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Interviews : “We stand for making music we love” – an interview with DEAD

By on January 16, 2012

DEAD appear to be Australia’s rather long awaited answer to the Melvins, releasing their debut album THUNDAAAAH! Late last year (November 2011), and sharing the stage with a huge range of renowned Australian and international bands such as Cough (USA), Big Business (USA), Cyberne (Japan), The Hard-Ons and many more. They’ve played on stages and floors across Australia and the globe, and next month will be heading over to New Zealand to wreak havoc and burst eardrums.

Given this rather impressive resume, it was time for the Metal Obsession to find out more about DEAD, or more specifically, Jem and his opinions on music and gigs.

Metal Obsession: Hey Jem, for those reading who don’t know, tell us what instrument you play in DEAD and what DEAD stand for and/or dont stand for.

Jem: I play drums and shout in DEAD. We stand for making music we love and sharing it with people who want to hear it. We run the band with ethics that can mainly be pigeonholed as “DIY” though we don’t wear clothing that makes this immediately obvious to an outsider. As a band we don’t have a political agenda, there are far more efficient ways to communicate political ideas than via music like ours. Our personal beliefs are fairly similar to each other; do what you love and don’t fuck over other people in the process.

MO: What was/were the thing/things that made you want to pick up an instrument, that made you want to create music?

Jem: I’m not sure, it was a long time ago now. Probably mainly the fact my older brother did it and I wanted to be cool like him. It is basically a (mainly) healthy addiction. There’s no question as to if I want to do it, it’s just a matter of working out the logistics to make it happen. Almost everything in my life is worked around the need to play music regularly.

MO:  As you’ve grown older, and been playing music for longer, do you find yourself more or less jaded and cynical about the state of the Melbourne music scene, and music scenes in general?

Jem: This might sound stupid but I find myself more AND less jaded. It can feel exhausting at times, like pushing shit uphill. But the longer I do it the more great people I meet along the way too. If you focus on the negatives you’ll get jaded very quickly indeed, but there are plenty of positives to keep you occupied. You don’t owe us anything and yet you’re taking time out of your day to conduct an interview with me and help plug my band.

In Australia we are very lucky. We have the freedom to make music without being persecuted for it, I think a lot people in this industry would do well to appreciate that fact a little more. Of course musicians are exploited a great deal which sucks. But the musicians are partly to blame for this too. But that’s a long and complicated debate in itself.  Of course I would like it if music were valued in this country the way it is say in places like parts of Europe where it is considered a valid form of work. We did 100 shows last year in 3 different continents and they all lost money! We actually just can’t keep that up and now have to tour a lot less if we want to still be able to eat.

There is always someone better off than you but there is always a heap who are worse off.

MO: If you could form a musical supergroup (members must be alive), who would be in it, and why?

Jem: I’d like to see Ray Ahn (Nunchukka Superfly/Hard Ons bass player) and Aaron Clarke (Pure Evil Trio) together as they are two of the more exciting musicians I’ve seen in my years. I don’t know who could drum for that group though. Maybe the bloke from Vaz? We played with them in the US and fuck me he was an exciting drummer. Supergroups are often a let down though. I mean I love Bok Choy and Chocolate but I don’t want to eat them at once.

MO: Do you have any idea what draws you to listen to and play loud, aggressive, dirty and fairly inaccessible music?

Jem: Well I just play the music I love. The music DEAD play is quite physical and I think that makes it a lot of fun to perform. At our last show someone told me they had to leave the room ‘cos their eyeballs were shaking, I like that. I’ve always respected and enjoyed intensity and creativity in music, that does not mean it has to be loud. The music I play tends to be though, you play to your strengths I guess.

MO: Is playing to an audience, any audience enough? Or do you suffer from what is dubbed “Jawbreaker Syndrome”, where travelling 700 miles to play to 15 angry kids really starts to get on your nerves?

Jem: Absolutely any audience is enough. If 1 person has paid their 8 bucks or whatever and bothered to come out and see us, why should they get any less of a show than if 100 turn up? Unfortunately it’s hard to pay the tour bills without getting a few more people in. That is the reason we strive to get more people to our shows; to make it sustainable so we can afford to come back. As a rule I prefer playing to a small audience who are into it than a large one who would rather be somewhere else. But of course if more people than you expected turn up to see your show it feel great, especially when you’ve driven all day to get there.

MO: Best band in Australia currently?

Jem: There are too many of them mate. Wicked City might just have earned that crown though.

MO:  Anything you want to say before you go, shout outs to other bands, or worldly wise advice for those youngsters out there reading this?

Jem: Oh shit that makes me feel old! I guess I would say to any younger folk to not waste any time waiting for people to do stuff for you or for things to come along your way. Don’t let people coerce you into compromising anything. Do everything the way you want to, even if it pisses people off. Be prepared to get royally fucked over and make great friends as you go. Learn from both these things. Get a support slot for a heaps older band and blow them off stage.

Wise words indeed. If you live in New Zealend don’t miss DEAD burn down all the venues and rock your eyeballs out of their sockets at these prime locations:

Feb 8th @ Arc Theatre, Whanganui
w/ Mr Sterile Assembly and Night Terrors

Feb 9th @ The Royal, Palmerston North
w/ Black Pudding, Wall of Silents and more

Feb 10/11 @ Cap A Low Hum festival
w/ a shit tonne more

Feb 12th @ Freds, Wellington
w/ Mr Sterile Essembly and more

Feb 17th @ Static, Hamilton
w/ God Bows To Math, Viking Weed and more


In between a busy schedule of studying, procrastination and sleeping Duncan sometimes writes album reviews. When not pretending to know things about music, he pretends to know things about the world over at Sudden Reason.