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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews

Death Dealer

Interviewed by Mike Korn

Interview with Sean Peck of Death Dealer from 2013


Regarding Death Dealer, how much of putting the band together was planning and how much was destiny?

(chuckles) That's an interesting take. I'm a real pragmatic guy, so there was a lot of planning, but you know, there's a lot of destiny, too. It's kind of funny how it all came together. Stu came out to America as a vacation and he sat in with Cage for a couple of songs. On that run, I hooked him up with Roy Z and Mike Davis, when those guys went to see Judas Priest together. So he met Mike Davis there and on that trip, we also ran into Rhino, who did some guest vocals for us on a couple of shows. Then a few months later, we called both Mike and Rhino up to join us in a band. Now looking back, it seems that fate might have played a hand.
MSJ: And it's also quite unusual that all the original choices clicked. You didn't have to go through armies of singer, guitarists, drummers, what-not.
Stu called me up and said, “hey man, we gotta do a band.” I always knew he wanted to do a full album with me because we had written such great songs together and had become such good friends over Skype. It was my idea to get some big names if we're actually going to do a band. The first big names we threw out, the only guy we couldn't get was K.K. Downing, which was well documented. After I found out we couldn't get K.K. Downing, I thought, “what about Ross the Boss?” It's really cool just how into it everybody has been. Even before we got together to play live, Stu and I are kind of the "no- name" guys in the band. (laughs) But the "big name" guys have been just as enthusiastic and committed to it. Now that we've actually gotten together and played live shows, we've felt the level of power and insane potential in this. Now it's all about Death Dealer.
MSJ: How do you juggle the schedules? That's got be kind of nightmarish. . .
Yeah, we're going through a problem right now. We're supposed to play in Germany in November and we're going to have to bump it to December because of a scheduling conflict. Ross got offered something really, really amazing and just too good to pass up, so that's that. Now Stu isn't really in a band, he has his Empire of Eden which is more like a project. Rhino plays with all kinds of stuff. I'm pretty much the only guy who is in another band full time. Well, Mike is in Dramarama. . . the Halford band is on hiatus. But everyone is really focusing on Death Dealer right now because we've got such a good buzz going. I think people will do whatever it takes to make it work.
MSJ: Is Ross' band with the guys from Europe, is that pretty much a thing of the past?
You know, I don't want to speak for him, but from what I'm gathering, that's way, way down on his priority list. I think he still has another record but he's so excited about Death Dealer, I think he's having a hard time getting motivated for that band. I think another Ross The Boss record will come out, but I don't know what's going on with that band.
MSJ: Is Cage still a going concern?
Yeah, in about an hour, I'm leaving for band practice! The great thing about Cage is that it’s local here in San Diego. I'm able to get with the guys, practice live. With Death Dealer, everybody's all over the place so it's a major undertaking to assemble the group. That's where it's nice to have a band you can see every week, get in a room and jam. It's another way I can keep my singing chops up to snuff. We've got such a great legacy with Cage. We're working on our seventh album. I definitely don't want to give that up.
MSJ: I was curious about the status of Cage, because it had been quiet on that front for a while. I've been a fan of Cage since seeing them years ago at Milwaukee Metalfest.
Oh wow, that was a very memorable show for us. We were like the only band there that wasn't a death metal or black metal or thrash band (chuckles). I remember that show, it was at the US Arena.
MSJ: It motivated me to buy something from you right away!
Yeah, we sold out! We sold out of 250 CDs that day. We played a 30 minute set. That was a great time. The whole Cage thing had really benefited from the Death Dealer publicity. My profile as a vocalist has been made known to a lot of people who didn't know who we were before. We still get a lot of requests for Cage. The reason it's been quiet for a while is that we have a new line-up. Dave the guitarist and I, the two original guys, have been joined by three new members. We're so excited about the new line-up because it's a whole new level of enthusiasm. It's a jump start when you get some new blood in the band and we're deep into album number seven, which I can tell you is going to be a horror concept album in the vein of a King Diamond Abigail. The CD will ship with a 90 page mini-novel that will tell the story in a kind of H.P. Lovecraft fashion.
MSJ: Did you write and come up with that concept yourself?
Yeah. I wrote the entire book. I'll tell you the story. I got hit up by some ex King Diamond guys to form a band and write an album. I thought, why don't we do a concept album? I started writing the story, but the King Diamond thing just started to slowly disintegrate, they just kept flaking on me. I ended up with this story and I kept adding and adding to it and elaborating on it and the next thing I knew, I had this mini-novel that I really liked. I let some people read it and they thought it was pretty awesome. I thought, this is too good to give away, I'm going to use it for a Cage record.
MSJ: I'm guessing the cover art will be pretty impressive, as well.
