Interview: Richie Nelson
Richie Nelson of Richie Dagger's Crime talks writing process, his upcoming LP "Sea of Dysfunction" and borscht.
What have you been up to since you released Tenderness last year?
I’ve been producing a lot of future material for after the LP release. Also arranging new music for live, and honing my solo act. I’ve been recording myself singing a lot and trying to improve my control. Also, I’ve been working on collab tracks with friends, including a Patrick Galactic track! ….which was a beautiful recording experience. Excited to show the world our track. Overall, I’ve just been preoccupied with the music essentials, training for the stage, and all the things that keep you studio bound. Now I’m finally back in the world again for the time being and it feels amazing.
Your new release, Sea of Dysfunction, is coming out next month. How long did the album take to make? What is the RDC recording process like?
The process was pretty unconventional. It was a mess in a lot of ways. And the album title precluded the whole thing. Somehow life imitates art. Originally it was as a collection of songs I had written as a solo act from 2008-2013 -when I was looping my violin and sampler. I sat down to record them in late 2013. Kjell joined to help produce and mix them in early 2014. We created and released Tenderness as a precursor to the record, then in 2018 I decided to go back and re-record 5 songs on the album. It’s been an emotional process, and you’ll hear it in the record. You just gotta maintain till it sits right, then, after that, take some time off to gain perspective and then don’t be afraid to restart the whole thing if need be.
Is Sea of Dysfunction a reference to our current political/cultural struggles?
A few years back I thought of it as premonitory. But that was dumb. In retrospect this mood is nothing new. 2016 was gnarly, but it’s the same as it was before too –it’s not like all the problems just emerge simultaneously. The title Sea of Dysfunction comes from the track “I Bleed the Future Seeds”. Though it’s the gloomiest song, I thought it encompassed the Dionysian, fragmentary, and immersive feel of the record. Overall, I don’t think there’s a unified message, but it all came from the same subconscious source –like in a dream. And it reflects how my brain operates, very spaced-out and unfocused.
One thing I was working on heavily though, was capturing the media experience that we’re living in today. It’s very fragmented and a collage of ideas that used to be much more geographically anchored. It’s a jumbled awareness of many different people’s experiences simultaneously and this experience itself has its own identity. And it’ll keep getting more jumbled as time progresses. And then, in retrospect, we’ll have better words to unify with names what we had just gone through.
What was the writing process like? Did you flesh out the chord changes and lyrics and then compose the arrangement with the band? Did you write as a group?
I wrote the vast majority of the album and Kjell added some rhythmical elements and bass lines to some of the songs. Also, Here Before is a cover of Vashti Bunyan. Writing was quite different for every song. I only had one or two songs written from start to finish on guitar and a few were loosely written for my live set in 2013. The vast majority were written on my sampler and in the studio. I often make loops, layer instrumentation and then I let it slowly evolve into what feels right and conveys a general emotion. Then I’ll add vocal melodies and lyrics last. Sometimes vocal melodies emerges early on and I’ll write the track around it. There’s not really a formula.
What artists or albums inspired you while creating the album?
There were just so many musical phases in creating this album. I can point to specific riffs and parts of songs and talk about where I was inspired by that specific thing. But each song itself is truly a composite image.
Broken Social Scene, Sufjan Stevens’ “Age of Adz”, and Panda Bear were the main ones. These were all gateway bands into more abstract music for me and I wanted to participate in that tradition. I wanted to straddle that line in a contemporary way. I was also heavy into dub electronic artists, for instance those on Brain Feeder and Hyperdub, James Blake too –not sure how that affected things though.
4 Stupid Questions
Do you find praise off-putting?
When I get the pleasure, I’ll receive it. And I’ll over-indulge sometimes when it’s genuine and original. It balances out the constant self-criticism. It’s still embarrassing though in front of others.
If you could be just one color, which would you be?
Superman or Spider-Man?
Comics were never my thing.
Chilli or Soup?
Soup, because there’s just so many more options. Borscht is one of my favorites –I can make a mean Borscht.