maandag 24 oktober 2016

Interview with Death Goldbloom’s Tim Claridge

Because of a review on this blog of an album by Natalie Ramsay by Erwin Zijleman I listened to her album 'Fly To Home'. I liked it so much that I wrote my own review and contacted her to do an interview. She did something fairly unusual in her response. She pointed me to local musicians she liked first. One of them was Tim Claridge, someone who has a tremendous output under several names, including his own. For some time I was interested to hear more from him, but needed an excuse to do so.

With the release of the first full-length Death Goldbloom album 'A Dirty Dozen Bars', it was time to reach out to Tim and find out more. In the following he talks you through his life and music, which are very inter related you'll find. Tim Claridge is a man with much to say and you'll find a lot to play as there's a lot coming out soon. Also a man with a lot of talent, a great voice and many musical skills. It's time for you to meet him and get to know him better.

Interview: Wout de Natris

© WoNo Magazine 2016

All pictures by Natalie Ramsay

How would you like to introduce yourself? 
Hey I’m Tim. I may not have a perfect body, but at least I’m poor and tired all the time. 

In my mind you seem to eat, drink and sleep music. Music of very different genres as well. Do you come from a musical family and what are your earliest musical impressions? 
Yeah, on my mom’s side, there’s tons of music and art. My Aunt is a piano teacher, her son is a music teacher, I have an uncle who’s a painter, his daughter is a DJ in London and flies out to gigs all over the world. My older brother is a saxophone/clarinet player and has travelled to almost every continent on the earth on cruise ships playing jazz and whatever old people like to listen to.
I played flute for about 8 years in school, and in high school I was in jazz band, ripping Jethro Tull blues licks over jazz songs. We went to the regional jazz band competition and my brother and I would both come home with the “best soloist” award and plaque for our grade. It was some intense brotherly competition.

Then in grade 11, the amount of people calling me “fairy boy” got to me, so I dropped out of jazz band, and started taking guitar lessons, and I was the kid walking around the hallway with a guitar on my back all the time. I also quit football, which severely disappointed my dad, and stopped playing video games to give more time to really learning guitar. It was one of my few good decisions. 

At what age did you start to develop your own taste and what were you listening to at that time? 
When I was young, I was the fattest kid in class, and was generally pretty miserable most of the time, so when I found Eminem and Linkin Park, that was my shit. A couple years after that, a friend sold me Paranoid by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin III, for like $5 each so that he could go buy some weed, and from there I got into Ozzy Osbourne and Dio and tons of metal. I had a two hour bus ride home from school everyday, so a walkman and one of those huge cd cases was my best friend for years and years. I listened to music so much I had to steal batteries from London Drugs because I’d run out of allowance. Till, one day when I was 13, I got arrested (cus I got greedy and went back for blank cds) and the cops drove me home.
Then Mp3 players came out and they seemed to need less battery juice and the music addiction kept growing. 

You wrote to me that Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ is one of your favourite albums. What appeals to you in the album? 
Yeah, I think that probably is my favourite album. Maybe it’s a toss up between that, and QOTSA’s Songs for the deaf (although that has a few tracks that I have to skip…)
I love how it makes you wait. There are no vocals for something like 4 or 5 minutes into the first track. The lyrics are about losing your mind, and how the melody falls and rises, it sets up this intense, longing mood. When the chorus kicks in with the backup vocals and organ, it kicks your ass with a beautiful explosion of emotion.

The next two tracks bring this dark, sci-fi adventure, and then the title track is a surprisingly stripped down, acoustic song, and the contrast is incredible, I cried the first time I heard it. And I wasn’t even on any drugs…

Although that day, my vice principle had told me I was expelled and I took my last $20 to future-shop to buy some Pink Floyd cus I thought the forthcoming wrath from my parents would ground me for life.. So my emotions were running sky high when I first heard that album, and it’s one of those parts of my life that I’ll never forget. It’s beautiful that music creates bookmarks in our memories. 

When did playing an instrument come into your life and when did you find out for yourself that you wanted more than to just play? 
So I’d been playing instruments since I was really young, when I was 16, I took up guitar. And after about a year of lessons, I jammed with a friend who was the best guitar player any of my friends knew. And the jam was so exciting and fun, that he called his older brother down, who was even more amazing, and his younger brother came down on drums. That was a huge spark going off in my head of how much fun it is to jam. The blues, Megadeth, Pink floyd songs, anything and everything I just wanted to shred solos over. 

