Taking ten minutes out of his very busy schedule we talked to DEAD front man Jem about recording their second album, touring Japan and taking your band on tour overseas.
By Emma Dean
It’s been a little while since we last chatted to you guys – what have you been up to since April?
We made a new album and recorded a song for a split 7″ to be released early next year. We toured up the east coast again, played a few shows at home including a killer gig in Geelong with Black Cobra and did three benefit shows across Victoria for Blackie from Hard-Ons after his assault. They were all due to be Hard-Ons shows but we switched them to benefits after he was unable to play them. Those shows were fucking awesome. Of course the reason for them sucked big time but the outpour of generosity from within the underground music community was very moving. We also toured Japan and released a three way split CD there with Cyberne and Knellt. It was an amazing tour and I thoroughly recommend touring there, the quality of bands over there is exceptionally high. At the end of the tour we recorded some new songs at a studio in Osaka.
Your second album IDIOTS is almost out – what can you tell us about it?
It’s a fairly live sounding record. There are fuck-all overdubs, all the songs were recorded first take so it’s far from “perfect” but then neither are our shows. We had very limited money which translates to limited time in the studio. We had toured solidly since the first LP whereas the first LP was made after we’d only played a handful of shows. So it made sense to make a no frills kinda record. Neil Thomason who engineered the record (and the first one) is very much into capturing a performance and not over-producing the songs. So for the most part we just tried to work to that strength of his rather than against it.
It still has some more “studio” sounding moments but even they were all made very off the cuff. We would love to make some more studio focused records as well in the future but it’s not an indulgence our budget can really afford us. The record we made I am really happy with. The experience of making it was very enjoyable.
I mean I can’t really listen to it as an outsider, I’m sure it sounds very different to me than to other listeners. But that’s not really our concern; different people will hear it differently.
If someone were to come and see us play live and enjoy it I would feel confident in selling them this record. I would feel very much they got their money’s worth and that it sounds like us.
As far as influences are concerned I’m not really sure. We weren’t especially trying to reference anything in particular. But I know we wanted parts of the record to sound (production wise) like a Motorhead or AC/DC record where the production doesn’t get in the way of the performance too much. We wanted to hear the band – warts and all. And then here and there we threw in a few curveballs because basically we personally find that more interesting than a whole album that maintains one sound for the duration.
Jace does all our artwork and I do some of the arranging/packaging and screen-print the art.
It’s out digitally already and the LPs are due back from the pressing plant any day now.
How was the tour of Japan?
It was unreal. It’s a truly unique place. I’ve been bringing bands over from there for years now so in every town we got to meet up with old friends and be blown away by interesting and extreme bands every night. We tour at a DIY level and the professionalism displayed by our touring hosts far outweighed this. I imagine many budget tours run a lot less smoothly.
Vaz (USA) are heading Down Under to tour with you for your national tour in November/December – what can you tell us about them?
We played a few shows with them in the USA when we toured there last year including Total Fest with Big Business, White Shit, Hammerhead, Thrones and a heap of others. Vaz stood out among the 100+ bands we played with on that tour. Their live show was absolutely intense. Not because they dance around like idiots or anything, they don’t. But because they play harder than anyone else. For us we try as much as we can to tour with bands who are our superiors musically. This way it pushes us to play better and we get to see great music every night. This is why we are touring with Vaz and that’s what I am looking forward to night after night on the tour. You can’t learn this stuff in a book or by sitting on the internet. There is just no substitute for seeing a killer band live in front of you.
I’m also looking forward to showing Vaz some of our best bands here in Australia. That may sound cheesy but again we book lineups we like. It’s not like we get paid for this so we may as well enjoy it. Australia is a great big mystery to them; they know very little of what is happening here musically. So my aim is to send them home with a few new favourite bands.
We don’t know them especially well but we share a label in the states (Wantage USA) and they are just very friendly and approachable fellas.
What can we expect from the live shows for this tour?
