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By: Gilbert Potts
Ahead of their Australian & New Zealand tour Gilbert Potts asked bass/keyboard player Donovan Jones from This Will Destroy You some questions about Texas, marsupials, downloading music and much more.
(((o))): What’s the most beautiful sound you’ve heard?
Donovan: Kitty purrs…and the saxophone solo from Sade’s ‘Haunt Me’ on cassette very, very slowed down.
(((o))): If you were an animal, what would you want to be? What would you actually be?
Donovan: I am an animal. But if I were another animal, I think I’d like to be some sort of flying animal. I’d want to see the world and not have to wait in airports. Maybe an owl. Yeah, owls are handsome and spooky.
(((o))): Are there any marsupials you didn’t get to see last time you visited Australia that are on your list for this time?
Donovan: Ah I don’t think we saw any marsupials unfortunately. Just a ton of kangaroo skins hanging in a flea market we went through. I hear we’re going to go hold some koalas this time. We’re all pretty stoked about it. I’m pretty sure we are all missing contact with animals.
(((o))): What do you get out of composing and performing music?
Donovan: I don’t know if I think of composing in that way necessarily. For me, it just has to happen. I’m constantly hearing patterns and melody in everyday life. It’s almost not even composition, but just a different interpretation of the sounds I’ve heard throughout the day. I do a lot of field recording. I suffer from insomnia and the majority of the reason for this lies in the music constantly running through my head. When I do fall asleep music comes to me in dream states. I’ve had friends tell me they’ve heard me beat boxing in my sleep. In some ways it’s an affliction that I medicate using alcohol and marijuana, but I think I’ve found a way to manage it over time.
Performing music is different. Many days it feels like we’re just monkeys in a cage, on display, dancing for peanuts. I still get anxious before every show. It stems from social anxiety, but I think it’s important for me to sweat before an upcoming performance. Maybe I’m a bit of a perfectionist. All the anxiousness and stress dissipates a few songs in. Performing is a state of mind. I can’t just jump into that mode. It takes time for me to shift my awareness from the unlimited amount of tour stress to simply creating sounds. I love pummeling people with those low lows. Ultimately I do this because I love making music. I do it for myself. I’m honing my craft. We just got lucky in the fact that certain people enjoy the music we make.
(((o))): Is that all you want to get out of music or is there something you’ve not yet attained? If not, what happens when you get there?
Donovan: I don’t want to ever stop growing musically. There will always be more to attain. I want to help push music forward. That’s been my goal for decades. I don’t know if I’ll ever accomplish it, but I think myself and the band have always kept that in mind when writing and recording. I have a solo record coming out later this year. It’s been a huge goal of mine to put out my own music. I’m trying to work more in the r&b/rap world because it’s so dear to my heart and a huge influence in the way I write with TWDY. I’d love to compose for modern dance/ballet. I have a couple chickens in the pot right now and they’ll be ready later this year I think.
(((o))): Coming from the dark relentless intensity of Tunnel Blanket, you really blew the doors off with Another Language. There’s more scope for the listener to explore a range of emotions and it almost feels like a spring thaw or the wakening from hibernation of nine different creatures. Does this reflect what’s happened to the band or you personally in that period?
Donovan: I think we’ve all had a positive progression as individuals. For me, certain people leaving my life took a while to get through. It changed me in the end. Personally I think we’ve all just grown up a lot. Touring extensively, hitting it real hard, living hard. We’re old as fuck in our minds. Artistically we all work on other types of music and listen to many different genres and it all comes out as this strange hybrid of instrumental music. Life isn’t all dark, it’s only half dark I think. Tunnel Blanket is still very much a part of us. It was a state of mind and now with Another Language there is a bit more perspective on that mood. I see Another Language taking place during twilight hours when world looks incredibly different. The magic hour.
(((o))): How does it work writing and performing long slow burn songs in a country with a short musical attention span?
Donovan: It has been frustrating in the past, but in the last couple years I think the climate has gotten significantly better for instrumental music. Not really what we expected in the long run to be honest. Generally speaking, places we’ve played like Europe and Asia have been making instrumental music for millennia whereas the US is still just a baby in the grand scheme of things.
(((o))): We have some interstate rivalry here in Australia, but it doesn’t extend to flying the state flag or anything. Can you explain the Texas thing to me, the Lone Star State viewpoint. Is this something you personally feel and if so does it influence your music?
Donovan: Texas has a history of being fiercely independent. The Republic of Texas. We still have the power to secede from the US if we wanted to. Texas is huge. It has everything. When we travel abroad people know about Texas. It takes forever to get out of Texas and I think that’s a contributing factor to artists from Texas making longer songs. Texas has a huge influence on hip/hop rap culture. Young Lean is a good example. Texas is also full of back country assholes that are incredibly racist and close minded. It’s an odd juxtaposition where all the major cities are liberal and 30 minutes outside the city limits it’s suburbs/rural America with the shitty fast food and gun toting “git er dun” the south will rise again mentality. So for the most part I love Texas but at the same time I want to toss half the people in a ditch.
(((o))): Governments make noise about intellectual and artistic piracy, but they are far from innocent on that front. Where do you sit on music rights and ownership and when it’s OK to use or take someone else’s art without payment and/or acknowledgement?
Donovan: We’ve always been ok with people downloading our records for free because it’s still spreading our art. If people like what they hear, they will come to shows and hopefully buy merch. It all comes out in the wash. I do think artists that are on Spotify/Pandora should be paid more per play. It’s a huge industry now and the artists are not compensated enough for their music. At the same time, I make a large amount of sample based music, but I generally alter samples so much that they take on a different character or mood. Collage is becoming more and more popular and I do really enjoy hearing original pieces being reworked. If it becomes something else, I really don’t have a problem with it.
(((o))): Is popular/commercial music the enemy of underground/non-popular music or is that something we invent on the internet because we’re bored?
Donovan: I think they balance each other out to be honest. If we didn’t have bad music I don’t think we would know what good music sounded like. Yes the majority of mainstream music is terrible but on the whole a musician should be able to take something from any type of music. It has its own flavor in a way. They influence each other.
(((o))): When do we get to see a soundtrack from TWDY? Would you prefer to rescore a recent film or silent film, or score something new?
Donovan: Soon I hope! We’ve been shooting for that for years. We’ve done a small amount of scoring and it’s been very enjoyable. At this point I think we would score just about anything. Video games would be great to write for also. Luckily things have gotten progressively better for the band with licensing so I don’t think a film score is too far off.
(((o))): When the world ends, what key will the soundtrack be in?
Donovan: C# minor definitely.
THIS WILL DESTROY YOU AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND TOUR
Sat June 6 @ King’s Arms, Auckland NZ
Sun June 7 @ San Fran, Wellington NZ
Mon June 8 @ Jive, Adelaide SA
Tue June 9 @ Amplifier, Perth WA
Wed June 10 @ The Zoo, Brisbane QLD
Thu June 11 @ Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
Fri June 12 @ The Hi Fi, Melbourne VIC
Sat June 13 @ Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
Sun June 14 @ Hermann’s Bar, Sydney NSW
Tickets on sale from www.birdsrobe.com