The following interview is with John Dole and Dan Dominiak of the metal band I Decline. Here John Speaks about the band's history, their concept album and The Apocalypse.
Are you currently on tour with Gypsyhawk? How do you know Erik Kluiber of Gypshawk?
DD > We actually hooked up with Gypsyhawk in October for a date in the Detroit area and one at home here in Chicago. I Decline is hoping to get on board with a regional tour next time Gypsyhawk comes back to the Midwest. Erik Kluiber has been a huge I Decline fan for many years now. I believe Erik said he vacationing in Chicago sometime in the early 2000's and randomly walked into an I Decline show at Double Door. Inner Recipe, the Detroit based band he was playing with at the time, started to swap shows with I Decline. In fact, Inner Recipe played The Ides of Riffdom record release party, our second record. Erik's a phenomenal guitarist and a great friend, an amazing ally with a good perspective on music and the business. I'm hoping one day we can get Erik's guitar playing on an I Decline recording or simply get a jam going with Gypsyhawk on the road. Something like Thin Lizzy's "Emerald" would be an appropriate number.
What bands did you play with before joining "I Decline"?
DD > Just before I Decline, I was playing in a group called Forty Piece Choir. It was a mixture of bands like the Beatles, Velvet Underground, 13th Floor Elevators, Pink Floyd, Jesus & Mary Chain, and Wilco. Forty Piece Choir had a good ten-year run from 1997 to 2007, performing at some amazing clubs with everyone from Gogol Bordello to Jackson Browne. Over the last 20 years I've played in many bands of varying genres though, but some of the more notable ones might be techno-thrashers Neurotoxin and stoner rock outfit Lightspeed. Neurotoxin members went on to play with groups including Novembers Doom, Cougars, Ideamen, and Salt of the Earth. Lightspeed was a made reference to Star Wars, with many of my own lyrics exploring the movies language and themes from a personal standpoint. There were song titles like Blaster, Sandcrawler, and Hyperdrive. Lightspeed members would go on with bands like Wickerman, Witchbanger, and Earthen.
JD > Well, as Dan mentioned, he came from a very diverse artistic background and his influence really had a profound impact on the band's rejuvenation. That being said, prior to the inception of what was to become "I Decline," bassist and lyricist, Pat McLaughlin and rhythm guitarist, Pez were in a metal / punk joke band with me called "Bloody Blood". That outfit did a few appearances where I was on bass and vocals and Pat was on the drums with Pez singing before we flipped the rhythm section around to form I Decline. Other than that, I was in a pop-rock outfit called "13 Flowers" with Chicago metal/doom guitarist Beau Glazar, acclaimed singer-songwriter Gayle Ritt, and John Bomher (ex-Yakuza, IKlatus).
How did you meet the members of the band I Decline?
DD > I'm certain I met Dole first, the drummer of I Decline, at a Forty Piece Choir show in 2000 and would later meet the rest of the band at an I Decline gig. Dole was the "flyer guy" that attended tons of shows to generate a fan base for I Decline. Fortunately, Dole still has that same drive today and it helps the band in infinite ways. Though I was playing in a more indie alt rock scene back then, my palate for music crossed over with the members of I Decline and we all hit it off right away. Like me, they were also Chicago Southsiders and they all had genuine personalities. When I Decline's original lead guitarist stepped down, the band asked me to fill the vacancy while I continued to play in Forty Piece Choir. Eventually, after a seven-year hiatus for I Decline with Dole working in between for Grammy winning producer Johnny K's Groovemaster Studio, I Decline would regroup.
Your latest album seems to have a central theme. Was this the intention, to create a concept album?
DD > There was never really a conscious effort into making this a concept album until we started to see that central theme developing within the collection of songs. I would hope any band would try to find an underlying subject in the creation of their album. What else would a full-length album be otherwise? That's not to say it needs to have a deep Pink Floyd-like concept, but rather trying to identify what your artistic vision and message is as an artist.
What inspired this creation - the theme of apocalypse?
DD > We really see Time To Shine as a metaphor to the aftermath of 9/11. The album faces the apocalypse of our modern day society and its effects on us individually. After 9/11, I think everyone started to get more in tune with the fragility of life, the economy, our government, and ask where we are within the world itself. We have songs like "The Administration" addressing political awareness, "Radiation Day" finding our country's once vibrant manufacturing outsourced, and "Face of Death" confronting the loss of a loved one. Of course everyone can relate to these concepts, but it means something different to everyone.
JD > Dan's right in terms of the conceptualization of this record, although I would add that as far as inspiration, I think that there were some significant events that happened during that time between records that dramatically affected us all and ultimately brought on the decision to reform. Pat's sister, Kim passed away as a result of a severe form of dementia, a close musical ally of our's who was significantly influential in our circle of friends, Mike Murphy (ex-Far out of Me) passed on rather suddenly, and three members of the band brought new life into the world: Carmen Harnnish, Samuel Pesavento and Emmett McLaughlin are now part of I Decline's extended family. I truly believe that this new life and the passing of loved ones brought about a feeling of hunger inside the five of us to collaborate again.
Are any of the members of I Decline interested in occultism? Which occult writings may inspire your writing?
JD > You know, to be honest, I don't think anyone else in the band is at that interested in the occult except for maybe Dustin. Although, I have to say, I have always been intrigued at the history of occultism, particularly at how mainstream media have historically "demonized" the occult from a negative standpoint. That being said, the underground, pagan religious sect has been known to celebrate the extreme and almost "supernatural." So, I suppose that there is something to be said in that "demonization." If anything, I think that we are in an interesting time for the occult. It is probably, next to the sixties, one of the most open-minded generations in terms of acceptance.
