Brendan Perry (Dead Can Dance) interview

I’ve been listening to Dead Can Dance since the release of their eponymous debut album on 4AD in 1984. At the time, my thirst for new music was seemingly unquenchable and I found this ‘Musica Eternal’ not only romantic but positively visceral. Decades later, that thirst shows no signs of abating and remarkably, Dead Can Dance are still in amazingly good shape. Their most recent album, ‘Dionysus,’ is, for my money, up there with their very best and (prior to the pandemic) their concerts, in ever-imposing venues, invariably sold out. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, supporting and collaborating with founder member, Brendan Perry, on occasion but it’s only now that I’ve really had a chance to make a start on all the questions I’ve been dying to ask him since 1984. I still very much love that first album! We chatted, via Skype, on Sunday, 12th July 2020.

Glen : I’ve started this blog, ‘Arcane Delights,’ (taken from DCD’s 1984 EP, ‘Garden Of The Arcane Delights’) with the intention of shedding light on records that have perhaps been overlooked, that haven’t had their moment in the sun but looking back over your catalogue, I don’t think any of your records have been really overlooked have they? Some of them, made 30 or 35 years ago, continue to sell steadily and be appreciated by new generations of fans. 

Brendan : Yeah. Everything’s had a pretty positive reaction, whether it be from the press or the general public. 

Was it always that way? 

BP : There’s an exponential growth that happened from the first album right through to ‘Into The Labyrinth’ (1993).  Sales increased exponentially until we got to ‘Labryrinth,’ which sold half a million copies – back in the good ole days when people liked a hard copy.  It’s been difficult to judge on materialistic terms, popularity-wise.  Also, a lot of the press is no longer with us, they’ve moved on, so it’s hard to gauge the establishment’s attitude to us now.  Obviously, with the advent of the internet, you’re in far greater intimate contact with the direct public, which is perhaps the best barometer in itself. 

Does the establishment’s opinion matter? 

BP : It used to, when NME or Melody Maker or Sounds used to be the punter’s bible.  They had a lot more influence than they have now. 

Do you think people still trust the opinion of music journalists?  I’ve always considered a review to be just one person’s opinion. 

BP : There’s one guy – I wish I could remember his name – at either Uncut or Mojo – the editor gave our last three albums to this one writer and he slagged us all three times.  He obviously hated us and I found that really strange.  You don’t give it to a writer who hates you, when they’re rubbing their hands with glee at their chance to influence the public not to buy the album (laughs).  So, I lost all respect for those magazines a long time ago. 

Would I be correct in assuming that, reviews aside, your sales would always be of a certain level anyway because you have such a hardcore fanbase who’ll buy everything you put out? 

BP : Yeah.  The foundation, as it were, of “the global appreciation society,” is great.  It stands us in good stead.  Another thing that makes it hard to gauge is those sabbaticals we had in between a few albums.  When we came back with ‘Anastasis,’ (2012) for instance, there was a huge resurgence of interest and it sold incredibly well – it went into the top 10 in 6 charts in Europe, sold spade loads and got really good reviews and that’s partly because of the absence – the fondness of the heart.  The longer you leave it, the more your stock appreciates. 

But now you’re in involuntary exile, as it were because of the COVID thing – you’re forced to take a break…

BP : Well, from the public but it’s been quite liberating.  It’s given us the opportunity to focus on music we wouldn’t otherwise do.  It’s hit Lisa hardest really because she tours all the time now and she’s had to cancel about a year’s worth of touring.  But for myself, it’s been great.  I’ve finished a solo album and I’ve got another one bubbling away in the background. 

It’s been the same for me.  I contracted the virus in March but since then I’ve been really prolific, making music almost every day!

BP : There’s nothing like a skirmish with death to put you on the right track is there?  (laughs) 

It’s evident to anyone who listens to DCD that your music isn’t sourced from a single well.  It seems to find inspiration in music, not just from all over the world but over time.  And lyrically, it’s evident that you’re not interested in the trivialities of say, a love song – your songs have more in common with, perhaps, Blaise Pascal or Baudelaire than with common pop music.  How important do you think it is to say something of worth – perhaps of gravitas – when making music?

