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Dumptruck - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 17 / 5 / 2004

Dumptruck - Interview


Boston-based Americana act Dumptruck first formed in the the mid-80's and have drawn comparisions with REM.With their three earliest albums having just been re-released, frontman Seth Tiven chats to Anthony Strutt about his long-serving project

Dumptruck hail from Boston, Massachusetts. I discovered them when in '87 they released my favourite single of that year, 'Going Nowhere'. In the 1980's, they released three albums. Their first, 'D is for Dumptruck' (1984) came out on Mark Mulcahy"s label Incas Records and the next two, 'Positively Dumptruck' (1986) and "For the Country' (1988) on Big Time Records. All three of these were rereleased and remastered in the spring of 2004, and have been put out on Rkyo records. Dumptruck play cool and weird punky-in-feel Americana that would easily feel at home with anyone that likes the earlier work of R.E.M. They have since gone to release another three albums, 'Days of Fear ( recorded, 1991, not released until 1994), 'Terminal' (1998) and 'Lemmings Travel to the Sea' (2001). The former came out on Unclean, and the latter two on Devil in the Woods. Frontman, guitarist and sole original member Seth Tiven recently got back together with first guitarist Kirk Swan to play a reunion gig at this year's SXSW Festival in Austin I spoke to Seth Tiven about the earlier years, current happenings and the remasters. PB : Dumptruck came out of two other bands, Saucers and Stray Divides. Who were those bands ? ST : Saucers was a band which featured Mark Mulcahy , Craig Bell (from Rocket from the Tombs) and me. There were also a few other people at various times but no one else you would have heard of. We put out a couple of singles. It really wasn't that great a band. but it was a good learning experience. After Saucers split up, Kirk and Mark played in Stray Divides. PB : Was Saucers your first band ? ST : Pretty much so - the first one that played publicly anyway. PB : Did Stray Divides ever put anything out ? ST : I don't think Stray Divides ever released anything. PB : Had you and Kirk been friends for a long time ? ST : We met in the late 70's or maybe the early 80's. I moved to Boston in '81 and Kirk and I started working on stuff sort of long-distance. He moved to Boston a few months later and we just started working on songs and recordings, and ended up with the first Dumprtuck record, 'D is for Dumptruck'. PB : And what about your friendship with Mark Mulcahy ? When did that begin ? ST : That started in Saucers and has continued on from there. He played drums on half of the first record, and then got too busy with his band, the Miracle Legion, to really do it anymore. PB : Both you and Kirk played bass on each other's songs. How did this operate in a live arena? ST : We switched off and on bass and guitar for maybe six months, and then eventually we got sick of that and recruited Steve Michener, who had previously been in Volcano Suns, to play bass. PB : 'D is for Dumptruck' came out originally on Mark's label, Incas. Why did you put it out on that ? Was it just easier for you putting it out on a local label? ST : It wasn't really a label as much as a name. Both Miracle Legion and Dumptruck were still looking for a deal, and each decided to put out our own records. We figured if they both came out on the same 'label' it would give each of us more credibility. There was never any real label structure - it was just a name. PB :How long was it before other labels showed interest? ST : We started getting interest from a few labels about six months after 'D is for Dumptruck ' came out , but we ended up signing with the wrong one. PB : Were you surprised at how well 'D is for Dumptruck' did sales wise? ST : Kind of. It sold out of its first pressing, but it wasn't a huge seller. I think it did a lot better press-wise than sales-wise PB : Why did you choose the name Dumptruck ? Did you get much negative feedback over the name ? ST : We just figured it was something people would remember. There's no other story really. Why would we get negative feedback over it? PB : You recorded the second LP., 'Positively Dumptruck', with Don Dixon at Mitch Easter's Drive In studio How did you get on with those two guys? ST : Really well - we had a great time making that record. Mitch was around a little, but pretty much made himself scarce since it was primarily Dixon's project. PB : The nearest description of your music to someone who doesn't know Dumptruck is like the music of early R.E.M. Would you agree? ST : I guess so. I think we had a somewhat harder edge at times. PB : Kirk left after 'Positvely Dumptruck'. How did you feel when Kirk left and why did he leave? ST : Our songwriting styles were diverging,. We were on the road a lot and I think of got sick of each other's s*** for a while. We've long-since patched things up though - we played a reunion show a few months back and may even be doing an English tour sometime around October. PB : How did Kevin Salem come to join the band? ST : Through an ad in 'The Boston Phoenix' and 'Village Voice'. PB : You recorded 'For the Country in Wales' in 87. Was it harder to make without Kirk and with Kevin Salem on board ? ST : Actually, it was a lot easier in many ways. We had way more money and about five times as much time. Since I was then the sole songwriter, I could pretty much determine where I wanted the album to go sound-wise. Kevin fitted in well and played some good parts. PB : You played in London in '87. Have you been back to Britain since? ST : For personal visits, yes; but not for any performances. But as I said, we're hoping to get over there in October - a festival called 'A Taste of Austin' I think. PB : Big Time went bust after 'For the Country in Wales', and you couldn't release anything for three years.You have, however, released another three records since then Is Dumptruck still a full time thing nowadays or is it more like a hobby? PB : Well we sort of went dormant from '91-'94. We had recorded 'Days of Fear' in 1991, but it didn't come out until 1994. At that point I put together a new version of the band, and we've sporadically put out records since then. I think I just got so burned out of touring to pay off a lawsuit that I really couldn't continue at that pace much longer. I like the luxury of making a record when I want to, rather than feeling like I'm on some schedule and have to produce something. I don't rely on music for a living, mostly because I got really sick of living hand-to-mouth. If that makes it a hobby, I guess it is then. PB : Has Dumptruck's music changed since the three original 80's records? ST : Of course - I'm 20 years older so it's evolved over time, but I think it's retained somewhat of a consistent kind of feel. PB : Thank you

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Dumptruck - Interview

Dumptruck - Interview

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