Demonhead – Devilish LiesMonday, 14th October 2019
We’ve been featuring lots of Australian acts over the years on Dead Rhetoric – and with good reason. There’s an abundance of talent across all heavy genres from the land down under, and thanks to social media the ways and means to spread the message has gotten easier and faster. Demonhead are another band on the rise, especially with their second full-length Black Devil Lies gaining this scribe’s attention through melody, heavy hooks, and songs that capture many traditional/thrash moments while injecting a bit of progressive and triplet action to the proceedings. It’s not often you think of Vicious Rumors, 3 Inches of Blood, Black Sabbath, and early Metallica/Megadeth on the same record- but you may very well indeed as you listen to this effort front to back.
Firing off some questions to the band, we have vocalist/guitarist Dave Lowes, guitarist Rue Power, and drummer Dean Lewer answering everything from the early days of the group, information regarding Rue’s near fatal accident and subsequent recovery, their discography, thoughts on the Australian metal scene and some of their nerd-like hobbies they have as bandmates.
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss your first memories surrounding music growing up – and how you ended up gravitating towards heavy metal? Also, at what point and under what circumstances did you decide you wanted to pick up an instrument and start developing your own music?
Rue: Growing up as a kid in the 80’s and 90’s when metal was fucking cool and seeing the music videos on TV. All the older lads around my neighbourhood in Dublin had patched jackets and that looked way too fucking cool to me.
Dean: My old man. Also, a drummer by trade. I had to do single stroke roles on a deck chair for a week before he let me touch a kit (laughs). I’m the young one of the band, so I was only 13 when there was the massive flood of nu-metal. I was just grabbing what I could get my hands on. As for writing, joined a band at 16 and just got a taste for it.
Dave: I grew up with older brothers who were into metal, so that played a huge part for me. I remember them getting me to do the gruff spoken word part to “Dirty Deeds” by AC/DC for their mates (laughs). I was always drawn to the guitar and had a fascination from a young age. At my primary school they offered lessons, I was standing in line for food and there was a kid playing air guitar. I asked him what he was doing and said he was practicing a song he was learning. I went home that night and started begging my mum for lessons. A few months of hassling her and eventually she let me join the program (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the early days of Demonhead in 2007 – as you mention in your history starting from punk rock roots and evolving into a metal/punk crossover act. How do you believe things evolved into the sound that you possess today – which incorporates stoner, traditional, and thrash elements as well?
Rue: Dave and I had played together in a punk band with a lot of emphasis on two heavy guitars, as well as the music that had shaped us learning guitar as kids.
Dave: I think it was just a natural progression. Rue and I had both grown up on metal as well as punk rock. The more we wrote the more complex the songs became, and we just keep pushing each other.
Dead Rhetoric: Black Devil Lies is the band’s latest and second full-length album. Where do you see the major differences for Demonhead on this recording compared to your earlier Demonology 101 EP in 2011 and the first full-length Bring on the Doom from 2015? What do you hope the listeners are able to take away from the release as far as the songwriting, the production, and the performances?
Rue: A lot of the songs on Black Devil Lies (BDL) were written before/or shaped during the recording of Bring on the Doom. I think we were recording my solos for one of the BoTD songs when I laid down the idea for “Zombocalypse”. We had also recorded an early version of the title track, “Black Devil Lies” which was nearly gonna make it onto BoTD. “The Ritual” was also basically written. I think we’ve evolved a lot since 2015 as musos and people. We knew what we wanted to get out of the songs, as well as what we could do and what we knew would sound good. I think there’s a massive difference and you can hear it.
Dave: I think this time around we were a lot more focussed. When we were crafting the songs we took the approach that if something didn’t serve a purpose for the song it was gone. Even if there was a cool riff we didn’t force it into the song. Production wise we spent more time and money this time around and didn’t take any short cuts.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you believe a seasoned musician like Chris Themelco at Monolith Studios aids Demonhead when it comes to developing such a strong final product? Can you think of specific suggestions or instances where he was able to shape or frame things in an even better light from the initial idea to the final output?
