Detroit’s PsychProg Garage Rock’n’Rollers Duende recently released a new album ‘Oracle Of The Horizontal’ featuring Bauhaus bassist David J late last year via Glass Modern. Torched Magazine is honored to have had the opportunity to speak with the members of Duende who gave us their insight into this amazing collaboration with David J, who lends his haunting vocals, bass and production skills. This marks one of David J’s greatest collaborations to date which is sure to please listeners ears even in the darkest of corners. The album is available as a 12′ heavyweight vinyl in a deluxe gatefold sleeve, CD in a 6 panel fold out card sleeve, and as a digital album. It is now available for order via Glass Modern’s Bandcamp HERE. Duende is: Jeffery Howitt / Joel McCune / Scott Sanford / Laura Willem. Torched Magazine’s exclusive extended interview with Detroit’s Duende (FT David J – part one) can be read HERE.
Words From David J
This exciting collaboration with Detroit’s stalwart psych garage band, Duende came about when they approached me to work with them on a couple of new tracks for a forthcoming EP. These turned out extremely well and when I played them to my pal, genius songwriter / hermetic music guru, Damien Youth, whose opinion I rate most highly, he enthusiastically insisted that we develop the project into a full blown album. This we did. Recorded and mixed in one week at Tempermill Studio in Ferndale, MI, I regard it as one of the most vital sounding and inspired recordings of my career. We also pulled in some additional stellar local talent in Warren DeFever (His Name Is Alive) and also Joshua James (Theatre Bizarre Orchestra) to add yet more tasty ingredients to the swampy spiked mojo soup.
How did you meet David J and what was it like collaborating on this exciting project?
Joel – We met David through a local event called Theatre Bizarre, and through the people who throw this amazing party every year in October. It is rightly called the greatest masquerade on earth! The short version of the story is that David was performing there, and we were performing there, David liked our band and offered to help get us some shows in California. We invited him to collaborate in the studio next time he came to town, and he said yes. We recorded four songs which he played for his good friend Damien Youth in Louisiana, and Damien kindly insisted that David return to Detroit to add enough songs to make it a full length album, which he did!
It is amazing for me personally to be working with David as I started listening to Bauhaus at age 15 in 1986. Love and Rockets about that same time. These are bands that helped form everything I know about music. These are bands that showed me that there weren’t set rules and hard parameters in what could be done with music. They showed me that it was OK to be a weirdo! An outsider! These people were my David Bowie if you will! I didn’t know if they were aliens or what dimension they beamed over from! So truthfully for me it was a little daunting to make a record with one of them! Nevertheless, the studio turned out to be the perfect place to meet and get to know David. We are both very comfortable in a recording studio, so a peer relationship was struck! David is an amazing pro in the studio, and very easy to work with!
Laura – In October 2014, our friends Craig and Julie Sias (Julie RIP) hosted what I believe was David’s first Metro-Detroit Living Room show. Craig (Craiger) is local sound guy that we’ve worked with a ton and is also a good friend. All of us attended the show. Also in attendance were 1) the musical entertainment booker (Matthew Pomroy) for the magnificent (in size, art and entertainment) Halloween party, called Theatre Bizarre (TB) and 2) a prominent Detroit jazz musician, Joshua James. Pomroy invited David to play a DJ set at TB. Well David not only did the DJ set but he ended up performing with James’ jazz band, The Theatre Bizarre Orchestra (TBO). They also recorded an album together…
Anyway, David would come back every so often to perform living room shows and with TBO. While in town, he stayed with the Pomroys, who happen to live next door to Jeff and I. We would chit chat in our adjoining backyards and Jeff and I were invited to listen to the vinyl test pressings of Carpe Noctem with David and Joshua.
In 2016, we played the infamous Theatre Bizarre party and David came and watched our whole set, from right up front! A few days later, he messaged us and said he enjoyed our set. Jeff answered the message and if he would be interested in collaborating. He was in!
Collaborating was great. I think we (Duende) were pretty nervous and excited. David had some ideas for songs and lyrics. We had some demoes and we wrote more music and sent via email to David. He would come back with comments. We did a lot of back and forth up front, like that prior to studio time. In the studio, I found David really easy to work with. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how he would be in the studio and once we got going, I felt very comfortable with him. It was interesting watching him mix – he really dissected the various instruments and vocal tracks, yet worked efficiently.
