Failure, Subside: An Interview with Sam Dishington

Posted by Prarthana Nandini Venunathan on


I think one of the most inspiring things about artists, be they musicians, painters, poets, and more, is how, the extent of their creativity knows no bounds. They embark on many projects, pieces of work, albums, feeding that desire to learn more along the way and truly immerse themselves in their chosen form of expressions. Sam Dishington, is testament to this thought of mine. From the quiet, lovely island of Tasmania, Sam, a graphic designer by profession is also the vocalist and guitarist of post-metal band Départe as well as the face behind his many projects. While he’s not discovering new sounds to create more music, he focuses on his own artwork, cooking and a lot of other creative outlets. It was wonderful to have an in-depth conversation with him about his solo work, Départe, his personal writing process, appreciation for food and much more. 

“Much the same as usual to be honest because being in Tasmania, we didn’t get as bad as anywhere else, we’ve been at 0 for ages, lockdown here was just a couple of weeks. We’re still doing limited gatherings, you’ve gotta sit down at the pub, but everything else is running pretty much as per usual. I worked all the way through and we had to do the distance education thing at schools, so i was always working and nothing really changed. I’ve been very lucky because everything’s just kept going for me, except band practice which we had to stop for a bit.”

The bright side of this year has been many of us beginning new projects and Disho has delved further into the world of art, having done some incredible digital paintings over the last month or so. 

“It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for ages in terms of the digital painting stuff and I bought gear for it ten years ago but I just never touched it. Then I sort of recently remembered that I had it and thought I should give it a try. I’m trying to sort of teach myself to do creative things. Instead of focusing on specific projects which I try and do as well, I’m also just letting myself do other things to get those creative juices flowing. Before I got into music I was an art go. When I was growing up I had no interest in music and I think my parents at one point tried to get me to play the guitar but I wouldn’t do it because all I wanted to do was draw. Basically up until 15 16 years old I wasn't super interested in music, I was into drawing and then I guess I hit college when I discovered music, all the art went to the wayside and I stopped being interested in it all my attention and focus went into writing music.”

Even though he has only begun his art journey only recently, he has always been involved in the art aspect for his bands and it is something that he truly enjoys. 

“I’ve kept that going as I’ve always been in charge of the cover art for whatever project I’m working on, as well as a lot of the merch designs and just general art direction so there’s always been that. The paintings and illustrations that I’ve always seen amazing artists  doing made me want to give that a crack. I love being self sufficient. I love to try and create - I’ve done art, photography, graphic design, production - there’s something really satisfying about being able to pull all that together and actually come up with a decent product where I guess minimal other people have had to work on it. It’s your own work.”

Sam Dishington

Continuing on this topic of deep appreciation for art, I was definitely keen to know some of the artists that he was inspired by and whose works he admired. 

“I’m not going to try and pronounce his name but the Polish guy (Mariusz Lewandowski) that did Psycroptic’s latest album and Bell Witch’s latest album as well.  He’s a big one just because he does such good, consistent work and it's really detailed. What I’m trying to do at the moment with my art is to learn different techniques and so one of the ones I keep coming back to is Gnosis Kardias by Inferno; it’s such an intricate illustration! I listened to the album because I saw the album artwork and thought that it looked sick. Then there’s also people like Adrian Baxter, Jonas Holmberg from This Gift is a Curse does amazing stuff; he’s also done art for Humanity’s Last Breath. Dehn Sora makes music and has a really cool visual aesthetic as well. So it’s not so much the art itself that I’m interested in, it’s more the whole consistent aesthetic.”

As we were discussing different artists, aesthetics and styles, I brought up Daniele Serra who is without a doubt, one of the greatest artists of his time. Daniele recently did Brisbane black metal band Graveir’s latest album art and it’s a true masterpiece. Personally, I love when you can tell who the work is by just looking at it; when an artist leaves their signature on their painting or artwork. 

