the Deadfly Ensemble is quite an eccentric collection of individuals. Existing since 2006, with more or less members actively pursuing perfection. The current setting includes Lucas Lanthier, James Powell, Marzia Rangel, Dizhan Blu and Steven James. They play different instruments, that make up for a varied sound. I found out about them through the picture above, seeing it on the internet some years back. Somehow I never got into it, but in the year 2012 I sent myself on a quest of acquiring the mail to these people. There I sat, with sweaty hands, writing to them and hoping they’d respond. After a while I actually got a response, which prompted me to think of some questions worth asking. Then I did that and sent them away and this is the result. I also did an extensive review of their latest album, over here. Check this piece of art out and hopefully you’ll like this interview.
You’re doing a release-show for your latest album ”An Instructional Guide For Aspiring Arsonists”, are you stoked? What’s your expectation for it, have people been interested in acquiring your latest album?
James: – We certainly have something special planned for this release party.
Bonzo: – The venue is called “Roberto’s” and it is in the Chinatown part of Los Angeles. The band has played there many times over the years, and they always let us do something special with the stage/set.
James: – It’s always a hoot.
Lucas: – We’re planning a larger installation with this show. With actors. And a ninja. But, true to form, you will never see this ninja. In fact, he could be right behind you at this very moment.
Bonzo: – Wanking.
Lucas: – Ninja wanking.
Where did you get the idea for the intimidating title of it and what is the thought behind it? I’ve listened to some of it and it sounds marvelous. Could you tell me anything about the subliminal story of some of the songs? (keep some of it a secret!)
Lucas: – I remember that we came up with the album title when James was driving us to or from rehearsal one night.
James: – On the meditative part of the 170 freeway.
Lucas: – We were discussing how these new recordings really… well…
Bonzo: – Brought the heat!!!
James: – The original concept was an album cover featuring a little girl reading a book on arson.
Lucas: – She was to be striking a match, referencing a diagram in the book. But then we took a less direct approach, and as with all things Deadfly, we were glad of the tangential treatment.
Bonzo: – Regarding the songs, well, they seem to carry on the tradition of telling stories or illustrating moments in time for fictional characters.
I read that the latest album is as full as the setting of the band have ever been. What would you say that the fact of “five members” do to the album? In what way did it differentiate from the smaller settings of earlier albums?
James: We’ve always had five members. Lucas just kept the other three out of the credits on previous albums.
Lucas: – Well, they only just now proved their worth.
James: – Such delicate tongues!
Steve: – I would describe it as five cooks in a small, hot kitchen.
James: – Our studio is actually nicely air conditioned.
Steve: – We should start setting limits, though. Marzia is learning the trumpet, now.
Lucas: – Oh, christ…
Could you tell me anything about the studio-process behind it, how long did it take to record it and what was the hardest part of it all?
James: – The seeds of this album were planted after the release of the second album, but…
Lucas: – Once we finally started, we spent about a year in the studio recording and mixing.
James: – Countless hours of my essence were spent massaging the minutiae of each track…
Steve: – Every time we saw the finish line, someone threw a spanner in the works and the songs would get turned on their heads.
I just received the CD and it looks marvelous, how much time and effort was put into it? How did you come up with the idea of making it almost like a genuine letter?
Lucas: – I have so much paper-based ephemera floating around my office, there is usually no shortage of materials for album artwork. The stamps that were used are part of a family collection that goes back four or five generations.
James: – Lucas’ familial thread has been interwoven into each release. They’re far more likeable than he is, so it turns out well.
Lucas: – James really likes my family.
Bonzo: – To an unsettling degree. Also, the art includes a wonderful drawing by our friend Stephanie Inagaki, and some of the photos from the very successful shoot the band did with Veronica O’Neil.
After reading a bunch of interviews with you, I glanced at a question involving money. How is it possible to make such high art without shredding money? What do you do to keep down the cost of it?
James: – Just buy a Mac and crawl up your own bottom.
Lucas: – Art, in that case, is inevitable.
James: – Really, though, living to make music informs my economy to an absurd degree. Who needs food when you can own a really amazing delay? I work hard. Art is a byproduct of lifestyle.
Lucas: – Despite the enormous amounts of fucking around we do, we are very serious about our work. We all make, at times, fairly dramatic sacrifices for it. I know Bonzo’s been divorced at least three times, for example, and all so he could spend more time with us.
