Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Interview with Damien LaVey of THREE SIXES by Dave Wolff

Interview with Damien LaVey of THREE SIXES

The first time I interviewed you for the zine was around 2014-2015. If I remember the band had just released their full length Know God, No Peace. How has the band been active since then?
Publicly, it hasn’t been. Privately, it has been extremely active. A few months before “Know God, No Peace” was released on 09/21/2014, our then Bass player (Johnny) and Drummer (Konnyaku) quit the band. Kill (Guitar) was in Florida dealing with things in his life that had to be at that time. Since I am on the other side of the country in California, that left me “holding the bag” (for a lack of better terms) by myself. So I focused my time and energy on promoting the disc through any media outlets I could on my own. I had our web guy give our site a fresh, new facelift, created an Electronic Press Kit and sent out hard copy press kits and EPKs to anyone who would accept them all over the planet. There were many, so it took about 6-9 months, a few hours a day, around 5-6 days a week after working my normal job just to contact everyone and get everything out. Then, I did several interviews and created friendships with others (like you) that appreciated what we did and supported us. All of which can be seen on our website- http://www.threesixes.com. I knew this would be my only opportunity to be able to do it all, while the release was still recent. Since time was of the essence, I just submerged myself into it and figured I’d be concerned with the rest later.
After everything on the promotional side was finished, the lineup had to be rebuilt. I first got our new drummer- John Cross, and worked with him on the tunes. It was just him, the samples and me for many months while I looked for a new Bass player and by Kill’s request- a second guitar player. Finding these other players turned out to be much more time consuming than I anticipated. It became a revolving door of possibilities that for every reason (and then some) you could imagine, wouldn’t work out. I ran a bunch of ads, asked everyone I knew and talked to more people than I can count, to finally wind up where we’re at now. Kinda funny how it all finalized in that our new Bass player (Johnny C) is a guy I’ve known before Three Sixes started and was supposed to be an original member, as at the beginning I was piecing it all together, before I even came up with the Three Sixes name and now he’s in. To this day, we have yet to lockdown a second guitar player. So we’re not waiting any longer and are going to be playing live once again with Kill as our single guitar player. However, Kill still wants a second. So if anyone is interested and serious, hit me up. Otherwise, we will continue as we always have, with one guitar player. We have shows that are now booked and a brand new, kick ass lyric video for a song from our latest record “Know God, No Peace” that has already become a fan favorite called “Truth.” More is also in the works, but for now, I’m just primarily focused on getting us back on stage.

How many promotional copies of Know God, No Peace were sent out for review by hard copy and press kit? How well was it received by print zines and webzines? Can you quote any statements from reviews you have read?
About 90 hard copy and 20 or so digital kits went out. The time consumption wasn’t just in the kits themselves, but also in collecting a list of places to contact, which was lengthy. When we were ready to send them off, I had to still see if the targeted places were still around AND if they’d be interested in what we were doing. After that, I assembled and glued the “bibles” together for the hard copy kits, printed and custom cut the personalized cover letters and other documents to be included inside, packed them so they would arrive intact and mailed them. I learned long ago the following numbers when sending press kits out: If you send 100 kits (good kits, not something lame or half assed which will just get thrown away without even being listened to) you will more than likely get responses from about a third of them (say 33) of which, on a good day, MAYBE half of the responses MIGHT be good. Considering we received about 10 from around 100 of the suggested numbers and several interviews, the amount is pretty close to what we were expecting.
While we all were really proud of what we created, we also knew the diversity in what we do wouldn’t be accepted by everyone. Like any other band, we had some bad reviews as well, but whatever. Every band does, but largely, the resounding, overall opinion was the same as ours- “Know God, No Peace” by Three Sixes kicks ass.
Some of the reactions were pretty cool. My favorite being a 10/10 score from Metal Samsara from Brazil. As for quotes, we had some good ones. Here’s a few:

