March is an important month for Wellington-based band Dead End Beat. Their debut self-titled album is scheduled to drop this month, coinciding with the release of the Joe Lonie-directed video for their next single, ‘All My Riches,’ which features the infamous American porn actress Shayla La Veaux.
“It was Joe’s idea…He asked us what imagery went with the song,’ explains Pet, assuring me it was a collective decision between the director and the band to choose a seedy, dirty theme for the video. “There seemed to be a common porno theme, kinda sleazy 16th old school porno soundtrack,” he continues. “That was the first thing [Joe] thought of as well, so he got in contact with that porn star from the States, she was over here for something, she said, ‘Yeah I’ll do it and you can use my movies as well.’”
A ‘making of’ the movie was shown on C4’s Homegrown, suitably late at night, for those interested. So how X-rated does it actually get? “It doesn’t at all, you don’t see anything,” Pet assures me. In fact as the band performs in the dim and fervent shadows of an old movie theatre, the small edited clips of Shayla La Veaux pan out before we can secure even a glimpse of the ‘money shot.’ “It suits the video though, we’re really stoked with it,” enthuses Pet.
After two albums, Pop Life and Don’t Stop The Revolution, their former band, the well-known Breathe, took a break when drummer Guy Fisher left in 2001. Getting together to record some demos and see what would come of working with a drum machine, the four remaining members found that their sound altered dramatically. Listening to the dark, heavy and pulsing rhythms of ‘Dead End Beat,’ it’s hard to understand what sounds like such a dramatic shift in musical direction.
“It was pretty natural really,” says Pet. “I think it’s easy to perceive it as a drastic cut-off from what we were doing. When Guy left it was instantly something different anyway because he wasn’t playing drums. We considered Breathe to be those five guys and when he left, instead of replacing him straight away, we thought, why don’t we get together and record some ideas with a drum machine? It was such a simple little box and it had that really electronic cold feeling… Everything came out completely different.”
Dead End Beat tended to filter out the slower songs and the ones Pet thinks “could have easily been Breathe songs.” The beginning of 2003 saw the band enter Inca Productions in Wellington with producer Mike Gibson where they began tracking many of the songs that would constitute their debut album. Rikki Gooch from Trinity Roots was brought in to simulate the drum machine patterns on a real kit and the band worked over a period of two months to complete the album.
“Mike [Gibson] had heaps of input in making it that dark full-on feeling,” explains Pet. “He would push us a lot harder, ya’ know, hit it harder, play your guitar strings harder and distort it a lot more.” The band’s sound seemed to change and benefit from a different vibe offered by a new drummer. I suggest to Pet that the music Dead End Beat is making seems to rely on heavy drum-driven rhythms. “Yeah, Rikki’s influence is full-on, man,” he laughs, imitating a lively drum fill. “He would listen to a song a couple of times, then just come in and smack the shit out of it.” Between the initial song writing sessions, through to the studio tracking and the production of Mike Gibson, it seems that each stage of the band’s development pushed the sound further in a different direction.
After recruiting a new drummer, Rick Cranson, and a brief stint in the U.K, the band is now releasing the album through its own imprint, Ning Nong Records, where it benefits from a printing and distribution deal with Sony NZ. “We plan to get over to the U.K again as soon as possible,” Pet explains. “The kind of music we’re making now only appeals to really small market here in New Zealand. There’s a huge market for guitar-based music over there. The scene seems to be really going off there at the moment.”
In the weeks following the release the band will announce dates for a tour of New Zealand. “We want the album to sit in stores for a while,” he says. “Let it sink in, get it played on student radio so people sort of have a chance to digest it and we’ll be playing weekend shows around the country. A tour is definitely in the works though.”