"It's Just Trance Music, Really"
An Interview With Tim Holmes From Death in Vegas
The Crimson managed to grab a few words with an affable Tim Holmes, one half of the minds behind Death in Vegas, before the band's performance at the Paradise two Wednesdays ago.
The Harvard Crimson: How's the tour going so far?
Tim Holmes: Good. Well, we've had a few problems. Only technical, slight weirdness going on, but that's to be expected.
THC: So it's good overall?
TH: Yeah, It's really good. I mean, we sold out in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle was nearly full, New York was about 800, I think, out of a capacity of a thousand.
THC: Would you say you prefer touring to recording?
TH: I like both, actually, for different reasons. I mean, every time you play live, you capture that moment, whereas if you're in a studio, you can go back and fix things, but it's a totally different vibe.
THC: You and Richard write most of the songs, right? Is there any special way you split it up, or is it spontaneous?
TH: No, I mean, Richard's role is kind of like a producer. We both produce and write, but I'm actually the hands-on guy; Richard doesn't really touch the gear. Well, he does, but when he does, we slap his hand. [Laughs]
THC: Do you play any instruments?
TH: I play bass very badly, keyboards equally as badly. We just kind of sequence it and stuff, and you can play badly and repair it, and then you can get someone who really can play to come in and do it live, so we get by.
THC: You had a lot of collaborators on the last album--were there any collaborators you wanted but couldn't get?
TH: Yeah, we don't know if he said no, because we didn't really hear
back at all. Jason Pierce, from Spiritualized. We sent him a track, and the day we sent him the track, I read in the music press--NME [Britain's New Musical Express magazine]--and it said Jason Pierce has been advised to rest, he's suffering from nervous exhaustion and he's been told by his doctors to rest, so...
THC: So you don't know what he thought?
TH: No, I don't even know if he listened to it, actually.
THC: Is there anyone you've thought of that you'd like to work with, but haven't had the chance to yet?
TH: We've got ideas for the next album, yeah.
THC: Anybody in particular that you want to ask, or is that secret?
TH: It's secret at the moment, yeah.
THC: Growing up, what do you think were your major musical influences?
TH: Right...The Ramones, Velvet Underground, Stooges. Moving on into punk, the Ramones, UK punk, then you kind of get into reggae, dub reggae...
THC: Like Lee Perry, King Tubby?
TH: Yeah, especially King Tubby, that kind of stuff. The Clash, of course. And then I kind of took a step back from what I think of as guitar-based music, when hip-hop started to kick off and got into that and then techno and a lot of electronic music. Kraftwerk were massive influences. I got into Detroit techno, especially early Detroit techno, Chicago house, and then I think it got a bit lame, it got a bit boring, and it got a bit obvious, and that's when I started going back to guitar-based stuff and Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth... Sonic Youth--awesome!
THC: It definitely seems that the first album was more electronic than the second one. Do you see that as a progression, or just coincidence? Is the third album going to be more like the second one, or go back to more electronic stuff?
TH: That's the good thing, we really don't know. I mean, the last track we did was a completely live 12-piece thing in the studio, and it sounds like an old Stax record--it's called "One More Time"--and, well, that's the fun thing. We might start off with a noise, an acid noise, something like that, and do a four-to-the-floor beat on it, and then you go "no, it needs live drums," so you get live drums, and guitars, but still keep it acid music.
THC: Your last album was very rock-oriented, but it seemed to me that the key element was the sense of groove--that the rhythm, the sense of repetition was the most important element.
TH: Repetition, definitely. That can be found in many different kinds of music. You got dub, where it's so stripped down it just goes down to repeating bass line and drums. Dub and acid house, where you'll just repeat a riff.
THC: I thought it was interesting that you mentioned Velvet Underground. I can definitely see a similarity between your music and something like "Sister Ray," with that almost intense repetition.
TH: Yeah, and when you repeat something, and you repeat it and repeat it and repeat it, even if you just change it subtly, the changes become more apparent. It's just trance music, really. It's not trance in that, you know, Paul Oakenfold-style trance music, but it's trance-inducing music.
THC: Are there any new releases that you really like?
TH: There's a band called Clinic--I don't know if you've ever heard of them--they're an English band. If you can get a copy, check it out, because it's like Beach Boys meets Suicide, but they've got a girl singer. It's punk as well, but it's very, very modern sounding. I've been playing that a lot. I actually just gave that away the other day to someone who hadn't heard it.
THC: Do you guys listen to the radio a lot when you're touring? Do you get a different sense of the type of popular music around here versus in England?
TH: Well, the stations here are so...you've got your rock station, you've got your R&B stations, you've got your hip-hop stations... I tend not to listen. I don't listen a lot to the radio anyway. I mean, I listen to Radio Three at home, which is a classical music station, because if you spend all your life making loud rock music, you get home and you want something a bit easier on your ears.
THC: Do you think British radio is more eclectic than American radio?
TH: It's not very good at the moment, British radio. I'm seriously thinking that we could start a pirate radio station that's going to play across the board, from punk to techno to dub, but just underground music, because most stations in the U.K., they have advertising, so they have to find a mainstream audience, to sell adverts. [BBC] Radio One, evening-time, is bearable... you know John Peel? He's probably the most famous radio DJ in the U.K. He's always interesting, but I don't really listen to the radio or watch TV.
THC: That's probably better for you. I guess I just have one more question, but it's kind of a cheesy one. Do you think there are three words that describe your sound, if you really had to narrow it down?
TH: Electronic soul music.
For a review of Death in Vegas' recent concert at the Paradise, see page B-2