Interview: Dead Meadow (Tiny Mix Tapes)

Would be nice if some interview intro paragraphs had just never happened. But growing older necessitates the confrontation of brutal realities.


Dead Meadow
Bowery Ballroom, NYC, Mid-December
[December 2005]

In the dystopian parallel universe where only my opinion matters, where CR’s perceptive subjectivity is turned to objective reality, Dead Meadow is the greatest band in the world, genre be damned. It took a record store clerk suggestion, many ambivalent and disoriented listens, one excellent and two mind-blowing live shows, and countless album listens thereafter for me to reach my conclusion. No one I’ve heard comes close to what they do.

But what is it that they do? I’m not exactly sure, though my lack of clarity mostly results from the frustration of attempting to describe the sound of a band that deals so heavily in the ethereal. More realistically, I’m lazy. Let’s just say they rock and they groove, at various speeds, and their music derives little from our culture of instant gratification.

The difficulty in categorizing this band is evidenced in their dearth of press, and almost non-existent level of hype, though one can sense this changing quickly with another incredible album. Or, maybe not. Perhaps this band is just hard for some to take - a little too intense. Maybe the smoke machines and psychedelics, the rolling drums, undulating bass, flowing guitar solos, and high-pitched, usually undecipherable vocals are a bit hard to approach. Maybe you have to want to like it, or maybe it helps to be a little stoned to hear the music the first time around.

Then again, who fucking cares!? They’re amazing and Tiny Mix Tapes collectively said as much, awarding Feathers the 11th spot on our Top Albums of 2005 list.

Finally, to avoid any confusion, their first two albums were released on Trotolatta Records, formerly run by Joe from Fugazi. They’re going to release their Peel Session too. Also, DM began as a three piece, then added a second guitar player for Feathers. Unfortunately, he wasn’t into touring, so now it’s back to three. And they’re from Wasington, D.C. This is all going to come up in your life very, very soon. So, please don’t forget and please, please, please don’t ever stop shopping. Thanks.

I noticed in the Thank You’s for your last two albums – I still don’t have the first two, have been trying to get them, but –

Jason Simon: They’re about to come back out, actually.

Really, somebody’s going to put them back in print?

JS: Pretty much us. We’re going to reissue them ourselves, just on our own label, you know. Cause we own them – keep it in the family.

You didn’t have to buy them back from...

JS: No, Joe’s cool. He’s moved on. He has a family. He’s not running a label.

When’s that going to come out? Do you know yet?

Steve Kille: Maybe in the summer. In six months. Yeah, summertime.

Great. So, for the last two albums I noticed you thanked Wu-Tang for Feathers but not for Shivering King...any particular reason for that?

JS: Well, you know, they weren’t really being that cool back then, you know. They’re some of those guys that want to see you once you get kinda big, then all of a sudden they’re your friends. But, you know, once GZA started coming by and droppin’ the mad rhymes...

SK: Yeah, Method Man wasn’t about the Shivering King.

No, it was too heavy for him...

JS: Well, no, actually they were about it, but they weren’t about it before then. They didn’t know. So then Shivering King came out, and then they heard that, and then they were like, "THIS is the shit!"

"It seems when people hear the band referred to as that, they don’t even listen. They just start writing ’Stoner Rock.’"
-Jason Simon

So it was like six months after...

JS: RZA was like, "Yeah, we gotta get down with this kind of stuff." Meanwhile Jay-Z’s with John Mayer - liking that shit. Linkin Park...

SK: Ryan Adams and stuff...

JS: No, but truth be told we were just rockin’ that shit a ton during the making of Feathers.

Can you guys talk a bit about how the ideas for the band came about within the D.C scene, and also the extent to which the band Sleep influenced you guys?

SK: I don’t know, it was simple. D.C. had a lot of punk rock stuff and we wanted to do something different. That’s the short end of it. And Sleep was just one of those bands that influenced it. More than Sleep -

JS: Sabbath –

SK: Yeah, Neil Young and stuff like that. It was kind of getting back to the roots. But, I think it’s like any kind of music scene. It’s funny, you get asked about D.C. all the time...


