it's About Truth and Sex
By Syed A. Bokhari (syedbokhari#hotmail.com)
Special thanks to Nicole Merino.
In 1991, Curve exploded on to the European music scene with their very first release, the Blindfold EP. This, however, was no overnight success. The duo’s musical mastermind, Dean Garcia, played bass for everyone from the Eurthymics to Sinead O’Connor. And singer Toni Halliday signed her first recording contract when she was only 14 (she’s in her early thirties now). After a couple of Top 40 hits on the UK charts, and two successful albums, Curve called it quits in ’94, due to burnout (from excessive touring, among other things). Now they’re back, and with a new album to boot! Come Clean, the duo’s long-awaited third album is set for release in early ’98 from Universal Records.
Curve has been one of my favorite bands ever since I first heard them waaaaay back in ’92. So, as you can imagine, I was very excited to be meeting them. My buddy Nicole and I were waiting in some posh hotel lobby on the West Side (thinking "we don’t belong here!"), waiting to meet with the band’s management and some record company folks before the interview, when I look up and see none other than Toni and Dean stepping out of the elevator! Nicole and I greeted them with roses each, definitely worth the money to see their faces light up. Then, the four of us found ourselves a cozy little corner in the hotel bar and began to chat. We asked them how they like New York so far…
Dean Garcia: It was mad this morning, a fucking…massive bomb going off down the street or something, you could hear it…
Sy B: Yeah?!
Toni Halliday: Yeah, what was the building? It was some building or something.
Dean: Not sure…
Toni: We were in our rooms in there, and it just went OOMPH! This like, huge noise!
Dean: It’s like being at home.
Toni: (laughs) It was like, ‘Oh, the I.R.A.’s around…’
Dean: ‘ello, ‘ello…and there was a fire alarm last night, you know, about 3 o’clock in the morning or something. It was weird, you know - noises, guns and shit - New York! ‘ello, yeah! (laughs)
Toni: Well, even on my street, at home - two people shot. You know, there you go - in 24 hours.
Sy: I mean, like I don’t live in Manhattan, but back in Queens, in my building, there are bullet holes…
Toni: Yeah, I mean it’s everywhere though, that’s what I’m saying. Everyone’s caught up with New York. It was always known as like ‘Oh, that’s really violent,’ now everywhere is… (laughs)
Dean: Yeah, it’s mad, all the cities are…
Toni: And you go on like ‘New York’s not too bad,’ in comparison (smiles) to my street!
Sy: Well, now they’ve got police everywhere, so it’s…a little better.
Toni: Yeah, except there’s policemen everywhere!
Sy: So, I’ve only got like a half an hour ‘cause I’m college press - you know - scum of the Earth…
Toni: I don’t know, all my favorite ones are all the fanzines…
Sy: But I mean that all the majors get an hour, an hour and a half…
Dean: So you’ve only got a half-hour, even? Well, you know, see how we get on…
Sy: Yeah, but that’s okay…
Toni: Oh, don’t watch the time.
Nicole Merino: We understand that you’ve got a hectic schedule.
Toni: It’s mad…
Dean: Yeah, it’s a bit mad…
Sy: So you’re just doing interviews, interviews, all day.
Dean: Loads of interviews, yeah.
Toni: Photographs, radio, images…Guinness!
Sy: And I believe that you’re going to LA on Wednesday? (Toni nods) Ouch!
Toni: We’re going on Tuesday night - tomorrow night. (Pauses) It’s good though, people pay for you to come to another country just to bloody talk to you. It’s brilli…you know, there’s nothing like that.
Nicole: Do you really get to enjoy New York though?
Toni: Oh, you don’t really, but I know quite a lot of people here, and I’ve been here loads of times, so what were going to do on this level, you know, like Sam’s coming, and Sioux Z - I know her anyway, I’ve known here for a long time. So, if I even came to New York with Alan or whoever, we would meet up with Sam and Sioux Z and Virginia, and all those kinds of people anyway. So they’re basically going to be coming into the hotel to have a drink with us while we’re doing all these other things. So, we kind of will meet our mates, but, no actually go out too much…apart from poncy restaurants, I think.
Dean: If you enjoy yourself too much in New York though, you can’t even string two words together because it’s sort of (gestures, all laugh)…so we’re here to work, you know.
Nicole: Right, work time!
Sy: So how does it feel…let’s start the interview…how does it feel to be back on the music scene, and back into this monster we call the ‘music industry’?
Toni: Good, really…
Dean: We’ve never really been out of it though. Toni did quite a lot of stuff in the break, you know, with the Leftfield thing and all that, had her own band and was touring, you know what I mean? And I was still doing music and stuff at home, messing about and what have you, but the coming back together for us both, is just really exciting. We missed each other.
Toni: It’s solidified it in a way. People say ‘Well, how after all these years,’ you know, ‘cause I’ve been in the music world, doing music in the industry, longer than I have not, right. And they go ‘How do you keep that enthusiasm going?’ and ‘How do you attack it?’ And you go, well, because we care so much, that’s why we took that break, and that showed that that’s what we really cared about, because we were never going allow music to not be fun. And we cared enough about it, so now, this time, I think we feel even more intense about it. Because before, it was just like ‘Fucking all, what’s going on?!’ We had no idea that that would happen, that it would break out in England, and that the first record we put out - everyone would just jump on it. I mean, we were shocked, we were caught in a hop, we didn’t expect anything. And now, we’re like, a lot more kind of like ‘Right.’ You know.
