Twinmusix chat with Alex Agnew from DIABLO BLVD to talk about their 4th studio Album Zero Hour
YOUR NEW ALBUM ZERO HOUR WAS PRODUCED BY DAG TAELDEMAN AND MIXED BY JAY RUSTON, WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO TAKE THE SOUND OF YOUR ALBUM IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION?
First of all we parted ways with our original guitar player, Dave who had a really specific sound. That changed the entire dynamic of the band. It wasn’t a very nice break up so it took a while to adjust to that. Also when we start a new album we evaluate what we love about the old one, what we didn’t like and what direction we want to pursue. On our last album was called ‘We Followed the Deadlights’, the title track was really interesting because that song had an 80’s new wave sound. We wanted to pursue that further in the sound, so it was going to be a darker album.
Lyrically I took the song in another direction, more socially critical than the last album. The last album had one or two critical songs, but this album is more about critical songs. I thought we also needed a different producer who had a different approach, because we wanted different things Soundwise. Dag Taeldeman had a band himself called The Brand, which was a mix of rock and dance music. Tag came from a different direction and understood what I meant when I told him we wanted to make a record that’s really heavy with the vocals being more like 80’s new romantic. We wanted this dark new wave feeling with heavy music. We didn’t want a nostalgia trip just a dark 80’s influence.
I automatically recalled the music I was listening to when I was younger. There was a lot of stuff from bands like Killing Joke, Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus who were dark 80’s bands. The influence was always there especially in our earlier records.
But now we just really brought it to the forefront and concreted on creating a sound. We signed to Nuclear Blast records and released Follow the Deadlights which was the first album we released worldwide. We realised we needed to stick out more and you have to have an original sound if you want people to notice you. So it was the original sound we were looking for and lyrically I had something to say. I think there are a lot of bands that don’t really talk about much anymore, it’s more like a statement more like ‘I’m going to do what bands use to do.’ I grew up and loved them bands like Dead Kennedys and Rage Against the Machine, bands that had something to say about the world so that’s where I’m at right now.
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE LIKE PLAYING AT SUMMER BREEZE?
That was really cool we performed a lot in Belgium and Holland. We are pretty big in our country but we started playing other places. I still remember that show Summer Breeze because we started to play and the crowd went totally nuts. I was thinking it’s a really hot day and we are the first band to play, today it’s four o’clock and they are problem, all drunk wanting to enjoy any kind of band it doesn’t really matter what it is. But then we started one of our songs Saint of Killers as soon as I did that I realised
they were all singing along and I was like you guys really turned up because you wanted to see us that was a really great feeling. I remember that being a really cool show.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY BAND PEFORM ONE OF YOUR SONGS, WHICH BAND AND SONG WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WOULD IT BE IN YOUR STYLE OR THEIRS?
Metallica or Nine Inch Nails, I’d get Nine Inch Nails to sing from The Gallows from our last album I would love to know what Trent would do with that. I would have James from Metallica do Saint of Killers. Killing Joke to make it more industrial and electronic.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BAND NAME AND LOGO?
There is a new logo that’s for this album, I wanted a logo that you could spray paint on a wall or put on the back of a jacket. Logos like the Misfits and Dead Kennedys used to have, that you would recognize even if you don’t know the band, you would go ‘That logo belongs to that band, that’s what the new logo was about basically’, AD and AV with a inverted cross. The other thing is Diablo Blvd is a street in California which leads up to a mountain called Mount Diablo. The funny thing is I didn’t know that it’s a song by a band called Corrosion of Conformity, they had an album called Americans Volume Dealer and that song was on their Diablo Blvd. I always thought it was a cool name but then I meet Perrer the singer and guitar player of Corrosion of Conformity.
I meet him at a Down show because he’s also in that band. He wanted to meet us because he found out there was a band called Diablo Blvd, he wanted a t-shirt and CD so we went down and gave it to him. He told us the story that he came up with the song title because he’s really good friends with James Hatfield from Metallica and they were booth walking their dog and apparently, there’s a street called Diablo Blvd. Pepper asked James if they had a song called Diablo Blvd or if they were planning on making a song called Diablo Blvd and he said no and Pepper said well I am so it’s mine now.
WHO WRITES THE MUSIC IN YOUR BAND OR DO YOU ALL WRITE IT TOGETHER?
In the last three albums the main writer was our guitar player Andres, most of the time and I write the vocal melodies and the lyrics so it was usually the two of us that wrote most of it. This album was more of a group effort we all pitched in and did things together. We came up with ideas but not full songs we came up with cool stuff and made songs out of it. There’s one song on the new album called “You Are All
You Love’ which started out as just singing. It started out as a vocal melody that I had and then they built the music around it. It was a really different way of working this time, usually it was Andres that came up with a song that was almost done musically and then I came up with vocal melodies and sang some lyrics over it. This time it was all of us working together, which was a lot more pain staking, because it took a lot longer. If there’s five of you and you have to listen to everyone’s opinions it’s really exhausting, but it was more rewarding as well in the end. Everyone was really happy at the result and had their own thing in there, so that made it more fun. Usually if you have one guy who says play this its eaiser.