Scott – we originally met David at a bar in Hamtramck called Kelly’s. We were playing a show for our friends’ birthday and he randomly asked us to join him for a rendition of “No New Tale To Tell”. Separately David was in town and staying with some other friends of ours. They recommended to David that he check out our show if he was interested in something to do. Lucky for us he took that advice and came to see our set at Kelly’s. He sat at a table in the back for most of the night but during that rendition of “No New Tale To Tell” David jumped up mid song and joined us on stage. We kept in touch online after that and we eventually asked him if he would be interested in a collaboration. What started out as a one off single eventually morphed into an album after David listened back to the songs after our first session and decided he wanted to do a full record.
It was very exciting to collaborate with David. Bauhaus was a big influence on me and as a bass player David ss very inspiring. Myself and I think everyone in the band was nervous to work with him initially. He is a legendary performer and we had never collaborated with someone of that caliber before. After the initial jitters David made us feel very comfortable. He has a great ear production wise and really elevated the songs with his ideas for arrangements and auxiliary instrumentation. Several songs were recorded without bass guitar (as I was playing guitar on several tracks leaving the songs without bass). David decided to add some bass to those songs. It was great watching him come up with parts off the cuff that fit the songs perfectly.
Jeff – David J had an open invitation from Theatre Bizarre, simply the greatest masquerade party in Heavens Hell. Housed in seven floors, and more, of the Detroit Masonic Temple. That turned into the formation of and a recording with the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra. In the years before his ‘Ruby Rising” tour with Peter Murphy he was coming to town pretty regular during October. Playing Living Room shows. DJ’ing. Beyond a hello around town it wasn’t until we coincidentally were covering “No New Tale To Tell” at a friends birthday party, that he up jumped the devil with us on stage that we stood out to him. He having mostly been performing troubadour style. It ultimately took David seeing us performing at Theatre Bizarre proper, where he wrote us a little Rock n Roll love letter about the night, which resulted in a multi faceted and referential discourse over the course of a couple weeks where the thought of collaborating was broached and embraced. We had four songs ready to record. Only one, “Out Of My Dreams” had we sent him. The others he immediately heard his parts. Harmonica on “In The Shadow Of 45”. Bass on “Queen Moon And The Brazen Bull”. David added the lyrics during a moment of inspiration during the final mix down. Initially he was going to take “Alice Through The Windscreen” for his upcoming solo record, his last, he has said, but his pal Damien Youth, who ended up doing the cover art, suggested keeping the songs together and making it a record. David really does seem as interested as ever in music, the discovery involved, the chances and rewards if you dare to really LISTEN.
What was your inspiration behind Duende’s new album ‘Oracle Of The Horizontal?’ Are your lyrics based on fantasy or reality?
Joel – All lyrics were written by Jeff Howitt and/or David J, so I will make no comment on lyrics. As for the album inspiration, There was some pressure at least on my part to deliver the goods so to speak on this record. Obviously working with someone as established and talented as David makes a person want to give their best!! Also the fact that it really was a long distance collaboration made it a bit challenging! David being in LA, and Duende in the Detroit area… In the end though, you just have to trust what you know and make it happen! For me the inspiration was the opportunity to work with David and to rise to the occasion, which I feel we did!
Scott – The first part of our collaboration was Jeff our singer and David collaborating via messenger writing lyrics to the song “Out Of My Dreams” back and forth. We created the music for that song to fit the mood of those lyrics. The rest of the album followed that initial mood.
Jeff – The title track is specifically David’s vision. A long poem he wrote in some heavy trippin days during the early eighties. We recorded the track in one take and he the vocal in one as well. “Motor City Squeeze” is probably the most straight forward, lyrically and musically in ways, but also it’s the most personal and autobiographical to his time in Detroit. “In The Shadow Of 45” is the next closest to reality but more tinged with the anxieties of the modern age. Legislated Armageddon because the world can’t end fast enough. “Alice In The Windscreen” in another of David’s visions. Once you sigh with, and slowly blink your eyes to hear is all. A daydream while in the moment. “Out Of My Dreams” started as a back and forth between David and I on a shared intuition. It has that Phoenix theme to it. Destruction for Resurrection. “Queen Moon and The Brazen Bull” definitely has Classic, arcane symbology. I think it all revolves around continuing to recognize a world that is being twisted into a very backwards place. “We’ve been losing for so long now/Even sideways looks like up.” I wish it were fantasy!