We'll be using Mark Sasso again like we always do. He did the Death Dealer cover, as well. I always do little sketches and direct him in the art department. The Death Dealer cover, I kept nit-picking with him. Even the cleavage on the chick on the right hand side had three revisions until we got her cleavage just right! (laughs) Even though it's painful sometimes, we have a great time creating the cover art. I think we have some of the best covers in heavy metal. I expect the new Cage one to be no different. Everybody loves that Death Dealer cover, too.
MSJ: I would imagine the Death Dealer songs are constructed in quite a different way than the Cage songs, with all the different personalities involved.
There was a lot of collaboration from everybody. I've never written songs with Ross or Mike or Rhino before. It's interesting, because this is a band where everybody writes. Both guitar players write, I write. Rhino sings, plays guitar and has written his own albums with his band Angels of Babylon. Mike writes a bunch of riffs. It's really cool to be in an outfit where everybody has something to say when it comes to writing. With that being said, I wrote all the lyrics, I wrote all the vocal melodies except for "Hammer Down.” It was the easiest album I've ever done. Literally in two months, we had the whole thing written and recorded. It was just amazing. We would all Skype each other and start trading files. Stu is a great producer and engineer. In five minutes, he can do a demo that most people would use as their album. He's amazingly quick at that stuff. That made it really cool. You could hear a really good representation of your idea right away. I don't know, man. . . there was something magic going on. These songs came together super easy, nobody argued about anything and everybody contributed. The flow of how good it came out was just, wow, man! We only did a couple of revisions, like the chorus on "Liberty or Death" where we tried to tweak it around and make it come out better.
MSJ: Talking about Ross The Boss, he's not only one of the godfathers of metal but he's been involved in several kinds of music. What was it like working with the guy? What did you learn from him?
I was never really a Manowar fan at all and didn't know much about Ross, but Stu was a complete fanboy. It would be like if I was in a band with Halford, that's how Stu felt. Even though Stu is a great guitar player himself, he was totally intimidated at first by the prospect of playing with Ross the Boss and he still just praises Ross. Now it's not that I didn't respect him, it's just that I was very confident in my own innate ability to know what is a killer metal song (laughs). I grew up on Maiden and Priest and Boston and Testament and Dokken. . . all the good stuff that was really song-oriented. My instinct for what I thought was a really good song has served me well. I stuck to my guns as far as what I thought was killer metal and what should belong. Ross was real cool, man. . . he worked with me. We got along great. The only problem with Ross is that now he tells everybody I'm the greatest metal singer on Earth! (laughs) That puts a ton of pressure on me! He's just over the top!
MSJ: Maybe he's using psychology?
We became really, really good friends during the process. We did two weeks out here on the West Coast and just hearing the stories from him. . . slowly absorbing the wisdom that comes with this guy as opposed to being not a know-it-all but maybe being a little dismissive of some of his stuff before. I'm trying to be honest. The more I got to know him, the more I started to listen to him. He's very wise when it comes to this life. I'm really trying to learn from him. Some of the stories he has. . . the dude's got to write a book.
MSJ: The material on Death Dealer's War Master is some of the fastest, most aggressive material that any of you guys have ever been involved with. Was that a conscious decision or did it just turn out that way?
You've heard some of the newer Cage material and the direction that's gone in.  That's primarily me. My love is for the faster, super screamy, super metal stuff. I had to kind of pull Ross and Rhino back into it. They haven't played stuff in the faster, thrashier vein for quite a while. I think initially there was a little bit of trepidation, but once they got into it, they were excited that I pulled them in that direction. They kind of surprised themselves in a few aspects. But now that we've done the "War Master,” "Heads Spikes Walls" type of speed songs, the sky's the limit. This Death Dealer album had more mid-tempo songs than I'm used to doing, so for me it was a bit of a challenge. Then we did the ballad, too, which I haven't done in a while and we've got so much amazing praise for "Children of Flame,” it's been crazy. Almost every review talks about that being one of the favorites. We knew it was a good song but we didn't know it would be so talked about in the press.
MSJ: It sounds like maybe some new avenues opened up for you, as well.
Yeah, I haven't done a ballad in a while and I really enjoyed it. The big radio station in Japan just played the ballad. It's even getting radio play now, so that's cool.
MSJ: On this album, you really push your voice to the limit. Nobody gets any younger. . . is there anything special you do to keep your voice so strong? Does it take work or is it a God-given gift?
