Thursday, May 24, 2007

David Swanson of WHIRLWIND HEAT Interview

Whirlwind Heat, David Swanson is in the middle.

By: Rich Tupica

Whirlwind Heat has been compared to Devo a lot, so I won’t bore you with that analogy. What you do need to know is that this band is original. Since forming in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1996 they have been known to experiment with unusual sounds and lyrics that often make no fucking sense. Their last LP “I Fucked Up Types of Wood” presented a somewhat calmer, more melodic side of the band that was previously known for their borderline obnoxious tunes. David Swanson, 26, is a founding member of the Moog-blaring band. Swanson is currently working on a new Whirlwind Heat album and documenting the next Raconteurs album. Here is what he had to say.

How did you guys meet, you grew up in Grand Rapids, right?
"We met in 1991 at elementary school in Rockford, Michigan. Brad and Steve both grew up in the Grand Rapids area. I was born in Washington D.C and moved to Michigan in 1991."

What is life like in Grand Rapids, Michigan? I’ve noticed lots of the gutter punk types over there…
"Life is mellow here. Not much going on. Alot of bands that we are into don't come through Grand Rapids. We live a pretty quiet lifestyle, we don't go out much. Most of the time we are traveling so its good just to come home and relax."

How did Whirlwind Heat end up playing a lot in Detroit a few years back? What were some of those early shows like?
"We played a show in Detroit with a couple of Grand Rapids bands in '99. Dave Buick from Italy Records was there and really liked us; he wanted to do a 7" with us. So we set up another show in Detroit for him to come and see, but he sent Jack White from The White Stripes instead. Jack liked us and wanted to record us. So a couple months later we went back and recorded 'Glaxefusion'. At that point we started playing alot of shows with The White Stripes and other Detroit bands."

Who is the girl on a lot of your artwork? Why did you choose to adopt her as your visual aid?
"There are two girls we used a lot. 'For Do Rabbits Wonder?' and those singles, except 'Purple', we used Karleigh Sherman, an artist. Then for 'Purple' and 'Types of Wood' we used Susan Eldridge, a model. We never wanted to use ourselves on the cover, but a person is more interesting to look at than a still life, so we decided to go with females because they are attractive, very sexy."

What current bands are you digging these days? Anything you could recommend?
"Jeff, from Chicago. Phoenix, from France. I really like the new Charlotte Gainsbourg album, 5:55. Also, Yacht, from Portland, Oregon."

You guys are writing new tunes right now, how would you describe the new stuff?
"We are writing right now. This album we did every instrument separate. Kind of an experiment but also just the way things happened. Brad did all his drums by himself in Rockford, Michigan. Then I was working in Nashville, Tennessee documenting the next Raconteurs album and Steve came down to borrow Lil' Jacks Rickenbacker bass, so all bass guitar Steve did in Nashville, Tennessee. Now it’s my time to do the Moog, Vocal, and some guitar overdubs in Grand Rapids and New York City. The songs are pretty straightforward. A lot of 8-bit sounds on this record, a lot of background Moog and more melodic, mostly bass distortion."

A lot of Whirlwind Heat tunes are quite odd, how did that style develop?
"I think we have always wanted to experiment with different sounds and lyrics. For instance, the song 'Pink', I wrote a story, cut up all the words put them in a mug and drew one word at a time, then wrote it down. 'Flamingo Honey' was all written and recorded in five hours. I think we like to take a different approach than most bands so maybe thats why they turn out odd."

When can we expect some gigs, anytime soon?
"Probably not for a little while. We might not do too many for the next record. Brad has moved to Chicago and I'll be moving to New York by the end of the year."

Tidy-Whiteys! Heat Boys in Shibuya, AX. photo: saya38

What has been the best and worst part about playing in a touring band?
"The best part is connecting with new people, meeting new people and traveling the world, learning about different cultures. The worst part is not being in one place for a long period of time, but you get in a post-touring depression, when you're used to touring for 3 months straight and come home you find yourself confused, you feel like you need to keep moving."

Where do you see your band in five years?
"Probably releasing songs on MySpace and iTunes. CD's are slowly becoming extinct, the music industry is hard on record labels and bands now."

Any chance you will work with Jack White on another record?
"Probably not, that was then this is now. We are still really close friends. It’s always good to change things up and work with new people."

Whirlwind Heat with Jack White

I’ve heard your early influences were Mudhoney and The Melvins, do you guys still appreciate that stuff?
"Yes, very much. If they are playing in a city close we will go see them, and we still purchase new albums of theirs."

What are you up to when you’re not playing music?
"I mostly do photography jobs, assist Terry Richardson in New York City. Brad is an assistant video editor in Chicago, and Steve writes music for TV shows, commercials, jingles."

What has been your proudest moment since the start of Whirlwind Heat?
"Probably keeping true to ourselves, never changing our music for audiences and labels. We have always done what we liked and thought was right. We have done a whole lot for a band that sounds like ours. Also getting respect from musicians that we love. That has made us very proud. To get their respect is of the highest honor."

You guys have been filming your own music videos. What kinds of equipment do you use and how did this idea become reality?
"We use Sony HD cams, with Final Cut Express. It became reality because we did it. People dream but never execute that dream. We executed. Especially with YouTube, MySpace, Podcast and so on… it’s a lot easier to do these things now. We have a music video for every song on the album. We haven't released all of them because we don't know how to make a Podcast yet. We are still learning."

Cool Shirts! Whirlwind Heat photo: Calbee in Chicago

How would you say your band has changed since you started back in 1996? What work are you most proud of?
"Our band has changed because we as people have changed. You learn more every year about recording, song writing, chord progression, business, traveling. Knowledge is the key. We like 'Flamingo Honey' the best, simply because it was so spontaneous."

What is one thing you want to accomplish before you kick the bucket?
"We already have... Release one album, one music video, one single and tour."

Whirlwind Links!

Whirlwind Heat on Myspace:
Official Whirlwind Heat website:
Lightspeed Heat:

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