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Posted 16.01.17

In conversation: lecturer and multi-instrumentalist Dominic Deane

By Sarah Packer

Dominic Deane with fellow Deadwall band members. Photo © Danny Payne www.dannypanephotography.com

Originally hailing from Leeds, artist and musician Dominic Deane has been making experimental and ambient music since 2009.

He has appeared in the group Sunwølf, drummed for post-hardcore group November Fires and for Leeds four-piece band Deadwall. He also happens to be our lecturer in media, so we sat down for a chat with the sound specialist and multi-instrumentalist...

Hi Dominic, so what brought you to Plymouth and this role in particular?
I had only been to Plymouth once before to play a gig, but I found Plymouth interesting – it feels like it’s on the verge of becoming a bigger creative community through the college and university.

I’ve also never really worked at an art college before, it’s more of a practise-based place compared to what I’ve experienced at other universities.

"There's a lot more experimentation here, more creative freedom from staff and students."

I love the fact that there is more scope to do creative and collaborative projects with the students and more practice-based projects, so it complements their studies instead of just being a bog-standard, one size fits all course.

What did you do before coming to the college?
I was lecturing at various institutions in Leeds. I’ve lived there since I was a graduate and got involved with the local music scene and with performance: playing in bands, running nights.

I do a lot of solo recording, I stayed in Leeds purely through that and working in education. I ran a media course for a few years and then I stepped back from that and went freelance, working for media companies and doing web design.

"...when we talk about soundtrack and sound design in  film  a lot of the students talk about this idea of sonic phenomena..."

You’re studying a PHD as well.
Yes in sociology, it’s a study of DIY music scenes in Leeds. There’s not anything that’s been documented in terms of its history and heritage and so my study is really celebrating its scope of venues and its ethos of DIY music.

It’s had a long legacy, so eventually, I would like to form it into a sort of retrospective book.

That sounds really interesting. So your involvement in the music scene in Leeds and also the PHD you’re working on at the moment, is that what moved you towards working in sound?
Yes, as a musician who has played in bands, I got to a point where I was playing in a lot of groups with various people and kind of wanted to do my own music.

That allowed my practice as a solo musician to develop and I was able to work on various projects with filmmakers and perform in galleries.

Because the music was sort of instrumental based and more ethereal it meant that I could branch out into other areas and do soundtrack work, the whole film aspect of it was pretty serendipitous really.  

A director would say ‘do you want to get involved and collaborate on a project?’, or ‘have you ever thought about having live visuals for some of your own concerts?’ and so they blended well together.

I’m quite lucky to have been asked to play in venues all around Europe, from bars and art galleries to cinemas and music venues.

"I think Plymouth has definitely got some unique spaces that can tell a story, whether it’s local folklore or some current news debate, there’s something interesting about those spaces."

Talking about your research and your PHD, have you found that’s influenced your teaching?

Yeah massively, it’s a theoretical study so in terms of my practice it has definitely helped me in my approach to contextualization and methodology.  

The pseudo-intellectual PHD strand of it has fitted in well, which is really important, especially for referencing and learning about popular culture, music scenes and the sociological context surrounding it.

And that relationship of place and culture told through music is key in evolving a scene.
Definitely, when we talk about soundtrack and sound design in film a lot of the students talk about this idea of sonic phenomena.

You’ve got the technology to replicate a place, but can you actually find places that influence you and influence the narratives and formations and the way things are put together?

Can that have some influence on your work? The idea of psychogeography and authors like Ian Rankin and JG Ballard who have influenced architecture or they tell a story through the foundations of a space, could you do that with sound design?

And that’s something that I’m quite interested in and I think Plymouth has definitely got some unique spaces that can tell a story, whether it’s local folklore or some current news debate, there’s something interesting about those spaces.

And what do you think of the college so far?
It’s a good space, it’s got that kind of freshness about it that bigger universities lack.

There's a lot more experimentation here, more creative freedom from staff and students. Particularly at the moment with so much political upheaval, it’s really important that there are creative places to react and escape.

And that idea that it’s not just another art school, everybody’s kind of working together, collaborative, rather than a lecturer going in to give a lecture on a particular subject and you sit, listen and repeat. I think that’s really positive – to have that community there rather than a sort of faceless corporation.

"I’ve got students on the ceramics programme who want to learn sound design for a term...  the possibilities of melding those kinds of worlds together are incredible."

I think it creates a really nice atmosphere in the college as well.
Yeah, it’s definitely got that aspect of it that I really like. At the moment I’m teaching a module called contemporary complementary studies.

We’ve got students from games, animation, crafts, design, graphics - all across the college. They come in wanting to learn a sound module to evoke sound into their work or practice.

That’s very rare, this unique blended learning, mixing with students from other practices. This module feels like a really good approach to this, that students can change disciplines for a term and do something completely different from their art practice.

So instead of sitting at a computer learning Photoshop they can go off and try screen-printing and become more hands on, more tactile and gain new perspectives.

BA (Hons) Jewellery student Sophie Holland used CAD to design and 3D printing to create her unique soundwave pieces, based on songs by Michael Jackson.

I suppose, in a way, redefining their own practice.
Yeah, I’ve got students on the ceramics programme who want to learn sound design for a term and I’m like how can you make sonic or sound design around that? I think it would be a really interesting concept.

Maybe they’ll come up with some kind of sonic art with a physical ceramic outcome, the possibilities of melding those kinds of worlds together are incredible.

See more of Dominic’s work at dominicdeane.co.uk