BP : It depends if you’ve got something worth saying.  A lot’s been said and done already. It’s really hard to find something novel in the world we live in, except technology and that’s kind of illusionary anyway because it hasn’t really changed who we are, psychologically.  Homo sapiens have stayed pretty much as they were, as hunter/gatherers, except that they have supermarkets now where they gather. 

We still go through the same gamut of emotions and so it’s that kind of timeless, classical aspect of time and progress and humanity that philosophy feeds from and feeds into.  They become a classical tradition in that sense, unchanging.  On the surface, everything seems to be the same but what I’m really interested in, philosophically, is what’s at the core, what the central axis is to the human experience. 

To me, it’s not really being serious, it’s wanting to open up and see what the state of affairs really is, to be human, to feel human and also through the intellect, the dynamics of politics and history and how it’s shaped our lives culturally and socially.

The subject matter may seem bigger than a love song but when you’re in love and you’re writing a love song, that’s all there is in your life anyway.  It’s as big as the moon and as profound. 

Can we talk a bit about the origins of Dead Can Dance?  You came out of Melbourne’s “little band scene.”  For the uninitiated, what was the scene like in Melbourne in the late 70’s/early 80’s? 

BP : Well, punk had kind of happened in Melbourne but there was a bigger punk scene in New Zealand than in Melbourne.  Or by the time we got there, it’d been and gone and the only people who seemed to be making music were the old brigade who were still doing rock n roll, hard rock – pub bands basically or there were kids from art school.  We got into playing punk music because we weren’t very good musicians – we could just about hold three chords together and get off the ground running and it was very much the same for this generation that came along then who were more arty.  It was more thought out, it was more jazz, Avant Garde, all sorts of things thrown in together and by a lot of people who were on the dole, in bedsit land, in shared houses.  Have you ever seen the film, ‘Dogs In Space?’

With Michael Hutchence? 

BP : Yeah.  He played Sam, who was based on Sam Sejakva from this band called The Ears, who were typical of the bands at that time, where you had the entire band and their friends living in one big house together.  The houses weren’t that expensive but they didn’t have to spend much on rent, so they could spend it on other things.  The equivalent in London would be the squat scene of that time.  Except these guys paid for it and they did have a landlord but the landlord didn’t care how many people lived there.  So, you had this communal living throughout the city and within that, people started to get into music but they couldn’t afford instruments, so they’d borrow instruments from each other.  A band would start up and they’d borrow a synth or a drum-machine from another band.  So, when it became time for these “little bands,” to play, they’d only have maybe 2 or 3 songs but there’d be about 10 bands all using the same gear.  The stage would be set up and they’d pretty much be sharing all the same backline. 

And that’s where I first met Lisa.  She’d play solo or guest with other people or play accordion.  It was really interesting because they weren’t schooled…I wouldn’t even call them musicians…but they were just people with ideas that would use sonic principles to get across what they wanted to express emotionally.  You also had sound poetry and on the synth side, bands influenced by the likes of Suicide, very minimal.  It was a pretty amazing time. 

What was the audience reaction to DCD in Melbourne at that time?  Did you have an immediate following?

BP : Yeah after a couple of gigs, we’d have about 15 people who’d come regularly but after more or less a year, we could do a show and we would expect a couple of hundred people.  But therein lay the problem because the touring circuit between cities in Australia – there are huge distances – so you became trapped within Melbourne.   You soon ran out of variation, playing the same venues, maybe occasionally supporting bigger bands and it’s really difficult to build out of that.  That was the main reason why we decided to come over to Europe – because Melbourne was a dead end. 

You got to London in 1982.  You were born and raised in East London, so was it something of a homecoming?  I imagine London in 1982 was pretty depressing? 

BP : It was depressing as fuck.  Thatcher’s Britain.  My family lived in the East End, initially in a little council place in Poplar and both lift shafts were burnt out – someone had set fire to them – so we had to take the stairs to the 6th floor.  And there were gangs on the street, muggings all the time, so you wouldn’t go out at night.  Horrible. 

