An interview with lead singer of Dredg
Dredg has been described as pop, rock, alternative, metal, and about 12,000 other adjectives, but lead singer Gavin Hayes probably describes their music best: “Void Rock.” Enter the void and learn about how they came up with their band name, how he found his biological family and how Salman Rushdie inspired their latest album The Pariah, The Parrot and The Delusion.
You’re headed down to St. Petersburg tonight. How’s the tour going?
It’s going well. We’re moving along. We’re co-headliners so we are headlining every few shows. It kind of depends on the market and going back and forth. Keeping the balance.
Who are you co-headlining with?
With RX Bandits. And we have a few different openers. Now Zechs Marquis is on tour and then As Tall As Lions finishes it up.
Cool. Now the tour goes through the end of August. What are your plans after the tour?
We’re actually going to take at least a couple of weeks off. I know October 1 we are playing a show in New York with Salman Rushdie for Housing Works, [an event] that Spin magazine has just started to put on. It’s a collaboration between authors and musicians. One of his essays helped inspire this record. It’s going to be a really cool event. I’m looking forward to it.
That was one of the things that I was going to ask you. Your latest album was based on the essay “Imagine There’s No Heaven: A Letter to the 6 Billionth Citizen.” How did this essay inspire the making of this album?
It was at the beginning of the writing process. We had written a few songs already and Mark, our guitar player, found it in a book called The Atheist’s Handbook. It’s a chronological depiction of all the agnostic and atheist beliefs, way back from early philosophy and so on. He found this essay “The 6 Billionth Citizen” by Salman Rushdie and just felt that there was a parallel to a lot of the lyrical content that I was writing about. He gave that to me. I checked it out and it’s a really honest and amazing essay. We found it to be inspirational. From there, I used it as a guideline. It’s not a direct concept record based on [the book] or anything. It definitely inspired the artwork and some of the content. I recommend reading it if you haven’t.
I have, actually; I read it yesterday. I went to your website and saw that Rushdie was the inspiration. So I read the essay and, essentially, what I gathered from it was that he is asking if there is a God or heaven. Is that what you got from it too?
I looked at it as… you’re going to be told to believe this, you’re going to be told to believe that, depending on where you grew up. Basically, I got that you should think for yourself and gain as much knowledge as possible and develop your own beliefs and not latch on to a certain belief system. I just felt that it was saying don’t listen to all these things that you are being told, being pressured to believe. People are people and they need to learn to think for themselves and learn as much as possible.
Do you take some of those beliefs that you have and put it into your records?
Yeah. I don’t really fall into a certain religion. I went to a Catholic school for a while and was actually confirmed and have read a lot of the stories from the standpoint of Catholicism. I’m not a practicing Catholic at all, but I think it’s cool to learn the stories, Obviously a lot of the brilliant artwork was based on those stories and I think it’s a good thing to know; learning about a bunch of different religions and knowing what’s out there. I just feel like certain religions keep pigeonholing you into believing nothing else and really thinking that there is nothing else other than what you are brought up believing. It can be regional or whatever, but when you think of it that way, it just seems absurd.
Do you do a lot of reading in general?
Yeah. I’m not a constant reader. I go through huge spurts of reading, especially on the road. And we are on the road a lot. I’ve been reading Salman Rushdie right now, The Satanic Verses.
Have you read it before?
I have. I wanted to refresh before we go back and hang out with the guy.
Have you talked with Rushdie before?
No, we never have. New York is going to be the first time.
How do you feel about that, actually meeting him in person?
We are extremely flattered, to be honest. Not only as an author, but I really respect him as a person — being someone who went out on a limb and isn’t afraid to give an opinion on things and basically risk his life. That’s necessary for change and evolution. People like that are what make change happen. I’m more interested in meeting him on that level than as an author. That was my initial attraction to him — on a basic level, but in the arts as well, people taking chances and not abiding by any certain scene or law. That’s what’s attractive to me.
So has he listened to the album, do you know?
I don’t know. All I’ve seen is one quote saying that he was flattered that something he did was inspiring. I’m sure he’s going to listen to the record before we meet.
Kind of like what you’re doing in reading The Satanic Verses as a refresher. He’s probably doing the same listening to your album.
It’s probably not a refresher for him [laughs].
So did the title of the album also come from the essay?
It’s not actually directly related. It’s actually the name of the first song, which is now just “Pariah.” I just really like that title. We are always throwing titles around and that one just stuck. It was unique enough that it wasn’t your general title for a record.
Your first two records were on Interscope Records, but this one you released on your own label. Was there a different process going into making this record?
