Yup. This is it. It’s high time to meet the BIG DICK. Not only is it quite entertaining to search Google (images ;)) for more about this band, but it feels really good to listen to their new self-titled album, released through Dirt Cult Records. This Ottawa-based drum & bass two-piece (not to be confused with the electronic music subgenre) brings a nice mixture of post punk, garage rock, grunge, and indie rock to the table. It’s really nice to go through their new album a few times and educe all the riffs and well-thought-out rhythms from it. I highly recommend this fun and addicting game. Try it out – launch the free stream below and check out my recent interview with BIG DICK. Bon appétit!
Thanks for taking this interview guys! How are you? Keeping warm during this harsh winter time? [smiles]
Hey Karol, We’re doing quite well at the moment. The winters here are indeed cold and bitter, and am currently taking refuge in a Canadian federal government building as I wait to apply for a new passport. My only current means of subsistence are a conveniently located Tim Hortons and the reassuring presence of a security guard named “Doug”.
Nice. Your first passport? How old are you? [smiles]
Oh gosh no, they force you to renew your passport every 3-5 years here. I blame America. I’m 67 years young this spring. I don’t know or care how old Dave is.
[laughs] I wish they forgot about the whole paperwork and the visa bullshit very soon, it would be much easier for us to simply visit the US or Canada [smiles].
Ok, let’s start off.. with your name [smiles]. Yeah, I know, I’m sorry, but it’s your fault, now I bet that every interview starts with the same boring question. Tell me about it and let’s get it over with [smiles].
Dave is a pretty common name here in Canada. I think it must have biblical origins, because I know there are Hebrew and Assyrian versions [furrows brow]. Some quick research shows that it’s an offshoot of an ancient Mesopotamian word meaning ‘beloved’ or ‘darling’, and that ‘Dawid’, ‘Daud’, and my new personal favorite ‘Dudi’, all trace their roots back to this one word [looks satisfied].
Oh, BIG DICK… There’s this Canadian band called NOMEANSNO who are amazing. They put out this great record called ‘Wrong’ in 1989 or 1990. There’s a song on the record called Big Dick that happens to be just bass and drums. It’s a great song and a funny name and the whole thing seemed kind of fitting for us. It can make things complicated and unnecessary, but on the whole it hasn’t been fully disastrous.
[smiles] Oh yeah, NOMEANSNO perform here in Warsaw from time to time, people here just love those guys, too. Their last European tour included 6 dates in our country, ha! [smiles]
Oh, and the “drum and bass” part is kinda funny. Do you realize how many people think you’re an electronic music act? [laughs]
Yeah, using the expression “drum and bass” can be kind of misleading, I imagine especially in Europe where that genre of electronic music may be more prevalent. Maybe we should just say “bass and drums”…. perhaps that would clear things up a bit, or just make it even more confusing.
Alright, when did BIG DICK first begin as a band? Please share a little bit about your early days.
I think we started in the summer of 2009. We were under the pretension that being in a two-piece band would be ‘easy’. We had been in another band called PARTY KNIVES, and then I moved to China for a year, and we got things started some point after I came back to Ottawa. Johnny & I have both been in bands pretty consistently since we were teenagers, and I think this was one of those periods where we actually had some free time on our hands, so we started a band. The songs weren’t awful and we were writing quickly (despite it taking 3 years to put out a debut LP – in our defense we must have about a dozen songs shelved at the recording studio) so we kept at it.
“We actually had some free time on our hands, so we started a band.” [laughs] You’re band-addicts, then, huh? [smiles]
You have intentionally made things difficult for us by calling yourselves BIG DICK. Is this way of positioning a band a planned action?
In terms of the band name, yes, we concede we’re marketing geniuses by ensuring that no one will ever to be able to google our band without being subjected to horrific imagery on the internet.
