Talking to Andrew Wilson from Die! Die! Die!

14 October 2017 by Fraser Thompson

interview

Prolific post-punkers Die! Die! Die! have released another album, and are returning to Dunedin on Friday for a blistering show at None Gallery. I caught up with Andrew Wilson who’s handled lead vocals and guitar since he formed the band in 2003.

So CHARM.OFFENSIVE released last week. How does that feel?

Yeah, good good good… It’s quite funny when you release a record because you don’t really know how people are gonna take it? And also like whether people care and that sort of stuff so it’s all good but it’s just quite funny, it’s a funny day… It’s an emotional day laughs

I listened to it earlier, alongside some of the older stuff in your discography, and I really liked it. It seemed pretty different, like it had a lot of experimental things towards the end?

Yeah, I mean it’s definitely quite different to our earlier stuff.

Yeah, the last couple of songs especially with the drum machines…

There’s quite a lot more instrumentation going on than our earlier stuff.

Maybe less aggressive, or a different sort of aggression?

At times it’s less aggressive, there are definitely some aggressive moments on the album, like as aggressive moments, but I think in the context of the whole record there’s kind of a lot more dynamics going on than, I dunno does that make any sense? Like not just one sort of thing.

I feel like your vocals used to be a lot higher…

I’m a little bit older, maybe my voice broke? I’m not quite as screamy as I used to be

This is more of a question for me because I’m kind of a big fan of Steve Albini and his work… Can you recall what it was like recording with him back on your first album?

Yeah it was cool, it was good. It was a long time ago now, but it was awesome.

I mean his studio in Chicago is amazing and I think he kind of built this ideal recording studio for the type of records he likes to make and respects making. Which, you know, when I was at that point in my life I kind of thought that was the only way to do things. And I mean he’s amazing. He’s got a little factory with like people coming in and out of there every day or every second day pumping out these records which he just knows how to do. Like you put a guitar amp in front of him and explain exactly how you want to do it and he’ll just get it done.

So that was your first album, how did you end up with such a big time producer on your first album?

I remember we just saved up money and got our first record deal and yeah, this kind of shows how much the industry has changed between then and now: We got enough money from our record label to fly to Chicago to record with Steve Albini and only have the record label release an EP in New Zealand. Like you explain that to a New Zealand record label now and they’d think you were mental.

So yeah, it was like that, and obviously Steve Albini liked the Dunedin band High Dependency Unit and they’d recorded their album Fire Works there, and basically I dunno, they just kind of paved the way for us to get that idea. And, you know, I was a huge Shellac fan at the time.

Nice, did you see them when they toured?

Yeah I saw them in Dunedin and Auckland as well. They were a huge influence on me when I was younger.

I think if we played anywhere bigger nobody would come.

Overseas you’ve played like pretty big festivals though right?

Yeah I dunno, we play in slightly bigger venues in Europe but in New Zealand we’re not really… Last time we played at None Gallery it was so cool. And yeah in the context of New Zealand I don’t think there is anywhere else I’d rather play. Like I’ve always kind of preferred having crowded small shows than half empty big shows.

I don’t know about that… I mean in certain places definitely, but I wouldn’t say in general. I mean I do most interviews from New Zealand and I think people care about Die Die Die in New Zealand, but I think it’s just also such a weird… Well not a weird band, but we fit certain aspects of people’s lives. Like someone will be into my band for a couple of years and they’ll grow out of it. I find that the people who stay with us are few and far between. Does that make any sense? It is a context band.

I think New Zealand is a strange place for our band but I’m not resentful or anything, I love that we still get to do this, it’s really cool. There’s not many bands in the same context who tour as regularly as we’ve been able to in the last sort of 13 years.

You guys started out in the Dunedin scene right?

Yeah me and Mikey started in Dunedin, we were in a band called Carriage H… We actually moved to Auckland then moved back to Dunedin then spent a good chunk of our first few years between Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland. Then recorded with Steve Albini and the year after moved to America for a few years then like Europe for two years. For a good five or ten years we spent it touring around the world and not really having a place to stay really.

And why’s that? I mean there’s definitely perks to staying in one place right?

Yeah there is, at the same time it was quite fun in hindsight but it definitely took its toll. But yeah, I mean I definitely like having a home now.

So was it a deliberate decision to have heaps of shows or did it just happen?

