Thursday, October 30, 2014

Interview with Eric Alexander of Sir Deja Doog

I've already written about Sir Deja Doog's brand-spankin-new album Love Coffin, but it's worth saying twice that I find the record fascinating - it's a record that rewards a close listen, especially for someone keen on mythology and history. The lyricism that Eric Alexander displays on this record is a conglomeration of obvious and hidden influences. He explains that some of his favorite artists are Nick Cave, Scott Walker, and Leonard Cohen, who surely influence the words that lie somewhere between Romantic balladry and "Smokestack Lightning." And that's not to mention the ties to the lineage of vampiric lore and nods to Greco-Roman mythology, which play equally big roles.

Anyway, the Doog doesn't need my prattling to validate how good of a listen the new album is, which can be heard on Spotify as well as on the Sir Deja Doog bandcamp page. There's also a limited edition vinyl copy (limited to 100!!!!) that can and should be purchased through instructions that the Doog includes at the bottom of the interview.

At the present, I'm a bit unfamiliar with his past work, but you can bet your ass that I'm going to wise up and get on the rad times express.

Jordan Reyes: You have such great vocals throughout the album from spoken word to the balladry. Do you inflect your voice a certain way to sing or do you really have that devilishly charming voice?

Eric Alexander: You flatter me! I think something supernatural happens when a performer becomes so engrossed in the character of the piece they are performing they completely lose themselves. I tried to stay in that space during the production of Love Coffin. To answer the question, no that is not my natural speaking voice. It takes a great amount of willpower and focus in addition to decades of practice and training to make it happen.

JR: There are a lot of different types of songs on this record. Are there any artists who inspire you to write this variety of songs?

EA: A lot of people have pointed that out to me, and I'm embarrassed to say that I have no idea what they mean. What am I missing? I think I have spent way too much time thinking about what a song is to even tell what it is anymore.

EA: I can say this, Exuma is the greatest. Beyond that I like Nick Cave, Scott Walker, and Leonard Cohen. I also spent an entire winter listening obsessively to Lux and Ivy's Favorites from their record collection when I first started Love Coffin three years ago. Eighty percent of what I listen to these days comes from the fifties. Apache Dropout is my favorite band. They get me off like church gets people off.

JR: Where did the name Sir Deja Doog come from? Seems like a dude who's kind of been all over the world and maybe all over time as well!

EA: My brother, Sonny (from Apache Dropout), just kind of quipped it at me one time. People had been calling me Doog for a long time. Shortly thereafter we started a Frat Rock cover band for something to do, you know, Louie Louie, Hanky Panky, Diddy Wah Diddy, like that. We called the project Sir Deja Doog and the Wasted Knights. That's when I began exploring the character. By the time Love Coffin was invented he had definitely become that type of dude!

JR: Did anything or anyone particularly inspire or influence the creation of the Sir Deja Doog character?

EA: At first he was just a party dude like Sam the Sham. Later he became more like Vincent Price. He's also influenced by my interest in mythology. I put out a cassette called “Burning Black and Blue” in which he manifests as a Johnny Cash style hobo deity and one release called “An Impossible Darkness” where he succumbs to the Pit. Both of those releases have more of a folk aesthetic.

JR: There's a ton of colorful instrumentation on Love Coffin from saxophones to violins. Did you write all the parts of the songs or do other people get to make their own additions to a foundation?

EA: First I want to say how grateful I am to have been able to play with these musicians. They're all great.  They were fun to be around and we had a great time doing it.  If we had time to be a real band and play all the time I'm sure they would have brought a lot to the project. Because I had just a specific vision for the album, and because we didn't have much time, I actually charted everything out for it. The musicians made changes here and there, but I wrote 90% of it. The sax solos were improvised Sam, but I did jump around screaming and telling him to “blow harder!” Sonny wrote his guitar part in “My Love Bleeds Red.”

JR: It takes a lot of guts to cover "I Put a Spell on You," and you do it so well, especially the snarls and primal noises. Where did you get that idea? How long did it take to do it correctly?

EA: I was hesitate to do that one for that reason, but we decided to do it just because we had tried it and liked doing it.

EA: You might not believe this, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. I had some freaky dreams before we went in the studio— straight up voodoo shit. I decided to take the vocals for that song last because I knew it would kill my voice. Entirely by coincidence this happened during the kind of lunar eclipse they call a blood moon just around midnight. I take the vocals and on playback they just aren't happening. I'm thinking, “I can't do this if it isn't on.” Just then something touches my elbow, something invisible, and I can feel its presence. Without even thinking I said, “Use me.” We rolled tape and that's what happened. I had never made those sounds before and I don't know if I'll ever be able to do it again. That part where I have the lisp and I'm sputtering and everything, it scares me to hear it.

JR: Is a return to "the pit" inevitable for everyone?

EA: Sir Deja Doog says so, but I don't know if I believe him.

JR: I know that the Doog prefers babies to have sprouted a few hairs before they're properly mature for dining. Is this a pretty common preference for baby eaters or does the Doog stand out?

EA: Deja has refined his taste for flesh for millennium. He is respected by cannibals of his kind. These millennials that are setting trends in cannibalism today are nearly babies themselves and can't tell a ripe baby from a half rotten three day old stillborn. It doesn't matter if you put a cool hat on it, kids, it's still a rotten baby.

JR: The Doog seems to have had a plethora of edgy lovers in the past, including Medusa. How does he end up ensnaring such venomous women?

EA: Medusa, The Protectress, is a unique example. His relationship with her is entirely submissive. His attraction to her is different as well. He speaks of her with reverence. The story of their relationship is a quest for hidden beauty and it's fulfillment is salvation.

EA: In a way all of the women in the other songs are about our maiden from the story. I think his relationship with her is the inverse of the dynamic between him and Medusa. He has tremendous power and she is the seeker.

JR: Is this your first release on vinyl? Do you like the finished product?

EA:Yes. Yes, very much. Thanks to Marching Sunn Records and Gotta Groove Records.

JR: Do you get to play live at all? Have you ever toured or plan on touring?

EA: I've toured quite a bit as a solo artist over the years.  I used to play around Bloomington at least three or four times a month. I prefer to play in DIY spaces, galleries, houses, that kind of thing. Unfortunately, my health won't allow it anymore.

JR: What all is in the future for Sir Deja Doog?

EA: I wish I could say.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

EA: Get the limited edition vinyl today! Email marchingsunnrecords (a) for more info. I think we only pressed a hundred of them.

EA: Download the album from my bandcamp for only $7. Download includes a PDF of The story of Sir Deja Doog's Love Coffin and the complete art work. You can read the story by clicking each individual track for streaming.

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