Lisa Gerrard talks about the
long running band – currently on tour – she shares with Brendan Perry.
It’s been 7 years since their 2005 reunion tour, but
after an overly long hiatus Dead Can Dance are once again touring and
enchanting the world in support of their stunning new album Anastatis, which is also their first new
album in 16 years. Dead Can Dance, formed by minstrels Lisa Gerrard and Brendan
Perry, began captivating music
lovers over 30 years ago their unique and now signature blend of experimental
art rock, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Celtic, African and other world music
influences and they have undoubtedly not lost their magic touch. On August 14 the duo enraptured a very enthusiastic audience at the Gibson
Amphitheater in Los Angeles.
Entering the stage wearing a gown and
a flowing golden cape that looked like a cross between some sort of elegant
superhero meets Greek Goddess, Gerrard along with Perry took the stage to thunderous
applause. The band opened up with “Children of the Sun” (the album opener for Anastasis) where Perry’s soothing and one
of a kind, mighty baritone filled the theater and instantly set the tone for what
would be a breathtaking and out of this world, two hour show. The next song,
“Anabasis,” was the first lead vocal by Gerrard and once that very first second
of vocals emerged, it sent an instant shockwave of spine-tingly loveliness
across the room. If you’re a fan of this particular genre or not, it’s a voice
that needs to be heard and it’s truly amazing how much of a modern day muse Gerrard
The band also delivered some of the
many fan favorites from their back catalogue.
The crowd erupted into cheer
as “Rakim” began and Gerrard marveled us all by displaying her talents with the
hammered dulcimer (aka Yangqin). Other highlights that received strong audience
reactions included the lush “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove,” “Nierika,” and the
always chilling and goose bump inducing “The Host of Seraphim,” arguably one of
Gerrard’s finest vocal performances, which was also backed up by Perry’s
haunting chants. It was with the latter track where you looked around the room
and you could clearly see that her voice had an emotional and spiritual impact
as it brought some of the audience to tears.
But the most impressive moment of
the show came after the band performed their epic, Celtic-styled “Return of the
She-King.” The stage was cleared, the audience clamored for more and Gerrard
once again emerged for a third encore, this time with only one other musician.
She performed a serene and mesmerizing little number called “Rising of the
Moon” that had the audience entranced—it was like an audience full of
serpents watching an elegant and unworldly snake charmer. At the very tail end,
after her final note, there was this small moment of complete and total silence—you
could hear a pin drop. Gerrard, eyes closed, stepped to the microphone, and in
a breathy tone said: “You’re absolutely fabulous” and the crowd went from dead
silent to roaring cheers and applause (See the video below) and she smiled,
blew a kiss and waved. It was the perfect and gratifying finale for this
We were lucky enough to have a little chat with Lisa
Gerrard a few days after the show. In our interview we discuss the writing
process of Dead Can Dance, her unique style of singing known as glossolalia,
the tour and what journey lies ahead for our two favorite musical soul mates. (Dead Can Dance is on tour in the U.S. through Sept.
7; go to DeadCanDance.com to view the dates.)
BLURT: This is your first
new album in 16 years and we’re curious as to what sort of magic occurs between
you and Brendan after such a long break. Can you explain what it’s like in the
studio when you two reunite in person for the first time? What’s your writing
The way that the process happened with this one started while Brendan was
experimenting with Mediterranean rhythms, which he sent to me over the internet
to acquaint myself with. They were quite complex. They sound really simple, but
they’re quite complex to write with because of the way that the harmonies have
to stretch out and still make sense over different periods of time. It’s the
first time I’ve ever worked like that with him. From that point of view it was
different, but I have to tell you that as soon as we started writing together I
felt that you could immediately hear the signature of the stuff that we make. I
was really excited that that hadn’t gone. The character of what we do together
was still there.
I have to ask about your
style of singing, glossolalia. Your vocals are amazing, yet they aren’t a real
language. Are they instantly induced by the music you hear in the studio? Or is
it more like an epiphany and that can even take place outside of the studio?
automatic. And it’s innate within the music itself that determines how I respond
with my voice. I can’t explain it myself, I really can’t. And I’ve tried for
many years and I just think, you know what, I’m not going to try and explain it
anymore because I really don’t know. I
know that it is an innate, automatic response to the music that I hear. It’s
like the pathway between my mouth and my heart, and I respond emotionally with
the groaning of the heart. Each piece of music presents a completely different
Do you always write the
music first then do the vocals after? Or has there been a time where a vocal has
come first and then you built the music around it?
in fact, the very last piece that we do at the concert, “Rising of the Moon.” I’m
writing that as we go and it’s really about the voice and just two notes. So,
that will just grow from there. And after some concerts it will have developed
into a piece. Sometimes it’s nice to do something that you’re writing while onstage.
You once described your
style of singing as being free and uninfluenced by the prisons of language.
After you record these original vocal pieces, what’s it like for you to
replicate them live? Other artists who sing and write in English, for example,
can write their lyrics down on paper and memorize them.
comes very organically. The thing is, I have written my words down if I have to
repeat something that’s got a very difficult keyboard line that follows the
voice and there’s no timing. I’ve had to write out the words for the person
that’s playing the keyboard and mark where the chord changes are under the
phrases so that it has the same organic. But I’ll be really honest with you, I
almost can’t sing them. I can’t say them. I can’t do it because I’m reading and
my work doesn’t come from reading. It’s a completely different dynamic. In fact
with “Anabasis,” because there’s a gap and there’s a really strange timing in
that piece. I had to write out the phrases so I could give it to the musician
so that they would understand what was happening at that point with my voice.
As soon as I wrote it down, I couldn’t sing it. I really struggled with that.
It created a drama in my connection to the music and I had to refine my
connection after corrupting it by
So after you finalize a
recording and move on to live performances, would you say that your vocals for
a particular song are never exactly the same again and they’re always evolving?
always slightly different but the vernacular is very similar. That’s the thing
that always surprises me about it, is that particular vernacular is unique to
that piece of music. There are some colors that cross over but mostly it comes
To be continued in Part 2 tomorrow….