Before we start talking about Dead Cross I would like to ask a few other questions. A couple of weeks ago Fantômas played a show, which is something that hadn’t happened in a really long time. It was not you, but Dale Crover who was behind the drum kit. I suppose you had obligations with Suicidal Tendencies? Wasn’t it a bit of a bummer to miss that show?
It definitely was a bummer, but what can you do? I had previous commitments with Suicidal and the guys in Fantômas knew I couldn’t do the show. However, I did two shows with Fantômas in South America, in December of 2015, so I was able to make those. I’m sure there will be others.
I keep hearing great stories about the South American crowds at shows. Can you confirm those stories?
Absolutely! They are very enthusiastic and they really get into the show. It’s not often that they get artists to go down there, so when you do make it down there, they really appreciate it.
What is the status of Fantômas right now? Can we expect the occasional show or are more things happening?
I think it’s just the occasional show. Originally Tool had requested Dead Cross to open up but I wasn’t available. Instead, they asked if Fantômas could do it. Mike (Patton) agreed to that and so they went ahead and did it with Dale.
So let’s talk Dead Cross. The band hasn’t been around for very long. Can you tell me how it all started?
Some changes were happening with some bands that I was working with. I had booked some studio time with a famed producer named Ross Robinson. When I told him that I wasn’t able to commit to recording because I didn’t have a band, he told me not to worry about it. Ross is a very positive person. He simply told me to come over to his studio the next day because he had another project that he wanted me to work on. I said ‘absolutely!’ The next day I took my drums, went over there, and met the band that I was going to work with. For this collaboration, Ross brought in Justin Pearson from The Locust and Michael Crain from Retox. So, when I saw those two guys I was really excited to see them again. First of all, I love Retox, and also I’ve toured with The Locust when I was in Fantômas and they opened for us. We worked on the project and then I told Justin and Michael that I had some shows booked. This was in November 2015 and I had those shows booked for January and February 2016. I asked them if they would help me out fulfilling these dates and they were eager to join. We started writing music and Ross started recording us. Next thing you know, we had this body of work. However, the singer that we had, Gabe Serbian, couldn’t continue, because he wanted to spend more time with his family. He was already halfway through recording the vocals, so here we are, with an album half done, needing a new singer. We had a couple of singers in mind, but then my assistant said ‘Why don’t you call your friend?’. I asked if she meant Patton and she said yes. ‘You guys are always talking on the phone and texting each other. Just tell him.’ Patton had already offered to take us onto his record label because he would love to release the album. After a couple of exchanges of text messages I explained to him that we had a problem, as Gabe didn’t want to sing for the band anymore. Then I asked him if he wanted to join the band. About ten seconds later I got a message saying ‘Me?’, followed by another message saying ‘I would love to.’ So here we are with the new album and with Mike Patton doing vocals and then fans seem to really enjoy it.
Although Patton joined the band at a later stage, he adds a lot to the sound of Dead Cross. That’s not surprising considering his very distinct style. Was there ever the concern that Dead Cross would be seen as a Mike Patton project?
No, there was no concern. It’s just a title. People could call it a Patton project in reviews and interviews, but that doesn’t matter to me. The body of work of Dead Cross… we know who wrote the music and who is in this band.
Regarding the music, how did you write it? It sounds like a rather spontaneous process.
We all wrote the music collectively. Justin, Michael and I sat in a room and wrote the music, with some help from Ross Robinson. He recorded us and of course he made some suggestions as well. He helped us out a lot with this album.
He is known for his distinct style and his spontaneous approach to producing. How would you describe his contribution?
His contribution was very motivational. He would motivate the foundation, which is me. When it was time to record or even write parts he would suggest things like ‘Hey, why don’t you try something different there? How about another drum beat?’ I would come up with several different ideas and he would get excited about some of them, so that’s what we kept. Also, during the actual recordings he would motivate me and there were moments where he would do a little speech. He would come into the studio and just start talking, sometimes about current affairs or stuff that pisses you off. There was one time in particular where he said to me ‘Dave, alright. We’re gonna roll this. I want you to pretend you’re on your motorcycle and you’re at a race. You’re about to jump this ramp. Imagine you’re coming up to it.’ I said ‘Stop right there… without a helmet!’ He said ‘YES! Yes! That’s what I want!’. We tracked that song. I forgot which one it was. It’s that kind of motivation that Ross brings to the table. It really pushes the song and you can hear it. We purposely pushed these songs to a speed that sounded as if the train is going to derail. We made sure to capture that out of control kind of energy.
