Dream into Dust

Dream into Dust is an act from New York which is hard to describe. The project, which releases music on their own label Chthonic Streams, fuses neo-folk, industrial, classical and more elements into an orginal mixture, which is experimental and accessible at the same time. Their latest album “The Lathe of Heaven” is their most ambitious album to date. A good reason to ask protagonist Derek Rush for some in-depth information about Dream into Dust.

Can you introduce Dream into Dust and its member(s) in a few sentences?

Dream into Dust I’m Derek Rush, and Dream Into Dust is my band. I write most of the music, all the lyrics, do the artwork, and decide the direction things take. I also play a few instruments and do studio manipulation, though lately I’ve been focusing more on acoustic guitar and singing. Bryin Dall has been my musical partner-in-crime since 1997. He plays a frightening array of effect pedals with some bizarre-looking guitars, helps out with a little engineering, and is an extra set of ears to give another perspective.

Eddy Malave only plays a bit here and there on the recordings, but he adds an extra dimension with viola and violin that wouldn’t be the same without him. Bryin and I love that someone who went to Juilliard can have such an open mind about music that doesn’t follow classical rules.

Is Dream into Dust a real band, or is it you with guest musicians?

Dream into DustI consider it somewhere between the two at this point. “Guest musicians” implies that I direct every little thing the others do, and that anyone could come in and do the same job. I’m capable of coming up with weird sounds on my own, but no one can do the things that Bryin does. He still surprises me. He’s also been important in pushing me to do things like compilations, and his energy and dedication to music is infectious.

At one point I didn’t think “Black Ice” was going anywhere and I was going to drop it, but he convinced me it should be on the album with his enthusiasm for it. Eddy’s contributions are more directed by me, but he brings his own style to the playing, and he’s done some improvising too. I keep calling on the same people because they add something unique to the music, and they keep coming back because they get to express themselves in some way that’s different from their other work.

When and why did you decide that you wanted to make music?

Since birth it seemed I was all set to be an illustrator or cartoonist, until those things lost their pull and music became more exciting. At one point I was making up imaginary musicians to design album covers for, and for inspiration I would actually create the albums on tapes. I realized making the music was more fun than doing the cover art.

I have the feeling that “The Lathe of Heaven” is your most ambitious release to date. Do you agree?

Absolutely. After “The World We Have Lost” was finished, I told Bryin I never wanted to do anything that ambitious again, it was too much work. But enough time passed that I wanted to make a major statement. It was actually more ambitious than it turned out. I had a lot more ideas for both lyrical concepts and musical bits that would connect everything together, because the whole album tells a story. But in the end, I wanted to be able to let the individual songs be the best they could, so they could be appreciated separately or as a part of the whole work.

The album title is taken from the (filmed) novel by Ursula K. Leguin. Can you tell us something about the subject matter and your reasons to use this theme?

The album tells a story that has many individual parts and meanings, but overall deals with dreams and their ability to affect reality. This has been dealt with in literature before, but never as well as in that book. I saw the original tv movie first – someone did a remake recently which was totally useless – and it was so surreal, but I understood it. When the album was beginning to take shape and I started to see the themes developing, I realized the title was perfect. I also look at it as an opportunity to draw attention to a great and yet comparatively obscure work with a new audience; even some serious sci-fi fans had never heard of it. The album isn’t a science fiction story though, the things it deals with are very real.

Various songs on your new album sound rather poppy and melodic. Was this a conscious decision?

Dream into DustNot really. When I began work on the album, I was in a very bad head, and I was just gathering samples and mutating them into dark soundscapes. As the work progressed I began to come out of it, which led to a better frame of mind and some brighter music. I’d also done some live shows, which was more enjoyable than I’d thought. I found I actually enjoyed singing and playing, and so I wanted to write more things that could be played live.

Still, the album doesn’t abandon our stranger elements. Even the most melodic songs have their share of weird noises, crunchy rhythms, and neoclassical arrangements. I hesitate to classify it as ‘pop’, because to me that means something more shallow and immediate, not to mention a lot more popular in a mainstream sense. There may be more accessible elements now, but there’s still a lot of layers to it that take a while to get, and keep it from being Top 40 material.

How was the album received by the press and audience?

