Interview with vocalist Sean Peck
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: May 29, 2020
Death Dealer is a band comprised of four experienced and well-known musicians, Stu Marshall and Ross the Boss on guitars, Mike Davis on bass, Steve Bolognese on drums and, last but not least, Sean Peck on vocals. They have released two albums since forming back in 2012, War Master in 2013 and its follow-up, Hollow Ground, in 2015. And the story continues...
Conquered Lands is the title of the band's third full-length album, which they have been working on for a quite a while and which is ready to be unleashed. Straight ahead, power thrash is what one can expect from the album and much more.
Without further ado, let's have Mr. Sean Peck jump in and tell us more about Death Dealer album number three and a few other things as far as the band's future comings and goings are concerned...
How's life in the Coronavirus-ridden States these days? I imagine life's pretty tough there right now as it is everywhere else...
Sean: Here in San Diego it is quarantine. It is not too bad, everyone's out doing whatever they want to do and going to the stores and there's still traffic and shit. People are just really getting tired of this economy lockdown. San Diego hasn't been hit too hard with this Coronavirus crap. This whole thing is just a big pain in the ass and does flattening the curve and staying at home really even matter? We really have to get the economy going. Just stay healthy and you'll be right. I'm starting to work out more and getting my weight under control. I think I already had it, the virus. My girlfriend tested positive for the antibodies. I was sick when I came back from touring in Europe in December. I know for sure I gave it to her and then she tested positive for the antibodies, so I probably already had it. Yey...!
ALBUM NO. THREE: CONQUERED LANDS
You have been working on your third Death Dealer album and it's finally completed. What are your initial thoughts about this new record?
Sean: The third album is done. We haven't released any news on it, but I can tell you that it's called Conquered Lands and has a bunch of cool warrior battle songs and a lot of fast stuff and a really powerful ballad. Most ballads, you just push the skip button.
I think the last two albums were super strong and this one is definitely going to hold up compared to them. It must be good because every label we sent it to wanted it. That's got to be worth something but those first two albums, War Master and Hallowed Ground, were so good. As far as topping it, I don't know. Some of my friends have heard it and are saying it's their favorite one. We'll wait and see. I'm too close to really judge it, but it's definitely not going to disappoint. I can tell you that.
Does this third D.D. album have a different musical approach compared to the material on your first two albums? If so, could you explain how it's different?
As far as the style, I don't think there's any orchestration in this one, which we had a lot on the first two. This is all just heavy metal guitars and bass and singing and killer drums. We play super-fast and aggressive on a bunch of the songs. I think there's less mid-tempo songs on this one. There are only two, maybe three and there's a ballad. The rest are double bass, just plain killer metal. I would say it's in the same vein but, like I said, no orchestration. Just straight ahead, power thrash for most of it. Death Dealer fans are going to say, "This is what we wanted from another Death Dealer album."
It's definitely in the same vein, just without any of the orchestration.
This third album was three and a half years in the making. Could you tell us what kind of things slowed the process down or was it just a question of trying to get your best album done so everyone was 100% happy?
Sean: We had the third album 80% written for a long time and then I got busy with The Three Tremors, Denner/Shermann. Ross started touring a ton with the Ross the Boss band and Stu started up Night Legion. I still had Cage shooting a bunch of stuff. We'd written a bunch of songs and then we'd come back and we'd meet, we do some more. Finally, Stu and I got together and said, "Hey, let's just finish this thing." We went through all the songs and were 90% finished and touched those up. We wrote three or four more. Literally, within three weeks, we finished the album.
We just wrote a ton and had most of it done and then didn't do much for a couple years and then came back to it and said, "Let's get this thing going now." That's just how it went but we definitely stayed active. That one year, I released three albums in one month. We've all done a lot of work and recording since then and that's just how it goes sometimes.
OF BATTLES AND WARRIORS
Lyrically, this album is said to have some of your finest work, which everybody in the band is proud of. What were the main sources of inspiration for you when you started to put pencil to paper?