Laura – Well, our inspiration being able to work with David.
Out of My Dreams – this was a collaboration of lyrics between Jeff and David. I know Jeff loves crow lore. There was a story a few years ago, in which a young girl had befriended crow and it would bring here little gifts, trinkets. This story very much interested Jeff and that is how those lyrics began.
Motor City Squeeze – I think of this as David’s love story of Detroit – of the people and places.
In the Shadow of 45 – Lyrics by Jeff. David asked the question: Show the song be called “In the Shadow of a 45” or “In the Shadow of 45”? It made sense to go with the latter.
Queen Moon and the Brazen Bull – This song for almost the entire recording project was going to remain an instrumental. Then David pulled out these lyrics and recorded the spoken word over the track at the last minute. You will notice that David’s vocal track sits high above the music and I like how that is. I wouldn’t want that all the time, but I like the effect it has on this particular song.
Alice Through the Windscreen – Lyrics by David – If I remember correctly, he wrote them the night before our first recording session! The line “Your ride is on its way” was taken from a text of David’s friend who was picking him up and driving him to the studio. He then added it in at the studio.
Oracle – Probably a little fantasy and reality. The lyrics were written by David in the 80s while he was on an acid. He requested 13 minutes of music, which we were able to provide! What I think is pretty incredible about this song is that Duende got the song in one take and then David did the vocals in one take, made me think the universe was rooting for us on that one! It sounds like we planned it. Especially, when David says “ALIVE” about halfway through the song, but it really was magic.
David J with Duende photo by Trevor Long
Could you briefly describe the music-making process behind your new album?
Joel – Duende has always kept a small recorder in our practice room. Anytime someone is riffing about on something interesting we hit record. We then compile the best bits and tailor them into songs. Some of that happened on “Oracle of the Horizontal”, but there was also some very specific ideas that David had for certain songs. “Motor City Squeeze”, and “Oracle”, for example were the two songs we did in the second session with David, and he specifically wanted a “single”, and a thirteen minute dark opus for him to put his amazing spoken word poem over. In these instances a few ideas were sent back and forth, but ultimately most of what is on this record is unrehearsed, ad libbed, happy accidents, and serendipity! “Oracle” for example was one take from the band, and David did the poem after the fact in one take as well. “Queen Moon and the Brazen Bull” was an instrumental right up until mixing, when David suddenly was inspired into adding his spoken word to it. I can’t even imagine that song without that part now!
Scott – All of the music for the album was written as a group, collaboratively. We created the songs at practices. Some were actually written (at least partially) years earlier while some were created specifically for the project. Usually one of us would start playing something that would inspire the rest of the group to join in. We typically record the ideas on our phones and play them back later to pick the best ones to flesh out. Two songs, Motor City Squeeze and Oracle, were the last ones written to fill out the record and were recorded in a different session. David had a sound that he wanted from each. The other 4 were recorded earlier.
Laura – We pulled from so existing demos we had saved and also wrote new music. David and Jeff handled the lyrics. Musically, Motor City Squeeze was pretty polished when we went into the studio and most of the others we left room for studio magic. Duende recorded the music and then David added his vocals or bass or harmonica after. Guests came and added their tracks as well.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
Joel – Our music has just become more of what is was always trying to be if that makes sense. Duende has been a band for twelve years, so you get real comfortable playing music with people after that long. There is a real musical trust. It becomes a language you all speak. Even if there are mistakes and surprises that happen live, or in the studio, you incorporate it into the song. You trust the moment. That is the only way we could ever have accomplished this album with David J. Going into the studio both times with him, we had very little concrete plans for the songs. Just rough ideas that we had no choice but to hammer into finished songs. We never could have pulled it off like this in our early years. We have always had a strong improvisational ethic, but we did most of that on stage. Improvising in the studio takes a lot more courage, freedom, and experience. David is amazing at it! Ideas just pour out of him. I think we were all inspired by his fluidity, and it made us more open to creativity in a precarious situation.
Scott – Musically our sound has incorporated all of our personalities to create something bigger than ourselves individually. Originally the songs had a more bare bones straight forward rock feel but I feel now our music has gotten more experimental but also more melodic.
