Published on May 31st, 2013 | by Jon Robertson1
Interview with Ten Kens
When I first discovered the dark complexity that is Ten Kens third full length Namesake it was honestly a dream come true. I love dark, somber, and introspective music and the density that was contained on the original 10 tracks that were digitally released back in 2012 became an instant favorite of mine. The feeling and vibe of the collection of those 10 songs was enough to make me think that I had died and gone to some glorious, ghostly afterlife. However, when I found out that Ten Kens were set to drop an expanded version of Namesake, I almost literally died from excitement. The band was finally releasing a physical copy of the album and were creating a directors cut if you will, with the disc growing from the original 10 songs to 14 tracks total. With such a solid album having already been released, I needed to get in touch with founding member and vocalist Dan Workman to talk about the additional four tracks. I also needed to get some more details on the future of the band, what inspires their music, and what movie he feels Namesake would be the best soundtrack for.
Purchase Namseake here
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BGM: You guys are known for closing yourselves off for prolonged periods of time while recording, describe the recording process for Namesake?
Dan Workman: Recenlty for the first two records we made it a point of isolating ourselves and cutting out any outside influence. We just took that one step further for this. You know, no non-band members allowed in the studio. And instead of chopping it up into shorter recording sessions we went into these epic all day recording sessions. We just wanted to saturate ourselves with the process and really dive into it. After an extend time in the studio you start to go a little nutty and we wanted to use that sort of claustrophobic energy and put that into the music.
Yea it definitely comes across that way and I think that Namesake has a darker heavier sound than your previous albums. What inspired the change?
You know trying different amps and different sounds and different chord progressions that we don’t normally use. Even though we went in with finished songs we wanted to do a lot of experimenting in the studio and I think this sound is just a natural progression for us. You know the first record was on the poppier side and the second record got a little more manic and a little darker and this one it just sort of made sense to drop everything and down and really get psychedelic and experimental. It just made sense to us and when these sounds started to come out we got into them even more and started exploring those deep dark tones that came out.
One of the things that I love about your sound especially on the new album is the dreamy vocals paired with the heavy music especially on the opening track “Death in the Family”. What inspired you vocally for the new album?
We like the paring of sounds that don’t necessarily go together. You know soft music hard vocals and hard music with soft vocals. I’m not a screamer or aggressive vocalist. It was a conscious decision to go into the studio and make the music aggressive and psychedelic and keep the vocal melodies on the high end. The idea behind that was that the vocals were supposed to be almost like another instrument.
Namesake has what I think a really dark vibe to it. Is there an overall theme for the album? What inspired you lyrically?
For the most part each song gets written on an individual basis which works better for us rather than composing everything all at once. We tend to write a group of songs and pick the best from the lot and put them together. However, I will say that there were personal family issues and the lose of loved ones, also wondering where your place is in the world is, and why we do the things that we do. You know very sort of board worldly themes. So, I guess if there was a theme, those would be it.
Namesake has some real theatrical elements to it. If you could choose a movie to pair Namesake to as a soundtrack what would you choose?
That’s a great question…. Um, maybe a Kubrick film like 2001 or Clockwork Orange. You know we took our time a little more with the feeling and vibe of this album and there are dark under tones and there are moments that sort of make you pause and think a little more. The response I find lingers a little bit. It’s not instant gratification. It’s not a Tarantino movie where each moment that happens you applaud and cheer and you know how you’re supposed to feel. I guess a Kubrick film where it takes its time and builds it up slow and I guess when its all said and done you just sit back and think about how your are supposed to feel. I guess that’s the vibe we were going for.
There not b-sides at all. They were recorded with the Namesake sessions and we kept them off the record because the album was going to be too long. So we thought with the physical release of the album we should put these remaining four tracks out there and complete the album.
So it’s almost like an extended version or just kind of continuation of the album?
Absolutely. This is the full Namesake recording session with everything that we did and intended to be released.
I really like the video for “When a Door Opens”, Describe the inspiration behind it and why this song in particular was chosen.
That song was chosen because it has a really solid pacing and flow to it and we thought it would lend itself well to a video. I’ve been wanting to create a performance video for awhile and I am admittedly sort of a novice at video making and I am slowly working my way into it, not taking on projects that are beyond my scope of abilities. So, I was walking through my neighborhood one day and there was this street performer that was doing this very eclectic mime routine. She wasn’t wearing the typical outfit and her makeup was very distorted and unusual, she wasn’t miming in the traditional sense. She was almost like this ghost character up on a platform. I thought she was fabulous and when she took a break from her routine I asked her if she would want to be in a video for us and she was totally down for it. So then we dressed her in white put her in front of a black background and just filmed for hours until we got all the movements that we wanted and that’s just pretty much it.
The way the video was edited down really gave it a more of a supernatural vibe to it.
Thank you. Yea again, I am just trying my hand at this whole editing thing and I’m slowly getting the hang of it. I didn’t want to interrupt her performance and I just wanted her performance to come through. I wanted the visuals to match the music.
I noticed that the physical release of Namesake is being released independently.
Yes, we are out on our own for this one. It’s kind of an experiment more than anything. The music business is always changing and evolving and we just wanted to see how we would fair with this one. We felt we had all the pieces in place and so far its working out.
The band seems to have a really dark shadowy aesthetic when you play live, which I think really goes well with the sound of the new album. Was this a conscious decision from the band?
Absolutely. I think sometimes I think bands struggle to portray their vibe that they record with their live performance. You know we don’t stage dive or jump up on each other shoulders. We play music that kind of lives and breathes a certain way and we want to capture that. So whether we use projections of our videos or back-light ourselves and keep everything really dark and shadowy. We want people to try and experience the whole overall feeling. I honestly would just like people to come to the show and just close there eyes and just see how the music makes them feel. We just play with sound and ask the audience to soak it up.
What touring plans do you have coming up?
Nothing to report right now, but we are still working that out and hopefully here in a bit we will have solidified some dates and we will be announcing something soon.
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The band has had a fairly varied sound throughout its history. What have been some of your main musical influences over the years?
As much as we try and stay away from it, you can definitely here some of the great bands from the nineties creep into our music. Definitely Sonic Youth and the Pixies, it just sort of the era of music that I really grew up in, so its hard to not have those influence come through. Basically, we let a little more darker bands that experiment with their sound influence us more. Like Pink Floyd, I mean the first track of Namesake you can hear some Floyd influences in there and their one of the greatest bands of all time, so its hard not to let some of their sounds creep in.
Favorite band or album of all time?
That’s a hard one. I guess I would have to say Pink Floyd Meddle. You know this could vary from day to day, but today lets go with Pink Floyd Meddle.
So Ten Kens has had a pretty varied group of musicians throughout its history. I know the song writing is done by just you and Brett (Paulin). So what’s the line up like now?
This band has always been a revolving door of musician. We like to think of ourselves as more of a collective of musicians. But, as far as the actual band goes it’s always going to Brett and I. But, we are always looking to add or subtract to our sound as needed. So you know if the next record calls for a three piece then that’s what we will do.
Has the band started writing any new music?
Always. Were always getting our ideas down, always looking to expand on our catalog. No definite plans of when we will release the new stuff though.
Okay final question, what direction do you see the new songs going?
Well, we have basic melodies and basic song structures so far, but as of now I think that we are just going to have wait til we get in the studio to see how we are feeling and what direction it is going to take. Maybe we’ll be in full psychedelic mode or maybe anti-experimental mode. It kind of remains to be seen.