Like most music obsessives, I was in a band at 17.
It was called Arctic Spaceman – even now I have no idea what that means, or where it came from. In 1996 we recorded a demo tape called Drama, named after a line in the title track I penned highlighting how television likes to scaremonger. Even now I am rather impressed with the fact I managed to write such a song, even though the lyrics were a bit rubbish.
What I couldn’t have done at 17 is create something as brilliant as Sheep, Dog & Wolf’s ‘Ablutophobia’ EP. Quite frankly, it is wonderful and something which is not often heard from someone of that age.
I decided to try and track down the man responsible, and found the mastermind behind it was a chap called Daniel McBride, who hails from New Zealand. As usual in these circumstances the interview is below.
His Ablutophobia EP is available on a ‘name your price basis’ – which means you can download it for free – but why not be kind and send some money his way.
CMM: Welcome to Choose My Music. Shall we start with you telling us a little bit about Sheep,Dog & Wolf and where in the world are you?
DMB: My name is Daniel McBride, 17 years if age, and I hail from little old New Zealand. I started making music as Sheep,Dog&Wolf about halfway through 2010, after I’d saved up all my money to set up a small, budget home-recording studio. I recorded all of the songs by myself, singing all the parts, playing all the instruments, and doing all of the production and mixing in my bedroom.
The EP took about 9 months to complete, as I had to record around school, and I ended recording in short, intense bursts, usually during the holidays. In the case of Ablutophobia (the track), I had a three day recording frenzy, in which I slept little, ate even less, and hardly left my room, let alone the house! This is how I usually like to create a song, obsessing over it for a short period of time, then leaving it for a while before reflecting on it.
So yeah, Sheep,Dog&Wolf is what I call my music-baby; it’s entirely me. The music is exactly what I want to make, when and how I want to make it. It’s a very free way of creating.
CMM: And how would you best describe your music?
DMB: I find this a very hard question to answer… At the moment I’m calling it alternative-folk-rock-jazz, but I’ve also seen it called freak-pop and motown-jazz-pop, so I have no idea. Like I said before, it’s just whatever I feel like making at the time, so the style is quite erratic from song to song. Compare, say ‘Tamefires’ to ‘Not Aquatic’ and you won’t find much in common between the two. I suppose I would just describe the music as me in sound form. Hahah. That sounds a bit ridiculous and it just came to me now, but I’m gonna stick with it for now!
CMM: One thing I do know about you is that you recorded this album at the age of 17 – which is really quite remarkable. Do you come from a musical family?
DMB: I do yes, although neither of my parents make a living from music. My Dad has always loved music, he plays guitar and he has an incredible collection of CDs and records that I’ve had played to me all my life. My Mum also plays guitar, and a bit of piano, and she loves to sing. My sister is an incredible pianist and singer. So music has always been promoted in my family, and my parents have nothing against me playing instruments for the whole day – I definitely think my family has had a big part to play in my musical development.
CMM: During the recording of this album you actually self taught yourself to play the cello. I remember there was a girl at my school who could apparently pick up an instrument and master it within a couple of weeks – is it a similar story for you?
DMB: The cello and the euphonium, yes, hahah! I don’t think I could call my level of proficiency in cello and euphonium ‘mastery’, but I certainly love to sample as many instruments as I can. I think I play about 7 instruments to a high-ish level, and I dabble in many, many others. I think it’s just because I do very little else but play instruments, so I need to have a bit of variation within my obsession, you know? And I find teaching oneself by ear is a lot more fulfilling and gives you a lot more freedom than a rigid lesson structure.
CMM: What are your influences. Musical or otherwise?
DMB: Well, my big, main influence is the jazz of the 50s and 60s; Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, etc. etc. I’ve been listening to jazz to get to sleep since I was two years old, when my parents started playing it for me at bedtime. The free, improvisational style of jazz has always really resonated with me. I’m not sure how noticeable it is in my music, but I definitely feel it’s a massive influences.
My more contemporary influences are very wide-ranging; folky, acoustic music such as Beirut, Bon Iver, Department of Eagles, and Sufjan Stevens have obviously been a big influence, but the work of electronic producers has also affected my music. Artists like Bonobo, Flying Lotus, Baths, and many other producers, have a been massive influences.
Really, I feel like every piece of music I listen to influences me in some way or another, whether it be by inspiring me or by making me realise exactly what I don’t want to make!
CMM: Being a solo artist I am assuming it is difficult to get out to play this album live and full recreate the sound. Are there plans to take it out on the road or are you happy that it is just out in the public domain?
DMB: Mm, you’ve hit on one of my biggest problems with this project. I’m currently investigating possible ways for me to recreate my music live with a band that isn’t ridiculously large, and therefore ridiculously expensive.
I’m planning to do a tour (hopefully internationally) at some point in future, but before that happens I need to have a live show, and getting that show together is going to prove difficult. I want to avoid having any pre-recorded elements, but I also don’t want to have to sacrifice the fullness of the sound – it’s a real issue for me! So, in short, I hope to play live as soon as I can, but turning that into reality may be a problem…
CMM: Your EP was released just a few months ago, what are your future plans?
DMB: Well, I’m already in the process of working on another album, but schoolwork, preparations for Uni and other issues have kept me from obsessing over it like I usually would. But another release is definitely is the works, and I’m hoping to have a touring live act ready to promote the album when it comes out. So stay tuned!
CMM: And finally, where can people reach out to you on line and get hold of your music?
You can download the EP for free, or by paying what you think it’s worth, here: sheepdogwolf.bandcamp.com/, and you can contact me and keep up with any updates on my facebook page, here: www.facebook.com/SheepDogWolf
Hope you enjoy it!