Deerhunter on “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?” - The Full Interview | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Deerhunter on “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?” - The Full Interview

Playing the Right Hand

Apr 04, 2019 Deerhunter Bookmark and Share

It’s 4 a.m. when most people are tucked up in bed. However, such an ungodly hour is of no real concern to Bradford Cox, and nor should it be. At the time, he and his band Deerhunter were about to release their excellent eighth album Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? It’s a record that, once again, truly highlights Cox as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation.

Cox has never been one to sit on his laurels and wait for the next trend to come along. Always several steps ahead of the curve, his music has confounded expectations since the very first Deerhunter release almost a decade-and-a-half ago. Adorned by the avant-garde and taken to heart by any number of minimal left field genre categorists you’d care to mention, both he and his band’s music have provided an altruistic anomaly that’s had commentators, critics, and fanatics alike chewing the fat over where they sit in the contemporary family tree.

Which is just how Cox likes it. Out on a limb, doing things his way on terms set by no one other than himself. Never one to be swayed by the bright lights, Cox is content sharing a modest house with his dog in a quiet suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Away from the hustle and bustle of inner city life, Cox is able to retreat and ponder his next musical dalliance.

For the next hour and forty-five minutes of our late night interview, the Deerhunter frontman will talk us through the making of the album, about collaborating with Cate Le Bon, his sadness at the untimely passing of former bassist Josh Fauver, how he loves solitude, and why nostalgia can be incredibly toxic.

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): When did you start writing the album? Which songs came first?

Bradford Cox: As with any Deerhunter record there’s always a mixture of very recent work then one or two older songs. It’s quite interesting because in terms of the older songs, they ended up being the easiest to re-imagine once we started recording them in Texas. For example for absolutely no reason that is known to me, a very long time ago I’d written this song called “Plains,” which was very garage and quite stark. Almost like a Pink Flag era Wire song. The lyrics were really incomprehensible because as anyone who’s taken an interest in our music will know, I’m a very strict devotee to the stream of consciousness technique. So I write all my music that way. I write all of my lyrics using that as the only process. “Plains” was written so long ago that it’s meaning was lost to me. When we started re-recording it in the actual plains of West Texas it took on a new feeling of barrenness. The songs that were most recently written, things like “Death in Midsummer” and “No One’s Sleeping” came over the last couple of years in between touring. The most recent song on the album (“Tarnung”) was written by Lockett [Pundt, guitarist]. We literally locked him in a closet in the studio and said, “Don’t come out until you have a song!” All he had was a Chamberlin keyboard, which is a more organic version of the Mellotron. So he wrote the entire song like it was an orchestral piece using a Chamberlin and some kind of tape device Cate [Le Bon, producer] brought.

Cate Le Bon produced, played, and sang backing vocals on various parts of the album. How did she end up working on the record? Is it something you’d been planning a while?

She’s like a sister to me. One of my closest friends. I’ve known her for quite some time so it just came naturally. Her involvement with this album started by coincidence. Moses [Archuleta, drummer] had been in contact with the proprietor of a studio called Sonic Ranch. We were initially going to record this album a year before we ended up doing it. It wasn’t meant to be so long in between albums. The record was already written. There were a lot of difficult times in between the two records. Not so much for me, but in the other band members’ lives. Quite a few important, sad and difficult times. There was a divorce and the loss of a parent and obviously these things take over. So we didn’t end up going to Sonic Ranch after it was discussed, then Cate made contact from out of nowhere to participate in a collaborative project between her and I for Marfa Myths, which is a festival run by Mexican Summer where they generally have artists in residency. They usually have two artists collaborating. One who’s on Mexican Summer with another that isn’t on the label. So Cate had recently signed to Mexican Summer and was asked to be the artist in residency. She was asked to find a collaborator so approached me, and I was thrilled to work with Cate. Then it occurred to me while we were doing this project why not kill two birds with one stone and make the album? There’s not much question about whether I’d work with Cate on any project, so this just provided us with an opportunity. We were all going to be in Texas. We’d already looked into recording the album at Sonic Ranch before we met Cate, and it was only short distance from Marfa where our collaboration was taking place. So it became this serendipitous thing.

Tim Presley from White Fence and Ben Allen III also collaborate on the album. Do you see yourself working with any of them again in the future?