"may very well change metal, this band is creative and brilliant”
"a unique sound and escapes any type of label"
"a brutal punch of pure aggressiveness in the teeth”
"a face-melting blast of angry metal”
"a driving force that makes me want to smash shit"
All of these and more can be found on our “Reviews” page here: http://www.threesixes.com/reviews

How did you get the idea of the ‘bible packaging’ as part of the Know God, No Peace press kit?
Since the title song and overall theme of this record bashes religion and what's been done in the name of it, the original idea was to hollow out real bibles and make them our press kits, to further mock it in an attempt to drive home the messages of the tunes. The problem in doing so was that using real bibles would be too impractical for many reasons. So we decided that boxes that looked like bibles would be the way to go. After that, we discussed what would be printed on them, our graphic guy took over and the final product is what you received.

How have people reacted to your idea of parodying religion in that way since the album was released?
It’s been well received so far. The opinions of religion are starting to change around the world and the subject matter of this record is a reflection of it. So when people started to read and listen to the lyrical content with an open mind, many found themselves agreeing with the opinions expressed, despite that they came from a band named Three Sixes and might contradict what they believe.

What target areas were you planning to forward the promos to? Did you find they were still around when researching them?
Anywhere globally that looked like they might be interested in what we do. Since the internet has made everything accessible to anyone, I’m of the thinking that it didn’t matter if they lived in the same city or on the other side of the planet. Either way, their opinions would find its way online through them, regardless of their location. By the time I had everything in my hands and started hitting them up, I was a bit surprised how many had already folded or just never responded, but I’d say better than about 80% were still around.

Exactly how long did you have to search for new members before your new lineup finally solidified? Did the new members of the band have to undergo a long process to learn the material on your full length?
While Konnyaku (Drums) and Johnny (Bass) left a few months before the record was released, I didn’t start looking for their replacements until several months after the disc came out because then, all of my free time was spent getting the press kits to those who would accept them…but it seems like forever. If the idea was just to get some guys to throw one or two shows together, play and leave, it would be easy and would have been done a long time ago. However, it’s not what we want and certainly not what anyone coming to a Three Sixes show would deserve to see. So instead of just getting a quick fix by simply bringing on a few hired guns who would be gone soon after and force us to leave the public eye once again for another undetermined amount of time, we opted to lay low and wait until we found permanent members who plan on sticking around. Unfortunately, this is where the delay in us playing live started and why it took so long for things to fall in place.
As for the process, the majority were eliminated pretty quickly just through discussions with them before they even had the chance to show up. From the global aspect, we reside in the “Entertainment Capital of the World” so you’d think that players fall from trees around here. Well, they do, but far too many have so many issues for it not to work out that the list could be infinite. I’ve been playing music for more than half of my life with many different people and already know that if the simple, basic parameters in being in a serious band are too difficult to work with, their musical ability really means nothing because they will be gone sooner than later for those reasons anyway. So why waste the time? When the new guys were added, their auditions were actually quite short. Once we realized that we were on the same page as people, they just had to show they could play to the level we were expecting them to and they did. Because their abilities and dedication to practice on their own are what they are, their learning curves weren’t a big deal. They were well prepared and fit in quickly.

Talk about the making of the promotional video for “Truth” and explain why you decided to include the lyrics.
Because we were in transition of member changes that at some point I knew would eventually be resolved, I wanted a new video to spark interest once we started playing live again. Since I didn't know when it would happen or who would be in the band when we started to, I thought a pre-planned lyric video with no members involved (including me) of a song that became a favorite with everyone who heard the new disc would be a cool idea. That way, it would be ready when we are, accepted by those familiar with our new stuff, could be released immediately and none of the new guys would be playing something in the video which they didn’t on the record. While it was my idea to have the artwork being painted and time shrunk in the background, the rest of the video was conceived and edited by our new drummer, John Cross. He did a great job. It turned out better than I expected. It can be seen on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFJby9MXHRU

Quote some of the lyrics of Truth and add how the promotional video you made fits the verses?
There’s a part at the beginning of the song which lyrically, I think fits the concept of the entire record really well: “Righteous and arrogant / Blind to reality / Worshipping an image / That no one else can see / Self-proclaimed, fictitious / Prophet preaching bliss / Go fuck yourself / You two-faced motherfucking hypocrite”. Because they are barked quickly, the lyrics themselves flying around doesn’t leave a lot of room for too much else to happen, visually. Since we had video footage of the artwork being airbrushed, we just thought it would be cool to watch it develop in the background behind the chaos of the lyrics, as the content of the painting itself is also Truth- of the brutality humans have performed to one another in the name of religion since its inception.

