Interview: Andy Fenwick
Photo: Su Cassiano
With their second LP Abomination (Dero Arcade), Melbourne-based two-piece Divide and Dissolve continue to speak to power without using words (poet Minori Sanchiz-Fung returns for one track). The tension and fury of their doom-metal instrumentals handily score their specific demand (detailed in liner notes and in track descriptions) of no less than the decolonization of indigenous peoples worldwide. Even without that, this is clearly protest music, communicated in the instrumental tension alone.
The new LP doesn’t stray far from debut LP BASIC, but continues the dialogue. Sonically, Abomination does venture into new sounds in a few instances – snare drum drones, and specifically their track “Assimilation,” which takes the solo saxophone that stood alone on BASIC and tracks it onto a slowly-smoldering drums-guitar march. And, as you’ll read below, Divide & Dissolve used vintage ribbon microphones to capture these sounds – explaining why “Assimilation” stands out amid the digital flatness of a listener’s computer speakers (on vinyl? amazing) and certainly ranks as one of the best tracks of 2018 for this listener.
Please talk about the photos included in your previous interview with Ravelin – was that as fun as it looked? Where was it?
Those photos in the previous interview were shot by Shoog McDaniel outside of Gainesville, FL at these amazing natural springs. It was so much fun, but also extremely cold. Those photos are stills from an underwater music video that Shoog McDaniel shot. We feel super grateful to have had this experience.
What’s the Divide and Dissolve origin story? How did you two meet? The band name – what does it specifically refer to?
We met through our friend Jharna.
Is it a specific artistic – or conscious – choice to *not* sing/speak yourselves on tracks?
We are extremely intentional with our artistic choices. We are not singers and feel as if we do not need to use our voices. Our instrumental music speaks for itself. We are utilizing physical, and metaphorical resonance in order to convey the message, feeling, and emotion of our music.
On the new album, the tracks “Assimilation,” and to some degree “Reversal,” place saxophone over/under your drums-guitar work, and it’s wonderful, and unlike anything else out there. More plans to do?
Absolutely, we are extremely passionate about creating original music.
Did you record differently this time, or did you use any new equipment on Abomination? Any new gear you’re especially fond of?
This time we recorded with several vintage ribbon microphones in two different studios with two different engineers. The ribbon microphones captured the saxophone and drums. It felt so beautiful hearing how this older microphone technology captured our sound.
We don't play if people are talking.
Last time with Ravelin, you spoke to how you both come from different directions, musically, to some extent, when you compose together. Is the music on Abomination inspired by new approaches, or anything new you’ve listened to? “Reparations” seems suggestive of a whole genre of experimental drone that I didn’t hear in BASIC.
We continue to compose with similar approaches, but have new experiences, and always prioritize the experiences of our ancestors past present and future, decolonization, and dismantling white supremacy. We experience listening to music differently and have different relationships in the way we receive music, but would both agree that other music we have listened to is not a part of our process of composing this music. Reparations is building on a percussive drone concept used in earlier work like our song Black Resistance (BASIC) where Sylvie drones her snare drum.
Has anyone approached you to use your music in a film? Has that happened already?
Yes, and we are really excited for more people to approach us. Recently, Director Donovan Vim Crony, an afro futurist film maker, used our music in his new film DEPARTURE, that has been accepted to lots of film festivals around the world. We are pumped for Vim to have used our music, and feel open to others using this music to score their films or art projects. People often times are asking us about our music being used in films.
The music behind “Reversal” – a new move for D&D? What’s going on there – piano -?
There is so much going on with “Reversal.” Particularly our energy and communication with Minori. It seems so organic how this song came together. We feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity to work with Minori. It’s not every day you get to collaborate with a brilliant artist. It has been super inspiring working with Minori and getting to hear Minori’s powerful voice and words. In the track “Reversal,” Minori said “We will create the undoing: We will survive as our ancestors survived: Our hand is steady: We feel no fear: We have been preparing” Not only does this sound optimistic it’s realistic. We will survive despite the attempts to erase Indigenous, Black, and Brown people from this Earth.
