On the 5th of August 2018 I interviewed Simon Dawes of many bands.
The conversation was jovial.
Ez: Do I – Does that – did that – I’m guessing it did. It disappeared?
Simon: Yep. Drag that into the bin. That ejects it.
Ez: This is what I’ll type up. I’m not going to type up anything else. We’re gonna do a however long interview and this will be what [is] typed up. Just you telling me how to operate a fucking Mac. Um… So, shall we begin?
Simon: Alright, cool. How do you do your thing?
Ez: Well normally I just ask questions, I fumble my way and somehow people think I’m a good interviewer.
Simon: I’m into this. I’m into fraudulence.
Ez: It’s not fraudulence. It’s managing to bullshit my way through life. I’ve worked in call centres for a long time. It’s the one skill I have.
Simon: I’m in a progressive metal band.
Ez: I thought it was jazz.
Simon: I have no fucking clue what we are.
Ez: Porn grind?
Simon: Not quite, no. It’s a little less uh…
Ez: Sophisticated? Suave?
Simon: (Laughter) Definitely those.
Ez: Alrighty. So, Simon Timothy Dawes, of many, many bands; hello.
Simon: Hello! Again.
Ez: Which seems like a fucking bullshit way to start.
So anyway, you play guitar.
Simon: I do. I bullshit my way into making people think I can play a guitar.
Ez: I can’t believe I’m doing this. This is already the worst interview I’ve ever conducted. Um…
Simon: You should try conducting Violence in Action.
Ez: I don’t know. Maybe I could do a good job.
Simon: That’s pretty good actually.
Ez: Maybe. No, I don’t think I could do a good job. No fucking idea of do I (random hand actions signifying that I have no idea of how to conduct a band).
Simon: (Laughter) Help.
Ez: Yeah help. You do the thing, you do the thing, you slow down and you speed up and slow down whilst speeding up.
Yeah no, so you play guitar. You recently released a second E.P. under Instrumental (adj.).
Ez: It was a number of… two years after your first E.P.? Three-ish?
Simon: Yeah, it’d be two. Two-and-a-half.
Ez: Why the distance?
Simon: ‘Cause life happens. And it would take us a while anyway, ’cause it’s pretty involved music. There’s a lot of concepts which is good because it kind of gives us stuff to work with, but as a result there’s a lot of trial and error and there’s a lot of having a section of a song written and going “Turns out this isn’t leading us to where we need this song to go, so all of the weeks or months that we spent doing that is (smack sound). That’s all gone, we’re going to have to try another way.”
There’s heaps of fucking up and heaps of time spent developing the ideas, and also so many concepts gives you so many ideas for material and then you’ve got to whittle it down.
The writing process for us is having a whole fuck-ton of puzzle pieces and then having pieces of a puzzle that isn’t part of what you need, so trying to figure out what fits and what’s actually meant to go there just takes forever.
Things just get in the way. Takes its time.
Ez: Is that also part of the reason as to why Insta [started making] an album and it was another E.P.?
Simon: Yeah, we originally started with the idea of an album and as it just kept getting longer and longer – not the material, but the time that it was taking – it was just like “Fuck it; these three are pretty much ready to go and they will fit in to the parameters we were trying to write to anyway, for the album. So, you know; another short, aggressive punch.”
Ez: Well, it’s very full sounding in a lot of ways without taking up all the space. It’s very methodical in a lot of ways as well. Did it take a long time to record after composition finished?
Simon: Yeah. There was that – again, life happens.
We released it I think in February or March of this year. There was a day where we actually had the anniversary of when we recorded the drums.
(Since the interview Simon has advised that the drum were recorded in February 2017).
Simon: It was like “You’ve got to be fucking kidding man. This has been happening for a year and it’s still not out”. It’s like, what; seventeen minutes. It’s three songs. Come on.
But yeah. We have our other commitments. We have our setbacks.
Ez: It’s called Reductio ad Absurdum. Could you explain the title, Mr. Dawes?
Simon: It’s already something that I’ve kind of forgotten. It appealed as just, it rolls off the tongue, so it sounded like a cool title for an album, or E.P. in this case.
It also kind of fit in with the tone that we’d set with A Series of Disagreements.
