Tomahawk Are Not Dungeons & Dragons Rock

Tomahawk prepare to share their deepest, darkest secrets

Last Sunday night, the noise rock/experimental metal stylings of Tomahawk promise to shake up the Observatory. The intrepid, multi-city-based group--whose ranks include personnel from the Jesus Lizard, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Battles and Melvins Lite--are currently promoting the thrillingly moody Oddfellows, their first record since 2007's Anonymous. For this week's print feature, we spoke to guitarist Duane Denison about the four-piece's dynamic and process, but space restrictions kept us from retaining a tabletop-gaming-related metaphor and details on the band's eating habits in Nashville. Here's more straight from the man himself.

You just did an interview with Consequence of Sound where you talked about how Wikipedia has unreliable information about how Tomahawk recorded by mail. You tried to fix it and the changes never took. Could you clear that up for me so I have a first-hand source?

I would be glad to. They make it sound like our albums have been done just by mail. I get it started and record some basic tracks, and then I send it to Mike [Patton] and he adds his stuff, and John [Stanier] adds his stuff, and then we have someone else mix it and then wham, there's the album. That's never been the case. From the first album on, we recorded live in the studio together. Sure, there's going be times when you do overdubs or maybe additional recording, but generally, those basic tracks are live, especially this new one where we were all in the same room at the same time tracking. Of course, you're touching it up and editing and then doing overdubs, but the basic track [is] live. So, for the record, that's that.

Did you ever mail things for demos?

Now that's different. When we first started doing this, I was communicating mostly just between myself and Patton, so yeah, like a lot of people, I just had a simple four-track cassette recorder. I would make simple demos with drum machines, guitar and bass, and do it all myself--very rough just to get the essence of the ideas. Then, we'd send those back and forth and [later] moved up in technology to where I would get a workstation and send CDs through the mail. Same thing: I would just record drum machine, guitar, bass and drums, and nowadays, you can send files, obviously. But the modus operandi hasn't changed. Even [with] my basic recording gear, I've still got a really simple, old, multi-track workstation. I can record direct to disc, but I don't have Pro Tools and I sort of avoid going on the grid because I think it forces me to keep it organic and keep the parts--at least on my end--playable. I think a lot of people get hooked on the technology and they edit everything to the point where it's ridiculously immaculate-sounding and then they go to play live and they can't do it consistently.

Considering that you're the person coming up with these ideas and then sending them out to Patton, and everything builds from there, do you ever consider Tomahawk to basically be your baby?

Maybe in some ways. Tomahawk wouldn't have happened if I hadn't initiated it, I suppose, but it couldn't have happened without everyone's input, especially Mike's, obviously, and John Stanier, too. Don't let that be under-appreciated. Besides [being] a great drummer, he has good ears and when he likes something, it's usually good.

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