We recently chatted with Randy Reddell, Dikembe’s bassist, over Facebook Messenger. “Hail Something,” the band’s upcoming album, which is being released on July 12th, is the first the band recorded as a three-piece. Read on to learn more about the band’s recording process (accompanied by a spirit named Bill), mental health and Death Protector Collective, the label the band started as an outlet to release their music. This interview has been edited for clarity.
Modern Vinyl: To start out, let’s chat about “Hail Something.” It’s a personal album with an interesting release. Why go about releasing it on your own terms, in the spirit of DIY?
Randy Reddell: We shopped Hail Something around a bit, and just couldn’t find a label that was on the same page as us, as far as what we want to do with our music. There were certain things that we didn’t want to do that most labels insisted on; things like giving up ownership of the masters to the label in exchange for essentially a loan. We also believe that our digital music should be available as pay what you want. Most labels were not on board with that. We had one label send us a 13-page contract saying that they would own the rights to our likeness, which we found just absolutely ridiculous.
We had released our last EP, Ledge, ourselves, and I have done a few small record labels in the past. We knew how to do everything already, and we knew what we wanted. A very good friend gave us a loan and we started our own label-type thing, “Death Protector Collective,” and just went for it ourselves.
MV: Oh wow! That sounds absurd. I’m sorry to hear you all went through that. How did you all settle on “Death Protector Collective” as the name for your label?
RR: I think Steven [Gray] came up with it in our group chat one day. We started referring to the people who filled in for us at Fest last year as “Death Protectors,” [as well as] everyone who really kept us alive as a band and has helped us along the way. We didn’t want it to be run like a label; we just wanted it to be us and our friends having an outlet to release music and art, so we felt like calling it a collective was more in line with that than a label.
People had to fill in for us at Fest because Steven’s wife was having a baby when we were playing. Evan Weiss and Christian Holden sang, Max Stern and Mike Jones played guitar.
All of those people have really been incredible friends to us for a long time now and we probably wouldn’t be a band without them.
MV: That’s great. It’s always awesome to hear about people doing cool things with great friends. Did they help out with the production of “Hail Something,” or was it just the Dikembe dudes?
RR: Hail Something was just us three recording at my house, and then doing mixing at David [Bell]’s house. We did have a seance beforehand to summon the spirit that lives in my house, Bill. It was weird.
MV: The spirit that lives in your house and has a name? What’s the story behind Bill? Did weird things happen while recording?
RR: Unfortunately nothing weird happened. I just bought this house about a year ago, and an old man used to live here, named Bill. We found out he passed away a few years back. We basically consumed some herbs and got weird with a Ouija board, a license plate that said “#1 Grandpa” and a bunch of candles.
In hindsight, it was pretty weird. I also no longer believe in ghosts.
MV: Going back to the album, what makes this one different from others that the band previously released?
RR: This is the first record we’ve done as a three-piece, so the songs are definitely a lot more straightforward, especially compared to Broad Shoulders, which has a lot of intricate guitar parts. We also didn’t spend months mixing it like we did with Mediumship, so it feels a lot more raw. We basically recorded it over a weekend, and then David spent about a week mixing it. The songs are much shorter than previous albums as well; most of them barely hit the two-minute mark. During the writing and recording process, we had a lot of personal things going on with our relationships and mental health. Luckily, we used the process as a way to help deal with all of that instead of letting it eat us alive.
We realized during all of this that we really needed to play music and it’s all any of us have been doing for the past 15 years or whatever (I’m old).
MV: There’s nothing wrong with that. The being old thing, I mean. But with regard to your mental health, would you say the writing and recording process was beneficial to you personally? And to go off that a little, what ways have you found to cope with stressors like that?
RR: The writing and recording process was the most beneficial thing for me and for all of us. Steven was going through a lot, dealing with anxiety and stress, and I think he was writing like 100 songs a week. It definitely was a great outlet, to be able to get together with my best friends and just get it all out, but in a safe and relaxed environment. I really don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t keep going with it.
