On Sunday, November 14, Red Bull Soundclash will bring two phenomenal and unique bands - The Roots and Shiny Toy Guns - to the Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia. The bands will be placed on opposite stages and will take part in an innovative back-and-forth musical conversation, displaying the range and versatility of their musical chops.
Both bands have taken part in Red Bull Soundclash before (Shiny Toys Guns is pictured here in Dallas in 2009), but this is the first time they’ll face each other. We sat down with Jeremy Dawson from Shiny Toy Guns as they prepared for this one-of-a-kind gig to get a little insight into their approach...
Since you've already participated in a Red Bull Soundclash before, what are you looking forward to out of the Atlanta experience?
The stages are sort of rammed together with only 35 feet or so between them, which brings both artists – both acts – the ability to sort of vibe out in the aspect of friendly eye contact and the spiritual collab that you get. A lot of times these stages are 100 to 200 feet away from each other and it’s like… one guy does one thing and the other guy does another; this time it’s going to be that back and forth, “boom boom” thing in Atlanta.
"You can’t really program a computer as quickly as you can play a timbale, which is our biggest challenge."
How does an event like Red Bull Soundclash challenge your band as artists to create new outlooks on your existing music and work with a genre of sound you normally wouldn't?
We are challenged artistically by Red Bull Soundclash mainly because Shiny Toy Guns is – we’re sort of a hybrid type of band. We’re part machine, part rock. We’re half electronic, half organic. And the way Soundclash works is completely hyper organic, not only [is the other band] different in style but different in the technology and technique of how they perform or the way they record, and that is placed or pitted against us.
And [doing it] on the fly - we use a lot of computers, a lot of drum machines and samplers and new technology instruments that aren’t the best things to use for immediate, on-the-fly, organic performing. So we’re really having to stay on our toes to create the texture, soundscapes and rhythms to own it with the sound of Shiny Toy Guns in real time. Whereas a band like The Roots can just go “1-2-3-4” and play with eight dudes, timbales, guitars, basses, tubas, and keyboards, we have to program our computers in addition to playing our synthesizers, guitars, basses, and vocals… You can’t really program a computer as quickly as you can play a timbale, which is our biggest challenge.
How did you guys choose the cover and how do you plan to make it your own?
We had been messing around in the studio previously on a track that Chad actually started in his studio; the track eventually began to take the form of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.” Shiny Toy Guns has done a lot of covers in its career and when this idea formulated into a show it was like, “Hey we could do… oh, wait a minute! Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Fire.’” We already had sort of practiced it and had a head start on it, and we checked it out with Quest and The Roots and they were down to do it. It’s a great song and you can’t go wrong with a Hendrix tune.
What have you learned from working with The Roots for the last few days?
I think a lot of what we’ve learned from playing with The Roots - we’re entirely different bands, technique wise. The way we do things and the way they do things are both necessary in our own worlds, but [playing] with The Roots sort of motivates me to keep my chops up. And I don’t mean play shows. I mean like, go to a bar with a Hammond B3 and play my organ with the band, and for my drummer to go home and do rudimentary stuff, and Chad to play guitar…
They play with the TV show that they’re involved with and all the various things that The Roots do that are so dynamically organic and live; these guys are just getting better and better as players. With Shiny Toy Guns, we sort of have a block of tunes that we know and we don’t spend enough time just playing our horn or playing our guitar just for the sake of being an artist and a musician. I think that’s something that motivated me by watching these guys – they’re very serious players.
Traveling on the road as much as you do, are there any band rituals you can share with us?
We have a lot of different tiny rituals because we’re definitely road dogs. We play 300 shows a year when we’re active. I would say the most prominent thing we do is an activity called “prep time.” iPhones go off - and it’s exactly to the dot - one hour and thirty minutes before the show starts. The band marches into the green room or the bus and we create an area and this area is going to have a certain array of drinks and eats. It’s simple stuff like pastrami or something dumb, a toothbrush and toothpaste for Mikey our drummer… Everyone has their own certain tick that must be there. If it’s not there, it throws the whole psyche of the band off.
When you’re out in a different zip code, continent or time zone every day, you have one normal thing that’s always the same. Like, it’s always blue, there’s always kettle chips and there’s always sea salt. It’s like, “Oh, there’s my kettle chips! I see it, it’s mine, I’m in Prague and I don’t care.” Just for that hour and a half, please give us the peace to goof off, listen to music, and eat chips.
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