I think it was kind of what we thought bands did. We admired all the early hardcore bands, not that we were really that hardcore, and it was kind of part of that deal to be always touring and like we didn’t really do very well at school so it just seemed like quite a good way to see the world. And it kind of just dragged on, and maybe took a bit longer than it should have.

I could imagine it could get kind of addictive

Yeah, we all just kind of had to change tact initially because it was like woah, I don’t know if I really want to be doing this forever. I look at other musicians from NZ and I’m quite envious that they still manage to have some kind of semblance of a real life rather than constantly being on tour. And the context of being Peter Pan was kind of disgusting, like not ever growing up.

How do you think the NZ/Dunedin music scene has changed since when you were first in it?

I think it’s so much easier to like stay in Dunedin than it was, like the separation between Auckland and Dunedin is nothing anymore. Before people kind of wouldn’t take you seriously unless you lived in Auckland or spent heaps of time up there. Now you can just come and play gigs and live in Dunedin but yeah, it’s definitely changed. It’s opened up. It’s awesome, like I’m so jealous in hindsight.

When we first moved to Auckland we got in touch with all the Christchurch musicians who moved up to Auckland like Lawrence Arabia and this whole group of people who moved to Auckland at the same time. You couldn’t really stay and gig around, there was only so many times you could play between Dunedin and Christchurch.

Yeah so I think I’m pretty envious. And also creatively there’s so much good stuff in Dunedin now. Like it’s easy for me to say that from a distance but it does seem a lot, there’s a much bigger community of bands than when we started, like there really weren’t many bands our own age when we started, they were all a lot older.

I guess there was kind of the shadow of the whole 80s Dunedin Sound?

Yeah definitely, like we’d play at arc cafe and my friend Tom who runs the recording studio at Chicks, there really wasn’t very many. I mean definitely there were a lot of punk bands but they weren’t really what we were doing, we did feel quite isolated.

You’ve played a ridiculous amount of shows… This tour looks a bit smaller, but does it feel less shiny and fun than it did when you first started? Do you think there’s a danger that it becomes ‘work’?

Yeah, it did sort of feel like that for a while but then we stopped. Like I think the moment your music feels like a job you should not do it. It’s quite funny, well I’m kind of contradicting what I’m saying but there are some people who can look at music as a job and that’s fantastic, I really admire those people, but I can’t do that. I start to resent. Maybe I just don’t have the patience, I mean I like to keep music in that space of being fresh I think. I don’t want to resent what I’m doing. I much prefer enjoying playing the songs and not resenting the songs I’m doing.

I think that’s one thing Die! Die! Die! has always done, like we haven’t really played out most well known songs ever which is probably really stupid actually.

So you went on a kind of hiatus a bit before this album but you came back out of it… What motivated you to return?

The time we stopped was really only for like 9 months. I actually did an interview earlier today and they told me that we’d broken up like five times but it was only really once and not for that long.

I mean I just think that with my music it’s been a big part of what I’ve done, and I’ve done it since I was like 14 years old so the idea of not doing it kind of makes me feel a bit strange. Like it’s quite funny, I make grand statements that I’m going to stop music and get my life together and become a functional member of society then I end up going a bit nuts and realizing I have to change and do it again, does that make sense?

Yeah totally, like a month into getting your life back on track you’re like no actually…

Yeah like, “Wait a second I’ve gone too far”

Do you get the feeling that bands that make it really big overseas they’re kind of less cool in Dunedin because they’re not struggling with everyone else?

I think that Dunedin can have quite a big tall poppy syndrome… It has been for a long time since I was a musician in Dunedin. It could get quite insular, and this can be in a good way as well as a bad way, it all just depends really. I think sometimes what people like overseas isn’t always right, like some of my favorite musicians have just only released a few tiny things on Bandcamp.

So Death and the Maiden are playing at the gig right?

Yeah, and also the band Operation Rolling Thunder. We played a lot with them when we started and then also my and Mikeys band before [Carriage H] we used to play a lot with Operation Rolling Thunder so it’s really amazing they get to play with us. I’m so so so happy about that.

They’re like an awesome post rock band, really really good. I mean I haven’t seen them since 2005 but they were very good in 2005.

What should people expect from the gig?

I think they should expect a good time, I mean my shows in Dunedin are definitely my favorite shows. I really love playing in Dunedin. I also like getting heckled from Robbie, you should put that in the paper. It’s quite funny because it never gets old.

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