Lisa Gerrard on the New Dead Can Dance Album: 'Never Surrender to the Horrible Slumber of Mediocrity'

Dead Can Dance, the decades-spanning musical collaboration between Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard, has always been hard to define, incorporating pieces of art-rock, ambient and world music into a sound uniquely their own. And while for a time it seemed like the pair might not make more music together, the former lovers are set to release their first album in 16 years, Anastasis, on August 13th. The record is their first to not be released by seminal label 4AD, and the first to send the group out on the road in nearly a decade. We chatted with Lisa Gerrard to learn more about the album's creation, their upcoming tour and the album they made that never saw the light of day. Dead Can Dance play Marymoor Park in Redmond on August 10th.

My understanding is that there was material recorded before Anastasis that never saw the light of day -- an album that would have been the follow-up to Spiritchaser. What happened to that album? That was interesting. What's happened with Brendan and I is that over the years, when we've worked together, we used to live in the same house and we always went through this extraordinary discovery with each other, reading books and exploring different philosophies and musics and musical instruments. Sometimes we'd go into London and just go to ancient music shops, and we never had the money to buy anything back then, but we'd explore some of the early instruments in there. And because of this exploration, it had always been something that was intimately connected with time spent together. We never really questioned it and when we got together to do that particular album after Spiritchaser, because we hadn't spent that time together organically peeling back the layer that had always inspired our work, we got to a point where we didn't really know what we were trying to make. We thought we'd always just be able to get together and write, but in fact there had always been so much more going on with Dead Can Dance with Brendan and I writing together.

Were you guys not living in the same city then? We got together and we'd been together for maybe a month, but normally we'd been together for twelve months beforehand. Suddenly we'd gone in cold and we got frustrated because it just didn't feel right. It didn't have the glue or the philosophical connection or the unlocking of the human heart. It just wasn't there. It was only this time when Brendan contacted me after the bushfires in Australia that we started a dialogue again and we started to re-ignite what it was that we had together.

But you weren't both living in the same city during the writing of Anastasis, correct? Because of technology, we were able to communicate so much more via emails and the Internet and Skype. We were in each other's world and space. It's all about the unlocking process. I've had children and Brendan was doing other things. There are always things to distract us so we sort of got back to that circle of life that led us towards, on this album, the Mediterranean and ancient understanding.

Speaking of the Mediterranean, there are a lot of nods to Greek culture on the album, including the title, which means resurrection. Will listeners hear the influence of Greek music on Anastasis as well? It's not about Greek music. It's about an exploration. A lot of the things that we've done, ironically, have started from language and musical culture. What we're trying to do is take people back to the source of who we are as a people and the source of music being something that enables people to put their other duties down and have an internal cathartic experience. It's an olive branch, it's friendship, it's communication. And it's also celebration. There's nowhere like the Mediterranean to really wake that up. I think a lot of us have really got to the point where we're really questioning, "How much time am I giving myself?" Years ago people would take time out for their families, whereas now you look around and people are working all the time.

Are you guilty of that as well? Definitely. And since I've been [scoring] movies, I think that's what lead us to wanting to do this in a sense. We're losing that sense of community. We're losing that lovely exchange of energy and storytelling and opening the pathways of the heart and mind between our experiences. Music has always been a great chariot into the lives and hearts of others.

Can you tell me about the album's cover, which features wilted sunflowers? Brendan always picks the covers. He usually has a very direct connection with the title and because of resurrection he wanted to use that particularly image because he felt that even though the sunflowers are dead, there is life within them. And depending on their environment, the seeds will be reborn, the roots will be in the ground and will not die and they will come back as something brand new but as a direct result of their environment. In a way, it's kind of a way of understanding human beings, that depending on the environments that we expose ourselves to, we can rebuild and become reborn within our state of consciousness. You can change. You have the power to change your life. Never surrender to the horrible slumber of mediocrity. There is always something that can be reborn within in.

Seattle will be stop number two on your tour. Will you guys be rusty? We're going to be terribly rusty indeed! I will have one yangchin stick and the other will have a feather on the end of it so that when I play it it doesn't make any sound. We are working so bloody hard in these rehearsals. No one's going to be rusty, not with Brendan Perry at the helm! He runs a tight ship.

What will the setup of musicians be on the tour? We have absolutely amazing musicians. They are astonishing players. We have very tricky timings and parts and they're making everything sound very easy. There are four other people plus an extra person on bass guitar who comes in on a couple of numbers because we didn't have enough musicians. But we are a very tight little group.

And what will the set consist of? It'll be the new record. It'll also be lots of old stuff. We're trying to touch on something from each genre of the work so that we're allowed to have a nostalgic journey as well.

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