Interview with bassist Alain Rodgers
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 20, 2015
You like Star Wars? Think Luke Skywalker is a cool character and his light saber is even cooler when fighting against the Dark Lord of the Empire, Darth Vader?
Fuck that movie shit for the time being? Here we are talking about Darth Vader's Church from Tallahassee, FL, a band that released two albums (Descendant Upheaval in 1989 and Molecular Shadow in 1992) before disbanding in 1993. DVC was not well known in the underground Metal scene though the band managed to tour in Europe in 2012 with Morgoth, Unleashed, Paradise Lost and Protector. Descendant Upheaval and Molecular Shadows were extraordinary Death Metal albums, differing from everything else that was released back in those days. DVC's strong use of keyboards and samples, especially on the band's Molecular Shadow album, gave them a very unusual sound.
The Metal Crypt managed to get in touch with the band's original bassist Alain Rodgers, who runs a tattoo shop called Euphoria Tattoos, in Tallahassee, Florida. He was kind enough to answer some questions about the times when Darth Vader's Church was causing sonic havoc and terror on stage all around the Tallahassee area.
Luxi: How's it going buddy? Your tattoo shop (Euphoria Tattoos) is obviously keeping you busy these days, right?
Alain: The shop keeps me busy, been doing it for over 20 years now. It's looking good as far as keeping me busy till I retire.
Luxi: The question is what on earth happened to DVC i.e. Darth Vader's Church? Why did the band break up in 1993? Did you suffer from a loss of interest and motivation after the band's second album, Molecular Shadow, was released?
Alain: Just like with any band you have a bunch of guys who get told how great they are and eventually their heads swell to the point of no return. Sometimes your guitar players think they're too good to perform live and their music is too complex for the normal listener. They think their music is above the rest. Basically Glenn couldn't deal and thought his music was too good for the band.
Luxi: Before we talk about DVC's second album a bit more let's go back to the very roots of Darth Vader's Church. First of all, could you kindly tell to the readers of The Metal Crypt something about the early days of DVC, like who formed the band, how you found the other members and so on?
Alain: DVC was made up of two bands that came together. The first band featured Parker and Alain and that was Bloodglutton. The other was Requiem and that was Glenn's and Todd's band. We formed DVC and the rest is history. We basically knew each other from school and local shows.
Luxi: Darth Vader's Church is an unusual name for a Death Metal band. How did you end up picking that particular name? Undoubtedly some in the band are huge fans of the Star Wars unless I am completely mistaken.
Alain: Parker was the one who came up with the name Darth Vader's Church and we all agreed that a cool band just needs a name.
Luxi: In 1989 you recorded your first 9-track demo, Constrictus Mortis (which was later released under the title Primus Omega with the same songs, according some sources). Could you tell us about the recording sessions of the Constrictus Mortis demo some 26+ years ago? Undoubtedly you did a pretty good job on that demo and what happened next must have put a wide smile on your faces. Manufacture Sound Output Company saw the potential and signed the band. Did you see it coming or was it completely unexpected?
Alain: Our first demo was done in a small recording studio. I'm not sure if it ever made it to a label but it was something that we had to put out before we recorded an album. We had help from Tom Lewis, Tommy Hamilton and Steve Wilkie who made sure that our recording came out nice. And when Manufacture picked us up it was just our friends who were starting a record label and knew that we would be perfect for it.
Luxi: Let's stick to the times prior to the recording of your debut album, Descendant Upheaval. Did you mail your demo to different labels, local radio stations and stuff or was it basically circulated by the underground tape traders that helped get word of DVC outside of the States as well?
Alain: We weren't big in the underground tape trading scene or in sending out tapes to record labels or radio stations. We did send stuff to clubs and venues to ensure the proper shows that would suit us were booked.
Luxi: How much were you involved with the tape trading scene back in the day, trying to get DVC's music out to as many people as possible?
Alain: I feel we could have pushed our music better and gone farther but all four of us were very lazy as far as promotion was concerned.
Luxi: I have seen mentioned that there was another 7-track demo that you recorded in 1989. If that's what truly happened, which songs did it contain?
Alain: Not sure which demo you're talking about. We used to do a lot of recording with small recording devices.
Luxi: When you guys put your names on the contract that was offered to you by Manufacture Sound Output Company, did you clearly understand what you were doing? As I understand it, you didn't get a dime from the label although they got their costs covered that they invested in financing the album. Did the label screw you financially, perhaps due to naivety?
Alain: We were pretty excited about signing with Manufacture Sound Output Company. We knew that was a stepping stone to get us in the door and eventually Steamhammer on the SPV label picked us up and they provided us access to go on tour in Europe for a short time. As far as royalties they went into paying our way to tour with some big-name bands.
Luxi: How much can you remember about the actual recording process of your debut album, Descendant Upheaval? You recorded the album at Georgia Street Studios in Tallahassee, down there in Florida...
