HEALTH on Being Serious, and Seriously Goofy

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HEALTH on Being Serious, and Seriously Goofy

Via HEALTH's Facebook

Via HEALTH's Facebook

Via HEALTH's Facebook

Via HEALTH's Facebook

Max Johnston

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I went to the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac to interview Jake Duzsik, lead singer and guitarist for HEALTH. We discussed songwriting and the creative process before getting down to the real issues of Kanye West and Seinfeld.

 

Why the CAPS LOCK in the band name and song titles?:

Actually, that was pragmatic because when we started the group there was a folk band from North Carolina called Health, we found out. We got some sort of, like, cease and desist thing from a lawyer of theirs, so we kinda squashed it by being like ‘alright, we’ll always be all caps’ to differentiate ourselves from that. Also, I wanted to call the band ‘Medicine’, we were trying to do like a Television or Magazine kinda thing, like you get a name from a very, very common object, and kind of recategorize it. Well, Medicine was a shoegaze band in LA in the ’90s so: Health and Medicine. And there is a unproduced Robert Altman film called H.E.A.L.T.H., but it has a period in between each letter, and they were all in all-caps, so it looked really good. So it was actually just a…….we had to do it.

 

DEATH MAGIC is your first full-length studio album in 6 years, what brought you back to putting an album together, or what kept you away?

We did a two-and-a-half year touring cycle, we’ve always toured a lot after an album comes out, and right around the time we were gonna try to buckle down and try to write a new record was when Rockstar Games approached us, and we ended up doing the entire score so that took us about 14 months. So that accounts for like, three and a half years, which is already a lot. The other part of it is just like, ‘sh*t happened.’

It’s not like you guys weren’t doing anything, you were touring in the interim, right?

Yeah, you know, we weren’t green in putting out our third record. Like, we really wanted to make sure that we were happy with how the production sounded. And so, like, if we went in and did some dates at a studio and it didn’t sound like the way we wanted it to end up, we just scrapped everything. We kinda had the perspective of not wanting to put out something that we weren’t happy with the way the production came across so it ended up becoming kind of an obsession and just took a long time to find the right sound for the record.

 

Were you writing material while you were touring?

No, it’s pretty hard for us to write while touring. Touring’s pretty overwhelming, I mean, if you do laptop music, and obviously our music has a lot of electronic elements to it. But there is still a thing where it’s kinda like you need to be, not ‘at home,’ but it’s just hard on tour cause your brain’s kinda fried cause it’s a lot of traveling. So usually we have to be at home to write.

 

While you’re touring and doing all this stuff is there a conscious effort to plan for your next album or was it just something that came together?

No, we were freaking out. I think that album cycle wise you wanna go around 2 years in between albums. When you hit 3 you kinda start freaking out, cause you’re like ‘oh my god, it’s been a really long time since we put out a record’ and then 4 years is like, you know, entire musical genres come and go in that amount of time, and I think what happened to us after 4 and a half years or something, then you just kinda relax cause you’re like ‘well……

 

‘at this point?’

This is just kinda crazy, so who cares? I don’t think it’s gonna be like that for the next one, but I don’t know, it was weird moment. I think if you listen to the records they’re pretty different and we had to kind of figure out….Like the first two, we sort of knew what the sound was and what the aesthetic palette was and now it feels like we had to like rearrange that. So now another one could come out fast, but it took some time to get there.

 

On that note, DEATH MAGIC marks a shift in sound to more melodic and pop-sensibility stuff. What was that a result of? Songwriting changing with time or more resources at your disposal?

I suppose it’s both, we did have a record label that gave us a lot of leeway and believed in us and gave us time and resources to work on the record. It was definitely a natural, organic evolution in terms of the melodicism on the album. And I don’t think we wanna repeat ourselves, I’m sure there’s someone out there who, you know that’s fine, that prefers our first record: a very avant-garde, experimental record. I don’t have any interest in trying to repeat that, like, seven years later, just seems like a really futile thing to do. But yeah, I think it was both things. It was, you know, doing a video game score, even if you look at some of the output on Get Color or like single-wise on “Die Slow” or songs we did for Max Payne, they were kind of going in a more melodic direction, so that was very natural. And then having the time and resources to make sure that we were happy with how it sounded was coming into that pop, hip hop production and applying our sound palette. We didn’t want GET COLOR to sound like this aggressive punk record, it just ended up that way.

Will there be a DEATH MAGIC remix album?

You know, I hope so. It’s not something that we’ll do unless we feel like it’s warranted. Like, it’s not gonna be a thing where it’s like ‘well, each one has their corresponding remix album so even if we don’t have good songs’ there has to be material that warrants being put out, but yeah, we’re working on it.

 

Part of the overall schtick of the band seems to be subverting expectations, whether it’s lyrically or aesthetically. Is there a conscious effort to be surprising?

Yeah, of course, keep it interesting. I don’t wanna have a twitter account that’s just like: ‘show’s at 9.’ You know, we might as well have fun with it.