When you came over you must’ve been pretty confident about getting a record deal? 

BP : Well, we had a lot of self-belief, which is kind of different from believing you’re actually going to get a record contract.  But luckily, when we arrived, the music scene was still really vibrant.  You still had that post-punk vibe and electronic music was coming in and it was really healthy, early 80’s; lots of venues, lots of places to play and you had your own charts,* so you felt you could compete in your own pond.  You didn’t want to compete with Michael Jackson, you just wanted to at least test the ground with your contemporaries.  It was exciting from that perspective. 

Our music changed considerably.  We were a bit out of phase with American bands.  We were influenced by industrial rock, Joy Division, with aspirations towards Can and we liked Magazine as well; we liked Wire a lot.  For the Australian audiences, it was too aggressive, too stark, too in your face for them.  But in London, it was like, “This is great!”   Apart from the poverty and the dirt and the grime, what was in the background was this really good music. The squat scene was fantastic, the sense of community, young people became politically motivated….

Was signing to 4AD Plan A?

BP : The first thing we did was buy some three gear bicycles.  I found a drummer, Peter Ulrich, who you know, so we started rehearsing again and we recorded a couple of rehearsals and then added two tracks that we’d done in Australia – ‘Fatal Impact’ and ‘Frontier’ with ‘A Passage In Time’ and ‘The Trial’ and that was the demo, so I made cassette copies of that.  And I sent one up to Factory Records in Manchester and the rest we were going to handdeliver because I didn’t want to just put them in the post.  I wanted to make sure it was received over the desk.  We did meet Daniel Miller at Mute and had a little chat.  They were quite straightforward about it and we gave one to Cherry Red as well – they were in the same building I think?  It wasn’t really their cup of tea and we hadn’t heard anything back from Factory.  Then we got a nice letter back from Ivo (Watts-Russell at 4AD) saying that he liked it but he couldn’t do anything with it because at that time they were still growing and they’d taken on quite a lot with X Mal Deutschland and the other groups and when we were in a position to play live, to give him a bell.  And that’s what we did.  He organised a few supports to X Mal and then he offered us a record deal on the back of that.  That was back in the day when even independent record labels wanted to know that you could play live because it was free publicity. 

Do you remember the venues you played in London?

BP : They were generally pretty good.  The Brixton ACE.  We played upstairs at the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith.  We supported Cocteau Twins at Victoria Theatre and ULU.  The only pub gigs we did were Loughborough Hotel in Brixton.  We did two there.  And then we moved up pretty quickly.  Three albums later, we were playing Sadlers Wells and theatres like that because we’d set our minds on that being the sort of place where people would best appreciate our music.  The Town & Country Club was probably the place we played the most.

“We’re really disappointed with the first album in terms of the potential of the music.  The recording process is trying to, in material terms, come close to the potential of the ideal you arrive at in the creative visionary process.  And it fell far short of our expectations for a number of reasons.  Our inexperience in the studio.  We were determined on producing it ourselves because we felt we were in the best position to produce our music, having created it.  And also we felt it would be a very educational process in itself.  We didn’t get on with the engineer at all so it was a strained environment in which to work and I don’t think the studio was very good for our purposes.  It was basically built out of the success of the early Mute groups, Yazoo and Depeche Mode.  It was right for them because all their music was practically online.  It was all synthesizer.  Our music demanded a natural, live acoustical sound because we were using predominantly acoustical instruments and we were rhythm orientated” – (Brendan Perry, Option magazine, late 80’s)

In hindsight, how do you see your debut album now?  It is still a frustration or has time dealt with it more favourably? 

