If you want rhythm, they've got it. Dogfeet are London's latest exponents of the art of sturm und drang. They're a heady blast of light and noise. Their live shows don't take prisoners. But don't make the mistake of thinking Dogfeet are just another noisy rock band. Dogfeet are un-rock, beyond-rock - even, without getting into fisticuffs about it - anti-rock. Dogfeet demonstrate that you can do more with the format of a rock band than simply play rock music.
So let's talk rhythm and rackets and art and noise with Dogfeet...
Let's start in the traditional manner - with some introductions. Who's in the band, and what noises are they responsible for?
Jimmy: Jimmy Cripps - vocals. Kane Martindale - bass. Richard Ruston. - drums and samples. Jesse Tadini Rybolt on guitar.
The first thing anybody notices about Dogfeet is that you're not exactly a normal rock band. You're using standard rock instruments - bass, guitar, drums - to make a different kind of music.
Do you actually think of yourselves as a rock band at all? When the band first formed, was it always your intention to be heavy, rhythmic, tribal - or did you start out with relatively conventional rock songs and it all escalated?
jimmy: We don't think we've had any real intentions at all. Nothing we've done has been thought out beforehand. It may sound cliched, but our music is very expressive and cathartic to us. It simply is just a product of how we feel, I suppose. We don't really know what rock music means any more. If it's just using those standard instruments then I suppose we are rock, but I don't really think about it.
We've always placed the drums and the bass at the front of everything because we feel like they affect the body so immediately, so I suppose that has shaped us to a degree. Three of us were in a band together beforehand called Stavin' Chains, which was similar, but perhaps more conventionally bluesy or punk. But we were also very young then so I doubt we were thinking very much about it either.
Jesse: I think a lot of the reason that at the moment we are making non-conventional 'rock' music with standard instruments is to do with money, space and transport. We've recently set up a new studio space, where soon we'll finally be able to start incorporating the home-made instruments we've had lying around half-finished for a while. We all feel this is going to allow us to create something that goes further than we have done so far, by expanding on the range of sounds we're able to create.
|Dogfeet perform 'Shade'. The unexpected meeting, on a dissection table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella.|
I remember at earlier gigs you were using scrap metal percussion, but now that seems to have gone. What made you pick up the scrap metal....and then drop it again?
Rusty: The weight. And because our percussionist left - but on a sheer practical level, dragging improbably large and bulky bits of scrap to gigs/rehearsals and back on the bus and finding a place to put them at home was starting to become impossible.
We started to build a tubulum at one point and then realised that we had been moving all these pipes and bits of metal and plastic to rehearsals in an Ikea bag and it was just becoming ludicrous.
That said, its something we are trying to reincorporate. The actual point of the scrap stuff was just trying to find sounds that are outside of the conventional rock sound that you mentioned earlier.
Jimmy: We're interested in electronic music and what you can do with technology. We've been incorporating that for a while and now it's just a case of trying to find a balance between these two separate aspects of sound we're interested in.
As soon as we have a rehearsal space of our own that we can store equipment in, expect to hear a lot more of that again. We also want to have many, many more drummers in the future.
I suppose the obvious bands to namedrop as possible influences are the likes of Test Department and Einsturzende Neubauten. Or is that a bit too obvious? What influences feed the Dogfeet racket? I'd also guess at some anarcho-punk stuff, Crass, Flux Of Pink Indians - but who would you say are the key inspirations?
Jesse: We all listen to very different music. We do cross over on some things, but I think naming a particular band as an influence for all of us would be impossible. However, we do all agree on attitudes or ways of doings things that have influenced us. Neubauten (who you've mentioned) are a perfect example.
Jimmy: People that have truly attempted to push music forward but not just in a wanky experimental - for the sake of it - way. They found truly beautiful sounds in utter noise and chaos and their lyrics and vocals can be really soul rending at times. For the same reasons, we're all interested in what Death Grips are doing with music at the moment. Some of their ideas and their execution of them are mind blowing, and that has been quite an inspiration for us recently.
I was just listening to 'The Sycamore' on your 7" single, and it almost has a Brian Eno kind of feel - very trancey in a way. And then 'Rise' is a kind of analogue ambient thing - guitar and accordian treated so they don't sound recognisable. That's an Eno-esque technique right there! So is Brian Eno another influence? Are you closet ambient-heads?
Jesse: Definitely don't think we're closet ambient heads. I think that 'Rise' despite being slow and droning is a lot more aggressive and intrusive than any ambient music I've ever heard. I think it just came out as a result of experimenting with some instruments we were individually interested in using in our own work. I don't see the point in limiting your output to one style of music. I feel that 'The Sycamore' and 'Rise' fit in thematically within the single and open the record into new ideas.
It was a slight surprise to find those two tracks on the single, because it's a side to Dogfeet that I haven't seen in the live shows. Is that intentional, to have a whole other aspect of the band that only exists on record? Or will we see the band getting ambient on stage one day?
Jimmy: It may happen, we have included some slower songs in our sets, and will continue to, but don't think we like the idea of having people coming up on stage for one song, or changing instruments. "Now introducing…Rico Borza on Cello!" That stuff's ridiculous, it completely disrupts the flow of a live show and destroys the atmosphere.