There has been a great deal of debate over whether radical fundamentalist Christianity or radical fundamentalist Islam is a larger threat these days. Where would you stand on this matter?
Currently, I think radical modern fundamentalist Islam is a larger threat. However, in the Dark Ages, Christianity was far worse. Not to discount the brutality of the victims which have suffered recently, but their deaths were relatively swift in comparison to those who were tortured mercilessly until they died during that period. That said, I think modern fundamentalist Islam is far more barbaric now than Christianity is today. Regardless, all of it is from ignorance and the lives lost over the simple differences in faith is not just beyond tragic, but disgusting. For this reason alone, the world would be a better place if religion was eradicated and people took accountability for their own actions instead of placing them in the name of a fictitious entity which differs from person to person based on their interpretation.

From Christianity in the Dark Ages to Islam in recent times, would you consider it history repeating itself?
For history to repeat itself would mean it had ended at some point and started again later. I see it as constantly ongoing because history has shown that It has never stopped.

Discussing this issue about radical religion, I am reminded of a line from a 1995 independent movie (about vampires) called The Addiction which goes, “R.C. Sproul said we're not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners. In more accessible terms, we're not evil because of the evil we do, but we do evil because we ARE evil.” How would you relate this line to the subject?
To me it just comes across as an excuse to justify whatever they want to do and not be held accountable for their own actions. Kinda like saying “The Devil made me do it” while any rational person knows there isn’t a horned guy with a pitchfork running around “making” people do anything they normally wouldn’t. People choose their own actions for whatever reasons. Blaming their deeds on “The Devil” and/or because they think they’re “evil”, or in “The name of God” because they think they’re “righteous” is a cop out.

Know God, No Peace includes a cover of AC/DC’s song Thunderstruck. What led you to choosing this song to cover and how did you go about arranging it so it differed from the original? Has Three Sixes gotten attention for reinterpreting the song?
This idea was from our producer, Marko. It was his opinion that the reason to record a cover is to draw attention from people who normally wouldn’t listen to us. He pointed out that Thunderstruck is a serious hit and played at every sporting event live during televised commercial breaks. Everyone hears this song- all the time, whether they realize it or not, it will be recognized and we could get attention drawn to us from it. We liked the original version of the song anyway, so we agreed to do it. Arrangement wise, we pretty much stuck to the original version. However, it was Marko’s idea to go full industrial with the rhythm section, which he programmed entirely by himself. When we heard his idea coming to life, we dug it and just rolled with it. It seems everyone who’s heard our version mentions it and likes it a lot. It definitely got the response we were hoping for.

How would you describe the differences between AC/DC’s version of Thunderstruck and your cover? How did you think up your ideas to enhance it?
Musically, they barely resemble each other, as the Industrial influences created by Marko in our version are pretty over the top. As for enhancing the vocals, I felt that keeping it semi authentic on my end to retain the integrity of the original would be the way to go since our music would be so different. I still put a few of my own fingerprints on it, but what I did came naturally. That's just how I felt it should be as it evolved through practice. When Marko heard what I was doing and immediately agreed, I was stoked.

Are there other songs the band would consider covering on future albums? Would you bring the same elements to those or would they vary according to the song?
We’ve kicked a few ideas around, but nothing has stuck so far. As for the elements which we’d incorporate, it would depend on the song. While we industrialized “Thunderstruck” on the new record, we also did an organic, heavily tweaked, semi-Thrash version of “Paint it Black” by The Rolling Stones on the self-titled CD that went over really well, too. So yes, the styles will continue to vary on any future covers as they have in the past.

