Sunday, March 25, 2018

Interview with Nick Graystone of DEMONSCAR by Dave Wolff

Interview with Nick Graystone of DEMONSCAR

Describe the beginning of DemonScar and explain the origins of the band’s name.
DemonScar started in the spring/summer of 2017 although the roots of DemonScar date back to 1998. Meds and I together were in a metal band named Tangent. We played in this outfit for a few years and then went on different musical paths. Fast forward nearly twenty years and we were en route to an Iron Maiden show. I had written some lyrics a few days prior and showed them to Meds. Next thing I know he calls me up a day or two later with a riff. That riff ended up being “Pray On The Prey”. We started writing and came up with four songs that make up the DemonScar EP. We ended up recruiting Brian and we are currently writing and recording a follow up to the EP. We started thinking of a name like right away. Originally DevilScar stuck around for a while. Most of the names we came up were already taken in some way. Meds suggested Demon instead of Devil. So DemonScar was born.

What do you remember of the metal scene in New York when Tangent was active? Did the band release material on CD and drop copies off at local stores?
We were kids when we started Tangent and there really wasn’t a huge metal scene on Long Island. At that point we were put on bills with bands like Taking Back Sunday, Saves The Day and The Movielife. We stood out because being the only metal band on an emo bill, we didn’t blend. We only recorded a demo and we really didn’t get past that recording. We did some radio appearances and played at the now defunct Ground Zero in Bellmore a lot.

How well do you remember Tangent being received by emo fans in those days?
The Tangent shows were always fun. We definitely were not ignored by being put those bills. We were just different. Usually the shows were set up by friends so it was cool because we all supported each other and stuck around for each other’s set. I remember one show that didn’t go off good was we tried to play a show to coincide with an episode of Monday Night Raw. Needless to say, we were distracted and paid attention to the wrestling instead of the music. That was long ago and it definitely taught me a lot about gigs.

On what radio stations were Tangent interviewed? Are copies of their demo still available or sold out by now? Do you recall the songs on the demo and the potential they had?
A few of the bands I’ve been a part of have been played on local stations 90.3 NCC radio and 102.3 WBAB. Fingers from WBAB was a fan of my band Hollow and he played us in rotation on his Homegrown show. I believe I have the only known copy of Tangent’s demo on CD-R and I believe Meds might have an mp3 of it. One song Tangent used to play is actually on the DemonScar EP. That song is called Unhealed. Meds wrote it back in 1997 before Tangent even started. The song is really about teenage angst and confusion. It’s funny because it’s still relevant after all these years. I always dig the tune and suggested we bring it back.

I remember hearing a lot about Fingers in the late 80s. Is he still an active DJ?
Yeah, Fingers is still doing it! Actually just yesterday I saw a post of him celebrating 25 years or something in that ballpark on the air. Great guy and I always appreciated his support of Hollow. Fingers still does the 2-5 pm shift on WBAB. I believe he still does the Metal Shop and once in a while hosts a local show. He also does a yearly motorcycle run for charity. Usually the Fingers Motorcycle run is an all-day event that concludes with a show at the end of it. It’s well promoted on WBAB.

What directions did you and Meds take after Tangent disbanded? Were you in any bands together between their breakup to the formation of DemonScar?
When Tangent stopped playing I started playing bass. In Tangent I was on vocals. I started playing in a band called Always The Crash which was more alternative rock. It was different and more of a learning experience. I then moved onto Hollow. Hollow was more of a hard rock band. At that point I still wasn’t all that good on bass so I decided to take lessons. That helped a lot. Meds on the other hand started playing in a cover band named Byron’s Way. So it’s safe to say Meds and I kind of took a step away from metal. Not that we weren’t into it anymore, just discovering other music. Meds and I did not collaborate on any other music outfits from Tangent to DemonScar though we did have a one show reunion years later. That was lots of fun.

