Vol. 2, Issue #17 September 14th - September 27th, 2007

Interview By: Graham Lee Brewer -- Photo by: Asha Schecther

There is no band that can capture such uninhibited vigor and energy quite as easily as San Francisco trio Deerhoof. Whether it’s the tenacious pounding of the lanky monster on drums, the furious, often whimsical riffs of guitar, the sweet Japanese vocals, or simply their seemingly absurd group dynamics, there is surely an aspect of their music that will shock and/or awe you. Their songs range from jolting and in-your-face to dulcet and intoxicating. To be completely sincere, my descriptions of what they do and sound like don’t fully do them justice; you just have to hear it for yourself. I spoke with lead singer and bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, who will be fronting the unconventional trio when they play with Bloc Party at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa on Sept. 23.

Brewer: Have you always wanted to be a musician or did you grow up with different ambitions?

Satomi: I always had an ambition to be an artist because I’m proven to be a right-brained person. Every single psychology test of left or right brain, I’m always right brain of the right brain. I loved music but I never thought I could be a musician because I know musicians make no living, but it’s great that I could make my living now.

Brewer: What¹s it like playing in a band with your husband?

Satomi: Like a home is traveling, and that nobody is taking care of our apartment when we’re gone.

Brewer: Tell me about the work you guys are doing for the film “Dedication.”

Satomi: Justin Theroux is a good friend. He wrote us when he started writing the movie and we got really excited to work with him because we like him so much. He sent us a rough cut that had our old tracks and we thought we could make new music for it. Justin was also excited to work with this Hollywood composer named Ed Shearmur, and it happened that Ed went to see Radiohead play in LA and Deerhoof was opening, and he really liked us, and then the next morning he received a DVD from Justin and it had Deerhoof tracks on it and he got excited and accepted to do music for the movie. So one day we flew to LA and went to his studio and we worked on new songs with him.

I think the Deerhoof music in the movie really fits with the mood that Justin brought up in the movie. Love comedy is exactly what I think Deerhoof is about; warmth and fun and unique a way of not following the guidelines. Justin and Deerhoof personally are so similar and I like how the movie is also so true to us; it feels so real. There is not so much exaggeration, or just pushing buttons to make people laugh.

Brewer: Is the music you are making for the film part of a new album or exclusively for the movie? Is a new album in the near future?

Satomi: There is a new album in the future, we just haven’t started it. The soundtrack songs are not going to be in our new album, but a “Dedication” soundtrack CD will be released in September.

Brewer: You guys were part of the epic Flaming Lips show at the Oklahoma City Zoo. What was that experience like?

Satomi: That was a hot, hot day. Backstage was as amazing as the stage, because there was candy all over and all these colorful decorations and toys, ballooned fish sitting on the ground. All the Flaming Lips friends came and they were very nice and had a warm, friendly atmosphere. We felt so welcomed, and Wayne was very excited about the UFO debut for the live shows. They were doing intense rehearsal of how to come off of the UFO and Greg and I were just watching them doing that for a few hours. I knew the show was going to go epic. The opening band Star Death and White Dwarves were all very close friends to Flaming Lips and they were all excited to play. Even though it was a huge event, it still felt like a family event, like a friends’ tree. Everybody knows each other; there’s no way people can be unhappy, because it was a family, home feeling.

Brewer: What is your song writing process like? Does improvisation play a large role?

Satomi: Flash. Gleam. Tremulous excitement. Ideas come into my mind like a flash, it’s a not a grueling deep thought. The three of us have independent ideas and we bring them to each other, but we don’t do improvisation. I think we are very shy to share our unfinished ideas so we all work on music separately and then when we are all so confident about getting ready to tell other people, that’s when we do the presentation event.

Brewer: I have heard your music categorized in so many different ways. I’m curious, what kind of music do you feel you make and how do you think it fits in to the spectrum of modern music?

Satomi: Our music is maybe, before it becomes a spectrum, like Pink Floyd’s album cover where the light goes into the triangle and separates into different colors, we are the light before it goes in, you can’t see where it divides. For example, we are like when the galaxy explodes in the Big Bang and you don’t know what kind of things come up. It’s okay to not categorize; this is going to be Earth or this is going to be a solar system—maybe there’s not going to be a solar system and you can’t name things because it’s not heard yet. We debut every time we release an album.

Brewer: I read in your bio that when you were first introduced to Greg and Rob’s music, you commented that you couldn’t possibly make it any worse. What was your first impression of Nitre Pit and why did you want to be a part of it?

Satomi: Actually, it was Deerhoof when I heard the music before I joined. I thought it was good. I just had no music experience before, so that I was relieved that I didn’t have to meet up to some kind of standard of what I can do as a musician. I thought I could sing along with a dog and that could be Deerhoof music. I thought Deerhoof was very playful and open. I just thought imagination was more important than what comes out.

Brewer: Few bands capture such uninhibited vigor and energy as naturally as San Francisco trio Deerhoof. What was it like having one of your albums adapted as a children’s play?

Satomi: I like our music to be listened to by all ages and I think it’s so awesome that children want to not just listen but even dance along with the music. When we made the song “Milk Man,” I came up with a dance that everybody can dance to. That was going to be on our music video but it never was finished, but surprisingly when we went to see this children’s dance, they did exactly what I imagined! That was weird, almost like I predicted the future. And they were wearing the white clothes, and in my drawing board, my rough sketch for that dance, it had all white clothes. And that album is about children, and children as all human beings, but I think it’s very interesting that the real children could get into our music, which is often said to be weird. We talked to those children, and we had some workshops in their school, and they had so many questions about music. And when we gave them CDs and t-shirts at the end of the concert, they went to the backstage right away and changed into the Deerhoof t-shirts, and were so happy and running around. It just made me smile really big.

Brewer: What is your favorite thing about playing music for a living?

Satomi: Playing music. It’s so hard to think about what I can do other than what I’m doing right now because this is just what I do, and I’ve been doing it for a long time. I’m so glad that I could do this. I like meeting people all over the world, and it’s really inspiring to be able to meet so many musicians who are around for a long time. I stand by their positivism towards their music and their passion. I believe that continuation is power. It’s very fundamental, but you get to know what you are doing if you do the same thing over and over and there is always a new discovery about what you do.

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