D.O.G. Chose a Band Name to Mess with Your Mind, Frontward and Backward
You can’t just zip by the name without addressing it, so let’s start there. The Greensboro hip-hop-ish collective/band Dildo Of God got their name by riffing on half of a palindrome.
Two of the members were having a smoke break back behind the recording studio where they lay down the tracks that get sliced and diced and reconfigured to become their music, and one of them suggested the name in that special pushing-the-limits way, floating a crackpot trial balloon to see if someone shoots it down. This one kept flying.
“I just thought it was funny,” says Randy Seals, the band’s drummer and recording engineer/producer. “We don’t have any specific anti-religious meaning in the name.”
At the same time, Seals and his bandmates seem pretty content to thumb their nose at anybody who can’t take a joke or tolerate a little non-malicious verbal lunacy. It’s an attitude that they extend to the music: if you don’t like their thing, too bad.
But back to that name and palindromes, which are phrases or words that are spelled the same forward as backward. “Kayak” is one. So is “a man a plan a canal Panama.” A curiosity of written systems, palindromes have fascinated people for centuries. On the one hand, palindromes have a symmetry that we often seek in art, but that balance is offset by a destabilizing element of nonsense. The French experimental writer Georges Perec wrote an enormous palindrome that was more than 1200 words long. J.S. Bach famously composed overlapping “crab canons” that use musical lines that harmonize with each other and are the same forward and backward. So Dildo Of God aren’t the first to deploy the device.
But Dildo Of God’s name has special outrage potential, harnessing sex-toys and divinity into one eye-catching image. (“It’s caused us a fair amount of problems, I would say,” says Seals.) The complete palindrome from which their name is derived is “dildo of god dog food lid.” Get it? As it happens, the band’s first cassette release was called “Dog Food Lid.” So the band has a taste for the absurd. And they don’t mind offending people.
The band has more going for it than just a willingness to shock. D.O.G. has an old-school collectivist approach, and the project is connected to Seal’s Greensboro studio, On Pop Of The World, and a newly hatched record label, Side Recs, which is putting out D.O.G.’s full-length debut, “NOMTOM- BOT,” as a vinyl-only release (with digital download codes in each copy).
The seven members of D.O.G. coalesced through mutual acquaintances and through casually experimenting at the studio.
“We had never really planned to do it as a band,” says Seals. “It really came together as a studio project. The people that were around and sort of solidified to becoming the band were basically the people that just hung out the most.”
Different members assemble beats, and the MC, Daily Planet, raps over the patterns, then more parts are added or subtracted, snippets are processed and tweaked, and eventually songs are arrived at. The music is thick and murky, with ominous sub-sonic bass, vocals that get harmonized at ultra-low frequencies, and chopped-up beats flown in and wiped out with dub flourishes. Overall the vibe is unsettling, paranoid and distopic (“Never knew the land of the free was a fraud,” raps Daily Planet on “White Collar Crime”), but there’s also enough theatrical attitude to make the whole thing seem more like a mob-rules art project than a dispatch from some fringe of our apocalyptic present.
D.O.G. is a band, and they play live without samples or prerecorded backing tracks. The seven-piece includes someone on Moog synthesizer and trombone and someone else on atmospherics and soundscapes, as well as Dottie Nash, a vocalist/MC who just adds more yang to what Daily Planet already establishes. If one is looking for comparisons, at times the band’s recordings bring to mind Mr. Bungle, Death Grips, Throbbing Gristle and Bongwater. The music is allusive, with microseconds of “Grand Theft Autobot” hinting at the Beastie Boy’s “High Plains Drifter” off of “Paul’s Boutique.” And the song “All Yanitas” opens with a snippet of the horns from “La Marseillaise,” which was what the Beatles used at the start of “All You Need Is Love,” the words of which, when sped up, can be slurred into “all yanitas.” Like the band name, there’s a verbal playfulness under all the grim stuff about power, politics, freedom, commerce, sex and money.
The business of selling music is something that Seals and his bandmates think about quite a bit. Seals says the band and the label are unsure if they’ll be offering their music to streaming services like Spotify. Seals, 47, is a product of the ’90s, with a very Gen-X ambivalence about self-promotion and marketing. As he sees it, many bands — and maybe the whole music business — have gone down the wrong road in terms of relentlessly engaging with social media and a pandering approach to publicity.
“We want to spread the word in a non-down-your-throat kind of way,” says Seals. “The point is, we’re making music, we’re not salesmen.”
You could say that anyone strictly interested in selling a product would have chosen a different name than Dildo Of God, but then again, maybe the attention they get from the name is of the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” variety. As Seals tells it, most people see the name and tend to think the band is going to suck or be stupid because of it. That’s not a marketing approach that they recommend in business school, but it does seem to lower the expectations.
Dildo Of God will get the chance to try their counter-intuitive technique farther afield in the coming months, when they play a series of shows leading up to the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas in March. (The band isn’t officially playing in the festival, but they’re a part of some of the counter-programming that goes on during the blowout event.)
“We’re not trying to be a pop label or a band. Not at all,” says Seals. “You might have to see us a few times before you like us. That’s fine. I prefer that.” !
Dildo Of God play the Blind Tiger, Feb. 5, to celebrate the release of their full-length debut. 1819 Spring Garden St., Greensboro, 336-272-9888, theblindtiger.com