Ringo Deathstarr: Interview
Koenji High, Tokyo
8th September 2012
Ringo Deathstarr recently visited Japan & while there Louder Than War’s Tokyo Correspondent, Katie Clare, caught up with the bands vocalist / lead guitar player, Elliot Frazier, to have a natter about things Deathstarr related. Also included at the foot of the interview is a mini-review of the gig they played the evening after this interview.
The expected thunderstorms are no where in sight as I meet up with the Texan three piece, it’s like they have done a deal with the weather and the sun is shining and the sky blue, however the humidity of the Japanese summer remains so we take to the air-conditioned icicle coldness of the dressing room and discuss au natural anti mosquito therapies, air pollution levels in Brazil and the sexual shenanigans of Abba and Fleetwood Mac. Eventually Elliot Frazier, guitarist and vocalist, and I do find time to chat about Ringo Deathstarr, tours, new albums and music. First discovering how the band went from Myspace to playing live regularly in Japan.
“We were on My Space, we didn’t have any label or contract and Vinyl Junkie heard us there and got in touch & said they wanted to put out our songs and bring us over – so…. Playing here is like, I’d imagine, anyone’s dream gig would be, the fans are all here to see you, they know all the songs – it doesn’t happen in the States, not for bands in our situation”Â
So after Japan you have an extensive US tour and then you visit the UK. At the moment you only have a London date (in November) will there be more?
“We’ll be in the UK for a week and Europe for a month, we haven’t released all the dates yet, still tying up loose ends. We’ll play Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds maybe Birmingham, we try not to have any days off. I like playing the gigs, it is really what my whole existence is for, to play a show. Everything else we do musically, well that I do musically, is a means to play a gig.”Â
Sounds like you’d be happy not releasing material …
“Just the way you have to go about releasing is really stressful you know. We started out trying to do it the old way I guess, now everything’s changing, we are trying to put ourselves into a new position so after this record we can do things 100% our way. Smashing Pumpkins tried to release a song at a time but it didn’t really work out as well as they thought it would ”â it’s weird. No one listens to albums in one go any more, it was like that in the 50’s and 60’s, singles were the thing and albums were just a bunch of filler songs. Maybe we’ll go back to that”Â
You do have a new album out soon, ‘Mauve’. After 2011’s ‘Colour Trip’ is there a theme we need to be aware of?
“No, we don’t think too hard about the names, ‘Colour Trip’ was our old guitar player, we were saying what should we call the album blah blah, he said ‘Colour Trip’ and we were like: alright. This one was kind of a joke really, I didn’t think the other band members would be ok with it, you know. I’ve been talking about it for a year; having that for an album name. You just feel mauve, just like you go through your day to day part of life, working a shitty job just whiling your day away, waiting to do something cool you know. I worked at American Apparel and that was one of the colours of the clothes it was this pinkish grey.”Â
We use ‘beige’ for that emotion in the UK …
“That’s the next album!”Â
“No, no it was way more exciting. We had just gotten off the tour with The Pumpkin’s and we kind of changed our mind about how we were going to make an album. We had started making it before The Pumpkin’s tour and at the point it was kind of like what are we gonna do, we felt all this pressure. But after watching The Pumpkin’s play old school, people up there wailing on guitar, like things used to be. I used to go watch Green Day, Weezer and Get Up Kids, bands like that when I was a kid and it was refreshing to see people play guitar like that on stage again. We were having a hard time playing ‘Colour Trip’ songs on stage because we lost a member and never replaced him so we decided we were going to make songs that we could play live that would sound exactly like they do on the album. At that point we cranked out 40 songs and picked the best 13. A lot of stuff never got finished but we saved five songs for the next album. Or we could do some 7inches ”â we have enough stuff.”Â
Sounds good, after all it seemed a long wait between ‘Colour Trip’ and ‘Mauve’ …
“Yes. The Pumpkins tour interrupted. That tour came out of no where. After we got done with our European tour in the middle of August last year that was going to be it, time to go work on the album, get it out in the spring. But I was at work one day and I got a call: Hi, Smashing Pumpkins want to take you on tour. So…”Â
Certainly does not seem like guitar music is dead then, despite what some musicians and the press have been saying the past couple of years.
