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q&a: deerhoof

When Dunja first approached me to interview Deerhoof, I have to admit I was as much intimidated as I was excited. Deerhoof has been a band I’ve admired for quite some time; if you were to make a soundtrack of my life from ages 16-22 there would definitely be several Deerhoof songs in the mix, and I generally hold them in the realm of highly regarded independent/experimental/modern music genius.

I saw the band on a weeknight last February and had such a good experience that I was really excited to have the opportunity to create the email interview on behalf of Lip. I spent a lot of time on the questions; more time than I do for most interviews, and I even asked some friends that are Deerhoof fans for help.

I created a set of questions that I was proud of. I was really interested to see what they’d have to say although I understood that since Deerhoof has been around for well over a decade, they’ve done millions of interviews, and we probably wouldn’t touch on any new ground. But we never thought the questions would incite the kind of reaction from Deerhoof founding member Greg Saunier that would get us the responses below.

You can imagine both Dunja’s and my own personal disappointment when we read what was sent back. The publicist tried to explain that we just caught the guy at a bad time, but for all intents and purposes, his answers were not at all useful.

However, instead of chalking it up to inflated egos or bad attitudes and framing it as a third person piece, we decided to publish the answers in their full form. Deerhoof has always been a band about causing a reaction from people by seamlessly merging bizarre “experimental” attitudes with good musicianship. They’ve become this kind of authority when it comes to independent music. Read on below for an interview that falls nothing short of “alternative”.

Explain the significance of the name Deerhoof.
It’s a part of a deer that isn’t like a human.

Describe your sound in five words or less.

What inspires you?
The musical drive goes back further than I can remember. Don’t know where it comes from. But I get really inspired by great dreams. Musical puzzles. A cheering audience especially if they are pretty.

Do you have a favorite Deerhoof song, album and/or period of your career?
I do but I’m not going to talk about it because it’s only coming into being now.

How did you decide to precede Deerhoof vs. Evil with the “Global Album Leak”? Was that an orchestrated move or did it happen organically?
I have to admit that NOT orchestrating it never occurred to me. Maybe we try that on the next one.

As a band that has been around for so long, how do you feel about the internet’s ever-increasing prominence in promoting your music? Is it something you see yourselves moving towards or something you prefer to hold back from?
We aren’t using the internet to promote our music. We are using the internet to release our music.

How do you begin the artistic process? Does one band member write first, or do you all start with melodies?
I write down every idea I have, whether it seems like a good idea or not.

How heavily do you think about the production techniques? Does a song’s eventual production affect your writing or is it always added after?
If you hear it, it’s because we thought about it. We have no producer. It’s a good question but so often the way it sounds in the end is far away from the way it sounded at first. Part of the fun of collaboration.

A lot of my favorite bands like Grizzly Bear, Sufjan Stevens and The Flaming Lips have all mentioned you as influencers on their sounds. How do you react to that praise?
I react to it by adding it to our wikipedia page which is where you found it.