As far as what writings that may inspire our writing, we are always interested in how religion and politic affect the general populous. At the same time, we tend to reject anything that is forced upon us by the mainstream. It sure feels like Satanism and the occult are the "IT" thing of the moment and we really kind of feel like that glorification isn't as real as say something like the Stooge's "We will fall". I think that a track like that is probably more influential on us now than say an Aleister Crowley text, no matter how provocative that might be.
Who are some of your influences?
DD > I would say collectively as a band that Monster Magnet, Misfits/Samhain/Danzig, and Black Sabbath are some of our biggest influences. There's plenty more, but I feel that maybe our individual influences might help set I Decline apart from being any one type of music genre. I grew up on old 50's and 60's rock'n'roll and from there ended up playing thrash metal when I first learned to play the guitar. Even though people like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley would show me the basics, it was artists like the Beatles and Pink Floyd that led the example of approaching a song. Then came along metal bands like Voivod and Trouble that gave me a sense of depth in playing guitar and writing songs.
JD > Yeah, Magnet, anything Danzig related and Sabbath is a good foundation. I'd venture to say that, for Pat and I, that would likely extend to Fugazi / Minor Threat, Therapy, and probably Ministry (being Chicagoans). We grew up in that post-80's punk scene, feeling sort of left out in a way from the days of Naked Raygun and all that Chicago had to offer in the way of hard core. So, we had to kind of listen to that stuff, and imagine how things were. The same could be said about our interest in psych and acid rock. We had this intense fascination with bands like the Stooges and Hawkwind growing up. Those artists really molded us into what we are but, of course we can't deny that we grew up in hay-days of grunge and maybe that's why some critics strangely find a connection between our band and that genre even though we don't really relate to that scene. Maybe it's just ingrained in us by default, having grown up in those formative years, at a time when Cobain was swallowing lead. All I know is that when that was going on, McLauglin and I were writing music and it felt like that's all that mattered.
Any current metal bands that you interest you?
DD > Ghost is by far my favorite band in the Metal scene right now. If you're not familiar with them, Ghost is a Swedish band that mixes a satanic black metal lyrical approach with a pop-like edge. Their singer is dressed as a Satanic priest with a pontiff on his head and the rest of the band are faceless faceless monk robe cloaked. They remind me of old 70's progressive rockers like Coven and earlier metal bands like Mercyful Fate. Quite frankly, I think its genius these guys are tapping into the mainstream with music like this and channeling such dark references. It certainly makes it entertaining.
JD > I have to agree with Dan on this one, Ghost is pretty killer but I'd also say that the band Baroness is a new stalwart in terms of artistry. Their blend of style, musicianship as well as attention to detail has been profoundly influential on me personally. Other than that band, I'm really digging Gypsyhawk's record "Patience and Perseverance" and I'd have to say Valient Thorr are an incredible live band.
Who writes the band's lyrics?
JD > This has evolved over time and I think that, as a result, the band has benefitted in keeping our subject matter fresh. For Time to Shine, the lyrics vary from track to track with McLaughlin covering main lyrics on a handful of tracks like the title track and Face of Death, while Harnish took on World Burning Down. Most of the songs were a collaboration between Harnish, McLaughlin and myself. Having worked together for over 10 years now, we all have a good sense of what direction a song is heading in and have, fortunately had a great time realizing that vision together. It's really a unique collaboration. Sort of a mosaic approach to lyrics.
Who designed the cover for your latest album?
JD > That was also a kind of mosaic approach. Originally, we had approached 3 artists separately: Jody Reno, Tom Denney, and Bart Powers. Jody is a Chicago-native tattoo and oil paint specialist. He was the first one we approached and he really was key in helping us discover what direction we wanted the art to go in. What he gave us was incredible, but it just felt too dark for the subject matter of the album so we then approached Bart Powers, who had done work with Dan, for Forty Piece Choir's fourth record, The Profound Nature of Life. Power's came back with two incredible oil paintings that were just awesome but again, we didn't really see the connection with the lyrical content. At this point, I happened to attend a local show of a good friend of the band's, John Bomher (ex-Yakuza, IKlatus) who recommended his guitarist, Tom Denney for the job. We checked out his stuff and the guys were impressed. Working with Tom was a cool experience cause he took a lot of suggestions and wasn't afraid to flesh out those ideas. I think that all things considered, we are the most happy we've ever been with artwork on this record and we learned a lot in the process. Everyone involved contributed skill and brilliance in the realization of Time To Shine's artwork and its nice to see it come into fruition. I think that we've learned so much that the next effort will be even better than the last.
What lies in the future for the band?
JD > Well, with the Gypsyhawk tour done, we're looking forward to closing out the year with an intimate performance, hosting the official Vinyl Release for IKlatus's 3rd LP in Chicago on December 22nd at the Tonic Room with IKlatus, Gigantous and some other special surprise guests. Other than that, we're focusing on pre-production for the next record, which we plan on recording up in the UP in an isolated log cabin.... In the middle of the forest. We are also are planning a European tour for 2013 and some more Mid-West ventures along the way. I'm sure that there will be a handful of unique opportunities that will happen between now and the next album. Keep your ears to the grindstone!!