The Dials: 'You have to make music if your a musician, we don’t have a choice it’s in our DNA'

Indie | Thursday 7th December 2017 | Claudia

The Dials awaited album That Was The Future has finally landed. The bands weird and wonderful mix of psychedelic, country, and rock has made for quite a cult following. That Was The Future is no exception to the bands creative and inventive nature.

Guestlist had a chat with band member Dermot about the Dial's new album, his near-death experience, recording mishaps and how life's changed for the retro foursome. 

Describe your personality in three words or less?

Dermot: Three words to describe my personality so, questioning, off-kilter, and left-field.

Let’s take it back from the beginning, the band's roots started off in 2002, right?

Dermot: Yes that's right.

And your band had a country feel at the start?

Dermot: Yeah there was country going on, we had some instruments like banjo’s and pedal steel, but we were also a bit more cosmic country, so it was country but also kinda psychedelic at the same time.

Do you miss the old days when you guys weren’t as known as you are now?

Dermot: No I don’t it’s actually nice having people hearing what you do, to be honest being obscure is fine, but everybody, if you're a musician wants to get people to hear your music, so the more people that hear it the better, I got no problems with that at all.

So you didn’t feel like before when you had a smaller following, you perhaps felt more connected to your audience?

Dermot: No, to be honest it’s still at a scale where we can meet people and people can get in touch, we’re not selling out arenas or stadiums, we have got more people, but it’s still at a scale where we can keep in touch with our fans, it’s not grown beyond that, and I’m happy about that.

And how has life changed from what it was then to what it is now?    

Dermot: I suppose the best thing about it is recognition, it’s kinda nice you make music because you have to make music, musicians don’t have a choice about it, it’s just in the DNA, you can’t do it, but what is nice about having achieved a certain amount of success, is that you have people that you really, really respect, who kinda like put you alongside the artist that you respect and that means a whole lot, it’s a critical thing it means alot, I mean it’s very easy to say that it is unimportant, but actually it really is, it is important.

So I heard your new album That Was The Future,  it sounded great, so did the album get you a lot of female attention?

Dermot: To be honest we’re probably not that kind of a band, but we do have the kinda people who listen to us, are kinda like music obsessives, we’re not kinda like that pop starry celebrity status, we’re more kinda culty, so the people who listen to us are more about that than anything else, so I would be lying if I said that was a big thing for us.

The song 'Cuckoo Stone', was very entertaining to watch, what made you guys pick such a weird theme for your music video?

Dermot: The idea came from someone who we got to know from coming to our gigs, a guy called Neil, who is absolutely excellent, and he makes films, and he’s done a whole bunch of stuff , he was involved with editing Trainspotting and a bunch of Danny Boyle films, so he’s really, really good at what he does, but at the same time he understands this is a band, so it’s someone who’s brought our records over the years, someone who’s seen us play a lot of times.

So he kinda came up with this concept, and it just really really worked, some of the things we normally don’t allow is people to put much input into our creative output, but he really understood it and he completely nailed it, and we had a long conversation with him down the pub as it happens, about what the song was about, and what we wanted to achieve with it. He really, really got that, and yeah I just think it worked out really well.

And 'Mondo Space', had some really cool, trippy effects, did the same person come up with the concept?   

Dermot: No, we obviously didn’t shoot or edit it ourselves, but the idea was completely ours. That song is obviously quite a psychedelic number and it’s about disintegration. The video is kinda about things falling apart as well as the images falling apart. So that was completely our idea, and actually we just completely went a little wild with that, in terms of the effects but overall I think it worked out well.

Your music has a cool 60's-70's vibe, what artist’s inspire you the most?

Dermot: I’ll tell you what, there’s a whole bunch of music which I could reference, but there’s also a whole bunch of old, old, cartoons and kid’s stuff that you can find on the internet on YouTube, things like Bagpuss these really really, creepy old kids programmes and you’d have to see them to understand it, but they’ve got this really bizarre weirdness about them and soundtracks, but also there’s a lot of really, really great acts.

I mean I really love early Pink Floyd for example, and there’s definitely an influence of that in what we’re doing, and they did a lot of psychedelic disintegration type stuff as well, and that’s what really influences us.

And what would you say, was your first experience of true success?   

Dermot: I’ll tell you what, what was a really, big thing is when you hear yourself on national radio for the first time, and we’ve had quite a lot of that, but the first time that happened, I remember thinking actually this feels really, really good.The first national radio play we got, was on Radio 2. I remember thinking, that around the country now there are probably well over a million people listening to our music, and that was a really big thrill, because we have gotten a lot of radio play since then, but I certainly remember that first moment.

So you have also worked with producer Ben Zachary is that right?

Dermot: Yes that’s right

What did he bring to your life?

Dermot: He brought a whole lot, I mean Ben’s the first producer we’ve ever allowed a creative input on the record, so Ben’s been working for years with some really big artists, like Nick Cage and people who we really, really respect, other people include John Martin and people like that. He came along and made some suggestions that we thought really, really worked, we got some nice textures and colours, and we thought actually you know what he gets it, he really really gets it.

