Recently I had the opportunity to have a good long chat with Aydin the very talented guitarist from the Birmingham rockers Revenant Dead. These metal monsters are starting to really make some waves in their native England and are poised to expand their domain beyond the borders. With the release of their second disc Two Evils it won't be long before these guys are scorching the airwaves worldwide. This is one band that has destiny on their side as they continue the tradition of metal mayhem that their hometown is known for.
Talking with Aydin it became clear that the music they create is not only a passion but their life. I don't mean this in the cliché sense as they really have put everything into the making of the new album. The sacrifices were terrific but the outcome is something that may well go down as a testament to what they have accomplished. The sky is the limit for this extremely talented group of musicians and I will be following their rise with more than just curiosity as it is like watching the little sapling start to sprout. Just imagine what will happen when they are in full bloom.
I first asked Aydin to tell me a little about the history of the band. I always wonder how a group finds each other and how they know that the chemistry is right.
Aydin: "We have been a band for about six years now. Me and Theo (drummer) have been in groups for about ten years. We have been together doing music since we were young kids. We were looking for band mates for a while and we answered an ad from West (vocals) who was looking for a band. We met up with him and we were nervous at the time because we didn't know what to expect. This dude covered in tattoos wearing huge shades walked in, he looked like Axl Rose actually." I interjected…"As long as he don't act like Axl." "No, no thank God. West is great".
That is how the band got together. In the early days we did a lot of gigging according to Aydin and that led to the first album Imperial Rape March. Aydin says: "We were doing a lot of gigging and writing. Then we said, you know, we should record these songs we've been playing. We went in to record it and broke our budget. We were literally broke. We were playing and recording it and it just took forever, about a year. We ended up with ten songs and they were from the early stages of Revenant Dead. Every song on there is in a different key. Every song has a different style to it. When you listen to it you will hear that each song is very unique and different. It was very much a band trying to discover themselves."
We then moved on to the new album Two Evils. I told him that I could hear a maturity to the band over the first disc.
Aydin: Yeah, we wanted to evolve. That is one of the things we consciously tried to achieve. We wanted to create a Revenant Dead album, not just a collection of songs. So we went in with the whole focus of, lets create an album that has a definitive sound so that people can say, "That is what Revenant Dead is". I think this album is heavy and there's a progression in it which should be expected from a Revenant Dead album. We all have some sort of ADD or something. We just get bored easily. So we try to keep things interesting for ourselves. You know we have the song Jailhouse off the first one and a song called Goldmine off the new one, I love those songs. I love listening to those songs. And we could easily do an album with ten Jailhouses or ten Goldmines but that wouldn't be us. It would get boring. So we choose to have a range of styles. I love "The Dead Is Here" off the new album, it's very heavy and it has the synths but again, we didn't want to create an album of "The Dead Is Here's" – that's just one side to us. We welcome all of our influences and we're not afraid to do it and it's that diversity which I feel separates us from the other metal bands.
SoT: I asked Aydin about those influences and what makes up their sound.
Aydin: Well, we haven't done a Dream Theater style progressive song yet but it's definitely something we are capable of. You probably don't hear it so much in our music but we are very well schooled on our instruments. We've rehearsed so hard on timing, keys and the way we play. Theo, our drummer, teaches music and he is very much from the old school. It is the same with me. Lots of practice and hard work has gone into the instrument. We just love music and we can play a range of things. When we first started, we were a lot heavier and thrashier, there were a lot of solos, crazy techniques, arpeggios, all this crazy stuff but then we said…You know what, we want to be a band who can write good songs that can translate on the live stage. I think that's more important than proving how individually good we are. The band and the songs is what matter most. We've been working on the new set and I just can't wait to play these songs live.
SoT: Speaking of hearing you music, where are the discs available?
Aydin: We just signed a deal for world wide distribution and it is available from all the usual suspects on line. Itunes, Amazon, pretty much all of the music websites. Here in England we have stores where it is available and we are working really hard to get it in shops in the US. You can buy our music from us directly at www.revenantdead.com.
SoT: Do you see music going to all digital in the future?
