of the Dirty Three
You must see the Dirty Three live to fully appreciate every climax. Warren Ellis spins pre-song tales of love and loss about Burt Reynolds and Sally Field before raising his violin to pick the first dreary notes in step with the slow trot of accompanying fuzz guitar and drums. Steadily the pace quickens and Ellis turns to lengthy moans which become shorter and faster as Mick Turner’s measured guitar playing erupts into a furied rhythm. You now find yourself in the eye of a storm: violin is screaming, sweat is flying, Ellis spits everywhere, Turner’s guitar has become a muted chainsaw, and your heart is racing — all in the first song. On Tren Phantasma Turner salvages his own art from the wailings of his bandmates. Hundreds of guitars are piled on the heap as blurry burnt country dances are discovered.
Does this record signify the end of the Dirty Three?
The Dirty Three recorded an album with Steve Albini at Electric Audio in Chicago in Sept./Oct. this year after having a 6 months break from touring. It is to be called Ocean Songs and is due for release Feb. 1998. We will be touring the US, Australia, and Europe in 1998.
I saw you guys play a show in Chapel Hill, North Carolina about a year ago, and was surprised by the reception you got. The show was great, Warren’s stories were pretty funny, and everyone in the audience was completely silent and actually listened to the show. Do you find this at most places you play?
Sometimes, especially if the audience has come specifically to see us.
How did you go about recording this album?
Tren Phantasma is basically a collection of 4 track recordings I had done over the past few years. The last track, “Untitled,” was recorded in 1985. I had just got my first 4 track machine, it was 4 AM in the morning and a big storm came over. I stuck a microphone out the window, so that is the storm sound on that track, it is a real storm. I continued to make recordings over the years that were unrelated to the bands I was playing in, for no other reason than the joy of it. It gave me an outlet for personal expression and creativity that band situations cannot always fulfill. Making these recordings, I never seriously considered making them public until very recently. They were a very personal entity. I hardly ever let anyone else hear them.
Does it sound like you had intended it to sound?
The manner in which this record was created is fairly devoid of intention. It is a very spontaneous thing. I would just turn on the machine and start recording. Usually, straight away I would overdub the next track, and so on. At the start of each recording, I never had a tune written or even thought out. I have always found this the best way for me to create. You can just grab a song from the air or somewhere else that’s not a conscious thing in your head. It doesn’t always work, but when it does it is very special.
Why did you release this record?
Because I knew that if I didn’t, it would sit in my creative intestines forever, and that was a scary thought.
How do you get that dirty guitar sound?
With my right hand I “strum,” or pluck the strings, and with the left I move up and down the neck. This is usually while the guitar is connected to an amplifier via a cord.
How does the Australian music scene compare to the US scene?
When you’re in one stinkin’ rock club you could be in any country in the world. They all look the same, and so do the audiences, and come to think of it, so do the bands. Scenes are usually dynamic things, and I haven’t really been around Melbourne much in the last 3 years, but there is a strong infrastucture that supports local independent music, being several listener-sponsored alternative radio stations and free street press. Lots of venues and lots of bands. Most shows are cheap or free, except for overseas acts, and on the whole music is well supported and enjoyed.
Are you famous in Australia?
No. Well, in independent music circles we probably are, due to the fact that we managed to play other places instead of just Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane over and over and over.
How does Australia differ from the vision of Australia that America gets through Fosters commercials and Dundee movies?
Why does beer in aluminum cans smell like a hardboiled egg? I think Australians can laugh at themselves. I try and laugh at myself at least once everyday.
How long have you been painting?
I did a painting once that was 8 feet long. Once I painted for 6 hours straight.
Would you rather paint or play music?
Actually, I’d like to do both at once, in fact I like to do “toe painting” (which is a form of finger painting using the toes) while I’m playing guitar completely naked.
What painters do you like?
Of the bands you’ve played with who have been your favorites and why?
The Body Crabs because I got to tell everybody what to do.