Jeff – The first dozen or so songs was me with a riff and lyrics and Laura booming a beat to it. When Joel joined the band he started bringing in parts. Some I didn’t have to play guitar on. Some he had a part for me, and by the time we recorded “Remnant of a Remnant” at NY HED Studios in Manhattan with Matt Vert-Ray, half the song ideas were rooted with him. When Scott joined the band as bassist, in time to start writing “florence to the Mad Man”, he also brought guitar skills. We all realized that it was the arrangements that were going to give us any kind of edge amongst trashy, garage, psyche bands. I was never a singer songwriter type, even being the front person and lyricist, se we’ve never really hit a creative wall. We write around a beat Laura is playing or one of Scott’s bass lines. It comes from anywhere, and usually while we are warming up, and not worrying about what or who DUENDE is or supposed to be doing. We record those bits. Those jams, and when it’s time to put together a record, like it nearly is now for us, we just start digging around the archive. Mashing songs together. Making them as short of as long as possible. It really is one of the highest joys of playing with these folks. There is always a sense of discovery. Of something that wasn’t there arriving.
Is there anything else that you would like to share that I may have missed?
Joel – I think that about covers it! Thank you so much for your interest, and the opportunity to talk about an amazing experience!
Jeff – Warren Defever of His Name is Alive, who also played Mellotron on “Oracle”, and, “Alice Through The Windscreen”, calling that one a “Fuzz Symphony”, said, “Someone is going to know what to do with this.” We are beyond grateful to be working with David Barker of Glass Records and to be part of his push with the Modern and Redux imaginations of his. He having helped The Replacements and Spaceman3 early in their careers, as well as David J with early solo works, and now with Spiritualized and Thurston Moore. It’s really great company. I’ve learned a lot from his equanimity and taste.
Laura – We had some very special guests on the album to help fully develop the last two songs (Alice Through the Windscreen and Oracle):
Warren Dever (His Names is Alive) played Mellotron and Joshua James played sax and other weird noises. James brought in two other horn players for Alice – Dave Vassella (trumpet) and John Raleeh (trombone) and they all provided a very cool backing vocal track for Alice Through the Windscreen. Defever and James are good friends with David and it was a treat to watch them work in the studio setting – total pros!
ORACLE OF THE HORIZONTAL
DUENDE with David J
Duende is: Jeffery Howitt / Joel McCune / Scott Sanford / Laura Willem
Music by Duende // Lyrics by David J, except for Track 1 lyrics by Jeffery Howitt/David J and Track 3 lyrics by Jeffery Howitt
Produced by David J // Recorded at The Tempermill in Ferndale, Michigan by Tony
Hamera // Mixed by David J, Duende and Tony Hamera // Mastered by Tony Hamera
1) Out of My Dreams
David J – Vocals / Jeffery Howitt – Vocals / Joel McCune – Guitars /
Scott Sanford – Bass / Laura Willem – Drums
2) Motor City Squeeze
David J – Vocals / Bass / Fender Bass VI / Jeffery Howitt – Backing vocals
Joel McCune – Guitars / Scott Sanford – Guitars / Laura Willem – Drums
3) In the Shadow of 45
David J – Harmonica / Jeffery Howitt – Vocals / Joel McCune – Guitar
Scott Sanford – Bass / Laura Willem – Drums
4) Queen Moon and the Brazen Bull
David J – Vocals/Bass / Joel McCune – Guitar / Scott Sanford – Guitar
Laura Willem – Drums
5) Alice Through the Windscreen
David J – Vocals / Joel McCune – Guitar / Scott Sanford – Guitar
Laura Willem – Drums / Piano / Grand piano / Rhodes / Mellotron / Backing
Vocals / Joshua James – Tenor and baritone saxophones / Effects / Backing vocals / John Raleeh – Trombone / Backing vocals / Dave Vessella – Trumpet / Backing vocals / Warren Defever – Mellotron / Eric Kacir – Bell
David J – Vocals / Joel McCune – Guitar / Scott Sanford – Guitar / Laura Willem – Drums / Joshua James – Tenor and baritone saxophones / Effects
Warren Defever – Mellotron
Feature Photo by Lisa Marie Krug
Keep up with David J
Keep up with Duende
Copyright © 2019 by Judy Lyon/Torched Magazine
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of TORCHED MAGAZINE.