David Reece – Metal Loyalty

Sunday, 15th March 2020

“David – you realize if this fails, it’s your fault and it’s my fault.” I said, “It’s not going to fail!”. One never knows, and I was shocked that (Dieter Dierks) said that. But no truer words were ever spoken. They will blame the producer and blame the singer. And they were absolutely right!

This was a closing thought after our candid half-hour interview with vocalist David Reece, discussing more insight into the commercial failure of the Accept album he recorded Eat the Heat with the band back in 1989. The man has a golden voice and a varied career in the hard rock and metal landscape – his work associated with everything from Bangalore Choir and Bonfire to Accept, as well as a rich solo legacy. Cacophony of Souls is the man’s latest effort – bringing to mind a lot of that melodic heavy metal quality that put him on the map with the larger metal community because of Accept.

Get ready to hear some wonderful thoughts in this conversation with David – where we handle everything from his career, his time with Accept and lessons learned, views on singing in metal, and thoughtful discussion on navigating the trials and tribulations of the music business.

Dead Rhetoric: Cacophony of Souls is the latest album – tell us about the development of this material, the players you assembled, and what type of vibe/atmosphere you wanted to create this go around?

David Reece: After I went out with U.D.O. as special guests last February and March. I was thinking that my lineup wasn’t quite right – the guitar players. I observed U.D.O. every night, the tempos, the singalongs, stuff like that. Resilient Heart, I’m proud of that album with songs like “ A Perfect Apocalypse” and the heavier side of the album, that’s where I wanted to go. During that tour, I happened to run into my old bandmate Andy Susemihl. We got to talking one night in Stuttgart after the show, and we decided to stay in touch again. Ironically the two guitar players left the band during the tour, and I had eight or nine shows to finish. I wanted to go in a heavier direction than Resilient Heart and go back to the Eat the Heat thing. After the show, many of the fans brought that album out. In the beginning I wasn’t so fond of it but now I’ve grown to love the album.

That was the initiating of the writing for this new album.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you have specific preferences when it comes to songwriting – or do you take things on a case by case basis depending on the closeness and general proximity of the musicians at hand?

Reece: We set out a gameplan, Andy and I. “Chasing the Shadows” we had written before, the opening track. I had the song “Cacophony of Souls” musically together with another guy Martin – he had co-written some songs on Resilient Heart. I had the lyric, melodies, and all the vocals -but it was lacking a solo section. I presented it to Andy- and those two songs are the direction I wanted to go in. That day forward we just slammed it. We have this weird connection where he and I are able to write. We’ve known each other since 1988 when I was in Accept and he was in U.D.O. We’ve always managed to write really easily together. We both said we wanted to go out and write heavy, we were fond of the last Judas Priest album Firepower and it inspired us.

Dead Rhetoric: The title track for instance stands out to these ears, especially in terms of the choice of your vocal delivery during the verses against the guitars – proving you have as killer of a lower register as the more upper aspects you have established through the years. Discuss the importance of showcasing all facets of your voice, and what are some of your favorite moments where you even impressed yourself on this record in reflection?

Reece: That’s a good one! I’m a David Bowie fan. One thing that I’m not really fond of with metal singers is they tend to do vocal gymnastics on every song. And they don’t really seem to focus on the range of their voice. They tend to think if they can scream at the highest of my lungs and higher than the neighborhood guy, that they are the better singer. I’ve always liked singers who can croon, low- even back to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, the old country guys. A manly voice – I don’t like singers who sound like girls, just to be honest.

With that said, writing with the last few records, if you notice on Resilient Heart, “Live Before You Die”, I kind of use the same vocal technique, sing low and get really powerful in the chorus. I’m getting older, and I know that screaming my head off every night is not going to last. Use what you’ve got. Reach down there and find it. At first, I thought it sounded weird, but some people have said they really enjoy that tone in my voice. It was a discovery for me – it’s an extreme thing.

Dead Rhetoric: I agree. I think a lot of people fail to take into account the need for dynamics on the music as well as the vocal front. The grey areas are where you often create the standout moments…

Reece: Bowie was a master at that. Billy Idol is great at it. Some of those guys from the 70’s. Lower register with a lot of feel and delivery, like Paul Rodgers. They could get up there and hit it powerful, but they did it in those moments where it needed it. Sugar on the top of the cake. Maybe it’s a maturation thing, but it’s also a realization of your limits. Your voice is a muscle, you want to deliver the song and give it what it calls for. If you can imagine that verse line… I’ve actually been asked if it’s really my voice, some people thought it was a guest vocalist. I take that as a compliment.

Dead Rhetoric: Have you found your register has changed because you’ve been singing for so many years?

Reece: I’ve probably lost a little bit – Eat the Heat, everything was so extreme on that album. It was easy in those days, but that was thirty years ago. I’ve stopped drinking completely- I’ve found that to be a great benefit. The funny thing about alcohol is it’s rather deceiving in the fact that it calms you down – but it’s like pouring bleach down your throat because it dehydrates you and numbs the quality of what you are presenting. You think it sounds great, but then you listen back, not so great! My voice has improved as a result and I feel more mentally focused, I can control what I’m feeling. I get an idea how I like to sing things and it seems to come much easier now. Sleep, anything like that – you have to take care of it. Guitar players don’t go out and slam hammers on their index fingers. You have to take care of your voice, it’s built inside of you.

Dead Rhetoric: You are now on El Puerto Records – which is the brainchild of Bernd Stelzer and Brainstorm guitarist Torsten Ihlenfeld. Do you feel better representation and understanding from these two individuals versus your previous work with Mighty Music – and how do you view the work of a record label these days in this Wild West digital streaming landscape of the music industry?

Reece: How do I feel about this label? The last label didn’t pay any attention to me – I handed them the U.D.O. tour, and I got virtually no support. U.D.O. and his people were very wonderful to me, I had a great album. They threw some media at me and thought that was enough. There was far much more needed to promote that great album. I had been with El Puerto before. I looked at it a lot of different ways. I could have gone with a bigger label, have them throw the album against the wall, and give it about four weeks of attention before they go on to the next thirty albums – or I could go to a label that believes in me and wants to build on something. I can call them on the phone, argue with them, agree with them, disagree with them – and have a game plan. El Puerto, I feel comfortable being around them.

I’m not sure anybody knows what’s going on. I can tell the hundreds of thousands of streams that I have, but it’s not that lucrative for anybody. There’s somebody sitting on a nice hill and house that’s controlling that. I know that we are all fighting to get more of a piece of the action that’s rightfully ours. It is the Wild West right now. I would hate to see that streaming is the future of music. A guy talked to me about this a while ago – what if I had all my vinyl and CD’s stacked on a hard drive, and some maniac decides they are going to eliminate all the music in the world – and I’d already thrown away all my vinyl and CD’s. What would happen then? I thought about it, and that could happen. If music is all in this digital airspace. It’s in the computer, but it’s not physically in your hands. It doesn’t feel as tangible to me.

Dead Rhetoric: Metal definitely is one of the genres where people prefer the physical medium, holding onto a physical product versus pop…

Reece: Everything in (pop) is autotuned, it’s about fifteen writers for one singer. If you look at those people that do those television shows, some of them are great, but it’s very limited how many of those people survive. Adam Lambert ended up with a good gig, but it’s here today, gone later today kind of mentality. Get in there, get a single, if it doesn’t work, nobody even remembers your name two weeks later. The metal community, if they latch onto you as a fan, it’s for life. They’ll defend you if somebody is bad mouthing you on social media, they will stand up and fight for what they believe in. Like that first bicycle, that was the coolest thing I ever owned in my life. It was like my right arm. That’s like vinyl – my wife has a massive collection of vinyl in the basement. It’s just not the same when I push a button and I listen to music.

Dead Rhetoric: What can the fans expect from you when it comes to the upcoming tour dates – how do you decide what to pick and choose from your vast back catalog of material?

Reece: Obviously I do a lot of songs off Eat the Heat: “X-T-C”, “D-Train”, “Generation Clash”, and “Hellhammer”. Those are standard, I’m known for that – that’s why I’m talking to you and other media guys. And the fans know it. Resilient Heart, I’ll throw some of that stuff out there on the shows – and this album I’ll be playing eight tracks from it. When the two guitar players left the band last spring, I had eight shows to finish and we had written the song “Metal Voice” and “Blood on Our Hands” so we started playing those songs live. Some of the people after the show would ask if that’s some of our new material, and they told us to go in that direction. We want to put a lot of Cacophony of Souls out on stage this year, we start on March 13th in Germany, we will go to the UK in April for ten dates and then come back to Europe in May. I’m in contention as well for a lot of the summer metal festivals, and then in September, I’ll do a special VIP concert where I’m only going to play the album On Target from Bangalore Choir live. Which is pretty cool, I was asked to do a special show. Then we will head up into Denmark playing more shows to support Cacophony of Souls.

Dead Rhetoric: Knowing that your strongest support in terms of a fanbase is overseas at this point, what steps need to be taken to hopefully gain more of a foothold stateside – especially in terms of engaging a younger fanbase to this style of melodic heavy metal?

Reece: What I’m doing right now. I’m a social media whore. I’m fortunate that I have a lot of friends in the melodic hard rock genre that have a younger brother or nephew and they turn them onto this music. They find out my history, talk about the bands that they follow. I really got turned onto Sabaton that way. I started delving into that band and didn’t realize how hard they worked to get as big as they are. It’s a great success story. My wife is a big Shinedown fan. It’s weird – I’m as popular in the United States as I am in Europe, live gigs are a little more accessible in Europe than they are in the United States. I hear it’s improving in America, so I’m hoping to get over there again. I spent my beginning years and life there, playing every honkytonk you imagine.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve suggested in recent interviews the possibility of putting together an Accept-fest style tour, celebrating the legacy and discography of the band with all the singers/members a la Helloween or Michael Schenker Fest have done recently. What will it take to get this idea to become reality, could you see this developing possibly within the next say three to five years?

Reece: What would it take? A bunch of people to sit down and say, let’s do it. I have no animosity towards those guys. I see that Peter Baltes is going to play with U.D.O. doing the Metal Heart anniversary for that record in Europe. I don’t know what the Accept camp is doing. I don’t see where it would hurt, there’s a long legacy there. If all the powers that be would give it a shot, I think it would be a success. It really has worked well for Michael Schenker, and Helloween as you said. Schenker Fest does really well, people get to see his legacy, his history. A little bit of everything for everybody. I’d love it, I’d be the opening guy probably playing some of Eat the Heat, get all the guys on stage at the end of the night and do one of the classics, that would be great.

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