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Groundsounds.com: Interview with Josh

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Interview by Jake Craney –  groundsounds.com

How did you guys form Dot Hacker?
Dot Hacker was formed out of the friendship that Clint and I quickly struck up when I joined the Gnarls Barkley touring band in 2006.  We had met briefly a few months prior when I filled in at a Gnarls show but it wasn’t until that summer when I joined the band on keyboards that we really started to talk music and futures.  At the time, I was hell bent on putting a band together, something I dreamt of as long as I could recall.  When we finished that tour, we slowly and cautiously started to plant the seeds of Dot Hacker.

I had met Jonathan a few years earlier through him touring with the band Hella.  Our paths crossed on tour a few times and he’d decided to move up to Northern California after the Hella tour and it was while he was there that we started to talk about the idea of starting something.  His playing was so inspiring to witness. Remember, at the time, I hadn’t really exercised the muscles it took to be the songwriting singer of a band. I’m not even sure I was fully admitting to myself that’s what I wanted to be.  Jonathan’s playing seemed like it would be so integral to the writing process. I wanted to form a band where the writing was as collaborative as possible, even if initiated from a single person or idea. I remember marathon conversations we had about music and bands. If I ever could put a situation together, I needed to have this force be a part of it. Clint had known Eric for a while and played with him in multiple situations.  He kept mentioning this amazing drummer he knew that also was a big baseball fan. Clint had sort of helped reignite my childhood love of the game and soon enough, Eric, Clint and I were playing catch and then, as soon as we were able, playing music.

Having started my musical journey as a drummer, I was blown away by the creativity and finesse I was watching before me.  He was doing all of this incredible stuff that my limbs were no longer (if ever) capable of.  I remember jamming with him and not ever looking but having such an innate and fluid connection with him.  Feeling like he was playing exactly what I was feeling and wanted to hear.  It was crazy.  So, there it was, all the pieces in place.  Jonathan came down and we had sort of a blind date.  Everyone seemed to get on really well and a few practical things aside, we were off and running, well, maybe off and jogging. Maybe power walking.  We were off.

Tell us about How’s Your Process. How long have you been working on it and why are you choosing to release it in two parts?
Well, as a record, the whole How’s Your Process? took about 2 months of work over a year to make.  We started in late 2012 and worked in blocks of time when schedules permitted.  All along, the goal was to release a nice 45 minute record.  As the songs began to take shape, there were some long ones in the bunch and some that were considered not as important.  We thought we’d be able to see clearly which got left off and what order they would best be presented, but none of these answers came easy.  After all the songs were finished, there were none that we felt okay leaving behind.  Jonathan suggested the two record idea and pretty quickly, everyone was behind that idea.  One of the main problems with this band is the lack of availability to promote ourselves.  We figured by prolonging the album’s release, stretching it, we’d give it a little more life.  Also, they really work well as records that are a little over 30 minutes each.  I love a short record.

What can we expect in October from (Play) in relation to the sound and style of (Work)?
I’d say the second collection of songs is a slightly more disparate journey.  There is a song that no one quite understands.  There is a song with a beautiful string quartet.  There is a song that we tried to do for Inhibition and never quite nailed.  There is a song with a ton of chords and a lot of rhythms right next to a song with very few of both.  There is a song that sounds like America.  That’s the band America.

Where did the idea for the snail art/photo come from?
The idea came from the mind of the photographer, Ryszard Horowitz.  Eric and I came across the photograph on the cover of the 1st release in a old magazine.  When we contacted Ryszard about using the image, he sent along the photo that we’re using for the second release.  We were freshly excited about the new two releases idea so it worked out beautifully to have two great images to use, one more something than the other.

There’s a really cool quality about (Work) in that it is hard to classify. It seems to exist in it’s own musical space, which makes it a really refreshing experience. What was your goal/intention when writing these songs as far as the sound and direction of the music?
Thank you.  I’m glad to hear that it’s hard to classify and occupies it’s own space somewhere.  I’m also beyond happy to hear that it’s refreshing.  I can’t say that we have any lofty or clear cut goals except to make something we like.  It’s so hard at this stage to sound like something no one’s ever heard before. There are so many shared influences and so many people writing and performing music.  We just try to make songs that are exciting to us and honest in what they say.  I was gonna say in an earlier question, some of these songs were begun quite a while ago, before even knowing the guys who I wound up forming a band with.  It seems they were waiting until the right moment to show themselves.  The right moment came along in the form of having four people care enough about them to make them what they became.  Serving the song.  I suppose that’s the goal.

One of my personal favorites is the song “Sermon Of Sorts.” What inspired that song and how did it come together?
That was begun toward the tail end of the Inhibition period.  We had a Hammond B3 at the house (where we recorded) back then and I was imagining this churchy, and contradictory chord progression.  Uplifting and positive one minute, sinister and rapacious the next.  Kinda like…  Well, it’s all around us.  We can’t escape it.  The first line, “Here on your doorstep, with history before you” was written one morning in Ethiopia.  It was one of the most beautiful mornings I’d seen and through the jet lag and champion hangover, I saw another side of the world.  It was very nice.

Do you have a song from (Work) that is especially meaningful or special to you personally?
I really have a special place in my heart for them all, but I think Sermon, Aim, and First In Forever are a little trio of songs that were sort of born from the same mother.  She was kind to me.

What are your touring plans for this Summer and Fall?
I wish I could say there were any.  There will be shows this year, just not that many and when I don’t know. We’re in the city by the bay this Sunday, the 6th of July, Grass Valley two days after that and there’s a Los Angeles show on the 8th of August.  That’s the extent of it at the moment.

Where is the best place to stay updated with you online?
dothacker.org

What is your favorite LA venue? What has been your most memorable show?
I’m not sure.  I have fond memories of many places here in LA.  Perhaps, in a Dot Hacker context, the Troubadour.  We played our first show there.  My good friend used to work there so I was there a lot.  I saw Mudhoney there in 1994.  I saw Radiohead there in 1997 right when OK Computer came out.  I saw Hall & Oates there.  I saw The Cure there.  Elliott Smith.  The RHCP played there right at the start of our tour.  I’ll always love the history of that place.  The Dots are playing The Echo in August and I really like that place, too.  I’ve seen many a wonderful show there.  The Breeders.  Blixa Bargeld did one of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen there.  I saw Jonathan play in one of the first (or last) shows of that Hella tour.  The Echo has magic.

Is there an album this year that has really impressed you? What are you guys currently listening to?
This year?  I’ve been so up my own musical ass and listening to old records I don’t know anything current. Excavation by The Haxan Cloak. I love that, although it may have come out last year.  I like pretty much like everything Damon Albarn does.  His record came out this year.

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