INTERVIEW: Edsel DOPE
by Adam Warner
Congrats on “No Regrets”.
Just hit the streets on March 10th, 2009. Historically Dope albums have come out about every two years but “No Regrets” took about 4 years since “American Apathy”, why the extra time?
Well, that’s not actually accurate. It’s a common misperception that this album took 4 years. Chronologically it did, but what it was is “American Apathy” came out in the Fall and this album came out in the very beginning of the Spring, so it was more like a little after 3 years. But it looks like technically 4 years since “American Apathy” was 2005 and this new one is 2009. But it took us just a little over 3 but the reason for that is basically because we spent a year and a half on the road and then 6 months in the studio and we haven’t had a break. This is our 6th album and we’ve pretty much been on tour since ’99, we’ve been in the studio producing too. I recently produced a band called Dirge Within which are on Koch Records as well, their album will be coming out soon and they’ll be on tour with Static-X next month. We’ve just been busy as shit man, would be nice to have a little bit of time to go right back into the studios with Dope just to get my head straight. So hopefully the next album won’t take so long to get out.
So now you’ve produced almost every single Dope album as well as several other bands, do you like the producing more or less than writing?
I enjoy producing but I usually end up helping write anyway. I honestly enjoy producing other bands more than I enjoy producing and working on my own stuff because generally when you’re working with another band you’re taking their music and their ideas which generally when you’re working with a great band or pretty finished ideas, I mean you might have a band who has 75-80% of the work done finished and it becomes my job at that point to help put them over the top with the remaining 15% I can contribute. From a producer’s standpoint of arranging the songs or to help link some parts or changing some parts to make it better, but when you’re producing yourself, all the responsibility is on you. It’s a far more grueling process because your pushing yourself and there’s not someone there to say definitively ‘this is the way, trust me’. Which is exactly what I do to bands that I’m producing, I go to them and say ‘look, you have to trust me, this is what we gotta do’ and I’m of course convincing *laughs*and usually we try to record it and everyone’s happy. Then we move on and I’m able to check off the list where as I second guess myself a lot because I’m wearing so many hats. Again, I’m used to it and it is what it is and I don’t really know how to do it any other way. I would love to find a producer that would treat me the same way I treat other bands when I’m producing them. But I have had very minimal encounters with working producers and unfortunately they have never been very good. It’s always been me feeling that they weren’t pushing me hard enough or weren’t doing enough work themselves to make the record better. Therefore it makes it a more painful experience.
Every album you have written has been a reflection of the current time in your life, so what does “No Regrets” represent for you?
I think it’s just 10 years of this band on a national level and longer actually since I have had this band since ’97 and obviously before this band, this was the career I was going after. The great majority of my life has been for the quest of exactly what I’m doing. In order to succeed there has to be sacrifices, personal sacrifices such as being home with the family and loved ones. I have sacrificed a tremendous amount to be able to do this and get paid to do this. And through it all there has been tough choices, tough decisions, tough spots, we’ve also had amazing highs and amazing experiences, through all of that I think “No Regrets” was a very simple terminology that sums up how I feel. Sometimes I feel beaten, sometimes I feel broke, and sometimes I feel like a fucking superstar. At the end of the day it’s all balance and that’s the line I walk in order to live this, and I have found some sort of peace with it and the only way that I’ve found to have peace in this world is by not having any regrets for what it has taken to get me here because if you change any of the events that have occurred just slightly in one way or another, then I’m not where I am now. And where I am now and where this band is right now is a reasonably favorable spot to be in. That’s really it, the basic sense is that you’ve gone through a lot to do this, some is great and some of it sucks, but at the end of the day I don’t regret any of it because then I wouldn’t be standing here in Salt Lake City outside of a tour bus with my friends in Black Label Society shooting a finger at me right now out their bus window *laughs*
Speaking of Black Label, on “Addiction” you worked with the legendary axeman Zakk Wylde who I’m sure is one of those finger fliers your seeing but you’ve been friends with Zakk for many years?
A couple years, yeah, we’ve known Zakk for a little while. He likes to use the word “douche”, he likes to call ya a douche, if he calls ya a douche than that means he loves ya.
How was it working with him on “Addiction”?
