DROSE first came to my attention via the Built On A Weak Spot blog last year some time, you might remember I mentioned them in a list of bands whose albums I was looking forward to. I've been listening to the tracks off their 7" and various tracks that have popped up on soundcloud a lot over the last few months, and the trio are making compelling, fascinating and vaguely terrifying music that has fast made them one of my favourite bands of late. Alien and unnerving sounds that remind me of early Swans or latter day Oxbow at times atmospherically - although they really don't sound like either band. They don't really sound like anyone else full stop. More people need to check them out, basically. And in order to hopefully induce you to do that, I interviewed vocalist and guitarist Dustin.
I suppose I should just get the boring stuff out of the way first: can you tell me a little about the formation of Drose? The first thing I heard by you was the 7” obviously, but I know there was a tape before that (which, stupidly, I missed out on)...How long have you guys been together now?
I began writing for Drose in the fall of 2010. After I had recorded a few songs I played them for John to see if he would be interested in playing drums. After a couple months and with a few more songs I asked Greg if he would like to join. We had all been friends for quite some time, but I knew they would both understand the main idea behind Drose.
We began working on the material together but then in the early spring of 2011 John faced a life threatening medical complication that required immediate surgery and John’s life was put on hold for quite some time. It wasn’t until February of 2012 that we played our first show and recorded the tape and 7”.
With the name “Drose” obviously being an abbreviation of your (Dustin’s) own name, and some of the tracks that I’ve heard online being demos with drum machines and stuff,I kind of wondered was this something that you originally envisioned as a solo project? Do you write as a group or is it a case that you just demo stuff at home and teach the other guys in the rehearsal room?
Drose was never purposed as a solo project, and the name didn’t get picked until sometime in 2011. The material is prepared and recorded on my end and after I have brooded over them for a bit I play them for John and Greg for approval. This process has been fairly successful in helping us to stay on topic and hand pick the right songs as a group. The “sonic message” is calculated and reviewed in this way.
Listening to you guys and with the lyrics (which I’ll get to in in a sec), I always get the feeling your music is sort of like the result of some sort of struggle between this very human element - your voice, specifically, puts across a kind of discomfort and almost panic at times - and some kind of inhuman machine.What brought about that kind of approach, the man vs machine thing?
I have grown up servicing machines and mechanisms my entire life, following in my father’s footsteps from a young age. Over the past six years I have been exposed to and obsessed with a particular theme however. Some of which is purely from imagination but the rest is from experiences and time with machines. The theme has been converging on this character, this sort of "man". This man comes from a world of anxiety, obsession and tinkering. This man misses the "big picture" or the "good life" but instead has found something else, something in the dark that fuels him and brings him this distorted joy. He calls the world of industry and fire his home and in doing so has lost interest in the creature comforts that they provide. All he does and knows is machine. Control is his craft, machine is lord and the future is unraveling.
Man vs. machine is almost the right idea but the perspective is what is important. The man gives commentary to his own idea of what progress is and will be, and it begins with himself as he transforms himself. The man hopes to show the world he has lost touch with all of his new discoveries, which to the people “above” are actually terrifying and threatening.
Sonically the voice itself is meant to waft the story and message of this transformation. To me a machine is beautiful and even seductive, but at the same time overpowering, unstoppable and inhuman. The voices give me the vehicle to express a lot of odd subjects that aren’t actually real but very real to “me”.
Also on a more trivial level I feel the vocals fill a void in the high-volume music world, soft melodic vocals are hard to find.
Similarly the lyrics are really evocative to me - there’s a very pared down style to them, a very disorientated feel. I was wondering do you ever do any writing in a non-band context (fiction, poetry or anything like that), and were there any specific writers or lyricists that impacted your approach to lyrics.
I only write lyrics in a musical context, aural stimulation is the quickest way to my core. Without the sound, I would not be able to convey any meaningful message behind what I create. The sound comes and the lyrical content mimics the message I receive from that audible experience.
I actually described you guys, while struggling to explain your sound to someone recently, as being like the musical equivalent of the film “Tetsuo, The Iron Man”. Do you feel, because of the fact that what you’re doing has essentially a very visual element to it, that Drose could ever perhaps be suited to doing a film soundtrack or something like that? Or do you ever see yourselves using visuals for live shows? Or making a video for one of the songs even?
Tetsuo, The Iron Man has been brought to my attention several times by people who have known me or heard Drose and I have no good reason for why I haven’t seen this movie, but it is in my future. Writing for a film could be very interesting, and given the opportunity we would participate. To help make the message more of a reality to myself and the audience we do have some visuals during our shows if the moment is right. I have fashioned a sheet steel helmet with a 2 way mirror as the face, it belongs to the “man”, and we occasionally start our set with the helmet and a message spoken by the “man”. We also use a high voltage metal halide lamp, and a 1.5 HP single phase electric motor to create resonances and bring us and the audience together. A music video is a possibility as well but might require some stimulation from a party outside of the band in order to really make it happen.
While I never really give a shit about the kind of equipment bands use in general..Some of the guitar in places really does sound purposely like you’re trying to get it to sound as little like a guitar as possible; like for example that noise at the start of “A Voice”before the first chord kicks in. Are all these more unusual sounds actually just a guitar? And if so is there any particular gear you use to make them beyond the usual guitar/amp setup?
We record a fair amount of machinery in the shop at my place of employment in our recordings. They are the inspiration behind most of what we do and it has been very satisfying to capture them. A Voice starts with an electrically powered shearing press, at first just powering on but then the crushing rhythmic sound is made from its actuation and cutting of a rather thick piece of aluminum. Aside from the machines, the guitars are meant to have a very hot, thick and most importantly oscillating/vibrating sound.
Okay, so I believe you toured the US earlier in the year - how was that? Any particularly memorable shows (for good or bad reasons)? And I’m curious what kind of bills you guys end up on - I imagine people who like, for example, the more droning end of the metal spectrum, or even noise/industrial fans would find plenty to like about your music, but who or what does the typical crowd at a Drose show comprise of?
The tour went very well, our favorite show was in Brooklyn at Saint Vitus an exemplary high-volume music venue. In Philadelphia there was a freak incident where the previous band’s singer’s beer ended up inside my amplifier and upside down, unfortunate but pretty punk rock...
We have been lucky to play with a few noise artists that were very fitting to our atmosphere and also some friends of our from Cleveland Ohio, MurderedMan. Buy their 7”, and forthcoming LP. I am not sure what to say about the Drose crowd, perhaps serious, and I like it.
I mentioned earlier, obviously, that I’d heard some demos online of some newer material over the last while, some stuff you’d posted on soundcloud. Can we expect an album any time soon? And what can you tell us about it?
We are currently constructing an LP, it is completely centered around the man and machine, the topics covered above. We record the guitars drums and vocals under the steel floor of a bus dynamometer test cell at my place of employment and have become quite familiar with the sonic potential of the facility. Aside from that, the machinery is field recorded, it so far includes a CNC, some welding machines, metallic structures and great deal of random testing that happens in my work. At the moment we are playing some shows here in Columbus Ohio but will be back in the hole by May at the latest.