Die! Die! Die! - interview

("everybody move so fast none of this will ever last")

I spoke with Andrew Wilson, front man for NZ trio Die! Die! Die!, for their Australian tour, which is now underway - they hit Revolver on Thursday the 24th, it's well worth checking them out. They are insane live. We chatted about their new album Promises, Promises and what it means for the band. Andrew was warm and really nice to speak to, I'm not sure if that translates into hard text, but he was quite open and grateful to chat. I'm not sure if I interjected far too much, as well, stopping his flow and thoughts. Most of our conversation is below.

The last time you were out here, you played a gig at the Prince of Wales...
I had terrible food poisoning then, I went to hospital after that show. I was really, really, really fucked up – I don't want to go into too many details but I totally thought I was dying. It was probably a really laid back performance.

(Andrew screamed his way through the set, put his head in the hollow drum kit at one point whilst Michael Prain was hammering away at it. Meanwhile Lachlan Anderson, the bassist, is jumping up on the stacks and free falling.)

Well, by that stage, you were playing almost exclusively from
Promises, Promises, despite the fact audiences here were yet to hear it.
We've started to play old stuff again now, it's just that we'd only gotten off touring the old stuff overseas and it was just kind of refreshing to play the new music.

It was strange for the crowd, but I thought still quite cool – an entire set list fresh to my ears was a great experience

We actually thought we got a really bad response from Australia, lot's a people were like 'ah you're not playing all the old songs', but see in New Zealand we kind of had the reverse reaction from playing all the new stuff.

(Andrew is at pains to justify playing this new material, but really the crowd should have just necked up.)

So how do you find Australian audiences in general? I find them very standoffish.

Yeah, sometimes, we've had really mixed reactions. They're either really, really, really super enthusiastic or they're super the opposite, and that Prince of Wales gig, well, I wasn't really sure. But I guess in Melbourne it's because you get exposed to so many amazing bands, so a band has to really impress you to get a reaction out of them, and really everyone is way too cool.

You tour shitloads, do you find you pick up many influences along the way?

Yeah, not really by choice we've spent a long time in America, which, um, I mean it was quite inspiring ... I haven't really seen that many bands which inspired me but just the hectic lifestyle and everything has just definitely inspired us, and we're really into dancehall and reggae this year because we ended up hanging out with all these, Rastafarian dudes who decided to really like our band and come on tour with us. So we've had some interesting stories, we're really influenced by the places we're at. When we were in LA we were hanging out with all these people really into Morrissey and the Smiths and stuff, and they're all like Mexican ... I wouldn't say gang types, but tough types. Everywhere has kinda got its own individual flavour and we definitely get influenced by where we're at.

Locust Weeks EP looks like it has a photo taken in the US, on the front?
Yeah that was the street which we lived on in New York.

And was
Locust Weeks the title any reference to your time there?
Nah: we practised on a street called Locust St, and then we recorded it there. I don't know about that recording - we did it in three hours.

Strange, I love that record, especially the last track - it feels like it's been made in three hours, but that lent it something.

Yeah, I mean, it was really - that song 155 has been around for a while. The other three we kind of wrote in NY, but 155 we wrote in Auckland before we moved.

Locust Weeks
sort of seems like a bit of a continuation of the debut album, and it almost seems like it was kind of like it was the last chance you got to really kick out a lot of, not anger - but really expel something. And Promises, Promises seems a bit more calculated, do you agree?
Um, oh, I think a lot of that was that the first EP was done in a day, the Steve Albini LP was done in three days, Locust Weeks was done in three hours, and then Promises, Promises was done in 12 days. If you think about it, 12 days mixing and mastering in there too, is actually pretty insane. 12 days is not really that long. Although, I know what you mean calculated, but also the fact that we're working with the producer on Promises, Promises really affected, you know - working with Shayne [Carter, renowed NZ producer] really influenced Promises, Promises.


Kind of arrangements and moods.

Because it definitely has a different recording grain/texture than say the Albini one which seems a bit more polished, whereas this one seems rougher around the edges but the songs themselves seem a little bit more hemmed in.

Well, that's kind of it actually. The sound is actually a lot more budget because we didn't have as much money as the other three recordings but the songs are a lot better, I reckon.

They seem like they have a longer gestation.

Well, actually, probably the opposite - we wrote most of Promises, Promises a week before we recorded it. Sideways Here We Come was actually a day before. Yeah, it was the last song we wrote on the album. What I found really funny was that was the song that was gonna be left off the album because we weren't gonna finish it, and that one - the structure’s actually not kinda finished.

It’s my fave track on there, especially the ‘ooo’ [makes terrible imitation of modulating, wordless falsetto refrain] in the background.

That was the most unfinished song definitely on the record.

So how do you explain that then, so you're saying it’s a bit rougher in the sound and then the songs sound more measured/focused, even though you still only wrote them a week before? Is it the song writing process?

I think that we really did make it an idea not to write stuff we'd already done, make sure that it was kinda fresh. I dunno we've just kind of got in a real pattern of song writing with the other records and we really wanted to mix that up, definitely.

