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July 13, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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An Interview With Dimmer

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On 18 July Dimmer are headlining the VBC’s final Re-Orientation gig at Bodega. Tickets are available for $20 from utr.co.nz. This show is also doubling as a release party for Dimmer’s latest album, titled Degrees of Existence. In anticipation of the show and of the album’s release, Salient’s Kim Wheatley spoke with Shayne Carter, Dimmer’s frontman and principal songwriter.

Salient: If the advance singles (‘Degrees of Existence’ and ‘Cold Water’) are anything to go by, it would seem that you guys are forging ahead with the direct nature that you tapped into on your last album, There My Dear. How reflective are these two singles of the overall sound of Degrees of Existence, and do you have any stylistic surprises in there for us?

Shayne: I wanted to get the sound of the band because this version of the band has been together for a while now—we’ve toured the world together, we’ve shared a lot of experiences—we’re a pretty hot band! I can think of only one genuinely stink gig in all our time together, and that would be Bodega on new year’s eve when we were overwhelmed by gear breakage and other random factors. I wanted the record to sound like two guitars, vocals, bass and drums. But you know, interesting guitars, vocals and bass and drums. I wanted a few more ‘up’ songs too. There’s plenty of sad guy ruminations in the Dimmer back catalogue and there’s a couple here too, but generally I wanted to capture something a bit more live, a bit more exuberant.

Salient: What insights can you give us into Dimmer’s recording process for Degrees of Existence? Any favorite studio tricks that you might share with us?

Shayne: With Dino our drummer then residing in Wellington we’d fly him up, spend a couple of days learning new songs then go into the lab studio up here and put down basic backing tracks. We did a few blocks of recording. Then I’d take the tracks back to my room and…er…fiddle with them. James [Duncan] would sometimes take them back to his place and fiddle with them as well. I’ve got plenty of little tricks and concepts but I spend so much time contradicting them… Singers never do more than five or six takes of a tune cos after that you’re just mouthing words. Forget about what’s ‘technically’ correct or what engineers tell you—if it sounds good then it is good! No amount of pro tooling will ever replace feel or soul. There is no such thing as an ‘x factor’ or ‘soul’ plug in. You’d get rich if you invented one for sure. Never make a record imagining what the public/ radio stations/ record companies would like. That’s a one-way ticket to disaster or terminal mediocrity at the very least. If it doesn’t sound true to you then it won’t sound true to anybody else. If it sounds shit now it’s not all of a sudden gonna sound really great in three years’ time. I don’t know if they’re studio tricks but nevertheless these are good things to keep in mind while you are there!

Salient: Gary Sullivan, who helmed the kit with Dimmer on 2001’s You are a Star, has returned to the fold. How did this reunion come about, and what new dimensions can Gary bring to the live Dimmer experience?

Shayne: Dino went to live in Berlin. We miss him and love him as a musician and a person. But Gary is a great friend and drummer too. He slotted straight back in. He knows what the Dimmer ethos is. That whole quiet vibe of the first Dimmer album was developed by me and Gary jamming for a year before we made that record. We’d both come from loud rock bands and were sick of chest beating over Marshall stacks. Our practices gradually got quieter and quieter. It got ridiculous. You could almost hear us breathing! But we learnt a lot about space and a whole other dynamic. Dimmer’s been going a while now though. I’ve got over the anti-rock thing. Nice noise can be transcendent and uplifting. Live we can rark it up with the best of them.

Salient: In May a rare left-handed Gibson SG was stolen from you. Has it been recovered? And if not, do you have a message for the perpetrators of this most heinous of crimes?

Shayne: No, I haven’t got it back. Thieving from other people is such a mean-spirited and miserable thing to do. Yes I do have a message—give me my guitar back you fuckers! What are you going to do—paint it with racing stripes and turn it upside down! Nah—that hurt. Ask any guitarist. It’s losing your baby. I’d had that guitar 20 years. We went through a lot together.

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