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Dig is 'Life Like' again

(Jan. 16, 1999)

Scott Hackwith hears it every now and then, sometimes at a record store or at a nightclub. Someone
recognizes him from afar and tells a friend, "Hey, he's that singer in Dig." The other person invariably
says, "Oh, Dig, I loved that first record. Whatever happened to them?"

In the winter of 1994, the California rock quintet and its distinctive three-guitar attack tantalized the
MTV generation with "Believe," the searing modern-rock hit off the group's self-titled
Radioactive/MCA debut album. It was an MTV buzz clip for several months and got a fair amount
of radio airplay, enough to send the album as high as No. 153 on Billboard's pop albums chart.

They toured with the Flaming Lips, Rage Against the Machine, Goo Goo Dolls, Bad Brains, Blind
Melon, Afghan Whigs and Henry Rollins. They appeared on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and
played the Reading Festival in England and live on the BBC. Hackwith was even called upon to
produce the Ramones' "Acid Eaters" album.

The groundwork, it seemed, had been laid for bigger and better things for the promising new band.

The opposite happened.

The band's second album, "Defenders of the Universe," fell victim to corporate restructuring in 1996
and came and went so quickly that many of Dig's original fans to this day don't know a follow-up LP

That's fine with Hackwith. He's already considering Dig's third album, "Life Like" (out Jan. 12), its
second effort, and he sees the band's new association with Radiouniverse/Universal as a fresh, new

"It has been a couple of years since I toured," he said recently, "and I am really looking forward to it.
I am really proud of this record and can't wait to play the songs live."

"Life Like," Hackwith says, is "definitely a Dig record." It's covered in a blanket of typically textured
Dig noise mixed with forays into power-pop ("Live In Sound" and "All Over You"), fetching
psychedelia ("The Fuzz" and the instrumental "Bus Stopping"), slow-burn rockers ("Stay On the
Grass") and moody masterpieces (the title track).

Hackwith wondered if they could pull it off. Before "Life Like," the band went through a major
overhaul - only Hackwith and guitarist Jon Morris remain from the original lineup. The others left for
a variety of reasons - marriage, a need to do something new, "typical reasons," Hackwith says.
Twenty-two-year-old guitarist Joel Graves, bassist Rob Reddick and drummer Gene Troutman
joined the fold.

"The cool thing was that my head was in a perfect place to write," Hackwith said. "I held up in a
garage in San Fernando Valley and went to work. I started writing not on the guitar but with some
vintage keyboards and a drum machine. I was pulling out a lot of old '80s records like Joy Division,
Teardrop Explodes and the The. The stuff I was writing was completely different. I was in bliss.

"But it was hell making the record. Everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong, from the
smallest of equipment breaking and not working to I had a friend of mine playing bass that I was
writing with, he had a total nervous breakdown. I kind of lost him.

"There's thousands of stories, most of which are pointless to talk about, but it was really an uphill
battle. It wasn't until we were in the actual mixing mode of this record that I could kind of step back
from it. Sylvia Massey started doing some mixes on it, and I'm on my way to the studio thinking,
'Please, God, just let it sound halfway decent.' I go in and, it was like, whoa, it sounded really good.
The first song she mixed was (the opening track) 'Live In Sound,' and I was blown away. As the rest
of the record was mixed, through it all, it happened. All the pieces fit."

Dig's first pieces fit in 1991 when Hackwith, then a video art director, began doing demo tapes on
his four-track, mostly as a hobby.

"Music was my first love," he said, "but I tried for years to get record deals and started thinking, 'The
music business really does suck.' I wrote a hatful of songs before I even put the band together and
they got into the hands of Radioactive. The president of the label really liked it, came down and
offered us a deal before we even played our first gig."

Hackwith created the three-guitar assault out of necessity.

"When I wrote those first songs for the (1993 'Runt') EP and the first album, I was layering guitars
on my four-track," he said. "I would sit there alone and dump all these guitar parts on there, which
made up the sound. Then going into rehearsal, we started out with a bass player, a drummer. There
was a lot missing, so I added another guitar player. Then there was still these parts I felt needed to
be there.

"I was never a singer in a band before Dig, I was always a guitar player. The only reason I sang was
I just couldn't find a singer, one that would hang out long enough to see it through. I was singer by
default. In the beginning, I really couldn't play and sing at the same time, not every part. There would
be sections of a verse where I just could not play guitar and it was definitely a two-guitar part sort of
thing going on constantly."

Dig makes it look and sound easy, but Hackwith said it takes a ton of work.

"When you throw three guitars into a room, it can get really messy if it's not really structured and not
some sense to it all," he said. "It can be confusing and really muddy. But it took a lot of rehearsal and
lots of hard work. People who saw us live, the first thing you would get is 'Whoa, Lynyrd Skynyrd!'
but when they get past that, when we started to play, it's very powerful."

So powerful that MTV latched onto the "Believe" video and a Dig groundswell emerged.

"It was pretty amazing for a first record," Hackwith said. "The bands I listened to at that time were
bands like My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, bands that didn't get played on the radio, like Sonic
Youth or Dinosaur Jr., so I never thought we'd be a radio band. You just try to make cool records,
but then Nirvana broke and it changed everything. It made this music accessible."

Hackwith hopes "Life Like" gets a chance to be heard.

"This music is as good as anything else out there," he said. "I definitely think rock 'n' roll is due for a
comeback, and I think it's a really good rock record."

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