“I really like that too. Graveir’s previous album art was done by an artist Norot who also has a very specific look every time you see his work. You know it’s him straight away. I’ve saved his artwork on my computer so I can try and learn how to do it. I’ve always struggled with that whole creating a brand and having an aesthetic sort of thing because it's something that I want but at the same time from an art and music perspective I’ve always jumped around between styles. I had someone in a review refer to it as being the restless kind of  artist, which actually sounds like a good way of describing it! Moving around  between things makes it really difficult to maintain an aesthetic, I’m trying new stuff all the time. I’ll do stuff that fits the general vibe and then I’ll do something completely random so either I have to make a new project or like just release as an ongoing project doing something different this time.”

Speaking of which, if you know Sam Dishington well as an individual and as a musician, you also know how versatile he is. Involved in a number of different projects, each one of them has its own special entity, sound and style. He is constantly working on new ideas and ways in which to bring them into the realm of reality through his musician done project that has been the primary one in this regard is Idle Pulse.

“I like trying new things. Just last week I did a one off track with Robin Stone, he sent me some drum tracks and asked me if I wanted to have a crack at it. So I just sort of sat down and gave it a go and what came out was something that i didn't expect to write, ever. The whole aesthetic of it is rainbows and bright colours, all that sort of stuff and it doesn't match anything that I do but it was just a fun experiment. But my main project that is sort of recurring is a project called Idle Pulse. It was the name of one of my first dark ambient music songs when I just dropped a couple of tracks over a couple of years ago. One of them was called Idle Pulse and then I decided to re-release those few tracks as a first EP for this project and then continue it. That sort of became a project where I just did whatever I wanted with it. There’s tracks which are like improvised piano, straight up drone, the stuff that was recorded live. I enjoy making music for Idle Pulse because I can explore a lot of different things.”

“Idle Pulse has always been me just doing whatever I feel like at that time and I don’t often plan it. I announced an album last year and I had album art for it, a name and then I just didn't do it. I may still go back and do it but I had inspiration for it and then I didn't. I announced it so that I would feel like I had to release it but then I just didn't do it. However, the best thing about Idle Pulse is that a lot of it is spontaneous like the piano tracks. Some of the earlier stuff from last year is me basically writing a song in an evening just to get it out. It depends on what comes my way I suppose.”

Learning and playing the piano has been a recent point of focus and interest for Sam, an instrument that he has found much solace, comfort and inspiration in. He talked about how he began playing the piano and how he enjoyed weaving in it’s elegant, atmospheric sounds into his own music. 

“Very much. All the piano stuff, the early sort of Idle Pulse piano music was literally right after I had just bought a keyboard and I’d never really played piano before, and that earlier music was me just trying to figure out what sounded good. I did some loops, so that stuff happened really quickly. The big improvised piano stuff was under another project where I actually sat down one Sunday afternoon, got into meditation mode and I just played for five mins then stopped. I took a break and then came back and played again, a process that I did for a while. It turned out really well and it’s one of my favourite things that I’ve done, that EP.”

“It’s just straight up floaty atmospheric piano tunes, especially from someone who from a technical standpoint can’t really play piano. I was able to edit some bung notes because it's a keyboard but there weren't many of those. While I was doing it, I was figuring things out, where everything is, how to make certain chords etc. I don’t know any music theory. I can't read music or anything. I know how to create  the musical sounds that I want to create but not why they sound like that or on a keyboard how to do it, I just have to discover that while I’m playing.” 

Sam Dishington

Verëvkina is another interesting project that Sam began after performing some improvised music live and recording it, something that he had never done before. 

“Yes, that live recording was really successful; I’ve never done improvised stuff live before, but it went much better than I thought it would. The sound guy kept getting told to turn it down because the bottle shop was connected to the venue and things started rattling because of low frequencies; probably my favourite review ever. After that show, I started editing the tracks, and there were a few that I thought sounded like it’s own thing so we released it under a different name called Verëvkina. I can’t remember exactly where it is but it’s a super deep cave and is one of the deepest discovered caves on the planet. The sound that came out of the whole project, Mares and I decided was all about nature, the resonance of the Earth, the depth of the Earth in terms of interpreting the music that we made so the name made sense.” 

