2005 interview with John Dufilho of The Deathray Davies
Interview Questions for John Dufilho / The Deathray Davies conducted and written by Kristin Angelique.
This interview took place by e-mail in the fall of 2005.
Kristin: Where were you born? Where else have you lived besides Dallas? How long have you been living in Dallas as of this year (2005)?
John: Born in San Antonio, moved to Dallas in 1997.
Kristin: What is/are your earliest recollection/s of being drawn to/inspired by music?
John: Bongo Joe. He was a street musician in downtown SA! I was about 7 years old, walking around downtown with my parents. He stopped me and asked if I wanted to play drums with him! Never been the same since...
Kristin: Do you remember when you first decided that you wanted be a singer/musician? Then what happened?
John: Never thought of being a singer, always wanted to be a drummer. Still not sure what happened!
Kristin: Who were some of the first artists/bands that you especially liked when you were a kid, an older kid, a teenager?
John: The Ramones! They had the biggest impact on me as a kid. Then The Clash then The Beatles Stones Dylan On and on from there
Kristin: When you were younger - and even now - what were/are some things you aspired to do and or got to do?
John: Record my own music, tour with a band. Probably the biggest thrill is when others sing my words back to me at a show!
Kristin: When I first met you in Dallas, in 1999, I remember you had just recorded - what I believe was your first DRD album - "DRINK WITH THE GROWN-UPS AND LISTEN TO THE JAZZ". Were you also playing in a band called Legendary Crystal Chandelier at that time?
John: Yeah - Peter Schmidt is a great singer/songwriter. I was playing drums for him at the time.
Kristin: What was/were the first band(s) - all the bands you have participated in - prior to The Deathray Davies? Please tell as much as you want about these experiences
John: I played drums in an alt. country band in SA. Then gtr in a band called "13" after that Jason (the DRD's bass player) and I started a punk band called "Bedwetter". Jason is also an amazing drummer (the loudest on the planet) so I've been playing with him for quite some time now.
Kristin: I remember playing that CD (Drink with the grown-ups) for the first time (I think it was April or May, 1999 : ) - and thinking that it was really awesome and special - and being excited that I was friends with the cool person who made it. Then - when I realized you were playing all the instruments on the CD yourself - then I was even more amazed, and very impressed! What was the recording/engineering process for that CD?
John: That was the first time I'd ever attempted recording on my own - I've been addicted ever since. I usually start with drums, play to a click track imagine the song in my head, then bass, gtr, keys, and anything I can get my hands on. I'm kind of a terrible singer, so it's easier for me to sing when no one's around too.
Kristin: When you first invited people to play with you - was that out of a necessity - like for performing the songs live - or did you always intend to make the The Deathray Davies a full band - or did this come about through some sort of evolution? Who all has played with you - who are your band mates now? Are you still the primary songwriter or is this sometimes a group effort now?
John: At first it was out of necessity - I needed a band to play SXSW that I'd been invited to. We've gone through a bunch of line-ups (the first version or 2 were just friends I'd borrowed from other bands). The current line-up is permanent: Jason Garner - bass. Mike Middleton - gtr. Kevin Ingle - noise/shakers. Robert Anderson - drums. Chad Ferman - keys. I still write all the songs music.
Kristin: I have 4 DRD CDs - and a vinyl 7" - I don't know if this is everything but I have read all the lyrics you made available with what I do have. To me, like most great songwriting - your lyrics read like poems - all of them! Some of them could almost qualify as haikus - like "dear in the headlights", "I WAS THAT MASKED MAN" and especially "Starting to Stop".
John: Thanks! I take my time with lyrics. They're really important - nice to hear you're paying attention! We've actually got 5 CD's out now 2 acoustic CD's (under the name "I Love Math". I've got a solo CD coming out Oct. 18th as well....
Kristin: I also notice that a lot of your lyrics have a conversational quality to them - whether the character is speaking to their self or delivering a short monologue, or engaging in or recalling a dialogue with someone else. Are some of your songs born out of real-life conversations - your own or ones you maybe overheard? Do you sometimes just make them up - are they totally imaginary situations or are they things you meant to say or might have said - or whatever - I'm just making guesses.
John: Mostly imaginary - a few songs are specific, but I think I like it better when people come up with their own interpretations. Much more interesting that way; at least to me.
Kristin: I love it that you've written not just wonderful songs with these words - but that when I read them in print - they are equally compelling. If I had only read the lyrics and not heard them put to music - I might never guess that they were even meant to be songs - or even if you could pull it off - but you do! It gives me hope for all the poems I've written - that maybe if I just play with them long enough - they could be songs after all. And also - that - who needs a chorus I forget sometimes - that there really are no rules for creativity - and songwriting is always best when it's creative and not any formula - still like really all art and the artists who create it - you do develop your own language - your style - well, usually - and as an artist myself I am always fascinated to hear artists tell about their process of having an idea and transforming it into something that is beautiful, exceptional and special. Your music is very inspiring to me as a creative person and I will be very honored if you tell me stuff about you writing songs and making music.
