Absolutely delighted today to feature a Q & A with Dean Garcia. Dean was one half of Curve, one of the 1990s best and most underrated bands, and has been involved in many other projects, before, during and since, from touring with the Eurythmics to SPC ECO, his project with his daughter Rose.
Dean’s current project STFU (with Preston Maddox of Bloody Knives) is from start to finish, a fantastic, atmospheric work of dark electronic pop. ‘Deeper’ (below) is my personal highlight, but please do head over to their Bandcamp to listen to, and purchase the full album.
Dean was kind enough to spare the time to answer my questions on family, fatherhood and his varied and eclectic career in music. Enjoy!
Were your parents music fans? What influence did they have on your own musical tastes?
Anytime Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee or Bo Diddley came on the radio or popped up on the telly my Mum would always get very animated and happy, she would dance around and grab whoever was close to join her, I liked the effect and music too as it sounded or felt a bit risque or naughty in some way, All Shook Up and Lucille stuck in my mind, and then I heard Paint It Black by the Stones on TOTP which instantly switched something else on inside me. Strawberry Fields was another and oddly Fool On The Hill. Then I heard Come Together and instantly knew I had to learn how to play that bass line. I was about 12. The first song that made me want to dance was Sex Machine by James Brown, some funky ass shit right there, around that time I was starting to smoke too which led me into Motown, Marvin Gaye, Sly and onto Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, Can and Kraftwerk. I never knew my Father, other than he was Hawaiian which may explain my fascination with steel and slide guitar.
At what age did you start playing music? And at what point did you realise you wanted music to be your career?
I started to notice music around 5/6 when people would play the piano in the spare room at my Nan’s home, no-one could really play but my Mum was good at Chopsticks, especially the bit where you had to cross over your hands to reach the high notes while maintaining the lower notes, I was mesmerised by it and spent the next year trying to be as good as she was at it, I don’t think I ever did manage that but what I did discover as I digressed or got bored with Chopsticks was my ear for the notes and how they made me feel or change my mood. I spent a lot of quality time in that room losing myself and tinkering about.
It wasn’t until I got to big school and met my school bud Marc where we would pretend to be T Rex as his Mum always let us practice after school in his room upstairs, he had a drum kit, amps, electric guitar and even a sound on sound reel to reel tape recorder. I think it was then I realised that I wanted to be in a band and be on TOTP and play live through the biggest loudest PA in the land. That was also the time I decided I didn’t want to waste my time with any exams and refused to take part in any of it. I virtually stopped attending school around 13 and spent most of the time teaching myself how to play the drums, followed by guitar and then onto the bass as it was a combination of the two, I loved the way it glued everything together. I discovered the Bass drop n boom and how complete it made everything…
You were already touring and recording as a musician when you first had kids, but was it before or after you formed Curve?
Before, I was in tour mode with Dave n Annie for some years followed by an attempted band ( where I met Toni) followed by a memorable stint with Ian Dury which was the time we had Rose our first born. Rose was about 2/3 and Harry 1/2 when Curve started up.
Did you find touring with Curve kept you away from your children more than you would have liked? Or did they tour with you?
Any time apart from the family was difficult but when the cards are with you, you have to roll with them, fortunately we never committed to massively long touring schedules with Curve, we did a lot but they were short bursts quite long gaps and then back out again. Jules (partner) and I decided without even discussing it that a touring band is no place for children of that age which is the exact time you also need to be completely tuned in with your partner as to how things unfold, you have to be on the same page and encourage and support completely. Perfectly for me Jules and I function extraordinarily well when it comes to such things and she miraculously and brilliantly sorted them while I was away.
I was in the role of sorting funds so we could move from our short life housing place into the leafy North London suburb of Crouch End where we have remained and survived a consistent home life and focussed education for both Rose n Harry. One of the reasons for side stepping and taking breaks with Curve was due to me not having the time I wanted with the children, it was starting to seriously affect me and make me detached and depressed within Curve, and the fact that my Son Harry wasn’t talking wasn’t helping my moods, I made the decision to step off the tourbus and be with the family and help teach Harry to read and communicate, which we did with the help of Mr Men books and very noisy guitars.
Did you find combining a music career and family life difficult, or did the flexibility of not working a 9 to 5 job actually mean you got more time with your family?
As explained it did take its’ toll as the touring continued, to the point I had to step off, but from then on we all made the most of our time together and had a brilliant very close family life, the fact that I was still involved with music making as I’d set up a studio in the front room and the internet was about to happen, I don’t feel anything got in the way, it was all part of it and we all embraced the music to the max. I was around and involved a lot more than most dads which I was very happy with, surprisingly I think everyone else was too. Lots of Dad time, funny stories, acrobats, holidays, creative expression, cooking, sleepovers, parties, encouragement, Rose’s boy friends, school plays and concerts, showing Harry how to play the Green Onions bass line and him coming back about three weeks later playing way better than me, discovering Rose had a way with melody / voice and recording with her continuously and last but not least discovering every emotional experience known to our species was and still is an amazing.
Has becoming a parent influenced the songs you write either directly (by writing songs about your children) or indirectly (by changing your outlook on life)?
