After reviewing the latest release from London rockers Dead Identities I thought it was about time I tracked down frontman, songwriter, producer and all-rounder Keef for a few words on what the hell the band is all about. He also plays with Kitty Hudson and Brijitte West and has recorded with some Über Röck faves like Rich Jones and recently played live with the likes of Rob Lane and the fantastic Eureka Machines so, without further waffle from me, ladies and germs I give to you Dead Identities frontman Keef....
Ok, let's start at the top. Who's in Dead Identities and what do they bring to the table?
Well apart from me we have Toby on lead guitar and backing vocals. He plays some amazing solos on the new album. I was so completely gob-smacked at some of his guitar work - seriously, he's probably one of the best guitarists I've ever met. We also have Jimmy on bass and backing vocals. He is a total character, a truly unique individual. He is also the guy responsible for our website and he also shot and edited our latest video which he did such an awesome job at. We have a new introduction into our fold at the moment in James Lucken on drums who has played two shows and has been truly amazing. Jym left us a few weeks ago and we needed someone to come in pretty sharpish so I kinda poached/borrowed James from a really awesome band called Ferocity Lights and he's just come in and done such a great job in such a short space of time. Hopefully he can stick around for a while.
How long has the band been around and how did Dead Identities come about?
We've been together about four years now as Dead Identities. Me and Jym were in a band called Drop Out Kids before that and we toured relentlessly and never got anywhere and when two members left, we met Jimmy who came in on bass who then managed to persuade his fellow Kiwi ex-bandmate Toby who was living in Japan at the time to fly over and join us. Then we changed the name to Dead Identities and the rest is history...
How did Rich Jones persuade you to let him play on the album 'Bad Cats And Heart Attacks'?
Haha, well it was kinda me just pestering him to come and play on it after we'd been talking about it for months. I've known Rich for a while now - he's a really cool guy and I'm really happy I managed to get him on the record. I finally managed to collar him one night to lay some guitar down which sounds totally crazy when you listen to it. It was precisely how I wanted it to sound. Nuts!
Describe the Dead Identities sound?
I don't really know. It's kind of a combination of every band I've ever been into, which is quite an eclectic mix. I would say it's a bit like catchy sing-along bubblegum punk 'n' roll.
What influences you as a writer?
I guess life in general really - stuff that really gets me down, makes me happy, etc. I often find that I write best when I'm in a bit of a bad mood, haha, and it's usually first thing in the morning.
I guess you're very pleased with the result of the production of the album but, looking back, if you had more time is there anything you would change?
I think we/I actually spent more time on it than I probably should have. I was in a really fortunate position where we were able to mix it at our own pace but it kind of got to the stage where we'd spent so long trying to perfect certain parts I was starting to get bored, haha, so I just wanted it to be finished. I like to think of it as the best we could do at the time which is really cool. I'm actually very proud of the end result.
Is it a lot of pressure producing your own stuff?
No, it's no pressure at all. I really wanted it to sound how I wanted it to, which was 'huge'. I really love Brian Wilson and Phil Spector productions, not that this is anything like what they have achieved but I really love the whole wall of sound thing and making things sound bigger than they actually are. I think I really tested Lee in some places especially with songs like 'On My Own Again' which has something like ten different guitar tracks going on at the same time and 'You Bring Out The Worst In Me' which was me basically trying to do a Dead Identities/Beach Boys-esque tune with a million harmonies and various ridiculous musical instruments such as water-splashing and crisp chomping! Haha I love that tune! I did actually really enjoy the production and I guess I'd really like to do it again in the future although I'm not sure if there would be any other engineer or band patient enough to put up with me!
The Vince Ray artwork is quality - is it a theme you'd like to continue?
I think the artwork Vince Ray did for the album is incredible and if there was ever an award for best album cover that would surely win it, right? Haha! I remember him asking us for a theme to base the cover on and I just said 'Dark London' and that's what he came up with. Total genius! Not sure if I'd continue with that theme as I guess I'd want the next one to be totally different .
How do the songs work acoustically (is that how you originally wrote them?) because there is a fair bit going on in some of the songs - do you have a finished piece then present it to the band or is it just the bones before the band flesh things out? I'd imagine an acoustic EP of some of the tracks would be quality? (nudge nudge) Great to hear a band do 'KKK Took My Baby Away' acoustically.
Yeah, I think I pretty much write all my stuff on an acoustic guitar; first of all as it's easier than plugging one in haha. I always tend to make sure a song is finished at least musically before presenting it to the guys. 'One Hell Of A Shock' was bit different though as originally it was a lot shorter, then every week at rehearsal I'd come in and I would have added something else to it much to rest of the guys' dismay. I've never really thought about doing an acoustic EP before, maybe we will...
How do you approach the acoustic shows? Is it the same as a normal electric show but with hollow wooden guitars instead of Les Pauls and Fender Jazzes?!
