Interview: Dino Campanella / dredg


How do you define something, which is basically indefinable? How do you capture something, which constantly crosses limits and pushes all the boundaries? You don’t. You have to just let it be what it really is – a free, self-contained existence standing out from everything around it by being simply original. That’s what the band Dredg is all about, originality, along with an approach that doesn’t need flashy show gimmicks, just music. And this is what the Californian quartet brought with them, when at the start of May they came to Berlin as part of their latest European tour. On that night, in the intriguing surroundings of Berlin’s Kesselhaus, a former brewery complex, the band performed in completion two of its classical albums “El Cielo” and “Catch Without Arms”. In between the shows I managed to catch up with Dredg’s drummer, Dino Campanella, who took me on an exciting journey of his insightful thoughts about life, music, silence, selfishness and more.



Dino, first of all thank you for finding time to do interview. I wanted to start with the question how did this tour actually come about?


We were talking for a long time about coming here. We played records in completion before in the States and it was great, successful and a lot of fun. So we thought that if we came to Europe and did such a tour, we could have some special shows. I think it’s a win-win situation for both fans and the bands. From a business perspective it’s good promotion, but it’s in no way taking advantage of anyone, because it’s something that fans really enjoy. There a lot of things I think would be awesome to see in completion.


For example?


Some old Slayer, Faith No More, Helmet, you know the stuff we listened to when we were kids. I think it’s just awesome and benefits both parties. Playing albums in completion is popular now, because it’s a sign of the times, where bands have to be on the road to make money, because the record sales have declined so much. You can’t just keep coming back to the same markets over and over again, because in such case it oversaturates itself. For us, when we don’t have a new record, it gives us a fresh way to show up. If we were to come here and just do a regular show, I think it would be a little bit misleading, since it’s so long since the last album. This formula gives us a reason to come and to celebrate music with our fans.


Speaking of which, why don’t you have a new record?


It’s a lots of variables, that come together as to why we don’t have a new record, but basically it got to the point, where we’ve done records consecutively for so many years, that after the last tour we didn’t want to do another cycle. Usually we would come home from a tour, take a little break and then start writing for the next album and that happened over and over again and everyone was already tired of that. We wanted to take some time off and breathe, just live. We didn’t want to be on a constant schedule of Dredg. We wanted to go out there and do things on our own, explore other things for a second. It was necessary to maintain our health individually and as a band. In a situation like this a lot of bands jump to conclusions and decide to break up, but we never had any intentions of breaking up. We love each other, love playing music together and we will as long as we want to, but at some point we felt we wanted to be in control of our own schedule. It was a very natural thing. We felt that’s what needed to happen.


Tonight you are playing songs from albums, which were created a decade ago. How do you perceive them now? Do you identify with those songs in a different way now?


Big time. I don’t think I identify with them as I used to at all.




Yes. It’s because at that time everything was different. In my life, in everyone else’s life, in the band’s life. So different. That’s why now it’s not like I’m back in my shoes of ten years ago and playing it. It’s almost like I’m playing somebody else’s song, which happened to also be me. There are parts, that I’m playing and I do it, how I used to do it, although sometimes it seems like they don’t make much sense now, but I purposely enjoy celebrating the old me, if you will (laughs). Not to discount everything I did back then, it’s just different now. On the other hand, there are things that I did then, that I wish I could do now. I didn’t think so hard back then, especially on “El Cielo”, I was just playing. Sometimes I feel like I overthink now. For example “18 People Live In Harmony” off “El Cielo” – I am proud of what I did on that song back then. The rhythm and timing of that song, it impresses me.


So now you are more aware of what you actually did back then?


I am. I do feel it actually now more than ever.


What has changed?


I think it’s the perspective. Now I can look at the albums we have made from an outside perspective. Back then I couldn’t, because my head was right up the ass of it (laughs). It’s not like I am disconnected from that now. It’s more than I am connected to it by a galaxy away. Now when I listen to those songs and we’re playing and relearning them, I can really appreciate them, whereas before I really couldn’t, because it’s hard to appreciate something, when you are actually doing or creating it. To be honest we didn’t really try that hard, when we made that. We actually didn’t try. We didn’t know how to write songs, so we took all those weird instruments we had and said „hey, let’s put them on the album”. That’s not really thought out, that’s just screwing around. But now when I look at it I think “wow, that’s so rad, that we did that” or I feel that’s so cool we cared that much about pushing boundaries.


Metallica, Faith No More, Dead Kennedys, Primus, Machine Head, Joe Satriani, damn, even Chris Isaak. There are a lot of influential bands or musicians, that come from your region, which is Bay Area. Is it really that good a place for being creative?