I also have had anxiety for quite a while now, and over the past two years it has gotten pretty bad. I’ve had to leave work on a few occasions to just go lay down. This past year I finally went to the doctor and talked about it, which was pretty helpful. My doctor gave me some medicine that really fucked me up; it was an anti-depressant that made me more depressed than I’ve ever been in my life. She really just didn’t listen to me the few times I was able to get an appointment. I’m in the process of finding a new doctor now though. So hopefully that helps out.
As far as ways to cope…staying hydrated and eating healthy has a huge impact. I also have been more open to my friends about it, and I found that helps, just informing my friends about how I’m feeling. Doing that, I have found out [that] a lot of people I know are going through very similar things, and it’s nice to realize you aren’t so alone in that. When I am having an anxiety attack though, Klonopin and laying down with my cat in a dimly lit room is the best medicine.
I would also like to give a shout out to Punk Talks and Sheridan for helping people talk more open and honestly about mental health issues. It definitely has been inspiring and helpful!
MV: Sheridan has been doing some wonderful work with Punk Talks. I think it’s great that PT is a thing, and that people are talking more openly and honestly about the state of their mental health. It’s an important topic.
With that said, you’re planning on touring in support of “Hail Something.” Do you think you’d be open to chat about mental health at your shows?
RR: Definitely. We are always open to talking with anyone who wants to or feels comfortable with it. I think it’s very helpful to find people dealing with similar struggles and just share ways to cope, or even be able to get it off your chest and have someone to listen to you.
MV: Speaking of tour, you’ll be headed out on the road soon with Slingshot Dakota. What’re you looking forward to most about your time on the road?
RR: Mostly getting to spend two weeks with two of my favorite people in the country. Carly and Tom are beautiful and we have a great time eating bagels and soaking in hot tubs together. I’m also very excited to play a lot of new songs and seeing how people react to them sounding nothing like “Scottie Spliffin.”
MV: Is this the first time you’ll be performing songs off of “Hail Something?”
RR: We’ve been playing a bunch of local shows lately and tightening them up, but this will be the first time we are playing any of them on tour.
MV: That sounds like it’ll be a blast. Is there anything you’re not looking forward to about the two weeks on tour thing though?
RR: I’m gonna miss my dog, Marla, and my cat, Stache. But other than that…nope. There’s nothing I’d rather do than play music and see the world with my friends.
MV: Honestly, I think more bands should bring their pups (or cats!) with them on tour. Tour pups seem like they’d be a great idea.
RR: My dog does love long car rides…
MV: You just released a new music video about a week ago. Why did you decide to go with “All Wrong” as the song for the video?
RR: With all of our music videos, our friend Jeremy Silveira does everything. He’s a genius and really good at what he does. We let him pick everything for the most part, and chime in with a few ideas. It was one of our favorite songs on the record, but it was 100% his idea to do that. We just trust his judgement and he hasn’t ever let us down.
MV: Why was it one of your favorite songs?
RR: It’s just a lot of fun to play, and I really like Steven’s lyrics; they’re very honest and relatable.
MV: What do you hope people will take away from “Hail Something?”
RR: Hopefully people recognize that you can do whatever you want to do. You don’t need the approval of anyone else to pursue your passions and express yourself however you see fit.
MV: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RR: “Emo music can still have loud guitars.” — David Bell
And I guess just don’t be afraid to try something new or different. Also…make digital music free.
“Hail Something” is the latest release by Dikembe, set to come out on July 12th via Death Protector Collective in the U.S., Dog Knights in the U.K. and Lost Boy Records in Australia. Pre-orders are available at Death Protector Collective’s webstore. There are still some variants available for pre-order, including a clear yellow pressing and a black variant. In the U.K., Dog Knights has a clear green pressing up for grabs, and Australia’s Lost Boy Records has a bone white variant. All pre-orders come with a digital download of the album.
All of Dikembe’s music is available for pay-what-you-want over at their Bandcamp page.