Interview: Dodecad on Influences, Conceptual Themes and the Impact of Noise

Dodecad
Dodecad

Recently our inbox received an email from a Missouri based band called Dodecad and rather than simply saying who they were and what they play the message went into further particulars. Namely the way they described themselves, things they had read and a chance encounter with Eyehategod’s Dixie Whiskey all served to pique my interest. And the funny thing was they weren’t pushing a new album, in fact their last EP, Growth, came out in 2015. Again, interest piqued. So, I dove in intently and listened to the two EP’s that are currently available and was blown away by their intense mixture of noise rock, sludge and at times mathy song structures. Needless to say in a short 20 plus minute span I became a fan and had to know more (proving that sometimes good things can come by pure chance). I wanted to know just what or who influenced them, more on the concepts behind the cerebral artwork and numeric titles, and the personal impact that noise has had on these individuals and the band itself. As you will see in the band’s responses they were more than gracious with their time and give immense insight into all of this and more. Read on after the jump.

For those unaware give us some insight to the band, its beginnings and some of your influences. Also, what or who drew you to noise/sludge?

Michael Gerhardt (bass, vocals, pink satan head t-shirts): I’d been friends with David for years, and I’d seen Cully play drums in his earlier bands multiple times. The three of us originally started out as replacement musicians for a different noise rock band, but as we started writing these songs, it became clear that wasn’t going to pan out and we moved on. Noisy sludge metal is my favorite style of music to play, because you can honestly do whatever you want with it. I love it because I don’t feel like there’s any part I could write for our band that we couldn’t make work.

In terms of influences, David and I are really into Lord Mantis and Ulcerate. I don’t think we sound much like either band, but we definitely like their approaches to heaviness and dynamics. Personally, I cannot overstate how important The Jesus Lizard has been on my playing; Liar and Goat were the first albums I’d heard with the bass mixed so loud and so important to the band, and David William Sims played bass unlike any of the dudes in all the metal I’d heard. Eyehategod was just as important; those dudes sounded like complete shit in the best way possible. Listen all the way though Dopesick and you’ll want to take a shower. Last, and maybe most important, is Venetian Snares. Yeah, he’s a weirdo Canadian dude behind a laptop, but Doll Doll Doll is about the most unrelenting hour of claustrophobic darkness you can hear. There is not a single hint of light on that entire album. His constant use of uneven and changing time signatures also really helped me in learning to write that way.

Cully Meier (drums, recording, patience): I’m an old dude, so my influences are in much more straightforward metal / thrash bands, mostly from the 90’s.  I listened to a lot of Exodus, HUM, Helmet, Anthrax, Pantera, etc.  My real hero, and my inspiration to play drums, was Alex Van Halen, believe it or not.

Playing wierdo math doom metal with these guys has definitely expanded my horizons and influences musically, though. The dudes introduced me to Botch early on, and I was immediately taken in by the overall rawness and the mix of hardcore and math metal. During our writing process, I still instinctively lean more towards simple heavy grooves, and I think this balances out Michael’s insane drive to make every song as complex and as “fuck you, listener” as possible.

David Dragoo (guitars, backing vocals, awesome dog): As with most people, The Jesus Lizard opened me up to a whole other world of music with noise rock. Until that point I had been open to a lot of things including mathy music and metal but my mind really opened after listening to a slew of noise rock bands and I realized that, stylistically, this type of music was endless in terms of what one could do. For me personally, bands like Deathspell Omega and Breach are also huge influences because they both do what THEY DO, which is playing really heavy, uncompromising and unique music with complete knowledge of how to play their instruments.

You have two self funded EP’s and a 12“ combining the two on your Bandcamp page, how has the reception been to the material? And with the resurgence of vinyl do you feel you’ve reached a further audience with the choice of a 12”?

MG: The response has been pretty much exactly as I expected. We sit in a weird space between metal and noise rock, and on top of that we’re mathy as hell and have long instrumental sections. We’re not the easiest band to get into, and we understand that. It’s cool though; the people who like us really like us, and they tell people about us. I’m happy anytime someone else enjoys listening to the songs we write, because I’m extremely happy that I get to play them and listen to them with two of my favorite people.

I think we did the vinyl for ourselves as much as we did to sell it to people on bandcamp or at shows. We’re all really proud of those songs and they way they turned out, from the art to the insert to the songs. But regarding an audience, I don’t really know if that’s done much for us. We’ve done so little promotion for it, and we’ve been so focused on the follow up that we haven’t played too many shows. But it does lend us a little bit of legitimacy.

