Q&A: Deerhoof

Deerhoof: Deerhoof vs. EvilDeerhoof: Deerhoof vs. Evil (Polyvinyl, 1/25/11)

Deerhoof: “The Merry Barracks”

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If you’re familiar with the band, it takes less than 10 seconds to recognize a Deerhoof song. If bassist/vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki‘s beautiful, extraterrestrial voice and seemingly improvised lyrics don’t tip you off, surely the impetuous drumming of Greg Saunier, or the sharply jangled guitars of John Dieterich and Greg Rodriguez, will. Like a Galapagos of music, the quartet has evolved purely on its own, each member an island and each song a new creation found nowhere else on Earth.

The band’s dynamic approach to songwriting has led to a catalog stuffed to the brim with experimentation, and its tenth studio album, Deerhoof vs. Evil, is no exception. Here, Dieterich answers some questions from the road and kindly reveals his secret weapon in the ongoing battle against evil.

What happened in the past two years to influence the sound of the new record?

I guess the main thing that happened was that we all moved away from the San Francisco area and ended up in different cities.  So we have had to figure out a new way of operating as a band and try to stay connected, even from far away.

What is the current dynamic in the band in terms of songwriting? How are the songs constructed?

Each song is different, but the basic method is the same, in that everyone writes on their own and brings in their ideas, whether it’s in the form of recorded ideas and demos, or a guitar or bass riff or a vocal line, or whatever.  Then, as a band, we just try to get it to a place where everyone is happy with it and feels like it’s something we want to do.  A lot of material gets thrown away, as well.

How do you achieve such a unique sound?

We try to remain true to the original impulse of the music, and, especially when you have four songwriters, I think you end up with a pretty diverse collection of songs.  And, especially since we’re living in different places, we’re all listening to very different things and obsessing over different aspects of music, so the process of coming together again is often about bringing all [of] these disparate ideas together and trying to make sense of it all.

What is the most important/essential aspect of your music to you personally?

For myself, I think the impulse to play, in its most basic form, is what’s most important to me.  I guess you could look at it as a need for spontaneity and freedom.  When we write music, it’s usually very specific and scripted, but when we come together to play as a group, our goal is to get to a place where the composition is just a springboard for something more.  The song becomes more of a vehicle for a more direct interaction with each other and the audience.

How fun has it been to play these new songs live?

Which night?  We still struggle a lot, both with the new songs and the old songs, and we’re constantly changing our live set list, as songs will work for a while, and then, for some mysterious reason, will start to not work as well, and we’ll put them away for a little while.  It’s a constant process.

How’s the battle against evil going anyway?  What’s your secret weapon?

Oh, it’s going terribly.  The secret weapon is green chile.

Any warning you’d like to give to evildoers out there now?

Heads up!

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