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*EXCLUSIVE* INTERVIEW: SPC ECO’S DEAN GARCIA

I recently reviewed SPC ECO’s exquisite new single, “Delusional Waste,” and found my head filled with questions while writing it. (“Delusional Waste” review: http://www.loveispop.com/reviews/single-spotlight-spc-eco-delusional-waste/) After all, SPC ECO’s producer/programmer/musician extraordinaire is none other than Dean Garcia, who was one half of the indie electro-pop/rock duo Curve, one of the ’90’s very best and most influential artists, who practically invented electronica. Well, I am pleased to say that Dean was up for an interview and I think you’ll find it intriguing. And, later in the week, we’ll also have an interview with his daughter, SPC ECO’s singer, Rose Berlin. Read on!

 

Forgive me for asking this, but I’ve never heard why Curve split up. All I know is that Wiki states that, “In early 2005, Halliday announced that she had left Curve for good.” Why did she leave, if you don’t mind my asking?

I think she and I just felt we had taken it as far as we could, Toni wanted to chill and explore other things, Curve had taken a dive after Universal didn’t do what they promised on the Come Clean album and had shelved the Gift album so we we’re both quite disheartened by it all. We’d had our fill of major record labels and managers by then too. I suggested that we forget about labels and just make our own records independently and use the internet to release etc, which is what we did for a couple of albums but we just grew apart with it all. We’d had a good run here n there and made some cool music, I was the person who walked away from it the first time due to family concerns so it was Toni’s turn and choice to do so the second time. It was quite difficult at the time but in hindsight it’s the best thing that could have happened.

Did you want Curve to split up – was it mutual – or was that simply forced on you because she left?

Not really but I was quite distant and closed off, when you work so closely with someone for that amount of time it gets very strained and draining, you get on each others nerves easily and just don’t want to be around them. Toni felt this and just stepped up and made her move. I completely understand and have no ill feeling towards her about it. Good on her really, we’d done enough, time to move on.

dean

Are they’re times when you miss Curve?

Definitely, I miss the excitement of playing live to large audiences, that was always the high point for me, the recording was one thing but to then shift out of that gear and into road mode was very exciting, especially in the early days, I loved those small packed out heaving manic shows. The first proper tour we did in the UK around the time of the Doppelganger release was amazing fun, very cool, and life affirming, it means so much more when it’s your own music that the people come to see. Good times.

There were a couple of years in between when Curve split up and when you formed SPC ECO (assuming Wiki is correct about you forming SPC ECO in 2007). Did you make or release any music during those in between years?

I did, but it was more for fun without any deadline / tour stress involved, I was enjoying being a Dad with Rose n Harry, music became a kind of ‘over there’ thing, but during that time I still managed to write and release 2 albums on my own via the web. It was cool.

How old were you when Rose was born, if you don’t mind my asking? Also wondering – did being in Curve and having to tour and such making parenting difficult at times?

I was 31, working with Ian Dury at the time, being an honorary Blockhead while Norman Watt Roy was off duty. Rose was about 2 when Curve started, Harry was just born so it was difficult but you have to have a very good partner if you’re going to make something like that work in those circumstances and I have the best partner in the world so all good there. Parenting is the be all and end all to most people that have a family, you just get into gear and sort it. It’s also something that stays with you always, I’m still parenting and I can’t see myself ever not doing so. We’re a very close and open minded family and I think we will always be.

Come+Clean

At what point did you realize that you wanted to make music with your daughter?

As soon as she could make a sound, I have some cool goo goo gaa gaa sounds of Rose over a beat on a cassette somewhere, she’s awesome. We’re very close when it comes to creativity, it flows from her, self taught as I am, singing is just something she loves to do, which is exactly the way it should be.

Did you discourage her from being a musician when she was growing up, knowing how frustrating the music business can be?

Not at all, I just let her lead me with the things she was interested in, I’ve always just encouraged her to do and say whatever is on her mind, she’s very expressive like that. I’ve introduced her to James Brown and Pink Floyd and she’s introduced me to My Little Pony and how to be nice to people. I know the business is riddled with shit but it’s not the business that drives us or bothers us even, it’s the need to make and sing original songs, we both love making things up together, always have and always will.

Were you glad when she went to university to study sculpture and not music?

I was happy if she was, making sure she was happy was priority number one, it still is, I wouldn’t want her to go and study music because she doesn’t need to, she already knows music. I don’t agree with the study of music, I think you just get involved with an instrument and make it your own, I don’t need someone else telling me how I should play and what I should play, discovering it for yourself is the whole point of it all.

Whose idea was the name SPC ECO and who chose the spelling?

