Dead Ranch :: Attack of the Noise Creatures

dead ranch photo shoot 147

 by Myke Lewis

“I’m not gonna lie, I masturbated quite a bit in that bathroom,” reveals Ryley Devine with the kind of frank openness that would otherwise have you switching seats on the bus. The man in question is the drummer in Winnipeg’s emerging noise-makers, Dead Ranch. His band-mate and front-man, Chad Alsop explains, “Jesse was even, ya know, ‘if you guys are gonna tug off, just keep it in the bathroom.'”

Sitting in their basement rehearsal space and between heated rounds of Mario Kart 64, the men of Dead Ranch describe the gritty, fallout shelter-intimacy behind the making of their new full-length record, Antler Royal.

Back in March, 2013, Dead Ranch decamped to Vancouver to record at The Hive, a studio owned and operated by producer Jesse Gander. Locked within, the band maintained the most basic level of domesticity, never straying too close to any level of creature comfort.

“When we started to stink, Jesse let us shower at his place,” says Chad. The band chose to work with Gander because of his work with Bison B.C. and 3 Inches of Blood. When presented with the budget for the recording, Gander was more than accommodating and kept the process streamlined, hence the living situation. While Gander would have flown to Winnipeg to record the band, Dead Ranch felt getting out of Winnipeg and away from the distractions of daily routine to be an absolute necessity. Recording at Gander’s home turf seemed a no-brainer.

“It definitely lit the fire under our asses,” Ryley says of the excursion. “We’d spent all of our money, including money we didn’t even have yet, to get out there, so we had to do this right. There was a sense of not having time to waste.” That pressure was the main difference between the making of Antler Royal and the band’s debut EP, Birds of Prey, released in 2012.

Guitarist Andre Cornejo elaborates, ‘The EP was a totally different experience. You’d go down to the basement and play and piss around until someone had a mean thirst for more beer, and then end up going for pizza.” Chad describes the process as having been piecemeal, “It was a lot more casual. It wasn’t consistent. Antler Royal was 12-hour days. Jesse was a machine. He didn’t get up from his computer unless it was suppertime.”

Press play and the difference between Antler Royal and Birds of Prey is a punch in the face. There’s no half-assing on Antler Royal. The record captures Dead Ranch as they are live, funneling their onstage energy down to little pieces of vinyl. The music staggers out of the speakers like an angry drunk still lucid enough to be Bruce Lee. There’s no breathing space. There is a greater intensity to the album, and you can hear the determination in every note, every drum hit, and every throat-scraping howl. Antler Royal has you in a chokehold and doesn’t let go till it has made its point and staggers on into the night to spread its message of “fuck you.”

Having spent the preceding year gigging incessantly, Dead Ranch were able to hit the ground running when they entered The Hive. That said the staggering number of shows brought the band close to overload, which, according to Andre, was the subject of numerous arguments.

“Even about the good shows,” adds bassist Steve Henderson.

Regardless, the sweat paid off.

“Playing live gets you tighter personally, too,” continues Andre. “For a mostly introverted band, we get onstage and we let a lot of shit out. We get up there and collide, but there’s a good energy on stage. Because we recorded live off the floor, the weirdness and the stress of having to wear headphones and constantly tuning up…”

“And with a world-class producer and engineer on the other side of the glass,” interjects Chad.

“It was like playing the most important show of your life,” Andre concludes.

While the bulk of the material remains largely the same from those live shows, Gander’s role as producer did result in some refining. Chad explains, “he took me aside and told me to read him my lyrics, and change how I sang them a bit.”

When it comes to the lyrics, Chad writes about what he knows. Part of what informs his words is the band’s collective distaste for Winnipeg. Andre refers to the city as “the end of the continental digestive tract,” while Chad describes it somewhat more charitably as an “excellent place to strive to get away from.” Andre continues, “if you’re ignorant of what else is out there, then you can be happy in Winnipeg.”

This isn’t to paint a purely negative picture, however. Andre puts it succinctly, “Winnipeg is a fucking mess, but I will always come back here. It’s home to me. It’ll always have a special place in my heart, but it’s also the city that jaded me more than most people will ever comprehend.” Chad sums up the sound of the band, saying, “it’s an aggression that comes from wanting to leave and explore.”

That aggression to explore, to eradicate, and to dominate found its way into the music, and into the artwork as well. Chad came across the term “antler royal,” the part in the front of the antlers of red deer, while reading Darwin’s The Origin of Species. It struck a chord with Chad and the rest of the band. The cover art, done by both Kate Francis (Adolyne, Breathe Knives) and Wurmzilla (The Great Sabatini), suits the music perfectly, showing a demon hydra-deer hybrid ready to kick ass and take names.

Dead Ranch Antler Royal cover Large

That mindset is at the manic core of what the men of Dead Ranch are all about. In trying to articulate that ever-present feeling, Chad pauses and tries to articulate an ever-present frustration. “There are certain bands that just don’t fit. We don’t really fit in with the punk scene. We don’t fit in with the metal scene. We didn’t fit in with the NGTVSPC scene, and in fact we were banned from that venue. I think it’s the fact that we don’t fit in that’s what makes us special.” The melting-pot process has its upsides and but can also be isolating, even within the band.

“Arguments are an integral part of the song-writing process,” says Ryley, smirking.

“Sorting out dance-moves,” laughs Chad.

“You pizza’d when you should’a french-fried!” yells Andre as the room collapses into laughter.

Despite not fitting in, or perhaps in spite of it, the band remains undeterred.

“If you have a goal that you want to accomplish,” says Andre, “whether it be art or bullshit degrees in philosophy and you want to go debate on television, keep going for it. Because at least if you fuck your life up and you die having not that much money in your wallet, at least you can say you tried. You only die once.”

The band hopes that Antler Royal will get them some attention abroad and help them to bring their music to more and more people further and further away. Ultimately, Dead Ranch needs to keep going. Andre brings it al full circle when explaining his motivation. “I’m investing effort in this because it’s this or I sit on the couch and masturbate, watch South Park, and eat potato chips, which I could do on tour, but at least then there’s three other guys doing it with me.”

The band are currently wrapping up a video for the song “Attack of the Sky Creatures,” which is planned for public consumption in early November when the band returns from a nation-wide tour in October.

“We’re gonna have our own little Thanksgiving on the road,” says Chad. The band will be guests at the Pelicanus Festival in Montreal and then out west to play with No List label-mates Anion in Vancouver. The band will be playing Winnipeg as part of Katzmaggeddon on November 23rd.

Antler Royal will be released in digital and vinyl formats through No List Records ( and on tape through Prairie Fire Tapes ( In the meantime, check out the album at



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