Gabe recorded vocals for half the album when you were in the studio. Was it ever an option to keep some of his takes?
Not really. We made sure we gave Patton freedom. We showed him what we had and what Gabe had done. I think he only kept one line. Patton approached the music without vocals. We wanted him to have free reign for the vocals and the melodies. I think it turned out really well. I don’t expect to release any of the Gabe material.
You included a cover of Bauhaus’ ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ on the album. Can you explain why you chose that song?
When we were writing songs for the shows I had already booked, we had to commit to a 40-minute set. We were able to extend the intro of that particular song, as well as the outro. Basically this song allowed us to fill up time. It turned out that the song is a perfect addition to the album. It kind of breaks up the hardcore heaviness. The first songs beat you up, and then the Bauhaus song allows you to take a breath, to stand up again, and then the rest of the album beats you up again.
Well, sort of… It’s still quite intense!
Yeah, but compare it to all the others ones. I think it has a bit of a milder, mellow vibe to it.
Speaking of live shows, I heard that you have been rehearsing for some upcoming shows. What’s the plan?
We wrote two new songs that we are going to be performing tomorrow. I’m really excited about them. The first one is a hardcore piece, but then the second one is a bit more in the ‘Bela Lugosi’s…’ style. There’s contrast there. Rehearsals are going well. As soon as we finish talking I’m going to jump in the car and go. It’s going to be a very exciting 48 hours between rehearsals and doing the show tomorrow.
You’ve been making music for several decades now and you seem extremely excited about this new band. That’s great to hear!
I get excited about all of my projects… well, most of my projects. This band… how can I not be excited about it? Everyone is embracing the album, I’m working with some great underground musicians that have an amazing reputation, and I have one of the greatest singers alive playing in this band. I’m super stoked that this has developed the way it did.
How about touring? Is anything materialising?
We have this two week south-west tour coming up. Then we have about seven days off before we do a tour on the east coast. After that I have some shows coming up with Suicidal. I’m really excited to work with them again. I’ve been touring with them consistently for a year and a half and this is the first little break we’ve had, and I already miss them. After that, who knows. Maybe we can do some Dead Cross shows in between. All I know is that it’s going to be a busy couple of years.
Is there a chance you might be bringing Dead Cross to Europe sometime soon?
I hope so. I really want Europe and the UK to experience Dead Cross. There is nothing solid yet though. We’ve had some offers, even for South America and Japan, but right now we’re just waiting to see what happens with my schedule, because it all has to fall into place.
It sounds like quite the logistical challenge.
It is, but I have a great time. Ipecac and my management company are working close together, making sure that schedules don’t conflict, and making sure that everything works out and nobody gets burned in any way.
Right! That’s pretty much everything I wanted to ask, so before we wrap up, is there something you would like to add?
I’m very happy that people are embracing Dead Cross. This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now, which is to create a hardcore album. I hope we’ll be able to head over to Europe soon.
Well, okay, that triggers one more question. You describe it as a hardcore album, but there is a lot happening, stylistically. Does this description really cover everything?
Yes and no. Looking at it from a drummer’s perspective, it is. I’m playing some hardcore beats, and there’s dissonance. There are a lot of different styles involved. Hardcore, thrash… however you want to put it, let’s call it aggressive. You can subcategorise it until you have no more paper to write, but for me it’s an aggressive album. It fits a style that I’ve been affiliated with since I was a kid of sixteen, seventeen years old, and I’m playing blastbeats. I don’t think you can find a blastbeat on a thrash record, because they usually don’t go beyond ‘tooh pah tooh pah tooh pah tooh pah tooh pah’. So, there are blastbeats on this records, and there are beats that you’ve never even heard of in your life, because they’re new and I just created them. For me, however people want to put it, it’s an aggressive record and somewhat hardcore.
Categorising is boring anyway. That’s probably a bit hard when you’re supposed to write about music, but well…
It’s true, because you have to describe the music and try to compare it in order to explain it to the people. In this case it’s difficult, but that’s what it’s all about! You want to throw the journalists through a loop. You want to mess with them, challenge them. If you’re not challenged, then you’re not doing the job. If I put out a product that sounds like everything else that’s out there, it’s just going to get lost in the scene. If I put out something different and challenging for the listener, then it stands out as something special. It stimulates listeners’ brains. That is usually my goal.
Well then, mission accomplished! Enjoy your rehearsal!