{Xarriviewz III} DIMESLAND: Metal Beyond Confines of Genre

477581_10150692079619681_1796551149_oXV {Xarrier Vorticite}: What up led to the formation of Dimesland? {NC/ Nolan Cook, DC/ Drew Cook}

NC: Dimesland as we know it today is the result of a rather serpentine road that began when Drew and I were in our early 20s and just starting to write material together. At the time I was playing in heavy rock bands in Richmond, Virginia and Drew had been playing around a bit and we started meeting up and putting together these weird little dual-guitar compositions. Before we knew it we had 10 of 12 of them, eccentric things they were, as well as a mini-opera by the name of Noco Puente. We had also settled on a name for our project: Land of Thin Dimes. Just before we moved to California we entered the studio to make a record of our efforts. We enlisted a drummer and we had an engineer; everything else was done by us. That record was never released but we did send it to Guitar Player magazine and they wound up putting us in their feature called ‘Spotlight’. Similarly there was a blurb about it in the SF Weekly written by Neva Chovin.Once we were both living in San Francisco (after a seven-month stop by me in Hollywood to attend the Harmony and Theory program at Musicians Institute, a vocational music school) we gathered some friends and went about arranging the LoTD material for full rock band.

So what we then had was this kooky, idiosyncratic music being played with big amps and drums. We did some club shows and even backed up some experimental theatre performances. Eventually we went back into the studio, again on our own dime (sorry), and recorded our debut, self-titled release which was put out by Toadophile Records. Of course it was recorded fast and cheap. We also made a music video for the tune, A Dynasty That Never Was, directed by Tom Byrne. Shortly thereafter our lineup dissipated (a common theme with us) for various reasons that amounted to a lack of commitment and we started over with mostly new folks, recording a third album that ventured back toward a heavy progressive sound and that, alas, was again not released. And this lineup too fell apart. Oh the frustration. Somewhere in the middle of all of that I was hired by The Residents to play guitar in their three-night stand of Halloween shows at The Fillmore and subsequently do a U.S. and European tour to back up their album of time: Wormwood: Curious Stories From The Bible. When that final incarnation of LoTD split up I continued on with The Residents (or more appropriately, The Cryptic Corporation), and Drew did a stint in Los Angeles.

Throughout all of the above we were heavy into making recordings at home, first on Yamaha cassette 4-track machines and later various Roland digital recorders, and while apart from each other we started constructing new material, itching to get back to our first love, heavy rock and metal, with a twist of experimentation. Once we were rejoined, this time in Oakland, we found a more metal rhythm section, wrote a sets-worth of material, and did exactly three shows under the name Dimes, before that lineup disintegrated, this time due to drug abuse and paranoia. But did we give up at that point? Hell no, chief! We were more determined than ever to find exactly the right players and write exactly the right heavy, strange material and make an excellent recording of that material. And after a name change (to the current, Dimesland), and an EP entitled Creepmoon, for which we recruited a couple of ringers, we did just that. Drummer/audio manipulator Harland Burkhart and bassist/vocalist Greg Brace are the players we had always hoped to find and their talent freed us up to write whatever we wanted to in a challenging yet abstract metal style. Earlier this year we completed our first full-length recording, Psychogenic Atrophy. Dimesland-Psychogenic-Atrophy-02-500x333 (3)

XV: What was your band’s manifest in terms of having  predetermined goals of what genre within metal you were (or were not) going to set up camp in, and conversely what styles of music outside of metal were decided to be integral to the Dimesland sound?

NC: We have never really pre-planned our sound, at least not in any detail. All of our influences, regardless of genre, have always informed our writing. Aside from various metal and rock sub-genres we have long appreciated the strangeness in anything, the extra something that pushes an artist or band outside of the norm. We were also influenced by certain new wave, punk, post-punk, hardcore, R&B/Soul, psychedelic, pop, classical, and experimental music. And more, probably.

XV: Where and who have you shared bills with? Is your local scene of bands and the fans at shows in town receptive to a edgy/avant garde type of metal?  Do people out of town seem amazed or shocked or are your audiences very metalhead who can both understand your influences and how Dimesland has chosen to warp them into something original?

NC: We have been on shows with bands like Dysrhythmia, Melt Banana, Hammers of Misfortune, Gigan, Lord Dying, Giant Squid, Burmese, Hull, Plague Phalanx, Retox, Nasalrod, Apocryphon, Catacomb Creeps, and so on. We seem to get booked onto either strictly metal bills or slightly more eclectic ones. And then on occasion we get on shows with acts that are not really metal at all but are still heavy and/or offbeat. To a large extent, beyond people who we actually know, I cannot begin to pretend that I have insight into what the people who see or hear us might think or feel about what we do.

XV: Would you say that the journey from Creepmoon (released on Vendlus Records) to Psychogenic Atrophy (self released) is now it’s own tree growing independent of the forest of other metal bands, or were the previous bands you were in and saw perform crucial to where the Dimesland sound has arrived? Is it possible to reinvent and evolve on every release, or do you aim to define a territory of the Dimesland approach the way that certain major classic hard rock or metal bands did? Think Ramones, AC/DC, Motorhead not in style but just how they did one thing very well. Or like Voivod or Celtic Frost will Dimesland continue to take risks?