Who are your influences?
I don’t have the other guys here so I’ll just tell you mine. Aceyalone, Alexander Scriabin, Allen Toussaint, Andre Nickatina, The Andrews Sisters, Andy Williams, The Angels, Annie, Anton Webern, Apagya Show Band, Archie Shepp, Asha Bhosle, Austin Pitre, Avocet, Baaba, Baden Powell, Basokin, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Beck, The Bee Gees, Bernard Hermann, Betty Wright, Beyonce, Billy Squier, Bing Crosby, Bjork, Black Flag, Blitzen Trapper, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Bob Welch, Bob Wills, The Bobby Fuller Four, Bodyrocks, Bolivia Manta, Bosavi Musicians, Brigitte Fontaine, Broadcast, Bruce Springsteen, Buddy Guy, Buke and Gass, Bukka White, Busdriver, The Byrds, Caetano Veloso, Canned Heat, Cannonball Adderley, Captain Beefheart, Carlo Gesualdo, The Cars, Cat Stevens, CCCP, Chain Gang, Charlie Parker, The Chi-Lites, Christian Wolff, Chuck Berry, The Clash, Claude Debussy, Cobra Killer, The Cocteau Twins, The Creation, Cryptacize, The Curtains, Danger Mouse, Danielson, David Bowie, David Vandervelde, The Delmore Brothers, Derek Bailey, Desmond Decker, The Dictators, Die Goldenen Zitronen, Dilute, Dino E I Kings, Dionne Warwick, Dirty Projectors, Django Reinhardt, Donovan, The Doors, Douglas Quinn, The Dramatics (the 90s Baltimore band), Duke Ellington, Duran Duran, Dymaxion, Dynastie Crisis, The Eagles of Death Metal, Earl Kim, Earz, Eddie Floyd, Eddie Grant, The Electric Eels, Electric Light Orchestra, Elmore James, Elton John, Eric Dolphy, Erik Satie, Esquivel, Extra Action Marching Band, Factrix, The Fall, Fat Worm of Error, Fela Kuti, The Fiery Furnaces, Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, The Fixx, The Flaming Lips, Fleetwood Mac, Florence Foster Jenkins, Folk Enough, The Folk Group, France Gall, Frank Marino, Frederic Chopin, Free, Frida, Frightened Rabbit, Fun Boy Three, Gabriel Faure, Gal Costa, Gary Wright, George Frederic Handel, George Thorogood, Giacomo Puccini, Gilberto Gil, Glass Ghost, The Golden Gate Quartet, Gondang Sabangunan, The Grateful Dead, Gustav Holst, Gustav Mahler, Gyorgy Kurtag, Gyorgy Ligeti, Harry Belefonte, Hawnay Troof, Helium, Henry Flynt, Highway QCs, Hollywood Brats, The Homosexuals, Hound Dog Taylor, Iannis Xenakis, Ignace Souza, Igor Stravinsky, The Impressions, Inti Illimani, The Invincibles, James Brown, Jane Birkin, Jefferson Starship, Jerry Goldsmith, Jnan Prakash Ghosh, Joanna Newsom, Johann Sebastian Bach, John Cage, John Lee Hooker, John Williams, Johnny Winter, Juana Molina, Judas Priest, Julius Hemphill, June Carter, The Kaisers, Kaloum Star, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Kasai Allstars, Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos, Kenichi Waga, Kenny Rogers, Kevin Volans, The Kids, Kim Duk-Soo, King Geedorah, The Kinks, Klaus Wunderlich, Konono No1, Kool & The Gang, L Subramaniam, Lady Stush, Led Zeppelin, Lee Dorsey, Lee Perry, Leos Janacek, Les Paul, Lil Mama, Lil Wayne, Liliput, Link Wray, Little Richard, Los Van Van, Luc Ferrari, Ludwig van Beethoven, Maalem Mahjoub, Macromantics, Mahlathini, Mantovani, Marc Ribot, Margo Guryan, Matt Carlson, Maurice Ravel, Mauricio Kagel, Mavis Staples, Meat Puppets, Mercedes Sosa, Metallica, Mikis Theodorakis, Miles Davis, Mindflayer, Minimum Chips, Minus Story, Missy Elliott, Morton Feldman, Motley Crue, Muddy Waters, My Disco, Naing Kyaw Kyaw, Nancy Sinatra, Napalm Death, Nara Leao, Neil Young, Might Spirit Masters, Nino, Nino Rota, Nirvana, Nugrape Twins, Numbers, Of Montreal, Old Time Relijun, Oumou Sangare, People Get Ready, Perez Prado, Pierre Henry, PJ Harvey, Poly Rhythmo, Portishead, Public Enemy, Queen, Quinteto Violado, Radiohead, The Ramones, Raul Garcia, Raxola, Raymond Scott, Rod Stewart, Roger Turner, Rogue Wave, Roisin Murphy, The Rolling Stones, The Roots, Royal Trux, Rufus Wainwright, Rye Rye, Sam Cooke, Samul Nori, Saosin, The Scorpions, Scott Walker, Sepultura, The Sex Pistols, Shearwater, Shocking Blue, Silver Apples, The Skatalites, The Staple Singers, Stevie Wonder, The Stooges, Survivor, The Swingle Singers, Syd Barrett, T Rex, T Model Ford, Thelonious Monk, Them Crooked Vultures, Thulebasen, Tom Waits, Tom Ze, Tony Williams, The Troggs, U2, The Velvet Underground, Vetiver, Violeta Parra, Void, The Walkmen, Wayne Shorter, The Who, Ziggy Marley, Zomby,