 

I can tell. I mean, your bassist put his actual phone number at the end of a music video. But there is a mindset going in of how you guys wanna carry yourselves?

Yeah. I think even with that music video, the way that idea was conceived was you wanna show the band hanging out at a cool party in LA, and like, being in a warehouse underground with a techno kind of show or whatever to show how cool we look, and then just about at the point where you’re like ‘alright, I get it, it’s kinda douchey’ then it’s slow motion vomiting. You wanna throw a wrench in the spokes every once in a while.

On that note, it seems like you need to take yourself seriously to get something done, especially in a creative field. Do you guys take yourselves seriously? Is that conducive to being creative?

We take the creative process extremely seriously, probably overly so. We take the music extremely seriously, I think this has been a somewhat confusing component of our aesthetic. Like, you have music that we take very seriously, but then we do all this goofy sh*t all the time so it’s a little confusing.

 

So there’s a separation between how you view your work and how you view yourselves?

The funnier part of it is that we even take the goofy stuff really seriously. We’ll be doing some inane thing and we’ll be having this really in-depth, overly thorough conversation about whether or not it makes sense to tweet some gross stuff about pooping. It’s a misapplication of energy. We take being unserious very seriously, kinda takes the fun out of it.

 

How did that Eric Andre Show appearance happen? I thought he didn’t have musical guests.

Eric’s a friend of ours. You know, he does have musical guests it’s just they always subvert how it’s done, or they’ll just get some death metal band to play but then they won’t give them any instruments or some weird thing like that. We actually, oddly enough, were on the pilot of the Eric Andre show that never aired, that got him the show on Adult Swim, so we had done it before. We actually played as a mellow indie band, so like BJ (drummer) instead of actually playing drums played tambourine. I think we were called Satin Lance. I wore a sweater, and a scarf, on some Belle & Sebastian type thing. So, we wanted to do something else with him and it just came about. It’s cool to hear that Eric Andre has a network of fans.

If there’s such a thing as a cult following, Eric Andre has one. Your performance was thoroughly entertaining by the way.

I think it got cut, but when we trashed the set our drummer dropped a big crystal platter on my head and cut my head open.

 

Do you still sneak candy into movie theaters?

I do, yes. My girlfriend will consistently bring stuff, I’m too lazy so I pawn it off on her, but yes.

 

It’s nice to see that fame doesn’t change people.

Sure. Well, also, when you buy candy at the movie theater, they always give you that giant fat-guy sized box and I don’t think anyone needs that much candy.

 

If Tom Cruise personally asked you to join the Church of Scientology, would you do it?

Absolutely not, no. I like Tom Cruise, I’m not a fan of religion and certainly not a fan of Scientology.

 

Impressive. He’s just a persuasive guy, you know?

I haven’t been in that situation. But if he, like, Risky Business slid into my kitchen in his tighty-whiteys, like Tom Cruise circa-1980’s, it might be harder for me to turn him down. If some crazy supernatural thing like that happened I might be more interested, if he just runs into me on the street then I’m gonna say no.

 

If you were a character on Seinfeld, which one would you be?

(Lengthy pause) Sorry, I’m taking this really seriously. I think I’m Jerry.

 

How so?

I don’t know, he seems like a fairly reasonable, intelligent guy. I don’t wanna be George, he’s kinda ugly. Kramer, everyone’s gonna say Kramer.

 

Everyone wants to be Kramer.

Everyone wants to be Kramer but Kramer’s out of his mind, and so like, I can admittedly be like ‘Kramer’s too daffy.’ I’m not that eccentric. It’s a little boring, but you know…

Oh, you know who I’d wanna be? I wanna be Putty. Remember Putty?

 

Which one was Puddy?

Puddy is Elaine’s occasional boyfriend. Patrick Warburton, he was like the voice of The Tick.

Oh yeah, he’s the long-term boyfriend right? They break up on an airplane?

Yeah, the best one is where she finds out that he’s really religious, cause he’s got all the car radios programmed to the gospel channels. Then they go to their priest or whatever and she’s like, ‘You know you should care that I’m going to hell, what do you think about that?’ and he’s like, ‘It’s gonna be rough.’ So I like Putty. I revise my choice. I’m not Jerry, I’m Puddy.

 

A bold pick.

He’s got that magic 8 ball leather jacket, come on!

 

If you had to include one Republican Presidential candidate in your band, who would it be and why?

I guess Trump, cause he’s the most ridiculous.

 

What would he do in the band?

Turntables. He’d have a scratching section.

 

Kanye West fan?

You know, I know it’s really uncool to like Kanye or whatever. Production wise, I think Kanye’s a genius.

 

What’s your SWISH prediction? Every Kanye fan seems to have a wish for the way it’ll sound.

I think he’s gonna go really big jammer shit on it. We worked with a dude that he worked a lot with, and I think Yeezus, while being the coolest record, didn’t really sell all that many copies, so he needs to come back to some like ‘Gold Digger’ sh*t.