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The Datsuns

The Datsuns

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Wednesday 28th August, 2013 10:00AM

New Zealand rock 'n roll stalwarts The Datsuns will return home this month to play an extensive nationwide tour. UnderTheRadar caught up with Christian Livingstone to discuss how a band goes about writing and recording an album when each member lives in a different country, and how it feels to have been in The Datsuns for 18 years.

Hi Christian, how are you?

I’m good thanks, how are you?

I'm good thank you. What are you up to at the moment?

Well, I was just waiting for you to call actually. It’s 11.30 at night here so there’s nothing else to do.

What has the band been up to recently?

We’ve just played a few shows in Europe – Belgium and France. We have nothing on for a few weeks until New Zealand, which we’re looking forward to.

Have you been writing anything since you released your Death Rattle Boogie last year?

Not as such, not yet. We’re all in different parts of the world so maybe everyone has been writing individually but not together, yet.

We actually haven’t caught up with you since you released Death Rattle Boogie. Tell me about the writing and recording process.

The songs for that record were actually written about three years ago - around 2010 I think. We went to New Zealand and we wrote a bunch of songs and then we went to Sweden at the start of 2011 and did a lot of recording. Later that year we also went back to New Zealand and did some more recording. We mixed it in 2012 and released it later that year.

In other interviews you have noted that The Datsuns’ writing process is very democratic. Tell me about the process in the band from the inception an song through to the finished product.

It’s a long and traumatic process at the best of times. A lot of the songs might start off from myself or Dolf (de Borst), and then we take them to the band and we work on them together. Everyone throws in their five cents; somebody will disagree with somebody else and we’ll try something and finally mould it into some sort of shape. Then we record it and throw a few more ideas into the pot, and then hopefully it comes out at the other end being a good song. They always take quite a journey because once you get four different individuals involved in the creative process it can be difficult to achieve one cohesive, creative vision at the best of times.

Especially when you all live in different cities.

Hell yes – countries, actually.

Was there anything in particular you wanted to achieve with Death Rattle Boogie?

I think the thing with art is that it creates itself and you can attempt to guide it and have a vision at the start but ultimately it takes on form of its own. You try and run with it to the best of your ability and try and sculpt it into something. There was no master plan: we didn’t sit down and write a plot to anything, it just evolved into what it was.

Now that you can view it as a finished body of work, are there any ongoing threads that work their way through the album?

Good questions – I’ve never really thought about it. It’s definitely not a conceptual record but I think musically it’s a little rough around the edges. It’s slightly more hard hitting than the last record is - that's probably the only thing I’d say in reflection. It’s very difficult to reflect on something when one is so close to the material; it’s like discussing who is your favourite child if you’re parent. It’s hard for me to say really.

Between Death Rattle Boogie and the previous album there was quite a long hiatus. Was that purely down to logistical factors, or were you guys working on different projects?

Logistics were a massive part of it. We live in different parts of the world and discovered it was very difficult to make another record. Logistics, personal reasons and business reasons - all of the above. We went through an interesting period of time shall we say, but we came triumphantly out the other end with a new record, so it’s good to still be here doing it.

You’ve been doing it for ten years now: how does it feel to have been in a band for over a decade?

I’ve been in The Datsuns for 18 years! We took a while to get around to doing our first record but it’s definitely been a while now. We’ve spent so long with each other it’s kind of like having another family – everyone kind of loves everyone but you have your ups and downs but ultimately you stand by these people because you’ve been through so much together. It’s a wonderfully odd situation to be in.

How have your expectations and priorities around being a band changed over the years?

It’s different now. Earlier on we would tour non-stop but now real life and adult life has stepped in – Phil has a baby. We have to be respectful of people’s private lives whereas before the band was the first priority, whereas now we juggle that around what people need to do to stay sane in their own worlds as well. For want of a better word we have to be more ‘mature’ about it to keep it all together and running as best you can.

It’s impressive that while you’re maturing personally you’ve managed to put out a record that’s arguably as gritty and aggressive as your very early work.

Whatever you do in your personal live does affect your creativity but when you get four people together in a van, the sum of the parts makes a whole that’s better than the individual. Even though we’ve changed individually, when we get together we create this thing that is The Datsuns which gives us some sort of unity and consistency across the years even though we’ve changed personally.


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