One Side of a C90
Tim Holmes, one half of the band that Rolling Stone called the new Goth for the new millennium, discusses the web of confusion that surrounds the band.
Death in Vegas confuse people. The latest of a series of bands that refuse to fit snugly into predefined boxes, Richard Fearless and Tim Holmes have broken so many rules, nobody's quite sure what to call them. Words like dance, electro, rock, gothic and dark are thrown around, but none of them adequately describes the band that attracts dance heads, punks, Goths and people writing down the effects they're using, in equal measure. Tim's happy with the diversity of their audience, and doesn't mind tags like "Gothic".
"I don't regard ourselves as being part of that scene, but if people wanna stick that label on us, it doesn't bother me. I find it amusing, actually, especially in America. The Rolling Stone magazine said we were 'the new Goth for the new millennium', whatever that means."
Death In Vegas were seen by many as personifying some kind of 'end of the millennium' vibe, alongside acts like Tricky and Massive Attack. Tim rejects this description of his music, saying that they'd probably have made the same record if they'd made it two years later. In fact, he said that he didn't even celebrate much on New Year's Eve as he was working most of the night. "The Contino Sessions" is, in fact, almost the antithesis of the pre-millennium tension that characterised much of the output of the late '90s. The album does descend into darkness, culminating in the disturbing Iggy Pop voiced 'Aisha', but then it rises again, ending with the celebratory 'Neptune City'. Rather than dwell in the doom and gloom that surrounded them, Death in Vegas called a halt to it.
"I've worked with lots of bands and you mix an album and then you sit down with pieces of paper and work out the running order. We didn't have to do that, because it was so obvious the way it should come. It was so obvious the way it should come. It was just natural, we just knew what track was going to follow which track. 'Neptune City' is quite a triumphant full stop at the end. The reason why the beat slows down and skids to a halt at the end of the album, it's almost like 'Phew, got there!'"
Another trend that the band has bucked is the increasing length of albums. In comparison with bands like Nine Inch Nails, whose last album hit prog rock dimensions on double CD and triple vinyl, "The Contino Sessions" clocks in at just over three-quarters of an hour.
"I think albums are, thank goodness, getting shorter. It's only with the advent of the CD, where you can put 77 minutes onto one CD, that bands started doing that. I was always pleased as a kid when you could get 2 albums on either side of a C90 cassette. That was a result! We really didn't think about how long the album should be. Once we'd done these tracks, we just knew the album was finished. As it turned out, it was 46 or 47 minutes long."
The music of his youth, the albums he probably stuck on both sides of a C90, has strongly influenced the band's take on music and their unwillingness to stick to a certain style. He admits that they use a dance music blueprint, but doesn't regard their music as dance. His earliest influences include punk and Joy Division.
"As a kid, I would buy any record that Martin Hannett [Joy Division producer] worked on, just because it was Martin Hannett. There's a man, as far as I'm concerned, who is up there with Phil Spector. He's no longer with us, unfortunately. Then I kind of moved on to guitar-based bands like Orange Juice, Aztek Camera and My Bloody Valentine. Kevin [Shields] told me that 'Nag, nag, nag' by Cabaret Voltaire was the track that inspired him to form My Bloody Valentine - that's a dance track. Listen to Blur's last album, workin' with William Orbit, who is regarded as a dance music producer, but then... It's just being open-minded, you can't shut yourself off from any kind of music."
by Donnacha DeLong