Destroyer: Interview

Dan Bejar is taken by most to be Destroyer, although Bejar insists that Destroyer is a band project and always has been. Within the shifting ensemble that has made up the band on the seven albums released, including 2006's Destroyer's Rubies, Bejar is certainly the central figure. His mind and hand draw out the words, the poetic images, the melodies which entrance. Songs such as "European Oils", "Painter In Your Pocket", and the epic "Rubies", breathe fragrant melodies, melodies that bear the stamp of art and the shapes of poetry. Listening to Destroyer is like listening to the charismatic leader of a strategic European country... one delivering a speech in his own tongue. You don't understand it, but you know it's important. And that's okay, you're just visiting... a vacation into a land of poetry, melody, and wine.

Alan Williamson, betterPropaganda contributing writer and music blogger at *Sixeyes, communicated with Destroyer's Dan Bejar via email.

betterPropaganda: You described, quite succinctly, your album, Your Blues, as being European Blues... what would you call or what genre would you create for the music of Destroyer's Rubies?

Dan Bejar: Don't know if the person who wrote the Your Blues (Destroyer's fifth album) one-sheet was naming a genre to contain Your Blues, when they said something about European Blues... The genre that this record skirts around would be the "rock" genre...

bP: You wrote the bio for fellow Merge Records artists, Tenement Halls, the band fronted by former Rock*A*Teens, Chris Lopez, and in it you finish up by asking the reader to, "... just listen to the whole record repeatedly, and it will make sense. Not that it needs to." From that, I am wondering if you want your own records to make sense to the listener? A repeated refrain in articles, or interview preambles is, "He makes records that no one understands".. do you want people who listen to understand? What would you like the listener to or get out of a Dan Bejar record or song, out of the new record, Destroyer's Rubies?

DB: An emotional response is always good... After that they can, and will do, whatever they want with it. They can do whatever they want with it before that, as well... I don't understand - which are these totally legible records beside which Destroyer records stand as complete garble... Who wants to understand a record, anyway? Me, I just like listening to them...

bP: Are the lyrics important to you? The meaning of the words, I mean... or is it the sound of them, their pronunciation, which is of more interest?

DB: If by "meaning" you mean intention, then yes... If by "sound" you mean effect, then most definitely... I also find both those things interchangable...

bP: Have you developed a method, or process, for writing? I mean as far as environment or time of day is concerned? Are there any little tricks that you use to kick start yourself when the muse goes missing?

DB: Don't know how to kick myself, would like to learn... Being stuck on an airplane helps... Wine is good... Night time is usually the right time... Lots of writing and then the eventual showdown with the guitar, and then to the band/mangler for some real form...

bP: When you started to write songs, was it a matter of fitting the words to the music, or the other way around?

DB: When I started, it involved a lot of idle strumming of the guitar and fitting words to music, yes... Then it morphed into idle word-stringing and idle guitar-strumming happening concurrently... That was good, handy, prolific... Then a steady process of the words and music drifting apart again, the guitar gathering dust, everything becoming less idle...

bP: Along the same lines... Is your idiosyncratic vocal delivery a style you wished to develop, or is it the end result of your word heavy, image thick, and intricate lyrics?

DB: I guess you can shrink from the fact that your voice isn't particularly welcoming (first Destroyer record) or give recent college grads a reason to use the word "acrid-voiced"(destroyer music after first Destroyer record)... Lay into your weakness, which in this case is the sound my voice makes when I belt things out... Not good at sustaining notes so having vocal melodies duck and weave like the words is handy, which means having lots of words on which to hang a melody is also handy... The barking, spoken-word tip hinted at on This Night, abandoned on Your Blues, and fully embraced on D's Rubies, seems like a natural progression of of all that...

bP: "It's Gonna Take An Airplane" from Your Blues, a favourite of mine, has a very slack, laid-back 60's 'Euro Pop' feel. The song's opening conjures for me arty French movies starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. Do you ever write songs trying to capture a 'feel' that you've felt from other music or film?

DB: "Flutes" and "strings" can really make someone think "60s french movie", especially fake ones... This Night had Thin Red LIne on the brain... Your Blues, Visconti... etc...

bP: Were all the songs for Destroyer's Rubies written at the same time?

DB: The "Sick Priest (learns to last forever)" has been around a long time... Everything else is more or less recent...

bP: What about inspiration? Do you find it easily, or is it something you chase like a missed bus? Did any specific work of art inspire you as you were writing the new album?

DB: I get inspired by specific works of art all the time... All the awesome poets of the world... That weird Russian Hamlet movie, Camaron... I don't chase busses, more like driving through yellow lights... I usually need other people to inspire me musically, that's gotta get said...

bP: After you've written a song, can you ever relax and feel proud of what you've done, or are you constantly worrying away at bits and pieces of it...Are you ever completely happy with what you've done, or is a nagging doubt what drives you to continue writing?

DB: I don't fret about writing or how we play a song... I sometimes fret over capturing a performance, and the sonic quality of that capture... But that's studio stuff that everyone bangs their head against... Trying to hone in on an idea that you never quite nail is what drives me to record more records...

bP: Did you sweat over the details of Destroyer's Rubies release, such as the cover art, the track sequencing, the title of the album?

DB: Holy shit, no!!

bP: Can you remember what albums got you excited about music when you were a kid? What music opened that door to show you a new musical world?

DB: If by kid you mean 12 or 13-year old, which is when I started getting really into music, I'd have to say popular UK new wave (Echo, New Order, The Smiths, The Cure), and then the Jesus and Mary Chain and their noisy followers, cause they had moppish hair like me, looked cool and Psychocandy was noisy and bad-ass but tuneful, stylish and detached, not like the Minutemen or Husker Du or some shit like that... This all leads to the Velvet Underground, of course, and then it's all over...

bP: And finally, what does the coming year hold for you? Touring, recording, writing?

DB: Touring in March... Hopefully a little more in May... Writing in some form or another would be nice...

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