Interview: Drums of Death
As he prepares to wow the crowds in Glasgow and Edinburgh Drums of Death steps out of the shadows to grant a rare interview to David Pollock
Like Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker and his own favourite comic book anti-hero growing up, Frank Castle (aka Marvel’s vigilante psycho The Punisher), the man known as Drums of Death likes to keep secrets. The members of the new live band he’s formed to augment his already astonishing one-man MC shows earn the (tongue-in-cheek) description, ‘two nameless individuals I’ve subjugated to my will’, while the man himself is the biggest enigma in dance music since Daft Punk started dressing as robots.
His shows are once seen, never forgotten. Controlling a wall of electronic noise from his samplers and laptop, he harangues the audience with some fierce MCing. It’s the look that stays with you, though; a fearsome face made up in skeletal black and white face paint, as if he’s celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead and channelling Live and Let Die’s Baron Samedi all at once.
He likes to keep his own details ‘fuzzy’: ‘People want to know everything about you right away, and it makes it hard to build a persona like this. Mystery is a good thing.’
Here’s what the public at large is aware of: He’s signed to the Greco-Roman label, which is part-run by Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard. He’s toured extensively with Hot Chip, including an epic American jaunt last year. He’s also toured with Peaches, for whom he produced a mixtape to publicise her most recent album, I Feel Cream. Radio 1’s Rob Da Bank is a champion of his music, and booked his new band to make their debut appearance headlining Bestival’s Red Bull stage last month. His debut album Generation Hexed is out in February 2010 through Greco-Roman. His edit-come-remix of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs is phenomenal.
‘Metal is something I grew up with,’ he says. ‘It’s something that’s always been there for me. When I was younger I thought everyone owned all the Ozzy-era Sabbath albums, that it was just a given. That’s not overt in my music, but it’s there just under the surface.’ Growing up, in the case of Drums of Death’s civilian alter ego Colin Bailey, meant Oban. He’s no stranger to The List, or to the underground scene in Glasgow; he lived there for many years, from his teens on into his 20s, DJing around town, promoting the fondly remembered Kaput! night in the Admiral Bar’s basement with Duncan from Dananananaykroyd and recording what he will admit was ‘herbal electronica’ in his bedroom.
‘Drums of Death was just a bit of fun on the side when I moved to London,’ says Bailey, ‘a chance to kind of step outside myself and do something completely different. It probably wouldn’t have happened if I’d stayed in Glasgow or if I’d lived in London all my life, and it caught people’s imagination when I started doing it live’.
Someone once told him his music as Drums of Death was about ‘love songs and rave horns’, a furiously contemporary blend of acid house, grime, Tom Waits and ‘Burt Bacharach, because the album is all about songs’.
For his next trick, he’s remixing one of ex-Beta Bander Steve Mason’s new Richard X-produced solo tracks, and upcoming efforts by Mika and Alphabeat. ‘It’s strange making music with such massive pop groups.’ he says, ‘but then I think I make pop music, too. Fucking weird pop music.’
Drums of Death plays How’s Your Party?’s Second Birthday with Fake Blood and A’La Fu at Sub Club, Glasgow, Fri 30 Nov; Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, Sat 28 Nov.