Bay Area is very beautiful and there are a lot of artistic-minded people, but I guess it’s not so much about the influence of local musicians. It’s more about us being in the same place. In case of our band it’s really all about the chemistry between the four of us. I think Dredg could have happened anywhere, to be honest. Had I met these three guys in another city, I think we still would have made something special. People love to say, where they’re from is important to their music, but you are a human being, you play the way you do, you are going to take what’s around you and transform it no matter where you are. It’s about where you are comfortable and happy with who you are around. We come from a big group of our peers, a community of people, who are really tight and friendly and I think that also reflects in our band. We come from a tiny little town [Los Gatos population is about 30 000], but with many great people. Open-minded, fun, driven, but also kind of whacky. And expressive. They are not afraid to express themselves.


I guess that’s what art is all about – expression.




photo by Kaley Nelson


El Cielo” is inspired by Salvador Dali’s painting “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bumblebee around a Pomegranate One Second Before Awakening”. In this questions I’d like to relat to one of Dali’s thoughts, who apparently said once: “You have to systematically create confusion, it sets creativity free. Everything that is contradictory creates life”. And now, I read one interview with you, where you said, that first song written for „El Cielo” successor, „Catch without arms”, was „Tanbark is hot lava”, which is a very fast and energetic song. Very different, contradictory to tracks on previous album. So having in mind this context, would you say that creativity is often triggered on the edge of contradiction or at least change?


Definitely. It is always about pushing boundaries, jumping into something new. Not for everyone in this world, but for us it is. We were always trying to do something different. Like on „El Cielo”, a lot of songs there are different from each other. We consciously wanted to try different things. Use a horn bought in a furniture store. Implement drum’n’bass, which I am very much into, into songs like „Canon behind her”. We just want variety. We discount records, where every song sounds the same. Why can’t you have different drum sound on every song, why can’t the guitars sound different, why won’t you use different instruments?


Sounds like drive for excitement.


It is. It’s a very selfish approach (laughs).


And I think it should be. To me that’s the beauty of music. Like in your case, you have four people, who make music they would like to hear themselves. Then you release it or come here and play it to a thousand or more people, like those who are gathered here tonight. Those are the people you do not even know, yet all of the sudden it turns out they respond to the music that you like and they also feel it and there is a connection between you and those people.


Exactly but again, it’s all driven by self interest. You just hope, that what you think is good, the others are going to think is good too, but you write music first and foremost for yourself. That is what this band has always been about. We never cared about having a fan base or things like that. „Leitmotif ” was written for each other. When you have four people in the room facing each other, enjoying creating something together, that’s what it’s all about. Making a recording is secondary to that and making a recording not for yourself in the studio, but also for others, that’s literally third spot down the line.


Ok, I understand you write firstly for yourself, but how did you perceive all this criticism, which fell on you after your last album?


It just showed how passionate people were about our music. They were very, very let down. It hurt their feelings sincerely to the point they got angry. We understand their disappointment, but after some time that whole hatred, that was going on and on, got a little bit weird. It’s ok to give your opinion, but it’s never good to be so hurtful, in any context of life. You should never try to hurt somebody’s feelings like that. People don’t really understand what happened with the last record. We put ourselves into a different situation, than we ever had, where producer was more of a composer. Dan the Automator is a composer. Usually he works with a rapper or a singer and when he works with bands, it’s kind of the same way as he does with MCs or singers, where he composes the music and has people just to sing on it. He doesn’t want to work with a bunch of people’s opinions, why should he? It’s not that he didn’t listen to us, but we gave him our songs and it’s almost like he remixed them. We gave him tracks, but he did his own thing on them, so the record was a bit of our control.


But you let it happen, right?


Yes, we let it happen, because we needed to try something different. We thought it’d be awesome to try it. To me there are two things to say about this album. First, if those songs were recorded as a live band as Dredg plays, it could have been a record that Dredg fans would have liked. The other thing I took from it is, that Dredg fans want to hear our musicianship. They want to hear Mark play his guitar, me playing my drum kit, Drew play his bass and Gavin sing. They want to hear personalities come through and on that record the personalities weren’t there and that’s what made them angry.


Do you as a band feel that kind of pressure or at least expectations from fans?


I don’t really care, but when I say that, it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them. Of course I do, but I can’t let people, who are fans of Dredg guide us. I can’t do that and that’s not what they want us to do, even though they might think so, that’s really not what they want us to do. And again, when I say that, that’s totally no disrespect to our fans. Much love and respect for our fans, always.


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