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An Exclusive Interview with Plastic Barricades

Inspired and influenced by Radiohead, Oasis, Coldplay, Muse, Keane, Razorlight, Nirvana and many others, Plastic Barricades love to experiment with styles, sound and approach. Based in North-West London, the band is made up of Dan Kert on guitar, keyboards and vocals, Daniele Borgato on bass and Frazer Webster on drums. The trio has recently released their second single, “Masterminds”, from their upcoming album. We took the time to speak to the band in an exclusive interview.

1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?

Dan Kert: I’ve started music school back in Tallinn, Estonia, when I was 6 and spend 10 years studying piano and classical guitar. I discovered rock music at the age of 11 and played my first gig with a band when I was 12.

Daniele Borgato: I’ve played the piano when I was a kid, then switched to bass at the age of 15. I remember playing the bass with my cousin in the garage, both guitar and bass plugged into the same amp.

Frazer James Webster: I’ve been drumming since I was 9, playing piano since I was 2. Drums have always looked like a lot of fun.

2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?

Dan Kert: One rainy autumn evening I was returning home from music school. On the way to the bus stop there was a cassette kiosk. I was going past it for the millionth time, but that day something stopped me. I caught a very cool piece of artwork with the corner of my eye. Bought the cassette for 30 kroons, came home, put it into the double-deck cassette player and pressed play. I remember very clearly feeling the strongest emotion I’ve never felt before. It changed my life forever. The cassette was Nirvana’s “The Very Best”.

Daniele Borgato: Led Zeppelin and Extreme are responsible for introducing me to rock music.

Frazer James Webster: my music teacher Ms Jarvis was a big influence, as well as The Offspring, Gorillaz, and late-90s MTV.

3. Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anybody you’d like to collaborate with?

Dan Kert: For the last decade I’ve been in total and absolute love with Coldplay, Oasis, Radiohead and Muse. Unfortunately, I just can’t stand things Coldplay and Muse are doing right now, they used to be so much more real and honest and unique. Logical prolongations of Oasis for me are High Flying Birds, with Noel Gallagher being majestic as always. Radiohead will always be fantastic, the bravest and most honest musicians I’ve ever heard. I also really enjoy Biffy Clyro’s last two albums and the debut album by Kodaline, which reminds me a bit of Coldplay’s long gone honesty.

As for collaboration, there used to be one UK band called Air Traffic that had an absolute masterpiece debut album “Fractured Life” (check it out!!), unfortunately they’ve split couple of years ago. Chris Wall is one of my favorite vocalists AND keyboard players, he now has a duo called Soft Bullets, creating beautiful alternative music. I’ve spoke to Chris on facebook couple of times, but unfortunately we never had a chance to meet in person. I hope someday soon we will play some great music together.

Daniele Borgato: I tend to listen to many different things. Muse, Coldplay, and Foo Fighters, to name a few. I’d love to collaborate with all of them.

Frazer James Webster: I am currently listening to Virgil Donati, Korn, Dave Matthew’s band, Disturbed, Gergo Borlai, Hanz Zimmer. I would love to play some gigs with Hiromi and Janek Gwizdala.

4. Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased. And which is the one piece of hardware or software you’re still looking to add to your collection now?

Dan Kert: On my 12th birthday my parents gave me my best every birthday present – my first electric guitar, a Strat-type Peavey. It served me well for 2-3 years; I’ve played all my teenage gigs with it. Then I’ve bought beautiful orange Aria Pro II. I also always felt strong connection to synths, so I guess the ultimate addition to the collection would be one fantastic Moog Voyager.

Daniele Borgato: I got my first bass from my dad, he haven’t been playing it anymore. So probably the first thing I’ve bought was a set of new strings for it (this happened when the original strings became so old they broke)

Frazer James Webster: First musical instrument I had was a Casio keyboard, when I was 2. I am currently looking into buying a new pair of hi-hats.

plastic-barricades-IN-3005. Tell us something about your current hardware/software and instrument setup?