Bonzo: – You lads and Marzia were worth it every time.
Lucas: – Just don’t expect connubial privileges.
How would you define the word “art”? What would you, yourself, consider to be art? What are the defining words that decides what is art and what’s not for you?
Bonzo: – I think that everyone in the Deadfly Ensemble would much more readily define what they do as “work”. Perhaps others may regard the end products as “art”, but that’s for public analysis to decide.
Lucas: – And what if the public decides that what we make is something more of an “artisan craft”?
Bonzo: – The public can call us whatever they want as long as they buy the fucking albums.
Lucas: – Hooray for commerce! I mean, art!
Somehow the word “goth” popped into my mind, but that couldn’t really describe any aspect of The Deadfly Ensemble, or could it? What’s your take on the word and what would you say define your work throughout the period from the start to the latest album?
Bonzo: – The public can call us whatever they want as long as they buy the fucking albums.
Lucas: – Hooray for goth! I mean, art! Wait, I mean, commerce! Fuck, now I’m confused.
James: – I am not interested in being part of any movement, artistic or otherwise. I am, however, interested in making a present for those who feel incongruous in society.
So, since you do the artwork, lyrics and the likes of it – doesn’t it get overwhelming at times? Or do you just have a natural talent that involves writing and making interesting artwork?
Lucas: – Almost everything is a collaboration in the group. Composition and arrangement of music, the recording process, ideas for album artwork. There is almost nothing, at this point, that I pursue in a strictly solo capacity except lyrics. The Ensemble’s mouths are opened wide and they bellow opinions constantly. On everything.
How much of an impact have Virgin Prunes made on you? In what way have they influenced you, more than in the sense of the latest album? What would you say that they accomplished during their active time as a band?
Steve: – They had a couple tunes you can tap your toes to.
Lucas: – The Virgin Prunes, along with other groups like the Residents or Sparks or Kate Bush, did work that was totally unlike other work. We all respect them for that. When we have the feeling that we have done work totally unlike other work, we are satisfied as a project. That may be the only connection we have with the Virgin Prunes.
What would you say have been your aesthetic development since your first album “An Entire Wardrobe Of Doubt And Uncertainty”? Could you tell me any other aesthetically-inspiring album covers, performance or school of esthetics that have inspired you the most?
Lucas: – We were fertilized with steer manure, watered regularly and we grew in the sun!
Bonzo: – I wish that was a metaphor. But it’s not.
Lucas: – I stayed out of the sun, actually. I burn so easily.
Bonzo: – You’re a delicate flower. To the point, however, the most direct influence on the evolution of the content between albums is the addition of Ensemble members.
Lucas: – And not just the addition of personnel, but the addition of personnel who actively contribute and help sculpt the final product.
Bonzo: – Going from two persons up to five persons made an impact.
Since we’ve already had something on your release-party, what would you say is the most intriguing thing happening besides that? Do you have any plan on releasing your latest album on vinyl?
James: – Coming up, we have about three music videos to finish, another 7″ vinyl and a possible commemorative collection.
Because the only release you’ve had on vinyl is the single titled “Hammer, Anvil and Stirrups” – how come that you’ve decided to release this one on CD? What makes that format good? Is it because you seem to offer a better package than most of the CD-releases today?
James: – Accessibility was a concern. The unavailability of the first two albums was a challenge for our US fan base.
Bonzo: – People here in the states could find the albums but they were expensive imports! We’re happy to be working with Projekt records and to have an album you can find in the US that doesn’t cost thirty bucks.
Lucas: – And if we are going to make a CD, then we have to make it an interesting object, with interesting packaging and features.
What do you think about the modern world, since you seem to be much of a renaissance person? Are you nostalgic and how do you cope with the world on the outside?
Steve: – There is a difference between nostalgia and being at odds with current styles and tastes. Nostalgia is a dead end.
James: – The only coping mechanism which interests me is work. This exploration is not exclusive but perpetual.
Lucas: – I just got this thing called “Atari” and I love it! What a marvelous idea. Brilliant!
Thank you for the interview! It was a pleasure thinking out these questions for you and I hope they were good enough!
Bonzo: – Thank YOU, Invisible Guy! It was our pleasure!
Wait until you can pre-order and buy their latest album or download it from iTunes! It’s titled An Instructional Guide For Aspiring Arsonists and is out on CD on September 11th.
You can also find them over here: