A Transcendent Endeavor
CoC chats with Warrel Dane of Nevermore
by: Jackie Smit
"This isn't a concept record at all", warns Warrel Dane jokingly. "We already did that once and I don't want to do it again. Sometimes I do tell people that we're going to be making another concept album though; I say it's going to be called "Operation Mindcrime 3" and it's going to suck."

It's a question that he'll undoubtedly be asked more times than he'll care to remember in the coming months; but in defence of the unwitting hacks who do so, it's easy to believe that _This Godless Endeavor_ is a conduit for a larger abstraction, especially when you consider the overwhelming scale of the record. Yet Warrel Dane, the man, is entirely removed from the larger-than-life voice that has actuated his band's music for over a decade. At once shy, straightforward, polite and good humoured, he even seems genuinely surprised and possibly even a little shocked at my assertion that Nevermore have possibly produced the definite album of 2005, if not of their career.

CoC: The first thing I'd like to touch on is the delay in finishing the new record. Some of our readers may not know this, but _This Godless Endeavor_ was a month overdue when it was finally completed.

Warrel Dane: Well, it took us a long time to record and we didn't really have the foresight to realise when we started scheduling shows that we wouldn't be finished with the album when the time came round to do them. We were actually supposed to be done with the recording prior to those shows, and we didn't quite finish, and then the two shows came along and that really fucked things up. So the lesson to be learned is to never schedule shows so close to recording time. But at least we got a little extra time to work on the record, which actually turned out to be a good thing.

CoC: So in terms of the shows throwing your schedule out, was that simply down to it tiring you guys out?

WD: The problem with Andy's [Sneap] studio is that it's four hours out of London, so it's not like we could just go around the corner and play the show. We had to stay there overnight and then they had press scheduled for us all goddamn day the next day, so that was like a whole weekend gone right there. And then we had another show in Greece, which like I said was supposed to be after we'd finished the album, but as things always do, we ran into problems in the studio and we needed more time.

CoC: The last time I spoke to Jeff [Loomis, guitarist] he said that you were all happy with the work that Kelly Gray had done on _Enemies of Reality_...

WD: We were happy with the rough mixes. When we heard the final product, we were horrified, because it didn't sound anything like the rough mixes. So we made Kelly re-master it actually after he gave us what was supposed to be the final cut of the record, and that helped things slightly. But just a little wasn't quite enough, and it was Century Media in fact who presented us with the idea of having Andy remix the album last year; and we were jumping up for joy, because it would give people the opportunity to hear what the fucking thing was supposed to sound like in the first place.

CoC: _Enemies of Reality_ was a bit of a departure for Nevermore in other ways as well though -- the songs were much faster and it's probably your only album that clocks in at under forty-five minutes.

WD: We didn't feel like making another sixty minute epic and I think that had a lot to do with the fact that we were in a lot of turmoil with our record company at the time. We had a lot of shit going on in our personal lives and we were just all really angry and that definitely comes out in the music. It's a really angry record. A lot of people complain that it was only forty minutes long, but fucking _Reign in Blood_ was less than a half hour!

CoC: You're straight back to the epic stuff now though.

WD: <laughs> Well, we had a lot of good songs.

CoC: So, was there anything that didn't make the cut?

WD: Absolutely.

CoC: Is there a chance that we'd be seeing any of them in the near future?

WD: Well, probably not, because we figured out during the recording process that these songs just weren't up to snuff. Andy was the first one to point that out. He told us: "You know what, guys? These songs aren't nearly as good as the other stuff, and I think you need to put them to bed." And we had to agree with him. However, we did do a cover of an Ozzy song called "Revelation Mother Earth", which is musically finished -- I still need to do the vocals, and we don't know what we'll do with it, but it will surface at some point.

CoC: I speak to a lot of bands who say that they don't like being away from their families and friends when they record, yet Nevermore were several thousand miles away from home when you did this album. What sort of effect did that have on you all?

WD: <laughs> It's a big relief sometimes actually, because you don't have people bugging you to come over all the time and you can just really focus on your craft. We did _Enemies of Reality_ while we were at home, and it took us fucking six months to record the goddamn thing. A lot of that had to do with the fact that Kelly was moving at the time and a large chunk of the album ended up being recorded in Jeff's basement. So that was a long arduous process, which I think is typical of being in your normal home environment, because there's so much temptation to do what you normally do. Out in Derbyshire with Andy, there's nothing to do besides focus on music.

CoC: Were you happy with _Enemies of Reality_ from a musical point of view?

