An Interview With Dan Mitchell Of Autumns Eyes
Band Photo: Autumns Eyes (?)
New England one man band Autumns Eyes has recently started offering five albums for free download in celebration of the band's 10th anniversary. The project also recently shot a music video for the song "Feast of the Dead" in a classic slasher movie style. Autumns Eyes mastermind Dan spoke with me about the band's recent activity and his take on the horror movie genre.
xFiruath: Tell me about when you first got started in music and why you wanted to be a musician.
Dan: Probably might sound a little corny but the marching band in high school got me into it. I started in the drum line in like the 9th grade and before that I was playing drums since I was around five years old. Late in high school I got a guitar from my brother and he taught me a couple of Dream Theater songs. I just picked it up from there. In ’99 I started recording my own stuff. I asked for a drum set for Christmas but I ended up getting a four track recorder and I started recording.
xFiruath: How did Autumns Eyes get started and what made you go solo?
Dan: I had done a couple of bands throughout high school, you know kicking around here and there. I guess late ’99 I started Autumns Eyes, just screwing around with the four track, writing my own stuff with guitar and keyboard and stuff like that. I moved to Boston in 2000 and then just kind of started writing songs and it felt more comfortable to do it on my own. Not dealing with the egos of other band members I guess. I just stuck with it ever since.
xFiruath: How would you describe the Autumns Eyes to someone who had never heard your music before?
Dan: I don’t know, it’s very eclectic. It differs from every album you know, sometimes there’s definitely influence from the Swedish metal realm like In Flame and Soilwork. There’s darker elements like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, but then there’s also the influence from the Danny Elfman, Tim Burton film score stuff. I’ve been called melodic death metal before so I guess that would be the genre right there for you.
xFiruath: Since the sound changes so much from album to album do your lyrics stay consistently in the same style?
Dan: Yeah the lyrics are pretty consistent. I don’t really base them on anything thematic. It’s basically just whatever is going on at that point in my life, anything that’s happened in real life. I don’t base it on fantasy or anything like that.
xFiruath: What prompted you to offer so many of your albums for free download and how long will they be staying available at no cost?
Dan: Probably forever. I have one of them in iTunes and I’ve been into selling it for a couple of years now but you know I’ve kind of been turned off by the whole industry and how prices are going up and the record companies are getting into this whole loudness war with each other. I’ve seen a lot of bands doing it for free lately like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead. It gave me the idea of why not offer it for free since I’m not in it for the money anyway. I’m just doing it because I like doing it so why not just share it with everybody for free.
xFiruath: Tell me about the filming of the “Feast of the Dead” music video. How did that go and who did you work with on it?
Dan: That was a buddy of mine Rob Shepherd and his brother Jeff Shepherd. Rob had been working at MTV for awhile and his brother had been doing some stuff in New York for the Saw III soundtrack and he was working with Helmet at the time doing a video for them. I got the idea to do a music video since I had never done one before and Rob and I are big fans of low budget horror and that type of stuff. So we came up with the idea to do a campy low budget horror movie style type of thing in the woods. He asked his brother Jeff if he could shoot it and we got a hold of a nice camera from a production company at MTV that let us borrow it for a few weeks. They came down here to New England, in Connecticut actually, and wrote the script in like a week. It wasn’t anything crazy, just basically chase a girl around the woods for a while and that was it.
xFiruath: Speaking of low budget horror, what’s your favorite horror flick, which one would be a must-see for fans?
Dan: Anything from Troma productions. That studio is great for good laughs and gore.
xFiruath: We actually have a drinking game around here with Troma movies. Anytime you see stupidly excessive gore or nudity you take a shot. We never finish a whole movie.
Dan: Yeah you would be passed out before the end. That an anything Peter Jackson did from before like The Frighteners and all that, Bad Taste.
xFiruath: I haven’t seen Bad Taste but what’s that other one, Dead Alive? I read somewhere that no movie in the history of film has exceeded the amount of blood used in Dead Alive.
Dan: Oh yeah, many have tried but few have come close.
xFiruath: I saw on your website that you’re a fan of movies like A Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday the 13th. What do you think of the remakes that are being made of those movies?
Dan: Oh man don’t get me started. I guess it’s alright if you’re trying to introduce a new generation, but part of me is afraid of it because you get these young kids who are coming out and you talk to them and they’ll say they love Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But their talking about the new one with Jessica Biel and they’ve completely forgotten about the original one from the ‘70s. Friday the 13th, I was debating recently with some friends of mine about whether I should go and see it. I think I’ll give it a shot because I actually saw Jason X in theaters.
xFiruath: I’m sorry man.
Dan: I figured if I saw that I might as well give this a chance. I don’t think you can get much worse than Jason in space. That was something else.
xFiruath: So what’s on the horizon for Autumns Eyes? Any upcoming shows or new albums coming out?
Dan: I was working on a theme album that was based on the real story behind The Exorcism of Emily Rose movie but that kind of tanked because as I was writing new material I got up to like 35 demos in the past year. The songs just came out so eclectic that I’m going to save the theme album for another time and this next album that I’ll be putting out this year is just 15 songs that are just really diverse. Everything from jazz to metal to rock and some soft stuff. It’s all got that Autumns Eyes feel I guess you could say. It’s kind of like if Tim Burton got to do a movie in every kind of style he ever wanted to, it’s the same aspect here with the music.
xFiruath: So when you aren’t playing music what bands and albums do you listen to most often?
Dan: Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Tom Waits stuff. I’m kind of sick of the metal scene out there right now. It seems kind of repetitive right now. Tom Waits has turned me on because the guy sounds like a monster but he’s one of the biggest song writers out there. He has a voice like a gurgling drunk whiskey driven bum, but people like him for some reason. It’s very unique. That and I’ve been listening to a lot Mr. Bungle, not really a lot of metal.
xFiruath: I’m glad you brought up the repetition in metal because I was going to ask is there anything about the metal scene or the music business in general that you’d like to see changed?
Dan: Yeah, I’d like to see a lot of metal bands stop listening to themselves. I think the whole scene is paying too much attention to their own genre. I think they should explore other realms out there. It’s getting so watered down to the point that a lot of bands, out here at least, are just really repetitive. They are trying to get a feel and one up the next band, it seems like they are all in competition to be louder and scream harder than everyone else and they are losing focus on the music. You know that whole loudness war I brought up before, I pay a lot of attention to what bands are writing and recording up here. A lot of bands are more concerned with if their music is louder than the next metal bands than about the quality of the music. A lot of bands are trying to copy other bands that they here. Bands that are getting into black metal for the first time, well their knowledge of black metal is limited to the last two Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth albums. They don’t know anything about Mayhem or Burzum. They just take what they got off the shelf in the last two or three years and call it black metal.
xFiruath: That’s about all my questions, so do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Dan: Just try to be more diverse. There’s a lot more music out there besides metal. If more metal bands started listening to more eclectic music there would be a lot of good shit out there. It would totally reinvent the scene.
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