New Blood: Die Hard

Not the John McClane nuts you were expecting, Glasgow trio Die Hard are a talented band of mysterons who arrived overnight with a Technicolor debut. We sat down for an introductory blether...

Feature by Fred Weedon | 28 Feb 2012
  • Die Hard

Glasgow’s newest anomaly, Die Hard – comprised simply of Adam, Craig and Ryan – meet us under the shadow of Monorail’s formidably eclectic record collection, where they talk about their influences and motivations for creating what has transpired to be both a welcome surprise and an accomplished debut album. Out now, the eponymous release is a textured aural montage of colour, darkness and life in their home city.

Appearing seemingly from nowhere, Die Hard's constituent members are tight-lipped about where you may have seen or heard them before. The band made its entrance this February via the independent Halleluwah Hits label, who introduced ambient wunderkind Dam Mantle to the world. The album instantly grabbed us here, and we couldn’t pass up a chance to find out a bit more about the trio's kaleidoscopic LP.

So, Die Hard, who are you and where did you come from?
Ryan: We’ve been living together for a long time, always been into the same music, same films, it’s been inevitable that we were going to make music together.

You don't have much of an online presence, won't give your surnames and insisted on 'no faces' in your shoot with our photographer. Why do you want to remain so anonymous?
Ryan: Hmm. Well. it's not that we wish to be anonymous; when we gig we won't be hiding under masks, for example. We're just in no rush to jump around asking people on Facebook to vote for us in some pointless competition and one thing that gives us the fear is looking down the lens of a camera in a semi-seductive or slightly coy way. We really don't think that makes our music any better, in most cases it detracts. In general,
the people we respect are a bit more laid back about these things.

Fair enough, we’ll try not to make a big deal of it! There are a lot of fragmented parts to your album, using synths and sampling as much as more conventional instrumentation. Do you all have a set role, or is it not that rigid a set-up?
Ryan: We've each been doing music for years so moving between instruments feels really natural. That allows each of us to take to different instruments and have fun on our turn, which is really inspiring.

Which bands and records have stopped you in your tracks over those years and made you think 'I'd like to make music like this'?
Ryan: Not just one band, or one album, sometimes it’s a sound, sometimes an attitude – we’ll like what a certain band have to say. We’re definitely into chaotic, colourful music, with movement. Movement is a key thing to what we do.

There seems to be a big Animal Collective influence...
Ryan: Yeah, and there's definitely other stuff, of course. There’s not a direct influence from them, because we’ve been making music together for longer than we’ve been into them, but certainly from a live perspective, they opened up some ideas in terms of sampling and what you can do there.
Craig: You definitely can’t pin us down to just Animal Collective!

Point taken. The earlier songs on the record are really colourful and vibrant, but then it all gets quite dark and moody in the latter half, what was the rationale behind that contrast?
Craig: Some of the later songs, where it gets a bit darker, are more influenced by dark electronica – like some of that type of stuff that Warp Records have put out over the years.
Ryan: It’s interesting you say that, because we managed to get the record on one vinyl. The first half has a different colour and tone to the second, so you flip it over and the second half becomes a different part. It’s worked out pretty sweet
Craig: It triggers pictures, and colours, that tie in with memory.

Did you intend to release it on vinyl from the start?
Adam: When we were at the Halleluwah Hits record shop, we were selling small run, limited vinyl-only releases – plenty of new bands coming through, on labels like Captured Tracks.
Ryan: We like the traditional way of releasing music. Sometimes things like Bandcamp reduce music too much to something almost non-existent. We put our songs up on Soundcloud, and it’s great for artists to move their music about. But we’re bored of the whole ‘online everywhere, vote for us’ type thing.

Do you view it as more of a complete album, rather than a collection of songs?
Ryan: Oh, definitely – it’s a journey.

Lyrically, although a lot of the words are distorted and indecipherable, there seems to be an overarching theme of the progression of life. Or is that looking into it too far?
Adam: It wasn't a conscious decision from the start. The sort of music that we listen to and like always has something a bit deeper hidden underneath it. I think it’s still a fun album but there’s things woven through the music that help make it more interesting. By the time we’d almost finished it, we noticed that [particular theme]. I guess by the end we became a bit more conscious of it, and thought 'we’ll finish it off that way.'
Ryan: When you’re living together, and you’re sitting and getting into these deep thoughts when you’ve been sitting for hours and hours. Guys are like that, all guys do that – getting all philosophical on each other – and I think that’s ended up in the music – just talking about life ‘n’ shit, and opening things up. We’ve never felt like the kinds of guys that would write about getting thrown out of a club by a bouncer.

You've yet to play a gig but dates are in the pipeline, including an appearance at this year's Stag & Dagger festival. What can we expect?
Adam: Yeah definitely, we just want to do something special. Not a big gig. It’ll be intimate, but we need to make sure that it’s given as much care as that album – because we really lived in that album so we just wanted to make sure that the live experience is as good.
Craig: The visual aspect of the music is such a big thing for us, so we want to put a show together that portrays the visual aspect of how we see it, or leave it open, to let the people who come to see us, see what they want. We’ve also got other tracks coming along, there are things happening in the future too, but we’re trying not to visualise it yet. Or we’re visualising not visualising it. I think we can’t help the visual aspect of it. It’s the way we make music.
Ryan: When you’re making an album, at least when we’re making an album – I’m sure it’s the same for everybody else – you’re not just thinking about the music, you’re thinking about the video, you’re thinking about how the live thing is, you’re dreaming it up in your head. Now we’re at that point where we’re thinking about what things we can bring to life to make that happen. Plus, if you go to a live show with great visuals you know you’ve had a good night.

Now the elephant in the room: why Die Hard? It's virtually ungoogleable, for obvious reasons...
Adam: What we like about it is it can mean anything you want it to. It can be completely banal or it can be… strange. Dying with a hard-on, or whatever.
Ryan: We’ve got a mate called John who dyes all his clothes, constantly, and so we started calling him Die Hard. It doesn’t particularly carry into the band, but it seems to be a happy coincidence.

The album took nine months to put together, did it feel like you'd actually given birth when you'd finished it?
Ryan: I’ll tell you one thing that’s interesting about the album. There’s three of us, the album’s 33 minutes long, the size of the album on the hard disk is 333MB, and you play it at 33 1/3 RPM. There’s a lot of threes going on there; magic number!

Playing Stag & Dagger Festival, Glasgow on 19 May. Die Hard's self-titled debut is available now via Halleluwah Hits