Interview with Dave W. of White Hills

What’s been going on with White Hills lately?

Currently, we’re working on the next record, which should be out in April or early May. We’re doing All Tomorrow’s Parties [in Minehead, UK] on December 6. We’re also doing an in-store at Rough Trade [in London], though that’s not 100 percent [confirmed] at the moment. There’s a lot of stuff in the works for next year, so we’re just getting our schedule together, figuring out where we’ll be and all that kind of stuff.

Dig it. Who are you working with on this next record? Is it the core White Hills lineup? Do you even have the same lineup of people from record to record?

[laughs] Yes and no. There’s been a core of two of us since the beginning.

You and your bass player — what’s her name?

Ego Sensation. And the guy who played drums with us when we performed at [the] Perfect Prescription [night in Brooklyn], he’s been with us [almost] a year. It’s looking like the three of us are going to be the core unit.

And that’s Kid Millions?

No, it’s this guy Lee Hinshaw. We haven’t actually played live with Kid for almost a year. We’ve done some recording with him during the past year. We recorded the [new] album the day after we played at ATP in New York. We went into Oneida’s space, The Acropolis, with Showtime (one of the members of Oneida) behind the desk. We did two days. Shazzula from Aqua Nebula Oscillator also came into the studio with us.

Shazzula plays theremin and sings, right?

Well, no; just synths, ring modulators and that kind of stuff. Also, we had this guy Antrony from England who has done a few tours with us in Europe. We met him through Julian Cope. He did the remix of “Oceans of Sound” which is on the Dead EP. He’s done some other remixes for us as well. He also plays drums on one of the tracks on the latest EP, Stolen Stars Left For No One. So he was in town, Kid Millions came down, and Kid, Lee and Antrony did a drum piece. I’m not going to mix the album either; I’m giving it to Antrony and he’s going to mix it. So at the moment I have no idea what will be done with that. So, to answer your question, the main core for the foreseeable future is myself, Ego and Lee. That seems to be working out well. The good thing about Lee is Lee can tour, whereas Kid can’t tour with us. That was the only problem playing with Kid. He’s very busy — Oneida is his main thing — so he just can’t devote the time to tour with us. We tend to tour a lot, so we needed to find somebody that could fit in and tour.

So, Shazzula is on the new record, and you’re continuing to play with her sometimes?

Yeah, she’s going to play with us at ATP [UK], and we’re going to be playing Austin Psych Fest in April, so I think she’s going to come out and play that with us as well. And, she’ll be potentially doing a U.S. tour with us that we’re doing around that time.

I’ve noticed that there are a couple flavors of White Hills: the really heavy stuff, the less-heavy but still space-rock stuff, and then the stuff that’s more ambient, soundscapey. Are you going in a particular direction, or just doing whichever style at any given moment? Where would you say the new record falls in that spectrum?

There are things that tend to be complete songs, which I bring in. And then there are things that are more like just riffs, that we explore to see how they mutate and change. So I think that the new record will have some surprises. There will be elements of all the things that you mentioned, but I am really focused on trying not to make the same album over and over again. I try to go into the process of putting an album together in a different way each time; whether it’s just a certain goal based around how I want to go about recording the record, or how I want the end product to be finished… [I’m also kind of exploring] a rather large concept based around the new record, a concept in regards to the listening experience, and how [the listener] will be able to experience [the record] in multiple ways through listening. I know I’m being rather cryptic, but I don’t want to talk about it too much, because if for some reason the concept doesn’t end up panning out, then I’m going to be talking about something that didn’t work.

I think I see what you’re saying. Maybe I’m totally off-base here, but I remember The Flaming Lips doing a bunch of experiments like that. You might be taking a totally different approach, but for example, they put out a record which was on four separate CD’s, where you could listen to any number of discs simultaneously, or in various permutations…

Yeah! Actually, part of the idea stems from that. I can tell you what the original concept was, as long as you keep in mind that the original concept and what it has morphed into are now two totally different things.

You don’t have to give away any secrets or anything.

Yeah, so, as you discussed earlier, there are many different sides to what we do. So, my original idea was to basically put out two records at once that were completely different entities but also worked together. So the concept was to have the LP which is the full on, rocked-out, spacey stuff and then to have a CD which is a sprawling, ambient piece, mainly synth-based. And so you could play the CD and the vinyl at the same time, and they would match in some way. But then through discussing it with some people at the label… everybody sits there and bitches and moans about how nobody buys CDs anymore, but the fact is that people do still buy them. Companies wouldn’t be manufacturing them if nobody was buying them. We concluded that by having the CD be the ambient piece, and then the vinyl being more limited [in supply], might be alienating to people. Then just the question of whether people would want to buy both things.

When ‘Zaireeka’ came out, I thought the concept of it was great. The Flaming Lips are a totally amazing band, and to sit there on Warner Bros. and come out with something like that, it’s a big stretch. It’s amazing that they did it and executed it in the way that they did. In terms of its implementation, how many people have access to four different CD players?

It was hard enough then, but nowadays most people don’t even use a CD player at all!

Yeah, exactly. I remember what I did was record each CD onto my cassette 4-track player, and then just made a cassette of it, so I could listen to it all together on cassette. At the time, I was living in San Francisco — I was in this band and we all lived in an apartment together. It was a typical San Francisco Victorian railroad flat. We had this party one night where in each of our four bedrooms, each one of us played one part of the album.

That’s great. I think the first time I listened to it was also in San Francisco. We had a couple of people bring over boomboxes and we scraped it together somehow. It was a trip. Anyway, that’s really interesting to me that you guys are taking some inspiration from that kind of stuff.

Well, inspiration comes from all over the place. I think that a lot of people have this air of, “I don’t get inspiration from anything, I do my own thing, I am…” Whatever. Sure, what you do is what you do, and you are that, or it is you. But the fact is, get off your high horse. Everyone draws inspiration from all over the place. Who cares? Even if I sat there and said, “White Hills are gonna do ‘Zaireeka.’ We’re gonna fucking put out a 4-CD thing.” And everyone would say, “Oh, they’re just being The Flaming Lips,” but the fact is that it would be White Hills. So I have no problem with being influenced by stuff, and thinking about it, and turning it around. What is rock music at this point anyways? It’s kinda amazing that you have such a limited chord structure, a limited amount of notes and scales that you can work with, but for years and years and centuries, people are using those same notes and chords and scales, and they do make something that’s different, and is their own, and it’s exciting and emotional! It’s real!

Absolutely! I totally agree, it’s really amazing. It really is infinite. It’s hard to wrap our mind around that sometimes.

Yeah, I really get frustrated when I hear people say, “There’s no good music anymore. Music died in 1970,” or in 1980, or whatever people say. The fact is, there’s constantly people making amazing music. All you have to do is have your mind open to want to hear it, or search it out.

Well, I’m looking forward to hearing what White Hills does next.

So am I! [laughs]

Is there anything else you want to let people know?

Next year, we’re going to be touring a lot. We’re going to do SXSW and we’ll do a little tour around that. A week and a half after that, we’re back in Europe. We’ll do about three weeks in Europe, in advance of us playing at Roadburn [Festival in Holland]. A week and a half or two weeks after that, we’ll be back on the road in the U.S. again. So I think people will have a lot more chances to see us live [next year] in areas where we haven’t been before. A lot of those exact dates are still to be announced, so people should just keep their eyes out for us.

Great! Thanks so much, Dave.


Pick up White Hill’s latest EP, Stolen Stars Left for No One.