It came about from an IM conversation with Joey Levenson who was our main contributor early on (3D era) We liked the Roland Space Echo FX box so thought it was a good idea to break down the words, I really don’t like the name TBH, but we seem to be stuck with it for now. I still think we should change it, it was discussed and agreed but then you start looking for a new name etc and you start to go off the idea. A name is just a name and some are better than others.

Ave Verum Corpus cover

If I understand correctly, you play guitar, drums and bass in addition to doing programming and production. Is there anything you can’t do? Also, are there any instruments you play that I’m not aware of?

Yes, there’s loads of shit I can’t do but thanks anyway. I can’t skate, I can’t ride a horse and I can’t deal with spiders or slimy slug creatures that I accidentally tread on bare footed when raiding the fridge late at night.

Those are the main instruments I taught myself because I’ve always loved the idea of playing guitar or drums since being a kid, I wanted to be Ringo and then I wanted to be Dave Gilmore, and then I wanted to be Bootsy Collins. Keyboards are a complete mystery to me, how the fuck people can play piano well is beyond me, too many fingers doing different things with different spacings and all that…shit, so difficult, but then again I’ve never really wanted to play the piano. But with the invention of electronica via midi and the scope of sound via a keyboard I’ve come to love it now, but it’s still not like playing a piano, I’m just thumping the keys like a drummer and weird noises and loops spill out….

On the sidebar it says a few other things, but in the actual article on Wiki it states that SPC ECO is a shoegazing band. Listening to 3-D, I suppose I can kind of see that with some of your songs but I don’t think it’s a genre distinction that I would assign you. What do you consider yourselves?

Curve were always lumped in with the shoegaze thing, I dunno what we were but we hardly ever stared at our FX pedals which is where the term comes from. I love a lot of those so called SG bands but no-band or artist likes to be pigeon holed and put into a neat little section for the sake of labelling. As ever, I like to tap into anything that interests me or grabs my attention and makes me take notice, doesn’t matter where it stems from. So to answer I don’t think we have or want a little box to live in, we’re just a pop band, an alternative free thinking open to suggestion band, know what I mean ?

There’s a huge list of people who’ve collaborated with you and Rose on the SPC ECO tracks. Are there key people who’ve done so more often than the others? If so, who?

The list is quite extensive and we like that, collaboration keeps things fresh and exciting, We like to have the basic framework in place but if someone sends me something and says do something with this and we like it then so be it. As I’ve said we’re very open minded and like to explore everything, nothing is off limits or out of bounds, if we like it it’s in. I don’t think there is any one person in particular that we favour over anyone else, everyone we’ve worked with has been brilliant and in it for the right reason, ie the end result, to make it sound awesome is the thing we’re all collectively interested in. On the new record we’ve worked very closely with Jarek Leskiewicz, he has co written half of the album with us, I worked with him on a project called Blurred City Lights earlier in the year, there’s something very connected to us that he brings to the mix and sound of S E and we’re very lucky to have him involved with this record. It would be very cool to have him on board for a few live shows, we’ll have to see what happens.

cover

SPC ECO’S PUSH E.P. COVER

Do you consider SPC ECO to be a duo or a group?

I consider it a group with a duo at its core

Have you considered making anyone else a permanent member of SPC ECO? If not, do you think you might do so in the future?

Not yet as it can make things difficult, Rose and I are very tuned in to each other with what we like and how we go about things, collaboration is good but we like to have the final say. Yes, we are both control freaks.

You’re not in any of the SPC ECO photos. Are you camera shy or do you just like the idea of being anonymous or is there some other reason?

The reason is because I don’t want to be in the pictures, mostly because I have a face like a sack of King Edward potatoes and the fact that I just don’t like being in them when it comes to SE, I never liked being in them with Curve either, I dunno it’s something that doesn’t interest me or bother me, I’ve always been the back room boy, the person who makes shit happen but is still able to hang out at the bar at the gig and not get noticed. I like that. Also Rose looks and carries a photo or film really well, she’s naturally cool and enjoys it so…Yeah sorted.

Listening to 3-D after the Push EP and “Delusional Waste” single, it’s clear that Rose’s vocals weren’t front and center in the beginning. Was there any particular reason for that?

No reason as such, it was more a thing we did back then, it was part of the overall effect of the piece rather than a up front vocal, but as time has moved on Rose has developed and come on so much it has become the main focal point of the songs, she’s pushed her head above the water and said oy oy WTF, I’m here now. It’s still quiet compared to most pop songs but yeah, Rose has arrived.

ROSE BERLIN

ROSE BERLIN

Has SPC ECO performed live or do you merely exist in the studio? Either way, do you plan to tour to promote your new album?

