Death Alley Interview & Track Premiere: Into the Heart of Black Magick Boogieland

death alley

[Please note: Click play above to hear “Black Magick Boogieland.” Death Alley release Black Magick Boogieland May 19 on Tee Pee Records. Preorders are available through Tee Pee, on iTunes or on Amazon.]

It’s had many names, but ultimately, Black Magick Boogieland is a familiar idea. For Sleep, it was their Holy Mountain. For George Clinton, his Mothership. For Motörhead, a certain card out of the deck. It’s that thing or that place that represents who a band is or where they feel they’re coming from, existentially as much as sonically. For Amsterdam four-piece Death Alley, the last year and a half has found them locked in recording dungeons, finding birth and rebirth onstage and in the studio, hitting the road hard, reveling in good times and pulling together through the strange moments that seem tiny at the time but ultimately help us all discover who we are.

Death Alley‘s Black Magick Boogieland — almost impossibly — lives up to the righteousness of its title. Yes, it’s over the top at times and it knows that and sees the value in it, but most importantly, it’s a work that finds cohesion in the black, the magic(k) and the boogie. Of the various times I’ve written about the band on this site, almost each one finds them with a different genre tag, from protothrash to retro heavy punk to heavy rock and roll. Truth is, they’re all of those things, and the multi-faceted sound of their debut, from the reworked versions of “Over Under” and “Dead Man’s Bones” which were also the A and B sides to their first single (review here), to the 12-minute space-rocking closer death alley black magick boogieland“Supernatural Predator,” is tied together by the energy with which the material is delivered and the won-over knowledge of what they want to accomplish stylistically and in terms of their songwriting.

Born out of the demise of three acts — punkers Gewapend BetonThe Devil’s Blood and Mühr — Death Alley brings elements together from each into a served-raw blend of fist-pumping, sonically-weighted classic-styled heavy. The album is neither metal nor punk but has elements crucial to both, and when it pushes beyond the roughneck shuffle of “Bewildered Eyes” and “The Fever” into the groovier roll of “Golden Fields of Love,” somehow it not only makes sense, but becomes utterly necessary. The elements at root in its creation might be primitive, and Black Magick Boogieland might seem that way at first listen as well, but there isn’t a level on which one might approach the work as a whole that it doesn’t fulfill, pulling you back to when rock and roll was irony-free, guns blazing, ass shaking and seemed able to hit you directly on a skeletal level.

To herald their debut’s May 19 release through Tee Pee Records, I spoke to all four members of Death Alley — vocalist Douwe Truijens, guitarist Oeds Beydals, bassist Dennis Duijnhouwer and drummer Ming Boyer — about some of the moments that have shaped the band to this point, among them playing Roadburn in 2014, touring hard alongside their soon-to-be labelmates in The Shrine, recording the first single with Guy Tavares (Orange Sunshine) at his Motorwolf studio in Den Haag, bringing in Beydals‘ former bandmate, ex-The Devil’s Blood vocalist Farida Lemouchi, to sing on “Supernatural Predator,” and more, and the result is one of the best conversations I’ve had the pleasure to host here in a long time.

All told, it wound up coming awfully close to 6,900 words, so there’s plenty to dig into, but I think the story (and stories) these guys have to tell is well worth the time. The complete Q&A is after the jump. I sincerely hope you enjoy.

Let’s start at the beginning. At what point did – I’m gonna say this wrong, and I’m sorry – Gewapend Beton evolve into Death Alley? Or did it?

Douwe Truijens: In my experience, it was a very, you know, organic development. We ran into the limits of Gewapend Beton, and we had been feeling that way for quite a while, and at a certain point, it was time to call it quits. We thought, what’s the next thing we’re gonna do? And we really wanted to continue with some band, because there was still inspiration. We had been in contact with Dennis a couple of times in different scenarios, and especially Oeds had been jamming with him, so it was a very natural choice to start jamming with the four of us. For me, one thing flows into the next thing, but with such a different dynamic right from the outset. I remember after jamming for like 20 minutes, you [Dennis] said, “We’ve got a band.” We really felt like, yeah, this is getting somewhere. It felt fucking good from the beginning.

