The first time I saw Cole Furlow play as Dead Gaze, I hadn’t planned on going out. I’d been awake for thirty hours and was feeling like a real melancholy turd, sitting on a bar’s porch alone, smoking cigarettes and drinking PBR and Jim Beam. Not a swell time, bad head space. But then familiar faces swarmed the bar, all there for some live music. I remember someone saying the music would be “primo.”
Inside, Furlow started playing with his band, but I stayed on the porch. I was talking to some girl I hadn’t met before about her accounting degree. Not real interesting stuff, but in my sleepless delirium I somehow kept the conversation going. As we were talking, hopeful music, escapist music, floated through the open door. I crushed my beer, told the accountant I was going to get another one, and went inside. Don’t you doubt that I didn’t get another beer, but I also stayed to see Dead Gaze play. I listened to them and my eyes stopped burning and my teeth stopped grinding. I felt normal – comfortable even.
I’ve gone to as many Dead Gaze shows as I could since then. Furlow turned me into a fucking fanboy. There’s a reason for that: Dead Gaze rules. The dude’s pulled together a sick lo-fi poppy grunge sound. The lyrics are gold, too. You walk through your day, listening to Furlow’s songs, and it’s like he’s narrating your outside world. The music, the lyrics, they all match up with reality and stick with you. It’s hummable as shit.
On October 22, Dead Gaze released its next album, Brain Holiday. They’re songs that Furlow has been putting on his setlists lately, and they’ve added a whole new energy to his shows. I’ve listened to the whole album, and it’s killer. But you don’t have to trust me. Go to your local record store and pick up a copy.
I also interviewed Furlow on the porch of a different bar. We talked about his music, his new album, and his compulsions. So pop on his album, read the interview, and get to know the fella and his music.
Cole Furlow: I mean I’ve been getting paid making music since I was twelve years old. Now, by no means was that some professional band, but we rehearsed three times a week, we had a guy that kind of guided us in ways – he was our coach almost.
But I’ve been playing for a paycheck since I was twelve. Now with this outfit, Dead Gaze, I’ve been doing it since 2008-2009. When that time came around for me to start making Dead Gaze, it was past due, like I’ve been needing to do something like this. I was late to the game in some ways.
PM: When did Dead Gaze come into its own for you?
CF: That’s a general thing because for me “coming into its own” means the live performance was there as well as the recordings. It’s an all encompassing type thing. So for me it probably wasn’t until about two years ago really, when the band was really on top of it with Jimmy (Cajoleas) and Alex Warren was playing drums, Jim Henegan was playing bass. We went into Sweet Tea, we made the next record and at that point it felt like, “Well this is a reality, I can actually do this and make some money and we’ll see how far it can take me because it could take me somewhere at this point.”
Before then it was like, “Oh, I’ve got these recordings, I’ve got these songs: let’s throw them out there and see what happens.” But then it started to snowball into something a little bit more. By no means am I saying it’s this big well-oiled machine or anything. But it’s definitely a thing.
CF: Yeah, as far as full lengths go, LPs, yes it was. Before that I had done a bunch of cassettes, CD-Rs, 7 inches, 10 inches, those kinds of things. And every one of them had an EP kind of feel to it really.
The longest thing I’d produced before the LP was this tape called End of Days Why Not You, and it had 10 tracks on it or something like that, maybe less than that. It was a full kind of thing. But as far as full on LP release with everything all encompassing, that was my first one. And it was a compilation at that.
PM: But it’s kind of all the best of all those songs, right?
CF: It’s the best of them in the label’s eyes. It wasn’t the best of in my eyes. I would’ve put some other songs on there, but you got to remember I’m at the mercy of my label in some ways. So they were the ones that picked out those songs. I would have probably put “It’s Not Real,” bigger tracks like that. But it was cool, they added a lot of songs I wouldn’t have thought of.
For instance, that song “Fishing with Robert” I wouldn’t have put that on the record, but they were like, “This is good.” That makes me feel good in some ways, you know. Because when you don’t recognize how good something is and then you come back to it and someone else is like, “Oh that’s a good jam” you rethink it and you’re like, “Okay well that kind of boosts my confidence in some kind of weird way.” It makes you feel a little bit better.
