The BIG Über Rock Interview – Dean ‘Denzel’ Pearson (Mutation) Print
Written by Rich Hobson   
Sunday, 10 September 2017 04:30

The beating heart behind much of Ginger Wildheart’s solo material this past decade, Denzel (real name Dean Pearson) is a prolific music-making machine with an extensive (and seemingly never-ending) list of accolades, records and bands under his belt. Gearing up to bring the fury for the upcoming Mutation debut UK tour, this is the man you can thank for your impending tinnitus…

 

Mutation - Denzel

PHOTO CREDIT: Will Hutchinson.

I started by asking what he was doing in one of his rare few moments of downtime:

 

I’m currently subletting [Hey!Hello!/Slaves To Gravity bassist] Toshi’s place while he’s on tour with Ugly Kid Joe, looking for a new place. That and preparing the upcoming Mutation onslaught that’s due to happen, trying to keep myself fit.

 

So, before we get properly started – who would you say are the sonic ancestors to Mutation?

 

This is going to be different for all of us. For me, and this goes back to ‘Error 500’, I think it particularly stinks of Mike Patton, who funnily enough went on to sign it to Ipecac. It’s too much of a melting pot, a mixed vibe, to just pick people out of the blue, because it’s not that linear. There’s something in there that makes it not want to stick to one sound. Mike Patton’s a good one though.

 

You’ve been with Mutation since the start, would you mind talking us through your involvement with the Mutation project?

 

When it started out, with ‘The Frankenstein Effect’, Ginger was in his usual Ginger mode, with all these ideas that on paper really shouldn’t work, things like “we’ll get everyone in the world on this record, it’s going to be the most fucked up record ever” but everyone ended up buggering off in the end. Me, him and Jase – maybe Jon as well – got together to start jamming stuff out and it turned into a smorgasbord of rockers.

 

By the time we did the second record it got really strange, with Mark E Smith of The Fall joining us and Shame Embury of Napalm Death. It was mind-blowing really, to get those two people, and it really set the tone for the weird record that is ‘Error 500’.

 

The last one, ‘Dark Black’ was the next logical step, to not have real drums on the record and instead program something a real drummer wouldn’t really think to do. Though funnily enough, the guy who did program it is a real drummer, Jamie Oliver of UK Subs. When he was programming the drums, he clearly wasn’t thinking “I’ll have to play this some day”, so now I’m left with his handiwork and play what he’s programmed. I owe him a slap in the face, really. I met him for the first time recently, in the studio. He seemed like a really nice guy but I was like “Jamie Oliver?” and he turned to give me this smile, before I said “I owe you a kick in the balls mate. You’ve made my job difficult – I’ll need to go jogging for this next tour!”

 

I take it that there’s a lot of translation between what’s on the record and what you’ll do live?

 

Mutation video grab

PHOTO CREDIT: Will Hutchinson.

 

The only track we’ve done so far is ‘Hate’. I’m just trying to keep it close to the record, maybe add a few bits in here or there. But I know, just in preparation, that there’ll be times when I’m training and end up looking at the sky screaming “FUCK YOU JAMIE OLIVER!”

 

We got a snippet of how the band will sound with the live ‘Hate’ video, but what would you say are the biggest differences between the studio band and the ‘live’ act?

 

That’s a funny one, because we haven’t played a gig yet. All we’ve done live is that one recording of ‘Hate’, but then when I think back to the previous two albums, we had to write and record those records live. I think when we play those songs live it’s going to sound just as brutal, if not more so. The real challenge now is filling all the gaps, like if we try to do the stuff from the first two albums with only three people, it’ll be difficult.

 

Are there any songs that you are itching to play live?

 

All of it! I’d love to do a three hour Mutation gig with all of the songs. I love the ones where you sit back and wonder “can you even play that live?” – those are the ones I really want to play! I want to crack those. It’s all going to be good, I keep getting texts from Ginger asking “are you training for this, fitness wise? Because I am!”, boxing training and whatever. This is going to be a heavy tour…

 

If you could give any one song a Mutation makeover, what would it be?

 

‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac. I’m gonna start work on that for Mutation IV, I’ll start on it now and make it so good that they won’t be able to not put it on the album.

 

One song that jumps out to me from the Mutation canon is ‘Benzo Fury’, which was recorded by one of your bands…

 

Yeah that was Losers. Me, Tom and Paul set it up; when we were recording ‘Error 500’ with Kevin Vanbergen, there was one track left to do but we couldn’t make it in time. Everyone was beat, Mark E Smith really did a number on us. Even Jon [Poole]; he got wrecked and was in bed for like a day afterwards. Ginger was already a fan of Cooper Temple Clause so he figured if we were going to do it with Tom Bellamy, we should do something that would come out and he trusted us with it.

 

It’s a real Marmite one though, some people hear it and think “fuck yeah, I like that Benzo Fury”, where others will say it’s a bit boring. It’s supposed to be; it’s a Marmite album!

 

Are there any shows you are particularly excited about playing for Mutation?

 

Damnation poster

 

It’s always nice to get out to Japan. I’ve never played the Riverside in Newcastle, actually. I remember when I was young I never caught it, because it had closed down, but I heard stories and always wanted to play there. We’re playing on Halloween night, which is cool. Always good to see the family!

 

Speaking of families (of a sort, anyway) – how does it feel to work on an album with Ginger that doesn’t necessarily appeal to his core fanbase?

 

A lot of it has been really interesting and new to me. A lot of the stuff we’ve been doing over the past 11 years (starting with Howling Willie Cunt), as long as it has a certain sound most of the fans will be on board. With Mutation it’s different – a lot of people don’t like it, but I think that’s kind of the point. I think Ginger is trying to reach out to new people with Mutation, people who don’t necessarily get on with the Ginger or Wildhearts material.

