Turntable Interview: Diamond Rings
If you want to see a serious stage shows, John O’Regan a.k.a. Diamond Rings is your guy. When he plays live, he manages to fill a venue with a visceral energy that gets your heart pumping and feet moving, as he spins around the stage like a whirling dervish in sequined spandex. He’s expending so much energy on stage that it seems almost unfair not to do your part and just cut loose. That said, his new album, Free Dimensional, is a fully portable dance party, sure to make any bash or commute or holiday traveling that much better. Before his recent show at the Bowery Ballroom, Diamond Rings stopped by Turntable.fm to talk about how he gets ready for a show, why we should all stop dissing Justin Bieber, and, naturally, Bryan Adams’s haircut.
Melissa Locker started playing “Memories Of The Future” by Handsome Furs
DIAMOND RINGS: Yo! What’s up?
STEREOGUM: That is quite the avatar you have there. It looks just like you!
DIAMOND RINGS: I love this song. Yeah it looks just like me, right?
STEREOGUM: Was that made just for you? I’m pretty jealous actually.
DIAMOND RINGS: 100% Custom Avatar
STEREOGUM: Definitely jealous.
DIAMOND RINGS: Yeah they gave me two different costume options too…I picked the “spacey” one
STEREOGUM: Are you going to be able to change costumes half way through the interview?
DIAMOND RINGS: Yeah costume changes are a must. We’re doing 4 different ones each gig
STEREOGUM: Wow! You are playing at Bowery Ballroom tonight. How do you get ready to go on stage? Gets me going.
DIAMOND RINGS: Stretching, a few push-ups and jumping jacks, and a vodka Red Bull
STEREOGUM: Do you do your jumping jacks in full costume and make up?
DIAMOND RINGS started playing “Fine Young Cannibals” by Wolf Parade
DIAMOND RINGS: Usually not in “full” costume…my “base layer” is just black jeans, a black tank top, and running shoes. I keep things pretty sporty. The show is really athletic so it helps to be able to move around on stage.
STEREOGUM: Well you are rather energetic on stage generally so a warm up seems necessary. JINX!
DIAMOND RINGS: LOL
STEREOGUM: Have you always been such an engaging performer? I never saw your other band the D’urbervilles
DIAMOND RINGS: Yes. What I do now is actually more similar to what I did in the D’Urbs/Matters. Except I never wore silver cloaks and lipstick in those bands…haha
STEREOGUM: A missed opportunity for sure. Are there other artists you look up to when it comes to performing? Other great stage acts?
DIAMOND RINGS: Yes there’s a list … Robyn, Peaches, Kylie, DEVO, Kraftwerk, and of course my pal Dan from Wolf Parade! Have you seen Divine Fits yet??
STEREOGUM: Not yet, unfortunately, but I want to.
DIAMOND RINGS: He’s great in that band
STEREOGUM: How did you two meet?
DIAMOND RINGS: I saw Wolf Parade back when I was in art school and my old band opened for Handsome Furs once
STEREOGUM: What did you study in art school?
DIAMOND RINGS: I started out in painting and drawing. I got bored with 2-D pretty quick and switched over to performance and installation which was way more fun. By my last year I was doing cool stuff like taking apart stereos and reconfiguring them into giant weird contraptions. Hooking up tape cassettes to big speaker towers and blasting Run DMC
STEREOGUM: Wow. Did you ever have shows?
Melissa Locker started playing “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn
DIAMOND RINGS: Yeah I played shows in school…they were always a combination of my music and artwork…like we’d build a big set and dress up crazy and play music
STEREOGUM: Do you still draw and paint or do you pour your creativity into Diamond Rings now?
DIAMOND RINGS: Occasionally… there’s a painting in the liner notes of my first album that I did myself I assist with the layout of my albums and help design most of my merch and stage costumes
STEREOGUM: Do you feel like music and performance are a better means of expressing yourself?
DIAMOND RINGS: I think Diamond Rings is essentially a combination of all of my interests and talents. Music is a more direct way to connect with people, certainly. If you’re doing a gallery show, say, exhibiting paintings…You spend like a year working on them alone in a studio and then show them off like once, at the opening. But if you play music you can go on tour and play for so many more people in so many more places. And you get real, live, direct feedback. You know right away if a crowd is feeling a new song, you know?
