Thursday 30 January 2014

The Double A Doom Interview : Demon Eye

So what a start to 2014 has been in terms of quality music.  Kicking things off was the stunning new record by Blackfinger and in hot pursuit shortly after, was the brilliant new record by Demon Eye. Released on the excellent, Soulseller Records, home of The Sludgelord approved Norwegian doom band Tombstones, Leave The Light encompasses the spirit of the 70's era doom and yet it refrains from sounding typically retro.  Having honed their songs to perfection, Demon Eye have received much praise for their debut record, which our good friend and Sludgelord contributor, Lucas Klaukien raved about here at SludgelordHQ

Let's get down to business, talk is cheap and I am sure you don't want to hear me prattling on for the sake of it.  I hooked with Erik Sugg, front man for Demon Eye and fired some questions at him. So enjoy the interview and if you haven't heard their record, make sure you do so.  Cheers and thanks for reading.  AP.   

(SL) Let’s kick things off, who are you, state your name (s) and purpose?

(ES) I’m Erik Sugg.  I play guitar and sing for Demon Eye.  Larry Burlison is the band’s lead guitarist.  Paul Walz plays bass and does the “evil priest” voice on our song, “Fires of Abalam.”  Bill Eagen plays drums and sings all of the vocal harmonies with me.  Our purpose is to write heavy, evil music with melodic hooks and cool dynamics that entertain us and make our live shows entertaining for the audience.  

(SL) Summarise your musical journey (s) this point?

(ES) We started as a deep cut ‘70s rock tribute called Corvette Summer.  Really we just wanted to have an excuse to get together play the unheard songs by bands like Deep Purple, UFO, Budgie, etc., great tunes that you never hear on classic rock radio.  Not only did that end up being a total blast, but it also helped us get really tight as a band.  We all grew up on hard rock and old school metal, so it was a natural progression for us to start writing material of that ilk.  I spent a weekend in the North Carolina mountains by myself in a dark, wooded area where I read lots of H.P. Lovecraft and wrote some doomy riffs on an acoustic guitar  When I got home I shared my songs with the guys and everything just came together.  “Hecate” was the first Demon Eye song.  We were loving the direction of our material, so we recorded our first six songs at a friend’s studio, put them up on a bandcamp page, and the next thing we know we’re being contacted by all these righteous folks from all over the globe, telling us how much they dig our music.  We really couldn’t believe it.  Not long after that we signed with Soulseller Records and began recording the newer material, and played lots of fun shows with amazing bands.

(SL) What can fans look forward to from you in 2014? How is your schedule shaping up?

(ES) The release show for “Leave the Light” will be in Raleigh on February 1st.  We’ve also got an upcoming gig with some Relapse recording artists, Lord Dying.  In between all of that we’re looking to play more shows regionally, and should also be making our way north of the Mason Dixon line for the first time, probably during the summer.  The subject of touring overseas has been introduced to us, but we’ve got a lot of things to consider before that happens.

SL) What springs to mind when you think about the completion of your new/current record?

(ES) I think the very first thing that ran through my mind was, “Damn that was fun.”  Or I could be remembering that completely wrong and actually thought, “I hope I didn’t screw anything up.”

(SL) Who handles song writing duties?

(ES) Everyone.  Initially I was the one who brought riffs to the table, but from where I stand, if you don’t have a great band to help bring the music to life you might as well just keep your riffs on a dusty shelf in your bedroom.  For our song writing credits we do a 25% split each, (just like Sabbath and Led Zeppelin).  Larry remains inspired and always comes up with killer riffs, (“Edge of Knife” and “Silent One” are Larry’s tunes), and Paul has written some great stuff as well, (“Devil Knows the Truth” was his idea).  And Bill’s role can not be understated.  Drummers often get disregarded when it comes to song writing credits, but without having a beast of a drummer like Bill, someone who has incredible ideas and adds such powerful dynamics to the music, there isn’t a whole lot you’re going to be able to do, even if you have the most rocking riff ever.  

So far the fellas seem cool with letting me handle all the lyrics, which is fun for me because I get to incorporate a lot of the classic weird fiction and vintage horror films that I enjoy.  Also, even though I’m generally a pretty mellow, pleasant person, I do have some dark things rambling through my mind quite often.  It’s great to be able to address those thoughts through our music.

(SL) How long was the gestation of your new/current opus from conception to delivery?

(ES) It’s been a bit of a jagged time lapse, but a very productive one.  I believe we started recording our first six songs with Alex Maiolo at Seriously Adequate Studios in Carborro, NC during the Fall of 2012.  We just took our time and did things at a relaxed pace. The session was mixed and mastered by Pete Weiss at Verdant Green Studios in Vermont during the Spring of 2013 and the music was uploaded to the Internet by April of 2013.  We got the record deal offer from Soulseller during the Summer of 2013, went back to Seriously Adequate later that fall to record additional material for the full length LP, and Pete finished the mastering for the entire project at Verdant Green in October.  All of the finished masters were then given to Soulseller and the production factories in late 2013, and that pretty much brings us up to date.  “Leave the Light” will be available internationally as of January 24, 2014.

