Dead Can Dance reform, play live, in 2005. Dead Can Dance will be touring Europe and North America in 2005. Tickets are now on sale for the European dates, with the North American dates will take place in September 2005 being announced shortly on www.4ad.com This will be the first time that Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry have performed on the same stage together since Dead Can Dance's last tour in 1996.
Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard are Dead Can Dance. We could say they were Dead Can Dance, but the music lives on in such a palpable way, it would be strange to speak of the enterprise in the past tense. Having made collages out of musical lineages, lost tribes, and cultures long since forgotten, having excavated and given new life to so much from the past, it seems wrong to say Dead Can Dance are dead. They may not be making music together anymore, but the work they created is still very much alive.
Gerrard and Perry shared vocal responsibilities, and while Perry was certainly capable of some haunting subtleties as a singer, it was often Gerrard's rhapsodic vocalising that drew critics' attention. In a sense, Gerrard didn't sing for Dead Can Dance: she made sounds with her voice, and turned that experience into something much larger and more far-ranging than mere singing. It became a way of exploring her inner world, her relationship to the physical environment and world beyond, real or imagined.
Perry's soundscapes blurred distinctions between organic and sampled, old and new, drawing on traditions as disparate as neo–classical, choral, baroque and troubadour, weaving together influences from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, the Mediterranean and beyond. The group managed to create a world of profound artistic integrity while simultaneously appealing to fans of what was termed 'alternative' rock music. Dead Can Dance would go on to become one of 4AD's most internationally successful artists.
Both of Anglo-Irish descent, Gerrard and Perry met in Melbourne, Australia in 1980. It was the height of the punk era. 'Brendan was playing things more like The New York Dolls but I recognised he was brilliant as soon as I saw him play', remembers Gerrard. She was more interested in avant-garde music and intent on exploring her own personal vision but it was the recognition that she had found a partner in her musical quest that helped Gerrard overlook any surface-level differences between Perry's approach and her own.
While in Melbourne, Perry and Gerrard worked in a Lebanese restaurant together, washing dishes to save money to go to London. 'It definitely influenced the work,' Gerrard says of her exposure to the mix of Greek, Italian, Turkish, Irish and Arab people in the Melbourne neighbourhood of East Prahran, where she grew up. 'The combination of that palate of colours and Brendan's understanding of the structure of music started to create a unique colour.'
'The first piece we improvised together was called Frontier. Something really magical happened that day. We realised that what we had done separately was nothing like what took place in that piece. It unlocked something that neither of us were aware of; we had to do it again so we started to write together.'
In 1982, frustrated by Melbourne's music scene, Dead Can Dance transplanted themselves to London but the move proved extremely challenging. The couple survived on unemployment benefit for the first four years and lived in an uninspiring tower block on the Isle of Dogs in East London. But Brendan persisted in his search for a record deal and after being rejected by various record companies who found their style too non-conformist, Ivo and Dead Can Dance discovered each other.
Ivo Watts-Russell had been running a small independent label, 4AD, for nearly three years when he heard a demo tape that Perry had dropped off. 'My strongest impression from the demo tape was of something really original,' recalls Watts-Russell. 'Frontier in particular, with Lisa's incredible voice.' It would be another year before he could afford to take Dead Can Dance on.
Having secured a contract, the group recorded a John Peel session for broadcast on national radio in November 1983. However it wasn't until March the following year that 4AD released their first album, Dead Can Dance, a collection of the songs they had written over the previous four years. Recording the debut album was not entirely successful. As Ivo says, 'Dead Can Dance didn't really get on with the engineer. They were never happy with the way that first record sounded.'
In addition to contributing two songs, Dreams Made Flesh and Waves Become Wings, to the first This Mortal Coil album, It'll End In Tears, Dead Can Dance recorded a 12" EP, Garden Of The Arcane Delights in 1984. The following year saw Dead Can Dance release their second album, Spleen And Ideal which reached No.2 in the British independent charts. They had begun to experiment more with instrumentation, abandoning guitars in favour of cello, trombone and timpani.