Sean: Stu says this album's lyrics are some of my finest work. Lyrically, I don't know about that. I think I have a lot of good work out there. There's a lot of battle and warrior stuff on it. There's a superhero song. There's a gay sequel to the "Curse of the Heretic", which came out cool.
The ballad is about soldier suicides, a heavy, dark topic. There's a couple of heavy metal anthems, let's party songs, which is always good. I did some good lyrical work, but I always have good lyrical work, don't I? Pretty much. Just rhyming, trying to find new words that I haven't used 100 times in songs before. I'm tired of rhyming fight and night and those things. I'm definitely looking for new words but for the record, I still have never sung the word "dragon" on any album yet.
What's the song "Beauty in the Blood" about?
Sean: "Beauty in the Blood" is just a title that I came up with instead of beauty and the beast.
"Beauty and the Blood," to me is a title that called for a vampire song. Every metal album either needs a witch song or a vampire song. That's pretty much standard procedure these days. I wrote it about a vampire. That one has a really unique song structure because it just comes straight out with the chorus and some really cool melodies and Stu's got a really cool narration. Normally, I do all the narration, but it was good to hear someone else's voice doing that, and he did a real cool job setting up the scene. That's a vampire tale and that's one of my favorites on the album.
When you started the songwriting process for this new album, were your songwriting methods basically the same as on your two previous albums or did you perhaps break this formula a little bit this time?
Sean: The songwriting procedure for this one was a little different because normally, Stu and I, and Ross too, would spend a lot of time on Skype in two-hour sessions bouncing ideas back and forth. The whole time we are coming up with ideas, Stu's got a guitar and he's just laying it into the computer as we come up with it. He's so fast. It's incredible how fast he works, throwing in the drum loops and stuff. This time, he would have stuff already written and I would also have some stuff already written. I'd say yes, definitely this time, it was a little different.
DON'T HANG YOURSELF
Is there any stuff on this new album that may take some listeners by surprise, sounding a bit different than what they are used to hearing from you?
Sean: I think the only song that would sound a little different would be the ballad which is called "22 Gone." Statistically, 22 American soldiers commit suicide every day supposedly, which seems hard to believe. It's just a straight ballad. It's a ballad that does not have a happy ending.
Stu sent this acoustic piece. I came up with this killer melody right away, and I said, "I have to come up with some lyrics." I started doing some reference lyrics to get my melody down. I pretty much put it together right on the spot. Just tracked it right there and it just came out awesome. Ross really loves that one. I was just trying to write the most depressing song that I could think of, like how low can you go? I wanted our fans to be hanging themselves from a ceiling fan after listening to this song. That would be the one I think they'd be most surprised with.
It's always important to get a cohesive feel for an album. Do you believe you were successful in this department?
Sean: There's definitely a cohesive feel for the album as far as the song structure and the songwriting. The mix is really good on this one. We did a couple of different things with the mixing. It's definitely cohesive, it has a good flow. Like the other Death Dealer albums, I like making records, so no skipping of songs is necessary. You just put it on and just let it roll all the way through and you just forget about it. You just rock and next thing you know, the album is over like, "Dude, that was for 50 minutes ago, where the time go?" It's definitely got it all sewn together.
Would you also say this album was easier to make because you have gotten to know each other better over the years?
Sean: I don't think knowing each other really had anything to do with it. Stu and I definitely did most of the heavy lifting on this one. Ross was more involved with the last album. Stu and I have become a prolific writing duo. I don't know how many songs we've written together now but it's a shit ton. It just keeps going. We put together songs so quick. I don't think there's anything more or less cohesive from than the last one as far as us knowing each other.
MR. APPLEBAUM STEPS IN
This new album is the band's third. Do you feel like this album might be a game changer, lifting you up in the big league of heavy metal with such names as Manowar, Sabaton, Iced Earth, and the like?
