Dean Garcia has been in the music industry over 30 years having initially played bass for the Eurythmics back in 1983. Perhaps best known for his work with experimental noise pop act Curve, Garcia's output has been prolific throughout his career, from releasing five albums last year in various guises to the projects he currently has on the go at this present moment in time.
Earlier this month SPC ECO - the band he formed a decade ago with daughter Rose Berlin - put out their ninth album Calm while he's also been working on collaborations with Ukraine-based dream pop duo Ummagma and Bloody Knives' Preston Maddox under the moniker S T F U.
In the meantime, there's also been a recent surge of interest in Curve thanks to debut album Doppelgänger getting a 25th Anniversary reissue this summer.
We sat down with Garcia to talk about the new SPC ECO record along with his other projects and finally putting those Curve reunion rumours to bed once and for all.
DiS: You're about to release a new SPC ECO album which I believe started off as two separate records. How did that come about?
Dean Garcia: We decided to take our time with this one. So once we'd recorded about two records' worth of material it was a case of whittling it down into what we liked the most. Both records had different themes running through them so we decided to write a few more songs and see which direction it took before merging them into one. We're hoping it will be out digitally in October with the vinyl edition following before the end of the year.
When did you start working on the songs for the new record?
We've always got leftovers from the previous records so we just carried on. We're recording all the time as much as we can. There's always something to work on and I really enjoy recording. I always have since I started making music.
How many songs were there in total?
Over twenty. But they all had something about them. I'd like to think they'll all come out eventually. Last year I put out five albums. Three SPC ECO records and two collaborations with other people as well. So this year we thought let's chill and hold back. See where the writing takes us rather than just bung out the first things we record.
Are you putting the album out yourself or with a label?
It will be a self-release. We might do some more stuff with Wyatt (Perkins) at Saint Marie in America. They've always been quite good to us. But we're not that fussed either way really. We just want to get it out there and see what happens. People don't seem that bothered if it's on a label or not as long as they can get hold of it.
The downside of that is putting out records has almost become secondary for bands behind playing live. As far as making a living is concerned anyway.
Playing live still costs a lot of money to do. We could go out on tour but at the end of the day, no one really knows us outside of London so it defeats the object. There's nothing more demoralising than playing a show to 10 people. That's why we don't play live as much as other bands. I think you have to be the right age too. I've done all that touring stuff with other bands years ago. I do love playing live, but it has to be in the right setting. We're quite choosy about what we do. We're not very good at inspiring ourselves so we have to play to our strengths if you know what I mean. Whereas I find recording more satisfying than playing live.
Do you see yourself more as a recording artist than a live one?
Definitely. I've always been like that. I've always been more interested in recording than playing live. I've had some amazing times playing live and it is great for the hour and a half you're on stage. But then there's the other twenty-two and a half hours to deal with. They can be a nightmare. There's so much shit going on not to mention all the travelling you have to do.
I guess it must also be difficult deciding what to include in a live set with so much material to choose from?
Again, a lot depends on where we're playing and who we're playing to. When we played in Bristol we thought a set of slowed down, voice heavy stuff would work better. It's good to have that kind of dilemma!
What's the dynamic like being in a band with your daughter, Rose?
It's brilliant. We're not in each other's faces. She's a really talented singer. She's got loads of other things going on as well as SPC ECO, so a lot of the time she'll bring some ideas to me then go away doing one of her other projects and I'll work on it. We're really close anyway so I guess playing music as SPC ECO is just another thing we do together.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
I've been working with Preston Maddox from Bloody Knives on the S T F U record. I think I appeal to his softer side with what we're doing, whereas Bloody Knives are really intense and manic. I think he's awesome and we really like working with each other. It's all very simple and painless. He does his stuff and sends it across then I do the same with mine. It's all very microscopic.
When's that coming out? Will it be a physical release or just digital for the time being?
I'm not sure. We've talked about a vinyl release so it's just a case of getting round to doing it. It's out there on Bandcamp so let's see what happens. We did a bit of PR with it and got some good responses back so now we've just started on some new things. He's just finishing the new Bloody Knives record at present so it's difficult for him to concentrate on both projects at once.