(SL) The artwork is really great, was it designed with a particular physical format in mind? Who designed it?

(ES) John Hitselberger, a local Raleigh artist, created that excellent imagery.  Believe it or not, that is a hand painted piece on canvas and has been in a few international art exhibits.  What you see on the record cover is the scanned version of the actual painting.  I believe it’s for sale of you’re interested ;)

(SL) As a music fan yourselves and given that music seems to be so disposal at times, how is it to a great package to your fans, and yet not alienate them by producing something which is not affordable. What are your thoughts on the finished physical product? What format is/will be available?

(ES) Soulseller is releasing our album on vinyl, on CD, and as a digital download.  It’s great to see that people still value having a physical, tangible item in their hands because that’s the way we feel as well.  When we initially finished recording our first batch of songs our main priority was in just getting them online so people could hear them.  We did burn a few CDRs as a give aways for a big show with did with The Sword last spring.  Much to our surprise people started writing us to see if we could sell them those CDRs via mail order, regardless of the fact that the songs were available as a free download at the time!

(SL).  Speaking off, getting a record out there are you a) Indiegogo (crowdfunding) or b) career no no

(ES) Not to give you a generic answer, but I don’t have much of an opinion on it one way or another. Unless it’s something like the whole Amanda Palmer debacle where she raised one million dollars via crowd sourcing and then wanted to hire volunteer musicians for a tour without paying them, (that is until she was very publically denounced over it), I’d never judge someone for going down that route. If a band I like is using crowd sourcing to release a record, I’m certainly not going to forego buying their album because they used Kickstarter, Indiegogo or whatever.  That said, I don’t believe I’d ever use it.  I’m too lazy and it seems too complicated, haha.

(SL) The best and worst things about being in a band?

(ES) The best thing about being in a band is that you have a full time, 24 hour a day vehicle for expressing yourself musically.  That is pure gold. The worst thing is when you become your own worst enemy, like when you start worrying about what other people think, what other bands have that you don’t, and just working yourself into a negative frame of mind..  All of that is completely unnecessary.  It will make you become combative with everyone, even your band mates, and eventually your music will suffer.  It happens to the best of musicians, though.

(SL) Influences and heroes, what are turn offs and turn on’s?

(ES) Attitude goes a long way with me.  I’m not down with musicians who act like douche bags.  That is, unless it’s a punk band and it’s kind of their “deal,” you know?  I grew up near Virginia Beach where the great punk band, The Candy Snatchers, originated.  Their singer, Larry May, was a total lunatic and would always rage at people and talk a lot of smack, (a band I was in years back, who gigged alongside the Candy Snatchers, was a victim of that once, haha).  But man, Larry is the most entertaining and intense frontman of all time.  In those circumstances you sort of expect someone to be a bit of a dick, you know?  That’s how they should be!

I do need to say that in my experience, metal folks are truly great down-to-earth people.  Metalheads typically get a bum rap for being thugs, burnouts and losers, but that is seldom the case.  Most of the time they’re just working class, mellow minded people know how to have a good time, (unless you lived in Norway the ‘90s I suppose, haha).  Being that’s the case, I’ve never met anyone in the metal community who was a difficult personality.  Demon Eye played a show this past fall with Mike Scheidt, of YOB, Vohl, and Lumbar.  It was a thrill for me because I’m a huge fan.  I can say in all honesty that Mike was one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever encountered, one of those rare folks who just radiates positivity.  That makes me want to support his music even more.

SL) Any record from the past or present that springs to mind?

(ES) Some recent faves for me include Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - “Mind Control,” Blood Ceremony - “The Eldritch Dark,” Church of Misery - “Thy Kingdom Scum”, Noctum - “The Final Sacrifice,” and Amon Amarth - “Deceiver of the Gods.”  Larry’s been digging Steve Harris’s “British Lion” and the UFO “Hot’N’Live” anthology.  Paul’s getting his blues on with B.B. King’s 1970 record, “Indianola Mississippi Seeds,” and the self titled Grand Funk Railroad album.

Photo (C) Ken Trousell

(SL) The last album that kicked your arse?

(ES) For me, Hot Lunch’s self titled record.  They’re a Blue Cheer-style proto metal band from Oakland, California and they are HOT shit.  Their singer, Eric Shea, is a modern day Ian Gillan.  Larry’s choice would be Horisont’s “Time Warriors.”  A killer Swedish band.  That record is chock full of some sick, harmonic riffing.

(SL) What was your first instrument or musical experience and what do you use today?

