Interview

The Dead C

The Dead C

Monday 9th August, 2010 12:11PM

The Dead C interview with Bruce Russell


Background: When did you start out, how did you get together? Tell us a bit about the local music scene at the time or NZ in general?
>>> Dunedin in the early-mid 80s was a great place if you were into rock music. NZ as a whole was fucked up. We started the decade with Muldoon and the 81 Tour, then we got the Lange government destroying the public service and selling state assets, then the stock market bubbled and crashed. It was a hard time to get any financial security. Everything looked grim. But the music was so great, good bands appeared all the time. You knew you were alive.
>>> We’d all kicked around Dunedin long enough to know each other quite well, so starting the band was quite natural. It was Michael’s idea.

Were there any key artists/composers (or other) that aided in your direction in the beginning?
>>> Too many to list. Personally spending hours listening to Cabaret Voltaire and the Fall and watching the Clean and the Stones and then discovering Sonic Youth live on the Evol tour were all major influences.

When musically did you realise you could detach yourself from the rock/pop mould and venture into your own sound?
>>> Fitting the rock/pop mould was actually never part of the plan. We wanted to fuck shit up from day one! Our first rehearsal was when we realised we had a thing you couldn’t get anywhere else, and from then we were rock solid determined to take it as far as we could.

What local or international groups do you like at the moment?
>>> I’m a big fan of SJD, actually. David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights are hard to beat as well, especially as a quartet. But plenty of people I esteem work solo rather than as groups. I should mention Campbell Kneale, Greg Malcolm, Richard Francis. These are just the NZ names.

It’s well known that Sonic Youth hold the Dead C high in their influences, but who are you most proudest of influencing, or being cited as influencing?
>>> Well I don’t know about influencing, that’s kind of hard to be really cut and dried about. But being esteemed by the Sun City Girls, Alan Licht, the A Band and Sonic Youth seemed pretty hot – back in the day.

Recording: When recording can you explain the set up? Positioning, mics, recording gear etc special techniques?
>>> All our techniques are special. We use a lot of small piezo condenser mics, cassette porta studios are great for saturated analogue tape sounds. Room mics are way better than close mics because lots of bleed is good. If something has to be relatively quieter, you can move it away from the mic or put up a baffle. Always record all the band together for basic tracks. Overdubbing is not to be used lightly. Live recording to one or two tracks is often enough. If there’s a guide vocal, keep this audible even if you record another one – why wouldn’t you? Video camera recordings make great albums. Any album that costs more to record than $100, including a good single malt, is over-priced - and you need to find a better whiskey shop.

UTR is a vinyl addict and we are super stoked to have your stuff on board.
>>> Cool.

The Dead C have always pushed onto this medium. How do you see the vinyl record as a choice for music?
>>> Well, when we started that was still all there was at our disposal, actually. Then later vinyl was still the cool medium, which it has remained. It’s a good album length, it has two sides, there are three or four options in terms of duration: singles, EPs etc. And it has the best packaging, with the greatest art potential.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt musically in the last year?
>>> I’ve made some discoveries about playing guitar through my ring modulator which are quite nifty. And I re-discovered a trick with chaining the spare inputs on my amp together with a patch cord and then using their volume pots to change the tone on the one I’m actually playing into. Most amps don’t do that so well. Just shows the value of good vintage equipment.

If you could say one thing to better or encourage NZ music it would be…?
>>> Don’t believe the hype about building the industry. If you build a music industry, then that’s all you end up with, another music industry – not more music. Lots of public money has been poured into the music industry, but very little of it has ‘trickled down’ to artists. I believe in directly funding artists to make their art, not funding some bunch of fucks in a board room so they can screw the artists at their leisure, on the public coin no less.

Do you think living in the south island has shaped the way you create music? Is location important to the Dead C’s sound?
>>> How could it not? There may well be background forces at work from the landscape, at the unconscious level. But there’s also the deep cultural history in the arts, McCahon and Baxter were from down there you know, band members have lived cheek-by-jowl with Ralph Hotere and Bill Hammond. That stuff rubs off. But more importantly, there’s no industry or media pressure, we’ve always been free to do exactly what we want, with no expectations or nonsense, as there is in metropolitan areas. That’s why we’re still good at what we do.

A Dead C live set is improvised. Do you often come across parts you really wish you could repeat?
>>> But all our music sounds the same… so how could that be a problem? Mind you, recording the gigs does help. Then rather than trying to do it again, we just stick it on the next album.

What is your most memorable show to date?
>>> It’s hard to top following Sonic Youth and the Stooges on stage at the first Minehead ATP in 2006. I walked out to the front of the stage (with a very long guitar lead) and smacked my guitar just to feel my trousers flap in the wind from the insane PA. The sound guys had turned everything up to 11 because we have such insignificant-looking equipment (no stacks) so apparently we were 50% louder than Sonic Youth. And we played a total blinder, after a 36 hour trip from the other side of the world.

When and where are you playing next?
>>> No idea, literally. Someone needs to make us an offer.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions.
>>> You’re welcome.




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