Interview: Denial Machine

Chicago based Metal band Denial Machine have only just released their debut album a month ago but with a sound reminiscent to the best work from Killswitch Engage, the five-piece are taking people by surprise.

Featured on EspyRock (read feature), the band make one thing known for sure, that although they an unknown name now, they will be a name for the future. Denial Machine come with a back history of Hard Rock power from former band Ditchwater and with a refreshed line-up and the past behind them, their guitarist and founder Mark Anderson took time to answer some of our questions over email regarding the album.

The album was released digitally just over a month ago with the physical release becoming available this month. How has the response been from fans, old and new, to the album?

The response has been very positive. Being a new band on the scene we seem to be taking a lot of people by surprise. We released this album by ourselves so we have to take a grass roots type of promotion. I don’t think many people expect to find quality with bands who take time to talk one on one with people and don’t have a big corporate promo machine behind them. We are happy to be that exception to the rule.

How would you describe the band’s sound compared to other albums you have worked on or to other bands within the Metal genre? In our review, JJPorter felt the album is seemingly similar in style to contemporary metal bands such as Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall. Are you influenced by this type of band, or does your inspiration come from elsewhere?

We incorporate melody along with the heavy aggression and on first listen we can easily be compared to bands such as you mentioned. I think the more you get into the album you start to see that we do have our own unique interpretation of modern metal. Our riffs can be more melodic but then heavier than the standard Metal-core band. We also shift from near Death Metal vocals to almost hard rock style sections. I think we tend to be more traditional in certain instances. Our influences range from all sides of the Metal world. We leave others to decide what we are categorised as. We’ve seen people say Alternative Metal all the way to Melodic Death Metal. We just play what we play and tend to not dwell on it.

In 2008 the band joined forces with guitarist Mark Cichra to create the new band Ashes From Within. The band wrote material and started to audition for a new vocalist but with no-one seeming right for the position, Eamon Skube, the bands bassist, who started pre-production vocals, took over permanently when it became clear he had the ability to do the job.

Was there a new process with Denial Machine when writing and recording the album? Of course Eamon Skube took over vocals coming from the bands bassist originally and with Mark Cichra coming in. Was there a key individual behind the writing process or collectively does the band work on all aspects together from lyrics to the music?

It started in September of 2007 really when I started writing by myself in a room with a guitar, drum machine and an 8-track recorder. Ditchwater was on its way out and we were at a crossroad on what to do. For the first time I started writing for just me. What I wanted to hear, not caring about what anyone thought or to make songs just to get that “label deal”. I threw out all the tired messages of keeping songs short, getting to the hook as fast as possible and all that type of advice that is always given to bands looking to “make it”. I concentrated on substance and musical integrity. The song “Delivering Failure” was the first track I wrote and really set the tone for a new direction. I shared the new music with Jaycen and Eamon and they were ready for a new project. We abandoned everything we had done to that point and started over. It was a big challenge but we looked forward to it eagerly. I tend to write alone and present tracks that are about 90% finished musically. The songs that Mark “Zilla” Cichra brought in were worked on more in a group setting as far as arrangements. We do things in reverse of most bands. The music is more a solitary effort whereas the lyrics are a band effort. We would all get together to work on lyrics and melody as a collective unit.

Your roots into music are shown with an early demo released in 1993 at the age of 17 when you formed Ditchwater and built the band over a number of years. Do you feel the years of Ditchwater (with the said issues of changes in the bands line-up and musical styles as mentioned in our feature) gave Denial Machine something extra as you have gained the experience from then and been able to take it on to Denial Machine, especially to the music process?

Yes I started young in music. I come from a family of musicians so it was ingrained in me at an early age. Ditchwater was many bands over the years I just kept the name through it all. Worked with many different people and shifted musical styles numerous times just trying to find what I really wanted to do. This new album and new band is the first time I have ever realized my true vision of what I wanted to play. It was a great relief to start over even at an advanced stage in music years. The experience and contacts and overall jump in talent have allowed Denial Machine to skip a lot of stages and move directly to album release and shows.

After Mark joined on guitar, you welcomed Brad Heilman to the band on bass. What have the two new members brought to the band?

