Interview: Danava Mainman Gregory Meleney Talks About New Album, Gear and Michael Schenker Influence
Danava is a band based out of Portland, Oregon, that has been steadily rising in the metal underground over the past eight years.
Even though their music has a doom element people can compare to early Sabbath, their influences are so eclectic that an attempt to put a label on them would almost be a disservice to their abilities, so the best way to get an idea of what they sound like is to listen to them.
Speaking of music, they have released two full-length albums in the past, the self-titled debut in 2006 and UnonoU in 2008. And now, three years since that release, they are ready to put out their third album, Hemisphere Of Shadows. which hits the North American market October 4. I've already heard the album quite a few times, and trust me, it's not going to disappoint anyone.
While the band is on their European run, I got a chance to do an interview with Gregory Meleney, the man behind the vocals, guitars and synthesizers. Read the conversation below, and check out the band's official Facebook page for more updates as the album release draws to a close.
I believe you are on a European tour with Lecherous Gaze. How is that going for you?
It's been great! Even the smaller towns rule here. We're halfway done and in Slovenia at the minute.
Have you been able to debut some songs off of Hemisphere Of Shadows on this tour?
Yeah, we do about four or five in the set.
The album has been a rather long-awaited one, taking three years since the previous full-length release. What's the reason for this gap?
The lineup change put a dent in everything as far as timing goes. It's for the best, though, We're happy. We took a year off from playing live to form the bond.
Can you talk about the idea behind the album's title and overall lyrical theme?
I seem to stay with the theme of good and evil. There are undertones of a darker nature with this one. The human condition is an endless well of possibilities. I tend to write about things that are very real in concept. As much as we've been called sci-fi / fantasy, I've never written a damn thing about it other than "Eyes In Disguise" and "Longdance" from our first album. And those are really just one song split into two.
This one sounds like a totally guitar-driven record, probably more than the previous ones. Would you agree?
Definitely. It was done out of necessity, really. There is no hope for us finding a synth player good enough to execute what we'd like to do live for that realm, so we added a second guitar and now we can play this record in its entirety, live. The last album should have been a little more guitar driven, but we were challenged to make that record so fast that we only had all our most epic songs available and had to smash them together. In hindsight it's a little ambitious, that last one.
I was interested to read that you described the album as "less Michael Moorcock and more Michael Schenker." How much of an influence has Schenker been on your guitar playing?
A very big one. The first record I ever had as was UFO's Force It. When I was 5, it was the first record given to me by my dad. It has left its mark, and I still listen to it a lot.
I think Schenker is criminally underrated as a guitarist. Would you agree?
Yes he is. But those of us who love him, LOVE him. I've taken the most influence from him in that I like to play guitar with very little effects crap. Just raw. You can hear Schenker's hands doing their job. So many of these gear nerds today trying to chase tones and sounds get so far gone that they completely forget the most important aspect being in your hands. It all starts and ends there. Iommi wasn't using Orange and Big Muffs either ... Straight into a Rangemaster and a Laney and the rest is the hands. I wish people would realize this. Then guitar playing might get interesting again for me.
Monte Mattsson left the band to pursue his studies in biology. I mean, band members leave for various reasons, but that's a new one for me. Did that come as a shock to you?
No, not at all. He had been working his way toward leaving the band for a while. He had family at home, and it was hard for him to get out and tour as much as we should have been; because he's a brother, we accepted things the way they had to be until we found Matt, and Monte could be free to live his life. He hung on as long as he could, and we miss the hell out of him.
You toured with Down in 2009, and I was at the House of Blues Anaheim show. Phil Anselmo joined you on stage to perform the song "Black Sabbath." That gave me the chills. How did you feel performing with him up on that stage?
Great. Those guys are like brothers. They take care of us when we're with 'em, and we have nothing but fun. We did that every night. We love them and sadly were unable to join them in the States for this September run because we're in Europe. Great guys.
Talking of gear, what is the kind of guitar you mainly use, and why did you choose that particular kind to begin with?
This is where things get funny. I use a crappy Epiphone and some other SG copy thing with a John Birch in the bridge. To be honest, man, I've never had guitars that played as good as these. My buddy Clint in Portland loans me guitars from his collection all the time, and they're awesome but they still don't work as well as my beaters. If I had more money, I'd probably go crazy and get a few different guitars. But for now, I'm happy with these old crappy guys I have.
Do you try to experiment with different tones and gear set-up before recording an album, in order to get a better sound?
Not much, man. I like the sound of as straight-in as possible. I either use a boost or a Big Muff very lightly to send things just over the edge. We do mic the hell out of two completely different rigs, but the difference is one that one amp is a bit cleaner than the other.
Does your set-up change from studio to stage, or do you try to keep it exactly the same?
Nope. Exactly the same.
Because of the psychedelic element in your music, the term "stoner metal" is often thrown around. I think it's almost an insulting or derogatory way to describe your music, because that means a person can't enjoy it without really being stoned out of his mind, which is very far from the truth. What do you feel about this subject?
I agree. I don't even agree with our music being psychedelic. I've never said that we were anything but a rock band. We do go out on the edge every once in a while but we really are just a rock band. I've always been a little irked by journalists saying we sound like Hawkwind too. NOT EVEN CLOSE! Hawkwind is the only one who sounds like that. I think people have forgotten how to use their ears and we get crap for other journalists' comparisons. Not cool.
Andrew Bansal is a Los Angeles-based writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, reviews and pictures on his website -- with the help of a small group of people. Besides being hugely passionate about heavy metal, he is an avid follower of jazz music and recently started a blog called Jazz Explorer to pursue that interest.