INTERVIEW: Kevin Keegan of Dead Quiet

Kevin Keegan, the distinctive voice of Vancouver’s Dead Quiet, has a clean-cut appearance that belies the band’s raging intensity on stage. With Dead Quiet’s second album Grand Rites released on Artoffact Records on November 3, I spoke to him about the new album’s sound and Vancouver’s rock scene.

Written over two years and then recorded over two weeks, Grand Rites is “about exploring not just the personal issues that were very much the core of the first record but also broader themes,” says Kevin. “More general ideas about the catastrophic state of the planet and the ways we have been interpreting and dealing with that. The songs themselves became lengthier with more depth because I think there was more of a story to tell this time around.”

Click here to read my review of Grand Rites by Dead Quiet.

One obvious element that gives the new release added depth is Justin Hagberg’s work on keys. Justin joined the band after the release of the debut album, Kevin feels that his inclusion on the Grand Rites “added an essential texture to the songs, furthering a dynamic we also like. The ability to have a massive wall of sound that wasn’t just guitars made sense with what we were trying to accomplish.”

Listening to Grand Rites, I felt it had a much more classic rock sound that the self-titled LP, but Kevin claims, “I’m not sure that was intentional at all.”

He adds, “I’m not sure. It might have been the presence of keyboards that lends to that but as far as the writing went it wasn’t deliberate to be more ‘classic rock.’ If anything I think this album is heavier and darker than the first.”

Dead Quiet will be celebrating the release of Grand Rites with a show at the Rickshaw Theatre on November 17. Along with the Rickshaw, Kevin says, Fortune Sound Club and the Cobalt are his favourite venues in Vancouver.

“I like the Cobalt,” he elaborates, “always have. People get butthurt about the change of direction and whatnot, but that room has always sounded great and I’ve always enjoyed playing there.”

To make sure his aforementioned signature voice is on top form at that show (and any others Dead Quiet plays, Kevin says, “I have some warm-up exercises I always do before I play that prevent me from blowing my voice or sounding inconsistent. They are mainly techniques that opera singers have used which was passed down to me from my good pal Mikey Heppner [of the band Montreal Priestess].”

In addition to local venues, I asked Kevin about local bands (of course). Right now, his favourites are Erosion, BISON, and Worse (of which Dead Quiet keyboardist Justin Hagberg is also a member). He is enthusiastic about Vancouver’s music scene in general, saying:

“I find we are on somewhat of an island out here, not a lot of other resounding sources of great music for quite a distance, which I find forces us to pull from what really influences us. A lot of the time, that is local music but it never seems completely duplicated. There’s such an abundance of talent in Vancouver that it’s hard not to write and perform great music. Even when I lived in Montreal, people would always say there was something very Vancouver about my music, which was always nice to hear.”

No doubt Dead Quiet will hit the road to promote Grand Rites after that show at the Rickshaw. When out on tour, Kevin tells me, the band “got into a very healthy and delicious habit of always having a jar of salt-brine pickles in the van. Not the shitty, vinegar kind but the real-deal, fermented, salt-brine ones. They keep your guts healthy, make for a crispy snack and the juice is great for chasing shots of whiskey.”