LESS IS NEVERMORE: THE WARREL DANE INTERVIEW
Few people could be unsure that they’ve ever heard the voice of singer Warrel Dane. A conjurer of dread, anxiety, and doom, Dane doesn’t so much sing as signal an assault, like a bayonet on the musket of his band Nevermore, if you will. In simpler terms, his voice is hard to forget. So it’s fitting that Dane shares a hometown with Queensryche’s Geoff Tate, another skilled operatic vocalist who teamed with a distractingly awesome guitarist. In Dane’s case, it’s seven-stringer Jeff Loomis, now established beyond all doubt as a uber-skilled guitar freak. And though five years has elapsed since the last Nevermore record, Dane and Loomis have kept high profile via a pair of essential solo albums. But it’s now again Nevermore time, and on seventh album The Obsidian Conspiracy, we find a less frenetic and more seasoned Nevermore, one more dependent on composition than tireless riffing. Equally as exciting is Dane’s recent reactivation of Sanctuary, the beloved proto-Nevermore thrash quintet whose two records were produced respectively by future-pop punk guru Howard Benson (Hoobastank, My Chemical Romance) and a presumably wasted Dave Mustaine.
Dane talked to MetalSucks about the exciting new Sanctuary song he’s working on, his planned resumption of voice training, awful McDonald’s food, and my super A&R work on his next side project.
Warrel Dane: Where are you? What part of the country are you in?
Anso DF: I’m in Los Angeles!
Okay. We’re on the same coast.
We are? Oh, of course. You’re in Seattle.
We live in Seattle; most of us anyway. Actually it’s really nice up here today. It’s only 63, but it’s beautiful out.
Awesome! I just was thinking of Seattle because I read that the Alice In Chains song “Check My Brain” was inspired by guitarist Jerry Cantrell’s relocation to Los Angeles from there.
Yeah, I think he lives down in L.A. I’m not really sure though. Haven’t talked to him in a long time.
Yeah. I guess you could say that I’m on a bit of a sugar high, without eating any sugar. It’s a good feeling. I’ll tell you that much, because I know we made a good record. And it seems like people are enjoying it. [laughs] You can’t ask for much more than that.
It’s really dynamic from song to song. Was the band’s goal to make an album with a lot of twists and turns?
No, not really. We never really have approached songwriting that way. It always just [pauses] happens. If a band tries to plan things out, it can get contrived and screw up the songwriting process. We didn’t really intend for it to sound the way it does – it just sounds the way it does. I think that’s why it works.
You sound pretty satisfied with the finished product. I wanted to ask you what working with Soilwork’s Peter Wichers was all about.
Let’s see, we first met him on the Dead Heart in a Dead World tour when Soilwork was one of the support bands. I’ve been friends with him ever since then, and with all of [the guys from Soilwork]. They’re really good people. We had a good time working with him. I did – I’m trying to think – maybe four of the songs with him, then we picked up and went to Nashville. And I worked with a couple other producers for the vocals and did some of the bass stuff, too. That turned out to be an amazing experience; we were working with Andy Gibson who plays guitar in Hank Williams III’s band. It turns out he’s a metal guy, too. My other country rebel friend, Bob Wayne – and if you haven’t heard of him, you will soon. He’s really good – and I had a really good time doing that stuff in Nashville. I really like Nashville. People keep telling me that it’s just “Hollywood with cowboy hats” and that’s kinda true. But it’s still more down-to-earth than plastic-land L.A. [laughs] You should know that. You live there.
Living in L.A. requires a good sense of humor.
I read that the band rented a secluded house in which to record The Obsidian Conspiracy.
Yeah, we did! We rented this house in North Carolina on Lake Norman, which is where a lot of NASCAR drivers live. They all have these mansions on the lake. It was a little more cost-effective to rent a house, bring in studio gear, and be comfortable in this place that we could live as long as we need to and record when you’re feeling most inspired. I loved being there. And Peter is living in North Carolina now. He and his wife just had a little boy while we were doing that, so I think it was important for him to be close to his wife and new little son. It worked for everybody.
It can’t be a bad thing to create an environment for everybody to do their best work.
[Slowly] It’s not a concept album. But obviously, there are some reoccurring themes.
It’s definitely got an anti-authority message, right?
[Nevermore lyrics have] always been that way. On this album, I think you could [find lyrical themes] that deal with capital punishment, abortion, murder, and suicide. Those are not exactly the most cheerful topics. [laughs] But that’s [laughs] where I got my inspiration for this record. I don’t really know why. Not really saying that any of these things are right or wrong, though some of them are obviously wrong – it’s important for people to talk about things like that. Dialogue always opens doors. I’m not going to change the world, but if a couple people will listen…
Well, my question exposes that I’ve glued my ear to the speaker a few times, trying to figure it all out. So the album must be interesting lyrically!
