Interview by Fiona Duignan for MPM
Ahead of their upcoming new EP due for release on the 9th of April, I spoke to the Claire, Dan and Mick from DEAD LABEL, an insanely brilliant Irish metal band. Showcasing the best of Irish, Dead Label are famous for Thor like vocals, gritty, gnarly riffs, dirty bass, earth shattering drums and getting the mosh pit full-on involved in the chaos.
Danny couldn’t join us because he was sick as a parrot (sending you an MPM get well hug!). We talked about their new EP, the Irish metal scene, GAA spec silver Golfs (those who know, will know), women in rock, the C word, and feeling positive about the gig world coming to right. Interviewing three people takes a while, especially when it’s a bunch of Irish people with the gift of the gab, but it’s completely worth it. So grab your coffee, put your feet up and enjoy the read!
Your new EP, ‘Anthology’, is due for release in two weeks and it features two exciting unrecorded tracks, Flux and Deadweight, although you have been playing these live for a while now
Dan: Yep! ‘Anthology’ is an accumulation of all the tracks of the past four years and it’s just an easier place for fans to find it. Deadweight is released on the 2nd of April and Flux the week after. They have just been in the live arsenal for a long time and in demo form for a few years. It’s just bridging a gap and they were the last couple of songs that kind of didn’t fit in on the new album. So we wanted to get new music out before the album. These tracks really gelled the new EP like a bridge between the old and new.
Mick: It’s putting a stamp on it on a certain period of time and to bridge a gap between them and the next album because corona completely screwed us in terms of recording and we want to remind fans that we are still here!
Tell me about the track Deadweight. They lyrics are really powerful and angry! I think people will be able to relate to it on so many levels, love, relationships, even employers! What inspired this?
Dan: Without getting into too much detail, it was a period of time where we were with someone who did everything in their power to undermine us and there was no let up. We had to grin and bear it but enough was enough and that’s where that song came from. There’s a lot of venom behind that song and it’s one of the angriest songs I’ve ever written. But that’s what great about playing metal – I can get all the anger out of my system and then I can be this happy tea drinking fella in front of you!
Claire: That song is about a specific person/situation that happened to us as a band. We don’t post about negative things because people would never join a band. It was inspired by true events but Dan wanted to give people a general feeling and he wrote it in a way that people could make it personal. The gist is that we overcame it and make us stronger and hungrier as a band. I think Dan chose the lyrics because we feel really strong and powerful. We often open gigs with that song because it’s a complete ‘f..k you’!
False Messiah and Pure Chaos are also on this EP. The videos are pretty disturbing! Who thought up the stories behind them?
Danny: None of us! Nobody in the band had a clue what we were getting into with Pure Chaos and we just showed up and were told what to do. At one stage, all the actors were drinking poison and we just thought, “Oh. Jesus. Christ!” False Messiah was Mick’s first time with the band and that was a bit mad!
Mick: I joined the band and a couple of weeks later I was on the plane to Poland to shoot the video. I was pretty drunk! It was one of those experiences where I was pinching myself the whole time.
Claire: We can’t take any of the credit for creativity in the videos! We just pick videographers we like and give them our songs. As Dan says, art inspires art and we let them come up with the stories. We write music, give them the song, and tell them and ask them what they think. We just turned up in Poland and didn’t’ do a thing. We do lean towards directors that will do something worth watching because people just steam stuff these days. Pure Chaos
Delays aside, what can fans expect from the new album?
Dan: Big fat heavy riffs! It’s bouncy, groovy and it was written to be played live. There will be 10 songs but we wrote about 20 at one stage. The songs that are picked that may be released as singles. The way things are, we might release some of the others we wrote just to keep things going, drip feeding music. We want to keep our fans interested between albums. As soon as we can get into the rehearsal spot and get tracking, we hope to release by the end of the year but I’m a little bit pessimistic. We might release another two singles before that.
Mick: the album format will never die. But these days, you need to have EP’s, singles and can’t rely on albums any more. People have short attention span because music is all streamed on loads of devices. It’s kind of sad but we have to move with the times. We are doing it this way to survive.
Claire: All the demos were done pre-lockdown and our plan was to start recording ourselves just when the first lockdown ended and we were allowed see each other. We got one recorded and then we locked down again. We might add more to the demos because we have been sitting on stuff for a long time and it might die off! Releasing this year depends on restrictions.
We also have to consider gigs we hope to be able to play in 2022 and release just before it. To release an album and not have any gigs will be difficult I think. We are going to try record our next album ourselves because we have Mick with the band, and he’s young and hip and cool and knows the technology so we are giving it a shot.
