Dead Child

Former Slint and Zwan supremo David Pajo talks to Gravy about Metal, Hi Tec trainers and choosing a band name that gets you noticed.

Interview by Ian Pickens

Gravy: Introduce Yourselves.

DP: I'm David and I'm 1/5 Dead Child.

Gravy: You guys are more well know for your involvement in Alternative/Indie bands, particularly you David with Slint and Zwan; so why a metal band and why now?

DP My only arrow of direction is my heart. Otherwise I don't know what to do from one moment to the next. Haven't you ever heard that song "There Is But One Sin In The Eyes of God and That Is to Deny Your Heart"? I just wrote it.

Gravy: So this isn't an attempt to jump the thrash revival bandwagon started by bands like Municipal Waste and Send More Paramedics?

DP: In fact this IS an attempt to cash in. I decided to throw away a successful career in indie rock for the 2008 thrash metal revival.

Gravy: Lol, are you going the whole hog and getting denim cut offs with Megadeth and Sodom patches, and white Hi Top sneakers?

DP: Erm... you must have seen me at the Exodus gig. My friends call me "Time Traveller"

Gravy: H ave you secretly always imagined being part of a full blown metal act?

DP: I secretly imagined returning to a full blown metal band, yeah. I'd been talking about it for some time. When I joined Early Man it inspired me to embrace metal 100%. Metal metal metal meatal eat alm at meal

Gravy: Early Man?

DP: I played bass with Early Man for about six months, as they were signing to Matador Records. Good dudes.

Gravy: H ow did you end up playing in such influential alternative/indie bands?

DP: I have no clue. I have always liked weird music and strange people.

Gravy: Did you start off with garage type metal/punk bands and progress into more leftfield forms of music?

DP: I've always been into any music that was off the beaten path. Even in the mid-80s, when I had a shaved head and played drums in a hardcore band, I was listening to Robert Johnson, The Smiths, Yngwie Malmsteen, Philip Glass, Hank Sr. and Kraftwerk alongside my Minor Threat. I definitely go through intense phases, but I've never listened to one style of music, nor played in one type of band. I guess I've never been interested in "styles".

Gravy: Have you been surprised by the suspicion which the metal scene has levelled at you?

DP: Not really, I'd be suspicious too. Who likes posers?

Gravy: Did you expect that kind of reaction?

DP: I wouldn't expect anything less!

Gravy: You must be getting pretty tired of justifying yourselves now?

DP: The cool thing about the internet is that information disseminates. You only have to make a provocative statement once or twice I'm only interested in bringing the rock to the people in a live, human-to-human setting. Not all this internet jack-wankery!

Gravy: You don't find the Internet a useful tool for communication?

DP: Sorry, I don't mean to sound like a technophobe (whatever that is). I heart the information superhighway. It's just that it tends to make everyone a critic, even if they aren't skilled in critical writing, music history, etc. It can also make 10 loudmouths on a forum seem like the majority. Like any source, you just can't believe what you read online, you have to use other forms of research if you want to make an informed opinion.

Gravy: You envisage Dead Child as primarily a live experience?

DP: Yes. Even though the record is an honest example of what we sound like, we are much better live than in the studio.

Gravy: Retrospectively do you think that choosing the name Dead Child may have been counter productive?

DP: W e've made a lot of bad decisions, but the name was by far the best decision we ever made.

Gravy: What were some of the bad decisions?

DP: I think that, based on our actions, we've never made Dead Child a priority. I think that's a bad choice on a musical level but our non-rock lives have priority these days. Can't knock that.

Gravy: It's a pretty unsettling name and the cover of 'Attack' is quite disturbing?

DP: It's a very direct name that inspires a quick reaction - that's important. Most people dislike the name immediately - that's important too. The band isn't for everyone and it's meant to instantly isolate a certain type of person.

Gravy: So the name challenges the listener even before they hear the music?

DP: I would say so. Some people laugh, some roll their eyes, other recoil. It doesn't matter- it's a reaction. It's not like their eyes glaze over with boredom when I say the band name. "Yes, and I'm in a new band called Peaches & Cream." Did you say something? On a personal level, it's the scariest name a parent could ever hear. For this genre, the name itself is quite tame. It's morbid, I can't deny that. But we are careful not to ever show images of children, especially not children that are hurt or abused in any way. That's an interpretation we're not interested in on any level. Someone told me that they thought it meant a loss of innocence. Someone else said it was the grim reaper but not as a skeleton and scythe, but a welcoming child! My favourite is when Brad Wood turned to me and said, "It's a universal name. Everybody has or had a mother and father so we're all children of someone. Everyone is going to die. We're all dead children." It was a brilliant moment of clarity. People are primarily selfish. The band isn't called "YOUR Dead Child"!

Gravy: YDC – that would have worked as a continuation of all those 80s hardcore synonyms - DRI, COC, SOD, SNFU etc.

DP: Don't forget KFC! In Louisville we are affectionately known as DFC (Dead Fucking Child)

Gravy: Lol, The Cover of ‘Attack' reminds me of a Fuseli or Goya painting; did you have any input into the design or did you give the artist a free rein?

DP: We ended up designing the cover with David Babbitt, the art director at Touch & Go Records. The image is of Michael McMahan (guitar) getting his throat cut by Todd Cook (bass). We looked all over for a good cover and then Todd found this photo taken 8 years ago. An artist friend was doing a series on death scenes and Todd and Michael were the models. God, they were so young and stupid then.

Gravy: So it's an actual photograph? I thought it was a painting?

