Deerhoof: Rock’s Role
Greg Saunier: A lot of the music that I come up with—I say I come up with it, but a lot of times it just comes to me and I think probably does for a lot of people. You hear music either in dreams or maybe you’re just walking down the street or something and you just start humming to yourself just very unconsciously. A method I use all the time is putting on some music really, really quietly so that you can’t really hear what it is, but you hear just enough that your mind starts filling in the gaps. Almost inevitably what you end up filling it in with is different from the real thing and low and behold you’ve started to make some new music that’s actually kind of your music. Sometimes I end up making a song that way. What I’m getting at is that kind of music where the important thing is not the actual surface of the sound but that it’s just this idea, something that isn’t really real. A lot of times it’s in your mind, for instance like in a dream. You’re hearing music but there’s not actual sound waves happening anywhere, it’s only in your imagination. I like the idea of trying to put the ideas for the song, at least the musical ideas, at the top, or whatever, and feeling like it doesn’t matter if it’s played on electric guitar or piano or if it’s voices. It doesn’t change anything.
Randy Nordschow: But I’m going to be devil’s advocate for a second, with the two guitars in the band there’s a lot of timbral interplay…
Greg Saunier: Well, the thing is there’s no such thing as something that doesn’t have timbre, and once it does become real then there it is. You’ve got actual waves.
Randy Nordschow: You’re talking about ideas that exist only in your head. Do you write them down?
Greg Saunier: I do, yeah. I mean, Satomi never had any, not only musical training, but any musical experience whatsoever before she joined the band—was never in a band, never played music before at all. She doesn’t write it down when she has an idea. Sometimes I’ll write it down for her, but I’m the only person in the band who actually tries to remember stuff by writing it down. Sometimes people record it onto tape or something like that.
Randy Nordschow: Now that these ideas, which may have been formed via dreams or some subconscious echoes, once they are written down or fixed in a recording, how do you feel about them at that stage?
Greg Saunier: My fantasy is that I go back and look at the whole list of them and that I loved every single one and it strikes a chord, but of course a lot of times I go back and I look at these notebooks of things that I’ve written and maybe one out of ten means anything at all to me anymore. And the other ones I’m like what was I thinking, I must have been really sleepy when I wrote that down because that doesn’t strike me at all. There are only so many hours in the day and there are four people in the band, so I try to go through and pick some stuff that I think might work before I start showing it to everybody.
Randy Nordschow: Are you the only one in the band that writes?
Greg Saunier: No, all four do and everybody has a different approach. One thing I can say that all four people do listen to all kinds of music. Maybe not all, but hey, we listen to a lot of kinds of music, and yes on both sides of the line or whatever, if we’re going to put a line between rock and classical. And at the same time all four when they come up with songs it’s always really intuitively, and that combination produces music that you know seems to have the possibility of echoing music of a wide range of possibilities. So sometimes a song might sound a little bit more like classical music or another one might sound a little bit more like jazz, but it’s not necessarily on purpose. You just sort of write things naturally.
Randy Nordschow: When’s the last time you went to a new music concert a la Stockhausen?
Greg Saunier: I have to think about it for a second cause I feel like we did not too long ago. What was it? I feel like Satomi and I went to one in the past few months.
Randy Nordschow: But it’s not like you’re adverse to going to new music concerts.
Greg Saunier: No, no, it’s just that their kind of rare, you know. San Francisco is better than most places. I mean, you’re in New York so you’ve got everything, but basically I don’t go to that many concerts, period.
Randy Nordschow: Do you still feel connected to that new music world, because you were a part of it while you were in school?
Greg Saunier: Even then I don’t think I ever felt that connected. I mean I love it and of course going to concerts is extremely fun and as will be obvious to anyone watching this I love to blab and blab talking about music. But as far as feeling connected or feeling like you belong to a certain…no, I don’t think I ever felt that way. Nor now that Deerhoof is very busy and we do tours and release albums, but I feel no more of a sense of belonging to some rock scene than I felt I belonged to the new music scene when I was at Mills. That’s not meant to sound mean or rude or disrespectful to any of the people that I’ve made friends with in either situation. This might just sort of be my personality or something. I sort of resist the idea of wanting to join up. What can first seem like just sort of a fun aesthetic club but can soon turn into…I’m sort of over sensitive about it turning into kind of an army or something dogmatic. [For me,] there always has to be that idea that whatever you’re doing, there’s still other possibilities. You can’t ever have finished, you can’t ever have decided, “I’m now finally singing with my correct voice,” and “I’ve found the right style and I know I’m doing the right thing now.”