Part one our our chat with Dave McPherson of Centiment and InMe
As I said in my recent review of Centiment’s debut album, Dave McPherson is a busy man. With at least three separate, but interlinking strands to Dave’s musical endeavours, we wanted to get an overview of how it all fits together from the man himself.
So, as Dave completes his preparations to take Centiment out on the road for their first tour, I ventured out of London and we found ourselves a quiet corner of a pub in Brentwood to sit down and have a chat. As it turns out, quite a long chat.
The interview splits neatly into two halves: this first half focuses mainly on Centiment and InMe. In the second, coming to a screen near you soon, we dig deeply into his solo output and talk at length about crowd-funding. Enjoy.
You have a lot of irons in the fire, with Inme, Centiment and your solo stuff. I’d like to talk about all three, but I guess the place to start right now is with Centiment. I gather Centiment has had quite a long gestation period?
The band formed when Inme had just risen to prominence – so they were called Centiment before Inme were called Inme. It’s been Greg’s thing, there’s been all these different line-ups. I joined in 2006 until 2007 as the drummer. Then Greg put it to bed; he’d had enough of it, and I carried on doing my Inme thing. Then he started talking about it again in 2010, but he didn’t want to be the vocalist any more. At first I thought I couldn’t do it because I was too busy, but eventually I thought I could do it, and then we did a demo in 2010. Since then, he’s been working on the album, then he started recording it properly and I started getting really excited about it.
Last year we thought we had to do six more songs, so let’s get it done. We had this little window of opportunity to release it, because Inme was put to bed last year while I did solo stuff and – to be honest – the other guys needed to get jobs. Then we got the album done, and as soon as we launched the Pledge campaign it felt like a real thing. And that’s also the point I started coming to rehersals. Now, we’re doing a tour and so finally it’s an actual band.
We get on with the line-up, we’ll see how it goes touring, but then we’ll look towards going into the next release with it actually being the same line-up.
As well as some name recognition.
Yeah, it’s quite weird. You know, I love Steel Panther. I think they’re a laugh – but they did a pledge campaign, and ours got more pledges. And we haven’t done anything! Mostly, that’s off the back of hardcore Inme fans, but the feedback we’re now getting, from places like magazines that Inme haven’t featured in for years, is pretty exciting.
So Inme fans in general have accepted it?
Well, we have certain songs like “Saccharine Arcadia” which is on The Best Of InMe, which was me wanting to get my heavy juices out! And now, it’s kind of balanced it all because I can go back to what I think InMe is – which is big, melodic songs, big anthems, more of a rock band.
Me and Greg now have this cool balance where I kinda go “Well, you know, I sing over your thing, I don’t change the music. So, you’re going to have to go with this!” And it’s working out pretty well. Aside from the fact it’s me singing over it, it sounds very different to InMe, because Greg writes all the music.
So has there always been this kind of gamer element to Centiment?
No, me and Greg got into dubstep long before it became really popular. We accidentally walked into a club in Sheffield. I was already into dubstep, I liked the whole industrial, weird, robotic sound thing, where you don’t quite know how they made that sound. It sounds like they spent a lot of time figuring it out. But when we walked into this club, we were like ‘Whoa!’, and I put my earplugs straight in. But Greg said ‘No, leave the earplugs out… I can feel everything’. He was really into it. So then it became dubstep metal, but he wasn’t just making dubstep noises over the stuff, he started messing about with Reason, or one of those electronic programmes, and it just became a part of the sound.
Gaz, our guitarist would say ‘We’ve got to bury that’, but Greg would say ‘No, that’s a part, that’s like another instrument’, you know, even though it’s a backing track. Greg started putting in these, like, sixteen-bit sounds, so I suggested we call the album Streets Of Rage. Really blatant, but it kind of fits a metal band. But also, me and Greg grew up on those three games and we still play them now. Then there’s Defenders Of Oasis, which was a Game Gear game we used to play. So I guess it’s a reference to mine and Greg’s nostalgia, our childhood.
We have to be careful not to play it too much as a gimmick. So when Greg put on the Facebook page ‘Geeky Gamer Tech Metal’, I was like “No, don’t put that, it’ll look like we’re not taking ourselves seriously.” But we’re not taking ourselves that seriously.Well, we’re taking the music seriously, but we didn’t want to be a metal band singing about how shit politics is, or religion. Or singing about dragons or spiritual nonsense we don’t really understand because we’ve just Googled some stuff.
We’re all gamers. Most men are these days, and many women. My girlfriend plays games now. As your review said pretty well, it could turn people off, but you don’t have to appreciate games to understand it, just a few subtle nods here and there.