BP : It will always be an unmitigated disaster for me.  Not a complete disaster but if you’d heard us play live at that time, Glen, you’d have really got it.  In retrospect, we were a little bit naïve.  We should probably have taken on a producer but we hadn’t bargained on the fact that we’d have such an uncooperative engineer to work with and it was really short – we had less than two weeks to do it and Ivo gave us another 5 days to finish it off.  That’s really hard work, when it’s your first album and you don’t have that production experience behind you.  The whole studio was set up for electronic music basically.  We would’ve been better off recording it in our social hall on the Barkantine Estate, Isle Of Dogs; set up a multi-track outside…

On the first album, there’s obviously the standard rock and roll armoury of drums, guitars, bass in there but do you remember what else you were using at that time?  There’s this “Drum machine built into a cassette player” – what was that all about?  Is that we can hear on ‘Instrumental’ on the Peel sessions with the high clave sound? 

BP : It is, yeah.  Unfortunately, there was no volume with the high claves – you just had a stereo out.  You’re stuck with each level of instrument.  And they were a bit loud but it’s a great little machine.  It was called a Tensai (rhythm machine).  It was a 3 track with a built-in drum machine; they were like the old organ drum machines, with bossa nova, rumba, etc.  On this one, you could press in two or three buttons at the same time.  For the choruses, we’d get Peter (Ulrich) to push in the rumba button or whatever.  ‘Labour Of Love’ was done on that.  It was great because I could put the bassline and the drum machine on one track and the overdub would be my voice and guitar, so it was virtually a 4-track.

Actually, the first time I ever saw one was when Sting had one.  There was a music documentary and Sting was on the tour bus and he was raving about it!  It took batteries so it was portable, like a ghetto blaster.  He was playing bass along to it. 

Didn’t you use electronic percussion too? 

BP : We used a Pearl Syncussion.  It was two bongo shaped ones with skins but it had a separate mixer.  I used it for those kind of helicopter sound on ‘The Fatal Impact.’  I’d love to have a set of those now.  I found one but it was really beaten up. They were great for industrial noise. 

Robin from Cocteau Twins really helped us out a lot.  We were doing support tours with them and got on well and Robin felt sorry for me ‘cos I was using a cheap, black, Tokai Les Paul copy guitar.  He said, “Here, I’m going to give you a guitar because I feel sorry for you having to play that.  I don’t use this one anymore.”  And it was a Kawai with DiMarzio pickups so I thought, “This is really sweet.”  And that was my guitar for touring the first album and a good few years after.  And it just came up in conversation recently, years afterwards, that I told Robin I’d gotten years of mileage out of that guitar.  He asked me if I’d still got it and I said yeah.  He said, “You know I used that guitar on ‘Garlands,’ the first Cocteaus album?” I nearly dropped off my seat!  I love that album! 

By the time you made ‘Spleen & Ideal’ all the guitars had gone.  Was that a consciously contrary decision?  During that time, the climate was very guitar-heavy, particularly on the independent scene, it was all about sounding like The Smiths or whatever. 

BP : Yeah, we were just being ourselves really.  We were never ones to follow fashion.  I had long, pageboy hair and a goatee beard.  Everyone had their hair up and I had mine down!  And a beard!  Even the clothes we wore were so anti-what-what-was going-on.  I hated all that big hair!  So ridiculous!  For me, they were all just a herd of cattle and sheep.  That was the disappointing thing about coming back to Britain – it reminded me of when I was growing up through the Glam area in London and how fashion really dictates.  It’s incredibly strong. 

Economics really ruled.  We got all our clothes from the op shops (*Opportunity shop/thrift store where second hand goods are sold).  A lot of bands at that time had a penchant for “dead man’s clothes,” as we called them.  St Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army shops, they were good shops – all those 50’s suits and stuff that John Lydon was wearing at the time in PiL.  Even Joy Division got their clothes from op shops.  You couldn’t afford what was in fashion but you could get some damned good suits, cheaply. 


What was the writing and recording process for ‘Spleen & Ideal.’  Would you have done a lot of advance programming at home and taken that to Woodbine St Studio where the rest of the band would’ve added their parts? 

