Dissentience – Unveiling the Mask

Sunday, 7th July 2019

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve mentioned in conversation that where you are from in Lehigh, PA is a tougher area to develop a following in the style of thrash/death metal you perform – and that you’ve also moved beyond the pay to play model that many promoters in your area subscribe to for local bands to get on national shows. Can you discuss the challenges and frustrations a band at your level is facing to gain traction in the live marketplace- both on local and regional/ international levels?

Valentin: Yes. We had talked about this a bit at the Massachusetts show. In any business, and at least with our band, the ultimate goal is to build a following in your immediate area and then expand outwardly. At least in our area, the biggest underground scenes are more aligned with punk, hardcore, even doom/sludge- they don’t really focus much on the thrash and death metal stuff so it’s tough to build a following around here. Not to say that there aren’t any fans, there are a few different spots that show us love when we play – but there isn’t an abundant scene like we see when we are up in Massachusetts, or New York, the people are just rabid. California too- they love the thrash stuff.

As far as the pay to play is concerned, that’s just ruining the local scenes. First off, the promoters feel like they don’t have to necessarily do their jobs because they put it off on the bands to do. It’s not beneficial for the local bands, they get the headliners in that we essentially have to pay off with our ticket sales. The ticket prices are so high for a bill of local bands and maybe one headliner, people don’t want to pay $20 or $18 to see a couple of local acts. It’s tough for any band to sell tickets, especially at that price, and when club owners force bands to do that it just ruins the scene. The bands will stop playing the clubs that are worthy of holding good shows, where it should be thriving. The promoters and the bands are equally responsible, and they should work together instead of butting heads like they do now.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Dissentience when it comes to live performances – and what have been some of your favorite or more memorable shows to date?

Valentin: Rabid chaotic rage fueled. We go up there and let it all out – we have a lot of energy to put out on the stage. It’s a fun environment, I engage the crowd a lot. I want people to headbang, be up front with us, and have a good time- that’s what it’s all about. It’s not pretentious, we aren’t trying to put some façade on to be more metal or more brutal just for the sake of it. We are brutal because it’s fun to headbang and have a good time doing it.

Some of our favorite shows, the Alternative Gallery in Allentown, PA. The fans there are awesome, Paul who runs the place is amazing, a sick promoter who always takes care of the bands and gets people in the doors. The fans love it, they go berserk, beer flying everywhere. Last summer we played at the Allentown Arts Fest, which I think was organized by the same people. One of my friends described it best to me – he showed up late but he was walking down to the show. He knew which tent we were playing at because he could hear it from about a mile away. He saw chairs flying – and that was definitely us (laughs). It was a family music festival, we somehow got booked on it and people really dug it.

Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three of the most important bands that shape your outlook on heavy metal, and what have been some of the best concerts you’ve witnessed purely as a fan?

Valentin: My outlook on heavy metal. Sepultura was a game changer for me. I love that band, and everything they’ve done- especially with Max Cavalera. It goes back to that thing, they are brutal, they are punishing, but at the same time when you watch them live – especially the Live at Barcelona video from the late 80’s – they have so much fun. It’s great to watch – I haven’t seen them live, but that’s probably one of my favorite concert films. Revocation musically is a big one for me. Before I listened to Revocation there was some death metal I had been into, but they opened the gates for me as to how you could bring death metal into the thrash realm. I got into them around the Chaos of Forms era, when they were less on the death side. Dave Davidson does so much crazy shit musically – he’s a jazz trained musician. It opened so many doors as to what you can do with metal. I’d listened to Between the Buried and Me before, but they write 11-12 minute songs. Revocation is doing equally as many genres that fit into a twelve-minute song, and they’ll do it in a four-minute song, while being catchy and not hard to listen to. That was an eye-opener for me. The other one would be Megadeth. The earliest band where I was blown away by the guitar playing. Dave Mustaine, he rules – his style is awesome, it’s bluesy with a really evil sound going on all the time. It’s thrash on a different level.

As far as live shows that blew me away, I saw Machine Head in Philly way back in high school on The Locust tour – with Suicide Silence opening. I was never a fan of theirs on album, but I saw them live with Mitch (Lucker) before he died two times, and they were killer. Machine Head was on fire that night. I’ve been to a lot of awesome. Non-metal, there’s a rap band called The Flatbush Zombies from New York, and their shows get equally insane if not more so than any metal show I’ve ever been to. I’ve seen them a couple of times now. The energy they have on stage transferred into the crowd to get them to move- we try to get something similar going.

Dead Rhetoric: What worries or concerns do you have about the world that we live in today?

Valentin: I have a lot of worries, but ultimately it comes down to a lack of willingness to just get along. A lot of people want to pick fights, and I think that this is bred out of social media, they think that because they have a platform for their opinion that their opinion matters. For some people it does, celebrities are celebrities for a reason, because they have louder voices. People need to be a little kinder, have a thicker skin, and try to get along. I see it a lot out and about, people try to aggravate a situation unnecessarily. Things that you could just brush off and let go, they let it get under their skin, and it’s a symptom of today’s society that just needs to be dropped or forgotten about.

Dead Rhetoric: How important are the relationships/ friendships between the band members when it comes to developing a career for Dissentience? How do you balance out the work/school/family/ friends side of things with band related activities?

Valentin: That’s a good one. It’s tough, it’s really tough. We’ve all been friends since late teens, so we’ve known each other since high school. It’s not that hard for us, we have our little tiffs here and there, we live and let learn. As far as balancing schedules go, it’s tough. Our bass player, he’s currently working in Maryland, and lives just outside of York, PA. He’s a distance away from us, so we don’t practice with him as much. The rest of us, we will jam weekly. The biggest tool that has worked out well for us is Nick bought an electronic drum kit two years ago. We can practice wherever and whenever we have, a couple of hours during the day if our spot isn’t available, I can bring a practice amp, he can hop on the electronic kit and we can jam like normal.

For this next release there is one song I started with programmed drums- everything else is from both of us or all of us jamming the riffs, having fun and grinding out some music.

Dead Rhetoric: When did the idea come about to develop paint jobs on pedal units for music equipment?

Valentin: That is something that I’ve been doing for a long time. I started building pedals back in middle school. I did it for a science project- I was in Pegasus, a class for gifted students and they put us in a regional science competition. Our science teacher gave us a list of stuff we could work on, or think of something else, and they would approve it. I came up with this idea to test different parts to make a guitar pedal. I had no prior electronics experience – I just wanted to build a guitar pedal. The whole project ended up getting me to go to the state level, I got so creative in the building process, why tones sound the way they do, how you shape it – it’s awesome.

It influenced what I went to school for, I just graduated with an electronic technology degree, so I did get to learn why things work the way they do, little EQ circuits and all that. I don’t just do the paint jobs now, I’m in the process of starting up my own little company called Practical Fx. I just got a run of five done for the first pedal that we are making – I do them all in house, I do things by hand, I design it all by myself. I have a lot of fun doing it – when you look at pedals, especially the boutique ones and the vintage ones, the prices are stupid. There’s one pedal I was looking at, it doesn’t even have a foot switch, it’s not that great a pedal- and people still want $500 for it. I’m looking at the schematic, you can find those online for free- I’m thinking you can make this with $30 worth of parts, and a couple hours of my time. Why are people paying money for this, when you can do it for a little cheaper? So that’s why my motto is, to have the boutique tone and expensive tone but keep it at an affordable price for people.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your views on the metal landscape today- do you see major differences between the older and newer bands?

Valentin: Oh yes. Today, one trend I notice playing with a lot of local bands is that bands are much less about the stage show and more about the music. Which I respect to a large degree- I think musicianship is at an all time high in metal today. At the same time, I find it really boring watching a lot of local bands playing right now because a lot of bands write eight-minute songs with backing tracks and they forget they are putting on a show for people. They forget to go out and have a good time. There are bands that won’t bob their heads once or move from their position in front of their pedal boards. Musically it’s in a good spot- the internet has allowed such an influx of music, for better or worse. The biggest issue with metal currently is how fragmented everything is. It’s always had its little factions – thrash, death, speed, hair. There are so many sub-genres and people get fixated on categorizing, I only listen to this and that. Some of my favorite bands are the non-genre specific bands – Mr. Bungle is a weird band. If anybody can tell me what specific genre they are, I will pay them large quantities of money (laughs). Metal needs to go in that direction, break out a little more.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda over the course of the next twelve months for Dissentience? Has work begun on the songwriting front for the follow-up – and if so where do you see the material going in comparison to your previous output?

Valentin: In the next year we are hoping to put out our first full-length, hopefully start touring. There are a few other things hopefully in the works. Songwriting has begun – we are five or six songs in to hopefully nine or ten songs for the full-length. It’s sounding pretty brutal. I was talking to Corey the other day – everything you hear on Mask of Pretense is just going to be amplified. The grooves are groovier, thrash is thrashier, the heavy parts are going to be heavier. One thing we are trying to embrace more is pre-production, we will keep this in mind. We don’t want to keep the riffs too busy. Cut to the chase and cut the fat off everything.

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