Dead Can Dance toured extensively in 1986 and donated two songs, Frontier and The Protagonist, to the 4AD compilation and video Lonely Is An Eyesore. They also released their third album, Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun, on which Gerrard and Perry divided vocal responsibilities evenly, with each side of the album featuring one member as lead singer. 'I think that the relationship between them and producer John Rivers was at its peak with that record. It is probably my favourite record of theirs,' reveals Ivo, 'It pushed everything to a new world - it doesn't sound like anything else at all."
Within The Realm Of a Dying Sun drew on Middle Eastern influences, a process that was further explored two years later by the The Serpent's Egg with Dead Can Dance telescoping in on an earlier period of European music. By then the romantic elements had disappeared and atmospherics had come to rule their sound. Indeed, it was no coincidence that the film industry had begun to take note of the cinematic potential of Dead Can Dance's music, and in late 1988 the duo scored the Agustin Villarongas film El Nino De La Luna ('Moonchild'), in which Gerrard also made her acting debut.
It was not until 1990 that the group toured America for the first time, earning widespread critical acclaim and selling out venues across the country. That same year, Dead Can Dance released their fifth album, Aion. Reflecting their deepening interest in early Renaissance music, Aion featured Gregorian chants and baroque elements and was recorded using authentic 'early music' instruments (including hurdy gurdy and bagpipes).
The following year, Gerrard and Perry assembled personal favourites from their body of work so far (plus two new songs Bird and Spirit) as their first American domestic release under the title A Passage In Time. 'We chose songs that would describe a journey, where the pieces interlocked,' Perry says. 'It's evolutionary, traversing something, as opposed to a time which is fixed and linear.'
In September 1993 Dead Can Dance released Into The Labyrinth, confirming Perry's refined mastery of electronics and samplers. Paradoxically, it was also an album with particularly pastoral inspirations, stimulated by the move in 1989 to Cavan in Southern Ireland (Gerrard was now living in the Snow Mountains of Australia). 'It was a journey into a year of writing, very much focused on living in the countryside with rural people,' says Perry. That same year a mixture of new and previously released Dead Can Dance music appeared in the American film Baraka and Gerrard and Perry also contributed two songs to the Hector Zazou album, Sahara Blue.
The group's penultimate project, Toward The Within, was a live album recorded during their 1993 USA tour and included a repertoire of largely previously unreleased songs. 'It's a shame we didn't record more of their live performances,' says Ivo. 'The live experience of Dead Can Dance was most representative of the songs since it pushed them further.' A year later 4AD released an in-concert documentary film directed by Mark Magidson, also called Toward The Within. A mesmeric and emotive visual record, the film featured live footage from their Santa Monica show at the now extinct Mayfair Theater.
By 1995 Perry had begun work on a solo album (completed and released four years later under the title Eye Of The Hunter) while Gerrard worked on her solo album, The Mirror Pool, which 4AD released that year.
On what was to be their last album, Spiritchaser, Dead Can Dance made yet another shift, away from the distinct Gaelic qualities of Into The Labyrinth towards African and South American styles. "We decided to set ourselves limitations in terms of instrumentation', explains Perry. 'To work from the basis of purely rhythmical means and develop from there.'
Since Dead Can Dance both Perry and Gerrard have continued to make music. Perry has scored films (including The Crossing Guard), theatre productions and local festivals. He also runs an advanced percussion workshop and the Quivvy Samba school, from his studio in Ireland. Perry is currently working on the soundtrack to a short film, Mushin and a second solo album. Gerrard too has contributed to numerous soundtracks including Heat, The Insider and most notably, Gladiator, for which she won a Golden Globe award. Her latest project is the soundtrack to Michael Mann's forthcoming biopic, Ali.
Contrary to the opinion of some, Dead Can Dance were not obsessed with the past, nor did they provide a sense of nostalgic escape into bygone ages. They severed boundaries and set music free from a time and a place, literally soaring anywhere out of the immediate world. Musical outsiders they may have been but Dead Can Dance's vision and faith ensure their appeal will remain timeless.