Interview – The Datsuns
I’ll never forget the day I stumbled into a tent at the long since defunct “Gig on the Green” and saw lead singer Dolf De Borst spitting out his machine gun style lyrics as he hoisted lead guitarist Christian Livingstone up on his shoulders to play some devilish guitar riffs with the utmost ease. That was my first impression of “The Datsuns” and its safe to say since that day they are a band that have long held a little place in my heart.
Well that festival may have gone the way of the Dodo, but 10 years and five albums later “The Datsuns” are very much still alive and kicking, sounding as energised and immediate as ever.
Lead singer Dolf De Borst recently took the time to chat to us about the new album “Death Rattle Boogie”, his love of King Tuts and the power of Buckfast.
It’s been almost four years since the release of “Headstunts”, did it ever feel like “Death Rattle Boogie” would never be completed and released?
Dolf – “Yes. Making records can be frustrating and this time we had plenty of that, mostly because of the logistical challenges in getting everyone together.
We live in 4 different cities in 3 different countries so finding the time and schedule to make it happen was tough. It also meant there were long periods where I had to work on the record by myself and since the Datsuns are very much a democracy it felt strange and disconnected working on my own. We got there in the end though.”
The new album is out on October 15th almost ten years to the day since your debut was released, can you tell us a little bit about it? Who produced it? Where it was recorded? How the recording process went?
Dolf – “We started working on songs in-between touring the last album and a little on our own too, sharing files and ideas over the internet. Once we thought we had enough ideas together we decided to get recording, perhaps a little too quickly.
The album recordings were split over a few sessions in two different studios, Gutterview here in Stockholm and Roundhead in New Zealand. Gutterview is a studio set up by Nicke Andersson(Hellacopters), Fred Estby(Dismember) and myself a couple of years back. Firstly to record our own projects but also other like minded groups when the right project comes up.
The original idea was to record the entire record in January of 2011 there. We probably recorded about 15-16 ideas over a two week period with Nicke co-producing with us. Everyone then headed back to their respective corners of the world and we sat on it for a while. I still had a lot of vocals and overdubs to finish.
We decided some of the versions were not really what they could be. I think we perhaps leapt into recording, super eager but not totally finished with a lot of the songs. Mostly my fault I guess as I wasn’t satisfied with some of the keys and lyrics.
Our next opportunity to record came when we toured NZ a little later that year. Roundhead studios is an amazing studio in Auckland built by Neil Finn (Crowded House, Spilt Enz). We had a few sessions there and re-recorded a few tracks and recorded all the new songs that always crop up.
I think once we had had some time and space from the original recordings we got a lot more focused on the kind of album we wanted to make. We had a much larger pool of songs to choose from and generally relaxed a bit more about the process. Instead of rehearsing a bunch and having fixed ideas on how songs should sound we experimented more and recorded ideas spontaneously and with more improvisation.”
What is the title of the album in reference too? Certainly after listening to it, it surely can’t be anything to do with the band itself as you seem as energised and alive as ever.
Dolf – “Ha ha! We are always pretty conscious that any recording could be out last after playing together for so long, I think Phil found the title in an old military comic is something. It seemed to fit the themes on the record. Moral panics and apocalyptic popular culture that surrounds us. People often underestimate our desire to keep going and make records together so this is kinda a play on that too.”
After listening to the new album and really enjoying it, I kept going back to “Wander The Night” and hearing a bit of a Doors influence in it, is that something you were consciously aiming for or just the natural progression of the song?
Dolf – “That song evolved from a simple demo I did maybe 5 years ago just to test some recording equipment. It was at 3am after a marathon drive from London to Germany. I had totally forgotten about it until we had some free time at Roundhead to just play/jam and see what happened. I think the album version was our second take. No rehearsal or plan, just played the guys the demo once and then got them to follow my voice and see what happens. So a lot of it is completely ad libbed. The Doors thing I suppose comes from the Wurlitzer organ. Not a conscious influence but I van dig it. Christians guitar playing is pretty incredible here I think.”
Have you got any UK tour dates planned for the run up to the release of the album?
Dolf – “Unfortunately not. 2013!”
Another Scottish date at King Tuts maybe? I’ve seen you play there a couple of times, is it a venue you enjoy playing? My friend also says please always play Glasgow instead of Edinburgh. I’m not quite so biased but anyway.
Dolf – “We love that place! I hope that happens sooner rather than later. For the record I think we have only ever played Edinburgh once before, why can’t we go both places huh? He he.”
Another Scottish gig I wanted to ask you about which you may or may not remember was at the ABC2 back in 2006, when a fan pulled Christian’s guitar from his hands and into the crowd/Christian threw it into him in true rock ‘n’ roll style. Christian then nonchalantly stood back and drank Jack Daniels from his amp as your roadie wrestled to get it back. I was just wondering what was going through his head as it happened?apart from the Jack Daniels obviously 😉
Dolf – “Haha, I think I remember that show. Christian had a habit of really making our guitar tech Mick work his ass off during the show. Crowd participation is always appreciated. Also a lot of Buckfast.”
You played Hop Farm this year, how did you enjoy the Festival? Did you get a chance to road test some of the new material live? What new songs have the band been enjoying playing live?
Dolf – “Hop Farm festival was pretty fun, no advertising or sponsors! We’ve probably been opening our shows with ‘Gods are Bored’ for at least a year already, ‘Gold Halo’ and ‘Bullseye always make an appearance these days too. You get a nice perspective on the songs once you played them live a few times. Comes in pretty handy when you are picking your album track list.”
These next three questions which we here at Up Late At Night Again aim to ask everyone that we interview this year, the best answers will be collated for an end of year piece.
If you could have written any song in history what would it have been? and why?
Dolf – “Tough question. The Ballad of El Good by Big Star probably. I will NEVER write anything near this perfect.”
If you could share a cheese fondue with anyone living or dead (not including Jesus because he doesn’t exist) who would it be?
Dolf – “Paul McCartney, as I’m about to punch him in the face. Sorry bud. Or is he Vegan? Oh well.” (That’s what I like to see Dolf buy the man dinner before physical violence ensues)
If you had to punch one of either Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger in the face who would it be and why?
Dolf – “Paul McCartney, I’m no McCartney hater but because he is an old man with a baby face he could probably stand to have it messed up a little.”
Thanks to Dolf for taking the time to answer our questions, look forward to hopefully seeing you on that King Tuts stage in the not too distant future.
You can read my review of their 2008 King Tuts show below
and stream the new album here
Find out more about the band and the album