Interview with Edsel Dope
By Gary Flinn
Several years ago, well ok, a bit more than several years ago, I had my first exposure to Dope live when they opened for Black Label Society at Wild Bills in Duluth, Georgia. I was blown away by their set and from that night on, I have been a fan of the band. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes with Edsel Dope when they came to Atlanta on the Die Motherfucker Die Reunion tour.
HHM: First thing, I have to tell you, I have been a fan since I saw you guys, years ago, at Wild Bills.
Edsel: Oh yeah! With Black Label….
HHM: Yeah. I was standing outside. The line was around the building and security was taking forever to let us in. You guys started your set and everyone outside was pissed. No one knew who was playing because they only had Black Label Society on the tickets. There was almost a huge fight outside with everyone wanting in. When my wife and I got inside, we were both like “these guys are awesome”.
Edsel: Well, thank you!
HHM: I bought a CD as soon as your set was over and I have been a fan of Dope ever since. I shot you guys here at the Masquerade a few years ago when you came through with Soil. I was really happy to get the chance to talk to you and shoot you again.
Edsel: Well here it is.
HHM: You have your new album, Blood Money, Part 1 coming out in a couple weeks. It sounds like you have everything an album needs on this one. I understand this is going to be a two part effort. How did you decide what to put on which album? Was it planned to be a two part thing? Is there going to be two different sounds?
Edsel: No, the reason it is a two part album is because it is a bunch of material that was written at the same time, so it would feel difficult for me to separate it into two separate titles. It will be pretty congruent, as far as the vibe between the two. It represents a larger chunk of my life.
HHM: I was reading that you said this album is more personal to you.
Edsel: Yeah, I think a better way to put it is that there are two kinds of song writing. There is song writing where you are looking outward and expressing opinions, perceptions, or judgments of the world, if you will. I’ve done quite a bit of that in the past and will definitely do it again in the future. Then there is the kind of writing that is more internal, looking inward. This album is more of an internal representation than an outward one. So that is probably why I would use the word “personal” to describe the expression of it.
HHM: Do you think that the time away, the time between albums affected that? Is that what sent you more inward or is that just where you were in your life and your career?
Edsel: I think that it was just my life. It was focusing on my life. As an artist, I write whatever is happening to me; whatever I am seeing or witnessing, as opposed to writing, specifically, what I think I, or the band, is supposed to do, or what people want. I write with where I am in my journey and in this particular case, I wasn’t touring a lot at the time, I was growing up in a lot of ways, and dealing with a lot of personal stuff so that is what is reflected in a lot of the song writing this time around.
HHM: Is there any one song off of this latest album that is the most you? You know the one closest to your heart.
Edsel: That’s hard to say. I mean, I feel like in the past I have written incredibly personal songs. We are a very wide band in that regard. We have “Die Motherfucker Die” and we have “Sing”. When you get into our catalog, we have a very broad range of expression, so it would hard for me to answer that.
HHM: So they are kind of all your children.
Edsel: Yeah, like the title track “Blood Money” is a very personal song to me but clearly a very different song than a song like “Hold On”. They are both completely different expressions yet they are both very personal to me for what is being said.
HHM: That is really a perfect Segway into my next thought on the new album. You have a very broad range on Blood Money, Part 1, from heavy with songs like Blood Money, 1999, and one of my personal favorites “A New Low”
HHM: I love that song. Then you have the industrial sounds with songs like Xhale and the one that took me by surprise, “Numb”. When I first listened to it with the synthesized voice, honestly, I was kind of “annggh”, you know, not really sure about it and I almost went to the next song. Then it hit those clean vocals. Man, I don’t know what it is, but that chorus is stuck in my head.
Edsel: Cool! It is a very dark, lonely song for sure.
HHM: I was reading that you guys just recently recorded a live album in Russia. How was that experience?