Working with Zakk is always a mystery. It’s funny, you’ll see things happening and you’ll say ‘why is Zakk doing that?’ and you know ‘cuz it’s Tuesday *laughs* There’s very little reason with him, he’s a little bit nutty. And actually I’ll tell ya it’s a lot nutty, but that’s a part of what makes him such a fucking genius and such an amazing personality and the character that builds and accomplishes so much. But he’s been great, we went and played some shows about a year and a half ago and that’s where it all really started to culminate because we got to see the reaction of the Black Label fans to Dope and it was really favorable. We got along great with the guys in the band and we were starting to record the record and I had this hook for this “Addiction” song and I thought that he would like it. We had never had a guest before on a record and we had a majority of the song written and we were just looking for him to help take it over the top and put a screaming lead on it and we sent it off and management and everybody thought it was a great song and a great idea. They thought it would be fun for him to be involved on it, it was really painless and really easy and like I said he’s a character and he can make pretty much anything fun.
Dope has a history of songs that don’t cut corners, they might offend some people, is “Violence” a slap in the face to the parents who restrict what their kids listen to?
I think “Violence” is just a really good Dope song. When you think about the feel of Dope and the songs that have really connected for the band and what defines early Dope; I guess that’s a better explanation. The band has taken a lot of twists and turns through the years and it’s a very old school sound versus the modern Dope songs. The subject there was more about a mosh pit or an ultimate fighting event than actually about killing somebody. It works live, the chorus comes up and people just rock ass and that’s what it’s all about. I think it’s very effective and it seems to be one that people are gravitating to.
One of the tracks that people might not be aware of yet is that you did a cover of the legendary Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”, have you gotten any feedback from him yet about your version of it?
I have not. I don’t have any relationships with anyone who knows Billy personally or works with Billy so I have not. I think that if the song ends up getting picked up by radio stations and ends up getting some commercial recognition then maybe something like that may happen but in all honesty I would imagine that Billy Idol has probably never even heard our version or doesn’t know it exists.
There were a few live tracks on “Fellons for Life” and there’s one live track on “No Regrets”, is there any plans of a full live album from Dope… or perhaps a DVD?
I think a DVD is probably more likely than a CD. We have been talking about doing a decade of Dope DVD for a while now, we had so much footage and we have so many live recordings, we just need to get… you know the record business is getting smaller and the record companies are getting smaller, right now we’re really keeping the record company focused on our new record and on the tour and those things and once the record hits the next phase, I think then we can really start talking about a DVD or something. But that will be the next thing I’m really interested in doing with this band is a DVD.
Dope has traditionally maintained the same style without being repetitive, have you ever been tempted to shift the music style in a different direction?
Well I think we have. I mean if you look at the 5 albums; the first album was really a demo of industrial metal. It was noisy, buzzsawey, very Ministry influenced. Then the second album was “Waste” was more of a rock record with all live drums and a lot more melody and there’s even an acoustic song. I’m sorry, the acoustic song was on the third album “Group Therapy” where we had some of our heavier songs we ever did and we had some songs with acoustic guitar and we were really turning the corner. Then I think “American Apathy” was we turned ourselves back in and instead of continuing pushing the envelope with Dope like we had on “Group Therapy”, we were going to produce other bands and get those sort of songs out of ourselves as a different creative outlet. And we sort of re-established what we felt Dope does best. And then going into “No Regrets” what we wanted to do was keep the sound of “American Apathy” which we felt again was really redefined as what we do best, and I think that’s what “No Regrets” was. It was almost as if “American Apathy” was our first album and “No Regrets” was our sophomore album, we were just trying to take what we had established as a band and we were able to add a much more intricate approach to it. A lot more double bass and complicated drum parts and a lot more guitar working and guitar solos and we really let our guitar player shine on this record. Where it’s going to go from here? We cannot say. But what I will say is that I feel like we have already run the gamut of trying to expand this and now we have learned that certain things don’t really work for Dope. But in the confines of the guys who write for Dope and sing for Dope but we just don’t feel like all of that sounds like what we think Dope does best. We’re going to save a lot of that energy for side projects and producing our bands and sort of continue Dope from where we are with “No Regrets”. But I have no fucking idea what that means.
Well thank you very much for your time Edsel and we look forward to you coming to Minneapolis.