PM: Yeah, at some point you have to release it to somebody else, so they can be like, “Hey this is good.”
CF: I call that process “kicking it out the door.” You work on it so hard, it’s your baby, its your thing, you spend all of your waking hours devoted to it and at a certain point you hit the wall and you’re like, “I can’t go any further with this,” so you have to just kick it out the door.
CF: Well it’s two older songs that I’ve had that we didn’t really release. The song “Carry on Real Nice” got released on a compilation record of an older recording. That was one of my first recordings I ever made. That’s why it sounds so insanely boisterous and youthful in some ways. But I rerecorded that song, I rerecorded a song called “Stay Don’t Say,” and those are the only two that were kind of older songs that we hadn’t really introduced in that light. “Stay Don’t Say” was on a cassette that was released a while back, but it’s a different version of the song.
So yeah, this is 100 percent new to me. It’s a clean record. It’s really not fuzz in the sense that it’s some sort of compression, some sort of digital peaking or anything like that. It’s very direct. Every sound that we made was deliberate. When there’s a lot of sounds on my other recordings, that just sort of happened, due to a mixture of things and me generally not knowing every single avenue that I’m making my music in. Some surprises just kind of happen.
But on this record there weren’t very many surprises – very direct. And every kind of sound we put on the record, we did a lot of a deliberation to make sure that we all thought that was the most diplomatic decision for that song or that sound. So in a sense that was the first time it’s been like that. Very much a band record. I was the one that was in control of it, but I definitely had a band.
CF: Hell no. I wish. But I did the majority of it. I didn’t do the drums, I didn’t do very much percussion, I did most of the guitars, with the exception of the guitar work that Henegan and Cajoleas did. And the stuff that they brought to the table was invaluable. Stuff I would never have thought of, things I would never have dreamed of putting on there, but then when they put it on there it’s like, “Oh well, this song can’t be without this now.” Very integral things that were put there that I never even thought of.
PM: It keeps building on it.
CF: Exactly. Right. And so with a sense of knowing that you can get a better grasp of how the record was made. Everyone that knows Jim Henegan knows he’s kind of soft-spoken, he leads by his actions, he’s a very modest man, and I’m kind of the opposite in some ways. Like I’m more in your face, a little bit more aggressive in some ways. So the joke around the studio that whole time was he was Spock and I’m Captain Kirk. You know, he’s the one who’s like, “Alright Cole, do you really want to do this?” And I’m like, “Fuck it, we’re doing this.” It was like shooting from the hip always, but he was kind of like, “Let’s reign it in a little bit.” And that little bit of action that he put on that was invaluable.
CF: Well it’s really funny. Hennigan and I after a huge Dude Ranch party still had gear setup from the night before. We end up waking that morning a little hungover, we smoked a little grass and we were like lets go hang out in the big room and jam a little bit. I got on the drums and he was on this Juno keyboard. He hit this weird arpeggiating, weird thing and it sounded a lot like Willy Wonka. Like that theme:
Cole hums the Willy Wonka theme
You know this weird, very psychedelic thing. I said, “Oh, that’s genius, let’s add on that.” Immediately I went to the drums and added these super minimalist drums. Just:
Boom kah, Boom kah
Nothing else, just very minimal, just let that arpeggiator ride out. So we had that song and I remember a couple weeks later we went into Sweet Tea and Jim was like, “Yo, do you remember that time we were at the dude ranch and we did that weird Willy Wonka jam thing.” And I was like, “Oh yeah, the Wonka Jam.” We called it the Wonka Jam for so long. And I was like, “Yeah, that’s a great jam. Let’s see what happens.” We had a little bit of time, I got the right arpeggiator going, it was a little bit different than what we made, but it was still very much the same vibe. I told Alex the drums I wanted to do, and of course Alex being the better drummer than I am completely elaborated. Still very minimal, but when it kicked in, it was this massive, huge, very deliberate thing.
That’s what we were on when we were at Sweet Tea. We’re in this million-dollar studio, we’re recording a record on this console that there are three of them in existence. This amazing shit, and we’re sitting here spending all this time working on a record. It was the first time I’ve ever really had that opportunity to be in a studio like that. It just seemed like the right idea to call it that.