How does your cover of Paint It Black deviate from the version recorded by the Rolling Stones?
First, we used a Slayer-esque approach on the drums with lots of double kick and was more aggressive on the toms, which was our then drummer, Konnyaku’s idea. Then, the main melody line of the guitar on the original was swapped for individual root notes on bass, while the guitar held down the rhythm with bar chords and palm muted notes, which Kill thought of. Lastly, after multiple attempts trying several different vocal styles to keep it somewhat true to the original (which failed miserably) I was given the green light to just improvise and make it my own, and I did. In doing so, our version barely resembles the original at all, but it’s definitely ours.

How do you think people who are familiar with the Stones’ version of Paint It Black would react to your cover?
It’s been well received ever since we released it. I’ve never heard or read anything negative about it by anyone. Even after all these years.

People still seem to think playing in a band is childish and a holdover teenage fantasy, not realizing the hard work and dedication needed to commit to a musical career. What information would you give to someone holding on to those ideas?
Unless your only desire is to be a local bar band playing for a few friends, there will be A LOT of time spent on the business end that most are either unaware of and/or unwilling to do. If anyone is serious about gaining any attention at any level outside of playing in a garage or backyard, a lot of work on the business side has to be put in. There are a ton of bands out there. You need to stand out and give people a reason to believe that you’re not just another fly by night act and that you’re for real- which you have to be. There is no way around it. The business side can be arduous and time consuming. There’s also no “instant gratification” and there are no accolades for everything that’s done as few (if anyone) actually sees the amount of time it takes. It also often requires even more time than creating and refining the music you play if you’re self-managed as we currently are.
What many also never seem to realize is that a strong work ethic by itself will not guarantee success, but a lack of it will absolutely guarantee failure. Nothing is promised to anyone and if promises are made in the music world, they’re subject to change- often and without notice. So when it’s all said and done, if you’re performing originals, you’d better be loving every second of what you play when you play it. Every emotion needs to be expressed and embraced- because this may be the only payment you ever receive. If you love what you do this much it doesn’t matter anyway, as at this point, there is no failure or loss and it isn’t a fantasy. It’s a clean win, as you lived and played what you loved. Nobody can take that away. This said, if the band you are in is that good and all are vibing, the feeling from it all happening on stage will also be felt from the crowd and cannot be replaced either. For me, it’s the most addictive high available. Ask anyone in the Rolling Stones or in Kiss. Both have more money, access to more drugs and women than they could possibly enjoy in several lifetimes and still play. Why? Because that feeling of being on stage or sometimes just in the same room with some brothers when everyone is locked in is an energy that cannot be purchased. There isn’t a convenient “app”, video game or a lame TV show that can replace it. All of it is earned. All of it is real.
As for being “childish and a holdover teenage fantasy” I think that depends on the individual, the amount of time dedicated to their craft and passion for it. If it’s some weekend warrior whose entire life is spent just “waiting to be signed, so I’m not going to get a real job that I’m going to leave anyway because I’m eventually going to be constantly touring” as they search for their next band to join, gets wasted every day and does nothing to improve themselves or further their musical career, yes- that person is an idiot who is holding over a childish teenage fantasy. However, if it’s someone who lives and breathes the music they create every day, makes numerous sacrifices for it, lives for the killer band practice that nobody sees, but everyone in the room feels and plays live shows that people talk about years after the fact- no, in my opinion. It isn’t childish because it’s a feeling that otherwise can never be replaced with anything else and they are doing everything within their abilities to make their dreams become reality.
Additionally and generally speaking, most people who make the “fantasy” comments like those typically have never took the time to truly learn how to play an instrument or have any musical ability, formed or played in a band, wrote a song, recorded one or even played on stage once in their life, let alone played outstanding shows on big stages in front of huge crowds and recorded multiple records. They are also normally people who wished they would have on any level and are disappointed with themselves for not having the balls or determination to even attempt to do so. Therefore, opinions like this towards those who are truly passionate about what they do are of sheer ignorance, completely irrelevant and should just simply be ignored. Like a man trying to explain the beauty and agony of child birth to a woman, anyone that hasn’t experienced it couldn’t possibly understand and unless they do experience it firsthand- never will.