Most reactions have been good so far. I’ve actually been surprised at some of the people who like it, even the more melodic parts. When we played “Internal Return” at a night of dark electronics, I thought all these heavy, noisy bands and fans were going to hate it, but some came up afterwards and said that was their favorite song of the set. Which is great, because I love Nurse With Wound and Non and all kinds of noisy stuff, but it’s not my whole existence. It’s great to find other people like that.

Is there a song of which you are particularly proud?

Not more proud, but some came out more like they were in my head, which is a very difficult thing to do. A lot of the little instrumental moments in “Sleep in Dead Time” are exactly as I envisioned them. “White Autumn” is like that too, and that song sounds like nothing else i can think of, which also makes me glad.

Your lyrics are not known for their cheerfulness. Don’t you get milder as you grow older?

Maybe in some ways, but a lot of the feelings stay similar. I suppose there’s not as much anger, but it’s still there. It just comes out in different ways – more sarcasm and pessimism instead of screaming and making a really loud noise. Though I still enjoy listening to things like that sometimes, and it could resurface in our music.

I was impressed by the startling surreal artwork in the booklet. Have you had an art education?

Thanks. I have a fine arts background, but I switched over to Graphic Design and also took Photography. The former is my job, the latter is more of a hobby, but some pictures find their way onto the website or album artwork.

Would you prefer to remain an underground artist, or would you like to be on the cover of Rolling Stone?

I don’t forsee being on the cover of a magazine that big, nor would I think that an appropriate place for us, unless somehow it accidentally transpires that what we’re doing is the Next Big Thing. In which case, I’d have to see what happened with it, but I’d be pretty wary. I’d much rather have underground longevity and respect than fleeting pop stardom. But I don’t know how much of a choice one has in things like that.

You run your own label Chthonic Streams. Why an own label? Doesn’t the music business distract you from the creative process?

It is distracting, I’ve actually scaled back the plans and operations of the label and mailorder. Bryin and I have worked with other labels before, and we’d work with another label again. Before this release, we had 8 labels interested, but as the album was being recorded it was hard to see it fitting on any of them stylistically.

I figured it would be counter-productive to put something out on a label that has a certain reputation when the music doesn’t follow that sound – it’s just going to confuse the fans of that label and won’t get into any new areas either. So I thought the best idea was to self-release it and then see what happens next.

You have submitted quite a number of fine songs to compilations. Can we expect a ‘rarities’ compilation someday?

It’s a possibility, but not until all the compilations have been released and then sold out. Otherwise it’s pointless.

Your eclectic music seems to fuse many different styles. Why so much variety, wouldn’t it be easier to stick to one clear subculture?

It would definitely be easier. You don’t realize how fragmented music scenes are until you try to find places to send promos to. The Great Divide that confounds us right now is that bands with guitars are called “rock” and bands with synths and samples are called “electronic”. They’re completely different departments or establishments. Even those few bands that use both are perceived to be in one camp or the other, flirting with the opposite side. We’re not a rock band that spices things up with electronics, and we’re not an electronic band trying to add realism with “natural” instruments. It’s hard to know where to put us, which is good artistically but difficult in terms of exposure. Perhaps some writer will come up with a term to describe the bands that are doing similar things.

You have released a few limited singles. Do you like ‘special’ releases, and are you a collector yourself?

I love special releases. I have a small cabinet just to keep all of them. I won’t call myself a collector because it’s about the music first. If the music isn’t good, the packaging won’t save it. But as an artist I appreciate a well-done piece of art, and I think packaging helps make it more than just a piece of plastic with encoded sounds.

Can you tell something about your creative process? How do you usually write songs, and what instruments do you use?

Dream into DustThere’s no set way to write. Sometimes a loop will become the basis for a song. Other times, while playing guitar, i find some chords and save that on a tape. I’m always writing words, and once those start to connect with each other, I see if I’ve got some music that fits with them, or I’ll actually write music around the words.

The greatest thing is when I’m walking down the street and musical ideas just come to me. Arrangements are done mostly in my head as the song’s being finished. At various points there’s a lot of hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing trying to find the right lyrics or sound or chord sequence. I may have to switch instruments or put it aside for awhile to figure it out. Then there are times when huge amounts get done very quickly and easily.