Sy: Especially since you guys had done more stuff before that, like State of Play and your solo album, so it wasn’t like you were an overnight success.
Toni: Exactly, yeah. And because of the disasters of both those projects, we thought no one’s going to take a fuckin’ blimey bit of notice of us, so that’s why it was even more shocking, I think…
Dean: But even more worth while to do, as well.
Toni: Yeah, absolutely…
Dean: Because we always had this kind of bond from the very early stages of meeting and the early stages were kind of…quite frustrating for us, because both of us knew we should be working together on something else, really. So you just have to go through things for them to fall apart and then choose the time to actually go for it.
Sy: Okay, you guys actually played your first gig, last November 18th. Now, I actually had friends who went to the gig, and they told me ‘oh it was really great’ …and all of them told me about the fire alarm that went off; so I wanted to get your perspective on that…
Dean: What, the fire alarm thing?
Sy: No, the gig in general.
Dean: Major icebreaker, really. Just to have been away for so long and writing the record for such a long time - a year writing the record - and just to go and play it, all new songs and everything. It was fantastic - really brilliant achievement. It made us quite confident about coming back next year and doing some serious touring.
Toni: I think the main thing was the factor of ‘Can we get this together in time,’ because two weeks before that, we didn’t even have a band. So we got a band, went into rehearsal and Dean’s programming ‘til like, 5 o’clock in the morning, every fucking day. It was more like; ‘Can we get his done’? And that was really exciting - neck on the line stuff, because we could have fucked up really badly, just as easily. Because we hadn’t played for ages, this was a completely new band, with completely new material! And two weeks before that, we didn’t even have a band…
Sy: So who is in your band, by the way?
Toni: Well, it’s always been Dean and I. Dean and I have always been the writers and the people that like, dictate the sound and exactly what goes on with it…
Sy: But you don’t have Debbie and Alex or…
Toni: No, it’s completely new people, it’s all new stuff.
Dean: Alex is doing his own thing, Monti is as well. Alex is doing some really cool little records…
Toni: Have you heard of that label, Skint? They’ve got Fatboy Slim on it and Bentley Rhythm Ace…
Sy: Yeah, I’ve heard of Bentley Rhythm Ace…
Toni: They’re fantastic.
Dean: ...cool little label. And Debbie is sort of floating, and starting a new band and stuff.
Toni: She’s got people interested in her…
Sy: She’s left Echobelly, right?
Toni: Yeah! Thank God! (laughs)
Dean: Means to an end, really.
Sy: Right, so actually "Chinese Burn" isn’t the first thing you did since coming back, you did "Pink Girl With the Blues"…
Toni: Yeah, but that was on our label.
Sy: Right, so why is that? Why did you start Fatlip, was it a way of testing the waters, or were you weary of just jumping in with a major label?
Toni: Yeah, ‘cause it a criminal business, man! Do you know what I mean? It’s just criminal what goes on. And to me, the scariest thing is signing a record deal. That’s not the fun bit of it. And also I personally wanted to know how much it actually costs to put a record out in a box. I wanted to blag all the artwork and all the press people and all the fucking radio and everything – just blag the whole lot to see how far I could get on the phone with a bit of chat. And it was exciting, I loved it, I really got me teeth into it.
Dean: The excitement of making a record where we work, you know, down in the basement at that particular time – make the record, mix it…
Toni: …and put it out. It’s a demo, an experiment…
Dean: It was a really good, sort of introductory way of coming back and getting a bit more interested and test the waters as well, yeah.
Toni: So now when the record company says to me ‘Oh it has to go in a single jewel case – it can’t go in that ‘cause the packaging cost…’ ‘Yeah it’s 0.4 pence!’ I like that. I like to be holding information like that because it’s powerful. It makes me feel good. Also, it was another reaction, I suppose, to commericality and creativity and how the two things work together. Because we know loads of people in music – they sign the deals and then they go out and display their more commercial songs, but a lot of these artists, as well, do really weird things that aren’t commercial, but they’re completely valid. And it’s saying something about this person, but it’s not this big hooky pop chorus. And I think there should be an outlet for these artists put, you know, not just straighthead kind of art and commerce.
Sy: Especially with technology and the Internet, and a lot of people have their own websites…
Toni: Mmmm, we have our own website! (http://www.curve.co.uk) Totally. We love it!
Dean: So, we’ve got a label and a website outside of all the Universal stuff. Just purely creative things…
Toni: It’s in our record deal too, that we can work all over as well.
Dean: It’s really exciting for us to have that outlet and not be bogged down.
Sy: So how is your deal with Universal? Are they hard and cold, or warm and fuzzy?