Who influenced you most as a guitar player? 
Marty Friedman, Josh Homme, Randy Rhoads, David Gilmore.. I could go on and on about these guys for decades, but it’d probably bore anyone who doesn’t play guitar. I like people who balance soul with taking risks. And people who know how to tune their fucking guitar.
Recently I’ve also been lucky enough to take lessons with Kenny from Anciients, my favourite Vancouver band, and the best Canadian metal band. I had to drive at least an hour to and from the lessons, but it was worth it. He’s one of the most inspiring guys I’ve ever met, and he’s super nice. Anciients got nominated for a Juno on their last album, the new one is even more amazing.. Being in the same room as him makes me feel like a terrible guitar player, which is good for the ol’ ego. 

From a continent and an ocean away it seems that meeting Natalie Ramsay was important to you as a musician. How did you two meet and how important is she to you? 
Yeah, I don’t know what I’d be doing if it wasn’t for her. I wanted to take vocal lessons (I was tired of being in a punk band),  I found her teaching ad on craigslist, and she said we could do Alice in Chains songs all I wanted. And when I met her, I immediately had a crush on her.. So I did vocal lessons twice a week for I don’t know, almost two years?..
At one point, after about a month of lessons, she told me ‘no more lessons, until you do an open mic.’ Which despite being a terrible performance fuelled by codeine and weed (I was a university student..) Helped me get over my stage fright.

All of my first gigs were because of her. She often writes these very beautiful folk songs that are lovely and warm, but what keeps me falling in love with her is when she sings with darkness and blues. She does a cover of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats’ “Devil’s Work” that blows me away every time I hear it. She also has a cover Opeth’s “Faith in Others” that’s amazing.. She does a goddamn mean Lana Del Rey and Lera Lynn. I’m usually not that into female singers, but she’s got one of the most beautiful voices in the world. I’ve been spoiled being in a band with her, I’m not sure how anyone else would be able to hold up.. I’ve also learned everything I know about harmonies from her. She’s a genius at that.

Things with her have been the most intense connection in a life of intense relationships for me, but through the ups and downs she’s been the most encouraging, loving person I’ve known. It’s a complicated connection between two very complicated people, but we still love each other tons and she’s my best friend.

Her and I have been playing shows at yoga studios once or twice a week for the last two years, and the response has always been amazing. Singing next to her in a dead silent room full of 40-50 people all listening, has really cut my teeth and forced me to get my shit together. If I’m off pitch, there’s no drum set to hide behind.

She’s my Layne Staley. And she also loves Jim Jeffries and Louis CK, so when we aren’t jamming there’s stuff we can still get along doing. 

Musically a lot seems to be going on in Vancouver. What does the city stand for to you? 
Hmm, Vancouver is the warmest part of the country.. So leaving it would be hard because it’s already kind of cold for me.. It’s beautiful and I love the epic hikes and kayaking, and a lot of my friends live here. But it’s hard getting gigs at a bar, and inviting friends there, and telling them “oh, it’s just a block and a half away from the poorest, sketchiest intersection in the country.”
Main and Hastings is a third world country hidden inside one of the wealthiest cities in the world. I used to love putting on my headphones and walking down Hastings street at midnight on a Friday, listening to either demos I’m working on, or some dark stuff like Opeth and you see terrifying things all around. People shooting up in store openings, surrounded by crowds of lost souls selling stolen tv-remotes on carpets on the sidewalk. Middle-aged women with sunken in, crooked cheeks openly selling themselves. Guys on every block eying you up and asking if you need anything. There’s always cops there, but it’s obvious they’re overwhelmed.

I wouldn’t walk there alone if I was a girl. But I’m kind of a dark, fucked up person, so that sort of stuff excites me. It also reminds me not to do drugs… And to deal with mental issues and not let them destroy your life. I don’t mean to sound like I look down on these people but I just find that keeping in touch with the underdogs of the world is good for me. Too much comfort can really ruin me.

Every month or so, the police put out another warning of how we’re in an epidemic of drug overdoses. Every year for the last couple years has been the most overdoses in recent history. Anyway, it’s a beautiful city, with some awesome local bands. It’s great if you’re a millionaire, but it’s a hard place for young people, and for the poor. 

