Introducing: Dead Language
Meet Sydney artist Dead Language and check a premiere of his new track.
With three demos on his Soundcloud Dead Language appears like the millions of people who can strum a guitar into to something that vaguely resembles a song. But that's where the comparisons end. Amidst the rough nature of these three tracks Dominic Price's pseudonym Dead Language has created something meaningful to hold onto in a world of rush. Within these three demos, Price shows off his punchy ballads, jabbing synths amongst the haymaker which is his deep voice that weaves out in front of the track crying for attention. Where this man will go next, I can't say but to be only a year out of school and crafting something like deserves attention.
Furthermore, we're happy to premiere Dead Language's newest track, I Hope He Knows, which is a soaring synth-pop anthem in the making. Opening with a bullish beat that's craftily spliced against Price's lyrics it's near intoxicating. Throughout the track there's a sense of rush as Price pours the lyrics out of him which pushes you alonging grabbing your attention. It then slows momentarily against a lightly dowsed reverb guitar before flowing straight into a euphoric pop finale.
Prior to Dead Language you spent a lot of time on piano, what type of music were you making?
Ballads. Heaps and heaps of piano ballads; lots of slow-burners mourning failed relationships I hadn’t had yet. For a long while there I didn’t write anything else. When I first began creating music, the only instruments I had any real command over were the piano and my voice, so all my music centred around using those two as variedly and distinctly as possible. I still workshop new songs on piano. It’s a really effective way of figuring out how you’re going to structure a song and starting to imagine how all the instrumentation will work together.
Prior to Dead Language, you also did a bit of solo work in Year 12 which saw you gain the attention of publishing agency, which you later rejected. Can you explain this decision?
It sounds a lot more glamorous than it actually was. At the time when it happened I was in the middle of my HSC. In fact, the day that the agency contacted me I also had a French-speaking test that I completely bombed out on because all I could think about was how exciting it was to be “scouted”. I didn’t tell any of my friends either because I was so scared I was going to fuck it up somehow and I really didn’t want to jinx my chances. When I finally met the team, I just got the worst feeling. Everyone seemed terribly clinical and (dare I say it) in-authentic. They touted how they could fashion me into the next Aussie pop star - which I would’ve loved! - except that it didn’t feel like the right time or place, so I declined then and there.
How is Dead Language different sonically from your past work and why?
It’s far more electronic. And when I say electronic I don’t necessarily mean electro, but there are now so many computer- and synth-based elements to it. Though that’s partly because of compromise. I compose all my songs on computer: drums, guitar, vocals, synths - the lot! But because I don’t have a drummer and because I don’t have a string quartet, if I want either of those sounds in my music, I just have to look elsewhere. I’m a sucker for big, organic sounds; I love the sound of real thumping toms and I love the sound of an actual bright brass section. Except I don’t have access to those. So I’ve grown to love the unique timbre of an imitation Roland TR-909, and I’ve learnt how to use synth brass in its own distinctive way (because trying to use it like real brass will not work, lemme tell you). Plus, I sample stuff a lot of the time. I describe myself as a bedroom musician because that’s precisely what I am: just a kid knocking about in his room trying to write pop songs.
If the opportunity came to be signed again would you take it up?
With the right people, of course. It’s always a peculiar thing to consider as someone who’s still relatively a newcomer. I don’t personally feel a strong affinity with the identity of ‘independent musician’, even though that’s exactly what I am. I think being an ‘indie’ act comes part and parcel with being a musician. For some period of time you’re going to be an independent musician until you do or don’t get picked up. There’s something to be said for the independent muso, don’t get me wrong. I think The Jezabels are one the best Australian successes we’ve seen in years and they’ve done it completely independently! Yet there’s also something to be said for having a whole label and management to support and promote you. I honestly believe there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Were any artists that you’ve grown up with and have you incorporated any elements of their music into your own work?
Yes, everywhere! My first real musical love was The Mamas & The Papas. I don’t know why. I think it was because one road trip with my mum when I was 11 we only had their compilation CD in the car, so that’s all we listened to for 16 hours straight. Since then I’ve got a real soft spot for lo-fi vocal harmonies, which I’m still trying to successfully weave into my music. But there’s also been massive influences from MGMT, Amy Winehouse, La Roux, David Bowie, Florence + the Machine, Friendly Fires, Depeche Mode, Johnny Cash, Sleigh Bells, The xx and far too many more that I could list.
You’ve only uploaded a series of demos onto your Soundcloud, why?
To have a better presence, really. I’m in the middle of recording and organising an upcoming single launch. It was meant to happen before the end of this year (but now it’s looking like it’ll happen early next year). I’m working with Lachlan Mitchell (The Jezabels, The Vines) and the whole thing should be a great opportunity for some decent promotion. Except I don’t like the idea of somebody coming across my music, wanting more, and me only having one song available. So for the past couple of months I’ve just been pottering away, uploading bits and pieces here and there so that there’s at least something else.
You told me that you’re obsessed with making music you can dance to and cry to. Pop songs that centre around tragedies. Why?
Simply because my favourite songs are. I’m just so attracted to big emotions, big sounds, big releases. Those moments when you’re listening to music and you just have to jump up from where you’re sitting and spread your arms apart, belting the words out at the top of your lungs. When you’re already dancing and every part of you just wants to jump even higher and move even more wildly because the song commands you to. And I think those moments are even better when the music is channelling heavy emotions. When your whole body is feeling it and the words you’re singing have power, there really isn’t anything better.
How does Dead Language work live?
It’s just me. It’s just me, a guitar, some pedals, a laptop and a sequencer. So as a live set, I’m highly aware of how dull that can appear. But I always try to make it livelier. I have to keep still tosing into the microphone, but I always hop around and shake my head about to hopefully make it more animated and inviting. So the audience then usually plays a huge part. I always try to get people dancing. It’s loads of fun and people seem to have a really great time.
Are there any upcoming Sydney artists that you would recommend?
We’re spoilt for choice in Sydney, there are just so many great artists everywhere that it’s hard to narrow it down. One of my dearest friends, Jessica Cerro AKA Montaigne, is supporting Gossling’s national tour in November and she’s definitely one of the most phenomenal new acts in Australia at the moment so certainly go see her live. Also, if I may be slightly nepotistic, my sister’s band, New Brutalists, is just incredible. They were at BIGSOUND last year, have had some triple j love and are just an all-round astounding duo.