While Sam does enjoy working on his various skills, projects and interests, taking those steps towards becoming as self-sufficient as possible does come with it’s own set of barriers, but nothing that he doesn’t try hard to overcome. 

“Only when I run into things that I can’t do yet does it get difficult because then I have to learn how to do it. With the painting and stuff, because it’s very very casual at the moment, I’m still learning, the hard part with that is actually finding the time to sit down and do it and getting better at it as opposed to playing guitar and writing songs. I guess the hardest part is probably the technical aspects more than anything else from a music point of view. Learning different production skills and stuff, trying to find a way just to create a sound that I want without necessarily having the technical knowledge to do it but that’s getting to be less of an issue as I keep using the software that I’m using but just whenever I come up against something that I don’t really understand how to do or like there’s a problem and I don’t know how to fix it, that’s the worst.”

I’ve only known Sam personally for a short while and as with anyone who I speak to about metal it’s always cool to know where their journey into the world of heavy music began. Believe it or not, for this talented Australian post-black metal artist, it began with Limp Bizkit!

“I can’t remember what got me into playing guitar but I think it was metal. I do remember I was on the school computers when I was in like grade 8 maybe and there was Limp Bizkit on the computer.  I liked rap and pop music etc and then suddenly there was this rap music with riffs in it. I thought it was great! Then I figured out the part that I really liked was not the rap but  the riffs part. Then I found Slipknot and all the other nu metal bands, then metalcore and death metal etc. I didn’t like black metal for a really long time, I think that was a production thing more than anything else but now it’s my main thing! 

“So I think, from memory, I remember starting my guitar lessons and wanting to play Korn and Rob Zombie songs so it must've been getting into metal that made me want to get into playing guitar. My first band was in college; I was in that band as guitarist and we were looking for a vocalist. Then suddenly I learnt how to do vocals and that was by accident! It's not a metal thing at all but I was watching channel V, there was a live Big Day Out on; massive show with Regurgitator playing and at the end of the song he did one scream. And I went, ‘ah, so that's how you do that’. So I went into my room and tried it and decided that I’d be the vocalist. That’s where it all started out.”

I was curious when he mentioned his initial dislike for black metal, which is understandable given how raw some of the older albums are and that isn’t for everyone. So from not being a fan of black metal to many years later, being in a band that plays a form of it, Sam shared where his appreciation for the obscure genre began, throwing light on how much production is a significant part of his choices. 

“I think it was Dimmu Borgir. It would’ve been the Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia album. I remember my cousin showing my ‘Kings of the Carnival Creation’ and I was just like what is this! It blew me away , the theatrics of it and that album has really good production as well. So the production issue that I had with black metal, wasn’t a problem on this album. Suddenly, I thought this was amazing, it's got a whole different feel to it. It was a really good start, that track is a big sound - i remember listening to it and falling in love straight away! For a really long time it was only them I liked as a black metal band because of fuller productions but that I think the production thing started to be less of an issue as I started to listen to more death metal as well, like all the metalcore bands have great production, killer sound.  As the music  I was listening to started to get a bit heavier, the production value started being less of an issue, and then I went back I guess and rediscovered some of the black metal I’d been shown and had previously dismissed. It was exactly that raw, sort of hissy tone that I didn’t like initially.”

“I remember being shown Burzum and early Mayhem and I hated it. I had a mate back in college who tried to show me all of that older stuff, depressive black metal bands, etc and they would do that sort of howling scream thing and I was so not into it. At some point it clicked and it became most of what I listened to - it just evolved over the years. I would say it almost came from getting into the more ambient, post-metal sort of stuff. I can’t really say for sure, but for me it makes sense in my brain when I started listening to post-metal stuff that had the atmospheric sort of stuff, then suddenly atmospheric, post black metal etc and then I just found my way to where I am now.”

Something that I do share with Sam is our love for the underground scene. There are so many incredible bands that move around and more often than not, go unnoticed but are undeniably some of the best artists in metal and I asked him who was currently on his playlist. 