If it’s not broken why mess with it? There’s this narrative in rock music where you’re expected to constantly challenge yourself and I take that very seriously. You’re expected to not repeat yourself and I agree with that. It’s very important to continuously get out of your comfort zone and try working with new people. Unfortunately, whenever I try to do this it doesn’t always work as planned. Ben Allen III and very specifically Ben Etter, who we met through working with Ben Allen, recognized this. He came into the project quite late but realized straight away it lacked a certain something. It wasn’t anything Cate did wrong. It wasn’t anything anyone did wrong really. Something was missing rather than being there that shouldn’t have been. I said at the time I couldn’t imagine this being the album. If you heard the two different mixes I don’t know how much you’d recognize? “Plains” was completely different. Certain songs were recorded with a different approach in Texas, and of course there’s the issue of time. I’m a fan of an extremely quick process. A lot of fast decision making. A term I use to describe it is brutalism, because you end up making these quick and brutal decisions and you live with them.

Musically, Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is a very diverse record. It’s almost like a sonic reinvention in many ways, not just from the side of production, but also with some of the instrumentation too. Did you deliberately set out to make it that way?

While I’d like to agree with you, to me I don’t see the difference between this one and any of our other records as much. I’m too involved in the technical aspects and arrangements so often end up seeing more of the similarities and I’m a little self critical that way. It comes back to this expectation of having to reinvent yourself. Almost this need for people to say they didn’t expect that. So you start asking yourself lots of questions. Should we have any guitars on the record? Then you start to realize you’re making decisions that aren’t based on the songs. Instead, you’re making decisions based on how you think it’s going to be perceived. So you have to take a step back, stop everything, and be yourself. It’s that constant struggle between being yourself or something that’s instantly recognizable as being yourself and having identity. But then there’s also the constant desire for wanting to escape your identity. It’s a constant pendulum.

You released an instrumental album at the back end of 2018, Double Dream of Spring. Were all the songs on that record written and recorded around the same time as these? For example, “Dial’s Metal Patterns” sounds like it could have quite easily slotted onto Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?

We wanted to record something to try out new ideas. It’s a bit like being an artist with a new paint set or a different type of paper to work on. I do visual art for pleasure, even though I’m rubbish at it. I like watercolors, so I’ll go to Paris on tour and wander round places. Try out new colors. So Double Dream of Spring was like a sketchbook in many ways. We took elements of the songs that were already written and complete, then used them as a thematic source. It’s a bit like using phrases from a song but then just improvising around them. Each song is based on a musical theme that’s on the record. It was a way of experimenting around each song. I wanted to see what we could do in one night, and we finished the whole album in one go on an eight track. A full album, and I think it sounds great. It sounds fantastic, and through that experiment it allowed us to try a lot of very specific things in the studio. I figured out a lot of the drum sounds I wanted, how I wanted certain guitar parts to sound. Avoiding the use of an amplifier in certain cases. It was like settling into a color chart of sound. I wanted it to be this rare piece like a fanzinenot in an exclusive waythat formed a monogram or artist’s workbook. It was very limited because I didn’t feel there would be an audience for this kind of experiment.

It is something you’ve done before, put out limited edition releases between EPs and albums. Is it something you see yourself doing more of in the future?

People interpret those releases as if we’re trying to create some kind of exclusivity and I don’t like that because I don’t want our audience to think I’m making something they can’t get their hands on. That really bothers me. It’s something that’s really not attractive to me, making people feel left out. With Double Dream of Spring it was also a matter of time because the label were unable to get any records made before we went on tour, so the only available way to do it was on cassette. It wasn’t meant to be a statement about anything. It wasn’t planned. That was the only option.

One of the songs on the new album, “Greenpoint Gothic,” reminds me of some of the songs off Double Dream of Spring, not least by way of it being solely instrumental. It also has a very late ‘70s, early ‘80s New Wave post-punk sound similar to early Gary Numan. Was that an influence on Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?

I like Gary Numan so I can see how “Greenpoint Gothic” references his music. Someone actually pointed out to me recently we were using the same synthesizers as him, and I thought it sounded familiar so would have probably chosen a different sound if I felt it was that obvious. “Greenpoint Gothic” definitely isn’t an homage. It’s more of an improvisation, so I’m not really considering an influence or anything when I’m making it because I’m under the impression I’m doing my own thing. Afterwards, it’s easy to say it does sound like something else, and I think you’re absolutely right about the late ‘70s, English bleakness to it all. Whether that was intentional, I would say not. Nothing was really intentional. My intention was to play the keyboards.

