Interviews

THE MAKING OF DAATH, PART 7: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST/CO-PRODUCER/CO-ENGINEER EYAL LEVI

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THE MAKING OF DAATH, PART 7: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST/CO-PRODUCER/CO-ENGINEER EYAL LEVI

So. The wait is over — Dååth‘s self-titled Century Media release is out today. If you haven’t already purchased a copy, you can still order it here, or download it from iTunes or Amazon. I’ve made it clear how much I really love and admire this album, but I’ll do it one more time to emphasize to you how great I think it is: It’s dark. It’s misanthropic. It’s really raw. It’s really, really heavy. It’s dense. It’s not as “easy” as The Hinderers or The Concealers — you’re gonna need to give it multiple listens before you’ll be able to really wrap your head around it. But if you fully engage with this album, it will engage with you. It’s rewarding that way.

After the jump, check out my seventh and final behind-the-scenes report on the making of Daath: an interview with Eyal Levi. i. If you read this site regularly, hopefully you also read his column, in which case you know that the guy has really interesting things to say. I’ve referred to him as “The Godfather of Dååth” before; I don’t intend for that statement to take away from any of the contributions of the other members of the band, all of which are obviously extremely important to the music’s success. But at the end of the day, Eyal is very much the dude behind the steering wheel, the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, or whatever other cliché you’d like to use. He’s the man.

Here are his thoughts on the new record, the evolution of Dååth, being a producer versus being a performer, and more. Enjoy.

THE MAKING OF DAATH, PART 7: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST/CO-PRODUCER/CO-ENGINEER EYAL LEVIOkay, so without using the words “heavier” or the word “better,” how would you say that this album is different from the other Dååth records?

Well, this time we were completely unrestrained by the outside forces that were present the last times we made records, and that sought to restrain us from doing our own thing and making this as over-the-top as we would have liked to make it.  One thing that is really interesting to me is, we’ve heard a lot of commentary from outside of the band about how it seems like we hold back or something.  I think that this is definitely the first record where there is absolutely nothing held back whatsoever. There’s no subtlety. I think that The Concealers was more about subtlety… I guess perfection and subtlety refined into a very calculated attack. There is no subtlety on this one whatsoever. It’s just over-the-top.  I’d say it’s us being the mad men that we are really.

And you came into this process with only a portion of each song written…

Yeah — the structures and the basic shapes of the riffs.

So this stuff that you’re writing and recording now, this stuff is like the fun stuff?

Yeah, the bells and whistles and taking riffs from just being riffs to being living pieces of music.  I think that’s the difference.  What we used to do was basically record the album twice. And when we’d do the full preproduction demo, some parts [on those demos] would sound better than the records we released.  Lots of times we’d feel we were making better-sounding-but-more-stale-versions of what we did [on the demos], because lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place… This time we didn’t allow that. We got the songs to the point where we’re comfortable hitting “record,” and we’re taking them to the next level in the studio.

I think that there’s a big trust factor involved between everybody at this point.  Maybe it wasn’t there before, and not because anybody doubted anybody else, but because we hadn’t been working together long enough to fully know what everybody is capable of.  Now we’re of the mentality that if you put some pressure on us and give us the tools to record ourselves or be recorded, in the right environment we’ll do some crazy shit.  So we’re just trying to capture that this time.

You said “put some pressure on us.”  I assume you mean the fact that there are looming deadlines?

There are looming deadlines, and the album isn’t totally written. It’s going to come together in the studio.  That’s some pressure to create on the spot, but I think based on Emil’s experience and my experience on Avalanche of Worms and the fact that [drummer Kevin] Talley’s been doing pretty much all session work for the past two years, we’re just really comfortable with our skills in the studio.

Like I said, magic only happens once.  When you lay something down that is great, that’s it. It happened. It’s such a bummer when you lay something down that is great on the demo, and then you get to record, even though the notes are the same, the actual feel of the whole thing isn’t there because you’re not feeling the same way or the physiology is different. Everything is different. I think that that right there is one of the big differences between a great record and a not-so-great record, is the way that it feels.  So we’re trying to make sure that the feel stays intact.

THE MAKING OF DAATH, PART 7: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST/CO-PRODUCER/CO-ENGINEER EYAL LEVIWhat about the tones?  It seems like the guitar tones sound a lot dirtier this time out, and that seems to kind of play into what you were saying about it being a living piece of art and not just rerecording the album for a second time.

It’s like a polished dirty, I guess. We want there to be an aspect to the sound — because it’s going to be very layered and dense like everything we do is — but we want the core of the sound to be a band playing. We want it to sound like you’re in the room with us playing.  When you close your eyes, we want people to be able to imagine Kevin beating the fuck out of his kit like the mad man that he is.  I want that to come across in the sound, because I think that that’s us at our best. We’re freakish enough that  if you capture us honestly, it’ll go a much longer way than if we’re pasteurized by modern recording techniques. It’s more raw because we’re making it more raw.