We play mostly in darkness and want our live shows to feel like an onslaught. Maybe we're still just adolescent and with time that will become less of a concern, but right now, I'm so sick of shows where no-one seems interested or enjoying themselves in the audience and half the bands sound the same.
'Shade' took months of recording and producing, each instrument was recorded with one microphone and pieced together on Logic and cut up and rearranged, in fact the song was completely different when we recorded it, we've since learned how to play the version that we essentially created on logic. Aside from what we do together in rehearsals we are constantly working on other pieces of music or sound experiments or building little instruments. These things are so immediate and the capture the moment they were created in instantly, which is something we are very interested in.
'The Sycamore' was the same recording process as 'Shade' (in terms of using just one microphone) but it was done in one night with Jimmy and our ex-drummer Rico Borza. This has since gone on to become a separate project called The Pale Horse - there will be an album released within the next couple of months. 'Rise' in turn, came from an evening where Jimmy and Jesse were experimenting with some different instruments.
Jesse: We wanted the single to showcase maybe the danciest, whilst still aggressive song we had at the time - 'Shade'. But we also wanted to include pieces that came from another place, and to begin to showcase more experimentation and start to build a bigger picture of the band as more of a project than a group. It's an important point about seeing the band as more of an overall project than just the music, we are all involved in other things and have shot and edited all our own videos.
|Dogfeet. Warhol-esque video. (Keep watching. It is a video, not a still shot...)|
I hate the idea of getting a director in to try and express our music visually. We're trying to see Dogfeet as a platform for other things. We're all concerned with similar ideas; music videos, photographs and album graphics are all important in forming an audiences' perception of a band, but to us, they have become increasingly important in augmenting and accentuating the ideas coming through the music, as opposed to just being tools for a band or their managers/label to dress them up and package them for a target audience.
The use of drum-triggered lights in our live shows and the website are just a couple of the ways we're starting express these other ideas through the band. Hopefully soon after this interview is out our album will be released, because the stuff we have online is a poor representation of where we're going, so while those b-sides aren't exactly where we're going they're probably more representative of the general direction at least.
Even 'Shade' (the A-side track on the single) was a bit of a surprise in that is very well produced - there's lots of percussion, lots of layers, but you can hear every individual beat, and the vocal is very clear, very upfront. How did you record that track? Was it the band basically playing live in the studio, or was it built up layer by layer?
Jimmy: The process we usually go through when recording is recording a live track in the rehearsal studio then overdubbing all the separate parts over the finished structure captured in the 'Live' recording, wherever we can (I think half of Shade was recorded in a rehearsal studio and the rest in one of our flats).
Jesse: Our recording/production process is long. We constantly re-work tracks whilst we're editing and mixing. The opportunity to step back from our instruments and just listen and reconsider what we've recorded offers us the opportunity to reconfigure, add layers and pull sections apart that I feel wouldn't be possible if we stuck to just working from perfectly recorded versions of the tracks recorded 'live' in the studio.
The synch issues, mistakes and awkwardness of recording overdubs to a base 'live' track allows for the songs to grow in the recording process and become something we didn't originally expect. We never really learned how to do this stuff 'right' - we're just trying to find ways that suit our intentions and our means.
Conventional wisdom would say that vinyl is old hat, everybody wants downloads now. Or not even downloads - people just want the music available to stream. They don't actually want to own anything. But - paradoxically - more and more bands seem to be putting out vinyl these days.
Do you think there's a future for music as something you own rather than just listen to in passing, as it were? Are there still people out there that want that kind of personal stake in music?
Jimmy: We're quite undecided about this, I think. To a degree, we're truly sick of the kind of retrospective attitude that seems to be prevalent at the moment. But also having a physical thing to represent all that hard work was a really good feeling. But we also realise that in this day and age it's almost completely pointless, and it also hinders the kind of immediacy we were talking about earlier.
I think in the end, the most important thing for us is that our music is free and accessible to anyone who wants it online. We support downloading music, but even if we didn't, we know it would be pointless to fight it. So, the vinyls would be for fans that want something more than mp3s that barely exist and more than CDs which just seem flimsy and shit. A friend of ours actually suggested painting usb sticks for our upcoming album, maybe we'll do that.
Do you think one day Dogfeet will make 'normal' songs - verse, chorus, middle eight, guitar solo, all that? Or are you on a different journey altogether? Where do you think that journey will take you - where do you *want* it to take you?
Jimmy: I don't think we really know. As we mentioned before, nothing we're doing is particularly thought out, a lot of it is a direct reaction to what we think is a very stale, lacklustre and emotionless period of music at the moment.
I think some songs have and will follow that structure, it's inevitable, we're not so concerned with obliquely resisting tried and tested methods, but hope to create something that will allow us to move beyond those concerns.
Jesse: Dogfeet's early output tended to get bogged down in overly complicating our song structures. As a result, whilst it was interesting, it often lost its direction and intent. I think we all hate guitar solos, and hate any music that ends up being aural masturbation. I don't think that's ever going to be a part of what we do.
But sometimes a simple structure is the best way to get an idea across. Sometimes it has to be clear and concise. At the same time, jazz and no wave have taught us a lot about being free-form. I think a lot of the songs on the album will continue to express a feeling of things emotionally and musically falling down around us.
Jimmy: As long as we continue communicating and never bore ourselves, I think we'll be happy with the sound we're creating and the direction we're going in.