Being that the band is self-managed, how much more work have you had to channel into being noticed as opposed to bands who hire professional managers?
In my opinion, it depends on the band and who is managing them. I know of a few bands who are “managed” yet still have to do everything themselves as well as others who are truly managed and are progressing because of it. In regards to the latter, a ton of work on my end currently is required because real managers make their money doing just that- managing. Good ones make money for a reason. As someone with a “day job”, it’s difficult to compete with a successful manager who does it for a living. That said, we’re currently in a tough spot, which was also related to finding new players- as we’re far beyond a typical local level but don’t have a “full ride” at the moment. So you do what you can within your means until you’re able to take the next step. While I’m not a fan of doing it on my own, I’d prefer it to being obligated to a deadbeat “manager“ which you’re contractually bound, who does nothing and can’t return a phone call.

What experience have you gained managing the band independently? Does this help you succeed on your own steam?
My experience has taught me that there is always more to learn. I’m open to any ideas or advice that makes sense and have received some great information which we’ve used along the way. I question everything all of the time as people do the same to me. So I have to be accountable and whenever a decision is made, it needs to make sense with all involved. So far, all of them have.

What is some of the advice you have recently received that made the most and least sense to you and the band?
Some that made the most sense were some DIY marketing videos Marko paid for- such as with social media as when to post and how often, as well as what and when not to and why. Another was from our IT guy who gave us the QR code idea on the lyric sheet for hidden video content, as well as optimizing our website to adapt to the device requesting the information and so on. We’ll always listen to what anyone says. Whether we use the ideas or not is another story. In these cases, they made perfect sense, so we went with them.
As far as the least sense: playing a one-off gig or two after “Know God, No Peace” was released without permanent members to just immediately play an ill-prepared show and disappear again. There were also few video ideas I didn’t agree with either which I won’t go into, but other than these, most of what we’ve received that we didn’t think of on our own has been for the better.

So what would you say about the idea of bands doing something different, making a statement and succeeding on their own terms? Bands like Metallica who went against what was expected and changed the music industry forever? As opposed to bands who follow what’s “popular” and fade away after a few years?
As demonstrated by Metallica- control and longevity are of the most importance. Being able to dictate your sound, brand and business decisions (while making the correct decisions) are crucial to the success of their magnitude. Ideally, every band has that goal, but few will ever be in the position Metallica put themselves into. They worked their asses off for decades to get where they are. They followed nobody. Metallica also believed in what they did and stayed true to what they felt was right with no apologies, regardless of what others were doing at any time. They didn’t have to tell people how little they cared about what others thought as their actions screamed it for them, which in turn provided their longevity. Anybody just doing “what’s popular” and simply conforming to whatever trend at any time does so because they don’t have an identity of their own and will never have the balls Metallica does, nor their success. People always recognize the lack of individualism, get bored of what’s instantly popular today and lose interest as the next trend begins tomorrow. Meanwhile, the “next big thing” as of now fades away and is replaced as quickly as they arrived while the cycle repeats.

