HOWEVER many lurid tales have been told down the decades about what bands get up to at the back of their tour bus, the reality of being on the road now is rather different. For most, boredom and long stretches of dead time — on planes and at airports, in vans — are defining features. But that travel time is a productive boon for Paul Quattrone.
Together with singer and lyricist Vashti Windish, he’s one half of LA’s Warm Drag, who formed in 2015 after their previous band Shockwave Riderz broke up. Warm Drag eschew live instrumentation in favour of two Akai samplers, which Paul (who did time with dance-punk outfit !!! until 2017) uses to chop and slice the multiple drum breaks and guitar and synth parts that make up their darkly textured, cool and cleverly collaged songs. It’s labour-intensive work, which he fits into his demanding schedule as one of two drummers with psych-garage/prog titans Oh Sees and he gets a satisfying load of it done when they’re out on tour.
‘It’s definitely a labour of love,’ he agrees. ‘I basically have a lot of free time in the back of a tour van or on airplanes, so it’s a way to pass the time. I do a lot of work compiling folders of drum breaks and I experiment with Ableton. A lot of it is trial and error, figuring out which puzzle pieces I can link up, like a drum break with a loop that I already have. Sometimes, it will just click magically and I’ll have the foundation for a song. I wouldn’t have the patience to do that in my home studio,’ he laughs.
Released last year, Warm Drag’s self-titled debut album recalls The Cramps, Phil Spector, early Spacemen 3 and Pussy Galore, with Vashti casting her spells along depraved Nancy Sinatra lines as she sings about corpses discovered in sub-let apartments, and more. There’s also evidence of Paul’s love of hip-hop production dons The Bomb Squad and of Vashti’s ‘more goth’ and industrial interests. It might have ended up as pastiche, but hasn’t.
Explains Paul: ‘There’s a lot of processing, with sounds pitched down or reversed, so it still has that vintage quality but the fact that it’s going through effects pedals adds a modern-ness and makes it a whole other thing.’
His memory for sounds he loves and where he heard them means the sampling task is less hard graft than it might otherwise be. ‘When it comes to music, it’s one of the few things I’m super-nerdy about,’ Paul jokes. ‘I remember [music quiz show] Rock & Roll Jeopardy! on VH1 and used to think, I should go on this show!’
So much for the sourcing, sampling and puzzle-solving processes, but how the heck does Warm Drag work live?
Noisily and with an element of chaos, it seems. Paul explains: ‘I have six PA speakers that I blast everything through and it sounds completely different every single night. On the one hand that’s maddening, because I never feel like I have a full grasp on everything but it also guarantees it’s not robotic. Vashti and I both come from rock ’n’ roll bands, so it makes me want to actually play the samplers. I don’t just switch them on and then stand back.’ He laughs: ‘I can barely look up, I’ve got so much going on.’
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