Die! Die! Die!

Die! Die! Die!

Monday 9th August, 2010 7:47PM

Dunedin formed three-piece Die! Die! Die! are arguably New Zealand’s best live band, with an energy and precision which remains far too underrated. Yet their recorded output has also remained largely underrated, from their 2005 debut album to 2007’s scabrous Promises, Promises. Having collaborated with some of music’s most prominent figures such as Steve Albini and Howie Weinberg would have helped – but it’s the local touches with Nick Roughan’s production work to the local recording on their latest album Form which has resulted in the album being arguably their best yet. Featuring a heady mix of energy, rawness and melody, Form is a wonderful addition to the Die! Die! Die! oeuvre. Further, it is Flying Nun’s latest signing, and if the quality of this and Grayson Gilmour’s No Constellation is anything to go by – the new Flying Nun is making a great fist of showcasing some of our best talent.

The first impression of the album is that it’s much more polished than the previous albums…

Oh thank you, I had an interview today with someone saying the opposite. I agree with you. We just did a lot more work on it really. I think we found a really good team with Nick Roughan, and he was amazing.

So it was intended to sound less raw, a bit more polished?

I don’t know about polished, just a bit more layered. It’s a lot louder than our other records if you actually play it, and live the songs are louder despite the fact there’s a lot going on. I think also we just reached a point we could refine it a bit better.

Melodies are a bit more upfront?

Yep I think so too. I think that came with time, and when you’re on tour you play with them a bit. You need them to be pretty good songs if you’re going to play them all the time.

I heard you guys spent more time in the studio?

Not actually that much more time. We spent nine days in the studio, and a couple of weeks at Nick’s house doing some tweaking.

You haven’t lost any of the fury of the previous recordings….


How difficult was it maintaining the energy while exploring these new layers?

I don’t know. We didn’t really think about it. We just did it. We could have got paranoid about it trying to make it sound live – because live it sounds so intense, but you’re never going to be able to do that. We just tried to approach that from a different way.

So you weren’t worried about over-producing it?

No not at all, kind of the opposite. I think also we really wanted to do the stark, polar opposite of our last few records, which were us bashing away in a room.

Given you guys are so renowned for playing live, does that add a bit of pressure in the recording?

Not really, I kind of see it as a challenge. A good challenge. It’s great being known as a live band, it’s how we support ourselves, but I always like to think ourselves as more than a band that’s pretty killer live, this “live band” - with a bit more depth to it. But also we are a live band, and it’s the best place to see and hear our music. I just wanted to make a really good guitar record.

How do these songs work live?

They’re a lot of fun to play. Because of the nature of me playing so much guitar on them, next to me playing almost no guitar on the other songs, there is an element that we are just playing songs.

The bass and drums sound great – the production work on that is really, really good…

Nick played bass in the Skeptics, he knew, that was his main thing trying to make the bass and drums. I was on this mission from guitar world, so the two combined really well. Nick is definitely not really conservative with the ideas I wanted to do with the guitar, playing through 8 or 10 Jensen [speakers]. We were trying different things, and different tones, and different guitars at different parts of songs. Nick also helped a lot with the idea of different tunings and textures.

Were you a big fan of the Skeptics?

A massive fan of the Skeptics. They’re probably my favourite New Zealand, them and Bailterspace, my two favourite New Zealand bands. And Snapper.

Did you actively seek him out to produce this album?

Not really. What happened was that I’ve known Nick for a long time. He recorded our demo when we first started, which was going to be our first record. We had a few kind of funny run-ins with him, and then we played a festival when he was down doing sound for Dimmer, and Mikey [Prain] and Lachie [Anderson] got on the piss with him, and he talked about what he’d like to do. Then we had a few meetings with him about possibly recording. And then we were like, ‘no way, let’s not do it with Nick’. Because we were worried it’d be a bit ‘rock’, because that’s what he’s been known for in the last wee while. And then, we also had another meeting and told him our concerns. He told us ‘you guys got the wrong idea. I wasn’t meaning to turn you guys into a Wellington rock band or something’. In the end we just did it and it was awesome. We’re recording right now with him, doing some more recording. I really think we found a really good team, an ally for what we want to do.

He sounds like he gets what you do…

Definitely. All his favourite bands were our favourite bands, and it was just a plus he had recorded some of my favourite bands.

You’ve worked with some big names previously in production – the likes of Steve Albini, Howie Weinberg, Shayne Carter – how different was working with Nick Roughan to all of this?

Steve Albini: it’s how good your band is if you want to make a good record with Steve Albini. You’ve got to do it there and then with him. He makes the drums sound amazing. We were quite young when we did that. He did what we wanted. I’d like to record with Steve again, but unless you’re an amazing genius using the way he does it, it can be a bit samey with the straight up approach. Shayne was really really amazing, but for a different way.

Whereas Shayne approaches it from a dude in the band, whereas Nick doesn’t approach it as a guy in the band. Shayne was amazing being actually in the band, whereas Nick was outside of it. There were some skills that Shayne taught us about songs, singing and all that stuff. It wasn’t Shayne’s problems, but the engineers had a few funny things going on, like leaving off a few backing vocals and the drums on one side of the speaker and stuff like that.

