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Dictaphone Blues

Dictaphone Blues

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Wednesday 11th April, 2012 8:20AM

The Dictaphone Blues have just released their sophomore album Beneath the Crystal Palace. UTR caught up with Ed Castelow to discuss the album and the state of the music community in Auckland right now.

Tell us a little bit about the amalgamation of musicians who make up Dictaphone Blues: what other bands are they in and how has the line-up changed over the years?

The current line up has been settled for about two years now. Myles Allpress, Rob Collins and myself. We are currently all exclusive to Dictaphone Blues but have played in a myriad of other groups like Heavy Jones, Broken Heart Breakers, Pan Am, The Nudie Suits, The Ruby Suns, The Brunettes and Thee Conjurors, The Fir Trees, Starky and Degrees.K. Originally the line up was Ryan McPhun (drums), Gareth Shute (bass), Ben Eldridge (guitar) and Kelly Horgan (guitar). I guess it got whittled down due to time and other commitments. We have found the three piece vehicle the most productive and enjoyable. We are also enjoying the company of Matthias Jordan over our national tour. He has previously been in Pluto and is currently in Nightchoir. He is a wizard.

You've just released an album, Beneath the Crystal Palace. Tell us a little bit about writing and recording the album.

We wrote the album over a period of eight weeks in a very small practice space. It was just the three of us in there working on the song ideas that I was bringing in. In the past I have arrived with fully formed ideas, demoed or fully recorded. This time it was a melody or song with no other parts written. So, it's more of a band written record.

For the recording, we set up a studio with the drums in a large room with wooden floors and lots natural reverb. We used some close micing techniques and some ambient placement to keep a wide sound going on as well as double tracking the drums in places. We are big amp and effect pedal fans so there were heaps of options on hand when it came to guitars and we could go to town and experiment with tones and combinations. Lots of vintage germanian fuzz! Most of the time I favoured my '72 Fender Princeton or a black face Fender Twin Reissue. Rob's bass was either through an Orange or an Ampeg SVT.

I had set myself the task of completing the lyrics before we reached the recording process, which I did achieve to about the 80% mark. I chopped through the takes pretty quick and wasn't too hard on myself like I have been in the past. We were also lucky enough to have a few friends join in on some harmonies and main vocals. So look out for those and listen to the beauty!!

Were you exploring anything in particular musically, thematically or otherwise while writing this album?

We were just trying to write an album of songs that we really enjoyed playing and listening to. There was a lot of jamming off the cuff during the live tracking and when doing the overdubs we went with that approach as well. Trying to capture the essence of the excitement of not knowing what is coming next and or making it up on the fly. We all vibed on the the same music during this period with touch stones ranging from The Small Faces, Faces, The Stooges, The Who and Tom Petty to more modern stuff like Besnard Lakes, Arcade Fire and The Morning Benders.

How would you describe this album as a progression from your earlier work?

I would say this is a big step up in production. Although it was still recorded in an 'indie' fashion, the recording techniques and playing is much better than our debut. There is more of a cohesive sound running through it, which I attribute to writing and recording it during one spell as opposed to doing it over a year or so, in different bedrooms and the like.

Why the title: Beneath the Crystal Palace?

The Crystal Palace is a theatre that still exists on Mt. Eden Road. There is a dance hall beneath it where The Lab Studio is situated. This is where we set up shop and make din. Hence the name, Beneath The Crystal Palace.

Your live shows have been described as "infectious". Tell me what it is about playing live that gets you guys off?

Oh, everything! Playing to people is a gas! Sharing what you have created, showing off, having an amp turned up and seeing folks connect in a collective. It's very much a real cool time, any time you can share your creative energies and exhibit them in a live realm.

You've been part of the Auckland music community for a while now. Do you think it's thriving? Tell us a little bit about how you've seen it change over the years.

From my point of view it is pretty ace at the moment. Maybe it's just me because I like to socialise and talk to everyone about what they are doing, but there are plenty of albums coming out and folks playing energised shows. It's great to be working with Tono on our Auckland show and sharing in each others projects in some small way. The more people work together on some kind of level the more everyone will experience. Whether it is bFM or Hugh Sundae with their filmed live studio sessions, Rohan Evans down at Whammy/Wine Cellar, Matthew Crawley greeting everyone with a kiss at the Golden Dawn or some house party on Upper Queen Street, there is something for everyone and everyone is pretty positive in my eyes. Or maybe I just don't hang out with negative people. They are such a fucking drag!

What artists, in New Zealand or internationally, are you inspired by?

Hmmmm. Well most of those that inspire me are now dead. Right now I am inspired by listening to George Harrison, and this really great Pretty Things album called Parachute. Dig it out and bliss out. In New Zealand, anyone that plays a good show and isn't a dick I can be inspired by. Tom Healy who mixed our album is doing some great stuff with his own music as Paquin and others like Popstrangers and the Verlaines. He's going away on tour with She's So Rad for a few months so I will have to get as much of his zen vibe as I can before he splits.

What are the future plans with Dictaphone Blues?

We would of coarse love to press the album on vinyl. After Brad Fafejta did a stunning job on the artwork it was just the cherry on the top really. This needs to be presented in 12" format!!!! Finish the current tour and perhaps look at doing another run of shows in winter. If we can get the album out anywhere else in the world we would definitely follow it up with shows in that country. It would be great to travel with these songs.

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