“Goodness, let me have a think! There’s actually a Tasmanian band called Dissonant Winds, I saw them live years ago at my local pub the Brisbane Hotel and I wasn’t really expecting to see anything that I liked that night. I was kind of just there to support the scene but then this band came on and they just sounded really dark, playing atmospheric sort of stuff, nothing groundbreaking.  I discovered recently that they released another album last year and honestly, I’ve been listening to it at least a couple of times a week! I’m scrolling through my iTunes as we speak. There's an Icelandic band called Andavald who released an album last year and I didn't listen to it when it first came out, don’t know why because Icelandic black metal is my jam but it was months later when I listened to it and fell in love with it. It’s strangely melodic and the production is quite washy and lo-fi. It's all really slow and has a cool groove  to it. There’s maybe one, maybe two blasts on the entire album from memory, the rest is just this slow washy music and I love it.” 

Speaking of which, Sam’s main band Départe has been around for quite a few years and are now working on their next release, the follow-up to the band’s debut release ‘Failure. Subside’, an album that I thought was quite intense, personal and very emotive in a lot of ways. The band has been putting a lot of time and effort into creating their next release, something many are looking forward to, after their last album which came out four years ago. 

Départe - Failure, Subside 

“We’ve been working hard on the next album. It’s taken so much longer than we expected it to and it’s still nowhere near being finished but we’re making good progress. The reason it has taken so long is just that we’ve been trying new things, collaborating, pushing each other more to bring out different ideas. Both sessions together have really brought out some stuff I wouldn’t have been able to write by myself- it’s really interesting hearing some of those ideas. Now that we have that big bank of ideas, I’ve been given the go ahead to now make it happen. I guess we sort of had option paralysis in terms of what we can do, what we should do and what we want to do. We wanted to expand what we’ve done previously with the last album because it was sort of singular in its direction. It’s been a really difficult process but we’re getting there.”

As we talked about earlier in our conversation but in a slightly different context, there are always known and unforeseen obstacles when attempting to do something as complex as writing a full-length album. While there’s a lot that Sam enjoys about writing music for Départe, there have been a few hurdles along the way for the band that they have had to work through. 

I guess in terms of our first album, it was primarily written by me with a bit of the drummer’s input on the drums; we tried to do the collaborative thing a few times and it went absolutely nowhere. That was more to do with my being completely not used to it. I’ve always been used to being the primary songwriter, writing songs by myself  and that's just how it's always been. Whereas having people sitting in the room with me was different. I didn't know how to proceed. I think the main challenge for me is my process of creativity. I'll just sit there and play till I come up with the music. That process involves sounding like shit for a while because I have an idea in my head  but I don't know how to get it out so what I’m playing sounds bad.”

“For a long time it was really difficult to allow myself to sound bad in front of other people and it was difficult for me to have other people in the room, me go through the full process that I usually go through to try and get an idea from my brain. I’ve got to sound crap till I sound good. Practicing or learning anything, it's the same thing - you don’t get good at it until you’ve done it a bunch of times and it's the same for me with writing any riff. The drummer mentioned the other day that he noticed when I’m writing a riff, I’ll play it over and over again until I’ve worked out all the little details of it and I’ll record it . It's a long process because you’ve got to understand that what you’re playing is what everyone else is hearing, they can’t hear the idea in your head and that’s been quite a process to learn from.” 

Hearing the journey it’s been up until now, I asked Sam what fans can expect from Départe’s new music. 

Well, I think, I’ve always written music first and then written the lyrics, that style of writing has always worked for me, because it’s coming from the heart and a very personal space. So when I originally started thinking about the lyrics, I was looking at expanding and making it less about my personal experiences and more global stuff, but I don’t think that’s what Départe is. I think Départe is, at its core, a personal thing. There can be some things which aren't based on experience, but I think a lot of what people appreciate about the lyrics on Failure. Subside is the honesty and the music ties in with the lyrics in that they all sort of sound like it's personal. So  I think more personal is probably the way.”