We've only ever done about three or four, I think. I find it a lot harder to do acoustic shows as the harmonies have to be pretty spot on and any mistake you make is gonna stand out a lot more which is why I'm not entirely keen on doing them, haha! I enjoyed playing at the Pure Rawk awards and we had Laney from Teenage Casket Company filling in on bass which was awesome. The last one was the Big Cheese stripped show which I didn't think was too bad. Not sure if we'll do any more you never know...
You just did Trash-Stock - any plans to get out there and play across the UK and further afield?
Yeah, I think we're planning to do a few shows before the end of the year at some point. Would love to get back over to Europe again soon too so hopefully someone can hook us up with some shows. Trash-Stock was extremely fun apart a few technical difficulties at the start. We're really happy and honoured that we were asked to play especially as it was the last one. James and Michelle Riot are two amazing people and it's really sad that they're not promoting anymore as they really know how to put a cracking show together as well knowing how to party! The scene will definitely miss those guys a lot.
You're not afraid to mix things up - a cover of The Beatles, a Ramones cover, something by Jerry Lee Lewis - where can we expect the next record to take us direction-wise?
Absolutely no idea, haha! I would like it to sound a bit different I guess as I do believe in that if you're going to record another album there's no point in doing stuff that sounds like the stuff you've already done before as you might as well listen to that record. I would like to think we can progress. I think the new album is definitely different to the first.
Are you always writing new stuff? Anyone you would like to write with? Any other covers that people might get to hear you play?
Yeah, I just can't help myself. It's nice being involved in other bands too as it's different kind of stuff to the Dead Identities and more of a challenge. I'm doing some stuff with Lee from Zen Motel at the moment as well as rehearsing/writing for the new Kitty Hudson album then hopefully with the next Brijitte West record too. As for covers we recorded 'Because' last year and gave it away as a Christmas single and we're going to do the same thing again this year I think, although this time it will be the David Bowie tune 'Boys Keep Swinging' (You heard it here first!!). We might even try and replicate the video! Only 'cause I wanna see Tobes and Jimmy in drag, haha!
Put your MP3 on shuffle and let us have the first five tracks that get played? (No telling fibs just to be cool!)
Weezer - 'I'm Your Daddy'
Polysics - 'Wasabi'
Stone Temple Pilots - 'Days Of The Week'
Supersuckers - 'Pretty Fucked Up'
Silver Sun - 'Nobody'
What are the plans for the next six months and when will the next album start being worked on?
Like I said before I'm rehearsing stuff for the new Kitty Hudson album which is already sounding great so hopefully that'll be out before the end of the year. Then I've got the stuff I'm recording with Lee Wray and I guess some more Dead Identities shows too. Not sure when we'll start working on another album as the new one has only just come out. Maybe towards the end of the year we might start working on some new stuff.
Any bands you've played with that we should know about.....and nice to see you in a Heartbreakers shirt on the video?
Haha, yeah I think pretty much 99% of my wardrobe is band t-shirts! We played with the Eureka Machines on Saturday at Trash-Stock and for me I think they're one of the best live bands out there at the moment. Awesome harmonies which I'm definitely a sucker for. We've played with quite a few awesome bands over the years though most of which I've ended up playing in, haha. I love the guys from Disarm, great band also Ferocity Lights whose drummer we've acquired for the time being, The Loyalties are awesome too, as are Zen Motel of course and Evil Scarecrow! How hilariously awesome are those guys?
Finally, desert island discs. You're castaway yet are lucky enough to have packed a few essentials into your kit bag for the trip - name them!!
Three favourite albums or one compilation tape with 10 tracks on it
Jeez. that's tough. Erm, ok I'll go with the compilation though my taste in tunes does tend to differ everyday but if it's today then I'll go with.......
The Jim Jones Revue - 'Cement Mixer'
Bracket - 'Circus Act'
The Biters - 'Hang Around'
Rocket From The Crypt - 'Heart Of A Rat'
Redd Kross - 'Mess Around'
The Living End - 'Roll On'
Kiss - 'Nothin' To Lose'
Ramones - 'Rock n' Roll High School'
The Beach Boys - 'Heroes And Villians'
Little Richard - 'Ready Teddy'
You can take a book - 'The Timewaster Letters' by Robin Cooper - Possibly the funniest book I've ever read
One instrument - Guitar (Acoustic)
Something to drink - A very large bottle of Jack
Something to eat - Cheese & Marmite toasties all the way
Your fave t-shirt - My Chuck Berry t-shirt
Go check 'em out music lovers - 'Bad Cats And Heart Attacks' and the band's debut album 'Music For The Waiting Room' are both available via the band's website at a very reasonable price and well worth checking out. Now pop over and tell em the Übers sent you. Thanks to Keef for taking the time to share his thoughts with us and we'll catch up at a show in the near future.