I listen to the album, and I don’t listen to a lot of my music, because you get sick of it after a month; you have to over-analyse it, live with it and after that you don’t want to listen to it again. But after a year, you might come back to it and respect it again. But with Streets of Rage, I find myself listening to it for enjoyment, not just because I’m singing on it. Sometimes that turns me off; just singing over someone else’s music, so I don’t know quite how he made it. There’s a mystery to it to me as well, but I can’t remember where I was going with that…something to do with computer games…
Oh yes, sorry, some lead parts, when I listen to it, do sound like a retro game but with some crazy tech-metal going on over the top.
So you have a tour coming up, that I’ll hopefully get this transcribed before. Something that interested me was the fact you’re not playing guitar. How do you think it’s going to be going onstage without that comfort blanket?
Psychologically, it’s still terrifying me. I have no idea. At rehearsal, I’m the most animated, the other guys are concentrating. There’s no need for them to put on the silly, sort of Meshuggah rocking out thing.
You can feel a bit silly doing that in a practice room.
But I walk around and get involved. I’m a bit more comfortable with it now, but it all depends. Before last night, I was thinking I’m just going to go crazy, I’m going to jump in the crowd for most of it, but last night I was listening to it again, and I think I’m going to have to build a pose that feels comfortable and natural, but also take it easy, because it’s going to wipe me out doing it every night. So, yet to be seen, but still terrifying.
With a guitar, I know what I’m doing, I can rock out with that. I’m not a dancer; I don’t dance at parties, unless I’m really wasted. Then it’s like ironic dancing, pretending to be a pillock and feeling good because of that – but I never get up there and think I can dance, so I don’t really know what I’m going to do.
At rehearsals, I go down to the floor a lot, but that’s because I’m controlling my stomach, sometimes that feels good, for whatever stupid reason.
So have Centiment played in front of people before, or will the first night of the tour be the first Centiment gig?
We’ve never played a gig, but where we rehearse has glass doors. And if you’re having a cup of tea you can hear everything the other bands are playing, but other than that nobody has heard us.
Wow, so that first night…
Yeah, it’s going to be scary. We’ve got Exeter at the Cavern. I’m not going to pretend we’re going to be the best tech metal band ever, but everyone in the band is very proficient. The drumming I was always going to worry about the most, apart from the vocals, because of the stamina involved, the technique – but as soon as Mark came in, Greg was like ‘he’s really good’- and he’d already denied a few drummers. The drums on the album are programmed, so I told Greg that now he’s comfortable with Mark, he’s going to sit down in the studio and change the drums. They were even more insane, and a human – even the best drummer in the world – wouldn’t have been able to play them.
But yeah, the Exeter Cavern first, which from my experience is going to go off. Regardless of what happens, it’s going to be fun. Then we’re going to build from that. And then the second show is in London, so we’ve got to learn a lot from that first show! There’s a good crowd in Exeter, they’re eager and there’s a good music scene, so people will turn up. We probably will pack it out, but I haven’t seen ticket sales figures yet, so I have no idea. Obviously, there will be a lot of InMe fans, we should hope we’ll fill it out. And then it’s London.
We said in rehearsal that there’s going to be mistakes, we’re not a well-oiled machine yet. We rehearse a lot, but as soon as you get on stage you’ve got sweat, lack of oxygen, adrenaline, you’ve got technical difficulties and the crowd shouting at you. It’s completely different, so we’re not going to find our feet after one show. There will be mistakes, but we’ve got to just laugh them off and enjoy it.
I think you’ll get a sympathetic audience in that respect.
Yeah, it’s just very hard to drum to! Mark is an amazing drummer. He’s not arrogant with it; he’s very thankful to be a part of this. There’s no ego with it, he gets frustrated if he can’t pull something off, but he doesn’t chuck his sticks down, he just gets on with it and tries to improve himself.
So have Mark and bass player Neil been in bands before Centiment, too?
Mark’s been in other local bands, but I met him in Blockbuster! Which is now shut down, so we met him just in time, really. I’ve been going to Blockbuster for years because I’m a film geek. And I knew he was a drummer. I could tell by talking to him that he was good. Then someone suggested him and I auditioned him with Greg, and if you get past the first rehearsal with Greg, that’s a pretty good sign! Because Greg, you know…I don’t like dishonesty, but I also don’t like shattering someone’s dreams – whereas Greg would, not happily, but would never hold back from what he thought was the truth. So there have been drummers in the past where he’s just told them they’re not good enough. Which is quite harsh. But with Mark, Greg messaged me afterwards saying ‘good start’. He’d clearly really rehearsed it, and that was about two years ago. I said not to invite me to rehearsal until I’m going to be singing over something that isn’t a mess. There’s no point me being there, because I don’t have to learn all the techy-riffy stuff. I just have to learn the vocals, and prepare for that type of singing. So I turned up after about a year and a half.
And, I suppose if the band aren’t using the vocals as cues, they will sound better too.
Gaz kinda did for a while, but its alright now. I got ill on Friday, and they had a rehearsal without me on Saturday because if I’d tried to scream my lungs out, I would have been throwing my guts up. Gaz knew it, because he likes to use the vocals as pointers.
