles based record label that features the bands Faetooth, Head Cut, Caress, Form Rank and a plethora of others. He also plays guitar and sings in the band Ancestors, and plays guitar in Night Horse. Additionally, he plays guitar and bass with US // THEM.

The first record I ever bought with my own money was…

I remember that the first CD I ever bought with my own money was Pearl Jam Ten in probably ’93, so I was also about ten. I’m honestly not sure what the first vinyl record I bought with my own money was. I started off with a good foundation of Allman Brothers, Zeppelin and Sinatra records that were passed from my dad and I can’t really recall when I started buying my own or what I bought first, but at some point it spiraled out of control haha. Anyway, REM’s Reckoning keeps flashing in my head, so maybe it was that!

The record that made me want to make music was…

There’s no one specific record that made me want to make music, but there are certainly plenty that contributed. The Neurosis album Enemy of the Sun was a big one in shaping the way I heard and wanted to compose music, though it took a while for my own music to actually catch up. In the years before starting Ancestors, I’d played in a couple different kinds of hardcore bands… in high school I’d say that Diablerie by Disembodied and The Seraphim Fall by Bloodlet were big inspirations, among others, but I was always pulling in other influences that made less sense in a hardcore band (eg Pink Floyd and blues haha). In college, the self-titled album by Portraits of Past had a similar effect. But the itch to play something slow, drawn-out and heavy that was instilled in me the first time I ever saw Neurosis really never went away. Some riffs I wrote in that time resurfaced in various Ancestors records down the line. But if you want to go way back to when I first started playing guitar, the band that probably inspired me the most to start trying to write my own music in middle school was… Primus. Album? Probably Frizzle Fry, but really anything up through Tales From the Punchbowl was my era.

The record I’ve played more than any other is…

These are hard questions to answer, but some contenders would be Darkthrone – Panzerfaust, Catherine Wheel – Adam and Eve, Allman Brothers Band – Brothers and Sisters, The Replacements – Let It Be, Camel – Mirage, Green Day – 39/Smooth, Jackson Browne – Late for the Sky, Donny Hathaway – Live / In Performance… fuck, there are a lot that I gravitate to. So many more. But the albums I’ve heard the most times in my life (regardless of format) are probably Allman Brothers At the Fillmore East, Radiohead – OK Computer and Hum – You’d Prefer an Astronaut.

The record that always make me feel good is…

Unfortunately nothing has the power to always make me feel good, but Erykah Badu – Baduism and those live Donny Hathaway records have a pretty fuckin’ good track record. As do all the early Allman Brothers records. Anything by King Sunny Ade. Curtis Mayfield’s Sweet Exorcist is another one. OH and anything Stevie Wonder put out in that ’72 to ’74 period… fuckin’ hell, if that doesn’t make you feel good, what possibly can? Talking Book is definitely another answer to that last question.

The record I turn to when I’m feeling down is…

Depends what I’m trying to do… am I wallowing? Maybe Long Division or The Curtain Hits the Cast by Low. Maybe Different Stars by Trespassers William. But if I’m trying to go the other direction? See the previous question.

The record with my favorite cover art is…

I love Mick Turner’s artwork on Dirty Three’s albums (it’s what initially drew my curiosity before I ever heard their music), especially Whatever You Love, You Are. Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal is another one I’ve always loved. I guess I like paintings. But then I loooove the work that Hipgnosis did on all the Pink Floyd records, as well as their work with Peter Gabriel, Catherine Wheel, Mars Volta, etc. And Roger Dean. I like all that nerdy prog shit. On that note, I’m very proud of the artwork for every Ancestors album. Also the cover of The Sound’s first album Jeopardy is one that I’ve always found visually striking. Zappa’s Hot Rats. Clearly I’m not good at narrowing things down. Oh, can’t forget the best album cover of all time, Johnny Guitar Watson – A Real Mother for Ya.

The strangest LP I own is…

I purged most of the strangest stuff from my collection a few years ago, because it was just taking up space. Like some weird yodeling shit I was never going to listen to, and a record call Don Lonie Talks to Teenagers. Oh, Carpet Square, which sat in a frame over my toilet for years — I’ve still got it somewhere. Major Organ and the Adding Machine is pretty strange. But depending who you ask, I might have a lot of strange music. A lot of people might find Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Mikrophonie I / Mikrophonie II strange, at least without some context.

The rarest LP I own is…

Well, rarity is kinda relative. I have some test pressings of my own albums and Dune Altar releases that are very “rare” but no one cares. I have a test pressing of the Butthole Surfers’ Electric Larryland (no recollection of how it came to be in my possession though). I’ve got a decent collection of high life and Afrobeat records from Nigeria and Ghana that aren’t typically easy to get your hands on in the States, but I wouldn’t call them “rare” per se. Jane Gregory – Do Not Go and Alternative – If They Treat You Like Shit, Act Like Manure are generally pretty difficult to find. According to Discogs, my most valuable LPs are a promo copy of Nirvana Nevermind and Lovage – Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By. If we dig into my cassette collection there is some super rare stuff, like Hum’s demo tape, The Mob (UK) demo tape, Kvist demo tape and KUKL’s A Paris tape, among others.

The last LP I bought was…

The new pressing of the Melvins’ A Senile Animal, which I’m very stoked that they finally decided to press as a standard vinyl release instead of it being spread across 10 records whatever stupid overly-expensive nonsense they had before. Ordered that along with the recent first vinyl pressing of Hostile Ambient Takeover, an album I’ve always had a soft spot for, probably because it was the first one that came out after I became a Melvins fan.



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