“No One’s Sleeping” was inspired by the murder of UK politician Jo Cox by a far right extremist. Did the rise of right wing politics on a worldwide scale influence a lot of your writing for the record?

I wrote the song on the night of the Jo Cox murder. Literally an hour after it happened when it was all over the news, and I was still awake from the night before. Writing and working. I took a break to rest my ears, and I remember seeing that on the news and finding it emotionally overwhelming. Then when I went back in to start working again it just constantly played on my mind. It’s not a graded statement, although if we’re talking about general feelings then I guess it could be. I’m happy with the way things are and this specific song was the result of information going in. Reading about this as it was happening and being totally shocked by it all. The world has gone totally around the bend. Where are we going with humanity?

Since the Trump administration there have been a lot of parallels around Europe to what’s happening in America, which seems more than coincidental? For example, here in the UK we face the very realistic prospect that in less than three months time we may no longer be a part of the European Union and the divisions that’s caused among our society will have an even far reaching impact that in some cases may be beyond repair.

It’s one of the first times where I’ve felt like people in the UK might have a chance to relate to us. In the past you guys have dismissed Americans as being a crazy nation full of right wing lunatics. Yet now, all those crazy right wing lunatics aren’t just confined to America. I used to have a very political affect when I was younger. I worked on the Ralph Nader campaign as a student so remember when George W. Bush was elected and thinking America was the laughing stock of the world. This wouldn’t happen anywhere else. The feeling was very much that America was alone in this idiocracy and now you see its spread across Europe, which is very sad. It’s very sad to see it in England. But it’s not that I think I’m right. The problem with the left as far as I’m concerned is their failure to understand what it’s up against. It’s not possible to relate to a farmer or a laborer when you’re in a comfortable position of arrogance. So instead they dismiss people as being crazy for supporting these right wing idiots, which is exactly what Trump wants them to say. That’s why Brexit is happening as well, because people are tired of being made to feel inferior. I cannot sit and have a conversation with somebody where I feel there’s hatred towards another group of people, for example immigrants.

A lot of it is fuelled by hate. The right wing was built on rhetoric inspired by scare mongering and hate.

Paranoia, hate, and all this kind of stuff.

Going back to the album, the sleeve note to the song “Futurism” states, “nostalgia is toxic,” which goes back to what you were saying earlier about constantly changing yourself. Was that a deliberate statement of intent with this record?

It wasn’t just specific to music or musical endeavours. It’s about when people are unable to move on and become so transfixed by what they perceive to be the past which more often than not tends to be a hallucination or less than accurate version of the past. Then people get this idea they’ve lost something so have to go back. It also goes back to the political stuff we were talking about earlier. People being nostalgic for a time when Britain had an identity or people being nostalgic for a time when America was strong. Yet was that ever the case? It’s a delusion. People fail to thrive because they’re convinced an external evolution has left them out. So they’re nostalgic for a time where they felt at home.

On the subject of nostalgia, what do you make of artists that play anniversary shows or tours to commemorate specific albums from their back catalogues? I gather that’s something Deerhunter will never do?

That’s not entirely true. I really wanted to do something for the tenth anniversary of Microcastle but then Josh [Fauver, former bass player] tragically passed away. I don’t want to go into too much detail but we’d been in touch about doing some shows. Our friendship had come back full circle to the point where we were really close again. Prior to that we hadn’t talked for many years after he left the band, not out of negativity; his leaving the band wasn’t acrimonious. He moved and we just fell out of touch until recently. He was very excited about the new projects he was working on. His passing has been very difficult for me. Nostalgia means far more to me than just bands getting back together. I do find that a bit sad but at the same time I don’t see anything wrong in revisiting a set of old material to see what’s there. What I find depressing is when there’s no new material. What I find equally depressing is when there is new material but no one’s interested in it. They just want to hear the old stuff. For me, playing Microcastle again with Josh Fauver would have been a really interesting experience. Not because I’m trying to relive my youth or capture a lost feeling, but more because I’d like to know what it’s like to play those songs live once more, and also because I miss Josh’s contribution to the group. I miss his bass playing. It’s difficult because I don’t want to say that and come across as it being derogatory towards Josh McKay who plays bass with us now. He’s excellent. There’s nothing wrong with how he plays bass so it’s not as if I’m dissatisfied with the current situation. It’s just that sometimes you remember an ex-girlfriend or something of that nature and wonder what they’re up to. Wonder what it would be like to go out and have dinner with them. It’s not like you want to completely abandon the present. My problem with nostalgia is it’s more of a sociological position. I don’t want to sound hypocritical but it’s not really about just the artistic or musical project. It’s about the fact people just want to live in the past. They don’t want the past to develop.