Toni: Whoa! They fuckin’ love us! It’s scary, it really is. Doug Morris, the head of the company flew over on Concord to sign us. And he only came for one night, sat down, had a meal, - he didn’t see anyone else - got on a plane, and went back to New York the next morning. I mean, it’s pretty serious. And the reason we signed was ‘cause we really liked that guy, we really like him. And in America, all the people we met from the company are really nice. (looks down at the tape recorder, and smiles) And if I could say something bad, I would.
Dean: Yeah, it’s quite embryonic at the moment. We’ll see how they do on the record and how it goes.
Toni: But we have faith in them, and they have faith in us. You can feel that stuff. And even when we did that show in London, all the people came from New York flew over, took time out of their schedules to do that, which is really important.
Sy: Yeah, so I’ve actually listened to the album a lot – two or three times even just today – and even though it’s the unmixed and unmastered version, I’ve got to say, as a journalist and as a Curve fan, this is the best Curve shit I’ve ever heard.
Dean: That’s excellent!
Toni: That’s great.
Dean: That is good…
Sy: I mean, you’ve got a lot of the, sort of, vibe from the early EPS, but you’ve also done a lot of new experimenting. First of all, did you record it in your home studio?
Dean: Yeah. Mostly, but not totally. About 85% of it.
Toni: ‘Cause Dean and I tend not to work on a professional format…well it is a professional format but it’s not. That’s how we like to do it, you get more crunched up sounds that way, but at some point, you do have to go to another studio and transfer it all on to a proper two-inch, so we take it to other studios and mix it.
Dean: This time we took Tim Simenon in with us, rather than Flood or Steve Osbourne. And it’s just a different angle again, you know what I mean, but someone we’re really interested in work with.
Sy: I mean, you’ve worked with Flood and Steve, and Alan, of course, before, but how did you get Tim on the project?
Toni: Sent him the record! We sent him some tracks and asked him, and he dropped everything. He was doing Live Press Audio, the soundtrack, and he just fucking said ‘No, I’m doing this!’ And then the record company, his record company rang him up and said ‘You haven’t made an album in four years, where’s our fucking record?’ ‘No I’m not, I’m doing Curve!’ (all laugh) But the reaction from Tim was absolutely instant.
Dean: He had to do it.
Sy: So how was he able to steer the direction of the album?
Toni: He didn’t really, Tim doesn’t work like that. He’s not a producer producer. We’re more producers on that level, ‘cause we’re so anal about a lot of things, you know. ‘Ooo, that’s not quite right! The vibe’s not meshing!’ (Laughs) And Tim’s a lot more like ‘Oh just fuckin' forget it!’ He’s a lot more laid back about it. He’s got a more overall view of things.
Dean: He’s good at arrangements. He’s good at chopping things down, making it longer, and taking this bit there.
Toni: …which it’s hard to do, ‘cause you might put this one little thing on that you love at that point, but you need someone who’s more kind of cut throat, who’s got more distance basically to go ‘Nope that’s gone.’
Sy: And you also collaborated with Justin from Elastica.
Dean: Justin, yeah. They were working downstairs in the studio, and he had a loose few hours, so went down and asked him to play drums on the track.
Sy: He played on "Something Familiar" right?
Toni: Yeah…but he was looped in the end. (laughs)
Sy: Oh really! (laughs)
Dean: (smiles) He was looped out of his mind! But it’s fantastic…
Toni: No one gets away without being looped by Dean!
Dean: It’s great, he’s the loosest drummer in the world I think, but great. For him, it’s this thing we’ve had with him. We’ve always liked him, and we’ve always got on. And he’s got his own opinion and his own mind about what he likes and what he doesn’t like, you know, it’s great really. Excellent.
Sy: So how is Elastica’s project coming along?
Toni: (looks to Dean) Well?
Sy: You don’t?
Toni: Well, I can’t say anything we know too well, it’s private.
Dean: It’s coming along, that’s what I can say.
Sy: Okay. And also someone from Stereolab?
Dean: Toshi, yeah. That was from Tim.
Toni: He’s a mate of Tim’s, he’s a really lovely guy. And…he’s weird though, wasn’t he?
Dean: (smiles) Very quiet, strange, spaced-out man.
Toni: And really just had this little Baby Theramin, this electronic Theramin thing. And he was lying on the floor going ‘wooo…wooo…wooo’ ! (smiles) It was just weird, like ‘Hello?’ It was just the way he laid on the floor and just…basically like these kids’ toys. That’s what they look like, all these weird bits…stuff that is made by this guy in America. You know, something that looks like and Etch-a-Sketch, but it’s been cover in glitter and then you get this ball and roll it and it makes these weird noises like talking, and…just weird! He had them all over the floor like a child.
Sy: And which tracks is he on?
Dean: He’s on about three or four for them, actually.
Toni: Well, he didn’t actually play play anything, he just gave us sounds, you know, ‘cause we like to generate our own sounds. We don’t like to…
Dean: …nick too much stuff.
Sy: I see.
Toni: We like the record to sound like our things, not other people’s things.
Dean: He just did noises and bleeps and stuff on about three or four tracks. We just went in and took it like ‘Oh that’s good…’
Toni: ‘That can work on that track over there’.