You have a few musical careers. Solo, Death Goldbloom, Hymalyan. How do you set them apart for yourself? Do you know when you write a song that it belongs in either category? 
I read Zakk Wylde say in an interview something like you never know when your last day is going to be, so don’t save things up for later. Whatever I’m doing at the moment is where I’m going to put my best ideas. That said, in a band, everyone has to be into the songs, so if no one else likes it, I’m saving it for myself. Or bringing it back two weeks later and hoping they don’t recognize it.. So much of whether you like new music depends on what kind of mood you’re in. 

At the same time, from the same distance, I have the impression that you approach music as an, important, hobby. What are your ambitions musically? 
When I was in school, all I could think about was music. When I’m travelling, all I can think about is music. When I’m at work, I’m writing lyrics in my head or working parts out and trying different things. I feel like I’m still trying to find a sound that works that I’m good at, but I’m getting better and closer all the time. These yoga gigs pay really good money, and I’m constantly getting better, even over the last couple weeks. So music doesn’t make me a living currently, but it’s definitely my life. I’ve never dated a girl who I thought had bad taste in music.. I’m currently trying to get over the anxiety of applying for grants, booking agents and the business side of things, all the while finding a voice/sound that sticks. It’s hard to nail down a specific ambition, but maybe playing a festival would be up there. I used to really want to be nominated for a Juno. Some of the bands that get those are fucking terrible. 

To focus on the latest Death Goldbloom record. I rather like the Jeff Goldblum sort of as the Teletubby baby sun. Does Goldblum know he is on the cover? 
Haha, no he doesn’t know. It’s as illegal as it is awesome. But I look at how NWA got a cease and desist letter from the FBI as the best thing they ever did. Local bands that get in trouble, like “the Vietcong,” (for apparently having an offensive name), the only reason I know who they are is because they got in trouble. Jeff Goldblum sues Death Goldbloom would be a nice headline. 

The title of the album is different from what I would expect, i.e. A Dozen Dirty Bars. What does it stand for? 
Well it’s referencing 12 bar blues, which is the basic kind of blues song you’d sometimes whip out at a jam to get warmed up or whatever. It’s also referring to the dirty types of bars you’ll find bands playing at in Vancouver. Also, The Dirty Dozen, which is a badass Charles Bronson movie. 

How long have you worked on the album and how was it recorded? 
Ah it took me months to write. We recorded drums at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra building. Everything else was kind of done in a basement. It took more than a year to finish and was just a nightmare in general. It was a lot of fun, and I’m psyched on how the songs sound, and I learned a ton about recording and production in the process, but it wasn’t easy. One song “Ain’t Got Nothing” we must’ve re-recorded three times and it went from being this huge Queens of the Stone Age-ish triple tracked heavy monster to being a single track of vocals and guitar/Jimi Hendrix sounding thing. Which worked so much better. I was learning Midnight Lightning by Hendrix one day, and a light bulb went off in my head, of “why don’t I steal some of these licks?!” And Graeme (my bass player/producer) and I were both relieved to be finally into it. 

Again there are very different kind of songs on ‘A Dirty Dozen Bars’. Who influenced you for this record? 
I was really into the Doors. I wanted some chill songs that you could put on while going for a summer walk. A lot of my earlier stuff was kind of an unintentional chest thumping exercise in masculinity and aggression, and some of these songs were just me wanting to make something I could relax to. I was  really into O.V. Wright, and old soul tracks. And Hendrix. My previous stuff was mostly like 4 or 5 guitar tracks layered, so the challenge here was to get it stripped down and still sounding good, so that my voice had more space. 

In between several songs there are collages of spoken word and imagery. Is there a continuum in the fragments or individual song related and where did you find them? 
I spent a couple hours looking through youtube videos of old instructional videos from the 50s/60s. And I took parts of my favourite youtube video of all time (the Petey Green shows you how to eat watermelon video) and spliced them together. I was kind of inspired by the Black Keys’ first album. Also at our shows I’m usually telling some super offensive jokes between songs, which is sometimes my friends’ most memorable part of the show. I wanted to inject some of my strange sense of humour into the album. 

