AURAL BUFFET: A lot has been made of the band's preference for recording in non-traditional environments like barns and derelict buildings. What was the genesis of this idea? How does recording in these atypical spaces affect the music?
JAMES PAYMENT: This idea first started on goodbye enemy airship when we decided to record in former member Jason Mackenzie's grandparents' barn in north Ontario. Recording in rural locations provides us with an escape from distractions in the city that may interfere with the recording process. It forces us to focus on nothing else other than the songs that we are working on for however many days. Acoustically it provides unique tones and reverbs to our recordings, like the crickets that can be heard in the background of just about every enemy airship tune. It can be magical when that type of thing just falls into place.
AB: Your band's songs are all very intricate and layered. I'm curious as to how the band composes songs. Does one member come in with a basic riff or is the songwriting process collaborative from the start?
JP: The song writing process always starts with the core 5 members of dmst: Justin, Charles, Ohad, Dave and myself. We don’t actually get together that often anymore with everyone's commitments to other projects and just life in general, unless to get ready for a tour or to song write for an album. So basically the songwriting process usually starts with us dusting off the cobwebs. Someone will throw out a riff or a beat that they like and see if anyone bites. From there parts will be added and finessed until we end up with a basic skeleton of a song. You might think that after almost 15 years of writing music together that things will have become contrived and formulaic but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is because we have been together for that long that we are always pushing ourselves to make better music, sometimes over complicating the process but all angles need to be explored. Once the basic skeletons of new songs are created, they are ready to be recorded and will be finessed further in the studio. Often it’s not until something is recorded that you can decide whether or not something is working. This is mostly relevant when dealing with double drummers. If we’re not locked in, the whole thing can sound like shoes in a dryer, and we don’t want that. Once the skeletons are recorded, everything goes back to Ohad's studio ‘th’ schvitz’ where overdubs will be added and, much later in the process, final mixing.
AB: Is there a story behind your bandname or was it more of a purely aesthetic choice?
JP: The band name came from a grade school class room. In the early days Justin, Charles and myself were living in an apartment in Toronto and we were doing a lot of recordings there. We had booked a show at Lee’s Palace across the street to showcase some of our recordings to our friends but we didn’t have a name for our project. At the time Justin and Charles were working with a theatre group that traveled around to local grade schools. Once while rehearsing in a class room Charles noticed four essential verbs posted around the walls of the classroom. DO MAKE SAY & THINK. So, that was our project's name for the show and it just kinda stuck I guess. It’s still better than the alternate EAT SLEEP SHIT FUCK.
AB: There's a lot more of a vocal element on "The Other Truths." Do you believe the use of vocals will increase on future DMST releases?
JP: Yeah, we’ve been exploring that more and more. We’re far from making a four minute pop hit with vocals but the tonality of vocals really helps take certain songs to different places.
AB: Your band has released many exquisite albums, but goodbye enemy airship is widely regarded as your magnum opus. Do you think this assessment is accurate at all? Is there any album in particular that holds a special place in your heart?
JP: I don’t know if I really agree with that statement. Don’t get me wrong, I love enemy airship but in the end it really is a subjective view point to the listener. I feel that our music has progressed steadily from album to album. The songs are certainly more challenging and cerebral and if we felt that we weren’t evolving as a band, we would probably just pack it in and scuttle the ship.
AB: Who would you list as your primary musical influences? Also, do you find other artists influencing your work - visual artists, film directors, etc.?
JP: I can’t speak for everyone but I’m into metal and jazz. I’m into the complex drumming that both of those genres offer. Not to say that I don’t listen to Neil Young or the Beatles whenever the mood strikes. Everyone in the band has a pretty extensive record collection so it’s difficult to list a handful of artists that directly influence dmst. Everyone in the band brings something unique to the table, that’s how we do what we do.