Band of the Day: Dethonator

It’s been six whole years since we last featured Dethonator. We think it’s about time we caught up with them!

Simple things first – where are you guys from?

We’ve been a London based band for the best part of the last decade but it’s not where we come from.  The band started out in the East Midlands.  We did our first gig at The Princess Charlotte in Leicester.  Don’t look for it; it’s not there anymore.

How did you meet?

Two of us are brothers, so we’ve technically been in a band since Dad first bought a guitar.  A big, natural, Tanglewood hollow body.  I’m the elder, so I got to be the guitarist.  Tris was on keys.  Neither of us could play a note, but we did know where the volume switches were.  We just hit stuff and the keyboard demo did the rest.  We chose stage names.  I chose “Slash” because my mate at primary school had told me that the bestest guitarist in the world was called Slash.  I had no idea who he was.  Mum overheard me and told me to choose a different name; a slash was a euphemism for having a wee.

The other bandmates are friends who we’ve manipulated and blackmailed into being in our band.  Actually, I suppose it comes from having a friendship circle with music at its core.  There has always been a good mate who plays a bit who is not too far removed from us.  Not to say that we haven’t had auditions with strangers in the past but they have tended to be a bit on the surreal side.  We auditioned a guitarist once who didn’t play any rhythm, only lead.  He’d never played a chord before, not even a power chord.  That was an interesting afternoon.

How long have you been playing as a band?

We go back eighteen years and have been Dethonator since in 2009.  We’ve been stomping about the UK underground being phenomenally untrendy since we were kids and nobody has died, popped a sprog or turned 40 yet.  So, I guess that’s something.

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Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?

In an era where metal was suffering from a huge self-awareness crisis and every band name had to have a minimum of five words and sound like an indie band, we decided to go for the most Ronseal name we could think of.  If you’re analysing it then you’ve missed the point.  We are Dethonator.  We are a heavy metal band. Bosh!

What are your influences?

Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders and Aunt Bessie.

Describe your music. What makes you unique?

We are, above all else, a Heavy Metal band and a dominantly melodic one at that.

We’re solidly anchored by the old gods; Maiden, Priest, Sabbath, Metallica…but we are decidedly not a “trad metal” band.  The point of Dethonator is not to ride any nostalgia train or pretend that we’re from a bygone era in our sound or style.  There are many more layers of influence in our sound.  There’s been fifty years of metal, lots of sounds and tones and flavours and we enjoy a great deal of it.  Melodic metal doesn’t have to rely on nostalgia to be credible.  Sadly, it is to metal’s great detriment in 2020 that melodic sounds are so marginalised and so compartmentalised in favour of the mythology of extreme exceptionalism.  There is always room to incorporate elements of death metal, of black metal, of thrash and all manner of other moods into our sonic palette.  We are not just a one genre band.  We aren’t trying to fit a prescriptive sound blueprint.  We’d like to think that we play our own take on metal; it’s not pure steel.  If anything, it is Damascus steel.  In short, this band is not about obscure NWOBHM t-shirts and retro trainers.  It’s about songs that’ll take you out of yourself and big tunes that you can sing back at the band.  We want that connection with our audience.  This is not a pose.

Do you have any particular lyrical themes?

With our new record, Race Against The Sun: Part Two, the lyrical theme is very specific:  It’s Dracula.  We’ve written a narrative concept album retelling Stoker’s original novel.   We really wanted to capture the atmosphere, the tone and the structure of the original story with music.  Dethonator have always been a story telling band; something we take from Iron Maiden.  This new album is simply that approach taken to extremes.

What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?

I hope our live show is as passionate as we feel it is onstage.  We believe in putting on an energetic performance while trying our utmost to nail the songs.  The perspiration flows at a Dethonator gig.  We can’t expect our audience to lose it if we aren’t losing it too.  We aren’t shoe gazers.  We like to go out there and look our audience in the eye.  We like to encourage them to come along with us.  We want our audience to feel empowered and uplifted by our music.  Metal can have such a positive impact on a person and we want to embody that.  We believe in headbanging too; nothing better than seeing a lot of that down the front.  Honestly, I’ve lost track of the amount of shows we have played.  I’d guess that, by now, it is hundreds.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?

There was a show in an upstairs bar once where the crowd was densely packed and the whole floor was moving. Pictures were falling off the walls, furniture was going over.  There was another bar downstairs and their pint glasses were falling off of the hooks, dust coming out of the ceiling. The audience were actually trying to crash through the floor to the bar downstairs.  I dread to think of what could have happened.  Thankfully, it calmed down a bit; I’m amazed that the owners had us back so many times after that!

What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?

Guitar wise, both guitarists use Laney Ironheart amplifiers and cabinets.  Schecter guitars, also Gibson and Ibanez guitars.  Marshall, Boss and MXR pedals.  John uses whatever drum shells have been put down; at our level it’s all very kit share heavy.

Bass wise, I can go into more detail.  I use a Genz Benz Streamliner 600 going through 2 Vanderkley 112 EXT cabs or a Genz Benz Focus 210 and 115.  I primarily play a Spector Euro 5LX, sometimes a modded Rickenbacker 4001 or a Jackson Concert Pro V.  Pedal board features either a Darkglass B3K or a Sansamp GT2 depending on the bass, a Seymour Duncan Studio Bass Compressor, which I use as my main control centre, Boss CEB-3 Chorus and EHX Canyon FX.

What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?

Our new record Race Against The Sun: Part 2 is what we are plugging now.  It’s due for release on the 27th of November.  Our first single from the album, “Beautiful in Death”, will be available on the 30th of October; just in time for Halloween.

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What are your plans for 2020?

We had significant plans at the start of the year.  We had spots at Hammerfest, Mearfest, SOS Fest and others coming in.  Unfortunately, everything was cancelled or postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Next year, we should be appearing at SOS Fest, Mearfest and Manorfest at the moment.  Right now, it’s all about releasing the record, online promotion, working on new music, crossing fingers, staying in when possible and watching episodes of whatever on Netflix.

If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!

Unrealistic as it is, opening for Iron Maiden would be huge for us.  Supporting Nightwish would also be a hell of a gig for us; their audience knows all about melodic power.  Iced Earth or Amon Amarth would also be awesome to support.   For a band we’d bring along, there’s two bands really that we’ve semi-regularly swapped gigs with over the years.  They are Valafar and Eviltyde.  Actually, we are all very different bands but we’ve kept in contact and gone out of our way to maintain friendships and share stages over the years; actually, I think we’ve even been up Scafell Pike with

Valafar.  If we were in the position to give a band a leg up, we’d think of them first.

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