BP : Yeah, the real breakthrough for us which really informed and developed the music was computing sequencing at that time.  The first one we bought was a Yamaha CX5M system.  You’ve got a monitor, a QWERTY keyboard and a musical keyboard but it was all a bit laborious.  You couldn’t play in real time but you could write it in.  I was starting to do musical theory.  I learned counterpoint and I was reading this book called ‘The Road To Parnassus’ by JJ Fowkes from around 1600 and something.  I was writing these sort of classical pieces.  The guitar was gathering dust in the corner for months. 

You could MIDI everything and it had a synth engine built into it, so all the those great, boomy, bassy organ sounds on ‘Spleen & Ideal‘ are from the computer. And you could print out scores so, afterwards, we’d have all those parts written for cellists and brass, etc.  We also brought in a fixer who helped with the scores.  After that album, I just continued with the sequencer line and got a Commodore 64 with a Steinberg Pro-16 sequencer and it all just took off from there – you started to get affordable samplers like the (Ensoniq 8-bit) Mirage. 

You did 3 records with producer, John Rivers at this Woodbine St Studio in Leamington Spa.  Did 4AD give you complete freedom at this point? 

BP : We had a bit more time in the studio.  The budget was increased.  A combination of our success and 4AD’s.  We were then looking at three to four weeks in the studio, as opposed to two.  But we were far better prepared then though.  We did a lot of prep work at home.  We bought an 8 track recorder so we could trial and demo before we actually committed to 24 track. 

Woodbine was a good little studio and the engineer there was totally into classical music so he thought we were great.  They only used to do local bands but that wasn’t the music he liked – he liked classical music.  And then John sacked him and replaced him with someone else.  We kind of went off John a bit after that.  And then the death knell came when we started to do the initial recording for ‘The Serpent’s Egg’ but he’d done something weird to the monitors.  I told him, “These mixes sound really lifeless” and he said, “I should’ve told you before but I’ve turned the monitors upside down in the room.”  So, we’d spent all this time being comfortable with the sound of this room and now the bass was at the top and the treble was at ear level, so we thought the mixes were a lot brighter than they were because the fucking bass was going over our heads!

So, I was pissed off with him because that wasted a lot of our time.  I went to Ivo and said, “Why don’t you give us the rest of the budget for the album and we’ll invest it in our own gear?”  I’d seen an AKAI 12 track that would do the job.  He had a lot of faith in us so he said, “Ok” and he gave us 15 or 20 grand, so we went down to Denmark Street, down to Argents where they had all the technical stuff.  We bought a load of hardware and set it up in our flat on the 13th floor of this tower block and we finished ‘The Serpents Egg.’  We did the whole album up there except a couple of tracks – Lisa’s ‘Orbis De Ignis,’ which we’d previously done in the studio and ‘The Host Of Seraphim.’ 

Like most people, I’ve spent a lifetime listening to music, yet it’s very rare that a piece of music can reduce me to tears without me understanding why.  I mention this specifically in regard to ‘The Host Of Seraphim’ – and I know I’m not alone in this, which alongside ‘Severance,’ seems to plunge one deep into perhaps a pool of self-reflection?  As the creator and the artist behind work like this, do you ever have a sense of having made something that exceeds mere music and reaches some higher plain

BP : We kind of strive to do that, especially in songs where there’s less cognitive stuff to work on, like lyrics.  So, it tends to happen more so in Lisa’s songs where it’s not so much about the words, where it’s more emotive voice and instruments. It’s a very special place, a very special emotion to tap into but you can’t predict when it’s going to happen.  It’s when all the elements come together.  There’s a specific moment.  With ‘Host,’ when I was putting the string arrangement down, I was working from the bass upwards – that’s the way a lot of baroque composers work too – the basso continuo, when the organ pedals were played by foot.  I put that down and thought that sounds nice, the drone but once it started moving, I had a chord above the bass and then the basic counterpoint and then you just overlay it and with every pass, it’s something new.  You just go with the flow – it’s like a river, music when it’s working and you’re on this raft, floating downstream and you feel great, everything around you looks wonderful and you completely forget about your surroundings.  And then the cello and the strings and you haven’t planned it and this is when you get these amazing meshes of harmony and dynamics. 

