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White Hills - Interview

  by Paul Waller

published: 14 / 11 / 2014

White Hills - Interview


Paul Waller speaks to Dave W., the guitarist with acclaimed psychedelic rock outfit White Hills, about his early musical beginnings and influences, and their present European tour

New York’s White Hills play some extraordinary spaced out psychedelic rock. Originally a one man project with Dave W. at the helm, White Hills released an ambitious debut platter that got the denim clad hordes salivating at the mouth. The group has since expanded to permanently include Ego Sensation on the bass and a full backline of long-haired rockers when they play live. It’s in this live setting that the band truly comes to life. When Ego gets into the groove she appears to be in a trance and Dave always seems utterly out of control. Yet they hold the group together for one intricate jam to the next. It’s truly a sight to behold. Last year saw the band release their latest album ‘So You Are… So You’ll Be’ to great critical acclaim. This success has prompted the band's label, Thrill Jockey, to forge ahead and re-release the band's excellent third outing ‘Glitter, Glamour, Atrocity’ which as it happens coincides with a European tour that begins in September. You could say that White Hills are a busy bunch, but luckily Dave W. found time to chat with us at Pennyblackmusic. PB: So Dave W, when did you get your first taste of 'rock' music? What was it and were you instantly taken with it? DW: I was probably four years old flipping through my parents' records. I came across this odd-looking cover of a fish wrapped in paper with human teeth. It perplexed me so I had to listen to it. That LP was Jefferson Airplane's 'Bark' and it still happens to be one of my most loved albums to this day. I was definitely taken by it. Especially the track 'Thunk'. I still find it creepy and alluring. PB: What were your family’s thoughts when you made music your life choice/career? DW: My family just wants me to be happy and fulfilled in life. Music does that for me, so all is good. PB: Can you remember the moment when you first held a record or a CD in your hand that you felt you were a part of? What did that feel like for you and what was it? DW: Sure, it was Public Image Ltd's 'First Issue'. When I came across PiL, I was already well versed in British punk, but 'First Issue' hit me like nothing else before. It was punk but it wasn't, familiar yet not. I became obsessed with that album. It opened my mind to the limitless possibilities with one's art like no other album before had. PB: You have been with Thrill Jockey Records for some time now. How did you hook up with them? From the outside it seems like such a fantastic label to work with. How have you found these past years working with them? DW: Thrill Jockey contacted us with interest in releasing our music. Anthea Leyland, who runs Thrill Jockey's European office, was our connection to the label as she was an early supporter of ours. It was through her that Thrill Jockey owner, Bettina Richards, became aware of us. The rest is history so to speak. I think the fact that we are still working with Thrill Jockey says a lot about how we feel about the label and their dedication to the music that they release. They believe in what we do and give us the freedom to be ourselves. We wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for Thrill Jockey's help. PB: This year’s tasty re-release of ‘Glitter Glamour Atrocity’ came as a bit of a surprise… Was it Thrill Jockey’s idea or yours? DW: As it did to us! We had talked about it some time ago, but one thing led to another and we never followed up on it. Thrill Jockey resumed talk of the idea this year and then everything just fell into place for it getting done. It's as simple as that. PB: I love the track ‘Robot Stomp’ from ‘Frying on This Rock’ to bits. How did you approach writing that particular track? DW: That's on of my favourites off that album as well. I came up with the initial guitar riff and knew the kind of driving drum beat it needed. When I brought it to rehearsal, Ego instantly came up with the bass line and all was a go. During the recording of the album I went to see the reformed Scratch Acid play at Webster Hall in NYC. Antronhy, a long time collaborator of White Hills, was in town and is an old friend of David Yow's, so he scored us some tickets. While at the show both of us were recording the sounds of the crowd on our phones. We used these recordings as the background noise on the track. Add a little processing to them and they sound like a synthesizer. It all came together quickly. We only tracked it once, just the way I like it. PB: Now that your latest studio effort ‘So You Are… So You’ll Be’ has been out a year now, are you as happy with it as you were when it was first released? Is there anything you would have changed? DW: I don't go back and listen to records that I've made. They are what they were at that moment and that is all that counts. If I made that record now, of course it would be different. How, I don't know, but I am a different person now and I'm sure that would reflect on how I would approach making that album presently. Each album is like a child to me. I'm pleased with each one. Some were more difficult to birth than others, but they are all a part of me and speak to a particular moment in time. PB: I find that with your albums that you have one or two almost fist punching anthems and then all these wonderful hypnotic slow burners. Is it on purpose that the albums are crafted in that way? DW: Yes, each album is put together to reflect an overall trip verses a collection of individual songs. PB: It's always interesting to know this. You appear to be forever on the touring road. Do you still have to hold down jobs or can the band support you financially now? DW: No, we don't have jobs that we come back to when we aren't on the road. PB: Don’t over think it but tell us a current album that you are loving at the moment and why? DW: 'Mess' by Liars. I have to say I've never really paid attention to them before. Ego bought it on a whim and now both of us are addicted to it. The songs are creepy yet appealing and unique. They played on the same day we did at Austin Psychfest this year, so we were able to catch their set. Seeing them live cemented their entire trip for me. They are a great band, and I will definitely be paying more attention to them in the future. PB: …And a particular classic record that you can’t get enough of and why? DW: Cabaret Voltaire's 'Red Mecca'. The production on that album is just mind blowing. Totally fucked and beautiful. The tracks themselves are hypnotic, dark, robotic and intriguing. People often ask me about my thoughts on psychedelic music, what it is and so on. 'Red Mecca' is a prime example of music that I consider to be truly psychedelic. PB: In September you are coming over to the UK. What can we expect from you? DW: Something new, something old, something borrowed, something stolen. We've switched up the songs in our set. We'll be playing a number of songs we've haven't played in some time and will probably throw a new one or two in for good measure. PB: Finally, what’s next from you guys, studio wise? When can we expect a new record? DW: We head to Wales after the tour is over with to record the next record. It will come out in the spring of 2015. We are really excited about this upcoming project. We've approached the creating of this album in a way that we have never done before. I can't wait to mould it into shape. This one is going to be an eye opener to say the least! PB: Thank you.

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White Hills - Interview

White Hills - Interview

White Hills - Interview

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