Interview: Theory of a Deadman
Canadian rockers Theory of a Deadman have been steadily making a name for themselves as one of the hardest working bands around. They are tireless tour machines, dedicated performers and take the utmost pride in their work, as we have heard consistently throughout each of the bands five studio albums.
The band have recently unveiled album number 5 in the shape of Savages, a collection that was fronted by lead single Drown and captures the Canadians at their very best, musically and artistically. They are a band very much looking towards the future.
As the foursome currently make their way through their native Canada, we managed to chat to riff-machine Dave Brenner about Savages, touring and Alice Cooper! He is what he had to tell us…
Andy Walsh: Hey Dave! How are you and where does our interview find you today?
Dave Brenner: Hey Andy! I’m doing great thanks. It’s about half five in the afternoon and I’m about to watch a couple of the opening bands play before we play tonight. Today we’re in Barry, Ontario so we’re in Canada right now. Obviously we’re a Canadian band and we like to spend time here!
DB: Well it’s a strange feeling actually this record. Because it’s our fifth one I was kind of expecting it to feel more like the last few but there’s something about this record that feels different. It feels very fresh, and for some reason it feels like I’m excited like I was when we released our first record. It feels like a fresh start almost. I don’t necessarily know why that is, but it’s really exciting. I don’t know that it wasn’t exciting during the last record, but it just seems like it’s overly exciting for this one.
AW: I’ve obviously had a listen to the record a few times now and the immediate thing that stood out for me was that it sounds huge. It’s a lot darker than previous records and I’ve heard a few people mention how they felt it was almost angst-filled. I was wondering if there was a particular sound you guys were going for, or if this darker shift in sound was a deliberate creation?
DB: Yeah it really was something that we were purposely trying to do. When we first started working on the songs for this record we were a little unsure of the direction we wanted to take, and I think it was actually the song Savages that really helped us choose the direction we wanted to go. So we started playing that song when there was a bit of pressure to be a bit more pop-oriented on this album. To not go really dark or heavy but actually go the other way. But when we started playing those songs like Savages and Drown it just felt so right. We each said, this is what we need to do. We need to stick to what feels right and make a heavy record.
AW: Absolutely. So was sticking to your guns the inspiration for the initial writing process?
DB: Well first it was weird as it was a little disjointed. We weren’t really sure what we wanted to do. Tyler was, as far as lyrics go trying to figure our what he wanted to write and sing about. He likes to challenge himself and put himself out of the box. He wanted to write some darker stuff and didn’t want to stick to that guy/girl relationship break up that he’s sang about in the past. He wanted to change it up and sing a bit more about what was happening in the world.
AW: So we’ve mentioned title track Savages, which features an appearance from one Alice Cooper. How did this collaboration come about?
DB: Well, when we first put Savages together, Tyler had this cool spoken word part in the track but was just saying “I don’t know about this” but I said, “Man the spoken word is so cool, nobody ever does that anymore, lets keep it!” We didn’t want to do stuff that everyone else was doing, so we thought what would be cool would be if we got a guest to do that part. All kinds of names flew around from Henry Rollins to Corey Taylor of Slipknot. It was actually our producer Howard Benson who said Alice Cooper, and instantly I went back to Guns ‘n’ Roses – Use Your Illusion and The Garden where Alice Coopers voice is just so sinister. He just has the perfect voice for it. All of us were just like, “Ahhh Alice Cooper, he is our number one on the list”. It then just happened pretty quickly. We sent it to him, he liked the song and it all came together. He didn’t actually come into the studio with us.
Tyler flew to Phoenix and recorded his vocal parts with Alice Cooper in Alice’s studio, so I haven’t actually met him yet, but I hope that at some point we’ll get to perform live together and I get to meet him, but from what I heard he was super professional and took no time at all to lay down his parts. Just hearing it makes me really happy cause it’s that great voice that’s just so recognizable.
AW: Well I’m sure that would be a special occasion for you and the fans if you guys did get together on stage at some point.
DB: Yeah I’m hoping they put us on David Letterman or something with Alice so people could really see it, so we’ll just see if anything like that happens.
AW: I’m sure that would be a great show! So you mentioned you once again recorded with Producer Howard Benson. What is it that keeps you guys coming back to have Howard at the helm of a recording?
DB: We really felt that working with Howard became comfortable and familiar, and we like him! But at the same time we didn’t want to do this record the same as we had done in the past. When we all got in the studio an instant challenge went out from us to Howard and Howard to us to say, “lets not get stuck in the things we did, lets really push ourselves to try different ways of working”. It was a different experience with him this time around. He was a lot more open to Gill our drummer doing really musical drum parts, whereas in the past he was really against that sort of stuff. He was way more into the musicianship, more into guitar solos, and we were really happy with that, because we’ve always sort of dumbed down the musicianship in this band but really there is more there.
Gill is an incredible drummer and it was nice for him to lay down these parts, and nice for us to get outside of the box a little. I don’t know necessarily what it is about Howard, but he has a great team and a great engineer. But it was more about us just wanting to be in familiar circumstances, having someone there to have our back with this record.
AW: You talk about the musicality there, and it really does lend itself well to this record, right from the word go. You guys must be delighted with how Savages has turned out and come together?
DB: Oh so happy with how the record sounds. Like you said it sounds huge and that was out goal. In the past we’ve always done you know, those little arpeggio guitar parts to fill the voids, but Savages was a lot more about capturing moods, vibes, and making sure he song had a feel, instead of just sounding melodic. I think that that really happens now, and when you listen to the record, there is that vibe that consists around it. Even though it can go through several genres of music – you can hear a country song and then Misery of Mankind, there is still this vibe that encompasses the whole thing. That’s something I don’t think we’ve ever captured on a record before. I’m really proud of that, and really proud of the band, and Howard for being able to achieve that.