Who did Meds and Byron’s Way most often cover songs by? What is your personal opinion of cover bands?
Byron’s Way did mostly punk and rock covers. If I remember correctly they did a pretty awesome cover of Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia. I thought that was cool because that’s not your typical tune to cover. Lots of parts and it is 9 minutes long. I personally never played out with a cover band. I did once jam for a while with a Social Distortion cover band. Nothing against cover bands, it’s just not my thing. I like to do a cover here and there but I just wouldn’t want to do a full set of covers. Lots of the big clubs on Long Island did the shift to bring in cover on the weekends. People like to hear what is familiar to them, so I get why clubs book cover bands.

Who influenced Always The Crash? How long were they active despite alternative and grunge having been made a trend by radio and MTV?
I was in Always The Crash around 1999 to 2000, well after the rise of grunge and alternative. I know bands like Radiohead and Nirvana were major influences to Always The Crash. Nu-Metal was the big thing back then. My influences really never changed in any band I was a part of. I was raised on rock, punk and metal so my influences were always bands like Mötley Crüe, Ramones, Mötorhead and Kiss. I’ve noticed my writing style as far as writing a chorus or bridge is in the punk style. Like one line repeated three to four times.

Which punk bands have most influenced you? What is your personal definition of punk?
Punk has always been a major influence, not only musically but on a personal level. The thing about me is I was just never solely a punk or metal head or just into rap. I love different elements of each genre for different reasons. To me punk has nothing to do with the color of your hair or your shirt. It’s in your attitude and just being different from what’s considered the norm. Basically, ‘fuck the rules I’m gonna do it the way I want’. The first punk that I go into is still my favorite: Ramones. I love everything about them. I got to see them only once on their last tour. The songs were catchy and way out there. They stuck to their formula and made a career out of it. Unfortunately they became more famous after they were done. Some other punk influences of mine are Social Distortion, New York Dolls (mainly because of Johnny Thunders), Misfits, Sex Pistols, NOFX, No Use For Name and LagWagon. I respect the hell out of Green Day. “Real” punks don’t consider them punk and label them as sell outs. I think the opposite, I think breaking the boundaries and turning a three chord pop punk band into a multi-platinum and award winning international phenomenon is the most punk thing they ever did. Good for them. All of them bring something to the table in that band and they are all extremely talented and good at what they do. Playing in MFU (Martians From Uranus), I was able to express my punk influence more through our music. Scott McIntosh was the founder of the band and they had released previous material before I joined. Rick Rivets from The Brats and Walter Lure from The Heartbreakers also collaborated with Scott. Scott and I worked well together because of our tastes in old school punk. When MFU went into hiatus, I formed the band Death Proof with John Castiglia and Howard Corr. I worked with both of these guys in the past and it was a nice solid mix of rock and punk. John had metal and thrash roots which made him also a versatile player.

I’ve had discussions about selling out in a few interviews, and can understand why some bands would be considered sell outs. If they forget where they came from and change to cater to a wider public that could be selling out. Many bands who played capacity arenas are washed up today; Ramones and Sex Pistols have cult followings despite never having had mainstream success. The industry has changed and bands on social media can reach listeners worldwide without major deals. Is it most important not to lose sight of who you are as a musician?
Sometimes to change with the times can kill a band and sometimes it could help. When the 80s were over and the bands of that era tried to change up their sound and image to fit in it mostly backfired. I remember when Faster Pussycat changed their look and re-recorded some tunes to sound industrial. That was rough. I was a fan of their first two albums because the songs were good the way they were. I say it’s best to keep your integrity and stick to your roots and what put you on the map in the first place. Most times you only get that one chance. My advice would be don’t fuck it up. Unless of course you’re Dave Grohl. That dude was in one of hugest bands ever. Then he built another huge band. He has undeniable talent and deserves everything.

As a band is never bigger than the people who support them, how important is it for a band to respect their audience?
You gotta respect your fans and audience or you get a bad rep. That goes beyond music. Even though it’s all about the performance, music is a business and you gotta run your business right. You won’t last if ya don’t!

Have your fans more info hard rock been receptive to your punk influences?
To me I feel regardless of genres that I’ve played in you can always since the rock, metal and punk that influences me. I think picking the right shows to be is key.

