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Terror of The Deep

Terror of The Deep

Interviewed by
Louisa Kasza
Thursday 28th February, 2013 10:27AM

Since emerging in 2008, Wellington band Terror of the Deep have built up a solid reputation for their excellent live show and engaging 'electric folk music' released over two albums and new EP Death of the Gideon.   Playing this weekend with US band Moon Duo, we thought it was high time we got the band on record about their origins, latest release and international recognition...

How did Terror of the Deep come about?

The band initially started in 2008 when Oliver Dixon (guitars/vocals) started playing songs with his then next-door neighbour Mason James (guitars/vocals) and a drum machine, which progressed onwards and upwards into what we are today, with Taipua Adams (bass/vocals) joining the band in 2009, myself [William Daymond] joining the band in early 2010, and late last year Tom Watson joined us on keyboards.

Is there a story behind the name?

From what I’m aware of it’s loosely based on the title of the 1995 computer game XCOM: Terror from the Deep. It sometimes backfires as I have encountered a few people who had assumed that we are a metal band because of the name.

For people who haven't heard you, how would you describe your sound?

We were asked this exact same question when we were interviewed on National Radio a few weeks back and Oliver replied with the term “Electric Folk Music”, which I think sums up our sound almost perfectly. Lyrically our songs do tend to tell stories rather than being deliberately abstract or obtuse and musically we are generally based around traditional song structure, as opposed to sonic noise landscapes or fresh funky beats.

If you had to name a few main influences, what would you say?

I’d say that our primary influence is the craft of a well-written song, irrespective of any musical genre or specific bands. In terms of lyrical subject matter, many of our songs deal with taking a bad situation and turning it around into something positive.

What is your writing and recording process?

We are not the type of band that demos the entire album before we record it – in fact we work with almost an opposite approach. For our Permanent Weekend album, the first song Here and Now had been in our set for a while but was not on the shortlist of songs to appear on the album. Almost as an afterthought, it was recorded spontaneously in one take to see whether it would work out or not, which it thankfully did. The last song on that album, When the Planets Align, was a song we had been struggling with in rehearsals and could never get quite right. The version that appears on the album was actually the first time we had performed it in its entirety and as a result has a nice spontaneous feel to it which would have been lost if we had continually rehearsed and demo’ed it to death.

Tell us about your latest EP, Death of the Gideon...

We recorded the new E.P. with our good friend Tom Watson (who is now also playing keyboards with us) at The Car Club in Newtown, Wellington over the winter of last year. We then mixed it at The Surgery, which was lovely for us as they have a huge analogue plate reverb system there, as opposed to digital reverb, which doesn’t sound as good. The name came about when we were preparing concert posters for the album launch of our previous release, Permanent Weekend. Instead of designing a colour poster on a computer and getting colour copies done, we designed the poster in black and white and hand coloured every copy with watercolour and enamel paints – this not only saves money but also makes every poster unique. As a joke, while we were painting them Oliver gave titles to several of his and “Death of the Gideon” was one of the names he used (“Tears Of An Angel” was another) and when we were thinking of potential titles for the E.P. we remembered that one and couldn’t think of anything better.

Was there a particular theme, inspiration or sound you were working towards?

In terms of sound, the backing tracks were recorded on an 8-track reel-to-reel tape machine and the vocals and overdubs were recorded digitally, so sonically the EP utilises the pros and cons of both analogue and digital recording technology. Apart from that, there was no particular theme or inspiration, just the desire to record and present the songs as best as we possibly could.

How long have you been working on the songs and were there many outtakes?

Almost all of the five songs were written within the twelve months prior to recording the EP, with the only exception being Do Not Ask for Love, which dates back to January 2008. There are a few alternate versions of songs (i.e. some faster, some slower) left over from the sessions but no unused songs as we went into the studio with the idea of just concentrating on those five songs.

Have you been reading your reviews? Anything particularly surprising?

We all found it quite humorous when NZ Musician Magazine essentially panned our first release, Airport Underneath the Dome, whereas by contrast most international reviewers gave it glowing compliments. This is representative of most of our reviews in that we tend to be better reviewed by overseas writers than we do by ones here in New Zealand. A few reviewers have picked up on the 1980’s Flying Nun vibe to some of our material, but these similarities have occurred by accident rather than by design.

The EP was released on New York labe correct? How did you hook up with them?

Correct. Currently the EP is only available as a digital download but will be released as a 12” 45rpm vinyl sometime in the next few months if all goes according to plan. Steve Burhans, the guy who runs Selection Records, contacted us out of the blue and said that he loved our music and wanted to work with us, which we were all delighted with. We have also had our previous albums distributed overseas by Night People, who are based in Iowa, and Hideotic Records, who are based in Melbourne.

Are you also signed to a New Zealand label?

Not at the moment.

TOTD has been pretty prolific, releasing new music every year for the last three years. Is this a pattern you think will continue?

Undoubtedly. As each release progresses we are becoming more and more confident and adventurous in the recording studio and enjoy utilising what the situation has to offer us. Tom Watson, the guy who has been recording us, is great to work with so as long as there is new material to record then there will be hopefully more to come.

How is your live show coming along? Do you enjoy playing live?

Since being recorded, one of the songs on the new EP, Model Train Village, has been transformed into a twenty minute long epic called 'A Story of an Ordinary Man' that has around five different sections to it and is now the centrepiece of our current live show. It is heaps of fun to play, but also quite exhausting from a drummers perspective! We all really enjoy playing live, especially when a good sound person and a responsive audience are involved.

What else have you got coming up in terms of live shows?

We are traveling to Melbourne for the third time, which is exciting for us as we have a bit of a following over there and all the shows we have played there previously have gone down really well. In terms of local shows, we will be the support act for Moon Duo who will be over from San Francisco in early March, so that looks set to be an exciting show.

What are the future plans for TOTD?

Just to keep doing what we are doing. It seems to be working well for us, and people seem to be enjoying it. We intend to tour the United States sometime in the not too distant future.

Wellington is producing some great music, who are some of your favourite acts there at the moment?

Off the top of my head, Orchestra of Spheres, Marineville, Beastwars… I will stop now as if I try and do an exhaustive list I will no doubt leave out someone awesome by accident!

What’s your view on the state of music in New Zealand...

It’s just like any genre of music (that is if you consider the term New Zealand Music to be a musical genre) – some of it is mind-blowing and inspirational, some of it is average/okay and some of it is just embarrassing and bloody awful.