Interview: Dean Garcia on Curve, Eurythmics, State of Play and his current band SPC ECO with his daughter, Rose Berlin

Even though Dean Garcia’s name became well-known after the success of Curve, he was part of the music world the long before it. Working with Eurythmics and following that, State Of Play, Garcia started getting to the musical production that lately became the basis for Curve – the band he co-founded in 1990. Since then, his principles haven’t changed much. And despite the lockdown, Dean Garcia continues putting out records. He started SPC ECO with daughter, Rose Berlin, in 2007. Staying true to himself, Garcia found the comfort zone between the nearly shoegazing sound of distorted guitars combined with drum beats and electronic background sound.

This year, SPC ECO decided to release the record each month. Their recent one EP came out in the beginning of August. Dean Garcia speaks to Joyzine about his past and recent releases, about the collaborative aspect of his work and background, about getting into the production side of things and his worldview.

Speaking about We Are Not Really Here – the recent record of your project – Inkräktare, you noticed that the type of collaboration you had on the album is different in comparison with any of the projects you took a part in. Previously, you worked with Mark on one of your solo records – in what way was this particular experience different?

There was not any substantial difference other than with this record Mark sent me what I’d call industrial abstract soundscapes that worked on their own, the aim for me was to keep the abstract doom spheres intact but to add and arrange a song like structure around it taking in the inherent tones and pitch of the original backdrop. It’s almost like a reversal approach as the structure and chordal elements normally lead the events, this was the other way around. Other than that, everything was as per usual as in go with the flow be instinctive and do whatever you like.

Listening to your records – solo albums, any of albums of SPC ECO or Curve it’s possible to sort out the most characteristic features of your songwriting. And, in different projects the proportion of these things would be different. But as songwriter, do you always follow the same formula working on\creating something?

My approach has always been the same regardless of who or what project I’m working on. That is a no plan or preset idea about anything philosophy. The difficulty or challenge is sticking to that and not slipping into a world of stress and overthinking self-doubt. When things do go astray it’s always good to remember the delete option as I’ve found it only takes 2 (sometimes less) dubious adds to send a track off the rails, to be able to erase them is very important. The overall approach I use is always similar as in: what are we feeling like today? Tempo is important as sometimes you are downbeat, other times you’re not, go with the flow and be true to yourself throughout. The more abandoned you are on the startups the better the chances of making something that keeps your attention and ends up nudging originality rather than comfort zone results. Push it out and see what happens good or bad it’s all relevant.

What were the very first elements attracted you within music and pushed you to open these doors?

Music chooses you, for me it was the early music from my elders like The Stones or The Beatles. And mid to late 60’s and 70’s. T.Rex, Bowie, James Brown, Funkadelic, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols. I knew around the age of 13/14 that I wanted to be involved with music, so I taught myself the guitar by listening to and trying to copy ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ (early Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac) and Jeff Becks’ Blow By Blow album. I then switched to bass after hearing The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’. That song definitely spoke to me, got under my skin and told me what I wanted to do….

Even though you, as a musician, have always been doing most of the production and recordings, collaborations with various artists have always been an important aspect of your work. Over the years, you have worked with some very different people on different projects. Starting with Jeff Beck and most recently with Vasko The Pig. Is it hard for you to find like-minded people and follow them creatively?

I’ve always had an interest in recording, from an early teen I was fascinated with sound on sound, listening to records and wanting to know how they were made. Collaborations are important to me whether I’m working with other artists as a musician like Eurythmics or Sinead [O’Connor] to my own productions and ventures with Curve and SPC ECO. Inkräktare, Blurred City Lights or STFU with Preston Maddox. There is always a natural connection and like-minded feelings between them all otherwise I simply wouldn’t work with them. It’s not hard to create with them at all it’s a joy. I’m always keen to work with new people on different projects, variety is the spice after all in everything we all do.

Another notable feature of your work is a quite specific type of production – on the one hand, you’re a fan of different drum-beats and euphoric-sounding guitars. On the other – you’re also keen to create ambient sound landscapes. But after the years and numerous collaborations – what did these people bring to your music?

I work with mainly vocalists a lot of the time, what they bring is the finishing touch to anything I do, without a voice it is almost incomplete, for me there has to be a voice or top line focus for the original musical idea to be fully explored, that can be minimal voice samples or fully song driven vocals. I feel they add individual personalities and therefore define the differences between any music I produce, they make everything individual and give the track character and originality. On the other hand, a voice can destroy a piece of music and render it unlistenable in a few seconds. The idea is to make them effortless and natural in their combinations. Something I enjoy a great deal.

Despite the fact that Rose and you have always been recording something, with SPC ECO your debut album came out in 2009 – what was the moment that you understood that you should move on with your ideas and let them become something?

That moment became obvious when Rose was about 3 years old, I knew from then on, we would always write songs until one of us could no longer, even then we would still find it interesting to combine ideas in an art way. The name or brand/ banner it is or was attached to is unimportant, it’s always about a need to explore the musical connections we have via the talents we both have. The idea of moving on in context to SPC ECO or Rose is completely alien to me. Everything new we write and perform together is the very essence of moving on and always will be.