Talk about Minori Sanchiz-Fung – how do you know her?
Minori says “I think that our analysis is based on a common experience of both compassion and intellectual criticism. Growing up with an internal wealth without an external corroboration of that wealth. We resorted to our creative practices as way to respond to our analysis. Creative practices could retain our knowledge without having to accommodate other people. And I believe that we are drawn to each other because we both love and observe with similar ambition.” Takiaya’s experience of meeting Minori was in Brooklyn at one of Minori’s poetry readings years ago. It was shocking and awe inspiring. Minori was wearing all of this biking gear and riding on a cannonade road bike and wearing a helmet, which I thought was pretty weird at the time. Minori looked like a superhero and I immediately needed to know who that person was. When we talked to each other I felt an immediate connection. When we talk sometimes hours and hours pass and I feel lost. Minori effortlessly flows in and out of various mediums of art. Not only does Minori slay with words, but Minori paints massive artworks that have been premiered around the world and can do/ build just about anything. Sylvie and Minori met in 2016 and felt like it was magical meeting Minori. Minori read a poem at this show at Minori’s house and I never heard anyone speak so beautifully. After that Minori took me to the back room to show me their art. Hearing and seeing Minori’s art for the first time was mind blowing.
I recently saw the documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, which does a pretty good job attempting to reverse the criminal (and continued) erasure of Native Americans’ deep influence on rock music. Can you speak to a parallel influence on popular/current music in Australia by Aboriginal people & Torres Strait Islanders? And has there been a comparable or parallel (if for diff reasons) erasure of that same influence within current Australian art, or music?
Of course. White people around the world are culturally appropriating the use of the Indigenous yidaki / (didgeridoo) from so called Australia by removing the sacred ceremonial aspect of the instrument. For example, at festivals in western countries it’s common to see white dreaded hippies utilizing the tool in their “spiritual enlightenment” camps. Moreover, white people lack culture. They continue to attempt to replicate sacred Aboriginal art containing dreaming stories that hold ancient Indigenous knowledge. All around the world it seems to be this phenomenal pattern of the colonizer stealing the ideas and art of Indigenous people and using it as their own for capitalist gain. We are frequently experiencing erasure and must fight to continue to carve out space in places where we are being denied our existence, contribution, or invention of our art form. This pattern keeps perpetuating itself and is most certainly a form of genocide, cultural extermination, and contributes to the death of Indigenous, Black, and Brown people around the world.
While touring, was there anyone stop/place/moment where you gained any empirically new ideas/viewpoints on colonization/race?
It wasn’t one particular place or moment that our viewpoint on colonization or race changed, it has been a culmination of our experiences while being on tour. All of the experiences seem to be building on one another.
Did you ever encounter any negative, repressive, or troubled reactions to the political context of your performances while touring? What happened?
Lol. Which time? People have lots and lots of different reactions and often times are confronted. In Ireland we got our own personal Reddit page because we didn’t play because they wouldn’t stop talking. We don’t play if people are talking. And in Homer, Alaska, we got accused of dividing and dissolving a community, because we wouldn’t play to a group of white people talking loudly. There are lots of different reactions that have been provoked from our performance, but it seems overwhelmingly worth it and will not stop us.
Were you still touring during the 2016 election when America shit the bed and elected an admitted white supremacist? Unacceptable as it was, many weren’t surprised he won; even here in NYC (where his racism, sexism, and lack of intelligence have been clear for over 30 years) before & after the election, there was a sense of “of course this country is capable.” Were you surprised? Does it reinvigorate you?
No way not surprised at all. We are going to continue to do exactly what we do despite the circumstances.
While touring, did you play with any bands/see any bands that you want more people to know about?
LAL, BLVCKPUNX, SBSM, Papaphilia, The Breathing Light, Screaming Toenail, Philly, Nasho, Phile, DJ Shawna Shawntè, DJ Ramdasha, DJ Cremosa, Spelling. So many amazing bands to see.
What’s next? Another tour? Different path, or same?
We will be playing SXSW 2018 for the first time, and will also be touring Europe and the U.K midway through this year.