Archer interview by Tim Duran
Over the last couple of years I have been following this band via social media and whenever then they come to town; a power trio worthy of more than what they have already accomplished. A band that went on tour with DORO, Queensryche and Annihilator, spent months touring Europe, each night giving more than 100% of themselves to the audience. If RUSH was a heavy metal/thrash act, they would be called Archer Nation.
Fronted by guitar virtuoso/singer extraordinaire Dylan Rose, alongside bassist (with groove to spare) David De Silva and the man on the pots and pans Keyhan Moini. You’ve never seen a metal act that couldn’t stay in one place like these guys. I overheard a gal say to them after a show, “It’s hard to get a picture of you guys standing still!” Now with that being said, you have to check them out when they come to your town.
I had the opportunity to send off some questions to Dylan Rose and here’s what he had to say:
HMS: Thank you for taking time out for us. Firstly, I’d like to congratulate you on the success of Culling the Weak and the tour you have been on in support of it the last couple years. How long has Archer Nation been together, what is the meaning behind the name, and tell us about the album cover to Culling the Weak.
Dylan Rose: Hi Tim – Great to see you in Las Vegas again last time! First off, the Culling the Weak record cycle was a real stepping stone for us and we had a hell of a time touring all over to support the album, so thank you for the kind words! We can’t wait to get the new album out and get back out there!
The band was founded way back in high school actually by myself and two other metal-inclined classmates here in my hometown of Santa Cruz, CA. We went through a few early incarnations of lineups and failed band names but eventually settled on the name Archer because we just felt it was a simple and cool sounding one-word name that was easy to remember and chant at local shows. There was no deeper meaning than that!
All the artwork for Culling the Weak was done by a guy down in Brazil named Marcelo Vascos. He is a brilliant graphic artist who has done work with a ton of bands including Slayer and Machine Head.
HMS: I was pleased to hear all those new songs in your last show. Tell us about the new record, its artwork, and what the next step you have planned for Archer Nation.
DR: For the new album, we decided to go back to producer Mike Clink (who did Culling the Weak) and record with him in LA again. There will be 8 songs total and we’re excited about a few of the additions we’ve made with the new material in terms of influence, approach, etc as we continue to evolve as writers.
Also, one of the coolest aspects of this upcoming release for me in comparison to any others before it is that it will be the first opportunity for our fan base to hear Keyhan Moini recorded on drums with us. He toured on Culling the Weak for 2 years and has put in all the hard work and effort to help us get to this point so it will be very rewarding to release an album with the lineup that has been in the trenches together for a while now.
The artwork is actually still under construction, so to speak, but we’ve got some very cool concepts in the works that we’re trying out that sort of tie all the lyrical themes together nicely.
HMS: I was really impressed on how much more aggressive the sound is on the new songs. Not to take anything away from the raw power of Culling, but “Shackled” is pretty harsh. How did that song come to life?
DR: If you were to listen to each of our releases over the years in chronological order, I think it’s fairly easy to discern that we’ve gotten a bit heavier each time around. This album will continue that trend as far as I can tell! “Shackled” was one that I had in the can for quite some time before we entered the studio so once the time came, David and Keyhan helped tie everything together and off it went! It certainly draws from that classic thrash sound that I love.
HMS: During the last show, I noticed that you don’t use a Wah pedal. As a matter of fact, I think the only effect I heard was just Distortion or Overdrive. What does your live rig consist of?
DR: There was one song – “Hurl The Cross” – from Culling the Weak that I used a wah on for the solo. Actually, there will be only one section on the new material as well so you’re right – it is a rarity! To be frank, I don’t like hearing it on every lead in any band so I try to use it sparingly for impact rather than a constant tone-defining aspect of my everyday sound.
Overall, I try to keep my live rig as simple as I can. I don’t love huge pedalboards and with the sort of frenetic stage energy we’re always trying to maintain, I can’t afford to be tap dancing on pedals all night. With that being said, I do have a small board that I’m always tinkering with while chasing the right tone to serve our trio well. So aside from a Boss TU-3 tuner and the ever-essential Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus to run everything, I bring a Dunlop Dimebag Crybaby wah, a vintage Ibanez Tube Screamer, and an EP Booster pedal made by Xotic. That thing is vital to me now. I also have been messing around with the T.C. Electronics MIMIQ doubler pedal lately. Lastly, I always roll with an MXR Smart Gate in case there are noise issues with too much stage volume, etc. Sometimes I’m running all these pedals at once, sometimes only the EP Booster. It just depends on the room each night. I’m always trying to adapt to what we’re hearing at sound check every day and get some consistently strong guitar tones on tour…. And every venue’s different!
