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Dean Garcia; Photo courtesy of Dean Garcia
Dean Garcia, the musical mastermind behind UK alternative/shoegaze duo Curve (with Toni Halliday on vocals) and down-tempo ambient pop duo SPC ECO (with his daughter, Rose Berlin, on vocals), is a plugged-in artist who is constantly in sonic motion, whether he’s coming up with the electronics, beats, and more for SPC ECO or trying out new projects like S T F U with Preston Maddox of Bloody Knives and M A D with Monti of Curve and the Jesus And Mary Chain. Garcia has kindly taken some time out of his busy schedule to chat about the latest SPC ECO news (including an evolution in the act’s sound), an attempt to resurrect Curve, his candid view of the current political and cultural climate, and his creative mindset.
Hello Dean! It’s so great to re-connect with you at this juncture and to see how everything is going with the recent release of the Anomalies album! Where are you now and what are the vibes like?
DEAN: Hi! I’m in the mini ELaB recording room and all is well, gathering thoughts, sounds, and ideas for all of the various projects I’m involved with, and thinking about updating systems so I can dig into some new sound apps that Monti has given me. I love the idea of new tools, but have been putting off the update for some time now. I get freaked about the possibility that all of the cool shit I use won’t work ever again…
You’ve been going at it as SPC ECO, which also includes your daughter Rose Berlin, for a while now. How has the musical partnership changed since the early days? How have your songs changed?
DEAN: Yes, coming up on ten years now. Rose and I have always been making music of sorts ever since she could make a sound. It’s still exactly as it was then, to be honest. Still just throwing things down and seeing what happens. We tend not to dwell or think too much about what we’re doing and how we work. Nothing is ever planned or overly thought about. We just record stuff we like and enjoy ourselves.
The only development or change over the years is Rose. She just gets better ‘n’ better. The songs go where they want to go. We don’t like to have restrictions re: genres, etc… No stone left unturned when it comes to recording, which keeps us interested, open to new thoughts and ideas, and keeps it fresh. I can’t see us ever changing how we do things. It’s the only way we know how. Like all good creative partnerships, it’s the mysterious chemistry that’s key and we seem to have that in full flow.
Is your son, Harry Kite, also getting in on the SPC ECO music project? I think he may have directed a recent video of yours…?
DEAN: He’s not involved with the recordings other than to cheer us on ‘n’ vibe us up. He’s a very talented guitarist though. I showed him a few riffs when he was about 5 and a month later he just had it down, playing “Green Onions” in the zone, a truly natural player, with a photographic memory for riffs ‘n’ structures, etc… It’s amazing, really. I sometimes hear him play old Peter Green riffs ‘n’ solos downstairs. I think it chills his soul, he gets lost in it, which is exactly the way it should be.
He’s also a brilliant digital film editor and works with a very sound group of people he went to school with. They have their own company, cheekyfire.com, which is doing really well. We always get him involved on some level when it comes to making vids for the SPC ECO. He just knows his shit, whereas Rose and I just know what it is we want to do and say. It’s the ideal collective really. As parents we’ve always encouraged and focused on what it was they were interested in. Turns out they’re both awesome at whatever it is they set their minds to.
Dean, you are a consummate creative and I feel like you must be plugged into your musical world 24/7. Is this true or do you want to dispel this compelling aura that surrounds you?
DEAN: LOL, I’ve always been tuned into making music and playing things. It started in a big way when I heard “Paint It Black” and songs from early rockers like Jerry Lee and Little Richard that were played on the radio. Things took a major turn when I first heard “Come Together”. That bass riff and the whole swagger of the song blew my mind and I knew then that I had to learn how to play that riff and be in a band.
I think I was about 10 or 11 when I pestered my Nan to order a Gibson Les Paul copy that was £68.00 from the Freeman’s catalog so I could learn how to play. I promised to pay back the £2.50 a week until it was paid in full, which I did, and during that time I taught myself how to play by listening to and playing along with an ever-expanding selection of records.
It just took over and gave me a focus. I left school or didn’t attend from the age of around 14 and only took one exam in drama because we were allowed to smoke and it was in a completely different block, away from the main school. I was always a bit of an outsider when growing up. I had cool friends ‘n’ stuff, but I was always a bit of an anomaly – still am really.
Music and the capture and recording of sound gave me a sense of purpose which is still with me. Like Harry, I get lost in it. It’s like an all-seeing madness of sorts. I do have to step away from it though, which I do frequently. I have to feel the need to start recording, but once I’m there and in the zone, it’s all as it ever was.
OK, this is off the subject of SPC ECO a bit, but what is the latest news about a reformation of Curve with Toni Halliday? Is it still in an uncertain stage or has it been totally nixed?
