FFO: Dean McPhee | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Revered guitarist Dean McPhee brings his live show to The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on Friday 24th May, promising a meditative and hypnotic performance which nods to an array of influences – from dub and modal jazz, to British folk, underground electronic music and psych rock. Here, he attempts to encapsulate his sound using a handful of other tracks that have meant something to him…

Earth – The Dire and Ever Circling Wolves
One of the things that I love about Earth is the sense of space and how they employ a ‘less is more’ approach. The slow, hypnotic pace allows it to really sink inside your head – something that I always aim for in my own music. I found it very interesting to read about how Earth’s drummer, Adrienne Davis, slows down her breathing before playing, and how she has worked hard to be able to play so fluidly and precisely at a slow tempo, which is definitely much harder to do than many might think. Earth’s guitarist and bandleader Dylan Carlson is one of my favourite guitarists, and I like how he pays a lot of attention to getting a great sound, experimenting with different pedals, guitars, pickups and amps. He has written about and performed music inspired by English folklore via his drcarlsonalbion side project, and in 2012, we were both invited by Rob St John to contribute a track to Pendle, 1612, a compilation tape released on the Folklore Tapes label to commemorate 400 years since the Pendle Witch Trials. My track Rule of Threes was also included (and was later released on my album Four Stones), and this was the first of many Folklore Tapes releases that I’ve since appeared on.

The Upsetters – Underground
I’m heavily influenced and inspired by dub, and by the many different styles and genres of music that have evolved from it. I particularly enjoy the sounds created by Lee Perry in his Black Ark studio in the 70s, and for me, this track is one of his very best. Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith’s guitar on this track is incredible, with a really otherworldly and percussive sound. I particularly like the way that the delay effects have such a distorted texture, and I’ve managed to find my own way to recreate this kind of sound by driving my delay pedal with a valve modulation pedal. Back in 2011, my first album Son of the Black Peace was described by the BLAST First (petite) label on which it was released as “future dub folk from an old English tradition that no one can quite put their finger on”, and I think this is a pretty good description in retrospect. Since then I’ve slowly introduced looped basslines, more delay/reverb effects and most recently a 1000-watt 18” subwoofer to my live amp setup, giving the bass and kick drum pedal a deeper, more physical presence. As well as playing the guitar I also enjoy mixing dub, reggae and deep dubstep as part of my occasional Bass Ritual club nights, and my recent LP Astral Gold was mastered and cut by Anne Taegert at the Dubplates & Mastering studio in Berlin, a choice that was made in order to make sure the bass sounded as good as possible. 

Autechre – Pule
While it would be a stretch to assume that my music would definitely appeal to fans of Autechre, I do think it is fair to say that certain tracks that I’ve made, such as The Nightingale from my Avian Dream Songs EP (from the 2016 Ornithology split 10” on Folklore Tapes) and The Second Message from my last LP Astral Gold, do evoke a similar feel to some of the more melodic work of the likes of Autechre and Aphex Twin. I listen to a lot of electronic music, and particularly enjoy underground hip-hop, grime and jungle. While I really enjoy the more abstract and rhythmic elements of this music, some of the melodies also have a really nostalgic and dreamlike quality, and this has definitely rubbed off on the way I approach my own music. When I was in my early 20s, I was obsessed with making tunes on an AKAI MPC2000 sampler, and nearly quit the guitar to fully concentrate on it. In the end, I decided to stick with the guitar, but have always felt since then that I’d like to incorporate what I’d worked on then into the music I’m making now. As I have introduced more looping into my music and many more different sounds, I now more able to bring more of these influences into what I do, and I plan to keep developing this in the future.

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