I think it affects subconsciously on may levels, I’m not entirely sure how as I think I’m not meant to know, it just does. Having children and nurturing a family is the reason we’re all here, nothing becomes more apparent than when you actually have children, your whole world changes in an instant and it’s suddenly all guided by their well being and making sure they are as sorted as they can be, whether awake or asleep at every given moment, never out of eye shot and always within your grasp 24/7, it’s all absorbing. As to it affecting your music or creativity in a particular way I don’t know, my creativity will always be with me, how it is guided I have no idea, best to just keep an open mind and try to get some sleep.
How did your children feel about having a musician for a father when they were younger?
I think they thought it was a normal fun and cool thing, we all expressed and learnt newthings together, they have and always will love music and the effect it has, both of them play and will always be involved with music on some level throughout their lives and hopefully pass it on to theirs. Someone once asked Rose what it was like to have me as a Dad and she says he was someone who made my packed lunches, served dinner, mademe laugh and read the wrong words from the story books. Fine by me.
I would usually ask if you would encourage your children into a career in music, but I guess the fact you have collaborated with your daughter Rose Berlin in SPC ECO answers that question! When did you start making music together? And whose idea was it (or did it happen organically?)
I’d always encourage them in whatever it was they want to do, if I feel they had a way with something I’d always point it out, no stone unturned, if they wanna do music do it, doesn’t really matter what I think other than to help them achieve what it is they’re interested in. Rose and I started recording more or less as soon as she could make a sound, I’d get her to make the sounds she could or liked and put them in the sampler and make her laugh with the sounds she made on the keyboard, the high stuff made both of them giggle, endless fun but the low stuff was a bit scary. Music and singing is just something we both enjoy, it’s always been an escape and explore type thing, no holds barred everything is good approach, which has helped me to break down any misconceptions I had about the way you make music, I’ve always been open and experimental but working with Rose completely breaks down and dismantles the concept of genre and boundaries and instead celebrates the happy accidental world of sound dust and the unknown.
In what way (if any) is collaborating with your daughter different from collaborating with any other singer or musician?
I’m not sure if it’s different as in the approach it’s more to do with the natural chemistry that we have, we’re there to make the piece work for each other, there are no hidden agedness or goals, the intention is aways to make something we love, which seems to come quite naturally to us both which is not surprising as we have been having fun with music making together for 25 plus years…
Has your son had any interest in following you into a career in music, or has he taken a different route?
Not really, he does play guitar really well but is driven more by the visual arts and computing. He’s a brilliant film/digital editor, When I watch him work he’s just insane at it, his sharpness is so astute and instinctive it’s actually scary, his mind is focussed to the extreme and once on a roll there’s no stopping him. I have noticed that he will always lean on the guitar when feeling low or out of sync with himself, he plays the blues to heal the inside, he says there’s nothing like playing some Meters riffs or his rendition of the Peter Green solo of ‘I Need Your Love So Bad’ note for note (and feel) to put yourself back on track. I hear you Harry, he also makes a lovely cup of tea.
You’ve collaborated with a huge number of a musicians in various projects. Does the variety keep things more interesting than if you were just working with one band throughout your career?
I do like to explore music with others and it can and does keep things unpredictable and exciting, I think I’ll always do that, I like the outside forces and they like me, so more of that I think, plus the fact that the world is at everyones fingertips now, everything is possible within music now, and you don’t even need eye contact anymore, which I always found unnerving and awkward, I still wear sunglasses when working with Rose…
• Tell us a little about how your latest project, STFU, (a collaboration with Preston Maddox of Bloody Knives) came about?
It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for many years but have not got round to for various timing and other life commitment reasons, Randomly I just sent him a prompt out of the blue after no contact for a year or so and he got back to me quickly and started to shunt sound back n forth, the album came together very quickly, we sat on it for a while added what we thought it lacked and it was done. I have nothing but good thoughts and feeling for Preston, that voice for one, he’s a cool dude who knows his shit and is in the zone. The record was a real joy to make, it almost feels as if it made itself. Def more of that please.
The STFU album ‘What We Want’ is due out on July 29th I believe, will there be any STFU live shows around that time or in the future, or does the physical distance between you and Preston make that difficult?
It’s already out really, but we plan to make a run of CDs and have discussed playing live which we’d both love to do but as ever it will all depend on the support and traction the record receives, if it bites so will we.
And finally, what next for you? More STFU? More SPC ECO? Or entirely different projects?
In the immediate future I’ll be making sure Harry has his Nikka Scotch for his non smoking one year celebration and that I’m available to accept and retrieve Rose’s Asos deliveries that seem to be continuous nowadays, that and cooking a nice dinner for the fam and then possibly laying down a beat n bass after I’ve watched Game Of Thrones.
I’m always working with Rose, in fact we have a new release in August 2016 called Anomalies that we’re excited about, we’re just recording a few extra free DL tracks to go with the release and… Might do some new stuff with some life long pals that I can’t speak of late this year and into the next, and if the STFU record bumps I’ll be needing a very convincing hologram…
A big thank you to Dean for his time, and all the wonderful music!