HMS: Going back to Culling, there are a few songs on that record that just caves in my cranium, “Belief”, “Dawn of Dilution”, and my personal favorite, “Day That Never Came”. As a whole, “Culling the Weak” is outstanding, but these are three highlights for me. How did the lyrics come to mind in these?
DR: “Belief” was a cathartic sort of thing for Dave and I. We had just been through a slew of issues trying to find a drummer during that period that could offer commitment towards writing, recording, and ideally joining full-time and touring into oblivion! There were several false starts, though, and so the lyrics in “Belief” are borne from a lot of those frustrations and negativity that came along with that stuff at the time. “Dawn of Dilution” was one that I wanted to write about the repercussions of how modern technology shapes our world now because I feel like we don’t always focus on the social, emotional, and even physical consequences of everything – for example, staring at our phones all day. “Day That Never Came” is fairly similar to “Belief” in its lyrical theme although it takes a much angrier approach I think. The title refers to one of those “what if” questions of wondering how things could have played out had things gone according to plan.
HMS: I’m sure you guys get asked this question a lot, but I’ll ask anyway. Who encouraged you the most growing up to pick up your instrument, write songs, and reach your fullest potential? Who are your musical inspirations, and what groups do you get into these days?
DR: Well for me it always goes back to my parents. My Dad has always played guitar and our house growing up was very musical. The first encouragement was definitely having guitars around the house and all these great players, friends of our family, always dropping by for a jam! The writing aspect came a little later after I figured out how to play a little bit and was influenced by bands I was obsessed with at that young age like Nirvana and The Beatles. As far as lifelong musical inspirations, there’s a few that will always stick with me. Black Sabbath was my number one growing up, as well as all the guitarists Ozzy has worked with. Led Zeppelin is one of my other all-time favorites even though we don’t sound like them, but you can still draw inspiration from Jimmy Page no matter what! A lot of the old thrash stuff is big for me too, and my favorite of the bunch is early Megadeth. I can always appreciate guys that write and perform killer metal riffs while singing on top of it.
HMS: As far as crowd response, what tunes, new or previous, gets the loudest reaction?
DR: That’s a tough one… I think the title track from Culling The Weak did well in that regard, but a few others like “Day That Never Came” and “Dawn of Dilution” seemed to hit crowds pretty hard on those tours as well. Every night was different too. We did close almost every show with “Dawn of Dilution” so it had a nice impact I think. As far as the new stuff, I can’t wait to answer that question myself! Even though I have my thoughts on the matter, we’ll just have to wait and see how the new songs are received…. Hopefully sans tomatoes!
HMS: When you guys sit down to write, is it a collective, or do you all have riffs or a verse/chorus section that you bring to the table?
DR: You know, every song was different on this new album. Some, like “Shackled” and a few others, were a lot of riffs I put together and brought to the guys halfway completed already. One of the songs David wrote almost entirely by himself. There’s even one that Keyhan wrote riffs for on guitar! At the end of the day though, it’s always going to be a collaborative effort because each of us has a unique personality that has to be infused into the song along the way.
HMS: The thing that really impressed me about you guys, aside from being completely blown away the few times I’ve seen you, is that your attitudes before and after the shows are friendly. How do you keep that outlook going night after night, city after city, country after country?
DR: Well there’s really no other way to be! We love to tour and play live. We love to meet fans and hang out afterwards and communicate with people at every stop, and you have to always be in promo mode whether we feel up to it or not because you have to always make the most of your efforts. Even though the drives can be long and the exhaustion, starvation, and impoverishment is very real sometimes, we are still doing it because we love it. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t!
HMS: I wrote in a review of the last show how the solos are very different from one another. They all burn with bluesy and jazzy overtones. How do you keep solos interesting for you to keep them from sounding alike?