WD: Oh yeah, I thought that the songs were really strong. I think sonically it sounded really shit. Maybe I'm harsh, because some people have said that they like the production, but they probably like _St. Anger_'s production as well. But at the end of day, Kelly is a really nice guy and I really enjoyed working with him. I just don't think that he's suited to the metal genre. I think that he's doing better with pop rock -- stuff like Candlebox. That's a completely different style to the music that we're playing. We're doing fast, technical metal and I think that the music kind of threw him when he heard it. He's just not used to metal. We tried to give him a crash course in death metal one night and I think when we got to playing him _Symphonies of Sickness_, he was like: "Okay, just stop." But we love this shit!

CoC: Speaking of death metal, there's the start of the new record, which I have to admit, had me convinced that I'd been sent the wrong promo.

WD: <laughs> But you figured it out when you heard the chorus...

CoC: So, what did you set out to achieve with this album?

WD: We just wanted to make another good metal record. We don't ever go into songwriting with any preconceived notions about sounding a certain way, or making epic songs, or making singles, or making anything with pop song structures or whatever. We just write songs. Jeff usually dictates the direction of the records, because it's maybe down to whatever particular mood he's in, but usually the music comes first and I take the discs home to my little home studio and I start working on vocals. And then when Jeff and I are happy with how it's coming along, then we'll take it down to rehearsal and Van will start learning the drum parts and basically everyone puts their own touches to it. That's always been our way of songwriting and it seems to working for us, but we never follow a particular formula, and I think that's evident from the fact that all of our records have their own particular character.

CoC: Touching on the lyrics to the new album for a moment, you're speaking about a lot of similar topics to ones you've touched on previously, with the media taking a particularly hard beating once again.

WD: The media controls the world. Do you believe everything you see on TV? Because most of it isn't fucking true. It bothers me, especially in the way that we're starting to move toward a big brother state. There's a lot of this stuff in Europe and it's starting to be implemented by certain cities in the States. I mean, with things like CCTV cameras being propped up everywhere and people actually getting photos of their cars in the mail when they're speeding -- where's this all going? It's going to escalate with time. That's the only logical conclusion, and that's fucking dangerous, because it means that personal freedoms are going to be taken away slowly so that people just really don't realise it until it's too late.

CoC: Some would say that the Patriot Act is a prime example of that in the States.

WD: You're absolutely right.

CoC: So, on that note -- what are your thoughts on last year's US election and the subsequent performance of the newly re-elected administration?

WD: <laughs> I don't even think I should answer that, because I'll just run my mouth and get into trouble. What I will say is that I didn't vote for that person. I did not vote for George Bush. You know, Frank Zappa actually gets a lot of "protest votes" and I've actually done that in the past myself just because I didn't like either candidate whatsoever.

CoC: Nevermore is on the Gigantour with Megadeth, which is great news for you guys obviously, but I'm interested to know your thoughts on Dave Mustaine's actions toward bands like Rotting Christ and Dissection, who were kicked off festivals recently because they essentially disagreed with some of his (religious) viewpoints.

WD: Well, I know the situation with Rotting Christ, and that band name I think was supposed to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. I've met them before and the impression I got was that they weren't Satanists at all. I think that Dave is just really sensitive toward things like that, and I actually saw him for the first time in several years a couple of days ago and we talked about a lot of stuff, but nothing about that. I was just waiting for him to ask me what our album title meant. <laughs> You know, people have the right to their own opinions and their own views, and just because mine differ radically from his doesn't mean that he's wrong to believe what he does. But who cares -- this tour is going to be so big, nobody is going to really be worrying about stuff like that. I doubt that anyone will get away with wearing upside down crosses on stage though. I think that Dave is getting a bad rap from the press at the moment, and I don't know what's going on in his head -- and I just met him again for the first time in years the other day, so I don't know where his head is at now, but I'll probably find out fairly soon.

CoC: Of course you knew Dave back in his more, shall we say, "wayward" years.

WD: <laughs> We were all fucked up back then. I barely remember recording the Sanctuary album with him, I was so loaded most of the time back then. I don't drink anymore now, so I can think very clearly, and that's been a pretty positive change for me.

CoC: When did you stop drinking?

WD: I gave up October last year.

CoC: Was that simply down to health reasons?