So for the first time ever we thought, we’re gonna let the producer have a bit more control than we would normally give. And that really worked. I think it’s actually come out more cinematic than it would have done. He came up with textures, sounds, and effects that we wouldn't have thought of without him. Lots of like extreme panning; was what he also did, actually come to think of it all of the tracks are quite different, but he makes it sound like an album. He makes it sound like they’ve all come from the same place even though they’re very different, that’s a difficult thing to do in my eyes.

He sounds incredible! So the cover of your album is really unique, what was the inspiration?

Dermot: So what that is, is it’s the inside of a Russian nuclear station. What we... I can’t name the person because he might get in trouble. But we got in contact with a Russian journalist and said we really liked his picture, so he sorted it out for us.  

What message do you want to get across with your music?

Dermot: You know what, the way I think about music, is that I think that the best music allows you to get your own messages from it. The way I see it is what we do is produce something, that allows you to go in and immerse yourself in the music, get lost in it, and you can reach your own conclusions, reach your own meanings.

I think that is what the best music does, but what you don’t want to do is lecture people, what you want to do is give them the best experience they can have so that they can spoil their own imaginations, but we take them on that journey we don’t tell them where they’re going to.

Now I've heard this story about you guys, apparently getting stuck in a bank vault whilst recording 'Companions Of The Rosy Hours' is this true?

Dermot: It was, so basically it was a studio in Brighton that used to be a bank vault, cos bank vaults have got really thick walls they’re really good for sound insulation, and they actually make a good studio, so this was a converted bank vault, and what happened was that there was a number of doors in it, which was used as a big old security door, and somebody (one of us), who will remain unnamed, got hacked off during the course of one recording session and he slammed the door shut, despite the fact it had a massive sign saying “Don’t slam it”.

And because this was a bank vault, it wouldn’t open again. The problem with that was that bank vaults only have a small amount of air, but yeah if we hadn't been rescued we could have run out of air and died. The fire brigade finally got called and it took eleven people to pull us out again.

Wow, how did you cope?

Dermot: So the fire brigade brought a massive pneumatic jack, it’s what they usually use to pull people out of accidents or like rip cars apart, but yeah they used this on the door, and they got us out on time, so all was good and they were pretty cool about it.

Is there anything mad you can dish out, about your production process when making music, are there any crazy stories?

Dermot: I wouldn’t say there’s anything mad about it, myself and Andy who is a keyboard player and singer, we both took this completely different approach to it, where I reckon it took us four years to record it. I reckon I could have done it in one, and I reckon if Andy had been left to his own devices he would have done it in ten. So for example, I had to record a guitar take which was done about twenty times, to get it right, but to me, each one sounded exactly the same, but he insisted we had to get it perfect, he’s just one of those people.

So who’s the boss in the band?

Dermot: We don’t have a boss, we deliberately don’t have a boss that’s why I think we’ve gotten to the point where we got a massive level of trust for everybody, and that’s partly based on the fact that we don’t have anybody that is a boss, I think that it’s a whole lot better, it doesn’t work for all bands, but it really works for us, there’s a complete democracy.

So who would you say is the funniest?

Dermot: I think Joe the bass player is the funniest because Joe’s the only person I know, who will wear socks to match his amplifier and collar, I don’t know anybody who does that, but he does.

What in the world do you most enjoy doing?

Dermot: You know what I enjoy most of all, and it’s going to sound so obvious, is playing music, it’s what I live for.

Are there no other passions you have?

Dermot: That’s completely top of my list, in terms of anything else what can I say. I’ll tell you what we all have different hobbies, so Joe races cars, which is quite a good one. Rich the drummer is obsessed with vintage furniture, don’t ask me why but he is. Andy the keyboard player loves to make his own analog synth, so he’ll lock himself in a room with loads and loads of wires, and come out with these really weird machines in the end. It’s kind of his thing, he could just do that all day and be happy.

Your music has a really eclectic mix of themes, what else in your life is mixed up as well?

Dermot: I would  say we’re eccentric, what I think it is what has kind of made us the band that we are, is that we all live and work in Brighton,and Brighton is a very unusual and wonderful place, full of people from everywhere, so I think what makes us the band  that we are, that we come from this funny place where everybody has come to study art and make music, and I think that we’re a complete product of that environment.

What’s been the craziest thing the band has experienced whilst touring?

Dermot: I can remember being chased out of one particular town by a whole bunch of army people. I'm not going to say why it would be bad for me.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would that be?

Dermot: I wouldn’t want to live anywhere but where I am right now. But one place which I wouldn’t mind is a funny little town in Chile called Val Paraíso, which is an old poor town full of artists and musicians, that sound fun.

What’s next?

Dermot: So what we’re doing is planning a bunch of shows for next year, we’ve got a few festivals lined up, can’t talk about them yet, they’re kind of confirmed but I’m not allowed to say anything about them yet.

But we’re also thinking about releasing like an EP of stuff we’ve recorded over the years, that we haven’t released, a bit like out-takes and stuff, sort of stuff which has never made it to the records cos it never felt like it fitted, but we’ve been going back through it and some of it is really good, so we might do something with that next year, then we’ll think about recording the next record.

So last question - what would you fill a swimming pool with if it could be anything?

Dermot: I would fill a swimming pool with all the people in the world, that I love.

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