Petey Dammit of Thee Oh Sees

INTERVIEW

Petey Dammit of Thee Oh Sees

Every kid who is into psychedelic and/or garage rock has a place in their lo-fi heart for Thee Oh Sees. A band who have gone under many guises, many members and released 11 and a half studio albums (Floating Coffin due out this year will be their 12th) in less than ten years. They've made Australia a yearly destination for a while now and are due out in Oz again from next week for a string of dates and ATP's I'll Be Your Mirror in February. Before he dropped some acid, we had a chat to Petey Dammit, their bass player (who actually plays a guitar but plays bass…) and the only member to get an exclamation point next to his name on Thee Oh Sees' Wikipedia page.

Karl Henkell: Hey Petey. How are you doing?
Petey Dammit: I'm good, I'm at home. Just got back after a pretty long practice, made a cup of tea and I'm gonna take some acid and do this thing!

KH: (Laughs) This is going to be a good interview then! Is home San Francisco?
PD: Yes, yes.

KH: How's the last month been?
PD: This month has been time off from touring, but we've been at a rehearsal space three or four times a week, writing new songs and we're going to record again early next month.

KH: For another album or what's the plan?
PD: There should be a new one out maybe in February of this year.

KH: That's amazing since you only just recently released Putrifiers II, which is your 14th release. Now that's a lot of material.
PD: We try to keep busy. If you're not busy, you're bored. And no-one likes that, so...

KH: I guess we're all just trying to fight off boredom. Do you do stuff outside of your role as bassist in Thee Oh Sees? Or has it become a full-time occupation?
PD: Yeah, it's basically full-time. With the amount that we tour its hard for me to do anything else, but in this little amount of time I have off I've spent a lot of time watching movies and catching up on TV shows. I've done a couple of projects playing bass at my friends recording studios. So bands that don't have a bass player or whatever. Not really session work, more just favours for friends.



KH: So do you play bass or guitar?
PD: Well in Thee Oh Sees I play guitar, I just make it sound like a bass because I'm too cheap to buy an actual bass (laughs).

KH: Do you just plug it into a bass amp and go for it?
PD: That's pretty much it, yeah. There is one small really secret thing that I do. But it's such a simple easy basic thing that it's almost like a magic trick. Where once you find out how they saw the lady in half you're like, 'Ohhh, I wish I didn't know that!'

KH: Is that something you're willing to give away?
PD: Not at this time! It really is, like, the thing that's so obvious, that no-one even thinks of it you know?

KH: Is San Francisco your home town?
PD: It's not my home town, but I've been here for about 12 years now I guess. So it's grown to be my home town.

KH: What's your favourite place to play and hang out in San Fran?
PD: For a very long time it was a place called The Eagle, and it was an amazing place, but it got shut down for various reasons. They're going to open it back up soon, but they're having trouble getting all their licenses and stuff. I'm really looking forward to that being open again.

KH: Is that a problem a lot of live music venues have over there? Because in Melbourne that's somewhat of a constant issue.
PD: Yeah, I think that's definitely a world-wide problem. I'm not sure why that is, but it seems that politicians don't like young people having fun. Especially if there's alcohol involved.

KH: At the same time, America just legalised marijuana in two more states. So for our standards that's very liberal. It makes us seem quite backward in many ways.
PD: There are definitely many liberal things about this country, but also I think the problem with live music venues is just getting large groups of people together like that. Politicians and city council and stuff aren't very keen on that aspect of it. Like you can have a bar and have people get trashed. That's totally fine and legal, but if you have a large crowd of people looking to see live music, all of a sudden that's a big problem somehow.

KH: It's like young people congregating is seen as a dangerous thing. Where do you guys get received the best? Is there a particular country that digs your stuff more than others? I feel like Australia might be that one...
PD: Yeah, definitely Australia. We've had a brilliant time there every time we've been back. They've been some great shows and they keep getting better every time, but we do pretty well across Europe in France, Germany and Spain and stuff.

KH: You've been back to Australia almost every year, right?
PD: Yes. Our trip is to go there during your summer time because it's our winter time, so that we can escape that month of cold, and just be down there sitting on the beach and stuff. So we can text all of our friends pictures of us hanging on a beach while they're under seven blankets, freezing. (Laughs)

KH: What's been your favourite live show in Melbourne to date? I heard good things about a rooftop show you did in 2011.
PD: That was a great show. It was on the rooftop of the Evelyn Hotel on Australia day - it was a blast. We did two shows the year before at the Tote which were both sold out. That was amazing, but it was brutally hot inside. I was pretty much convinced I was gonna pass out on stage. (Laughs)

KH: This time around you're playing a fair few shows. One being the All Tomorrow's Parties event in February.
PD: I just heard we're playing one in Byron Bay, which will be fun, and yep the ATP event will be a lot of fun.

KH: Have you guys been involved in ATP events before?
PD: Yeah, I think this'll be our seventh time playing for ATP. We did two in England, one in New York, as well as two or three shows playing on the ATP stage at Primavera in Barcelona.



KH: We've got Golden Plains in a month or two, run by the same guys who do Meredith Music Festival, which you must be quite familiar with now.
PD: Yes, yes (laughs). It was a lot of fun, but I don't actually remember any of it because there were some, let's call them, 'illegal substances' involved. We played at maybe one in the afternoon and about a half hour after that some things happened, I blacked out, and next thing I know: I wake up the next morning laying in like fifty smashed Chiko rolls. I don't remember anything about it. (Laughs)

KH: Good times! You guys camped out?
PD: Yeah, we were right next to the stage.

KH: Do you have many buddies in Melbourne bands? Who are some of your favourites?
PD: Yeah, we know a lot of them there. Total Control and Zephyr (bassist from Total Control). Dan in Eastlink too, I've been hearing great things about them. Ah, and Boomgates. I recently got their new record in the mail and I've been playing the hell out of that. It's amazing!



KH: Have any of those bands come out to visit and play with you guys in San Fran?
PD: Yeah they have. Last November we actually did a month-long tour with Total Control. That was such a pleasure to see them every night.

KH: They're great. I was wondering where you get your tattoo work done and if you're thinking of getting any more?
PD: Oh yeah (laughs). I get them kind of all over the place. Mainly by friends. It's pretty rare that I'll just kind of walk into a shop not knowing anyone there. But in Melbourne I've been tattooed by Danny Young from Eddy Current. He's at Tattoo Magic I believe. And then I also have another good friend there called Daniel Aranda who works in Northcote at The Sweet Life. I got tattooed by him last year.

KH: What did you get done by them?
PD: Well from Daniel Aranda I got Lady Space with spider web butterfly wings tattooed on my throat. I did that the night before Australia day, and I had to wake up the next morning and play a show on the Evelyn rooftop in the blazing sun. It was pretty painful. (Laughs)

KH: Did you have to have Glad Wrap on it as they call it here. Like clear plastic film on your neck?
PD: Yeah, I did yeah (laughs). We went out for a couple of drinks after the show in Northcote and everybody was looking at me funny because I had Glad Wrap all over my neck. (Laughs)

KH: So who does the album artwork for Thee Oh Sees records?
PD: Well, it's been different people so far. Like John (lead singer) himself has done a couple of them, as well as our friend Kyle Ranson, and William Keihn has done quite a few.

Kyle Ranson - Warm Slime
ALIMG2

William Keihn - Help
ALIMG2

KH: John does a fair bit of drawing right?
PD: Yeah he does quite a bit of that. He's been screen printing posters and hand-drawing those straight onto the screen. He's been really into that lately.

KH: He seems like he's almost A.D.H.D when it comes to creative activities. In the best way possible, that is.
PD: (Laughs) I don't know if I'd say A.D.H.D but he's definitely restless. He's always doing something. Even if he's just sitting there, he's still doing something.

John Dwyer - Sucks Blood
ALIMG2

KH: How did you guys start out anyway? Did you know him from other bands?
PD: Yeah, I've known him for quite a while. When I first moved to San Francisco I lived at Art Space - like a warehouse that also had shows there. He used to go there and occasionally play some shows and stuff, so that's how I originally met him. Then in 2004 I went on tour with him and opened up for him when he was just OCS. That was more mellow songs with his friend Patrick. I did a month long tour opening up with that. I took some breaks from music after that, but maybe eight months to a year after we had done that tour he was like, "Why aren't you playing anymore, you should start playing with us." I was like, "Okay!".

KH: Were you in other bands back then?
PD: I was doing another band but nothing really happened with that. We just played a lot of shows here in San Francisco and a few small week-long tours.

KH: What's the San Fran music scene like?
PD: Oh it's excellent! There are so many good bands here, quite a few places to play and all these house parties and stuff. There's just always something going on here.

KH: That's cool. It seems like Melbourne is having a real musical up-swing at the moment too. There's a lot going on. A lot of great local bands playing a lot.
PD: Yeah, definitely. I've always thought that if I were going to move anywhere in the world it would be to Melbourne. It has something to do with it having an extremely similar vibe to that of San Francisco. They're basically like sister cities, they're almost like the same place.

KH: Yeah I visited SF for a week a few years ago, and I have to say that it was my favourite place. New York's fun, L.A.'s kind of weird and then San Francisco's like the happy medium.
PD: Yeah. New York's a blast but I can only be there for like three days until I start going crazy. It's too much.

KH: Do you guys tour within America a lot?
PD: Yes, definitely. At least once a year. One big one for a month to cover the entire United States. Then we'll do maybe three or four smaller ones on the east, west or south-west or something.

KH: Do you have a tour bus or are you flying around?
PD: Mainly we'll do it in a cargo van. Something big enough where you can fit four of us comfortably, with all the instruments and stuff. It's definitely not luxury (laughs). It's nice to see everything, the country's so huge, (but) it takes a long time to get places. So it can be anywhere between five to ten hours of driving every single day just to get to the next city.

KH: Do you get sick of the touring life or is it all worth it when you finally do get on stage and play a show?
PD: It's definitely worth it once you get on stage. Out of six or seven years touring, I certainly haven't gotten tired of it. I feel really appreciative that I get to do this, because it's the only way I get to see these different places. Not only the States, but the world you know? If I wasn't playing music I would have never been able to go to Australia. So I'm completely appreciative that this is what I get to do.

KH: And I mean, your live shows are a lot of fun too. To play in a band that not only tours a lot, but whose live shows are basically a party every time you play is a pretty good thing.
PD: (Laughs) Yeah. I think we all try to have as much fun as possible on stage, because if we're having fun on stage that'll encourage the audience to have a good time too. We try to give as much as we can. It's much better to see a band having a good time on stage, than when they just kind of stand there and stare at the floor. I've always found that it could be my favourite band in the world, but if they're just standing there then I'll be like, "Ahh I'm getting a beer" or, "I'm gonna go smoke a cigarette" or whatever. (Laughs)



KH: Yeah, I find myself dividing music I listen to into stuff that's good to listen to at home and stuff that's fun to see out. They don't always mix that well. I might end up hating certain bands I like if I see them live because they're just not engaging on stage or whatever.
PD: (Laughs) Oh, absolutely.

KH: So what's up with the second 'e' in Thee Oh Sees?
PD: You know, just to spice it up a little bit. It's also kind of an homage to Billy Childish, you know how he had like Thee Milkshakes and stuff.

Thee Oh Sees play All Tomorrow's Parties - I'll Be Your Mirror in February.

THEE OH SEES TOUR DATES:

Thursday 31 January - The Hi-Fi, Melbourne
Friday 1 February - Jive Bar, Adelaide
Saturday 2 February - The Bakery, Perth
Wednesday 6 February - The National Hotel, Geelong
Monday 11 February - Transit Bar, Canberra
Thursday 14 February - The Zoo, Brisbane
Friday 15 February - Elsewhere Bar, Gold Coast
Saturday 16 February - All Tomorrows Parties, Melbourne

WORDS:
Karl Henkell
By ANNABANANA, 23 January 2013
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