Interview: Gavin Hayes of Dredg

by Jack Diablo
Gavin Hayes and his band-mates in Dredg have been playing together since high school. Since then they’ve released four albums including their latest, The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion. EU caught up with Gavin, the singer for this progressive alternative rock band between shows on their North American tour.
EU: Dredg has a new album just released called The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion on Ohlone Recordings. What made you leave Interscope for a smaller label?
Gavin Hayes: We actually didn’t have a choice in the matter, we got dropped. We had been with them for nine years and it was kind of a different world back then. We didn’t really fit their business model anymore this time around.
EU: So what made you decide on the new label then?
GH: We’re actually running our own record label. We’re partnering with ILG (Independent Label Group) in New York. They’re more of a distribution/promotion company. We chose that route because I don’t think it would be wise for us to try to control all the distribution and everything. We’ll have Warner Bros. Distribution and a company that will help promote the bands so it’s a nice marriage.
EU: Your website claims the new album is influenced by a Salman Rushdie essay. Can you explain the concept?
GH: Salman Rushdie wrote an essay called A Letter To the Six Billionth Citizen. It’s basically a letter written to an unborn child about what to expect on the planet. To paraphrase, it’s basically him explaining that you are going to be forced to believe in certain things or indoctrinated by belief systems that you may not agree with but it’s okay to think on your own and gain knowledge. It’s basically about thinking for yourself and trying to progress on that level, you know what I mean?
EU: All of your records thus far are concept albums. Is that something you always plan on doing?
GH: Even though people are more into buying single songs now, we still like the idea of creating a cohesive record that has an underlying theme. I think that happens regardless just because you’re inspired differently at a certain period of time so things tend to come together whether it’s intentional or not.
EU: When you go into the studio to record an album, how much of it is pre-planned? Do you have most of the songs written before or do you do much writing in the studio?
GH: Not a lot of writing in the studio. We do leave some things open-ended and spontaneous in the studio. Obviously when you get in there under the microscope, things tend to change a little bit so there’s always some minor tweaking and reworking the structure and sounds and so on. For the most part, we go in pretty prepared and clear on what we want to do.
EU: Dredg prides itself on being pretty experimental and on the video for ‘Information’ we can see a wrench being used to play a slide guitar. When you are trying to find new sounds is there something specific you are trying to achieve or is it mostly serendipitous?
GH: I think experimentation is beneficial to the writing process. Something as simple as buying a new instrument can inspire a new song, or a new guitar pedal or whatever. A certain sound can steer the direction of a song and help actually create something. So yeah, it’s important for us to not have things be monotonous as well. We want to keep experimenting and progressing the sounds and writing and so on.
EU: On your website there are some short videos called Leaflets. What were you going for in making those?
GH: That was basically just to keep fans in touch with the recording process. It had been a long time since we put out a record so we wanted to offer at least the visual side of the album and give little tastes of what was to come. We released them I think once a week. It was just to show our progress.
EU: Where did the name Dredg come from?
GH: It was honestly not very thought out. We were doing a talent show in high school and we needed a name so we had a list of possible names and we chose that. There wasn’t any deep meaning behind it or anything. It was just a spontaneous decision. Then we started playing around California and our fan base grew a little quicker than we imagined so it kinda stuck and then it was basically too late to change it.
EU: What’s next after this tour?
GH: The biggest plan we have coming up is, October 1st, we’re playing with Salman Rushdie in New York. We’re doing an event there through Spin Magazine. It’s like bringing authors and bands together and it only seemed right to see if he’d be willing to do it and he agreed. I’m really looking forward to that and pretty excited about that. I think it will be a unique performance and something special. And it’s a benefit for AIDS so all the money goes to an AIDS organization in NY. It’s a good thing overall.
EU: Will this be your first time meeting him?
GH: No, never met him. [We] definitely look up to the guy, so we’re all excited.