WD: Health reasons, definitely -- I gave up drinking and refined sugar. I mean, refined sugar is pretty much poison to your body and I just really needed to get healthy. I dropped a lot of weight when that happened, because I was drinking so much before. I was drinking maybe a whole litre of Vodka to myself every day for fucking years and it caught up to me finally. And it's been one of the hardest things in my life to quit, and it's a daily struggle, especially being at festivals. Everyone there is constantly fucked up and drunk and I never realised until now. I mean, when you're drunk, you think that everyone else is drunk with you, which isn't the case. I'm okay hanging out with people, and if you were drinking a beer for example, I'd have no problem with that; but if you were one of my really close friends I'd have to leave the room, because that would be someone that I really associate drinking and bonding with. It's a struggle and it's something I'm working through, but I do feel really fucking great at the moment.

CoC: Did you check yourself into any sort of recovery program?

WD: No, I did it all on my own, and my doctor actually told me that I was going to relapse and that I needed to go into therapy and into Alcoholics Anonymous, and I said that it wasn't necessary and that I could do it by myself. And he shook my hand and he told me: "I'll bet you that you'll be back in the hospital within a month." And I was like: "You know what? Thanks for the vote of confidence; you're no longer my doctor." He's still in the same building as my new doctor though, so I pop in every now and then and say: "Hey, I'm still not drinking -- how's that bet feeling now?"

CoC: That's pretty fucked up, to say the least.

WD: It is, and my sister is a registered nurse -- she was this close to going to him and fucking ripping his head off and reporting him to the medical board, because that is really fucking unprofessional. And I told her to just let it go. Just talking about all of this, I'm reminded of a quote I heard from Lemmy once, and he said that this industry will either turn you into an alcoholic or a drug addict, and that's very true. Everybody is always trying to give you something and people are always handing you all sorts of shit. And when you get sober, reality becomes a big fucking drug by itself. There's a lyric on _Enemies of Reality_: "(...) There's no bigger drug than reality." I wrote that when I was loaded, which is kind of ironic. You know something else? I always used to rely on a little bit of booze before every show, and I've found that when I'm singing completely sober during shows, I sing much better -- and I never would have thought that, because I was so used to the ritual of having a couple of drinks before every show. I have this reputation for being a complete fucked up drunk, as do some of the other people in our band, and I have to look at it this way: I've drunk so much in my lifetime, if I didn't stop then the younger kids coming up wouldn't have any. So every time someone hands me a bottle of Vodka now, I just give it to Children of Bodom. <laughs>

CoC: Well, this is something that I've noticed about the new album and I actually wanted to ask you about: your voice does sound a lot stronger on this record, and it's not down to a simple matter of production either. It just comes across with a lot more depth and impact.

WD: The thing that was going on when we were in the studio is that there was nothing to do, and Andy had a gym there and I would just exercise all the time out of sheer boredom. And of course, I also wasn't drinking. Andy really helped me a lot, because it was my first sober recording experience and I was really terrified because I had always had that crutch. So when I heard the final version of the new album, I sat down and listened to it with the headphones on, I was just like: "Andy is god!"

CoC: Steve Smyth has now officially joined Nevermore after you guys were sans an official second guitarist for a while. What clinched the deal and made you all decide that he was the one?

WD: Well, what happened was that we had been using Chris Broderick from Jag Panzer as a touring guitarist, and he couldn't do one of the tours because of a prior commitment. So we were like: "Okay, who are we going to use for the tour?" And Jeff suggested Steve Smyth, and he started touring with us and it became very clear after a while that... We're four very difficult personalities and we all got along with him very well; and when we started writing songs he was submitting new material, and the first thing that struck me was that the songs he was giving us sounded like Nevermore. It sounded like something that Jeff would write. I sometimes speak to people now and I play them a track off the new album and ask them to tell me who wrote it. Seventy-five percent of the time they're wrong. So that for me is what clinched the deal.

CoC: Simply out of curiosity, what makes you say that you have difficult personalities?

WD: When you've been together for ten years -- for fuck's sake, most marriages don't even last that long. You know, we fight just like brothers, and we have our moments when we want to fucking kill each other, and we have moments when we want to hug each other. And I think that's just like a lot of bands who have been together for this long. We are difficult people and we realise that and we've learned to manage it in the band.

CoC: Being in a band for ten years, do you still have the same fire in your belly about music? Do you still look at Nevermore in the same way that you did when you started out?

