Tofu Carnage Records artist- Dead to a dying world interview is up
1. The Band mixes elements of Cascadian black metal, crust, post-hardcore, and post-rock into something I would say is as epic as it is somber and beautiful. How did the sound come to be?
James - We are seven very different people with very different tastes in music and art. The flavors somehow have melted into each other yielding something palatable. I think all of us have had our bouts with the somber and morose side of life, and it’s those experiences that brought us together. The opportunity to take all our self-doubt and personal suffering and create something worthwhile out of it is a gift.
2. If I'm reading correctly, Dead to a Dying World is a very DIY force as members of the band own your label Tofu Carnage and you seem to have input of everything from vinyl to visuals of the band. Is that correct?
Sean - Tofu Carnage is a very small, but dedicated operation that I run solely. My primary purpose with the label is to foster a sense of music community that has been the life force in the Texas music scene in hopes to serve as a platform for outside exposure. All of the bands on Tofu Carnage are related in more ways than one, with most having shared members. I generally play a big part in the design aspect of the records I release, but the imagery and content all comes from the artists.
James - We as a group try to control the band’s image as much as possible. We commission artists we appreciate to make our designs, backdrops, etc. Since we all have strong opinions, it can turn into a bit a of a scuffle to make final design decisions, but I would rather have an argument or two than have bandmates that didn’t care at all. I think we are better for it in the end.
Mike - For me, the DIY ethic is about never giving away your right to manifest a unique vision using your own hands. More often than not it's about partnerships and building relationships that expand your perspectives and abilities. bIt's the fundamental difference between genuine and contrived expression.
3. While listening to your new album, Litany, I hear bands like Neurosis, Wolvserpent, Tragedy, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mouth of the Architect, and even bands like Sabbath Assembly and Dead Can Dance. Is it hard to span so many spectrums of music and not have it come across as disjointed?
Sean - While elements of heavier artists like Neurosis and Tragedy have a more obvious presence in my songwriting, artists like Dead Can Dance and John Zorn (especially his Filmworks and Masada series) are what really underscores it all for me. Sabbath Assembly makes sense considering Jamie provides vocals on several tracks on Litany.
James - Eva and I both appear on a few Sabbath Assembly albums. More to the point, we don’t think about how to mix this genre with that influence. It just happens organically. If we actually sat down and thought about combining things it would come out contrived and ruin everything. I spent all day listening to Townes van Zandt and Goblin, now there’s a challenging mashup.
Sean - We all have notably differing influences, but it’s really just that organic, collaborative songwriting that allows us to explore different musical avenues.
4. I know this is not an easy request, but in 3 words please the best you can describe the band’s sound.
James - Illuminati is real
Sean - Spontaneous space sex
Heidi - ...
Mike - ...
5. How does social media, digital media and promotion play a role in underground extreme music artist in 2015? Is it just a necessary evil? Do you miss the more print media and true indie radio/PR days?
James - Man, I love Bandcamp. You get to listen to all the jams all day long. I’d love to buy all these dudes/ettes records, but I’m too broke for all that. The digital age has opened so many doors of influence that I never would have stumbled across before. That being said, make a damn paper flyer for the show you booked or are playing. Facebook events are great, but give people something tangible to remember it by. Get out there and actually talk to people about your music. Let them know you fucking care about it. If you don’t then why should they? Internet aloofness is lame. If you’re going to be like that then just hide in your bedrooms.
Heidi - As great as the internet is for accessing music, when you buy an LP or tape at a show you often get to talk directly to the musicians who made it and you can’t talk to an interface about music. I miss paper flyers too, but I’m probably biased since I don’t have a Facebook or anything. Unfortunately, this can bite me in the ass because I miss out on a lot of shit unless my friends take pity on me and tell me about upcoming shows. Also, if I can’t get any more cheap flyers to tack on my walls I won’t be able to keep up my 15 year-old, punk-kid decor and that would be a crying shame.
6. What is the live show for Dead to a Dying World like verses the album?
Sean - We’ve always tried to avoid studio embellishments that may leave people feeling that something is missing live. That’s certainly one key reason why strings are a core element to the band and not simply for studio craft. It’s always disappointing to me seeing a band that has beautiful string arrangements only to be a stripped-down metal band on stage, and that’s something we never want. Our first short tour was unexpectedly without our cellist, and it just didn’t feel right. The new album features several guest vocalists, so those are somewhat different live by necessity. The only songs we really never play live are “Cicatrix” and “Sick & Sunder,” as they are more or less studio pieces.
Heidi - On a personal level, I love listening to our album, though I love playing shows even more because it’s such an amazing experience every time. There are several parts in the songs where I’m not singing and I get to just zone out to the music. The feeling of being fully inundated with the beautiful sounds that my friends are creating is almost like a drug and puts me in a complete trance. Sometimes I get way too lost in the moment and almost forget to come back in.