From the self-titled EP to the self-titled album, it did almost seem like a loop.

Yeah, exactly.

This one it seems like you guys have entered into a new phase, this is a maturing of the band.

I definitely reckon. I mean like when we did that first EP we were 19, you know what I mean. And now we're 23, well Lachlan is 21. And there's a new bass player as well. Well I mean we've definitely grown up a lot, and a lot of the shit which used to impress doesn't impress me at all and a lot of the shit which used to make my skin crawl like now I really love, you know what I mean. And I think that's natural to anyone who is involved in music, your tastes kind of change.

Well what are some examples of shit you used to hate and you’re now into?

I dunno, like Led Zeppelin, I used to despise them. When I was really young and you know, punk music - I was like fuck that dinosaur rock shit and now I love Led Zeppelin. Not saying that Zeppelin has got an effect on our band, but. And even like T Rex, that classic rock. And we've got quite a good scene of friends and music in NZ and they've all changed what they're into as well, and I dunno we're all kind of just creatures of the environment.

This is a difficult question to ask, maybe even retarded.

I love difficult questions.

I'll ask you first from your point of view - do you write the songs/lyrics mostly?

Yeah I wrote the lyrics but the songs we all kind of write.

Well, what is it that sort of – if you say that you’re not as angry as much that you used to be – well, what is it that is still driving you, because there's still a sense of pissed-offed-ness that comes through.

Well I'm definitely still kinda pissed off. I dunno, just life and love and stuff. It's just kind of, well I've noticed Promises, Promises is more direct in the lyrics, and you know, on the first record I dunno I kinda wrote about the stuff I didn't really put my head around. Just kind of let me put my head inside it. I dunno, it's really hard to talk about.

Yeah, your other records seem a bit more obtuse, you kind of put what you were talking about to the side, whereas this one it's just kind of head on.

Well that's pretty much exactly it. Before it was like ‘Oh shit, do I actually wanna sing about that, oh maybe I’ll add something else funny into it so I'm not actually directly talking about it,’ whereas on this record, I just went like ‘Fuck it, I’ll just be as honest as possible for the whole record.’ It's quite a hard record for me to listen to, but in hindsight I feel a lot better about it than the other record, where I was not really trying as much.

So have you found it hard to go back, to play it?

Oh yeah, it's been out in the New Zealand since October so we've been playing it a lot, it is quite a ... it does take a lot to play it. Yeah. But you know, we're all so involved in it now that it’s all pretty good.

Is it almost that it's beyond yourself now?

That’s what I've noticed about it, it's definitely its own beast.

Whether or not it’s hard for you personally, too bad you've just gotta keep going on the juggernaut?

Yeah exactly. And now we've kind of, yeah. I mean it's kind of like, in New Zealand when the first record came out, it was really hated on - actually all our recordings before Promises, Promises. And when this one’s come out it’s actually be quite well received in New Zealand for the first time ever. And the first other recordings did really well overseas but not in New Zealand, and then this record has done quite well in New Zealand, and it's been out in America for three weeks, and its already outsold the first record which we thought did really well. So it's just become its own beast, we've really get into the mindset of it, and we've written a lot more new music recently, in New Zealand, but then we can't really do Promises, Promises justice unless we just kind of go overseas and just play it over there.

That's a good background actually - because I read some overseas reviews on you guys and you're stuff was coming up on quite a few US sites and the reaction was good.

It's doing really well in America, I think we're playing on one of those American talk shows. They've chosen one of our more abrasive tracks off Promises, Promises as well - ATTITUD. It's pretty funny actually.

What a gauge of how big you've gotten over there.

Yeah it's doing surprisingly well. and when it came out in New Zealand and we found that people were starting to like it in our home country which was a really big step, and everyone in Australia hated it. But now people in Australia have started to hear it they're catching on to it, and people in America are really starting to catch on to it. Hopefully it will be good - it could just flop, and we could be back in Dunedin on the dole, writing more songs.

So where to for you guys now?

Yeah we're recording a new EP probably in the next month actually. But um, it's for this American label - I dunno if it's gonna come out in New Zealand or Australia yet. and then I think we're touring in America in their winter. And then at the end of the year we wanna, we just wanna settle down in Dunedin and probably write our next record.

You're pretty quick really.

Yeah, we are actually. I mean there's a hell of a lot more prolific bands, but you know - it's just because we were kind of stuck in a rut touring that first album so much, for so long. With that first record, we kinda got trapped just playing that first album for so long.

And you know, so many of those songs on the album are on the EP as well.

We really weren't very prolific for a really long time, which was probably the time we should have been most prolific. Oh well, I reckon it's good, because we're not going to be like ‘first album fucking yeah’ and then, you know - we're quite glad we're not that band. And if we kind of reached our peak on our first record that would have just been a total disaster.

That wasn't quite the height you wanted to hit.

