Dom Smith is a busy guy. You might not know who he is, but hopefully after reading the below you will, and you’ll want to support the good work that he does.
Dom is in a number of bands, (most notably Parasitic Twins), but also runs both Wobbling About & Rocking Out and Soundsphere, more on which you’ll find out about later. He’s a man with a disability, but he hasn’t let this hold him back. In fact, he is passionate about helping to support musicians and artists with a range of disabilities, as well as actively working to raise awareness of these sometimes hidden or unacknowledged issues. A recent Guardian article has helped to raise the profile of some of the challenges that disabled musicians can face, and it’s people like Dom that are really trying to push things forward and make a difference.
Please introduce yourself
Hi Nigel, mate. Good to e-meet you! My name is Dom Smith, and I’m the drummer in doomgrind band, The Parasitic Twins.
How has your own disability impacted on your life and your experiences with music?
I think it’s just taught me that there are work-arounds for everything, man. Sometimes I have to crawl on stages, and sometimes I trip over cables, but I always get behind the kit eventually!
I always wanted to play drums, and I promised myself I would one day. You know? Everyone has goals, and I got caught up with academic stuff, and work and stuff! Excuses! One day, an opportunity arose with some friends to form this kinda goth blues band called Stickybackplastics, from there myself and the bassist (Max Watt) formed Seep Away, and after that, with the ultimate goal to tour outside of Yorkshire, we formed The Parasitic Twins. I always wanted to make music, and I just had to find the right people, with the right attitudes to do it with. Since I started playing drums, I’ve started making soundtrack/electronic music (Dom Sith), electronic/industrial rock (Mary and the Ram) and 30-minute long drone/doom metal soundtracks (The Trembling Hellish Infernal Nightmare Generator), so that risk I took of just learning drums to play in Stickybackplastics has paid off, and I’m lucky enough to be creating stuff that I’ve always wanted to, with the help of some of the coolest people in the world, according to me at least!
How does playing the drums impact on you physically?
It’s really, really painful BUT, like most people will tell you being on stage, adrenaline kicks in and midway through the first song, I get used to it and get into it. I want to put on a show, so I use the pain as a motivator and lose my shit on stage! Haha! And, let’s be honest, The Parasitic Twins is fast doom, and slow grind so the songs are never that long! I’m proud to be able to do it, and Max is like a brother to me, so every time we go on stage, (however it sounds to everyone else), I want to do my best.
We’ve covered some of this already, but tell us about the bands you’re in
You sure about this? Haha!
The Parasitic Twins is purely and simply catharsis for me – a way to unload any stress. For Max, it’s an escape from his own mind, and a way to creatively channel his aggression and general angst. I love his riffs and his energy, so it’s a cool partnership.
THE THING (full name above) is just a fun band with some of the best musicians I know. We improvise most everything live (think Sunn O))), and I love doing that stuff. We originally wanted it to just make noise and annoy people – but people really like it, which is nice. In that, there’s a revolving door of musicians (with myself and a fucking genius by the name of Kreecha Honey building the original blueprint), and we are all just passionate about making some cool, progressive sounds and soundtracking people’s nightmares. Ha! I wish it was easier to get us all together!
Dom Sith is just me, and again I wanted to make something like the dark sounds I grew up listening to – 90s trip-hop and industrial/electronic rock – think Nine Inch Nails, Tricky, Depeche Mode and Sneaker Pimps, but without vocals (because I can’t sing). It’s just dark, miserable sounds and beats, again with the idea to soundtrack people’s heavy thoughts, or maybe a thriller, or horror. I
just enjoy the experimentation, and for me…I’m not very technically gifted, but I want to challenge myself, and I’ve had some really cool feedback so far!
Finally, Mary and the Ram! This is a dream collaboration between myself and an old friend (Kiran Tanna, who really…really wants to be Trent Reznor…and is also a clever bastard), as well as a friend of mine from New York (Kallie Marie) and some cool producers – more on that soon! Right now, it’s a studio project, but we have ideas to do it live! It’s very electronically driven, and there’s a lot of alt-rock too. Obviously, two genres that I love very much. I am really excited about the future for this project. Watch this space!
Parasitic Twins recently released a cover of Babylon Zoo’s Spaceman – I understand that all proceeds are going to a charity?
Yeah, man. Both myself and Max have dealt with mental health issues over the years, and I discovered CALM years ago through Soundsphere’s work with Gary Numan, Officers and industry legends like Eddy Temple-Morris. This charity do amazing things, and I wanted to help raise awareness in the North of England while pissing everyone off with a grind cover of Babylon Zoo. That band were way before their time, and I won’t hear differently! ‘Spaceman’ is a classic, and we butchered it for a good cause. We’re chuffed because we’ve raised a few hundred pounds and it’s still going! Check our Facebook for more information.
You run a music label too?
Yes. It’s a wonder anyone still talks to me. I basically survive on caffeine and food from my favourite Hull cafe, Nibble!
So…Man Demolish Records is The Parasitic Twins’ and we will always support like-minded musicians! The New Anonymous is a reinvention of the formerly York-based Anonymous Records. It’s in its early days, but we want to support (principally) Hull-based indie and electronic artists. We have a new release (you heard it here first), from an exceptional band called Waste of Paint, and I’m so excited about that. Hull’s music scene is fantastic, as is York’s! I’m very lucky to be surrounded by so many good people, man.
