Arts

Oh Sees man John Dwyer on pets, performance and his philosophy of life

Cult US garage rockers Oh Sees visit Ireland next week. David Roy quizzed their main man John Dwyer on pets, performance and philosophy

Oh Sees (with John Dwyer, far left) return to Ireland next week

JOHN Dwyer is the guitarist, singer and main-man in acclaimed cult US psych/garage/punk/rock/pop unit Oh Sees, also known as The Oh Sees and indeed Thee Oh Sees (and sometimes, when operating in a quieter/weirder mode, OCS), who return to Ireland next week for shows in Dublin and Belfast on the tour for their excellent latest LP, Smote Reverser.

Well respected in alternative music circles, Dwyer (44) is a veteran of multiple independent bands and DIY musical projects, notably influential and chaotic lo-fi San Francisco garage rock outfit Coachwhips, and co-runs revered indie label Castle Face Records.


He's also prolific, putting out at least one new album every year with Oh Sees, an outfit whose sound shape-shifts almost as often as its line-up. Once renowned for their wild, destructive, drug-fuelled live performances – one of which left Dwyer hospitalised and in danger of losing a leg when a shard of glass got embedded in his knee and became infected – these days the band present themselves in a more insurance-friendly manner while delivering their still reliably raucous garage rock show.

2018's double record Smote Reverser is the 21st long-playing release in the ever-expanding OCS/(The(e)) Oh Sees canon. It finds Dwyer and co in fine prog-rock-tinged form, accurately self-described as "another frothy album of head-destroying psych-epics to grok and rock out to."

Given the amount of time and effort Dwyer puts into his artistic endeavours, interviews with him are rare. However, thanks to the supreme cajoling powers of Belfast promoter Darren Smyth, today we bring you a short and sweet Q&A with the master of disaster himself. Insight awaits, maybe.

Your tour of Britain and Ireland begins next week: who looks after your dog when you go on the road and do you suffer from pet separation anxiety?


The love of my life, Heidi. The dog likes her more anyway, but she doesn't chase him as much as I do.

Who’s in the band right now and do you miss the craziness of the old days when you’d take lots of drugs and smash things up?

It's me, Tim Hellman (bass), Dan Rincon (drums), Paul Quattrone (drums) and Thomas Dolas (keys). And I don't miss it so much – we still play the occasional floor show to remind me what it feels like to catch a mic in the teeth.

As for the day-long hangovers... not so much. We still throw down, but less likely to vomit. We are professionals, after all.

Have you always been a confident live performer or did you have to work at overcoming nerves? What’s the secret?

I'm a bit of an a**hole, so I've been lucky in that respect!

Is it a chore choosing your set, given the huge number of songs you have at your disposal?

Not really, we just know what will work live and what won't. We just call them out as we play, no set-list per se.

What's the best record you’ve ever made? And what’s the next record you’re putting out?

I'll always say the new one, but y'all ain't heard that yet... soon.

Do you have a personal copy of every record you’ve played on?

I do yes, I have a massive archive of LPs and posters etc.

Where were you when Scott Walker died and how much of a hole has he left in your life?

I was sitting drinking tea when I found out. No-one well ever fill those shoes for the world.

You first discovered music through skateboarding. Who is your favourite skateboarder, what is your favourite skate video and when was the last time you skated?

Ha, s***. I sucked at skating, hence the guitar. I can admire a skilled skater though, but I'm not in the loop on that one.

Do you have a philosophy of life?

Try not to be an a**hole.

:: Oh Sees, Monday May 20, The Limelight, Belfast. Doors 6pm (early show), tickets £24.50 via Ticketweb.ie / Tuesday May 21, Button Factory, Dublin, tickets €25.10 via Ticketmaster.ie

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