Dakesis: Ancient Greek, illusion. Or alternatively, an unashamedly cheesy five piece power metal band from Birmingham. Concentrating on the latter, the ever intrepid Chop and Pink met up with (L to R) Amie Chatterley (bass/vocals/keyboards), Wayne Dorman (guitar and vocals), Gemma Lawler (keyboards/vocals/bass), Matt Jones (guitar), and Adam Harris (drums) shortly before a gig that could prove pivotal in their career. After the opening pleasantries there could be only one question to start....
The Thunderstone gig at the Roadhouse looms ever nearer. Clearly you're all excited, how did the gig come about?
GL – We went to London to see Thunderstone, their first gig in six years. We'd all been waiting forever to see them. We got a bit cheeky really, gave them a CD of ours after the gig and said 'you're our favourite band, if you ever want to come back to England and play somewhere outside of London give us a call and we'd love to set something up.' A few months later, out of the blue, we got this e-mail saying we've checked out your CD and liked it, let's set a gig up! It's like a dream come true really. They're doing another night in London rescheduled from the time of the Icelandic volcanic eruption and wanted to add another gig onto the end.
(Continuing the cheeky theme) So who's headlining then?
WD – Well Thunderstone! Then us, and then our ex drummer's band Redline Rebellion.
Any tricks up your sleeve for this particular gig?
GL – We're going to do what we always do, go out there and entertain. With the obvious added pleasure of playing before our heroes! So we want to put on a good show, and also show what we can do really. The night's all about them, we're the guests. We may be the one's bringing them here but it's their night.
WD – I'm hugely excited thinking that we'll be playing with them. When they were due to play Prog Power – two years ago was it? - we were gutted when it was cancelled. But now we're going to actually be playing with them, so it's a dream come true for me. Much as I'll be happy to be sharing the same stage, I'm also happy just to see them play. It's the greatest honour we could ever have. They're like gods in my eyes – amazing!
Considering Thunderstone have been such an influence on the band overall, who do you consider, individually, to be your major influences?
GL – We've all got different tastes. I'm the power metal nut! I like all the cheese – Manowar, Sabaton, etc. Anything that's keyboard-driven power metal I'm mad on. And then it kind of diversifies...
WD – I'm the odd one out in the band and you're going to laugh at me – Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, as well as European power metal like HammerFall and Sabaton.
AC – Extreme metal, mainly death and black metal.
AH – I'm a massive Genesis fan. Big on my prog!
MJ – More Scandinavian metal like Children of Bodom. These guys have been trying to educate me!
On the subject of influences – and sorry to single out the guitarists! - who has most influenced your styles?
MJ – Well the main one that got me interested was Alexi Laiho although I know it's frowned upon nowadays! I often get a lot of stick...
WD – The first one was Gary Moore. I started playing a lot of blues. Then Kirk Hammett got me into playing metal. I'm also a really big fan of George Lynch, John Sykes, Van Halen, Steve Vai... I like their flamboyance and cockiness but I prefer to play more like Gary Moore and even Dave Gilmour.
Tell us a little please about the band's history...
WD – I'd been in a band for a while but it had run its course. I'd pretty much given up on music because I wasn't getting anywhere. I joined a covers band and had good fun. But then I met up with our original guitarist. It was nothing special at first, just two mates having fun. The band got a lease of life when Gemma joined. Then our guitarist left, although thankfully we found Matt quickly. We found our original drummer and then Amie joined when our bass player left. Amie's actually a guitarist but she agreed to play bass for us.
GL – Everyone here turned up when we needed them, out of the blue. They just appeared from nowhere! Even Amie, who's been my best friend for years – when we were looking for a bass player we were joking 'we want someone with long hair'! Wayne went 'Amie's got really long hair... do you fancy learning to play bass'? And she did!
Does that explain why you play a five string?
AC – Yeah I guess so! I feel lost with only four strings! I've given up the plectrum though...
How does the song writing process work?
WD – There's certainly not a 'I write the songs you guys can play the music'. Anyone is welcome to bring ideas to the table. Nobody's better than anyone else, we're all equal. That said, generally me and Amie are the main song writers of the group. Although Adam's a pretty damn good song writer too! The song's have changed since Amie's arrived – she's definitely added her own ideas! The songs became a lot darker, or progressive. Adam's changed the band a lot too, by adding a lot of heaviness and a different dynamic. We never really had the technical guitar riffs before Matt joined either.
And the lyrics?
GL – Me and Amie generally do most of the lyric writing now. When we joined the band Wayne had written “Trial By Fire”, “Valhalla”, and “440” beforehand. I took over vocal line and lyric writing when I joined the band [Gemma's a singing teacher by trade]. Amie and myself write lyrics together well being friends. We'll go away and write pure cheesy filth! “On Wings Of Steel” was entirely our fault!
You're currently working on a full length album to follow up your self titled EP?
WD – One thing I want to point out is how much effort our producer, Dan, has put in. We met him out of the blue. We played him Thunderstone and said 'we want to sound like that'. He said he could do it. What he's achieved, we really can't thank him enough. He's had a lot of input into the recording too. He's got a mobile studio. He lugs it down – just about fits into the car – sets it up, mics etc, and sits there for hours.
