Let's face it, most band reunions are dispensable. This is particularly true when the former members retired completely from the music business after their glorious days. Well, I can understand that it is more fun to return to the stage instead of collecting stamps or staring holes in the ceiling. But for what price? Most of these reunited bands mutilate their own songs and do sound like their own lame cover band. But there are a few exceptions of course such as, for example, DREAM DEATH. For the sake of fairness it must be said that most of the guys have continued to make music, especially drummer Mike Smail. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why DREAM DEATH's new album 'Somnium Excessum' sounds so vital and fresh. But whatever the reason is, one thing is certain: DREAM DEATH did not try to rehash their groundbreaking album 'Journey Into Mistery', which has been released in 1987. 'Somnium Excessum' gives one the impression that the band had never disappeared from the scene. There a some new twists and plenty of massive riffs, but even more importantly, they are still able to write memorable yet brutal hooklines. DREAM DEATH doesn't crawl before current trends and the band impressively shows how to do it right. Reason enough for me to do another detailed interview with Mike Smail. We did this chat before the band played at this year's Roadburn festival.
Welcome back, Mike! It seems as if 2013 will be a busy year for you, let alone due to the new DREAM DEATH album 'Somnium Excessum'. When was the idea born to record another studio album and why did it took so long?
Thanks Klaus and it's good hearing from you again! Well once we started getting together for the reunion show last year, it seemed to light a fire in everyone. Now that we're older and everyone else has a family and kids etc....we knew we wouldn't be playing a lot, but the interest was there so we decided on doing a new record. That way there wasn't any pressure with time constraints and we could get together when we could and write new stuff. I've always loved the creative process anyway and was pretty sure we'd come up with some good material - we didn't say a lot about it and if we decided it wasn't that good then we just wouldn't put it out without any expectations or let downs to people.
We didn't want to re-hash the old stuff like a lot of bands do like putting some of the old demo material that never made it to a proper release (Meet Thy Maker, Wolvesbane, UABRM etc.).........we wanted to come up with brand new, fresh material. Like I said before, it's harder for us all to get together now, so we just worked at a pace where we could without putting any pressure on ourselves with deadlines and such. I'm very happy with how it turned out as well.
That sounds pretty cool. If I understand correctly, it is the early DREAM DEATH lineup that recorded the new album or is there a newcomer? Well, not really a newcomer.
Ted was the original bass player, but after we kicked him out of the band - Rich stepped in as his replacement and was there for the duration from way back when. And actually, Rich was the genesis of getting everyone back together as well. Rich had started playing bass again after years of hanging it up after leaving Penance after the Cathedral/Sleep tour and getting married and raising a family etc...... once he started playing again, he got in touch with me about just getting together and jamming to blow the dust off things and to try and get his chops back etc. I have a rehearsal place in the basement of my shop - where at the time, Roman and I were doing the UNDER THE SUN material, so I had my kit set up and it was convenient for Rich and I to get together and jam.
So since Rich knew the old DD material, we started jamming to what we knew and it just clicked. Rich hadn't lost a step and is really a good bass player and it was easy to lock up with the drums/bass thing..........just like old times. So after a while, I called Brian to see if he wanted to jam for the fun of it, which he did and the whole thing just progessed from there.
So I suppose that the songwriting process started at this point or am I wrong? How did the songs come up and did you use old ideas and/or song fragments for 'Somnium Excessum'?
Not really. It wasn't until we decided to actually do the reunion show. We thought it would be cool to throw a new one in there, so we got the song 'Them' together for that show. We really didn't have a title at the time so we dubbed it 'Unwelcome'. Once the show went over well and we didn't suck, the natural progression that everyone decided on was to write new material for a new release. We didn't want to rehash old ideas or re-record tracks that never made it to a proper release (ie. Meet Thy Maker, UABRM, RS, etc.) like a lot of bands do. Maybe at some point we'll record some of those as I'd like to have a good recording of some of them, but we wanted the new lp to be fresh with all new ideas and riffs. There's nothing old on it unless you count Them as it was written almost a year before for the show.
Speaking of the reunion show - how did that happen? Would it be right to say that it gave the initial spark to release a new album?
