Damn Your Eyes – Good and HeavyTuesday, 6th August 2019
In the modern days of classification and new genres rising up faster than one can keep up with, it’s nice to hear a band that just sounds like heavy metal. There’s no other way of stating it. Damn Your Eyes ensnarls heaviness, melodies, and all that one could hope for into their sound that is both rooted in the basics of the genre as well as not being afraid to veer off course every once in a while. It’s what makes their debut, Kill the Outside feel fresh and enjoyable. It’s not pretending to be anything other than heavy. We grabbed guitarist Artie Alexander for a round of Q & A just prior to the album’s release to get some further insight on the band’s beginnings, life experiences, and much more.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you go into a little bit of the band’s backstory?
Artie Alexander: I started the band in 2015 with our original drummer Jamie, and we just kind of started writing. I had left music for a long time and then I caught the bug again and started writing riffs. We plugged away at it for a while, but we couldn’t find the right pieces of music to fit for a while. We knew it was going to be heavy, but we weren’t really too sure of the direction.
In early 2018 was when we were able to get Oddie McLaughlin to play on bass, who has been a friend of mine forever, and Kenny Vincent, who was in a band called Bonesmith back in the day. He had moved to Arizona but I heard he was back in town and I loved his voice. He always had a cool voice and a great tone. He had contacted us, because I had put out some feelers to him, and next thing you knew we had a band. It didn’t work out with our original drummer, but we got Rick Taiano and we were pretty much off to the races.
Dead Rhetoric: You said you had been out of music for a while. Was there something specific that snapped you back into it or no?
Alexander: Absolutely. I stopped drinking! I was a party animal all the time and lived that rock and roll lifestyle. After a while there was no more rock and roll, just the lifestyle. I had enough of it and decided to do something different with my life, because I was going nowhere. I stopped drinking, and it was amazing. There was this flood of music that just started coming out of me. So I was recording things on my phone, and eventually I got Pro-Tools, and that’s how it all began really.
Dead Rhetoric: That’s really cool to hear – it’s always nice to see people who have kind of risen above and are able to take a step away and see things with new eyes, so to speak.
Alexander: Yeah, I guess the music in me had died and living a different lifestyle totally changed that for me. It was amazing.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you describe the sound of the band to those who may not have heard it?
Alexander: It’s metal – but there’s a lot going on in Damn Your Eyes. We don’t really fit in a pocket; we’ve got our own thing going on. We just right things that are good and heavy. Whatever they turn out to be is what they are. I can’t really put my finger on a category, plus I don’t even know all the categories anymore. We just call it a metal band. Some of the stuff is hard rock, but we definitely have more of a metal background. You can hear the influences in it when you listen – you’ll hear some Sabbath, some Slayer and Pantera. All of the stuff I grew up listening to and loving, I guess it becomes part of your DNA and that’s how you are and how you write.
Dead Rhetoric: We have kind of already touched up on this one, but do you feel your life experiences have shaped Damn Your Eyes as a band?
Alexander: 100%. I think that whatever you hear when you listen to Damn Your Eyes is life experiences. I’ve been through a lot, I’ve seen a lot – a lot of loss and a lot of happiness too. I’m not sure where happiness fits into metal, but I know that recovery and coming out of something…rising above and crawling out of a hole you were in – those aspects are deeply embedded in metal. I hate to say this, but I’d go back and do it all again. Everything that I’ve been through in my life has put me where I belong. It has put me in a position with the band and the guys, to look at things differently. Especially with the music.
When I write, the riff dictates where I am going with everything. I don’t have a list of ideas or subjects for songs, I just let it freeflow and once I feel satisfied, I’ll bring it to the guys. They will help arrange, and change. Oddie is really good at that! Some of the stuff that we have on this album is stuff that Oddie and I had written together back in the early 2000s. We played together a lot in a band that ended up falling through, and those riffs ended up becoming Damn Your Eyes songs in different ways. That’s kind of how it goes through, and coming back to life experiences, it molds it all.
Dead Rhetoric: I noticed when I was listening to it that the songs represented a good variety of emotions. Was that something you were trying for?
Alexander: We are human beings – I’m at a point in my life where I’m not just angry all the time. Whatever I am feeling, and all of those other emotions that I had shut out for all those years just being angry at stuff, they come through. You get to know yourself a little bit. I guess that’s what happens, I haven’t really thought about it too much. All of those emotions come through and translate into the music. It’s really organic.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel that you have accomplished with the recording of Kill the Outside?
