There are not that many bands I follow be honest. From the perspective of a camera man, who loves action in front of his camera, Dead swans was a heaven gift to watch. Those guys accumulated so much energy on stage and then throw it on you, you simply had to love them from the first sight. I was honored to see them couple of times during their short existence. Had a photos used on their two releases and forever be part of it at least for that little moment. I voluntary missed their one off shows as I wanted to remember them in their peek time and remember them as one of the best live bands I could take pictures for. This interview was done very likely around 2009 for my Limokid zine, Slovak version so now its time for the English speaking folks to find out what we discussed back in the years. I am tempted to catch up and do a follow up with one of them maybe in the nearest future. Wish me luck and enjoy few words done with their bass player Ben.
Q: Dead Swans were born not more than 3 years ago. Can you tell us how did you guys come together? How do you know each other? Can you mention bands you played before? Nervous Wreck and Fading Fast are those I remember. Can you tell us more about the bands history? Whose idea it was? Try to describe the main characteristics of each member please.
We played our first show in March 2006 after practicing for a couple of months since Nick (vocals) old band ‘Turn cold’ broke up, me (Ben) and Robbie (guitar) played in Nervous wreck since I was 17.
American nightmare/Panic/Modern life is war have always been my favorite bands since I started listening to hardcore and when Nick wanted to start a new band I was stoked to play the style of music i love.
We have always been friends so it made perfect sense to all do a band together, me and Nick went to school together and knew Robbie through other friends we used to skateboard with. We knew Benny through playing together in some of our other old bands and we used to go to shows together and go skate and generally all have the same friends, were from a small town where everyone knows everyone anyway, but he is the sickest drummer and we were stoked when he was down to come hang out and write some songs as for Pid (guitar). He played in a few bands (This time around, The Legacy & Fading fast) he wasn’t doing anything at the time and we had all been hanging out a lot at the time Dead swans was coming together, after me, Rob, Nick and Benny had a practice we recorded a couple of sketchy songs, after showing them to Pid and after drinking a lot of rum he agreed to come down and practice and in our first practice we wrote the songs ‘preferring the worst’ and ‘tin heart’.
Q: What bands had the most influence on Dead Swans at the beginning and in what way they have influenced your band or yourself /music wise, attitude wise, lyrics wise…/?
For me personally, although we acknowledge the classic bands that came before and paved the way for example Black flag/Cro-mags/Chain of strength, I think we are definatley more influenced by the bands of our generation who we got to see and have our own experiences of that made us feel something and want to learn instruments. We get palmed off as an American nightmare rip off band but were not afraid to wear our influence on our sleeve. I think there is undeniabley a strong influence, but if you listen to Dead swans and American nightmare side by side I wouldnt say we SOUND like them.
Blacklisted is an incredible band who we all listen too and have seen, Sworn in same kind of story as us 5 kids who all grew up together in a nowhere town in England who completley smashed it in the early 00’s , made us see that it could be done, its hard to say we really just play the music WE would want to hear, something that makes us excited we draw influence from a lot of different places, My bloody valentine/Joy division other shoegazey melancholic sounding things which is maybe where the ‘darker’ sound in Dead swans comes from.
Lyrically Nick just takes influence from life experience, things he can relate too that mean something to him, we let him pretty much have free reign to sing about something that is important to him, even though he does consult us about it,but we would never expect him to put everything into something that is meaningless to him.
Q: It’s always funny to see how bands are progressing or trying to make it big! You seem to take it easy in the beginning and here you are, not too far from your start you were nominated for the Kerrang award – can you tell us something about who nominated you and how did you become a part of the award? Doesn’t it feels weird for hardcore band to be part of such big award with all those big bands names around you? How this nomination changed the band direction? Do you think it helped the band, and if yes, in what way?
We heard nothing about it at first, then some friends of ours where like yo, you seen that Kerrang awards thing you guys have a bunch of votes! So we checked it out and we had been smashing it which is mental, we literally pursued it because we thought it would be funny if a hardcore band that had been around for a year with only a 7 track e.p on an independent label could actually win something like that. So we pushed it, because what other hardcore bands have ever achieved anything like that JUST by being yourselves.
We never changed anything about Dead swans we have always just been doing our own thing from square one. It was an amazing experience that not a lot of people can say that have shared, we were hanging out with Rage against the machine, Metallica, Slipknot it was mental that 5 shit head little kids like us were even there. It hasn’t changed the band at all i would say, we still play floor shows in the back room of a pub to a handful of kids. It was just cool to have the opportunity to have done something like that, and the work we put in to this band be appreciated.
Q: Your first 7” was a hit, then the Kerrang awards! Kids were digging you from the beginning. How this changed your life? From one day to another being recognized by hundred of kids around the UK, being in the music magazines, having posters inside them etc. What are your feelings and is there anything what has changed to worse?
Its pretty mental. We dont like have kids come up to us in the street or anything…if anything people have really mis-conceived it and think WE think we’re rock stars. Like I said earlier were just kids in a band that wanted to make the music we like, magazines and stuff for me is just a nice memento to look back on when this band is done and be like this is what I did when I was a kid, there is no elaborate story behind it. They just approached us and where like hey, “do you wanna do this”.. and we were just like fuck it, why not.
