Wednesday, September 27, 2017

interview: Army of Dagon

The surprises keep on showing up, and it turns out that Army of Dagon is a band from right here in the Seattle area and somehow, it seems, they have been flying under the radar. This traditional, classic-style doom band released an album in 2015, the self-titled debut. Then in 2017 they did it again with Night of the Mystics. This is Army of Dagon from the state of Washington and they have some traditional, melodic doom headed your way. The band even has the full album streaming at the first link below, so there’s no excuse for diehard doomheads not to get with the program now. Check out the interview, but don’t forget to listen to the album, either. If you are in Seattle, catch them live on October 7th in Seattle.
Hi, there, Army of Dagon! How are things for the band this year? You released your second album in 2017! Have you had a chance to rest a bit and recover from all album work?
(Jonn Rockwell) Hi! Yes, we’ve recovered. It was actually really fun. Although it took a long time for my voice to recover. I pretty much blew it out while recording the album. I did not treat my voice well at all. Other than that, we take things pretty easy as a band. We try not to get too stressed out about what we’re doing. Recording this album was great. We recorded with Tad Doyle at his Witch Ape Studios here in Seattle. It took about 8 days to record and mix and it was a pleasure the whole time.
Who is Dagon and what army do you mean?
The Dagon we refer to is the one popularized by H.P. Lovecraft. In Lovecraft’s stories Dagon was kind an early Cthulhu, before he had written anything about Cthulhu. But both were sea-based old ones, gods of unimaginable power and unknowable motivations. There’s a reference in the ‘Dagon’ story that eventually he will tire of the scourge of humanity and destroy us all. I guess the army in our name would be part of that struggle, fighting alongside Dagon as one of his minions or fighting on behalf of humanity against impossible odds.
Metal Archives says that you began in 2011. Take us back to before 2011 and what led to Army of Dagon.
Yes, 2011 is when Dwayne, Andrew, and I started working together on some songs I had been messing around with at home. Before that, I was in a weird place personally. I hadn’t written anything or even played guitar at all for a few years and had been feeling pretty rootless mentally. I figured out that I needed to play something that would make me happy, so I went back to my love of horror and Lovecraft and 80’s metal and all these things I loved as a kid and started slowly basing some songs off that. Once I started playing with Dwayne and Andrew things changed up a bit and they added their influences to the mix, but those earlier ideas are still at the root of most of the stuff we write.
Your band is from Seattle. How long have you been playing shows in the Seattle region?
We’ve been playing out since 2012 or so. But we really don’t play that often. We’d like to, but our regular lives make it hard at times. Most years we’ve played 2 or 3 shows. We’re pretty determined to get out a lot more this time around. We have some tentative plans for next year to get out of our immediate area a bit more. So look for that. I believe it will happen!
You’ve been working fast. The debut in 2015. Then, boom, another one in 2017. Where is all this energy coming from?
Like I said, we don’t play out too much at the moment. But we practice most weeks during the year. So we get together quite a bit and that gives us a lot of time to work on new stuff. When we’re in writing mode things come pretty quick. When I’m in a writing mindset, I record a lot of riffs on my computer or on my phone. I’ll often write whole songs, but sometimes I’ll just gather up a bunch of riffs and play them for the other guys and we start cobbling together bits that sound nice together. Eventually we’ll narrow it all down to 6 or 8 songs to really focus on and I’ll write lyrics and vocal parts and we go about tightening those up until we’re pretty happy with them. We don’t agonize over stuff. We’re not out to change the world or reinvent the wheel with our music, we just want to have fun and enjoy the music that we make and the time we have.
Can you tell me a bit about Night of the Mystics, your new album? What themes motivate the ideas of Night of the Mystics?
Night of the Mystics itself comes from the line ‘with night the mystics come to trade their forms’, a line from the song ‘Evening Sky’. And most of the songs have an element of strange mystical powers referenced in the lyrics.
Sound wise, we wanted a sound that was more powerful than our first album. We wanted to keep some of the rough edges and looseness that we have when we’re having a good rehearsal. Dwayne’s tom work on the drums and Andrew’s simple, heavy bass lines lend ritualistic elements to some of the songs which add a lot to the lyrics and themes. Tad’s work on the recording added to everything in a massive way, with huge drums and a big wide sound.
I have been reading your lyrics on Metal Archives. Are they correct there? It seems like you prefer to keep the lyrics vague about magic, myths and beliefs. Where do the lyrics come from?
The lyrics at Metal Archives are correct. I think they were taken directly from our Bandcamp page and we entered those ourselves. I do keep the lyrics somewhat vague. I like to touch on the surface thing I may be writing about, but there’s usually another layer, something deeper I might be thinking about as I’m writing them. And sometimes I can go back to some lyrics a few years later and realize maybe my meaning was something completely different altogether.
Your lyrics also don’t seem to speak directly to reality. Your lyrics also are not personal, not angry, not political. Can you tell us about your thinking about this issue?
Generally the lyrics are vague descriptions of scenes I have in my head. But I do try to keep politics and other real life stuff out. There’s no anger here, there’s enough of that inundating us every day. This is a break from that. These are stories and dreams. The lyrics to ‘Bring the Stars’ are different in that they are pretty personal, but dreamy and vague on purpose, because that’s what I saw when I wrote them. I wrote the lyrics for ‘Black Mountain Keep’ based on a scene my son described to me after hearing an early version of the song without any vocals. He told me he imagined us playing to hundreds of Gollums in a mountain cave and there were dragons flying around outside protecting us from things that were trying to get into the cave. I told him he was a genius and bought him a bunch of candy. With ‘Fera Magic’ I just wanted to write the most 80’s heavy metal lyrics I possibly could. Dwayne names a lot of our songs, sometimes before there are any lyric ideas, and I’ll often write lyrics based on a name he’s come up with. So, I don’t have one approach to writing, but once I start I really enjoy it, and I’m really proud of the lyrics on this album.
Where are your next concerts? Do you have any other news that you’d like to share?
We have a show coming up October 7th at the Skylark in West Seattle, then nothing scheduled after that this year. But next year we plan to play a lot more and get back to writing for whatever comes next!
Thank you for your time.
Thank you so much for asking us these questions and for giving us the opportunity to talk about our music!

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