During the height of the shoegaze era, the band Curve produced a cacophony of noise that still makes our ears bleed happily every night. The duo of Toni Halliday on vocals and Dean Garcia on guitars, bass and….everything else were one of the most intriguing duos in alternative music. In the years’ 1992 and ’93 they released three albums of music that sounds as important now as it did then and has clearly influenced the new generation of ‘nu gaze’.
Since then Toni went on to marry legendary producer Alan Moulder, while Dean continues to make music that impresses.
Dean took some time out from recording, producing and loving life to spend a few moments with us.
TDOA: Your solo work is absolutely intriguing. ‘Space 82′ has the same beauty that we’ve always associated with your work. Can you talk about the direction your music has taken since Curve and how you “got to this place”?
DG: Glad you like Space 82, it was the first track I made on my own that I actually thought was good. I surprised myself. Having just got my head around working with multi-tracking and 4 track tape recordings Space 82 was the track I came up with which gave me a real confidence boost as it sounded very personal and unique to me. I remember playing it to my house buddy at the time, his reaction was important to me as it was he that taught me how to use the machines. He said it was a beautiful piece and that it would stand the test of time as it has it’s own space, like it’s coming from a very open mind, experimental, somewhat abstract yet entirely moving. The track means a lot to me which is why it’s on the player as the first track. It reminds me of where the music I make should come from. From the making of Space 82 (over 30 years ago) until now my thinking and approach has always been basically the same with any music I make, it’s interesting that you can hear that within the track as everything I’ve made before and since is linked to that mindset and approach/attitude. Which is to start with something/anything you like, the more unusual the better and build upon and around it until it’s finished. Follow your instinct however off the wall or abstract it may be, doesn’t matter if your original idea doesn’t work as is often the case but the process you go through lends to other unforeseen results which are unique and very much of your own making. I like the element of surprise when you follow through an idea and it ends up doing what you wanted but in a way you didn’t expect. Experimentation is the key for me, don’t follow any rules, just go for the thing that turns you on. My band project SPC ECO with Rose and Joey is full of surprises which is very much where I’m at right now. http://www.spceco.com
TDOA: How did writing songs for Curve vary from the process for you now? Did Toni contribute anything other than vocals and vocal melodies to the songwriting process?
DG: The process was very much as I have described above, there was an intense energy that was with us both around the time we started Curve, it was something we had both wanted to do for many years but for numerous reasons the right start day had not been right, but at that particular time it was and we had very prolific days/weeks/months of clarity about what we wanted to do. Toni has an amazing and unique voice combined with (sometimes) abstract, colourful lyrics and melodies which merged with the broad thinking musical elements I was experimenting with very well. Noisy yet thoughtful, mesmeric electronic beats/pulses and dark thumping, swooping liquid dub bass combined with the very flexible, morphing guitar orchestrations made up of seriously multi-tracked guitars and keyboard distortions which after a while develop other harmonic undertones and melodies within their overall sound. Both of us had our individual space in the studio (in the basement of Toni’s flat) but we mostly recorded the early recordings together from start to finish, edging each other along, with ideas and general support for what was going onto the tape. This naturally developed as we went on through the years with the recordings we made, I would often have an idea or two before we started to work on a track or transfer from the original recordings I’d made which were on a porta-studio 4 track cassette tape which I would sample in chunks and place on the recorder as a basic backdrop to work to as we are firm believers in the original take of an idea is best and shouldn’t be lost, we never made demos of tracks we always worked with the original ideas and sounds so’s not to lose that initial spark of inspiration. You could say everything we ever recorded as Curve had a demo mentality. Horror Head was originally made on a cassette tape and then transferred in chunks via the sampler so it was locked to smpte code where I could then begin to embellish and sync other sequencing/sounds around it. Horror Head was also the only track we recorded that was done twice. It’s the second version we went with as the first one didn’t quite work the way I wanted it to. In answer to your question though, we were very close in the studio but allowed each other space to ‘go in’ and experiment on our own. Toni recorded a lot of the vocals herself on her own, I’d be around for assistance once she had the ideas just to drop in and record but a lot of it was done with Toni sitting cross legged on the floor with the remote transport in front of her, a large ashtray, two packs of Silk Cut and an SM58 mic.
TDOA: At one time electronic music largely eschewed the use of guitars, but it seeks like you still embrace them in your music. Any theories on why guitars have generally been “uncool” in electronic music?