Edsel: It was great. We have been to Russia several times. We are going back this year for our fourth time there. It is something that we do every year now. The fans are great! The shows are great. That record I am really proud of. We put a lot of effort into recording it, the editing process, and the mixing. If you are into Dope, it is bad assed. It’s twenty one of the classic Dope songs produced really, really well. Obviously it’s live, but it doesn’t feel cheap. It hits really hard.
HHM: Was it done over a course of shows or just a single show?
Edsel: It was really just two shows, St Petersburg and Moscow.
HHM: I am definitely looking forward to hearing that one.
Edsel: It is really good.
HHM: Let’s switch gears a little bit. I saw where you are working on some new videos for the new album. Do you actually write and produce all the videos?
Edsel: Yes, I do.
HHM: I have to compliment you there. Being a photographer, I am very visually driven. I really dig the photography and the style of your videos.
Edsel: Well, thank you sir!
HHM: I love the concepts and the visuals you incorporate into your videos. Where to you draw the inspiration? Do you just let each song speak for itself? Your videos seem to have a different feel to them then a lot of other videos out there.
Edsel: Yeah man, each video kind of reflects whatever visually speaks to me within the song. That is what I am going to end up doing. Sometimes, if I feel like I have already “done that” somewhere, I will do something a little different. I have always been big on the visual expression and even the artwork of the records. I always make sure that the packaging is well done. The videos, the quality of them is very high. It has always been important. You can look at this band when we were at our height, when we were with Sony Music and they were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make music videos, and you can look at our current music videos for songs like Blood Money, for instance, and to me there has been no drop in quality. You see it in a lot of other bands, when they lose that major label funding, you can see it in their videos and the quality of the work. I won’t let that happen.
HHM: This is just personal opinion, but I think the later stuff you have done is actually better.
Edsel: There you go. I mean technology doesn’t hurt either. Cameras have gotten better and everything else has too, but I have just taught myself along the way. I produce our records, I direct the videos. I mean, it’s not so much because I am a control freak as it is because if you do that, you can make sure that the budget hits the screen, as opposed to having to pay a bunch of people a salary to make it happen. I will forfeit my salary to make sure it all winds up on the screen.
HHM: Let’s move on to the current tour. How did the idea for the “Die Motherfucker Die Reunion Tour” happen? Where did that come from?
Edsel: You know, it honestly wasn’t as thought out as it might sound like it was. Really and truthfully, the bands lineup is kind of like a fraternity. Like there has never been the same lineup for any record, there has always been different people involved. During this time away from touring, we did a lot of regional stuff and we have gone overseas multiple times, as I mentioned earlier, we have gone to Russia three times since our last album came out. It is just a matter of me looking into that list of fraternity brothers that have the look and know the songs, and have a good relationship with and seeing who is available and who is interested. Sometimes these guys have other gigs and this particular time, it was shortly after we had gotten back from doing a UK tour, where it was myself, Acey, and Racci, but Virus was unavailable, so we took Nikk with us. He is one of my other guitar players. We got the call to do this Russia tour and I just hit up everybody to see who was available. When everybody got back to me, it was just coincidental that Racci, Virus, and Acey were all available. It occurred to me that I had played with Acey recently, I have played with Racci recently, and I have played with Virus recently, but I hadn’t played with all four of us together in quite a long time. So it just gave me an extra little cherry on top as we were thinking about doing a national tour and adding a final release date for the record just to add the word “reunion”. You know, when you add “reunion” it makes people look. So it just helped us garner a little bit more awareness to what’s going on and to the fans that know the difference it’s cool because they get to see a lineup that they haven’t seen in a really long time. Really I think the majority of the enthusiasm around this tour and what we are doing is about the fact that the band is back, we are touring and we have a new record to promote. It has been a long time away, so I think fans are excited that we are back and we are doing something of significance.
HHM: As far as the music, what are you doing on this tour? Are you leaning toward the new stuff or are you spanning the course of your career?