What would you say are the right shows for you and those you have worked with?
At this point I’d like to pick the shows wisely and make sure they are at venues are better run. I really don’t want to be put on a bill with 5 other local bands and get rushed on and off stage with little or zero soundcheck. When I played out with MFU we had our own sound man. He was the fifth member. It was crucial. He knew us and cared about us sounding good. I think once we get the ball rolling with shows, hiring a sound man is one key to a successful show.

Tell the readers about Hollow. Is anything they released available for purchase or streaming?
Hollow was founded in 2002. After I left Always The Crash I was looking to just jam. I contacted a friend of mine Daniel Weber that I knew since middle school. We started jamming and instantly clicked. We then recruited Howard Corr on drums. We were pretty active up until 2010 as Daniel moved to LA. We recorded two EPs and also released a single called Something To Believe with Brett Scallions of Fuel on lead vocals. We recorded an EP with Grammy winning producer Ken Wallace of Ian London studios. Ken really kicked our asses in the studio and made us better musicians. He pushes you to your limit only to get the best out of you. Something To Believe is available on iTunes but we never released the EPs digitally. The Hollow days were always a blast. We played a bunch of great shows opening for Bret Michaels, Sebastian Bach, & L.A. Guns. I feel I became comfortable with bass during these years and discovered my ear. During Hollow’s hiatus, I played in two other bands named MFU and Death Proof for a couple of years. Those bands were mostly punk rock. I was always a fan of punk so it was cool to play that style of music.

Who else has Ken Wallace worked with in the studio?
I can’t say enough good things about Ken Wallace. He really whipped Hollow into serious shape. Especially me. I remember vividly the first day of recording. We didn’t do much recording. He has set up and just jam. After an hour or so, he goes ok so you guys ever hear of a metronome? Even if you think your in time, most of the time you are not. He has a list a mile long of who he has worked with. He did win a Grammy with the Temptations in 2000. A key phrase that he is infamous for is “It is what it is.” More on the lines of if you want to settle for less great but remember it is what it is.

How was the reunion show you and Meds played as Tangent? Was this show partly the reason you formed DemonScar?
The reunion show was fun. We played only three tunes. We did Metallica’s Seek And Destroy, Social Distortion’s Ball And Chain and Unhealed. We just ran through the tunes. Fast and furious. It was cool because it was the first time I played bass on the tunes. It showed we still had that metal in us. The reunion was seven years ago so it really didn’t set up DemonScar. Meds and I always kept in contact and DemonScar really came out of nowhere.

What input did you, Meds and Brian have into the EP? How did Brian come to join and how well does he work with you?
While we recorded the EP, Meds took on drumming. We decided to do a cover of the old Christmas hymn God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. At that point, Meds suggested we bring in Brian for drumming. Brian caught Med’s eye years ago as he played in a band named Toxin. Meds and I were totally blown away with his ability. He smoked right through the tunes and basically did it in one take. At that point we still hadn’t played a live show so we asked Brian to jam with us. Now this was a first for me. Any band I was ever in, when you audition someone and send them the material, rarely do they come prepared. So not the case this time. Brian actually took the time, learned the tunes and actually made some of them even better. Brian is a quick learner and a versatile player. So it’s safe to say Brian is the perfect fit behind the kit. Brian does have other music projects going on as his primary band is called Pine Street. The kid just loves to play and it shows! We are just looking forward to getting out there and showing all our stuff. The time is now.

Why did DemonScar decide to remain a three piece instead of hiring a second guitarist and/or a frontman?
DemonScar feels right as a three piece because it sounds full. We have talked about a possible rhythm guitarist but for now we are good. Personally, I love and hate the idea of a frontman. I’d love to have the talent of a singer but I hate the whole idea of a persona of a frontman. One band I can think of that we look up to as a three piece is Motorhead. They sounded full and that’s one band we feel did it right.