DR: Good question. I like to sit with the songs for a week or two after all the basic rhythms are laid down and play along with the lead sections until something develops naturally. This process can even be started prior to the studio when we’re rehearsing them over and over. If your ears are open and you have some repertoire from which to draw, then something usually presents itself that can kick things off for you, whether it be one lick or scale idea or mood that you choose to attack with any given song. Some pieces of music call for aggression and speed and a lot of notes, other things call for more mid-paced melodic approaches; others need exotic weird flavors that sort of rankle the brain for a second before resolution. Every song is a different case and ultimately it just comes down the serving the song itself with what you think is appropriate for each musical scenario.
HMS: Out of all the places you’ve played, where is your favorite stop? (And you don’t have to say Las Vegas). What about that place stands out?
DR: Las Vegas has certainly treated us well! In terms of big crazy crowds and the best tours we’ve happened to do thus far, Europe is the top choice. Germany is consistently awesome, to name one country in specific, but many of the countries around there are all great stops. Believe it or not, Poland is also absolutely nuts when it comes to metal shows as. I always have to mention them. There are some good cities stateside as well, though, and we have a wonderful family of friends and fans out in Texas actually.
HMS: How do you guys survive on the road? Touring can get expensive and I have heard many horror stories of labels and managers dumping bands in the middle of nowhere with no way home.
DR: We do whatever we can man. If we have to sleep in the van or at friends’ houses along the way, so be it. I’ve consumed many a truck stop hot dog in my day too. It’s all about doing it together and it ain’t always easy. But again, we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it because we sure as hell aren’t doing it for the dough!
HMS: When you guys are back home, what do you do to unwind?
DR: I’m pretty quiet man. I teach guitar lessons and hang around my favorite local music shop here in town. I sit in with weekend cover bands for fun. Most importantly, though, I just soak up Santa Cruz and spend time with my family and closest friends.
HMS: Turn on’s, turn off’s?
DR: A turn on would be someone who loves Sabbath… The turn off is when someone doesn’t!
HMS: As musicians, the last few years we’ve been devastated by the untimely passing of great people. Lemmy, Prince, David Bowie, Gregg Allman, Chuck Berry, Chris Cornell… how will these affect your songwriting and how you look at the future?
DR: It’s been hard lately, for sure. That’s a lot of important names and it feels like the list keeps getting longer. That touches on a bigger issue though because in 10 years, 20 years, who’s left? It’s a scary thought man. Pretty soon we’re going to be living in a world without any of the classic heroes left and no one to fill the void. It’s gonna’ be tough.
HMS: My daughter had just gotten into Motörhead about two years before Lemmy died. Ours were the only shoulders we could cry on. These days , music and songwriters don’t affect people like they used to. I’m just glad that music touches her soul and she connects with the artists she enjoys listening to. When she was young, I wouldn’t let her listen to anyone if she couldn’t tell me why she liked a certain band or song. Maybe that’s what’s missing. Mindless music that just has a beat or groove, but no heart and no soul.
What’s the biggest disappointment you see in the music industry, and if they gave you half the chance, what would you change about it?
DR: Well this could go on forever but I’ll mention one aspect of it – I really feel like today’s youth has less of an attention span and appreciation for the act of consuming music, meaning finding, listening, and (Lemmy forbid) purchasing music. Kids listen to 10 seconds of a song on a streaming service before hitting the button and getting on to the next blip of excitement. I think it would kill them to have to sit down and put on a record and listen to it front to back without moving or changing the channel. And as far as buying it, that ship has completely sailed, especially when it comes to young people. YouTube and other outlets have taught everyone that it is entirely acceptable to never pay for a single note of recorded music, whether it’s a hundred years old or brand new. The effect of that is there is no longer any intrinsic value associated with recorded music in anyone’s mind because it’s always completely free and right there for the taking. Why would anyone pay for music in 2017? And even worse, the lack of value placed on music probably deters kids from picking up instruments of their own to some degree. The trend is irreversible and has re-defined the business model completely. I don’t know how you’d change it at this point, though. You just have to adapt nowadays.
HMS: Lastly, and most importantly, thanks for taking time out. I know you are probably still on the road and would much rather catch up on some needed sleep. It’s always a pleasure when you guys roll into town. Keep HorrorMetalSounds.com posted on the new record and we’ll do our best to give an honest review. And if we don’t like it, we’ll lie!
DR: Hey, a few white lies in regards to our awful product is always welcome!
Thank you Tim for the fun interview and make sure everyone stays on the lookout for news about the upcoming Archer Nation release by visiting our website and socials! We will tour our asses off in 2018 and beyond so be ready!