Brendan Deiz - 10 Questions Music Interview
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Brendan Deiz has been playing music for over 20 years, starting on the guitar at age 11, and never putting it down. Brendan has shared the stage with Rock en Espanol legends in Argentina, ska legends in Southern California, and Portland underground music scene royalty. He has toured the West Coast with his band, Fake News, and regularly plays around the Pacific Northwest with his instrumental project Oleada. Live, Brendan's performances include an eclectic blend of cumbia, psychedelia, reggae, punk, hardcore, ska, pop, surf-rock, salsa, reggaeton, and everything in-between. Of mixed-race heritage, Brendan is also bilingual in Spanish and his music often focuses in topical issues, politics, philosophy, and the reality that the political often affects the personal in profound ways.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I suppose playing music always seemed natural to me, because my dad was always playing piano and guitar when I was growing up, so music seemed very accessible to me. It was also the early 90s, and playing guitar looked like a realistic career goal, if you turned on the TV, rock music was everywhere. You know how adults are constantly asking kids what they want to be when they grow up? I looked up at MTV, saw Nirvana, and went, "That."
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
When I was 19, I hitched a ride from my college in Southern California to Huntington Beach. Some of the other kids were going to a volleyball tournament, and I wanted to go surfing. I was not a good surfer and didn't get a single ride that day, but I ended up at the volleyball tournament and entered a guitar playing contest. After a qualifier on the sand by the sponsor booths, I was led, with two others, to the stage, to play in front of the 6,000 person crowd. The audience decided the winner. When my turn came, I improvised a blues solo and threw the guitar behind my head, mid-solo. The crowd erupted and the announcer handed me the guitar, I had just played, which was the prize. I still play that guitar today, with my band, Fake News (some friends of mine improved the paint job a bit, though.)
What has been the high point of your music path?
I suppose the fact that I keep getting better. It makes sense that the more you do something, you better you'll get at it, but I love that about music. I love that the more I put into it, the more and more satisfied I am with my playing, which in turn, motivates me to want to keep working hard and pushing forward.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
For me, writing songs is just a part of daily life. I am constantly working or reworking an idea for a melody, or a rewriting a lyric, or trying to figure out where to put a bridge, etc. When it comes to a specific song, it depends on the song. Some songs, like "Shelter in Place," I had an idea about what it would be like, and kind of what I wanted to do with the chorus, planned in my head before I sat down to write it. Topical songs like that I often have an idea what the theme of the song will be and what kind of groove/feel/rhythm, it's going to have, like if it will be ska, reggae, cumbia, punk, whatever. Other times, I just play around on the guitar and come up with a chord progression or melody I like and build a song from there. It really depends.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
Well, at the current moment, it's definitely Covid-19. All of my upcoming gigs have been canceled and everyone I know who had a tour planned is now struggling to figure out how to move forward. Everyone I know who runs sound, tour manages, works door at shows, bartends: are all out of work. At this point in time, April 2020, we have no idea when musicians will be able to start performing again. It's a very uncertain time, and of course, music isn't by any means the only industry struggling due to the crisis.
Otherwise, I think the corporate consolidation of the 80s and 90s did a lot to ruin the music industry and make it even less artist-centric than it had been before that. This is a long discussion, but the essence is that record labels used to be run by people who loved music and had money and decided to help get music out to other music lovers, while supporting the artists who made it with full-time careers (even if a lot of them had lousy deals, most signed acts were still paid at least a living wage). Nowadays, those labels have mostly been bought by massive corporations that have no interest in supporting music or artists; arts are likely a tiny fraction of their profit margin, and as such, they barely invest in the very few artists on their payroll. If most of the money is coming from building bombs, why invest in new talent? I think that's a large part of why you used to see artists getting development deals, guarantees of label support for multiple albums, but nowadays that kind of a deal is almost nonexistent.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
I'm going to go with only artists who are alive -- I'd say if we could get either Operation Ivy or Fugazi to reunite, that would be amazing, and I'd die happy. Otherwise, bands that are actually together? Probably Los Fabulosos Cadillacs or Manu Chao. Sorry, I'm terrible at these kinds of questions. Fishbone or Bad Brains would be a dream come true.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Well, for this project, I wrote and recorded everything in my room, myself, with the idea that I can't play live shows anytime soon, since everyone is locked down and hiding from the novel coronavirus. With my band, Fake News, we will either practice with the full band, which is 6 people (!), or we'll do sectionals, where I meet separately with the rhythm section and the horn section.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
The song "Tranquilized," which I play with Fake News, took multiple years for the arrangement to come together, longer than most of my songs. In the end, I'm glad I took so much time on it, since it's still one of my favorite songs to play that I've written and one of my favorite-sounding recordings I have played on or produced. Here's a link, if anyone would like to check it out and explore what my guitar and vocals sound like with a full group of people.
What's coming up in the future?
I plan to release new music and do another tour with Fake News once the self-isolation situation changes. I also plan to record and release a new record with instrumental psychedelic cumbia project, Oleada, and to play out as much as possible, wherever we can. There is a chance I will have a solo EP or album finished up by the time social-distancing is lifted, since I'm stuck here at home with a bunch or instruments and no kids or pets to distract me, so stay tuned for that!
Tell us where fans can access your music?
Here is the video for "Shelter in Place," my new single
Purchase the track here