Wednesday, January 4, 2012

DIRTSWITCH, A ROCK EARTHQUAKE FROM SLOVENIA


Dirtswitch live (photo by Vedran Tomsic)
They’re from Ljubljana and they’re one of the most interesting up and coming bands in the European rock music scene. I’m talking about Dirtswitch: they have recently released their debut album "Phoenix Down" (available internationally on iTunes) and they have granted an exclusive interview to The Rock Telegraph.

How did you get together as a band?
(Jani) We’ve known each other for quite a while now. Rok, Uros and I have been playing together since 2004 in a band called Skystation. Back then, we had three guitarists in the band and our creative differences didn’t really allow the band’s music to develop. I left Skystation in 2008. I knew Luka from college and I knew he was a pretty good singer, so we got together over a beer, talked it out and decided we would start an acoustic project. After a few jams, we began to miss the heavy stuff, so we started looking for a drummer. That was a very painful period; we just couldn’t find anyone who would enjoy the same music we did. Then we found out that Skystation had just broken up, so we called up Rok and Uros, jammed together a few times and we knew that was it...everything added up perfectly. That’s how Dirtswitch began.

How does a typical Dirtswitch song come about?
(Jani) Most of the songs we do are improvised. Usually I come up with a riff or chord progression and we just jam it out together, along with the vocal melody. Most of the songs on Phoenix Down were done that way. If it sounds good we keep it, if it doesn’t, we forget about it and move on. Other times, Luka and I get together and work out new songs with an acoustic guitar. This is how Comatose was born, one of the darkest songs on the album. The real magic, though, happens when Rok or Luka try to re-enact one of my riffs on bass or acoustic guitar and something completely different comes out. Those songs are the ones we have the most fun with. The last thing we work on are the lyrics, which are usually based around a phrase Luka makes up when we jam with the band.

Why the title “Phoenix Down”?
(Jani) The Phoenix motif has a significant relevance for us. After so many failed attempts, finally playing in a great band with great friends and getting to the point where we were able to record a full-length album is something that all four of us see as a new start. The title itself represents the Phoenix crashing down in flames, only ready to be reborn from the ashes. It is a form of optimism. It is us. This is how we see music in our lives and we always try to bring that energy to the stage. The title also bears a personal reference to Luka – he has a Phoenix tattooed on his back, which he got after recovering from a near-death motorcycle accident.

Do you each have any song writing influences, that have inspired you over the years?
(Jani) Sure, Rok has always been influenced by Flea and Tim Commerford. That’s where he gets his heavy finger-style playing from. Since he and Uros have the same musical influences, they work really well together. I think this is one of the main reasons that we, as a band, put more emphasis on the rhythm. We just love the heavy rhythm parts we do when playing songs. Luka usually gets his inspiration from a good movie or from a crazy song title. One of the songs we’re working on right now is called ‘Slave fish’. We also have one other thing in common – we listen to a lot of music, all the time. I find inspiration in everything from Springsteen, Pearl Jam to Tori Amos and electronic music. Listening to a wide variety of music has really helped define our own sound and style.

Which songs do you each wish you’d have written?
(Rok) Metallica – Dyers Eve. Listened to it about 10.000 times; (Luka) Aerosmith – Dream on. It’s got some emotions, man!; (Uros) RATM – Killing in the name. It’s just mental; (Jani) Alice in Chains – I stay away. Musical perfection.

You all come from Slovenia: how’s Slovenian rock music scene today?
(Jani) I think there’s a strong duality in our rock scene. There are the mainstream bands that have been around for ages and still show up on every major festival in Slovenia, these are the most successful Slovene rock bands. Currently, things are very boring in the mainstream scene, there are virtually no full-length records coming out. Then there is the underground scene, full of local rock bands, mostly unknown to the mainstream. There is very little space in-between, because the rock scene (apart from metal) isn’t that developed here. There aren’t that many young enthusiasts willing to pay for a concert ticket for an unknown band and there isn’t a specific identity to the Slovene rock music. A lot of it is based on old punk and rock’n’roll music and it sounds pretty generic now. This is one of the main reasons why we decided to forge our own sound, because there just weren’t any bands that would play the music we enjoy. The hardest trick is skipping from one scene to another. We have lots of great underground bands that never achieve mainstream status either because they can’t get enough airplay or media coverage, which is essential for getting good gigs, or because they break up before even releasing a record. Those bands that do release a record usually fall victim to the ‘where do we go from here?’ question. But it’s not all bad, as long as you have your goals set and believe in what you are doing, it’s possible to get new gigs, new fans and open up new possibilities.

Finally, with your debut album “Phoenix Down” coming out, what can Dirtswitch fans expect in the coming year or so?
(Jani) Our main goal is to promote the album as much as we can; we’re putting together a tour across Slovene and foreign venues. We’re also looking forward to a music video coming soon. We just can’t keep ourselves from writing new songs and we have a studio session planned for this year, so we might even be looking at a new EP in autumn or winter. We’re already playing the new songs live as well. It’s going to be a really exciting year!

Dirtswitch are: Luka Lamut (vocals), Jani Nendl (guitars), Rok Seifert (bass), Uros Markic (drums).

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