Interview The Death Set: Ideas Over Musicality

Johnny Siera tells us about new album, ‘Michel Poiccard’.

It’s been a while since we last caught up with The Death Set, back in early 2008, and a lot has happened since then.

The duo - Johnny Siera and Beau Velasco - released a new EP, followed by their debut album ‘Worldwide’, and a whole heap of touring. Then came the news of Beau’s untimely death, in late 2009.

Understandably, this was followed by a bit of a break. Johnny and his new bandmates Jahphet Landis (drums) and Daniel Walker (guitar) are now back, however - and they’ve brought a new record with them.

‘Michel Poiccard’ is due for release on 28th February here in the UK, and not so long ago Johnny told us a bit more about it.

First off, tell us a little bit about what’s coming up for the band in the next year. You’ve obviously got an album coming out soon. Anything else we should know about?
Yes, most importantly is the new record coming out on Ninja Tune (Counter) called ‘Michel Poiccard’. Michel was the bad ass character from ‘Breathless’ and we felt some of Goddard jump cut techniques relevant to our writing process and live shows. It was a long, hard slog and we are stoked it’s finally being realized.

We also put out a mixtape through this NYC clothing label we love called Mishka. Was a mix of so many different styles we love. We were psyched on the love it got from different peeps from all sorts of worlds. All good human beings can download it for free here.

We’ve also just released a video for our first single ‘Slap Slap Slap Pound Up Down Snap’. The song is about a handshake. So we made an instructional video about it too.

About to release our second single off the new record ‘Michel Poiccard’, called ‘We Are Going Anywhere Man’ with a video. Also three more videos in the works. And a tour documentary to be released about our tour with Girl Talk.

Then as per normal Death Set style, maniacal worldwide touring!

How has creating and releasing the album gone so far? Where did you record?
We recorded and mixed ourselves in NY with XXXChange. Alex (XXXChange) has always been a friend so we felt he understood what we are about and where we are coming from. We built out a studio in our Brooklyn loft and went for it. Dan and I both have experience in production before so we went about demoing and writing ourselves. Then we wanted to work with a weird electronic producer to fuck up the whole process. We wanted to make a punk rock record with an electronic producer rather than a rock producer. Where XXXChange came in…

What did XXXchange bring to the musical table, do you think?
Just that genius, weirdo, electronic production. Using real Arp synths instead of digital ones for example was fun. Turning things upside down where needed. Also it was great having an objective opinion from someone whom we respected from the get go. We love his work. The man’s a musical freak!

Does the Wikipedia definition of the band fusing ‘punk rock sound and energy, electronic music production and hip hop sampling’ still apply?
Yeah I think so. Our shows have always been about energy, and more specifically, positive punk rock energy. But when people would listen to the record they would find so many more different aspects to the music. Which essentially came from the so many others styles we love such as electronic music and hip hop. During the live show we sample a lot of Hip Hop which was initially for the that WTF effect?! Why is this spazzy punk rock band playing a hip hop sample? At the start it was gimmicky, but it worked cause all of a sudden we had Hip Hop kids, electronic music hipsters as well as punks in the same room.

But essentially at the core is that whole punk rock ethos of ‘ideas over musicality’ and ‘energy over proficiency’, which I’ve always found truth in.

Can you tell us about some of the challenges you had making the record? Was it a difficult project to embark on?
Well the process was pretty fucking difficult with Beau passing in the very early stages of writing. So that obviously effected the writing process. But we just decided to keep on persevering. To be honest it
was very hard. But we didn’t want to have the record and band be left in a place of despair, rather a place where we felt we made it a celebration of what the band was about. Cause essentially it’s something we’ve dedicated a big portion of our lives to and are proud of. I would like to think the band is a celebration of fun and life in the moment. And of course to the memory of that beautiful, strange human being that is Beau Velasco.

With the themes covered, it’s something of a roller-coaster?
Of course, but isn’t everyday life? We walk outside peering at our iPhone’s constantly web surfing. Everyday in every way is an overload. Rollercoasting through our everyday lives. So I think its relevant that art reflect that.

The Death Set is known for being an excellent live band. Why do you think that is and what kind of enjoyment do you get out of playing live?
Essentially I just want to put on a show that I would want to see. And I want to see ENERGY, SWEAT, HYPERACTIVITY AND SHOWMANSHIP! You know basically as close to Iggy on form…

Where do you hope to tour with this new LP, and will you be paying us a visit in the UK?
As per last time we will be going everywhere people will have us many times over. We toured twelve countries with over 300 shows under our belt before we even released our first record. Hope to do on a bigger scale this time. More festivals please!

Finally, is it easier to navigate the world out of Brooklyn, rather than the Gold Coast or Sydney? What has the change of location meant in real terms for the band?
Yes for sure. I love the openness of Brooklyn, seems a lot of people move here to move up and people are willing to give you that leg up. It also meant that we had no distractions, we moved out of our comfort zone and this was it, 100% focus or, starve. Not really sure how that’s relevant for other people but it worked for us.

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