Mick: We are trying to be DIY and self-sufficient. We are almost at the point of releasing music ourselves, but are a bit away from it yet. I broke my arm during lockdown so I was spending a lot of time at the laptop working on artwork etc. So it worked out well for me! We were able to send the songs around to get them mixed and mastered. Almost a blessing in disguise really.
Dead Label were a three piece for many years so what prompted the change?
Claire: Back in 2012 we considered getting a second guitar player because Dan is upfront doing vocals and bass, me behind the drums and Danny was doing all the running around the stage. We were limited with guitar solos and we really needed rhythm guitar to show off the skills.
We knew Mick from his own band and he’s probably the only person I know that has as much ambition as me and that’s what you need to even attempt to succeed and he had that spark. When we were writing songs, Danny had explosive solos and when we watched videos back, the stage looked so big and empty so we invited Mick to play with us for the craic and learn a few songs.
He turned up having learnt every single song and he’s one of us now! Generally, Danny would write a riff and it works outwards from there. We would jam it and either keep it or axe it. Because we have Mick, we can try more depth and it will make a riff totally different. Our writing really has progressed and we have more ideas as a whole. Don’t tell him that because we don’t want him to get a big head!
Claire, how did you find people’s attitudes when you were growing up, being a girl who loved heavy metal?
When I was very young, I was into Brittany and I loved her. But then I got into metal like Murder Dolls, Slipknot because my wider group friends were into it.
There was a song of Brittany’s that had a tiny bit of distortion in it at the bottom of the album that jumped out at me so when I heard the other bands, I knew what I was looking for. I went to an all girls school so it was great to learn about other bands from boys so my friends were part of my introduction.
At the start my parents thought ‘this is different’! The Murder Dolls album and some of the lyrics are not super enticing, horror film based and my mother was not impressed! Then she saw how nice my friends were and we were allowed jam in the house and my family were very supportive to be fair.
How did you get into drumming?
Travis Barker in Blink 182! I know they are not a metal band, but at 14, metal was just not on the radio, so it was really cool. It was a very slippery slope to Behemoth from there! I heard the way the albums were produced, and I think Travis is the biggest asset to the band.
He made the drumming seem like so much fun so I had to find out how to play. I learnt how to play ‘We Will Rock You’ at music school and I started a band the day I got my first drum kit, even though I couldn’t play!
You are a hell out an inspiration for women, not just in metal, beating the crap out of those skins!
Claire: It doesn’t feel like that! I didn’t think I was hitting them any harder than the guys. I think it came from the bands and drummers I looked up to. Dave McClain is my absolute idol – the best drummer in the entire world and he hits the drums really hard.
I’m only 1% on my quest to be as good as him and he’s who I want to be, or even Lars in Metallica. I wasn’t trying to be a girl drummer, I wanted to be ‘a drummer’. When I turned up at gigs and did sound checks, I have to be heard. I may have over compensated and been slightly aggressive!
Do you think you are treated different because you are a woman, eg sell yourself based on your sexuality instead of your skill?
Not really. In Europe they don’t care as long as you’re a good, friendly band as a whole. After gigs, people were coming up to us after a gig saying we were really good but that’s because we are good, not because I am a female drummer. The very few times I encountered pre-conceived sexism was in Ireland recently and a guy offered ’advice’ that you would only give to a novice and it was very, very patronising. I was really insulted, but when I got off stage, he came up and apologised, that’s how wrong he was. If I’m playing the same gig as you, it’s obvious I’m not a beginner!
Danny: How did you develop your stage persona? It’s pretty damn filled with so much attitude! Were you naturally angry or just a stage thing!
I idle at 75! I’m fine, then something will make me lose the head and calm down pretty quick! Going on stage playing those songs, I can bubble up all those emotions that led me to write the songs in the first place and let them out on stage like a cathartic release. I can get up on stage and scream my head off for an hour, then I’m the happy tea drinker you see before you until the next gig!
I saw you guys at the launch of The Sunstroke festival. Was that your last gig in 2020?
Claire: That was the very last thing I did in the world! We were due to play a gig in Fibbers the following week for the Jean Claude, the sound guy and he’s a legend! We were really honoured to play the gig and we were gutted it was cancelled.
Dan: We only had three songs! We were just getting started and then had to go. It was our last gig then everything went to shit with corona. What a cool concert that would have been. Hopefully Sunstroke and gigs can just be copied and pasted into 2022. Fingers crossed.
What about Download next year?
