Interview by Jo Blackened
We managed to chat to Dennis AKA Brother D – Bass from Amsterdam’s punked-out, heavy metal band DEATH ALLEY. The band play heavy psychedelic music taking on old school Rock ‘N’ Roll influences such as, Motörhead and Black Sabbath to create their own blistering, raw sound. Featuring ex-members of THE DEVIL’S BLOOD, the band’s music delivers relentless energy and maximum attitude!
Hey, thanks for your time today! You guys only began in 2013, how did it all start & where did you meet?
The other guys had been playing together in another band called Gewapend Beton since high school, when they broke up I tricked them into starting a new group with me. It would be a shame if the chemistry they had built for 10 years would have been lost. Now it lives on, although we quickly morphed into our own thing, and created our own kind of magick.
What is the meaning behind the name?
To me it was just a name that stuck, but I wasn’t so sure about it for a long time, it felt negative, not at all what I wanted to communicate to an audience. But looking back at the past two years, it makes perfect sense now. I feel that in a lot of ways, for us, but also for some people around us, our lives where sort of in a Death Alley, old ways and habits had to die in order to create something new, a new band and a new outlook on things. So for me it represents where we were in the beginning of our band, seeking a vehicle for change.
How would you describe your sound to those who haven’t heard you before?
We’ve had many different tags hung on us so far, but I’d like to think that all of the classic rock that came before us is a source to be mined, and I mean classic rock in the broadest sense of the word, to us Bad Brains is just as much classic rock as is Black Sabbath. Although we wear our influences on our sleeves, I think none of us would be comfortable with being retro in any way.
We’re a modern rock band, informed by the classics, but very much in and of the now.
You guys are from Amsterdam, what is the music scene like there?
A couple of years ago, we had the overwhelming sense that there was not much life left in the Rock scene here, bands started getting frustrated, breaking up, and there was a sort of a negative, fatalist cloud hanging over it, like it was done and over with. Amsterdam has gentrified quickly in recent years, and we started noticing our favourite bands started skipping our town and playing elsewhere. Squatted venues started disappearing making Amsterdam not very hospitable to any kind of punk/rock/metal underground.
Then around the time we started the band, a small group of people, including us, started putting their money where their mouths were, using their contacts and experience to create something new, fresh, and most importantly, a scene that would be inclusive, not shutting out anyone that wasn’t considered true school. Not drawing any genre lines either, making no difference between punk and metal, doom or stoner or even indie. We’ve even started making connections between the dance and hiphop scenes and us ‘rockers’, Amsterdam is so small that it would be stupid not to operate like that. I feel that even between cities there’s way less rivalry nowadays. The way Eindhoven, Den Haag and Tilburg are represented in our crew and co-conspirators is amazing. So yeah, things are looking very up these days.
Where would you say you draw your musical and personal inspirations from?
We’re all huge music-heads, with each of us having slightly different tastes, so we’re constantly bringing in new musical finds into the collective mix. We all have our individual interests as well, some of us might study the deeper, darker mysteries of life, while others focus on politics or science.
Our songwriting itself though, is mostly focused on real life, things that we see around us or that our happening in our lives. Although we love a lot of bands that write magickal mystery epics, I’d like to think that our interest in for example, the occult, informs our process, but doesn’t become the subject matter. But then again, maybe by the time we’ll get further into our career, we’ll write a double record about a silver leviathan that guides a 25th century schizoid mystic into the heart of the sunrise, who knows?
You’re releasing your debut album ‘Black Magick Boogieland’ on May 19th, you must be very excited about this! What is the concept behind this album?
We couldn’t be more excited or proud, yes!
We had some concepts but the album mostly wrote itself. I’m a firm believer in a band becoming what it needs to be when you give it an equal amount of freedom and guidance, it will find its natural path that way. Same goes for an album.
We think we have a good grasp of what it stands for and what it means to us, but time will reveal it’s true content and message. It’s about us and our lives in the past 2 years, that’s for certain.
1.) Over Under
2.) Black Magick Boogieland
3.) Bewildered Eyes
4.) The Fever
5.) Golden Fields of Love
6.) Stalk Eyed
7.) Dead Man’s Bones
8.) Supernatural Predator
Do you have a personal favourite track?
I think we can all agree on that the last track, “Supernatural Predator”, was where most of the magick went down. We were a little worried that our live-approach that included improvised sections, might be hard to catch in a studio environment, but we dimmed the lights, lit a candle and some incense, and committed it to tape in one go. Listening to Oeds’ 5 min+ guitar solo gives me goosebumps no matter how many times I’ve heard it, it’s so amazing to hear your buddy be so sure of what he wants and needs to communicate, that no edits were needed or even permitted.
What is the writing/recording process like? Do you all contribute together? And how long did it take to write?
The songs on the album were written in many different ways. One of the things I like best in writing with this band, is finishing a song that someone else brought in, adding that missing part that makes it a Death Alley song, instead of something one of us wrote alone in his bedroom and then brought it to rehearsal for everyone to learn.
For example, the first part of the title track was written by Oeds, and then I just heard where it should go when he stopped playing, it just came out in one go, and it doesn’t sound like two parts glued together at all, it was dictated by the song.
Douwe and Oeds will work out most of the lyrics, but the concepts and subject matter are informed by all of us constantly discussing our band, our ideas, our lives etc. All songs written by Death Alley, this is how it is and forever will be.
You’ve recently just done a tour around the Netherlands, how did it go? Do you have a favourite venue you played?
We did a European tour with The Shrine and Dirty Fences in October last year, when we were still writing the record, so it was pretty much bootcamp and rehearsal for us, but it worked out really well. We learned a ton from those bands, and formed friendships that will last a lifetime. We just did 3 release shows in Germany this past weekend, it was the first time selling the record and headlining abroad, and it was pretty fuckin’ amazing, we love Germany. Truckstop Alaska in Gothenburg is my favourite place in the world, I never wanted to leave that venue.
How did the crowd react to your new material?
Way better than we had ever hoped for, even though some songs weren’t really fully formed yet, I think people could tell that we were on a mission and giving it all we had, every time.
If you could tour anywhere with anyone in the world, where would it be and with whom?
Anywhere really, but I’ve never been to Asia or Australia, that would be killer.
We’re stoked on pretty much all the bands on our label TeePee, we’ll do a Euro tour in September with Joy from San Diego, we’re pretty psyched on that one, those guys rip.
What is the best and worst part about touring?
For me, the worst part is the time between soundcheck and showtime, I can’t concentrate on anything, I’ll get cranky and nervous, I just want to rock and not talk to anyone.
The best part for me, besides obviously playing every night, is the freedom I start feeling a couple of days into the tour, I slowly become what I think is the best version of myself, a shameless scavenger on the edge of time, out to squeeze every bit of life out of what’s in front of me. And if I take it a step to far, there’s a gang in leather jackets behind me to back me up. Back from a tour, I hate ‘normal’ life creeping back into my system, the conditioning, the routine. Feeling the need to actually pay for your groceries instead of walking right out that door.
What else do you guys have in store for the rest of the year?
Play, play, play. And start developing new sounds, and new approaches. We’ve already started working on some new material, I can’t wait to see where it’s gonna go.
Are you playing or going to any festivals this year?
If your home was flooded and you could only grab 3 albums from your cd collection…what would they be?
Right now it would be Jimi Hendrix-Cry Of Love, Randy Holden-Population 2, Metallica-Ride the Lightning
Lastly, do you have anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Where the green grass grows, there can’t be wrong, ain’t no wrong now, ain’t no right.