Dennis Duijnhouwer: It’s funny he’s mentioned this, because I’ve never heard this side of the story. Me and Oeds started playing together maybe like four years ago? Obviously I’ve known Gewapend Beton. They were the kid punk band who was blowing everyone away when they were like 16, 17. It was a little bit intimidating for the older generation who still considered themselves punk, like, “Fuck, we’re old. These kids play a Bad Brains cover set and do it really well.” Me and Oeds had been jamming, and we sort of started the band four years ago, but then Oeds was obviously very busy with The Devil’s Blood, and Igor, the drummer, was playing in Madball at the time, so he was also really busy. But I was a little bit frustrated with Mühr at the time, and things were sort of difficult in that band. It was quite a disappointment for me that we couldn’t really get a proper band together. I think maybe we had six rehearsals over the course of six months. The music was really great, but it wasn’t really going anywhere. Then somehow when Devil’s Blood broke up, me and him tried to start a band, and when it all fell together as three parts Gewapend Beton and one new part, I wasn’t so hot on that idea, because considering they were quite, locally and in the rest of Europe, quite a legendary band in certain circles, I didn’t want to be the new guy. “Oh, he’s the reason they’re not punk anymore.” I knew from the start that this was gonna come up, and it was gonna probably haunt us for a while. It just felt so good playing with these guys that we managed to book a little tour after we did three shows and the fourth show was the first of the tour. We opened for Peter Pan Speedrock, we opened for the Misfits on our second show, which was totally bizarre, and then we did a third show on a Tuesday and then we did six shows between Christmas and New Year’s, 2013. And on that week, obviously there was people – I remember a guy in Vienna asking – I pretty much consider it fair if they ask for Gewapend Beton songs once. That’s fair. I’d probably do it if I’d had a few too many beers. But if you start doing it twice, I’ll say something about it. One guy in Vienna, I got really into it with him, like, “What? What are you saying?” But pretty much that week, I think even though in retrospect the repertoire was still very different and we still hadn’t – I don’t think it was that bad, but we still hadn’t really found our sound yet, but for me it was a breath of fresh air to tour with these guys who were somewhat younger than me, but it showed they had experience. This was a band who could party and still have their shit together pretty much. I think that tour really united us as a band and we hit the studio with the legendary Guy Tavares from Orange Sunshine in May, who I don’t know if you know anything about him…

I know Orange Sunshine, and I know he has badass sunglasses. I saw Orange Sunshine at Roadburn, had heard the band before, and they did three Blue Cheer covers and it was the most honest thing I’d ever seen in my life.

DT: (Laughs).

DD: It makes total sense. Guy has this kind of dungeon studio.

Motorwolf, right?

DD: Yeah. Did any of us ever record there? I went there to jam. I had to take a picture of him for a magazine, and then it ended up kind of coaxing him into, “Hey, can I just bring my Rickenbacker and maybe we jam?” We ended up jamming for hours. And this place. We had heard stories from Annihilation Time and The Shrine about being kept awake for days and him – he sent us emails beforehand. We decided to go in for a weekend to do a 7” and he would sent us emails before, “I’m going to have a gun on the mixing board and if you don’t do what I say, I’ll fuckin’ get all Phil Spector on you.” We figured we didn’t know what’s gonna come out, but the experience might really make us a band. Not sleeping for a couple days in a dungeon and not seeing any daylight with this madman at the helm.

DT: And it really did. It formed us as a band. I remember I felt as if we had been in a parallel universe for an undefinable amount of time because there’s no reference to daylight whatsoever. The recordings themselves were great, and the role Guy would play, when I was doing, he was like conducting me. I remember calling you on the Tuesday afterward, like, “Dude, I feel different (laughs). My whole view on music is hitting that next chapter or something.”

DD: Yeah, because he wasn’t just giving us musical cues, but really conceptual – did we know who we were, why we were doing this, what the message was. Over this long weekend, he infused us with all these concepts and ideas. It wasn’t until the 7” came out, when I DJed it in between other songs, it wasn’t until then I realized, wow, this thing is mighty lo-fi. It’s crazy. Sounds like it was recorded on a four-track where three tracks aren’t working.

