The Delusions of dredg
by Dave Schwartz
Photos by Sally Schwartz

Dredg has been making records and touring the world for 10 years. Their sound is a well-established mixture of pop and progressive styles. This is arguably an odd mixture but it works for dredg. Iíve been fortunate enough to catch this band live on at least one other occasion and now with the release of a new record, "The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion," I finally got the chance to do the interview.

My photographer and I arrived a little early, so we quietly watched the sound check. As the band worked their way through setting levels and getting a cohesive sound, I reviewed the questions that I had prepared. Minutes later we were being escorted to the stage.

I met Gavin Hayes, lead singer of dredg, backstage at the Marquee Theater in Tempe, Arizona. We sat in the spacious dressing room, Hayes was comfortable on the leather couch and I was perched on a camera case with my recorder. He was relaxed and eager to talk about the new record.

DB: What can you tell me about the new record?

GH: It was a long time in the making, thatís for sure. We reverted back to our earlier days in the manner that we did it at home. It felt good to be in the Bay Area recording it. We changed labels, so we weíre a little more independent now and had a little more time to experiment. We worked with a young producer, Matt Radosevich, who was very hungry and willing to (laughs), hungry in a literal sense as well!

DB: Welcome to music!

GH: He was beneficial to the record and also made us feel comfortable.

DB: You chose a very unusual title for the new record, "The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion." Where did the title come from and what is its significance?

GH: Actually it was originally the title of the first track on the record, but we changed the title of the song to just "Pariah." The whole record is loosely inspired by a Salman Rushdie piece called "A Letter to the Six Billionth Citizen." It was a short essay that he wrote about belief and basically a letter to an unborn child, which obviously there are well over six billion now; weíre on our way to seven. So the title is about pariah: being an outcast, going against that grain. The parrot is symbolic of a flock, a following or group and the delusion is what weíre all suffering from (laughs).

DB: I was going to ask about the Salman Rushdie essay. It seems like an unusual source for inspiration to write a record, how did you become aware of the essay?

GH: Mark (guitarist Mark Engles) actually found it in a book he was reading. There was a collection of different authors in this book. He felt the essay paralleled the lyrics and where we were. It was towards the middle of the writing of this album and many of the lyrics were pertaining to what he was talking about. I read the essay and thought it was awesome, so we loosely based the remaining lyrics from there on out. The album artwork is very inspired by all this. We will actually be playing a show with Salman Rushdie in October over in New York, itís an AIDS benefit, itís just him and us. I donít have the exact details, but I assume that heíll be doing a reading, maybe the essay and weíll be playing some songs.

DB: Most of the records that dredg has released have been called concept albums. This record is different or at least no one in the media is using that moniker. Whatís the change?

GH: I donít know, I guess we just didnít want to pigeonhole ourselves. This was more of an "inspired by" kind of record. I mean thereís always a theme going on, we just didnít present the album in those terms, that can put unnecessary pressure on us sometimes.

DB: To discuss your earlier albums for just a moment, my question has to do with the performance of songs from concept albums. Do you feel any obligation to maintain the integrity of the concept in those albums when you play live or is performance a completely separate animal?

GH: Live is so different. Obviously weíre playing many songs from different records. I donít feel restricted by what we play from a live standpoint. We have done a few shows, one night we did "Leitmotif" from beginning to end. The next night was "El Cielo" beginning to end. Those nights we really stuck to the concept or theme of the record.

DB: Earlier you mentioned that the new record was slow in the making. It seems like most of your records are on a three-year cycle. Why does it take so long to produce a new record?

GH: I think the main reason is that after the record is complete and out, we tour for a good year and a half and, as it turns out, weíre not really a great band at writing on the road. I mean weíre usually in a van and, well, weíre lazy I guess! I mean thatís really the main excuse. Touring eats up a lot of time. Weíre going to try to get the next record out a little quicker this time I think. We have a lot of leftover material from this record that is worthy of being heard I think.

DB: Youíve already mentioned your departure from Interscope. "Liberating" was the term I think you used. Has your new arrangement given you a freer reign on the music?

GH: They really didnít interfere with the creative side of the band. I mean obviously they would gravitate toward certain songs and consequently put a little more pressure on those. They knew what kind of band they signed, I think, and we were us. I really think they let us go because, one, we really didnít sell tons and tons of records for them and two, itís just a different business now. When we got signed it was a different world and they were able to take chances with bands like us and still keep it balanced. These days the label is a little more focused on the monetary aspects of the business. I suspect that theyíre doing a better job with that now. I feel that they are a little more R&B and hip-hop based, you know, the pop side of the world.

DB: I guess I can see your point, but Iíll counter with you are known as a progressive band, but I think most anyone can hear that there is a pop element within your music. I donít think anyone would consider you strictly a numbers band.

GH: We were with them for eight years so we canít complain. It was a good run.

DB: You mentioned the current evolution that has been occurring in the music business. My next question goes hand-in-hand with this evolution. There are so many artistic elements within dredg, even beyond the music and your fans are well aware of each member of dredg and their creative adventures-- I wanted to ask if you thought art is returning to music?

GH: I really think so. There are more bands than ever. In fact I think the market is a little over-saturated with talent. There is definitely a lot of creative and great bands that Iím hearing about every week. Itís crazy. There are so many bands and so many great bands as well.

DB: And the Internet has given everyone the opportunity to step and become a bigger band they ever could have 10 years ago.

GH: And I think that encourages a more artistic approach. I mean every band has that resource. Bands can be whatever they want to be and still get showcased within their genre. All they have to be is good.

DB: And that is a great thing for the fan. For me, music has always been much bigger than the bottom line.

I want to thank Gavin Hayes for spending a few minutes with us and sharing his thoughts on dredgís new record, "The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion." If the band holds to form, they will be touring extensively giving everyone a chance for everyone to attend this must-see show.  Don't miss it! 

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