Vor ihrem energiegeladenen Konzert in der Darmstädter Centralstation hatten wir das Vergnügen mit …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s Alleskönner Conrad Keely ein Interview zu führen. Keely ist nicht nur Leadsänger und Gitarrist der Band aus Texas, sondern entwirft auch das gesamte Artwork, welches genauso detailliert, reich an kulturellen Referenzen und fantastievoll ist wie die Musik, die die Gruppe kreiert. Wir sprachen mit Keely über diese Symbiose von Musik, bildlicher Kunst, das „Reifer Werden“, die Arbeit am aktuellen Album „Tao Of The Dead“ und seine gerade aufblühende Karriere als Autor.
WhiteTapes: So, I’ve heard you have now became a four man band – what are the reasons for that?
Conrad Keely: No particular reason; the other members of the band just had stuff they had to do. I mean, we started as a two-piece, so we didn’t even become a four-piece till we were together for about 3 years… so, it was just like: there’s no real rhyme or reason to anything we do, other than just the convenience of it.
There have been many band member changes.
I noticed that! I was looking at a list of all our ex-members, and I realised that we have more ex-members than current members. It’s pretty interesting…
How does it feel to be four-member now?
„Es isch ein komisch Gfüll.“ (tries to say this in German)
It’s a weird feeling.
… ah!! It’s a weird feeling…
It’s strange and kinda comforting. This is the life-style I always wanted; now that I’m older I’m much better at actually handling it. When I was younger, I think I took it far too seriously. Now, I’ve gotten the wisdom, I know that this is just for fun, it’s like a game.
In an interview from 2010 I was reading recently, you said you didn’t listen to any new music.
Not true. There was a lot of good music in 2010 – there was Beach House, Wolf People. I was into Bruce Molsky’s new folk album.
What about bands in 2011?
Well, yeh – there’s a band we’ve got into now called Sea Pony. They’re good – and um… I’m forgetting a couple, but right now I’m working with a band in Austin Texas, working on their new record… but I won’t say till it’s done.
Is this the first time you were mainly responsible for producing?
Well, i’ve always produced our own records. This will be the first time I’m producing someone else.
…Trail Of Dead’s songs go through many changes, during the songs; some appear chaotic in a way, which has changed in the latest record – it’s more streamlined. What role does chaos play in your way of working? It is even a part of your live shows, when you start smashing your instruments.
Yeh, i probably smashed a room full of guitars. We don’t do that anymore. Chaos is an important thing for us – we’re creative people, the balance has to be struck between creativity and destruction, and the same balance has to be struck between order and chaos. Music is like organised sound, so there has to be some disorganisation and noise, otherwise it would be boring.
Well, it needs to tell a story, and apply to experiences in my life and what I’m going through. I’m a very narrative person – when I hear a song, I want it to take me on a journey, you know…and sometimes we want to conjure up a cinematic experience, we want people to close their eyes and imagine and picture a scene. That’s why we take a lot of inspiration from movies.
I seen you wrote a story for the band’s homepage? You also produce art prints? How is this all connected for you?
Well, I think it’s hard to explain – to me, they are all the same – inter-connected. They’re inseperable. I couldn’t do one, without doing the other – they are important to blend. They each tell a different part of the story. It’s all very important to me.
So when you create an album cover, are you impaired by the music first?
Sometimes the opposite. That’s why I work on them all simultaneously. There’s no point where I have to say ‚ok, time to stop writing – I have art to do‘. I just do it all at the same time.
Have you ever thought about publishing a book?
Oh yeh. I’m actually talking to publishers right now.
Cool! Sure, it will be interesting. Do you take full charge of this artwork, music approach?
Well, we’re all like craftsmen. We don’t sit around waiting for inspiration to hit us. Sometimes you can work without inspiration at all – it doesn’t have to be some burning passion, it can kinda just be an assignment. For example, recently, someone asked me to be in this art show which was themed on the 8-bit video games from the ’80’s. The inspiration I used was Joust, it can be that simple. In fact sometimes I think the things I do that have a lot of drive and passion behind it are often painful; I don’t want to be be in that state of pen.
So this new album – what do you think of the reviews, the double-concept album…
Well, I don’t consider it a ‚concept album‘ because for me, a concept album has to have an overlying theme. Maybe there’s two concepts, as there are two different parts of the album; Part 2, which came first, was about the philosophy in the Tao Te Ching and that idea of letting life work through you just by being compliant… the flow… etc. That’s what these lyrics are about – and part 1, which came out first, was more about our personal lives in America and how the nation was changing and how that changed our outlook on things. The world kinda falls into bits.
How was the recording process of Tao of The Dead?
The main difference, was that it was fast, and easy and fun. That definitely set it apart from every other record that we had ever done, as all of our other records took a long time, and they were miserable, and difficult. By the time we got to „Tao of the Dead“, I think we just chucked that whole idea out of the window. We wanted a vacation. We said ‚this is going to be fun‘, and ‚we will have a lark‘, we’re not gonna work too hard on anything, do it really quickly, and then call it a record. That’s what we did.
So you didn’t take it as seriously then…
Well yeh – but no.. We always take it seriously, in the studio – that’s our craft. We knew that we were gonna pay as much attention to this record as we did with the other records, but we weren’t going to KILL ourselves – in the end – we were gonna have fun.
I notice that some of the songs have references to ‚Worlds Apart‘, your previous record.
Why is that?
Well, we just like to reference ourselves in our music (laughs). Because we can… We reference other people’s music too, y’know. I’m not shy about it.
How have the crowds perceived the album so far on the tour?
They seem pretty positive actually.
Finally, does the band have any collective heroes? Or something you always go back to?
Yes, actually…when we’re in the studio, we constantly return to Kate Bush’s ‚The Hounds Of Love‘ album. We reference that, we listen to the drums, how to construct an album. We love that record.
Thank you for your time!
Interview by Asiye WhiteTapes & Martin McWhiteTapes
Fotos: Asiye WhiteTapes