A Seeds Q&A with Kristian Dunn of El Ten Eleven
When Kristian Dunn played clarinet as a kid, he gave the instrument up when he realized he couldn’t play the songs he liked to on the radio. His parents listened to classical music and what would be now considered classic rock, but Dunn was more drawn to new wave bands he heard on the radio station, “The Quake.” The bass in bands such as The Cure, Duran Duran, New Order and Rush fascinated the young Dunn.
Dunn talked with his father about getting a bass, but his father was hesitant as he thought Dunn would give that up just like the clarinet. Now it has been 30 years since Dunn first played bass, so he can tell his father he was wrong.
In those 30 years, Dunn has played in multiple bands, recorded many records and even composed documentary scores, but his favorite project is with drummer Tim Fogarty in El Ten Eleven. The instrumental post-rock duo has released six albums and two EPs since their inception in 2002.
SE: Your signature instrument is a gutiar/bass doubleneck. Why does that work best for you?
KD: With the double-neck, it works for me logistically. During our earlier albums, I would plug in my bass, then plug in my guitar and then plug in my bass again. One day, I was watching a Genesis music video on VH1 Classic when I noticed someone using a double-neck guitar and I thought “duh, that makes sense.” I went on eBay to look for a guitar/bass double-neck and the one I bought is still the one I use today. It’s actually pretty heavy. It weighs about 15 pounds and a regular bass weighs about eight. It gets tedious on my back and I have to go to the chiropractor.
SE: What do you do to maintain focus when playing with multiple loops live? Is it difficult to keep focus?
KD: During our earlier shows, we would slip up as we were getting used to it. There’s a rhythm to it that we’ve gotten used to now. The loops are essentially an instrument, so the more you use it, the better you become. Also, there’s muscle memory going on there.
SE: A typical concert has people singing along. Since El Ten Eleven is an instrumental band, what does the crowd do at an ordinary show?
KD: Believe it or not, people do actually sing along with the instrumentals. People will also dance along too, especially if it’s our slower songs. You would think people would just chill out, but the crowds can get energetic.
SE: “Unusable Love,” your latest release, featured a vocal collaboration, a first for the band. Can fans expect more vocals in the future?
KD: Yes, fans can expect more of that. We have people lined up for vocals on our upcoming album that we’ve been working on. We’re planning on releasing that in 2018.
SE: What is your favorite thing about your bandmate Tim Fogarty? What’s your least favorite thing about him?
KD: My favorite thing about Tim is how funny he is. If we weren’t doing this, I can see him make it as a stand-up comic. He’s pretty good with impersonations. For what I least like about him, there’s really nothing I can say. I guess one thing would be is he gets into the shower right before I do when we share a room. I’ll have to go pee, so I’ll just be sitting and waiting. I guess that’s annoying.
Catch El Ten Eleven perform at Lincoln Calling on Friday, Sept. 29 at Duffy’s outdoor stage at 9:30 pm.