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"Curve: Underground Impressionists"

Lennox and Stewart, '90s style

By Mat Snow

(photograph: Jillian Edelstein) TONI HALLIDAY AND DEAN GARCIA , the core duo of Curve, may have exotic lineages; they pride themselves, however, on a very British attachment to the everyday. Garcia, half Hawaiian and half Irish, had knocked around in little bands when he auditioned for Eurythmics. "It was brilliant: One week I'm on the dole, the next I'm playing with Eurythmics, who'd just got to Number One with 'Sweet Dreams.' Dave and Annie got me out of trouble and took me 'round the world." Dean hates the term "session musician" and claims to be "very choosy, like when Dave asked me to play on Dylan's Empire Burlesque. I said, 'No, I don't want to do it. He means nothing to me.'"

Toni was brought up in France, Italy, Spain, Malta and Greece, which was where she, her two sisters and mother were abandoned by the father of the family - "a rogue, a pirate. We never heard from him again. My mother hadn't written to my grandmother for 10 years, but we just turned up on her doorstep and said, 'Here we are - take us in.'" So at the age of eight Toni found herself in bleak northeast England, learning the language and discovering her vocation precociously early. "My grandmother had a ritual every Sunday lunchtime when she'd make us kids sing. Once I overheard her tell my mother I had a lovely little voice. From the age of 11, I knew that I would sing." Toni's first band was the happily named Incest. "We were very naïve. I did my first gig when I was 12, and had a solo record deal at 14. I did 10 dreadful tracks, and thought, 'Fuck that, I'm going to London,' The first day I got a job as a waitress, and the second I got a lawyer to get me out of that dreadful contract." This followed advice from Dave Stewart, whom she'd met after he had read a rock magazine interview with her in which she praised his pre-Eurythmics band: "I was listening to the Tourists' B-sides where Annie Lennox, who already had that cold, cutting honesty, would sing alone to her organ, like Nico; I was also madly into Chelsea Girls and the fucked-up glamour of Edie Sedgwick, that whole scene. When I met Dave he had a dreadful cold; I was convinced he was a heroin addict. He was sniffling all the time, and I thought, 'This is what my mom warned me about, I've seen Lady Sings The Blues!' In fact, his cold was so bad that three months later his lung collapsed."

Introduced backstage at a Eurythmics gig, Toni and Dean formed a band they called State of Play. But they found themselves mere pawns of a technically expert drummer and, frustrated, they acrimoniously broke up the band. Dean persuaded Toni to reunite in a new project to be called Curve. Stewart signed them to his Anxious label, and Curve's three EPs, all released in 1991, turned the U.K. alternative rock scene on its ear.

Their debut album Doppelgänger doesn't let up the intensity. Pushed by throbbing bass and drums ("Rhythm to us is about sex"), Curve's songs at first assault your sensorium as a dam-burst of densely overloaded guitar and icy siren vocals. On deeper acquaintance, however, captivating melodies and an old-fashioned sense of song emerge. "The way we work is that Dean comes to my place in the morning and we'll have three cups of coffee, and sit around talking about what happened the previous day, like his baby woke up at five in the morning or I'd had an argument with the accountant," says Toni. "Then we go down to my basement where I have a 16-track Fostex B16. We use it as our gauge of whether we have a song worth working on. Our preoccupation is to become better songwriters, but we proceed according to mood. Dean might set up a drum loop, and I'll say, 'That's too fast - I'm not feeling up.' So we'll slow it down or change it until we find the tempo of the day. Dean talks about music very impressionistically - he'll talk about the 'desert bit' or the 'air bit,' and from that I suss the vibe. We're not technical. Dean will play a one-fingered root note and I'll start singing absolutely anything, often off the top of my head, even if it's not to be kept. We follow up accidents and go with the flow."

A British rock critics' sensation, Toni's lyrics have been scrutinised for the faintest hint of Patti Smith-style confessional poetry. "I'm very honest and confrontational," she says. "It's got to the point where women can say who they are and express themselves. I'm not going to let that opportunity pass me by."

The Gear Bit

Curve uses an Akai S1100 sampler, a Fostex B16 tape recorder, a Studio 440 Sequential Circuits drum machine/sampler (samples courtesy of Public Enemy, Blapps Posse, U2, Led Zeppelin and the soundtrack to Green Card), an Eventide Ultraharmonizer H3000, an SRT AT sample generator, a Fender Jazzmaster guitar (pre-CBS) with a Morley Power Wah and a Zoom box, a Coloursound Wah, a MusicMan bass and Sonor drums.

(article nicked from 'Musician', February 1992)

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