KEN: Hey guys! I’ve been well—enjoying the sweltering summer and super excited for all these cosmic events in August. Actually going to Portland next week but coming back to LA right before the eclipse!
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Blade Runner”?
KEN: Blade Runner is a bit left of center—but only if you’re standing in a certain spot. For me, from where I’m standing right now—it feels right on the mark. Musically it’s got a few drops of just about every single influence we’ve been feeling, like borrowing about a hundred different pieces of fabric from all these places and using my own fleece to sew a flag with it…a flag of free will.
Sonically this track is more lo-fi than our last record—the process was limited to force the song to work in set ways. I even used an iPhone to record a certain instrument on each track of the new EP as a way of putting a serial number on the tech era in which it was made. I was also reading this thing, that Lou Reed and a few others had enjoyed doing, about creating a set of restrictions during the recording process to find a different depth in the song. Like look elsewhere and work within your means. Coincidentally the restrictions presented themselves to us.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song? Does it have anything to do with the classic movie?
KEN: My friend Nate was visiting and we were walking through the 2nd street tunnel in Downtown LA. A lot of movies have been filmed in that tunnel, but for some reason we started talking about Blade Runner. And then we started talking about the short story that the movie is based on, and instantly this lyric floated into my head… “Oh do you dream of electric sheep”…. and the whole idea just planted itself there. because I was struggling with watching so many people around the country being suckered into making choices that aren’t good for them. I mean it breaks my heart to see this. But a wise man once said, you can get angry or you can write a song.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
KEN: Yes 100%! In just a few weeks the video will come out. A really cool filmmaker here in LA pitched me this idea —and he carried it through from start to finish. I feel like he’s a bit like Spielberg in that you can sense the fun he’s having in his film making—it’s subtle but somewhere in there you can feel his joy.
Another thing I love about this video is that we pulled people from the east LA music community to star in it. Jordan of course who’s been playing with Dutch Party since last summer, and then three new additions; one of which turned me on to no wave music, another is a crazy talented multi-instrumentalist with a voice to move mountains, and her friend who fronts a punk band with pure zen swagger. These guys are all creating great music everyday and I was lucky enough to have them join me for this one. We’re stoked to share it with everyone.
The single comes off your new album Combat Pop – what’s the story behind the title?
KEN: The record took on a life of it’s own and the message became clear. Pop is just another term for what’s popular, and we started feeling like so many things were becoming popular by design. I mean, a handful of men own 99% of American media. So this record is us not only combatting the noise of homogeny, but it’s also saying, hey we as an audience can create our own pop culture. It doesn’t have to be handed down to us from above. And our hope is to create a pop culture that lifts the resistance to the fore—not as a commodity but as a community.
It also kind of follows an arc. Its funny, because for how much of it is a statement about the social zeitgeist of the times—it’s totally the story of my life last year. The fight inside of me was completely relit last year and I’m hoping this record can do the same for someone else. I want this music to be used as tinder, but in a tender way. Like, raze the culture but do it semi-gracefully you know lol.
How was the recording and writing process?
KEN: Honestly, the recording process was a bruising maze. We spent most of the time trying to find the right place to record, and the right engineer to help craft the sonics. Part of the problem was that the studio where I tracked Astral Nights had closed down for a year to reinvent itself. At the same time I had a bit of pressure to be a more straight up pop act and maybe toy with the idea of casually drifting more toward a top 40 sound. These two elements made for a rocky start because I couldn’t find any footing approaching it like that. Eventually a lightbulb went off and I just decided to solve both problems with one simple move. I had just settled into this old house in Highland Park that had a really weird musical history—a crazy story I’ll save for another time—and the bedroom downstairs had been used as a makeshift studio. So I decided to rent some gear and record at my place—which meant that the record was instantly going to be more lo-fi but we could craft in comfort. As a result I had to engineer everything myself, which has it’s own challenges, but once the decision was made to do a record that way it just came together on its own. And then as if by design, the studio that had closed down for a year reopened as Summit Studios, and Blade Runner ended up being the first record mixed there.
The writing process was a different story. I knew what I wanted to say. I was feeling so strongly about it—with all the shit that’s gone down the past year, not only in the world at large, but personally and professionally—it just crystalized my point of view.
What role does San Francisco play in your writing?
KEN: Counter culture. Love. Intellectualism. Psychedelics. Valleys and hills. Foggy walks. Introspection. Diversity. Subversiveness. It’s different now though.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
KEN: I was reading a lot of world history at the time and I always loved how the facts can change to suit whoever is currently in charge. But if you tell the world a lie loud enough and long enough it’s scary to see that it really does stick to a lot of people. And those people turn around and innocently carry the lie over here and over there and so on until a forest grows from it. In the end I hope that there remains a clearing, a patch of sunlight for the truth to shine down.
Any plans to hit the road?
KEN: Right now we are focusing on releasing these two follow up EP’s, but we will definitely sort out going on the road next year once we’ve finished. Every town and city has its own thing going on, and we love being a part of that and getting to know what different people are up to. It’s amazing to experience all of the many scenes out there and mix it up with the people who are keeping these things alive.
What else is happening next in Dutch Party’s world?
KEN: Releasing tons of new music. Basically this year the goal was to do an Iggy Pop 77 and put out 3 solid records in a row. There were a couple events that put that on hold—so now we have a bit of a queue of music to release. Luckily there is also a flood of new ideas pouring out which maybe happens once every year or two when the ideas are really flowing like mad. So by January next year expect a smattering of releases that quickly expand the shape of things to come.