Australia’s Road Warrior blazes bright and mean. Formed by members of enduring extreme metal bands, Road Warrior represents a new foray into a different kind of sonic destruction from what the band has done before in their other projects, channeling the muscular spirit of bands like Griffin and Jag Panzer with a healthy dose of Australian spirit. Power (review here), released near the end of 2018, is already becoming a recent favorite and left me hungry for more; fortunately, frontman and main songwriter Denny “Denimal” Blake has taken the time to answer some questions about the band for me.
You can listen to Road Warrior’s debut album Power here:
The demo was half written for Road Warrior and half for Johnny Touch. Around its release you mentioned that it was much easier to write extreme metal, and that it was taking you a significant amount of time to come to speed writing for Road Warrior. Now that it’s been another couple of years and the band’s first album is out, do you find that anything’s changed?
It was a learning curve indeed. The schooling of older musicians is entirely different to mine own, and humbling to the extreme.
The demo was comprised of 2 tracks, one (‘The 1st Strike’) of which was somewhat rehearsed with latter stage JT, but never quite completed. The other track was effectively broached as a debut song for Road Warrior.
What has not changed in the years since the beginning, is my appreciation for the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s bands in regards to originality but also the qualitative song composition. I don’t want to make too many wild claims, but the new RW album sees a large stride into that territory.
When you were interviewing following the release of the Ignition demo, Power was planned as a mLP. What changed and made you decide to release it as a full album with more songs?
I was quite hell-bent on a debut MLP, as I am still huge fan of that hard-striking format! The request of Gates Of Hell Records was that we fill the potential MLP with extra tracks, including the demo, to flesh it out to an album. I didn’t relish the inconsistency of productions on a debut release though. At that point I had been writing with fury, and had solidified a line-up upon my return to Australia. So a full-length was the obvious answer.
Does the thwarting of your plans this time around mean that we can expect at least one mLP in Road Warrior’s future? Do you resent the interference of external forces with your vision, or is it part and parcel with making music?
We have recorded one extra track, each time we entered the studio for an album. That makes a grand total of 2 tracks thus far! We will do the same next album. I have another track I am currently composing that will be the title track for a MLP. 3 tracks from each album plus the title track. Might make for a novel release. In mine eyes anyway.
How was the reception to the album? Do you feel a noticeable shift in fanbase from your normal death and black metal work?
The reception was good enough in the initial stages, but I sincerely believe we were lost in the quagmire of debut NWOTHM albums that seem to ejaculate from every nook and cranny of the internet! The scene is different nowadays in that most rivet-heads enjoy most metal stylings. So many whom are keen on extreme styles still appreciated Power. Unfortunately, here in Australia, it’s tougher to get out abroad and treat our brothers and sisters with a unique Australian live sledgehammer. Live promotion is paramount.
Aside from relentless live activity do you believe there’s any way to stand out in these crowded times? Is live promotion the only recourse?
Being successful as a studio-only project seemed to be a prospect that died a slow death after the 90’s. Nowadays live promotion is a must.
It is not the only recourse. Strong band image, whether costume or conceptual, or both, is often needed. I do fear the scene being swamped by Gwar/Lordie-esque bands, I see that ilk more and more. Image, like live performance, is still necessity, no matter what people say, it always has been since the dawning of popular music.
Now that Road Warrior has a full lineup, you’re playing a lot less on record. Do you let other band members take more control over their own songwriting (drum patterns, lead guitar, melodies) or do you write their parts?
That is true, and boy, what a relief! It means less solitary demoing for me!
Otherwise, no, I still write the vast majority of…everything. Being a drummer I often have drum ideas in mind, but Villon has free reign to improve and embellish. I also wrote a few guitar solos for the new album and even performed one on the final track of the upcoming album. But still, the band sound has been improved greatly by the current band line-up, which initially was very new and tentative on the debut album.
Does being a multi-instrumentalist inform your songwriting choices? How much of Power came alive in the rehearsal room versus at home?
Of course, I think the scope of my songwriting is affected by my ability to imagine the song in the sum of its parts. That said, I do prefer some input, no matter how small, from Overdryve and Villon, as it keeps songs fresh for my ears. Power was 90% conceived before even setting foot in the jam room. The band still had to take shape though. Overdryve was only rehearsing with us for about 5 months before we hit the studio!
Is it ever difficult to balance the weirdness that comes out in most of your songwriting with your objective to write catchy and muscular heavy metal?
Good question. We didn’t really broach anything outside of run-of-the-mill-familiar-yet-mildly-muscular heavy metal on Power. It has some moments but it’s quite safe in overall concept. But that can be said of the majority of NWOTHM. However, the new album, now complete, features many more diverse/risky elements. This will be patently evident by the time you flip to side B of the album. You will be hearing what ROAD WARRIOR is truly becoming.
It’s great news that Road Warrior is already ready with a whole new album. How quickly after the completion of Power did you start writing it? You say becoming, even as a new album is finished- do you foresee more future changes this early out of the gate?
Yes, as I write this the album layout is in final stages of completion.
The album was almost completely written (not rehearsed) when Power was taped. Becoming, yes, as we will continue to push ever so slightly at convention without pushing our fist into the birthday cake.
Do you try and keep your songwriting influences entirely to heavy metal?
That would be quite impossible I believe. You absorb and inherit influence with and without consent.
What are some of your biggest inspirations when writing vocals? Am I detecting some Nasty Ronnie in some of those rare falsettos?
My vocal range is strongest in the ‘deeper’ registers, so admittedly, my head voice was a little softer than I would have liked on Power! Nasty Ronnie sang in falsetto I reckon, which is a different vocal chord arrangement. But like Ronnie, I use them more for effect. Must be due to my 3rd testicle.
