A conversation with Greg Saunier


    Eric Slick spoke with Greg Saunier about the irregular flowers, why drumming is like eating pomegranates, why quantizing Deerhoof music would make it unfunny, working the karaoke function on his stereo and why Soylent must be the bones.

    I’m always trying to increase the amount of motion in playing while decreasing the sound, so it’s more like dancing, less like drums.


    Eric Slick

    Is drumming actually dancing? Sometimes when I play drums, I imagine the drum kit not being there and then I feel a lot better. If drums were removed from you while you were playing, what would happen? Would anything “change”?

    Greg Saunier

    Haha, drums are definitely what I did instead of dancing in the awkward middle school years. But now, I think of it exactly as you propose. I love it. I’m always trying to increase the amount of motion in playing while decreasing the sound, so it’s more like dancing, less like drums. It’s more like eating pomegranates because it’s so little reward for so much physical work. The inconvenience ratio is high and therefore perfect.


    Please tell me about an imaginary percussion instrument. What is it? What does it sound like? What is it called? Will it be available at Guitar Center?

    It will be available only at Autozone because it’s a drum sample steering wheel. People say you shouldn’t do distracted driving, and they’re right, but this would make you drive better because you would play along as cars cut you off or if traffic is fluid or if you accelerate. Pads on the wheel and sound out of speakers.


    You’re an accomplished mix engineer. How does this process differ from composing? Is it compartmentalized in a different brain? Can you feel your brain accessing information in a unique way?

    It’s so different and so much worse. I think the best compartment in my brain is the performing compartment. Sitting in front of the computer for hours mixing is, like, the opposite. I spent all those years doing it, though, so I might as well help other people through the process. Composing is like both compartments combined.


    The magic of Deerhoof, in my opinion, is the duality of technical virtuosity on the edge of complete collapse. US Maple/The Magic Band always comes to mind when I see you play. What would Deerhoof sound like if it was completely quantized?

    Not funny anymore and doesn’t make you cry.


    Is there a sound that has changed your life? Talk about it.

    The first chord of “Start Me Up” changed me from a little kid into a little rock and roller, which I still am.


    Do you partake in karaoke? Do you have a “go-to”? Mine is Thin Lizzy.

    I used to have a stereo with a karaoke button. It took me forever to figure out what the trick was. It cuts all the stuff in the center but leaves the stuff on the sides. so it kind of means you have to sing the melody but also the snare drum part too. Or songs with no snare drum part, like “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder).” Oh man, I love to sing that.

    I don’t think there was ever any question Soylent is made from people, but I dont think it’s the flesh. I’m pretty sure it’s the bones.


    Grab a book at random and pick out a sentence. Explain.

    It’s just that Goethe is gonna make a few observations about irregular flowers, that’s all.


    I remember reading about the democracy of Deerhoof on Talkhouse a few years ago and inspired me. Your new album is very political. Has Deerhoof always been a political band? What is the cross section of politics and music?

    If organizing people is in a thing, then the thing is political. I think our band’s like most bands; we decide everything together by consensus. Everything is agreed upon by everyone and no one’s officially in charge, although different people take the lead on different aspects or projects at different times.


    How do you feel about our future?

    Yours and mine? After this conversation, really good.


    Is Soylent made from human flesh?

    I don’t think there was ever any question it’s made from people, but I dont think it’s the flesh. I’m pretty sure it’s the bones.

    The way the blue goes against the purple is marvelous. It inspires me to compose in a cute way.


    Best backline drumset you’ve ever used?

    Jazzy. I don’t remember anything else, but I like the jazzy ones. Little and tuned high and no pillows in there.


    Are you pro-cell phone or anti-? Sometimes I want to throw this thing in the river.

    I don’t like when it asks if I want to update my software. Also, I hate it. I feel that this and other screens have helped create an anxiety in my life that was never there before. I decided this morning in the shower that I’m not going to text my partner anymore; I’m just going to call.

    I really despise the feeling of checking my screen to see if they wrote me back. I think the anxiety is not a sad side effect of cell phones and social media; it is the business model of cell phones and social media and I think it’s disgusting and inhumane.


    What are you working on besides this interview?

    So many other interviews. No, just kidding, yours is the only interview. Mixing Olivia Neutron John and some recordings I did with Arto Lindsay, Greg Fox and Ofir Ganon. Writing some arrangements of Fugazi songs for solo instruments. Making up some new beats.


    Can we start a drum-only band? How many china cymbals will be involved?

    As many as you got, cause I got none. Come on Eric, I know your record, you play all the instruments anyway! Let’s do something else; I’m kind of double-drummed out actually.


    Talk about spirituality. Do you practice any forms of meditation?

    Funny you should ask. I’m sitting here with Nick Reinhart and Rozie Jordan and he just was talking about atheism and meditation. We were agreeing about it, but then when this was coincidentally your next question, now I think there must be a God.


    I remember reading a series of Keith Richards dreams that you were having. Are these still recurring? How is Keith?

    I’ve been dreaming about seeing/hearing/meeting/managing/replacing/being friends with Keith Richards every couple weeks since I was 14, and I’m 48. That’s a long-running series, longer than M*A*S*H or Cheers. Dream Keith is always doing great.

    Real Keith also seems to be doing great and is an inspiration but I kind of don’t want to meet him, I think, in person. I might find him to be an annoying billionaire chain-smoker who wants to be waited on at all times.


    Look around your apartment and find an object of deep meaning to you. Explain everything about it, but don’t tell us what the object is.

    Where to even start… the blue hair has hardened so terribly after all these years, but still gives off that cartoon powdered wig vibe. The way the blue goes against the purple is marvelous. It inspires me to compose in a cute way. It’s small enough that I’ve carried it with me every place I’ve moved over the decades, but silly enough that I’ve never lost it.

    Thank you.


    Conversation: 135
    Curated by: Eric Slick
    Conducted by: Email
    Edited by: Morgan Enos
    Published: February 21, 2018
    Total questions: 17
    Word count: 1124
    Reading time: Four minutes
    Hyperlinks: 2


    Pomegranate: ∞
    Soylent: Bones
    Motion: Increased
    Premonition: Accessed
    Reward: ∞
    Flower: Irregular
    Karaoke: Null


    About the subject

    Greg Saunier is a musician, composer and producer originally from San Francisco, California. He is best known as the drummer of Deerhoof as well as many other projects.

    About the curator

    Eric Slick is a musician and composer from Philadelphia, PA. He currently resides in Richmond, VA. He is best known as the drummer for Dr. Dog and the singer of Lithuania. He released his debut solo album Palisades in April 2017.


    Related conversations W

    North of the Internet is a series of conversations with creative human beings.

    Subscribe to our monthly newsletter

    © North of the Internet 2017 — ∞Dignity & Introspection _