With an outstanding new album on the shelves and in the ether, US heavy metal heroes and veterans Twisted Tower Dire offered the opportunity of a little swap of questions and answers courtesy of guitarist Dave Boyd. And, you know, you don’t run away from that kind of opportunity. So, trying to box up the fanboy and be professional, and abjectly failing, I had a chat.
AN: Hello Twisted Tower Dire! Thanks for the opportunity to chat, it’s a real privilege.
TTD: Hello, this is Dave and thanks for the interview!
AN: You must be really buzzing about the reception the new album has got. I’m seeing some great, and deserved, praise being heaped on you.
TTD: We’re very pleased with the album and glad everyone generally has very good things to say about it!
AN: So it has been eight years between ‘Make It Dark’ and ‘Wars In The Unknown’. A long time. Were there specific reasons for this, or just the way normal life goes for heavy metal bands these days? Do you all live relatively close to each other or is distance a factor as well?
TTD: The members of TTD live in three cities separated by a 4 hour drive. It has been very difficult to get us all in the same place for any reason. We all still want the band to live on, so we make it happen as fast as possible. Work, family and other obligations are obviously important too. We pulled this album together as fast as we could, but we hope the next one can be completed much more quickly. I wrote most of the music this time and I definitely didn’t rush it. Most of us also have other bands, so that’s a factor too.
AN: I know it’s a bit of a cliché question but how does the writing get done? Is it the domain of one or two people bringing the ideas to get beaten into shape in rehearsals or do people present finished songs? How often does life, families and work allow you to get together? Do you just hang out ever?
TTD: Scott (Waldrop, guitarist) has always been the principal songwriter in the band with us contributing ideas and edits as well. This time I took the lead because Scott was really busy and we wanted to separate our sound from Walpyrgus. Most of the core ideas are written by someone and we polish them up at rehearsal. Honestly, we don’t see much of each other anymore. We live far enough away from each other it’s difficult to even plan a rehearsal. I wish we could hang out together more these days, but this is how it is now.
AN: How do the various personalities in the band make it what it is? Is someone the great organiser and someone (like me) the great disorganiser? What do people bring outside of their musical abilities?
TTD: I think I’m considered the anal retentive member of the band (ha ha) and that’s not completely untrue. A band shouldn’t be all business and rules, but I think it’s important to handle things professionally and deal with our obligations in a certain way. Scott and Jim are artists and graphic designers, so they bring a lot of creativity to the mix. Jim’s usually the one who decides on song order with our shows and albums. He has a knack for that! Marc has a music business degree so he’s helpful with contracts and generally making sure we don’t do dumb things. Jonny’s like our little brother that contributes 100% when he’s needed. We all have a tendency to overthink things at times and other times we make quick decisions we regret later. You live and you learn! Scott recently quit drinking and smoking and became a marathon runner so that was quite the shift!
AN: One of the things that is so vibrant about the album is the variety of the subject matter. From mad cults with burning swords to famous US bombers. Is this a reflection of any obsessions or just random inspiration? Do outside activities ever inspire (not seen anything about running marathons yet, though…!)
TTD: Scott was inspired early on to write the whole album about WWII. I thought that was a bit much and I’m not a big fan of most concept albums. At some point we said, fuck it…let’s write the rest of the songs about crazy shit. This is heavy metal…NO RULES…and metalheads love crazy lyrics! Some people have questioned the lyrics for Light the Swords on Fire, and it is a bit over the top…but come on? Some bands write gore-ridden lyrics and people question a maniac wielding a burning sword? That sounds pretty metal to me! I guess it was a bit out of character for TTD, but it did get people’s attention! I’m sure Scott will find a way to work running into future lyrics and that’s fine by me.
AN: Apart from the fact I have decided to take some lyrics from The Thundering as my personal life statement (Mission: Disorganised, Target: Everything…) I was particularly fascinated by the lyrics to ‘And The Sharks Came Then’. Could you enlighten us a little?
TTD: Scott wrote those lyrics about the torpedoing of the USS Indianapolis, which was followed by what is believed to be the largest shark-on-human feeding frenzy. The survivors abandoned ship and sat in the water for a long time, being picked off by sharks one by one. How horrifying!! I think there was some confusion about where the ship went down or that it went down at all, so the survivors waited for days to be rescued.
AN: Talking of words, where did the band name come from. I remember some Solstice lyrics using them but my timeline is all jumbled so I have no idea if they were referencing you, you referencing them, both referencing some third source or all just a coincidence?
TTD: It actually came from some song lyrics written by a former guitarist for his other band. I guess Scott heard it or read it and thought it would make a good band name. Mystical, enchanting, weird…! It’s a name that’s impossible to accidentally rip off too, that’s a plus! Back in the day, if you chose a name like Blood Moon, you could be sure there were 12 others with the same name worldwide. Now you can google that stuff, but in the 90’s you could have a band for years and find another one in a different country with the same name. Not good!