Q: Anchor aweigh records from Italy released your first 7”. How did you become a part of this awesome record label? Can you describe your cooperation with this label?! The conditions and the way it works between the band and the label?
Recently you have become members of well known hardcore label Bridge 9, which is seen by many kids from the scene as a “bigger label” with established name within the hardcore scene. Can you compare the conditions you had with AAR and B9 records? Are there any differences, the advantages of being part of small DIY label or disadvantages to be on bigger label and vice versa?
How many copies B9 released of your first full length album? How many records have you sold so far, have you seen any money from the sales? What is the deal behind?
Andre from AAR was into our old bands, and he just saw on myspace that we were starting a new project. He was into it right away Anchors aweigh is a cool label and we were siked to be part of it.
He got our 7″ pressed up real quick and sent us over a bunch for us to sell ourselves on tour and stuff, and he sold the rest in his web store and to distro’s.
Bridge 9 is pretty much the same, both labels are run by hardcore kids and its a pretty casual arrangement. B9 just has more money to work with, they are real good to their bands and have really helped us out. As far as i know Sleepwalkers has sold pretty well
same deal we have our own share of the copies to sell, which we use to put back into the band like getting new merch printed up and general equipment and stuff.
Q: When a hardcore kid from the scene would like to organised a gig for Dead swans, how much it would cost him? Do you have to pay charges to B9 label for a gig or you still can manage your shows on your own and under your own conditions? How much do you charge for a gig if you charge anything at all? When it comes to money, I believe hardcore should be part of your life as a non profit hobby not a job. Once you start doing hardcore as a job, I think you will loose the passion very soon and start carrying for the money behind it. What do you think about hardcore as a job? Don’t you feel tired to bee constantly on the tour? Do you see yourself as a touring band in the future? What about your girlfriends and family? Do they support your rock n roll lifestyle?
For me personally, I fucking hate real life and as i’m approaching the age where I need to take the steps to start being a ‘proper adult’ it scares the shit out of me. All I want to do is tour everyday its the only thing that makes me really happy. We make no money from it, but I make no money at home, we go on tour and we just get the money to be able to put it back in to the band to make sure we can keep doing it. We just get kids on myspace (note-yeah, pre facebook time baby haha) who send us a message to play a show and if we can do it, we do it, as long as it doesn’t cost us money to do it! Because we dont have any, I would take every opportunity to be able to do this band everyday and never have to have a proper job. If that selling out then i’m a sell out, this is what I love doing and if I get to do this everyday instead of being stuck behind a desk wanting to kill myself then whatever.
All our friends/girlfriends/family are amazing, they appreciate were so lucky to be doing this and would never hold us back.
Q: You have toured America just recently and recorded your first full length album. How different is America comparing to England? How the kids reacted to UK band? Are they interesting about European scene and bands? Can you compare the conditions bands have in America and in Europe for example? What are the differences and can you tell us something about the shows out there?
What was the most amazing moment you experienced in America? Any bad stories? Any regrets so far?
America is fucking sick, it was amazing to get the chance to go out and tour there. Its a lot more DIY, a lot of the places we played weren’t even ‘venues’ like at home, mostly just any space they can rent out get a P.A and put on a show, in a warehouse or art gallery or just a back space in a bar or something, kids mosh way harder out there. We were on tour with Comeback kid/Gravemaker and Mother of mercy, that line up would for example sell out the Underworld in London, but in some places only a couple of hundred kids would show up. Kids are spoiled for choice with shows out there I think. They’ll have a fucking awesome band come to there town every week, Europe treats bands WAY better, you get a hot meal, snacks, drinks and a place to stay which is amazing, in america your lucky to even get a bottle of water on stage, for us going to the states was kind of like starting at the bottom, no one really knows us yet, where as were a lot more established over here, the shows in america were sick though, we still had kids moshing and singing along/stage diving which is amazing when your so far from home, playing chain reaction in California was a highlight for sure.
HARDCORE PUNK ENERGY:
Q: Every single time I see your show, I can’t believe how much energy 5 kids can create – destroying the place to pieces from the first tune. This is what I love about hardcore and about Dead Swans; the live show is amazing, however this probably would not last too long and what then? I almost stopped believe in one moment that the energy is pure, not particularly your band, but seeing other bands over and over again. The angle I am coming from with this question is, that for example seeing This is Hell show two years ago and recently for example from the shooter point of view, I saw the same pulled faces, the same gestures as year before and then I noticed that some bands are “faking” the show like its a Kiss show, some sort of weird acting feeling, hard to describe and acknowledge. Do you find your self in this position sometimes?
What do you like about being in a band? What is hardcore punk for you?
For me reading this question I think its the most retarded thing ever (note: some recognition given haha).
I am a kid with no musical intuition, I am lucky to be in a band with such competent musicians, I got accused of being big headed the other day when I said if I didn’t play in Dead swans, it would be my favorite band, because I am in a position where I get to say exactly how I want a song to go, why would you want to be playing music that you didn’t even like!? Dead swans is the only thing I have in my life and I make the most of every opportunity I have with it and I will always give it everything I have, I can say the same for everyone else in Dead swans.