Bloodstreams, the debut album from DZ Deathrays, saw the Brisbane thrash-pop duo rocket to lofty heights. But the pair is now looking to their next brain-warping opus. JESSICA WILLOUGHBY chats with drummer Simon Ridley as they record their sophomore release.
It’s fair to say DZ Deathrays have come a long way from shredding house parties in their early days.
Ripping apart Brisbane for the last four years, the pairing of drummer Simon Ridley and guitarist Shane Parsons was a match made in heaven for Aussie alternative rock fans. Their debut full-length, Bloodstreams, saw them score not only the Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album at the 2012 ARIA Awards, but also the Best Independent Hard Rock Album at the Independent Music Awards that same year. Not bad for two boys originally from Bundaberg.
But the DZ Deathrays camp is now gearing up for its next big challenge: the sophomore album. Titled Black Rats, their second LP is currently being recorded at The Grove in Newcastle with Burke Reid (Gerling) producing. This is the first time the pair has gone with the full studio experience – laying out the instruments individually instead of the live simulation format. Despite the hard work involved, Ridley says the band’s been given the rock star treatment.
“It’s been both stressful and exciting,” Ridley says. “Some days I just really want to go home and do nothing. But our studio is so nice. There’s like a swimming pool and a spa. It was really good; if you needed a break, you’d just go outside in the bush. Originally, there was talk about us going to London to do the album and I’m so glad we didn’t. It just would have been a nightmare, having to catch buses and trains in the middle of winter. It would have been a really sad album. We would have come back with a downbeat Joy Division album.
“Burke was so great to work with too. I’d never met him before we started pre-production. He just got in touch with us out of the blue and we all seemed to be on the same page. Plus we really loved the stuff he did with Gerling. It got pretty loose though. We were pretty much drinking every night. Then we were getting up and just going through all the songs. It was brutal. But, straight from the get-go, it felt like we had known him for years.”
With the album tentatively pegged for release this May, DZ Deathrays have been locked away for most of January. The band didn’t want to stray too far from their first offering, despite the abstract nature of their first single off the album, Northern Lights. But Ridley assures this does not reflect the direction of their new album. “Whatever Shane and I do writing-wise, comes organically,” he says. “Actually I hate that word. It’s what we enjoy still writing and playing – what we think will work really well live. We didn’t want to make a huge departure from the first record. Though, saying that, we released Northern Lights. We kinda just did that because we thought it would be funny to release something that would freak everyone out. Hopefully it’s not too far from the first record. But we definitely have progressed… somewhere.
“We started writing this album last year, around April. Because Shane lives in Sydney and I live in Brisbane now. We probably wrote half of the record in two weeks. After that, Shane came up to Brisbane for probably a week at a time, every month at least. A couple of our managers own a nightclub, so we’d use it for a couple of days. We did five or six writing sessions like that. It was pretty different from doing the first one; we spent two or three years doing that.”
The drummer was willing to give us a bit of an insight into the equipment set-up during their latest recording sessions. “I had a Yamaha custom kit on the first album, but we couldn’t get one this time around for as long as we needed it,” he reveals. “So I had a Yamaha Rock Tour kit with my own Yamaha snare. We found some old parts of another kit floating around and some random snares – I don’t even know what brand they were. It was pretty old school though. We just interchanged everything.
“This is the first time we’ve ever recorded where, drumming-wise, we’d do two or three takes of a song and then we’d mix up the drum kit again. Just to try and get different sounds. Then we did all of the drums separately. Then we went back and put all the cymbals on top of it later on. Just so we had no bleed or anything in-between the drums. We could really just push the sound from those drums.
“Amp-wise, we had three Orange amps. I think we had a Vox in there somewhere. Shane’s sponsored by Orange. One was Burke’s Orange amp also. It was pretty good. They were all set up along the wall; all running parallel with just mattresses in-between them. It was pretty funny, because we’d have it so loud that the lighting fixtures started to unscrew themselves. All the lights would start to flicker; which was pretty awesome.”