July 26th, 2007 | Interviews

dan monick

Dead Meadow relocated from D.C. to L.A. and are working on a new album (to follow-up 2005’s Feathers) that adds some Pentangle to everything they already learned from Pentagram. They meet at the Roost on the day the L.A. RECORD studio flooded.

Where did you rent goats for the Howls From The Hills cover?
Steve Kille (bass): The Internet.
Jason Simon (guitar/vocals): You can find anything there. They came with matching twins in red sweaters.
SK: Matching fifty-year-old ladies.
JS: And they brought hay and cookies. We gave them one of our first records, and they were stoked because of the song ‘Rocky Mountain High.’ ‘Oh, you’re John Denver fans, too?’ And we just smiled. Our friend was house-sitting the house where photo was taken. I don’t think they knew we brought goats in.
And Stephen’s family owned that farmhouse you recorded it in?
Stephen McCarty (drums): It was originally a way house by an old wagon-train road in like 1860, when that section of eastern Indiana was pretty frontier. One section was haunted—my aunt didn’t tell me these stories when we were working there, but there was actually a mentally retarded woman who was kept in the room where we felt the most haunted vibes while recording. She was just kept up there—she couldn’t live in the outside world for one reason or another.
JS: It was so spooky—we put my quad-reverb up there, and we’d listen on headphones in the other room and hear the reverb springs shaking. We got kind of hooked—we’d all sit down and turn it up so fucking loud. We heard a Victrola playing. It’s on the end of the record—a montage of all the crazy shit we heard.
What was it like when K.P. from Spindrift was fronting Dead Meadow?
JS: K.P. kept saying to me, ‘I got crazy insight into your brain.’ Playing someone else’s songs, especially in a three-piece where each person is so integral—‘That’s some dark shit,’ I think were his words.
Is it as dark as he says?
JS: Dark doesn’t necessarily mean evil-dark. Esoteric-dark. Deep and dark.
Does this go back to you playing D&D in high school?
JS: In elementary school—I learned to read playing D&D. In first grade, I got the Monster Manual and was like, ‘This is awesome.’ But there comes a time when you gotta play guitar or you gotta play D&D.
What was it like touring with Blue Cheer?
JS: Dickie Peterson is true blue, man. Kille broed down the most. He gave him his number—like, ‘Any time you need to talk about some shit, call me.’
SK: Bass brothers.
JS: They were hardcore—they were embarking on a tour that would have made me lose my mind. Crammed in a van for like forty shows in small towns—it was pretty sick.
SK: Even though they were from another generation, they could still roll in a young crowd. I can imagine a lot of those dudes from that era are totally disconnected.
JS: Dickie would be like, ‘Man, I feel let down by all the people. We were fighting in the ‘60s—fighting for something great! And all the hippies, they turned away. But they’re still out there—I sat at their campfires. I know they’re out there.’ And he would just turn every knob up—the bass was so blown out.
What do you think are the historical moments when music went most wrong?
SM: The New Kids On The Block—they probably started that whole 98 Degrees trickle-down effect.
JS: But that’s just disco—the Partridge Family, or Herman’s Hermits, though I guess Herman’s Hermits aren’t that bad. I think there’s always been the same amount of cool shit and not-cool shit. Sometimes it’s way underground and sometimes it bursts through.
SK: The end of MTV—it was weird when they brought it in, but when they took it away, people were left confused—it was an avenue for stuff to be heard that wouldn’t otherwise.
What about when they cut music programs from public school?
SM: Same thing with art programs. But physical education—that’s still necessary!
JS: But people are gonna be creative if they’re gonna be creative. People are always doing cool shit. And there’s always more people who want to kick your ass than who want to do cool shit.
Why did Dead Meadow finally decide on this three-piece line-up? What works between you three?
JS: The drive that that’s what you’re gonna do. The different people we’ve played with weren’t for lack of talent. It’s just being like, ‘This is what I wanna do, and this is gonna be what I wanna do.’ When that’s the prime thing, you hold that above lesser shit. And you just do it. I was pretty set to play music from a young age.
SK: We’d sit and talk, like how we were gonna get out on tour in our other bands.
JS: I’ve known Steve since I was 16, and we started playing when we were 19.
What was your first band?
JS: Punk.
How many people do you know in music now that didn’t come out of a punk background?
JS: This is off-topic, but now personally, I can dig the Grateful Dead and Bob Marley, which I hated in high school, and I think, ‘Why now?’ It’s almost like that saying—‘If you’re not a liberal when you’re young, you’re a fucking dick.’ So if you’re not punk… that’s the angst, that’s the time, and you should be into fucking punk.
SK: The Dead are owned by douchebags in high school.
JS: And that’s the time you should be into punk—that’s the feeling of fucking high school.
SM: And the whole DIY thing—even aside from the sound or angst, just feeling like you could participate and own part of your life, instead of always like… receiving someone else’s vision. That’s pretty exciting.
What new things did you try out on the upcoming record?
JS: With the new record, we started out with all the deep psychedelic jamming going on, but now it’s like, ‘That stuff is always gonna be there, so how can we have the surface, too?’ The Beatles are the ultimate example—so dark and psychedelic but there’s a song there, too. They keep them both going. Their songs are short, but you can listen to them over and over. They don’t need to go on forever.
Who is your favorite pre-Beatles American musician?
JS: Johnny Cash. Charley Patton.
SM: Jimmie Rodgers.
SK: I love Roy Orbison.
JS: Early Delta shit. Robert Johnson and Skip James—so heavy, and a lot of that stuff is so droning. That tribal African drone. And Indian classical music—that was recorded after the ‘60s, but that stuff is centuries old. Like Ali Akbar Khan. And you can’t go wrong with some Ravi Shankar.
What would your fourteen-year-old self think of you being into Ravi Shankar?

