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"Dean Garcia Achieves Domestic Hiss"

Profile:  Alan Di Perna

"WE'RE interested in extreme-sounding things," says Curve's Dean Garcia. "And guitars can be quite extreme."

But extremity can be quite beautiful too. For proof, just listen to Curve's debut LP, Doppelgänger. There's something seductive in the record's abrasive, panicky guitar textures, just as there's something icily disturbing about singer Toni Halliday's melting beauty and sultry vocals. Garcia and Halliday form the nucleus of Curve. She provides the voices and lyrics. He writes the music, plays bass and guitar, and manipulates the electronic gear.

Dean actually started out as a drummer, which helps explain Curve's penchant for driving dance rhythms. He moved on to guitar, then bass, and knocked around London as a session musician for a while, playing with the Eurythmics among others. In fact, Dean was introduced to Toni by Eurythmics main man Dave Stewart. Dean and Toni formed a band called State Of Play that foundered in a storm of lawsuits and bruised egos. A few years later, the duo were back on speaking terms, making new musical plans. The result was Blindfold, Curve's first EP released in March '91. On the record, Dean shared guitar duties with Toni's boyfriend, producer Alan Moulder (Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Ride). "Alan changes seats when he comes to work with us," Dean laughs. "We produce him."

When Blindfold became an instant, blinding success in England, Garcia and Halliday were "caught on the hop," as Dean says: "Everyone immediately expected us to play gigs and be brilliant. But there was only me and Toni. Alan didn't want to know about playing guitar live."

Enter drummer Steve Monti and guitarists Alex Mitchell and Debbie Smith. But while these auxiliary Curvesters have become an important part of live shows, they remain at the margins of the recording process. Dean and Toni do about 80% of the work with Alan Moulder on a home 16-track setup. It's only during the overdub stage, when the work is transferred to 24-track, that the other musicians get involved. Ditto for co-producers Steve Osborne and Flood.

"It's a unique situation," Dean allows. "Because the co-producer is usually there from the start. But we like to take it to 80% ourselves. Then we transfer and bring someone with us to sprinkle on a little fairy dust."

It may seem an insular, close-to-the-chest way of working. But Garcia and Halliday are determined not to let anyone mess with their unique musical chemistry, which is what Dean says went wrong in State Of Play. In Curve, the creative process has been streamlined to the max. "We never do demos," says Dean. "When you try to recreate a demo, it's never the same. So we essentially write straight onto blank tape, and that becomes the start of the recording."

Like many of Britain's new pop guitar crop, Dean tends to favour open tunings and old Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters: "I just tune the guitar to the track. Sometimes I give the guitar to Toni and she'll just go completely nuts with it. She can't really play beyond D and E chords, but that's what's interesting. She has a sense of rhythm like no guitarist I know."

Other textures come from Strats, a Hofner semi-acoustic, and Alan Moulder's PRS though Marshalls, MESA/Boogies, a Zoom 9002, and variegated effects. Synths get into the act too, although what sounds like a synth may often be a guitar, and vice versa. Garcia is a keen crossbreeder. For instance, the madly hissing guitar wash on "Split Into Fractions" was produced by running a heavily processed guitar signal through the filter section of an old MiniMoog. "I couldn't believe it when that sound actually came out," Dean recalls. "I was jumping up and down in the studio."

And of course, anything that goes on tape becomes fair game for Garcia's Akai sampler. "The only thing we don't really mess around with," Dean qualifies, "is the bass line," which is produced by a Music Man bass with the low string tuned down to D. "I used to use all the high-tech, clean-sounding Steinberger and Wal basses, but I wanted a much warmer, deader sound for Curve. I'm loath ever to change strings on the Music Man."

"Mesh" is the word Dean frequently uses to describe his sonic goal in Curve: a hypnotic swirl of heavily spiked harmonics. But all this tonal boldness would be in vain if Garcia and Halliday weren't such consistently good songwriters. Curve's cruelly alluring textures are what draw you into the mesh, but it's the melodies you're left humming for days afterward.

(article nicked from 'Guitar Player', August 1992)

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