If you had the benefit of hindsight and could go back in time, revisit some part of your back catalogue and change it, would you? And if so, what would it be and why?

I’d be glad to take a lot of the distortion off my vocals for a start. I’d mix the vocals a lot louder. People are always quick to point out that I hate our first record or won’t even acknowledge its existence. They seem to think there’s a lot of information there. Was it to do with bad times in the band or whatever? Yet I can’t make myself any clearer than saying I simply don’t like the way it sounds and there’s no master tape. The master tapes are gone and I can’t remix it. There’s all this distortion on the vocals and when we recorded it I didn’t have the knowledge or time to do anything about it. It was all rushed.

Listening back through the Deerhunter catalogue in chronological order, Turn It Up Faggot does sound like an anomaly in many ways. Yet also works as a document of its time, not least because it still sounds fresh and unlike anything else released in 2005.

The reason for that is we didn’t know how to assert ourselves. It’s really funny because I remember at the time; people said we were a post-punk or shoegaze revival band when we were just quite psychedelic which encapsulates all of those things. I was very young, snotty, and arrogant, so got quite irritated by that. I felt we were doing our own thing rather than copying anyone else. My impression was we were a total anomaly. Nobody in the band exerted control. We were totally democratic. Even if I wanted to do something that was a bit of a pastiche, which God forbid I wouldn’t, other members of the band’s technical limitations would have prevented that.

You’re on tour across the States throughout February and March. Will you be coming to the UK and Europe this year?

We certainly are but I couldn’t say when. I’m the worst person to ask because I have imerologiophobia. I absolutely loathe calendars and I loathe plans. I can’t stand to see time laid out on paper. So when people ask whether I’m going to be playing somewhere my answer is always the same: “I’ve no idea!” We’re certainly coming over to the UK and Europe later in the year but I don’t know any details. There will be a lot of touring for this record.

What about your other projects? For example, you haven’t released an Atlas Sound record for seven years. Will there be another solo record in that guise?

I’m always looking for new and interesting projects. As far as Atlas Sound goes, I’ve just been looking to keep Deerhunter active. More because of the camaraderie. I’d much rather be with the band right now than performing solo. It’s not for lack of ideas. I’ve got a lot of stuff. I recorded an Atlas Sound album years ago but never did anything with it. I don’t really feel that connected to it now. It would be like asking me eight years from now about this album. Viewing it through nostalgia. It’s an issue of there not being enough days in the week. It only becomes nostalgic if you leave it then come back to it. I’ve never left Deerhunter. We’ve been touring for the best part of a year now. Deerhunter does not feel nostalgic to me. It feels current. It’s never fallen out of the present so it’s not like going back in the saddle going back to Deerhunter. We’ve never really stopped. When I wrote this album we were touring with Arctic Monkeys. Touring outside of the album cycle really I guess, and it was actually quite liberating. It’s not that I don’t intend to do another Atlas Sound record. A lot has changed in the music world as we all know, and it’s not a great place any more for freeform creativity. I do things on my own terms. I always have. If I have a difficult personality that’s the source of it. I just can’t be bothered to half ass something because I think it’s ripping off the audience. I believe you should only put out an album when you have something crucial to deliver. I feel this new album is crucial. It will be a classic. Many of our fans might disagree but then they said the same thing about Fading Frontier. I think that was a crucial album too. People hated Monomania when it came out and they’re slowly coming around to that one now, which was always a little bit strange to me because I told you it was good back then. People who said, “Why can’t they make another Halcyon Digest?” Why would we? It all goes back to the mystery of rock and roll. The endless saga. The narrative. What is the reason we’re doing this. Is it to make a buck? Because there’s no money in any of it. Deerhunter’s financial status isn’t awful and I’d certainly never complain. It must be really tough for a lot of smaller bands but then why complain if the tide is low? It’s not really anybody’s fault. I see peers of mine complaining about audiences not supporting them enough. Talking about how they make no money on tour but still go out with trailers full of huge lighting rigs. I own my house. I live in Atlanta which was a really cheap place to live. It’s changing now but luckily I got in and settled myself so I’m not really affected by what’s happening that much. I don’t really like talking about money because it detracts from what I do and isn’t my reason for doing it. My original point was there’s no reason for Deerhunter to do this for money because the money is not great. So we must be doing it for some other reason and for me it’s about making works of art that will outlive the difficult era of music conception we live in now.