GL – We've been doing it in our jam room at mine and Wayne's house. We did the drums in a spare room at Amie's that we sound-proofed up! We
weren't sure what the results were going to be like, but the raw sound was pretty much what we wanted for the finished product. Either we're very lucky or Dan's very skilled! We are incredibly lucky – most bands recording with a mobile wouldn't expect this quality. We want people to think that ours is a really good album and not even think about the production. We're up to 35 layers of keyboards on one particular song...
What stage is the album at?
GL – It's taking so long because we want that polished sound, that high European production, which is so hard to get. You can't go into a studio for three days and come out with that level of mixing. Since we found Dan pretty much every day of the week we're working on the album,and have been for three months now maybe.
WD – Final embellishments now really. We're checking everything over, but provisionally it's recorded. We're waiting on a few bass tracks still [all glare at Amie!] but we're listening back on everything, checking everything's in tune etc.
GL – There's a lot of experimentation before we start the final mix, but we're not too far off. We're hoping for later on in the year.
You're an unsigned band – have there been any chats with labels?
GL – That's not something we're pushing for. There's never been a better time to self release an album. That's not to say we're not interested in being signed – there aren't many bands out there that would turn down a great deal – but we are planning on self releasing this album. There's been some interest but not enough for us to want to jump on board. The harder we work, the more likely we are to succeed.
You're renowned for your live performances – how has your stage show evolved over the years?
WD – A lot of it is spontaneous. Pyrotechnics, lasers, fireworks from guitars, that's all planned. Perhaps it accounts for as much as 50% of peoples' enjoyment of our live shows.
GL – The dream is to play huge stages with elaborate stagesets and it does make a huge difference. If we went on stage, stood still, and didn't have the energy and tricks that we have, I don't know if people would come back and see us again. We do talk about ways to make it interesting. We have so much fun on stage we can't still still! The guitar set piece was planned – that's been with the band for a while.
WD – The original guitarist and myself had discussed it but we never had the courage to do it. We fell over a few times when we practised it!
GL – At the end of the day we'll try anything that gets a laugh or a cheer out of an audience! That's what it's all about!
How did the change around of duties during “Broken” happen?
AC – My first instrument was actually piano – played that for a long time before guitar – so it should be the instrument I feel most comfortable with! I quite enjoy the change and the crowd reaction too – 'there's two girls and they're swapping instruments'!
GL – When Amie came along, who was a master pianist as a ten year old, it gave me the opportunity to play bass and have the space to belt the song out. It really wouldn't work if I was still behind the keyboards.
Your favourite venues to play?
All as one – The Roadhouse!!
WD – This may sound odd.... but the Old Wharf. It's small, but Chris on the sound desk does a phenomenal job, and you always, without fail, have a great night there
.GL – We owe a lot to the Old Wharf. It's a little pub in the back end of Birmingham where we can barely all fit on the stage, but we love it.
WD – It's a great starting point for up and coming bands. You're guaranteed that people will stick around and watch you. It's tiny and dingy, but it's cool at the same time.
I wouldn't say it's dingy. The lighting and lasers are superb.
GL – What they've done with the place is phenomenal. That said the first time we played the Roadhouse we got a taste of what it could be like as a successful touring band. That's the main reason we're putting Thunderstone on there. Great sound, great stage, great people, great everything.
WD – What makes any venue though is the people coming to watch you. Without them you're nothing. You might as well be a garage band with nobody watching you.
Last couple of questions for you. How did the Abbath gag start?
AC – It started out at a quiz night we used to go to. We didn't know any of the answers – football, films, chart music – so we filled in the answers as Abbath for a laugh. It then evolved into a huge list of inappropriate places to wear Abbath corpse paint, which became an in-house band joke.
Who is “Mother Of Steel”?
GL – She's my mother and she's always been with the band. She wasn't at our first gig, but she's maybe missed two gigs in two years now. She sells our merch, pats our heads and goes 'there, there', if anything goes wrong. She's the unofficial sixth member really!
Finally, how's the Dakesis-mobile coming along?
WD – Very well. Few little jobs to do here and there with it. It's funny the reaction you get turning up for gigs in it. It does reflect well on the band. Me being an American car enthusiast I was thinking of getting a Trans Am or something, but then we realised a van was a better option. We're planning to get it chromed out, a paint job on it – the idea is to end up with a hotel on wheels.
GL – The best thing for me is going to gigs together. We were taking three cars before, which was actually costing us more than the van. For the five of us to be together, with all our kit, on the way to gigs, is something money can't buy.
Which brought the formal interview to a conclusion. A trip in the Dakesis-mobile back to Chopmusic HQ followed – amazing vehicle! - and much tea drinking and chat ensued. Such was the quality of the company that the hours had flown by like minutes....
Dakesis were great fun and we thank them all for such an enjoyable afternoon and evening. The Thunderstone gig gets ever closer and what a night that promises to be. With their feet firmly on the ground, and a clear plan in place of what they want to achieve, I suspect that this will be a springboard to their next phase of success. The new album could well be the catalyst in their quest for world domination.....