Giant Sand is a strange, interesting and prolific band - 13 albums in eight years - the brainchild of an Arizona desert-dwelling enigma named Howe Gelb. It's hard to say whether that brainchild needs encouragement or disciplinary action. Gelb guides his band all over the musical map, from B. Surfers-like noise to Neil Young-meets- Hasil Adkins rants. To classify Giant Sand is like trying to fit a round pigeon into a square hole.
"This time, there were about six songs that came in and wrote themselves down that were a little too regular," Gelb says of the band's latest release, "Center of the Universe." "It's almost like they came early to the party, so I tried to get 'em as drunk as I could before the actual party began. Just to open up a little, not enough to make asses of themselves."
Though Giant Sand is a basically a three-man operation, the album features guests galore: Victoria Williams, ex-Bangle Vicki Peterson, ex-Cowsill Susan (beat that!) and Gelb's 6-year-old daughter.
Stretching the definition of music is a calculated move on Gelb's part, one that borders on a mission for the head Sandman. "You just don't want things to sit there, on tape or on record," he says in a reflective, sleepy voice. "There's enough of that, enough people doing music that sounds right. It's played good and produced good, and ultimately it sounds boring."
The guitarist has an admittedly low expectancy when it comes to liking current music, but he is philosophically optimistic. "There's already been so much good music for the last 70 years," he sighs. "It's like, if you've already had some beautiful loves, why hold yourself open to another encounter? Then all of a sudden there it is, a brand new beautiful song, making you tilt your head like the RCA dog."