Dead Can Still Dance

Brendan Perry Tells Us

By Kelly McClure

Dead Can Dance is one of those bands dearly beloved by many goths but does not technically fall under the jurisdiction of black lipstick and thigh- high latex platform boots. Cofounded by Australians Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard in 1981, the band relocated to London shortly thereafter. They continued to release albums and tour for the next two decades, give or take, until dissolving into a puddle of mascara-filled tears on an IHOP countertop

A few years back, Dead Can Dance launched a reunion tour, and this month marks the release of Anastasis, their eighth studio album, following a 16-year recording hiatus. I spoke with Brendan from the tiny fart of a booth where we make our important phone calls while picturing him tiptoeing around an Irish recording studio, doing things like drinking tea and worrying about how he was going to mic all sorts of weird instruments following our conversation. But before any of this happened I had to convince his publicist that I wasn’t a total asshole. And I’m not, I swear.

ViCE: I had a funny conversation with your publicist prior to setting up our talk. She called to make sure that this interview wasn’t going to be volatile.

Brendan Perry: [silence]

OK, let’s go! Perusing all the stuff that’s been written about you, I found that your music is often described as “Gaelic folk,” “Middle Eastern mantras,” and “art-rock,” but never “goth,” which is what I’ve always considered it to be. Did you guys ever associate yourselves with that subculture? Am I crazy?

Well to be honest, we never really involved ourselves in it in any shape or form. Depending on where we played, there was often a large contingent of people who dressed like goths, but we didn’t have much to do with anything. We’re quite reclusive and just kept to ourselves. We found it all quite amusing. It seemed to be a generational fashion thing, rather than something that had any sort of cultural depth.

When you’re recording an album and in that bubble of creativity, does it make things like going to the grocery store and just living everyday common life seem intolerable? 

Yeah. It’s awful. You need a pint of milk for your tea, and you have to stop in the middle of that second movement and jump in the car, and then you’re there with all the other shoppers, and yeah, it can be a bit of a shock.

How did you and Lisa come to form the band? It must be hard to meet someone who’s like, “oh yeah, I like droney chanting too. Let’s do some.”

We came from two very different musical paths and happened to meet at the crossroads where our interests overlapped. My background was punk, and Lisa’s was more left-field cabaret-type music. Initially it was a three piece. I was dating Lisa at the time, and we needed some extra percussion and she performed. And then that went on to backing vocals, and then, before you knew it, she was in the band.

So she Yoko’d you?

[laughs]

And now you’ve got this new album, 16 years after your last. what took so long?

It’s been on the back burner for a long while.

Have you found that the way things are done with labels and publishing has considerably changed since the last time you guys went through all this?

Yes. It’s become shallower and more statistics driven. Seems like the banks are making most of the decisions. It’s a bit of a sad affair. The brighter side is that the technology is available to everyone now, so it’s exciting for people who want to just make their own albums. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword.

Do you think shows like Game of Thrones and modern-day renaissance fairs have bastardized the ornate lifestyle you guys represent into something nerdy and weird enjoyed by terrible people?

I think I went to a Renaissance fair in California. The thing where they play music and do crafts? Yeah. The American take on the Renaissance is a bit historically inept at times. But it’s all with the best intentions, isn’t it. 

Anastasis by Dead Can Dance is out this month on PIAS. See deadcandance.com for tour dates.

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