Dan Kert: I am a devoted Fender fan, in love with obscure and rare models. Fender Telesonic and Fender Telecoustic Deluxe are my main gigging and recording guitars and Fender Tele-Strat Hybrid (ST75H) is my backup guitar. It would take quite long to describe the pedalboard, so I would just point out my all-time favorites – TC Electronics Nova Delay, EHX Freeze, Ibanez TS9 Tubescreamer and the fantastically versatile Roger Linn’s Adrenalinn. Half of the pedalboard is wired in stereo, so in a perfect world my guitar goes into two amps (usually Marshalls), miked and panned left and right accordingly. I also use TC Helicon voice effects and Beyerdynamic microphone, a microKorg and my old trusty Yamaha SY-35 keyboard. Not a big software fan, though.

Daniele Borgato: Fender Precision Deluxe with PJ configuration pickups, pedalboard with double signal clean/effects and preamp, Markbass amp and a Macbook Pro to work on mixes.

Frazer James Webster: I am endorsed by Witt percussion and use their amazing snare. My setup also includes Meinl cymbals, Vic Firth 5B sticks and Bowers&Wilkins P5 headphones.

6. Studio work and music creation, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

Dan Kert: I love creating additional guitars and keyboards for the songs and working on the sounds during recording, it always brings new sparkle to the existing compositions. But I tend to get paranoid and worried about the end result too much, I am still learning how to let go. So I would say performing live is something I enjoy a bit more. But these two ingredients need to be balanced in a musician diet.

Daniele Borgato: Nothing can beat the thrill of performing on stage, but I love music, and therefore I love all aspects of it, even a long day spent in the recording studio is a blessing.

Frazer James Webster: Working in the studio is more intricate and requires more precision, it is challenging – and I like a challenge. While playing live is generally more fun.

7. Which one of your original songs gets your adrenalin running the most when playing live, and why?

Dan Kert: I love to start our setlist with “Radar on/off”. It is a powerful song with a strong message, and for those in the audience who had never heard us before it is also the ice-breaker. I just love to see their jaws dropping.

Daniele Borgato: “Masterminds”, for its wide dynamics, the climax at the end and pretty tight rhythmic section.

Frazer James Webster: I would say “9Lives” with its disco-oriented chorus groove. As a drummer you know you are doing your job well when people start to move to your playing.

8. On which one of your songs do you feel you delivered your personal best performance so far, from a technical and emotional point of view?

Dan Kert: It is hard to tell, for me every new song should be a development, an evolution of both emotional and technical sides. If it turns to lack that bit, we will think twice before incorporating the song into the setlist. “Shine!” has a very special meaning to me personally, as well as our new tune called “Half of Your Soul”.

Daniele Borgato: “Shine!”. I have quite a lot of space to move with my bass parts in that song

Frazer James Webster: Emotionally it would be “Shine!”; technically it is our new song “Needles in Haystacks”.

9. Which ingredient (or trademark sound) do you think is most essential in making your music sound the way it does?

Dan Kert: Trying to sound massive while being a trio might be the one. I also think that processed vocals, stereo guitars, effected bass and very unusual drum parts make us who we are today.

Daniele Borgato: The blending of all the individual musical influences of us three.

Frazer James Webster: Our stubborn mentalities and also very different tastes and backgrounds.

10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?

Dan Kert: Passion for creating something truly beautiful, sharing it with the world and making people happier.

Daniele Borgato: The desire of being part of the music, in all of its aspects, especially playing.

Frazer James Webster: Passion through joy of playing music

11. Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?

Dan Kert: I am sure that today is the most exciting time to be in the music industry, mainly because of independent bands having all the tools needed for both music production and promotion right here, at their fingertips. Discouraging aspect arrives when at some point in your career you might need to sell your soul to make things move more quickly.

Daniele Borgato: pretty standard answer : the freedom of (musical) choices coming from not being bound to any commercial contract, on the other hand being in such an inflated market without a big wealthy company to promote you on a large scale.

Frazer James Webster: It is exciting when you only got yourself to thank, to be an independent musician feels quite self-gratifying. It can be also be discouraging, mainly because the industry is very diluted.

12. Tell us something about your songwriting process. What usually comes first the lyrics or the music? And which instruments or music software do you primarily use for composing?

Dan Kert: I have a huge collection of future song titles in my mobile phone notepad. These ideas live their own life, develop on their own and sometimes even turn into full lyrics without any music behind them. Music, on the other hand, tends to write itself, there are days when my guitars or keyboards have something important to say, there are nights when I cannot sleep because of a melody playing on repeat in my head. I am acting as a mere transmitter here, all I need is to click “REC” and listen to my instruments.

