Deerhoof's John Dieterich talks about his band's new album

Categories: Interview
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Art-rock quartet Deerhoof have made a semi-brilliant career out of atom-smashing together genres, gene-splicing musical tropes, and generally just being way more interesting than most of their peers. And since they're playing the Triple Rock Social Club tonight, Gimme Noise figured this would be a good time to pose a couple questions about schizophrenic new album Deerhoof vs. Evil, their working methods, and San Francisco.

Guitarist John Dieterich -- who's been a member of the band for a good 11 years of its 17-year run -- was happy to comply.

Gimme Noise: Are you patrons or fans of the visual arts? There's a vivid, painterly flair to your records that always makes me think that your homes are full of huge, colorful canvases.

We are fans of the visual arts, though none of us possess any huge, colorful canvases. I take that back. Ed [Rodriguez, guitarist] has some weird portrait of a poodle holding a koala bear in his living room.  
 
Tell me a bit about the new album. Why is it titled Deerhoof vs. Evil? Is there an overarching concept for storyline? And maybe most important, which side ultimately prevails?

The overarching concept is for you to discover.
 
While writing and in the studio, do you swap instruments? Or does everyone pretty much stick to one or two roles?

Yes, we switch around a lot. We each have our main instruments, but sometimes we'll start working on something, and everybody will be playing around with some other instrument, and we'll just go with it. I also like to write on different instruments as it brings out different aspects of my writing. I wrote a lot on a sampler and drum set for this album - sometimes played separately, and sometimes together. 

The last song on Friend Opportunity -- "Look Away" -- was kind of a departure in that it abandoned short avant-pop structures for this roiling, post-Sonic Youth improv blast. Are there plans to pursue more of that kind of soundtrack-y work in the future?

That music was actually written as a soundtrack for a Harry Smith movie called Heaven and Earth Magic, and we performed it live once as part of the SF International Film Festival several years ago. As for that style of writing, I guess I continue to write things sort of in that vein.  Writing a lot of that music was actually a process of unwriting a lot of other music of my own that I was having problems with.  I decided to essentially remove any clear rhythmic or melodic ideas, trying to get to an abstracted version of the material, and then build it up from there, slowly adding elements back in until something clicked.  That process is actually very natural to me and feels like a logical way of writing.  
 
Share a secret or two about San Francisco that non-San Francisco residents don't know. [Note: Deerhoof coalesced in San Fran in 1994.]

Well, I actually never lived in San Francisco, only Oakland, and I moved away from the bay six months ago; I therefore feel somewhat unqualified to answer this question. I will say, however, that my favorite cheap meal in San Fran is at La Corneta, a taqueria in the mission. You can just order one taco for $2 or something, and you have a full plate of food. And chips and salsa free. Highly recommended.

Have you ever performed live while wearing deer costumes? Has anyone ever tried to give you a deer's actual hoof, or any other piece of deer anatomy?

We have, actually. Not full costumes, but our friend -- the artist Ken Kagami, who did the artwork for our Milk Man album -- once made these cool antlers for us out of cloth. We all looked pretty ridiculous, maybe especially Greg [Saunier] because his head moves so much while he plays drums, and the antlers flopped all over the place. It was sort of cartoonish, but funny. And yes, people have actually given us hooves, as well; that is not a request for more hooves. 

DEERHOOF play with Ben Butler & Mousepad and HeatdeatH tonight, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17, at the TRIPLE ROCK SOCIAL CLUB. 18+. $15. 8 p.m.


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