Alexander: We knew that we wanted to have a good record. We knew that we wanted to have something that we could be proud of, first and foremost. It was never a ‘let’s go out and conquer the world’ kind of attitude. We wanted to be in a really good band and make a record that we could really be proud of. When I listen back to it, I’m really happy with the album. That was the first thing we wanted to accomplish. As we started building up steam, we realized that we might have something really special here.
We might have something that people could relate to. That’s when we went more into the business aspect and learning how to navigate the system now because it’s so different than when I was listening to music [growing up]. Record companies were the driving force back then and now there are a lot of do-it-yourself guys, which is what we are doing. We just wanted to put something out that was a good, solid album that we could relate to, and hopefully everyone else could relate to. Human emotion is a very strong thing. People might latch onto it, you never know.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel you’ve had to do as a band to catch some eyes in today’s market, knowing that you aren’t going to go the clickbait/gimmick route?
Alexander: We are hoping the music does that. Everybody has their own thing. I’m a jeans & t-shirt guy. I’m a union carpenter in the city. Oddie is an iron worker. Kenny drives a truck for a living. That’s my mentality. To put on all that other stuff would be completely out of character. I think staying true to who you are represents the music. You are being honest. Listen, not that the guys that have all of this stuff aren’t being honest, but it’s what they do and what they are comfortable doing. I would never be comfortable with doing that sort of thing. This is all about the music for us. That’s it. Going to shows when I was a kid and seeing Alice in Chains, or Pantera…Pantera came out with t-shirts and shorts. They did their thing. They didn’t have the extravagant light show, until later in their career but even then it wasn’t that big. That’s the stuff I liked. I could relate to that. It was natural to me.
Dead Rhetoric: I think one of the good things about metal is that you can really sniff out those who aren’t being genuine in their music.
Alexander: Yeah – I think real metalheads are pretty smart people. They know the fakes and people who are just trying to fit in. I think you latch on to the kind of music that you relate to on a personal level – “These guys are kind of like me.” Those are the bands that I liked.
Dead Rhetoric: What goals do you have for the band in the future?
Alexander: Now it’s world domination [laughs]! Maybe not so much. We try to set goals for ourselves and try to reach them. We didn’t think we would be where we are right now. We are trying to build a good fanbase and just get the music out there and see who likes it. We’ve gotten really good responses, especially from South America. They really took to it, which is really cool. Some other small term goals are getting involved with a good booking agent, getting some management, and start hitting the road and putting in the work. We want to try to win over every crowd we play. The genuine attitude of the band really comes out when we play live and we’ve been getting a lot of good feedback. All those life experiences, they go up there with you.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of touring, what do you feel are some bands that you’d be good tourmates with?
Alexander: What’s my Christmas list [laughs]? We would go out with anybody who is in our vein of music. We will play in front of anybody anyway. We’d love to go out with a band like Disturbed or Lamb of God someday. Those fanbases that like good music, and if we walk away with 100 people that like the band it’s a win-win for us.
Dead Rhetoric: What is metal to you, as a genre?
Alexander: Metal to me, was and still is in many ways, it’s my home base. When I found metal in my life, I was trying to escape from my home life growing up. It was sometimes a normal house and sometimes an abnormal house. Going into my room and putting music on, putting my head between two speakers – then they had the boomboxes that you could move the speakers and put them somewhere else. You could listen to the music and escape, and I was amazed at how it all came together for these guys. It’s still an escape for me today, but not in the same way. You hear a riff and get pumped, or you go to the gym. Music moves you. Everybody has their own personal attachment to music, and every song means something different to someone else.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next for the band once Kill the Outside is released?
Alexander: We are going to play a show on August 27 with Crowbar in Queens, NY. We have that going on, and some other stuff in the works. We are just going to keep putting it out there and see what happens. From the beginning, we always thought that people are going to like our music or they aren’t. We are okay with that, as long as we like our music. We are hoping to build a nice fanbase and move along. I’d love to take things to Europe and play over there, as well as the States and South America. It doesn’t matter. If people like our music, we are going to go there. It’s been an incredible journey so far, and we are all enjoying it. That’s really all you can ask for in life. Everything else is just a bonus – if it hits or gets big, that’s amazing. But we are proud of what we are doing and we are doing it together. That’s the biggest thing.