Dean: I’ve got this massive library now of really weird Toshi Skylab sounds…
Toni: And they’re all originals! We’ve also brought Flood in as a musician and he did the same thing. He’s got these banks of old-fashioned analog synths. And you just go and press load of buttons, and it’s got filters and little pegs, and he did exactly the same thing, just blew through a couple of tracks, just took loads of it, and it’s all original stuff.
Sy: You know, as a fan, I’ve always though of Curve as an excellent mix of various genres, like dance and rock and whatever, but your record company seems to be promoting you more as an electronic-dance type act. I don’t want to through stupid terms at you, but…
Dean: Are they?
Toni: Well, everyone’s going to be really fucking disappointed! (All laugh) We’re not dance really, but we have elements of that. You know we use beats, we always have from record one. But really, dance? (pauses) We’re an experimental group, not really pop, but not really hardcore. We’re dark-core! That’s what we are.
Sy: Because with "Chinese Burn" a lot of people in the press have compared you to, like ‘Oh, I guess they’ve been listening to a lot of Prodigy and Underworld’. But you’re really a lot more than that.
Toni: A lot more, we have a huge musical history.
Dean: I think we took on especially Prodigy, Underworld and Chemicals as a rebellion to all that Britpop shit, the forefront of British music, which I though was just shit. And the only other interesting thing was the Tricky’s and Portishead, and all the more obscure stuff, and the exciting stuff was all in dance I thought.
Toni: But I don’t call the Prod’s dance. The Prod’s are just a really great band. I mean, why does it always have to be put into little boxes, like ‘Oh, that’s what that is’ so basically, stupid people can understand it. And me the Prod’s…they’ve got beats, but they’re holding guitars and they’ve got pop stars and singers and shouters, you know, whatever it is. They’re just really good at it. To me, it’s like the equivalent of Led Zeppelin in the late ‘60’s or the early ‘70’s, you know, they’re just a fucking great band. At the time, progressive rock was a new genre as such. And the Prod’s have created new genre, and that’s not dance.
Sy: It’s just so that when people walk into HMV.
Toni: What section do they look under? The fucking great record section!
Dean: It’s just marketing shit.
Toni: And it’s uncreative as well.
Dean: But I don’t think go to them for any mixes or anything like that. We’d rather go to someone like Kevin Shields who we have for the next single to do a mix.
Sy: And what is the next single? "Coming Up Roses"? Who do you have remixing that?
Dean: Well Kevin Shields has done one, which I haven’t heard yet, and Al’s done one…
Toni: And we’re approaching Grooverider and people like that for a drum ‘n’ bass kind of…but quite skuzzy South London drum ‘n’ bass, rather than like…
Dean: Intelligent they call it…
Toni: Which is all based on jazz. And I like it when all the beats are distorted, and the bass is all soggy, it just breaks up the speakers.
Sy: Do you guys like Atari Teenage Riot?
Toni: Yeah! Love them! But you see that’s another thing. They’ve got a record out in England, and it’s just being hammered!
Sy: Is that The Future of War?
Toni: And Alan’s a huge fan, he’s got an ATR jacket which he blagged off Trent. It’s fantastic. They’re messing around with shit and the press is like ‘Oh just stab’em!’ but at least they’re doing something, they’re not fucking Echobelly. It’s so weird.
Sy: I think music in general is losing that whole…edge. You know, like ‘Fuck you!’ and all that. The new album, like all the others, is really tough, but when you turn on the radio and you hear stuff like Spice Girls…
Toni: Have you got Aqua here yet? They’re so funny. No, but I don’t think pop music’s ever really had an edge. We’re not pop, but we do like pop and we have elements of pop – especially if you’re English! You can’t get away from that, we were brought up on it. (Pauses) We don’t have it all the time; it just gets boring again. So, our approach to stuff like that it’s still our personalities and what we like to hear and how we like to hear things. It’s always going to totally effect the sound of what we do. We like edgy, but I couldn’t equate us with "Barbie Girl" or Spice Girls or anything like that. To me, pop has always been kind of insidious like that, that’s why it becomes huge, so that masses if people can listen to it. You can put that one to one person - Redneck Whoever – who’ll think it’s a load of fucking noise, but the he’ll go right out and buy a Spice Girls record. And I think that’s relevant, I do. I think everything is just as relevant. I don’t think pop music has ever particularly had an edge. It’s always been quite easy to listen to. Then you get all the other bands that come in with all the fringes and push things out and go a bit harder so that there is everything available to everyone.
Sy: I’m asking because bands like Sneaker Pimps and Garbage, who have been compared to Curve have had major pop chart success. I personally don’t see the similarity, but since many people have perceived them as being similar, do you think that’s perhaps opened the door for you?
Toni: No, I think our records sound completely different. Our records are always going to be a tough thing to listen to because of the people who made it. And Butch Vig is just a completely different producer than Dean or I.
Sy: Yeah, I heard he goes more for perfection.
Toni: And we like mistakes!
Dean: It’s the mistakes we’re interested in, actually.
Toni: It’s the mistakes we find interesting, and he goes for perfection that in itself is completely North and South Pole. It’s that far apart.
