Fighting Against Background Noise

30 July 2015 | 1:42 am | Anthony Carew

"Being in a band is more than just making music."

Jake Duzsik is "very hungover". It's 5.21pm in Los Angeles and the Health frontman is still reeling from a party the night before. "It's actually my birthday today," Duzsik admits. "I've just turned thirty-fucking-four years old. I've made it out of the Jesus year. I didn't die at 27, the rockstar death year. And Jesus was crucified at 33, and I got outta that alive. Now I'm going to live forever."

First step on the road to immortality? The release of the third Health LP, Death Magic, their first since 2009's Get Color. "It's been a suicidally long time between records. I would not advise other bands to follow the same route of waiting half a decade to put out a record."

Health spent that half-decade hard at work, spending a year scoring the video game Max Payne, doing more soundtrack work for Grand Theft Auto V, and producing a score for a 'holographic' 2013 New York Fashion Week event. Yet even as their Max Payne soundtrack served as "mainstream exposure for us on an unprecedented scale" for fans, Health were out of sight, out of mind.

"The biggest struggle for musical artists today, to remain relevant and stay visible, is that battle against that constant background noise," reckons Duzsik. "When everyone's Instagram feed or Twitter feed or Facebook timeline or whatever is this constant raging sea of content, being in a band is more than just making music. You need to constantly be generating content for your fans, or else they just stop paying attention."

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Health's 'return' has been welcomed as a sort of "Health 2.0". The quartet has always been ambitious — they wanted Get Color to "sound like Dark Side Of The Moon"; it just "turned out like this noisy punk-rock record" — and this time they wanted to compete with contemporary hip hop and electronic production. "It was extraordinarily important for us to feel like we were writing a relevant record, sonically. We wanted to make something that sounded like it belonged in the musical landscape of what's going on today. Using really clear, huge, heavy, defined electronic drums and sub-bass. There's still guitars on every song, and when we play live, we're very much a live band. The performances are cathartic and physical and people respond to that.

"But, at the same time, it's unfortunate to realise that now 70 per cent of people must listen to music on their friggin' Macbook Pro speakers. It's a headphone experience, a constant lifestyle accessory. People are listening to more music than they ever have and it's more integrated in their life than it ever has been, but it's also becoming bleached of its importance, its weightiness. And we don't really make background music. We want to make music that could play ball in that realm. If you listen to pop music now, it's incredibly heavy. Even ballads. Things hit really, really hard. You can communicate a lot of power in a lot of different kinds of songs. Having started out as a noise-rock band, that was what we were always trying to do: be physically powerful in how the music comes across."