Talk Show Host: 038: Dean Garcia (SPC ECO / Curve)

This week, I’m back to talking to someone I’ve wanted to catch up with for some time. As The Rearview Mirror: 010 perhaps suggested, I’m a long, long time fan of the work of Dean Garcia, both of his work with Curve, and his more recent work under the SPC ECO name.

I think we confused a lot of people back then, but that's OK, we were a bit out there dipping into a very broad sphere of genres, exactly the way I still do with SPC ECO. The beat goes on.

He’s had a busy time of it recently, too, with a new SPC ECO album Calm swiftly followed by the reissues of the Curve albums Doppelgänger and Cuckoo, so I thought it high time he was featured on to talk about all three releases, and also to dig a bit more into aborted Curve reformations, his other projects, and other historical items.

With grateful thanks, of course, to Dean and Rose Berlin for the photos. 2017 seems to have been a busy year for you. How are doing?

Dean Garcia: Not bad thanks, enjoying the recordings, had a break on and off quite a lot this year – but things have moved on and ticking over in a promising, unpredictable way which is always fun… You've just released a new SPC ECO album, which has, to my ears, anyway, something of a callback to earlier Curve material. Was this is a deliberate decision?

Dean Garcia: We just wanted to revisit our old friend 'the guitar' which we've mostly side-stepped on the past few albums and EPs. Gotta go with the flow when you get a gut feeling about what you wanna do, it's always best to go with it, even if it is completely out of the blue or doesn't fit in with things you've been working on. The guitar or guitar-like ‘tronics are like very dear friends coming to visit you. Rose always responds well to a wall-of-sound moshing guitars, it’s a very familiar and comforting world for us both. We knew we wanted to make something more layered which takes time, I think making the Calm songs is the longest we've ever spent recording a record. Your daughter Rose Berlin is the principal vocalist in SPC ECO, which is a fairly unusual set-up in a band these days. Was SPC ECO formed with her in mind as the vocalist initially?

Dean Garcia: No, but I always thought she would appear in some way minimal or not. Rose and I have been dabbling with song writing and recording as soon as she could make a sound, so it was inevitable really. Since starting up almost 10 years ago, we've both just grown into it, we explore/use it as way to make ourselves feel good or balanced in some way. One of the main reasons for me getting into music in the first place was the feeling you get from playing an instrument, or building up sound on sound with a recorder, the rest of the world gets shut out so you can lose yourself within it. Nothing quite like it really. I was always intrigued that the first SPC ECO album (3-D) was released on Noiseplus Music [Collide's label], and there was The Secret Meeting collaboration around the same time. How did that come about, and what are your thoughts on it now?

Dean Garcia: We've always released with different people or labels we trust, or are like minded people, I just asked Karin and Statik if they would put it out for us and they said yes, is all. I think they still sell the odd one here and there. Karin contacted me ages ago regarding a collaboration of some sort which we did, it naturally progressed from there to making an album together, which was fun for all of us. We're still in touch, and I play bass on Collide songs when they ask me. Good people is what it is. I'll always be in contact with them in some way. Around that time there was also the collaboration with Sascha and Lucia of KMFDM, KGC, which seemed to me to be a much less likely tie-up than The Secret Meeting turned out to be…

Dean Garcia: I think it was very much a time of new beginnings and advancing tech, everything is so connected now, my take and thinking was “throw things out there and see what happened”. It was suggested by my friend Josh that I should contact Lucia, which is what I did and again we progressed naturally and made an album together, again good fun for all, but it didn't do what we all wanted it to do, so we just all moved on. I haven't spoken to Lucia for some time as we had a misunderstanding on a track that was sent to her. All understandable but I do miss writing and talking with her. Things go like that sometimes, it's all part of the story really. As well as a new SPC ECO release, concidentally or not, the new Curve re-issues were released within a week or two of it. They are lavish releases, and seem to cover pretty much everything of the first four years of Curve or so. How was the process of revisiting all of this for you, and what's your thoughts on Curve with some distance from it now, especially with the clear influence you had on others?

Dean Garcia: We thought we'd seize the moment when we found out the reissue was dropping in August. Rose and I are always recording, but it gave us a sense of focus as we thought it would be cool and useful to bump our record at the same time. It was a good thing as it set the pace and end point which is sometimes what you need to push yourselves to finish something, a window of opportunity I think it's called.

My thoughts on Curve are never that far away, it was as ever a mixture of all emotions when listening back or revisiting songs from that time, certain ones you just skip, but others like Horror Head are always a pleasure to the senses. It is certainly a “finest hour” moment as a recorded piece, up there with Coast is Clear – which I found myself on in a few hours on my own in the studio. We were all invited out for a social thing, but my mind was set on making a new track for the upcoming Peel session, Toni and Al[an Moulder] went, I stayed back and had a moment of rare creative clarity.

Toni and Al came back and were blown away with the track. A magical few hours is what you call it. I always just look back with a mixture of sheer terror and mind blowing joy of those early years. Regarding influence it all goes round, steal what you want, but the skill is in making it your own. I think we confused a lot of people back then, but that's OK, we were a bit out there dipping into a very broad sphere of genres, exactly the way I still do with SPC ECO. The beat goes on. There were clear hints last year that there was a potential Curve reunion being discussed with Toni. What happened there?

Dean Garcia: Offers started to come in but not what was originally planned and agreed, consequently Toni had a change of heart. I believe certain feelings, frustrations, fear, terror and the unexpected all reared their heads again, which was something she just didn't want to deal with. I get it.

You have to be in the zone completely otherwise it's just a nightmare for all. Never say never has always been my take on it. I think I'm down if it felt right for all. You were an early advocate for self-releasing music online (you did so with the last Curve album, as I recall, and have done so most of the way with SPC ECO?). Do you have a bitterness or regret over major label deals, with the benefit of hindsight?

Dean Garcia: No bitterness as it was (and is with most artists) always an uphill battle with all that, literally everything has to align when it comes to right album/label/managers and so on. I would say that we had a good punt but not everything was connected or of the right time, I don't regret anything about what Toni and I did with Curve, we just went with the flow and directed it as best we could. Towards the end of our recording we just wanted to do something on our own, it was the cusp of what is normal today, in other words internet and all, it just felt like a good way to go and still is. To me it's all about putting it out there, what happens is almost irrelevant, the success is in the making of something you love which was always the priority with Curve and everything I'm involved with now. Finally, what music gets you going at the moment?

Dean Garcia: Don't really listen to new bands anymore, other than what Rose or Harry might play me, I'm just not tuned in the way I once was. I discover new music by way of films now, sound design and the odd kick-ass track that jumps out here n there, like on the T2 soundtrack, gone are the days of waiting for the record shop to open to check the new releases, music is in a different place for me now, I use it as therapy, to lose myself within and involve people I love to join me. Fuck everything else for a bit. Know what I mean?

Oh, I did recently remix two tracks for Ummagma for their LCD EP. Watch for that.

SPC ECO’s Calm, and the Curve reissues of Doppelgänger and Cuckoo are out now, and Ummagma‘s LCD EP is out 22-September.

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