Not so much. The thing I really enjoyed about it, and that the band enjoyed about it, is that we did this record at home except for maybe 10 days in L.A. It was just comfortable working in three different studios in the Bay Area, two in San Francisco. We just experimented with sound and the producer we worked with, Matt Radosevich, he’s just 25 years old. He’s young for being a producer/engineer. He’s extremely knowledgeable, plays the piano, and he’s rhythmically deft. It was a more relaxing process. It started out a little stressful, then once we got into the studio, it was all experimentation and trial and error, which was really exciting. The whole writing process was pretty similar, just sitting around writing and recording.
Is that what you pretty much do, all of you get together and just see how it all flows and works out?
Yeah. The majority of the time, most of the songs are written that way. Someone might throw down a beat or someone might throw down a guitar line. We want to retain that dynamic, sitting around being a band, and we record all of our writing sessions so we can go back and listen and pinpoint what is good and what isn’t and where to work from there.
It sounds very collaborative.
Yeah it is.
The first time that I heard you guys, I was in college and I saw the video for “Same Ol’ Road.” I love the video. I love the song. What was the inspiration for that video, and are you planning on making any videos for any of the tracks from this album?
That video we worked with American McGhee. He worked for Electronic Arts as a video game developer and tried to experiment with the music world. I think he did some work with Madonna. I think we were his first video where he produced and directed the whole video. I think most of the ideas were derived from the lyrics. He had a character in mind and we watched the whole process unfold. It’s my favorite video still. Regarding this record, we have made one video. We actually shot a video for “Information,” which is our single overseas — mainly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It’s online. You can see it on our website. It’s a great video and it looks good and everything. It’s not as creative as “Same Ol’ Road.” I think we are looking at doing something along those lines with some of our other songs. It’s not really aimed at MTV or anything, not that they play videos any more or anything. I think we are going to do something really creative — maybe for a song that wouldn’t be considered a single — and just put it on our website and put it online.
Which song are you thinking of for your next single? Do you have any ideas rolling around for specific songs?
A lot of people we work with have said that there are three possibilities: “Information,” “Saviour,” and “I Don’t Know.” As for radio, those would be the closest to a “single.” If we don’t hit the radio though, it won’t be the be-all-end-all. We’re not like a Top 40 band or anything. Obviously it’s beneficial on many levels. We’re just trying to keep a good balance. I think that’s why, if we shoot a video for the U.S., maybe if we do release one of those singles, we may want to counter that with something like “Cartoon Showroom” or “Gathering Pebbles.” Something that definitely wouldn’t be single material.
Something that you wouldn’t hear on a Top 40 station?
Yeah, that’s what I’m drawn to. The videos can definitely boost your band’s career, that’s for sure. A lot of bands that have created interesting videos have been propelled by YouTube and whatnot.
The topic of trying to collect B-sides and unreleased tracks onto an album was brought up by some fans on your web forums. Is that something that you guys have thought about doing?
It’s something that we are thinking about just giving away and not charging anything for. We have at least five or six songs, some of which are demos that actually sound good. They were recorded in the studio and were done in a day. They were more spontaneous and for critiquing purposes. Yeah, it’s definitely something that we have talked about. So we’ll see. I think it will happen in the near future. We just want to make sure that we are comfortable with it. Obviously, there are reasons why some of the songs didn’t make it on record. I know people realize that it’s a B-side.
Is that something that you’re thinking of releasing on your website then?
Yeah, possibly. If we are going to give it away, it’s probably going to be online because we wouldn’t put the money into making a CD just to give away. We just don’t have the budget for that [laughs]. We may put them on our MySpace and let people take them from there.
Do you have a timetable or is it just whenever you feel comfortable?
We, honestly, are so focused on our touring right now and promoting this record that it’s been an afterthought. We do throw it around at least once a week. We talk about what we want to do with it. I think it’s just deciding what’s the right thing to do.
You guys tour a lot. You headline, you play with bigger bands. Do you prefer to headline or open for a bigger named band?
I honestly like to switch it up because what we are doing right now, this co-headliner — I love RX Bandits and I love all the bands that are playing with us — it’s kind of a weird middle ground where our fans come and leave and their fans come and leave and I know that we are playing to a few new listeners, but, I don’t know. It’s kind of nice to be the headliner and play the set you want to play. On the other end of things, it’s nice to play with someone who is way bigger than you. RX Bandits are pretty much on our level. Some of our tours that have helped us have been with bands that are much bigger, whether it’s a big pop act or a big underground act. We like to tour a lot. If it’s a choice between touring and not touring, we’ll do the tour.
Do you enjoy touring, then?
Yes and no. I enjoy being home, but when I’m home I want to be on the road. It’s definitely a weird lifestyle, trying to remain healthy and be rested. But I love it. I love traveling. We meet a lot of interesting people and it’s fun to perform. It has its pros and cons.