I remember Shayne Carter talking about how much you guys influenced his work, like Degrees of Existence…

The last thing I’d ever want is for people to think we’re ungrateful for what Shayne did. He did amazing stuff. He really did approach like he was in the band, and the engineer was a bit funny, and Shayne and him didn’t get along. It was quite funny. Shayne’s just a normal guy like us. That was another great thing. I think we were overseas when we did that, we didn’t have the home influences.

How different was it recording this at home, compared to Promises, Promises?

Oh, totally different. When we were recording Promises, Promises we were in a barn for twelve days. We didn’t leave. For this one, we’d record for three days and then think about, and then do another three days.

Was there a tired factor in Promises, Promises from being on tour for so long?

A little bit. I think so. Also, when you’re overseas, you have to worry about where the money’s coming from. We’d be recording and I’d have to go, because we were self-managed at the time, to the internet and make sure the money was coming through to pay the studio. When we were doing it here, there was none of those stresses.

Your lyrics seem pretty jaded, like ‘Wasted Lands’, whereas your previous stuff was a bit more direct....


Does that reflect a bit of weariness, or getting older?

I think getting older probably. Getting older I reckon, and trying to paint more of a picture rather than trying to punch someone in the face. But I don’t know, there are some pretty direct lyrics on the record.

You made your first record when you were still teenagers, can you listen to that recording with the same ears?

Yeah definitely. I think that EP is better than our first album. I think it’s a really good document of time. We did it in one day, half a day actually, and I think it’s pretty good. It’s completely different. It seems like a completely different band.

You guys have been doing it for a while, and growing up while developing musically…

Yeah exactly. We are growing up on these records. You can hear it.

Do you think this is a more mature album?

I think so. But at the same time, it was – not indulgent – but making the record a bit more like we wanted to make no matter what it was. Mature people don’t really get to do that. This is just us and an idea we wanted to do, and did it.

Why the signing to Flying Nun?

There was obviously an attachment to us being from Dunedin. I think it’s quite exciting to be involved in building it up again. Even I was quite scathing of Flying Nun. I think during Promises, Promises, people would ask us about Flying Nun and I would go on about how it didn’t really exist. I really like the ideas of Roger [Shepherd] and [Matthew] Davis, and how you can build it up from the ground. It’s also really good for New Zealand to have a good indie label here, which isn’t following trends and stuff. I also think that the fact they’re not in Auckland is a really big plus for the band.

So growing up in Dunedin, you obviously would have been well versed in Flying Nun history?

Yeah definitely. It’s the record label which has got me into most of the bands I’ve liked.

Is it gratifying being equated with these bands?

Yeah we’ll see. Flying Nun has done some pretty bad stuff. I hope that history doesn’t look on us as some of the other stuff they’ve done. I hope that they do think of us as a good band. I hope that they do do well. I think New Zealand is quite a unique place to make music, and it does make unique music.

Did you get that perspective when you were travelling?

Yeah, again, the time. It’s a help and a hindrance. It’s a blessing and a curse. I think with this record, we rushed and recorded heaps. If you start settling down to make a record, you can get stuck in a time-warp, and it’ll take years to put out a record. The stress of pushing it along helps. That’s not just a New Zealand thing. It’s everyone. It’s so easy to do stuff.

You guys are doing a massive tour, does it feel like one of those New Zealand ‘80s bands doing a massive circuit?

Yeah we’re doing 26 shows in 20 days. There’s like fourteen printed, but we’re doing high school shows as well. But that’s what we’ve always done though. We’re not going to change the way we operate particularly in New Zealand. It is the one place where we can do what we want.

You guys have always done all ages shows and been influenced by punk scene practices…

Yep definitely

So it wasn’t an issue of progressing, like some bands do, and moving to bigger, more exclusive shows?

Yeah we always get told by people that we should start playing the game properly, and in some ways we’ve taken it into consideration. But only in the fact you won’t see us playing in Wellington a week before our album release show. If we had our way, we’d be playing every month or two, but it’d be really stupid to do that. At the same time, we don’t want people to get sick of us, but we do really like playing shows all the time.

What are the plans with the album – are you going to be heading back overseas?

Yeah our record comes out in Australia in August, and we’ll be over there a lot. And it comes out in America and Europe in October. So we’ll be over there doing some stuff then. We just want to finish our other recording before then.

Which is another album or an EP?

I don’t know. It started as an EP but it’s kind of turned into a monster. A whole heap of songs, which is really good.

Is the Flying Nun connection opening a few doors in America?

It’s too early to see that. I don’t really think of Flying Nun, it’s obviously a name, but in the end it is just a record label. In the end you can’t just ride on the fact it released the Clean and stuff.

I guess its current success will depend on what you and Grayson Gilmour put out?

Exactly. It is really exciting. We still have to do our own stuff. If it brings a few people, it’s a bonus.

Brannavan Gnanlingam

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