Mike - I prefer our live shows. Personally I've always fought depression and anxiety, so our performances tend to be very raw, cathartic, and honest to a fault. They can leave us broken and emotionally bankrupt or grant total freedom. You can't share that sense of escape and freedom you get with a room full of strangers through vinyl. That being said, I don't think it would be possible to fully capture and share the depth and range we deliver musically without the recording.
7. Is there a running theme or story behind Litany? I swear I can hear one.
James - It’s set a score of years after the fall of civilization. There are different factions vying for survival, some benevolent, some otherwise. It’s about surviving by any means necessary. Cannibalism and ritual have replaced capitalism and organized religion. Agriculture is remembered and is taking root. Amidst all of this, they examine what humanity was, is, and could be and decide that the best future is one without the shadow of man. It’s ultimately about the conscious decision to let one’s own species fall into extinction for the good of all other life.
Mike - Litany is the second chapter in a story that hasn't reached its climax. Unlike the first album, which was a singular perspective, we gave voices to multiple influences and characters within the evolving environment. This allowed us to explore environmental, social, and internal conflicts in the face of certain collapse. A lot of details are left open and more questions are brought up than anything else, but frequently it asks if humanity will cave in under hysterical rage or surrender with grace.
8. Billy Anderson’s sonic touches are there esp. for the crusty/post-hardcore moments. How was it working with him?
James - That man is a sorcerer. My only complaint is that we didn’t track the thing in his bunker so I could’ve thrown knives in the yard all day.
Sean - Billy is the most witty, energetic, passionate, and professional individual we’ve had the pleasure to work with. His expertise astounds me. It was never a dull moment in the studio, and always rewarding, especially at its most challenging.
9. I do hear an old British doom metal element too, bands like Anathema, My Dying Bride, and Paradise Lost. I'm not crazy about this correct?
James - “Solitude sometimes is best society.”
Heidi - John Milton would say you are not crazy.
10. Dallas seems to be a hotbed of extreme underground music as of late as it was more Austin and Houston in TX for years. What do you think the reason is?
Sean - Personally, I think it’s always been true for Dallas - it has just taken longer for the city to get it’s due stature in that way. Those who are churning out killer material have been doing so for years in some capacity or another. It’s long overdue.
James - Dallas has had the best, most diverse weirdo music scene that I have come across. Sure, New York is diverse, but it’s not personal like it is here. Go out on any night and you’ll either see a great show or hang out with people that played one the night before. It’s a great time for Dallas right now.
11. If you could collab with one artist or band (I don’t mean a split release). I mean actually work as one unit on some songs or album who would it be and why?
Sean - That’s hard to say really. We’ve already collaborated with so many great artists, both as contributing musicians and producers. The whole project really just started as a big collaboration of sorts in the beginning as I sought out others to finalize songs I had started. So for me it kind of began in that humble way where I was just simply honored to work with my favorite local musicians. I guess beyond that I’d ultimately have to say Madonna (Okay, Taylor Swift).
James - This is something we already have in the works, but I can’t speak as to which band it is yet. You’ll have to wait for the next record.
12. Say Dead to a Dying World was offered a Major recording contract, 1st would you accept it and 2nd if so what would you want to do different than you’re doing now?
James - Man, I don’t know how I would feel about all that. Making corporations money is not something I’m into. If one of our songs wound up on a goddamned Walmart commercial I’d be livid. I don’t see how anything would be different if that were to happen in some bizarro world. I guess we’d have more resources to really go after it, but the process would be the same. I don’t think I could bring myself to say yes, but it would take a lot of introspection.
Sean - Do we get to record in Dre’s studio? If so, I’m in.
Heidi - Ditto about Dre.
13. What bands are currently impressing the band in 2015?
James - I was into that new VHOL track, but I haven’t heard the whole thing. Botanist is rad. We played a bunch of dates last month with Addaura and they are rad. But man, I’m into the locals - Pinkish Black, Unconscious Collective, Tyrannosorceress, Mountain Of Smoke, Sarah Ruth, Seres, etc. The list goes on.
Sean - Pinkish Black made their Relapse debut this year, and it couldn’t be any more deserving. They are great people and amazing musician. New Bell Witch rules, of course. And Chelsea Wolfe! Though speaking candidly, Kendrick Lamar won 2015 as far as I’m concerned. Someone with such awe-inspiring craft and creative execution only comes around every so often.
Heidi - Thou, always and forever. They make music all the time and it’s amazing, even when they’re covering Nirvana. They’ve kept up their DIY ethics throughout the years and I really respect that.
Sean - They’ve never covered Taylor Swift though, so there’s room for improvement...
14. Thanks for the time, any closing thoughts here.
James - “Fuck one-button Flannels..” - Mike Watt
Sean - Vote West/Swift in 2020
Heidi - Sadly, this will be Sean’s last album with Dead to a Dying World. He will be leaving to join Taylor Swift’s entourage and is scheduled to be in the music video for her upcoming single, “Bad Blood II”.