DIAMOND RINGS started playing “Heartbeats (Original Mix)” by The Knife
STEREOGUM: Definitely! Roaring is frowned upon at most gallery shows
DIAMOND RINGS: Hahaha. Not that there’s anything wrong with capital “A” artwork
STEREOGUM: Of course
DIAMOND RINGS: I know I’ve just got my whole life to do that kind of stuff. It’s hard to be a “rock star” when you’re 45
STEREOGUM: don’t tell the Rolling Stones
DIAMOND RINGS: Hahaha. But those bands all started young, you know what I mean?
STEREOGUM: True. They just celebrated 50 years in the biz.
DIAMOND RINGS: Crazy
STEREOGUM: But as an artist, your sound is still evolving. “Free Dimensional” had a fairly different sound than your first album “Special Affections.” Do you still play songs from it?
DIAMOND RINGS: Yeah I play a few of the guitar heavy tracks from the first album because they fit better with the new material
STEREOGUM: So you aren’t the type of musician to sort of crumple up your old work and move on?
DIAMOND RINGS: Not entirely. I mean, those songs inform what I’m doing now. And my fans have really special and personal connections to that material. The live show is as much or more for them than it is for me too, you know?
Melissa Locker started playing “This Charming Man” by Stars
STEREOGUM: Totally. Do you ever listen to your own albums?
DIAMOND RINGS: I only listen to them when I’m working on them. Once I hear the test pressings I pretty much put them away
STEREOGUM: Why do you think that is? I mean, obviously aside from not wanting to be too vain.
DIAMOND RINGS: Umm it’s just not really something I can enjoy in the way that my fans can. By the time I finish an album I’m ready to move onto something new.
STEREOGUM: You said that the guitar heavy tracks from “Special Affections” are similar to your new songs. Do you think your next album will be more guitar-driven?
DIAMOND RINGS started playing “How Soon Is Now? (Single Edit)” by The Smiths
STEREOGUM: Whoa it’s a Smiths party!
DIAMOND RINGS: Hahaha – I had to. This was one of the first albums I ever bought on vinyl in high school
STEREOGUM: Who is your favorite Smith?
DIAMOND RINGS: Johnny Marr probably. But I mean the Moz is a classic.
STEREOGUM: I love Morrissey, but Johnny Marr is hard to argue with. So, do you think your next album will be more guitar-driven?
DIAMOND RINGS: I don’t know – I’ve been working lots more with the low end. Trying to write cool bass riffs with big drum beats. I’ve been DJing lots more and listening to deeper house and techno. I’d love to try and marry that stuff with guitar work, however…I mean, that’s what groups like C+C and 2Unlimited did, right?
STEREOGUM: You are labelmates with Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta …wait, C + C Music Factory?
DIAMOND RINGS: Totally. I saw Guetta DJ in Ibiza this past spring and it was nuts… I don’t know if I could ever be quite so bombastic, however.
STEREOGUM: I cannot imagine how insane a Guetta show in Ibiza must be. I mean, that’s his spiritual homeland
Melissa Locker started playing “Wine And Chocolates” by Theophilus London
DIAMOND RINGS: Yeah, insane is a proper description. It’s a real production, and I love real productions!
STEREOGUM: Right. I love a really good stage show, even if it’s not the music regularly on my iPod
DIAMOND RINGS: I love my label though…I was just at the office and picked up some cool new vinyl. Kylie, Air, Chemical Bros, all the greats.
STEREOGUM: Who have you been listening to lately?
DIAMOND RINGS: When it comes to what I listen to I really like variety.
STEREOGUM: Are you a vinyl collector?
DIAMOND RINGS: Yes I have about 500 so far and counting, but it’s all over the place. I have Guetta, but I also have the Brian Eno ambient series and most things in between
STEREOGUM: That’s what I wondering. Your tastes, and your music that you create, are very eclectic
DIAMOND RINGS: What I love about vinyl is that it’s almost like a musical growth chart. It starts down “here” and ends up “there” and follows all these weird links and detours.
STEREOGUM: So your first album was the Smiths
DIAMOND RINGS started playing “Closer” by Tegan & Sara (feat. Tegan & Tegan Quin & Sara Quin)
DIAMOND RINGS: Yeah Smiths and Dark Side of the Moon – lol. EVERYONE needs Dark Side of the Moon!!!
STEREOGUM: If you say so….
DIAMOND RINGS: I can remember watching it with Wizard of Oz in art school and freaking out. I took lots of inspiration from that album cover for my new stage show.
STEREOGUM: Ha! Really?
DIAMOND RINGS: Like the last album was all rainbow, which is what happens when white light refracts through a prism or a “ahem” diamond
STEREOGUM: Of course, a diamond. So with so much music in your collection, what do you think are your biggest influences?