Did you position yourself as a “hard to find” band on purpose? Do you have a strategy for BIG DICK, an ultimate goal or mission statement? [smiles]
I’m asking, because I know a few bands that took a similar path and decided to change their name once in a while, give up on amazing promotion possibilities they had, yet at the same time tried to take their art to as many people as possible. What’s your approach to marketing this project? [smiles]
It’s pretty evident we don’t have a marketing strategy for this band. Naming the band ‘big dick’ has made things difficult because people immediately assume you’re some gimmicky shitty punk band. so sometimes you have to draw on other things, like artwork or lyrics or photos or trying to conduct intelligent interviews or whatever to try and convince people that listening to the record might actually be worth their time. since we’re sticking with the name, I think at this point the best thing to do is try and put out good records and hope that people eventually get past the name and go straight to the music.
On that note, I definitely have a renewed appreciation for bands with stupid names. I have to keep reminding myself that people can talk about BUTTHOLE SURFERS without batting an eye or rolling their eyes… maybe longevity is key. And there are a lot of really really shitty band names out there, much much worse than BIG DICK. HOOBASTANK comes to mind.
[laughs] Sure thing. Personally, I love all the legendary screamo names like LIZARDS HAVE PERSONALITIES or I WROTE HAIKUS ABOUT CANNIBALISM IN YOUR YEARBOOK. Oh, and just so you don’t get the wrong impression, I love your name, too!
How did you approach this new album as opposed to your other music works in the past? I mean, this debut is very, very impressive. When you first started writing and recording, did you already know what amazing set of tunes you were going to have produced? How were your feelings about it in the beginning of composing and how are they about at the moment?
This album has some of the first songs we’ve ever written on it; I don’t think it’s that much different from the 7″ we put out. We didn’t put much planning into the album, we recorded everything we had and ended up shelving a bunch of songs, mostly because we didn’t have the lyrics or vocals wrapped up on them. I think we were both hoping to go into studio with parts of the record unfinished and then have some sort of insightful moment of clarity in studio and wrap things up spontaneously, but that didn’t happen. It took us a long time to finish this record, and some of the songs that I thought would be really strong ended up being my least favorite on the record and vice versa. Overall my feelings about the album haven’t changed, I’ve consistently considered it to be a good record, and hopefully in a couple of years I can listen back to it and feel like it’s holding up.
Instrument-wise, what was the recording process like? It it hard to record and perform the tracks in the studio when you’re a two-piece? Also in general, are you limited in some ways because of that?
We tracked most of this record, drums first, bass second. It’s probably easier to record as a two-piece, although you spend way too much time trying to make sure everything sounds full. We mic’d a ton of stuff – I think most of the songs on this record consist of anywhere from 50-100 tracks. We record at this place called the Meatlocker in Ottawa. Yogi (engineer) can get a great drum sound in about two minutes, and the house kit is this beautiful old ludwig set, so I always have a lot of fun playing there. I think one limitation is that if something isn’t sounding the way you want it to, you’re kind of fucked. In a band with other instruments you can usually dial someone else up and play around until whatever’s bothering you is sufficiently buried… with a two piece you can’t really ‘mask’ anything. We weren’t satisfied with the song ‘medics’ (for example) because it just didn’t sound the way we wanted it to, and we tried about a billion different things, playing around with effects, bringing in other instruments… Johnny wrote entirely different lyrics and we tried about fifty versions of that, and basically none of it really worked. We probably should have just started over from square one, but that would have meant setting up all the instruments again and we didn’t really want to spend the time or money to do that.
Did you work with a producer? Was it a case of trying to learn as much as possible from working with a sound engineer so that you have the skills to go it alone next time?
We didn’t work with a producer. We’re already somewhat familiar with recording; Johnny went to school for it, and I have an idea of what I’m doing. I don’t know if we’d ever record a bd record ourselves, though – it’s nice to have a third person in the mix facilitating everything and occasionally giving input.
Alright, back to the two-piece format of the band, how do you replicate your sound live? What is the biggest challenge when it comes to performing live as a two-piece?
Making sure Johnny’s gear actually works and his amp isn’t buzzing like crazy. Other than that, playing these songs and singing at the same time (on drums at least) is pretty hard. Having the stamina to do both for a set can be a bit challenging. Like anything else, it’s just practice. We try to practice once a week, and if we don’t the songs start to suffer live. People occasionally put up videos of us from time to time and I usually watch them and pay attention to things we could do better… happily I think our live show has been improving.
