DEAD MAN'S BONES
|ded mans bōns| 1. any of the pieces of hard, whitish tissue making up the skeleton in deceased humans
2.// extraordinaire duet formed by Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields in 2007.
3.// the beginning of Dead Man's Bones -according to Rolling Stone and DMB original myspace- When Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields met in Toronto in 2005 they wanted to hate each other. Gosling was dating actress Rachel McAdams and Shields was dating her sister Kayleen.
Ryan Gosling on Zach Shields: -according to Amy Philips, pitchfork.com- "Zach was wearing high heels when I first met him, and we were forced to live in the same house on the first day" -laughs-
"I thought, 'Who is this guy, what am I going to do with this character?' And then I thought, 'Well, I guess we'll start a band' "
Ryan and Zach resented the forced time they were expected to spend with one another, until a conversation stumbled upon their mutual obsession with the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.
Zach was so preoccupied with ghosts as a kid that he was put into therapy, and Ryan parents moved out of his childhood home because they believed it was haunted. Neither of them had really outgrown their fascination with ghosts, monsters, graveyards, zombies or anything deathly. The guys hatched their plan to form a band on a road trip to Las Vegas for Gosling's sister's 30th birthday ...
"We started putting on these performances for our friends in the hotel bathroom," says Gosling. "We'd go in the shower and we'd use the shower curtain as the stage curtain.”
The unorthodox performance space and the fact their first song was "A Love Story About a Guy and His Butterfly Knife" had a lot of their friends thinking it was all a joke.
Shields recalls: "They would laugh afterwards and be like, 'That was so funny!' And we'd be like, 'We weren't kidding ...' "
Once they realized their shared affinity for the eerie, they started trying to write a theatrical monster ghost love story for the stage. They decided that this story should have music so they began learning how to play various instruments. By the time they had written their first few songs they realized how difficult it would be and how much money it would costto create the show. They decided to continue with the music and put the play aside.
4.// the inspiration:-according to DMB original myspace- Zach and Ryan were also individually inspired by two musical programs of the past. Ghetto Reality is a 60’s musical masterpiece conceptualized by Nancy Dupree (an inner-city school music teacher in Zach’s hometown of Rochester, New York).
She made a name for herself and her students when she stepped away from a traditional curriculum to let her students make their own music about things that were relevant to them and their world.
In Canada, where Ryan was raised, Hans Fenger brought together 60 untrained children in 1976 and created The Langley Schools Music Project, Innocence and Despair, that featured flawed young voices singing the tunes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys and songs by many other famous artists. It was decided early on that their newly formed band, Dead Man’s Bones, wanted to work kids into what was shaping up to be their first album, Monster Music
There was something about the earnest recordings of those kids that hit a nerve with Zach and Ryan that seemed to resonate with their own musical evolution.
5.// influences -according to DMB original myspace- Some of their sounds reflected the music they listened to--a little bit of doo-wop and artists such as The Shangri-Las,The Shags, The Cure, Company Flow, Sam Cooke, The Misfits, James Brown, Bobby Vinton, Joy Division, The Andrew Sisters and Daniel Johnston, to name but a few ...
6.// the rules: -according to DMB original myspace- They gave themselves rules for the recording process a la Dogma '95, which was an avant-garde filmmaking movement started in 1995 by the Danish directors Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, who created The Dogme 95 Manifesto and The Bow of Chastity. These were rules to created filmmaking based on the traditional values of story, acting, and theme, excluding the use of elaborate special effects or technology.
Please take a brief moment to study the Chart of Dead Man's Bones Rules on the top of the following page.
7.// learning to play all kinds of instruments and dealing with fraudulent cello players As it it briefly mentioned in the previous paragraph, when it came time to record the album, Gosling and Shields created a set of rules to follow so as to not taint the purity of the process. This is how Gosling found himself playing cello and piano for the first time, while Shields took up the drums. Their desire to work under these conditions stemmed from bad music industry experiences in the past.
Zach Shields: "We had both made music before, and both of us hated what we did. We worked with people who were super professional, really accomplished musicians. And I always felt -- I think Ryan felt the same way-- everyone I was working with, I was trying to step up to their level and be as good as they were, technically. When we recorded before, everyone we worked with, they tried to make us good, and you know, we're not, we're amateurs. They would put it through a click track, have us do a million takes, Auto-Tune my voice because I can't sing well ..."
Gosling's singing also suffered under the weight of conventional studio expectations. On the Dead Man's Bones album, Shields' indie-everyman voice complements Gosling's more mannered tone, which exhibits a bit of Roy Orbison tremolo. However, encouraging Gosling to display his natural talent wasn't all that easy.
Zach Shields: "I'd hear him do karaoke, or when he thinks nobody's listening, like he's in the other room singing, with his natural voice. When he's singing and nobody's listening, it has this old quality, like this 50s kind of croonery feel. Every time I would hear him singing, without trying to sound like anything, that's how he sings.
So we were trying to record one session, and they were trying to make us both sound so modern, which he doesn't. I was like, 'You know, you should just sing in your natural voice,' and they kind of made fun of us. They were like, 'Oh that's goofy, that's silly.'"
Ryan Gosling: "I was always embarrassed because I sang like that, so I always tried to make my voice sound more contemporary."
Despite having some experience in music, both gents claim to be musical newbies at the time, so wanting to play most of the instruments on their first album, the pair had to learn how to play some of them. Gosling taught himself how to play piano and cello (the latter for the eerie waltz Buried in Water) after two cello players they had enlisted turned out to be frauds:
Ryan Gosling: “They came in and we pressed record and they had never touched a cello before in their life ..."
8.// dead man's bones low -fi aesthetic To combat the pressures of dealing with super professional accomplished musicians, the duo went for a lo-fi aesthetic, incorporating into the project tin foil for rain, creaking doors, paper ripping for thunder, foot steps, screaming, crying, waves, werewolf howling, boat noises, and crickets.
Ryan Gosling: "There was always some kind of function on the computer, a filter that would assimilate the thing that you wanted, and we didn't understand why you couldn't just record the thing that you wanted. Like, why you had to do the computerized version of it, why can't you just record it? It's more fun that way anyway, because you have to design a way to get that sound. For instance, if you want something to sound like it was on a PA system after a wedding and there's a few people dancing, why not just create that situation and record that?"