Canadian rockers Theory of a Deadman (Tyler Connolly, Dean Back, David Brenner & Joe Dandeneau) have been busy. They released their fifth studio album Savages this past July and, having just wrapped a UK tour, are currently on the North American circuit with Head of the Herd and Gloryhound to promote its release. A couple of weeks into 2015 they head out on the road again, this time with Bush. And they’ve just announced the release of their full catalogue, including Savages, via a limited edition vinyl box set on December 2.
I recently sat down with bass player Dean Back to chat about the band and the years since 2002’s self-titled debut.
It’s been 12 years since the release of Theory of a Deadman…what has that journey been like?
It’s been amazing…it’s been a blur…it’s been great memories. We’re just happy that we’re still doing this 12 years later, having a brand new record and people coming out to see us play. I think with the new record we made an effort to sort of go back to the feel of the first record…more aggressive music and more moody. So I think we’ve almost come full circle. We’re really excited about Savages.
The album is quite different from some of your previous records…so you would say it marks coming full circle as opposed to either a change or progression?
I think it is a progression as well. We played a lot more with our instrumentation on this one; there are a lot of great guitar solos where Tyler has finally been able to really showcase his guitar talent, not just his songwriting talent. And Joe, our drummer…this was his first opportunity to really let loose. I think that the musicianship on Savages is the best we’ve ever done.
Tell me a bit about the writing process for the record and about your collaboration with Alice Cooper on the title track.
That song was pretty well finished and when Tyler wrote the lyrics he put in this kind of rant part in the middle; we all thought that it would be perfect to have a guest vocal on there. Someone who had that distinctive voice. We threw a lot of names out there and Alice Cooper’s name came up. I was a huge Guns N’ Roses fan and on the Use Your Illusion record he did a little guest spot, on “The Garden”. He’s got such a sinister voice and it’s so distinct. So his name got brought up, our producer, Howard Benson, knew his manager and sent the record off to Alice Cooper. He loved it and wanted to work with it. So Tyler flew out to Phoenix where he lives and they worked together – they had the producer via Skype helping out as well.
The songwriting for the basic record was a little bit different for us because we did it in two sessions. We’re all spread out…we’ve got one person in Winnipeg, me and Dave are up in Vancouver and Ty is in LA, so there’s a lot of emailing ideas back and forth. When we had about 7 or 8 ideas we got down to LA and concentrated on 6. There was a seventh one we really wanted to do but the label wasn’t sure about it at the time…we sweet-talked them into it and ended up recording 7 songs on the first session. That was in November of last year. We took a break over the holidays and worked on some more material. We came back in December/January and did another 8 or 9 songs. So it was weird to record it in two different sessions, but I think it gives the record a lot of diversity.
Would you say it’s darker in tone than your previous albums?
Yeah, I think absolutely this has a definite darker tone to it. I think with a lot of the songs, Tyler was lonely, being in LA by himself. Us bandmates were not there with him so I think there were a lot of those feelings that came out in him. And then, while a lot of the albums in the past have been reflective of his feelings, a lot of this is almost his look at the state of the world. More observations rather than feelings, I think. So a lot of it has to do with him observing what’s going on.
You’re no strangers to having cameos in your videos…do you have any particular favourite memories tied to those appearances?
I think Donal Logue (from the “Lowlife” video) was one of the great ones that we got to do. We filmed that down in Jacksonville, Florida and he was a good friend of the director – so we didn’t know who was going to play the lowlife in the video. I was sort of familiar with him…The Tao of Steve was a great movie back in the day.
But we ended up actually blowing that trailer up for real – there are no special effects in the video. It was funny, the Fire Marshall was there…like two blocks down the street was the actual fire hall and you see all the firemen sort of watching down the street from the end of the driveway, sort of in their casual clothes…the trailer blew up and you see the firemen kind of notice…”Uh, was that supposed to happen?” They run back into the hall, get on all their gear and the fire trucks roll down the street and they had to put it out because it had spread. It wasn’t just a nice big explosion – the flames lingered, it blew out windows in neighbouring houses… This poor old lady lived in a basement across the street…it blew out her windows and she came screaming out of her house. “We’re just shooting a video, rock n rollers destroying the neighbourhood…”!
But that experience was definitely a highlight.
Whose is the Starbucks mug collection we see on Instagram?
Tyler and I both kind of started it; I’ve taken it to a little bit of a different level. Tyler’s the one who’s sort of made it an Instagram hit. But yeah, I actually started it in Vegas. My collection is at close to 30 now.
Let’s talk touring. You’re currently on tour with Head of the Herd and Gloryhound opening…and have just announced a 2015 tour with Bush.
This tour’s been awesome. It always works out that we tour Canada right when the weather is starting to turn crap! But we really wouldn’t want to have it any other way. It’s when all the fans want to come in to a nice hot rock show and get warm! The Head of the Herd guys and the Gloryhound guys, we’re having a blast together. We didn’t really know much of them before the tour but like most bands, when you spend a lot of time on the road together, you bond.
We’re starting the Bush tour end of January and it goes all of February and half into March. That’s going to be exciting too.
Your album releases have been pretty steady over the 12 years…having just released a record, are you focusing on touring for now or is there any writing going on?
We’re focusing on touring. It’s almost like a three-year cycle…you release a record, you tour for about a year and a half to two years and put all your focus in that. And then you slow down for a little bit, take a breather and then start the artistic process again with writing. The album’s been out about 4 months…so we’ve got a little bit of a ways to go! We’ve got a lot of promoting to do. We just did a tour over in the UK and it was amazing. I think we’re going to put together another tour there for May or so and then it’s summer and festivals. We’ve already got a bunch of dates together and I’m sure there will be some Ontario festivals on the books for the summer.