The joker has landed – An interview with Drums of Death

Ceratin artists sometimes seem to drop a bomb on you out of nowhere. You kind of had heard their name somewhere before, but couldnt quite place it. You know they aren’t exactly newcomers to the game, but they aren’t old-timers neither. It’s that certain breed of on-the-cusp of breaking-through artists. Some seem to be eternally relegated to the category, whilst others just pass through. Drums of Death, with his amazing debut album Generation Hexed, is merely passing through., his eyes firmly set onto bigger pastures. With over 10 years of production experience, time was ripe for Scotsman Colin Bailey to come out from the darkness and do his own thing. And what a ‘thing’ Generation Hexed turned out to be. Having initially hoped to meet with him in London, last minute confirmations, overpriced train tickets and overall bad luck meant we finally had to resort to an email interview. Not ideal, we know…

Interview was first published in our black album

Where are you whilst you’re writing this, and what were you doing before we interrupted you?

Hello, I was playing a guitar I just bought and drinking coffee.

Where were you hiding all this time? Seems like you’ve popped out of nowhere with one killer of an album…

Thanks, I’ve been writing and planning… travelling around and behaving badly.

The album was released end of September. What have you been up to since?

I’ve done some remixes (Fenech Soler and Kele from Bloc Party) and load of shows. I then took some time off in Berlin.

Given the mainly positive response it’s received, are you now booked for DJ sets up to end of 2012 or something?

Since day one we’ve tried to only play the most interesting parties and shows.  I’ve been lucky so I say yes to what I really want to do.  That’s the nice way of saying I’m difficult to please, but my agents are cool.

Your album Generation Hexed has had everything from 1/10 reviews to 10/10 reviews. How do you explain this ‘you either love it or hate it’ reception? There seems to be no in-betweeners…

Right! My favourite reviews were where people hated on one song that another review hailed as total genius.  It helped me not worry about people’s reactions.  I think some people thought I was cocky or being too clever because I was known for quite intense rave music but the album is more melodic than that.  It’s better strive to grow and be more than what we are.

There’s pretty much not one music genre that isn’t somehow drawn upon in Generation Hexed. How would you describe your sound?

I don’t know. Ha!  Sorry, that’s not helpful for an interview, right?!  The album is melodic yet hard, a little funky and clear influences of my punk rock beginnings.  The album is really the story of the last 18months of shows and touring.  It’s all made at home, so it feels raw in places. I suppose it’s a bedroom electronica album with grand ideas.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? What do you listen to, generally and at the moment?

Right now a lot of early electronic music and afrobeat.  I’m also going through Strictly Rhythm’s back catalogue, their history of house music holds so many awesome tracks.  Marcus Lamkin aka Shit Robot just sent me his album which is really great. I’m also loving the UK label Night Slugs, those guys are putting out some serious stuff right now.  So funky.

What is the first LP you can remember buying? What was the last one?

I think the first one was Michael Jackson’s “Bad”, the last was a Serge Gainsbourg album.

How do you construct a song? Where and when does it start, and stop?

Once I have an idea, I make a demo and I send it to my manager.  By the time he listens to it, I’ve changed the track twice and it sounds completely different.  I know when a piece of music is finished, I just feel it.  If it’s not good when its done it gets disposed of, maybe I take a tiny segment I like and start something new with that.  “All These Plans” from the album started this way, I used the “Oooh” chorus sound I made for a different track but threw the rest away and kept only this sound.  Having good feedback is important as I can get lost in the tiny elements of song, forgetting the bigger picture. I get lost in the sonics. My manager and friends pull me back out…haha.

Can you tell us a little about the village you come from? What was your childhood like? How much does it inform your music?

It’s a beautiful place by the sea in Scotland.  It’s very busy in summer with tourism but growing up there you always felt so cut-off from the rest of the world.  I could go into this a lot more but let’s just say that as a child I use to have fantasies of tidal waves, storms and earthquakes tearing the land under the town asunder and allowing me to run off to live my life as I saw fit.  I was a dreamer child, head in the clouds as they say, I used to draw over every one of my school books.  I’d say the town did not directly influence my music but it shaped me as an outsider and made me very stubborn.

Is there a musical tradition in your family?

None at all.

Your punk/metal background is well-known, and clearly shines-through in your music. Can you talk to us a little about that period in your life? What bands were you listening to at the time?