Does this feel different than making the last Dååth album?

Completely. It’s much more fun.

Yeah, it seems that way.

But I’ll say that if I didn’t trust that this was what was going to happen, then I wouldn’t have pushed to record it this way. I just went into it with 100% faith that if we allow that magic to occur in the studio, then everything would work out.

Sean Z. was saying that this version of Dååth has been together for about three years now…

Yeah.  There’s that aspect, too.  Like I said earlier, we know each other a lot better now.  We are definitely setting the songs up to allow everybody to shine.

When The Concealers was recorded, I guess this lineup was first really coming together.  The four of us [Eyal, guitarist Emil Werstler, bassist Jeremy Creame, and Talley] had been on the road for about a year touring our asses off.  Sean only came in at the very end.  We were still very much an infant band, even though the name “Dååth” had been around for awhile.  The entity that existed on The Concealers had only really been together for a little bit.  We know each other a lot better now.  We know what everyone is capable of a lot better.  We still have the same exact intensity and drive, so that helps.

The Hinderers had a lot of synths on it, and it seems like you guys scaled back on those for The Concealers. Now you’ve got Eric Guenther doing synth work.  At what point did you decided to re-incorporate synths into your sound?

There were actually a lot of synths written for The Concealers, but for some reason it just wasn’t really working out so great. It really felt like a guitar record. I think that it was probably a response to the way The Hinderers was marketed, even right down to the song selection for it. We felt that one of the strengths of this band, sonically,  is the guitar section.  That was really under-represented in the press and even on The Hinderers, because a lot of it was written before Emil was really in the band.  I kind of wish that when we got signed that we had recorded the album from scratch with Kevin, and maybe even written some new songs. But I guess the label [Roadrunner] wanted to put out what we already had.  So The Concealers was a response to that — more of a guitar record, more of our version of a classic metal sort of a thing.

So The Concealers was a very reactionary record for us. Now this record… there’s nothing reactionary about it.  It’s just us pushing the limits as far as we can.

Speaking of pushing limits, can you tell me now what you and Sean were just talking about… “the finger?”

Sure. It’s software that this electronic artist, Tim Exile, put together.  I don’t know if he programmed it or helped design it with a programming team, but it’s basically a very deep and powerful and musical way to fuck with audio sources. We’re just messing around with it. Like I said, we’re trying to push the boundaries as far as we can.  We’re trying to see what we can do to the actual sound sources on this record. We’re trying to use technology in a musical way on this album, rather than in the way that a lot of metal records these days use it — where there is no real music, it’s just computer programs.

What about switching between your performer’s hat and your producer’s hat?  Do you find yourself more deferring to Mark [Lewis, co-producer/co-engineer/mixer] when it’s your performance being recorded, or do you just trust your own instincts?

Well, I think that producing yourself is a very hard thing to do. I don’t think it’s necessarily wise. When I’m in the performer’s chair, I definitely listen to what people around me are saying about my performances. I trust these guys too, that’s the thing.  I’m not really great about taking advice from people I don’t trust.

THE MAKING OF DAATH, PART 7: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST/CO-PRODUCER/CO-ENGINEER EYAL LEVIBut it seems very collaborative in there. Mark, obviously, makes suggestions. Emil makes suggestions. Jeremy makes suggestions…

We all trust each other. That’s the thing.  No one is afraid to say that an idea is stupid, but everyone in the band has great musical taste, I think, and great musical judgment most of the time.  Nobody is perfect, but when it comes to music, the track record is that these dudes and where their heads are at is right-on. So, yeah, I listen.

As far as the producer hat regarding the record beyond my own performances goes… it’s just in my nature to mastermind things, to put things together. I’m good at that sort of thing. Orchestrating projects and seeing them from their start to the bitter end, that’s just part of my psychological makeup. I don’t really have to do anything but be myself. The rest gets taken care of.

Is there anything that you wouldn’t try on this record? Like an idea you would just kill in the room immediately?

Probably clean vocals. Clean vocals or anything that sounds like bad new metal. Any hint of deathcore and any hint of tasteless shred.

But that’s one that I don’t foresee coming up… “Why don’t we do this chorus with clean vocals?  It’ll make for a more radio-friendly type song!” That would be shot down immediately.

If I heard any ideas that in any way felt like we were starting to lean towards pandering, that would be shot down immediately.  As long as it’s in the spirit of making the music crazy and next-level as possible, go for it.

-AR

THE MAKING OF DAATH

Part 1: Studio Report
Part 2: Interview with Co-Producer/Co-Engineer/Mixer Mark Lewis

Part 3: Interview with Keyboardist Eric Guenther
Part 4: Interview with Vocalist Sean Z.
Part 5: Interview with Bassist Jeremy Creamer
Part 6: Interview with Guitarist Emil Werstler

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