Deerhoof Vs Time Out

Satomi Matsuzaki tells us about a life spent in katakana, her psychic relationship with Paul McCartney, and how she plans to trick teens into buying Deerhoof's latest album...

Deerhoof Vs Time Out

It takes us a while to connect with Satomi — a case of confused messages and blurred international datelines; inevitable, really, when you consider how scattered the band members themselves are. As things currently stand, Greg Saunier (drummer and founder member) lives in New York, guitarist John Dieterich is based in Albuquerque, second guitarist Ed Rodriguez (and his dog) calls Portland home, while Satomi has recently left her Tokyo abode for a year on the road promoting new album Deerhoof Vs Evil. We caught up with the bass-playing vocalist outside John's house, where they are currently holed up in the basement preparing to take on the world.

It's 15 years since you joined Deerhoof. What has been the biggest change for you as a musician in that time?
When I moved to San Franscisco, I went to study film production but I joined Deerhoof right away. I had a musician friend and I was staying over with them and they introduced me to Deerhoof who were looking for a vocalist. They were like, 'Do you wanna join?' They played me a seven-inch and I thought it was like a noise improvisation band. I thought, okay — I don't have any prior music experience, but it sounds interesting. I'll just do it as an after-school activity, or something. Somehow that turned into my career! [Laughs].

Given your filmic past, were you heavily involved in the video for your new song, 'Super Duper Rescue Heads'?
We had a director, Noriko Ooishi. She's a good friend and a big fan of Deerhoof. Last time we toured Japan she came along and wanted to videotape us. So she came to mind: lets make a video together! I was the only one in Tokyo, because Deerhoof members are all over the world, so I took over and worked with her and a Japanese fashion brand called Toga. I'm very good friends with the designer and she was like, 'Oh, just go ahead and borrow my clothes!' I borrowed everything! We were having like a snack party at her press office, choosing clothes. So much fun! This video didn't seem like work at all. There's this new venue called WWW in Shibuya — it used to be a movie theatre, but recently it became a live venue — the owner was also a fan of Deerhoof, so he was like, 'Oh! Use my place!' It was really like a friends project.

Would you say you've developed a lot since the beginning? I mean, you seem to have become internationally well known...
Really? [Laughs] I feel we're still an indie band. We've been around for, like, 16 years and toured all over the world... Maybe we're known on a kind of indie scene. I don't feel like we're big. Do you think so?

Well, getting bigger, certainly...
[Laughs] Yeah, maybe.

You supported Blur at Hyde Park, and you've played with Yoko Ono...
Yeah, we opened for Blur in Hyde Park.

That's pretty big!
Yeah, that was big, but everybody was sooo drunk! It was crazy! Everyone was throwing beer and they limited the decibel level, so it was super quiet. Even when Blur played, everyone was singing along and that became the loudest thing in the park.

And you played with Yoko Ono as a new member of the Plastic Ono Band, right?
Yeah, that was in San Francisco last year. I'm good friends with Yuka Honda, who used to be in Cibo Matto, and we know Sean Lennon. I think maybe Sean is the one who recommended us. Actually, now Greg and Sean have a band together. They've got a show in New York on February 9. They're really great; I think they have a really good match. They had a show last year after the Plastic Ono Band played, and Yoko came to see the show. She was very impressed, and she came up to Greg and said, 'You know, what you guys just did was just like the '70s.' It reminded her of her old times when she played with John. I thought that was really cool.

Do you ever get star-struck when you play with these people?
I get more scared by their security! [Laughs].

What music did you grow up listening to?
When I was small, I was living in Tokyo. I liked the idol groups, I guess. I don't know if you know them, but Boowy...they were a really big, male rock group in Japan. Oh, and I went to the big Michael Jackson show when I was about 12. Tokyo Dome! [Laughs] Yeah, that was really fun. He was soooo small, but his dancing was amazing. You know, 'Smooth Criminal' and stuff like that. I listened to him so much, but when I was in junior high school, I began liking Japanese indie bands and going to summer reggae concerts with friends. I went to high school in England, actually — in Surrey. I went to see Nick Cave. I liked The Cure, Joy Division, The Smiths... you know, things like that. Sonic Youth. Quite a goth! [Laughs] But I liked everything. During that time, I'd go back to the record stores in Tokyo, and they'd recommend me stuff. I really liked Carolina Rainbow from California. I really got into them, and when they came to Japan I became friends with them. I was going to go back to England for college, but they were like, 'No! England is not so interesting now, musically. Come to America!' I'm like, OK! I'll try America! [Laughs].

Can you explain how a Deerhoof song comes into existence? For example, can you talk us through 'Super Duper Rescue Heads'?
Well, that song was made by Greg. Do you know these kids games called Nintendo DS? You can programme music. He got that as a present and he started playing around and came up with the basic melody. Then he started layering, and he pretty much made that whole song on a game machine!

So it was completely studio-based? It didn't develop in rehearsal?
We rented a rehearsal studio and when we got together we worked on it for a month, then we layered it with guitars and bass, then we got together at Greg's house a few months later and recorded vocals. But we never rented a professional recording studio. We did it all ourselves using Pro Tools. The whole album. And we mixed it on a car stereo while we were touring. Greg believes that if the music sounds good on a bad stereo, then it should sound good on a good stereo, right? He says that's the best way.

What about the lyrics? Are they Greg's?
The lyrics for 'Super Duper Rescue Heads' are Greg's. One of our friend's kids was screaming that sentence one day, and Greg was like, 'Oh, that's a great title! We need to use that one!' [Laughs] The concept of this album was 'Sweet 16', because Deerhoof is celebrating our sixteenth anniversary. You know, kids and teens are into games and pop and colourful things; rebelious, short attention spans. 'Super Duper Rescue Heads' went well with that concept.

Does the album title Deerhoof Vs Evil have something to do with that?
Yeah! It sounds like a game, too! I've been telling my friends that maybe kids will buy our CD because they think it's a game. [Laughs] They'll buy it and realise it's actually a CD.

You're trying to trick people into buying Deerhoof albums?
Yeah! Trick them! [Laughs].

Satomi Matsuzaki interview
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By Jon Wilks
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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