QUICKIE OF THE WEEK: A short interview with Anthony J. Brown and Rob DeVille (Dreadpan)

written by Marko Jakob

Pix666: Hello Anthony, hi Rob. Thanks for taking the time for the short interview. How are you doing? Are you healthy?

Anthony: I’m splendid, thank you for asking. I run a lot. Away from my true feelings. Though I am a frequent jogger. Well, it takes a lot of effort to look this damn good. I joke, of course. I’ve seen plenty of corpses that look much healthier than me. Which alas has got me banned from several graveyards in Northern England.

Rob: It’s Autumn, it couldn’t be any better!

Pix666: How and where did you meet? Have you had any joint projects in the past?

Anthony: I had developed some very close relationships with some wonderfully warm and artistic Berlin folk, people from Scream Silence, Tunes Of Dawn, Death Valentine, and their friends. Rob was a part of that group and initially we just had a nodding acquaintance, as whenever I visited Friedrichshain there were already plenty of individuals for me to socialise with. Then one night a bunch of us were playing the electronic darts game where you can be magnificently vindictive and aim to make one of your opponent’s scores reduce to zero. They sadly don’t have them in England. It’s ridiculously addictive. Anyway, some man who nobody seemed to know insisted on playing as well. It was abundantly clear that he was a graceless, rude, sexist, arrogant buffoon, so it became my mission to ensure that his score fell to zero as frequently as possible. Which was very often, for the darts gods were with me that night. I made Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor seem like a dizzy drunk throwing crayons at the board whilst blindfolded. Rob found this hilarious, watching the chap became increasingly perturbed by my darts vendetta against him and his mirthless manner. I discovered that evening that Rob and I share a sense of humour that is relentlessly dark, and that neither of us are prepared to tolerate unbecoming behaviour without some form of corrective retribution. So we swiftly bonded through our perverted sense of social justice.

Rob: I used to be in a group called The Whispering Sea with Robert Klausch from Scream Silence and Anthony wrote all of the lyrics. Also Anthony has always helped me out when I was looking for the right words to write my own lyrics for Enemy I. So yes, we’ve been in a musical partnership for over 10 years somehow.

Pix666: The history of Dreadpan goes back to 2014, have you released many songs yet? Is there an album by Dreadpan and have you already had live performances?

Anthony: We have released a grand total of three songs so far. We are eminently proud of them all though, which I think is preferable to having rush recorded 12 songs and ending up only quite liking a couple of them. The new video is the first time that we have filmed together and I think we’ve both realised that in terms of the aesthetic that we hope to achieve, we work immensely well in unison and it seems to comes to us instinctively. It has definitely encouraged us to increase our productivity, and that will inevitably culminate in us appearing live. But a three song set would be a relatively paltry hors d’oeuvre. We want to be able to serve up a full banquet of deviant delights.

Rob: We have plenty more material in the making, but we’re not going to release an album. We prefer to make a video for each song and try to focus on every single track to guarantee it has a  artistic form. An album would take way too long for us and I think that approach isn’t really relevant anymore unless you are a major label artist.

Pix666: On Friday (today) your new song and video will be released. What is the story behind the song and where did you shoot the video? Were there some funny moments during the video shooting?

Anthony: The story within the lyrics is pretty dark, or darkly pretty, and accordingly I’d sooner leave it to people’s own grim interpretations than be too specific in explaining the meaning. Ultimately it’s about when reality falls depressingly short of the perceived fantasy. With a twist. We shot the video at a one of our favourite bars in Friedrichshain called 12 Grad Aetherloge, which provided a visually interesting backdrop to our eccentric antics. At one point a gentleman outside was knocking at the window as we were filming, evidently perplexed by our bizarre conduct. I was miming the lyrics at the time and my impulse was to turn around and greet him with an avalanche of provocative hand gestures, which I’m certain would have created some indelibly memorable footage. In that split second I rationalised that it might also prompt him to angrily hurl a brick through the window, which of course would have been a deliciously dramatic art, but it would also have been rather unfair for Frank, the lovely owner of 12 Grad. Occasionally pragmatism has to prevail! However, the bemused fellow is still in the video. I wonder if he will ever get to witness his scene stealing cameo role.

Rob: There were numerous funny moments during the video shooting, as you can imagine when you watch it. It was not always easy for me to stop laughing and act seriously. Especially when you’re dressed like a woman and wearing red lipstick.

Anthony: That’s undoubtedly true for Rob but I am strangely proud that I never giggle when the cameras are rolling. I assiduously maintain a poker face. I put the deadpan into Dreadpan. Off camera though we make one other endlessly guffaw to the extent that I need to be sure that I’m within 30 paces of a toilet to avoid acute social embarrassment.

Pix666: How is the work within the band Dreadpan divided – which of you does what?

Anthony: I write the lyrics and then record them to a click track. So in effect Rob receives a poem from me. Then he sculpts whatever sonic soundscape his twisted little soul desires. The day he gives birth to another melodic beast is always a big moment for me. Though I could do without all of the blood and screaming.