Oeds Beydals: Well, it was.

DD: It was actually an 8-track. Just that experience, we got out of it what we hoped we would get out of it and more. We felt like, shit, we learned something, and we sort of went from a punk thing to more, Blue Cheery, Henrixy. It got less white.

So he’s asking you what’s the mission, what’s the message, why are you here. What’s the message? What’s the mission?

DD: He would literally tell us things that he found awful, if it was too stiff. It wasn’t black enough. We wouldn’t be able to hang with black transvestites in death alleys across the world. We’d be too punk-ass. We had to get deeper, funkier and groovier. I think that’s stayed with us a long time and I think we’re all really stoked that those are two songs from the earliest incarnation of the band that made it onto the full-length as well.

I was going to ask about that, yeah.

OB: And it was a transition for us. He was pushing us to becoming Death Alley instead of a bunch of guys playing with three guys from Gewapend Beton and when we recorded there, after that, Death Alley existed, and before that, it didn’t, though we were playing. I guess it really formed us.

Oeds, can you talk about your transition, going from Gewapend Beton to The Devil’s Blood into Death Alley? You’ve covered this huge swath of ground stylistically. Is there a narrative to it?

OB: I guess when we played with Gewapend Beton, the influences that The Devil’s Blood has would always end up in Gewapend Beton songs as well. On the last record, there were a few space rock moments and there were a few really ‘70s rock kind of riffing, but it was all in fast-pace hardcore tempos. But it was already there, and I was always interested in all that type of music, so I always played it on my guitar, and I’m also a really neurotic guitar player, used to play for six hours a day, and when Selim [Lemouchi] found out about that and I got asked to play in the band, I was really honored and I totally went for it, but I just kept on keeping taking all those different types of music and trying to make them my own. When The Devil’s Blood quit, that was my chance to get this really wide range of influences in a natural way to come out and make new music with that. So I learned a lot from all those bands and just kept everything I felt like was mine too and made that into something new.

So you guys take all that experience and influences and go into a cave with Guy from Orange Sunshine?

DD: Yeah.

Then you start writing the album?

DT: Apparently we had already started. It didn’t feel like that.

DD: I think when you saw us at Roadburn, that was in April, and when did we go into the studio with Guy?

DT: In November [2013]. There are two births of Death Alley, actually. What we just explained in the dungeons of Guy Tavares, that was really the birth of the band as such, and then when we were asked for Roadburn, we felt like, “Okay, that’s when we gotta have our shit together. We gotta have our set and we need to have found our sound.” Not define it strictly, but have at least a hint towards it. I think after that show, there was a second birth, where we thought like, alright, this is us, and we’re taking it from here.

Ming Boyer: I think we wrote like six songs, two weeks or three weeks before Roadburn, and worked our asses off to get those songs in the Roadburn set. We had a string of shows kind of culminating into Roadburn.

DD: And that was the mission. Like, shit, we got asked to play Roadburn and we were a little nervous about it. Not playing for so long, and all these people are going to see us – you, Tee Pee was gonna come down for the first time and check us out, and Walter’s gonna be there, and everyone’s gonna be there, all these Devil’s Blood people. We better have a little better grasp of who we are.

OB: Every rehearsal, the theme was cut out the cancer. Take out all the crap we didn’t want anyone to know of (laughs). Actually, we destroyed the whole set and the only songs we still kept were the ones we recorded with Guy and the rest we made were new.

Just “Over Under” and “Dead Man’s Bones?”

DD: The only survivors of the earliest, earliest set. And right around that time, we ended up – it was the day before Roadburn – we figured Douwe had some connections with The Shrine. He knew Court [Murphy, bass] through Lecherous Gaze, and we found that they had a show in Nijmegen the day after we had a show there, so Douwe stayed there and we hatched this plan. Alright, Shrine has a day off before Roadburn. It would be really cool to get this band to Amsterdam, because they toured Europe four times and never played Amsterdam, and this was kind of a theme for a lot of bands. Somehow bookers weren’t sending their bands to Amsterdam. Amsterdam’s been gentrifying, and there was word on the street I guess that there wasn’t much of a scene there. I guess we felt that maybe it was good for us to start taking some risks and getting some bands over there. So Douwe talked to The Shrine, and pretty much confronted them with the fact that they never played Amsterdam. They had a day off and we got them to come to Amsterdam. We couldn’t guarantee anything. We’re like, “Hey man, it’s gonna be in a squat in a week and a half. We think we can get people there. It’s on a Tuesday though (laughs). If you’re not doing anything, it might be a good warm-up for Roadburn for you guys and we’re going to do our best to make a party out of it.” It ended up being a huge, locally, for us, a huge smash.

