Photo: Pooneh Ghana
De Staat aren’t afraid to experiment. Although genre convention has placed them in the annals of Rock music, the Dutch outfit displays a dizzying array of influences and sounds in their music. From the R&B/Pop infused ‘Tie Me Down’ to the off-kilter synth electronica of ‘Pikachu’, their latest LP ‘Bubble Gum’ eschews typical rock etiquette with abandon, laughing in the face of what’s sonically expected from a modern rock band.
Quickly galvanizing fans thanks to an energetic live show the band landed spots at Dot to Dot and Glastonbury Festivals within a year of their formation. They were spotted at their Lowlands Festival performance by one Chris Goss, famed producer of QOTSA, Kyuss and UNKLE who introduced them to Mascot Records and since then, the band have gone from strength to strength. Constantly evolving their sound from album to album, supporting the likes of The Rolling Stones and Muse, De Staat have never let genre boundaries hinder them creatively, ensuring every song is a surprise.
We spoke to the band ahead of their November European tour to get the lowdown on the gear they’ll be using to bring their brand of diverse alternative rock to the masses…
Hey guys, thank you so much for taking the time out to do this interview, how are we doing today?
Torre – All good all good! Currently on tour, which for me is always a cool focused and simple life. No distractions, just do the damn show, and everything else you do is preparing you for that show.
You’ve sold out the Nederlands dates on your Bubblegum Tour (congrats!) are you looking forward to hitting the UK in November? How do you find the reception over here?
Torre – Since the release of Bubble Gum, something special has been happening in the UK. More people come to the show, but I also feel like there’s a bit more buzz all around. More bands seem to know about us, and our music is used on different TV channels and stuff. That’s always a good sign to me. And very noticeable to me: people who are at the show really know the music and the lyrics well.. It confuses the shit out of me sometimes. I see people singing along, which gets me thinking about how they know all the lyrics, which makes me forget them myself while singing.
The video for ‘Tie Me Down’ looks great! How was it working with Luwten for it?
Torre – Very special. We made a couple of demo’s together, and Tie Me Down really stood out as a cool weird poppy duet. And duets are fun because you get a new form you can play with: two people, two voices, two perspectives. It opened some new doors creatively, and making a video for it was therefore different and cool. We both like to think about dance, and a proper choreography is not very common in the rock genre, so that gives that video something extra special I think.
Your sound has come a long way since the first album, is that something you’re actively channelling?
Torre – Definitely. Or at least I hope so. We try not to get bored with ourselves. So an evolution in sound comes naturally to us. Some people find it strange, to us it’s fairly normal.
How difficult do you find it playing and signing at the same time? Is that something you take into account when you’re crafting your songs?
Torre – Actually I do, more and more. I think I’m OK at playing and singing simultaneously, but I do notice a difference when I’m only singing. I have a bit more freedom, performing on stage, there’s more to explore because I’m not tied to that guitar anymore. But I’m also singing a bit better and more technical. So I do think about it when I’m writing nowadays: what would be the best way to perform this?
Tie Me Down
What guitars are you using for the upcoming tour? Which have become your staples over the years?
Torre – I only have Gibson SG´s at the moment: Once I had one of those I was like ´That’s it´. They sound cool and different than the more famous ones, and the fact that they’re super light is also huge for me.
Vedran – My ‘workhorse’ guitar is a Custom Shop ’61 reissue Gibson SG. It sounds great (Mine has a Lindy Fralin hum-cancelling P90 in the neck position), it’s light, very resonant and you can play high on the neck very easily. I’m also taking my two Deimel Firestar’s with me, one in drop-D like the SG and one in drop-A for some songs. Deimels are amazing guitars, very versatile, go check them out.
And what’s your backline for the upcoming shows? What are you rocking on your pedalboards for this next cycle?
Torre – 2/3 years ago I started using the Axe-FX stuff. I like it very much, you can really craft your sound. And for a producer/mixing engineer that is a lot of fun. Also, a big reason is that it is easily transportable: when we fly to gigs I now have the exact sound every show. And that has become more important over the years because some sounds have gotten quite important for the song. Before it was always a bit of a guess if the local amps were any good, or I couldn’t bring all of my pedals because of weight issues on planes. That’s all gone now. I do miss the simplicity of just stomping a pedal and twisting some knobs sometimes. And some pedals sound really weird and the Axe-FX can’t deliver on that sometimes. But it’s a trade-off. The advantages of my new setup are significant, and I’m a happy boy now.
Vedran – My amp is a Meyer The Wizard 55, a custom made amp for me which is based on a Marshall Bluesbreaker but with some modern features like a master volume, boost switches for high and low, and an FX-loop. I use it with a PalmerPGA 04 speaker simulator and a 2×12 cab with two Scumback M-75 speakers in it.