“Those people can go get fucked in my opinion. I don’t listen to people who talk like that. I don’t really care what has been done what hasn’t been done I only care about playing shows, playing guitar on stage. I want to play the guitar, I like the guitar. I played the drums as my original instrument. I didn’t get to go on tour as a drummer, so a guitar is the reason I can tour.”Â
So there is a future creatively? Commercially?
“I don’t know how commercial, there is a future in what we are doing. We will keep building our relationship with our fans, it’s all about playing shows as long as there are people there to watch it. People don’t even put real drums on their albums any more, it’s all made in bedrooms. I don’t care what taste makers say is cool. It’s lame. I can not relate to it at all.”Â
So no superstar DJ collaborations then?
“I’m not going to say no, but it’s not something I am going to seek out. There are definitely electronic type beats that we were experimenting with to have more of a Nine Inch Nails type drum sound, things like that. That’s where we kind of went wrong. The last thing we released was ‘Shadow’ and that definitely was trying to have that early 90’s hip hop drum sound – I like that stuff, that was going to be the kind of album we were going to make, but after The Pumpkins tour we did not want to rely on electronic drums or anything like that. We got a kick up the butt you know. I don’t hate synthesizers or anything I’d just rather hear a crazy guitar, I like noisy, I like the physicality.”Â
“Mostly local Austin bands, I don’t really buy new albums or download, for me it is all about the live experience. If I hear about a new band I’ll wait till I can see them live ”Â
I’d imagine tough with your touring schedule …
“I don’t really get out much when I am home I like to sit in my house with my wife, my pets, be a homebody. I like to cook. I get out to see some local bands, there are a lot of Austin bands I like. As for national bands I can’t remember the last time I went out to see one. There is this one scene building up in Austin around this one venue called The 29th Street Ballroom it is kind of like punk with weirdness, hard to explain Sonic Youth type bands but more punk. There is this band I’ve recorded their album called Gal Pals. They are a two piece, I tried to give it a bigger sound as it’s just guitar and drums. They are probably my favourite band right now and they are just about to release a 7”Â in the UK. I like another Austin band too, Flesh Lights. So high energy, that music interests me more than all these Brooklyn bands.”Â
So much positivity about new bands coming out of Austin makes me want to go to SxSW even more …
“Last year I didn’t have time to do anything – that sucks. I have never been as a spectator but bands that have helped us out on tour I try and return the favour and put on a show at SxSW. For three days a club would give me free range, but even that became too insane, SxSW is crazy. I am sure if you are there just to watch bands it must be really awesome, there is no other festival you can see huge bands playing a tiny club.”Â
All to soon it’s time for Ringo Deathstarr to head for the stage, the set is a mixture of previous releases with plenty of visits to new material, the plenitude of audible sources are crafted into something comfortably familiar yet interestingly illuminating.
In the packed venue there is a palpable euphoria for ‘Tambourine Girl’, ‘Do it Every-time’, ‘So High’, and ‘Rip’ the first single from the yet to be released second album. Throwing out reverberating sounds and a pounding beat of industrial claustrophobia comfortably swirled with sepia expanses of child like dreaming and sugar-coated melancholy our evening comes to a close with some on stage high-jinks, shared beers and plenty of happy souls.
Ringo Deathstarr’s second album ‘Mauve’ is released on 24th September through Club AC30 Records.
They play London’s Dingwalls on November 7th with The Fauns and Dead Wolf Club tickets for the show can be purchased now via this link.
All words & photo’s by Katie Clare. More Louder Than War articles by Katie can be found here.