The Dead Sea Sound
Artist Name: The Dead Sea Sound
Release title: His Lucent Girlfriends
Release Genre: Indie/Alternative
Band Members: Mark Butt
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About the Artist
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
My earliest musical memories are hearing The Beatles and I have been utterly obsessed with them ever since. My mum had lots of their early records and so just playing those early discs were revelatory. The excitement, energy, joy, like nothing else. I can distinctly remember sat open mouthed, just over-awed by the raw power coming from the speakers. And they still blow me away today. It’s never diminished and in fact my passion just grows ever stronger, if that is at all possible. So I guess through them I’d always wanted to be in a band. I kind of knew I could sing from an early age because a music teacher picked me out to do a solo at a school summer show and ironically sang ‘When I’m 64’. But I never did anything about learning an instrument until one of my best friends, Rob, gave me his old small guitar to learn on. I must have been 15 or 16. And so as I learnt the guitar I also learnt to write songs. In fact I think on the first day of getting the guitar, as soon as I’d learned A and D, I then wrote my first song.
What would you say are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I like my art to mean something. I like it to be honest. It needs to be something that has come from deep within me and has taken time to be forged in the fire. Otherwise it feels fake and I feel diluted singing it. And I guess for all of that to be true it means a lot of my songs come across as self-centred and very woe is me. But I can’t write any other way and believe me, I’ve tried. In a very self-centred way my songs are always about me and are quite autobiographical. In terms of melodies and structures, I try not to repeat formulas and so hopefully this helps to keep my songs sounding diverse. Well, diverse within my pretty standard indie rock/pop landscape!
Could you describe what part of the creative process is particularly dear to you?
I suppose that would be the lyrics because I spend so much time on them. I can literally spend years honing and finalising lyrics for a song! My earlier lyrics were more abstract, I guess, but nowadays I take much more care with them and again, they need to feel like they have come from deep within me. Sometimes they’re very direct and other times I guess I try to be poetic. Sometimes I don’t really know what I’ve written and a phrase may actually be meaningless but in a strange way it makes poetic sense, and you do actually know exactly what I mean. “Darling, there’s a life time to fall” from the song ‘Life Times’ is a good example of that.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Do you have a preference?
I love both. I find it difficult to write songs with other people. I think I’m too much of a control freak and far too selfish with my songs and want all the recognition to myself! But then playing music with other people is of course one life’s great joys. Nothing to beat it, really, when it all falls into place.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way has music – either your own or that of others – contributed to your understanding of these questions?
I’ve always found more insight into my life and insight into how I’m feeling from listening to music than with any other art form. That one line in a song you’re listening to can just sum up exactly how you’re feeling. Your own feelings are sometimes so hard to verbalise and hard to process until a certain period of time has passed and so for a singer or songwriter to be able to encapsulate your emotions in a line and a melody is such a great skill. It really can catch you off guard. I can only dream that my own music will touch people in the same way. I don’t know if it does but I truly hope so because we’re not alone, even though some of us would like to believe we are sometimes, including me. We do all feel the same things, just to different degrees.
About the Album
Tell us about your new album His Lucent Girlfriends. Is there a story behind it? What were the influences or inspirations to write it?
The title ‘His Lucent Girlfriends’ comes from a chapter heading in a Martin Amis book called ‘Dead Babies’. I was reading the book halfway through recording the album and the title just stuck out to me so I wrote it down. And then I realised that the album contained songs written about each of my main ex-girlfriends, going all the way back to ‘Cracking Skulls’ when I was 18/19. So it just seemed to fit perfectly. It was kind of a working title but then it just stuck and I couldn’t get away from it. I like it, it sounds intriguing.
Could you describe your creative process behind the album? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into a finished song?
I always just start by recording a rough take of just me singing backed with guitar and then I build on it. So that original guitar and vocal will probably never stay on it to the end. And I then just layer each aspect, bass, drums/beats, keyboards. Sometimes I’ll have an idea of how the track should sound but I’ll always experiment and sometimes the track will go in a completely different direction. Sometimes it can take months before I hit on the right direction for a track. It’s pretty time consuming. But I’m also quite restricted in my production abilities so sometimes if I just can’t get something sounding good I’ll eventually ditch it. I’m still very much in the learning process when it comes to production.
What’s your view of lyrics with “messages”? Is there a main message you want to be delivered within the album?
The lyrical theme of this album is very much about relationships. Broken relationships. It’s an open letter to best friends and ex-girlfriends. It’s love, loss, betrayal. It’s life and love as one big nervous breakdown.
Releasing music is such a mammoth effort. What are the biggest challenges? What things did you learn in the process?
It’s never quick and easy, sometimes I wish it was but it never is. Lots of time just spent listening, tweaking and fiddling. Hours and hours of listening! So much time trying to get a bass or a snare sounding good. Like I said, I am not the most proficient producer, I’m still in nappies when it comes to production. So the production is definitely the most challenging aspect for me. I’ve learnt that as an independent musician I have the luxury of having no deadlines. So if I’m not happy with how something is sounding, I can stop, pause and spend the time to get it exactly how I want it to sound. Or rip it up and start again. I try not to compromise myself . And then once I’m happy with the tracks and I feel they’re ready for release, the work is only just beginning! Then you have to figure out how to afford getting your music out there, is it gonna be digital only or can you afford vinyl or CD? Then you’ve got all the admin, artwork, music videos, social media, everything else that you really need to be on top of your game for.
How did you go about choosing your recording/mixing/mastering engineer? Any advice for anyone else currently going through the process?
So I pretty much do everything in terms of recording and mixing, the only thing I can’t do is mastering. That really is the dark arts. And it’s tough finding someone good and within your budget. You (Cefe) reached out to me a couple of years ago now and so I knew I always wanted to give you a try. And I’m so glad I did. You were receptive, patient and always clear and honest with me. And, of course, a great mastering engineer! So I’m very pleased with how these tracks have turned out.
What formats will be the release available on? What is the best place for people to find and support your music?
So my new album will be released on CD, digital and streaming. My Bandcamp store is here. And of course you should be able to stream the music pretty much everywhere. I have a great YouTube channel too with all the official music videos here.
What’s next for you?
Once this new album is released I’m gonna start recording the next release. Can’t wait to get stuck into it. And so it goes on…the Circle Game!