2014 Artist Survey: Dutch Uncles
Duncan Wallis on Robin Williams, Cell Phone Addicts, His First Celebrity Crush, Fan Interactions, and Dutch Uncles Cereal
Jan 15, 2015
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, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Ought, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, 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 Duncan Wallis of Dutch Uncles.
Top 10 Albums of 2014
1. Katy Perry: Prism
2. The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream
3. Todd Terje: It's Album Time
4. Aphex Twin: Syro
5. Wild Beasts: Present Tense
6. Prince: Art Official Age
7. Young British Artists: Change By Any Other Name
8. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: Pika Pika Fantajin
9. St. Vincent: St. Vincent
10. Future Islands: Singles
What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band?
Our year has pretty much been spent entirely in various studios across the U.K., and when the studio experience turns into a 9-to-5 routine as opposed to the usual couple of week stints here and there, it feels like it will actually never end. So just having a finished product is the sole highlight of the year.
What was the low point of 2014 for you?
Probably when we called it a day back in January and February. Thankfully, we didn't tell anybody about it at the time. In our defense, we only had two new songs and we didn't know what to do with them.
What are your hopes and plans for 2015?
To not have to call it a day would be one, certainly. Our plans for this new album are quite minimal (we've only booked two shows in the U.K. for next year so far), but we only want to put ourselves out on the road as much as the demand requires, so who knows. Coming back over to the U.S. is our number one priority.
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'm not sure it was any of those things, really. It was embarrassing, if anything, for both U2 and Apple. I just don't get why they're making music anymore and why Apple, who've always championed new artists, would want to pair themselves with something so culturally irrelevant. In terms of it devaluing music, that's already happened. It's unusual to see singles that aren't free downloads these days, but if you meant the sentimental value of the music, then once again I don't think that really applies to U2. Not anymore, at least.
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?
No matter how effective the campaign was or how good a cause it was for, applying it to the "Youtuber" culture was not an appealing platform for us to ever get involved. Plus, no one nominated us. I didn't know Grimes said that or that she got lambasted for it either, but I'm sure she doesn't care about appearing like a buzzkill in this one instance. Also, no one should be made to feel pressured into giving to 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?
It's very hard to comment on the racial issues of another country, especially when much of the problem is magnified through its national press coverage that mainly goes unnoticed in the U.K. (unless that Rafferty guy starts getting the belts out again). All I can say is that America has a gun problem and we find it baffling. Of course, it's gone too far to go back on gun ownership and in that respect the only idea I can agree with is Chris Rock's idea about bullet control: that they should cost $5,000 dollars each. That doesn't stop the trigger-happy police issue. Of course they need to be held accountable for their actions and you'd think with all the CCTV and phone cameras around there'd be no escaping the evidence of these types of injustices.
What's your craziest theory for what happened to the missing Malaysian Air flight?
The most realistic scenario, that a ghost plane was just cruising into the middle of nowhere with a plane full of suffocated passengers on board due to a fire, and just eventually blew up or worse, ran out of fuel and glided into the middle of the Indian Ocean, is so horrific that I cannot bring myself to think up some Bond villain escapades just for LOLs. Sorry.
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?
Depends what genres we're talking about, doesn't it? Rappers don't give a fuck, they write songs denigrating everyone (audience members included) but themselves and then make the most money for it and no one says shit about it. I suppose people who have a problem with it would say that those audiences are shallow and a bit vacuous. But just because alternative audiences might consider themselves more sophisticated or vulnerable doesn't mean bands need to make them feel special. Alternative bands tend to be respectful to audiences and other bands, but a lot of those shows are a bit plug and play and nothing memorable happens, which is why I like a bit of fire when it comes to talking on stage. That's what I loved about Morrissey when I saw him a couple years back. I had no time for anyone saying he's a sensationalist arse. Of course he is, and that's his character, but his genius as a lyricist is undeniable. So with that, I think artists should be allowed to be as foolish or as arrogant as the quality of their artistic output allows them to be.
"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?
Probably our new song "In n Out," because then he could make it about belly buttons instead of sex and call it "Inny n Outy."
Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?
"Pointless indie music." Vice Magazine, 2011. That was the whole review for our single "Fragrant."
What's the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you've ever had?
A friend's wife once told me about her nephew, who has a very severe form of autism and doesn't react to anything but loves trying to dance along to our music. Also, the last time we played the Live at Leeds festival in the U.K., I bumped into these two guys that were big fans, and after the niceties were exchanged I went to the toilet, but as I was walking back I found them still in the same point trying to out-dance each other in front of a little audience. It's weird to think that my dancing, which I really don't think about too much, can be an appealing aspect to fans and even be an element that brings people slightly closer together.
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?
To be honest, I would welcome any question that pushes beyond the marketing aspect of an interview (such as this one has). But the only question I can't really stand is "why the name Dutch Uncles?" Like it even fucking matters.
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?
I think I've spent so much time writing about those kind of experiences and scooping away at that emotional barrel that I'm left feeling indifferent about those sorts now. If anything, I wish I could pay enough attention to that myself so I could feel confident enough about what we do and to be able to say to people that that's what I do for a living. Instead I just say I'm a DJ (which is a paying hobby of mine, to be fair).
Which musician or celebrity did you most have a crush on as a child or teenager?
I remember when I was really young (7 or 8) we had a videotape of the Brit Awards at which the U.K. girl pop group Eternal sang live, and I would watch it over and over again because one of them had really big boobs. My mum then bought me the album for Christmas and I thought I'd been caught out.
Both Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman died in 2014. Did either death deeply affect you and do you find it strange to grieve for a stranger? Which celebrity's death in your lifetime has most affected you?
Both deaths were definitely affecting, but it was shock to feel so much sadness for Robin. He had really proven himself a personable actor without people taking that into account until it was too late. Looking up videos of him on YouTube, I saw one of an awards ceremony where he had been nominated for best actor alongside Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day Lewis at some critics' choice thing and there was actually a tie between Jack and Daniel, and I thought it was indicative at how disrespectful the industry can be. It must have felt like school all over again.
What quirky piece of band merchandise would you most like to produce for sale to your fans?
Taking the album name into consideration (O Shudder) I'd personally like to get some cereal made and call it Shudder O's. They'd be like Cheerios but red, in relation to the artwork.
Do you ever long for the days before the Internet and cell phones? If so, what do you think has been the worst side effect of those technologies?
I do, just because people would have to make themselves more reliable and personable. People would have to be at a place when they say they will be at a place. I suppose the worst side effects off the bat would be the rise in brain tumors and porn addiction.
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