Yea, for sure. Once we started jamming again and tossing around the idea of doing a show, like I said before - we wanted to throw a new one in there as a bit of a (hopefully) nice surprise for people. Keep in mind, we weren't sure of how things were going to sound. It had been quite some time since we've played as a band let alone individually (especially Brian and Rich) and we were worried about sounding dated and old etc... like a lot of bands who are older and get back together again, even when they play and it's technically correct (ie. in tune, in time, not a mess etc.) they still just don't sound the same and sound like old guys trying to play again.
It's hard to recreate that youthfull energy even when you want to or try to. So when we were satisfied that we sounded good enough to play a show, we were more on board with getting together to write new material for a new LP. Especially that way, we weren't under any pressure as far as time frames go and such. We could work at our own pace until we were satisfied without having to worry about deadlines etc. And, if we couldn't come up with anything good, or if it sucked-we just wouldn't put it out and nobody would be the wiser.
I fully share your opinion regarding most reunions. But before we continue with DREAM DEATH, I would like to know more about the reunion of Parallel Corners-era PENANCE. How did that come about?
Well, that was something that just kinda worked out via DD. Since the rest of the guys were bringing their wives to Roadburn and I'm going solo, I was going to have some room in my hotel. I got to thinking that 3/4 of Penance would be there because of DD, so I talked to Walter and asked if he was able to bring Lee Smith over from England, that Penance would play a set as well. He thought it was a great idea so we set it up and that's that.
That's pretty cool! So I suppose there are no plans to record a new PENANCE album or something similar....?
Nothing that I know of...
To return to the topic: I already noticed that the vinyl edition of 'Somnium Excessum' will be released by Svart Records. What about the CD?
Right now we're going through various distros for the CD. We have our own addy which you can get them through as well : http://dreamdeath.bigcartel.com/ as well as CD Baby.
So this means the CD has been released by yourself.......? If so, why?
Yes. Why not?........With all the distros and internet now days, it's quite easy to get it out to people and still maintain control of it yourselves instead of getting ripped off with labels etc.
From this I infer that you have had only good experiences with Svart Records.... Speaking of releases, do you not think it's time, given the fact that DREAM DEATH is back with a new album, to re-release 'Journey Into Mystery'?
Yea, Tomi's been straight up with us and does top notch stuff. That's been great. As far as 'Journey Into Mystery' goes, we've tried even with Svart, but Ann keeps giving it the run-around so I've given up trying. Keep in mind, we've never seen a dime from her for that-EVER!.......Then she had the balls to re-release it and still nothing. Screw her and everything about her.
Now, that's fucked up! I would have thought that you have received some bucks from the record label, at least for the reissue. In such case I understand that you encourage people to download it. Who actually has the rights to 'Journey' or, to put it in different words, do you have the master tapes?
From everything I understand I think they do, but I'm not sure. I thought about putting it out as I'm sure it's breached with her not paying us, but about the time I go ahead and put it out and get sued for my own music, I'd really lose it!...... Have to end up paying money to something which I never got paid for in the first place!.... Anyway, it's a dead issue as far as I'm concerned.
DREAM DEATH will play at this year's Roadburn fest and it's the first show outside of the USA. Why didn't you play more gigs here in Europe?
Yes, as far as Dream Death goes it is. Well, it's more of a time issue than anything. With Roadburn, they want it to be exclusive as it's our first time over and such without another gig within a month or so - before and after. We'd consider doing another festivial if it was feasable time wise and money wise. It's hard now that we're older and the rest of the guys have familes and regular jobs etc...... they only have so many vacation days available to them. I have a bit of an advantage there as I own my own shop and could get away a little easier.
I understand. By the way, it would've been great if DREAM DEATH had appeared at the tenth Doom Shall Rise, because this is the last one. So, what are your plans for the future? Will you continue with DREAM DEATH? And what's going on with UNDER THE SUN?
Yea, that would've been great..... love to get back over there again and I wasn't aware that it was the last one. Bummer. As far as the future goes, it's all up in the air. I'm sure we'll play if something comes along at the right time and everyone can make it fit into their schedules. I'd like to think that another LP would'nt be out of the question either, but we'll see. The only other show we have coming up is the Days of the Doomed Festival over in Mil. this coming summer. I'm still working on getting out the 3 unreleased UTS songs not on the CD, but outside of that.......... just trying to keep the shop running.
Ok, Mike, that's it. Thanks again for your time and have a good time in Tilburg. Any last words?
Great talking with you again and until next time. Peace, Mike