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Interview with Nevermore


Seattle-based artist Nevermore is one of the most consistent and diverse act on Century Media’s large and storied roster. Nevermore is one of the few remaining artists from CM’s early days. Their roots lie even deeper than the self-title debut on Century Media. Jim Sheppard and Warrel Dane caught the metal world’s attention in 1987 when none other than Dave Mustaine produced Sanctuary’s debut recording “Refuge Denied,” which became a power metal classic.

After the demise of Sanctuary in 1992, Dane and Sheppard created Nevermore. The band’s music related to a far greater section of fans. Fans of prog, power metal, thrash, guitar-shred and modern metal hail Nevermore as genius. Jeff Loomis displays mind-blowing fretwork. His trade-off lead men have gone on to play with world-renown names as Cannibal Corpse and Megadeth. Bassist Jim Sheppard and drummer Van Williams provide a massive backdrop and stick tight to the complex rhythms of Loomis and his counter part (Attila Vörös from Warrel Dane’s solo project currently provides that role).

Warrel Dane shows multiple vocal ranges. From the Stratosphere-reaching highs of Rob Halford and King Diamond to a middle range that seesaws between aggression and melody, Dane knows how to work his listener’s heartstrings. In the following interview, Dane states Nevermore is a group that either you love or hate, which he attributes most often to his vocals. Whether you’re on this or that side of the fence, you can’t deny each musician’s high level of skill and the band’s diversity of sound.

“The Obsidian Conspiracy,” Nevermore’s latest offering is arguably the group’s most melodic, chorus-driven effort. The album possesses traits seen throughout the band’s career, but most resembles their 2000 recording “Dead Heart in a Dead World.” Guitar nerds and fans of their heavier moments have lamented the album, but as Dane notes, as a musician you can only please yourself. Dane felt he and his mates stayed true to themselves and conveyed what their souls told them—a reoccurring theme seen in the following interview.



Metalship : Andy Sneap mixed “The Obsidian Conspiracy” and Travis Smith (Opeth, Amorphis) created the artwork. These two are familiar faces in the Nevermore camp. Do you feel their participation was important in finding consistency in your product?

Warrel Dane: I’ve always loved the artwork that Travis does. I’m not sure if that is an integral or important part of what we do, but I really enjoy working with him because he’s an amazing artist. Andy Sneap gets that certain sound, and he knows what to do with guitars. I think the guitar sound is very important for this band, so we always love working with Andy as well.


Metalship : When did Andy start mixing your albums?

Warrel Dane: The first one he did was “Dead Heart in a Dead World,” which came out in 2000. We love the guy to death. That’s why we’ve done all the mixing with him.


Metalship : Artists sometimes find their selves trapped in a catch-22 trying to appease their fans.

Warrel Dane: I’ll tell you right now: We did not go into this record trying to appease our fans. We went into it trying to make ourselves happy. I’ll be straight up with you; a lot of people don’t like our new record. A lot of people think it’s our best record. A lot of people think it’s our worst record. You know what that tells me—we did the right thing.


Metalship : It sounds like a Nevermore record. That was the point I was getting to. When I pick up a Nevermore record, I expect certain things. I expect certain vocal harmonies, chorus lines, Jeff’s crazy guitar playing, and that’s all there.

Warrel Dane: You’re not going to expect what the next one’s going to sound like. It’s going to be completely different. We go into writing every record with no preconceptions. We don’t want it to sound a certain way. We just let the music happen. This one, in particular, was a little more laid back, a little more simplistic, and a little more structured, as far as songs and song writing. Why can’t we do that? I’ll tell you why: We can do whatever the fuck we want! The next one could be brutal, incomprehensible thrash or brutal, incomprehensible prog. I don’t know. This one is our pop record.


Metalship : One of the things I’ve seen people say is the songs are too short.

Warrel Dane: How retarded is that? (In a sarcastic voice) the songs are too short (laughs).


Metalship : I looked at the lengths of the songs on your last couple of albums, and I didn’t notice much of a difference. Most of the songs were four-to-five-minute-long songs.

Warrel Dane: The title track was a little over ten-minutes long before it got butchered. I wasn’t there when it got rearranged, and that’s one thing I’m not very happy about. The title track was better before it got…manhandled. I guess that’s the best way to put it.


Metalship : Why did that happen?

Warrel Dane: Because I wasn’t there. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m pissed off about it. I love every other song on the record. I had to chop up and change all the vocals on the title track. I’m not happy with the title track, at all.