Dean: I’m sure he’d recognize a good mistake if he heard one, a happy accident. But I like him, he’s clever.
Sy: I was just thinking about that. I was listening to "Test" from Volume 17, and in the middle, the drums when they come in, seem to be a bit…off, like a second off.
Dean: Oh yeah! That’s ‘cause I was completely on my face. I was lying on my stomach and the desk was up like this (gesture) against the wall. And I was going like this, punching things in and out, and ‘Oh, drums! Urrr…’ (all laugh)
Sy: Also, I believe, on the Steve Osbourne Mix for "Chinese Burn" – just a slight, slight bit…
Dean: Does it?
Toni: That’s just like Steve! All the people we do work with are like-minded on that level. We mixed that on a manual desk, with all hands on board. We had to drop things in and out – no automation at all! It was in this really small studio, just a skuzzy stain above the pub next door and stuff like that!
Dean: It’s sort of this ‘no anal’ factor, because you can get very anal when you’re dealing with technology. You go into the screen and you like, gone! So, we try to get away from that.
Toni: It’s also adds this slight excitement factor, like ‘Oh! Is it going to go? YES!’ That sort of anticipation, ‘Are they going to do it? YES!’
Dean: It doesn’t matter, ‘cause the bit before is really great.
Sy: Yeah, I’ve always thought that was really charming, because with dance music, when you’ve got the drum machine going and it’s the same beat over and over…
Toni: …it gets really repetitive.
Dean: But as soon as you take the drum machine and put it through a really weird box or though a pedal, and you start treading on them, you get some really interesting things. That’s what I’m interested in. That’s what’s more interesting, I think.
Sy: And back to the subject of remixes, you actually did a remix for "Chinese Burn."
Dean: The Headcase one.
Sy: And you also did a remix for Paul Van Dyk’s "Words." Do you think this is something you might do in the future for other artists as well?
Dean: Yeah, definitely. We both are. But that was a tit-for-tat thing, Paul did one for us and we did one for him.
Toni: That’s how it worked. He’s a big fan of the band and he did this great mix which has work brilliantly in the clubs, and then he rang up and said ‘Would you do one for me?’
Sy: Do you think that over time, the two of you have become more disciplined as songwriters or is it still a matter of wanting to fuck everything up – WHOOPS!
(My wild hand gestures have caused me to spill a bit of my drink! All laugh at my expense – especially Toni.)
Toni: (laughs) I saw that coming!
Sy: Well, anyway…
Toni: We are disciplined. Dean is very disciplined, it astounds me sometimes. And when we tour, we run it like an army. We’ve got great people and a very good crew, and tour managers. Everything just works, so you can have sometime to have fun and enjoy it, instead of just constantly siting around and worrying about the details.
Dean: But it’s not always so serious. You go in one morning and are very random, and that’s just as exciting. Or start from a really strange starting point, scrapping sounds or something.
Toni: Like on the single for instance, that track "Come Clean." Dean had been working all day from 10 o’clock in the morning – working all day and just…nothing. You know, something, but just average. We said, ‘Okay, let’s set an experiment, Dean. You’ve got to be home at 8 o’clock, it’s 6 o’clock now – write a punk song! Now! In two hours!’ And he did! He just literally did it, and vocals done straight after that, completely off the top of me head. And we love it. It’s fantastic and completely random. It was fun to do and it has and exciting angle to it.
Sy: So when the two of you write songs, are your jobs completely separate? Is it that one of you writes the music and one of you writes the lyrics, or do your roles cross over?
Toni: Yeah, they are defined, but they’re not.
Dean: They’re developing, aren’t they? They develop. You start off with something and we both get quite excited about it. And it either goes or it doesn’t, but as it’s going, it’s just a cross section of ideas. ‘Oh take that bit out’ or ‘Make that it longer,’ ‘Put this guitar there, just smash it through.’
Toni: You know, like those old-fashioned snares that used to sound like bass drums on early disco records – THOOF! Well, just sing it then. And I just sing a snare! So, we do crossover, but Dean does do the music. And he always comes to the house, where the studio is, with an initial idea and I write the lyrics. So, those roles are completely defined, but on the other hand, we collaborate on the next.
Sy: Do you ever feel restricted, like if you write something really personal about Dean or Alan…
Toni: We still use it (laughs). It’s good. So what? And invariably they don’t even notice about it. I never talk about what the songs are about. Alan got a bit pissed once. He said ‘People must think I’m a total bastard, and that I just beat you up and I’m a nasty human being!’ And then I said that was really egotistical, because how does he know that the songs are about him? He said ‘Oh, I know it’s not, but other people might perceive it that way and read into it’. As if I’m in some really highly destructive relationship.
Dean: But that’s good though about lyrics, reading stuff into it. You might have an idea of what it’s about, and someone over there might have a completely different one.
Toni: But they make it their own, don’t they.
Dean: It’s a clever craft, to be able to do that.
Sy: Do you ever try to be obscure on purpose to allow people to do that?
Toni: Yeah, I don’t like to be really…maybe it’s because I can’t do it! (laughs) Maybe that’s what it is! I like to leave a little room for imagination. I like to use words as triggers. It’s takes someone into a certain place, but that’s not your place, it’s their place. So there are certain key words, I suppose, to start that up. I like to be a bit ambiguous.