We’re on a brain holiday, we might as well call it that and see what happens.
CF: In some ways, yeah. It’s a concept record in the sense that, I keep saying in the press release, I want people to feel good about why they’re going to the music in the first place. People go to the music to feel better. I want to exploit the reason they feel better. I want people to go to that record and say, “Oh shit! I am on a brain holiday when I hear this. I can completely turn off all my senses and lay here and listen to how spacey and how heavy and how poppy and all these different elements of these songs.”
I just kind of wanted it to kind of slam-dunk you in a comfortable way. I didn’t want it to hurt anyone or be aggressive in the sense that like it’s not for every general public person. I just wanted it to be this escape.
PM: What do you get out of it when you’re making music? When you’re writing songs?
CF: Oh, I don’t get very much out of it. Not anymore. The only thing I get out of it is that’s song done, lets go to the next one.
PM: But there’s a compulsion there then.
CF: Oh, yeah. I have to make songs because that’s what I’m here on earth to do. I figured that out a couple years ago. I’m not good at anything else. I’m not saying I’m great at this either, but I do know that I can do it. So it’s kind of this attitude thing with me. I don’t get anything out of you liking my music, man. It makes me happy, I guess in some ways, it makes me comfortable feeling. But the reward is the fact that it’s done.
CF: Yeah, absolutely. What I get out of it is a feeling of accomplishment. I don’t go to sleep at night until the idea of that song or whatever I’m working on is done. I’m an obsessive compulsive. When I’m making a record, my girlfriend can’t communicate with me and I’m kind of a tough dude to be around. And that’s because it completely consumes me in everyway: the way I eat, the way I dream at night, the way I sleep, the way I see things, the way I drink, the way I smoke cigarettes. If I’m in the moment making something, working, the only thing I get out of it in that sense is the satisfaction of how hard I’m working and once it’s done the accomplishment is everything because that means I get to go to the next thing.
It’s always about making the next thing. It’s not about sitting here and slamming the one you’re on right now. Obviously you want that to be as good as you want it to be and how hard you worked on it, that will show, but the truth is it’s all about getting it done and making the next one. Sustainability, keeping on going. Until I get to the point where I can slam out songs, be happy with them, and then get out to the next one, I’m not really a normal human.
PM: So it’s not really a question of discipline.
CF: Yeah, it’s a compulsion. Well, it is discipline in the sense that when I’m working everything I’m thinking about is that. I put all of my effort into it. It’s not discipline I put onto myself. It’s this nice thing that’s just there that I’m like, “I can do this. Oh God, I’m good at this.” It’s this weird feeling.
PM: I was hoping you could talk a little bit about your thoughts on passion. We’ve talked a little about it before.
CF: When it comes to my stuff, I care about my stuff – obviously. But when it’s somebody else’s stuff then I have no desire for it unless you’re putting 100 percent into it. And if you putting 100 percent into it means you’re putting 50 percent into it and it’s still genius, that’s your 100 percent, and to me that’s kind of badass.
I guess what I’m saying is I really appreciate how hard people work on records, and if you’re not really working hard on anything, then I want nothing to do with it. Because when you’re working your hardest, the nuance of what you do comes out.
PM: So at the end of it though, what do you want? You just want the next project? Bigger and bigger? But you have some other goals too, like you were telling me about wanting to play for Liverpool.
CF: [laughs] Yeah, that’s a good goal.
CF: I want to make a really big record. I want to make one of those records that’s like four LPs. I want to make a White Album type record. I want to make a concept record, like a really big concept record. I want to make a synthesizer record. I want to make an ambient record. I want to make a semi-country record. And in that way those are kind of the goals: to get those projects going, so I can get onto the next one.
I can’t stress to you how much I pine for the next project. When I’m working on something, and it’s done – it feels good because it’s done. And then I can be like, “I’m going to take a little break here, maybe a week or two, and then go to the next one.”
PM: Is that train of thought ever distracting? So while you’re working on a record, you’re like, “Man, I really want to get to this next thing.”
CF: Yeah, in some ways. But that’s the drive to get through it: to get on to the next one. I can’t tell you how much I want to spend all my time on making sure I can keep going to the next one.