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An Interview with Death Therapy’s Jason Wisdom

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*This is Part Deux of the Interview.  View Part One here.

This interview is between Seth Hecox (Becoming The Archetype, Anchors, former “Grand Slams” writer for MetalSucks) and Jason Wisdom (Seth’s former bandmate in Becoming The Archetype and currently in Death Therapy).

Seth: Jason, since I write the MetalSucks “Grand Slams” feature, as the baseball season approaches, what are your thoughts on your hometown Braves’ new stadium, rebuilding project, acquisition of Matt Kemp, and the gnawing emptiness in your life due to limited exposure to fantasy baseball?

Jason: Well, ever since my second child was born, a year and a half ago, the amount of time I’ve been able to spend watching baseball has dramatically decreased. Fantasy baseball seems like a distant memory now (hence the aforementioned gnawing emptiness). However, I did make it a point to attend one final game at Turner Field in Atlanta this season, and they actually beat the Nationals (a rare feat)! I am hopeful that the new stadium will help begin to revitalize the franchise.

Those who don’t live in Atlanta may not realize how controversial it has been that the new park is outside of the city of Atlanta, all the way in Cobb County. So, I think they are going to have to invest some money into the team in order to make them watchable. That is, if they expect the controversy to die down and for the detractors to embrace the change.

Like I said, I am hopeful. Over the last few weeks of the season, the Braves actually had one of the best records in baseball. They finally started to look like a major league team. So yeah, I think that the players they have picked up (like Kemp, who had a bounce back season in 2016), and some of the good prospects who have come up will give them a chance at being less than miserable next season. But I’m not expecting much more. As an Atlanta sports fan, I never expect much (cue the sad Charlie Brown music).

Yeah, I know they acquired big fat Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, and a couple other veterans like Jaime Garcia this offseason. And guys like Dansby Swanson are going to give the team some excitement. Do you see yourself going to a game this season at the new stadium? And when do you think will be the next season when the Braves can compete for a wild-card spot? Can it be as early as 2017, or do you think it’s 2018 or even later? With teams like the Cubs and Astros experiencing a really quick turnaround in their rebuilding projects, it seems like a run in the next couple years is possible, right?

I will probably go check out the new park at some point this season (although I’m more excited about the new Falcons stadium). You’re right, it’s definitely interesting to speculate, given the quick turnaround of teams like the Astros and Cubs. My gut tells me that they may have a shot in 2018, but probably not this season. However, that all depends on any additional acquisitions they might make. They have been stocking up on minor league pitching prospects (much to the chagrin of many fans), and my suspicion is that they will try to flip some of those for position players. Now that they have some veteran arms (almost too many — again, I suspect they may be looking to flip one at some point to a team that is desperate), if they were to pick up a couple good bats, they might have a shot of making the playoffs this year. Assuming they are all still on the team on opening day, Swanson, Kemp and Freeman should all put up good numbers and Markakis is at least solid, so I am interested to see if they try to make any big moves to fill out the lineup. I know that folks my age and older can remember when the Braves were good — dominant even (in their division) — and it would be nice to see them regain some competitive form. 

Yeah, that makes sense. I didn’t realize the Falcons were getting a new stadium.  Whatever. 

OK, let’s play a game.  If you had to compare yourself as a musician to a current MLB player, who would it be and why?  For instance, I’d probably choose someone like Troy Tulowitzki: past my prime, lost a step, people remember the glory days and hope for some return to that level of play, just moved across the country to more northern climes, etc.  Perhaps I’d compare Becoming The Archetype to Big Papi:  always celebrated weight gains and #dadguts, packed plenty of power, but was kinda limited when traveling to NL stadiums (BTA never drew well in certain markets), and is currently “retired” but people sometimes suggest a return is possible. Now it’s your turn: who would you choose and why?