The four-year gap between Fading Frontier in 2015 and the new record is the longest you’ve had since Deerhunter began. Was a lot of that driven by the changing demands of the industry as well as personal circumstances?

It’s a combination of life taking its course with members of the band and the changes we’ve just talked about. It’s really impossible to get a label. I really love 4AD, but it’s just not viable. It’s not possible for them to put out a Deerhunter album as much as I’d like them to because of over-saturation. It’s hard enough to get people to pay attention to a new album once every four years now. Imagine if we released another one next year? It would just disappear without a trace. In order to get people’s attention you have to go away for a while.

Why do you think that is?

My niece and nephew are millennial kids. My nephew’s in his teens and my niece is at an age where I was obsessed with music, but they’re obsessed with phones. I don’t want my sister to read this and think I’m criticizing her children but it’s enormous. It’s a paradigm now. People are less interested in music now. Some folks will argue with me that’s not the case, but let’s look at how much time they spend listening to it compared to the average teenager in 1993. Then you have to factor in back in 1993, you’d come home from school, turn on the television, watch MTV and see music videos up until bedtime. It wasn’t always necessarily what you wanted to see but you were still listening to it. For example, I could sing along to Boys II Men because I’d been exposed to it whereas now, it’s not my chosen field of interest so I would not select to listen to it on Spotify. In the UK people still listen to the radio and that actually has an impact, but in America radio’s influence is waning with the youth outside of individual college stations. It’s unfortunate because that’s where you find out about things. I find out about more things on the Internet or Spotify. Mainly older things, not to be nostalgic, but normally by way of a playlist recommendation generated by an algorithm. It’s a very confusing scenario.

The way people consume music in the 21st century has also played a big part.

It has. I’m a populist and I believe there is no right or wrong way to appreciate music. It’s very elitist to think that way. Very bourgeois. A lot of people just want something to make their lives a bit more bearable. So a band like Deerhunter has no appeal because we’re doing something bleak and atmospheric that’s not good for working out or doing yoga! I don’t mean for that to sound sarcastic. It’s good for people to live their lives this way. Everybody’s searching for a goal or aesthetic that makes them feel complete. Who am I to say, “You guys don’t get what I’m doing?” It’s not that people don’t get what I’m doing. It’s more about the fact it’s probably of no use to them. But there is a generation of people that doesn’t see the point in paying for music or art in general and worryingly, doesn’t have any problem with that. It’s changing those perceptions that will determine whether the industry survives in the future. The Raincoats are one of my favorite groups of all time and I can’t imagine money affecting their ability to do much of what they were doing. If they’d been signed to Island or Virgin and been given carte blanche to record at some plush studio it wouldn’t have improved their work. Maybe there will be a renaissance of people that can’t afford to make music because they aren’t making any money off it, so it then becomes more of a labor of love. Art for art’s sake even. I’ve always had this theory that the best possible outcome for a change in the music industry could be this kind of avant garde renaissance because after they get past the awkward period where people are desperately trying to be relevant and appeal to an audience they’ll never gain, maybe they’ll just say “well fuck it” and make the string quartet they’ve always wanted to make. Nobody will listen to it at first but it may become quite valuable later. It’s always the case. Nobody bought Scott Walker’s solo albums after the second one yet now they’re viewed as essential listening. They were financial disasters at the time but I can’t imagine it was ever about money for him. That wouldn’t bother him, unlike the lack of any major connection with an audience. Because they’re quite excellent records. Anyone would be overwhelmed to make a record of that magnitude, both from a sonic and artistic perspective. People keep asking me is there anything positive about this Deerhunter album and I’m always telling them no. There is no positive angle to this album. It’s about the apocalypse. Not in a religious sense, but coming from a very bleak and dark place. I don’t see how I’ve written anything on this record that’s a respite from that bleakness. It’s unrelentingly bleak. If there’s one thing on there I find positive it’s the very last song on the record, “Nocturne.” I make all my songs with absolutely no idea of what I’m doing, and I recorded the vocals for that laying on the ground blindfolded. It sounds a bit pretentious but I was trying to write in character from the point of someone who was being abducted. It’s gone through a lot of transitions in terms of its narrative, so whatever people take from it, it is. If they get the feeling it’s about the IRA in the ‘80s abducting someone that’s what it is. If they think it’s about ISIS that’s what it is. Whatever it means is up to the listener. What I’m saying is, there’s something about the end that feels like surrendering to the void. It’s the most positive and delirious song on the album. The ending has something ecstatic about it. I couldn’t explain it to my bandmates when I was explaining the arrangement of the song. Everyone seemed to know instinctively what we were doing but we couldn’t just explain it away to one another. It’s a bit like the end of the world, but here we go!