Aydin: I do. Personally, I buy CD's and movies and I spend a lot of money getting and enjoying the disc but people are just downloading music nowadays. The state of music is that bands just don't make money from CD sales anymore, not like they used to, that is just a fact. You know in the old days, even though I am only 24, I use to boast about my CD collection. I had 2 walls full of CDs. But now those days are gone because you can get 3 million songs on your ipod.
I then told him about a recent trip that my wife and I made to a city 90 miles away just to go shopping for CDs. I am old school like him in the fact that I want to be able to hold the disc in my hand. Aydin then made me remember other reasons for going to the music store when he mentioned:
Aydin "When you go to a store, you always find something new. Maybe you will see some artwork that is just cool or see a band with a cool name and you have to check them out." " One thing else I have noticed is a change in listening trends. Now, this is just me, but I have a huge sound system downstairs and I just love to put on a CD, sit on the sofa and listen to an album from start to finish. I don't think people do that anymore. Now they listen to music on their computer, their ipod, in their car or on the TV. That is just the world that we live in now."
SoT: I call it the short attention span theater group.
Aydin: "It is, it is. Listening to a new album is not an event anymore and it should be. Bands organize the songs in a certain way on an album and you go from one song to the next and that is the journey that the artist is trying to take you on. Now people can just go onto a web site and in 5 seconds download what they want and have it.
SoT: Does the sound quality that people get from downloads bother you?
Aydin: Yeah sure. But you know, what it boils down to is that we can only put out what we can and do it the best we can and hopefully it will be a good listening experience.
SoT: That brings up a point about the new album "Two Evils". It is mostly your doing too. It has such a massive guitar sound to it.
Aydin: When it comes to that I am very old school. On IRM (Imperial Rape March) we used all sorts of amps. We used Marshalls, Mesa Boogie, Peaveys but on the new one, Two Evils, I kept it simple. I used my Custom Left Handed Fender Telecaster and my Engl Powerball. That was it. I think that's what gives it the raw sound and I think it sounds great.
SoT: The recording of the new disc also has a much fuller sound to it.
Aydin: Yeah, it's much more professional than the first one. We took a lot of time on it. We demoed it for about fifteen months. We just wanted to spend the money and time to get it right. We worked with some of the industries very best. Gustavo Sazes did the artwork. It was mastered in New York by Oasis Mastering. They did the new Lady Gaga one.
SoT: She has been quite the sensation. Even has some staying power.
Aydin: Yeah, she has. That is something hard to do. She's managed to make a style of pop music that sticks and all credit to her. I think it boils down to, artistic integrity and raw talent. If you can maintain both those things then there's a recipe for success. Just look at the bands that have started in the last five years. There are not many bands or artists who have come out, especially in the metal world, who have managed to stick around and still maintain musical integrity. A lot of these new bands just kind of sound the same. There's no range, there's no real substance or true artistic depth and I don't know who to blame. I don't know whose fault that is. Is it the people dishing out the money to sign these guys or is it the bands themselves? I really don't know, but there must be great artists out there we don't know about and the labels just don't want to put money into it because maybe they think it will not appeal to the masses. The thing with Gaga is, she's had a lot of support from her label too. Interscope have really pushed her. And it's almost a brand. So you know, you need to find that balance were, the band and the artist can do what they want to do musically and artistically, but then, you need the labels to give them room to do that. Most of these new bands just need to be themselves and be proper artists and create music with real substance. I think that lasts longer.
SoT: Revenant Dead is that kind of band.
Aydin: We are lucky. We had the time and space to create the album we wanted. We never tried to do anything specifically, in terms of genre. All we tried to do on Two Evils was not make the songs sound too different from one another. We wanted it to be consistent throughout. As far as our core sound goes we only follow a couple of rules and that is basically, play hard, play loud, play fast and make it sound good. That's all there is. That is the formula and when you mix it up you get Revenant Dead.
SoT: You told me there is a story behind what it took to make the new album.