Sean: I don't feel that way right now. I don't feel this is the one that's going to lift us up. We've been away for a while and Ross' profile has been raised, my profile is definitely up since the last album. Sometimes when you go away and then all of a sudden you appear again, you get an extra boost. We're going to see. We've already got some festival offers and we haven't done shit for years, so that's cool. I was just watching some of the videos of us playing together and it's a really fun group of guys to play and it's very badass live.
We did a lot of big stadium shows where the people had no idea who we were and just because of the songs and the delivery, the crowds went fucking wild. Just cold fucking turkey like, "Who the—Death what? Who are these guys?" Just ravenous screaming, thousands of people. We got something going on, right? Maybe since we've been gone a while, this'll be the hot new thing again. We had some outside help with the production. Maor Applebaum, who's a world-famous mastering guy, is a fan of Cage. I met him in '99, way back before he was in this business.
Stu mentioned that the first two Death Dealer albums suffered a little bit from not so great production but he's super happy with this new one. Have you heard the final production, and would you describe it the same way?
Sean: I don't know. I don't have any problem with the mix on the first two records. I think they sound great, but Stu is pickier about that stuff. This one sounds great, too. What you want to do is you want to put on an album and just it plays. You don't think about the mix because when it's a good mix, you're just listening to the music and not thinking, "Dude, what's wrong with a snare or something?" This one sounds really good. I think the fans are going to be happy.
This new album was mastered in Los Angeles by Maor Appelbaum, who has previously mastered albums from such bands as Faith No More and Yngwie Malmsteen, among others. Why did you end up using Maor's mastering services this time? Was he recommended to you by one of your fellow musicians?
Sean: Like I was saying, I met Maor at the Dynamo Festival in Holland '99, our first-ever European show. I always tell this story; he came up and said, "I came all the way from Israel to see you guys. I had to get out of there because the Palestinians poisoned the water in my village." I'm all worried about the catering tray and this guy has got his water poisoned in his village. I was like, "Holy shit, I thought I had problems." We've been friends ever since and every time I play in Hollywood, he always comes out and we hang. He was nice enough to help us with the mastering and he's got really good ears, so you always trust his opinion. He helped us with this one, so it's going to sound good.
Stu had already done some nice introduction/teaser videos about the making of this record for YouTube, giving some hints about what the fans can expect.
Sean: Stu has been doing some live-streaming stuff. I'm probably going to do some soon. The funny thing is he has got a giant poster of the album cover art on the back of his wall and not one person said anything about it, and we haven't even revealed it. He's got a six-foot poster of the damn album cover art. I go, "Dude, we haven't shown anybody yet this." I love this album cover art, it's killer, man. I'm excited about that. He's been teasing little tidbits and we're just trying to figure out when we're going to release this thing.
ALBUM NO. FOURTH IS ALREADY WAITING BEHIND THE CORNER
How much new stuff do you have for your fourth album?
Sean: Since we've had all this downtime, we have almost the whole fourth album already written. I probably have four completely done as far as my vocal tracks are concerned. I think I've sung on another four that we still need a tweak. Then we've got at least 20 other pieces that are legit, sick shit. We went back to the label that we're using and say, "Oh, by the way, the fourth album is almost done." I just laugh when I see other people post. Hank Shermann from Mercyful Fate said, "I've been working for 18 months on the new Mercyful Fate album. We have six songs with no vocals."
Stu and I did six songs in two days. It's nothing to brag about when you've done six songs in 18 months. That's why it's hard for me to get excited about this third album because now I'm all excited about the fourth album, which is the stuff I'm doing now, which is cool. Then we're talking, "Dude, let's just keep going and get the fifth album together." It's getting crazy. We're going to be releasing an album every month or something stupid at this rate. We're just coming up with killer tunes, man. They're rocking with great hooks.
Right now, I'm singing really well in the studio. Your voice is tricky and sometimes you'll go to record and you're like, "What the hell is going on today?" These last six weeks, it was every day that it's been good. I've been recording and tracking vocals almost every day.
In my opinion, you have one of the best voices in heavy metal these days, so my next question is did you try out some different things on this new album that you didn't dare to try vocally on your two previous albums?