DT: It was sold out. 200-plus.

DD: Yeah. Lord Dying, Shrine and us. We all played well and it was a great crowd. Everybody got paid and we felt like we made friends for life with them as well. And that culminated into the tour, and we were sort of asked for and also made it a mission. We saw The Shrine and Dirty Fences going on this epic, 30 shows in 31 days European tour, and we have to get on it, because this might be the kind of thing we need in this short amount of time to really become a band.

OB: That’s quite a leap in time there, guy. The tour was the last selection procedure. Because we had written quite a lot more than has ended up on the record, and that was through that one-month tour, we really distilled. Already after a week or so we had this core.

DD: I think it’s a really import detail that all the songs we had, we had never played live. We wrote six songs, basically the remainder of the record, and we knew that was too many. We figured we’ll write two or three more, and then when we went on that tour, we did one tryout here in Amsterdam in our rehearsal space and invited some friends, and we were super-nervous about, we’re going on tour with these two bands that we look up to big-time, and who are full-time American rock and roll bands, and here we are, the baby band, and we’re going to play six songs that we’ve never played. Now, to look back on it, we were really trying to figure out those songs. I watched footage the other day, and it’s like, “Wow, we’re still playing everything super-fast.” We’re kind of nervous punk rock. Our friend called it “punk rock guilt” (all laugh). That concept of, fuck, we can’t play too slow. We still have to be punk. But that was wonderful. We played all those 30 shows on the tour, we did a different setlist, which got really exciting. We went from the punk rock set, all the fast set.

OB: To the space rock.

DD: To the psych-rock set which we played in Slovenia, which was three songs.

DT: Three songs. 20 people in the audience and it was probably one of the best shows of the tour, in our experience and the way it felt and everything.

DD: Yeah, it was great. That was pretty much it, and then we finally got the deal that we wanted with Tee Pee, and we had to go pretty much right away and hit the studio.

That’s the time to do it.

DT: To keep that energy. I think although there were some downsides to it in the sense that, playing 30 shows in a row, some things can slip through and you get used to playing things in a way that aren’t the way you intended them to be or something, and the adrenaline makes you forget about it for overlook certain things, and then you’re confronted with that in the studio or the day before you hit the studio, but I think looking back, it was actually the right choice to do it. Within three weeks, we kept that energy and the feeling like, yeah, this is the record. This is what we’re gonna do.

DD: It did mess up our lives though. None of us were really able to work. I personally ended up completely in debt everywhere, because there was no time to do anything. We didn’t make any money on the tour, definitely, and afterwards, we had to go into the studio – it was quite stressful, because we didn’t have a producer yet and didn’t really have an idea about it yet. When we signed with Tee Pee, they gave us a deadline and we were like, “Holy shit, we have to pretty much hit the studio now, what’re we gonna do?” The budget wasn’t huge, so we didn’t have that much time in the studio, but I think in the end, all those factors turned out really well for us. Because the record already feels light-years –

DT: It’s still the gun that Guy had in his drawer pointed at your head during the recording session, in the way that he demanded from us the way we needed to play and also, time-pressure. It really felt like, yeah, there’s not much time to think about it.

DD: I think as a snapshot of where we were at that time, I think the record’s a really wonderful polaroid of where we were at the time.

How long were you actually in the studio?

OB: Five days, we finished all the tracking.

DD: We ended up going to Eindhoven, with Pieter Kloos, who did everything from Motorpsycho to The Devil’s Blood, and that was a thing that, I remember being in the car with Oeds and this giant elephant in the room being who’s gonna produce this? Where are we gonna do this? We had all these crazy ideas of doing it ourselves at this little farm that Oeds’ family has up north here –

OB: Had.

