EXLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DAATH’S EYAL LEVI
The first time we spoke to Dååth guitarist Eyal Levi, it was purely about being a Jew. That’s all well and good, but now that Dååth are about to release an excellent new album, The Concealers (out April 21 on Century/Roadrunner), it seemed like a mighty good time to actually speak to the dude about, y’know, music n’ shit.
In addition to being a ridiculously talented musician, songwriter, and producer, Levi is also just one of those people you meet who is all-around good dude. After the jump, get Eyal’s thoughts on the band’s new album, the media and metal scene’s perceptions of Dååth, why ATL purp is tops, and more.
I know you’ve said you consider The Concealers the “first” Dååth album. Why? Can you tell us about what advances the band has made since the creation of The Hinderers?
The Hinderers is a collection of ten years worth of songs, lineups, and studio situations. The Concealers was written in one shot, and recorded in another straight shot. Same team from start to finish. Same goals from start to finish. One consistent shared focus which was to push things to where we had never taken them before in terms of playing, writing, and recording. That place we were aiming for was complete domination over the previous record.
Advances since The Hinderers? It’s hard to say, since that album was recorded over such a long period of time its hard to say when it actually went down. The main thing I can think of is that for the first time everyone was involved on every level and contributing their very best. For me personally, its the record where I feel I finally found my voice as an artist.
There’s obviously a lot of death metal and melodic death metal out on the scene right now. What, in your opinion, makes Dååth unique?
First off, I don’t consider us death metal or melodic death metal so maybe that’s the first thing that sets us apart from that scene. We don’t give two shits about what other bands are doing in their respective scenes. We always have and always will write the music that comes out of us honestly. What makes us unique is that we all have radically different styles and tastes and we let them all come out when we write. Anything goes. Another thing is that this band is a team of songwriters. Not just riff writers. Most metal bands are about the riffs and how they work together. For us its about the song. Blast beats, double bass, screaming, solos, etc. are all tools to serve the song. They are the means to the end rather than the end itself. I think that’s opposite of most metal.
What is the songwriting process like in Dååth? Do people come in with complete songs, or just riffs and you jam shit out, or some other option…?
This past one was five parts purp, four parts stimulants, and ten parts rage shaken, not stirred, and served over a fine bed of habanero sauce. All the above are ways we write. Sometimes it’s spontaneous generation via jamming, sometimes it’s Emil [Werstler, co-guitarist] has had a riff for a year and it turns into “Sharpen the Blades,” sometimes I lock myself in the control room, get faced and write “The Unbinding Truth” in 24 hours straight. There’s no set process. What’s really important is that what we write fits the criteria and surpasses the standard we set for ourselves.
When The Hinderers came out, I think read somewhere that it was supposed to be the first album in a thirteen record cycle. How does The Concealers fit into this cycle thematically?
Its number three of thirteen if you believe the press you read during The Hinderers.
We know you’re also a film lover. Do any of your favorite films play into Dååth’s work, or influence you as a musician? If so, which one(s)?
When we were working on The Concealers I was having an existentialist crisis about my life and place in things. I felt like there was a dark cloud hovering over everything and I had a lot of unchecked rage that resulted in fist fights between [drummer Kevin] Talley and I, as well as a lot of broken furniture. I was in a very unhappy place and my best friend told me that I have to see There Will Be Blood because it’s amazing. Well, I went by myself and that movie spoke to me in the deepest of ways. Maybe I’m that much of a bastard that I could relate to the lead character , maybe not, but it spoke directly to my soul. It helped me realize that I own my own reality until I let things go and fall apart.
Can you tell us a little about the differences between working with current vocalist Sean Z and former vocalist Sean Farber? Has Sean Farber achieved his dream of starting his own religion? Have you ever considered working with a singer who isn’t named Sean?
Well to really answer this question I would have to air some laundry that I’m not going to air out of respect but I will say this: Sean Z is one of us. He is one of us as a musician and as a person. Its not like the gang and then the other dude anymore. For all answers about Farber let me direct you to his website. That should speak for itself about what he’s up to more than I ever could. I haven’t talked to the dude in over a year but I’m pretty sure that he’s gonna master making beer before he gives Scientology a run for its money.
All I can say is that he seems happy doing what he truly loves and I’m glad he found his calling. As far as working with working with vocalists named Sean I have worked with one named Mike! He was the original Dååth vocalist.
