If you don’t know much about Deerhunter‘s music, you probably should. However, this interview might not provide much in the way of information. Bradford Cox of Deerhunter doesn’t like dissecting his music. He is far more interested in moisturiser, reversing the roles of interviewer and interviewee, and speaking in a rainbow of different voices, all of which may or may not be him. But a little philosophy of music did get in there. A little surrealism too. If you do want to get to know Deerhunter’s music, you should just go see them live at RMM, which they are headlining. This is going to be their first visit to Iceland and they said if we play nice, they will too.
Someone answers the phone. [High-pitched voice, like a little girl]: Hi. Hi. Hi. [giggle]
Who is this?
Then can I ask you a few questions, Brad?
Okay [still a little girl-like].
So Icelanders may not be familiar with Deerhunter.
[Talking to someone in the background]: she said they don’t know who Deerhunter is in Iceland. Well, we don’t know where Iceland is either.
You don’t know where it is on the globe?
Yeah, we’ve never heard of them either [still high-pitched].
Tell us how you got into music and why you find making music important.
[Voice gets lower]: Well, I can’t really imagine not playing music. It’s just a natural, instinctual desire for me.
Our readers might want to know about your performances. From watching some of your live shows…
Well I don’t really like describing our performances, just because it’s like if I asked you to describe how you write, it’s sort of like, you know, you just do it. It’s everybody else’s job to review it, or discuss it, or analyse it. It’s just my job to do what I do.
I heard that you’ve come onstage wearing a dress or covered in fake blood.
That was years and years and years ago. And it was just for a laugh. It was sort just like absurdist theatre. I was really into surrealism and absurdism. And bewilderment.
What do you want people to get out of a live show?
I want them to have a really good time and enjoy the music. My goals aren’t that different than any musician’s, really.
Have you ever done the crowd surfing thing?
Oh yeah, I jump into the crowd a lot. But I don’t think: “Tonight I’m going to jump into the crowd.” I just do whatever happens, you know. If people don’t know who we are and they treat us like: “Who the fuck are these guys?” we’ll probably treat them like: “Who the fuck are you?” We’ll have as much fun playing for people as they have watching us. We can’t force people to have a good time.
ON COMING TO ICELAND
This is your first visit to the country. What do you think you’re going to do while here?
I guess whatever it is that tourists do. I wanted to see that church and I wanted to go to that milky, blue bath.
Do you expect the Icelandic audience is going to be any different than audiences in other places you’ve played?
Well, I don’t know, I’d have to see them. From the ones that I’ve met, Icelandic people seem really nice and courteous and thoughtful. I can only imagine that it would a very nice place to play, a place that has respect for the arts and culture.
Do you listen to Icelandic music at all?
I’ve been a huge Björk fan since I was a kid, obviously. But that’s kind of like saying to an American that you’re a fan of Bruce Springsteen.
Yeah, kind of.
I mean, I like múm too. I’ve listened to quite a few mixes they’ve made that included traditional Icelandic music and some stranger music from Iceland. I quite liked that.
In some of your interviews, you’ve mentioned a stream-of-consciousness composing style…
Well, it’s interesting that you should bring that up, because today I went to the original Cabaret Voltaire here in Zurich, which is the birthplace of Dadaism, the precursor to surrealism. It’s a literary and arts movement. When I was growing up I was very attracted to these movements. They related a lot to stream-of-consciousness writing and exploring the unknown regions of the brain.
With stream-of-consciousness composing, how do you pick out what’s good from what’s bad? Do you edit at all?
I use everything I write, mostly. So no, I don’t really edit very much.
Are you working on any solo stuff at the moment?
All of us have projects that we work on, on our own time. And we all have ideas that we’re always working on. But then again we’re also working on Deerhunter stuff all the time as well. I mean music is music, you know, you just play it all the time. There’s always some kind of thing in development.
Would there be an idea that you might want to keep for Atlas Sound?
No, I have Deerhunter or Atlas Sound in mind when I’m writing. I know when I’m writing for one or the other. You know, like it’s time to write some Deerhunter material, and I’d write with that state of mind.
Which came first, Atlas Sound or Deerhunter?
Atlas Sound has been around since I was like 9 years old. It was the name of the microphone stand and the tape recorder that I used back then. It’s a company, I’m surprised they haven’t sued me yet.
ON GETTING OLDER
In a Pitchfork interview from 2007 you mentioned that you were tired of people looking at you and not listening to your music. Is that something that you care about anymore?
No I don’t really care. I was a lot younger then.
How have things changed with age then?