In the lyrics you are rather harsh on yourself and/or the circumstances. Are you emulating the blues of old or is this you singing to us? E.g., did you “pray for death” when young? (I like the ‘no one was listening and mother’ part that follows.) The contrast with the spoken word preceding it is rather large to, isn’t it? 
Yeah, I think the lyrics are almost all honest. You’ll always exaggerate things a bit, or combine things, or sometimes make them more vague to be poetic/relatable, but I can remember praying for death when I was young. I would also pray for cancer. And then I’d get terrified and ask to take it back. And then the next day pray for it again. I was just kind of a lonely kid, and heaven sounded like a cool place. Or I thought the cancer would be an exciting, new thing that’d get me sympathy from my parents/friends.
Yeah it’s a huge contrast, and I wanted to put that in there to kind of take some of the seriousness and angst away from it. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with being sad. One of my favourite Nietzsche quotes is “The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.” Metallica’s most popular song, “Fade to Black”, is about suicide. The world is so strange, and so discouraging, and I think you’d have to be psychotic to not be cripplingly sad for at least some of your life. When I hear other people sing about dark things, it reminds me that I’m not alone. 

The sound of ‘A Dirty Dozen Bars’ is different from the mini album ‘Cluster Funk’. What changed in between the two albums? 
We got a bass player, so I wanted the bass to be more of a presence in the songs. I also wanted stuff that we could more easily recreate live, so one or two guitar tracks instead of like 4 or 5. I’d also been writing parts for string quartets for a couple albums, which has been one of the highlights of my life, watching a professional quartet play my music.. But I wanted to try something different, so my room mate, Ari from Chicken-Like Birds, (who’s the best blues guitarist/harmonica player I’ve ever met) laid down some wicked harmonica for us. 

The devil plays a role in songs on both albums. What does he stand for to you? 
He’s my favourite mythological character. I went to catholic school, and was really religious until about the age of 16, so I was one of those people who was terrified of him for most of my life. But he’s really the main character in the Christian mythology that I can relate to. He gave humans free will, and took Jesus into the desert and told him he could save mankind by ruling over it. Honestly, wouldn’t the world be a better place if Jesus was an immortal warrior (Scorpion?..) king instead of a dead hippy on a crucifix?
If you had a boss who murdered everyone at the company for misbehaving (except for suck-up Noah and his friends) and you didn’t question or rebel against him, would you not be a sociopath?
He’s also the side of you that tells you to enjoy the now; the epicurean way of life, of pleasure and sin. I usually sing about him as a metaphor for temptation. Sometimes it’s a girl, sometimes a substance, or sometimes depression.

There’s a lyric in 66th and Crimson about having “666” tattooed on my hip. Which is something I actually did in on a trip in Thailand, to prove to myself that I’m not superstitious and I don’t believe in that stuff anymore. It was kind of liberating for me after a youth of catholic guilt. It didn’t make my family very happy though. 

What is the future of Death Goldbloom now that drummer Tomek and you parted ways? 
I came up with the name Death Goldbloom, so I might still use it. It’s too bad Natalie doesn’t like it. It’s what I’m calling an album that I’m almost finished working on right now.. And if I get another bluesy band together, I might take up that mantle again, because some of those songs and that sound, I still love and people are still excited to hear live.

I don’t know how appropriate it is to get into personal details of why the band broke up, but I will say that they say if it has tits or wheels, it’ll give you problems. And our problems didn’t have any wheels. 

In general what can we expect from you in the coming year? 
I got the drummer from Anciients, Mike Hannay (who’s amazing), to record on my album with the booked studio time (before Tomek left, WdN). Jamming and recording with him was a blast. Doing the album by myself was a lot of money, but I decided if I cancelled, emotionally I was going to be in too dark of a place, so I ended up splurging. Life’s short..
I recorded it with Stu at Rain City Recorders who did my first solo one, and the first Death Goldbloom EP. This album’s called “Every Place in Hell is Special,” and it was me in a dark place, exploring the scenery a bit. Some of the riffs I wrote 4 years ago in an Ashram in India, but didn’t have a drummer who could pull the riffs off. The album is also a bit of a ‘fuck you’ to my last band.

I haven’t really felt like collaborating in a band with anyone over the last little while, and I’ve just been working on dark, folk stuff. I’m almost done recording an album of stripped back songs in that style with Graeme (who did A Dirty Dozen Bars). When you have a low voice, it gets lost in big mixes pretty easily. Giving it space lets it shine in a way that it wouldn’t otherwise. I used to want to bury my voice, but now I’m a little more narcissistic.

I might end up just taking my favourites from both albums and selling that as a physical release. It’d be pretty eclectic though.

The future is always a bit of an anxiety attack for me to get into, but I’d love to put together a bluesy trio like Gary Clark Jr.’s, and to try writing/recording stripped down, dark stuff with Natalie.
You can also expect a wide variety of cardinal sins, struggles with hashbrowns and procrastinating life.

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