Dean Garcia is the mastermind behind many, many projects. in the past year, he’s released several albums under the SPC ECO (with his daughter Roae Berlin), S T F U (with Preston Maddox from Bloody Knives), and M A D (with Steve Monti). If you are not aware of Garcia‘s history, it is one that is both storied and prolific. Originally a member of the band State of Play in the mid-80’s, Garcia went on to form Curve with Toni Halliday. The duo produced what would be a number of albums that would become mainstays of the shoegaze, dreampop, and electronica scenes. Garcia has always shown a propensity to be prolific, working as a session and touring musician with Eurythmics, Sinead O’Conner, and Tom Petty while also releasing solo material under the moniker Headcase throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s. He’s also collaborated with Sascha Konietzko and Lucia Cifarelli of KMFDM and Morpheme among many others. Garcia answered my questions about the very prolific 2016, his gear, some thoughts on recording and writing music, and his relationship with his daughter and close collaborator Rose Berlin.
Hello Dean. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s been since 2005 that we talked with you here at Somewherecold. You’ve clearly been very busy with various projects since then. Looking back over that period, can you talk a bit about the development of your approach to projects, how recording has changed for you, and if there has been any change in how you go about writing music?
Hi again… 🙂 Definitely made a lot of music since 2005, all of which stems from the ElaB studio I work out of, nothing has really changed about my attitude towards making music it’s all just been re-enforced over the years as in, just do what the fuck you like really. Don’t be looking over your shoulder re what others are doing, just do your own thing regardless of trends sonics or anything involved with making music, work with sound you like and collab with people you love, once you have all those elements working for you and are truthful and honest about what it is you’re trying to express it’s always a success regardless of how it’s perceived or how well it does. I’ve always worked with that mind set as much as possible and have sought like-minded people for all of the various collabs and projects to date. The recording tech is always on the move which is something that helps to keep things fresh. I tend to use the same recorder for whatever I’m working with but I like to explore the many varied and new sound modules that crop up on a daily basis. I do remember saying many years ago that one day you’ll be able to make an album using a device as small as a matchbox that you’ll carry around in your pocket. That’s pretty much where we’re at right now.
You seem to be a person that is interested in collaboration since most your work seems to point in that direction. What draws you to work with others in your music and what sort of processes do you enjoy in the collaborative relationship?
Exploring musical/soundscape ideas with similar minded people is just something I nee. I’m very particular about who I work with so when I connect with others, it’s always a very creative and expressive experience which just makes me feel good and helps me deal and express and understand my place and time. I’ve a tendency to be somewhat dark or pessimistic with the world around me so I lose myself in the creative arts in an attempt to shroud or mute all of the relentless shit that can and does continuously pour down all around us all. Music and recording has always been a way to block out or filter the ever present miserable, distressing, loathsome and hateful mind set/attitudes of certain peoples and just make a better day instead.
Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with that you haven’t had a chance to collaborate with yet?
I’d like to make a few S E tracks with Brian Eno and Thom Yorke. Once we got over the shock of them actually being there with us working on something, we’d make something amazing. We’ve thrown a few feelers out to them but nothing back so far. That won’t stop us trying though.
2016 was an especially productive time for your projects with the release of SPC ECO’s Anomalies, All We Have Is Now, and the Ours 7”, the S T F U album, and a variety of singles. Looking back over that year’s work, can you talk a bit about the journey leading up to 2016 that produced so much music?
It was a very productive year all round. I’m not sure if there’s any particular reason or intention, it just happened that way. Rose and I hit on a sound we just slotted into and got totally lost in it resulting in 3 albums worth of songs. Dark Matter was the first ( not your list ) followed by the other two albums. It’s just like that sometimes. You just get on a roll and the time and all else required is just with you. Along with the S T F U record, I also recorded an album with Monti under the name of M A D (https://mad-hq.bandcamp.com/) which is def worth a listen. Rose is featured as well as Preston and The Queen of Ice.
It’s clear from other interviews and the incredible work you’ve done with Rose that your relationship with your daughter is something special. Can you talk a bit about your collaborative work with Rose, how your familial relationship fuels that collaboration, and, perhaps, how the musical connection has really enhanced your father/daughter relationship?