CM: I view the vinyl as sort of an art piece that accompanies the music. We had a desire to create something unique and tangible for fans to be able to display or to get that visceral feeling of setting the needle down on a track versus just hitting play on their phone. Plus, people like to post about whatever records they’re spinning at the moment on social media, so there’s a bit of extra exposure there. Plus, it looks GOOD.  Have you seen that shit?

MG: Plus the random colors of vinyl were cheaper.

DD: I definitely wanted to do the vinyl for myself just as much as having it available for others to snag. It’s nice to have it available at shows and to have people get excited when they see something that they would actually want to display (thanks Cully, looks great) on their wall over their record player. But, for all of us, I am sure it is pretty apparent that we are just really proud of the entire production, from the songs to the artwork. Hopefully, we can leave a few copies in some other cities to reach that wider audience at some point.

Noise is a genre of music that has some undeniable traits any fan could pick out with ease but the way Dodecad inserts sludge, hints of doom and math type structuring and patterns make your sound ultra aggressive and more pissed off. What’s your headspace going into the writing process and how do you translate that to the finished product?

MG: I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t into heavy music. I’ve just always been drawn to play as aggressively as possible, and once I figured out how to incorporate the mathy aspects, I haven’t been able to stop. I’m a very fortunate man: the music that I get to make with Cully and David is genuinely the stuff I dreamed about writing when I first started learning to play guitar and bass.

All of our songs (so far) have started from one or more bass riffs I write at home alone. Sometimes the riffs pop out fully formed, while other times I beat on them for a week at a time, playing them over and over for hours until I figure out what 1/8th note is bothering me. Whenever I have enough parts, I bring them to practice and Cully spends all of 74 seconds finding the perfect beat. Then the three of us arrange a working drum and bass version of the song that we record for David so he can take it home and write his crazy weirdo parts over all of it.

It seems with Impotence and then Growth that there is a recurring theme of a higher power, god or official cramming their beliefs down the masses throats. There’s always been something along these lines going on within societies and religions, this only magnifies as time marches on. Is this your rebellion against this – to call all the wolves in sheep’s clothing out on the carpet so to speak?

MG: I’m hesitant to say I’m calling anybody out. Historically, the Dodecad is a divine being that originates from a hybrid of first century AD gnostic Christian theology and ancient Greek cosmology. It’s the weakest, most human, most base emanation from the creator of all reality, the Monad. The Dodecad is a god among ants but an ant among gods. It just got me thinking; what would it do to its psyche, to know that it’s the weakest god? I just found the concept really evocative and inspiring.

So the lyrics are more an exploration of the Dodecad’s internal monologue; how would a god with a massive inferiority complex react to the last 100 years of human history? It starts out disgusted with people’s seeming apathy to so much suffering, but refuses to do anything to help because it’s scared it isn’t powerful enough. You know, impotence. Over the course of the songs, it eventually decides to save humanity from itself, even if that means creating far more suffering in the process. It labels this decision as “growth” so that it can rationalize the coming violence. That’s why the album starts and ends with the same lyric.

Plus I’ll never write a better anti religion song than Jesus Saves, so I didn’t really want to try.

The savageness of the music takes in a different life with the slightly muddy production. Impotence is gritty while Growth comes across just a little clearer but still retains the grit and grime that noise goes so well with. How important was it to you for the production to sound this way? For me, had both EP’s come out sounding pristine and crystal clear would have missed the point and both would have suffered from it, thoughts?

MG: We set out from the beginning with the idea of having dirty, pushed recordings. Like you said, there’s no way those songs would sound “right” if they weren’t coated in a thick layer of grime. Our friend Daniel Ruder engineered both of them; not only he is he a great engineer, but he’s also a former bandmate of mine, so he understood what we were looking for before he set up the first mic. Cully mixed them both, and in a band where the interplay of the drums and the bass is half the sound, having a drummer do the mixing is absolutely crucial.

The different sounds compliment the lyrics and also mirror the band’s state, if a bit tenuously. On Impotence, the Dodecad being is trying to figure itself out and what it thinks about post modern life, and we were trying to finalize our sound; a muddy process for the being, a muddy production for the record, and a muddy understanding for our band. On Growth, the Dodecad has picked a definitive and harsh course of action, and we had figured out the kind of music we wrote best; a harsh decision, a harsh production, and a harsh style of music.

