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DREAMEND: The Kotori Interview
Kotori's album of the year is Dreamend's "So I Ate Myself, Bite by Bite"
To say 2010 was a chaotic year for Dreamend is like saying Sasha Grey is a handful in the bedroom.
Dreamend is the music outlet of Ryan Graveface, owner and main man of Graveface Records (he also plays guitar & bass for Kotori favorites Black Moth Super Rainbow). The first few months of 2010 saw several impressive Graveface releases, including the debut from The Seven Fields of Aphelion, an LP from BMSR, and Monster Movie's badass Everyone is a Ghost. In between album releases Dreamend toured parts of the country, playing for adoring fans all over the nation.
Then a flood plowed through the part of Chicago Graveface Records called home. When Ryan arrived on site, he found headquarters under 3 feet of water. 50-60% of Graveface merchandise was destroyed, and of course his insurance didn't cover flood damage.
Suffice it to say, Graveface found himself pretty fucked. He set up a donation-based raffle, appealing to fans of the label to chip in whatever they could...which culminated in October, after an overwhelming show of support.
It was during this period when I first saw Dreamend live, at the 'Sco in Oberlin in late September, opening for BMSR's Tobacco. I'd seen Graveface play with BMSR, but I was not prepared for this performance.
And maybe I was just in a weird spot myself that night, but whatever the case, it was one of the rawest performances I've seen in many years. It was Graveface backed by his drummer (Mike Mularz), and he just tore into his music like it was a tsunami, and he was fighting to hold his ground....and he won.
The song that stood out for me was "My Old Brittle Bones," though to be totally honest, I had no clue what he was singing at the time. I had listened to some of his music in passing, and while I dug it, it hadn't yet made any real impact to me...until then. I watched in awe as he pulled this song from the deepest parts of his soul, wrenching it out for us to behold.
Naturally, I sought out the song, and eventually purchased the record. Suffice it to say, So I Ate Myself, Bite by Bite is the year's best album, hands down. It comes off gentle, starting with the quite delicate "Pink Clouds in the Woods," that feels like a nice minstrel group playing music around a campfire. Ryan comes in halfway through, softly chanting about walking through the woods on a rainy day or some shit.
It then leads into a semi-poppy trip, full of banjo and other strange, seemingly benign instruments. Pretty quickly, you realize this is a concept album of sorts, following somebody's mindset as he travels through life like we all do.
Yes, I connected with this album from the start. It felt like the entire timeline of a sordid relationship: being in love, and then eventually falling out of love. Indeed, when I heard "Pieces," I felt like, YES! DAMN RIGHT I've wanted to chop up an ex, "put you in my attic neat, burn the house down and go out of town for the week." I mean, we all have...right? For the song to sound so giddy and uplifting, I figured Dreamend had nailed the perfect break-up song, without being some indie bullshit.
The music flows to a peak in "An Admission," a complex, beautiful 10-minute finale to the album. The music ultimately soars into mayhem, wonderful and frantic, then tapers off into distortion.
So then I find out the whole album is indeed a concept album...charting the path to insanity of a serial killer.
Fine then. I can handle that. Hell, that makes this an even better album.
I recently caught up with Dreamend, to talk of all things love and killing:
What is your favorite method of killing a person?
Dreamend: My favorite method would have to be pretending I love them, gaining their trust and then slaughtering them in the dead of night. Oh wait. I haven't killed anyone. Next question please.
What is the most efficient way to get rid of a body?
D: I would have to say I enjoy pulling a Gacy when push comes to shove.
How was your approach to this album different than the last?
D: It was different in that it wasn't a personal story. The last album was about my family and was way too painful in a weird way. This one has nothing to do with me so it flowed much easier. Sounds fresher to my tired ears.
I'm not really convinced this is about a murderer - is this really an indie rock breakup album?
D: Ha! Not at all. I wouldn't know how to write a breakup song if I tried. But a murderous romp, I've got that shit covered.
Do you buy into that romantic concept of "there's somebody for everybody," and thus if you've found that person and fucked it up, then that's "the one that got away?"
D: I buy into that about as much as I buy into religion.
Is this based on a real serial killer...or were you just giving out pieces of your own person diary?
D: 100% real. You seem fairly convinced it's bullshit. That makes me happy for some reason.
How many murders did it take for you to find inspiration for this album?
D: For the murderer that inspired the album? 18 known.
What is the weirdest thing you tried in the recording of this album?
D: Singing. That's always painful. Other than that, playing some of the drums with my knuckles on the table and trying to make them pass for a snare drum.
Did you make this album with a movie in mind?
D: Always. That's probably why I want to get out of music and focus on film.
The LP came with a piece of a puzzle and a crayon. Is this code for the killer in me to meet with other like-minded patriots somewhere in Kansas in March?
D: How the fuck did you know that? I have these fantasies with my albums that people will meet up online and compare/contrast. This started with as if by ghosts. I thought for sure people would want to see what other personal photos were the covers. That's what makes me nutty though because no one is actually interested.
Did you do all the music on this album by yourself, or did you have help?
D: I always do like 99.9% of everything. Mike Mularz played some drums and Chris Crisci & John Congleton added random shite.
Who did the artwork for the record?
D: Sir William Schaff. He's an inspiration to all. Dig it: www.williamschaff.com. Try to find flaws in his work. Try! I dare you.
What is your take on the record industry today?
D: Why are you opening this can of worms? You damn well know I could ramble on at length about such things. My take is that we're all fucked and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Even the most indie of labels tends to treat their bands like shit by way of not paying them consistently, not reporting to them accurately, not communicating about every little thing to them and most importantly, not giving a fuck deep down inside except about $$.
Labels are becoming more and more meaningless these days so they need to change their game plan. This is not 1993. They need to pay their bands every fucking month for digital sales. This shit should not go against the physical expenses. They shouldn't take any licensing money from the band's pocket unless they worked their ass off to find the sync and if so, they should only keep a tiny portion.
I love putting out records. I love focusing on the aspects of music and packaging that only a handful of labels are focusing on these days. I love keeping my prices way down and including fun extras so people can get a sense of personality from the label. I love the whole Freddy Point system and giving customers an incentive to purchase something period, let alone something physical.
I hope more bands wake the fuck up and realize they are not being treated correctly, and that their contracts are outdated and do not apply to 2011, let alone how things are constantly changing. I've got to stop ranting. No one needs this.
What does the future hold for Dreamend and Graveface Records?
D: Part 2 of So I Ate Myself, Bite by Bite will be out in May. The working title is And the Tears Washed Me, Wave After Cowardly Wave. This release will complete the Dreamend double album murder theme. It will be odd going back to normal songs.
For Graveface, we've got a ton of new albums coming in 2011 and a fresh outlook on life as a label. I don't know who the we is. The flood that Graveface was hit by in July has changed the game for me in multiple ways and I couldn't be happier about this. The fans of the label have proven to me so many things and given me such fucking hope. It's really incredible.
I'll be announcing a great deal of important and big things starting in Feb so keep a look out.