For me the best post-punk bands of the 80’s were a combination of bands who allowed their surroundings to influence their sound, bands such as Joy Division and early Human League (to name but two of many), always had a an industrial, urban feel to their music; and bands such as Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy (again, naming two of many) created tunes that didn’t deny the urban, industrial nature of their stomping grounds, but used it to provide an alternative, you could say escapist view. Most of these bands have stood the test of time, and equally if not more importantly, have proved to be heavily influential to today’s music scene. One such band is Leeds based duo Gundogs, a band who I feel tick all the post-punk boxes. Not only are they inspired by their predecessors , they also embrace their surroundings and provide an escape route into the darkness. By accident, I caught them live a while back, and took an instant shine to their music. You could quite clearly hear the 80’s inspiration – they even had a drum machine – it might have sounded familiar, but it still sounded new and fresh, edgy and exciting at the same time. I needed to find out more, so after long last (sorry guys) I finally got round to sitting down with Darren to find out more about Gundogs.
BM: Ok, please introduce yourselves ….
Darren: We are an industrial goth band called Gundogs. We’re based in Leeds, which has a lot of roots in Goth music and quite a big post-punk scene at the moment and the band got started basically because I, aided by an unhealthy obsession with The Sisters Of Mercy; just really, really wanted to make Industrial Goth music. At first I was doing simple recordings at home with my guitar, a drum machine and other bits. Myself and Ben worked together at the time and I was chatting with him in the pub one night saying how I needed a bass player to start gigging and he was just like ‘I can do that’, and that was it.
Our fist practice was in my basement. It was wet and dark and nasty. I was living with some of the lads from Eagulls at the time and they were filming the video for Nerve Endings down there, so there was a pigs brain sat rotting in the corner while we were playing. It was awesome.
BM: You say you are heavily influenced by The Sisters. Do they have a lot to answer for in way of Gundogs sound?
Darren: I originally wanted it to sound exactly like The Sisters Of Mercy, but we ended up with something of our own. When people ask us what our sound is I never know exactly what to say because it’s influenced by so many styles. We generally end up saying its Industrial, Goth or New-Wave or Post-Punk. I think I told someone once that it was Bat-Wave. People have said though its sort of like Joy Division but with Nine Inch Nails. I’m happy with that.
BM: I’m always curious as to how a band chooses it’s name, where did Gundogs come from?
Darren: The name Gundogs, I’m not crazy about it, but basically I needed something quick so I was reading a farming magazine once and there was an article about what’s your better breed for small game hunting, and it had whittled it down to a spaniel or a lab I think. The answer is neither; Patterdales are the best I reckon. They’re a better all rounder with their size and agility and they’re hard as nails. But I was like ‘ah yeah, Gundogs, that’d be an alright name’.
BM: I believe it’s quite easy to reference the influences in your music, but how would you describe your sound?
Darren: We’re mostly influenced by pretty much anything that happened in the 1980s. The foundations of our musical influences started with bands like Danse Society, Sisters, Siouxsie, Killing Joke, and Nine Inch Nails, but we did come across this one band called Opera De Nuit. They’ve got this song called ‘Annabella’ and it’s just perfect. That really inspired us to pick up the pace and tempo a little and make our tracks more danceable, which in turn made our whole sound so much more menacing.
We like our songs to carry a dark, almost haunting atmosphere about them so we also look at scores for horror films for inspiration. Stuff from John Carpenter’s films always tick the boxes, like The Thing or Escape From New York. I also listen to a lot of cold wave and goth bands like Lebanon Hanover, Tropic Of Cancer and Animal Bodies. In addition to that we want our music to hold a strong a reminiscence of that 1980’s style, so we have a little rule if we ever get stuck with that: A song can really benefit from the right level of cheese. Sometimes it really pays off to be cheesy. Obviously too much will just turn it into a joke which is why we say the ‘right level’, so we’re always listening to a bit of Erasure or Sparks to make sure we get it.