Are there any new directions the band has considered taking since the release of Know God, No Peace?
Yes in the fact that the reasons we are so down with John Cross on Drums and Johnny C on Bass isn’t just because of who they are as people, their playing abilities, personalities and beliefs, but what they will able to contribute musically in the future as well. We’ve talked about a lot of things that will be included in our next phase of material along with what Kill, Marko and I already bring to the table. Their new influences will be noticeable, but definitely jive with where we are now and will be an extension/expansion of what “Know God, No Peace” established. I’m looking forward to it.
However, before we get to that point, all have agreed that the first thing we need to do is lock down all of the current and past songs which we’ll be playing for our live sets. That way, we can play immediately and have enough tunes to play several times consecutively and be able to change the songs from night to night. We’re pretty close, but we’re not to the point as of now where everything the new guys are playing is second nature, like it is for Kill and me. Once we get to that point, we’re gonna have a lot to talk about. I have an idea for another concept record right now, but it’s definitely in the infant stages and the other guys need to be down if we go that route. All have to agree. If not, we figure a new direction. It’s my preference that until everything current is solid to play live consistently, that none of us (including me) even talk about what could be next, because right now- none of it matters. We’ll see what happens once everything to play live immediately is solidified and at that time we’ll go from there. Otherwise, there is just way too much for anyone to process in learning what we’ve already done and what we will be doing in the future at the same time.

Does the band have a steady set list for performances? Which of your songs are included?
Kind of. We’ve always had enough to change them up whenever we wanted to and played everything from the self-titled disc throughout different shows. Before “Know God, No Peace” came out, the staples were always just “I.F.T.D” and “Holy Man” for sure. They always went over and never failed live. “Paint it Black” was played a lot too. We’d normally rotate the rest of the other favorites to keep things fresh. However, it seems that no matter what the set list was, a few people would ask why we didn’t play something else- which is a good problem to have. They’ll change even more in the future, now that we have an expanded playlist. At some point or another we’ll do just about everything on K.G.N.P. live too, along with some of the older stuff which will continue to vary as well.

Which of your older songs do you want to continue playing live and why? Are there places in the US where you haven’t done a show that you’d like to visit?
While I’m down with the older stuff of “I.F.T.D” and “Holy Man” as previously mentioned, other favorites of “Paint it Black”, “Hell’s Home” and “Salvationless” should see the stage again soon as well for similar reasons. We might bring something else out from time to time, but those are the older songs we have been practicing recently. There are far too many places we have yet to play and I think I can safely speak for all of us by saying we’ll go anywhere we’re wanted.

Can you reveal anything about the concept you have in mind for the next full length? Are you discussing it with the rest of the band at this point?
I mentioned it to them, but we didn’t want to get into much detail now because we want the live songs with the current lineup solidified before we go further with any new material. All I can confirm right now is that if they agree (which so far they have in the little I’ve said) it will be a semi-continuation of “Know God, No Peace” but even bigger, sonically. It will be just as diverse as K.G.N.P. and even more aggressive at times, but the foundation established on “Know God, No Peace” will remain while we continue to build and expand upon it. There won’t be as many songs on the next one either, as I don’t see us doing another 15 tune record again any time soon. I also want to clarify that while all of the lyrics were mine, the rest of “Know God, No Peace” wasn’t just my idea. It was a collective effort by Kill, Marko, Konnyaku and me together. While the amount of contributions varied from member to member and song to song, it was definitely a collaborated effort. The next record will have the same approach, just with different players.

Has anything been written or composed for the next full length? What do you expect the lyrical content will be inspired by?
I have a few music ideas and lyrical concepts right now for about a dozen tunes, with several parts written here and there, but I really want to tailor the lyrics for the next record to the new music we will all be creating together. Instead of writing lyrics ahead of time and trying to make them fit into what we’re doing or re-writing them again because they didn’t work already, this time I’m gonna wait. Several songs lyrically on “Know God, No Peace” were written long before the music was and most of them worked well. A few others didn’t. Because the cemented habits I created for myself in writing ahead of time were such a nightmare to “unlearn” when I needed to, I’d prefer not to go that route again.
As for the lyrical content, I see it as following the music- an extension/expansion of “Know God, No Peace”. In doing so, the subject matter is current, personal, dark and still addressing religious issues from an Atheistic standpoint. Without question, “Know God, No Peace” is by far, the strongest release Three Sixes has done up to now and I literally could not be more proud of it. That said, I think K.G.N.P. just scratched the surface of what we are capable of. We have room to grow and improve and we will.

-Dave Wolff

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