Oh I don’t know, in lots of ways, you just get used to it. We’re just a better group. We’re tighter and more mature, more muscular, thicker, harder, stronger, and hairier. Hair in different places. I mean during this conversation, my voice has changed. It’s gradually getting deeper and deeper, I don’t know if you’ve noticed that at all. By the time we end this, I’m going to be elderly. And it will be an article about the life of the late Bradford Cox, whose legacy lives on in this article. Let’s talk about Josh for a little while.
Okay, so how is it working with Josh (the bassist) then?
Josh has just been a little distant lately.
Why do you think that is?
Well he is using a different moisturiser.
And you think that could have an impact on someone’s personality?
I think moisturiser has everything to do with someone’s personality.
What if someone doesn’t use moisturiser?
Well if they don’t use moisturiser, then they don’t have a personality.
And if they use the wrong kind of moisturiser, then they have the wrong personality?
No, if they use the wrong type of moisturiser, they are doing everything right. They’re playing David Bowie on the PA really loud and I want to go stand in front of the speakers. I’ll just hand the phone to Martin [Deerhunter’s manager] until the David Bowie song is over, is that okay?
Yeah, that’s fine.
Martin: Sorry about that. If David Bowie comes onto the radio, Brad sort of has to drop everything he’s doing and go and listen. It’s sort of this bizarre thing that happens. Okay here he is again.
ON WHO THE HELL KNOWS
[Deep voice, definitely not Brad Cox]: So, next question. Shoot.
Is this Brad?
Yeah this is Brad. But maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s Josh. Or it could be Moses (the drummer). Thou shalt not wonder.
Okay then…so what do you think of Halcyon Digest compared to your older albums?
I think the new album is pretty good. I think it’s a lot more accessible than the old albums.
What do you mean by accessible?
Just the general meaning of accessible. What everybody thinks when they think of accessible.
What does everyone think when they think of accessible?
You know, you could hear it on the radio, people like to get doooown to it. I think you know what I mean. Do you know what I mean? How old are you?
25. How old are you?
How old I am changes rapidly throughout the day.
That’s a pretty cool magic power that you’ve got there.
Oh it’s not magic baby. Far from it [laughs like a hick]. It’s curse from God. It’s a curse from a pagan god. You guys know a lot about that kind of stuff in Iceland. [Laughs like a hick again]
So are you going to tell me who I’m talking to or no?
This is Brad Cox of Atlanta, Georgia [definitely not Brad Cox]. My social security number is 5129837587213.
That’s an awful lot of numbers for a social security number.
I have more need for security than most people. I mean, you know, I’ve got to talk to a lot of people and shake a lot of hands.
So do you have any questions about Iceland for me?
(Brad’s voice now, most likely) Do they have corduroy?
Do they have moisturiser?
Do you guys have cyst repair?
I don’t know what that is.
It’s a service that repairs cysts. For example, if you have a cyst, you would take your cyst to this service department and they would repair the cyst maybe using a pagan elixir of goose fat. Or something of that nature. [Music starts playing in background] Uh-oh. Somebody is playing David Bowie in the other room now. Do you like David Bowie?
Yeah. I really like that one song, ‘I’m Afraid of Americans.’
‘I’m Afraid of Americans’? Yeah that was with Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails), right?
I’m not sure. Maybe. You know more about music than I do.
Well, you’re a journalist.
Well, you’re a musician.
ON LIFE OUTSIDE OF MUSIC (AND DAVID BOWIE, AGAIN)
What do you guys do when you’re not playing music?
We concentrate on other things. Moses has kids and so he concentrates on being a father. Lockett also concentrates on his kids. And Martin concentrates on David Bowie. He also manages David Bowie [not true]. David Bowie takes up a lot of one’s time, but we have an agreement, me and David. But then again, David sent this guy to follow us around play his songs on the stereo where ever we are. You know, just to let us know who’s boss [sighs].
So David Bowie’s the boss, not Martin?
No, Martin is the boss.
And he tells you what to do?
Yeah, we all basically walked into a Burger King in 1998 and we thought we were getting regular jobs.
Then you ended up becoming musicians that tour the world?
Exactly. I thought I’d just make enough money to buy my girlfriend an Old Navy gift card for Christmas.
So was it kind of like stepping into an alternate universe?
No, it was like stepping into an alternate Burger King. At the end of the day it’s all just rags and potatoes. Who’s your least favourite music group?
Probably something like the Backstreet Boys.
Well, I met the Backstreet Boys and they were very friendly. It was at Kinkos [A copy shop chain in the United States]. They were making missing dog flyers.
Did you ever follow up, did they ever find their dog?
Yeah they did find their dog. They found more than they were looking for, if you know what I mean.
Neither do I.