BM: You’ve got your debut release available …
Darren: It’s out now on tape and download. It’s called TOKYO / LURCHERThese are our 2 heaviest songs and we recorded them with Matt Peel here in Leeds. That was an awesome experience and I got a lot out of it personally. It was great just getting it in the studio and Matt’s ideas are really on point, he properly understands what you want out of the production.I think we aimed to make these as industrial as we could – as they were our debut – so we weren’t just another post punk outfit.
BM: As a duo, how closely do you work together on the songwriting?
Darren: The writing process was fairly straightforward for us. I came up with like basic skeletons for the tracks and had ideas of where it was going, adding a few synth and guitar parts to get it off the ground. Then Ben’s really good at tweaking ideas and pulling out the best bits and enhancing them, so we built them up from there until we were happy.
BM: I saw you playing live in a local bar, and was very impressed. How would you describe your live set?
Darren: You could say our live show is quite different. People have said on more than one occasion that it’s ‘weird but in a really good way’. It ranges from slow and slimy, more drudging songs to quite dancey synth numbers with loads feedback and noise to bridge the gaps. It’s really nice to see people enjoying your music when you play live and our more synth based tracks seem to get people moving. The only set back for me is that I can’t really dance and throw myself about as much as I’d like, y’know to add a bit more character to the performance, cause at the minute I’m just stuck in one place. We’ve got some plans in place to hopefully sort that out though.
BM: Can you remember your first gig?
Darren: Our first show we were opening for FEHM’s first EP launch. We are all mates with them lot so they got us involved. It was a good gig and we’ve come a long way since then.
BM: What would you say has been your most memorable gig to date?
Darren: For me it was when we opened for Crocodiles at the Brudenell. What made it so good was that everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Our whole set was just riddled with technical hiccups. At first I was a little frustrated but it got to the point where it was just funny. Our last song, right at the get go Ben’s bass just cut out. He was making zero noise. I decided just to carry on and fuck about so I turned it into a 10 minute song intro while a few people tried to help Ben fix his bass. It was like Back To The Future only not as impressive.
BM: And your worst?
Darren: Last year we played at this big day festival that spanned across the city. We had a slot at this little bar in town, which turned out to be at the same time all the headliners where starting at the bigger venues. Halfway through our set everyone cleared out. So disappointed. Although one person did come up to us before they left in between songs and apologised and said they thought we were awesome. Every cloud.
BM: Do you have a song you like playing live the best?
Darren: My favourite song to play of ours is called Railway. It’s a new addition that’s got this dark synth pop feel to it and I just find it fun to play and I like singing it. It’s quite personal to me too, same with Lurcher, they’re both about some pretty dark shit that’s happened in the past and I think when you write from experiences it can help you get the most out of playing cause you get a bit more caught up in it. For instance our song Tokyo, I’m always really happy to play it because it’s about this time I went for a meal with my mate and he told me that he once levitated in his sleep.
BM: From the bands you have played with, who would you recommend we check out?
Darren: We’ve played with FEHM quite a lot and if you haven’t already heard of them, please go check them out. It’s post punk at it’s best and they’re just awesome. I think the singer won ‘Indie dreamboat of the month’ once. Autobahn are great too, their first albums just come out.
BM: What are the plans for Gundogs going forward?
Darren: We’re currently working on writing a new EP. We’re keeping the industrial goth style but we want something fresh, so there’s quite a big focus on dark synth pop like Dépêche Mode. I’ve been working on some quite hearty songs, so like this Seonna Dancing, Annie Lennox type of structure only much darker. It’s a weird combination of style, I’m gonna tell people it’s called Cry-Wave.
BM: And finally; If any, what’s the Gundogs message?
Darren: We don’t really have a message, I just want to make dark music that’s got an 80s feel to it.
Gundogs EP – TOKYO/LURCHER available now via Bandcamp