Interview:
Dirty Vegas

Deep Down And Dirty

Anyone who hasn’t heard of Dirty Vegas in the UK surely will be hearing a lot of them in the coming month or so, as the trio release their widely acclaimed eponymous debut album in August. Anyone who hasn’t heard of Dirty Vegas in the US however, has obviously either been walking around wearing a balaclava made of cement, doesn’t own a TV or radio, or buy magazines or newspapers, or is out on day release from the funny farm. DV’s main man Steve Smith is…well…he’s still a little stunned really…

AD: First of all, congratulations on your fantastic album. It’s already been played to the point of saturation on the office CD player.

SS: Really? Oh thanks a lot. That’s really nice to know. We’ve been really worrying about it, because it’s been so big in the States, and we never really thought that English people and American people would like the same thing. But we saw the first lot of reviews on Sunday, and they were amazing. It was incredible the way the whole thing took off in America though…

AD: A lot of that success was down to a certain Mitsubishi Eclipse advert wasn’t it? How did that come about?

SS: Er…yeah, you could say that just SLIGHTLY helped! It happened by complete accident. There was this guy from an advertising agency who was in Holland when “Days Go By” was just taking off over there. He heard it, loved it, and made a phone call asking to use it. At first we thought “No, this isn’t really happening – someone’s playing a joke on us”, because there’s hundreds, thousands of bands in America who have done it, and…er…

AD: You still seem overawed by it all…

SS: Oh, completely overawed by it. You know, we got back to England and we were like “Did that just happen?” The last two months have just been like a circus. I mean, we knew we’d have a good chance of getting somewhere because of the great video, but everything’s just built and built. First of all, we get this brilliant review in Rolling Stone magazine, then the album goes to number seven in the US charts, then Moby’s management rings up and tells us that he wants us to tour with him! To top it all off, we get a nomination for an MTV award.

AD: How’s the tour with Moby going?

SS: It’s going really well. Moby came up to us after one gig and said “What do you think of my audience?” and it was obvious that people had gone out and bought the album, as you could see them all mouthing the words and we got a great reception. It really was like a double ticket for us, being fans of Moby going right back to “Go”. He’s got a great band, and I was just standing there on the first night, thinking “This is where I want to be”. That first night was one of the best, because of the nerves and adrenaline, and everyone – the crew, the bands – all got along so well. It’s all been very surreal – I think since June 4th I’ve only been home for about four days. I keep fucking thinking of things in dollars; my girlfriend’s been saying “Will you PLEASE start talking in pounds?!”

AD: Immediately after the success of that single, it is alleged that you suffered a bit of writer’s block. What do you remember of that time?

SS: It wasn’t really writer’s block, it’s just that a lot of bands – especially dance bands – fall into problems where they make one big hit single, get signed and rushed into making an album and it all gets a bit samey. We were in danger of making “Days Go By” part two, three and four. We had the producer saying “No, take it off in this direction”. It came to the point where we just said “Look, for God’s sake, we’ve got an opportunity to make an album that we really WANT to make, and craft it exactly how we want to”. We wanted to make an album with a start, middle and end, about OUR experiences with no “filler tracks” and I think that’s what we’ve done. It was a bit heated at first – Paul was having a tough time, and Ben disappeared for about five days. When we eventually got him on his mobile and asked him where he was, he said “I’m on holiday!” and we were like “Oh great. Thanks for letting us know!” When he came back, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife between him and me. Then when I was in Pasha, Ben rang me up and said “Er…I just mixed down “Lost Not Found”…those lyrics…they’re about me aren’t they?” And that really was the turning point. The music was really tight on that track and the album just flowed from thereon. Even if the album sells two copies, at least it something we can be proud of. When we played it to the guy at the record company, he sat and listened to his eyes closed, told us it surpassed anything he’d expected us to have been able to come out with, and then cancelled all his meetings and took us down the pub!

AD: You’ve toured all over the world. Any favourite stories?

SS: We’ve had some great ones with the band. We seem to have this kind of chemical reaction with Texas – some mad thing always seems to happen whenever we go there, and we always end up getting in some kind of trouble. Paul managed to get ejected from a club on a Sunday afternoon! We all went for a meal and then off to this club called The Social. Next thing we know, this bouncer’s pulling Paul up by the scruff of his neck and throwing him onto the grass outside. When we asked why, the bouncer said “I didn’t like him. He was getting too drunk to be here.” Then while he’s collapsed in a heap on the grass, this armed policeman comes up to see what the problem is and tells us to move it. So we got into a cab, which turned out to have a mad taxi driver who just seemed like he wanted to have a fight, saying things like “I’ve got better things to do than drive around Texas on a Sunday afternoon.” We said “Ok mate, you drive. We’ll walk on”. It was all very odd.

AD: Though probably not as odd as the story on the news the other day about Rolf Harris’s accordion bursting into flames on stage the other day. So, who would YOU like to fit with an inflammable accordion and why?

SS: Inflammable? Or flammable?

AD: Er…they mean the same thing…

SS: Do they? Oh well, there goes my South London education! I don’t know…Steps probably, not that I’d ever want to hurt anyone. Steps or Darius. Then again Darius does write his own stuff doesn’t he? Sod it, do it to Gareth Gates instead.

AD: You weren’t expecting that question were you?

SS: You could say that! You can imagine how many times we’ve had (adopts American accent) “So, which one of you guys got dirty in Vegas then?”

AD: Yeah I never ask about how bands got their names. Far too predictable, and anyway you can find that out just by typing it in on the Internet.

SS: So you won’t be asking who our influences are either then…

AD: I wasn’t going to, but feel free if you want to…

SS: Well it probably gives you a clue as to where the album comes from – I’ve always been a big fan of Neil Young, Ben’s into Digweed and Sasha and all the other early dance pioneers and Paul’s influenced by heavy guitar riffs. The thing is, songs have been secondary for too long in dance music, and we didn’t want to do all the old clichés. With a song like “Ghosts”, it’s all about emotional baggage of relationships, and of the music business. Rolling Stone called us “the missing link between House music and the Stone Roses”, which was really flattering.

AD: If you were chosen to appear on “Room 101”, which three things would you want to bin?

SS: A&R people from major record companies….in fact, anyone who’s got a “pop” act on their label. Turin Brakes deserve a medal for sticking to what they want to do. Secondly, guns. It’s getting like America over here – I feel safer walking around in New York than I do in South London nowadays! Anyway the crime seems to have shifted from Manhattan and on to Brooklyn. America’s safer than Britain now! And my third choice…hmm….Ken Livingstone!

AD: And if you were all caricatures of superheroes, who would you be?

SS: Well I’d be the incredible hulk, because I can be a lot like David Banner at times, and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Paul would be Spiderman, as he climbs walls when he’s had a few too many beers, and Ben would be Ice Man as he’s just so laid back!

AD: Ok, to finish off, can you sum up what Dirty Vegas are about in ten words?

SS: Three guys enjoying themselves, making music they want to make. And if people like it, that’s great. That’s all that matters….although I could do with a new car!


Hmmm. Correct me if I’m wrong, but given the restriction s of my last question, I’d say that’s a bit of Steve’s South London education coming through again. Unless of course the first sentence was the answer…who cares anyway? Dirty Vegas have made a fine debut album that is likely to gain legendary cult status in years to come. Let’s hope that they continue “Throwing Shapes” at us for a little longer.

Interview and transcript by Tone E

 

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