Well Vaz are confrontingly loud. I remember really feeling it in my temples when they played. It’s not a warm and fuzzy loud it’s a really aggressive loud, kinda like the Hard-Ons. They are very no bullshit on stage. Don’t expect to see someone doing acrobatics while they play guitar or telling you what you’re supposed to think politically. It’s just a very intense and tight live band who know each other backwards. They don’t sound like anyone else in particular to me except their other band Hammerhead who some readers are probably more familiar with. Hammerhead were on Amphetaime Reptile at the same time as Unsane, Jesus Lizrad, Helmet, Melvins etc. Vaz are basically a more extreme version of what Hammerhead produced.
DEAD continue to sound like two Neolithic men smashing boulders and puffing up their tiny chests. We’re gonna work out some set lists tomorrow actually. We’ll play mainly stuff off the new album and the new songs we recorded in Japan I reckon. Plus a few new ones we are finishing off now. I dunno, I mean if people wanna hear songs in particular they can just ask.
What advice do you have for bands wanting to get international acts to tour with them in Australia?
I’m by no means an expert at this stuff. I book tours because I like touring. I’d happily hand over some of the workload if someone else wanted to do it and then I’d focus more on playing the drums.
I operate at a very DIY level and that’s how these tours work. We don’t offer the bands up front guarantees as in reality we are hard pressed covering the cost of the tours here. I guess an important piece of advice is to not commit to anything you can’t deliver. People are putting a lot of trust in you if you are booking a tour for them. No one likes to be let down.
It’s easy to think a band will pull a large crowd here just ‘cos you really dig them. But it just doesn’t always work that way. It is a lot of work. More work than I think anyone can appreciate until they do it. So be prepared for that and make sure you are doing it for the love of it because in my experience there is no profit to be made. If you just really wanna see the band play you’d spend less money and time by booking a flight to whichever country they live in and watching them there.
Of course it can also be very rewarding so I don’t mean to sound like a downer, just also want to be realistic. Every tour I have booked for overseas bands has been highly stressful and highly rewarding and has made lifetime friends. If you’ve never booked a tour before I would start by doing a few for your own bands or for mate’s bands before tackling an overseas band.
Same goes for Australian bands that want to tour overseas – what sort of things do they need to consider before heading OS?
If you can find other Australian bands that have been to the countries you want to visit that is a good place to start as far as getting advice and an accurate depiction of what to expect. It depends on where you want to go and what your motivations are for going there. Touring can do a lot of different things to a band. It can make them twice the band they were before. It can also break them up.
Again I figure it’s your money and your time so do it how you want to. DEAD choose to tour in a fairly grueling fashion because we tour a lot, have very little budget and we like to play a lot. That is our main motivation for touring. That and meeting great people along the way. We don’t go to be tourists as such and don’t have the money to do that. But a lot of other bands do and they should if that’s what they want to do. At our kind of DIY level it is often the more out of the way places that yield the most memorable shows. I suppose in those places people are more appreciative you have made the effort to get there whereas in the big cities you struggle to get noticed. So I strongly recommend playing places that are off the standard tour route of the bigger bands.
What are some new bands we need to be checking out?
Shit just look at our tour lineups! Bone, Wicked City, Sun God Replica, Batpiss, King Parrot and Black Level Embassy are some of my favourite Melbourne bands right now. And that is just a tiny amount of what is going on. Adelaide is punching far above its weight with bands like Hydromedusa, Death Cult Jock, Poisonous Viper Gang, SXWZD and heaps more. The Reverend Jessie Custer are about to release a 10″ and I’ve not been so excited for a local release in a long time. NOUS in Ballarat are young dudes whose music is beyond their years. Kremlings and Goonbag Colostomy in Geelong are the best bands I’ve heard come out of that town in a long time. In the Gong bands like Hytest and Baby Machine have given birth to BRUCE and Handlebar who both rock hard as. In Sydney Mere Women and Defektro and also Pure Evil are semi back from the dead.
I don’t know if it’s an unusually good time for the Aussie underground right now but I honestly feel we’re spoiled for choice. Most of the media has no idea these bands exist of course so don’t expect to hear about them any time soon in street press or on the radio. I figure your readers are already more tuned into the underground outlets anyway though or they wouldn’t be reading this. Art As Catharsis (Sydney Based Label) has been issuing some great compilations recently that are free and online and a great way to expand your music library.
Many thanks to Jem for taking the time to chat to us. Check out the DEAD website for more album details and tour dates: http://deadsounds.com/