Grateful Web's Interview with the New Deal
Every aspiring musician dreams of the day where everything finally falls perfectly into place. For Canadian electronica wizards The New Deal, it all happened by accident when the band was born during an impromptu performance. The tape recording of that first show is actually there first album, "This Is Live." If you live in Boston, Philly, NYC, Boulder or Patersonville, then The New Deal will soon be bringing their unique brand of "Progressive Breakbeat House" music to a theater near you. If you live somewhere else, I suppose your just shit-outta-luck.
I recently had a chance to speak with the band about technology, the Internet and Franklin Roosevelt. Check out the interview below, read it thoroughly, and if you can't read, learn to read and come back in a week. Oh, and check out the band's website at www.thenewdeal.com.
1. I've read the term "beautiful accident" several times in reference to the band's formation. Could you elaborate on that? How did everything start falling into place for you? Did everyone know each other prior to the "beautiful accident?"
Jamie and I knew one another since high school, and had played together in a bunch of bands before TND. Darren we knew from around the music scene in Toronto, and it was he who put the prototype of TND together at a weekly jam he hosted in Toronto. The first time we played together (albeit with a guitar player who was with us while we were earning beer money playing acid jazz covers every Thursday) felt pretty great…. The lock we had on each other was pretty obvious to everyone straight away.
When we decided to play a proper "show" (to 5 people) as just the three of us, without any acid jazz covers, that was when it really kicked in. The beautiful accident was the fact that we played the music that we did that night, and happened to record it to a cassette tape, which turned out to be The New Deal This Is Live.
2. As far as the band's sound goes, was that accidental as well, or was there always some part of someone that was driven to make this sort of music?
That's hard to say… I think we were aware of the limits we could take the improv element of the band and still keep a crowd moving on a dance floor, so we always contained ourselves in some way, however unspoken that agreement was. At the beginning, our common ground was downtempo house, and we worked a lot within that sound. Now we're definitely more all over the place, but always with that sense of containment that keeps us thinking about the crowd, and building a show that will keep the energy level up.
3. As a three-piece band, have you ever felt limited in the sounds you can produce on stage? What do you think would change about the dynamic of the band if there were more (or fewer) musicians involved?
I don't think there really is a TND with more or fewer people. The three of us have a language that would be really hard to open up to another person onstage without upsetting the balance we've built up over the years.
As for the sound, I think we have always found ways to get around the sonic limitations of our instruments so as to keep it fresh for us, and for the crowd. I myself spend most of my time outside TND playing keyboard and guitar now, and half the time I love getting back to playing the bass when we do TND shows. The other half I spend irritated that I can't play keyboard bass (with all of the massive sounds you get out of synth bass) as well as I need to be able to improv with TND like I can with the electric bass.
4. Technology is always changing, and doing so especially quickly with electronics, computers and digital media in general. Your brand of music didn't even exist until fairly recently. Since your music relies to some degree on digital technology, how strongly do you feel the push to stay current when it comes to your incorporation of new computer- and sound-related technologies into the music-making process?
The sounds and tools that we use with TND, with the exception of one of Jamie's keyboards, have been around since the early 80s, so we've never felt that we have to "keep up" with the evolution of gear- we picked up old or existing stuff to build our rigs- but there's always new cool shit out there, and it's always a temptation to bring it in (like I was saying about playing synth bass instead of electric). In our studios, however, it's always about getting new toys, although in Jamie's case he gets cool old shit and I get cool new shit.
5. Speaking again of digital media, the internet seems to be taking a leading roll in restructuring the music industry. What is your take on the usefulness of the internet to musicians, especially independent and small-label musicians?
In the case of TND, the internet is the single-most important factor in the history of the growth of the band. It's not had any kind of negative impact on record sales for us, and has instead turned thousands of people onto us around the world.
6. Many bands are beginning to favor independent production of their music, and are taking a more active roll in promoting their music online without the assistance of a record label (think Radiohead's newest). Where does The New Deal find itself in this new scheme? Do you foresee a day when there are no more major record labels, or do you think the Recording Industry is here to stay?
The question about the future of major labels is the subject of a PhD thesis, rather than a short answer for an interview! I think that future is still unclear….
However, TND have always produced our own music, and despite a brief flirtation with a major label, have always done our own promotion. In our case, this has worked out fine… for other kinds of bands (i.e. most bands that work outside of the jam scene, or other scenes that have such active and dedicated followers), I'm not sure this can be so successful.
7. Is the band's name, The New Deal, a reference to the politics of Franklin Roosevelt in some way?
Nope… we're Canadian, eh? However, it is worthwhile pointing out that, as Canadians, we have explained the concept of Roosevelt's New Deal to a surprising number of Americans who had never heard of it.
8. I'll be seeing The New Deal when you come through Boulder, CO with the Pnuma Trio. What's it like to play in a college town compared to anywhere else?
I don't think there's a rule that can be applied to college vs. non-college towns… TND fans seem to be the same everywhere: rockin and a bit crazy. I hope it's the same in Boulder!
9. What's next for The New Deal? Got anything big on the horizon?
More shows. They always feel big to us.