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Escape Velocity

Deep Shit: Wry And Totally Wired
Ben Hewitt , October 20th, 2009 13:09

Tom Watson, the brains behind Deep Shit, talks lo-fi fuzz and healthy cynicism with Ben Hewitt

The Quietus has been in Deep Shit more times than it likes to remember, but never quite as joyously or righteously as this. What started life as the hazy, hungover bedroom recordings of surly youth Tom Watson has slowly grown into a gorgeously fuzzy lo-fi beast: all piercing metal-on-bone guitars, sneering vocals and endlessly clacking repetition.

With the band set to unleash their first UK release Weird You on November 9, we caught up with Tom — who had recently seen off a nasty bout of swine flu — to discuss Gladiators, cynicism and the importance of wearing underwear . . .

Hi Tom. How are you today? Is everything going well in the world of Deep Shit?

TW: I’m good thanks. All is well in the world of Deep Shit, we’re practicing for the load of gigs we have coming up. We haven’t rehearsed in like a month so that’ll be fun.

So what’s the musical history of Tom Watson? What was the first record you bought, and who were the first bands you were really into?

TW: The first record I can remember buying was ‘Three Lions’ on cassette. That was great, it came in a paper sleeve thing and had the lyrics printed on it. The first record I owned…I think I won at a fair or something; it was a cassette of someone from Gladiators rapping over some really crappy 90’s house track. I’m not sure how anyone could’ve thought it constituted a prize.

I’ve been lucky enough to play in a few different bands; the ones that stick out include the world’s first ‘war disco’ band and a Melvins rip-off band called Bathwater.

So how long have you been writing material for Deep Shit? How did it all come together?

TW: Deep Shit didn’t really ‘come together’ as such. I just recorded a few songs on my computer one very dark hungover Sunday afternoon in January. Some people liked them, we decided to write some more.

It’s an amazing name for a band. Where did it come from?

TW: It was funny for about two minutes to say ‘I’m in Deep Shit’. That got old very quickly, but we kept the name. I think it suits us on a few different levels. ‘Deep’ and ‘shit’ are words both often used to describe us.

You recently released your mini Weird You mini-album. How did the recording process go? Were you happy with the results?

TW: The recording process was very simple, all done in my flat. Just a guitar, a computer, a rubbish downloaded drum machine, a reverb pedal and some headphones to sing into. Everything was done in manic 20 minute bursts, either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, so as to keep it all really instinctive. I’m happy with it, but I’d like to use more live drums on the next thing we do, and perhaps more live amps and a proper microphone.

For those about to listen to it - and you - for the first time, how would you describe it in 10 words or less?

TW: Mecha-fi…floats like a butterfly, stings like a metal wasp.

There’s a really glorious ‘less is more’ approach on the record - hazy lo-fi that doesn’t have the same identikit polish and sheen as a lot of other young British bands. Was that deliberate?

TW: Well, I wouldn’t really class us in with some other ‘lo-fi’ bands kicking around at the moment. People keep saying to me, ‘Oh yeah, I like how your guitar sound or whatever is really lo-fi’, and I feel like saying, ‘Well thanks, but I spent ages trying to make it sound like fucking AC/DC’. I’ve heard stories of bands going into wonderful, expensive studios and asking engineers to make them sound like Sebadoh or the Country Teasers or whatever. That’s just so wrong, such a cop out.

But equally, if someone wants to write a few three chord punk songs with their mates and play some shows, it doesn’t seem logical that they should do anything other than get wasted and press ‘Record’ on a four-track. I think when it comes to making recordings, bands should just try and sound like themselves. It’s always obvious who’s faking.

So no, the ‘lo-fi’ thing wasn’t deliberate; it was imposed on us by our own inabilities and limitations. If someone offered us the use of their philharmonic orchestra and the keys to Abbey Road we’d have a go at that.

You do seem to have a much wider range of influences than your average indie group, though; there are traces of The Fall, MC5, Sonic Youth in your stuff…

TW: Perhaps, but there isn’t really anyone we’ve sat down and said, ‘Well, we specifically want to sound like that’. We like loud, repetitious music played by surly youths. I like to think we’ve replicated that.

It’s pretty well documented that you’re a massive fan of The Fall. I braved the hell of the Camden Crawl recently and took some friends to see them who were, let’s say, unimpressed…

TW: To be fair to your friends, the current line up isn’t really The Fall’s finest moment. Tell them to spend the next six months with the Peel session box set and go see them again when he gets the next lot in. Having said that, the next LP will probably be fantastic.

One of the most appealing things about Deep Shit is how you’ve eschewed the whole faux-kitchen sink realism shtick that so many other bands subscribe to. Was that a conscious decision?

TW: Like the music, there’s no really careful deliberate thought going into the lyrics. The news was on a lot during the recording, and some of the lyrics are just an absent minded reading of the scroll of text at the bottom of the screen. We won’t be putting a lyric sheet in our records any time soon.

Sometimes, it’s pretty much a case of looping something, pressing ‘record’ and gargling random bullshit over it until it sounds interesting.

Maybe you missed a trick. You could have called yourself ‘The Deep Shits’ and written songs about picking up girls in nightclubs, buying kebabs and running away from the rozzers…

TW: Our law-abiding vegan guitarist (hi Richard) would never stand for that.

With that in mind, do you find the stagnancy of the British music somewhat depressing? Blur and Oasis were arguably two of the country’s biggest bands 10 or 15 years ago, but this year they’ve been playing huge shows at Glastonbury and Wembley. Do you think bands need to show a bit more imagination that simply being in their thrall, and it’s time to freshen things up?

TW: Kind of, but surely that’s not really alternative music? Anyway, I’m not sure it’s fair to talk of an exclusively British music scene anymore. The internet has kind of entwined us internationally with all kinds of other bands and communities and labels and whatnot. Like, with Deep Shit, we had a tape out on Family Time in California before anyone, bar a few notable individuals in London, had any idea who we were.

From some of your press, and even your music, you seem to be a rather cynical young man. Do you think that’s an accurate description? And if so, can a bit of cynicism be a bit healthy, and preferable to some smug musician always looking pleased with themselves?

TW: Hmmm. People keep saying we sound cynical. I don’t think cynicism is unhealthy - if anything, a certain amount is kind of necessary given the amount of musical dross everywhere. We’re open-minded about a lot of things, and anyway, as you say, self-satisfied and smug rock bands are horrible creatures.

What are the future plans for Deep Sht? Are you planning to record any new material? Do you have any other projects lined up?

TW: Our first release over here comes out soon on No Pain in Pop, its a 7" EP version of the Weird You cassette we did for Family Time. Its out on November 9th, and you can get it from No Pain In Pop. After that, we're doing a 7” for Needless, and a four-way split on Italian Beach Babes with Graffiti Island, Cough Cool and Ganglians. We also have a couple of tracks on compilations, one by Family Time, one by Bathetic. We're going to do a split cassette with Jeans Wilder on Woven Tones at some point, but that might not be for a while. New Deep Sht material is all over the place stylistically, so its nice to be able to do lots of different releases with different sounding bands on different labels. We're in no way settled musically.

Finally, on your MySpace page, you proudly boasts that ‘Sometimes good guys don’t wear pants’. Where did this dictum come from? Have you been wearing pants for this interview?

TW: Ha, I was listening to the Standells song whilst filling the page in, and it was just that came into my head. I should change that really. And yeah, I am wearing pants.

To hear tracks from Deep Shit, visit their MySpace here.