Totally not, just because we weren't prepared you know - we kind of wanted to get out of NZ so quickly and we didn't actually think about the music as much as we should have.

And so now do you feel like, not like you have more time because you're still on a strict schedule, but do you feel like you have a bit more space?

It's not really like we've got time, because we're playing more than we ever have, but I definitely feel like we've got a lot more space from it all actually.


tell 'em

Biggest selling digital single of all time. Re-establishing the mass via interactive media, almost just through sheer numbers.

The film clip actually represents the 'viral' process of the song. Moves through dance crazes, video phones, youtube clips. Entirely inframediate - its audience knows what they are a part of. God, his album is even called SouljaBoyTellEm.com.

The song itself is an exercise in musical economy. Evcavates any discussions of 'meaning' (let alone regression or cultural decline), the issue here is affect and experience (of the dance, of the midi strings, the repeatedly modulated 'X that ho'). 'Ho' loses all designation as a sexist category and comes to mean about just as much as a lolcat.

There is of course the possibility that Soulja Boy has established something like a direct line of communication with his audience. He actually did popularise the track more or less from the back of his computer class, without any major label supervision. And so to an extent the track's content is 'uncensored'. He is the telos of web 2.0 in the category of music performer.
And so through comes 'immature', titillating lines like 'supersoak that ho' - and yet this itself should be seen as something of a victory. Away from the incessant gangster gangster violence and mystique to a playground chant immaturity. Which itself is a performance, of course. A performance that energises hip hop's popularity.

Tell 'em.


musical portalopolies

Pitchfork.tv launched today. Is it the seed of a portalopoly mentality in the music press, or the music business at large? It's interesting, because music is often slotted in amongst a variety of other lifestyle garnishings on terrible 'on demand', content-streamining web portals, but to an extend Pitchfork have inverted the framework. Their network seems to say: "music is central to our audience, and therefore will provide across the spectrum of music promotion". With the launch of this narrowcast, they now provide music news, reviews, interviews, op-ed pieces, streaming and downloadable tracks, it's own music festival, advertisement opportunities, and now of course a visual component that will in some way recombine all of the already listed.

It would be fruitful to study how the site disavows its obvious 'big media' structure with standard indie discourses. But one thing is for sure: Pitchfork demonstrates how indie music (press and bands) are now a major organ of the music industry as a whole, in fact they may now be at the forefront of its developments (Radiohead model, anyone?).

It will be interesting to see whether Pitchfork.tv platform will be successful, as it certainly requires a good deal of attention from a web audience habituated to distraction and fragmented reading practices. Having said that, the site of course works on the principals of visual internet media that are sure to dice programming into bite-sized pieces. Nevertheless, the principal of 'less content, more structure' seems to reign here - how will YouTube audiences take to this?

Another interesting aspect is what looks like the fairly high-quality resolution of the videos - will this preclude interest in some way?

And the fact that it offers almost completely original content puts it in good stead too, as so often other portals simply work as just that - portals to other contents - or as pattern repeaters.

I hate to say it, but I'm thinking MTV 2.0 - with all the allusions that term brings up.

Update: Stereogum come late to the party!


crippling/creative industries

Fucking hegemonic bastards. The PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia) - who you just know are in the pockets of record companies (well actually that's their whole purpose, to represent them and these little plebs called musicians, but the latter are really peripheral) have just had their decision to hike licensing fees for venues to play recorded music upheld in the Federal Court. It's risen from 7c per person up to $1.05 a person, with dance party rates going from 20c to $3.07. Of course this absolutely kills the various pubs and clubs playing Australian music, who are now considering their options:
  • Approach the nice record companies individually and ask them to be nice (yeah, right).
  • Drop Australian recorded music and go for live music; or
  • Drop Australian recorded music and exclusively play US jams, which don't attract the same fees (a far more likely scenario considering it's ease and economy versus the live option)
Of course this presents a situation in which potentially we could see a beautiful explosion in the number of live Australian acts being paid to play music around the country. But then seeing as the majority of venues (and that's anywhere that plays recorded music) aren't indie clubs but rather local pubs, clubs, and hotels that are generally hostile to any live music other than terrible cover bands, the likelihood is that it creates a self-defeating situation in which both: a) no more or less Australian bands get paid for playing live, and b) certainly Australian bands (marginal or otherwise) get paid far less in recorded music royalty fees seeing as venues will drop playing Australian stuff because of the price hike.

Of course, this is just another example of a record industry in the death throes doing the best to milk the fuck out of the one thing the still have left: property. In the face of this whole 'digital music' thing, we're now seeing all these really cynical and desperate attempts to pull money out of the stuff they already have. Another case in point would be these bullshit new '360' degree deals US record companies are trying to push on their artists, which really operate on the reverse principal - "hey, we've got fuck all money coming from selling records, which is our stated purpose, so why not let's try scamming the fuck out of artists on our roster by asking for money from them for touring and merchandising and all that too? Even though we do little to help them in that department!".

I don't think these strategies are viable in the long term, nor are they very productive for (local) music as a whole.