Deerhoof: Rock’s Role
Randy Nordschow: I’ve talked to Greg for a while, but now I’d like to focus on the collaborative aspects of making a Deerhoof song. How does it go from nothing to something?
Chris Cohen: Someone kinda goes “mmmm…” and Greg kicks in with a drum beat. That’s pretty much it.
John Dieterich: Everybody in the band writes songs.
Greg Saunier: One way that groups that are considered rock bands normally write songs is they get together and jam. They just improvise together until they come up with something they all like. I think what happens when we improvise together, we never come up with anything we like, so that tends not to be a method we use. A lot of times, one person has an almost finished song that they’ve written on their own. A couple of times we lucked out. We have a song called “Panda Panda Panda” which might be fun to describe because that was one where Satomi had an idea already finished and Chris then had an idea that was already finished.
Chris Cohen: My idea was just made up on the spot…
Greg Saunier: It was!? You’re a wiz, dude! Really, you made up all that…
Chris Cohen: It wasn’t really a song. I just had the chords…
Greg Saunier: He had some guitar ideas, not really finished, and somehow we figured out, these two things, you put them together and suddenly it just felt like a song. A lot of times each person may make up his or her individual part once the general idea for the song is in place. But sometimes somebody will come in and they honestly have every single part figured out for every single person. I know there are some songs that I have written like that.
Randy Nordschow: Let’s get back to Beethoven for a second…The idea of the lone composer toiling away at the great idea, this isn’t what you guys do. Do you think that concert music composers have something to learn from your process?
Greg Saunier: I guess it’s really funny for me because we have done interviews before, but mostly it’s been with rock ‘n’ roll press or people doing fanzines. This idea that we don’t rule out the idea of a single composer toiling away at the great idea for our rock band is the weird thing to say. Normally, that’s what I have to make a persuasive case for, that that’s an idea worth not throwing in the garbage can. But, in the case of the way you’re asking it, it seems obvious to me. There are four of us here with very different backgrounds and different musical tastes and that causes the end product to be a lot better than it would be if it were any one of us by ourselves because it has to be approved by all of us. Each of us has to find a way to make it work. We can’t have a song in a concert or on an album that one person in the band simply doesn’t like. It helps to insure that we have something that might communicate something to a lot of people rather than just a specialized audience of people who are obsessed with one idea. The collaboration is so fun. The idea that there are people who would even care what idea I might have come up with yesterday and they would want to participate in turning that from an idea into something you’re actually going to do in real life is fun. If I’ve got an idea from the deep recesses of my subconscious, you might think that it means it’s going to be so separate from an idea that John has inside himself—but it can come out in real life and be shared and combined together into the same song, which is a mind-boggling thing.