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Interview: Dion Lunadon of A Place To Bury Strangers and The D4

Interview: Dion Lunadon of A Place To Bury Strangers and The D4

Chris Cudby / Wednesday 27th February, 2019 1:01PM

Dion Lunadon has been an electrifying force in New Zealand music and beyond for over two decades, literally setting fire to local venues with garage punk legends The D4 and currently conquering the world as a member of Brooklyn noise rock trio A Place To Bury Strangers, with singer / guitarist Oliver Ackermann and drummer Lia Simone Braswell. The US group dropped their fifth studio album album Pinned last year (along with a companion collection of remixes Repinned) and are primed to tear it up in Auckland and Wellington this March. Chris Cudby caught up with Lunadon as he was prepping for a DJ set in NYC for a freewheeling chat about APTBS' new album, his recent reunion tour with The D4 and more...

Hi Dion, I’ll hit you up with a few hard hitting questions. Thanks heaps for taking time out to have a chat tonight.

That’s cool man, no hard hitters man, no hard hitters!

We’ll see! I like how Pinned seems to re-combine New York’s punk music history to create this almost fictional idea of New York. It makes me think of action movies like The Warriors or something, dudes fighting in alleyways with knives.

Funny you should say that man. We spent the whole year hanging in alleyways, waiting for people to come by so we could stab them before making that album.

Was there any specific theme that you were exploring with Pinned, or did the songs come together in an organic way?

To be honest, it was a lot different with my other experiences writing with A Place To Bury Strangers. I didn’t write any of this record actually to be honest. I’ve had a hand in writing the rest of the records but Oliver was going through a lot of moods, like [studio and venue] Death By Audio had closed down, we just finished off Transfixiation, the album before Pinned, right as Death By Audio was finishing up... we had a studio there so we couldn’t record there... there was a two or three year period where Oliver, he had a small pedal space but not a large space and he wasn’t living there. He’s usually lived in the spaces, so he was living in an apartment and it was hard to get together and write. We didn’t really have a space, he actually wrote that record himself in his little apartment.

I guess some of the political climate is in there. We all tend to stay away from that as subject matter, our songs are usually a bit more personal, about our own lives rather than the political climate, but there’s a bit of this and that in there... it was little bit different. We had a new drummer join us too... there was a lot of changes going on I feel and it reflects that.

With the remix album Repinned, there’s some amazing artists that contributed remixes to that and it looks like a massive project in itself. How did you guys choose the artists involved in that record?

Haha well, first of all, the top of our list was Phil Collins, he turned us down. Then we had Jamiroquai, he wasn't interested either. Just kidding.

We made a big list of people that we would like to work with when to came to remixes and things like and that, we approached them and a lot of them were interested. It was really cool hearing the songs interpreted so differently. I’ve only ever done one remix in my life and it’s really cool trying to just take a song and turn it inside out. Turn it into something completely different. I think everyone did a really cool job of doing that. We didn't really get involved with the artists too much, in any say of what to do. We just let people do what they did and there it is y'know?

There was some great photos of the D4 touring around New Zealand last year, especially the ones of you setting fire to the speaker at Tauranga’s Woodcock Festival. I was wondering what it was like last year, getting back together with the lads and traveling around New Zealand again.

It was really really awesome actually. We had such a good time. It was nothing but pleasurable. Jimmy [Christmas] and myself pretty much put together all of the shows, organised everything. That was just a lot of fun, coz I got to hang out with Jimmy a lot. We were talking back and forth every day, me in New York, him in New Zealand, it was just exciting to do that. It felt like the perfect time as well, it didn't feel forced. With the Kings Arms closing down, it just seemed like a good fun thing to do and it was, it was really pleasurable. All the guys in the band put in a lot of work and were super excited about it. The shows, I thought, were really good, we played really well. Couldn't have done better.

Did you see any young local bands you liked while you were touring around?

We played with this band Sit Down In Front form Gisborne. They were cool. I thought Best Bets were a really great band, also Miss June were cool, also Echo Ohs. It was really cool to have them all on board.

With A Place To Bury Strangers, it seems to use a broader sound palette then the D4, but still channels intense rock and roll vibes. Do you reckon your musical interests have developed or changed over the last two decades? How do you think that moving to the States has impacted on your sound?

There's a lot of similarities between the D4 and A Place To Bury Strangers and there's also a lot of differences too. A Place to Bury Strangers is definitely a bit more experimental but they both have power, a lot of energy and power. That's what I get out of music and what I put into it as well. That's what's best about what I do, so it suits me nicely. I think moving to the States has done a lot for my music. I play more music now then I ever have. I sit in my studio every single day writing songs and when I'm not doing that I'm always on tour. I'm super focused, even more than I used to be.

There's so much creativity in New York. Not to say there isn't in New Zealand as well but it's just abundant here. The population here... there's just so many people and so many more little scenes and there's always something happening, you can really grasp onto that creative energy and be a part of it here. I love that because it drives me along and I drive it along, just like everybody. That's what I love about being here. I think it's really added to what I do, because there is so much creativity that there's a lot of people doing really great stuff here. It pushes you along, people are always swapping ideas, bouncing back and forth and sharing stuff and I think that’s cool.

You were talking about 20 year olds who are fans of the D4. It was funny because I had a few people come up to me and say their dad was a big fan and used to come to our shows... at the end of the day I’m getting old now, but it’s cool to see the younger generation who are still into it, or heard about the D4 and came to the shows. It was good to be able to show them one of our shows because I think our shows were definitely stronger then our records and I think the shows were where it was at. I think we had a real, or still do, it's a real powerful thing, you can feel the energy, you can feel the wind coming off the stage.

In terms of talking about my influences over the last twenty years, to be honest, there hasn't been a lot of change. Sure I’ve discovered a lot more music but Im also a diehard fan of the same things that I was into back then, like The Ramones and The Stooges and things like that. They still really excite me and drive me. But I think what has changed, is that I no longer want to emulate them or be like them, I want to be like myself. I really want to hone in on who I am as a musician and take chances and be a little bit more experimental and just go with who I am a little bit more.

Speaking of which, do you reckon we’ll see another Dion Lunadon solo album any time soon?

I think you will man, as I said I’m in my studio working every single day. I kind of never put it on myself that I will ever release an album ever again, because I’m not really in it to do that, I’m in it to just make good music. If I have enough good songs to release an album I will do that and things are looking good at the moment. I’m fifty songs in and there’s some good ones in there. I’m just gonna keep writing and see where I’m at. If there happens to be a really good album the eclipses the first then I’ll release it and I’m hoping that will be the case.

What can punters look forward to with your APTBS shows in March? Will you be hanging around New Zealand for long after your Wellington show?

I would advise people, and this is my and Oliver's advice, even with ourselves with shows, don’t expect anything because you gotta live in the moment. Especially as a musician, if you start expecting the show to be amazing, you quite often build yourself up for disappointment so it’s just best to wait. Do all you can to prepare for the moment, be in it and do the best you can. I would say just turn up to the show and we’ll see what happens. And yeah, I will be hanging around a bit more. I'm gonna hang around for another couple of weeks in Auckland, I'm gonna come back and just hang out. I'm looking forward to it a lot.

Undertheradar proudly presents A Place To Bury Strangers – playing at Auckland's Hollywood Cinema with Wax Chattels on Thursday 7th March, and Wellington's Meow with The All Seeing Hand on Friday 8th March. For tickets and more info head along here.


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