It's undeniable that artists' cultural roots are linked to their work. Experiences throughout the first years of a person's life will mark that person forever. Take Spain, for example, and how artists such as Picasso or Bu˝uel used to corroborate their Spanish upbringing in their work even though they spent most of their creative lives in France. They did it unconsciously, but nevertheless, it's not hard to see. One's culture plays a fundamental role in music, as it does in any other artistic expression. Genres like Krautrock - so geometric, linear, strange and grandiose - couldn't have been born from anywhere else but German Society. Other genres like jazz were born and thrived in the spirit of the Afro-American community, where it found its groove. Dianogah are from the States, and you don't need to do research at a Library to figure that out. It just takes a couple of songs to know. It's that easy. Dianogah are not only from North America... they sound North American too! We should take into consideration, together with this improvised theory, that their sound is quite close to that of several bands from the United States, and that it's almost impossible to find bands outside the States with that raw, primitive and at the same time, beautifully sparse sound. That could be the point, or maybe not. But the truth is that nowadays only Dakota Suite could lie about their homeland if they wanted to.
Dianogah began in 1995, after Jay Ryan (bass, vocals) and Jason Harvey (bass) graduated. The two joined their longtime friend Kip McCabe (drums) and set up to embark on a shared musical quest, the first step was taken when one of their first songs -"Dreams of Being King"- appeared in the excellent Reach The Rock soundtrack, put together by John McEntire. From then on, Dianogah's rise has been vertiginous, not only because of their several singles, appearances in compilations and two albums, but also because of their North-American tours supporting prestigious bands like June of 44, Silkworm or Don Caballero. Nowadays, Dianogah can be proud of being worthy of such prestige on their own, and to prove it they've crossed the Atlantic Ocean, demonstrating what they're capable of to a few lucky Europeans.
Spain had the privilege of hosting two Dianogah concerts, one was in Sant Feli˙ and the other in Gorliz. Parsley Webzine had the chance to maintain an interesting phone conversation on with Jay Ryan, just a few minutes before their gig in Gorliz, a tiny and beautiful village in the Basque Country. Of course, we focused our interview on Dianogah's latest Battle Champions (Southern 2000), produced by Steve Albini. Wonder if Albini the excentric he's made out to be...
(Parsley) Are you as excited with Battle Champions as we have been in the last months?
(Jay) We're very happy with how the record came out. Recording with Steve is a lot of fun, he's very good at what he does. And aside from being a very good recording engineer, he's also a great fun to work with, he keeps everybody relaxed and comfortable, and he has a very good sense of humor, which is important to have. He's also very patient.
(P) He's obviously very experienced in recording bands, did you feel very aware of that experience when he was working with you?
(J) Yeah, he's very much a master recording. But I think there are a lot of people who are masters of recording; he has a really great drums sound, which we felt was important for Kip's drumming. But really, we just enjoyed working with Steve as a person, he's a lot of fun to work with. So we are happy with how the record came out. We were playing those songs, a lot of those songs, for a long time before the record was made and we still play about half of them currently in the set that we've been playing. We feel there's a nice development from the first record, As Seen form Above, it's a nice growing-type-of-record.
(P) The first time that we heard about you was through the song "Dreams of Being King" that appeared in the soundtrack for Reach the Rock. It was made by John McEntire and some more bands like you who were invited to contribute a song. How did you come to meet him? Did you know McEntire from before?
(J) We met John during that process. We didn't even work directly with John while making that song. We were dealing with somebody who was in charge of the music for the movie, who dealt with John and had John score the whole picture. And at the same time (that person) asked us and these other bands to write songs specifically for the movie. So we got a copy of the script and we went out and we saw the filming and we got in our own minds what kind of mood we wanted to share, and then we wrote that song and they were happy with it. Then John McEntire was able to take that and kind of... he didn't really do anything in particular with it himself, but it kind of fit it to his whole scheme, his whole plans for the music, overall for the picture. We did not play that song for a little while, we weren't playing that song but just recently. On this tour we've planned to play that song every night.
(P) What else are you playing tonight? Are you playing that Joe Jackson cover, "Steppin' Out"?
(J) (Laughs) No, we're not playing that, where did you hear about that? (Laughs again). We're trying to finish that song but he have not quite got it pinned down yet. We're playing a couple of songs off our first singles: "The Garden Airplane Trap" and "Eucalyptus", we're trying to play a couple of songs from As Seen form Above, specially "Shogun" and "What is your landmass?"; playing about half of the record from Battle Champions, we're playing two or three new songs and a couple of other songs that were on other records like "Dreams of Being King" and another song called "Strongdar" that was on a compilation that nobody, not a lot of people ever heard.