When I listen to “Nocturne” it strikes me as being a sigh of relief. We’ve reached the end. Everything’s done and dusted.

It’s a relief that awful indie rock record’s over! Finally I can listen to Post Malone. It is a relief. It’s a relief when you stop trying to look for the positives. Some people might take that the wrong way because the whole point of life is to keep looking for the positives. That’s one way to look at it. But then going back to Cryptograms days, one of my biggest influences at that time was the writer Jean Genet. There’s a quote by him that’s always affected me: “The only way to conquer fear is to walk up to it and walk through it.” Out of all these things I’m talking about that are so bleakculture, the music industry, etc.why not just surrender to it all and ascend? I guess what I’m saying is if you can’t swim the tide, why not try to surf?

You’ve been making music for the best part of two decades and experienced a lot of changes within the music industry over that time, so what advice would you give to a new artist or band just starting out?

Look, you’re not going to be a pop star. I remember meeting several critically lauded and commercially successful acts very early on in the careers. It’s an experience I’ve earned through being around so long, watching people come up and eventually pass over me, which is fine. But then I remember when some of these artists were young they asked me for advice, and with quite a lot of them, I didn’t really have anything to offer them because it became apparent what they were really asking was “How do I become famous?” I don’t relate to that. It was never my goal. I don’t consider myself to be very famous. I’m recognizable in certain contexts but even that kind of recognition sometimes puts me off terribly because it’s uncomfortable in a way. I want people there not to see me, but to think about the music. A lot of young people are forgetting about the most important thing, which is the music. They’re thinking about their career and the character that goes with it. The clothes they believe they’re meant to wear, which again is fine. I understand the importance of fashion and aesthetics within art. I like the elegance of design but it’s not the substance of something, particularly if you’re primarily about making music. I had a 9 to 5 job when Deerhunter started and at that point could never have imagined I’d be doing an interview about a new album in 2019. I’m very grateful for what’s happened to me but at the same time, I was never really ambitious. If I had been I think would have played the wrong hand. Another piece of advice I’d givemaybe the only piece of advice is you’ve got to have something that you really need to say. That’s why you’re doing it. If you’ve got nothing to say then maybe become a recording engineer? Don’t be a writer. I desperately want to speak French so I can read some of the great French novels in the language they were written. I wish I could read Don Quixote in Spanish. Same with Portuguese or Latin or something, except I don’t have that learning ability. I wish I could direct a movie but it’s not something I’ve ever been able to do. I don’t have the story to tell yet, and I’m not going to go out and make something that’s visually cool but has no story. It was always my ambition to make films when I was growing up. I thought that was much more valid. I never wanted to be an indie rock musician. I wanted to make really important films. Epics, classics, except I’ve never had the idea or story come to me. Just because you can be in a band, just because you can make a film, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. You have to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing needed? Is what I’m doing valid?” So people reading this might think, “Is Deerhunter valid?” To me, yes it is. To me, I’m making an album that no one else is making right now. I’m always open to any genre of music that can affect me. My most listened to artist of last year according to Spotify was Whitney Houston. I adore her first two albums. There’s no irony or nostalgic ‘80s thing. I absolutely adore the chord changes, the counter melodies, but above all, I adore her. Her voice, her personality, her presence, what she brings to the songs. If there was a pop star out there today that made a song of the same quality I would absolutely fall at their feet. I don’t dislike things because they’re popular. If there was a Whitney Houston right now or a really great songwriter writing music like that I’d feel a little like Susan Sontag talking about Steven Spielberg movies. It’s not my forte, the pop world. It’s not my area of expertise. But I know great art when I see it, and Whitney Houston is up there with the greatest. Anything that has life in it, and has that much inherent value, I’d fall at the feet of that artist today. George Michael too. There hasn’t been anyone of a similar calibre since. People like Whitney Houston and George Michael gave everything to their audiences, and both had tragic endings. They never had a chance. I don’t have the capacity to do that. It’s not needed. The audience are happy with what I give and I’m happy with what they give in return. We have a nice arrangement and I’m very satisfied with it. I