AW: So title track Savages and album opener Drown are sure to be in line to be huge fan favorites. Is there a particular track that is a highlight for you?
DB: For me, and I don’t know if this one will ever see the light of day as far as singles go, but the very last track of the record called The Sun Has Set On Me. This was a song that Tyler wrote and sent to me and it was just one of those songs that you listen to and listen to the lyrics and you could just hear this really sad song. It had this great power to it. So when we were going through the list of songs for the record, The Sun Has Set On Me wasn’t on there, and I was like “Woah, what about this one!” Tyler said “You guys really want to do that one?” and we all just shouted, “Yes we love that one!” He didn’t know how we all felt about it but we had to put that one on there. Then there’s a two-minute guitar solo at the end and the crew were saying, “What are you going to do with this part?” “What do you mean what are we going to do? We’ve got a guitar solo there!” So for me, definitely that track. It’s that sort of song that goes at the end of a record that I feel is necessary now.
With the way technology is and the stuff that gets left out of music nowadays, I think there’s a desire by people to hear proper emotion in a song, not just the lyrical content but also the emotion in the music. The Sun Has Set On Me is the most emotional song on our record and I just love that that is there for people to hear.
AW: We’ve talked about how huge the new record sounds, and it really does sound big, so I’m sure the new songs will translate into a live scenario very well. With this in mind, do you guys have any plans to record and release a Live CD/DVD in the near future?
DB: Well this is something that we actually get asked a lot, and to be honest we don’t really know yet. We really should, in this day and age it almost seems ridiculous to not have a live CD or DVD of our music. And we’ve been in a band for 12 years now! I imagine it will happen at some point but right now there’s no real plan. We’ve only been playing a few of the new songs so far as the record doesn’t come out here (America) for a few days, but what we have played – Savages and Drown, they just go over so well. The fans have been going nuts for them.
AW: So you guys are off touring the states in support of the record, and then you are off to the UK to support Black Stone Cherry at the end of the year…
DB: Yeah! And we’re actually doing a couple of shows in Russia before those UK dates!
AW: And how did they come about?
DB: Well we had a bit of time before the UK dates and we had a lot of interest from Russia. They made some offers and they talked to us, and we were a little nervous and apprehensive, you know, some of the stuff that’s been going on over there, but for me Russia is just one of those place I wanna’ go. I’m not afraid of what’s happening in the world and I don’t pay too much attention to the news. But we seem to have a crazy amount of Russian fans that are lighting up our website and Facebook and for me that is just exciting. It’s just like Australia. We’ve never been there so we just sit and pawn over the idea saying, “Man we really wanna’ go. We hear Australians love rock music, we should be there!” It’s one of those things you never want to pass up. You know, if the opportunity comes along and someone says “Hey, you wanna’ come to Australia?” We’ll just say, “Yes! Let’s do it!”
AW: So could a Theory of a Deadman ‘Down Under’ tour be in the pipeline?
DB: It’s definitely something we’ve been talking about yeah. And I think it’s getting closer and closer. We’ve been talking about Japan too. There are a bunch of markets that we think we really should get into and Australia is one of them. So it’s something we are really striving for. This record is not just about us getting pigeonholed and stuck in North America, but about getting out to some of these places and playing countries we’ve never been to before. Outside of the band I may not have the opportunity to visit other parts of the world so this is what we do this for.
AW: Okay! So if I were to by chance come across your iPod, who would I find on your most played? Who are you guys listening to at the moment?
DB: Well my iPod’s been a little bit strange lately. Of course I still listen to all the stuff I used to listen too and grew up on. That will never change. All the music that came out of Seattle in the 90’s – Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, I just love that stuff. But recently I’ve been getting into a lot of Bluegrass. I really like a band called Old Crow Medicine Show, among others. I don’t why I’ve gotten into it so much but I think it’s down to the vocal harmonies they have in that music.
AW: There’s a band called The Avett Brothers from North Carolina who are all over that sort of thing, so be sure to check them out if you can.
DB: Yeah I’ll definitely check them out! I’m always looking for new music and need as much of it as I can get!
AW: Absolutely! So finally, what’s next for Theory of a Deadman?
DB: Well we’re gonna’ tour the hell out of the new album. We’re known as ‘road-dogs’, and definitely like to tour. This digital age that we live in now I think the only things that bands really have is a live performance. People can go and watch a live performance on Youtube or something but there’s that variance with a live show that you just can’t duplicate. And that has become the industry. If you want to make in music nowadays you have to get yourself out there and tour and tour and that is really what we are planning on doing.
AW: Well thank you so much for your time Dave and speaking with us. It’s been great.
DB: It’s been really great to talk to you. And I just want to say that for me it is really exciting to talk to you, because it means we’re that much closer to coming over there which is a goal of ours. We want to get over there and tour in Australia, in that beautiful country of yours, so I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me as it all helps us get one step closer.
AW: Well I’m sure the day you guys announce you are heading this way there will be a lot of people pretty excited about it!
DB: Well that’s great! And you’ll have to come out to the show and we’ll have a beer!
AW: Sounds good! Well good luck with the record and the show tonight and hopefully we see you soon over this part of the world.
DB: Sounds awesome Andy, I really appreciate it. Thanks!
Theory of a Deadman’s new album Savages is out now.