Jason: If I had to compare myself to a current MLB player it would be Tim Tebow. That’s right. I said Tim Tebow (for those who don’t know, he was signed to a minor league deal by the Mets in 2016). Why Tebow? His career peaked in his late teens/early ’20s, during college, but he also had a good, although very short, run in the NFL in his mid 20s. He even won a playoff game! Now he is trying to start his career over, not just with a new team, but in a different sport. The odds that he will break through to the majors are very slim, but he managed to sign with a Major League franchise, and he has his diehard fans who believe he can do anything. Regardless of what happens, he is giving it his best shot, because he still thinks he’s got something to offer the world of athletics. 

How am I like Tebow? Well, the biggest tour that I ever did was in 2006 when BTA opened for Demon Hunter and Zao. I was in my early 20s and still not finished with college. After that, I had some other great tours while I was in my mid 20s, and BTA even got to tour in South Africa (in my opinion the most exciting tour that we ever did). Now I am trying to start my career over with a new band called Death Therapy. Not only is this a new band, but it is a different style (industrial groove metal), and it’s a totally different configuration than what I was used to with BTA (just me on bass/vocals and a drummer). The odds that I will be able to break through with this band and reach a level of success comparable to what BTA had are very slim, but I managed to sign with SolidState records (again), and I have a few diehard fans who believe that I can do anything. Regardless of what happens, I am giving it my best shot, because I still think I’ve got something to offer the music world.  

Nice comparison!  Can I assume you’re also Tebowing before every show and working out around the clock to have muscles pop out of your shirts? And now that you’ve broken the ice on your new project, Death Therapy, tell us a little bit about the debut album.  When is it out, what’s the title, how many tracks, who produced it, who’s releasing it?

Oh, totally. I take a knee after ever song we play. As for the new band, the debut album is called The Storm Before the Calm, and it comes out February 24th on Solid State records. It’s a full length album, 10 tracks, (though not quite as long as the BTA debut album). I recorded it with Matt McClellan at Glow in the Dark, and we had a blast. It was a very different experience tracking, especially since there are no guitars on the album at all, just bass, drums, vocals, and some synth stuff. And we tracked bass first and drums last, unlike every BTA record where we started with drums and guitar. I’m really proud of the final result. Hope folks dig it. 

Oh man, if you Tebow after every song you play, there’ll be a bunch of Florida Gator fans who might appreciate your gesture.  There are probably worse marketing plans than appealing directly to the SEC demographic.

OK, I see what you did with that title.  I remember Matt.  He helped with production on Celestial Completion and he also recorded Becoming The Archetype’s Christmas single “O Holy Night.”  We all liked him a lot.  That’s a great choice for production. 

Man, that’s wild that you have no guitars whatsoever on the album.  I’m listening through the tracks now and it isn’t any less heavy.  I remember when I realized that At The Drive In used little to no distortion on most of their songs that I liked and it blew me away that they were still so heavy.  

You know, February 24th is somewhat close to the date that some pitchers and catchers report for spring training.  Is that intentional?  

Maybe I should talk to the SEC about letting me write them a new theme song. After all, I’ve always lived in the Southeast: they owe me. And let’s face it, they need to update their image. While some people might think living in the Southeast is lame, it also means I’ve always had sweet tea and gravy biscuits readily available, along with endless flowing rivers of “Sweet Dixie Champagne” (Coca-Cola, of course), and that’s not so bad.

With the sound of the album, yeah, Matt and I were on the same page from the beginning and agreed that it didn’t have to sound like a normal metal record, just as long as it sounded full and heavy. So we just laid down a direct bass guitar track for each song, then used the same pedal-board I play through live (I won’t get into the specifics as it would bore non-gear heads), and we were both really happy with the result. Like you, I appreciate bands that can be heavy but in an unconventional sort of way.

As for the release date, you caught me. I wanted to get the record out in time for all the MLB players to add it to their spring training playlists. Also hoping I can get some halftime show gigs during March Madness. Not only am I trying to capture the SEC college football demographic, but hoping to make inroads with the MLB and college basketball. Man, I didn’t plan to reveal so much in this interview, but you got it out of me. You truly are a gifted interviewer. 