I’d say we’ve done about 50 gigs so far, all pretty small. They’ve mostly been fun and it’s great to be with Rose and Harry on stage, but we’ve held back on that recently and concentrated more on getting people to tune into us, we’re ready for any event and could step up anywhere, which is why we did the gigs in the first place but we think it’s a bit soul destroying sometimes and I’ve kinda done all that. But if things kick off a bit and the call is there we’re ready.

Speaking of which, when do you think your new album will be out by?

The record is done, we’re looking to put out Fallen Stars as the next release followed soon after by the album, I’m not entirely sure as we’re working with a PR team on this one which is a first for us so rather than just bung it out and move on to the next thing we’re nurturing this one. Hopefully late September / Nov. The album is called Sirens and Satellites.

I understand you’ve collaborated with everyone from Sinéad O’Connor to Tom Petty in the past. Have you produced albums for any artists lately?

I have worked with a lot of people as a bass player but not really done any production other than a bunch of remixes for things I like. I would consider it for the right project but it’s an odd thing as I like to produce music I make and not someone else’s. I’m not sure how effective I’d be as I like to work alone with no interference as such, it’s like an unknown making music, I never really know how it will unfold and develop, I’m not really interested in how other people see things when it comes to music. There are exceptions but generally I only want to produce my own music. I wouldn’t mind so much if I was able to co write with the other, that way it makes sense to me as I’m quite particular about music and sound.

According to your Wiki page, you’re in something like a half dozen bands. Are all of those still active? If not, which are? Or which are the most active, if they all still are? Any new releases by any of them or anything you’d like to tell us about them?

I had a spate of taking on a whole bunch of projects with various people, mainly because I like the connection with all sorts of different people, producers and singers etc but I’ve since realised that doing too much is not a good thing, less is always more. I also think that I was looking for a singer to work with. I have to work with a singer otherwise everything I record feels kinda half done. The only person I still have a working thing with is Slade Templeton, we worked on a electronic project called Chronologic, he’s a young, mega talented electronic producer. He does a lot of our S E remixes and is currently working on two mixes for the next release. Karin and Static (Collide and The Secret Meeting) remain good friends as well.

SPC ECO 5

ROSE BERLIN

I only just discovered on your Wiki page that you’ve released a couple of solo albums under the name Headcase. How would you describe those albums? For example, are they more experimental than Curve?

Yes they are more experimental, it’s me letting off creative steam and not working with any constriction ie ‘songs’ in mind, an escape into the lo-fi world of cassette beats and moody nonsense. I recorded those in the front room. It was fun making them, new beginnings etc. Rose is on a bunch of the tracks, she was about 9/10 she liked to sit with me and listen, she also liked to get all the faders on the mix desk and put them all to the bottom, in those days it was a very delicate balance with the faders. All part of the fun though. Rose sang Bad Dad and Going Round, both tracks were done on the fly in one take, me with a guitar and Rose singing what came into her head. That was the point when we both knew that we would be doing a lot more recording together.

I noticed that the prices on your Bandcamp music are in pounds. Can people still buy the music if they’re not in England or does Bandcamp UK not let you download stuff from outside of the UK (like how Amazon UK won’t let anyone outside of the UK download anything because of licensing reasons and such).

Bandcamp is a very clever and fully functional site, it’s very band friendly and allows you to purchase from anywhere in the world, it just does the conversions for you and charges accordingly. Bandcamp is the best site out there for bands to release and network from. A great base and it pays out instantly. Very cool.

Some of Curve’s later releases were released only in digital formats. Has any of SPC ECO’s music been released physically on CD or vinyl or is it all digital only?

3D, Silver Clouds EP and the You Tell Me album were all released as CDs the rest were digital only.

Do you think there’s still any value in making CDs? Or do you see them becoming such an obscurity that it’s not worth putting stuff out on them?

I do, I think people still like CDs for the tactile thing of actually owning and viewing/holding a thing in your hands. It’s like having a part of the band or something. But having said that I haven’t bought a CD for ages, it’s all digital now, I still buy the occasional vinyl record but they’re a different thing all together.

Vinyl has been gradually making a comeback during recent years. It’s really getting popular again here in the States. It seems like younger listeners like the idea of having something to physically collect. I’ve also read that teenagers today don’t want to listen to CDs because that’s how their parents listened to music. What are your thoughts on vinyl’s little comeback?

It has never gone away really, even in the CD crazed 80’s you still had bands cutting for vinyl. Nothing beats the sound of vinyl, it’s still the best format across the board. It sounds better than everything else too, it may not have the clarity of a hi speck digi 5.1 or whatever but it has what that doesn’t, it has charm. I love vinyl and I’m very pleased that it’s still with us and getting stronger and more in demand. We’re making a vinyl version of the new album, a gate fold double album no less. How awesome is that?