Your lyrics appear to be very associative, written in one stream-of-consciousness. Are they?

Not really. I’ve tried things like that. It’s good as a source for raw material, but then it has to be edited, or else it can just be a load of gibberish. A lot of the lyrics that may sound free-form are probably some kind of symbolism.

Are there distinct artists which influenced you and especially your last album?

I listen to things from several different genres, so it all goes into a big blender in my brain. There might be a bit here or there that’s influenced by someone, but I usually don’t realize it until someone else points it out. Sometimes I might go after a certain sound, like “I want a drum sound like Steve Albini gets” or “Those strings should be like Scott Walker”. That gets mixed in with a dozen other things in each song though. Everything we do warps our influences as they pass through our own perspectives.

I believe that you live in New York City. Does its musical climate and your environment have a clear effect on your music?

Any environment will have an influence on your work. I used to feel more isolated from things here, and I still am to an extent. But I’ve learned to stay away from certain places and people, and find others that make more sense to me. The musical climate here is a weird mix right now. There’s been a lot of hype about NYC bands, but frankly, only some of them are as good as they say, and there’s still hundreds of bad ones. The unfortunate side of any “scene hype” is that everything gets reduced to one dimension, in this case “new rock”. There are good bands here doing things that can’t be described as that. It is exciting though, because when you see something worthwhile happening in your own town, it gets you more motivated.

Are there important non-musical matters that influence your music?

Definitely. Sometimes a song is supposed to have a certain feeling, and so the production or the writing is adapted to try and get that across. Some songs are also totally lyric-driven, in that the words, concept, and title were 90% done before the music was written, so the music was written around those things.

Do you have experiences with live performances? What could people expect of a Dream into Dust concert?

We’ve only done a few shows so far, but that’s going to change. Right now the plan is to expand on what we were already doing, which is focusing on the acoustic guitar-based songs. It’s not all folky-sounding though, because of the other instruments. We’re adding a bassist and a keyboardist so more can be done live, and the rhythms are programmed instead of prerecorded, so some things will be arranged differently and might even change from show to show. I definitely don’t want to lose the experimental edge and just play straight songs, so hopefully we’ll be able to work in some soundscape excursions.

Do you see internet more as an important promotional vehicle or as a free download threat?

It has the potential to be either. It’s a tool, not an end in itself. It’s up to how people use it.

Can you name 5 albums which changed your life?

Gary Numan’s “The Pleasure Principle” was the first album I ever wanted. Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” expressed the starkest, bleakest emotions I could feel, and Death In June’s “But What Ends, When the Symbols Shatter” showed me the beauty in misanthropy. I can still say Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” is my favorite album of all time, and it definitely had an effect on the way I view the album as a single work of art and not just a collection of songs.
[note of the editor: that’s only 4. oh no, “The Wall” is a double album]

And which film should be released on DVD as soon as possible?

They’re always putting films out, but I’m hoping for a box set of “The Kids in the Hall” TV series. They were the best thing since Monty Python.

What do you do when you’re not occupied with music?

Work too many hours doing graphic layout. Hang out with friends. Get incensed over the state of the world. Eat my veggies.

And what would you do if you won a million dollars?

Put a chunk away for later, get presents for the people closest to me, buy a house, and build the most amazing studio I could.

Which of the seven sins are you the most guilty of?

I don’t even know what the seven sins are off the top of my head. I think the idea of sin is overrated. You can be a reasonably moral person and keep yourself in line without labeling certain thoughts and actions as sinful.

Is America as bad as Mr. Michael Moore wants us to believe?

It’s hard for me to say, living in New York City, or any major city for that matter. From what I’ve seen, people get scarier the more rural things get. But that’s just a generalization. I’ve met people from places like that, and some of them are more at home here than there. Not everyone is born in the right place or time. Anyway, there are definitely some people with really unbalanced and inconsiderate ideas about the way this country and the world should be. If Moore is being an alarmist or trouble-maker, well, someone has to shake people up about that stuff.

Any exciting future plans for Dream into Dust?

Besides getting ready for more live shows, I’m already collecting sounds and writing new songs for the next album, which is exciting to me. We’re just going to keep trying to improve with every new project.

And perhaps a final thought?

Dig below the surface, you’ll always find more…