NC: I think that we are an interesting tree in that overgrown forest. And anything that one may experience artistically will in one way or another bring them to where they are at present, be it art, film, literature or what have you. It is absolutely possible to evolve with every release; I view that as a vital element in any pursuit. We do like to take chances and try things that we have not done before; there is an experimental zeal that definitely motivates us. It should be noted, however, that while all of this analysis is one thing, when it comes down to it we are writing from the inside, and our tendencies just seem to naturally be a bit off the beaten path.

XV: As you both grew up learning the guitar at what point did the eureka lightbulb moment of “Metal is where all the action is on guitar!” and start learning how to palm mute, arpeggio at speed and get into some upper fretboard-type solos? For the interviewer, as already remembered in a conversation with Nolan earlier, my Burning Bush on guitar was simply making the center section of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath sound tight. By projecting the coveted ‘heaviness’ by controlling the response of the strings. . .never did learn the jazzy chords in the quiet sections of the song, but it did awaken me that heaviness is a direct function of contrast with the less dense section in a tune. Any thoughts here?

DC: There wasn’t really a “eureka!” moment per se. I think a lot of the more metal guitar elements just morphed their way into our playing styles early on. Like you said, it was the kind of thing where you’re a kid playing along with The Who or Black Sabbath through a loud amp and the power and excitement is there and you want to take things a little further guitar-wise (only we would most likely learn the jazzy chords as well!). We would just seek out bands and guitarists of all sorts and check out their take on things.

XV: Having learned a bunch of primal early Frost riffs first {before the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath revelation} it seemed sometimes the noisier the better! That spectrum also helped, insofar as technique itself is great to learn so you can turn it on or off to create more raw or more focused riffs.

DC: I guess we do some noisier sections sometimes when that type of part is needed in a song. It’s usually within a rhythmic parameter, but the guitars are off in a random netherworld and will sound different each time that part is played. As structured as we are as writers, we try to have sections here and there where we really don’t know what we’re going to play each time- it’s fun!

XV: Is DIMESLAND truly metal for people who aren’t servants to metal?!?

DC: I don’t know the answer to that, and I’m late for my Telekinesis lesson.

XV: Let’s describe which amps, guitars and other instruments helped navigate your metal journey, to our understanding Nolan’s main axe is a Jackson Soloist {?} and Drew’s some sort of Carvin ‘superstrat‘?

DC: The Carvin is a Frankenstein guitar I’ve had forever and I love it. I’ve also been playing a Charvel Desolation for quite a while that I really like. I use Mesa amps and cabinets and a few choice pedals. This is the basic stuff that has been with me a long time and will probably remain.

NC: Dimesland uses guitars and drums ‘cuz they want the best. (Thanks, Melvins).

XV: Drew, how did you go from the proverbial garage jamming guitarist to a regional touring player? Did your move west step up your game or were you already woodshedding back in VA? Are you a believer in the two-guitar sound as the metal format, considering both your bands Wild Hunt and Dimesland feature that? Is the point interwoven riffology or having somebody cover the riffs while the other plays leads?

DimesFeat

 

DC: Back in RVA I was basically woodshedding and playing impromptu with various musicians there. I had a 4-track machine and lived for a while in a house where I had the whole upstairs floor. I had a drum kit up there and could make a lot of noise. I would make cassettes where I would play all the instruments and do everything myself and I would give them to friends. I guess when I moved to San Francisco in 1994 I was lucky to be immersed in a really vast underground metal scene, I was in the right place at the right time, and knew we could form a great band. Now I’ve been living in Oakland for a long time, and this is the home base for Dimesland and Wild Hunt. Oakland has a great and diverse underground metal/punk community. Answering the last question, I love bands that have one guitarist or two guitarists, it’s all about if it works- and I definitely like it if a band has two or three autoharp players.

XV: Nolan, How did moving west and joining the Residents cause you step up your game on the instrument? How coincidental was it you already had worked out a large portion of Snakefinger’s work (both with the Residents and solo) when you auditioned for the gig?

NC: It has never been the case that a particular band or entity I am involved with has directly caused me to step up my game, in terms of technique, on guitar. I’ve just always been in hot pursuit of improvement and expansion. However, from a creative standpoint the whole Residents/Cryptic Corporation odyssey has allowed me to indulge my imagination to a very satisfying degree and in ways that are outside of the realm of heavy rock and metal. As for Snakefinger, he was one of the people who demonstrated to me the value of personality in an instrumentalist. I was very drawn to his eccentric, madcap style, and his collaborations with Rez/Cryptic produced some fantastic material that I absolutely devoured when I first discovered it.

XV: Where is Dimesland now in terms of its lifespan & evolution? Where do the Brothers Cook intend to take the sound next? Although Psychogenic Atrophy is done, is the second one already written? Are demos starting or do you guys record straight to tape/hardrive only when cutting the final masters? Who engineers the recordings? Would you let a competent outside producer with sucess in having recorded tons of metal bands direct the sound to any degree, or maybe a off the wall choice like a non-metal specialist producer?

DC: We are always writing. There is definitely more extreme music we need to put out in the near future, but who knows- we’ve discussed maybe making a fervid ambient record at some point. As far as production goes, we’ve usually co-produced as a band with the engineer that we are working with. There is definitely something to be said about working with an engineer who knows how to record metal, but the main thing for us is to work with someone that is into the material and wants to make it sound really good, and in a great environment. A good sense of humor helps too…

~\/0r+!c!+!

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