When we meet Jeremiah Sand in Panos Cosmatos’ lurid 2018 horror film Mandy, he’s a withered and tarnished megalomaniac. Sand (played by Linus Roache) helms the Children of the New Dawn, a fictitious New Age cult whose methods of indoctrination involve potent hallucinogenics and the occasional murder. But Sand isn’t just a maniacal, self-appointed prophet: like any evil genius worth his salt, he’s also a failed rockstar. Early in the film, Sand plays one of his songs for the titular Mandy, who has been captured by the cult at the leader’s request. Instead of bowing before him, Mandy laughs at him and his music.
The mocked song is a seven-minute Ren fair hymn called “Amulet of the Weeping Maze.” To compose the track, Cosmatos enlisted a handful of artists: Randall Dunn (who has produced records by Earth, SUNN O))), and Marissa Nadler), Milky (a guitarist and frequent collaborator of Nadler’s), and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, and Divine Fits. Roache, meanwhile, volunteered to lay down vocals for his character’s song. The recording process was so enjoyable that before long, an idea germinated: What if Jeremiah Sand had continued his musical pursuits? The newly released Lift It Down provides the answer. “Reissued” by Sacred Bones, the album arrived with a pre-fabricated mythology: Jeremiah Sand and his followers seized a recording studio in the mid-1970s, laid down their drug-fueled opus, and left the masters locked in a metal box. After surviving four decades and a fire, Lift It Down was restored for all to hear.
In actuality, Lift It Down is a forged artifact, an album recorded largely because those who created it had so much fun inhabiting its outlandish world. Its makers were joined by a large list of collaborators: Angel Deradoorian, Tad Doyle, Mamiffer’s Faith Coloccia, Monika Khot of Zen Mother, and Nadler, who sang on the album’s duet, “Now You Are Mine.” To separate fact from fiction, Pitchfork spoke with Dunn, Milky, and Roache about their process, Charles Manson, and writing music for a madman.
Pitchfork: How did this project come together?
Randall Dunn: Milky and I worked on the song for the movie, “Amulet of the Weeping Maze.” We did that with Panos in Seattle. And my first encounter with Linus was having him do the vocals for that. He courageously volunteered to do that on the actual song in the film. And then he also did a longer spoken word track that he had written as a character treatment.
Linus Roache: It was like a background biography based on a one-page document that Panos had done, and then I turned it into this ridiculous epic rant.