Your music has been described as progressive, rock, metal, alternative, indie, pop, and everything in between. How do you describe your sound?
I said this a while ago in an interview. I think we are void rock. We are kind of in-between everything. We are not a big band. We’re not way underground. We are not part of any scene. We are just caught up in this void, which is both good and bad. I see bands that are somewhat attached to us and I think it helps because we can latch on a little easier. We’ve always been that band. It’s good because we’ve been on tour with a broad range of acts. We’ve toured with Hoobastank and then we went on tour with Coheed & Cambria. We’ve toured with Ozomatli. It’s a pretty wide array of bands and genres, which is cool because we aren’t really latched on to anything. We’re stuck in a void pretty much. It’s void rock. We don’t have a defined demographic. One of the members of RX Bandits was saying that our fanbase is so strange. He’s like, “I’ll be standing next to a guy who’s a metalhead and next to him is a clean cut dude and next to him is a 45-year-old guy with a Yes shirt on.” So that is cool that our music can unite. Going back to the way we write, we have different influences and different styles which lends itself to a bunch of different listeners.
How did you come up with the band name Dredg?
It was a long time ago. I think 1993. We were playing a high school talent show and we were doing cover songs and we just had a list of names and narrowed it down to Woven and Dredg and we just picked Dredg. There wasn’t any thought behind it or anything. We just kept it for a while and we started getting a lot of fans and before we knew it, we were like, “Well, we can’t change it now.” As we’ve said before, we’re not a huge fan of the name. Whenever we tell someone our band name they are always like, “What? Trench?” (Laughs). They don’t understand at first.
So if you had the opportunity to change it, would you?
I don’t know. That’s a tough question. We probably would if everyone knew that we changed it. The band makes the name eventually no matter how shitty the name is.
When your tour ends in August, what are your plans? You said you were going to take a couple of weeks off, but have you started writing a new album or anything?
Yeah, I’ve started working on some lyrical things for the next record. Just some things on my own. I think everyone is doing that individually. I doubt we are going to get into a studio and start working on a record right away. I know we are overseas in November, over in Europe, and then we might possibly go straight to Australia, which would be a first for us. September and October are kind of up in the air. We’re doing the Salman Rushdie thing on October 1. We basically are out shopping for a support tour. I think we’ve done enough headlining and co-headlining for the past few months that we are trying to get on a bigger tour and get some new listeners. That’s kind of the plan, but we don’t have anything concrete yet, except going out of the country.
Do you enjoy going overseas?
I love it. Obviously the vacation aspect alone, being in Europe is a lot of fun and we’ve made a lot of friends over there. It’s nice to go back and see them. We get treated pretty well there.
You guys are pretty popular overseas, is there any specific area that you enjoy visiting more than others?
From a success standpoint, Germany is by far our best country. We like the surrounding areas, Austria and Switzerland. We had probably one of our best shows in London when we were there last month. In Italy we have great shows. Dino, our drummer, is Italian so they freak out on him. [Laughs] We’ve played in Barcelona. I love Barcelona. I hope we can expand a little more like to the Netherlands. We’d really like to hit Portugal, Eastern Europe as well. Some of those markets we get a lot of emails from: Turkey, the Czech Republic and so on.
Are you excited to go down to Australia for the first time?
Yeah, it’s going to be amazing. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Australia; the places and people and whatnot. And it will be summer there.
Your new album is fantastic. I really enjoy it. Do you have anything else that people might want to know about you or the band?
I think you covered it all pretty much. I guess… I mean, I’m an adopted child and I recently found a lot of my biological family. They ended up all being musicians, and I have a half-sister who’s an opera singer on the east coast. So that’s been pretty interesting.
And you just found out about them?
Yeah, I met them about three months ago. So, I’ve been in touch with them a lot. I met about 20 of my cousins and my half-sister.
How long had you been researching this?
At least five years. It was always something where I’d go online and just browse around and there was a re-occurring theme that I looked into. Finally, I found her on Facebook. It was a shot in the dark, but it ended up being worth the effort. It’s cool.
That’s really cool. What did they think when they found out that you were related?
They were obviously excited. I expected the worst. I was expecting rejection, but they have been really welcoming and really cool. They are always in touch with me now. They are a great family. It made it even that much more special. They weren’t even surprised that I played music. They were like, “Oh, that’s what everyone does in our family.” It’s cool though. It shows that there is some genetic aspect at work when it comes to music and other things because I didn’t grow up with them at all and pursued the same ideas. My father was a bass player. They all play traditional music and there are a lot of them. At least half of the people I’ve met are musical in some manner.
That’s pretty amazing. Congratulations.
Thanks a lot!