Experimental alt-rock supergroup Tomahawk is putting the finishing touches on Oddfellows, its fourth album and first since 2007’s Anonymous. Guitarist Duane Denison tells Rolling Stone that the band, which also features Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton and Battles/former Helmet drummer John Stanier, recently recorded 15 tracks in six days at Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville, Tennessee. Auerbach’s in-house engineer, Collin Dupuis, also co-produced the material with the group.
According to Denison, the album is tentatively slated for a January 2013 release on Ipecac Records, with an as-yet-unselected single to precede it in the fall. Their coinciding tour will kick off with a warm-up show in Nashville and include appearances at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest and New Orleans’ Voodoo Music Experience. Schizo comics cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, known for his minimalist and transgressive style, will illustrate the album’s artwork. The record will also be the band’s first to feature journeyman bassist Trevor Dunn, whose avant-rock resumè includes Fantomas, John Zorn and the Melvins.
“I think [he’s] one of the best bassists in the world but he’ll spend time doing other things, playing jazzy, whether it’s with Zorn or Nels Cline,” Denison says of Dunn. “There were several times where I’m like, ‘No, just drill it, just simple, one-note; turn the amp up and just forget that New York boho business and let’s just play some rock.'”
The guitarist says fans can expect to hear a lot of that no-frills sound, along with a twisted sense of pop, on Oddfellows. “This is more of a full-on rock album. There’s no quirky weirdness – it’s very straightforward for us,” Denison explains. “The heavy stuff is as dark and heavy as anything we’ve ever done, but then there’s a lighter edge to it. There’s almost like this weird, upbeat [sound], what I call ‘heavy pop,’ and Patton totally got the vibe right away…[Patton likened it to] really heavy Beach Boys.”
Oddfellows came at a tragic time for its singer; Patton had to leave for Italy midway through the recording sessions to deal with the death of his father-in-law. But Denison explains that, given the great distances between band members and their busy schedules, Tomahawk is used to collaborating from afar. “I typically will write sketches and record guitar, bass and drum machine and make home demos, then send them out and get feedback… I think I’ve even seen it on Wikipedia as like, ‘The band makes their records by mail.’ No! I send stuff out and then people add stuff.”
Tomahawk is just one of Denison’s myriad musical endeavors this year. He’s currently collaborating with Alexander Hacke (guitarist-bassist-vocalist of German industrial rockers Einsturzende Neubauten) and Brian Kotzur (former drummer of Silver Jews) on a neo-chamber instrumental project called the Unsemble. “We wanted to work on something that was typically not what we do, something that’s not so rock- and riff-based and overdriven in that way,” he says of the 40 minutes of music the trio hopes to incorporate into the performance art world. “We’re working on music that we consider primarily to be dance or theatrical soundtrack-type music, but we’ll see.”
Denison is also involved in Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino’s side project Empty Houses, which also boasts Secret Machines keyboardist/Interpol sideman Brandon Curtis. The band has already recorded three tracks. “It’s very sort of sleazy, dark art-rock,” Denison says. “When [Fogarino] played me the demos, it reminded me of the first two Iggy Pop solo albums… but in a modern, updated [way].”
With his many events on the horizon, Denison still holds his highest ambitions for Tomahawk’s high-profile return. “My goal was to have something that doesn’t sound dated and sounds like it’s of this year,” he says. “We’re re-launching the band, basically.”