Kansas City's Justin Wright, mastermind behind the heavy psychedelic band Expo '70, describes his music as "if Black Sabbath played instrumental Pink Floyd." This only begins to describe the ambitious scope of Wright's creative vision. Discovering his discography is like opening a mysterious vault filled with immaculately packaged and consciousness-expanding recordings, each cover lovingly designed by Wright himself. The music of Expo '70 speaks for itself but we are lucky to share an interview with and book, music and movie recommendations from the man himself.
Introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
I live in downtown Kansas City at the edge of the Crossroads. I work under a general contractor, freelance graphic designer and am a bartender at The Guild event space.
Expo ’70 has a fascinatingly extensive discography, composed of “late night improvisations” conceived by yourself. What goes into each new improvisation? How much has this process evolved over time?
The project originally started as a forum to collaborate with friends, but when I moved to the Midwest from California, it became more of a personal platform to experiment with textures of sound from the guitar effected with analog effects. As I developed a style, the platform for my music evolves out of organic performances, I build layers of textured effected guitar notes, loop them and improvise over and add more textures creating a bed of sound to let the listener lay in. As I started to perform more live, I realized the best way for me to focus on my sound and not be distracted by an audience was to turn my back to them and engulf myself into the sounds I was creating each set.
You recently expanded Expo ’70 to include a drummer and bassist. What can fans expect from this new configuration?
I have been working with a trio for the last four years off and on. I wanted to showcase more of my guitar playing and song writing, which has been evolving into more structured songs rather than organic pieces of music of my solo output. The result has been a modern heavy psychedelic group, I tell people who are unfamiliar that it's like if Black Sabbath played instrumental Pink Floyd.
I love the cover artwork for your releases. What are your main influences for this visual component of your work?
I am a graphic designer and take the conceptual sounds of my music and try to interpret them to the listener, trying to place them into the realm that I hear the sounds. I'd say nature is a big influence to my art, so I don't think I have direct influences from one artist to another.
What inspires you the most about the Kansas City experimental music community?
That it's relatively small and we're all connected in supporting one another.
Justin's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
On the Road By Jack Kerouac
Space Ritual Sundown Vol. 2 CD By Hawkwind