John: Thank you! Mostly it's just writing a lot - I'll get inspired by something I've read or something I've heard. Strangely it comes more from books than other music. I usually come up with an idea quickly, and then it takes a while to get it right and say exactly what I'm trying to get down. Every once in a while the whole thing will come out in 5 minutes I love when that happens. It's a little spooky - like it's coming from somewhere else.
Kristin: Since when you first started The Deathray Davies as a solo project and now that there's other people in the band - have you yourself noticed any kind of a shift in your songwriting that is a result of writing for a whole group vs. writing for just yourself?
John: I'm more aware of whether it's something we can play at a show now. This, I think, is both good and bad....
Kristin: As a reader/listener - I take note that a lot of the songs since your first album still seem to be narrated in the first character Is it any different now for you - writing about your personal experiences (assuming that any of your lyrics actually are based on your personal experiences) - do you write for yourself first or do you write with the rest of the band - or both - and sorry if this question makes no sense! Musically speaking - I imagine that with a whole band behind you - this gives you even more possibilities as a writer.
John: I try to twist them up / write about something other than myself. I like to take on characters and imagine other lives. It's strange writing for a whole band, but I'm lucky because they trust in what I'm doing and seem to encourage it.
Kristin: I think I saw you play on tour maybe 4 or 5 times? Twice in Denver and at least twice here in Portland I remember you played with Dressy Bessy in Denver and then after that it was with Superdrag. The Portland shows were with The Apples In Stereo (and The Belles from Lawrence, Kansas also played that show - they were really good!) and then the next time in Portland was with the Starlight Mints (and Dressy Bessy again!) I feel like I'm forgetting a show though I remember we were both at Elliott Smith's show at Trees (March 1999) and the OLD 97's CD release party for Fight Songs at the Barley House - and they surprised everyone by bringing John Doe with them on stage - they'd just recorded their song with him for The Knitters tribute (May 1999) - but anyway - I never did get to see you play in Dallas before I had to move - so I am super lucky you ended up doing so much touring! You are about to depart - or are on tour right now - with The Posies! By the time this interview is published - you'll be all done - but anyways - SUPER GOOD LUCK TO YOU & HAVE FUN!! Can you remember all the bands you have toured with and/or approximately how many tours you've engaged in?
John: Old 97's, Superdrag, The Starlight Mints, Centro-Matic, Dressy Bessy, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Louis XIV, Arlo We've played shows done short trips with The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Pete Yorn, The Apples In Stereo, Spoon, The Breeders, The Walkmen, Superchunk, Jimmy Eat World Oh god - too many to name here. We've been really fortunate to get to play with such great bands.... And now The Posies!
Kristin: In general, how do these tours get arranged - do the bands choose who they want to tour with or are you all with the same touring agency? How much involvement do you have in planning your tours? I don't know that you actually have any advice to give on this subject - but just in case - do you have any good advice for bands who are trying to get hooked up with a touring agency? Do you mind telling me how you came to find one and what it took to get them to take you on as a client?
John: Most of the longer trips we've done have come through bands asking us to go on the road with them. We do have a great booking guy though - he heard us open for the Old 97's in Boston and has been amazing to us since.
Kristin: What's the latest news on The Deathray Davies? The last time I saw you, you were expecting to release another album - is it ready yet? What label(s) are you working with now? This interview will probably be published sometime in October (2005) - at this time, do you know any tour plans or anything that far (or even farther) ahead?
John: We just released "The Kick and the Snare" on Glurp Records; they put out our last CD as well. Touring with The Posies right now - we've also just got an offer to release the new CD in Europe; so we're hoping to do some touring over there next year
Kristin: I know that - I Love Math - is a completely different music project you are involved with - but if you don't mind - I'd love to hear you tell me all about this band of yours, too! First off, I'd like to say that - being a fan of your music and a seriously hardcore Old 97's fan - I think it's so awesome that you and Philip Peeples are in a band together. He is such a totally f**king amazing drummer!! I have one I Love Math CD - are there more? Do you think you guys might tour sometime? How often do you get together and write stuff, rehearse, play shows This particular band name - am I right about this- that it was inspired by your wife or at least her T-shirt? (Somebody who knows you guys told me that at one of your DRD shows unless I dreamed this!)
John: I Love Math just finished our 2nd CD - it's coming out in Jan. I think... We play in between The DRD and Old 97's schedule it's turning into a really cool thing. We're hoping to do some touring after the new one comes out. My wife suggested the name I think; she's funny that way...
Kristin: I asked you about who your favorite artists/bands making music were growing up as a kid/teenager - what about in say the last 10 years up to now - who are some of your favorite musicians?
John: Sparklehorse, The Replacements were great Spoon, The Flaming Lips, GBV, Yo La Tengo, did I mention Sparklehorse?
Kristin: Are there any "lesser known" bands that you like that you'd like to take this opportunity to mention - so that myself and other readers will hopefully check them out and/or if we see they are playing our town - we'll try to make it down to their show?
John: I think that Centro-Matic is better known than we are (so I'm not sure they fit under "lesser known"), but they should own the planet by now!
the deathray davies
march 27, 2005
photographs by kristin angelique
Interview conducted/written by Kristin Angelique.
Copyright John Dufilho and Kristin Angelique.
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