Raving Drooling is an album made of riffs, riffs that we need, that you need, riffs that i am pretty sure could save us against the virus, they are so heavy and dense they could level a building with the first chord of the first track. – Fuzzy Sun
Talking to Jem, drummer for Australian band DEAD and the operator of We Empty Rooms label. Raving Drooling by DEAD is out now via Wantage USA / Rock is Hell / We Empty Rooms and features guest appearances from Creston Spiers (Harvey Milk), Veronica Avola (Elrond/Prizehog), Hirofumi Uchino (Defektro) and Joe Preston (The Whip, Melvins, C Average, High on Fire).
How are you dealing with quarantine?
We released a new album right as the pandemic hit. Our usual way of promoting a record is to tour, tour some more and then keep touring. Lockdown here started literally on the first day of our tour so we’ve not been able to play a single show for this record. Instead I’ve been putting a lot more energy into promoting online via podcasts, blogs etc. It’s been really great to connect with other DIY operators during this time. It’s strange to bond over isolation but I feel lucky that we can still connect on some level with one another. Usually I don’t have the time/energy to pursue this stuff so much between all the time that running a tour takes up.
We’ve also been writing a lot of new music. This is not unusual for us but I am enjoying writing in a more focused manner. Usually we’re trying to write while also getting a set tight for the stage. But now we’re writing with this open ended timeline. I still feel anxious not knowing what the future will look like but last week in rehearsal (we have been lucky enough to find a space where we can practice and social distance) we both acknowledged to each other that even if we were never able to play live again we’d happily keep writing new music for ourselves only. The motivation for writing music certainly hasn’t dwindled. I recorded my first ever solo piece which was a fun challenge having very little sound engineering skills:
And we’ve been doing some limited edition merch which again is not unusual but we’ve just upped the output perhaps. We did an edition of 19 LPs for our album We Won’t Let You Sleep in a packaging that was absurdly time consuming; screen prints, lino prints and I individually hand stamped the song titles using an alphabet set of stamps. It’s fun to do stuff like this in small runs. We did an edition of 19 jars of “Raving Drooling” sambal and it tastes fucking delicious. And I’m working on some other things right now. We’re both still working our day jobs too.
Oh and exercise! I made a concerted effort to do some of that every day so I don’t get too glum. And Jace seems to be pretty ripped, I think he’s got some kind of home gym going on.
What advice would you give to other musicians/artists dealing with it?
Well…I understand everyone is in a different position. We’ve been relatively lucky here in Australia with the early lockdown and lower number of deaths. So I just wanna acknowledge that I’m answering your question not knowing the circumstances of those we’re addressing. If you’re struggling to continue your art right now don’t beat yourself up about it. It might be that you’re preoccupied with looking after a loved one, paying the rent etc. For a lot of us it’s gutting to have lost tours or other plans we had and had put a lot of energy into. That sucks, I feel ya. Take a moment to grieve for that for sure ‘cos it’s fair enough to be glum about that.
But if you want to make art or music and you have the time (and it seems a LOT of people have more time on their hands) then it’s only your creativity that limits you. If you play underground music then this pandemic is not the biggest challenge you’ll have faced as far as being able to practice your craft. Not by a long shot. Record music on a dictaphone, a phone, a computer – whatever you can find. Start a fucking podcast if you want to. I keep seeing a lot of shit talk about that right now. Fuck that – you have the same right as anyone else to do it. If you just spent this time honing your playing until you can play live again it’s still a win.
I can only speak from my own bias. For me making music is essential to living and that hasn’t changed one bit. You can still make art and music right now so I don’t see any reason not to.
What have you (and the band) been listening to lately?
I just recently got a decent internet connection for the first time in 3 years. And I’m only just delving into a whole heap of podcasts. I’ve been gorging myself on Conan Neutrons Protonic Reversal podcasts. He’s pumping them out faster than I can listen:
And that’s sent me down a wormhole of listening to bands he’s interviewed.
Also Tomorrow We Die:
And a heap of Nunchukka Superfly
And Avola who has put out some really great stuff during COVID-19
Apart from that I’m mainly listening to our own demos as we write new music.
Jace has been listening to Grails, Eno, Piano Magic and Harmonia – Ah….yes we’re working on a soundtrack album right now!