Sy: Okay. Toni, people in the press have compared you to Deborah Harry and Siouxsie Sioux from Siouxsie and the Banshees. How do you feel about that, are you flattered or annoyed or…
Toni: Oh no, I mean, God! Blondie were brilliant, and so were the Banshees. But then again, I tend not to read too much stuff like that and it’s just someone else’s opinion. It’s not really anything to do with me. And I do own every single Banshees record going, including imports! German imports…
Sy: Yeah, the Banshees are one of my favorites too. I have every single 12" since like, ’86!
Toni: Yeah, but it doesn’t bother me ‘cause it’s just a waste of space - you can’t do fuck all about it. It’s not on my periphery at all.
Sy: I was actually reading an article about the gig, and they said ‘Toni looked like a gothic Pebbles Flintstone.’ Did you hear about that one?
Toni: Yeah, but I didn’t mind that actually! (Laughs) But the ‘Goth’ thing does get on my nerves a bit because it’s just very easy. You know, you wear dark makeup and you dye your hair black – and that makes you a Goth band. We’ve always been a beat band, and the Goth thing just comes from us being dark as characters. That does translate into the music, but it doesn’t make it Goth – it’s just dark. And then I look how I look and that it – labeled! There you go. And I think all people are far more interesting than that, even if you’re a bloody plumber.
Sy: That’s what I was saying. You get thrown into this category with all these other strong women…
Toni: Well at least they’re not throwing me in with Fiona Apple !
Sy: And speaking of other female artists, how do you feel about Fiona Apple and Jewel? People who are ‘women in rock’. The Lilith Fair and all that.
Toni: But they strike me as not being very positive. It’s all victim. I just saw that Fiona Apple on the Telly, and I had to turn the fucking Telly off. It’s just terrible, it’s just so victim. It’s hard to find a positive female role model, isn’t it? I’m all right with all the other strong women! (laughs)
Sy: (to Dean) So how do you feel about Toni obviously getting most of the attention from the press…
Dean: I’m pleased!
Sy: You’re pleased?!
Toni: I’m jealous of him!
Dean: Yeah, because that’s not what I’m interested in. I’m interested in production and making music and playing live. That’s it, ad I feel uncomfortable on any of these press tours, photographs…anything.
Toni: So do I. The coolest thing to be in infamous rather than famous. I mean, we are going to do things a bit differently, even on the touring angle. We’re going to try and do it in a more satisfying way, rather than go on the bus and do forty days.
Sy: And about the tour, I heard a rumor that you might tour with Nine Inch Nails in ’98. Is that true?
Toni: We’d love to. We fucking love them. They’re brilliant, one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen in my life. He just means it, he’s just totally mad when he comes on stage and Rob, our guitar player is a huge Nine Inch Nails fan. He used to live in Canada, and he’s got all these dodgy bootlegs of Nine Inch Nails playing live, and even on that he’s unreal. And I saw him several times in London, and he just pissed on everyone! And I loved that. I think that’s great. We’d love to do it, if we got offered it.
Sy: So then it’s not true?
Toni: Well no, he not even finished his record yet, so how does everyone even know whether he’s going to tour or not?
Sy: I don’t know. I guess you hear stuff – rumors. It was it was in a magazine or something. Or the Internet…
Toni: Yeah! Someone on the Internet’s already reviewed the album, and it’s not even mastered. It’s not even sequenced yet and it’s already on some net mag.
Sy: But you’re not going to take out any tracks, are you?
Toni: No, we’re adding one; "Come Clean."
Sy: So, is Come Clean definitely going to be the title of the album? (Toni and Dean both nod) Does that represent or symbolize a fresh start for the two of you?
Dean: Album titles…we’ve gone through a few…
Toni: But I think that one’s the best because it’s sexual, it’s about addressing new situations and coming clean about stuff…instead of hiding behind all these guitars, man! This is what we really are. This is the nature of the beast, and we’ve always been that. Now, we’re actually prepared to come clean about it. And even now, we consider ourselves…not even scared about the fact that we say Curve is just Dean and I. That makes us a duo, we don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about it. Whereas, before we did. So, it is about truth and sex.
Sy: That’s true. Since it is just the two of you, and then when you go live you just have some extras, a lot of people have labeled you as a studio band, but that’s really not accurate.
Dean: It’s not.
Toni: We love playing live, but we are studio Tec’s as well.
Dean: Yeah, we do know how to work the studio and be there and enjoy making good music.
Toni: And get excited by it.
Sy: Yeah, I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing you live…
Dean: You will! In March…
Sy: I wanted to, a couple of years back, but my parents wouldn’t let me. They said you sounded too scary.
Toni: That was always our motto – let’s go out and scare the kids, let’s just fucking scare them! And scare the parents so that they don’t want their kids there. But now, I suppose, that’s been totally superceded. We never tried to do it in a theatrical way, whereas now, you have bands like Marilyn Manson and the Prod’s and all that, which all about that commercialized rebellion with the kids against the parents. Parents say ‘I don’t want you going to see Marilyn Manson, it’s too dark’.
