ROOT! : Rocking the Surface Paradise

The last time The Dwarf spoke to DC Root, it was a hot, sticky summer in between albums. We waited, and received: the follow up to Root Supposed He Was Out of the Question, the advantageous Surface Paradise.


ROOT! are making the rounds on the Aussie music scene, attempting to snap the hypnotized masses out of their skinny-jeaned reverie; they will not be taken down. Nor will they be categorised: the last album was perhaps slotted into the country-rock-comedy box; this one, hmm, it could go anywhere. Except maybe 'Goth', but let's not rule anything out for album number three, eh?


The Dwarf caught up with DC, the band's frontman and lyrical genius, on all things ROOT!


So. What's been happening since we last checked up on you?


Life, Lisa, life. Creeping in this petty pace, or whatever it was that bloke Macca said. I think last time we talked about my plans, I suggested I was going to make a fool of myself.


My louche buddies and I decided to make a rock album with a unifying lyrical and musical theme. We decided that, rather than hiding from the world of Triple J and Channel V and Birds of Tokyo and 20 somethings, we'd come right out and have a crack at attracting their attention, if only fleetingly. That's foolishness. That's crazy, self-deluded, tracksuit pants-and-stilletto-heels nutbaggery, Lisa. Do you like a dreamer Lisa? Girls out there – do you find the notion romantic? A man who dreams the impossible dream? Well, here we are girls. This is romance, in its un-swashbuckling, stubble-chinned glory. And like the Tamogotchi at the bottom of your dress-up box which emits a barely perceptible noise reminding you of something that seemed like a good idea at the time, it's out there.


We've done it. We've released an hour long fifteen- track song cycle. We've made a film clip. We've gone on national television. We've gone where others would never dare. We've gone into debt. And now we wait. For the sounds… of silence…


Tell us about the new album. How does it compare to the last? Favourite song?


This is the rock album we were obviously going to make as soon as we worked out what kind of band we were. "Tex" was the last song we wrote for the last album, and it shows we'd already "outed" ourselves as a rock band. To me, the "rock" category means we can play whatever the fuck we want, and that's how I want it. I was never going to sit still long enough to be an "alt-country" act, or whatever that means. The guys in this band are too good, too full of ideas, too much fire left in their bellies, so it would be a terrible injustice to corral them, anyway.


What sort of album is it? I don't know anymore, I've been living with it for two years. I've got complacent. I've forgotten how good it looks in a black dress.


If it sounds angry at times, well, yes, it is. If it sounds wistful, or even downright sad- yep, again. With me, some people think I'm tongue-in-cheek all the time. I'm not. If I'm lucky, the best I can hope for is that people find this a rather dark album that happens to be funny in parts. But that could turn out to be hilariously not the case, as I'll explain in a minute.


Favourite song? I dunno. The best thing about this album is the cover. The original art was hand-painted by the supremely talented Jane Wallace-Mitchell, artist, illustrator and writer, who took my shoddy pop-art rip-off drawing and turned it into something vivid and truly top shelf. Which, of course, is not where it sits at yer JBs? But if it did, it'd stand out.


As for the music within, well, it's all a bit fucking rococo, innit? Interweaving themes, musical motifs, voices whispering in your headphones… who do I think I am? Jim Fucking Steinman?


Today's mass consciousness is being coerced by popular culture into a kind of A.D.D. consumerism – so that pretty soon, even the "song" as we know it will seem like some massive, extinct dinosaur. Longevity for a band will mean staying together long enough to create a ringtone. And here I come, like the blokes on that TV show 'Bush Mechanic' driving backwards halfway across the Simpson Desert because their car only worked in reverse, here I come, staggering out of the horizon on the flat-tyred jalopy of my self-worth, with a double-length album that you're meant to "sit down and listen to"??! Ha!


Musical and non-musical influences, you, personally- go.


I am an unabashed music fan. Everything from about the late 50s onwards – I'm not so well-versed in pre-rock and roll popular music – everything that I've heard goes into this huge, tasty, spicy gumbo, and leaps out at the strangest moment to re-invigorate me. And it's as random – or should I say arbitrary, as watching a TV show and getting a buzz from twelve seconds of soundtrack.


