With a legacy that includes a self-financed North American tour, sharing stages with Machine Head and Gojira, as well as official support for Fear Factory’s last European tour, the band’s appearance at festivals such as Bloodstock (2015), Metal Days (2016) and Download (2017) will only fuel the fire for their return to the hallowed ground of Catton Hall for Bloodstock Open Air 2018!
For a band that seems to be on everybody’s lips right now – Dead Label’s chief lyricist/ bass player and vocalist Dan O’Grady is remarkably humble, yet dangerously focused on the current evolution of the bands steadily-growing international status.
Overdrive grabbed some time with Dan to get a scope on what’s happening with the Celbridge-based three-piece and the possibility of a follow-up to their infectious album, ‘Throne of Bones‘ and last year’s outrageously heavy ‘Pure Chaos‘.
OD – You’ve just been announced for Bloodstock this year making it your second time performing at the festival. With regards to Bloodstock, how vital has opportunity been for Dead Label and your relationship with the UK’s metal fans?
DAN – We cannot talk highly enough of Bloodstock. It is such an amazing festival. Everything that goes into it from Metal 2 the Masses in Ireland giving bands an opportunity to play on a major festival bill alongside bands like Slayer, Trivium and Gojira, just to name a few that have graced the bill over the years, to all the attractions and stalls that keep all the festival goers entertained long into the night after the bands have finished playing.
For us, it was the first time we got to play something that big in the U.K. and playing on the Sophie Lancaster Stage just gave us an even bigger platform to play our music as loud and as hard as we could for everyone to hear. When we went back to the U.K. later on in the year with Fear Factory, a lot of the people that came up to us after those shows had said to us that they had seen us at Bloodstock and that made them come out to the Fear Factory shows early to catch us opening up which to us, was a huge compliment. So in terms of our UK fans, Bloodstock is extremely vital for us and we are beyond excited to be heading back this year to play for all those people again.
“Pure Chaos” came out last year and seems to have generated a great deal of exposure for the band. Have you been working on any other material since recording that track and if so, what’s the update on a possible follow-up to “Throne Of Bones“?
DAN – We are always writing. We only finish something and we are straight into the next thing. We are quite deep into the next album at this stage. We have 8 tracks that we are feeling really really good about. We aren’t the type of band that writes 20 songs and picks the best 10 for an album. We cut as we go if there’s something that isn’t really working or we aren’t feeling we scrap it.
We are actually ruthless when it comes to the music. Our families always say we are our worst critics and it’s true, you have to be. You have to put everything under the microscope and make sure you are 100% happy with everything going into the tracks. The question I always ask myself when we are writing a song is “Can I play this song for the next 10 years and not be bored of it?” Sometimes you can say yes, sometimes it’s no and even there are times where I think to myself “I can commit to the verse but the chorus is a bit meh“, so in that way, it makes you take an in-depth look at the song and really analyse it.
When we were writing TOB, it was a very intense writing process. We were quite anal about the tracks to the point of pulling our hair out. Personally, I really wanted to make a statement with TOB. I wanted to blow “Sense of Slaughter” out of the water. I wanted to prove that we were a good band and I wanted to make sure we showed a massive growth from SOS to TOB. This time around, while we are still analysing and putting everything under the microscope we have relaxed a bit. We are having a lot of fun writing this album. Most of the time when we are jamming we write something that is ridiculously heavy and just burst out laughing.
In terms of direction, it’s a very diverse group of songs while all sounding uniform, that’s an important element in the writing for us. You want all the songs to gel on the one album but that they stand out on their own. The last thing we want is to put out an album that has a few songs on there that sound like filler. Every track we write needs to be single quality. We are hoping to have the album ready to go by the end of this year but there are no definite plans just yet.
OD – With the success of the video reaching nearly 100K views, how important is the concept of making videos for Dead Label? Is it something that you are not fussed about, or do you find that it really helps the band get noticed?
DAN – We have always said from Day 1 that music videos are very important to us. It not only gives you a chance to put a visual aspect to the song but it is also another chance to be creative. A music video is an art form in itself and we work just as hard on a music video as we do for the song that’s going in it. The Pure Chaos video came out so well and we have the guys at Crooked Gentlemen to thank for that. We brought them the song and they came back to us with this warped concept of a cult leader and a chase through the wilderness and the 3 of us just jumped on the idea straight away.
We have done music videos in the past and they have all come out great but like songs and albums, you need to show a progression in the quality of your music videos too. The Pure Chaos video really did that for us. We got to use actors in the video more prominently this time. We’ve had actors in videos before but this time we actually had a bit of a story in the video which was awesome and is definitely something we will try to expand on in the future.
OD – Going back to ‘Pure Chaos‘ again, there was a real noticeable maturity in sound/lyrics and approach to that track when considering the back catalogue. Do you find that the Dead Label sound is evolving and if so, can you talk a little about the direction you feel things are going, sonically?
DAN – Pure Chaos was a track that we felt we could really play to our strengths on. For anyone who knows who we are they know that we like to play big fat heavy riffs. We simplified a lot of ideas to allow the space for the riff to just breathe. We had seen Rob Zombie at Bloodstock back when we played the festival and his set was just full of these massive riffs that burst out of the speakers and filled the festival ground. I just remember standing there watching that set going “Man, I can hear every single note that is coming out of Johnny 5’s amp“. I said that to Danny (Hall/guitars) after the show and he was on the same page. That show was a big inspiration for how we went into writing Pure Chaos.