But, yeah, I started coming about September last year, and the first rehearsal killed me. Because I sing from my guts, I felt like I’d been doing sit-ups. Then the last rehearsal I went to, I was so fragile, so hungover, I’d ruined myself the night before – and it was the best I’d ever done it. So I’m quite confident. Unless I totally lose my voice, but then every musician has that fear regardless of the type of music they play. If you totally lose your voice, you probably have to reschedule the show.
But with seven shows, it’s daunting – but if we nail those ones and get better every show, then we know its going to become more of a touring machine.
Because, as you’ve said, you intend this to be a going concern, running in parallel with InMe.
Yeah, because me and Greg are in business together. He’s in InMe, I’m in Centiment. I understand how passionate he is about Centiment, and I think what’s happened is that he still does a lot for InMe, but I can tell he’s more passionate about this because he wrote the album. I wouldn’t have been able to write an album like that.
So was Greg a guitarist first and a bass player second?
He was initially. He was doing all this, and then there was talk of Joe leaving InMe in 2006. We were on holiday, Joe had had enough and it all got a bit ugly. It’s all fine now, but it was some ugly, crazy holiday in Magaloufe. I just said to Si that, without a doubt, it had to be Greg. I wanted my brother to experience what I’d experienced, and have fun – he was working a really shitty job at the time. Si agreed, so I rang Greg and so he played bass. He did play bass before guitar in some Nirvana covers band years before, but he kind of plays bass like he plays guitar. Which is fun for InMe, because I don’t like that bass to sit back, do nothing and play the root note.
I say this as a bass player myself, but the idea of ‘bass player solo album’ is still instinctively a bit of a no-no.
[laughs] Yeah, but this is interesting and melodic. I love crazy bassists, but Greg comes up with cool countermelodies and stuff. With Centiment, it’s totally the sort of music he wants to create. It’s a lot more minor, more weird chords. InMe’s a lot more melodic, I think. That’s not to say its all dark and ugly, but there’s some pretty crazy stuff going on in there. He’s not a solo player, either – there are no solos on the album, but some of the riffs are basically guitar solos.
So I presume there’s going to be a backing track as well onstage.
Yeah, just all the electronics. Greg added some vocals and stuff, and I was a bit uncomfortable about that at first. Just, like, gangy choral stuff, and it’s kind of at the point where if you want to judge us for that, then….
I think it’s just Standard Operating Procedure for bands now.
It just makes it fuller. You know it’s there, and most bands play to a click anyway. InMe and Centiment certainly would have to. With InMe, Simon would get a bit excited and we’d say ‘mate, we’re getting quite technical – you can’t start speeding up the riff!’ I wrote it at the fastest I could possibly play it! And I know some people would say it takes the life out of it. My acoustic music I’d never play to a click, that’s a completely different thing – but for this sort of music, we play to a click; not necessarily the click that the album dictates, sometimes we’ll speed it up if its feels slow live, but we just prefer that.
So moving on to InMe, you’ve got a couple of things coming up. The next release will be an EP called Destinations, right?
Yes. We went independent, and we haven’t done anything since The Pride. That was released in February 2012, so a long time ago. We went into hibernation last year, so we just wanted to do something. We’re doing this triple album, and we don’t want to rush that. I’ve got it all there. I could probably do two triple albums!
But it’s all in the phone and stuff. There’s ideas everywhere. I have to figure out things like BPM, what suits what song, lyrics, concepts…it’s quite a big puzzle to piece together. But a fun puzzle.
We wanted to do something in the interim, really. We’d gone independent, so we just wanted to see how it felt to release music completely on our own, just with our fanbase. Gaz suggested doing the EP before The Trilogy, because that’s not going to be until 2015, I reckon. We’ve never done an EP before, it took me about two weeks to write it and its all ready to go.
But, people get confused. Understandably, if they don’t pay attention. But, I’m now in Centiment, InMe and I do my solo stuff. Some people ask ‘do you want to play an InMe show and then two or three months later play a Centiment show?’ And yes – that’s the point. We don’t want people to think that because they saw InMe, they don’t need to go to a Centiment show. It’s a completely different thing, a completely different show.
Gaz got annoyed today at people who don’t understand, who don’t even Google who’s in the band. But we’ve kind of got to get used to that, because they don’t care about it as much as we do. We’ve kind of got ourselves to blame, because we’re all intermingling on everything. Even Gaz’s solo album, which he’s yet to release, has got Greg and Simon on it. We trust each other as musicians, we get on and know how each other works.
So it is like, literally to a point, a family of musicians. A bit like the guys who were in The Ocean, and now have Coilguns and a number of different projects.
Yeah, and like Devin Townsend, or Ginger Wildheart. If those guys can do it, I’m going to do it! It’s not designed to confuse people, it’s just how we operate. So, they can either figure it out…or be confused!
To be continued…
In part 2, we talk about Dave’s prolific solo projects, crowdfunding and more!