Rose and I have a very natural almost effortless bond, we always have, whether it be reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the hundredth time, help her to ride a bike, picking out all the ducks in the hidden duck book, her showing me how good she is at making sushi rolls or passing Rose a mic to have a random on the fly voice pass on the many many recordings we’ve made from a very early age. We’ve always just been very tuned into each other. It helps that we actually like each other and make each other laugh. I also think our mutual love of swearing is a very important factor too. Recording for S E is an extension of all of it, as well as it being a therapy, it also serves as a way to make everything alright somehow. It’s become just one of the things we like and want to do and when you factor in Rose’s voice tone, natural ability and talent, which is always both unpredictable and an absolute joy to record, I think it’s fair to say that there would be a strange empty void or sense of something missing for us both if we stopped writing and recording things together. I think it’s with us for all time.
2017 has already seen the release of the Under the Skin EP. This had something to do with the MTV show Teen Wolf, correct? Can you talk a bit about why you pulled these particular tracks off of Dark Matter and Sirens and Satellites and why this particular track order, if that was part of your thinking?
Correct re Teen Wolf. When you get a bump on the radar you have to go with it. T W caused and continues to expand the S E reach which is always a good thing for any artist, getting noticed or reaching more people is always the most difficult and unpredictable side in the business of music. I’ve never had any interest or pander to that side of things as I find it rather unpleasant, but I’m more than excited when something gets a bite and tips the scales in your favour. It’s a very rare thing and I always think it’s worth enhancing in any way you can, especially in this music saturation day and age, which is why we have bumped that particular song. There was no particular intention or thought process behind the chosen tracks other than the fact that they sound and feel right together. Most are lifted from the Dark Matter album so they naturally slot together, “Found” just seemed like a good way to finish it off as it was the track that spurred on the trilogy of records we’ve mentioned that were recorded last year.
I like to ask artists about a few tracks off their most recent recordings. Can you talk a bit about writing and recording “Creep in the Shadows” and “Let It Be Always”? I find them to be incredibly cinematic and atmospheric.
They are very cinematic and atmospheric. They both conjure up a bleak and fragmented landscape, rainy windows as you drive through a city, looking out of a window daydreaming when you’re somewhere you’d rather not be. You get lost in the pulse and motion of them. They’re thoughtful and minimal which allows you to drift off and think. Both were made around the same time inspired by sounds and song that we wanted to hear, void of the distraction as to what anyone else might think of them, made for the sake of making them purely as something we’d like to listen to that somehow extracts and places us in a better day.
I know you’ve answered a lot of questions about your process in writing the S T F U album with Preston so I thought I would simply ask about a track that stands out to me. Can you talk a bit about the writing and recording of “Second Time”?
Like all of the songs on the record, it’s a prime example of people working together with a very open mind as to how they develop or where they go. “Second Time” was the second track we worked on for the record and is more or less exactly as it was when I first worked on it. Preston sent me a basic rough of the song, I arranged it more, added the beat and various drone noise etc and then mixed it. I revisited the track for some reason months later to push it out more and see where it would go, I spent quite some time with it with all sorts of adds but decided that all of it was shit and that I should go back to the original mix and that’s what you hear on the record, proving once again that it’s not always what you record and use, it’s what you delete and throw away that’s just as valid.
For the gearheads that read Somewherecold, what sort of gear do you use in the studio as well as live?
I use an old Pro Tools 8.6 on a mac, Ableton, and Reason as the mainstay sequencers and processors and a library of sounds that I’ve collected for 30 years. A 1979 Sting Ray bass with 4-year-old strings, a 1963 Fender Jazzmaster guitar, and various pedals that I’ve collected over time. I’m not a pedal geek as I believe they all do more or less the same thing within their field and that is more or less it. The recorder itself is the main instrument for me, as I see that it’s all about what you capture/record and how you place, edit and manipulate and combine all of the different elements as one. This is also where you tell your story. I don’t think it makes any difference as to what you use to make music. It’s all to do with how you make it and how you combine and use the tools you have at your disposal. Basically, use what you have on hand and make it work for you. I also think that fun and free thought throughout the recording process is crucial. Nothing worse than a record that has no fun with all the life and imperfections taken out of it. One sure way to kill off any recording is to over indulge in both thought and microscopic editing. I like the mistakes and happy accidents, without them (to me) the recording is flat and dead.
So, what’s next for your various recording projects? Will we see more SPC ECO or S T F U this year? Perhaps something new under a new collaboration?
Rose and I are working away slowly but surely on a new S E album. We’re in no rush with it this time, and when all things are considered, it seems perfectly fine to us. As far as other collabs I don’t know atm. I’ll have to wait n see what unfolds.
Thanks so much for answering my questions. I really do appreciate you taking the time.
Thanks for the support and for thinking of us…
Best Dean and Rose