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FULL-LENGTH ALBUM AVAILABLE FREE ON BANDCAMP (SEE LINK AT THE BOTTOM OF PAGE)

How do you usually listen to music? (iPod, iTunes on a computer, CDs, vinyl, etc)

I listen from the computer when recording through some old school NS10s, and when not it’s usually off an ipod through a large boom box but my fave is from the record deck we bought for one of Rose’s installations. I bought it for her but decided to keep it after as it was so cool to have a record player and playing records again. The first thing I played was Brian Eno’s Music For Airports. Lovely.

Do you still buy music physically or do you just download everything now?

TBH I don’t really listen to too much new music, I listen to stuff that’s sent to me or suggested by Rose n Harry or close friends. If I like it I’ll get it digitally just because it’s more convenient.

Who are some of the artists you listen to today? Any new favorites?

I like Skrillex, Trolly Snatcha and all those dudes who make those hardcore dustup club screamers. I like the people who made that song from Drive, Real Human Being, I love Hollow Talk (The Bridge (Danish version) theme tune) I don’t really follow or know music like I used to, I get more tuned in with film music, like the person who made the music for an obscure film called Downloading Nancy. It is very moving to me. Odd electronic moods, I’m interested in mood music with attitude, I don’t really care who makes it I just know when I like it.

Do you actually get inspired by new artists in terms of creating your own music?

The only thing that has come along that I feel inspired by is the young people that make the manic hardcore club dubstep, killer beats and noise, bass to die for and funky as fuck. Skrillex did it with the opener for Spring Breakers. I like to hear the youth taking the piss with the tech and making the machines hurt inside, pushing them to the limits in a way that only young people can.

Speaking of inspiration – Curve really influenced a lot of other artists and seemed to really thrive during the so-called electronica years. But who were your influences when you first started Curve?

My influence at the time was always based in the dance, art and punk ethic combined. Bands like Talking Heads, Happy Mondays and Stone Roses, PIL, MBV and JAMC all have the funk, I love the drums and bass, if that side of any track is not functioning as it should I lose interest, it has to have the flow and beat. I’m from the James Brown and Funkadelic school of thought. Gotta have that thing….

What are your thoughts on streaming services like Spotify and Pandora? Lately there’s been a lot of controversy over Spotify. Some artists won’t let them use their music because they feel that the small amount of money they pay them is insulting or otherwise too little. I’ve heard other artists say that getting paid a tiny amount is better than getting paid nothing if people download stuff without paying for it. What are your thoughts on all of this?

All a bunch of leaching cunts. I loath them all. I only like Bandcamp because it’s for the bands and no-one else. I didn’t want to release anything to the leaches but have been persuaded otherwise. I’m still twisted about it. I’d rather give it away than give it to them, but let’s be honest here, does anyone actually pay for music anymore ? As soon as you release something it’s available within 24 hours online, if it’s not then you’ve failed.

Do you think music piracy is a big problem? A lot of younger artists have said that they think it actually helps them, that it gets them publicity, getting more people to hear them, so then more people are buying their concert tickets and T-shirts.

Exactly, that’s how it works for you, give your shit away and get people to check it out, then make something from gigs n merch etc. Trouble is everyone is doing that and no-one gives a fuck anymore and it’s very difficult to stand out from the saturation of it all. It still comes down to a good song in the end that gets to the right ears at the right time. People will always support the low key indie bands so they can eat. It’s uncool to DL your mates band but perfectly understandable to dip into the mega catalog should you choose to as those people will be making big on ticket sales etc. It’s all a matter of moderation and fairness, if you dig it DL it and check it out, if you love it beyond words you go to the gig or buy the special edition vinyl…..hint hint.

SPC ECO online:

Bandcamp: http://spceco.bandcamp.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SPCECO

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SPCECO2

tumblr: http://spceco.tumblr.com/

official site: http://www.spceco.com/

SPC ECO - Delusional Waste Artwork

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Written by

Paris365

An entertainment journalist for 20 years, Michael McCarthy was a columnist and contributing editor for the magazines Lollipop and LiveWire. He co-created and wrote for Cinezine, one of the '90's most popular movie E-zines. The only time he's not listening to music is when he's watching television shows and movies or reading, usually music magazines.

3 Comments to “*EXCLUSIVE* INTERVIEW: SPC ECO’S DEAN GARCIA”

  1. Mark says:

    Great interview, always good to hear Mr Garcia’s take on things.
    Usually manages to squeeze a ‘cunt’ into the interview each time too, good man!

  2. Gareth says:

    Thanks. Good interview. Good to hear from Dean and his thoughts on the old and the new. The old cunt 🙂

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