After your recent full-length album – Fifteen came out, you released a series of EP’s – starting in December 2019: Wish You Were Near, February, March, Fri-20-2020, April, May, JuneJuly and August – was there any concept behind these recordings?

We actually started to release the 2020 series from the first of the month starting in January 2020, the idea/concept being we set ourselves a challenge to write and record a new piece for a release on the first day of every month for the entire of 2020 as an art project as well a way of focusing us to create a series of new songs, having a date to work to is a good incentive especially if you are a tad OCD about things which we both are, allowing that to drive and push things forward. Little did we know it would develop into the year it has been so far with a global pandemic dropped on the world. It has now become a panacea to focus us and keep us together in ways we could never imagine, being forcibly estranged from families has a very unfamiliar and unpredictable profound fallout, so having something to focus on each month helps a great deal when unable to physically be with your family. I also think we have written and performed some of our best work during this time. We have four more releases to complete before the year is out, that’s assuming we aren’t all erased by invisible enemies. Thankfully we have the Internet to keep us together, never before has any one communication platform been so essential for so many. The beat goes on.

I guess for all the artists the formula would be the same: music is the way of expressing yourself. And I guess that the “F*ck You” single would be a good example of that. Following the description of the release it is “dedicated to all the creepy, arrogant, misanthropic, ignorant, sociopathic, predatory and hateful people in the world” – Is it always important to you to have certain kind of concept or is it something that comes afterwards while you just let it grow?

Concepts and ideas are developed during the writing and recording process, things just happen and are bounced off of each other as and when they connect, it’s a magical process and is best observed or explored, from my perspective, in an open, random way: embrace the unexpected mistakes failings oddities as they happen. I’m not inspired by a formulaic approach to music, I think it works it’s best when the music guides you rather than the other way round.

Could you please tell me a little bit about your current projects and releases you’re working on?

At the moment I’m only concentrating on the SPC ECO recordings with Rose, we’ve been steadily writing EPs consisting of four tracks or more each month, we also released a full length album in the middle of the year to mark the half way point so it’s a lot of output, fortunately we’re quite prolific when we put our minds to it, consequently I have had little time or inclination to work on anything else apart from a remix or two here and there. It’s been a very unsettling year; I’m focused on family and keeping it as inspired and close as it can be by using what we have in reach and around us to keep us all relatively sane n safe.

Speaking about your career, in the late 80’s – early 90’s, I’d say that as musician you passed through different changes at that point. State of Play and Curve are two different bands with different approaches to creation of music. What defined the direction, you, as artist were moving to after the breakup of State of Play?

It’s an ever evolving world, constantly changing – it’s natural to evolve with it as you age and move through the key points and moments in all life, what defines it is different for everyone, apart from having children which to me was the ultimate defining moment of my life – everything else seems to revolve around that, music is an expression that helps define all manner of thoughts and feelings. I’m drawn to it as a way to express all of the above in an ambient diverse way that takes on board all the elements musically or otherwise I have gathered over the years, to then allow me to channel into sound. It’s a lifelong art piece like life itself. Fleeting and personal. I’m lucky to have found something that helps me document, capture and express, without it I’d be lost.

When did you become interested in the production side of things, Rather than recording and touring – like you did working with Eurythmics?

From a very early age, around 8/9 after hearing and feeling what the Beatles did to me, I’ve always been interested in how and what re: anything to do with recording and capture. Working with Dave and Annie it was a continuation of a learning process as they recorded themselves starting in a tiny 8 track studio, I learnt and was encouraged a great deal from those times especially by Dave. I adore them both as I do with every artist, I’ve worked with over the years, there has to be that magical connection between us all. Recording is similar in that it connects and joins the dots by combining musical ideas and sounds together in a magical and mysterious way that can only happen if you make it so. It’s weird and quite mad but I like it that way.

Once you said that with SPC ECO, Rose and you are not shy of certain genres. Stylistically, your material is very different – starting with ‘Push’ and ending up with ‘Under My Skin’. What defines the direction that you as musicians move to with each next release, each next song?

I’ve arrived at the idea that time and moment has a lot to do with it but then again time may not exist and we may not actually be here in this concept of reality, that considered I have no clue where and how these writings and recordings happen I’m just glad they do.

When I was younger, I thought that getting older would make it easier for me to express myself in different ways. But as I got older, I understood that it’s just one more age-old-question. Isn’t it hard for you to find ways to express yourself?

Getting older I’ve found that expressing yourself becomes less and less of something you actually give a shit about, you just do it regardless of what anyone else thinks or says, once you realize you’re not important you can go about expressing yourself in any way you see fit rather than concerning yourself with anything other than the thing you’re trying to express. It don’t matter, none of it, just go with whatever and whoever you are and feel and express the shit out of it.

Interview by Dan Volohov

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