Alec Dartley spoke with Rat Scabies about thriving on unfamiliarity, evoking a teen walking on the tracks and the properties of an English garden.
The golden rule is that none of this stuff was ever really intended to be released. It was always things I did to kind of entertain myself.
You know, for me, the golden rule is that none of this stuff was ever really intended to be released. It was always things I did to kind of entertain myself. I’ve never put a commercial tilt to any of it; I couldn’t even if I wanted to. Sometimes you start doing something, mess around with a guitar, just noodling, and slowly it starts turning into a song. To me, it is a song. It’s probably something that does not fit into everybody’s else’s idea of normal, commercial music. I think that’s okay. It’s good.
Have you had this kind of attitude since you started in music?
You know, when I started out, it was about impressing all the other drummers in the audience or convincing other people you’re a regular musician. Then when I started messing with a guitar in front of people, I realized I knew nothing at all. I did not know much. So, my attitude changed when I picked up an instrument that I was not familiar with. Then, in turn, I’ve started using that edge now more in my drumming, so it’s coming out of that.
I finally realized there was no concept. You just have to make yourself sound good, and that really changed the attitude I had towards what I did.
Does that play into you making your own cigar box guitars — giving up some control?
Yeah. It’s kind of relative to the same thing we were talking about. I finally realized there was no concept. You just have to make yourself sound good, and that really changed the attitude I had towards what I did. When you throw away the rulebook, it removes all the limitations of what you can do. Most of the guitars on the solo album are the cigar box guitars I made.
I don’t have a lot of guitars. I have one old guitar and I’ve got a bass. That’s all I need, really. I’m a drummer who messes around with other things. I’d love to have a room full of Fenders and Gibsons, but every time I have a nice guitar, I think it’s wasted on me.
Well, I think the new album sounds great!
I’m pleased with the way it’s been received by people. People like the ideas in it and they way it’s been conceived. It’s very gratifying. I didn’t think I’d be pleased about doing it, but now that I’ve done it, I’m very glad that I did, if that makes sense.
With “Floating,” it’s really because I did not have a singer. To make it coherent for someone listening, I thought it might give it a story. So I lifted a bunch of voices from documentaries just to turn it into something that’s more than just a backing track.
Yeah, that was a chance meeting thing. You know how in America, around Christmas, they have those “bad sweater” parties? We don’t really have those in England, so we did one of those and I was in a room with a few people wearing these dreadful sweaters. They said, “Would you play a song with us?” then invited me down to the studio to record a track. Of course, I did, and it worked out really good and they were really pleased. The next thing you know, the four of us made a record, and we made a record I enjoy listening to. Which is the main thing, I suppose.
With The Mutants, we only played a couple shows, really. Playing in America is always really fun. We played in Joshua Tree and that was very hot and noisy. And you know, with those desert guys, the second you get there, it’s almost like a second home in some ways.
Children are playing in the garden. I have a small amount of money in my account and I don’t have to worry about paying the bills this week.
It was pretty much about the betrayal that you get.
There’s something frightening about the song to me. I’m thinking of being a teen walking the tracks.
People pretend to get offended about stuff. It’s kind of rude, a very English moment. It was kind of about that, but that’s the way the world works. This was a long, long time ago.
I hear you. How are you doing these days? You sound really good and free.
I am. I’m doing okay. I’m quite relaxed in the garden. You know, children are playing in the garden. It’s well nursed, an English southern space. It’s pretty good. I have a small amount of money in my account and I don’t have to worry about paying the bills this week. Life’s grand and people like the record. I’m pleased about that. The world is a great place.
Curated by: Alec Dartley
Conducted by: Phone
Edited by: Morgan Enos
Published: July 19, 2018
Total questions: 9
Word count: 873
Reading time: Three minutes
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About the curator
Alec Dartley is a painter and sculptor working from The Palisades in New Jersey. He received his BA from Parsons School of Design in 1995 and was later awarded a Skowhegan residence. He was born in 1973 in Englewood, New Jersey. Alec is also the founder of Aagoo, a record label for emerging musicians.
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