HEDI XANDT DESIGNED YOUR ALBUM COVER WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA BEHIND THE COVER?
It was our drummer Chris who was responsible for the art work on all our other albums, he worked together with a good friend of his and that was there thing. Chris found Hedi Xandt’s work online, probably looking for stuff that he thought was interesting and he brought us that image and we said ‘Yeh that’s the album cover.’ We felt it instantly, because it’s cold and beautiful and dark as well so it fits the music a lot. It has the thing it always has something beautiful with something ugly and we thought it was a pretty striking image. Probably an album cover whether you like it or you don’t like it. If you walk past in a store, you stop to look at it for a second and go I wonder what type of records those guys make. That’s what I found most interesting about it.
YOU HAVE A FESTIVAL CALLED DIABLOFEST, WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO HOLD THIS FESTIVAL?
We have always been a band that has done our own thing, so we are not much of a scene band. Were not a straight up thrash metal band, black metal band or death metal band so if you’re not into a scene you are always on your own. You are always this band that doesn’t fit in anywhere. You’re too heavy for soft bands but your more commercial sounding then heavy bands. It makes it all difficult, you have a style of your own. We have always done things our own way and never listened to what anyone was doing. We thought we should do our own festival and put on bands. There that are friends of ours that we really like and more people should be listening to and because in Belgium we are a pretty big band we can host a festival and have a thousand people there. There’s people in there that will see bands that they would never see otherwise. We always kept the ticket price really cheap. It’s almost a punk rock kind of thing. There’s a lot of festivals now that are ridiculously expensive, I think a lot of young kids that want to see bands don’t have the chance to go because they can’t afford to spend that much money. We also keep our CD’s and t-shirts cheap. We make people come and listen to the music and experience different bands and have a really cool night out that’s basically what it’s become. We held one in 2014 and 2015 and we are thinking of doing one next year as well, keeping it a bit smaller scaled. Not have something where there are one hundred bands and only get to see three anyway. So it’s a evening with five or six bands and you get to see all of them.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO AN UP AND COMING BAND?
It’s a hard time for music right now, on one hand it’s a lot easier to get music out there because of Spotify and YouTube. But it’s a lot more difficult because there’s that many more bands that do it, so it’s harder to stick out. Our days since the music industry has changed a lot over the years. CD’s don’t sell anymore so the industry has changed in a lot of different ways. It’s really important if you get into music now, heavy music or alternative music, you do it because you live it there’s no other reason. You’re not getting rich I mean none of us are. We tour but we don’t make a lot of money. It’s just more getting out there and doing the thing you love. Say what you want to say and don’t pay much attention of what record companies expect from you. If they had any idea what they are doing they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing right now. Everyone could have predicted when Napaster came along, Lars knew it that would change everything, they called him a asshole back then for calling it. But he was right, none of us are making money anymore. Maybe some of the older ones are, maybe some of the younger ones are as a slight exception. But if you are having a lot of fun and doing what you want to do and enjoy it and you know it’s really rewarding when you work really hard on songs and you play them live and you see people react to them.
Then you see people and they come up to you and say I have you band logo tattooed on me. I have this one sentence from a song or one word from a song and got it tattooed on my arse that’s what you are doing it for that’s the fun part of it. Sometimes I see kids wearing these really old band t-shirts like Exodus and bands like that and there still out there making that kind of music which always makes me happy, those kids are just doing it because they love it and as long as you’re that you are going to be Ok.
DO YOU PREFER PLAYING FESTIVALS OR SMALL SHOWS?
Both they are both fun in different ways, I like festivals because its huge you get big crowds and there’s a lot of atmosphere eSpically if it’s in summer and the weather is great. It’s a really good day to hang out and go see some other bands you might really like and have a good show with a lot of other people. But I also love the small intimate club shows, because it makes you get up and personal with everyone and after the show you stand by the ‘merch’ store and talk to everyone and it’s just fun. You get to know the people from the country’s you go play in. They normally come and tell you some funny stuff about their country. I think they are booth interesting but in different ways.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE CONCERT MEMORY?
When I saw Pantera in 1992 on their Vulgar Display of Power that was insane it was in Belgium. It was a one thousand people venue, they sold out there were balconies on the side. When they started the song Fucking Hostile and as soon as they did that there were people jumping from the balconies and they landed on people moshing downstairs. It was one of those gigs where I was afraid I wasn’t going to survive.
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