Who are you into right now?
I recently discovered animator Becky James. What is so harsh and funny about her work is not something you need to know other films in order to “get”. It’s pure attitude and genius.

A song we wish we wrote/played is…
“Come On And Dance” by Motley Crue.

What do you want people to take away from your live shows?
Their voice is tired from singing, their body is tired from dancing, their hands are tired from clapping, The brain is tired from interpreting. They are satisfied emotionally and sexually.

Where is your favorite place to perform?
Very near my bandmates John, Ed and Satomi.

The best advice Deerhoof ever received was…
“Do your thing.”

Have you ever had any negative experience due to a female lead vocalist? Do you think the music industry treats female musicians differently to male musicians?
I’m no expert on the music industry. We were on one record label (Kill Rock Stars) for 16 years and now we’re on Polyvinyl. I never found that either one systematically treated the girl differently from the boys. Photographers always want Satomi to stand in front at photo shoots, but it might also be because she’s the singer or because she’s the shortest. Some men on staff at venues can be incredibly rude to Satomi. Personally I only have positive experiences from my female lead vocalist. She is very talented and kind.

What’s next for Deerhoof?
Three more lists of influences from John, Ed and Satomi

Deerhoof are currently touring Australia. This information can be found somewhere on the Internet, though only where they release their music, not where they promote it (a full list of tour dates can be found here).

7 thoughts on “q&a: deerhoof

  1. I kept waiting for something worse to come, and then it never did. Having interviewed a number of musos and known quite a lot of them, I don’t read this interview as anywhere near as hostile or unpublishable as you portray in your introduction. I think that his answers are abrupt, yes, but that’s quite common, particularly when responding to a set of written questions. I think he’s actually put a bit of thought into responding to questions such as your one about what it’s like to have a frontwoman. Sadly the reality is that the average muso is not that profuse at conversation or promoting themself. At least this wasn’t a live-to-air radio interview 😉

  2. Or maybe some of them like ‘mere mortals’ in real life are just morons…. After all the muso isn’t doing the music journalist a favour au contraire.

  3. Not at all useful? He gives a gigantic list of bands he likes, and when I read interviews of bands I like, hearing any of their favorite music, books and movies is half the point. I don’t understand how you could see that list and think lack of effort. Rude.

  4. i found greg’s answers pretty useful. i wouldn’t call them “useless” at all. it just sounds like he’s sick of answering certain dumb questions. you might be too if you were in his shoes.

    the writer should stop being such a baby and expecting an “A” for effort. welcome to reality.

  5. Did you read the entire gigantic list of bands, John and Chris? If so, then I award you gentlemen the “A” for effort!

  6. Thanks guys for all your responses, even the negative ones. It was refreshing to hear your perspectives on it. When reading it all over again I see that it wasn’t so so bad, and calling the answers useless was kind of extreme.

    However, I would like to say that Greg shot over a really nice apology to us that I will post here:

    dear christine,
    hi it’s greg from deerhoof. that was sweet what you said about listening to deerhoof. your questions were good. i liked answering them. i totally understand you felt disappointed when my answers were short and cheeky. i was really happy with them but i can see it’s not what you were hoping for. usually i get told that my answers are way too long so i was experimenting. not that that makes you feel any better. anyway i thought it was cool you gave your honest reaction in the article. i hope your feelings werent actually hurt but they have been, please accept my apology.

    Of course, I do.

    Thanks all for your feedback!

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