Dean: The Firestarter!
Toni: ‘I don’t you going to see that nut who’s got a pierced tongue’. Then the kids want to go even more, and they just start lying and doing all the things they should be doing!
Toni: Sorry Dean, I know it’s coming for you. Kids are enough to drive anyone insane!
Sy: Yeah! (to Dean) You’re a parent. Do you ever feel when you’re making the music that ‘My kids are going to grow up in this world I’ve created…’
Dean: No. You can only support them and encourage them. And they have to make their own decisions and do what they want to do, but you can only inspire them and play them things you think are really cool.
Sy: Well I’m sure you’re a cool dad.
Dean: (smiles) I am. Yeah.
Sy: You were actually with your wife Julie when the two of you were in State of Play. I always wondered do you ever go back and listen to the State of Play record?
Sy: Not even your solo album?
Toni: I haven’t even got a copy!
Dean: I’ve got one…somewhere…
Toni: But I try not to listen to the old stuff actually. Dean and I have to go through it to get things together for this tour that we’re doing. There are going to be a couple of the older songs, so you have to go back and listen…but I don’t like doing that. It’s not because we’re in denial of the past, it’s just that we’re here and now, in this moment.
Dean: In the making of it, you’re so exposed to the same track two hundred times and play it for eight months of the year…and it’s the last thing you want to hear; anything to do with what you’re doing, really. It’s like ooh, sometimes my daughter will put on "Chinese Burn" and I’ll say ‘Take that fucking CD out of there!" Or I’ll have to leave or something. I can’t stand it. It drives me nuts.
Sy: Even on the radio? Do you have to turn the station?
Dean: Well, with radio it’s a bit different. It’s got more of a romantic thing attached to it, and it’s so rare that we get played on the radio, that it come and ‘Oh look!’
Toni: Also when it’s transmitted, it goes through all these manic compressors, and it changes it, so you are interested to see how your actual record sounds like on a radio. That’s an added factor because you never know what’s going to happen.
Sy: Actually that’s not true. "Chinese Burn" has been played on the radio…
Dean: It’s the most-played track we’ve ever done.
Toni: But radio…we’re not easy. We’re not an easy band, and it’s not going to be an easy record because we’re not all polished off, and there are mistakes in it. It is still edgy and it is still dark and it still is hard and it’s all these things, basically, on a commercial format radio is still really hard to get across. No matter how cutting edge they say they are, they’re not. They’re still very conservative.
Sy: Yeah. Actually, when they do play "Chinese Burn" it’s always the remix. I’ve heard the Paul Van Dyk Mix and they just started playing the Lunatic Calm Mix, but never the original. PVD’s mix is actually the cleanest.
Dean: It’s very very easy to listen to.
Toni: That’s loud. In a club, all the filtering just takes your head out. It was never really made for radio, that was made for clubs. You hear that on a Friday night, at some huge place with a fantastic sound system and everyone’s up. It just fills the floor.
Dean: But I’d rather they play the first mix that’s on the single.
Sy: Which one’s your favorite?
Dean: My favorite on is probably…my one. Funnily enough.
Sy: Yeah, that’s my favorite too. I love it.
Dean: I like where it’s coming from, and where it was done. I do like Steve’s one as well.
Sy: That’s the one that was used in the video, right?
Sy: And the video, how did you come up with that concept…
Toni: Sophie Muller did.
Sy: So did you give her all these ideas?
Toni: Dean and I…the thing about video is that it’s just gotten to the point that it’s just so fucking boring. You either do two things; a performance video or a video with loads of effects in it. And we just wanted it to be based in something valid and real. And we also wanted to tell people something about us. I mean, you don’t get any more fake then when you’re standing in a room, miming to your own record. Through video, you can actually tell a story and tell people something about you and where you’re coming from and your personality. Rather than just looking good and swinging shots and noise and video effects, and all that.
Dean: It’s difficult, it’s a really hard thing to mix together successfully, really well.
Toni: It’s based on a Bill Grant picture of man lying on a riverbank on a sunny day. That’s why we’re lying in a pit like that. It’s exactly the same as in the picture, this old black and white picture from the ‘50’s. And the next video we’re going to do for "Coming Up Roses" is based on Brief Encounters. It’s my favorite film, the old one, and not the remake with Richard Burton. And it’s just a fantastic story, the tension that goes down, until it’s two people…like she’s so attracted, she fallen madly in love with this other person, but she can’t do anything ‘cause it’s set the ‘40’s and she’s married and she got children, and her husband’s a really nice. And he loves her. So, all this stuff’s going on in her head and she can’t speak to him. There’s a scene when he’s sitting in the front room with her, and she’s just saying all this stuff in her head; saying I wish I could speak to you. And it’s all just fantastic, and there’s this great tension going which we think will work really well with that track. So, the next one after that, we’ll have to come up with another thing, and it will always be based in something that is great art, basically. I love that David Bowie video…
Sy: "I’m Afraid of Americans"?
Toni: And that’s based on Taxi Driver. Taxi Driver’s such a brilliant brilliant film, and that’s why it’s so effective.