DD: Had, because it’s getting sold.

You’re selling the farm??

OB: (Laughs) Yeah man, farmyard boogie is over.

DD: Is it actually sold now?

OB: Yeah.

DD: Shit. We didn’t get big in time enough, huh?

OB: We’ll buy it back later (laughs).

DD: But so, all of a sudden me and Oeds looked at each other like, it’s pretty obvious who should produce it, there’s only one option: Pieter Kloos, obviously. And we called Pieter like, hey do you have time next week or in two weeks, to record our record? Sure!

OB: He was very happy to finally get a full engineering, mixing, mastering job, because everybody’s recording at home and letting him only do the mixing and everything, because bands don’t have a budget anymore. He was jumping, like, “Yeah, I’ve got a fucking job again!” and also really psyched to record us on a personal scale. So it was really cool. Great producer.

DD: It was a great experience. He had a different kind of gun than Mr. Tavares, but he definitely is a very outspoken person and told us no a couple times, this is not working. He’d send us home to redo something, rearrange some things. But it was great. It was the right decision to do it like that. And then we went in two days for mixing, re-record a couple things. It was pretty quick.

At what point did you know you’d be reusing the songs from the first single?

OB: Everybody got so much better in a short period of time and we really still felt like the songs were really, really good songs. And when we played them together in the rehearsal room, you could hear Douwe really start to sing with body in his voice, and Ming was playing all these parts really easily and everybody was just stepping up, every week. So we thought those are the songs, we’ve got to make them on the record. Now when you hear it back, it’s really totally different. Everybody’s sounding so much different. There’s this calm and technical playing, but also still the aggression. Everything I want in a rock song.

DD: It just kind of sunk in.

DT: Thematically, they stayed relevant.

DD: As the story of the record goes, they’re really important songs to the story. They just felt like they were chapters thematically that needed to be there.

What’s the story of the record?

DD: Basically, that since we got together until we started record, everything that happened and everything we went through as a band and also personally, it was just kind of distilled in the songs. I don’t know how much that was a conscious effort or whether it was just the way they were already writing things in Gewapend Beton, but it was always a kind of ideal situation for me, since I was a kid, listening to Appetite for Destruction, being 30 years old, listening to this record, thinking, wow, this is really the life these guys live. It doesn’t have much to do with politics or Fantasy Land. It’s really like a diary of your year.

OB: Also, I think it’s looking at a period and giving it a name. Instead of conceptualizing something, trying to make it exactly be that, because I think I’ve learned a lot during the writing process, because I used to be way more of a dictator kind of guy, you’ll play this, you’ll play that, blah blah. Now, the approach went totally different, because the dynamics were totally different. I learned to let loose on certain stuff, to make them be better, because everybody in this band can add something good, and that’s for the first time I’ve ever had that. Everybody can add something and it will be better than you writing it by yourself. When we felt that this approach was going so well, we let loose on some of the concept stuff and in the end, it turned into a real story anyway, but in a natural way. Instead of overthinking stuff and being on top of the concept, which might be a little bit pretentious sometimes, like, ah, this doesn’t really fit into the concept.

DT: That’s also why I think Black Magick Boogieland is such a very spot-on title for the record. Because it’s actually in hindsight that you combine all those things together, and you conceptualize it only after the fact. Then you call that episode in our lives and in the band Black Magick Boogieland, that we have been living in for the past one and a half years.

DD: So, letting go, which is also a great concept. Instead of being Mastodon and writing Crack the Skye or whatever, having a different approach. Instead of making the record or making the band that you wish you had, the band forms itself. It becomes what it needs to be. I think we all worked a lot on that, as Oeds said, you being a dictator, and me coming from Mühr. I learned a lot of lessons in Mühr that were really important in Death Alley and just felt Mühr was never a band that really got along all that well, and just feeling part of a gang of four guys without anyone being dominant. There’s not one leader in our band. We’re all lead separate things that we’re good at, but we have a strange democracy that I think for the outside, if you see us have a band meeting, it must be pretty weird.

What was one of the songs where everyone, Oeds like you were saying, where everyone stepped in and added to it?