What do you think about the current state of the UK music scene?
I think the scene is in a good state. There are new bands coming out all the time. I think more bands need to be aware of the advantages of PR to cut through the noise, and also making your band a brand, rather than simply making music. Hull’s scene particularly – nobody has any money, but people find new ways to make things happen, and I really love that. The Warren Youth Project (where our new office is), is an incredible space for 16-25 year olds from varying backgrounds to explore opportunities within the DIY industry.
Venues like The Fulford Arms in York are actively promoting bands and artists in the York area, and the scene nationally. We’ve played for some incredible promoters in the punk and grind scene too in The Parasitic Twins (The Station in Ashton-Under-Lyne rule, as well as Scrawny Owl in Hull and Burning Swan in York), there are loads! The scene is made up of hard working people that know all about the apathy in their respective scenes, but continue to do good shit.
Yeah, man. There’s apathy, and yes venues are closing, but the people behind all these places have an incredible spirit that I will always respect, and I’ve made lifelong friends by both playing (in TPT), and promoting and posting (in Soundsphere).
What are your thoughts on the survey of nearly 100 disabled musicians in the UK that was recently covered in a Guardian article? How much do the findings mirror your own experiences?
That’s a great question, bud. I mean, I am lucky in a lot of ways. I walk with the aid of two sticks at all times, and sort of like Spiderman, I can fling myself from place to place if I need to! Still getting on stage – my knees hurt, and sometimes I get caught in wires. Yes, that article was heartbreaking. BUT, what we need to do as disabled musicians (like fans are doing when it comes to attending shows) is talk to venue managers either in advance, or at the shows so that they can make the right arrangements to support. How are you supposed to help/support something if you don’t understand it? I find that venue managers who have a disabled sibling, or partner have made the right provisions, and that’s because they’ve seen it, yeah? They’ve experienced it first hand.
What I hope venues do when they see Holy Moly and the Crackers, Mystery Jets, or The Parasitic Twins is learn from the experience of communicating with the band, observing and asking questions. Or indeed, the band talking to the venue and making suggestions – though this Guardian article will help! But there needs to be (where possible) communication from both sides. It takes a lot of money and investment to make the adjustments to these spaces, so the more disabled musicians that come out and talk to the venues they are playing, or vice-versa, the better. That’s just my opinion though!
What do you think would be the most positive steps that could be undertaken to help the UK music scene become, collectively, more aware of these issues and how to adapt itself to be more inclusive?
More articles, and more bands championing and showcasing disability. More conversation about the advantages of becoming more accessible – think about the positive press for example!
If any venues, promoters, show organisers, etc. read this, what would you say to them regarding accessibility and inclusivity at shows – what can they do?
Like I said before, I think just more communication between venues, and bands. Promoters, if a band comes to your venues, have the confidence to ask for the advice of the band member needing the support, for how they can improve things for them, and others going forward.
You’re clearly a very busy man, but I understand that you also run Wobbling About & Rocking Out – how did this start and what does it aim to do?
I was in Boston, Massachusetts (thanks to London-based incubation space The Rattle) working for MIT as Storyteller in Residence last year, and the idea to build a platform (taking inspiration from Soundsphere) that championed mental health and disability awareness in the music industry, as well as locally (and regionally) in Yorkshire came to me, after being challenged by all these exceptionally talented young scientists building the next generation of robotic limbs.
It was an intense experience, man. I was pushed to do better while I was over there, and I’m proud of the results. When I came home, moved back to Hull (with the goal to do some cool shit) and collaborated with local creatives and designers to build something really mint, that said I need to get cracking on doing more with it! It’s aim? To provide a showcase of talented, and passionate people working within creative industries who have disabilities, and/or mental health awareness. If that makes sense!?
You’ve mentioned Soundsphere a few times – I gather you founded it? tell us about this
Ahh, man. Cheers for asking! So, with Soundsphere – that’s about alternative music, arts and culture for the North of England and worldwide. Originally, it was an excuse to go to parties and hang out with “rockstars”, but it’s become about loads more over the last few years.
Now, because we get to interview amazing (new and established) artists, as well as travel around the country (and sometimes other parts of the world), I want to give other people – particularly young people who have never had the opportunity to do the things I have, or the support I have – the chance to do good shit, and travel about interviewing bands and honing their skills, all under the Soundsphere banner. We want to support and nurture creativity in the North of England, basically. It’s opened up a lot of doors for me, and I am so…so bloody grateful for all the support I/we have received over the years.
Do you have any other projects planned in the future?
I will, at some point in my life try to do this thing that they call…sleep. Release new stuff with MaTR. Errr, do more touring nationally (and internationally) with The Parasitic Twins. Keep going with my wrestling podcast, Gimme a Hull Yeah! Yowie Wowie! Keep collaborating with cool creative people across the creative industries. Did I say sleep? SLEEP!
Any final words?
Thank you so much for your time. I hope it’s useful to you, your mates and maybe even your nan.