“Ask DR. DOG. Anything” Interview

A few weeks ago, I was presented with the opportunity to interview one of my personal favorite bands, Dr. Dog. The band released a new record earlier this year called ‘Be The Void’ and has been on a rigorous touring schedule that’s due to continue for the good part of the fall with performances that TheBlueIndian.com staff will be covering at the Music on the Mountaintop Festival (August 24-26) near Boone, NC, and at the Masquerade in Atlanta (November 16th). TheBlueIndian.com staff was chatting and we figured that it would be cool to allow fans of the band and our readers to contribute questions toward an interview to get the answers to those things they’ve been pining over for years. So, here you have it! Make sure to catch the band on tour all over America this fall and pick up a copy of ‘Be The Void’, out now on Anti RecordsAll questions were answered by Zach Miller.

1. So I was watching Dr. Who… in the season two finale, the Doctor repeats “BY the void” a couple of times cause he likes saying it.. So my silly question is, Was “BE The Void” somehow maybe possibly derived from that? Dr. Dog. Dr. Who. hmm.. – Michael S.

No, that’s some very deep knowledge of Dr. Who. We do, in a very roundabout way, have a Dr. Who inspired shirt. Toby had this shirt for a while and we decided to use it as a template for a merch item. It was a PBS promotional thank you gift with drawings of Dr. Who characters that Dimitri redrew with our faces. It’s pretty funny for us, knowing where it came from but fans seem to like it too. It’s the light blue shirt at the merch table.

2. I heard your early stuff was done on a 388. What is your favorite thing about the Tascam 388?-  Alexander C.

 It’s easy to use, sounds great, is relatively portable and doesn’t cost much. Just go get one!

3. What brought to pass the replacement of Juston Stens with Erick Slick? Also, I know that there was some dispute about how to record the song “Be the Void” but are you planning on finishing recording and releasing that song any time soon? – Devan F.

No, that all happened long before Be the Void.  We started “Be the Void,” the song, last June during the sessions for the album and just finished it up this July. Anyway, it had been pretty clear that Juston really wanted to lead his own band and be doing his own songs and that tension was really affecting how we functioned as a unit. For a while Dimitri filled in on drums. Then one day I was riding my bike and saw Slick walking down the street. I stopped to say hi and see what he had been up to, and knowing that he was always out on the road playing with different bands, wouldn’t have time to even consider Dr. Dog. What he had been up to was quitting all of his other bands. I filed that information away and said bye. Then he turned around and walked into a telephone pole. Short time later, I told the rest of the guys I’d seen him on the street and that he just quit everything. I’d never actually seen him play drums but I knew he had to be good from the company he kept. We invited him to a practice not long after that and he nailed everything we threw at him. He’s an incredible drummer and musician all around. Truly humbling to be in his presence. That was January 2010.

4. I met Scott a few months ago and forgot to ask what was the inspiration behind “The Rabbit, the Bat, and the Reindeer”? The song helped me get through a pretty tough situation with a particular “friend”. PS: I have a rabbit, bat, reindeer tattoo and when I showed it to him he asked if I was pissed off when I started to enjoy the song so I’m curious… – Melissa C.

It’s basically a screed about reclaiming yourself from the trappings of a manipulative scenario. Maybe not the healthiest way to accomplish that but it is cathartic to indulge yourself in some all-out venting sometimes.

5. Scott, When did you start knitting and who taught you? It’s a very interesting combination, strumming guitar and knitting hats. – Mirsya M.

That’s actually crochet and he’s been doing it almost as long as I’ve known him, which would put it back in the neighborhood of 2001 or so. His mom and sisters are big into knitting and crochet and all that stuff so he picked it up from then and he’s done some pretty impressive stuff with it. He’s probably made over 100 hats, blankets, a dress, headbands, bags, balls… All kinds of crazy stuff. A few tours back he got Dimitri into it. He’s got some skills too.

6. What music do you guys listen to on tour? I can definitely see Frank jamming to some Skrillex! :) – Jake K.

Wow, it really depends on the tour. Dub is in pretty standard rotation. No Skrillex for Frank yet but he does jam out to Jamie Wigginton every day. But let’s see: Floating Action, Sinatra, Neil Young, Stooges, Flaming Lips, Bad Brains, Devo, Doo-Wop.

7. How much do you love playing in Ohio, are we really the best crowd when you guys come here like you always say? – Conor S.

Yes! Ohio is great. We say that to the crowd at every show. It’s a tradition.

8. How do you find the balance between raw beauty and final polish in a song? Is it a conscious effort? Also, could you describe the process of working on new material within the band? I’m curious about the general dynamic and interplay between members. – Henry M.

That’s a delicate balance, the raw/polish equation, especially with a song that’s been around for a while. There’s always something intangible in that first take that is near impossible to recapture; it’s part of the attraction of a song. I always worry about that when we set out to redo a fully fleshed out demo recording. I think if you polish enough, just enough — don’t go too far!, it’s possible to get past the appeal of that original rawness.

9. I have always loved the use of idioms in your songs. I feel like it’s a sort of signature of your writing. Was this a conscious effort? Did you grow up using all these idioms? – Whitney

Yes, I’ve always loved too. It’s an interesting way to write because you can play on the meaning or the metaphor. Also, they seem familiar because they are common phrases but viewing them within the context of the lyrics makes you consider it in a different way.

10. It’s clear that each of you love what you’re doing and it seems like you’ll be doing it for some time to come, but if you were to walk away from the music world tomorrow, what would be your first choice for a career? – Rick S.

Probably something like a librarian or an archivist. I worked at the library in college and I really love cataloging, repairing and maintaining stuff. Or an electrician.

11.  What is the hardest lesson that you’ve learned over the years as a band, and if it’s not the most important lesson you’ve learned, what is? – Emily P.

Work hard, be nice and keep a positive mental attitude. Pretty universal stuff. Our TM/FOH Whiz is sort of our road guru; he’s seen it all.

 Dr. Dog – “That Old Black Hole”

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