Mark is an integral part of the core of the group. He’s not really a new member but a co-founder of Denial Machine. We did the entire album without a bassist (we used a session player for the recording) and didn’t start to look for one a permanent member until we were ready to hit the stage. Brad came to us through the suggestion of Shawn Glass of Dirge Within. Brad is an excellent player and great back up vocalist and has enabled us to perform the songs, as they were recorded more authentically in the live setting.

As Eamon Skube was officially made the bands new frontman, the band changed their name from Ashes From Within to Denial Machine. What was the reason behind the change and is there a meaning behind Denial Machine?

With the first attempt at a new band (Ashes From Within) we started falling into the same pattern that we had with Ditchwater, mainly multiple singers. In under a year we were through 2 different singers. When Eamon showed signs of being able to handle the front man slot we knew that the revolving door was finally closed and really didn’t want that history associated with the new music. We wanted one line up without changes to accompany the album and we’ve managed to achieve that.

Overall with the changes to the band and the new desire and direction, what do you feel are the strengths behind the album? Is there any specific song(s) that stand out for you?

We concentrated on making an album that was strong from start to finish. We paid great attention to detail in each musical composition. We didn’t work on a particular song as “the single” we instead treated each song like it could be the best and most engaging track. Fan reaction has been so diverse as to which songs they like best that I don’t think a certain song can be pinpointed or set aside as a signature anthem. Tracks like “The Denial Machine” or “This Burden (Tortured)” tend to show off everything we do so we do direct people who are new to the band and want to get a sample of what we do to those songs.

In July 2009 the band treated fans to two early previews from their recording and almost immediately the band where being given incredible praise for the music they had wrote. The positive reaction to their music continued when they were asked to open for Otep in August, which not only marked a great step for the band but it also meant their debut live appearance would be in front of a mass of fans.

That started getting us known to people as it was the first time anyone heard our music. It allowed us to begin playing shows and we got lucky enough to get asked to open for Otep. As Ditchwater we had done shows with them years ago so it was great to revisit the stage with them. It was also a great debut gig for the band.

You mention that tour dates will follow this year to promote the album. Will you be looking to headline a tour(s) or has the opportunity arisen again where you have the ability to support a band like Otep and have the opportunity to perform to a big audience again?

We’ll be looking to share the stage with anyone and everyone. Like I mentioned we do this ourselves so it is harder to co-ordinate long tours but we do what we can. We are able to hit the mid-west pretty regularly and we hope to make an east coast run this spring and a west coast run this summer. How far we are able to take it will depend on how the album is doing in certain regions and what kind of support we’re able to obtain.

2010, fresh year, fresh album, do you have a fresh set of goals? The album is one that would easily fit into the current Metal market, and it can be said that it is better than some Metal releases from 2009 with label backing, therefore would one of those goals to seeking a label deal?

For years we searched for a label but it is really a game of who you know and being in the right place at the right time. Ditchwater never maintained a line up long enough to make and real noise inside the industry. Nowadays the music business seems so weird and screwed up we’re not even sure if it is worth it. We’re in the mindset of doing what we can as long as we can and whatever happens we will be fine with.

Are there plans for future Denial Machine material, or will the band be taking time to focus on the debut release to build a following before looking to release new material?
I noticed that with Ditchwater, you plan to release a new EP this month titled “Strong Now Stained,” how does effect both bands in terms of focus and goals for the year ahead?

The Ditchwater stuff is unreleased material from 2007. We have it sitting around so we thought we might as well put it out when we get around to it. So probably sometime soon we will do that. It is hard to find anytime to dedicate to it these days. So it doesn’t affect what we do now at all.

As for Denial Machine we do have plans to release a 4 song EP this summer and then head into the studio for a follow up album this fall. The music for the EP was recorded during the sessions for our current album. All that is left to do is vocals and then mix and master them. They aren’t left-over songs. They are tracks we couldn’t finish as we ran out of time and budget. Then assuming the current album holds its own and continues to grow we will be able to do a follow up. We already have the music done for 7 new tunes and we are very excited on the direction it is taking.

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