We had real problems cutting ‘The Host Of Seraphim’ onto vinyl.  We like a lot of stereo panning and the bass was really heavy but the dynamics were so rapid that every time the needle got to that point, it would jump out of the groove.  We had to sacrifice quite a lot of audio quality to make it work on vinyl so – and I don’t normally say this – it’s best heard on CD, that one.  

Brendan and Lisa, 1989 | by Sara Leigh Lewis in London

If I’ve ever been a fan of a record label, that label has been 4AD under Ivo Watt-Russell’s tenure – a tenure DCD were central to.  Even so, having read Martin Aston’s ‘Facing The Other Way : The Story Of 4AD,’ it’s apparent that my view may be somewhat rose-tinted.  What were the pluses and minuses of being signed to 4AD? 

BP : There are some things in the book that don’t sit well with me in terms of historical accuracy but having said that, it was a real eye opener to me.  We never really hung out with Ivo or anybody from 4AD or the bands really that much. We were pretty much on our own over there on the Isle Of Dogs.  It was difficult to get to 4AD without a car.  We had to take three trains to get over to Wandsworth but when we did, we made the most of it – we’d have lunch in that really good pub across the road, have a few beers and then we’d get on our bicycles or on the train and head home.  But it was a revelation to me – the drug aspect with Ivo and all the crystal meth stuff.  I had no idea all that stuff was going on.  Wasn’t it a bit of a cliché around that time, all these company execs putting their profits up their noses and losing sight of what’s beautiful about the whole thing?  

There was a good sense of camaraderie, a spirit.  The bands weren’t competing and we helped each other out a lot.  The Wolfgang Press were pretty central to all of that – really nice guys and old friends of Ivo’s.  I moved to Ireland at the end, when Ivo was selling up, so I didn’t really see what was happening for years.  But it was really sad to read about.  Lisa just got mad!  I think she called him (Ivo) and chewed his head off (laughs).


“Lisa’s music is a music that loves us, comforts us, embraces us and transforms us.  In a sense, it assures us that there is something beyond the pain and suffering of this world as we know it. 
 In the music of Brendan, there is little comfort.  Brendan’s music is the music of challenge. 
An unflinching determination to confront each of the ugliness’s of this world and to give them a specific name.  BP is not afraid to get down dirty and nasty with his god – though I don’t know if Brendan would accept the word “god – but for want of a better word.  His spirituality is one of a bare-knuckled, no holds barred contest in which nothing is conceded, nothing is assumed until it is reached by struggle, by looking at the brutality of the world in the face.  There’s little pity or compassion in this journey towards the spirit.   It is uncompromising.” – John Bonnar (Dead Dan Dance) 


Most people see Lisa sing and play the hammered dulcimer and perhaps have this idea that this is her role within DCD but in fact, you’ve always worked closely on the music since the very beginning haven’t you?

BP : It’s changed so much over the years.  In a nutshell, Lisa and I used to work a lot more closely on compositions than we do now.  We try.  We tried on ‘Dionysus’ but that was a real struggle for a few reasons but mainly because I don’t think she understood where I was coming from with this album.  She saw it as being very negative initially – she was a bit shocked by the Dionysus myth – but I think I’d mistakenly given her some literature about the Bacchae where all these women started ripping up animals and eating them (laughs).  And this drunken, abandoned, wanton god…”I’m not singing an album to Dionysus!”  She holds a lot of Christian beliefs and values so it was anathema to her.  It was hard to get her fully involved in that one so I did the lion’s share of that album.  The previous album, ‘Anastasis,’ was much more collaborative and it was more song-orientated anyway, so we worked a lot closer together. 

Generally, I come up with the music and I have things that I put aside specifically for Lisa – I keep my work separate – but they remain in the same mode or theme – they’re just variations on the theme.  I hand them over to her and then we develop them together. 

Have your records always started with a theme at the beginning? 

BP : Most of them.  ‘Spleen,’ ‘Within The Realm,’ ‘Aion,’ for sure.  ‘The Serpent’s Egg,’ less so.  ‘Into The Labyrinth’ is more of a collection of songs, the most disparate album.  ‘Anastasis’ and ‘Dionysus’ definitely. 

