Before they helped warm the crowd up for the might Anvil at the ABC2, I had a chance for a second chat with upcoming metal giants Dendera. The last time we spoke was in September 2013 when they were touring with Gloryhammer. Since then they’ve played a fair few more shows, released a new album and swapped one guitarist for another.
Vocalist Ashley and new addition David gave up some precious pizza-scoffing time to have a chinwag. We nattered about the new album, what Dave’s bringing to the band, and Ashley had some excellent advice for new bands starting out on the road to fame and fortune…
Why so long to come and visit us up here again?
Ashley: It’s a case of getting the right tour, really. We’ve always believed in playing to a good audience, not just four or five people, which helps us give the best possible performance we can. As soon as we saw that Glasgow was on the tour we knew we couldn’t wait to come back. It’s a good ten-hour drive back home tomorrow as well! We’re in a sleeper bus so we get to rest while someone else drives us back to our homes.
You released a new album recently. How’s that been received?
Ashley: I’d probably go so far as to say it’s been received even better than the last one. Some people who weren’t so keen on the last one have come back and said that this one is right up their street. We had some people say they preferred the old one, which is perfectly fair. I think the new album is exactly what we wanted to write and exactly how we wanted to write it. It’s a very modern album that still sounds like classic metal.
Was that a deliberate plan, or a natural progression for the band as you develop?
Ashley: A bit of both. We all discussed it, and wanted something a bit more like Machine Head or Trivium without the screaming vocals. Steve wrote a lot of the guitar stuff and we thought “this is heavier… we’ll go with it”.
Did you expect the reaction that you got for the first album or were you really, at the time, just a bunch of guys producing music for fun?
Ashley: We had an EP out before that and we took two of the tracks and put them on Killing Floor. They were our favourites and also fitted the rest of the tracks on the first album the best. We always wanted to push ourselves. Everyone says they just want to do it for fun, but everyone also has that dream that they can go as far as they possible can. It was a conscious decision to release it via our label, and then the reviews… we were just gobsmacked.
When it came to writing Pillars, there were so many nice reviews for Killing Floor. Steve did most of the guitar writing for the album, then Brad and myself would go off and work on the lyrics and melodies. When it all started to come together we had a feeling of what we had on our hands – something a lot better than our first album. There was pressure and expectation, but it was nice. There was no pressure on us the first time and people loved it. T have the incentive to go out and beat what we’d already done was quite exciting.
Did it bother you that you were often compared to Iron Maiden?
Ashley: We used to get the Iron Maiden thing a lot, but I never took it as an insult. If you’re going to compare us to one of the biggest and best bands in the world in our genre, then I have nothing to complain about! I’m happy to be compared to one of the greatest. I mean, Airbourne have that AC/DC influence and now they’re massive and doing their own thing.
Tony left the band at the beginning of April and a couple of weeks later you unveiled Dave as your new guitarist. Where did you find him?
Ashley: I had a list of people I knew about, but me and Dave were going to work together on another project a while back. We’d never actually met but we’d occasionally talk about this other project which never came to anything in the end. I remember when Tony left thinking that it would be great of Dave could get involved, but I didn’t do anything about it. A couple of days later Dave himself got in touch saying that he’d like to audition. We had a few other people apply, but we all knew that if Dave was as good in person as we had seen in videos and so on then he was going to get the job. He came along, we gave him a list of songs to learn, he learned them – and more – and we just took him on.
Dave – you weren’t around for the writing of Pillars at all, then?
Dave: No, it was all mixed and mastered by the time I joined the band.
So, assuming (and hoping) there is an album number three, what are you going to bring the mix influence-wise?
Dave: The guys have welcomed me into the band – every aspect of it – and I’m really excited to write with these guys as well because I love the direction that Pillars took. The earlier stuff is great, but I just love Pillars of Creation. It’s like the kind of stuff I’d write at home. I hate using the word “progressive” as it’s been used too much, but I’m really into what’s often classed as progressive metal. So I’m going to be trying to throw in some weird time signatures into any new tracks!
The next album will be a concept piece, then?
Ashley: We’ll change the name to Davedera.
Dave: I don’t want to take over the band!
Having been successful in what, these days, is a very crowded industry do you have any advice for a new band that’s in the position now that you were in, say, five years ago?
Ashley: I’ve always been a big believer in being polite and having good manners. Be remembered for that. You can be the best band in the world and play music that makes people go “fuck, that’s amazing”, but the minute you’re nasty to a tour manager, a band, the sound guy… you’re that band that’s an absolute bunch of twats to deal with! We always make sure that we come across as polite, professional, easy to work with. People remember the nice bands and want to give stuff to the nice bands. People want to help those acts.
And practice! You’re going to find that your first few shows are going to be crap. Because you’re crap! In the nicest possible way, you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know how to start it off, but over time you get into a mould and get sharper.
You’ve supported and toured with some pretty big names. If you could pick one big name to support and a smaller band to open for you, who would you go for?
Ashley: For the big band, Dave and I would probably both say Metallica. In terms of metal, they’re probably the biggest band out there. In my opinion, the best as well. They’re my favourite act of all time. The rest would probably say Iron Maiden as they’re more influenced by them.
Dave: I’d probably chuck Dream Theatre in there. Prog! I think Steve would probably agree with me on that.
Ashley: As far as opening is concerned, there’s a band called Death Valley Knights [who impressed us at Wildfire – Mosh]. They’re so nice. They’ve always been very supportive of us so anything we could to to get them involved in something like that I’d be happy to do.
Dave: We’e got one of my favourite local-to-me bands opening for us at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth in September – Alternative Carpark. They’re fucking brilliant. I can’t even describe their music. It’s just kind of groovy. It’s heavy and there’s so much energy on stage.
I know it’s early days after the release of Pillars, but what next for Dendera?
We’ve got a couple of shows with Queensryche in August – just not the London show as they’ve got Armored Saint then. We’ve got a couple of headliners sorted and there should be some more stuff up north. We’re playing Hard Rock Hell in November with Saxon, Black Label Society, UFO… There are a few more things in the works for later this year and early next. And then we sit down and work out when and how we’ll write and record a new album. Maybe next year, though we’re hoping to do some more festival stuff and hopefully getting out into Europe.