Metalship : That’s too bad.

Warrel Dane: Well, it is what it is. I’ve learned a lesson.


Metalship : Would you still call the album “The Obsidian Conspiracy” after the butcher job?

Warrel Dane: Yes.


Metalship : Do you still think this song is a standout track?

Warrel Dane: It’s still my favorite song on the record. (Dane stops to answer a phone call. He asks who is calling and informs the caller he’s doing an interview. He excitedly announces, “Dude, it’s James Rivera.” Rivera fronts the classic metal group, Helstar. Then Dane politely tells Rivera he’ll call him back after he’s done doing the interview and ends the call.)


Metalship : Nevermore doesn’t betray its style, but twenty years have given you ample time to build and mature. In what ways/techniques has Nevermore grown as a group?

Warrel Dane: That’s a difficult question. I think we are always growing and evolving, but at the same time we have to stay within our realm. I think we’ve done a good job of doing that, but there is always room for growth. Some people don’t want you to change. Some people want you to change. And some people want you to do nothing. You can’t please everyone. As long as we can please ourselves, at the end of the day, that is the only thing that matters. We’re still trying to do that (chuckles).


Metalship : That’s the point I was trying to make earlier. You can get into a catch-22 making records that sound different and then people will bitch, saying it doesn’t sound like Nevermore. You can make a record that sounds the same, and then people will complain about your lack of progression. How do you balance this?

Warrel Dane: It’s not easy to balance. You just have to go with the flow. Once you go with the flow, everything becomes easy.


Metalship : You and Jeff [Loomis] have solo albums. Do you use those bands to express ideas that don’t fit the Nevermore formula?

Warrel Dane: Exactly, and that’s the whole point. Jeff wanted to do a complete shred record, and he did. I’m so proud of him for that. I always wanted to do something that was a little more rock but still metal. I wanted something more song based, instead of crazy, technical stuff. We got that out of our systems. We’re both going to do solo records again. I’m already working on mine. It’s almost half done. I’m not sure how far Jeff is on his. We’re both definitely doing solo records again because we are lucky enough that we can. We’ve been given the opportunity to do this, and I’m psyched about that. My next solo record is going to be much more vicious, thrashy and heavy. I wanted do something that was more rock oriented and mellow than Nevermore. This time out, I decided I wanted to do something that is completely thrash, but still with heavy choruses and catchy songs. I love creating music, and I’m just lucky enough to have worked with a number of people who inspire me. Jeff inspires me, Peter Wichers [Soilwork] inspires me. Matt Wicklund inspires me. Many more inspire me as well.


Metalship : Speaking of formulas, do you use a formula for writing songs?

Warrel Dane: No, I don’t follow a formula. I just let the music speak to me. It tells me what to do. If it tells me to write something that is accessible, that’s what I do. If it doesn’t, then that’s not what I do.


Metalship : How did the song writing happen on this album? Did Jeff show you a guitar part, and then you wrote a lyric or vice versa?

Warrel Dane: We’re always swapping ideas back and forth. The approach started out, at least on Jeff’s side, a little more accessible. I don’t have a problem with that. This is our one record that will probably stand out as being our most commercially accessible. I’m not going to say we are going to do another record like it again because I don’t think we will. Every record that we do in succession has sounded different from the last. This is just what it was for the time period. I don’t know how the new stuff will sound. Maybe we’ll write something that will be so brutal and ridiculously heavy that nobody will get it. That can’t be a bad thing.


Metalship : I’ve always liked your melodies.

Warrel Dane: It’s always going to be melodic because I have to do that. That’s my thing. That’s what I grew up on. I grew up listening to melodies. That’s one thing that makes us unique within the scene, and that’s one thing that makes a lot of people not like us. It’s a love-hate thing. It’s one thing I’ve learned over the years. Some people hate our music because we are too melodic, and some people just don’t like the way I sing. I’m the singer and I’ve got a target on my back. I’m used to it, so it’s ok (laughs).


Metalship : Pairing heavy thrash parts with melody makes Nevermore’s music quite dynamic. How do you shape your dynamics?

Warrel Dane: We don’t really try to shape it; we just get in the same room and jam. It just forms into something that is different than what anyone else is doing. I realize there are no other bands that are doing what we are doing. That’s part of our appeal, and that’s part of our discourse.


Metalship : I’ve seen lyrical themes in your albums such as the nihilistic theme on “Dead Heart In A Dead World” and one of bereavement on “Dreaming Neon Black,” which was a concept album. Are there reoccurring lyrical themes on “The Obsidian Conspiracy?”