DIAMOND RINGS: It constantly changes
STEREOGUM: You’ve been compared to everyone from Nirvana to Klaus Nomi
DIAMOND RINGS: But my BIGGEST influences are those bands who marry style with substance, visuals with sonics. Kraftwerk, Devo, Nomi, Bowie, Grace Jones, Kylie and YES nirvana for sure. You dig this new Tegan and Sara track?
STEREOGUM: Is it new? I totally love it.
DIAMOND RINGS: Ya it’s their new single. They produced it with Greg Kurstin, who also did the most recent Devo album and my fav Kylie song WOW.
Melissa Locker started playing “Not In Love (Feat. Robert Smith)” by Crystal Castles
STEREOGUM: Wow, I had no idea they were so behind-the-scenes-y
DIAMOND RINGS: Hahaha, I’m all about behind the scenes. I love Crystal Castles
STEREOGUM: Yes! They are fantastic.
DIAMOND RINGS: Yeah Toronto represent! So many great Toronto bands. Austra, Fucked Up, Trust
STEREOGUM: As a musician from Canada, do you find yourself fighting stereotypes about “Canadian musicians,” like Shania and Alan Thicke and Bryan Adams?
DIAMOND RINGS: I love bryan adams
STEREOGUM: So do I!
DIAMOND RINGS: He’s got probably the most consistent album cover discography of any artist, even Springsteen. He’s a photographer, so that’s why. I mean, he had a string of like 5 albums that all just look AMAZING.
STEREOGUM: Did you see his portrait of Morrissey?
DIAMOND RINGS: No! I did see him on Kelly & Michael last week though. He had an amazing haircut. And he played an acoustic version of the song he did with Mel C. back in the late 90s. love that song.
DIAMOND RINGS: Classic photo…thanks for the link!
STEREOGUM: I really like the fact that we are talking about Bryan Adams’ haircut
DIAMOND RINGS: But yeah – people have a perception of Canadian music as one thing and it’s really lots of things. It’s really diverse which I love
DIAMOND RINGS started playing “Beat And The Pulse” by Austra
STEREOGUM: Canadian music seems to be having a resurgence of awesomeness lately. Was there much happening in the 90s?
DIAMOND RINGS: Yeah it’s just great that we don’t preface everything with “canadian” anymore…you know? Yeah there was but I mean I wasn’t part of it…I was in high school, but it was much more rock based in the 90s…there were raves and things but it was very underground. Now we’re seeing electronic music, rap music, rock music, the whole deal.
STEREOGUM: Although we are happy to blame Canada for Justin Bieber.
DIAMOND RINGS: Haha – everyone hates on Bieber and I’ve got to say I think he’s amazing for being able to handle everything that gets thrown at him
STEREOGUM: Oh totally. He’s quite the professional for being a teenager.
DIAMOND RINGS: When I was 18 I was playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater and trying to get my friend’s older brother to buy me beer, you know?
STEREOGUM: Ha ha ha.
DIAMOND RINGS: I know how much work I put into my music and my performances and can only imagine what he has to put up with…
STEREOGUM: Okay, I will stop hating on Bieber. No h8.
DIAMOND RINGS: That said – I think there’s something to be said for having full control over your art…and that’s what I’ve always been about personally
DIAMOND RINGS: I think what’s great about music is that there’s room for everyone.
STEREOGUM: So what are you doing next?
DIAMOND RINGS: Well I’m going to the bowery ballroom to soundcheck…lol. Or do you mean “next” next?
STEREOGUM: Ha! Musically. What’s next?
DIAMOND RINGS: I’ve got a new remix coming out for my pal Russ who performs as Rush Midnight and a few more remixes that I can’t mention but they’re gonna be awesome!
STEREOGUM: Oh of course. He’s great.
DIAMOND RINGS: And once I get back to my studio, I’ll be working on new stuff
STEREOGUM: And is there a new album in the works?
Melissa Locker started playing “On Fire” by Sebadoh
DIAMOND RINGS: Nice pick! lol
STEREOGUM: I thought you might like this song.
DIAMOND RINGS: I’ve got tons of demos, but no, I don’t really think about making an album until I’ve got a bunch of finished songs. Yikes! I’m being yanked away by my handlers…lol
STEREOGUM: So we will have to satisfy our Diamond Rings craving with remixes for now?
DIAMOND RINGS: Yes – remixes for now…we’ll see what’s next! Peace!
STEREOGUM: Thank you for chatting!