dead meadow

The Nothing They Need

When you and the audience connect it is both primal and mystical, touching on something from another realm.

Jason Simon & Steve Killie of Dead Meadow

Hi Steve & Jason thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Musicology.

Firstly congratulations on the new record The Nothing They Need. A brilliant album that twists with as many musical variations as there are turns. In what ways did you want to push the sonic boundaries with the album compared to that of your already fantastic back catalogue?

Steve- well from a technical stand-point I knew there would be all of these players on it so there was a lot of methodical planning in the recording process to try to make it sound continuous and consistent. Like that when you listen to it you don’t think that it was recorded over a year with different drummers and extra players but rather at one session banging out a great live feeling album. That was unique to this release to make it all seamless.

Jason- I think the trick with this one was that we that we always want to push things forward but we also really wanted to make what felt like a classic Dead Meadow record. Finding where and how we could accomplish both those things took time but I feel it works out right and it was time well spent.

Recorded in your own studio, The Wiggle Room, was there an added sense of freedom to the whole process or a situation that brings its own risks and challenges?

Steve - I feel the DIY aspect to our music always been there and important. Really self-recording or just with another collaborator since the beginning so really it is the only work flow we know. I don’t know if we could make a record with a hardline producer that was crafting our album in his/her image. There are risks and challenges but it has been the only path we gone down.

Jason - Very early on, prior to Dead Meadow, Steve and I played in bands that recorded at studios where we felt the end product was not at all what we envisioned due to choices made by those running the studio. From the very start of Dead Meadow we knew we would rather have our own space and take as much time as needed to make sure we captured something that felt real. The first Dead Meadow record was recorded in my parent’s basement on 8 track ADAT. The second was recorded in a barn in Indiana. “The Nothing They Need” is really a continuation of the same thinking with many years more recording experience. The main challenge now is to actually buckle down and finish things.

Your latest single Here with the Hawk is not only a great track with its ambling riffs and shaky reverb but the accompanying video features none other than Michael Horse who as many of us know from his long time appearances on Twin Peaks. The clip obviously features Michael as well as some synonymous Twin Peaks themes. Firstly, how did this creative partnership take shape and secondly, what are your own memories and significant moments from the cult TV series?

Steve- We are huge fans of the series and certainly since the inception of Dead Meadow in 1998 there is always a little of David Lynch influence that has peeked into our albums and work. Living in LA long enough now we have realized that anyone is approachable and when we finally settled on the song title it just seemed really fun to have Michael on-board. We didn’t know if we would hear from him just sent an email detailing our history and accomplishments as well as clips of Simon Chan’s (music video director) work to show the quality and we sort of held our breathe to see what would happen. We were super shocked and excited to hear back from him and that he was down to be involved.

Jason- It is also turns out that Michael is a wonderful guy. We had a great time on set hearing stories about Twin Peaks, his time working at The Whiskey in LA during the heyday of the Sunset Strip, hanging with the Byrds and Gram Parsons, his time as a stuntman. It was a fun and surreal day.

Often the perfect lyrics are a mixture of the prosaic and that of the existential. In piecing together your own lyrics do you fuse reality with the imagined or tend to stick firmly to one mode of narrative style when writing?

Jason- With writing lyrics I find it’s more a matter of staying open and ready to catch ideas as they drift by. I rarely decide on a topic and write about it. More often a certain phrase will start a whole song and only later do I realize what the song is about. But, yes, I want to fuse reality with the imagined. In a sense that is the whole point of any creative activity, an attempt shape what’s out to be more like within. Some songs do flow in a more direct manner while on others I’ll end up employing a cut-up type method with various phrases and ideas until some sort of sense is made… at least some sort of sense to me.

With two decades of recording and performing under your belt, is your view of the material you have released and for that matter your worldly perspective, the same now as it was when first fleshing out your earlier works and the subject matter you drew upon in its creation?

Steve- I think we have always had the underlining concept of the band and the related artwork to be a bit of an escape. Like music science fiction or fantasy, to take you out of the everyday and let your mind wander. So this idea has never changed however as years have gone on we have seen such a massive change in the music industry and terrible aspects of current politics that there tends to be darker reflections now in our sound. We still want to be uplifting but you cannot fully separate from the negative stuff in life either. Maybe this change from the indie renaissance of the 90’s we started in to where we are now is reflected in our work.

Having performed with and meeting so many artists over the years, have there been any instances where some words of wisdom were spoken to you that really resonated with you and altered the way you approach your craft?

Steve- Oh yes of course. We learned so much from those that went before us. We were lucky to support and befriend so many amazing artists over the years that the wisdom we have gotten from them is truly special. I don’t think we would be successful with DIY music if it wasn’t from the lessons we learned from heroes we were able to share stages with.. guys like Fugazi, Dino Jr. , BJM, Sleater Kinney, et etc.. Truly fortunate.

You are currently on tour and it must be fair to say that music has been the one underlying constant in your life and the prism through which the world is viewed, analysed and reimagined. Such a heavy reliance on music and more precisely playing music can be an alienating yet liberating form of expression. As you move through your years does performing music become more or less the vehicle that drives you?

Steve- I think it is the love of the fans that drives us. To create something that moves them keeps me passionate. You see the power through their eyes. If that was no longer there it might be hard to keep up the life-style.

Jason- I think it has remained a constant drive. From a very early age I knew I wanted to try and spend my life playing and writing. I’m so fortunate to actually have been able to do that. I think if you look at anyone that has continually been putting out music for years and years, they will tell you that is almost more of a calling. I know for me there is very little choice involved. There seems to be more music to make all the time. There is always another project or two on deck that I’m excited about and feel the need to complete. As for touring, there is a certain simplicity to it that is nice and I start to miss if too long passes without it. Wake up, get to the city, play the show and then roll on. We have also made so many great friends all over the world. It is always a joy to see them.

You have said of this record that there is an apocalyptic vibe. Was this apparent before the first lyric and first riff was laid down or a sentiment that unfolded as the process of writing and recording went on?

Steve- For me it was when I made the art. It felt right for the time and really started connected the songs together.

Jason- We never really set out with any intended theme for a Dead Meadow record. Some little fragment of a riff or chord change catches our ear, or some little phrase is jotted down and we kinda follow whatever course it takes. I think that is part of the joy of the creative process. We make countless little decisions of what we think would be interesting and cool to hear and how it all ends up is always different than what you thought. Everything we’re digging on or feeling tends to come out in little ways. Lyrically, a sense of the apocalyptic does make an appearance. Looking at the world politically, climatically, or economically, it’s hard not to feel some specter of an oncoming doom. If any theme appears it is how to deal, how to live, and how to remain positive and creative under that specter in these troubled times.

As a curiosity, what does music give you that nothing else does?

Steve- There is feeling of confidence and energy playing live music that nothing else has. When you and the audience connect it is both primal and mystical, touching on something from another realm. Birth of civilization stuff.

Jason- Music that I love has gotten me through so many tough times in my life. To be able to give back to others and share emotion in that way is truly amazing. When it all comes together there is the feeling of being lost in something bigger and more real that sustains and keeps me going.