With the release of their third single, "Crushed By The Weight", just around the corner we caught up with Dead Fiction frontman Craig Macleod for a Q&A about being a musician, being in multiple bands, what's coming up in the next couple of months, and some solid advice for new bands.
What was it that inspired you to get into music?
It was my Granddad who initially inspired me to get into music. His dad and his brother both played in bands and were drummers, and I think I must have been about fourteen when we went to a music shop and he bought me a pair of sticks and a practice pad. My folks weren’t keen for me to get a drum kit in the house (laughs) and so I actually started playing a kit through getting lessons off of a guy I was at school with (Andy Dowson). We ended up becoming good friends and started playing in a band together. Sadly my granddad passed away two years later and so my Gran let me use their garage to build a rehearsal studio. So I’m originally a drummer but within about a year of playing I just wanted to pick up any instrument and make music. When I left school I got a scholarship to TAFE Music College in Perth Australia (so did Andy), and while studying there we played in as many bands as we could. When I returned to Scotland I kept playing and completed a BA Hons at Perth Music College and then went onto study a masters degree in music at Glasgow. Across all these years of studying and moving around I’ve played in twelve bands since I was young (Dead Fiction being the newest of these).
You are all in another band, what inspired you to set up Dead Fiction, and how do you juggle between the two, or are you breaking from one to focus on the other?
I’ve played in numerous rock bands across all my years as being a musician but for the last seven years or so most of my output has been focused on acoustic, fingerstyle, folk and indie styles. I’ve never lost that passion for playing in ‘heavier bands’ though, as the feeling and buzz you get from making some noise and totally going for it - both live and during rehearsals - is something I don’t really get as much from the more subtler styles. Ru and I are both really into rock music and share a love for lots of the same bands so it’s a no brainer really – to be honest I just wish now that we decided to get this band together a long time ago. We work full time and although music is part of our lifestyle, it isn’t a full time job for us so there is time to play in lots of projects and dedicate the time needed to both bands for either rehearsals, writing sessions, studio time or for when shows and tours arrive. Also, I have a studio built at home so apart from rehearsals and getting together to make music videos and doing promo shots (Ru is the photographer and videographer – with the occasional help from my wife – Ashley Macleod) I actually do most of the work required for Dead Fiction in terms of performing, engineering, producing and mixing the recordings; in fact, apart from some backing vocals on a few tracks it’s actually me playing everything on the record so that helps this move faster. However, next year we will write more collaboratively and we will all play our individual parts in the studio. I also run Meraki Records so I deal with all the music business type stuff like branding, artwork, distribution, promotion, marketing, press etc. The only things that I out source is the mastering for the records (Colin Dodds – a close friend who lives in Newcastle now doing a PHD with a young family and his wife does us proud every time and really pushes the tracks where they need to go) and the artwork / design (Hannah Dalton – a tattoo artist and designer who lives with her wife and two children who has done all the amazing artwork up-until-now, and I’m getting another old friend – Gordy Crawford (who’s just had his exhibition in Dundee and Edinburgh and on STV news) to do the artwork for our EP which will be released on 30th November).
The videos for your previous 2 singles were solid studio based performance clips, what was the idea behind going to the beach for “Crushed By The Weight”?
The idea for the new music video was really just about having a new location that was bright and open, as a contrast to our first two videos, which were intentionally quite dark. We also wanted to break from having complete continuity to the video and incorporate more of a story line or some scenes that didn’t have us just playing the song. Also, and perhaps more importantly we were super keen to trash gear and set it on fire so we needed an open space that wouldn’t be too busy (laughs). I think it worked really well and getting to trash some old rubbish gear and torch it was like completing a life goal for me (laughs).
What has the reaction been like to the video?
The reaction to the music video has been incredible. Within a week the video had like 190 likes, 55 comments and 90 odd shares and overall the video has been watched almost 10,000 times. I’ve also had lots of messages from fans asking about touring and shows. It’s really nice that folk have been in touch and the support for the music is really encouraging at such an early stage.
Do you aim for a definitive Dead Fiction sound, or are you focussing on making the sounds you love?
During the writing process I’ve consciously considered the aesthetic I’m aiming for which is basically having a mixture of heavy and lighter moments. A mixture of fuzziness, dirtyness, grungyness, blended with sections that are lighter, subtler and more melodic is what I’ve been trying to achieve. Overall, I think the music can loosely be considered alternative rock. In terms of influences for this project I’ve been (and have been for a long time) listening to be Biffy Clyro, Frightened Rabbit, Foo Fighters, Admiral Fallow, The Manchester Orchestra, Nirvana, Propagandhi, Owl John, etc. and collectively their work has definitely had an influence on the sound I’m making. However, I don’t consciously try to write a song like any of theses bands but their work and sound clearly feed into my own writing. Also, because the aesthetic that I’m trying to achieve lies within different parts of all of the above artist’s styles, I’m not surprised that I can hear their work coming through my own. For me, this isn’t a bad thing, and if anything it feels like a tip of the hat to bands and artists that I love. Nevertheless, some fans have got in touch through messaging or comments on social media saying that they think the sound is really distinct, and that as soon as they hear a song or an intro, they know that it’s Dead Fiction. This wasn’t something I was trying to aim for while recording and producing these tracks but it’s an added bonus if some folk are thinking that we have a personalised sound already. What I have been focusing on though is to try and write a balanced set-list (and as an extension of that an EP) that has consistency to it in terms of it’s overall sound, while simultaneously, trying to make each song have it’s own character in terms of concept, feel, structure, tempo, groove and production.
Are there any plans for Dead Fiction live dates and more releases?
Aye, I’ve just finished recording and producing the EP and I’ve just sent it to Colin to master (as I said before, he really gets the tracks where they need to be and really gives them the final touches that they need – I don’t think the tracks would sound as good if it wasn’t for his skills). The EP will be released on 30th November (St.Andrew’s day funnily enough...quite fitting for a Scottish band (laughs)) and I’m currently in the middle of booking and confirming some shows for December, which I’m really looking forward too.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians in new young bands on making music and getting it heard?
I would suggest the main thing is to love what you’re doing and be passionate about making music for its own sake first and foremost. Also, try and make whatever it is your doing as good as it can be. I think for that, you need to work really hard, be dedicated, give it your all, don’t let others down, communicate well with who ever it is your dealing with and be punctual. In terms of making music, think about and visualise what you’re trying to achieve aesthetically, consider you’re influences and try to have some reference points for when you’re actually making the record. Ultimately, as well, practice, practice, practice and demo before going into the studio so you’re not wasting time and money (unless you have the luxury of a decent home studio). In terms of the business aspect, make a website and set up all your social media, make it look professional with good quality images and videos (as good as you can afford or work with people who also like being creative and not too worried about making money as a starting point), update and build content constantly to firstly develop the buzz and hype, but also to keep it going while you work on new music to release. Also, write a good quality one-pager press release that has hyperlinks within it to all your content, collect and search out press and promoters that work with bands that fall into your sound, and make sure to be polite, responsive and keep chasing stuff. Finally, I think having a marketing campaign that runs over at least a month for singles and at least 8-12 weeks for a bigger release is really important as it helps to build engagement. Make a plan and develop as much content as you can to drip feed out over this period as well as trying to get whatever press you can, and if possible schedule this evenly too. I hope that helps and good luck!
Cheers Craig, thanks for taking part on HNH Q&A, we're so looking forward to the EP and coming along to one of the December gigs. Details coming soon.
"Crushed By The Weight" is out for stream and download on October 26th