Rob: I’ve generally tried to start composing the music first, but when I receive the recorded vocals from Anthony it gives me a totally different feeling, so I start from scratch and let myself be inspired by the sound of his voice. Also every lyric he writes has its own natural tempo that he creates, in order to make it sound as compelling as possible. So that has turned out to be the best way for us to write. And while I still struggle with the mix of a song or the editing of a video, he always whips me onwards whilst simultaneously poking me with a new lyric of his.

Pix666: How would you describe the music of the band to someone who doesn‘t know Dreadpan?

Rob: I think that this isn’t easy to answer, as I never know what’s coming up next and in which direction it’s going to go. When we had the idea for Dreadpan, we vowed to create creepy, dark soundscapes and have Anthony speak his lyrics on top, and always make an accompanying video  So that’s how we started with our first song “Let The Dream Sleep”. On the next track I wanted to go a bit further in an electronic and maybe even danceable direction. I think you could describe it as dark electro with spoken words and a certain garnish of dark humour.

Pix666: Your last video ‘The Death Of My Third Wife’ was released, like the new one, at the end of October on Halloween. Do you have a special relationship with Halloween?

Anthony: I have a slightly uneasy relationship with it. It has recently become as cynical a revenue stream as Mother’s Day, but admittedly some of the items you can buy around this period are beautiful all year round, if you have a semblance of taste. I’d like to think that the increased commerciality has at least led to people being a little more open minded, although I fear that some who gleefully participate in Halloween with their children will still look at a collection of individuals dressed in black the next day and assume that they are malignant misanthropes fresh from an invigorating afternoon of ritual goat sacrifice. However it is also this time in the calendar when the days drift into night more quickly and people are more susceptible to dark thoughts. So I’m sure that a new Dreadpan release is a blinding lighthouse of positivity for them. We live to give.

Rob: It was also the case with our first video “Let The Dream Sleep”, as we finished the production a few weeks before Halloween and thought it would be an appropriate release day. “The Death Of My Third Wife” was initially supposed to be released on Valentines day, but at that stage it hadn’t reached our expectations. So we worked some more and once we were both satisfied with the song and video we waited a little while for Halloween again. This time it was just a happenstance, but it could become a nasty habit. Or a nice tradition!

Pix666: Anthony, you have a very distinctive, extraordinary voice and have already had a speaking part in a song for Scream Silence. Can you also be heard with other bands?

Anthony: Such kind words sir. I have a project in Sheffield called Hungarian Lanterns in which I sing, not speak, and write the songs. I’ve made a couple of intriguing Lanterns videos on YouTube. One is entitled ‘Misanthropy By The Sea’. Seek it out, kids! I have also played about six HL concerts in Berlin, where I always get a large crowd and a lot of fulsome support, which is most gratifying. Rob always performs as part of the group at those shows as he is a genuinely talented and versatile musician. And hugely disciplined, which is a rare attribute. As Rob mentioned, I also write the lyrics for The Whispering Sea and I contribute spoken word sections on some of those songs. Certain parts of Germany seem to rather like the sound of me talking, which is a pleasant, unexpected discovery.

Pix666: How has the Corona crisis affected you privately, but also as musicians?

Rob: Not really that much so far. Ok, I look like a bank robber with the black scarf on my face, but besides that, I’ve always washed my hands a lot. Still, I hope that we can get back to normal again very soon. Otherwise it’s gonna be tricky for me and Anthony to meet again in Berlin or Sheffield for the next video shoot or a live show.

Anthony: I’ve actually savoured the majority of my time under lockdown restrictions, it has helped me to establish who and what I value in life, as well as that which I emphatically don’t. I’ve obviously missed performing, both musically and as a stand up comedian, which is a main source of income for me, but I’ve been able to devote a lot of my waking hours purely to writing lyrics and music. It’s been a useful reminder of just how important being creative is for me, irrespective of being paid. Also my face mask is adorned with skulls, roses, and thorns, so wearing it is a pleasure and not a hardship at all.

Pix666: What are your plans for the future with Dreadpan, but also with your other bands/projects?

Rob: We’re already working on new songs and gathering video ideas for future releases. And basically that’s all Dreadpan can do at the moment. But when it’s possible again, we’d like to perform some live gigs, in our respective hometowns at the very least. Until then it’s lockdown in the studio.

Anthony: I’ll be recording a couple of new Hungarian Lanterns songs which are sad, string laden and, hopefully, very poignant. Video filming will be imminent for both of them, as I really do love that medium. I’m also contributing lots of lyrics for forthcoming releases from the likes of Lord Of The Lost, Scarlet Dorn, Nino de Angelo, MajorVoice and Scream Silence. I have also written music and lyrics for four songs on the debut album from a sublime and truly emotive new singer called Celine. Plus I am intent on being tremendously busy with Rob on project Dreadpan as I feel like we have recently hit a rich vein of creativity with our evil little needle. Expect some deceptive highs and  debilitatingly bleak lows. After all, dread is our business.

Pix666: Thanks for the interview, good luck with everything you do – and above all, stay healthy.

Anthony: Awww, aren’t you a sweetheart. We wish the exact same to you, with a deathly black ribbon tied around it.

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