Did the relative lack of deeper singers in heavy metal (compared to the much more common tenor vocalist) make it harder to get in the swing of writing vocal parts when you first started the band?
All my favourite singers have higher registers than me hahahaha: Judas Priest, Crimson Glory, Queensryche, Virgin Steele, Racer X, Fates Warning…if only I could!
What I would like to sing and what I naturally sound like at this given moment is what drives me. I practice to not only expand my range but also affect better vibrato and especially timbre.
Villon, our drummer sang a bit of backing vocals on the debut album, but none on this new album. I have plans to experiment with more vocal harmonies on the next album. Maybe not to the level of Dokken, but as an aspiration, the Road Warrior way.
You mentioned that you’re trying to learn to sing the right way, and preserve your voice for the upcoming years. Does this mark a reduction or elimination of harsh vocals in your other bands? How are the fates of Roar Warrior and your other bands intertwined?
Yes, correct form allows not only for longevity but consistency on a tour etc. I still utilise harsh vocals in other bands, but I often wonder if I have vocal nodules already! I do prefer clean vocals but I do not want to sully the other bands too much with a foray into majority clean vocals.
Road Warrior and my other bands are not so interrelated. Overdryve plays bass in CAULDRON BLACK RAM, that’s about it.
Has your experience with Road Warrior led to any regrets about Johnny Touch, or things you would have done differently in hindsight?
Johnny Touch was a bit of a learning curve in many ways. It was effectively doomed from soon after the beginning! But after it’s hilariously flaming demise, it did allow me the opportunity to reassess my relationship with songwriting, vision and moreover, band leadership. I was far too democratic with Johnny Touch and am glad I sundered that entity and created a new vehicle in Road Warrior to correct that.
As one of Australia’s most enduring metal musicians, how do you feel about the country’s modern scene? How would you compare it to living abroad, which I believe I remember mention of you doing? Do you have any favorites that have popped up from your country in recent years?
Enduring…thank you! Well I think there is potential here and there also are plenty of representatives of the current trends, you know. I, myself was a representative of the current trends (early 90’s death metal) when I was a teenager. There were most likely old-school heavy metal fans at one of my shows in 1993, wondering where all the ‘true’ heavy metal bands had gone, and why all the kids seemed to jump on the latest trends? Like death metal!
Most forms of metal have come and gone and have recently come again. I cannot judge these bands even though I had a birds-eye view of the scene in the ‘golden years’, but my only gripe is the approach to songwriting and sound. The digital realm has allowed for less of a human element in sound and performance and I hear that in many modern, younger bands who know no other way. I don’t envy the task ahead for these bands, as heavy metal has a long and exalted pedigree now.
I see more community in Europe; traditional HM community at least. But Europe is still at the forefront of trend. I did reside in Germany for about 18 months yes. I do notice here in Australia that the festival format is growing stronger, as opposed to ‘3 local bands playing your typical dingy venue’ kind of event. Fine by me.
As for new bands…hmmm, I am somewhat out of the loop. I respect a lot of new bands for their badassery like Dracula, Hidden Intent, Butterfly, Lucifer’s Fall, Galaxy, Espionage….in regards to more traditional leanings.
Are there any modern bands you feel kinship to, or older ones that remain active?
I am aged on somewhat the mature side hahaha but yeah I feel kinship with dudes of my era obviously! There are many I do not know, who know me, but for some reason, never approach me. So I guess I would have more brothers and sisters if they would say g’day. In regards to classic metal and Road Warrior, I mean what old heavy/speed/thrash bands are still around from the older days? Probably none! Where the fuck are they? I still have long hair, avoided baggy pants/long shorts, metal-core and tribal tattoos. I have seen so many fuckers drop out and it leaves me wondering who was ever REALLY into this culture called heavy metal? Heavy Metal is approximately 50 years old and IS a culture that must be revered, preserved and sometimes expanded on, gingerly.
Do you have any particular favorite lesser-known Australian heavy metal releases that readers might not be aware of?
Well I do not to insult any band by lumping them in the ‘lesser-known’ category! Maybe DEMONS GATE for more recent acts. Otherwise some great older Australian bands are BLACK ALICE, OUTRAGE, SADISTIK EXEKUTION, BESERKER, BENGAL TIGERS.
Does Road Warrior have any plans for international shows or touring in the foreseeable future?
When we are offered some festival slots, then yes, we would definitely take our show internationally. We have both the disadvantage of geography working against us, and geography working for us in regards to novelty. The novelty isn’t unfounded. I lived in Europe and saw plenty of live bands. Road Warrior is VERY different to the current NWOTHM bands!
You’ve mentioned the “NWOTHM” more than one time in this interview. Was there a period you first noticed that heavy metal wasn’t as dead as it seemed in the ‘90s?
NWOTHM? I cannot finger the precise year or such, but during the 90’s I remember mostly The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Twisted Tower Dire, Cauldron Born and Aiming High. Paltry indeed!
There was a small trickle of bands during the 2000’s but the wall was breached around the 2010’s onwards. All the obscure re-releases of heavy metal gems and the appearance of previously defunct bands at traditional metal fests really amped up the scene too. I still adhere to the idea that the metal trends have finally come full circle, after that down-tuned, mildly technical death metal trend…people are craving song-writing and melody.
Do you have anything else you’d like to talk about or promote?
Road Warrior has a split 7-inch EP about to hit record shelves any moment now. The split is with a band we admire greatly, GRAVEBREAKER. What a union! Otherwise, take my advice, check out the new Road Warrior album ‘Mach II’, or your girlfriend will probably leave you in the dust for a tougher motherfucker.