Deerhoof galloping back to Madison

Image By: By Sarah Cass

How do you end up in a band like Deerhoof? From what fantastic and magical place did the members of Deerhoof crawl to form a band? What stratum did these unconventional headbangers spring from? The Daily Cardinal recently spoke with guitarist John Dieterich in anticipation of the group’s upcoming visit to Madison.

“I grew up in Stevens Point,” Dieterich said. “I lived there until I was 19, something like that, or 20, something along those lines.”

Okay, so perhaps the aforementioned questions inflated the Deerhoof mythos a bit. But, to fulfill those hyperbolic inquiries, Dieterich assuredly walked the Cardinal through his career with Deerhoof, beginning with his musical upbringing, moving from piano lessons to guitar.

“I took [guitar] lessons for a month or two—I kind of didn’t like that experience that much,” Dieterich said. “It was having somebody teach you songs, which, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the creative side of it was the side I was kind of looking for but didn’t really know, you know?”

Besides the autodidactic flair Dieterich brings Deerhoof, he also discussed the effect of the members’ various tastes on the band’s sound.

“Each and everybody in the band has different tastes, and even one person in the band has extremely wide tastes,” Dieterich said.

He added this is not a bad thing, by any means, but it sometimes leads to eccentricity and confusion.

“We tend to misunderstand each other far more than we understand each other,” Dieterich said.

At any rate, Dieterich’s history with the band has been long, longer than he may have realized.

“I joined Deerhoof like 13 years ago… is that right? That can’t be right. I think that’s right. Crazy.”

Currently, Dieterich lives in Albuquerque, N.M., and the rest of the band is similarly spread out, which makes for some unique recording circumstances.

“We usually organize things in such a way that, if we do a tour, at the end of it we’ll add on a week to work on something,” Dieterich said.

Dieterich added more often than not, that week is spent not so much recording as assembling, such as in the case of their last record.

“We actually recorded [Breakup Song] all separately … sending things back and forth to one another,” Dieterich said.

Asked about the significance of the title, Dieterich explained the record is their take on the theme of breakups.

“There’s just this feeling with a lot of breakup kind of music that it’s very morose and inward-looking and sad, and we wanted to make an album… addressing a lot of the same stuff, but with a different attitude,” Dieterich said.

For this particular album, Dieterich explained there were some hang-ups with their standard wham, bam, thank ya ma’am approach.

“We basically had eight days or something, so it was incredibly tight, and kind of a freak-out, like several all-nighters, that kind of thing.”

Whereas the mixing portion was a bit hectic, Dieterich’s recording experience is far more laid back.

“I usually just plug [my guitar] right into the computer a lot of times when I’m writing things,” Dieterich said. “I may go back and re-record things later.”

Likewise, playing live is equally relaxed in approach, especially in the interplay between Dieterich and guitar cohort Ed Rodriguez.

“We trade off [guitar parts], whatever works,” Dieterich said. “Sometimes the idiosyncrasies of the guitar sounds [played live] have nothing to do with the way things sounded during the recordings, so for a song Ed and I play ‘x’ part on the record, we might flip the parts for live and they might be changed in many other ways as well.”

Speaking of live performance, Dieterich shared some details about the group he and Deerhoof will be performing with on April 6, a classical ensemble called Ensemble Dal Niente.

“We were asked to play a show in Chicago at Millennium Park,” Dieterich said. “It was with this classical ensemble and we said ‘sure, sounds like fun.’”

This show spawned a Deerhoof arrangement by Ensemble Dal Niente, and eventually, a sort of hybrid classical rock performance.

“They presented the idea of doing more of a collaboration together and so basically it’s kind of a multi-tiered thing,” Dieterich said. “I’m excited … it’s a pretty special show.”

Through it all though, Dieterich emphasized what he and Deerhoof do musically isn’t deliberately strange or off-kilter.

“I think of everything we do basically as being rock, we’re a rock band,” Dieterich said. “I don’t think of us as being a sort of genre-hopping whatever.”

For Dieterich, as he’s observed in other members of the group, Deerhoof’s music isn’t so much about paying dues or dropping references, but integrating themes and undercurrents. He used an example of fellow guitarist Rodriguez as an example.

“Ed might be reading all these books about West African drumming, and he’ll write pieces that are all about that, but there’s absolutely no drumming in it—it might just be a guitar orchestra or something … there’s just a real range of the ways influence sort of come out in the music.”

Deerhoof will perform with Ensemble Dal Niente at Music Hall Saturday, April 6 at 8 p.m. The show is free.

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