Interview with Dead Label – Hammerfest X 17.03.2018
Interview by Beth Jones and Richard Tilley
One band that Rick and I were looking forward to talking to at Hammerfest were Dead Label, a riff laden Metalcore band from Celbridge, Ireland. Many things interest us about this band, including the fact that they are only a three piece, the fact that they have a female drummer, and the fact that they did a spectacular video last year for their single release. We were intrigued to find out their views on gigging, writing, and that video, so we sat down with Claire (Drums), Danny (Guitar) and Dan (Bass / Vocals) for a chat.
So, who are Dead Label? How did you get together? Where did you start from, and when did it all come together?
Danny: Well me and Claire have been playing together forever – since we were about 14, but we chopped and changed a lot of members. The first time we were actually a proper metal band, we were a band called VX. We had five members, then we split, and we couldn’t really find anybody else with the same kind of commitment, so it was just me, Dan, and Claire and we said, ‘fuck it, we’ll try it as a three piece and see how we go!’ That was about 10 years ago!
Claire: When we were in band previously, we were looking for a bass player and Dan applied. When we went to pick him up for his try outs, he was outside waiting with all his bass gear ready to go and it was like, ‘ok, that’s the guy!’, and he’s been here ever since! And then we found out he could do vocals to and that was it!
Do you like playing as a three piece then?
Dan: Yeah – we have a very, very…… strange relationship, where the three of us know what is going on the whole time! It’s a rare thing to get in a band. We all know exactly what’s going on and how each other’s doing without a single word being spoken. I think if we were to add another person into that mix, they wouldn’t get it. We did try out a second guitarist a couple of years ago and it just didn’t work. The void in the room was just off. Yeah ok the sound was bigger, but it just wasn’t the same, so we just stuck with the three of us, and we’re all fully committed, so that’s the way it is.
Is that how you approach writing songs as well then?
Danny: Yeah, well I think we are kind of old school by today’s standards, but we just get in a room and jam. We don’t really do this sending each other riffs, or work over laptops or anything. We just plug in and jam.
Dan: We kind of judge it off the reaction, you know, we jam a riff and your like ‘yeah that works’. We practice two or three times a week, either just running through the set, or writing, and it comes together.
Claire: Yeah if there is a week where one of us is away or something it’s just bad – we are texting all the time like ‘eeeek’.
Dan: Yeah sometimes it is not so much that we want to, it’s that we need to do it three times a week to keep it tight.
I suppose as well when there is only three of you, there is nowhere to hide really.
Dan: Yeah exactly, and we are old school in that sense too. We don’t like to use backing tracks or stems or anything like that – it is literally just the three of us kind of turning up to play at the venue with nothing but our guitars… and drums! We Just play, we don’t need a laptop. We’re not relying on anyone.
Danny: That actually happened to us before. We were playing at Made In Metal, and we were supposed to be borrowing our friends’ gear, but they got held up in traffic or something, so we literally only had our guitars and stage backline, and we were just like ‘Right I’ll plug in to that Marshall amp, you plug in to that one’ and we had a great fucking show!!
Dan: So yeah, we are very traditional in that sense, you know, we play together as a band, we write songs as a band and that’s the way that we do it!
Is it your first time playing Hammerfest, and your first time playing in Wales?
Claire: First time playing in Hammerfest – err, have we played in Wales before… No, I don’t think we have – we spend a lot of time driving through Wales!! But I think this is our very first time playing in Wales.
Dan: No, we did a music video here!
Claire: Yes, thank you, yes, we did the video for Salvation In Sacrifice here – in Cardiff.
Cool! So, what is in the pipeline at the moment – are you working on an album or anything?
Dan: We’re writing at the moment, and we are quite deep into that. We currently have about eight songs that we are very, very happy with. Right now, it is just about manipulating them a bit and putting the finishing touches on them.
Danny: Yeah, the salt and pepper!
Dan: So, once we get home after this we are going to bury our heads in the sand and get back to it and we are hoping to have the album out by probably the end of this year, maybe early next year.
Are you having a break from gigs while you are doing that?
Claire: Kind of. If the right gig comes up then obviously we would say yes, but we’re not actively chasing gigs, because we want to get it finished. With gigs like Hammerfest, you have to be prepared, and you can’t really get lost in writing a song, then practice a set, because it’s two different things. So, if an opportunity comes up like this, we’ll take it, but we’re concentrating more on the writing. We are playing Bloodstock though! And Amplified as well.
Yeah, we are going to be at Amplified so we will get to see you properly then! So, Bloodstock – great festival – how excited are you about playing there? Is it your first time there?
Claire: It’s actually our second time! We played there in 2015, and we are dying to get back! They do a kind of rotation, which is fair, but we’ve got really lucky because we are playing the same day as Gojira, which is one of our favourite bands, so we are going to play hopefully an awesome set and then watch Gojira! You don’t really get much better than that!
That leads us on nicely to the next question – who are your main influences and what inspired you to start making music?
Dan: I think for me and Danny, the routes of it all is Thin Lizzy. That’s were my love of music really started – you know the Renegade album, the Jailbreak album and it was like ‘this is awesome – oh Jesus they’re Irish!’ Then someone gave me the Black album and it was just a slippery slope from there! You know in a few years’ time you find yourself listening to Behemoth!
