I was the only kid on the cul-de-sac who was tinkering with synths in junior high. Because I had a couple of keyboards and black boxes, other kids would ask me to play in their garage bands. Yeah, I played “The Camera Eye” and “YYZ” with some much older seniors, but I rarely accepted any of these offers. When I got a new Tascam Porta 05 four-track recorder and a Roland sequencer for Christmas, I couldn’t be pried away from my gear. I spent the next two years in my bedroom.
It wasn’t until 1998 that I made my real rock band debut. It wasn’t even close to how I imagined it would be when I was younger. Instead of Neil Peart’s mega drum setup, which included everything from two kick drums (why?) to tubular bells and every breed of cymbals known to man, the drummer used three simple pieces of bottom-of-the-line gear: a kick drum, a snare drum, and a ride cymbal… on occasion he used a bungie cord to attach a tambourine to the head of the kick drum-that was as fancy as it got. Together with an electric guitar player and a commanding lead singer, I rounded out the quartet with my amplified trumpet. This was Deerhoof. Well, at least for that one gig anyway.
Right now Deerhoof is singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, guitarists Chris Cohen and John Dieterich, and Greg Saunier, an extraordinary drummer who proves you can do great things with two shabby drums and a cymbal. I met Greg while studying at Mills College where we were both composition majors, and John was in the electronic music program. Since Greg and I both leaned towards writing notes on manuscript paper (a rarity at Mills, believe me!), we talked insatiably about music. And while he writes for guitars, bass, drums, and voice, and I write for flute, clarinet, cello, and whatever, we’re still doing the same thing. Just coming off a grueling tour, Deerhoof has become an indie-rock critic favorite, so why is it that some of us in the new music community feel that rock music, or whatever you want to call it, is somehow lesser-than? This seemed like a good time for us to rekindle our conversation.