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“Try and be something that hasn’t been.”

The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard has long been a force to be reckoned with. We were lucky enough to have a chat with this powerhouse composer and frontman on his creative process, the changing scape of music’s accessibility, and Feelin Kinda Free.

– interview by Dariya Salmin

How have the live shows developed in regards to the difficulty, I spoke to Christian in April and he said the live shows would be a lot more intense for Feelin Kinda Free because of all the sample beats and triggers and layering?
Gareth: Yeah it’s a bit harder but we’re all practiced up now. There’s samples and electronic s**t but it’s not like we’re just pressing play on a drum machine or anything, we still kind of have to play it. It’s kind of trashy even though it’s a bit more futuristic, it’s a dystopian fusion rather than a utopian fusion.

Christian gave you complete credit in regards to the writing process, also said you were a genius and not to print that [laughs]. Tell me a bit about your writing process?
Oh god I don’t know, it’s different every time. I really don’t know. I just try and do things that keep me interested. I’m always trying to do stuff I’ve never done and it’s technical too, you can kind of break habits by going ‘alright I’m going to use a scale that I’ve never used before’ or a certain rhythm that you’ve never used, so it’s kind of like the nuts and bolts are boring but then you – I dunno, you give it a kick in the ass. You try and come up with something that doesn’t sound so ‘nuts and boltsy’. It’s impossible to explain and it’s never the same. So it’s always weird describing it as well. I have no idea how it’s done, I wish I knew because then it would make things easier.

[laughs] well I guess that is kind of like a sign of a genius, you can’t really explain it, it just comes to you!
[laughs] I don’t know if it’s genius but rather just getting confronted with it. You know a blank page or four minutes of silence and having to deal with it so..

Mk-Ultra (Gareth, Steve, Dan), played with Band of Horses at Sydney opera house, is this a new project? And why just the three of you?
It was pretty much that the Band of Horses are old buddies, so it was just an excuse to play with them really because had we played with the full Drones band, we’re probably just as big as them in Australia so it wouldn’t have been a good deal, you know double headliner – kinda weird double headliner, so it was just an excuse to down scale so we could support them and just hang out with them really, just get drunk with our mates.

Yeah that sounds good. And you’re playing Fremantle Town Hall November 3rd with The Drones and then November 5th doing solo show at St Johns Anglican church, will you be doing Strange Tourist? What should we expect to see?
Yeah I’ll be doing Strange Tourist stuff and then Drones stuff and then newer stuff. Yeah I dunno it will be the same thing kind of updated I guess. And the town hall thing will be cool, I worked there a million times back in the day, it’s a really cool building, you can go right up in the roof.

What did you do working there?
They used to have some sort of dance hall or reggae or dub stuff there – or they did like twenty years ago, and I used to be a lighting guy and a roadie in Perth, and they used to do nights there, reggae nights and I used to go and work on them. And yeah it’s a f***ing great venue, really cool. It’s amazing we’ve never played there before.

Yeah I don’t think I’ve seen anything before at the town hall so that will be interesting to see.
It’s literally the coolest place in Freo or even in Perth. It’s such an amazing venue.

Yeah that will be awesome! So do you think the rapid expansion of the internet has made albums like Feelin Kinda Free more accessible and appreciated than in comparison to the 90s? Or do you think mainstream society is still inclined to follow the Taylor Swifts of the world always?
Yeah I think that the latter is the case. The whole way, you know the way that it all works is that Taylor Swift her ideas aren’t harder to grasp than an idea that someone who listens to Taylor Swift would come up with. And that’s kind of how it works, if you want to be massive, then you need to present ideas that are the same ideas that the mainstream people have so something like Feelin Kinda Free is never going to be a huge record because it’s too weird. As a bunch of ideas, it’s just too far out there isn’t it? No Taylor Swift fans wake up with ideas like that. But I mean technology and the internet changes everything but it doesn’t change us, we’re still the same. It doesn’t improve us morally or it doesn’t improve our artistic ideas. But yeah I mean I wish the internet would help but it doesn’t. I mean it is good but it hasn’t improved the world, it’s just made everything quicker.

Yeah exactly! I always thought that with the expansion of the internet it would be more accessible to find certain bands that suit your alternative taste-
-that might be true but there’s no way of telling. I mean there was a promise that you would be able to track certain fans like if someone listens to you in Ethiopia you’d somehow know that but it’s impossible, you don’t know. We know how big we are if we go to Perth and play, when x amount of people show up and you can see ‘well that’s what’s happening’ but you know with an album like Feelin Kinda Free we don’t know how it’s been disseminated, I mean we could be enormous somewhere but we would never know. So yeah it’s a lot of broken promises the old internet. But we just got the NBN today so we’re happy. But we live in the country.

Really?! They keep promising it in Perth and it’s just taking forever.
Yeah you’ve got to ring up and demand it! But we’re out in the sticks in Victoria so.

Have you ever thought about what would have become of your music career if you had stayed in Perth?
Yeah I haven’t ruminated on it but I’ve always thought it was a good idea leaving. You know back then it certainly wasn’t looking good. We’re kind of too weird. And with Perth it’s just the size of the place as well. And it’s a long way from anywhere. And I suppose the internet would have helped in a lot of ways but at the same time it distances, you know a bunch of software can’t change distance. Perth is miles from Melbourne and Melbourne is miles from New York so. But I think when we left, which was in 2000, it was so different in Perth so we left.

Just really conservative?
Yeah it’s not anymore, but for people who weren’t around in the 90s as adults kind of deal with that stuff but it’s really hard to explain, I guess if someone from Perth goes to Kalgoorlie it’s a bit like what it was like in the 1990s. And you know Melbourne’s a great town, having toured everywhere and the states and Europe, Melbourne is seriously top three cities for music in the world. People sort of take it for granted or they don’t realise, even though people think Melbourne’s cool, it’s f***ing up there, it’s better than New York, it’s better than London. I mean London’s great for music and most people who play in London aren’t actually from there, they’re all from America or Melbourne.

What advice can you give to small bands trying to make a living out of music?
I think you can try to be a pop band and appeal to the mass audience but you never know if it’s going to work. But the only remotely sure fire way of doing it, is just to do something no one else does. That’s the thing, try and be something that hasn’t been. If you look at all the music you like and the music you like now, or the music you like from the 1970s, 1980s or the 1990s, you’ll find it was the stuff that stuck out. There was no one like Nirvana, there was no one like the Talking Heads, there was no one like Joy Division, or Jimi Hendrix. They stuck out and people forget. That’s the only thing I can think of, don’t be like everybody else. Like The Go-Betweens, they weren’t like everybody else, with their full blown Australian accents and suburban s**t that no one ever did. Of course there could have been another band with better melodies, but you know The Go-Betweens won the race because they were just more idiosyncratic. That’s probably the only advice I could give.

No that’s really good advice! That’s all the questions I have for today, thanks so much for taking the time out to talk to me Gareth!
Yeah no worries at all!

Feelin Kinda Free is available for pre-order here.

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