JS: I hope he’d be psyched because we got to play with Dinosaur Jr. He probably wouldn’t grasp it at all, as he shouldn’t—but hopefully he’d think it was cool we were playing with Dinosaur Jr.
SM: 14 was pretty open—kind of like before it closed down. At 16 I got way more conservative. At 14 I was grooving to the Dead, but too many people came to my room and saw the posters and were like, ‘That doesn’t fit in with the line we’re trying to toe.’
SK: I had a Led Zeppelin IV poster in my room and this dude said, ‘Are you into the devil?’ And I was like, ‘That’s kind of cool.’ So it stuck with me.
What’s the hardest kind of reaction to provoke in an audience?
JS: The music we play, we kind of go more for a hypnotic thing—an internal reaction as opposed to a visual freakout, though sometimes we get awesome dudes who wanna get down and dance. But a lot of times people are digging it and just taking it in, and that’s what we dig, too. It’s hard to get a reaction because it’s happening inside.
You know it’s going good when people are standing totally still?
JS: We want people to get lost in it—we get lost in it, too.
SM: My dad’s fiancée was asking me—‘How do you know when you’ve got people? Like I could tell when people get into it, but how could you tell?’ And I’m not even looking.
SK: But you’ll feel it. It’s what I call their life-force energy.
SM: We’re strictly in it for the life-force juice.
JS: Yeah, real gothic, you know? We suck it out of the fans. That’s why they’re not reacting—their life-force juice is gone! And it tastes better in L.A.
Did you ever catch a cab from Cappadonna when he was driving one?
JS: I wish—I love Cappadonna. It was so explosive when Wu Tang came out—every dude had an awesome record. They were trying so hard. It was crazy—nine MCs, each with his own style, with a RZA beat behind it. All we’re doing is playing our music—we’re not selling enough shoes and we don’t have a 1-900 number. Kind of a bummer—we need to diversify our hustles. We know cash rules everything around this motherfucker!