Edsel: Well, especially since we are billing this as the “reunion tour”, we are playing mostly what we played in Russia for the live record. It’s the extended old school set. You know, until the record comes out, I usually have a hard time playing the new material because I don’t want someone to find it on some crappy IPhone, Youtube video that is like “here’s the new Dope song”, and it sounds like shit. I like to make sure the record is out so that people can absorb the actual produced versions of the songs and then we’ll start playing them live because people will have the reference point for the music.
HHM: I have to say this, being my first time meeting you, you seem like you have your shit together when it comes to this.
Edsel: (laughs) Well, I have been doing this a long time.
HHM: It’s nice to see
HHM: Now, my last question. It is a question I ask of everyone I interview. It is a little something I have asked from my very first interview I did years ago with Dave “Snake” Sabo of Skid Row.
HHM: If you could take the stage one time, for one night with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
Edsel: Oh man. I just get one?
HHM: Yep, one. One time, one night….
Edsel: I mean, Elvis Presley man… The king!
HHM: That’s awesome..
Edsel: I would love to play drums for the king!
HHM: You can’t argue with that at all.
Edsel: The king all day long.
(For the record, after the interview finished we had a few minutes of small talk. Edsel just had to know who Snake Sabo said…… His answer; “Randy Rhoads, but I wouldn’t even want a guitar. I would just want to sit on the side of the stage, or on amp and just watch him play.”) Now you know too….
A short time after this interview, I had the opportunity to shoot Dope live and take in the full twenty one song set up close and personal. First, let me say, this lineup rocks! Not detracting from any of the other Dope lineups I have seen, but this took me back to that first time I saw the band. Acey seemed like he spent more time in the air than he did on the ground. Virus, at times, seemed to be chasing me around the stage (which was fun for me). Racci, well let’s just say thunder was jealous of the sounds he beat out of those drums. Then there was Edsel, the voice and the heart of Dope. The dude just plain gives it all he’s got on stage.
First I’ll cover the “Die Motherfucker Die Reunion Tour” in general. This night was full of great music. From the opening act, Floored, a local Atlanta band that made a lasting impression on me. The question that I had of them was why I had not seen or heard them in nearly four years of covering music in the Atlanta area. These guys rocked! I will be looking and listening for more from them in the future. Then there was Motograter. My god, what fun these guys were to shoot. Great music, amazing interaction, my only regret being the lighting not bringing out the colors of their body and face paint. Flaw hit the stage just prior to Dope and put down a great set as well.
As Dope’s set began, the crowd, gathered in the familiar confines of Hell at 695 North Avenue for one of the last shows there, began chanting “We want Dope” repeatedly until the band appeared. The band rolled through a set list that spanned the full length of their catalog and included covers of “Spin Me Round” and of course, their great cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”. One of my favorite moments was when Edsel announced to the crowd that there would be no “encore”. Plainly stated, he said when we finish this next song we are done. There will be no pretending we are done, then suddenly coming back out as if it wasn’t planned all along; no, not this time boys and girls. Of course the closing song was actually five songs in one, so if you need an encore, how does a five song pseudo encore suit you? What can be better Dope closing out the night with “Die Motherfucker Die”, “I’m Back”, “Sick” (Bang Your Dead), “Burn”, and the ever popular Dope cover of NWA’s “Fuck tha Police”. It was a great night indeed!
Dope’s latest album, Blood Money, Part 1 is set to release on October 28th.
The Die Motherfucker Die Reunion Tour continues through the end of October with the final show in Los Angeles at the Whisky. Dope then heads off to Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom for a series of shows in November.
- Everything Sux
- Pig Society
- Spin Me Round
- Best Shot
- Now or Never
- What About…
- Bring It On
- No Way Out
- Rebel Yell
- Die Motherfucker Die
- I’m Back
- Sick (Bang Your Dead)
- Fuck tha Police
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- Photos: Dope at the Masquerade in Atlanta - Photo Credit: Gary Flinn
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