Let's look at the actual music...
Let’s look at the actual music, shall we? “Apple Bomb” is such a beautiful song, almost a ballad, in the midst of all the chaos of Apple O’. Can you provide a little insight into its inception and/or recording?
Oh I’m so happy you like it. John made up the guitar intro and I wrote the rest of it. I’m not sure how… I was trying to write something from the point of view Satomi talking about her mother, who is old enough to remember the immediate aftermath of the atomic bomb in Japan. Many of the lyrics I wrote for this album were written from Satomi’s point of view. “Apple Bomb” was recorded just like the rest of Apple O’, just a one-take run-through where we all played in the same room at the same time.
Photo: Dennis Stempher
For me, “Sealed with a Kiss” is one of the finest tracks from Apple O’. The instruments are so drenched in effects, it’s almost hard to tell what instruments are producing what sounds. It also directly foreshadows some of the playfulness and experimentation of Friend Opportunity. Any reflections on this song? How did it originally hold up live?
Ah, it’s all samples! Live it was completely different-sounding although the notes are exactly the same. We just released the “band” version actually, on a 7” in Australia. I was deliberately trying to copy the style of one of my favorite artists, Dymaxion, whose music is almost completely made of samples. Since the rest of Apple O’ is so live and we didn’t give in to the temptation of using overdubs and samples and computer tricks, I thought it would be funny to have one song be sort of breaking the rules, to sort of represent the “forbidden fruit”. All the samples are from songs about apples.
It is interesting to listen to these two albums back-to-back. They seem to represent sort of the two generically labeled “sounds of Deerhoof”—Apple O’ shows the more abrasive, reckless, explosive side of the band, while Green Cosmos demonstrates the more instrumentally diverse, textural, slightly more accessible side of things. Did you have a similar experience while listening to the re-issues?
Thank you for listening to them, that is wonderful to hear. I am now in the Moscow airport. I am in the Classic Lounge. Yes, membership has its privileges. You fly around the world enough and you can get a free donut and some internet time. I should have done this whole interview here actually, that hour in the hotel’s business center cost me about $30, which must be a new record. PopMatters is breaking the bank at DH HQ.
I don’t have a similar experience listening to them. Every album we made has felt more reckless than the one before it, so Green Cosmos was two notches more reckless than Apple O’. In the sense that we might alienate our listeners by changing our style. The funny thing about our listeners though is that they don’t want us to repeat ourselves, so actually the more reckless the better. The main difference in making those records for me was that we had a rule about overdubs on Apple O’ and we just went wild on Green Cosmos.
As far as it being accessible I have to admit I’ve never understood the term.
Chris’s demo of “The Forbidden Fruits” sounds drastically different from the album version—more fractured and synth-heavy, while the album version has a leaner structure and a more prominent lounge-y vibe. Sure, it’s a demo; things change. But can you give some insight into the transformation process from demo to full-band version? Does the rest of the band simply show up and fill in their own parts?
That’s funny, to me it doesn’t even sound that different. He played all the instruments on the demo and when I heard it again I realized I think he is a better drummer, he more style and a better sound. I wasn’t really trying to change it, I just can’t play the same. The main difference for me is that a melody was added in the record version, and I remember the four of us playing the song over and over in my bedroom—no drums, I just sat there—and Satomi played this melody on a Casio and we all thought it was funny, so that became the vocal melody. Other than that we didn’t fill in our own parts, I think we took some away actually, we didn’t have the synthesizer for example.
You guys added a lot of interesting material to the re-issues. What is it about these particular live performances and demos that stood out for you? Is there a warehouse somewhere filled with hard drives of Deerhoof b-sides? In other words, are you sitting on a wealth of unreleased gems?
Ha, there was until it got stolen a few weeks ago in New Zealand… I had a hard drive with all this junk on it including a partly finished new Deerhoof album which we will now start over. My bag was stolen right out of my hotel room!
Photo: David Garland
Listening to the live bonus tracks of both albums, the thing that strikes me the most is how they sound pretty much the same. I think this speaks to the raw nature of some of the tracks. Is there a particular aspect of the live recordings that you feel shows a different side of the band or the band’s sound? Is it just a matter of capturing the energy of the performances?
Hmm, now I’m starting to wonder why did the bonus tracks… Maybe you’re right, they’re not so different… I remember at KRS they were emailing that they were so excited to hear what bonus stuff I’d come up with and then when I sent it to them there suddenly weren’t any emails anymore… I don’t what to say other than that I like them.
From the opening beats and colors of “Green Cosmos”, it is clear we are listening to a different Deerhoof than that of Apple O’ or even Milk Man, which bridges the two albums. At the very least, we are listening to Deerhoof in a different headspace. From the production quality to the funky instrumentation, Cosmos is more surprising than what preceded it. Does it simply come down to money or studio time? Does it boil down to just trying new things?
Oh no, there was no money. We recorded some drums and guitars on “Byun” “Koneko” and “Hot Mint Air Balloon” at our friend’s studio (New Improved Recording) but I don’t think he charged us. 95% of it was done at home, no budget whatsoever. There was no budget on Apple O’ either, our friend Jay Pellicci had some free time saved up at a studio where he worked, we were in there about 9 hours recording basic tracks. Most of the work on both albums was done on home computer, in the free download version of Pro Tools.
I’m not sure there’d be any way of making something like Green Cosmos in a studio anyway. Instead of spending money on our records, we choose to spend a lot of time, do it at home where there’s no time limit on it.
Before, I mentioned that I listened to the albums back-to-back. It was quite an interesting experience. Another observation I had was that, even though Satomi sings in Japanese for part of Green Cosmos, it’s kind of hard to notice the difference between those tracks and those in English. This can probably be attributed to her unique, chirping/singing style. It also made me realize that lyrics have never really been an important issue for me when listening to Deerhoof. Any thoughts? Also, how much Japanese did you sing on the album?
I sang Japanese on “Koneko Kitten” backup vocals. “ko-ne-ko…” It wasn’t so difficult language-wise I guess, not exactly a tour-de-force of multilingualism on my part, although I have to say the second verse was in Spanish. (“ko-ne-jo…”)
About the lyrics, I don’t really know what to say, different people focus on different things. I think sometimes the lyrics are hard to hear, but it’s maybe less because of Satomi’s singing style than because the vocal sound is not always clear or trebly, and sometimes it’s mixed a little on the low side (the so-called “Jagger Mix” a la Exile on Main St.). But Satomi’s lyrics on the song “Green Cosmos” for example bring a tear to my eye, I think they are so beautiful and match the music in such a magical way. And I’ll admit to feeling some pride in Apple O’s lyrics too, thematically they really hold together for me.
“Come See the Duck” randomly quotes “Deck the Halls” on the synthesizer toward the beginning of the track. Who, what, when, where, and why?
Me, string samples not synthesizer, late in the game, bedroom, I don’t know because I didn’t know it quoted “Deck the Halls.”
- Multiple songs MySpace