Notes from the Underground: Canine – In Dog Years You’re Dead

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Notes from the Underground: Canine – In Dog Years You’re Dead

Canine band
Image by @zk_
Words by Christopher Brownbill

Underground Audio's Chris Brownbill once again brings us behind the scenes - this time trying to capture the live, infectious energy of Canine.

Some time in 2018 I was approached to squeeze significant lightning into a bottle, that is capturing the chaotic stoner/D-beat/everything heavy in every category chaos of Gadigal band Canine. It was a week camped out at the old Underground in Kurilpa (West End) which resembled some kind of band camp with mattresses and amps forming a minefield. The LP is In Dog Years You’re Dead and if you haven’t spun it yet, or seen them live, I am covetous of this future of yours reader, where you’ll experience them for the first time, for they are a supreme force.

Tara, Rosie, Tristan, Bianca and John form Canine, a sum of artists from varied and far reaching musical projects such as Glory Hole, Shit Weather, Pure Evil Trio, Thorax, Horrisonous and Shark Bait. They are led by gem of the underground Tara Jayne, who many know from running One Brick Today. You may have even seen the eminent and ubiquitous Buffy shirt whose design belongs to this small independent label and touring operation.

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One Brick Today brought a vital network and structure to the subculture of the larger underground music community. From what was initially a label centred on women/queer/marginalised folk, it expanded into tours with artists from North American artists and beyond. The label has been a stalwart in this country that has continually challenged ideas around stereotyped gender roles, entitlements to space and has persistently worked to destroy negative structures in search of liberation for marginalised people. Finding a home in these circles was imperative for me, not specifically because of my identity, but because of the identity of those surrounding myself and my peers.

When I was coming up in the music scene, I didn’t have deep access to these axioms within the culture. As a young teen I came into contact with bands such as 1905, Crass and Contravene and they and their contemporaries helped cut the key to certain doors around anarcho, anti-capitalism, trans rights and feminism among many other mind-expanding ideas. But it wasn’t until I was in my early 20s and in the physical spaces that lived and breathed these battles that I was entrenched. This is largely by cause of labels and spaces such as One Brick Today and Blackwire (both from Sydney/Gadigal land). Countless bands from this era provided the soundtrack that not only became a lingua franca between DIY communities, but also a geographical conduit between Meanjin and Naarm. I was beyond excited when I was presented with the opportunity to work with Canine, from inception all the way to sitting in the mastering facility.

Canine – In Dog Years You’re Dead

The plan for recording all of the instruments started with tracking the drums to tape and then dumping to computer. The thing about John’s drumming is that it’s incredibly fast paced and articulate. We didn’t want to have to rely on punch-ins, strenuous editing and manual gating to allow this articulation to come through. Thankfully he is an incredibly tight drummer that hits relatively hard and consistently. The trick here is to tune drums in such a way that reduces resonance, or even using dampeners on toms to reduce sustain. I’m not a fan of dampening a snare drum as I think it kills the tone of the transient, not initially but some way down the line of mixing I feel like I’m always craving an open batter side head tone.
For music this fast and complex I would usually go further into the dead-sounding side as once compression (parallel and buss) come into play, the sustaining ringing and resonances are brought up significantly in volume.

Canine Maton Leaderman

Tristan’s guitar tone consists of his 64’ Maton Leaderman 725 into an early 70s Ampeg V4. Pushing the input of the preamp section was some kind of boost and additionally a fuzz for lead parts or heavier sections. It’s quite a dark, low-mid voicing for such chaotic music but his punchy picking style is such that there isn’t a loss of clarity. Rosie’s guitar tone is a combination of a Jaguar into a Marshall 800 and same as Tristan, pushing the front end with boosts and overdrives to make it go ‘chug’.

My thought process for finger style bass is to accept it for what it is. It is never going to have the aggression and controlled upper mid range attack of a pick so rather than try and paint it into that corner with pedals and equalisation, I will lean into the rounder dynamic of finger picking. In this case a solid state amplifier was used, a Traynor TS-50B into an Ampeg 810 with a Sennheiser MD421 and reverse speaker microphone placed on the cabinet. The pedal chain involved a Tym Big Bottom blending in a Death By Audio Fuzz War with an MXR 10-band EQ.

Canine Jaguar

Recording Tara was a walk in the park. She used a handheld mic but proximity or movement was never an issue. 9 times out of a 10 I’m not super happy with an SM7B as a vocal microphone but in this particular case it outdistanced most of the large diaphragm condensers that were within contention.

The mix balance you may find somewhat raw in regards to its overbearing guitar and vocals positioned lower than the norm. Growing up in the punk community I was the primary resource for recording aggressive music from an early age. My first shows (and even recent ones) were in dirty houses or small community spaces where it was sweaty and loud. There was no separation between audience and stage and no PA which often resulted in vocals into a guitar amp. Working on records like these in recent years, I try to recreate the sense memory of this claustrophobia. This doesn’t mean intentionally making things sound shitty or lo-fi, on the contrary I have invested more than half of my life into trying to perfect the art of capturing raw ugliness in the most hi-fi way possible. With this in mind I find it at times jarring when a vocal or bass drum is towering above every other instrument as it is not normally how the band is experienced.

I feel like heavy music production has essentially become data entry at this point. Metronomically captured MIDI and DI’d guitar, gridded to rigour and devoid of depth and imperfection. Much like the majority of perverse 80’s production hasn’t aged well, I would bet that most of this era’s heavy music will not either… or it will at least sound like the cute affect of the watermark left by the inertia that technology provides.

My aim was to make this sound huge and pummeling but without losing the critical sonics that are tangible when you are standing in front of this band going berserk at a DIY show. If someone in the future picks up this record my dream is for them to have a moment of living that experience that was so vital to me.

You can listen to In Dog Years You’re Dead here.