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Deathline interview

There's a certain noir-ish punker-glamour about this London two-piece. Deathline deal in fuzz-o-rama guitar slapped unceremoniously over splat-and-blatter drum machinery, like Metal Urbain remade for the twenty-first century. And that makes Deathline a very contemporary rock band. Their unceremonious mash-up of guitars and technology sounds like the grinding in the gearbox of the modern world. Remember when bands had to be electronic or guitar driven, but not both? Kraftwerk or The Clash, you had to choose. These days, you can be bits of both.

Now, with a new album ready to go - recorded in Los Angeles, no less - it seems an appropriate moment to talk to the two Deathliners, Kaorru Sato and Jennie Werlemar, about art, logistics, and why their band doesn't have a nice name.

Let's take things from the very top. Deathline are going to be a new band to many people, so perhaps we should do some introductions. Tell us who you are and what you bring to the Deathline workbench...

Jennie:  Hi, I play the bass and sing most of the songs

Kaoru:  I play the guitar and do the programming as we don't have a drummer like the normal bands do. We met a few years ago when we both played in a garage punk band. We formed Deathline when that band broke up.

If I told my mum about Deathline, I know what she'd say: 'Why can't they give themselves a nice name?' Well, I won't ask that question, exactly - but 'Deathline' hints at a dark ride into some sort of non-specific danger. It primes the listener for the basement bump and grind of the music - it's a fair bet that a band called Deathline isn't likely to do easy-listening ballads. So is this you dropping your black-edged calling card onto the mat?

OK, I will ask my mum's question. Why didn't you give the band a nice name?

Jennie:   A nice name? Fuck that!

Seriously, we do like quite dark stuff in general and we are quite dark in a way. The name is from the film Death Line which we're both really into. We felt it matched the sort of music we wanted to make. When we tell people the name they're like 'What?' - like it's a death metal band. But we quite like that.

Kaoru:  We wanted to do something that was very different to our old band, Electric Shocks. We really enjoyed that band, but it didn't quite reflect our personalities. So when we started this band, the name almost came first. We agreed straight away that it sounded right.

'C'mon C'mon', from Deathline's debut album, Sixtynine.  A garage-rock road movie in three minutes and fourteen seconds.  

And now a very obvious question - what made you decide to make the band a two-humans-plus-technology outfit, rather than a conventional rock band line-up?

Kaoru:   When we started out we intended to be a three piece. We rehearsed for a while with a great drummer who shall remain nameless. But we realised that the mechanical backing was actually what we wanted. It was right.

Jennie:  If we had a human drummer we'd probably want more electronics as well. So we'd become a four piece or more.

Kaoru:  Jennie actually wants to be a keyboard player really... We like being a two piece also because there's fewer people to disagree with about songs, playing dates, and who gets to sit in the front seat of the car when we go on tour.

DeathlineWhen I reviewed the Sixtynine album I more or less characterised the music as a kind of stripped-down punk rock disco. At any rate I managed to namedrop Metal Urbain, The Clash, Kraftwerk and Donna Summer. I don't know if I called it right there or not - but what was the key idea behind the music? Did you start out with a deliberate intention to create a certain sound, or did the Deathline racket just evolve?

Jennie:  We didn't intend it to sound a certain way. It just happened that way. However, I did want to go darker - which we have now.

Kaoru:  I think it came from the sort of stuff we both love. Industrial and electronic music. Bowie. David Lynch's films and music.

Garage rock and heavy rock. Warhol's Silver Factory years and the Velvet Underground. Grunge and psych. When you put those together a certain type of music comes out.

I've only heard a small sample of the new stuff so far - the track 'Ten Of Clubs' - but it seems there's a bit of garage psychedelia in the Deathline brew now. The sound seems to be getting heavier and fuzzy at the edges.

It's interesting, because in a way the older stuff sounds like the place it was made: London. But the new recordings were done in Los Angeles, and I think I'm hearing the shift of location: a bit more wide-screen, a bit more desperado. Do you think that the place music is made can really influence the end result?

Kaoru:  Not really. I think we know what we want better and we're better at deciding what we want.

Jennie:  As a band you have to keep moving, and you're always going to be open to new stuff. We're listening to more heavy and psych stuff now, and it finds its way in.

Kaoru:  We never try to sound exactly like another band or style. It's always our thing. What feels right.

Now we've casually mentioned Los Angeles, I really should ask how you managed to head out there and record with Josiah Mazzaschi - who's done stuff with the Smashing Pumpkins, and is now working on William Reid of the Jesus And Mary Chain's solo album.  It's not a usual occurrence for a band from the London Underground to high-tail it to LA and make an album, to say the least. It sounds like quite an adventure, and quite a coup, too. How did you pull it off? Did you feel at home in LA? Was it all work, work, work, or did you have time for a rock 'n' roll holiday, too?

Jennie:  We're lucky - we met Josiah a few years ago in London. We kept in touch and it went from there.

Kaoru:  Our Facebook page was converted to a timeline today which makes it easier to go back in time and see what happened in the past. The first thing I randomly clicked on was a post from Josiah saying it was great to meet and we should stay in touch.

DeathlineJennie:  At the start of last year he mailed us saying it would be great to work together, and we jumped on that. We both love LA as a city. We felt it would give us a different motivation having someone else working with us and giving us input

Kaoru:  We've done everything by ourselves before, and it was great to have another voice there. Josiah changed some of the songs- including 'Ten of Clubs' - a lot and also played quite a lot of keyboards and stuff. It was good and felt natural. The fact that he works with people we really like was a good thing obviously.

Jennie:  We had five days in the studio and five days off. It was perfect. Like you said, a rock 'n' roll holiday.

Kaoru:  We did cultural things but we 'hung out' a lot too! LA is a great town and we met lots of old friends and made lots of new ones. I'd go back in a second!

Jennie:  Me too. I wouldn't mind to live there.

Now the new album is in the bag, what's the next London of the Deathline plan? Is there a Deathline plan? Or are you just going to let the future evolve?

Kaoru:  We have a short term plan which starts with a tour when Ten of Clubs comes out. We want to treat it like a relaunch, and this year is going to be exciting. We have a great gig coming up for the London launch which we'll announce soon. This year has been great because creatively we've been involved with lots of new people, not just Josiah. We're both very interested in visual art, photography, film, fashion and styling. We both trained originally as artists and this new work is giving us the opportunity to re engage with all these things.

Jennie: Deathline has the possibility to be about more than the music. We want people to like what we do, and give us the opportunity to go and play and meet people wherever it might be. London is just the start for that really. It's exciting as we think we have some great stuff to bring to our fans and new listeners.  

  New Deathline. 'Ten Of Clubs', from the Los Angeles sessions.

Deathline: Website | MySpace | Facebook | Soundcloud | Bandcamp

For a review of Deathline live in London, go here.

Photos on this page by Simon Fowler.

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