Daniele Borgato: We try to experience many approaches to composition, sometimes we go from scratch improvising and then adding lyrics and melody, sometimes we start from a canvas of melody and lyrics or some experiment in Logic and try to follow inspiration.

13. How involved are you in any of the recording, producing, mastering and marketing processes of your music in general. Do you outsource any of these processes?

Dan Kert: I think it is quite healthy to outsource mixing and mastering, otherwise we might get stuck with our own ideas and perceptions. Marketing needs to be outsourced as well. But I really like to be in a position when I truly understand what exactly is happening in all the fields concerning the band, maintaining full control of any situation. That is why the concept of a major label deal never appealed to me.

Daniele Borgato: well, recording obviously. I am doing most of the mixing now, artistic production is made by the all of us together in the process of creating the songs.

14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?

Dan Kert: The best advice I’ve been ever given was to give up music and find a proper job. No, seriously. I really enjoy proving people wrong. The one I didn’t follow was to regularly replace the tubes in the amps. I paid the price with a shorter setlist on a gig once.

Frazer James Webster: The best piece of advice I’ve followed is – “Just be yourself”.

plastic-barricades-IN-300b15. At this point, as an independent artist, which is the one factor you desire most, and feel will undeniably benefit the your future (for example increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, bigger live gigs etc…)?

Dan Kert: I guess all of these things come together and are equally important in order to reach more people around the globe. I desire to tour the globe, to work with John Leckie and Brian Eno, to have a coffee with Chris Martin and to share a case of beer with Simon Neil.

Daniele Borgato: all of them ? 🙂

Frazer James Webster: Engaged hardcore fans

16. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?

Dan Kert: It was always difficult for real talent to emerge, mainly because those who are truly talented tend to think that they are not. It is very hard to evaluate your own talents, but it is a must and a very important skill. Internet is great, especially for those who don’t like real people too much, preferring them to 0s and 1s. I miss real people a lot sometimes…

Daniele Borgato: Internet and the modern ways of recording gave people many opportunities to share their music (and creativity in general) without the need of a production company. Unfortunately there’s a lot of mediocrity and crap around, but think about it this way: you go to a local market and usually there’s a lot of crap for sale and it makes you confused and not willing to buy. It’s up to your ability as a client to search and identify the right channels, as well as it’s up to the ability of the artist to stand out of the crowd to have more visibility. The prize is incommensurable: you can access music (or gain listeners) from the other side of the world you wouldn’t have the opportunity to hear (or reach) without Internet.

17. Is the music you produced on “Masterminds” and the upcoming album, exactly where you want your sound to be right now? Or in retrospect, would you change anything on, or about the way you performed on it?

Dan Kert: There was a lot of blood and sweat (and swearing), but after each heated creative argument we’ve always came out with something better. I wouldn’t change a thing in “Masterminds” or “Shine!”. As for the upcoming album – we trust our guts and we don’t have a map. That is what makes this whole affair interesting.

Daniele Borgato: It is where it has to be right now, our formation is quite young and our music is evolving constantly. It can always be better; this is part of the process. Many times an artist looks back to his previous productions and thinks he could have done it better while the public thinks the song is perfect like it is, even with some technical imperfections.

Frazer James Webster: I would love to have real orchestra recorded for the song

18. What do you think is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome as an indie artist, in your quest to achieve your goals and wider-spread success?

Dan Kert: The biggest barrier is the character. You can change the whole environment around you, but it is very hard to change yourself. But if you succeed in becoming a better person the prize would be phenomenal. As for the indie artist – there are no barriers, there is just not enough hard work.

Daniele Borgato: The biggest barrier is to find a way to a large audience in this inflated music market

19. What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or never prepared to do, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?

Dan Kert: I would NEVER participate in any talent show like X-Factor or Eurovision. To quote one quite famous music journalist: “Those kind of things are musical genocide”.

20. If you had the choice to receive only ONE of the following – Platinum status or winning a Grammy – which would it be and why?

Dan Kert: Grammy is a cool thing to have on a shelf or a mantelpiece, but it is mere sign of recognition by a group of people from National Academy of Recording Arts of the United States. Platinum status is granted to your work by 1 million ordinary people, I definitely prefer their enormous love.

Daniele Borgato: I’d prefer a platinum status, it is more a selling acknowledgement and less industry based

Frazer James Webster: Platinum status for sure.



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