AN: The band has been going for nearly a quarter of a century now which deserves so much respect. Apart from I suspect a strong streak of stubbornness what has kept you all going? I mean ‘Wars In The Unknown’ shows that, as they say, the fire is still burning so brightly. Do you remember how the band started, with what aims and has that reason changed over the years?
TTD: This band started while Scott was in high school. Originally they wanted to play doom metal and you can hear that on the early demos. Over time it evolved into something different. I joined in 1998 while we still had Janit singing, not long before the first album was recorded. She left pretty quickly and we found Tony and the rest is history. We’re all committed to keeping TTD alive because we believe in our music and enjoy doing it. In the early years it was all about playing shows and hanging out with friends. Things are a little different now but we still love playing live and sharing our music with people who enjoy it. We make zero money, it’s just a labour of love that we somehow keep moving forward.
AN: Do you see yourselves as part of a scene? Or is Twisted Tower Dire simply a band doing what it does and occasionally fortunate to play with like minded people? What does heavy metal mean to you- just music or is it a mindset or lifestyle…? You have given so much to it, but what have you got back in return I think I’m asking really.
TTD: We used to be part of the scene in Northern Virginia and later in Raleigh North Carolina. Right now we don’t play too often and we’re, like you said, “a band doing what it does and occasionally fortunate to play with like minded people”. Heavy Metal means a lot to me…freedom, rebellion, cool song writing, sharing the stage with friends. Going to a show or a festival is like entering a different dimension where we all belong because of our love of heavy metal. I guess it’s a lifestyle for me, but I also enjoy other things. I love being in the outdoors and my work revolves around the conservation of rare plants and animals. I’m not the kind of guy that wears a bullet belt everywhere I go or can always be spotted as a metal head. I think some people wear it “more on their sleeve” and seem to have something to prove. I just never found that necessary.
The return we get from being in a band is sharing our music with people that actually like it, making friends and traveling to new places, and feeling that you created something worthwhile with your bandmates. It’s hard to describe in words, but that’s what keeps us going.
AN: What has changed over the years? Has technology made some things easier for underground bands to get music out and noticed but economics made things harder? Or does it seem everything gets lost in the noise of social media and the like? If you could bring one thing back from the 90s what would it be, and anything you have now that you wish you had back then?
TTD: It’s much easier to get your music out there these days, but ANYONE can do it. Years ago you didn’t hear about bands unless your friends were members or they were at least “pretty good”. It was a big deal to record a professional demo and many bands didn’t make it that far. I think it’s kind of overwhelming how much is out there now. Of course, people can get digital music free or stream stuff and that definitely hurts underground bands. Smaller labels can’t provide much money to the bands and remain in business so they can’t offer a lot of recording money. We kicked in a lot of money to get this album mixed, even after tracking everything ourselves for free. It was worth every penny but I have no idea if we’ll even break even. That’s a hard pill to swallow! We could have mixed this album ourselves but we knew Kevin (Assembly Line Studios) would do a great job and we thought the music deserved it.
AN: Do family/friends not directly involved in the band think you all mad?
TTD: I’m sure some of them do! We’ve been doing it for so long everyone knows the deal and everyone is supportive. We’re not living in the gutter with needles in our arms, so it could be worse! Sometimes i meet people, tell them I’m in a metal band, and wonder what that means to them. Biting the heads off bats? Satanic devil music? I’m a loser with a pointless life? Who cares. We’re all happy doing what we do and that’s what’s important.
AN: Have you got any gigs organised now the new album is out, or is it a matter of seeing what happens and is possible? Sorry if I should know but have you ever played Europe? I’m guessing it would be a pretty huge undertaking sadlyI
TTD: We’re playing the Legions of Metal festival in Chicago this May. We’re hoping to do a short European tour in 2020. We have played at Keep It True, Headbangers Open Air, Up The Hammers, Wacken (2000/2003) and did several short tours with Slough Feg and Solstice in Germany and England. It is hard for us to drop everything and do even a short tour. Travel is also very expensive. We love playing in Europe and it’s definitely worth it if we can work out the details!
AN: Thanks for your time. Much appreciated. The album is just wonderful and I hope it gets you offers to play all those places you want to. Cheers!
TTD: Thanks so much for the interview! CHEERS AND METAL!!!!
There you are; the love of metal shining through from guys, who without airs, just want to play what they love playing. Something some young bands should keep close; love what you do, and somehow you can keep this crazy stuff going for as long as you want. My thanks to Dave Boyd for his time. A genuine pleasure.
Wars In The Unknown is out now on No Remorse records. Buy it because you won’t hear a better slice of pure heavy metal for a good long while.
Questions & Gibbering: Gizmo