I remember our sound guy [was] overseas with another band a while ago, and when he came back he said “Someone was talking about you guys overseas. They were asking me what it sounds like”. And I said “Oh, what did you tell ’em?”, and he said “Well, my answer was ‘Well, it’s called a series of disagreements’, and that’s pretty much what it sounds like.”
So we set a bit of a tone there.
o Reductio ad absurdum being like uh… kind of like a way of winning an argument. It’s a bit of a strawman thing.
If someone makes an assertion and you want to disprove them, you reduce the argument to… you find the most absurd, inevitable consequence of what they’re saying. You go “Well if you’re saying that, then this must be true and that’s not possible. Therefore (snap sound)”.
This is a really shitty way of explaining it but it’s just a way of definitely refuting a point that someone’s making which kind of suits us pretty well. (Laughter) Like juvenile debate tactics. But it also fit in because we were trying to write an album that had an A and a B part in every song.
So it was going to be, set the stage with the first half of the song being pretty absurd. We’re very absurd, technical and busy and we jump around a fair bit so it’s already going to be tough to listen to, and then the B was going to take that and tip it over the edge. Just go next level, whatever next level is. Make it, you know, more tense, more intense, more technical, more fucked up. Just reduce it to its bare elements, as in like the seeds, the motifs and the concepts and whatever makes up the first part of the song, and then re-regurgitate them in a much more involved and complicated way. Just make it more absurd.
I think we kind of failed, actually (laughter), but the songs still turned out… engaging, so I’m fine. I’m fine with failure.
Ez: Well I hope you are in this case because when I reviewed [it] I clearly got the wrong thing. I can’t remember what I wrote when I reviewed it, but it was something about [how it was] really good.
Maybe it’s myself and many others who missed the absurdist part.
Simon: It wasn’t meant to be absurd in some sort of comical…
Ez: What, like Darth Vegas, or Tism-type manner?
Simon: Are we going to name drop bands?
Ez: No. Fuck. Sorry. Well I can edit that out later.
Simon: It wasn’t meant to be… You know when Rage played their weirdo night years ago and it was like “Some of this is really great but some is like grow up guys”, or “Find a better shtick”? It wasn’t meant to be that absurd in like a humour-type thing, although we definitely do have a lot of jokes running in our music, but it was more like absurd as in “what the fuck is going on? This is ridiculous”. Almost to the point of “What is the point of what we’re doing?”
But unfortunately we still like to write songs, so we retained some sense of narrative instruction.
Shit answer to that question. I apologise.
Ez: To be fair, it’s a shit question.
Simon: I’m alright with that question.
Ez: Well, you don’t have any choice. You’ve got to look good. Remember, I’m blowing smoke up your ass. All you have to do is look good.
Simon: What I’m remembering is you may have the master recording, but no one will hear it. You’re gonna type this into words and you can put any word in place of any other word, so I’ve got to be very careful with what I say.
Ez: I also have to be very careful because I know that you edit words, and thus if you being an editor of words [had] known that someone typing the words edited the words that were said, then you could refute those words with far better English than I could.
Simon: Oh… but I wouldn’t have access to master recording, to prove… that… anyway…
(Laughter) I wouldn’t be able to prove your malice.
Ez: It would be easy to prove.
But anyway, outside of Instrumental (adj.) you play in a few other bands.
Simon: Hashashin. I did a handful of shows this year and last year.
There’s a guitarist named Jack Tickner who plays in a band from Wollongong called Basil’s Kite. Pretty awesome umm… I think they’ve been described as a punk band or metal band that heard mathcore and just went nuts. I really like those guys and Jack’s really lovely and he moved up here a while ago. He’s been dabbling with microtonal tunings and middle-eastern tunings, stuff like that for his solo work.
Taking a guitar, pulling the frets off it and putting in new frets to meet these new tuning systems.
I guess it’s noise rock. Like a punk element, but not punk as in the genre. Punk as in the DIY attitude. He’s doing that but with microtonal tuning systems on guitars. Did that with him a while ago. That was cool.
Filled in for SEIMS a couple of times recently. Their synth player and trumpeter wasn’t able to make two shows so they got a guitarist to do that even though they have a guitarist.