Rue: Dave and Dean, you guys can answer this….
Dean: Being my first album, having someone who knew what they were doing both technically behind a sound desk but also musically, added a layer of trust with Chris that made it quite natural to take on his suggestions. Maybe not towards the initial idea but I remember certain songs or beats where Chris would stop and go ‘Yep. That. Do that again’. Just that little confidence boost translated somehow, onto the record for me at least.
Dave: We went in really open to making changes and I know especially for me vocally it really helped having the input from Chris. With the vocal melodies I kept a really open mind and we bounced ideas around until things really worked well for the song. He pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and get the most out of myself.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the album art concept come about – and was it a back and forth process between the artist and band to come to the final vision that appears? Where do you see the importance of cover art and imagery in today’s scene when it comes to making a solid first impression?
Dean: Tristan rocks, the end! It is really important though. We’re all flooded with new material, and it’s the first impression for potential new fans.
Dave: The art concept is based around a lot of the concepts from the album and in particular the title track. The dark being engulfing the lady represents anxiety, depression and all the darkness that lays deep in our subconscious holding us back from what we want to achieve.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you tell us a little bit about the near-death experience guitarist Rue Power endured – and how have things been in his life since? Do you believe this has given him a renewed sense of hope and cherishing every moment that he is alive, bringing a different energy to the band now?
Rue: “Fuck, wasn’t that a saga…. I always hear people say “I cherish every moment” or “I take every opportunity” “Turn over a new leaf” blah blah blah. Nah. It sucked. It still sucks. My stomach burst, which now I have to watch what I eat, drink… and I’m Irish and I can’t get on the piss with my mates. I am lucky I don’t have to carry a bag with me everywhere. Yeah, I nearly died. Twice. But I still have to go to work. Pay bills. It is what it is. The one upside to it is I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, I don’t focus on things like “everyone’s watching me as I play this solo” or “I’m probably the slowest lead guitarist here tonight”. I just don’t care about that anymore, I get up and do my thing. It’s awesome. Aside from smashing durries, I look after my health now. I have to. I exercise (regular-ish-ly) and eat well. That also makes a difference to playing live in my opinion.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges and obstacles that Demonhead face at this point in your career? Are you satisfied with where you are at in terms of a following and building your fanbase, and would you ever consider moving up the ranks to a record deal or are you content to stay independent with more personal/creative control?
Rue: Now we need to really promote this album. We’re stoked with how it came out and we don’t want to let it fizzle out like the other two did (EP and BoTD). That’s a hard question to answer (taking a deal vs staying independent) because they almost mean different things. We’ve got a rad album and we’ll work hard and see where it takes us.
Dean: I need to learn how to plan in advance and think a step ahead. Whilst it’s definitely reached the ‘thank Christ’s its done! It’s out!’ between now and May last year, there was suddenly so much more to do I wasn’t even aware of.
As for a label or contract, just trying to make sure we don’t fall into a cliché I s’pose. The fabled ‘selling out’ or even just being new and naive, making sure we take our opportunities whilst not jumping the gun.
Dave: I think one of the biggest challenges is being so far away from the rest of the world. It’s something that a lot of Australian bands have to deal with, it’s really expensive for us to get out of Australia and onto the world stage, but definitely something we look forward to.
For us right now it’s just about building the fan base and playing as many different places that we haven’t been before. If that results in a label taking notice and wanting to help out a band from Australia and believing in what we do, then that’s cool. If not, we will push on regardless and keep doing what we do.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the Australian metal scene in terms of support, venues, fans, and bands both on a local and an international basis? Who are some of the bands that you feel a strong connection to and appreciate their skillsets not just as musicians but also how they handle themselves professionally as people?
Rue: We are spoiled rotten with the calibre of bands that we have here in Oz, specifically here in Melbourne. All of the bands we come into contact with, whether we’ve played with them or just cross paths with through the scene, are both awesome to work with and brilliant musicians. Bands like Harlott, Mason, In Malice’s Wake, Katana Cartel, Trigger, Darker Half, Fenrir, dude, I could keep going. They’re all really hard working, professional and rad musos. The fans. Dude. Metal fans are the nicest bunch of people, who invest so much of themselves into the music. It’s amazing. I’ve played in rock, punk, jazz, funk bands and metalheads are the most genuine people you will ever come across as fans. It’s the best.
Dave: I agree with Rue, we are blessed to have so many killer bands here in Australia. I could add to the list with bands like Espionage, Envenomed, Hidden Intent, Pur Envy, Dreadnaught, Elm Street, Triple Kill, Atomic Death Squad the list just goes on and on! So many truly world class bands.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the personalities of each band member – and what each individual adds to the table to make things very special for Demonhead?
Rue: We’re all a bunch of c$#ts. (laughs)
Dean: I’d love to go in depth but Rue’s summed it up well. (laughs)
We’re all mates. That’s the best part, despite any differences. And we all actually give a shit about the band.
Dave: (laughs) Rue nailed it!
Dead Rhetoric: You recently had the chance to open for Megadeth royalty in the form of Marty Friedman – what was this experience like, and how would you describe Demonhead when it comes to your live performance? What have been some of the other best memories you’ve had for Demonhead live over the years?
Rue: The best Demonhead memories for me are the reaction of the fans. Hands down. They make it happen. If you suck, they’re not gonna get into it. But when the whole crowd is going off and you’re on stage, that’s why you’re there.
Dean: Live, we really want to put on a show and entertain. We want the crowd to dig it and to really enjoy themselves. Whether it’s a sense of unity or just a night out with your crew, whatever people get out of it that acts as a catalyst for the love of metal, or music, that’s what we want to smash out on stage.
There’s been a lot over the short two-ish years I’ve been in the band. Fell back in love with music, I needed a push. Gave me a desire to be a better musician too.
Dave: For me one of the most memorable gigs was our first show back after Rue got the all clear and it was also out first show with Dean. I wasn’t sure if anyone would remember or care who we were or that we were back. I remember looking out to the front and seeing a sea of our t-shirts on people I didn’t know and hadn’t seen before and it just really meant so much that people came along and were singing along and getting into our stuff nearly two and half years after our last show.
Dead Rhetoric: What sort of hobbies, interests, or activities do you like to participate in away from music? And how do you balance out the music with having a career and spending time with friends, families, or significant others?
Rue: I’m a history nerd, especially Irish history. It’s just got a hold of me since I was young. Sometimes I go find a random bunch of roos in the top paddock and hang out with them. Not as much as I used to, but.
Dean: Video games and craft beer like the nerd I am.
I’m really trying to spend quality time with my partner and her little dude when I can. Life gets stupid busy by itself let alone with touring, gigging, practice, emails, merch or whatever else each member has to take on. So it becomes a lot quality vs quantity. Spend what time you can and spend it well with those you care about. Friends and family alike.
Dave: It can be hard at times trying to balance work, life, music and other commitments but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the music/metal industry today? Do you find that you consume more or less music these days – and do you favor physical mediums like vinyl, tapes, CD’s over digital music consumption, or is that also a balancing act these days?
Rue: I think they’ve both evolved. I don’t think the current digital format of music favors the musician/artist, they get a raw deal in that regard, that’s something I’d like to see change.
Dean: Terrifying (laughs) but it’s a first time I’ve had a glimmer of ‘shit, we might just be able to do this’. I’m basically completely digital. Moved around a lot when I was a bit younger and so excess things just became cumbersome (laughs).
Dave: I think the music industry as a whole is in a really interesting place. It’s really cool seeing the rise of vinyl sales again. As far as digital goes I actually enjoy it myself, I’ve found some really cool bands through Spotify and online that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next on the agenda for Demonhead in terms of supporting the record over the next year or so?
Rue: Gigs> Tour> Gigs> Write New Stuff> Gigs…..
Dean: Play all the places!
Dave: Tour as many places as possible, have as much fun as possible and rock out as hard as we can!