Aydin: Yeah. Basically for me and some of the other guys, we went through complete hell making this record. It was so hard making this CD. The sacrifices we had to make in the fifteen months it took to demo the songs and to continuously dig deep and try to capture what we wanted, it was tough. I personally lost almost everything. I lost money, my girlfriend, my job. That was the level of sacrifice. We had to sack people that worked for us and I went into this state of just complete underground. I was in a dark place and a couple of the songs came from that dark place. I was drinking a lot and just secluded myself in my home for weeks and weeks. My phone was turned off and you know, I was losing my mind. I would hear noises. There'd be banging around the house, I'd hear my name being called. I was pretty convinced my house was haunted or something. I was just going crazy and one day, I felt compelled to pick up my guitar, I turned on Cubase, pressed record and what I played over the next eight minutes is almost exactly what "The Dead Is Here" is. Very little has changed, it's unbelievable, even the song structure is the same. Then I actually didn't listen back to it for a few days and in my debauched state I titled it The Devil Is Here. When I listened to it again, I didn't even know what it was. I didn't remember playing it. Then, every time that song got played some weird shit would start happening. One night I was playing it then the next day I woke up and the whole house was flooded. No tap was on. It didn't rain the night before. There was just water everywhere. Other things happened like the stove would just turn on in the kitchen. I would walk into the kitchen and there would be this fire. I would think…what the hell is going on around here. I listened to the song again and all the fire alarms would go off in the house. One of them would go off downstairs and as soon as I turned it off another would go off. Finally I said "Fuck This" and I had to get out of there.
SoT: This is more than just a little weird.
Aydin: Yeah. So, we changed the name from "The Devil Is Here" to "The Dead Is Here" because we were convinced the song was cursed. Now I can't listen to the song so much. Especially when I am looking forward to something good, I don't listen to it.
SoT: I take it that it will probably not be performed live?
Aydin: Oh we will definitely be playing it Live. It sounds so huge.
SoT: I don't know…I might be scared to be in the audience.
Aydin: I don't want to scare people from listening to it but this is our experience in writing and creating the song and you know, I am a skeptic when it comes to stuff like this, so you know, it's ok. You'll be safe.
SoT: So how about the rest of the album. Were there any similar experiences with other songs?
Aydin: Nothing like that happened with the other songs but, for example, "Morphine" was written for a lost loved one. I just kind of questioned the meaning of life and stuff while writing the music. "Shallow Grave" is a good one and it was written from a place where someone has lost everything. That state of nothingness. At that point, all you have left is your music and your art. When that's all you have, you get really attached to that world. It's the same with West. (Vocalist) He leads a minimalist kind of life. He has his close knit group of friends and he is a very secluded man. He doesn't really like to engage with many people and you feel that sort of, not the loneliness but some of his lyrics are quite sad, you know.
SoT: His lyrics have a darkness to them.
Aydin: Yeah, he's had a real hard life and he has some stories to tell. I'm sure when he is ready he will open up. He's a real nice guy but he is also very secluded.
SoT: A lot of great music comes from dark periods in ones life.
Aydin: It is, and it's actually sad when music is created from a place of depression and darkness. A lot of our society actually look for it. They are addicted to it. I don't want to say it is just the pain cause that sounds cheesy but you can see it. Some of my favorite bands started out so anxy, then after fame and riches and years of touring. They have sort of run out of things to talk about and are just regurgitating the same old stuff.
SoT: Lets talk about your touring.
Aydin: Well, over the last year it has been pretty sporadic as we have been trying to get the album done. Now the shackles are off! We are going to be doing shows all over the U.K. We are starting off in the Birmingham area and then with any luck we will head down to London and do a bunch of shows there. That's it, we plan on just gigging and doing shows wherever. We have an album that we are really proud of and we want to be playing it live. If people like it, that's cool. Let's just see where it takes us because we're not a superstar band, we're not the most famous of bands but we're a band nonetheless and we have our music and we perform. We're artists and if people like us that's cool.
SoT: What about beyond the U.K.?
Aydin: We are definitely going to tour Europe. One of our favorite places is Germany. So we will probably be playing Germany and France and Belgium. It's just getting the funds to do it and hopefully it will be later this year. It just has to be worth our while. We could do a week of shows in Berlin we just need to know there's people out there who want to see us.
SoT: That is the hard part, getting your music there before you do.
Aydin: Definitely. I think the internet has made things easier in the sense that you can target a certain market. I think festivals are something we want to do. In Europe and the UK, it would be great to play some festivals.
SoT: So tell me a little about the writing process for the band. Who is the main guy?