“From a musical standpoint, it’s probably going to be a bit more complex because we’re putting more effort into the finer details of things. The thing that I’ve been really adamant about not losing is the black wash element which is the noise and the sort of the wall of sound sort of vibe. I’ve found it really when writing demos, especially for the new material, when stuff gets complex, you tend to lose that emotional intensity so I’ve been trying to find that balance and I think we’re really starting to hone that in now. I’m hoping it will sound a bit more mature!”

Sam Dishington

If you’ve read my previous articles, you’ll know that one of my favourite things to talk to my guests about is things that inspire their art. It’s always fascinating to hear about the different perspectives, thoughts and sources of inspiration and Sam shared his muses. 

“It’s a few different things. One of the things that definitely informs the way that I write music is emotional and personal experience; just various things that you walk and go through. In recent years, I started drawing a bit more inspiration from the world around me. The music that I do is still very introspective but I’ve been finding myself inspired by places, specifically nature. I’ve been spending a lot more time up the mountain in Hobart, at the beach or visiting places like that because I’ve found that they wake something up in me. I’ve always been a very indoor kinda guy but now I really like visiting these places and taking them in and just experiencing the different smells, temperature, how the place sounds and what it makes me feel. That’s become a new thing for me in terms of what inspires my music.”

At this point, it should come as no surprise that Sam has a passion for another form of art which is cooking! Having seen posts of beautifully plated up pasta and delicious desserts, I’ve always appreciated people who truly enjoy food, especially cooking and presenting it so professionally, which was met in turn, with some very interesting and rather hilarious stories!

I’ve been flat out recently and haven’t been able to post anything new; I mean there’s only so many times you can post a picture of Spaghetti!It’s a fairly new interest, I’ve always been pretty rough at it and had really no confidence in the kitchen. I still make really stupid mistakes. I mean, it’s not just lack of experience, it’s actually reading recipes wrong. So when I’m cooking with my mum, she makes sure I read the recipe many times, otherwise I will just put way too much of something or for some reason I get the wrong number in my head. Many years ago, I was making the recipe and was certain that I had it right and it came out of the oven and there was something wrong with it. What we figured out was that I put five times the amount of cocoa that was supposed to go in. I can read! Why can’t I read a recipe? What is it about them that’s so difficult!”

“So I only really started the cooking thing because it was about time. There’s only so much frozen pizza and two minute noodles you can eat, so I just had to do it. But I found along the way, that it was actually quite meditative. I’ll go into the kitchen, I’ve got a ritual now where I put on my apron, connect my bluetooth speaker and it’s always Piano music and then sit in the kitchen and cook away. It’s a really soothing experience.But I’ve also realised, if a recipe says it’ll take 50 minutes, it’s going to take me at least three hours and I just don’t know why! It just takes longer than it’s supposed to, I swear. So I need to put time aside for that.” 

Ending what was definitely an interesting, entertaining and intriguing conversation, I thanked Sam Dishington for his time and a lovely conversation, and for sharing his experiences with me. If there is one thing I learnt from him and our chat, it was that once he puts his mind to something, he does what he can to get it done, which, to me, is an inspiring quality, to which he had something to share in the hope that it can help other artists and musicians like him.

The truth is I struggle with that ‘I can’t do it’ attitude all the time, some days are worse than others. Especially with bigger projects, you go through seasons where you think you can’t actually do this. But I guess a life principle that our mate Dave taught me was essentially, if you don’t ask for something, you don’t get it. I use that as advice for a lot of people. The same principle applies to creative things for me. If you don’t try it, you’re not going to know. It can be really difficult to start allowing yourself to try things but if you get into that mindset of trying something and understanding that you can’t be good straight away but  that you’re still learning, then you start looking at all the things you have learnt and can apply elsewhere.” 

Sam Dishington

Check out all of Sam's music on Bandcamp here.

We've got Départe merchandise available right here on Direct Merch. Check out the full collection here.

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