Like last night, I was watching 'Ashes to Ashes' and I heard Gary Numan so I race to YouTube and dig his stuff all over again – that fabulous one sustained synth note through the coda to Cars, one note that adds this lovely touch of menace to a straight pop song. And then I think about poor old John Foxx, the guy who Numan (either consciously or unconsciously) completely ripped off. Check out "Underpass" by John Foxx on YouTube.


He was the leader of Ultravox when they were a kind of punk/synth band, before he left and Midge Ure joined and they became brief new romantic multimillionaires. Jeez, Johnny Foxx has plenty of axes to grind – anyway, Underpass has that same cold, robotic menace to it, but my friends and I used to watch that clip on Nightmoves or wherever we saw it – in L'Alba café in Lygon Street, watching the beautiful Italian girls – and instead of "Underpass" we'd sing "Underpants!" Sort of wrecks the mood, really. You should try it. Where was I?


Next week, the inspiration will come out of somewhere totally else. I secretly listened to the Libertines at one stage. You don't go around admitting that in cool circles, do you? I was watching PJ Harvey on Jools Holland's Later, singing Big Exit – normally I run a mile from anything in that sort of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, category, you know, "dramatic" music for wealthy people who like to slum it – but I just loved the way she moves with the mic, in those shoes. Wish I looked like that. Might be a little implausible, for a bitter, chewy old hunk of parsnip like me, but hopefully you get the spirit of my musings.


But to quote those two or three names will give you a totally unrepresentative idea of my musical tastes or the ways in which other people inspire me to write songs. You have to ask me this question on a daily basis. Within five to ten years, you should get some kind of representative pattern.


The only thing that can be said accurately is my deep suspicion of anything "now". While it is considered "now" I hate it with a passion. Then, later, secretly, when it is filed away in the "back then" category, I'll give it a go. Judge it on its merits, not on the recommendation of "early adopters". If I was programming Triple J, I'd say "fuck off and come back when your album's been out for a year". Hmm. That's a somewhat illogical premise, isn't it?


I have heaps of musical heroes, like my heroes in literature; they are always reflections of a stylised or heroic version of the person I try to be when I wake up in the morning. Jim Dixon in "Lucky Jim". Yossarian in "Catch 22". Guy Montag in "Fahrenheit 451". Holden Caulfield. The central character in Callan. And lately, Sam Tyler in "Life On Mars" – not the American version, which ends on a fucking spaceship for chrissakes.


Your opinion of the Aussie music scene.


I don't go out. People dismay me. But, from what I can tell, there's no intelligent answer to that question. The Australian music scene is the same as any other music scene – a fruit ‘n nut selection of good things and derivative, pointless time wasters. There are bands around at the moment, with stupid identikit hair and stupid identikit pants, whose presence is an insult and a crime. In a few years they'll be working in some corporate office, their musical career just another long-gone phase like groovy mullets and coloured wristbands.


I think if you start a band and you're just copying your favourite bands, you should be docked $500 every time you play, and when some US record company picks you up and you get on Triple J and play the Big Day Out and go on TV and your song becomes the new Apple jingle, it should then go to a percentage deal – say, 75% of all profit? And it should go into a pool to be evenly shared by bands that have fuck all chance of making it because they don't sound like everybody else.


They should be government subsidised, or be given a patronage scheme with wealthy families, those poor, doomed, original idea-mongers. Not me, though. I've ripped everything I know off the Jonas Brothers.


Do you feel the band members' respective age is a factor at all in the success of the band?


Look at my face, Lisa. Can you picture it on Rove?


Surface Paradise is out now on Meek Joe/ Shock.


ROOT! play:


Friday Sep 4- The Espy, Melbourne Sat Sep 12- Annandale, Sydney Sat Sep 19- Republic Bar, Hobart Sat Sep 26- Sounds of Spring, Brisbane

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