Ez: Was it Paul Merchison?
Simon: No, Murch left about two years ago. But it is Paul. Paul Mayo, who is awesome.
So there’s that…
Anything that’s kind of weird or requires a very odd selection of sounds, I kind of seem to be the guy.
People [are] like “Hey man, we need something really stupid to go right here. Can you do that?”, which I find very funny and also very flattering. There’s stuff with Jack where [he’s] like “Hey man, I’m writing stuff on a microtonal guitar. I don’t know anyone else who can do it. Can you do this?”
So, if it’s weird, or hard, I tend to pop my head up and go “Give me that shit man, give me that job”.
Ez: I’ll ask you a slightly leading question. Why do you think people define things of that music as being hard?
Simon: I have to think about that question. I have to think about where you’re leading.
Ez: It’s leading into itself. It’s leading as it’s kind of closed. There’s no real openness to it.
Simon: Why do people use terminology like difficult and hard with music?
Ez: Well not so much why they use terminology because terminology is used to define things, give them meaning based on [a] common set of…
This is gonna end up going from an interview to a discussion about language, but anyway…
Why do you think they think things in music are hard?
Simon: It depends. Do you mean, why would, say, a guitar student who’s not practising enough go “This is hard”, or do you mean someone who’s written a piece that’s more challenging than the average type of song?
Ez: I’d say more challenging than the average, because you do things that are either stupid or hard. I don’t think you used stupid though.
Simon: (Laughter) Let’s go with that though. That’s about it really. You’ve heard Reductio ad Absurdum.
Ez: I have heard it and I don’t think it’s stupid.
Simon: I think they (people) think this stuff is hard because it exists… I think it’s because the music is unconventional in some sense, whether its song structures are difficult, or just choppy, or whether it’s because the actual sequences of notes really physically demand a lot of focus or a lot of time to get them under your fingers.
Whatever it is, there’s some element to it that just makes it… not as easy as something that might be a little bit more listenable, I suppose.
Ez: Part of the reason why I ask is because you said the hard thing, but also [because of] something I read – and you’re probably familiar with this yourself – when a teacher is teaching a student to play something, they won’t tell ’em it’s easy or it’s hard because the moment they start telling ’em it’s hard, they’re gonna have more difficulty actually learning it.
Does that actually help put it in a better context?
Simon: Yes it does, but it starts me thinking more about me than these composers who write hard stuff, ’cause I look at this stuff and go “Yeah, that’s pretty tricky to do. I want to be able to do it”. So I guess it’s like gratification, but that doesn’t answer the question because that’s more about me than them.
Ez: Well, you know, music is part ego anyway, so…
Simon: I’m all ego.
Ez: That’s fine by me. I thought you were like flesh and blood, but if you’re all ego you’re doing well maintaining a corporeal form.
Simon: I guess people –
Ez: I thought you were opulence.
Simon: I am opulence.
I guess people might use that type of terminology… I don’t know. I don’t know why they do anything. Why write music though?
This is going to start my own existential crisis.
Ez: (Laughter) Well, I mean, we write music because… I had one of my course coordinators in one of the few subjects that I have enjoyed…
So I’m doing marine science, right? But I did Australian literature last year in first semester, because I like writing a lot and I like reading. I’m not a competent guitarist, I’m not a competent writer by any means. You have no idea what you’re talking about.
Ez: There was a student in there who was doing musical composition and I got into a debate with him because I’m ageist.
This led to us asking the course coordinator about [whether a recording of a spoken story] was kind of musical, or not. He said “Well music is the closest representation we have of expressing the inexpressible”, so that’s probably a lot to do with why we do music.
Ez: So you don’t need to have an existential crisis.
But yeah, it’s kind of interesting though because regardless of that music is kind of an egotistical thing.
But anyway, so you play guitar.
Simon: (Laughter) Yeah.
Ez: You play rock music, you play metal.
Simon: I suppose.
Ez: What is it with the musical community’s obsession with geology?
Simon: (Laughter) We haven’t asked the jazz community that question though.
Ez: Well they’re not the rock community, are they?
Simon: No, they’re not the rock community. Right, so it’s not the musical community, it’s the rock and metal community’s obsession.
Ez: Well they are the musical community in this instance.