Alain: It was super-fun. It was in a very small house and we all hung out with our friends in the band Gruel. 8-track recording was my favorite.
Luxi: The vinyl version of Descendant Upheaval had 14 songs but the CD version contained 5 bonus tracks. Did you record all those bonus tracks during the same recording session for Descendant Upheaval or were they recorded during a separate session?
Alain: We recorded all those tracks at one time. This was much easier. It is hard to come back and keep a consistent sound.
Luxi: The CD version actually lists 18 songs but in reality there are 19 tracks. Why was the last song left untitled?
Alain: Franklin had control of what time was left on the tape and adding any extra songs or sound bites.
Luxi: You shot a pretty low-budget video for the song "DeVious Circus" off Descendent Upheaval. How much do you remember about the making of this video and what do you think of it today?
Alain: The video was more or less for our friend who was going to school. It was for a class project and was really fun. It was the first and last time we ever did any type of production like that.
Luxi: When you finally got Descendant Upheaval released how much did you tour to promote the album? Undoubtedly you did a number of shows around the Florida area but did you ever have a full tour arranged across your home country back then?
Alain: We could have always done more touring but we actually played very little outside of Tallahassee in the States.
Luxi: Back in the day you did at least one memorable show in Tampa, Florida when you played with a local band called Genitortures. They did some bizarre things onstage like genital piercing and shit like that. How did you end up playing with them and was it shocking when you got to see this "freak circus" up close?
Alain: That show you are referring to was played at the Cuban club with Genitorturers and several of the local bands from Tampa. It is a very cool outdoor venue but it started raining and we had to move everything inside. It was still a very fun show.
Luxi: You were supposed to record a 2-track EP right after Descendant Upheaval but didn't. What happened to those plans? Did you think it pointless to release an EP because people didn't pay much attention to them?
Alain: Most of our small recordings were done with friends, just to try out different types of recording situations and to put new songs down on tape to listen to them later, but mainly just for fun.
Luxi: DVC's second (and last) album, Molecular Shadow, was recorded and mixed at Blue Moon Studios, Tallahassee, Florida, in 1992. If you already sounded like no other Florida Death Metal band on your debut album, Molecular Shadow was an even more complex and harder nut to crack. The songs became more complex and even more experimental and diverse and the album itself was more of a keyboard and samples-driven effort. Can you recall what happened between these albums and why they sound so different from each other?
Alain: The second album had a lot of keyboards and sequencers in order to produce the sound we were looking for. On Parker's songs he introduced a lot of new stuff and Glenn also brought out some new sounds. All the songs I wrote stuck to the traditional four-piece Heavy Metal sound.
Luxi: Do you think the keyboards and samples used on Molecular Shadow kind of drove the band apart as far as the musical direction was concerned?
Alain: The sounds that we were coming up with on the second album definitely work and were something no one else was doing at the time. There were only a few bands that were near our style and they weren't here in the USA. We were trying to start something that no one else was doing. Unfortunately, the guitar players did not want to continue to jam and produce quality music and they decided to do a solo thing. Parker, Todd and I started another band called Mortitron. It definitely was the sound we were looking for but never came to fruition.
Luxi: Did you shoot any promotional videos for any of the songs off Molecular Shadow?
Alain: No other videos were shot besides the first one we did.
Luxi: You did a tour in Europe in 1992 with Paradise Lost, Unleashed, Morgoth and Protector. What were some of the highlights for you personally? Which countries did this tour cover? Did DVC get along with the rest of the bands?
Alain: The tour in Germany was awesome! We played with really cool bands there; Paradise Lost, Unleashed, Morgoth and Protector. I wish I could have stayed on tour but that's all our record label could get us on.
Luxi: Have you ever considered reforming DVC or doing a couple of one-time only special shows just for the sake of nostalgia?
Alain: We did do a few shows after we split but unfortunately after over 20 years the songs are gone and the muscles can no longer keep time to play this style of music.
Luxi: How much new music did you write after the Molecular Shadow album, if any? Was there stuff that you regretted never recording?
Alain: Parker, Todd and I had enough for a whole new album and we did do some recording we just never put it out. Parker has a bunch of the stuff and it would have sold like hotcakes, I believe.
Luxi: It is 2015 now. Have you kept in contact with any of your ex-bandmates and do you know what they are up to these days? Do they have any band projects going on? How about you?
Alain: It's rare when I speak to any of them. I speak to Todd once a year, Parker whenever he's around and Glenn on Facebook.
Luxi: One last question and we are done; what do you miss most from the times with DVC?
Alain: Freedom to rock and a jam with some really good musicians and to produce music that people really like to groove to.
Luxi: That's all I had in mind regarding the history of DVC. My sincere thanks for your time Alain, and I hope this conversation brought back some pleasant recollections. Anything else in your mind you'd like add or say to the fans of DVC to close this chat properly?
Alain: Just want to say thanks to people who are still interested in our music. Hopefully we made an impact and I'm glad to know that people still like to listen.
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