For me, a lot of it is psychological. It's the human body so you never know what you're gonna get when you go out on stage. I've gone on stage when I didn't think I could sing at all but then I wound up wailing for the whole show. The last show we did at the Roxy in Los Angeles, my voice was really rough that day. I thought this was gonna be horrible but I wound up singing pretty good. I don't know what it is, I think I'm getting better. When we got together for the first three days of practice for Death Dealer, I don't think I've sung any better in my life. I was going crazy, I had all my tools at my disposal. I look back at Halford, too. I think it was the Turbo tour. He's about 60 now, so he was about the age I am now back then. He was at his prime then, in his mid-40s. So there might be something about this age that makes it a good spot for you to be in vocally. I think I'm at my best point right now. I'm always trying new techniques. I'm always trying to push the limit. Some people say, “aw, man, you scream too much,” but I never remember anybody picking up a Priest album and saying “oh, there's too much screaming on here!”
MSJ: Not anybody into heavy metal, anyway. It's known that the traditional metal style in the United States, it's very hard for it to break through, to achieve the popularity it has elsewhere. Is that frustrating for you?
It's in our blood, that's the kind of music we play. I've never wanted to chase trends. We do this for the love of it and not to get rich, even though this record has been very successful financially. We do it because we love it and there are fans all over the world. The shows we played here in Southern California drew way bigger crowds than I thought were going to be out. Whatever's going on, I'm fine with. I know this genre will live on for eternity. This genre of metal is the foundation upon which all the other sub-genres of metal were derived. You can play with thrash bands, you can play with black metal bands, you can play with hardcore bands and people are still gonna love it. I've experienced that over the years with Cage, too, and the reaction we got live was amazing. People would come up and say it was the best metal show they'd ever seen. Come on, man! Our first four shows, just based on the feedback we got from those, we thought, “OK, we might be onto something special here.” It's not frustrating, man! Mexico was out of control! We plan on taking this all over the world. That was one of the things we said when we first did this record. This is not a "project,” this is a band, and that's why we have the guys come out to California and play live, to show that this is a real, live band that we plan on touring all over the place.
MSJ: What kind of live plans do you have? Is there anybody you'd like to be in a package with?
The whole touring thing. . . stuff can come up and things will fall through. That's the thing about the rock’n’roll business. You do interviews and you never want to say something is set in stone, because it could all change tomorrow! Right now, we're going to Europe at the end of the year to do a couple of weeks. We're trying to set up a run in South America for maybe second quarter next year. Then we're looking at a lot of festivals in Europe for summer next year and then probably another three to four week Europe run. We'd like to tour the East Coast as well.
MSJ: I think Death Dealer would be great if they played some shows with Vicious Rumors.
I know Geoff (Thorpe, VR mastermind) and Cage has played some shows with Vicious Rumors. I don't think Vicious Rumors wants any part of us right now! (laughs) No, I'm just kidding! Geoff's a good buddy of mine and we always have a friendly rivalry whenever we play together. Yeah, I'd love to play with Vicious Rumors.
MSJ: Moving onto the lyrics of Death Dealer, they are very blood and thunder, sword and sorcery type stuff, but is there more to that than meets the eye?
I've been writing a lot more fiction lately, I don't know why. I think I've covered all of the conspiracy theories with Cage. (laughs) Yeah, there were a couple of spiritual type songs on War Master, like "Wraiths on the Wind" and "Children of Flame.” Those kind of dealt with the afterlife. There was a theme of rebellion and personal sovereignty running through the album, which Ross, Rhino and me are big on. "Liberty or Death,” "War Master" and "Never to Kneel" fit that theme. Rebellion is always a great general theme in heavy metal. And then "Death Dealer" was a kind of fictional catch-all for everything we're about as the opener. "Heads, Spikes, Walls" was kind of heavy on the sword-and-sorcery because it was taken straight from Game of Thrones. I tried to speak in a lot of general metaphors for the opening record and not be too specific. I've gotten a lot of compliments on the lyrics but the main thing is, the song's gotta be good. We're already sitting on a ton of material for the next record. We're already deep into that. There's some more fictional stuff coming up. And that's what I've always liked with heavy metal, I like to escape! That's why I've made it a habit to not get political with the music. I'm a big comic book nerd so I want to have a good time with my heavy metal. I want to have a smile on my face. I want to escape and stare at the album art and not get into some heavy trip. I don't want to write a song about being sad and all that, I'm not into that.
MSJ: Is there one character in comics you're more into than others?
Well, our song "Triumph and Victory" was taken straight from Pacific Rim, the monsters versus robot movie. We made that a Japanese bonus track. What would be the perfect song for a Japanese bonus track? How about a song about giant robots fighting giant monsters? My favorite superhero is The Silver Surfer. He's the most powerful of the heroes. . . I love the whole Galactus thing, the whole cosmic thing.
MSJ: I thought the late 60s run of that book with John Buscema on artwork was the best comic I ever read.
Oh yeah. Even when it came back with Ron Lim on art, where they were in the "Infinity Gauntlet" phase, I loved all those comics. That was great stuff.
MSJ: Starting in the 1990s, my interest has started to wane. I'm into the classical stuff. I don't think there was ever anything that was better than Marvel Comics in the 70s.