like my life as it is. I don’t have anything that I’m wishful of. Everything I’ve ever wanted I have. That’s the biggest source of depression for me in many ways. It probably sounds really shitty to someone who’s in poverty but in my world I have it all. Not in the world of a businessman or the world of a politician. Other people want more material items but in my world it’s not important. I can have that guitar if I want it. I always wanted a drum set when I grew up so I made one in my garage out of Tupperware and pots and pans. I’m not talking about when I was a little kid either. I made it in my teens. Now I’ve got five drum kits in storage. I don’t want a fancy car or to live in LA or New York or Paris. I want to stay here with my dog. As far as I’m concerned there is no up, up, up. I don’t want to expand. I’m just an entertainer like anyone else but I’m lucky to know my place. Not be unsure of my place and think it should be a palace. I don’t want to go to parties. I want to stay at home with my dog and watch old Humphrey Bogart movies. I’m very content. I guess it comes back to the question of why has it taken four years for this record? I don’t know. It’s hard to go out. I sometimes force myself to. It’s hard enough making the music and putting it into a document, talking about it endlessly then running it into the ground. I’d put out a new song every week if I could but I’m not sure that’s the way it’s done now, unless you’re a pop star. My real priority is to my dog. More than my music or anything else. If you told me something was going to happen to my dog while I was on tour I’d cancel the entire tour. It’s painful enough being on tour. I see Lockett looking at pictures of his kids on the bus and it’s painful. When I’m lying on the bottom bunk of a bus after a show at 3 a.m. riding through the French countryside and I’m staring at pictures of my dog, it’s painful. But then there is the ecstasy of the show the next night. In the future, here’s hoping there’ll be some kind of technology where we can see our loved ones. One of the greatest things about my life has been taking this music across the world. I love everywhere we go. It’s getting there that’s the misery. It’s the jet lag, it’s the exhaustion, it’s the dehydration. It’s being on a bus and somebody gets the flu so we all end up having the flu. You’re getting into a place and you’re all fighting over the toilet because somebody’s got a stomach virus. It doesn’t matter if you’re a huge band either. I’ve toured with some of the biggest and I’ve seen it. Even in the most glamorous and decadent of situations there’s a lack of health there. And there’s a lack of space. Most importantly, there’s also a lack of solitude. And peace. You’re under fluorescent lights. I’ve played Madison Square Garden a couple of times and it’s actually quite depressing. The backstage area is like a government office building. It’s not pleasant. You’ll play a small club and the backstage area is more like being at home. Sometimes it’s awful but I guess what I’m saying is it doesn’t matter how big you are, there’s some kind of human comfort that can’t be bought and brought to you everywhere. Even if you have 50 assistants, you’re still sat under fluorescent lights in a dressing room designed as a locker room for a hockey team. It’s not artistic or inspiring. When you look at the all time greats such as the Stones or Bob Dylan that only play arena shows, you get to a point where you’re not meeting people any more because the only people around you backstage are the people you’ve put there. So you become more and more isolated. I don’t tour arenas specifically unless I’m opening for someone, but I’ve seen it and it’s not healthy. The greatest thing about being a young band and getting into a van is that everywhere you go, you make new friends. You meet people and get talking to them. It’s not awkward or like you’re alienated or different from them. Doing that you’re usually in your 20s so you don’t have kids at home missing you. Your home is probably some kind of squat or apartment so you don’t tend to miss it as much. That’s when it’s easiest to be in a band. It becomes harder as you get older and you actually have a home to go back to. I can’t stress how important solitude is. As I get older I require more and more solitude. I just want to be alone. I’m a committed asexual, which might be hard for people to understand, but there’s nothing more amazing to me than coming home from a tour and being utterly alone except for the company of my dog. Not talking or having to give, give, give. But then if I got my wish and stayed home all the time I’d start going crazy! I want to play music to people, I want to make people happy, but the humanity of it hasn’t changed. Human condition has not changed. That’s when I think about Whitney dying in a bathtub alone. It leaves a sour taste for me because she finally found solitude but it came in death. People lose track of their needs. They start letting ambition replace their needs.

[Note: This article originally appeared as a bonus article in the digital version (for tablets and smart phones) of Under the Radar’s Issue 65, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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