Yeah, the sound of the album is certainly still full and heavy.  I think you guys nailed what you were going for.  Heavy but certainly not run-of-the-mill.  It might not be for everyone, but I think it’s bound to connect with plenty of people.

Man, halftime shows, SEC theme song (do they currently have one?), and MLB connections:  you’ve got a lot of lofty goals!  There are a handful of baseball players that walk up to heavy music, though not as much as there used to be.  MetalSucks used to bring up names of heavy metal baseball players and their walk-up tunes (or the songs they played when they came out of the bullpen).

Let’s say MLB Commish Rob Manfred emails Tooth and Nail Records and says each band on their roster can get a walk-up song for one MLB player.  The band picks the player. Who are you picking?

I’ve got to go with an ATL hometown favorite: Freddie Freeman. More important than his stat line is his persona. Freddie is a giant dork. He looks like the offspring of Buzz from Home Alone and Biff from Back to the Future. He wears glasses on the field. His current claim to fame is that he likes to hug his teammates. They even sell “Hug Life” jerseys with his number on them. Amazing. That’s the kind of guy that I want walking out to my music. Sure, I could pick some giant, muscle bound, 50 HR crushing, five-tool prodigy. But I think the dorky guy (who still holds his own in the big leagues), is a more appropriate representation for me and my music. 

Oh man, you totally nailed his look!  As soon as you said the Buzz/Biff description, I was like “yep, that’s spot on.”  I don’t have him on any fantasy teams, but I guess that’s fine.  He’s the kind of guy you love in real life, based on what you’re saying.  That’s a great pick.

So one thing baseball and heavy music have in common are the outlandish stories that come with each one.  I’m thinking of the time Dizzy Dean braggadociously predicted that he and his brother “Daffy” would win 45 games together (they won 49 that season) and then when asked about it, he said “it ain’t bragging if you can do it.” That goes hand in hand with Babe Ruth’s called shot and Yogi Berra’s many hilariously nonsensical “Yogi-isms.”  I think those stories make MLB a great game.  

But those kinds of stories also make heavy metal a great genre.  Consider the legend of Ozzy biting off the bat’s head, or when Hendrix joined Cream for a jam and he mopped the floor with a wickedly fast version of “Killing Floor” which sent Clapton stomping off stage in the middle of the song and later remarking while furiously puffing on his cigarette, “You never told me he was that fucking good.” Every album has a story, and a lot of stories within that larger story.  

What’s your favorite story so far from either shows or making this debut Death Therapy album?

All of the most interesting Death Therapy stories so far are extremely embarrassing ones. I haven’t had a moment of glory like Ozzy or Hendrix yet. Closest thing would be at Audiofeed festival last year, near Chicago, when my gear completely wouldn’t work, and we could not figure out what was wrong. So I decided just to tell funny stories (while my drummer awkwardly sat there) about crazy things that happened on the road with BTA. Like the one time we had the police pull their guns on us for suspected kidnapping, all for some stupid prank we were trying to play during a traffic jam. It was a regular “story time with old man Wisdom.” In the end, we didn’t get to play any songs at all, but we still sold a few t-shirts. Now, I know what you’re thinking, that’s not cool at all. Sure, the stories of Ozzy and Hendrix might be more impressive, but I was able to get people to buy my band’s merchandise without even playing a single note. I think that’s quite an accomplishment. Turns out it was my bass, by the way. The volume pot went bad. Not the first time bad pot has ruined a good concert.

Haha, Hendrix and bad pot (volume or otherwise) involved in a story including a sport dealing with drugs (of the performance enhancing kind). All sorts of directions to go here. But we’ll head toward the exit. Thanks for your time and I’m hoping for successful fantasy baseball seasons and winning records for everyone’s favorite team (might be difficult, but what the hell). 

Oh, and I hope the MetalSucks community goes and downloads/picks up a copy of Death Therapy’s The Storm Before the Calm on February 24!

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