Dead Metal

18 March 2012 | 5:10 pm | Sebastian D'Alonzo

On a break in-between tours, Dead Meadow frontman Jason Simon has been working on the band’s next record from their studio in la. He brings to life the rest of the details with Sebastian D’alonzo.

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Dead Meadow's origins in the hardcore/punk-dominated scene of '90s Washington DC saw them boldly move in a different direction from their counterparts. The band's slower grooves of '60s and '70s psychedelica eventually found them a new home in LA, and over the years the band's definitions of pysch-stoner rock, and dabbles in sludge and surrealist imagery have increasingly become more well known. A fact that could partially be credited to HBO TV show The Wire. Trivial fact: Jason Simon's uncle and co-creator of one of the most critically acclaimed shows of all time, David Simon, generously featured his nephew's music on occasion.

“Yeah he's come and seen the band a couple of times, back in the day,” Simon says. Confessing he is a big fan of the show, Simon was taken aback by his uncle's music taste, and even more so in a later season when his band's name is mentioned, albeit cleared up through protagonist McNulty's initial confusion of 'Dead Metal?' “That was crazy,” Simon recalls. “I remember him telling me, 'Eventually McNulty's kids will be old enough and they'll listen to Dead Meadow,' but we never knew he was going to use the name in it - it's rad.”

But that was a long four years ago and, talking down the phone from LA, Simon speaks of more recent times, working on what will be Dead Meadow's sixth studio album. “At this point you realise, I've been doing this for a long time,” he says. “It's interesting figuring out where to go. I know what we do well in Dead Meadow but you also don't want to be complacent and do the same thing, so it's a balance of stretching it out and doing something different but not moving away from your strengths you know. What we are thinking about now is exactly which direction to go in right now. I think a bunch of other projects are really cool, I've been doing the solo thing and playing around town with some other bands and stuff like that, and it's cool to do some other stuff on the side and get you back focused on what you want to do with Dead Meadow.”

Steadily working in the band's own practice space/studio on and off, Simon has ultimately been deciding on a direction. After the band's last release of Three Kings in 2010, a mostly live album and accompanying film, the group had written songs to be shaped and put together live on the road. The process this time around is a little different with Simon eager to get back to studio work. “After doing Three Kings, the whole record was live, and even the new songs on that were pretty much live in the studio we definitely want to stretch it out a little bit studio-wise on this record. Get a little more experimental in terms of layering and more trippy background stuff going on.

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“This record we're building them up a little bit. We'll write a song, we'll record it, then we'll go back and record it again, record some new stuff and kind of layer it up - you know, do more of a studio thing with it,” he explains. “Some of the songs were really songs we were playing live and then recorded, whereas other new songs were kind of built up in the studio and a little more experimental, and now I've been kind of working and figuring out how to translate them to just the three of us doing it live.”

It was when they were playing live in Australia back in late 2010 that original drummer Mark Laughin had re-joined the band after a prolonged absence, and it is with the original trio that Simon is interested in “getting back to cool, heavy riffs” on record. “Those Australian shows were the first shows he had done back playing,” he recalls. “We played one show before heading out to Australia with him. But that was really the first.”

Since having played together for another year and a half, Simon feels confident the group has settled back into it. “I just feel like it gelled a lot more, not that it didn't gel in the first place but after the ten year break that he had there,” Simon says. After the band had parted ways with Stephen McCarty, who had filled Laughin's place over the years. “It's all great with Stephen McCarty too… Mark and Steve are both such rad drummers, and either way it still has the trio vibe and the power of just the three of us.”

Since then Jason Simon's solo album and tour has been providing the singer/songwriter with an outlet for acoustic tunes, letting him find his own way down to Australia last year. “That was just me and my girlfriend playing harmonium, along with guitar and vocals,” Simon says. The quieter, more rootsy styled songs have always somewhat had a place on past Dead Meadow records, but perhaps not as much for new Dead Meadow material. “I think that acoustic stuff… Having the solo record provided an outlet for the acoustic side of things,” he says. “But there will definitely be some mellower acoustic things on there. I think some of those really stripped down songs, that are on Old Growth are going to find an outlet more now with the solo acoustic stuff.”

With Simon starting up new project Old Testament on top of his solo work, and bassist Steve Kille working with Xemu Records amongst various producing and recording roles, a lot has been going on for members of the band which, as Simon explains, can take a long time to finish a record. “I guess that, because we are doing it ourselves, it's our own base, we are kind of on our own schedule - it can kind of take a long time,” he says. “You know, we kind of really take our time with things and come back to things which I think keeps getting cooler. But in terms of finishing a record it definitely draws the process out. Steve's recording a bunch of other bands down there, I've been playing around town with the solo stuff, everyone kind of has different projects going on which can take longer as well.”

With a North American tour wrapped up with fellow psych rockers Spindrift and The Black Angels, Dead Meadow are keen to return to Australia in top form, and with Pink Mountaintops. “I'm kind of excited to get all three of us together playing that heavy stuff,” says Simon. “We got a bunch of new songs we're playing. I think the band's gotten a lot tighter, you know given the opportunity to come play, I'd love to come play in Australia. And that opportunity has risen so we're really stoked to be coming back.”