Now that you know the subject matter, go back and listen to the album again [laughs]. You’ll probably pick up more stuff! [laughs] I thought [opening track] “Termination Proclamation” would be really obvious to people, but apparently it’s not. [laughs]
No, please don’t use me to measure. That’s unfair to Nevermore’s listenership.
[laughs] I kinda have a reputation for being cryptic about what our songs are about. I guess that’s just my way.
It’s been an eventful five years in the world since the last Nevermore record in 2005. On the personal front, you’ve done a solo record and um you had to change your diet?
Oh yeah, because I’m type 2 diabetic. I had to change my diet a couple years ago. You get used to it; now I really like all the healthy food that I’m supposed to be eating. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t go get a Big Mac once in a while. You have to do that for yourself. McDonald’s is terrible food, but it’s delicious sometimes. I don’t know why.
It’s a testament to the company’s advertising prowess that anybody ever eats there. I go there even though the food throws me into a suicidal depression. That means their commercials are too effective.
It’s so high in sodium and fat. Have you seen that documentary? With the guy who eats McDonald’s food every day?
Yes! Everybody should watch that and before even thinking of going to McDonald’s more than once a month.
Of course, I’m talking to a food person. You once ran a restaurant!
I was in the food industry for years. That’s how I supported myself before Nevermore became something that I could sustain myself on. [Nevermore/Sanctuary bassist Jim Sheppard] and I bought a restaurant in downtown Seattle. We eventually had to just step away from it. It’s obvious that it’s a 24/7 job. We went on tour once and when we came home, the liquor cost in the bar had gone through the roof. Also, there were seven kegs missing [laughs]. The food costs had gone out of control. People who worked there thought that they could take advantage of us because we were in a band and partied. They learned fairly quickly that we weren’t stupid people [laughs]. So we had to pick one thing; it’s got to be music or [the restaurant]. It’s not a fairly difficult choice because music is my life.
Hey, speaking of the bass player and the music of your life, I am fuckin’ psyched about this long-overdue Sanctuary reunion!
[laughs] Yeah, wait ‘til you hear some of the new stuff! I’ve got a song that I’ve been working on the last few days. It’s pretty frickin’ cool.
You’re not joking right now? You’re already working on music?
No, I’m not joking at all! It sounds like Into The Mirror Black stuff, which obviously is the evolution of our sound. We’re going to really start rehearsing again and just [pauses] deal with it. It feels right for some reason. I know I said years ago that I wouldn’t do this. That was probably because most of us weren’t really friends. We didn’t talk to each other.
No, the ending of that band was weird. It got kind of ugly at the end. Eventually, we grew up a little and started talking to each other again. Now, we’re in a place where we’re good friends again. Which is cool cuz we’re all different people now.
I had always thought that Len [Rutledge, Sanctuary guitarist] … He tried a couple bands after Sanctuary broke up, but then he kind of quit doing music. One day, it occurred to me that he’s too talented to not be doing something. I thought, maybe we should work on something together and see what happens. It happened very slowly. It’s a good feeling.
Hey, those Sanctuary albums were magic. You guys were on track to eventually contribute an undisputed classic album to the genre. Everybody knows that. But working with Dave Mustaine on the band’s first record must’ve been weird. How old were you even?
Oh my god. I was a kid. You know what, I have to tell you: I am going to go back and take more voice lessons before I even think about recording another Sanctuary record. I have to! I haven’t been using that aspect of my voice for years because in Nevermore, I don’t think it’s really appropriate. When you’re singing that way, you have to be consistent. And since you’re never too old to learn anything, why not go back and take lessons?
You challenged yourself on those records. No doubt about that.
By the way, I’d like to pitch something to you, as long as we’re talking about non-Nevermore endeavors. Remember you contributed vocals to that Behemoth song on The Apostasy?
Yes. Of course.
It was killer, right? So, you guys should do a full record, a full-length Darski-Dane album.
That would be interesting.
Right? If each of you could make time for it –
So many bands approach me about doing guest appearances. The reason I did the Behemoth song is that I love that band. I listen to all kinds of metal. I love death metal, black metal, rock music, classical music. I’m pretty open-minded. They sent me that song, and I was like “This is really cool. Of course I’ll do it.” [laughs]
You and Nergal really complement each other well on that jam, dude! I’d kill for an hour of that.
That would be interesting. It really would. You’re starting to turn the wheels in my head. [laughs]
I’ll get the financing together by grubbing quarters at the bus station and we’ll do this thing. We’ll bang it out in a weekend.
I would do it in a heartbeat, actually. If I talked to Adam and he was into it, it might be a thing that could happen.
Get Warrel Dane and Nevermore’s new instant classic The Obsidian Conspiracy and then catch them on their MetalSucks sponsored tour this fall with Warbringer, Mutiny Within, and Hatesphere.