Ready for the pedals? Here you go 🙂
The GigRig Three2One
TC Electronic Polytune 3
Bloomery Volume pedal
Dr. No Octofuzz
Devi Ever FX Noise Floor
Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl HiFi
Gamechanger Audio Plasma pedal
Strymon Big Sky
Boss SY-300 Guitar Synthesizer
Digitech Whammy V
ZVEX The Machine
Earthquaker Devices Rainbow Machine
Earthquaker Devices Transmisser
Earthquaker Devices Bit Commander
Vemuram Budi Boost
Meris Ottobit Jr.
Old Blood Noise Endeavors Excess
Now for Rocco, I first came across you guys on the FIFA 14 Soundtrack and the sound has come a long way since then, keys seem to have taken more prominence as you’ve evolved over the years, is this just part of being experimental or have you actively moved into utilising more digital sounds?
Rocco – I always did what was necessary for the song to blossom. If it was percussion, I did that, if it was big synths, I played those. Our sound did change a bit over the years and I changed along with them. I grew as a musician, when we started I really couldn’t play any instrument very well. Over the years I learned from the other guys and look at me now.
Do you prefer keys or guitar?
Rocco – At the moment I think I prefer keys, especially analogue synthesizers. I like how every machine is different, both in usage and in sound.
What’s your main synth for the upcoming gigs you’ve got?
Rocco – I have two go-to synths: the Juno 106 and the Korg Ms10. The Juno is such a versatile machine. It can be warm or cold. Big or small. Silly or dramatic. It’s easy to use and fairly safe to take on tour. The MS10 is a simple machine, even though it took me quite some time to fully get to know it and figure out exactly what I could do with it. And still, I find new cool sounds in that little beast.
Let’s talk drums! Tim, what kit are you playing at the moment?
Tim – I’m currently playing a Ludwig kit that is a combination of different drumkits I have. I use a kick drum from the seventies, I use a seventies marching snare as a rack tom and as a snare drum, a seventies supraphonic snare drum and classic maple floor toms that I bought new. I use 15” 30th Anniversary Istanbul hi-hats, 19” traditional dark crash, 18” traditional thin crash, 20” Mehmet china, and various cymbals as a stack or as an effect cymbal on the snare drum.
A lot of drummers are using hybrid setups these days, are you using any triggers or additional percussion for the live setup?
Tim – Yes, I use several cowbells and a jamblock. I built a foot percussion pedal with which I play on a beatring and a jamblock. I use three Roland BT-1 trigger pads, a bass drum trigger, a KT-7 kick pad and a KT-10 kick pedal as triggers. I use them to play samples, we don’t use a click track or sequencing.
What are your sticks of choice?
Tim – Just plain and simple: Vic Firth 5A’s. Tried out some other stuff, but they just work for me. And if isn’t broken don’t fix it am I right?!
Jop, you play Bass and Synth, how do you find it balancing both instruments during the live performance?
Jop – Not really an issue. Some songs call for the synth. No matter how hard I try to make my bass sound like a synthesizer, there’s nothing quite like the sound of a good mono synth for bass.
Jop – That would be my Serek Midwestern 2. It’s a medium scale 4 string bass with a P90-esque bass pickup called the B90. I have two of those and they’re all I play in De Staat lately. One of them strung with round wounds, the other with flats.
If you could only choose to play one Bass guitar on the tour what would it be?
Are you much of an effects aficionado? How’s your pedalboard setup at the moment?
Yeah, I’m very much into using effects on bass. So much so, that I switched over to an Axe-FX III some time ago. Every song has different sounds, and especially our latest album has a lot of unconventional bass sounds. The Axe-FX is in a rack located side stage. Some sounds are hard to replicate on the Axe-FX though, so there are some pedals in the rack as well. I have a Boss OC-2 Octaver in there, as well as a DoD Meatbox Subsynth, and an Eventide H9. They’re hooked up to the fx loops of the Axe-FX so I can integrate them in my presets. The pedalboard is a midi controller by RJM, the mastermind GT16. In the full setup, I also have some spacey pedals on stage for fun in song transitions etc.
You can listen De Staat’s latest album ‘Bubble Gum’ on Spotify, iTunes and all major streaming services. Check out the video for ‘Tie Me Down’ featuring Luwten below:
De Staat are on tour this month! Get down to one of their UK dates for the live show of your life! More details here – https://www.destaat.net/
Matt is a multi-instrumentalist, music geek and current Content Creator at Dawsons Music. He composes, records and produces out of his home studio in Manchester as well as playing in two bands, China Moon and Sawbones.