Tell me guys. How did you end up on Dirt Cult Records?
Dave Williams, who mastered our record, asked if he could send a copy to Chris at Dirt Cult. I think Chris had already heard of us through Ottawa explosion, and he liked the record and asked if he could put it out. Dirt cult is a great label, and Chris has been working hard at pushing the record. we’re really happy with the arrangement.
What other web services do you read?
Chris was able to hook up the premier with Scene Point Blank, which was really great and helped us out a lot. Personally I don’t really read any web services, I basically wait until I’m way behind on everything and let friends tell me what sort of music I should check out.
Do you have a lot of interesting new artists popping out in Ottawa? Do you consider your local music scene unique? Tell me more about it.
Ottawa has an amazingly good scene. everyone’s very hard-working and supportive of one another. I think more and more people outside of the city are starting to recognize it as such. We have our own festivals, everyone has a good time at each other’s shows, everyone’s pretty close to other alternative communities… It’s just a really fluent and enjoyable atmosphere to work creatively in. My favorite Ottawa bands right now are BOYHOOD and GRIME KINGS, two younger bands that put out really good creepy alternative stuff. Worth checking out for sure.
Alright, boys. What are your touring plans?
I have no idea at this point. We’re in the middle of seeing what we can set up, we’re both willing to spend May & June touring, but getting shows is a whole different thing altogether, especially for a newer band that hasn’t played much outside Ottawa. I use to be able to book tours and I’m pretty sure Johnny’s booked for his old bands as well, but as luck would have it neither of us really ‘kept up’ with our contacts. Not that it would matter anyway, I’m sure they’re all in their 30s now as well and are more focused on keeping their lawns intact and posting hourly photos of their children on facebook.
Sounds like no hope for a European run, huh? [smiles]
We tried to get something set up in Europe, but i think we’re still too small and unheard of. We actually had people tell us that they didn’t think they could get us shows because of the band name. Hopefully after some more North America dates.
Before we finish off. Tell me, do you get mad whenever people advert you as the next JAPANDROIDS (despite the undoubtful similarities)?
I haven’t actually listened to JAPANDROIDS yet but probably should. I think there’s always going to be comparisons drawn to other two piece bands regardless of sound. I don’t think we’ll ever shake the death from above connection even though I don’t think we have a similar style at all. I’m listening to JAPANDROIDS right now, they’re very anthemic. I don’t think we could pull off what they do and make it work. Maybe their other songs sound different, but I’m guessing the comparison comes from the fact that we’re both Canadian, we both use distortion pedals and sound ‘loud’, and both members sing. I certainly wouldn’t get mad over this, though! I’m sure some people who like them would also like us… I do however think there might be other two-piece bands that are closer to what we’re doing.
It’s hard to answer that without sounding pompous… some two piece bands that I really admire would be shuttlecock, THE INBREDS, LIGHTNING BOLT, THE EVENS, PINK & BROWN. I think a lot of those bands venture into stranger territory, which is something I strive to do in this band from time to time. on drums I kind of try to keep songs at arm length’s from the typical 4/4. anyway!
Are there any artists you would call essential and groundbreaking for modern rock music? Do you have you own “Gods”, who you worship for their heritage and influence on others?
Not really. I’m sure there are a lot of decent lists floating around with ‘essential’ artists that are probably more complete than any bands I would venture to name. I don’t really worship any bands or anything like that, but I personally am a big fan of Canadian alt rock in the early-mid 90s. There were a lot of really weird fun bands like THRUSH HERMIT and HARDSHIP POST and SLOAN and ERIC’S TRIP etc etc etc that had a lasting influence on a lot of music in this country.
Alright, before I let you go, please wrap it up and tell us what can we expect from you this year.
Disappointment after disappointment. Hopefully in the form of a summer tour and a maybe a new record. I really have no idea. I think that’s why life is so fun.
Thanks so much for your time and patience, guys. Feel free to add anything you want!
No problem, thanks for doing this!
Thanks! Thanks so much for your time, guys!