What about the dynamic between Emil and yourself? How do you work out parts, decide who takes the solo, etc.?
We are very similar people in terms of how driven we are. When we get together and work its like a flurry of creativity and bar raising. And it’s usually for fun! As in, let’s see how fucking crazy we can get with this part. You’ll especially hear that on the solo record we’re working on for Magna Carta Records with Sean Reinert on drums. When it comes time for solos we just pick the part that makes sense for the players. There’s never been a debate on who gets which solo. It has always been where it makes sense. Our styles are radically different which also helps.
Can you tell us a little about working with producer Jason Suecof?
Jason is one of the most superior musicians I have EVER met. I count him up there with my dad [conductor Yoel Levi]. If those two decided to dine on other musicians they would have a Roman style feast complete with puke chambers. And the feast would last until all shitty deathcore, nu-metal, metalcore, emo rock, wannabe jazz, Belgian rappers, and open mic night interpretive dancers were nothing but a pile of bones. That said, it was amazing to work with Jason Suecof AND [engineer] Mark Lewis.
Let’s talk about media perception of Dååth. It seems like with The Hinderers, Dååth didn’t really get paid proper attention because a lot of people – including us – just lumped you guys in with the whole metalcore scene. Do you think that’s a result of the music, stupidity on the part of the media, the label’s marketing, or something else?
Confusion on all ends. We were still finding ourselves at that point, which meant that the label [Roadrunner] took control of the marketing direction. Well, they understood us even less than we understood ourselves. Enter the media. They were fed a line of shit about how we were the next big death metal band with Jewish roots. Ummm… we’re not a death metal band and we’re anti-religious. I care about being Jewish about as much as the Bush administration cared about Katrina victims. I fucking hate religion. And besides, especially now, I’m the only member of the band with those roots. I’m outnumbered by Germans. Then, on top of that, there were tracks on our last record that just straight up didn’t belong. Like “Dead on the Dance Floor.” I argued to take that song off but lost. That ended up confusing people even more. In conclusion, I think that we were misrepresented to the media and the world. No finger pointing though. It was everyone’s fault.
…and metalcore? Really?
How did this whole Century/Roadrunner partnership for the release of The Concealers come about?
For reasons unbeknown to me, Roadrunner wanted to keep working with us, which is good, because I think we have a great relationship with them. With a great relationship comes great communication and we all put it out there that maybe it would be in the best interest of everyone involved that we have a staff that is more entrenched in the underground handling our day to day operations. Enter Century Media. Best underground metal label in the world.
It seems like a lot of people don’t realize that you’re an accomplished producer and engineer in your own right. Is that something you’re interested in pursuing more of in the future? Can you see a world in which you were just a producer, not a performer?
I could see a world where I was a songwriter/composer and not a performer more than I can see the production thing. Production is something I took upon myself in order to give Dååth an advantage in terms of contacts and ability to record back when we were unsigned. Much better to have your own studio (if you know how to use it) than to pay out the ass for minimal time somewhere else.
My true love is creating new music. That’s what really gets me going. That said, I love performing too much to even consider giving it up. I choose both!
Both your Headbanger’s Blog column and your email address involve the word “jumping.” Does this word have any special meaning to you, or is it just a coincidence?
When I was eighteen Mike Kameron and I were playing with an AI program called The Oracle. You typed in questions and it gave you oracle like answers. We asked who would be my downfall. It came back with Mrs. Jumping Darkness. I figured for some reason that she was my wife.
Better drummer: Kevin Talley or your little brother?
Depends on what style of music. My brother is more of a rock drummer. Kevin is definitely more experienced but I’d say that on a raw talent level they’re not too far apart. Watch out Kevin.
Atlanta weed has pretty much ruined NYC weed for me. What the fuck?
Hey man, Atlanta weed ruined everywhere else’s weed for me! I don’t really understand what happened here. The weed used to be quite mediocre, but sometime around when we were writing The Concealers came the purp explosion. It became so easy to find and such a consistent level of quality that ATL became a smokefest. Then other exotic strains started to rear their heads and ultimately I’d like to say that we ended up having a weed rennaisance.
Finally: what does the future hold for Dååth?
Man, that’s a toughie. Some things are certain. Lots of shows. More music. More growth. And an album that will completely crush The Concealers the way that The Concealers crushed The Hinderers and the way The Hinderers crushed Futlity.