(ES) My father bought me an acoustic guitar when I was nine years old.  He tried to show me how to form a few basic chords, but I had a total brat attack over not being able to play and didn’t touch it again until I turned 15, haha.  I wish I had still had that guitar, even if only for nostalgia.  These days I play a Gibson SG through a Laney AOR Pro Tube half stack.  Larry plays the same rig, but is a Stratocaster man.  I’ve never seen anyone wield a Strat the way that Larry does.  He really knows how to bend the tonal dimensions of those guitars.  Paul plays a Rickenbacker bass, which we collectively love, and Bill is currently playing a Sonor kit with Paiste cymbals, (although I’m convinced he could pound garbage cans and make them sound good).

(SL) One item, gear or otherwise that characterises your band and one item from your set up you cannot live without?

(ES) I really like that Larry and I both use the same guitar heads, the aforementioned Laney AOR Pro Tubes.  They’ve helped give us some distinctive tones, plus there’s something striking about seeing a band where the guitar players have matching rigs.  I don’t think either one of us are particularly wedded to the Laneys because we both like to keep our eyes open for other cool gear, but it's hard for me to think of playing another amp because I really love my Laney.  It’s the Iommi/Sleep “Holy Mountain” amplifier for god’s sake!

(SL) Pro-tools versus old school?

(ES) Both have their merits.  Sometimes I think a lot of bands who go through that painstaking process to recreate a vintage recording are putting a lot of unnecessary energy into the whole thing.  I've done sessions in the past with bands where we used the old analog tape machines.  At times I thought it sounded great and that we achieved what we were going for.  Other times I was like, “Is that all?!” But at the same time, I can remember how floored I was when I heard that first Witchcraft record years back.  That was recorded vintage style, and it completely blew my mind.  I think when it comes down to it you can make anything sound good as long as you have an engineer who knows their stuff. Alex Maiolo, who recorded “Leave the Light,” is a perfect example.  Alex has really eclectic musical tastes, but he grew up on classic rock and early metal.  He’s one of those guys who knows how to zero in on a particular sound and use the proper tools to get the sounds that work.  I wish I had the attention span and the equipment knowledge to reveal what all he used, but Pro-tools was a definitely part of the process.  

(SL) Has there been much opportunity for your band to do live shows and is playing live  still as important today given the influences of the web and social media ?

(ES) Demon Eye is fortunate to live in an area where there are plenty of opportunities to perform live. We couldn’t not do that.  For me, playing live is vital.  I’m all for promotion via social media and the Internet, but a band has to be able to pull off their music live.  Granted, there are exceptions, like if someone is just tinkering with experimental ambient-type music.  Music like that could probably survive just by being passed around the Internet.  But if you play with a blood and guts band, I want to see you do it in real life.  I want to hear it and feel it.

(SL) Who are some your favourite bands you have toured with and what have been your band highlight (s) thus far?

(ES) So far our favorites have been: Hour of 13, the brainchild of the masterful doom riffster, Chad Davis.  The Sword, a band who everyone knows well I’m sure ;)  We had a great time opening for them.  Sinister Haze, a traditional doom band from Richmond, Virginia, who I once described as “Blue Cheer on a bummer acid trip after washing down some ludes with cheap malt liquor.”  Mike Scheidt, from YOB, who was doing a solo tour when we played with him.  Uzala, a loud, dark band from Boise, Idaho.  Mountain Thrower, from Wilmington, North Carolina, who have a vintage Cream/Hendrix sort of thing going on.  The Great Dismal Swamis, from Norfolk, Virginia; a super fun, trashy Stooges-esque rock band.  The Church of Zann, a powerful Lovecraftian three piece from our great state, (Benjamin Powell from the Valient Thorr is their drummer).  And Corpse Mountain, a younger band from here in Raleigh who we recently hooked up with.  Not only do they have the best name ever, but they’re an excellent band with some very twisted riffery.  Meeting all of these righteous folks, not to mention all of the great people who come to our shows, or the ones who reach out to us online, have all been highlights.  It’s been a blast.

(SL) What are your survival tips for the road ?

(ES) Don’t be too proud to crash with somebody's parents and eat their food!

(SL) Vinyl Junkie or Ipod flunky? Discuss

(ES) I’m a total vinyl junkie.  A friend of mine, who is a stellar garage/psych DJ, has a wife who refers to his record buying habit as “black crack.”  I’m definitely this sort of addict as well.  Some dick stole my Ipod a few years ago and I’ve been without one ever since, but I honestly can’t say that I don’t miss it all that much.  There are so many different ways to access music these days.  My main methods for listening to music are vinyl, (there’s typically never a moment in my house when a record isn't spinning on the turntable), streaming on my smartphone, (for when I’m driving or walking around town), or just browsing on YouTube.

(SL) Finally, do you have any final comments/word of wisdom you’d like to bestow upon us?

(ES) Nah, not really.  Just try not to be schmucks to one another, and have a good time, all the time.

Words and Interview by : Aaron Pickford

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