Critical Questions: Dusted's Brian BorcherdtBy Maggie Serota
Embarking on new musical journey.
Although musician Brian Borcherdt has established quite a career with playing with Toronto's Holy Fuck, the chaotic, electronic outfit he co-founded, he's never one to rest on his laurels. With his new side project Dusted, a two piece consisting of Borcherdt and drummer/producer Leon Taheny, Borcherdt is exploring the moodier and folkier aspects to songwriting. The debut LP Total Dust showcases the kind of haunting guitar melodies Borcherdt can weave when he's left to his own devices, cloistered away in a cabin out in the Canadian wilderness. We caught up with Borcherdt when Dusted came through New York City, and asked him about this more stripped down facet of his musical endeavors.
CM: With Dusted, you're the one writing the songs, as opposed to in Holy Fuck, where the songwriting is a collaborative effort. Is there an anxiety that comes along with presenting your own songs to an audience?
Plus, now when you’re stepping on stage, there’s just two of you to take the blame for what goes down as compared to the four of you in Holy Fuck.
Well, [Leon] is playing drums and bass, so he’s like two people at once.
Are you excited to finally have a clean band name that can be said around children and on the radio?
You’re from Nova Scotia originally. How do you feel about the fact that the press has really focused on the fact that you wrote this album while holed away in a cabin during the dead of winter back home?
I almost didn’t put it in my bio cause you can really grab onto that. There was a really amazing Onion article that was like "Man Goes To Cabin And Writes Album No One Cares About.. That really nailed it. It made me think of Bon Iver. That was kind of the tagline for his record. It was like “Hey everyone, did you hear this? He made it in a cabin!” And that’s cool, but I grew up in Nova Scotia, I make everything in a cabin. That’s just what we do.
Well, you did hole up in a cabin up in Canada during December. Can’t you see how for the rest of us, hiding away in the wilderness in the dead of winter would sound pretty extreme?
Well, yeah. I had an out building. Not an outhouse, notice I didn’t say outhouse. I maybe had a space heater, so it wasn’t ideal.
What made you want to work with LT?
Well, we met on a chat site...no, actually we toured together a little bit. I knew that I didn’t want to go too far outside of my radius of friends. I kind of had this idea of what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to sound. Everything about it seemed like it was going to be easy, personality-wise. And that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want a situation where it becomes too clinical.
What was it like to open for A Place To Bury Strangers?
Awesome. They’re great guys. I had the pleasure of touring with them before. Mind you, they were opening for my other band Holy Fuck. Well, it was more like co-headlining because that’s when we were enjoying our brief status as buzz bands, so we got to do a little buzz band tour together and that was heaps of fun. Any trip to New York is hopefully going to be a chance to hang out. Musically, we’re not so far off, in a weird way. We sound miles apart on one hand, but on the other hand we’re both making moody records that revolve around an aesthetic of sound. My records are a little bit more based in a moody, almost folk music and they have a wall of sound.
Other than that, there’s no difference! [laughs].
Speaking of musical differences, have you guys ever found yourselves wildly mismatched on a bill?
I think the worst is when they put the cheap bill together where all the bands are smiliar. I think in the '90s growing up, I lived in this secluded place and didn’t have the chance to see a lot of gigs, but I would always read about them. There was something about looking at these magazines and seeing all of these silkscreened posters for the gigs and it was really cool, but the bills were really eclectic. Years later, it seems like everyone is trying too hard to make everything fit, like really fit. And it’s to the point where it doesn’t fit. There’s nothing worse than being in a band like Holy Fuck and then some guy is trying to pitch the opener saying things like “These guys are really out of control...they’ve got a live drummer...” and it’s like, for fuck’s sake. Oh great, a shittier us is opening for us. But that happens, so we’re always trying to convince our booking agents to pair us with something a little more novel, like a garage rock band, because at the end of the day that’s probably what we’d listen to anyway.
Have you heard any feedback from people who expecting Dusted to sound more like Holy Fuck?
The sound on the Dusted record is very stripped down and minimal. How has that been translating to the live performance?
Well, the sound is more minimal because we only have four hands, and that’s been dictating how we’ve been writing the material. The songs are already written and it just becomes a matter of trying to capture them in the best light. I think we continuously realize that holding things back and pulling things out was ultimately helpful. Since we only have four hands, we constantly learning things, like if you bring the bass in, you can’t take the bass out, because people suddenly miss the bass. But, you can always bring the bass in later. But, I love making decisions and I love having choices. A lot of those decisions are made early because they’re dictating the aesthetic, and I like that.
What kinds of effects had you had to lose because you’ve got such limited manpower?
It was a conscious decision not to use too many of the drum machine type beats because I already play in a band that already does a lot of drum machine type stuff and it’s nice to break away from it. Drum machines can be very rigid and I’m like, I want this song to speed up if we start getting excited.
Also, we’re not playing every song off the record, not because we can’t, but because we want to move on to new material.
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