Demon Hunter's Ryan Clark Talks New Album "True Defiance"
Christian metal favorite Demon Hunter, which was recently named Best Christian Hardcore Band in the About.com 2012 Readers' Choice Awards, is today dropping the band's latest effort "True Defiance," which explores themes of going against the flow in the heavy metal world.
A handful of days prior to the release I got in touch with front man Ryan Clark to get an inside look at what went into "True Defiance," how the band has changed over its now decade long run, and the new music video for "My Destiny." Read on to see what Ryan had to say about the band's recording process and what the group does to stay busy in-between recording and touring.
xFiruath: You’re celebrating your tenth anniversary as a band this year, how is the band going right now and how have you guys changed over the years?
Ryan: It’s going great. As far as changes, there’s been lineup changes throughout the last 10 years here and there. The biggest one being my brother leaving the band a couple of years ago, but he’s been out of the band for the last two records. That was the biggest change we had to endure because he and I were kind of the song writers together for the first four records. As far as other changes, we’ve gone through some stylistic changes. I feel like everyone in the band, whether they are new members or have been with us for awhile, there’s been kind of an increase in the talent level and the skill level altogether, which has helped us progress to something a little more technical than what we were when we started. We kind of have more range. The basic framework is still there, I like to call it the “DH blueprint,” it’s something you can hear from record one to now, but we’ve made changes and tried to make it interesting and unique for every record.
xFiruath: The new album “True Defiance” comes out in just a few days. Fill me in a bit about the writing process for the album.
Ryan: I write the music and the lyrics and then at the very end when we’re getting pretty close to getting into the studio we get together and work on the details. The only parts I don’t write for general songwriting is lead guitar parts for the guitar solos, some of the more technical guitar work, because my skill level as far as that goes is limited. Patrick is an insanely good guitar player so I leave some of that stuff to him. As far as how we write, we live in different states so we do it a bit different than other bands, although I think more and more bands are doing it this way these days because of the accessibility of the Internet for file transferring and things like that. During the time between record cycles, if I get an idea for a song I write it down or record on my phone, like an idea for a riff or a vocal melody or a lyric or anything that’s a good start for a song. I document it and once it comes time to buckle down and work on a record I have this list to start from. I’ll expand on it at that point. Usually I really get down into the writing process about three months before we enter the studio. I’ll flesh out the demos on Garageband, with all the instruments and programming the drums. I like to be kind of over prepared when we hit the studio. In the studio things may change a bit here or there, but the structure of the songs is pretty much going to be what was on the demos.
xFiruath: Where did you handle the studio recording for “True Defiance?”
Ryan: We do it all together and we do them here in Seattle. We’ve done it the same place with the same guy Aaron Sprinkle here in the city at Compound Studio. We get together a couple days early to talk about the songs and figure things out. At that point the guys have had the songs for a couple of months to digest them and work out their parts and then they get to kind of add their own flavor.
xFiruath: What themes are you working with on “True Defiance” and what do the lyrics deal with?
Ryan: It’s not like a concept album, but there is an overarching kind of mood, which is sort of an unapologetic look at our world view and mine in particular. Being a Christian band and what that means, it just means we see the world in a different way than most metal bands do, and that’s where the album title comes from. If metal is inherently defiant against religion or politics or whatever it is, but then that becomes the popular stance to take in metal, it kind of loses it’s, the message is kind of that everyone is saying it and everyone is moving in the same direction. So within the scene itself we kind of take the stance of going against the grain, so it’s kind of a “True Defiance.”
xFiruath: Tell me about shooting the new music video for “My Destiny” and what’s going on in the song.
Ryan: We shot that there in Los Angeles with Robby Starbuck. The idea for the video was to kind of go back and do a sort of DIY, early days kind of approach to being in a band. The performance stuff is in a small, cramped rehearsal space in Los Angeles and we wanted it to look like a space bands practice in with the crummy lighting and bad carpet and make it about what it’s all about, what making music is all about. The song itself is about finding that moment in life when you’re younger when music strikes a chord with you. With me particularly when I realized music was what I wanted to do with my life. It’s about being involved with the whole vibe and the emotions and all those feelings you get when you see your first couple shows and blown away by playing music, and particularly heavy music.
xFiruath: Did anybody in the band get fooled by any fake news stories or did you drop any April Fools stories yourself this year?
Ryan: Not that I know of, but I haven’t talked to the guys since the other day. I’m not a big April Fool’s guy, but our bass player Jon definitely takes advantage of the holiday. I have a feeling he probably fooled someone pretty good yesterday, it’s kind of his Christmas.
xFiruath: When you guys aren’t on the road what takes up your time?
Ryan: Well I’m a full time graphic designer when I’m not on the road. I do a lot for music industry stuff, CD packaging, you name it. Jon, our bass player, he’s kind of managing a music department. Our drummer Yogi plays drums here and there, doing studio work. Our guitar player does sound, he’s a great sound guy and producer. He records and does sound on the road. Both he and our other guitar player Patrick play here and there in other bands. So everyone’s pretty busy when we aren’t touring or recording.
xFiruath: We’re coming up on blockbuster season, are there any movie buffs in Demon Hunter and what are you looking forward to seeing?
Ryan: I’m real excited for the new Wes Anderson movie. The name has escaped me right now, it’s called Kingdom or something like that. I love all his movies. The Ridley Scott movie “Prometheus,” I’m interested in seeing that, that looks phenomenal. I saw the trailer for the reboot of “Total Recall’ and that looks pretty cool. I think “Hugo” was probably the best of the year visually, it was really well acted and the sets were insane.
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