You've also remixed two tracks ('Back To You' and 'LCD') on the recent Ummagma EP LCD. How did that come about?
Shauna (McLarnon) from Ummagma's become a good friend of mine, and Robin (Guthrie) was involved as well. So they sent me a few tracks and I ended up picking two out. I really enjoyed working on them especially 'Back To You' because it had this 1960s kind of sound which I tuned into straight away. I guess it's quite similar to what Stereolab were doing in the early 90s but the main reason I enjoyed reworking the track was because they gave me the scope to do whatever I wanted.
Do you enjoy remixing other people's work as much as creating your own?
It's a different kind of thing to me, but because I'm also a musician it means I can rework parts of a track as well as just remix it. That's what Brian Eno does. He gets involved in the musical side as well as the production and that's something I'd love to do more of in the future.
With so many projects going on, how do you find the time to fit everything in?
I'm busy most of the time but I do step back every now and then. They've all got their own space. None of them demand a ridiculously tight timescale, so I usually tend to work on something then move onto something else then come back to the first one again and so on. It is a lot of work but it's also really enjoyable too.
Curve's first two albums Doppelgänger and Cuckoo were reissued recently. What made you put them out now and how did you decide which unreleased tracks to include?
It's 25 years since Doppelgänger came out so that was behind us reissuing the album. There was talk of us doing some live shows around the reissues but Toni (Halliday) wasn't really into the idea. She doesn't want to play live any more, mainly for personal reasons, and I think when someone's having those kinds of feelings it would be wrong to try and force the issue.
So I guess there won't be a Curve reunion anytime soon?
No, I don't think so. But then maybe it's best left like that. I'm up for it but if Toni isn't then it won't happen. She has another life now from when she was in the band. Other priorities to deal with now.
Curve left quite a legacy behind. Are you proud to be cited as having influenced so many bands as a result?
I think we definitely left our mark on a few things. We did well considering we took our own influences from everywhere else beforehand. I think we were slightly out of time in some ways but we were definitely in the right place. I think everyone has a time slot when it comes to music and you have to make the most of it while you can. I actually believe we were ahead of our time. I don't think the record labels were ready for us or what we were doing. The infrastructure wasn't quite there. Whereas had we come along five years later things may have been a lot different. We just took inspiration from everything that we loved and everything was right about it. I just don't think anyone knew where to put us. We confused quite a lot of people. It was as if they thought there was something dubious about us and couldn't quite work out what was going on. It was hard going at times. A really intense few years to be honest.
How do you feel when people label Curve as shoegaze? Personally, I think you had very little in common with a lot of those bands other than probably sharing the odd bill here and there.
There are elements of it in what we did, so I guess it was very easy for people to just label us as shoegaze because of that. But then we had so many other elements to our music that I don't think we could have sat comfortably in any one particular genre. If people want to describe our music as shoegaze it's up to them but just saying its entirely made of one sound is a bit lazy to be honest.
If you could choose a definitive Curve record what would it be and why?
I think 'Horror Head' was the song that ticked all the boxes for me. That track had everything. It was definitely our finest hour.
Do you think a band like Curve would be able to attain the same level of success they had 25 years ago if they were just starting out now?
It's hard to say. I guess it is possible. It was very much a zeitgeist kind of timing thing for us. We just made 'Ten Little Girls' and the guy who was doing our PR at the time got it out to The Stud Brothers at Melody Maker. That was it. We got single of the week and everything just spiralled from there. I don't think it's that much different now. You send your stuff to the relevant tastemakers and they either jump on it or they don't. But it was easier back in the day because there weren't as many to go to outside of Melody Maker, Sounds, and the NME.
But then the flipside of that was if you didn't get featured in any of those three you were left out in the cold, whereas now with the internet there's a multitude of online publications and blogs.
Absolutely. If you didn't get in one of those three you were done.
What advice would you give to new bands just starting out?
Never get off the bus on your own! But seriously, be true to yourself. Do exactly what you want to do.
Calm is out now on digital and CD with the vinyl edition to follow on 1 December.
The Ummagma EP LCD featuring Dean Garcia is out now on Somewherecold Records.
For more information about Dean Garcia, please visit the official SPC ECO website.