WD: I still feel the same way -- at least when we're writing records. You know, when Jeff calls up and he plays me a riff, I'll say: "Dude, get me a disc for that right away." And I'll get ideas immediately on what I might sing over that. So I still have that same feeling after ten years when we're recording. It still seems fresh to me and it still seems exciting to me. And the way I feel right now, I don't think that's going to end. Jeff and I -- we have a really good working relationship, and we've done so much together since 1995. We have people who keep sending us in these bootleg tapes from shows we did dating all the way back to the first shows we did in the States when we were opening for Death. We're actually thinking of putting that all on a DVD which we're going to release late next year, and we've actually already started putting together parts for it. We've had a camera guy with us when we shot the video to "Final Product" and he was filming backstage footage, and he'll actually be coming with us on Gigantour as well, and he's going to be on the European tour with us. We're also going to be putting in archive footage from all the tapes we have, even if it sucks. If it's funny, if it's interesting, it'll be on there. We just want to make it really special. It will be a double DVD and we'll do whatever we can to make it really special, because people have been asking us for years to do one and I think that the time is right for us to do it.

CoC: So when you've wrapped up the Gigantour, what are your plans?

WD: A headlining European tour and the UK will definitely be on that one as well. After that, we're off to the States and we're going to do another support slot for a bigger band, hopefully capitalizing on the momentum from Gigantour, and then we'll also do another headlining tour in the States. Then we'll hit South America, Australia -- hopefully -- and we'll be working really fucking hard.

CoC: You do spend a lot of time on the road.

WD: We do, and it tires you out. Sometimes we get back from tour and we don't speak to each other for two weeks. I just lock myself in my room and write lyrics and play with my cat.

CoC: You mentioned Death a few moments ago, and given that it's our site's tenth anniversary this year and that Chronicles of Chaos would probably not have existed without albums like _Leprosy_ and _Scream Bloody Gore_, I was wondering whether you'd like to share any thoughts on Chuck Schuldiner?

WD: Chuck actually asked me to sing on the Control Denied album, and I really wanted to. I'm really loyal to Nevermore though -- I have to tell you that. And we were so busy at the time... He sent me all the demos and all the lyrics, and I was like: "Yeah, fuck of course I want to do this." Unfortunately in the end, I just didn't have the time. And if I could go back in time and do anything differently, I'd sing on that fucking record.

CoC: On the topic of important and sadly departed figureheads in metal, I guess you get asked this all time, but what are your thoughts on Dimebag Darrel?

WD: That was just a horrible tragic thing, and I don't understand why this man who had a history of mental illness was allowed to have a gun. He was discharged from the military because he was fucking crazy. His mom knows this and she buys him a fucking gun for Christmas. Come on -- how fucking stupid can you be? That was just the saddest thing. I remember, we were in rehearsal in our rehearsal room and Steve's girlfriend called him on the telephone and told him that Dimebag had just been shot to death. And we all just stopped playing, because the look on his face was just -white-. We asked him what happened and he told us, and we said: "That can't be true." And he said: "Dude, it's fucking true -- it's on the news right now." Looking at it after eight months, you can't be scared to go on stage, but I've always been known for trying to pull people up on stage and at all the festivals we played recently I was just told not to do it at all. I mean, at Graspop they had always allowed me to pull people up on stage, and in a way it was always a part of our show. This time I was told that under no circumstances was I to do that. So it's changed a lot of things and it's a sad thing, but we live in a sick, fucked-up world...

CoC: Okay, let's wrap this up -- what do you have to say to the world, Warrel?

WD: Be prepared for _This Godless Endeavor_, because it will crush your brain.

(article submitted 11/7/2005)


CHATS
7/13/2003 J Smit Nevermore: The Greater Goal Achieved
8/12/2001 P Schwarz Nevermore: Dead Heat For the Politicians of Ecstasy
1/2/1997 A Bromley Nevermore: Seattle's Sinister Sages
10/1/1995 A Bromley Nevermore: Thrash the Seattle Way?!?
ALBUMS
9/4/2010 A El Naby 8 Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy
7/11/2005 J Smit 10 Nevermore - This Godless Endeavor
7/12/2003 J Smit 10 Nevermore - Enemies of Reality
11/20/2000 M Noll 9.5 Nevermore - Dead Heart in a Dead World
3/14/1999 A Bromley 10 Nevermore - Dreaming Neon Black
11/18/1996 A Bromley 9 Nevermore - The Politics of Ecstasy
GIGS
10/13/2003 P Schwarz Arch Enemy / Nevermore I'm Dreaming of a Neon Black Earth...
5/13/2001 M Noll Dimmu Borgir / In Flames / Nevermore Crimes in the Mourning Palace
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