Sunday, May 27, 2012

True Metal never rusts... an Interview with the classy DOGBANE

I presented you this band from North Carolina last month through a review of their 1st album "Residual Alcatraz"  (here)... I must admit that this is not a scene that I follow very closely when it comes to the new wave of traditionnal HM, but one thing I know is that DOGBANE is assuredly one of the best newcomers of this scene and those guys have composed here a classy debut of true HEAVY METAL.  DOGBANE  make proof of  a total dedication to the codes of the genre, I would say that this is deeply rooted in the period 1978-88, with a totally faultless level of execution... Sometimes epic, sometimes doomy, sometimes both (the excellent "burning in the light"), always heavy and melodic, DOGBANE should speak easily to fans of  JUDAS PRIEST and CANDLEMASS and generally to those who enjoy true HEAVY METAL, massive, with amazing solos and melodic vocals... It's not so easy to catch people's attention with all those (extreme) bands flourishing everyday from everywhere, 30 years after HM is for long years now a genre among others, not the sexiest, the noiseist or the dirtiest, but it's still one of the most authentic and complete musically, and believe me a band like DOGBANE proudly take part in keeping the flame alive. Listen and support \m/

Hi Mitch, thanx for accepting this interview... Well, DOGBANE is composed of 5 experimented guys but is a new name in the scene, how would you present your band to metalheads ? Would you use different words between 40 years old guys of (y)our generation and teenagers who are new into MEtal ?
You’re quite welcome Steph.  Thanks for taking a few minutes to speak with me.  When it comes to presenting Dogbane to the uninitiated, I would always prefer to let the music do the talking.  However, I guess a few traits or characteristics are in order to present us correctly.  I would say we are unaffected by trend.  Organic, in the sense of not pro-tooling anything the band does.  You will find no drum triggers, sequencing, or other kinds of fluffery associated with Dogbane.   The band has a hands-on do-it-yourself approach, with an eye towards tradition.  That is not to say we do not evolve.  Dogbane just simply believes metal is a tradition handed down by the great heavy acts of the 70’s and early 80’s.  This period, in my opinion, was the greatest and most original era of the genre.  Dogbane just simply writes and records the types of albums we grew up listening too.  We realize the band is not blazing a new trail, nor do we wish to re-invent the wheel.  The true path was already laid before we came along, Dogbane just tries to do it justice.  Our meaning and message should be obvious. As far as choosing words for the older and younger metal heads, I do not believe that is necessary.  Metal heads are usually smarter than they are given credit for.  As a youth in the 70’s and 80’s, I was first introduced to metal through Kiss, Def Leppard, and Ozzy Osbourne.  I eventually did my research and discovered Black Sabbath, UFO, and Blue Cheer.  If the current generation is worth their salt they will do the same.

You guys have been involved in HC; grind, thrash bands but now come back with a very different sound, something a lot closer to what you were listening back in the 80's when you were young metallers... was it something that came naturally when composing together or did you know precisely you wanted to form a new band that was going to play old-school HM ?
What’s your opinion on people thinking that, around 40 years old, a time arrives when nostalgia from the adolescence days  is something rather unavoidable in life in general and in music in particular ?
I would say the composition came very naturally.  All the members of the band were on the same page from day one.  Our bass player Kevin and I had tried this avenue one-time before with a project called The Rub.  A band that we wanted to showcase our roots, this did not come to fruition until Dogbane.  When you are younger you tend to do things out of rebellion.  When metal became glammed out in the late 80’s and gave way to alternative, I began playing sludge metal, and stoner rock.  Kevin was playing grind core, and punk rock.  Jerry was playing black metal, and Dave was studying doom.  We were all intentionally going in the opposite direction of what was popular.  Jeff was perhaps the only one who stayed true to his traditional metal roots by singing Maiden, and Priest in one of many cover bands.  It would certainly be true to say we knew our direction upon the formation of Dogbane.  I don’t think we were under a feeling of nostalgia when we started writing the album.  It was more of this is what we are, this is what we are comfortable with, and this is what we want, so just move forward with it.

