Interview with Duane Denison of Tomahawk

An esteemed membership like Tomahawk’s isn’t often come by. After all, the quartet are made up of Faith No More figurehead and Mr Bungle mastermind Mike Patton, The Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison, Helmet drummer John Stanier and latest addition on bass, Trevor Dunn, who has worked extensively with John Zorn and played alongside Patton with Mr Bungle in the late ‘80s. With a full tank of inspiration, Tomahawk have rocketed to new heights with album number four, ‘Oddfellows’. I find out more from guitarist Duane Denison.

TOMAHAWK by Tim Moss

You recorded new album ‘Oddfellows’ at Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye studios in Nashville with Collin Dupuis. How was it?
Duane: Great — it’s a good combination of vintage and modern. We were able to record together all in one room. That makes for a more intense vibe.

Could you tell us a little bit about the thematic inspiration behind the record?
Duane: It’s all part of being in a secret society — or is it? There’s an element of judgement involved as well — just look at the mythical beasts on the cover!

How would you say ‘Oddfellows’ fits into the Tomahawk discography?
Duane: It picks up where ‘Mit Gas’ left off, basically….rocked out, with moments of light piercing through the deep dark night of the soul.

Who came up with the title for the album and what does it mean to the band?
Duane: We’re all ‘Oddfellows’, all of us. We’re all in our own secret societies, even when we’re alone.

You, Mike, John and Trevor are obviously successful musicians with other bands. How does all these musical minds come together and create ideas with compromise for each other’s ideas? Is there a particular protocol for crafting your inventions?
Duane: Basically, I sketch out some raw material, Patton adds vox and samples, then we get together and tweak the arrangements as we rehearse. I always leave room for the others to add parts—I’m not a dictatorial guitar hero in that regard.

How has Trevor Dunn fit into the band? What has he brought to Tomahawk since his arrival in early 2012?
Duane: Trevor was a very easy, natural fit. We’ve all known him for years, he’s a great musician and an easy-going personality. The last thing we need is more psychodrama.

You began your own musical journey when studying classic guitar at Eastern Michigan University. Your background in music has shown you to have a diverse ear for differing styles, working alongside Andrew Bird, Revolting Cocks and obviously playing with The Jesus Lizard still. Are there any musical boundaries for you?
Duane: I can’t really play classical any more — it’s been too long since I tried! I don’t think I’m cut out for country music, and I don’t like bluegrass much either. So yeah, there’s plenty of things I can’t play, I assure you!

How would you best describe Tomahawk nowadays; as a side-project, supergroup or a full-time band?
Duane: I don’t like the ‘supergroup’ tag; ‘side project’ suggests an indulgent time killer, and we’re not really a full time group either. I don’t know, ‘temporarily immortal’?

You’re doing a number of tour dates in the US in February in support of the album. What else is in store for the year? Do you have any plans to tour Europe and perhaps the UK too?
Duane: Oh, we’re going here and there, probably come over to your green and pleasant isle sometime later this year. See you then!

Interview by Calum Robson

Photo Credit: Tim Moss.


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