Simon: They’re the only musical community.
Ez: And which metal minerals are they obsessed with?
Simon: I would like to know that [answer] ’cause I’m a Sabbath fan. Well, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Black Sabbath.
I think the term was borne in a review of their show or album – don’t know which one – where they said it sounded like heavy metal clanging together. Apparently that’s the beginning of “heavy metal”.
What metals were clanging together to make that sound? That’s the best I can answer that question.
Ez: Tony Iommi, wasn’t he working in a sheet metal factory when he lost his fingers?
Simon: He was working in a sheet metal factory so you’d be looking at some form of aluminium, or… What’s the big tall shit that people make fences out of?
Ez: I don’t know.
Simon: I don’t know.
Simon: Some form of steel.
Simon: Um, yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know what their obsession with it is. To actually answer your question, what’s the obsession with, what was it? Geography?
Ez: Well we all know the obsession with geology, ’cause you’ve got to get around and play shows.
Simon: The obsession with geology… I can’t answer that question, but I have a question of my own which is; what is their obsession with metal? Just as in being so devout and so elitist and cult about it all? It’s like there’s a race or a competition to the most pious, almost. Like I said earlier, it’s almost a bit of a church for these guys.
I remember talking with a dude once about Faith no More, and they’ve come up three times today already, so you can tell I’ve got a bit of a thing for them.
I was talking to a dude from a thrash band years ago about Faith no More and I fucking love this band right? And he’s like “Oh, that’s shit! There’s no guitar solos in it”, which is wrong, but why that matters… There’s plenty of guitar solos in ’em, but that shouldn’t matter at all.
“All these singalong, like poppy, catchy vocal melodies”. Mike Patton has written some of the most unique – catchy, yeah, very catchy – the most unique and interesting vocal lines in all pop music for the last… when did they start? ’88… so thirty odd years. Yeah, thirty years.
Ez: They started in ’81.
(Faith no more formed in 1979).
Simon: They did, but Patton joined in ’88. ’89 was The Real Thing, so yeah. “No skank beats and no thrash beats”. I get where [the conversation with this thrash guy] is going and it is “THEY’RE NOT METAL.”. What is wrong with that?
So bizarre, the exclusivity of it all. Fuck man, heaven forbid the day that Dave Lombardo actually might’ve been allowed to play a jazz beat in a Slayer song, which is weird ’cause those same guys would probably dig Fantômas.
Simon: Probably because Dave’s in it. It’s just so fucking weird, man. Anyway.
Ez: So, Instrumental (adj.), some would describe –
Ez: Some would also describe it as sui generis technical metal of sorts. How does this link to Kurushimi?
Simon: Um –
Ez: Actually wait, let me wind that back. I’ll get back to that in a moment.
Are Kurushimi and Inustrmental (adj.) your main works?
Simon: Insty’s where I put most of my creative time. Kurushimi is literally show up.
There are a set bunch of parameters by which I operate within that group. Some of those were set by the group leader and some of those were deemed necessary by me. To get into musical terminology, I’m using a lot of minor chords, diminished chords, sharp dissonances so major sevenths and flat nines or flat twos. They add to a sense of tension and I generally will play pretty aggressively and try to fit the role, basically. It’s meant to be a pretty aggressive band. I don’t see it as a metal band. I don’t know that we are a – you were saying we are a progressive metal band. I don’t know if we are that metal. I know that aesthetically it is there, but I think it’s more it’s so heavy. At least the first album.
Ez: Wait, are you talking about Kurushimi now?
So with Kurushimi it’s like show up, I have those parameters, and that’s it so there’s not much homework that I have to do. I’ve already done that homework years ago when I was a metal fan. I know what works as dark and tense sounds go, whereas with Instrumental there’s room for improvisation but it’s very, very methodical and very structured and very conceptualised.
We spend a lot of time figuring out what time signatures we’re using and where beats are going and we fuck with them a lot, and we do that to alleviate our own boredom and to push each other, but it’s much more consuming in terms of time and preparation, so there’s that.
Kurushimi’s just fun for me. It’s a really good outlet, whereas Instrumental is obviously a good outlet, but it’s something that I invest a lot more of myself into, that’s for sure.