Danny: Thin Lizzy to Behemoth you know! Yeah, I think in the early days, for me, and Dead Label, the band that really tied it together was Machine Head. I was just fascinated with the heaviness and it’s really what we have been after since – to try and get that heavy sound, without it sounding chaotic. So, Machine Head was at the core of it, but then yeah, Behemoth, Gojira, all sorts – we like everything! I think those big, fat, heavy riffs are the core.
Rick: Yeah, I think your music is really groove laden – you’ve got the harsh vocal, but there’s some real power behind those riffs and I like that – when you can move to the riffs behind the vocals, and I think that’s what you’ve got.
Claire: Yeah that’s it. Machine Head are a humongous influence on me – Dave McClain is just the best drummer in the whole world. But my first drumming influence, way back, besides Animal, was Travis Barker. He was so cool, and I was just fascinated by drums because of him, then I actually got in to heavy metal!
How old where you when you started playing?
Claire: Thirteen or Fourteen I think. I got drums and got into a band two or three days later, but I couldn’t really play! I’ve been in a band ever since!
Dan: Yeah that really makes you up your game, because before I met these guys, I was playing in indie rock bands, you know I was there, into heavy metal with tattoos and stuff, but the only bands I could find were Indie bands and I had to play with them, so your playing little bass licks here and there, but when you get into a metal band, you really have to up your game! And these guys pushed me to be a better musician.
One thing I wanted to ask you is what is the metal scene like in Ireland? Is it difficult to get gigs? We interviewed Baleful Creed recently and they said it was really tough – people go to the bigger bands, but people don’t want to come out for the small gigs. Do you find this?
Dan: Yeah that is true to a certain point, but you can get lucky as well – you know when the stars align, and people want rock bands – when we first started, on a Friday and Saturday night in Belfast, you always played to two or three hundred people and they were there for the music. It kind of fell by the wayside a bit when everybody lost their jobs, but it is starting to come back now. You do find maybe local bands, the room is half full, but bands like Architects will come and they’ll play in the bigger venues and they’ll sell it out. It’s a little disheartening but it’s kind of just the way it is.
Claire: Yeah, you kind of just have to fight through it. There are bands playing gigs, and there are good bands playing gigs and its getting more and more people starting bands and taking it seriously. I think it will get better, it’s just people don’t have the money to go to gigs all the time.
Dan: In fairness to the promoters in Dublin who are bringing all these bigger bands in, unless it is a package tour, they will always make a spot for a local band, which is great. And once you get in there, if you do a good job, you’ll get another one, so it’s kind of up to the band at that point. And that leads to other things – you know you could be playing one place, and someone will come up to you and say, ‘Oh yeah! I saw you playing with Architects last week’, so it does have that effect as well.
Danny: Yeah – the quality of bands is really, really good. There’s no shortage of talent. There are those odd nights where a bar might only be half full, but it’s not all the time. Overall, it’s pretty good.
Rick: So, I wanted to bring up this video you did, with the Jonestown connection. I was ten when that actually happened and there is a lot of similarities to the actual events in the video, and I wondered who came up with the concept and everything?
Dan: It was the directors of the video. We wrote the song and originally it was just meant to be a demo, and we were listening to it one day and we were like ‘with a little bit more work this could be a fucking good single’, just because it had been a while since people had had any new music. And that then escalated and we decided that if we were going to do it, we may as well do it properly and do a music video for it! We found the guys at Crooked Gentlemen and we gave them the song and they came up with the idea for the video to the music – so it was kind of like art inspiring art in a way.
What did you think when they came up with it?
Dan: We kind of just like rolled with it!
Danny: Yeah, we saw the other stuff they were doing, and it was class, so we just said go for it, and just went all in.
Claire: we didn’t even realise how much detail they were going to go in to! All we were told was there was going to be a performance day – a day where we needed to get some family into a room, so we just said, ‘come for a few hours and sit in this room’. Then we get there, and they had this unbelievable actor, and we were there for the whole day and they had them doing exorcisms and all this mad stuff, but everyone enjoyed it!
Dan: There were parts of it when they were doing stuff and we were standing back, like the bit where they drink the poison, and we were like ‘What the Fuck?!!!’ We had no idea that was happening! It was awesome!!!
Rick: Yeah it is an awesome video!
Claire: The guys that did it, they are actually becoming so big now – like in a couple of months’ time I don’t think you will be able to get them cos they are in such high demand. So, they deserve all the credit really, we just wrote the song.
Rick: Yeah but if they hadn’t had the song, they wouldn’t have come up with the idea!
Danny: Yeah in fairness they were really stoked when they heard the song and they put all their effort into it.
And that was were we had to leave it, as the band had to be whisked away to do another interview. It was great chatting with them and hearing their ideas on things. We could quite happily have carried on for ages. We would really like to thank Claire, Dan and Danny for taking time out of their schedule, on a very cold day, to sit and chat with us for so long. Make sure you check them out and have a watch if you are at Amplified Festival in July, or Bloodstock in August. We will, as ever, keep you posted when they announce the release of their new album, which we will be very much looking forward to. In the meantime, for more info, or to watch the awesome video for their single, ‘Pure Chaos’, check out the links below:
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Richard Tilley, Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities