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Interview: Damien Done + Video

Watch the video for ‘Curious Things’ below.

Who are you and what are you doing here??
I’m Damien Done and, really, what are any of us doing here? It’s all pretty circumstantial, isn’t it? Just a happenstance mess of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. Bipedal anomalies squandering their few moments on some speck of rock trying to convince themselves that they’re anything more, as if we can somehow conjure purpose by will alone.
 
Also, I write rock’n’roll songs.
 
When did you know you wanted to pursue music as a career?
At 15, I was invited to sing for a friend’s band, presumably because I had a shaved head. I immediately loved having a microphone and a platform to enlighten tens of people to my vast teenage wisdom, and I continued to form new bands thereafter. Eventually I joined Culture, which got me out of the neighborhood (and country) and over the past 26 years have toured, written and recorded with bands like As Friends Rust, Shai Hulud, Morning Again, Bird of Ill Omen, On Bodies and a few others. I’m now 41 and focused primarily on Damien Done, which is quite a departure from the hardcore punk bands of my past. How’s that for a segue into your next question?

How would you describe your music?
I write dark, post-punk rock’n’roll songs that are said to lie at some intersection between Danzig, Leonard Cohen, Billy Idol and Alice in Chains. It’s very subdued and sparse stuff, and I think I play with open space a lot. And it gets pretty narrative. Lyrically, I like kind of unnerving subjects, and the LP I’m wrapping up now is rife with stories about voyeurism, blackmail and secrecy.

If you had to choose one song you’ve written that best defines your sound which one would it be?
The “Curious Thing” single, which was released in September, is probably a good summary. It captures the fuller, more rocking songs that I often write, but also nods to some of the new wave and maybe 90s alternative influences that seem to shine through on the new record. At the same time, there won’t really be too many other songs like it on the LP. Some of it’s much slower and more doomy/grungy, others are more experimental. One, I dare say, even has sort of a doo-wop/50s vibe.

In this day and age where anyone is pretty much able to pick up an instrument, what would you say sets you apart from the rest?
I think the biggest difference is that many songwriters seem determined to sound like somebody else. “I’m gonna write some shoegazey shit like My Bloody Valentine!” or “I really want to start a Nick Cave-like project!” which is fucking ridiculous. I grew up on my parents’ jazz, blues, classical and French chanson singers, and supplemented that with Ozzy Osbourne, Morgoth, Exploited and the Pixies. I think I somehow stored learnings from all of those sounds, and I believe they — all of them — creep out in my songs. I can barely play my guitar, but I think that lack of proficiency results in a sort of ‘economy of style’ that forces me to write very simple songs with lots of looming, open tension. And, rather than trying to recreate something that other artists have already done, I just write what feels right. It’s not until after the song is written that I realize I’ve maybe tapped into some influence from my youth; something lying dormant in my DNA that helped shape me. Anyway, that’s what I think makes me different. I’m not setting out to ape something specific or fit into some particular hip, indie niche.

Where are people able to hear your songs?
All of my released material can be streamed on my bandcamp page (
https://damiendone.bandcamp.com/) as well as iTunes. Some of it’s on Spotify and Amazon, etc. Some songs were used in a Belgian porno. One was on an episode on the Vice Guide to Travel DVD.  The “Curious Thing” single is available on a limited edition 7” through Mind Over Matter Records (www.mindovermatterrecords.com) and the song is taken from the forthcoming LP titled “Charm Offensive” and should be out around February, so you’ll be able to stream that then as well.

Are you playing any shows anytime soon?
My wife and I are expecting a baby in November, so I’m taking a break and then resuming shows around the release of the LP in February. Looking to do an east coast tour in the spring, and have been invited to Europe in the summer, so next year should be pretty busy for Damien Done.

What is your proudest moment/greatest achievement as a musician?
Anything I’m in the middle of is my proudest moment at that moment, so right now I’d say it’s the upcoming LP. It’s my first full-length album as a songwriter, and I think the mix of songs is pretty killer, and the producer (James Paul Wisner) helping me bring it to life has really helped unlock their potential. It’s dense, creepy and glossy, simultaneously lush and emotive and eerily cold. I’m really, really excited about it.

Tell us 3 bands that we should be listening to/be keeping an eye out for?
I’ll just rattle off the three most recent things I’ve got in rotation on my phone: Laura Mvula “The Dreaming Room,” all of the RIXE EPs and Myrkur “Mareridt.”
 
Anything Else you’d like to add?
That’s it! Thanks for having me, and please do keep your ears peeled for the “Charm Offensive” LP in the spring.

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Q&A w/ Damien Done