SK: ...but, people are in to all sorts of things that make up any music scene, anywhere. D.C. was just like – I mean, luckily it was a music scene. It’s not like we were in some out-of-nowhere sort of town or something. There were cool people playing music. And you would be able to open up for them and stuff. And even playing with bands like Fugazi or whatever, who are totally in a different sort of vein...they’re musicians, too. We were into what we were creating. It – it was cool.

JS: We all grew up on that stuff, but it was just like, it got to the point where it was, "Enough of bands sounding like Fugazi." It did push us a little bit.

So you were a little frustrated?

JS: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. We just got back into what we were into before punk rock. You know, Zepplin, Sabbbath, and Sleep. You know, Jerusalem and all that are pretty fuckin’ cool musical achievements. I just really dug the fact that it was so heavy and rockin’, but was also so chill. You know, the droning aspect. It was just so laid back, where in D.C. is was all about fast punk music.

And you’re on Matador now, a label that’s known for Steve Malkmus, Cat Power, Interpol, Guided By Voices and stuff like that. And, I don’t know, do you feel like you’re out-of-step with a lot of what’s going on or that you’re in a different –

SK: Well, even that list you just named off are all on different steps with each other. That’s what’s cool with the label; every band’s kind of doing their own thing.


SK: And I think Matador’s one of those labels – there’s a lot of them out there – but each of the bands has their own eclectic appeal. Each band’s kind of doing their own thing, but it’s heartfelt. There’s something worthwhile and deep and important, which is cool. I mean, we don’t sound like Guided By Voices, but Guided By Voices is an incredible band.

"It’s funny, you get asked about D.C. all the time..." -Steve Kille

Didn’t you guys tour with them?

JS: Yeah, four or five shows.

What was it like to tour with those guys?

SK: It was great.

JS: Awesome.

I bet.

JS: Yeah, I mean it’s cooler to be on a label like that than to be on a label that specializes in like, heavy fuckin’ stoner sludge metal. And already people are associating us with the term "Stoner Rock."

Yeah, that’s my next question...

SK: Well, and the same thing goes if you’re a pop band. "We’re on a label with fifty other pop bands!" It’s cool to be on a label where every band’s a cool band.

JS: And "Stoner Rock" – it’s just a fuckin’ term. And I think it’s become such a set genre that’s kind of lame.

Do you guys feel enclosed by it – that term?

JS: We don’t personally, in any way. It seems when people hear the band referred to as that, they don’t even listen. They just start writing "Stoner Rock."

I didn’t get into you guys as fast as I would have otherwise, if not for that term.

SK: Yeah, it’s kind of derogatory at this point.

It is.

JS: At this point, yeah. When there are so many fuckin’ bad bands that are just like, "DR-DR-DR-DR." I mean it’s cool that it’s good music to get stoned to, but that’s anything good.

Right, lots of music’s good to get stoned to.

JS: Yeah, anything with quality and some levels to it is good to get stoned to. So, it’s kind of a gay term. I honestly hate seeing it.

Do you guys feel like you’re going to try to bring in a fourth member again?

JS: Well, not the same fourth member. But, I don’t know, we’ll always do different stuff. It was really cool. I was personally feeling a little burned out as a three piece and was psyched to work with another guitarist. ’Cause you could lay back more and get a little more texture. But, in doing that, now I’m just stoked about being a three piece again, you know? So it’s all about just changing, and keeping it fresh so we’re always fully enjoying playing. I don’t think there will be a fourth member fully joining our band, but there might be some people playing with us on tours and stuff like that.

Now that you’re a three piece again, do you feel, with the new stuff, that you’re going in, I don’t want to say a backwards direction, but back to an older style?

SK: No, I don’t think so. I think it’s just a newer version of stuff that we’ve yet to touch on.

JS: It was an adjustment, writing these new songs for two guitarists and then playing them with one guitar. I mean, shit was adjusted. But, they’re different now. It’s cool. Things change.

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