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Greg Saunier (of Deerhoof) Interview

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Deerhoof is expected to play in front of one of its largest Minneapolis crowds when the band returns to the city tomorrow, playing the main stage at First Avenue. In preparation for the show Culture Bully’s Chris DeLine caught up with the band’s Greg Saunier to discuss the band’s new album Offend Maggie, Henry Rollins and playing to an audience of Kiss fans.

In preparation for the release of Offend Maggie the band offered sheet music online for the single “Fresh Born,” encouraging musicians to submit their own renditions of the song. How did you come up with this unique method of interacting with fans? Do you think we’ll see more and more of these sort of promotions as bands continue to build on online presence?

Greg Saunier: Funny you should ask – looks like Oasis is now doing the same thing and claiming to be innovative trendsetters. I don’t mind actually, I think it’s a nice idea and I’m glad if other people are picking up on it. It actually wasn’t my first choice for a pre-release promotion… I was pestering everyone with some email brainstorms a couple of months ago and tried to suggest that we try to get people to do some remixes of the songs and release a remix album before the real album even came out. At the end of the email I mentioned in passing that if that didn’t work maybe we could just put up the sheet music for one of the songs. Well everyone ignored my remix suggestion and wanted to do the sheet music. It turned out great, so much better than I ever expected. Over forty people uploaded their own versions of the song and they are all so different, I really love what people did with it.

When I first heard Friend Opportunity I thought that the album was a step towards accessibility for the band; it was still funky and raw, but it was a bit of a departure from The Runners Four. With Offend Maggie I hear a continued progression away from what might be referred to as “classic Deerhoof.” Is this continual shift just a part of making music or has there ever been a concerted effort to push Deerhoof’s sound in a certain direction?

Greg Saunier: Actually I’ve always tried to make Deerhoof sound accessible, whatever that means. I always wanted to make something that people would like. I appreciate your question but I guess to me there isn’t any such thing as classic Deerhoof, since every record sounds pretty different from the next. The first two might be the most different from each other out of all of them, they are almost totally opposite musically. Even if there is such a thing as “classic Deerhoof” I doubt we would know how to do it…

I’ve long since been fascinated by the album art on Deerhoof records (the multiple covers for “Friend Opportunity” especially), “Offend Maggie” being no different. In the liner notes the drawings are credited to Tomoo Gokita, an artist who has a vast collection of fantastic work available for viewing online. How important is it to have memorable artwork associated with an album?

Greg Saunier: Well we’ve been very lucky to be able to collaborate with artists we really like over the years. It all started with Rob, who founded the band. For him Deerhoof was fifty percent music and fifty percent visual art, and he always put so much care into the record covers, our fliers, our posters, anything he worked on. He’s really still my favorite. But he set the tone for the band and even after he quit we still try not to fall below his standard.

Henry Rollins recently said of the band, “They do what a band should do. They do a thing and they keep reinventing the thing. You scratch your head and wonder ‘How did they pull that off?’” How do these sorts of accolades resonate with you?

Greg Saunier: To me his comment isn’t just one of a “sort”. He is a unique person and a longtime influence on Deerhoof so this comment is very special and much appreciated. Any of us bands that travel the underground touring circuit are just following in the footprints created by Black Flag.

(note: Henry Rollins is Chris’ idol)

On October 14 you’ll be headed my way, playing First Avenue with Experimental Dental School an AU. How did the bands come to teaming up for the tour?

Greg Saunier: Oh we are very excited too. John and Ed both used to live in Minneapolis and have been to so many shows at First Avenue, it’s legendary. We’ve played the Entry before and peeked into First Avenue, but this is our first time playing there. That was a pretty funny night actually. It was Patti Smith at First Avenue, Deerhoof at 7th St Entry, and a triple bill of Kiss/Ted Nugent/Skid Row at the big arena across the street, don’t remember the name. Well it turned out that Kiss’s plane got grounded in Chicago due to bad weather, so their concert was canceled totally last-minute. The sidewalks were teeming with tons of very confused-looking dudes in Ace Frehley face paint, and some of them ended up at our show…