Deerhoof, "Fresh Born"
Deerhoof play tomorrow night (Oct. 30) at Mercy Lounge w/Experimental Dental School & Flying. For my feature in this week's Scene I talked to drummer Greg Saunier about the band's new album, the presidential election and the delicious smell of delicious bacon.
Nashville Cream: Offend Maggie feels, to me, a bit more relaxed, for lack of a better word, than some of your other albums. Not that it seems docile or boring, but the energy feels different somehow. Do you have a sense of that at all?
Greg Saunier: I don't have any sense of it at all. Some people are saying it's more relaxed, some are saying it's more intense. Some are saying it's our breakthrough into the mainstream, some are saying it's only for Deerhoof fans. To me it's none of those things, it's just Offend Maggie, it's our latest record.
NC: Did you have a particular plan or process in mind going into writing the album?
GS: For us writing an album is not really one step, it's many steps. At first there is no plan, ideas come in whatever way they feel like coming. I'm not going to complain if I get an idea for a song but it doesn't fit into a plan, you know? Later we try to make a plan but it never works out, our records always turn out differently, almost the opposite of our plan.
NC: Or in recording it a certain way?
GS: Well you can make plans, and I was thinking all the time about recording early this year before we started recording. But once you actually start, you have to be ready for everything to change. We used a professional recording studio this time, and so it's not like we use all of that gear every day. We aren't intimately familiar with every vintage microphone or state-of-the-art preamp, so when you hear something sounding good you just trust your ears and go with it, whether or not it is what the experts recommend. On Offend Maggie we ended up liking the sound of miking things with two mics at once, like one $20,000 mic and one cassette walkman on pause. Then blend the two together.
NC: Did you still record a lot of the album at home?
GS: Not this time—almost everything was recorded in a real studio. We did however mix everything at home on computer. But it went a lot faster this time I must say. It's a lot easier to mix when your tracks sound good right off the bat.
NC: Is there a theme to the new record (i.e., is there a Maggie)?
GS: Yes and yes.
NC: The last time you played in Nashville, the Mercy Lounge smelled very strongly of bacon. Was that distracting at all? Or were you rocking too hard to notice? You were rocking pretty hard. But it really smelled like bacon.
GS: I noticed the bacon smell when we first walked in for soundcheck. I'm vegetarian but I always wonder if a vegetarian can still feel OK about themselves if they still enjoy the smell of meat. Anyway I didn't realize the smell was still there by the time people started arriving. I think I blocked it out. Or I might have been distracted when this guy in the parking lot tried to steal our car.
NC: A lot of the takes on "Fresh Born" bear little or no relation to the sheet music. Is there a version that you like in particular?
GS: My bandmates have said that too, but I've listened to them all many times and I don't hear a single one that bears no relation to the sheet music. There's always a connection, a bit of the melody or some extrapolation of the chords. It's pretty hard to have a favorite, since I'm so grateful to everyone who sent in a version. I've probably listened to the version for a cappella vocal ensemble and the version for middle school concert band the most times.
NC: Complete this sentence, if you'd like: "A funny thing that happened while we were recording this album is...."
GS: "...when we almost killed each other."
NC: Do you have any plans to move to another country if John McCain is elected president?
GS: I might be out either way actually, although not because I don't like Obama. A move to Japan is on the horizon. Sometimes it feels like I don't quite live anywhere anyway. My apartment is in San Francisco but I'm never there.