Sean: Thank you very much for the compliments on the voice. I'm 53 years old. I don't think I'm singing better than I ever sang but there's definitely some stuff I'm doing now better than I could do before. There's some stuff that I used to do that was easier to do back a few years ago, but you learn to adapt. Now, I've got some different techniques and stuff.
I'm definitely better as a touring vocalist now because I've got a new technique that just doesn't torque me as much doing 90-minute sets of this stuff. You're just like, [screams] the whole time which is hard on the voice. We book five, six shows in a row. It's brutal. I've gotten some good techniques to help me survive that and have a good performance every night. Did I do anything different on this album? I'd say there's a couple little different techniques that I used in some spots. Some of the screams that are cool and then there's this real super crazy scream I do at the end of "Plan of Attack". I'm sure the fans will like or think it's just completely ridiculous.
Also, on the ballad, I did more of the soft singing, which I never do. It's actually hard. When you're just wailing all the time, it's hard to sing with that Don Dokken voice sometimes. There are some different techniques I used on this one.
Ok, one last question and then I will let you go and this is a bit of a tricky one. Have you made some plans for the fall of this year as to when you might hit the road again? I can understand it's very hard to make any touring plans as long as this Covid-19 is still keeping the nations closed around the world?
Sean: Yes, everything is a big mystery. We have a festival in March in England. We've got this album that's got to come out, then we have to do some shows. Then we're saying, "Well, when do we want to put the fourth album out?" The tour is going to depend a lot on what my schedule is and what Ross's schedule is, but we're definitely going to do Europe and then I think we're going to try and do some in the states too. It's hard to say, man. March, April, May 2021. Who knows?
Right now, we're just writing and recording. I'm working on Death Dealer stuff every other day, and the other days I'm working on either Cage or Tremors or another band that I'm going to be doing that is a secret. The whole point is to get back on stage with these guys because it was really fun. The one thing we can tell you that we haven't told many people yet is that Michael LePond from Symphony X and Ross the Boss played all the bass guitar on the new record and did an incredible job.
It's literally the first album I've ever been involved where I listen to it and go, "Oh my God, dude, the bass," because he just added some killer stuff to really help the songs out. He's going to be probably joining us live in place of Mike Davis and for a variety of reasons I don't want to go into. I look forward to having a new member in the Death Dealer camp. The guy's one of the best metal bass players ever probably. It is going to be a thrill jamming with him whenever that is going to be, but it is going to happen.
NEW ADVENTURES IN SIGHT
I want to thank you, Sean, for taking your time with my questions and wish you all the best with your future endeavors with all your bands. If you have anything in mind that you'd like to share with your fans, well, the microphone is still yours... ;o)
Sean: Like I said for other stuff I got going on, we're working on a new Cage album. A second Three Tremors album is literally almost done. We've written all the songs. I've sung on all the songs, and Ripper and Harry have sung on 8 of the 12. That second Three Tremors album is fricking almost in the can. It's awesome too. I'm totally digging it. Like I said, I'm working on another super ultra-top secret, not a project but another band. I have a bunch of leftover songs that are more in the hard rock fricking Whitesnake, not necessarily Whitesnake style but lyrically, [*laughs*] all about chicks and stuff.
I have to do something with them. A lot of them are really good and none of the bands I'm in want to hear me singing about that stuff. I have to figure out a way to put those out on some solo record or something.
Thanks for having me. I appreciate your interest in Death Dealer. I hope you love the new record, and I hope you love the record after that. Death Dealer is great, man. Ross the Boss, Stu Marshall, now Michael LePond, Steve Bolognese on the drums. Super fun bunch of guys to go on the road with and so I'm just looking forward to that. I was watching some videos the other day, going, "God damn... I want to play that song again." "Curse of the Heretic", "The Devil's Mile", there are a lot of songs off the second album that we never played live. Between the three records, we're going to have a lot of really cool stuff to choose from. All right, thanks. www.deathdealermetal.com. We just changed it. I had to think about that for a second: www.deathdealermetal.com. We'll see you soon...!
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