Sy: Actually, we were talking about how, in the "Chinese Burn" video, you’re beating up those guys…we just love that!
Toni: (smiles) Not a victim, eh? Well, I’m a passive aggressive. So that was part of me. You know, I would never actively go out tot hurt anybody, and I’m not a totally anti-violent person. If someone came into my space, I would defend myself. Totally. That’s saying something about who I am. A lot of people think it’s me just getting in there and smashing someone up and beating them up ‘cause it’s a good laugh, and it’s not. It’s about…it’s saying something about the person I am. Dean is really impatient, sitting in the café (imitates Dean) and that’s him! That’s exactly what he like in real life. All the other people, all the other actors had scripts, apart from Dean and I. And we had to make up all this stuff, and it’s like, really easy because that’s who we are.
Sy: So, do you think the fact that you are beating up men, that that is a feminist statement of some sort? Do you want people to take it like that?
Toni: No, I want people to know that I am. I’m not saying anything to anyone else. I’m just saying that I am a passive aggressive.
Sy: Cool. We need more women like you in music instead of just…you know…all that acoustic guitar in the cafés ‘n’ shit…
Toni: You mean Jewel? Someone ought to take that guitar and stick it up her ass! (all laugh). Go away! (Satirically) Oh but she sold millions of records, she must be brilliant. God, I hate her voice, it’s terrible!
Sy: So what are you guys listening to? What’s around now that you really like?
Toni: Uh, right! (laughs) I had this last night with Peter, this mate of mine, and he said ‘What are you listening to?’ Mmmm…not much, got fucking loads of stuff around. Starliner, Asian Dub Foundation, Atari Teenage Riot…what else? Just fucking loads of stuff. In my house, where I live with Alan and Dean’s there. It’s our place really, the three of us. We just constantly have tons of music, music just comes in all the time, ‘cause Alan gets offered loads of thing, and we hear all this stuff. You know, just constant. He really likes Blackstar Liner…
Dean: Yeah, Blackstar Liner’s cool.
Toni: And Cornershop! That album! (gasps) And Rialto, really love that Rialto single. Have you heard that "Monday Morning 5:19"? It’s very English.
Sy: I haven’t, but you know, stuff from England actually takes a while to get here. Even Suede took a year to get to America with the debut album. I actually hear about a lot about those bands if I pick up Select Magazine or something.
Toni: I think the monthlies are great. The weeklies have totally lost it, haven’t they? There’s nothing in those newspapers, and it’s just become boring. To me, what’s become really exciting and interesting about the media in England is that all the monthlies are just becoming brilliant. They’ve got time to set it up and lay it out – in-depth and research. The highbrow’s where it’s at, where people are actually interested in music and read reviews. The Independent, The Times and The Guardian all are big daily broadsheets. Highbrow press - and that’s what we do. The Sunday Times did a whole page on us, and it’s just so well thought out and just totally in depth.
Sy: Actually, I only get Select when it comes with free CDs and stuff.
Toni: I think that’s great. They give away all this stuff and they say ‘Here, this is what we think is really good’, and you get a chance to hear it and you don’t have to go and buy the whole record. Then you go ‘Oh, fucking all! That’s brilliant, I’m going to go buy their album’. It’s really good.
Sy: Did I tell you how I got into Curve? It’s a really funny story. I saw Pubic Fruit in the store and I just picked it up and thought ‘Oh, it’s got a nice cover’, and I bought it.
Toni: (surprised) That’s it?!
Sy: That was it!
Toni: How random!
Dean: You bought it for the cover?!
Sy: Yeah, I thought ‘Curve, that’s an interesting name, and Pubic Fruit is a nice album title’.
Dean: Good selection of stuff on that record.
Toni: Mmmm, it’s all the EPs.
Sy: I got into Siouxsie and the Banshees that way. I got into a lot of bands that way. I can’t afford to do that anymore though!
Toni: Certainly, you must have made some terrible mistakes as well. Oh my God! What’s that?! Fifteen dollars later!
Sy: Oh yes, like this band called Phish. They had a beautiful cover, I thought it might be good, but it sucked. So, I told a friend that they were really good, and swapped for one of the Lush albums.
Toni: Yeah. (pauses) I’m exhausted, what time is it?
Sy: 12:55pm! Ooo, an hour…
Dean: You got an hour. That’s good.
Sy: Don’t you have any other interviews after this one?
Toni: Yes, straight after! Where’s that sheet? Umm…Raygun!
Dean: Dave Kendell.
Sy: Really? Dave Kendell?
Toni: Isn’t he that MTV jock?
Toni: Now! Shit…
Sorry Dave! Wherever you are! With all seriousness, Curve’s forthcoming album Come Clean (set for release March 10th) is nothing short of amazing. In my opinion, it’s their strongest, most diverse, and best release to date. Each song is a masterpiece. Tracks like "Chinese Burn" or "Dog Bone" scrape at the soul like dirty jagged blade, while the grace and beauty of "Beyond Reach" transports the listener to another plane of consciousness. Come Clean is the best thing to come out of my headphones in a while. Curve. Come so far. Can’t look back.
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