Tooth Interview by Bob Baker Fish


Here is an interview I did with Kevin Purdy from Tooth for their album launch at the Northcote Social Club tonight.

What was it that prompted you guys to begin Tooth?
It was one of those things that you just know. I was just back for living in Melbourne for about 9 1/2 years, I had long been in bands and was more than happy to remain a solo entity as Purdy, but I met Robbo in a record shop on my first journey into town and we got talking and everything just clicked. We’d both been travelling own own paths but with an insane amount of cross connections, including our mutual burning curiousity about outsider culture. We got together pretty soon after, with Robbo suplying the sounds and me doing the technical stuff and within no time very cool tunes were being born, within no time we were playing live as a duo.

Mudlarking has taken some time to be released since Sirens. Is the delay simply the result of the size of Mudlarking? What are some of the issues that releasing such a large album raises?

There’ a lot of reasons for that. With the first two albums it was like we were part of huge wave that was just getting bigger and better but it sort of crashed out around 2002. A lot of things had changed it was harder to work up enthuiasm, also it was my time to try and complete my second solo album. With that out of the way in late 2004 it was time to get back to concentrating on Tooth. We had a stack of works in progress, some took shape very quickly, others grew over time. It wasn’ like if it had been a single album it wouldn’ have taken as long. Also we had lots of changes and mess ups with distributors and money. But at the end of the day it all came together perfectly.
I’ve had a little feedback about the size of the album being an issue, but the thing is you don’ have to listen to both discs. It’s not like your 80 minute monsters, it’s a journey less than 50 minutes, and if your so inspired you can put on the other one.

What kind of development do you feel the band has made since Sirens?

We have definitely grown a lot more confident in our vision . Personally I have developed my skills in the studio 100 fold. We were using pretty ancient gear back then and were not able to record live instrument with as much ease as we do now with the current set up.

Tooth has a real collision of styles going on, do you ever feel part of a psychedelic tradition, or perhaps its logical development in 2006? Or is it something else?

I think what we’re doing is a culmination of our life’ investigation and passion for hundreds of different things. This has been a constant in my life since I was a kid. The beauty now is the ease in which these influences mingle with each other so effortlessly, as opposed to wanting things to be, or not be, a certain way. This is allowing all the sounds and films and books and lovers and travels, inwardly and outwards to sing together and we can look at this magic seemingly coming out of thin air and go, wow this is great.

Do you ever think about what this big crazy lumbering beast called Tooth is? Is it simply a sum of your three personalities or something else?

The main thing which drives what we do is mutual desire to go beyond, to summon up the surreal, creating imaginary storylines and characters that we work off each other, laughing like fools at things other people wouldn’ get. Like when one of the darker tunes Ultimate kicks was being created it was a bit scary at first, all these demon like sounds swooping about, but instead of backing off we embraced it, visualising deeper into it, getting out the candles and the Hawkwind posters.

Do you think its possible to classify what you’re doing? And if so what is your take?

Firstly, no. I think we’re making Tooth music. Hardly any of the music we dig is truly clasifiable. These days there’ diet of 5 safe commercial categories and the rest is just what it is. Certainly there are strong influences in our music but the overall thing is the sonic wind which we somehow create, which is undeniably the sound of Tooth.

How do you approach writing, is there a lot of working with samples, live jamming how does it all come together to become a Tooth song?

Usually there’ some sort of loop we have been drawn to for whatever qualities it might have, this inspires other ideas to germinate, sometimes live instruments, sometimes found sounds. Often there is a clashes of tones and notes which create a little vauge melody which can only be accompanied by a harmonica or a glockenspiel. We just allow these babies to develop.

What made you guys decide to go a double album?

We really love the asthetics of a beautifully packaged musical object and the double gatefold LP was an influence. I’m not really a CD lover but doing this got a little closer to creating the kind of package we’d really dig doing, you know the double 10” gatefold with a poster and stickers. Just more fun I guess.

How did you get Daevid Allen involved? What was it you were hoping he would bring to the album?

When we found out that Daevid was living up north it became an obsession. We were coming up with all sorts of schemes and plans, but one day I received an email from the man himself. He was really friendly and open to checking out our stuff. After he’d heard our demos he replied which very generous praise and was keen to be involved, which made us very happy. He’ been fighting the good fight for a damn long time, highly active in the underground and hardly profited from his art at all. Several months later I received CDs with multiple guitar and vocal parts on them. At first I was overwhelmed, but once I’d sunk into what it seemed his vision was and how they all might be tied together the tunes started to take on a magical glow.

Mudlarking feels like much more of a collaboration than ever before, with numerous artists participating on different tracks. What made you decide to open it up so much?

As with Daevid I find that a musician leaves some kind of DNA within the music, parts that I could have done develop a sonic warmth. I guess it helps that all of the guests are such beautiful souls. I’d worked with Rory, Jeremy and Peter with the live Purdy band so that was a no brainer, everyone else was friends who we knew would be able to bring something special when a particular vision was being attempted. There’ also that kind of Phil Spector, Brian Wilson thing about our music, you know, why not have more strings, more bells, five accoustic guitars and three types of synth.

How do you approach transferring the album to the live arena?

We meet it half way, with the bones of the tracks as a bed, John and Bass, me on guitar and keys, Robbo controling the psychedelic processors and some percussion and with us for the launch Jeremy Barnett (ex Prop) play vibes and percussion. We allow lots of space especially with show like this one where we’re not restricted by time to let the muse flow between the set tunes.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.

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