Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Sep 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

UnderWorld Beat

ae DeadCanDanceCelebrating world culture and exorcising demons with Dead Can Dance’s Brendan Perry

The disparity of the labels most commonly assigned to Dead Can Dance’s style—gothic, neoclassical, world fusion—bears witness to the breadth of this Australian-born ensemble’s artistic scope. Seemingly contradictory elements intertwine with the utmost grace in DCD’s work: The group’s very name juxtaposes the grim with the festive, while its music is both elegant and primal, foreign and familiar, ethereal and earthy, witchy and angelic, ghostly and vibrant … and, as singer/multi-instrumentalist Brendan Perry states, an exorcism as well as a celebration.

Dead Can Dance performs at Monterey’s Golden State Theatre on Thursday, April 18, just two days after the release of the band’s In Concert album. A phone conversation with Perry, who co-leads the group with vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lisa Gerrard, revealed him to be something of a paradox in his own right: The mysterious mesmerist with the stern, commanding baritone proved to be friendly, easygoing and mild-mannered.

Good Times: You once told Time magazine that Dead Can Dance made records to exorcise their demons. What demons were you exorcising on your last studio album, Anastasis?

Brendan Perry: [Chuckles] Well, it’s not solely that. That’s a partial way of describing what music means in our lives, what it brings to our lives. I think what I was referring to then was really about a form of working through your emotional problems, intellectual problems, with the aid of music. It has a great healing capacity, and also a capacity for giving you an insight into the nature of your surroundings and your relationships with the world and other people. I think Anastasis is more of a celebration, really, of musical influences, certainly from the Near East and Orient. They’re inspiring to me, both on a cultural level as well as a musical level. It was a case of immersing oneself in these traditions and seeing what came through the other end, which is often the case with a lot of our albums. They do reflect what we’ve been listening to at any given point in time. Like Aion, for instance, was very much influenced by early music, and that’s what we were listening to at the time. So the music’s also a mirror, I guess, for want of a better expression, of what inspires us.

I would imagine that life on the road with the band affects the music as well. You’re absorbing a lot of different influences as you travel the world.

Yeah, definitely. Meeting other cultures gives you a sense, I suppose, of being a bit of a gypsy. On tour, you’re a traveler. You don’t have your own home to return to every evening after work. You’re in a strange location, and it does feel like you’re a troubadour in that respect. You’re traveling from one place to another, absorbing cultures, different languages, different foods and smells and that whole sensual gamut of experiences. And just imbibing and enjoying it and making the most of it and discovering the world is an important part of touring for me, also.

Do you try to get in a certain mood before you record music, or do you just let the music take you where it wants?

Yeah, you have to [do the latter]. I can’t force it. It becomes intolerable, really, like trying to force a horse to drink when it doesn’t want to. It just doesn’t happen. When those moments do come along, it’s important to recognize them and to grab the opportunity, but it’s not like you can turn them on and off when you want.

How are you and Lisa getting along these days?

Very well, thank you.

I know there’s been some conflict between you two in the past. Does that friction have an effect, either negative or positive, on your music?

I don’t think you can call it positive, but it certainly clears the way for, I suppose, us to only accept music which we really believe in, as opposed to totally unfiltered, anything goes, just churn it out, you know? I feel that’s where most of our friction stems from. It’s really about quality control. We both want the best that we can possibly do, but we don’t always meet eye to eye. And yeah, there’s a power struggle involved in that, like in any relationship. It’s like concerned parents, really, to use that analogy. [Laughs] The music’s our children, and we want the best for them. Sometimes we just think differently about the way that is best, you know? But at the end of the day, we can reflect on all our conflicts and realize that we want the same thing, ultimately. We have a basic premise that if either one of us does not like what we’ve done, then it doesn’t happen, no matter how much the other partner kicks up a fuss about it being the most amazing thing that we’ve ever done. That’s essentially where our conflicts stem from.

There’s a mystical feel to Dead Can Dance’s music. Do you identify with any specific form of spirituality?

No. No, I don’t. I’m a little bit anti-dogma. Anything organized when it comes to religion or spirituality just sets off alarm bells with me. It’s like a contradiction in terms, I find. As soon as things become organized, rules come into the equation, and then you have hierarchies, and then you have kind of closed minds as opposed to open minds.

Understood. But do you believe in the existence of some kind of spiritual force beyond the material?

Yeah. I’m very open to that being a possibility, inasmuch as I feel very humbled by my place in the cosmos, which is absolutely immense and awe-inspiring and should remind us how truly reverential we should be about all the creation. I just think we’re limited, probably, by our sensibilities. There probably are some forces or energies out there which are intelligent and non-human, which we just don’t have the sensibilities to be able to sense. It could be that; I don’t know. But I think it would be ridiculous to be closed-minded to that and to the afterlife and what have you.

When Dead Can Dance started out, there was no preexisting category for this kind of music. What genre did you tell people the band was?

Gothic! [Laughs] We had no say in it. That’s what the journalists decided we were; that’s what we sort of got labeled with. But there wasn’t really world music at that time. You walked into the record shop in the early ’80s, and there was probably 10 percent of the amount of different genres in comparison to what we have today. I mean, today it’s crazy! We’ve got subdivisions of dubstep. [Laughs] It just goes on and on into really niche-driven genres. Back then, the world music thing was like the Baka Pygmies and some Andean flutes, and that was your lot, you know? I should just mention, too, that the music press in England—you find it less so in America; I think Americans are far more open-minded and get us more in that respect—but there’s a distrust of people who try to do hybrid music and cross over into different musical areas. The English press like to have their music neatly niche-driven in a separate box that you can easily categorize. They do not like hybrids or crossover musics. I think it’s because they’d have to think outside of the box; they’d have to learn about music from another genre. They’re essentially lazy. They specialize on one type of music, and as musicians, we’ve never limited ourselves to one particular genre. Any music or cultural tradition is open to us.

Is there a primary message to Dead Can Dance’s music or a particular experience you hope to give your audiences?

I think ultimately it’s to enjoy the experience of the sensuality of music, combined with a certain degree of intellectual acumen, and just to have a sense of celebration: celebrating culture, the world, life. 


Dead Can Dance plays at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 18 at Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. Tickets are $42.50-$75. For more information, visit deadcandance.com.  Photo: Jay Brooks

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual