Sleepless – Eye of the BeholderTuesday, 26th April 2022
Containing two members of 80’s death/thrash band Dead Conspiracy, Sleepless started with the intention of developing progressive traditional metal with no rules. Composing material full of intricate tempos, solid rhythms, and a heightened sense of tremendous musicianship with influences across the North American/European spectrum, their full-length Host Desecration certainly is turning heads. We reached out to bassist/composer Eric Dorsett on Skype one afternoon recently, who was very happy to tell us the ideas behind the band, if they will play live or remain a studio project, talk of Voivod, Nevermore, and 80’s new wave artists, plus discussion on another traditional metal project and a final Dead Conspiracy tape in the pipeline.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about your earliest memories surrounding music growing up – at what point did you discover heavy metal, and then make the move into picking up instruments to perform your own work?
Eric Dorsett: Heavy metal in particular, for people in my age group in particular, I discovered what most guys did which was Kiss. Music was pretty big in my family, my parents were like hippies, they would see people like The Mothers of Invention, The Fugs, my aunts were into Motown and my dad played guitar and sang Joni Mitchell tunes. I listened to music all the time – it’s hard to remember. My first concert was The Police on the Ghost in the Machine tour, but my second concert was Iron Maiden on Piece of Mind, with Saxon and Fastway. Those are game changers. Iron Maiden, I brought the brochure home, Eddie came on the stage, a larger-than-life thing. I knew I wanted to play music – I wanted to play bass because of Gene Simmons. I bought my first bass guitar when I was 14, had it paid off mowing yards when I was 15, with a layaway plan.
I was never a real big cover music type of guy. I wanted to be on stage, and I needed to write music. We wanted to come up with songs, the easiest way to do that was getting into punk. I went from metal into punk for a while, and then into Dead Conspiracy. Being realistic about it, my motivations were of a 15-year-old kid. I liked the way bass players looked on stage, their attitude, but Steve Harris to me was amazing and far outside my league. I had guys I went to school with that were into Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, stuff like that – learning the modes and critical of those who listened to early punk, Slayer, people who didn’t play in key. It made me more rebellious, I wanted to just kick ass. Exodus and Testament to a certain extent made me want to play more of this – I was in college, studying classical music and diversify my playing. Then I would study Stanley Clarke, Steve Harris, and that type of stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: How did Sleepless come into being? As the progressive traditional metal on display differs from your work in the past with Dead Conspiracy – was it a challenge to find the right musicians who wanted to develop a very niche style that you deliver in this outfit?
Dorsett: I haven’t found them all yet. For now, it’s myself, Kevin (Hahn), and Eric (Detablan). We also have another band that no one has heard yet, that’s more like Stained Class-era Judas Priest. It’s called Occultista. This was due to the pandemic. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression, I wasn’t sleeping very well, things were getting pretty weird. Hence where the name came from. The song “The Man Who Could Not Sleep” I took from a 1950’s horror comic title. This brought me out of it in so many ways. I was watching the Andy Warhol documentary and he was talking about the old quote that everyone makes one painting in their life. What’s my painting, you know? I realized I never really made it.
Dead Conspiracy is tattooed across my back, those are my brothers and that is where I found my first home in music. It will always be there, and I can’t wait for our next recording. I have always with good reason had to keep my writing within the rails of Dead Conspiracy. Chris (Carey) our guitarist would tell me that certain riffs aren’t for Dead Conspiracy. I would shelve those. Sleepless was me, Eric Detablan our drummer who was living in Texas for 15 years and finally he moved back to Portland. What comes out of us is metal. We put no limitations on us, what comes out, comes out. That’s what Sleepless is. The first four songs on the EP were (us) letting loose. I was painting my style, my writing, what’s inside of me – that will never really change. When we signed with Metal Warrior and had to write five more songs for the album, we did, and I was ready. I have four of the guitar tracks for four new songs in the can already.
Dead Rhetoric: Your debut EP Blood Libel received good response last year – enough so that Metal Warrior Records out of the Netherlands offered to put out a full-length with those four songs plus newer ones for the Host Desecration album. How did you gain the interest of Metal Warrior, did the old songs receive any reworking/remixing, and what are your thoughts on the intermingling of older and newer material for this album?
Dorsett: I’m pretty sure they found us because of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal full albums channel on YouTube. Those guys asked our PR company Clawhammer to put up the EP, they said it was a good idea. We got tons of views right away, nobody knew who we are, so I was stoked on that alone. Mario contacted me, asked if I wanted to do this, as they are both from the Netherlands. This guy is passionate, it’s a small business and they love heavy metal. I didn’t want to pay to put out my own records, I had to pay for the manufacturing of the last two Dead Conspiracy records. They’ve done a fantastic job.
Some of the songs on the album were done live, some of the songs were done using a click track. My goal was for you to not to be able to tell which songs were which. And that was all Kevin Hahn, my vocalist and guitarist, he owns multiple studios here in Portland and has recorded everyone from Poison Idea, Dead Conspiracy, award winning artists like Aimee Mann, he did the Scorpions drum tracks to one of their albums, Paul Gilbert’s last album. He is super talented, gifted, we went to high school together. His influence on the production, mixing, mastering, there’s no way I could have done this without his knowledge.
We recorded the first four songs, and we had no idea who was actually going to sing on this. Eric and I thought we would get Brian Chainey, who sang on the first Dead Conspiracy reunion album Abomination Underground. Brian couldn’t do it, so we asked Kevin if he could do it. Kevin sings in a Journey tribute band, I didn’t know if he wanted to do it. For all of us, it was the right fit and exactly what we wanted. The next album is going to be even better.
Dead Rhetoric: Many of the influences for this record seem set in the late 80’s to mid-1990’s – when acts like Hades, Watchtower, Anacrusis, Sanctuary, and the early stages of Iced Earth and Nevermore came into being. Would this be a fair assessment of specific influences for Sleepless – and what qualities do you believe make for an ideal composition within Sleepless?
Dorsett: I just love this kind of question. I just feel it’s a great opportunity to talk about this kind of thing. It’s so interesting to me, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have found some cool bands because of these reviews and comparisons. Anacrusis I had never heard until about a week ago. I pulled them up, and I hear it. These guys are great. Nevermore, I love Nevermore. If I am getting compared to Nevermore in any way, shape, or form, that is amazing. I saw those guys open for Cannibal Corpse, and they blew me away. It was around the Dead Heart in a Dead World album. I have been hooked on those guys since- Sanctuary I love too. Iced Earth, I love The Glorious Burden album. I’m an older guy, my influences are steeped in what drove me a kid. Piggy from Voivod, Mike from Destruction, and Hank Shermann plus Michael Denner of Mercyful Fate. I ate cereal every morning and listened to the Melissa album for months. I put on the Rrröööaaarrr album from Voivod, couldn’t comprehend it, a few months later I never turned back. People will often say we have these dissonant parts that are very nu-metal, or newer metal – but not traditional metal. The ninth chords and seventh chords- I stole them from Piggy. Flat lies, the devil’s triad, that chaotic sound, I live for that.
That spidery feeling that Denner got, you feel like you are in a horror movie. If I can conjure that, plus get the intense, modern heaviness of Nevermore mixed in there, now I am a happy man. If you hear a lot of things going in the music, that means there’s more than one dimension. When someone gets a clean singer in the band, a lot of the riffs are 16th notes, double bass so they can sing over the top of it. Our thing is, I dare you to sing over this, this one is in 11 and super heavy, singing about vampires over the top. The guy is brilliant.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about the cover art for Host Desecration? The numerous images on display seem to mirror many of the lyrical themes contained on the record – is this correct?
Dorsett: I appreciate that. T.J. Barber is a genius. I have worked with him for a long time, I knew him back in the Myspace days. He did both the Dead Conspiracy covers since we got back together. He was a natural fit for this. I sent him the album and a bunch of the lyric videos, and this is what he came up with. I was blown away. When I sit back and look at it with the person in the back with the hair flowing, the noose hanging there, the devil removing the person’s face, each part is exactly what I am trying to say. He did this, its brilliant. He has made t-shirts for us as well. T.J. did another piece for us relating to the song “Mushroom Clouds at Night”, a traditional gothic wood block that is completely bad ass.
Dead Rhetoric: I found it very intriguing that the band embraces certain social media platforms like Instagram and Bandcamp yet does not have an official Facebook page. What are your thoughts and outlook on social media and the footprint you wish to make on certain platforms but stay off others?
Dorsett: Do you think we should have a Facebook page?
Dead Rhetoric: I think most bands do, just because of the reach in the sense that a lot of people are on that platform. In metal, Facebook and Instagram are popular, along with YouTube and Bandcamp…
Dorsett: There you go. I’m thinking about doing a Facebook page. I think we picked up some inertia with the EP, I was nervous if we started a Facebook page, we would be dead in the water. And also, you have to have the time to monitor this stuff, just like Instagram. I barely have time for that. I don’t want to miss messages. I do the music because I love doing it. I want to get out to fans, and I don’t always know the best way to do that. It’s been very difficult to do distribution for the last Dead Conspiracy album, we have a lot of vinyl copies still that we need distro for.
As far as social media, I have no idea what works. So far, YouTube with the full album, the LP is at 5,300 views in about four days. The EP took a year to get there. I am stoked. Clawhammer PR reaches out to a lot of guys like yourselves, I don’t know if I could do that myself. I have a love / hate thing with social media. I hate all the political stuff, the morons, but I also appreciate what it can do for reaching out to fans who otherwise might not hear us.
Dead Rhetoric: Are your planning on bringing Sleepless to live stages, or will this remain strictly a studio-only band? As I would imagine that you may have to add members live to be able to pull off many of the layers present on the record…
Dorsett: Right. We are planning to play live. I am going to play guitar, since I write everything. We need a lead player; Kevin plays all the leads on this album. And then the two of us do the keyboard stuff. We plan on getting a lead guitarist and a bassist, I know a few people I have in mind locally. We are going to do whatever we can get, mixed in with just doing select shows. I’d love to do a couple of weeks in Europe, and hopefully do some festival dates. You never know. Eric and I have a setlist already done, we practice it every week. That is the plan – I don’t just want to be a studio band; I love being on stage as much as writing and recording.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the state of heavy metal worldwide? What do you enjoy most about the scene currently, and what changes (if any) would you like to make?
Dorsett: To me, music is.. I feel like the heavy metal scene, at least in the Northwest where I am at, it’s good and strong. There is another resurgence of death metal, the hipsters around here have an eclectic taste for metal. I love that people are doing Black Sabbath worship bands, our other band is like Stained Class-era Judas Priest. You’ll get to hear them in a few months. It’s a great moment in time, there’s more openness. There are a young group of people into metal. My oldest son is 21, and he couldn’t stand my music growing up. Now he’s got his battle vest covered in patches, got a bass. The older generation of metal people are more open about their love for music in general. You can have a conversation with another fifty-year-old guy into death metal that will tell you how much they are also into Duran Duran. Back in the day, you didn’t talk about that. I loved all the new wave stuff, had a girlfriend into that, but I didn’t talk about it as I was a death metal, punk guy. I was into the early hip hop movement in the early 80’s.
People will try to pigeonhole us. It’s Sleepless, and I am excited to get out there and play with some of the newer bands coming out there now. Do what you do. I would like people to be open about their influences. I’ll listen to Seal, and I can find a whole new idea to apply to metal. That’s where my stuff comes from.
Dead Rhetoric: What is in the pipeline regarding activities for Sleepless or any other musical projects/bands related to the musicians involved in Sleepless over the next twelve months?
Dorsett: Let’s get the album out, vinyl comes out in June. Getting a lineup of guys together to do this, teaching these songs to them will not be easy. We have this other band Occultista. I was listening to Stained Class, I thought about how Judas Priest made this album so heavy, with the distortion level of like Heart. They were not overdriven. The production is not that. How do they make these songs so heavy? I wanted to make a project to see what comes out. Kevin and Eric are into it. We will keep it separate from Sleepless. It’s seven songs – six original songs and a Twisted Sister cover of “Under the Blade”. I took that song backwards – made it sound more 70’s. Writing new music for a Dead Conspiracy release. The idea is to do a five-song demo, release it on cassette and call it Vomit Gore, release it and that’s the end of the band.
Sleepless will be the main thing though. It’s the modern day, you can have lots of bands. I’m hooked on this. We will work on the next full-length, and we will see what happens from there.