It started with certain earache bands like Entombed and Carcass then someone played me Black Flag and Fugazi which really sealed it for me.  My tastes broadened and I got really into post-punk – The Fall, Bauhaus, Joy Division and PiL. From that it was into Krautrock like Neu, Harmonia and Can and started listening to old rock n roll and rockabilly. I was buying records mail-order and from the only record store in town every week, I was addicted to all this exotic music and I dreamed of leaving my town.

Greco-Roman (the Berlin-based label which released Drums of Death’s debut) seems to be the perfect home for your eclectic work. Can you talk to us about how that connection came about?

After I came back from NYC where the Drop The Lime and the Trouble & Bass guys had brought me out to DJ a little for them, I made a mixtape of beats and weird noises that found its way into the hands of Joe (Joe Goddard of Hot Chip) and Alex (Alexander Waldron, co-founder of the label) from Greco. I played a party for them in Manchester that was really fun and has now gone down in legend for some crazy stuff that happened.

A little obvious one: what is up with the make-up? How long does it take you to apply it?

What’s with you NOT wearing paint??  Well… It’s pretty simple, I used to make music with strings and live instruments and such things so when it came to deciding to make dark and powerful music I wanted to do something that would stand-out and contrast with all the other artists.  I knew how I wanted to perform the live shows so I needed a guise to match the energy of the performer.  I’m not a performance artist… Nothing about the way I move is an act… I just jump onstage with a laptop, samplers and a mic and tear up the club the best I can.

Having never seen you live, I’ve had to resort to shitty youtube videos to get a sense of your live acts. They come across as phenomenally energetic. How do you feel when on-stage? What do you want the audience to take away from your live shows?

A Drums Of Death show is sweat, noise, basslines, love songs and techno…haha. I try to merge a physical show where you feel really involved with what’s going on onstage with percussive, noisy and soulful rave music.

You’ve worked quite a lot with Peaches. How did that connection come about?

She just came up to me at my first show in Berlin and we got talking.  She’s hands down the most professional and hard-working person I’ve met.  I really want to write more for her, making the “I Feel Cream” track was cool but trying to find time to do this is difficult.

Generation Hexed featured Gonzales playing piano on the last track. How was it working with him?

We met in Paris, he said he’d love to play for me so I just sent him the track via email and he did it pretty quick.  I had been warned he was real slow with emails but it was simple and straightforward.  I wrote the piano part originally but upon hearing his recording it felt brand new, like hearing it fresh for the first time.

Your remixes are also starting to garner quite a following. Just out of interest, how much would one set me back?

Ha.  It really depends… I’ve done some for free, some for a lot of money. I did the Hot Chip one for free but Joe remixed me back. Joe is also co-manager of the label.

More technically, how do you go about remixing a song?

Sometimes I want to re-write the song completely, other times I just want to take a tiny piece of it and create something really hard and weird.  I try to make them all funky and different to the originals, I’ll usually keep the vocals in too.

You’ve recently revealed plans of a project with Mumdance. Can you tell us a little more about it?

Mums Of Death!  Yeah, I’ve known Jack aka Mumdance for a little time now and we bonded over lost summers spent playing computer games.  We’re the kids of the 16bit age and still love the crazy music from those games. Big influence on us. We’ve finished our first EP which will be available from Beatport and such places as you’re reading this.  It’s all original music inspired from games like Golden Axe and Shadow Of The Beast… I’ve started calling it 16bit Soca or Mega Drive carnival music

What does the future hold? Gigs? More collaborations?

The next single from Generation Hexed will drop in February followed by a lot of touring after that.  Each progressive single will show more melody to what I do.  I will definitely be writing more music and there’s some cool collaborations coming.  I’ve sung on a track by Detboi, an old school house track that’s really funky, this will come out in 2011.   There will be some Mums Of Death shows… It’ll be a DJ assault team thing with elements of my live show mixed with Jack’s and his MCs. There’ll be dancers and crazy shit.

What will you do straight after having answered these questions?

Drink more coffee. Play some piano.

We have a habit of firing away some rapid-response type questions. Could you therefore answer the following without really taking the time to think about your responses?

Stage or studio? Stage

Analog or digital? Digital

Black or white? Black

Fast or slow? Slow

Short or long? Short

Right or wrong? Right

Under or over? Over

Sad or happy? Happy

Rap or hip hop? Hip Hop

Loud or quiet? Loud

Up or down? Up

Driver or passenger? Passenger

Crack or pop? Pop

Drink or smoke? Drink

Live or die? Live

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