A few articles ago I had the chance to talk about posthumous glory for a couple of bands whose attractivity and influence emerged way after their disbandment.
Today I have the honour to show you an interview to Clay Parton, founder and frontman of Duster.
The interview is reported in its entirety.
You grew up in an era where rock (KISS, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen etc.) dominated charts and probably started playing musical instruments during the grunge era, yet your first album “Stratosphere” sounds so different and detailed. Did your trademark sound naturally come up from jams or was it intended just to sound as different as possible from that time’s trends?
We were in punk bands as kids, and i think part of that and also being broke meant that we always recorded ourselves. That just sort of continued as we explored making different kinds of music, recording ourselves and being broke. We have always appreciated interesting recordings over good or accurate recordings, but our sound wasn’t intentionally different, it was part necessity and part destiny — having garbage equipment and being drawn to fucked up sounds. Early on making duster songs, we didn’t have any aspirations or deliberate plan about anything. we were just making songs for each other, tripping out. We weren’t even trying to let anyone else hear them.
On a few of the songs on stratosphere that we didn’t record at home, we went to record at our friends’ studio because they had a nice multitrack tape machine and console and fancy microphones. But we couldn’t afford tape for the machine. we had a bunch reels of tape that we had gotten from a stanford university sleep study somehow, where they had recorded bleeps and blips onto reels of tape. So we brought those reels with us, and recorded some songs. But as we started to mix, the tape started just falling apart. Every time we played it back, more bits of tape would fall off, and the sound was getting more muffled. We hadn’t heard of sticky-shed syndrome before (this was 1997), and didn’t know you could bake tapes to prevent it. We just thought it was a hint that we should stick to recording at home.
Along main musical trends, there have always been various interesting underground movements that have always been attracting fans and musicians, especially those who seek for something different. I’m thinking about post-rock (Talk Talk, Tortoise, Bark Psychosis, Slint), slowcore (Low, Codeine, Bedhead, American Music Club, Red House Painters), shoegaze (MBV, Slowdive, Spaceman 3), noise rock etc.
Did any of these cults affect your music in some way, or do you try to keep free from any possible influence?
I’m sure anything can be an influence. I’m not sure that sharp segmentation between genres was as clear before the internet, but i do remember just listening to all kinds of stuff. We all lived together and we all worked at the same record store at some point, there were always records coming through the house. So sure, Codeine but also like Rorshach and Thelonius Monk and The Velvet Underground and Crossed Out and Blondie… but I’m sure we got influenced by horror movies and outer space and broken hearts and everything else, too.
Did you realize the legacy that has been building around Duster during the years and all the influence you had over many artists and fans? (P.S. your first LP’s have always had sky-high prices on Discogs, I really appreciatd you decided to repress them!).
Is there something particular that made you say “Ok, let’s do it now!” in April 2018, when you announced Duster’s reunion on Instagram?
We never looked at it that way. I understand that most bands are self-important, and it’s not bad to think you are the greatest, but that’s just not us. we are firmly anti-promotion, anti-success. But at some point someone had showed us that there were a decent amount of plays or whatever the metric is on streaming services, and someone was getting paid for that activity — it wasn’t us.
So we went looking for who owned our music. Apparently whoever took over up records after chris takino died had been collecting money for our records for years and years — not a lot of money for duster i’m sure, but the rumors are they were doing this to many artists — and that person was eventually able to buy a house. I don’t know how accurate that story is, or what portion of this fancy house was allegedly paid for by stealing artists’ money, but that was what we had heard. and meanwhile, we had been struggling to pay rent, struggling with addiction shit and just trying to survive for well over a decade, and some vampire bought a house? Must be nice! So we tried contacting that person. They said they had thrown away all our old records, thrown away all our old master tapes, and released ownership to Sub Pop. It seemed like not only insulting to us, but insulting to the great thing that Chris Takino had built.
So sub pop / warner was who was getting paid from the streaming stuff when we tracked it down, and they ended up being understanding about it. They paid us some money for streaming stuff and released our own music to us.
We had long considered reissuing the early records ourselves because the collector market had made the originals too expensive, but it just never happened. and we super hate the business / money side of music anyway, so avoiding having to deal with that was probably a self-care move on our part. We finally relented to Numero.
Your new, self-titled album sounds like there has never been a hiatus or break: how did you manage to keep the old Duster mood while renewing your sound and production techniques? Was some material recorded back in the days?
We did take quite a long break between putting out records, or playing in the same room with each other, but none of us ever stopped making music at home. So there wasn’t much of a hiatus from our perspective. In between contemporary movement and the new record, we each did our own projects also (Helvetia, Eiafuawn, Lonnie Winn, Two Boys Alright, etc). All of those things sound like parts of Duster at times, even if they don’t really sound like duster at all.
You played a bunch of dates between 2018 and 2020. Did you expect such a crazy reaction from fans and audiences? How was getting back on stage together after all those years? Are you planning on touring again after concerts are declared safe?
Some days it feels like we might pick up again, some days it feels like we are permanently done.