Aydin: Well all the music pretty much starts with me. But it's a collaborative process in the sense that when I come up with some riffs or ideas it is always a concept first not just a bunch of riffs. And we all talk about it. You know like, I want the song to be like this, it needs to have a huge chorus, I want it to have an over the top guitar solo, you know a lot of work goes into what we want to achieve. Then me and Theo just go through rhythms, riffs and structures and it's just getting the rhythms right and then we put it into the computer and start sampling a few ideas. It is a long process. Once we have a basic idea of what the music is it gets sent up to West and he sends me what he comes up with and then I will say "What I had for this chorus is…" and then he will take it and change it. We discuss what we were thinking about when writing the song like maybe I was thinking of killing someone or something like that and he will say "How strange, I was thinking the same thing!" and then we just try and draw on this concept and ideas and I think this gives the music depth, it's not just four guys jammin' out. We have an objective in mind for every song. Like, for Army Of One, we kept imagining a Circus Freak Show and that was our concept throughout. As strange as that sounds.
SoT: So the music comes before the lyrics usually?
Aydin: Yeah, always. We then put the lyrics through the grinder and we make the vocals and the music fit. So it changes a little bit as it goes by. One of my favorite musicians is Trent Reznor and he is kind of a one man band. We're not a one man band. We are just the opposite. The difference is there are no egos with us. Theo really loves technical rhythms and we will talk about it but he will let it go if it means the song will sound better. We try not to overplay. Too many bands overplay and try to prove something, we don't want to be like that. We just want to write good songs. And with each song, we all have an idea in mind of what we want the songs to achieve and we all just try and work together to get to that spot. That is why there are not so many big guitar solos this time around. I would have liked that but, you know, it's not necessarily the main thing, is it?
SoT: Well at some point you have to say it's done. Let's record it.
Aydin: For sure. We could have worked longer on it, there is always something that you can change but then you have to just pull the plug on it and say, that's it.
SoT: I think you stopped at the right time. There is a rawness to the album and an edginess that is just fantastic.
Aydin: We like that sort of vibe. One of our favorite bands is Rammstein. Personally I don't think we sound like them but one of the things I love about them is their minimalism and their lack of pretentiousness. As a band we wanted to sound really huge and have that wow factor but at the same time we didn't want to sound like we were showing off. You know, one of my favorite guitarists is John 5. And when he was with Manson I knew he was this awesome guitarist. He had played with K.D. Lang, and David Lee Roth and some of the songs, like, he did a song called "Slamdunk" with him that is just unreal. Apparently he did it in two takes and if you hear it you will ask how he could do that in just two takes. It's amazing. This was before he was really famous as a guitarist and no one really knew him but what I loved about him was when he was with Manson he played simple sounding stuff. Just rock chords but inside was this guitar demon. What I loved was how he was holding it back and I kind of wanted that as well, that certain aura of mystique that this guy can do all this but actually he is just having a good time and holding back.
SoT: So if you were going to pick a song off the new album that says this is Revenant Dead, which one would it be?
Aydin: I am always drawn to "Shallow Grave" because it has that kind of driving riff to it, it's got some samples in it and I think West vocals are just awesome in it. His whole range is in that song. He screams, he sings, it's all in there. I really like 'Revenant'. Playing the solo in that is really empowering for me, it's kind of like, the culmination of all the shit we went through, playing that song, it just feels like, 'everything is ok', we've made it out alive. Playing that solo is just really awesome for me. "Goldmine" is also a different side of us. "The Dead Is Here" another side and I really like "Atrophy" as well. I think that it is going to open our shows.
SoT: Well, any final thoughts Aydin?
Aydin: Just that this newest album was a lot of work, sacrficie and the four of us just stuck together. We achieved what we wanted to achieve and sometimes you have an album that has three or four good songs and some not so good. I think this album is good from start to finish. On this one we actually had trouble picking the order of the songs. You could flip the order and that would be pretty cool too. We just want to follow our rules; Play loud, play fast, play heavy and make it sound cool.
SoT: You have to add one more rule… Play loud, play fast, play heavy and play the U.S.A.
Aydin: The door is open. We will just have to see what happens.
This is a band that needs to be on your radar. The metal world is going to be set on their ear by these boys from Birmingham. I really enjoyed my talk with Aydin and look forward to speaking to him and the rest of the band. Maybe on that first tour over here!
(Click here to read our review of Two Evil's)