2014 Artist Survey: Death From Above 1979

Sebastien Grainger on His Childhood Celebrity Crush, The Golden Girls, and Convincing Marty McFly to Sleep with His Mother

Feb 16, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent
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For Under the Radar's 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Camera Obscura, Chromeo, The Dears, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, Still Corners, Strand of Oaks, Teleman, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman's Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Sebastien Grainger of Death From Above 1979.

[A shorter version of this interview ran in Issue 52, the Best of 2014 and January/February 2015 Issue, which is still on newsstands. This is the full version of the interview.]

Top 10 Albums of 2014

Impossible. 

What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band?

Putting out the first Death From Above 1979 record in 10 years!

What was the low point of 2014 for you? 

Spending more than 12 hours in a nightclub on a tour day and washing myself with a lemon in a bathroom where six men had been shitting all day.

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

We plan on playing as many shows as we can and bringing our weird music to the masses.

U2's new album was downloaded for free into millions of users' iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

I don't think it was a wonderful gift, nor an invasive action. I just feel it was a massive leap of narcissism. It also reminds me of that Mitch Hedberg joke about a guy handing out flyers on the street: "Here, you throw this away."

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved? 

I'm not familiar with the Grimes scandal, but I support her peripherally. It's silly to blindly go along with a trend, especially the ice-bucket challenge, which seems so much more like a personal publicity stunt than an actual act of charity. 

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri opened up a new national dialogue on police shootings and racism in America. Do you think anything will actually change because of it?

The Michael Brown case being used as the starting point for conversations about racism in America is a GREAT opportunity for us to really examine where society really stands, but not in a superficial way. By most accounts, Michael Brown wasn't an innocent bystander in the events that lead to his death, as tragic as it was. So the conversation should open up to how a kid with a bright future can end up in a situation where he is a participant in such violence. This is not to justify action either way. It's just a much bigger conversation than I think people are having. It's not so "black and white," pardon the pun. Secondly, for me, the issue of the militarization of police and how quickly martial law seems to be flirted with or directly applied is a frightening issue. We saw it in Boston after the bombings, even in Toronto during the G20 summit, and all around the world. The veil of freedom seems thinner these days. This issue transcends race and class, and it's happening everywhere.

What's your craziest theory for what happened to the missing Malaysian Air flight?

Have they checked the Bermuda Triangle? If this were the '80s, it would have been the first place they looked.

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them "hillbillies" for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

Performers don't have any responsibility to their audiences. Some performers don't even show up for their own shows. You know what happens? People stop buying tickets. If a performer decides to slag off his/her audience and people still show up, who cares? What is worse is performers being phony and telling their audiences that they love them when on the street they wouldn't give them the time of day.

"Weird Al" Yankovic was back in a big way this year. If he were to lampoon any one of your songs, which one would you want it to be? What would the "Weird Al" version's lyrics be about? 

"Romantic Rice." It would be about a date gone wrong in a sushi restaurant. 

Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?

It's too loud and too fast.

What's the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you've ever had?

Any time the audience sings louder than the band. In our case it's quite an accomplishment. 

What's the topic no one asks you about in interviews that you wish they would? Conversely, if you could get journalists to stop asking you one question, which would it be?

Most days, I'd prefer to not answer any questions at all. Ironically though, the phrase that most irritates me is "You're probably sick of answering this, but..."As if that particular interviewer is the first person to disclaim their "obvious" questioning. EVERYONE says that. Just ask the question, pal.

Who from your youth (such as a former bully, an unrequited love) do you most hope pays attention to the fact that you're now a successful musician?

My 12th grade English teacher who said that I was like cake. Real sweet, but with no real substance. 

Which musician or celebrity did you most have a crush on as a child or teenager?

Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale.

Which subject do you wish you paid more attention to in school?

Girls.

What was your first concert experience like (who did you see and who did you go with)?

My dad bought my sister tickets to see New Kids On the Block on her birthday and she freaked out so hard that she couldn't go. My dad ended up taking me, my brother, and my best friend. It felt like we were the only guys there. The sound of 50,000 screaming girls was something I will never forget. And the show was pretty good too!

In 2024, as part of the Mars One program, four people might be sent to Mars with no hope of ever returning to Earth. Are they completely crazy or brave? Would you ever consider such a thing?

I'm still rooting for Earth, so I'll stay here. Earth! Earth! Earth! Earth! 

Which Golden Girls character are you most like?

I'd love to say Blanche, but really some days I'm a little Dorothy and others I'm a little Rose.

What advice would you give to a musician who is writing and recording a follow-up to a critically acclaimed and successful album in terms of dealing with the pressure and delivering an album that meets expectations?

Remember why you were doing it in the first place. When Death From Above 1979 were making our first LP You're a Woman, I'm a Machine, we were doing it for ourselves primarily, but also in opposition to what everyone else was doing at the time. It was the same with The Physical World. We wanted to make a record that we loved and that slam-dunked everyone else's records into the trash. 

If you could travel through time, which historical event would you most like to alter the outcome of and why?

I would go back to 1955 and really convince Marty McFly to sleep with his mom. Sure, she was grossed out when she kissed him, but only because he was putting out weird vibes. 

What was your most disastrous haircut experience?

I've loved them all. Even the curly perm in grade three.

After years of hard work, Future Islands finally broke through to a larger audience in 2014 thanks to a much praised Letterman performance. Which other long-running lesser-known band would you also like to see garner similar surprise success?

That's an impossible question to answer. Future Islands didn't suddenly explode because they deserved it, they exploded because they surprised everyone with an INCREDIBLE performance. It is so shockingly great. Not just anyone can do that. If the answer is WHO ELSE can do that? I don't know. It was too anomalous. 

When you can't sleep, what worry is most likely to be keeping you up at night?

That I'm no good. 

What out-of-date technology do you most miss?

The pen and paper.

In 2014, what was the best movie you saw, book you read, comic book you read, video game you played, and/or TV show you watched?

Movie: Under the Skin. Book: The Sisters Brothers. Comic book: Nick Thorburn's Bertman & Moth Girl.

Do you have any other thoughts about 2014 (such as on the World Cup, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, immigration reform, the failed Scottish Independence Referendum, ISIS, Ebola, Winter Olympics, celebrity nude photo hacks, etc.) or the state of the music industry?

"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit." - Ellen Louise Ripley

www.deathfromabove1979.com



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