ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 28, 1991
A rather impressive promo package was dropped off at the office last week. It contained the new Dead Surf Kiss CD and tape, a band photo, shiny silver stickers with green lizards on them, and a bio. But this wasn’t your typical “drummer Joe met guitarist Moe…” bio. Check this out.
“Dead Surf Kiss: a twisted embryo of melody and metal delivered through a shotgun blast of demented time signatures and intangible rhetoric. Landscapes of paranoid rhythms confront a mutated symbiosis of Brian Wilson and Godzilla unleashing the darker side of prose and poetry.” Oh, man…who writes this stuff?
“That’s what we’d like to know,” chuckles Dead Surf Kiss vocalist Havick Worth before guitarist Dave Genn lays it on the line: “We haven’t had any reviews yet, so we just have to make ’em up as we go along.”
Ah, the joys of shameless self-promotion. But, hey, it’s a rough road out there, and every little bit helps. And Dead Surf Kiss—although signed to a small local independent, Onslot Music—already has a head start on the local competition with an American major-label distribution deal through BMG. The band hopes to have a Canadian release on BMG come this January. And judging from the professional look of its album cover—shot by Georgia Straight contributing photographer Lincoln Clarkes—the Narcotic Nevada release wouldn’t look one bit out of place up there in the CD racks next to other ear-numbing releases by Metallica et al.
“The advantage of being with a small independent, with distribution, is that we’ve got our finger in every single pie we can get it into,” says Genn, 22. “So we had a lot to do with the cover. We came up with this idea of going up the Coquihalla and shooting in an area that might be able to pass as Nevada-type landscape, and we were really happy when we got the shots back. There seems to be a lot of depth in it, and sort of a face that came through as well.”
Face? Oh yeah, now I see it. There’s sort of a shadowy pair of eyes and a nose in the parched, desert-like foliage. There’s also a naked figure in the top left-hand corner and a crab that’s seen better days comin’ at ya near the bottom. Not to mention an array of dice, padlocks, handguns, scissors, doll heads, and assorted other knick-knacks along the sides of the photo. You figure it out.
As for the music inside, it’s not easy to pin down, either. And its makers don’t offer any snap descriptions.
“The way I usually hear it is loud,” says Genn. “I don’t know where you can find the sort of melodies and counter-melody structure that we have in our music in anything like Slayer or any of these speed-metal bands, you know. We want to keep ourselves challenged musically—that’s the most important thing.”
“But we get labelled right away,” adds Worth, at 25 the oldest member of the band. “One of the problems we’ve had trying to book this tour through the States is people saying, ‘Well, this is metal; we’re scared of this.’ And we’re going, ‘No, it’s not metal, it’s sort of alternative.’ I don’t know—we’re just trying to do our thing.”
Dead Surf Kiss was aided in that goal by local knob-twiddler Dave Ogilvie, who produced and engineered Narcotic Nevada with drummer Dan Tanna. Worth says the choice of Ogilvie to helm the album at North Hollywood’s Amigo Studios was an easy one.
“He’s played around the Vancouver scene in thousands of bands, so everybody knows Dave. And we wanted somebody who could get the heaviness but, at the same time, give it sort of an experimental feel, something different.”
Armed with Narcotic Nevada and an upcoming video for the “self-explanatory” tune “33rd & Main (The Dealer)”, Dead Surf Kiss is embarking on a West Coast U.S. tour that will include dates with thrashy punkers SNFU. The tour kicks off with gigs at Club Soda this Tuesday (December 3, with Tankhog) and the Commodore next Saturday (December 7, with SNFU).
Neither Genn nor Worth hesitate when asked to name their favourite local band. NoMeansNo wins hands down, although Genn also gives points to Sons of Freedom. But they’re not so quick at pointing out what they like most about their own album. After some deliberation, Genn admits to liking the Celtic part in “Invisible Cool”. And Worth?
“I like the hiss at the very end.”