DP: Yes, it's an unaltered photograph that was shot on film. We had been struggling with an image for the cover and Todd woke up one morning and looked at his wall and saw it-- he'd had it blown up as a poster which was hanging over his bed for the past 7 years.

Gravy: It's actually quite difficult to make out the picture initially; I only saw it clearly after a few beers.

DP: Exactly. All our music and images are meant to be appreciated under the influence.

Gravy: The album definitely has a mid 80s metal sound; 'Sweet Chariot' kinda reminds me of Anthrax, both the guitar riff and especially the vocals; was this the era of metal you were looking to capture rather than a more traditional 70s style metal.

DP: It wasn't meant to be a retro thing at all—my education in metal was completely over by 1987 so that's all I ever knew. It's been really exciting for me to go back and discover all these 90s and 00s bands that I completely missed out on. I find the evolution of extreme music and all its sub-genres really fascinating. Shit's changed since I was an arrogant yet painfully shy little twat!

Gravy: Some of the solos are more reminiscent of more traditional metal like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest?

DP: Again, I'm rooted in late 70s - mid 80s metal. Michael McMahan is younger than me but he's a huge fan of Priest, AC/DC, Queen and early Pantera. I'm into everything although I have a soft spot for contemporary tech-death and classic second-wave black metal.

Gravy: You don't feel metal, especially black metal, has become rather pretentious?

DP: Pretentious is everywhere. It's in every genre and every walk of life, from multi-millionaire celebrities to starving artist. Maybe I'm pretentious because I find it easy to overlook! I just think pretension is ridiculously hilarious and ignore it - if you get hung up on it and let it dictate what you listen to, what you eat and wear, you'll miss out on a lot of genuine talent (and delicious food and cool clothes). Black metal in particular seems ultra-elitist. I don't care much for Varg as a person but those first three Burzum albums are unbelievable. To be honest, the black metal scene doesn't seem any more or less elite to me than any hipster indie rock scene. Or any major label celebrity slut. I think music outlives personality quirks. The average listener doesn't know what Bach's personality was like, if he was a cunt or not, but they still recognize his melodies in the dentist waiting room.

Gravy: There are also some 'left of centre' elements to the songs on Attack, for example on 'Wasp Riot'; is that the Alternative background creeping in?

DP: You're an astute observer! That's one of the earliest songs I came up with for Dead Child. I was going for more of an ESG vibe than SOD.

Gravy: I've read that lyrically you are inspired by horror writer such as Lovecraft and Poe; what else inspires or influences you?

DP: I didn't write any of the words but our singer, Dahm, is really into horror fiction. For example, 'Screaming Skull' is a horror short story from the early 1900s. I think it's safe to say that we are mostly inspired by horror and our own doomed world.

Gravy: You guys recorded a self titled ep back in 2007 right? Can you tell us some more about it? Is it in the same style as 'Attack'? Is it still available?

DP: I think we recorded it in 2006. It's still available from Cold Sweat Records. We re-recorded three of the songs for the full-length. It's pretty cool - same band, same sound, different production. You can download the other two songs from iTunes: "Black Blood Leather" and "I Will Live Again"

Gravy: ‘Never Bet the Devil Your Hand' was also released as part of the Burn to Shine' DVD series; how did that come about?

DP: It was filmed but it hasn't come out yet. They just wanted to do a Burn To Shine in Louisville KY and we were a new band that was asked to play, based on our histories I guess. I was actually out of town for the video shoot but I was there in spirit (look for the skull on top of the amp).

Gravy: Headbangers Ball are about to start running the video for 'Sweet Chariot'; things are on the upswing for Dead Child?

DP: Hell no! We just had to cancel a tour and we're basically inactive for 3 months. Everyone is so poor that we've started stuffing pay checks directly into our mouths, crying while we swallow. Seriously, the biggest struggle with this band is our own duality - day jobs (money) vs. metal (no money).

Gravy: Lol, so if the opportunity arose to sign on the line for a real good time with a major label you would take it?

DP: If we each get our own personal trainer, assistant, bodyguard, chef, masseuse, tour bus, plastic surgeon, and prosthetic therapist, we will sign whatever shit is put in front of us.

Gravy: Can you see yourself going back to projects like Slint or are you 'Metal for Life' now?

DP: That's a good question. I'm definitely a lifer when it comes to metal but, more so, I just love music in all its manifestations. I'm up for making any music with anyone that I'm friends with.

Gravy: Would you like to work with Billy Corgan again?

DP: I think we were friends at one time; I counted him as one of my closest friends for a while there. But he was cruel to everyone around me and that's just bad company. So the answer is no, we're not pals. You can read all about it in my upcoming autobiography "How I Escaped the Mob" published by Middle Finger Books.

Gravy: So what's next for Dead Child?

DP: Michael and I have been working hard on new tunes that, so far, are actually quite different from 'Attack'. It's still metal but our sound is evolving into something else. That's probably all I should say about that. We'll keep writing and touring until Odin deems us ready to record again.

Gravy: I'm intrigued, what kind of evolution is taking place?

DP: The songs I've been writing are... it's hard to nail down because each song is so different from one another. Plus I don't know how they'll change once it's pounded out of shape by other guys.

Gravy: Any plans to tour outside of the US ?

DP: Yes, if there's enough interest in us overseas. By interest I am referring to cash money.

Gravy: How can people get in touch?

DP: Via our website, or MySpace:

Gravy: Parting comments or cheap shots?

DP: We are considering calling our next record "Retreat"

Gravy: Lol. Thanks for taking the time to do this David. Much appreciated

DP: Thanks Ian, I enjoy talking about myself!