When we had the music written I remember just sitting there thinking about lyrics and what I should write about and I just got this repetitive vocal pattern for the chorus playing over in my head and it was catchy as hell so I just went with it and it really worked. In a way, I think Pure Chaos was the start of Dead Label finding our sound. The track has a really strong foundation in the bass and drums and this heavy groove brought in by the guitar which I feel is what we do best. It really set the tone for the next album but even now still we are trying new things and constantly evolving so who knows where we will end up in the future.
OD – Having been on tour with many respected artists from the metal scene over the years, do you find that you are learning/discovering aspects of the industry that most bands would normally not be accustomed too or aware of?
DAN – We have been extremely fortunate to be able to play with all the bands that we have played with over the years and you really get an insight into how much work actually goes into putting on a show at that level. Playing with bands of that level gives you a good sense of where you are at as a band and how much work you need to put in to get yourself to that level. The Fear Factory tour that we did was like an internship at a massive multinational corporation.
We went in there wide-eyed and innocent, totally winging it. It was a real sink or swim situation and with all the help and advice we got from the Fear Factory guys and their crew, we swam and we learnt so many valuable lessons on that tour that we will never forget.
OD – One of the biggest questions that seem’s to be on everybody’s lips these days is “How the hell are Dead Label not signed yet?“, do you have an update on that, or is it something that you can’t talk about right now?
DAN – We don’t really have any news on that front at the moment. The music industry is a tough nut to crack. We’ve been at this now for nearly 10 years and we have met some great people in that time that have given us advice and direction which we will be forever grateful for. We are just keeping our heads down and working away as we always do. But believe me, as soon as we have something to tell we will be posting about that all over the place!
Last summer, you got to play at the UK”s infamous Download Festival, making you one of the rare unsigned bands to appear on the bill. Did you feel a little overwhelmed by it all or was it just “business as usual” on the day of the show?
DAN – Download was an amazing experience. The actual getting up on stage to play was business as usual, a few butterflies backstage but as soon as our intro started and you walk out and see all those people cheering and you hit the first note of the first song the nerves disappear.
There was definitely a few moments after we had played when we were doing interviews in the press area and all of a sudden Devin Townsend or Max Cavalera walked into the tent and you just went “Holy Shit, I should not be here” or you are walking around backstage and you bump into Mastodon and your brain just goes “Aghhh” but I have to say we were treated so well at Download by the staff, everybody was so helpful they couldn’t do enough for you. Big thank you goes to Andy Copping for taking a chance on us. Playing at Download was a massive tick off my bucket list.
OD – Can we expect to see another new track/single/video coming soon?
DAN – I think we are focusing on getting the album finished at the moment but never say never, who knows.
OD – With regards to the songwriting, has anything changed with the way the material is coming together or do you just stick to a formula that you all are familiar with?
DAN – The usual way we do things is Danny will bring in a riff or a collection of riffs that he’s been working on and we jam out the ideas and put together the basic skeleton of a song. Then I would sit down with a very rough recording of it and start writing some lyrics. I usually leave lyrics until we have music because sometimes I find the music has a way of pushing you in a certain direction for a theme.
This time around while we are still doing what we usually do we are also just jamming out riffs and ideas that are really exciting us, giving them stupid names and writing them down on our whiteboard in our rehearsal space and letting them sit for awhile. Then after a couple days, we will revisit them and see if we are still as excited as we were originally. Then if we get stuck on something or can’t think of the next part we put it back on the shelf and start working on something new and then we will go back to it in a while.
Like I said before, we are just having a lot of fun this time putting together songs. If something isn’t working we don’t want to waste time by staring at the floor waiting for an idea to present itself, we just shelve it and move on to the next thing. It’s a little different than what we usually do but it’s working for us.
OD – For anyone that missed you at Bloodstock back in 2015, what can we expect from your return performance this year?
DAN – They can expect a high energy set full of heavy riffs and a lot of crowd participation. We are the type of band that loves to play live and having the crowd really feel like they are part of the show. We need that crowd interaction. We thrive on it. If a crowd isn’t into it we find it really hard to get into it ourselves.
When you get a crowd that is raring to go and are up for it, screaming and chanting along with you, you feed off that energy. It makes you play better, it makes you perform better so I always try my best to get a crowd as involved as possible, so Bloodstock get ready, we are coming for you!!!
OD – Finally, Ireland has been getting some serious attention from the metal world recently with the likes of Metal Hammer, That’s Not Metal, Metal Injection etc covering many bands and festivals such as Bloodstock booking bands from the country’s small, but with a vibrant scene. Do you find that the tide is turning for the metal scene in Ireland and if so, why?
DAN – It’s about time the metal world started paying attention to our metal scene. We have had and still have some amazing bands on our little island that deserve international attention. All our bands have been making some serious noise over the years and it was only a matter of time before we got them to listen.
I think Ireland can get a little lost in the ether because we are sandwiched between the U.S. and the UK and the quantity of band coming out of those two countries alone is enough to drown us out but our bands have stuck with it and I’ve noticed a lot more bands taking it upon themselves to get out of Ireland and take their music to other countries which is amazing.
You’ve got bands like Ten Ton Slug gearing up for a UK tour soon, This Place Hell went to Russia, Words That Burn have been to Eastern Europe for festival shows. It’s incredible to see our bands getting out there and that’s just going to inspire the younger bands coming up behind us to get out there too. I think our scene is only going to continue to grow and flourish.
Dead Lable will be performing at this year’s Hammerfest on March 15th/18th, Amplified Festival July 6th and Bloodstock Festival UK August 9th/12th.
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