DG: The guitar is a very open instrument especially when you start to experiment with the combination of endless FX pedals n boxes, no telling where it might go, so to me as a stringed instrument musician I like it very much. I’m hopeless on the keyboards as I just can’t feel the hands on ness of it, with a guitar, bass or drums it’s very much hands on. I dunno if it’s un-cool to use guitar in electronic music, I suppose it’s how you define un-cool and electronic music, to me it’s all linked and joined up, nothing is sacred everything/anything should and can be used just so long as it’s working for you and achieving the overall sound you want to make or can imagine. The fact that it’s a guitar that does it for you is almost irrelevant.
TDOA: I’ve been listening to music long enough to remember when Curve, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, etc were at the height of their popularity. There seems to be a resurgence of that style of music in American and England. Do you like this revival or do you find it boring? Are there any bands that you think have done a good job taking this genre to a new level?
DG: I think it’s great, My new band SPC ECO is very much about that sound, I call it Nu Gaze. I’ve mentioned SPC ECO before but I really want anyone that enjoys all the bands you mention above to check it out. There’re a bunch of bands that spring to mind that I really like atm. Epic 45, 93 Million Miles From The Sun, Ulrich Schnaus, and virtually all our label mates on AC30 records. I celebrate it because I like the feeling the music gives me as well as the attitude of the people who make it, it’s anti-rock to my mind, anti macho. It has a feminine, serene quality that I can relate to.
TDOA: Curve disbanded for a period of time after Curve. At the time it was suggested that you and Toni were frustrated with the response to the record. Is that in fact true or were there other factors?
DG: It was a mixture of fatigue/dissapointment/ that the record had been largely ignored or slated across the board and a feeling that it had come to a natural end. Toni and I were on different floors. Still very close but detached as you can be when you work so closely with someone. Frustrations show and you tend to take it out on those closest to you, I’m not the easiest person to get along with, I show my emotions and speak my mind even when I know should have more restraint. It’s a problem sometimes but that’s just the way I am, sometimes I give off the wrong signals at the wrong time and it really pisses people off. I suppose you can call it temperamental, Toni can be like that too so sometimes it’s best to have space in order to move on.
TDOA: Did you feel like Universal understood your music and properly marketed Curve? If not, what do you think they should have done differently?
DG: I think they started out with the right intentions, Doug Morris flew over especially to do the deal with us in London, we were to be priority. We agreed that the record would get a big push at radio etc and if we got any serious add-ons they would be on us full throttle guns blazing.. All good, Chinese Burn had some serious adds at major radio across the States but no full throttles were involved. I dunno, that really pissed us off, that when the adds were happening we should have been out there full force with full tour support to jump on the situation but they wouldn’t spring for tour support and felt it wasn’t right for them, So the record sank without a trace and we got fucked off and downhearted with the label. Cue dropped by label. Cue frustration. But never mind, no need to dwell on this shit.
TDOA: When I mentioned on the website that I was interviewing you, I got a bunch of comments about how influential your bass playing had been for some people. Did you recognize how different your bass lines were at the time and who influenced your bass playing?
DG: I wasn’t out to influence anyone really and no I didn’t realize it would be. I was just playing the bass in a way that was rude n dirty, I like the funk, Bootsy Collins is where I’m coming from as a player, I like the feel of the sub tones, it’s very fluid, crude, rude and essentially very basic. Have I said too much… lol
TDOA: How did you feel about making videos?
DG: Generally they were something that needed to be done, I liked making the Missing Link video but all the rest were kind of work like. I think most people or bands of our ilk made video’s because they had to. I dunno, not fussed really.
TDOA: Do you and Toni Halliday still speak and is there any chance of another Curve record in the future?
DG: Yeah we still speak, not very often but it’s all still there, I think of her fondly and often, we’re still close, you don’t have to see people every day to be close with them. I’m still here and she knows I’m there for her if/when she needs me to be.
TDOA: You’re doing a lot of production work, in addition to your own material. Can you talk about that work and what your plans are for the future?
DG: Yep, SPC ECO (pronounced Space Echo after the Roland 201 Echo box) is the thing that is particularly close and special to me. Rose sings in the band which is brilliant. Rose is my Daughter, she has the voice of an angel. I know I keep blabbering on about SPC ECO but honestly if you’re interested in what I’m about and where I’ve got to SPC ECO is it in a nutshell. Wanna know more ? Then just ask !! Visit the myspace page http://www.myspace.com/spceco and leave us a message or comment. We wanna come and play in the States but need funding to do so. A cool label would be nice followed by a mind expanding tour. Yep I’m still game, is that so wrong ?
Visit the SPC ECO site at: http://www.spceco.com/