Amplified 2017 Interview – Damaj

I went up to this year’s Amplified Festival on my own and despite meeting a lot of really awesome people, it was Damaj bandmates Daniel Stewart (rhythm guitar/vocals) and David Douglas (bass) who kept me company for the majority of the weekend. I can’t put it more plainly than they are awesome guys and theirs is some damn good music.

So when did you guys arrive here?

We got here at 6am though we left Glasgow at about 11:00 last night because we had to drive through the night. We planned to get a couple hours sleep before we went on but we couldn’t so I ended up wandering around the site. It’s not really a problem, we were fine when we went on but our drummer’s had to make the drive back up to Glasgow because he’s playing another gig tonight which is six hours to get here, six hours to get back and he’s playing another gig tomorrow which is brutal!

Are you two sticking around to see many other bands over the weekend?

Yeah, me and Dave are. The guitarist had to work this weekend and the drummer’s got other gigs but we’ll be here to catch up with some old friends and see some other bands.

So on your six hour journey up here, what were you listening to?

Funnily enough, I’m quite a big fan of the older Linkin Park material and with Chester going yesterday I had a good listen to Linkin Park. The drummer was driving so we had to listen to some Rush which I wasn’t too pleased about but there was plenty of that. We chucked some Megadeth material in there, some Rammstein, Dropkick Murphys, Trivium, Children Of Bodom, a little bit of Steel Panther. We listened to “Gloryhole” and “Fat Girl”! I cannot still process Chester’s passing though; Linkin Park were probably my first metal band, it was definitely my first metal album for sure and my high school jam! Hybrid Theory was just one of those albums that everyone heard.

It’s a cliché question but where would you like to see Damaj go in the next few years?

I’m going to brutally honest about this and it might seem arrogant but when I started this band I found the best musicians I could and decided that we wanted to be the biggest metal band that came out of the UK. That’s the idea, I’m not sure if that’ll happen in the next couple of years but it’s what we’re aiming for. The idea is to keep playing shows and get our name out there because that’s good for us, in the hope to become, not necessarily a “household name” but someone everyone knows.

A lot of people settle with playing regular gigs and just doing well enough to make a living and that’s nice and all but our code of success is a lot more binary than that. You either make it or you don’t and people call me arrogant for that but that’s just how it is. The funny thing about that is that my dad used to say that some people are just born to do certain things in their life. That’s just who they are. That’s just what they do. I feel that guitar-work and songwriting is why I’m here, that’s the only thing I’m really good at. I live to do it and it helps me live you know? There are certain bands like Savage Messiah and Bullet For My Valentine who were the last bands to really break out of the UK and I want our band to be on that list.

And you’ve already played today?

Yeah we were on the Very Metal Art stage at 1:30. It was quite good, the funny thing is we started playing and there wasn’t a single soul in front of the stage but by the time we finished so many people had gravitated towards us which I think is pretty cool. I didn’t want to just play to the sound guy today!

More specifically, what plans have Damaj got in the works for the rest of the year?

For the next month or two we want to get the new drummer up to scratch with all the songs that we’ve written and in September we’re off to Sweden to do an album which will hopefully work out quite well. After that we’re going up north on the 30th of September, I think it is, and in October we’re playing shows in Dundee and Mammothfest in Brighton. So they’re our plans for the rest of the year. Next year we’ll hopefully have done something with the tracks we’ve recorded in Sweden.

Why did you decide to do the recording in Sweden?

Well we recorded an EP in Glasgow and we were looking for people to mix and master it. We were initially looking at the big names in the UK but we ended up talking to someone who really enjoyed our music and is a University lecturer up in Sweden. The stuff he does is good, he wanted to help us out and he didn’t ask for much to do it so we went with him. With the base material we had which was doing each song in four hours, he did a really good job with it so we decided to meet him in Sweden this September to do sixteen hours a day for nine days and see what we come out with.

And what’s the key message you want to get across to people in both your live shows and your music?

Well I’m largely influenced by bands like Megadeth and Maiden and stuff like that and especially with Megadeth, Dave started out with a rivalry against Metallica and I wouldn’t say I’m a million miles away from that mindset. I want us to be one of the best bands coming out of the UK, so the message from us is that we can handle being among the bands ten years older than us. Sure they might be better than us now but by the time we’re their age, we’ll be just as good.

And with Rolling Stone‘s “Top Metal Albums” list going around at the moment, what would you put together as Damaj to create your “Top Metal Albums” list?

Of all time? Rust In Peace takes number one I reckon, I would throw Peace Sells in there as well as Master Of Puppets and And Justice For All…. Trivium’s Shogun would definitely be among them, Follow The Reaper by Children Of Bodom, the self-titled Avenged Sevenfold album too, Fateful Dark by Savage Messiah and Five Serpent’s Teeth by Evile. Can you think of one more to put in? My personal preference would be Testament’s Brotherhood Of The Snake. We do have a lot of different influences which helps because we were playing a gig last week and we overheard some guys talking about our band and they were trying to place what we sounded like and they mentioned the classic stuff and they referred to Trivium and stuff too but they couldn’t really pigeonhole us exactly and I quite like that because it shows how widespread our influences are.

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