As you have been a musician for twenty years, how many changes have you seen in Long Island and New York as far as how clubs treat bands and how audiences respond to them?
Most of the “high profile” shows on Long Island seem to be the pay to play game. That’s a double edged sword. You can find your band opening for a national headliner but you are responsible to sell the tickets you are given. Sometimes bands have to go in their own pocket to cover the guarantee the club is requesting. It seems now it’s more pay to play than pay your dues.

For a long time pay to play has had repercussions on bands who have potential but can’t afford to constantly pay clubs. Do you see any means of improving the situation, like more fan run fests, independent labels or social media podcasts?
I’m not trying to shit on the pay the play situation. If you do have the funds and able to do it, great. In my experience it’s tough selling the tickets show after show. You have your core peeps that will buy from you but it’s like hitting up that same friend show after show to come support. I’ve had family members be like chill.

Perhaps trying to open for a national headliner too soon can damage a band’s career before it’s underway, if the changes in the industry are any indication. Would newer bands have a better chance of surviving if they pursued a DIY direction?
Opening for a national headliner could be a huge opportunity and it could do nothing. Some fans won’t support the opening band and come to see who they want. Some of my favorite bands to this day I discovered when they were in the opening slot. I remember I saw Alice In Chains open for Van Halen. They blew me away. Sometimes it pays to go early. Though I can’t blame people for that because clubs put on three to four bands before the national band. It’s a long night. Sure the festivals are fun but it is a long day. So it’s kind of a double edged sword. I used to love going to Warped Tour and Ozzfest, catching ten to eleven bands and discovering new bands Nowadays I get anxiety just thinking of that long festival day. I’ve always believed DIY goes a long way. You could shell out big bucks to record but if the song is not good then you got a polished turd. Technology has come a long way. Even the cheapest set ups can give you a great product. I say DIY until the demand is out there where you are no longer able to DIY and you need to step up your product.

Many bands produce studio quality material with their own equipment. What equipment does DemonScar have at their disposal and how was your debut EP recorded? Why did you release singles from the EP before its release?
We use Gibson Les Pauls and Explorers, Epiphones; Marshall, Peavey and Acoustic amps; basic home recording setup on Mac computer and we get it mastered in LA. It’s weird because the guy who masters it wants to remain anonymous. I call him Mysterio. We released singles this way to be different. Figured it was a way to close the summer of 2017 and release a single a week.

Does recording with analog or digital equipment produce better results for the band? Or do both methods work for you?
I’ve always been a fan of analog. I love the vintage sound of recording. I mean it’s cool when they remaster the classics digitally. They just came out with Master Of Puppets remastered and Orion sounds unbelievable. It’s like a whole new version. Sometimes the older version sounds better. For instance, I love how the Ramones sound not remastered.

Can you think of other bands who sound better not remastered? And bands whose work was improved by remastering?
I can’t think of any bands it hurt to get remastered. I’d love to see The Misfits get their stuff remastered. I do love their sound but I’m curious to see how it would sound a little polished. Speaking of them, Danzig’s new album is one where I feel the production could’ve been so much better. The songs are good but the recording sounds like it was recorded on a tape player. I hate to come across to bash him because I am a fan. His voice in his prime is untouchable. Michale Graves still has an untouchable voice. I love both eras of Misfits.

Who in the band wrote the lyrics for the debut EP?
Meds wrote the lyrics to Unhealed back in 1997. He mentions the song is about teenage angst and confusion. Blackened Rose was also written by Meds. That song was inspired by a near fatal car accident that I was in. Meds was one of the first people I called when I was in the hospital and he wrote the lyrics shortly after that. Prey On The Pray was written by me. I really never was vocal about my opioid dependency I battled for years. This song talks about that. It was definitely personally stuff I never addressed. I’m happy to say May 15, 2018 will be my third anniversary sober. The Fire Still Rages was also written by me. That song is about how I kind of lost interest in music for a while and how I wouldn’t let that go. Music has always been a release for me. I can have like a shit day but if I go and jam, it usually makes me feel better as I get out all the negative and positive stuff I want to express.

