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Deerhoof Interview
By Alexander Laurence and Keith Martin

Deerhoof is from San Francisco. They are art punks who mix noise and melody. The group began with Rob Fisk (guitar) and Greg Saunier (drums) in 1994. Satomi Matsuzaki (bass) joined the group in 1996. Fisk left the band after the release of Holdy Paws (1999). There were a few member changes in the early years. Their third album, Halfbird (2001), was released, and John Dieterich was recruited as Deerhoof's new guitarist.

In 2002, the group released the critically acclaimed Reveille (2002). International fame soon followed. Fans included The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Sonic Youth. Apple O' (2003) came out a year ago, and this recording featured new guitarist Chris Cohen. This album was recorded in one afternoon with engineer, Jay Pelucci. Deerhoof just returned from some successful shows in Japan in the summer of 2003. They released Milk Man earlier this year. This is their best album yet. We had a little chat with member Greg Saunier.

*****

FW: How did you folks meet each other?

Greg: First I met Rob Fisk , and all I can remember about it is that he wore duct tape in his hair. But now Rob isn't in the band anymore - he moved away and he plays in 7 Year Rabbit Cycle. Satomi had made friends with Caroliner when they toured Japan, and she decided to move from Tokyo to San Francisco right at the time that Rob and I were looking for a singer. Satomi had never done any music before, but a Caroliner member who does not wish to be named played to her our first 7" single, and she said "OK, I'll join."

So then they called us to tell us, and we said "Send her over." The main thing I remember about meeting her was that Satomi was surprised when she saw us, because she had thought Rob was a woman when she spoke to him on the phone.

Later I met John in a group of people who were playing recordings of their music for each other. We were looking for a replacement for Rob, and I heard the recording that John played, and it had all these sizzling guitar solos, and asked him to join. Later I found out that his friend played the guitar solos, and John was just playing a drone in the background.

Chris was a Deerhoof fan, at least until he joined the band. He came to our show and brought us a tape of his band, the Dynathought Imagination Band, which later became The Curtains. I was a big fan, at least until I joined that band.

FW: What impact do you think a marriage has on the dynamics of a rock group?

Greg: Marriage itself has no impact, but the fact that there is a couple in the band makes touring less sad for us than for Chris and John, who have to be apart from their girlfriends. Also, we always get the bigger bed!

FW: When did you start recording Apple O' ?

Greg: It was probably about 1pm, and we finished recording at about 10pm.

FW: Who writes the songs in Deerhoof?

Greg: The Party Panda writes them, but often leaves them unfinished. We can't "jam".

FW: This last album was done very fast. Can you talk about the recording process?

Greg: It did seem faster on "Apple O'", but actually that was because more time was spent planning the songs out beforehand, like a storyboard. Once we were sure we liked them, we could just press record and there was the song. On past albums, we would record a lot of unfinished ideas and fragments and try to turn them into songs during the process of recording, which is definitely slower.

FW: Have any of you had any formal musical training?

Greg: I joined the Bryant Woods Elementary School concert band in 3rd grade, and to any 3rd graders who might be reading this, I highly recommend it!

FW: Have you played in Japan before? How do people react to your music in Japan?

Greg: Actually now we're back from Japan. It was Deerhoof's first trip there, and we played in Nagoya, Osaka, and three times in Tokyo (it's a big city). None of these are new cities, in fact they are quite old, much older than any American city. It's hard for me to say too much about people's reactions, in Japan, America, or Europe, since I'm concentrating more on playing. But every single person's reaction is unique, anywhere, of course.

FW: Can you tell if your fan base is growing faster in America or Japan?

Greg: I cannot! Probably America, because more children know us here, and they grow faster than adults.

FW: Do any Japanese labels represent you right now?

Greg: A label called P-Vine licensed "Apple O'" for release in Japan. Yahata from P-Vine is who set up our shows! P-Vine also releases other Kill Rock Stars albums, like Sleater-Kinney's last.

FW: How do you feel about using samples?

Greg: I feel fun about it - I don't feel so differently about samples as I do about drums or any other instrument. Usually when I'm doing music, I'm thinking about the music itself, the idea, the imaginary part, so the actual instrument is secondary.

I've used samples once, on a song on "Apple O'" called "Sealed with a Kiss", which is all samples except for Satomi's vocal. The song was already completely written beforehand. Then I chose which songs I wanted to sample from, based on the song titles or band names - I chose ones that fit with the motifs of "Apple O'" and the meaning of the song. Most of my samples were just one note long, so "Sealed with a Kiss" was pieced together mostly one note at a time.

FW: If you could distill your music into one message or a question: what would it be?

Greg: "What are the songs about?"

FW: What are the songs about?

Greg: It worked!

FW: Who are your favorite bands?

Greg: The Who are just one of my favorite bands.

FW: Has anyone ever thrown underwear/flashed boobs/lit lighters and swayed at you at a live gig? Has anyone acted weird at a gig?

Greg: Someone might have swayed at me. I usually have my eyes closed.

FW: How many original members are still in the band?

Greg: Zero. Deerhoof was Rob Fisk's bass solo originally.

FW: What recent books did you like?

Greg: A book about Kubrick's cinematic style by Falsetto was really fun for me, although I'm not saying I recommend it. Was that recent? I got a lot from Chomsky's "Understanding Power", but "like" might not really be the right word, since it is more educational than entertaining. Maybe "love"?

FW: What recent movies did you think were good?

Greg: How about "Death to Smoochie." Was that recent? I wonder if Ed Norton or Danny DeVito ever saw Brother Daniel and the Nine Fruit Tree. We played with them in Williamsburg!

FW: How do you feel about interest from other bands like Sonic Youth, Bob Mould and Yeah Yeah Yeahs?

Greg: We've played with and talked to Sonic Youth, so I feel friendly about them. It's just hearsay that Bob Mould and Yeah Yeah Yeahs like Deerhoof, so I feel vague. I feel nice!

FW: What should people expect when they attend a Deerhoof show?

Greg: Panda Panda Panda, Heart Failure, Holy Night Fever, Song of Sorn, Forbidden Fruits, Flower, The Moose's Daughter, Dummy Discards a Heart, Comedian Flavorists, All Rise, A-Town Test Site, Dinner for Two, Come See the Duck, This Magnificent Bird Will Rise, and maybe more if there's time!

FW: Are you playing in the USA again soon?

Greg: We're coming to Williamsburg!

FW: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a band?

Greg: If they are starting a band then they've already taken my advice!

Website: http://deerhoof.killrockstars.com/


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