OB: I guess “Supernatural [Predator]” was the biggest one…

DT & DD: Yeah.

OB: …Where everybody added stuff. We were at the farm, and we were writing. The last writing session before the studio thing, I guess, and we just felt like, hey, we are missing this kind of midtempo-ish kind of spacey rock riff. And I was like, yeah, this Hawkwind kind of thing and then I came up with that thing instantly.

MB: We just started playing it.

OB: Yeah. It was the first part, and then after that, everybody added pieces, and it became this huge piece and Farida [Lemouchi] was singing on it later, and that was quite a special moment as well. Everybody added and it really worked really well.

DD: I think that was the only song on the record, maybe “Over Under” as well, where it started without anyone bringing in a part like, “Here’s a riff I got, maybe we should jam on this.” I think it was the week when Selim died, we were all in the rehearsal space, “What should we do?” and you were like, “We need this,” and what should it be about, and that song just came out really magically. I think it was a little bit of work on it at home after the fact. We added a little bridge to it, but pretty much the whole thing was there right away, and I think that kind of freed us up for the rest of the record. Instead of really editing yourself right away, before you take something to the bank, somebody’s writing at home, thinking this is the band or this is not the band, it freed us up stylistically to go out. I remember “Golden Fields [of Love],” when we came up with that, with the end riff and I played it to you [Oeds] at the farm, it was so ridiculous, everyone was laughing, like, “This is kind of a ridiculous riff, maybe we shouldn’t use it.” I think we got over that. “Let’s try it out!” and it became one of our favorite parts on the record. It’s rock and roll, it should be kind of over the top. You listen to Heaven and Hell, you start laughing –

I never laugh at Heaven and Hell!

DD: (Laughs) Right, but like the first time we saw Danava, I was in the first row with some friends cracking up because it was ridiculous. This band was blowing us away so hard that, and at one point this riff came in and just kept going, and it made us all crack up. And that’s nice. From at Roadburn, sometimes you have a couple bands in a row where you’re like, “This is great!”

OB: We always laugh when stuff gets really over the top, but it’s really good. It always makes us laugh. It’s a great way to get the humor into rock.

DD: It took us a while to get, even in the mixing the record –

DT: “Are we going to keep this part? Really? Really?

DD: There was one part where I did super-high falsetto backing vocals, and we almost didn’t keep it. Actually, Pieter, the producer, had to convince us – well, pretty much, he wasn’t gonna take it out. I remember him playing us Queen. None of us are particular Queen fans, but I remember him putting on some vinyl in the studio and making us listen.

OB: The harmonies and stuff.

DD: Yeah, and we were like, that’s actually crazy good.

What are the plans to get back out on the road?

OB: In September, we’re going to do probably three and a half weeks with Joy. They’ve got a new record coming, and their first record, I was really blown away by it that when I heard we could join them on a co-headlining tour, yeah, it might be a bit, we don’t know how the turnout will be, we don’t have a big band with us, but if you combine two good up-coming bands and they’re both really good, then I guess that stands for something too, and we gotta try to show the world that there’s two really good new bands out there, and I think Joy is really fucking great.

DD: And they’re ridiculously intense. I just read some Instagram post where they just spend three and a half months on the road in the US. That’s crazy. That’s a band that we’d like to tour with. It’s just gonna be punk-rock style, one van, two bands, two kind of newer bands on Tee Pee. It felt at this point it made more sense than to go with a huge band and do a support tour but play bigger venues. The tour is being booked right now, so we don’t exactly know what the venues are going to be, but I’d like it to be a kind of smaller, punk rock-style tour.

DT: I think it really works when you build from the bottom up. Not to say that I wouldn’t do the other option – playing support for a bigger band, especially one that inspires you, can be really cool – but I think the way you build your audience, if you just play two bands that are quite new and unknown, I think that the audience that you attract is sincerely interested and a good basis that you’re forming for your band.

DD: It’ll be good energy.

DT: Yeah.

DD: So we’re really stoked on that band and to do that tour. Before that, before the record comes out, we’ll do a bunch of shows in Germany. We’re just gonna be playing as much as we can and September will be the first proper, longer tour.

OB: Swamp Booking. Scandinavia needs to get in contact, because we want to go there.

DT & DD & MB: (Laugh)

DD: We’d really, really love to play Truckstop Alaska again. On the tour with The Shrine and Dirty Fences, that was as you imagine a rock and roll show to be when you’re 13. What an amazing place. There’s so many places, especially in this country as well, where there’s these rules at the show you’re doing. You can’t take your beer through the backstage to the actual room, all these crazy – it makes it complicated and not fun. People come there with their arms crossed and they want to be entertained. Truckstop Alaska, and there’s a bunch more places like that, where it just feels like it’s rock and roll the way it’s supposed to be. Everybody’s loose, and you don’t get five drink tickets per person, you just get – I remember at Truckstop Alaska, they just left us the whole place.

MB: Lock the door when you leave.

DD: Yeah. We ended up spinning records until like eight o’clock in the morning, and then me and the guys from Dirty Fences stayed up that long, and then we started doing the whole load[out]. We were like, “Fuck, we kept everybody awake all night playing tunes, we better get something to compensate this. Let’s pack everything up and get it ready to move out.” From that tour, that was the best thing about it, the camaraderie between the bands. Us being the baby band disappeared pretty quickly and it became three bands rolling through Europe on a pretty fast pace. That was sweet. I never toured like that, with that much camaraderie between bands. Everybody ended up jamming, doing backup vocals with each other, trying to fuck with each other during the set. It was wonderful.

Let’s go around and give everyone a last word.

DD: For me, personally, I think since the record, since we recorded it, the lid’s kind of come off and we’ve felt really free to not be boxed in by ideas about the band, how it should be. I think ever since then, we’ve been really trying to approach every show or every string of shows different. I’m really stoked on this being a band that not only works, as far as organization is concerned, like there’s not two people really going for it and the rest being stoned and laying back, not doing anything, but it also makes for – if you don’t see us for two months, we might sound really different that night, or we might try something to add something. I think that at this point, if you see us in September, we might be really different. Not per se a different band, but we try out a lot of stuff right now, and that feels unlike any other band I’ve ever been in. It feels really free to say, “Hey, can we extend this song tonight?” “Can we switch everything around?” “Can we do a different set?” I think that’s the best part of being in this band.

DT: You’re gonna premiere “Black Magick Boogieland?”

Yeah, apparently. Tell me about it.

DT: This song, for me, when I wrote the text, is really like your introduction to the “Black Magick Boogieland.” It’s obvious that that’s in the title, but I remember also as the point of development in the band, in that first six-date tour in December, when we were still having our second birth ahead of us, we played in this weird setting in some kind of restaurant, and there was a group of three young girls, just looking for fun that night. They had no idea what was going on, no idea about what band was playing, and we were hitting rock bottom in our energy level and our enthusiasm. It was such a weird setting.

DD: It was terrible.

DT: It was terrible. And we had to play two sets, so we were getting ready for the second part of the set, and it was one and a half hour pause in between, which really, really didn’t work for us. But when we started playing that second set, we saw like a twinkle in the eye of one of the girls, and she was like, “Wow, fuck yeah! Look at me being here.” And she moved from all the way back in the room up front and she dragged along her two girlfriends like, “This is it. This is the party we’ve been looking for!” and she started dancing and swinging, and that’s the moment that I felt like, “Yeah! We’re convincing people. There’s this attractive power to rock and roll that I want to be having as a band,” and I had that image of that girl, it hitting her, what was going on and getting to her core, that’s the image that I saw in front of me when writing those lyrics. Come on over, take a look at what’s going on here. It’s weird, it’s like unknown territory for what you’ve been in so far in your life, but come on over and this is how we’re gonna do it.

DD: She didn’t look particularly like somebody that had seen many rock shows. I think what’s important in the story is we played that first set, and it was terrible, and me and Oeds were ready to break up the band or kill ourselves or something. “This is terrible, I hate this.”

DT: That’s not too far from the truth.

DD: It was really bad, and then as a band, we got together, like, “Alright, how can we make the second set really cool?” I remember the people in the club, they were eating, and the people that worked there, the wardrobe girl, me going up to her, and she’d be, “Uh, it’s behind the stage.” I was, “Okay, yeah.” We ended up sitting together, “Alright, the second set, we just have to kill it and we’re gonna do like this, we’re gonna try this and this, and this is how we’re gonna try to convince them.” It ended up being this party, where the same girl, the wardrobe girl, ended up sitting in my lap at five in the morning, six in the morning, seven in the morning, with her colleagues coming in, saying in German, “What’re you still doing here?” And I was like, she’s not gonna get a kiss from me or nothing, but it showed us that if you put your mind to it –

DT: It’s putting your energy into it and being taken over by someone else’s energy and merging into the setting we want to be having when playing music with this band. That’s really, for me, what “Black Magic Boogieland” is introducing, in a sense.

DD: And if something goes wrong try to tackle it, instead of other band situations I’ve been in where people go, “Oh I don’t know man. There’s nothing we can do about this. It’s not my problem.” We all got into it and managed to build a party after 250 extra drinks that night.

OB: So me? I think that one of the really special moments, we already talked about it a little bit, but the “Supernatural” recording at the studio. I guess that was one of the highlights of us in a band, because the song was really about the period that Selim had passed away and that was coming out instantly after we heard that happened. We could really get all our emotions into that song, and then we practiced so much, also jamming together, just improvising and that this really cool shape of the jam started to come up. We got into the studio and we lit some candles and we were really getting into it, and then we did one take, 13 minutes, and it was really perfect. The whole jam, we just had to add one guitar layer on top of it, but what you’re hearing in the jam is just two guitars, just the live band playing. It was so crazy what chemistry there was going on, and everybody was feeling that this was the moment to get everything correct and you can hear it, every lick and every bass and every fill part is really, “Okay, I’m gonna do this now,” and it’s exactly the moment it has to be on. And then there was this idea to get Farida on the track, because it had a really huge harmony part, and we thought it would be really nice if she got on the track, also because the meaning of the track. She didn’t record anything after the Selim and His Enemies record was recorded, so all those months, she didn’t sing, so she was really almost scared like, “Hey, have I still got this?” but also feeling very good that she had a chance to go and sing something she actually had feeling with. For Pieter, it was really strange as well, because he recorded all the Devil’s Blood material, and so yeah, they had this really big connection from a producer and singer standpoint. So it was all coming together, and we tried a couple of vocal lines, and it immediately fit. That was really the finishing touch to the song. For us, that song is really a special one on the record.

DD: The most magical.

DT: To add something to that, I remember she came in and she hadn’t sung in a really long time and she had to warm up her voice more than you do for the next show, you know? And I remember the two of you going into the live room and we could hear everything through the monitors. When she started out, she really couldn’t last the whole vocal line, and she was a bit hoarse, and you sat there playing what had to be played, and “keep on trying, keep on going,” and we sat there, the rest of the band upstairs, and we heard, now it’s sinking in, and suddenly from one to the next take, there was this magic – she was there. It was this thing that we really wanted to hear, and it worked out, and we sat there getting a chill down our spine from how beautiful that was. I remember very well that turning point in warming up of that and the two of you sitting there. It was beautiful.

DD: It was amazing. I have an 11-minute phone recording of it, when you had an acoustic guitar and she was finding that vocal line. At one point, I was like, “I have to record this.” It’s 11 minutes of you playing the chord changes and her finding the vocals.

Last words, Ming?

MB: There’s not going to be one moment I can think of that’s going to be more special than this. But if I must, I would like to return to the twinkle in the eye of the girl in Berlin, because the feeling of this is that twinkle is how I feel when we play. When we play and we have this nice jam and something weird happens like Dennis and Oeds and me have something weird going on, we all look at each other like, “Whoa, that’s sick!” that’s still the twinkle of something really new that you’re doing together in this rock and roll vibe. I think that’s why this twinkle appeals so much. We can make ourselves go into this black magick boogieland by playing really awesome stuff.

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One Response to “Death Alley Interview & Track Premiere: Into the Heart of Black Magick Boogieland

  1. […] Listen to the track “Bewildered Eyes” here and “Black Magick Boogieland” here. […]

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