How is Unhealed still a relevant song that listeners can still relate to? Are you comfortable singing about your personal experiences on record and before an audience?
I feel as to what’s going on in the world right now, Unhealed is relevant. Growing up, elders said our generation was lost and confused. Really had no direction. Nowadays I feel the youth is more disconnected socially; I mean communication wise. Everyone is on their phones, texting and not having traditional conversation. To me, and again it’s my opinion, this brings alienation. Unhealed deals with that in a way. It’s tough growing up. I’m comfortable singing about my personal experiences. It’s how I dealt with problems and how I express them. Am I proud of some of the things I’ve done? Not really. I am proud on how I’ve overcome some of my demons.

How well does the band relate to your lyrics? How does their music reflect on them?
I feel the issues I write about most can relate to. Maybe some can’t on a personal level. I believe the drug epidemic really affects most because it seems everyone knows someone or knows a story of someone who has dealt with it. Lyrically, Brian has not contributed to the band yet but I look forward to that input. Musically he has added really awesome breaks and beats on the tunes. Meds and I have this thing like if one of us has a line or an idea, we feed off each other. That’s huge and means it works. We have two new songs ready to record and a bunch of other ideas. I’m really looking forward to recording the follow up to the EP.

Did you ever have fans approach you or write you stating your lyrics spoke to them?
I remember years ago I was approached by a random girl that caught a show I played. She asked about a song called Open Window and asked me if it was about an ex-girlfriend. She said she felt the emotion of the tune. I’ve also had old acquaintances ask if the song was about them and they were way off. Haha.

Would you say the band’s name represents your youth struggles and how you overcame them?
I never looked at the name DemonScar as a reflection of growing up or past experiences. I feel sometimes the scars from your past are not always visible. Those are the ones that cut deep and leave their mark. It makes me remember seeing Mötley Crüe for the last time and something Nikki Sixx said to the crowd, on the lines of even though the Crüe will not be here, hopefully we have left a scar on your lives. Not trying to get too deep, we just think the name sounded cool. I think I’ll go with the latter. Haha

How has the feedback from zines and webzines been to the songs on your debut EP?
So far we’ve heard nothing but positive feedback on the EP. People are really digging that we are influenced by that old rock and metal sound. We did have one person on the internet that said, and I quote, “I’d rather hear cats fuk (spelled like that) than to listen to this shit.” Hilarious.

How do the new songs compare to your older songs?
I’ve always written from a personal point of view but I feel the DemonScar lyrics I’ve written have been the most personal ever. It’s hard to say what I prefer. I do have songs that I have written that I rather not play again. Different time, different place I am in.

How soon do you plan to release and promote the follow up to your debut EP?
We have three songs ready to roll for the follow up to the EP. How we’ll put it out is still undecided. Not sure if we will do a full length with both EPs or just do another EP. Promotion-wise, we are in talks right now to do an East/West Coast showcase with another band out west. They play here and we play there. We have another artist friend coming up with a graphic design for us. When I explained it to him, I was looking for the old school tour poster graphic feel. Just some more merchandise to have available.

Can you say anything about the band you’re discussing performances with or the artist you hired to design for you? Has the band played out west before or is this your first time?
My buddy Christopher Ott who owns London 1888 is the artist I commissioned. He does a lot of different band unique prints and feel he’s the one to come up with something. The Sim City Rejects is the band I have been in talks with. My friend Jason Green plays in and manages them. It’s gonna be a great fit as their new album is coming out. Jason and I share likes in movies and music. It’s gonna be our first time playing there and their first time here. Can’t wait!

Would you want DemonScar to appear at major metal fests across the US? Which of them would you play given the opportunity?
I’d love to get DemonScar on a festivals like Riot Fest, Ozzfest and Knotfest. To just limit us to metal only bills could work but I just don’t want to be known as a metal band. I want us to be considered A Rock n Roll band. That’ll open more doors and opportunities. I’d also love to see us get on a festival like Rock n Shock, a horror movie convention that has concerts. I think we would do really well in that setting and the very least I personally would have a blast. Haha

What would you most like DemonScar to be remembered for?
Just a kick ass rock band from New York with substance. A mixture of punk, metal, thrash and attitude.

-Dave Wolff

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