Crystal Fighters played Toronto’s The Hoxton on June 15th. After the band finished sound checking, I had the pleasure of interviewing Graham Dickson (guitar / txalaparta). We talked about the band’s new album (Cave Rave), Basque culture, and the mysterious origins of Graham’s psychedelic clothing.
AMBY: I’m Leah with A Music Blog, Yea? and I’m here at The Hoxton with Graham from Crystal Fighters. Thanks for doing the interview.
GRAHAM: Thank you for having me.
AMBY: So to start off, how would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with your music? And can you talk a little about how you came up with the name Crystal Fighters?
GRAHAM: Yeah, wow, that’s like, a lot of questions. The name Crystal Fighters comes from like a passage in this book, this unfinished opera that was written by our first—one of our first—singer’s grandfather, while he was dying. He just wrote this crazy book that kind of had like, different plots. But there’s this one section which was about the youth of Spain, the rebellious youth, and the translation was like a rough translation of Crystal Fighters. So we chose that.
But the sound basically—because of this book—we got interested in Basque, traditional Basque culture and Basque instrumentation. And so I guess we, our sound, originally was really a combination of like traditional Basque music with modern kind of dance music and you know, traditional rock and roll stuff. Or influential rock and roll. But now we’ve incorporated more sounds with the new album, there’s some African stuff and some South American stuff—we’re expanding.
AMBY: Being from Spain, does that have an influence on your music?
GRAHAM: Yeah, I’m, we’re not—I’m not—from Spain, I’m American [laughs], but, definitely. I mean, we wrote this album in Spain, in the Basque Country, and being there was really important for us. Having done so much research, to actually finally go and spend a lot of time and actually kind of immerse ourselves in the culture was really important. And also made us kind of start thinking about where the Basque culture came from, and start thinking more about ancient artists who were documenting creativity on cave walls—that initial spark of creativity 35, 000 years ago became really important to us. And so that collective understanding of existence that was documented in different forms of the world back then, that definitely had a huge influence on this album. And I think if it wasn’t for us going to Spain to write it, it wouldn’t have happened like this.
AMBY: Right. So as you mentioned, you just released your new album Cave Rave—
AMBY: What are your favourite tracks off of it?
GRAHAM: I mean, that’s tricky. I really like “Bridge of Bones” because it’s so different from everything else. I like “Wave” a lot. I mean, I don’t know—
AMBY: They’re all good.
GRAHAM: They’re awesome, yeah.
AMBY: “LA Calling” is a really great song.
GRAHAM: Oh thank you, I like that one a lot, too.
AMBY: Yeah, that’s my favourite. What’s the story behind it, if there is a story behind it?
GRAHAM: “LA Calling,” it’s about you know, a guy who’s out, out on the town all the time. But still has his heart in the right place and loves his woman at home, and although he’s out cruising all the time still knows where his heart is.
AMBY: What was the best moment you had while recording Cave Rave?
GRAHAM: You know we had so many amazing moments. Justin Meldal-Johnsen—the producer—to have him play bass on a few songs is insane. He’s the bassist on “Bridge of Bones,” that was amazing to hear him lay that down. That was cool.
AMBY: What’s the funniest thing to happen to you while at a gig? I know you’re just beginning your tour now, but, previous gigs?
GRAHAM: I mean, we’ve had lots of gigs. Uh, funny…. Not that much. I mean, I fell off a pretty high stage once, which was pretty crazy. I don’t think I could, I can’t remember the second half of the show. But, nothing too crazy. I mean, people like, fucking showed up on stage. People getting wasted and dancing all over our pedals and the whole thing being unplugged. Stuff like that. Nothing, nothing too crazy.
AMBY: How would you compare European audiences to the North American ones?
GRAHAM: It’s different… I think a lot has to do with that we’re better known over there. So people are just more familiar with the music. But here it’s like, when people want to party in North America, it’s on. And that’s the fun thing, being from here it’s nice to like, you know, I understand that.
AMBY: If you had a time machine, where would you go?
GRAHAM: Aw man, time machine, man, I’d probably go… back to Ancient Egypt, probably 12,000 B.C.
AMBY: What bands or artists have you been listening to lately?
AMBY: What’s the best part of being in Crystal Fighters?
GRAHAM: I mean, I think to get to do this. To get to travel around the world playing shows, that’s pretty awesome.
AMBY: And for our last question, what’s something about Crystal Fighters that no one knows yet?
GRAHAM: Oh man…
AMBY: Without revealing too much…
GRAHAM: No one knows who tie-dyes my shirts.
AMBY: Ah, good answer.
GRAHAM: I have a special tie-dyer.
AMBY: [laughs] Well thank you so much
GRAHAM: No thank you.
Thank you Crystal Fighters, for giving us your answers!