Warrel Dane: There are, but I’d rather not explain them. For me, I think they are rather obvious. I have explained them at times, but I’m always one to not explain things in literal terms. I think lyrics are very personal and I think people should take away from them what they get personally. I don’t want to explain what the title track means, and for me, it’s so friggin obvious that it’s bizarre nobody has said, “Ok, I understand what that means.” Music is subjective. All art is subjective.


Metalship : “Emptiness Unobstructed,” the track you used for a video, could be an anthem for the lost. Songs such as this can be very therapeutic. Was this song a catharsis for you, and do your fans often tell you how your words help them release negative energy?

Warrel Dane: It’s not an anthem for the lost; it’s an anthem for the dead. My friend committed suicide, and that song is about where his mindset was when he killed his self. I get rather morose, but for me, the song was for his mother because she is a very good friend of mine. She needed to go through a healing process after he committed suicide. He went into work, smashed every computer screen in the building, jumped out a window and fell to his death. Some people have criticized me for that song, saying it’s Christian. It’s not Christian. It’s about somebody who is ready to end his life, and is questioning if there is a heaven and is he going there. It’s a hard song to write. It’s a hard song to sing. Every night when I sing that song, dude, I get so choked up because I know he is there listening.


Metalship : So it’s more of a catharsis for his mother?

Warrel Dane: Yes.


Metalship : You write a lot of sorrow-filled songs. Music like that presents an opportunity for people to release a lot of their negative energy. Do you use your song writing in the same manner?

Warrel Dane: Of course, you have to. Emotions are the strongest thing that we have. It’s even stronger if you can convey that in music.


Metalship : Do you get a lot of fans who tell you, “thank you for writing that. It really helped me out.”

Warrel Dane: Yeah, but I can take that for what it is. A lot of people don’t pay attention to lyrics. The people that do are so into them that’s it’s not funny (chuckles). That really validates everything I’ve ever done in my career because it makes me happy people understand what I’m saying sometimes. I know there is a large faction of metal heads that don’t really care about lyrics. That’s fine because when I was a kid I didn’t really give a shit about lyrics, too. At some point I realized they are important. The lyrical content is there if you want to explore it. If you don’t, you can get into Jeff’s shredding. That’s sort of the way I approach everything when we’re writing songs. We’re a mixed basket of metal.


Metalship : Switching gears to your live show, with “The Obsidian Conspiracy” you now have seven full-length albums. How do you choose your set list now that you have so much material to play?

Warrel Dane: It’s not easy (chuckles). It’s completely impossible at times. We always focus on new songs. We always fall back on the old, classic stuff, too. We never really argue about our song list when we’re trying to figure out what to do on tour. We’re usually completely in agreement about it. Tonight, you’ll hear everything you think you’re going to hear, and most of the good tracks off the new record.


Metalship : I’ve only seen you play twice, but both times you excluded songs from your self-title debut. Do you still play those tracks live?

Warrel Dane. No. That’s our first record! To tell you the truth, that’s my least favorite Nevermore record. We played songs off it when we did our DVD. We went back and played some old stuff that we hadn’t played in a long time. I think like any band, you get tired of your old stuff. Even if it’s valid or not, a lot of people think our first record is amazing, but I’m just tired of it.


Metalship : Sanctuary has a new album on the way. How did this reunion happen?

Warrel Dane: We decided we like each other again. It was rough for a while. I came to a point one day where I was listening to some of those old songs and I thought, “You know, Len [Rutledge] is such a great guitar player and he’s not playing guitar anymore. What can I do?” The one thing I could think of was to write songs again. The songs I’m writing with him right now are killer! I would not do it unless it sounds like the old shit. It sounds like "Into The Mirror Black" in 2011. I don’t think anybody is going to be disappointed when they hear it. In fact, I know they won’t because I’ve heard it (laughs).


Metalship : Is the album complete?

Warrel Dane: No, not yet. We’re still writing.


Metalship : My friend showed me “Battle Angles” back in the day. I was excited to hear about Nevermore because I was a Sanctuary fan.

Warrel Dane: A couple of the songs on the “In Memory” EP and the first Nevermore record were originally Sanctuary songs. I just kind of brought them with me after Sanctuary broke up. “Sorrow Man” (from the EP) was the first Sanctuary song that we wrote that was going to be on the new record. It’s still one of my favorite Nevermore songs.


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added by Darren Cowan, on October 22, 2010 for Metalship

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Nevermore

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