Deerhoof Milk Man

Deerhoof Milk Man
In an artist’s utopia, one piece of work inspires another equally adept creation that strives forward into new territory while maintaining an elaborated connection to the original. So, welcome to Milk Man — a record that takes this process to heart and into fruition as it juxtaposes that perfect world with the terrifying mythological world it narrates. It’s a dreamland wherein children are lured and trapped by the Milk Man, a surreal creature, masked and donned all in white, fruits stabbed into his body; he is equal parts cunning, charming and nasty. First born as a drawing by a friend, the Milk Man found new life when he sparked the band’s interest, spurring them on to developing his story on record. So to follow the slight departure of the exuberant live-style Apple O’, Deerhoof presents an album with previously unseen cohesion. To begin, the cleanest, poppiest, hit-single-est title track. To follow, the ghoulish masquerade party of the slow-horror song, "Giga Dance,” the masterful electronic manipulations of Spanish stand-out "Desapareceré,” and an album’s worth of beautiful fodder to satiate a weirdoes’ paradise. Although the chaos and innocent abandon has been slightly quelled, the radical ingenuity and top levels of imagination at its purest finds Deerhoof in their finest hour. The upward turn in thought is compounded by the practical application of genuinely improved musicianship. Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocal skills are notably better; her uniquely absurd kiddie coos are smooth and terribly listenable, the instrumental and electronic meanderings are composed with intent precision. Milk Man is whole and forceful, beautifully executed and awfully addictive.

Where did the concept for Milk Man come from? Chris Cohen: We had the name of the album first, before we had any of the music. Our friend Ken Kagami, the artist who created Milk Man, had shown us Milk Man drawings and we fleshed out the story. We were inspired because the character is so ambiguous and automatically, if you see it, your mind already starts making stuff up like, why is the fruit stabbed into his armpits? So there’s already a story there.

You’ve compared the record to a Broadway show. Would you ever attempt to translate that to your live show? No, I guess not. It wasn’t an idea for a musical, it was an idea first for a drawing, a character and then it was an idea for an album. I like the fact that it’s a concept album and you listen to it and you’re given a bunch of pieces of a narrative and then in your mind, everything is there to piece together and I think that’s an open-ended form. I myself am inspired and have been inspired by musicals — my dad used to compose music for musicals, so I always kind of had that idea. My parents fell in love working in musicals together and the idea of an art form that has everything — music and movement and drama — that is really exciting to me, but that’s not what we’re doing in Deerhoof. It’s strictly music.

Milk Man uses more electronics than before — how did you approach that? We don’t really deal with them [electronic sounds] any differently than anything else, it’s just what will sound good in this one spot or whatever. It wasn’t like we suddenly got these new gadgets or something. A lot of the sounds we used on Milk Man were actually just this Casio keyboard that one of John’s house-mates had thrown away, and it’s not like we’re using very interesting instruments — a very generic sound. There are a lot more electronics on Reveille as well. Before I joined Deerhoof, I used to go see them play and all the songs I really loved live became so different on the album [Reveille] and I was like "ah! I just want to hear the live sound!” so we did that for Apple O’ and then after that I changed my mind. I love the way that things sound when they’ve really been tinkered over for a long time, with a lot of layers.

This record seems to have a very clear vision — was that the product of making a concept record Maybe it was. These were a lot of songs that Greg wrote, and Greg probably had things more worked out in his head before we even started playing them. We actually didn’t even play a lot of these songs together before hand — a lot of the recordings were done one instrument at a time. Maybe it sounds like more of a clear idea because it was already worked out in Greg’s head or in anyone else’s head before we started doing it instead of working it out while playing. I think it kind of has to come from one moment of inspiration. Or we could just credit it to Ken — Ken dreamed it up and then we just kind of kept going. (Kill Rock Stars)