I've read that the recording of the album took approximately 8 months due to schedules and lenght of travel ... aren't you guys all living in the same area and/or was it the studio that was far from your base ? You all have families, jobs and daily-life activities/responsabilities, I suppose that it implies a great part of the composition alone on your side ? how do you manage to rehearse and save enough time for DOGBANE ?
We all live in central North Carolina, but quite a distance from each other.  Kevin lives almost an hour drive north of me, while Jerry, Dave, and Jeff live roughly an hour and a half west of the both of us.  We are able to rehearse once a week at most.  A lot of our rehearsing gets done via e-mail by way of room recordings from the previous week (our rehearsal space is in an old house down the road from Dave and Jerry).  Our recording studio is owned and operated by our bass player Kevin, and is located at his home in Greensboro.  So, whether rehearsing or recording, some serious travel has to be done, and it is not easy.  The band has to plan around work schedules, baby sitters, and various modes of travel.  We make the time to do these things because when it comes to music we are “lifers,” and our loved ones understand this, and to them a great debt is owed.

Over the past few years, loads of bands jumped in the 70's psychedelic revival wagon, others in the 80's Speed/thrash , but DOGBANE mostly take sources in HM from the late 70's and early 80's which isn't that current... do you think that this is the most productive and influential period for METAL ? what's the reason according to you to the fact that pure HM started to decline by the end of the 80's, was it the emergence of new substyles, often more extreme ?
As I have mentioned previously and speaking strictly for myself, the late 70’s  and the early 80’s in my opinion were the most productive and influential period for metal and it’s sub-genres.  During this time we saw metal hit its stride with the NWOBHM.  We also saw some great US metal acts in the form of Trouble, Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, and Virgin Steele.  If you also consider the birth of punk rock, black metal via Venom and the great progressive and psychedelic bands of that era, the evidence really starts piling up.  You can also see the beginnings of bay area thrash and the hardcore crossover that ran parallel with it.  I don’t think metal ever really declined in the late 80’s, it just returned to the underground.  It certainly appeared that way on the surface, but heavy metal just became unfashionable.  During the mid-90’s when metal was at arguably its lowest point, I still remember attending Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Trouble, Overkill, and Motorhead shows among many others.  Metal was still alive, one just had to look a little harder to find it, and that is what separates the true metal head from the false one.

Who has been the most influential bands in the hard rock/heavy metal history : BLACK SABBATH or JUDAS PRIEST or … ? 
Hands down the title goes to Black Sabbath.  If you are a guitar player, playing heavy metal, you are ripping off Tony Iommi.  Tony wrote every great metal riff period.  Just accept it.  The credit has to go with the originators.  Although, stateside, one could argue Blue Cheer or Steppenwolf were the first metal band, but Sabbath are the most influential.

Your music also includes some nice doomy elements like especially in “burning in the light” which is by far the longest song of the album… do all of you enjoy  the influences of Candlemass, Black Sabbath or Pentagram ?  You cover nicely “forever my queen” on stage, why did you choose this band and song in particular , where (maybe too obviously) one would have thought about Candlemass or B.S.first ?
Yes, doom metal is a huge influence on Dogbane.  The aforementioned bands are groups we all thoroughly enjoy and draw inspiration from.  Our Pentagram cover came from Jerry and Dave.  Their other band Rictus Grin had recorded “Forever My Queen” for an EP they released several years ago.  Dave broke into the main riff at rehearsal one Sunday, and we all jumped on it.  Since then we have played it live on a few occasions.  The song is probably the most obvious of Pentagram covers, but it is extremely enjoyable to play live.

You said recently that you were looking at the title song “residual Alcatraz” from a marketing stand point,  does it get the expected effect of being your most successful song ? I guess you would have enjoyed to release it as single ?
I don’t think we could call “Residual Alcatraz” our most successful song.  It seems whenever the band does get airplay the “powers that be” tend to play something else.  I personally do not care which Dogbane song gets attention.  I just appreciate the fact someone is putting the songs out there.  Initially we just kind of assumed that a shorter song might hold more appeal due to the fact that most of our songs tend to be lengthy.  I don’t think the term “radio cut” comes to mind on most of our songs, so I do not know if there will ever be a “single” per se.  The song was just short enough for advertising purposes, and it is the title track of the album.  It never hurts to throw the album title around repeatedly.  It takes seeing or hearing something at least three times for most people to remember it, and the song is short enough to hold the attention of our most ADD addled listeners…haha.

