The JSF caught up with old friends, Thee Deadtime Philharmonic…
Loving ‘Hardlines’, your new record and video. TDP never disappoint and you guys have hit the nail on the head once more with a gritty – and somewhat melancholy – track that gives us an insight into the current plight of so many in your hometown and across the UK as a whole. I think it’s fairly safe to say that you take your songwriting inspiration from actual circumstances and life outside your window, giving us a candid social commentary, which is a theme that runs through your work. Can you tell us a bit about this track specifically, how it came about, when you wrote it, where it was recorded etc…?
MURDOCH: Yeah that’s bang on. I can only write about what I see and know, and what I see is the effects of the benefit cuts, the rising suicides and a lot of the youth getting into gang-related crime, so much so that they are willing to kill and die over a postcode or what colour clothes you wear.
In my town, a seventeen-year-old lad just got stabbed to death in a row between a red and blue gang. Which is a complete waste of life. Two mums have lost their sons like I say in the song ‘Hardlines’ over ego and pride. It’s a sad situation. I also mention the privatised prison scam, people working full time having to go to food banks and pensioners having to choose between heating and eating. I didn’t want the whole song to be hopeless as the people I write about are really strong people, like all people in ex-mining communities. It was also important to me to get across a message of some kind of resilience and hope. Like the old saying, if you’re going through hell keep going.
I wrote the music quite quickly, but the lyrics kept coming. When it came to putting pen to paper I had about 20 sheets of A4 and had to scale it down. It’s a pretty long song at over six minutes, but it could have been a 30-minute epic! I had resigned myself to the fact that with the length of the song it wasn’t radio-friendly, but that’s never been important to us. It’s nice when it happens but it’s more important to tell the story authentically.
KERRY ANN: Murdoch finished writing the single just before lockdown, and luckily we had booked Tesla Studios in Sheffield on the recommendation of legendary drummer Mr Steve White, who has said some lovely things about us.We worked with a new producer this time – David Glover. It was interesting working with him as he’s worked with Richard Hawley, Slow Club and more recently Self Esteem. It was a good experience, which sometimes you can’t always say that with the recording process. In the past it has been stressful at times. We are hoping to finish the second album with him as the working relationship was really positive.
The video is itself is a fantastic piece of work and I notice you linked up with Michael Socha again, who featured in the video for ‘Bad Lad’ way back. You worked with a combination of working actors and local kids, what was it like shooting them, have any of them had any previous experience acting? Did you have any difficulties working with young people? The video and track fit perfectly, how do you go about matching the scenes to the song?
MURDOCH: Thanks. Obviously, I’ve known Michael for a while with him being in our ‘Bad Lad’ video. We spoke about him directing and we were lucky to have him involved as he’s currently got the lead role in Shane Meadows new drama – Gallows Pole. We roped Kraig Gilmore in again from Adaptive Media as he’s worked with us on pretty much every video, he’s a technical genius. We held open auditions but I’d already decided that some of my mates kids were going to be the main lead actors. During the auditions, Socha was worried because the kids were being a bit shy and he thought it was going to be a lot of work. On the two days, we shot it me and Michael were both amazed at how professional and natural they were. I think with them being kids there was no ego involved. We also had some real actors and were buzzing when Socha’s mate from This Is England Andrew Shim turned up to do a cameo. I was actually quite emotional on seeing the final edit by how well the kids had done knowing them, their parents personally and the background they come from. They absolutely killed it.
KERRY ANN: For us both, it was a real thrill for us to hear back from the kids family and friends just how much confidence it has given them. There’s so much bad press on kids from council estates but all of them in the video were polite, well mannered and professional, not the riff-raff that the media would have you believe. Kids need opportunities to be creative. Bobby who starred in our ‘Bad Lad’ and ‘Idiot Village’ video as a child, is now eighteen and studying performing arts. I’d like to think maybe being in our videos influenced him in some way. Because of the lack of funding for the arts all we’ve got is a DIY ethic, which I know is at the heart of the Joe Strummer Foundation. Murdoch came up with the video concept and matching the scenes to the song are down to Socha and Adaptive.
You release this on November 5th, what have you guys got planned after this, is there an album on the way and if so, can you tell us a little bit about it? Times are obviously very difficult in all aspects of life just now – how has the pandemic affected the way you work, have you been able to do shows and do you have any plans to tour?
MURDOCH: I’m currently about halfway through writing the album. All I can say at the moment is it’s be gonna be even more eclectic than the first album, from dirty electronica to stripped-down acoustic. There will be more autobiographical material. I want to properly bare my soul on this album but I’ve found it difficult to revisit a lot of buried emotions.
KERRY ANN: I think people will be surprised by the next album. It’s a big transition from ‘Estate of the Heart’. For me personally, I think it’s a more grown-up, mature and sophisticated Deadtime. We are playing a one-off gig in December and I’m looking to book a mini-tour for us in March/ April when our next single ‘Testify’ will be out. Obviously, with the pandemic it’s been frustrating for all musicians and artists, so we are now more than ready to get back out there, to say the least. We are very much a live band.
MURDOCH: I’d like to say I used lockdown to do a lot of writing, but I’m the king of procrastinators. It wasn’t a very inspiring time. I have done some writing but nowhere near as much as I should. Sadly we didn’t do any shows during the lockdown and this is the longest time I haven’t played a gig since I was a teenager. I can’t wait to get back to kicking out the jams.
Check out the video and links below
‘Hardlines’ video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSM8e7arAAw
Buy ‘Hardlines’ (All proceeds go to mental health charity – Bank House in South Derbyshire):
great article. I live just up the road from Murdoch and am hoping to work with these guys in 2022. I have worked in music for my entire 35+ years and these guys are one of the best bands I have heard in a long time. They echo my own background and have a great way of expressing the dystopian world we are potentially, drifting somnambulistically towards. I am looking forward to working with them.