How do you listen to your music and how would you wish people would listen to DCD records? 

BP : Sitting in a dark room on a good system with the best possible quality they can afford.  I have a few subscriptions – Spotify, IDAGIO, a classical streaming service that’s really good.  I download stuff from iTunes occasionally.  I don’t buy CDs anymore.  I buy vinyl though.  I collect 12” EPs and singles from the late 70’s and early 80’s – that’s my niche.  I often listen to a lot of stuff on YouTube. 

This week, on Youtube, I watched a soundcheck you did before a gig in Bedford in 1984 and also found tracks that aren’t available on your records.  What do you think about the fact that we live in a time where gradually everything is becoming available and that there’s nothing left to unearth.  Also, the fact that you’ve grown up in public these past 40 years or so? 

BP : It’s a bit warts and all isn’t it?  Everything you never intended to be shared with the public has made its way to the surface.  Where I come from, the best artefact is the vinyl, primarily because it has the artwork, that wonderful, mechanical magic when the needle goes in the groove and this incredible sound comes out.  It’s also socialistically something everyone can have and own – it’s not like fine art but it is at the same time.  In the past I’ve deliberately never recorded all the sequential music that’s gone with the audio tracks so it’s impossible to remix us. And the reason for that is because I want our version, like a piece of fine art, to be the definitive version.

How would you explain DCD to a taxi driver?

BP : Ha!  I have tried a few times!  Impossible.  I kind of start off with the good intention that they might understand but when I listen to myself, “It’s kind of a mix of blues, world music, oriental influences” and it just sounds like the worst pizza imaginable!  You’d never want to eat it!  (Laughs).  And there’s never a response from the taxi driver.  Just confusion. 

Is that part of the secret to your longevity?  That your music can’t be easily pigeonholed? 

BP : You just reminded me that because of that, when we used to talk to the music press, we wouldn’t talk about our inspirations because it went over the journalists’ heads and it was so frustrating because we wanted to talk about those inspirations.

What’s next? 

BP : The way things are going, it doesn’t look like the tour will happen.  It’s like all the countries have given up and said, “Economics are more important than people’s lives.”  That means there won’t be any live concerts.  So I’m concentrating on my own stuff in the meantime…and growing my own food…and building walls…and getting guns.  It’s gonna get bad, man!  (laughs) I can only see it getting worse until we get a vaccine. 

I had that big sale and sold almost everything. And I’ve been getting back into guitars big time, so the next album will be very guitar-driven for sure. 






Sources/info :

* UK Independent Album and Singles charts (or “Indie Charts”), originating in 1980, first published in Record Week, later licensed to Sounds magazine. NME and Melody Maker magazines also published their own charts, often compiled from single record shop sales.

Option magazine quote taken from Emigre magazine 4AD Records special (1988) :

John Bonnar quote taken from DJ Denny Daniel’s ‘Imaginarium’ interview on Flashback Alternatives (2010) :

Dead Can Dance official website :

Brendan Perry official website :

Martin Aston’s ‘Facing The Other Way : The Story Of 4AD,’ published by HarperCollins imprint The Friday Project (2013) :


  1. Thank you for this wonderful interview with Brendan Perry— a warm and intimate conversation. As a long time listener of their music, it is lovely to read something which adds to my understanding and enlarges my perspective on the world that shaped them. Hearing Brendan speaking of the scene in Melbourne is one such example, and the quote from John Bonnar— it is filled with such sensitivity and insight into them and the way their music touches people. It is part of what has made their work great and enduring— their ability to touch people’s hearts across time and place, really expressing the way their influences reached them, and continue their journey through their music.
    Thank you and warm wishes to you.
    (One small correction is the spelling of John’s last name— Bonnar)

  2. Great interview. Some interviews I’ve seen with him the questions have been a bit uninspired, so it’s great to have an interviewer with a deep knowledge of the music, and his answers are more interesting as a result. I really like the taxi driver question too, I always thought that would be a good one to ask!

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