Deathly Fighter
by Kevin J. Elliott

Though existing in Columbus, Ohio for several years in one form or another, a live performance from Deathly Fighter is a rare occurrence. Witnesses who’ve seen the elusive trio of Michael Carney and his mysteriously named cohorts, Christian and Smoke, on a stage are usually divided on what they’ve seen—it’s either a pretentious and saturnine display of guys clawing at vintage synths or a wobbly, unrefined bass music full of psychedelic horizons and limitless potentials. Whatever the verdict, finding a Deathly Fighter recording to marinate with, in the comfort of one’s home, has proved even harder to procure.

Finally, the long-awaited debut from Deathly Fighter has arrived in Completely Dusted via Columbus Discount Recordings. And just when you think Deathly Fighter’s bubbling, meditative dub might not fit alongside a roster of boozy punk and out-folk, under the grooves of Completely Dusted, the unpredictable spirit of the Columbus aesthetic can be heard, only here manifested in Wu-Tang rhythms, Tangerine Dreams, and anonymous desolation. It’s an intriguing enigma of a record, not just because its sound is an anomaly in central Ohio, but also because Deathly Fighter feed their influence from a cultural smorgasbord. On any given night their tentacles can spread from buying up Moogs on eBay to a DJ gig at a local hip-hop night and over to an all-ages hardcore house show—all without a map to where they’re headed next.

I recently had a long, slightly buzzed, and completely dusted, conversation with Carney, who has lived in Brooklyn for the past year, a move putting yet another roadblock in front of the frustrating and delayed trajectory of a very poised Deathly Fighter.

Even though we are introducing Deathly Fighter here, I’ve seen the band in a number of configurations. For our readers, can you let us know exactly who Deathly Fighter is today and who is playing what on Completely Dusted?

Michael Carney: The band is myself, Christian and Smoke. In this version of it, Christian played the bass wherever there are bass parts on the record. I usually handle all of the synths and the drum patterns, and Smoke plays a Prophet 600. It’s this huge, sick synthesizer that you pick up and it rattles. It’s haunted. It doesn’t work right and the way his sounds is just pure dissonant craziness. I don’t think we can even tune it. For the most part we all play synths at some point either live or on the record.

Playing and collecting various synths is almost like a religion for you. So I’m interested, when it comes to making music, do you sway more towards Suicide or the classic Krauts, because I hear both.

MC: Obviously we listen to a lot of that stuff. Overall, it’s the idea that our music is relaxation. Usually it has more to do with the mindframe that the Kraut stuff is done in. But Suicide? You listen to a lot of those songs and as aggravating as it is, it’s also kind of calming. It has to do with all that. We’re not trained musicians by any means, there’s no guitar solos, and as corny as it sounds, it’s all about the vibe.

I guess the better question then is less about your influence and more about what you are trying to accomplish sonically. How much does the production of hip-hop factor in to what you’re doing?

MC: It’s funny that you ask that. Certain people who we’ve played it for hear that. Hip-hop from skate videos definitely play a role, even if we all have different opinions on what we hear. I met Christian through skateboarding with him eight or nine years ago—the original Deathly Fighter. And back then there was just certain hip-hop that fit well on punk and skate videos. When I create drums, it’s like how the Krauts were able to make something funky without it being funky. So I’m trying to find samples, or drum loops and such, that aren’t exactly funky and then try to make them funky.

“Depth Charge” to me, sounds like the KLF meets Eric B. You have the European influence and anonymity of a group like the KLF, and the dirty, dark funk of an Eric B. record. Do you mind being compared to the KLF?

MC: As far as comparing it to other things, we were always looking to a lot of different things, so we never really looked for one sound. When we would play live, it was a terrible thing. The type of stuff we wanted to do live, we couldn’t pull off. For live shows, we would come up with the idea that the live show is a terrible experience, though musically that’s not what we wanted it to be. Essentially, I think the band is composed of people who want to make music, but don’t want to make pop songs, people that don’t want to make a noise rock record and don’t want to learn to play guitar. It probably does have a lot to do with hip-hop, but the last thing I want to do is be up there with an MPC (sampler) and make it sound like rap.

Living in Brooklyn now, is it a better work environment for you than living in Columbus? Or is there a certain trend that doesn’t mesh with what you’re doing as Deathly Fighter that might stifle your creativity?

MC: That’s a hard question, because on one hand, when I was living in Columbus, I had stockpiled all these keyboards I bought on Craigslist. When I moved I had to sit there for two days deciding on what I would keep and what I would get rid of. I brought a minimal grouping of things here. I haven’t really done a lot here musically because I haven’t had time. I think the thing about Columbus is that it’s much more conducive to having a “band” there. I don’t like to go see bands in New York, and I sound like a dick for saying this, but I feel like you see so many bands made up of guys who want nothing more than to be in a band. They just try so hard. Not saying it comes easy for us, but having a band is such a hassle here.

I feel like Ohio is a breeding ground for creative music, because it’s so easy to have a band. You don’t have to have an extra job to pay for a practice space or to buy something to move your equipment around. You can just play in your basement or garage, or have an apartment big enough to do whatever you want with it. I feel a lot of times in Brooklyn, I’m suspect of even the most indie bands. Of course, here you can do whatever the fuck you want, on your own terms, but a lot of times it resonates to me as guys wanting more than anything to “make it.” It would be great if Deathly Fighter got to a point where all we did was make music, but a lot of the stuff I like is weird and it’s off because these people don’t know what they’re doing and are playing on weird shit and that’s how I’d like us to be even if I listen to Sylvester more often than not.

Now that Completely Dusted is finally out, what’s the future for the band considering you all live apart now and live shows are few and far between?

MC: We have a 12-inch done and ready to go, but who knows when it will come out. We want to make another record, but are not sure when that will happen either. Even though we live apart, which makes it hard, we still work together. Our relationship is bizarre in that when we’re together, we’ll do two parts at a time and then edit, then down the road, another two parts and then edit. We build and collage things together. We want this band to continue, as long as it can continue, at whatever pace we need. As far as being a live band, it’s fun to play live, but at the same time, to create what we want to create...

You have to be Daft Punk?

MC: Yeah, you have to be Daft Punk on codeine, with a thousand people who don’t want to party, or get negative, and just relax. Does that make sense? I don’t think it does.