 

Dodecad Logo

On both EPs the tracks are all titled with numbers, what’s the significance of those and do the numbers tie in thematically or is it simply a case of not wanting to overshadow the music or take focus away from the message?

MG: Mostly I just hated the idea of coming up with song titles. Like you said, a bad title can really color people’s perceptions of the lyrical content. Rather than worry about it, I decided to just name them in order of when I wrote the parts. So the riffs in song 7 were written before the riffs in song 8, despite the fact that we finished writing song 8 before we finished song 7. I think number titles just fit with the overall theme of the album and band better anyways. Plus it confuses Cully which is funny.

CM: We are extremely particular about our songs — if the three of us don’t absolutely love each and every element of a song, we change it or give it the boot. The missing numbers are actually complete (or mostly complete) songs that didn’t make the cut.

DD: You’ll be able to hear songs 2, 4, 5, 10, and 12 on the second disc of our “Essential Dodecad…” release to come out Christmas 2018.

The artwork for both EP’s seem to mirror both the complex song structures and the vast array of possible directions of who or what these songs point the finger at. Thoughts on this? Furthermore, tell us about the artwork and how they came to be the face of your work to date.

CM: I had the idea to use old technical and medical manuals as collage material just before Dodecad got started, and as the band progressed, the collages seemed to coincide with our musical themes.  The collages themselves are very labor intensive and sometimes take weeks to take shape, which again seems to coincide with our songwriting process. Michael and David thought they were cool, so we used two of them for the covers of Impotence/Growth. I’m pretty happy with the results.  It was very exciting to see them on our vinyl.

MG: Dude actually puts two spaces after periods. Holy shit.

CM: Well yeah, I’m not a damn savage.

DD: Oh man, he does….

It’s been awhile since the 12″ and even longer since the EP’s originally came out. I have to assume you’re working on new material? Can we expect a third step to the established theme? What’s the timetable for the new album? Will you be working with a label or self funding once again?

MG: We started working on new material as soon as we finished recording Growth, but shows, graduate school, moving, new jobs, and all kinds of other excuses really slowed that down. Add in our penchant for writing a song, thinking it isn’t good enough and throwing it away, and yeah, it draws out your release schedule. Plus, our songs are just hard to write.

Fortunately, we are finalizing our last song for a new EP, called CONTEMPT. If all goes according to plan, it’ll be on our bandcamp (for free) and every digital distribution service under the sun by mid May. Like our previous releases, it’ll be another self funded 3 song ep, and it will pick up right where the story told on Growth left off. Musically, it’s going to be a bit more straightforward, and very, very, very heavy.

CM:  Also, our style of music isn’t particularly easy to write.  Sometimes it takes quite a while to reach a finished product that we’re all happy with.

DD: Like Michael said, Contempt does tone down a bit on the math and the overall abrasiveness of the sound, which gives it a more straightforward sound and feel. Somehow though, the songs have gotten even heavier. Also, we have decided to record Contempt in a big turn of the century church which I believe will contribute to the crushing, oppressive songs that will be recorded there.

MG: This isn’t to say it isn’t still mathy as hell, it’s just that we’re using the occasional even-metered part as a means of making the mathy parts sound weirder. You know, more dynamics. It wasn’t on purpose, but to balance out the repeated even-measures in some of the other songs, the one we just finished arranging is six and a half minutes of total nonsense.

Looking to the future and past the new album what’s next for Dodecad? And will we be able to see you on the road soon?

MG: As soon as CONTEMPT is done, we’re going to let our creative batteries recharge and focus on finding and building an audience. The only way to do that is hit the road and hope the van doesn’t break down, so yes, we’re planning on playing a lot more shows. Then I want to record one more EP and press it on another combined vinyl, and then I want to play even more shows. It’s pretty cool that I get to do all of this with people as talented and friendly as Cully and David.

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview. Anything you’d like to add?

MG: In all sincerity, thank you and everyone at Nine Circles for spending your time helping bands like us. Your desire to help unknown bands is crucial to the success of any upcoming or DIY band.

We’re on Spotify and iTunes and Pandora and Amazon music and Google play now, so if that’s something you do, uh, I guess now you can hear us there too?

Attention bands reading this interview: email us (here) if you’re looking to come through Missouri, please don’t hesitate to contact us. I can’t promise results, but I can promise we’ll try.

Many thanks to Dodecad for their time!

– Josh


Impotence and Growth can be found on the band’s Bandcamp page. For more information on Dodecad visit their Facebook page.

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