What's the Difference Between Tomahawk and Taylor Swift? Our Chat With Legendary Guitarist Duane Denison
Nearly six years after their last album, 2007's Anonymous, Tomahawk return this week with fourth offering Oddfellows: more phantasmagoric rock to weird you out and rev you up all at once. Tomahawk's cast of music luminaries--singer Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle), guitarist Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard, Th' Legendary Shack Shakers) and John Stanier (Helmet, Battles) --were joined by equally adroit bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantomas) for this 13-song LP, which was recorded at the Black Keys' Easy Eye studio in Nashville, Denison's long-time home city. We caught up with the über-friendly guitarist (and Tomahawk's prime mover) to chat about the odd fellows that made Oddfellows.
See also: Q & A: Scratch Acid's David Yow On Reunions, Nirvana And Book, The Jesus Lizard Coffee Table Book
Over the last couple of months, I'd heard this album being touted as a more "accessible" rock record, but when I finally got to hear it, it sounded pretty dark and weird, as I'd hoped.
Yeah, though we did make a couple of nods toward trying to do singles. "Stone Letter" is fairly straightforward and accessible. My seven-year-old daughter will occasionally sing along to it.
Has she ever done that with any of your other stuff?
No, never. And none of the other songs on the record. She likes Taylor Swift. But I've slowly turned her on to Ramones and Johnny Cash and Cheap Trick -- simple, straightforward things -- and she will sing along with the chorus of "Stone Letter."
Are you trying to steer her away from the Taylor Swifts of the world, or are you cutting her some slack because she's seven?
[Laughs] No, we let her do her thing.
The record is finally out this week, but obviously it's been finished for a little while by the time we get our hands on it, so is it still near-and-dear to you or have you already moved on to the next thing?
No, no, it's really exciting when your new album comes out. If I ever get to the point where it isn't exciting, then I should stop. It's still a big deal. You work on your ideas and get other people involved, and then it comes out as an official product. The songs are all registered and all of that. It's still really cool. The whole process never ceases to amaze me. It's still mystifying to me. It shouldn't be, but I'm still like a kid that way.
The record starts off with the title track and a lot of the elements -- your guitar playing, Mike's vocals, John's drumming -- are really familiar to anyone who's followed either Tomahawk or the other bands you've all been in. The riff has that Jesus Lizard-y vibe to it. But from there it seems like the album goes down this rabbit hole of weirdness and unpredictability. Did you purposely set it up that way?
Well, we didn't intentionally say, "All right, let's put something that the old fans will like first and we'll twist it from there." We didn't do that, it just kind of worked out because "Oddfellows" seemed like an opening track. It starts out with just drums, and then the guitar and bass come in, and finally the vocal, and it just seemed like a good point of departure. It basically picks up where [2003's] Mit Gas left off, and from there, the second song is the single, "Stone Letter," which is kind of different from what we've typically done. And then the third song, "I.O.U.," is different again. So maybe we subconsciously did that. If that's how it seems to you, then we're fine with that.