Having just completed the Die Mother Fucker Die tour of 2016, Edsel Dope speaks with ReGen about his musical and artistic development over the years, culminating in an exciting new album.
An InterView with Edsel Dope of Dope
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
For two decades, Dope has been one of the music world’s most raucous rock & roll entities – revered and reviled in equal measure and beloved by the disaffected and the disenfranchised since the band’s 1999 Felons and Revolutionaries debut. Spearheaded from the start by front man, songwriter, and producer Edsel Dope, the band has undergone numerous lineups and stylistic permutations to encompass elements of industrial, nü-metal, alternative rock, and even pop to create a dynamic and ever changing sound that has carried the band through 20 years, following a scathing and sleazy image of sex, drugs, rock & roll debauchery that is unmatched in today’s musical echelon. With the lineup of Dope, Acey Slade, Virus, and Racci Shay conducting the Die Mother Fucker Die Reunion tours of 2015 and 2016, fans were treated to one of the band’s classic lineups performing an onslaught of Dope hits, all building up to the release of Blood Money Part 1, the first album of new Dope material since 2009’s No Regrets. Taking the time to speak with ReGen before performing in Baltimore, Edsel Dope speaks about the band’s musical and artistic development over the years, the gathering of the current lineup, the themes of looking inward on Blood Money Part 1 with some hints at the impending Part 2, and some thoughts about the future of the nation and our addiction to entertainment.
This is your first album in seven years, other than the live album. What’s different this time around?
The lineup on this tour and on the live album is being heralded as the ‘classic lineup’ consisting of you, Acey Slade, Virus, and Racci Shay. How did that come about?
Dope: It’s kind of silly, because it’s not even that thought out. This band has never had the same lineup from one album to the next, and it never will; it’s just not conducive to the way that we operate. Since we put the record out, that was the last fully national tour that we did, and we’ve done 100-plus shows in the last seven years. We’ve done a lot of regional dates and mini two week tours and we’ve gone overseas – every time we do, I call up the fraternity of filth. I have all of the dudes who have played in the band throughout the five previous albums, and I kind of just see who is available, who is interested, and who wants to go do a tour. In all of those hundred shows, Virus has probably played 80% of them, while Acey has played probably 50% of them. Racci and Acey played shows with me, Virus and Acey played shows with me, but the four of us together just hadn’t linked our schedules up in a really long time. It was just an accident or fate, whatever you want to call it, where I was putting together the lineup for the Russian tour, and it just so happened that Acey was available, Racci was available, and Virus was available, and I thought, ‘Wow, it’s been a long time since these four have played together!’ It was just a kind of happy accident. We went over to Russia and we recorded the live album, and again, everybody was interested in doing this tour so they all signed up to do it. But I don’t feel hamstrung to keep this lineup going; if it happens again, cool! There are other classic lineups that I think people would like to see, but this band is very much, without putting myself in higher company, like Nine Inch Nails. You know? As long as Trent Reznor is there, it’s Nine Inch Nails, and some might be more familiar with Chris Vrenna or whoever else it might be at the time, but he always puts together a solid team that will give you a good solid Nine Inch Nails show, and I feel like that’s what I’ve always done with this band. It’s cool how we’re doing this, but it isn’t what we’re going to do going forward, and this isn’t what made the album. It’s just a cool thing we’re doing as friends. It’s like when you’re in junior high school, and you have your buddies that you have your inside jokes with. And then you go to high school, and maybe one or two of those buddies comes along, but then you have a whole other set of friends with your own inside jokes and innuendos for those people. I’m friends with everybody that has ever been in the band, so we’ll see what happens going forward.
How much does the lineup factor into the recording process? It’s not all you, is it?
You’ve been teasing the album for almost three years now since the ‘Drug Music’ music video was released in 2013, and you’ve been directing your own music videos for quite some time, which has since become standard practice for bands to have to do their own videos, especially since the industry has changed so much. Do you ever feel like you laid a groundwork for new ways of working?
Dope: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t even think about it. I’ve just always held myself to a high standard of content in both production and video direction. I just learned how to do a lot of things really early in my career. I don’t know, man. Everything is based on opinion in art and music, and there is no right or wrong and there really is no better than or less than; it’s all opinion. But with all due respect, I don’t think that most of our contemporaries put out content that is as competitive as ours. You can watch the video for ‘Blood Money,’ and then you can go back to when we were on Sony and we did the ‘Everything Sucks’ video, and I feel like our content level is very comparable to when we had huge budgets and huge support. I feel like that isn’t often the case. Most bands that were on major labels, you can go back and look at their major label videos and the production on their major label albums, and you can say, ‘Oh, so this is when they had support.’ But then you look and listen years later and you can tell that they clearly don’t have that backing anymore. A lot of that is because you have to take these small budgets and pay people. In my quest, I’ve learned to do these things by myself so that a lot more of the money can show up on the screen and in the content itself. That’s always been really important to me, so I don’t know if I’ve paved the way for anybody. I don’t even think about it like that. I just do what I do, and I’m kind of a nut when it comes to the quality that I want things to be and it’s very important to me that it looks and sounds like we never missed a step. The songs within are a different story – you may like one song better or the old songs better; I can’t control that because I’m just an artist and I can only do what I feel now. But from a content and presentation level, I don’t feel like there’s any question that we stay at the highest quality, as independent as we are.