DEAN: There was a moment where we had the full intention to play some shows. All was going well, but Toni had a realisation that she didn’t want to be back in the business. I think it bought back too many things that she’s long since buried, so we pulled it all. I’m pretty sure that we’ll leave it like that and remain friends instead. It was disappointing at the time, but on reflection I think she was right to step back and pull it. I too was having stress about it all, not so much the playing aspect, but everything else. So yeah, moving steadily on.
As SPC ECO you have mostly been self-releasing your music, but for Anomalies you went through the Saint Marie record label. Have you found that distro-ing it through Saint Marie Records has given you a wider reach?
DEAN: We’ve actually released four albums with Saint Marie, and yes, it definitely gives it a wider reach, but we also do our thing on Bandcamp. It’s always better to have a broader distro sweep, but Rose and I tend to put things out randomly and without much thought for anything other than the recordings we’ve made and putting them out there in the now and of the moment.
There’s more, however, to releasing an album with one Facebook notification, which is all we did before Saint Marie Records got involved. It gets a little out of sync sometimes as we work and release albums and EPs quickly, but I think everyone involved understands and mutually respects how and when things get done, so it has a way of working out for all.
I was bowled over by your collaborative album, What We Want, as S T F U with Preston Maddox of Bloody Knives. Will you be teaming up with him again in the near future?
DEAN: Working with Preston was something I’ve wanted to do for ages. We’ve always dabbled and he’s guested on a few things I’ve made before the What We Want record, so we had the groundwork and chemistry in place for some time. We will definitely make more, but how, when, and what it is will be down to the right timing for us both. I love working with him though. It just happens and things get made. Again, not much thought involved. It just develops and makes itself. Yes, more of that for sure. Glad you like it!
So, not to get too much into it, but how are you faring with all the political turmoil that has rocked the UK? And can you believe what those of us in the US are now going through politically?!! Unbelievable… It seems like the hate- and fear-fueled ignorant people are taking over the sanity of the planet…
DEAN: Complete and utter madness. Astonishing and mind-numbing that suddenly we’re all dragged back into their world of shit yet again. I’m finding it difficult to contain the loathing as all they seem to do is fill hearts with hate. I stopped watching national TV more than 3 years ago, as it was infiltrating and filling my mind with horrible fear-mongering bullshit and hate and exposing me to info I want nothing to do with.
Now I choose what I watch and surround myself both virtually and in real life with people I connect with, so you tend to forget or file away those you don’t. They’re blurred and managed, so it was a major shock to wake up on that day knowing that the stupids had swayed the vote (which should never have been public anyway) for us to leave Europe, bring out the racist bigots, and give them a voice. FUCK THEM ALL.
Then to complete dismay you hear the familiar redneck chants of “USA, USA, USA!” as the monumental Orange lunatic and his band of Westboro-like racists and omni-phobics get suspiciously elected. Here they are again in their misguided droves fueled by ignorance and hate. It’s so tiresome and scary to know the stupids are attempting to suffocate us once again.
I honestly thought we’d all moved on. I can only lean and take some comfort in the thought that, as ever, and as history has shown us, time and time again great things can and will happen. People say NO, they unify, strengthen and gather, they shout, plot and scheme, they get creative, and they force change.
The ignorant will implode soon enough. They always do, but for now and until they’re back in their stupid place, preferably with a force field around them, so they can all deal with who and what they actually are. In the meantime, let’s make some fucking noise in any way we can. Don’t let that fucking pipe get made or that stupid dumb-ass wall get built. I say we lose all borders and get with the fucking plot…GRRRRR.
Right on, Dean! Now to switch the subject to something more pleasant, I hear that Rose wants to do a duet with Thom Yorke – which would be so rad! Would that be for a SPC ECO song or a Radiohead number? How are the methods of contacting Mr. Yorke bearing out?
DEAN: Yes, it would be a bit spesh for sure, re: contact. Other than a tweet to him it’s not going very well, but we haven’t given up yet…
How did your tune “Under My Skin” end up on season 6, episode 7 of the hit MTV series Teen Wolf?
DEAN: That’ll be the reach radar of Saint Marie Records and certain music sups surfing for the right tune within the right library at the right time. We call it a magic moment. They don’t happen very often, but when they do it’s always a warm glow for all. It’s bumped the song stats and name for us, which is always good. T Y Teen Wolf n all the crew!
I know you’re the master of mesmerizingly moody atmospheres, but will you at some point pull out all the stops and craft a floor-stomping, wall-punching rocker as SPC ECO, or will that be for another future project of yours?
DEAN: Everything up to 15 and full-tilt, you mean? Yes, for sure, but those things have to wait their time, and from what I’ve said earlier, that time is rapidly approaching…
Speaking of which, what is next for SPC ECO? Will you be releasing another video soon or more material?
DEAN: We’re halfway through a new record. It’s amped up and we can feel the need to shout…
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