About gigs, having played your first just after the album release, it seems you have (before anything else) to get your name known  with opening for more established underground bands… isn’t it kind of difficult to face this considering your ages and previous experiences ?  How do people who discover your sound react to your style that is definitely not following the actual trends ?
Actually I think our previous experiences help us.  While Dogbane is new, all the members of this band have been playing clubs and recording for years.  There is not much we haven’t seen or heard in that respect.  Our band members are students of the game, and can talk shop with the best of them when it comes to metal.  Locally, people have been seeing us play for years with different acts, so around our area we tend to know a lot of people.  However, sometimes we do get a look from some younger bands that seems to imply “what are these old guys doing here,” but generally these are the same folks that walk up to us after the gig totally blown away.  It is true to say that we are judged differently because of our age, but that is to be expected.  The young’uns tend to come around after they experience us, and the older metal heads say that we instantly transport them back to a better time.  Collectively, most people young and old seem to appreciate the fact that Dogbane are working against the grain.

Your debut album is awesome, your website looks great and professional but in this overcrowded underground METAL scene, don’t you think that you would need more exposure and maybe help from a promotion agency to get your name quickly more popular ?
You are absolutely correct, and we have taken steps in that direction.  Starting in the first week of May, Dogbane began a six-week promotional campaign with Clawhammer PR out of Topeka, Kansas.  This decision has made a noticeable difference, and we still have a few weeks left to go.  As always, time will tell as to how effective this will be, but Clawhammer PR have a solid reputation and some well-known clients, so we are very optimistic.

What about your deal with Heaven and Hell , is it just for the debut album ? Is there any vynil edition planed ?  Is the album distributed only via mail or can anybody find it in shops in the US ? Is their any European licence in the works ?
Dogbane’s current deal with Heaven and Hell Records is just for our debut.  We are looking to start recording our follow-up sometime this year. The band has considered re-leasing “Residual Alcatraz” on vinyl, but that hasn’t become feasible as of yet.  A split 7-inch might be in order first to test the waters, and this possibility has been discussed.  “Residual Alcatraz” is not available through most national record stores, but here in the U.S. there are not many record stores left anyway.  Dogbane’s “Residual Alcatraz” can be found online through several outlets available both nationally and worldwide, including Heaven and Hell Records, Sounds of Purgatory Distribution, Century Media, The End Records, and the bands own personal website.  There is no European licensing in the works as of yet, but we do have several European distributors.

Do you have already some good contacts in major “metalized “ European countries like Germany, England or Sweden, even eventually Japan,  where I think your style could be particularly enjoyed ?
We do have several distributors in Europe and Asia.  Dogbane, are available through No Remorse in Greece, Underground Power in Germany, Record Heaven in Sweden, and Rock Stakk in Japan. 

Are you already working on new songs ? Can we expect a particular evolution or will it stay in the same vein ?  I guess you certainly plan to release a sophomore album rather quickly ? !
Yes, like I mentioned earlier we want to start recording our follow-up by the end of the year, so our writing process has already begun.  I’m sure there will be an evolution of sorts, but I don’t expect we will throw our audience a curve ball.  This band has a pretty good handle on how we want Dogbane to sound.  It may be more correct to say that Dogbane just intends to continue honing its craft.  The band will certainly stay true to what it does best.  You can take that to the bank.

Thanx a lot Mitch, what can we wish you for the next following months ? Please, for your new fans, give all the necessary infos about your merchandising…
Our plans for now consist of playing regionally in support of “Residual Alcatraz” while we beat the bushes in hopes of landing on a small tour to help spread the word.  There will be an upcoming video shoot for our song “Devil in the Dark,” and we will continue to work on our second release.  For any and all information on Dogbane, please visit our website at .  Additional information and a free Heaven and Hell Records 2012 music sampler can also be found at our label’s website at  Thanks Steph for taking the time to speak with me, and the best of luck to you and all at Temple of Perdition.

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