Blood Money seems to also have traces of power metal with very melodic passages, guitar harmonies, and I noticed a heavy use of pitch shifter pedals, and you’d started on the previous record, No Regrets, to incorporate some new kinds of sounds.
As far as political issues are concerned, because this is an election year and you’ve touched on politics in your music and in some of the visuals on your past albums, what are your thoughts on that topic today?
Dope: Well, this record does not touch on any of that. Truthfully, Blood Money is a very inward looking record, and it’s very much about me looking on the inside and expressing what I’ve been going through personally. It’s not really about me looking out at the world and conveying my opinion. I can say that I feel that coming for the future, and I feel like we are exactly where we deserve to be, man, and it’s sad. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who I support or what I think is right or wrong or who I think will make a better choice at this point, because we really only have the two to choose from. But I will say that Donald Trump has changed the game for the foreseeable future. He has taken politics and he has turned it into entertainment, and we have allowed it to happen. It’s become about ratings and catchphrases. Never before have we had a politician who came from a reality TV show and is using the same kind of sound bites and the same tricks to get people inspired, like nicknaming his opponents like ‘Crooked Hillary’ or ‘Low Energy Jeb.’ They are fucking catchphrases, and they are clever, and it works! That’s why it works on television because it helps ratings, and guess what, it’s working in politics, and that’s frightening… frightening time! But in a world where our entire lives are based around social media and quick tidbits of information, it’s like fucking money in the bank. It’s changed for the foreseeable future, and it’s going to be interesting to see where it goes from here. I will also say that people laughed at Donald Trump from the beginning and kept writing him off and said, ‘Oh, he won’t make it to the next level.’ And now with the ‘Grab ’em by the pussy,’ people are saying, ‘Oh, he has no chance now and he’ll never make it to President.’ Don’t be so fucking sure, man! I’ll say that if you think that is a whammy, I’ll one-up it and say that the most influential person in social media right now is Kim Kardashian. That’s the reality! Kim Kardashian can take a picture of her fucking salad and get more people engaging in that than fucking Albert Einstein could if he were alive now. People who are 14 now are going to be able to vote when they turn 18; that’s four years from now. People that are 16 will be 20, and people that are 18 will be 22. If you don’t think that Kim Kardashian and her husband Kanye West, who is a very influential artist who some people feel is very prolific and intelligent and that he understands the people… otherwise, he wouldn’t be such a big artist and sell as many records as he does… but if you don’t think that those two collectively couldn’t make a real bid to get to step one and actually be considered, just because they have so much reach and so much engagement with an audience that will be able to vote in four years. If you think it’s scary now, just wait four more years and see where it goes. Man, I don’t know! I think we deserve what we’re getting. I think we are breeding ourselves into the most narcissistic society imaginable. Everybody thinks they should have their own fucking reality TV show and that their Instagrams or their YouTubes are a form of that. It’s pretty fucking mind boggling to me, man! I don’t know, but it’s going to be interesting. It’s been turned upside down, and I don’t think it’ll ever be the same… not that it was good before, but I’m not sure that the next election won’t be another fiasco of catchphrases, entertainment, and buzz words.
It’s interesting to think about this… it reminds me of the movie Back to the Future, a scene when he’s back in 1955 and is asked who is the President in 1985, and when he says Ronald Reagan, the response is, ‘Ronald Reagan?! The actor?!’ Sonny Bono, who was a joke for a long time, but he became a successful Senator. Who could’ve imagined that Arnold Schwarzenegger would become Governor of California?
So after this tour, Dope has one UK show and some shows in Russia, and you’re going to be working on Blood Money Part 2. Is that what’s next for you and Dope?
Dope: We’ll see what makes sense, whether it’s another US tour, which would be more in support of the record after its release, rather than a lead up to it, or going back into the studio… I think it’ll be a little bit of both of those. The difference now compared to the past is that the band was really all that mattered, and it was always about putting records out and being on tour. After 12 years of doing that, I needed to check the fuck out for a minute and realize that there is more to life than that. My life had become very one-dimensional and my balance was completely fucked, and there were a lot of places that I needed to grow for my own sanity and well being, and for the well being of those around me. I don’t feel the pressure to get right back out on the road to support the record because that’s not the only thing that matters in my life. I also think, truthfully, that our fan base agrees – I don’t think ours is a fan base that needs to see Dope four times a year. Maybe they were when they were younger, but they have families now, and lives, and jobs, and I think when you can give them six months of sale time so that they can plan and make sure they have the time off work or get a babysitter, I think that benefits everybody to not overplay and to make it more of an event, something that is a little bit more special for all of us so that we can enjoy our lives and have Dope be this cool night out.
Photography courtesy of Dope