 

But at the same time, I think he has kept a lot of that pop sound which he’s known for. Even on this last record, horrible and brutal as it is, there’s still some pop in there. It’s actually the first Mutation record where I wasn’t involved in the writing at all, with it being split between Ginger and Scott in a caravan in Wales.

 

That’s an interesting point really, about the personnel involved in the album. Do you think that now you’re getting to take it out on the road Mutation will enjoy a static line-up for a while?

 

Who knows? With Ginger you can never tell. I always try and second guess his next move but he always surprises me. The next one might be me, Ginger, Marilyn Monroe and the vocalist from that band with the funny dance, Future Islands. I wouldn’t be surprised, anyway.

 

You’ve had a few guests on the Mutation records, with the couple mentioned above and Phil Campbell, Devin Townsend and Jamie Oliver on the current one. If you could play with anyone, who would you choose?

 

On a Mutation record? Ooh, that’s a question and a half. I would like to be on it *laughs*. I’d pick one of the mental guitarists from Meshuggah; I hope that Pavarotti is involved… And it’d be great if we could get Cliff Richard. Or Kerry King, from Slayer. Basically, the most fucked up people you can think of.

 

Meshuggah and Kerry King are decidedly the most metal oriented responses I’ve got to that question. Would you class Mutation as a metal band?

 

I really don’t think of it like that. To be honest, those people were the first people to pop into my head. Pavarotti’s not that metal, he’s just a bit metal. I don’t really think of Mutation as having metal records though, especially now that they’ve taken it down such a punky route. I don’t like putting things in brackets; it’s Mutation.

 

Outside of Mutation and Ginger, you also do a lot of industry-type work. You were recently in China – what was that all about?

 

Mutation

 

I was a judge in a drum competition and I ended up doing some drum shows and masterclasses out there. It’s the first time I’ve been abroad without a band, I almost shit myself on the plane because usually I can look left or right and see the lads, but this time it was just a question of what would happen when I got out there.

 

I had to stand on stage with a translator and do masterclasses, play along to some of my songs. We had the producers take out the backing track so I could play along live. It’s a tidy little job on the side, I’m very lucky.

 

And that’s on top of all the other bands you’re in: the Ginger Wildheart band, Young Legionnaire, Horsefight …

 

I get asked this quite a lot, how many bands I play in, and the answer is that I honestly don’t know! It’s somewhere between seven and nine, a lot of fluctuating. But when I try reeling them off, I always forget. There’s Young Legionnaire, the Ginger Wildheart band, Vennart – who was the singer/guitarist from Oceansize and now plays in Biffy Clyro, I do all of his solo stuff. I’m in another project with him and another guy from Oceansize called British Theatre, as well as Horsefight, a new band from Italy which is pretty sombre and a band called Barbarossa.

 

No two of those bands sound the same either, it’s all very schizophrenic.

 

Best way to be man, get yourself around! There’s less money in music nowadays, if you’re a drummer especially you have to do as much as you can. I’m excited about some of the stuff I’ve got coming up, gonna start doing stuff with a guy called Martin Grech, who I used to be really into as a teenager.

 

I was doing a gig with Horsefight in London recently that I really wasn’t into; I was about to break up with my girlfriend so I was a bit distracted and didn’t enjoy it. But then this guy came up who’d been playing drums in the band before, he gave me compliments but I had my head down telling him I didn’t enjoy when I realised “hang on – are you called Martin?!” He’s one of my heroes, a multi-instrumentalist whose stuff gets pretty dark. I’m proper excited about working with him. Got another Vennart album coming as well, I think. I’ll be doing some work with Micko Larkin from Courtney Love’s band too. He’s been playing with a group called Daria and I’ll be doing something with them around November.

 

Do you ever find it difficult to switch gears between projects?

 

Not really. If I’ve been doing a lot of heavy stuff, like with Mutation or Ginger, the switch to ambient mental stuff on something else is nice because I need a little break. I do a lot of skipping about from genre to genre, it keeps it more interesting than if I was just doing blast-beats all the time.

 

And seeing as you make up about 38 per cent of the UK music scene, how do you think it’s faring at the moment?

 

It depends where you go. Down here [in London] I’ve stumbled onto a few gigs that I’ve been into. Back in the day you used to take that kind of thing for granted, but now in places like London and Berlin, it’s getting more and more rare to wander into something you just naturally like. It all comes down to personal taste. There’s a lot of hip shit getting shoved in our faces, which doesn’t help. I’ve caught some great bands recently called Girl Band and Nails USA.

 

But as far as the scene goes in general? Everyone talking about the subject seems to harken back to the days of their teens, between then and their Twenties... but I don’t know if that’s just how everyone feels. Like I keep thinking back to how Newcastle was in my teens and thinking nowhere was like that; everyone ends up being territorial about their own scene.

 

‘Dark Black’ is out now.

 

Mutation will tour the UK this October/November. The dates are as follows:

 

Friday 27 October - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Saturday 28 October - Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton (Ginger Wildheart Halloween Hootenanny IV)

Sunday 29 October - The Deaf Institute, Manchester

Monday 30 October - Stereo, Glasgow

Tuesday 31 October - Riverside, Newcastle

Wednesday 1 November - The Underworld, Camden

Thursday 2 November - The Globe, Cardiff

Friday 3 November - Mike’s Frog Bar, Brighton

Saturday 4 November - Damnation Festival, Leeds

Wednesday 22 November - Empire Music Hall, Belfast

 

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