Dan: We were on the Download bill as well and that has been cancelled two years in a row now. It’s kind of mind blowing to see our name on the same poster as Iron Maiden for next year, and bands that we grew up with, no matter how small the writing is!
The Dead Label style is very much bass led and the riffs are absolutely astounding too. Is this intentional your intended sound or the result of a collaborative effort?
Dan: That’s the first time I’ve heard that! Maybe it’s the opening riffs that lead it. I’m not chief song writer by any stretch of the imagination and I work with three very talented people.
Mick: It’s one of those things that as a fan of Dead Label that I had learnt myself is that those single string riffs are Danny’s signature and Dan’s burley bass behind it. So it’s not really bass lead, it’s just bass music, big chunky notes in the middle. We focus on the diddily notes in the middle – we don’t need that shit!
Dan: I’m a complete Neanderthal and knuckle dragger when it comes to playing bass – it’s all grrrr! That’s what gets me going! The only reason I play a five string is so I can go lower. I can go an octave below the the guys for more body and give it balls! It’s not like I can shred by any stretch of the imagination! A six string bass is just messing though – but never say never!
What do you think of the metal and rock scene in Ireland ?
Claire: There is nothing mainstream here and I know people say not to sell out, but you need the likes of MCD to back it and bring in the crowds. The big bands won’t come here in a small pub without any gear.
Mick: Ireland is a melting pot of juicy bands that don’t get the attention they deserve, probably because of where they are from.
Dan: To get more attention here, some bands in Dublin need to take the chance and go abroad, make some noise. Even go to England and get gigs and bring the attention back with you. There are metal festivals in Ireland, like Siege of Limerick and another in Templemore.
Those type of things have a lot of people sitting down and not in the camera shot and usually substantial crowd. Radio stations don’t play metal in waking hours. It’s only between 10 and 12 at night. It’s part of the stereotype that metal heads are only awake at night. It doesn’t make any sense. I can understand that they won’t play a song like Deadweight at 7am in the morning -it wouldn’t be helpful to road rage! But there are softer metal and hard rock songs that would benefit from day time radio play.
Mick: That’s a reflection on Society nowadays. You have songs from the likes of Cardi B singing about her WAP, on awards shows grinding herself against another woman singing about her genitalia, yet that’s ok? That baffles me. Most of the time metal is aggressive but there is a lot that is positive and about bettering yourself. Metal is less disposable and most metal albums will stick around and stand the test of time. Pop from the 90’s will just sound tacky. Metal is just like a fine wine and just gets better with age!
When the gigs were suddenly taken away, how hard was that to adjust?
Dan: There was no easy of saying it. It just absolutely sucked. We had a whole summer of amazing shows and it was just ripped away from us. While it hurt, the band isn’t full time for us yet so financially it didn’t hurt us that bad. We have friends in bands who are full time and financially, they aren’t doing well. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but what can you do? The whole world was turned upside down. I was actually thinking of quitting my job to do all the summer shows because my annual leave wasn’t going to cover it. I can’t wait to get back on stage. I really, really miss it.
Claire: Sunstroke being cancelled really sucked. We finally get to play a full on metal festival in Ireland and then it had to go. It would have been amazing especially as it was the 25th anniversary. So I really hope they weren’t put off and go ahead with it again. At this stage, I would literally play for the postman in the garden! It would be great just to hear loud music!
What kind of format do you think gigs will take? Have you seen the one where people attended in plastic bubbles?
Dan: It won’t work for metal shows. 90% of the time at metal shows, the crowd are running into each other and we feed off that energy. That energy is unbelievable. If they are just looking at you and you could hear a pin drop, it would be so depressing.
Claire: At some stage, people will be the first to go to a concert. We could have the safest mosh pit of your life but I don’t know what to think of that yet or what will happen towards the end of the year. If we have to stay home a little longer, everything will be safer for us all. We are lucky that we can still release music. I would probably have ten more dogs if I didn’t have music!
Claire. How did the ‘Mo Threibh’ (Irish for My Tribe) TV appearance come about?
Oran contacted me and said he had friends that were doing a piece on metal scene in Ireland and he recommended me. I had a short chat with some of the people and thought that was it, until I got a call from the producer asking me to be on the show! Watch Mo Threibh on RTE player and watch out for Claire!
And on that note, we will leave it there. This has been over two hours of fun and laughter with three seriously cool, talented people. Thank you so much guys and I can’t wait to see you on stage again!
Dead Label New EP– Anthology.
- PURE CHAOS
- FALSE MESSIAH
- DYSTOPIAN COMPLEX