I just read a book called “The Secret History of Marvel Comics,” which was a real interesting book, especially with me being a fan of the 70s Marvel. It tells all the inside politics of the artists and Jim Shooter and all the people who came and went. It was a bunch of fascinating stuff from that era that I had no idea about. Then, right after Image did their big launch with "Spawn" and all that, about a year into that, I dropped off it just about completely. And prior to that I bought just about every comic made!
MSJ: I still get some, but Marvel today just doesn't seem to be the same company. They are all run by big corporations now and the secret to the success of the 70s resembled the success of metal in the 80s. It was done by mavericks. It wasn't done by corporate controlled people.
You should read that book, man! It's all about that stuff!
MSJ: In a way, I'd like to, but I'd probably hear bad stuff about people I really admire, which really turns me off. My favorite artist is John Buscema and I read about him saying he didn't like superheroes that much, he thought they were a big waste of time.  That was a big letdown for me because I thought he was every bit as good as Jack Kirby.
Yeah, I loved his style, too. I loved how he drew Shalla Bal. . . it was fantastic.
MSJ: Was there one particular song on War Master that stood out more than the others for you?
With the Cage records, all the reviews will mention "that song". . . they'll list one or two songs in every review. But with War Master, every song on the record has been mentioned as the favorite on one review or another. One will say "Hammer Down" is the best song, the next one will say will say "Curse of the Heretic,”the next one will say "Liberty or Death.” Even the songs which we thought were great but not as jaw-dropping as the others got picked. I think "Triumph and Victory" was one of the best tracks we wrote, and that was a bonus track. Every week I've got a different favorite. First it was "Curse of the Heretic,” then it was "Death Dealer.” Then I was into "War Master" for a long time. I've been sitting with this album for over a year and I still listen to it like every other day. It's got some legs. I keep going back to it.
MSJ: If you had the ability to ask any three people from history to dinner, who would they be?
I would pick Thomas Jefferson first. Jesus and then somebody crazy, like Adolf Hitler, so I could ask him, “what the hell was going through your mind, dude?” (Laughs)
MSJ: What was the last CD or release you got just because you wanted to hear the band?
The last one I got was the latest from Battle Beast! Have you heard that?
MSJ: I have heard of them, but I haven't actually heard their music yet. I need to eventually check them out!
The new one, I keep listening to it over and over. I love this chick's voice, she sounds like UDO on crack! (laughter) She's amazing! The songs. . . they sound like Abba in spots. They are almost pop metal, with disco beats in places, but I'm digging the s*** out of that record. I don't like a lot of stuff, I try to give things a chance but it usually winds up being "meh.” I want to hear songs that I want to keep playing over and over again. Battle Beast has four or five of those songs on that album that I keep going back to.
MSJ: In a similar vein, what was the last band you saw live because you wanted to see them?
Uhhhh, let's see! I think it was our buddies White Wizzard. Before that, it was probably Halford, when we played with them.
MSJ: This can be from any period in your history. Has there ever been one Spinal Tap moment from your career that you can share with the readers?
There's been a few of them. We were opening for Judas Priest and I brought out an eight foot long boa constrictor. K.K. Downing started freaking out, because they were watching us beside the stage. He was like, “oh my God, get that thing away!” I set the snake down from a minute to grab my sunglasses and it managed to slither over into K.K. Downing's guitar rig and wrap itself impossibly into his wires. I'm like, “oh my God, I'll never get this snake out of these wires!” We were having this huge show and I thought we were going to ruin Judas Priest's night by having this big snake run amuck, but I managed to get the snake unwound. Just the look on K.K. Downing's face was priceless. . . he's a hell of a guy, a super nice guy. It was me, K.K. and Ian Hill sitting back stage for an hour during that gig, I just got to hang with those two guys. Judas Priest is my favorite band so I was just in metal geek heaven.
MSJ: I've talked to Ian Hill, he's just a regular guy. He'd just as soon talk about cars as much as anything else.
Yes, he is. Another story that goes along with that there was a meet and greet with 50 people talking to them. I was so excited to be with Judas Priest, I kept calling Glenn Tipton "K.K. Downing." After about five questions where I did that, he looked at me and went "I'm Glenn!" (laughs)
MSJ: You probably felt about knee high at that point!
That was pretty funny!
MSJ: Any last words or statement for the fans out there?
The whole concept of this band is to be really connected into the underground. We are working Facebook hard. Anybody who sends us a message, we answer right back. We are always interacting with our fans on an intimate level. It really paid off because when we came out with our pre-order package, we had three 30-second samples on our website and I can't tell you how many pre-order packages we sold. It exceeded all of our expectations. We had to reprint everything. The early support from people has been amazing. Now they've seen us live and they're vouching for the level of the live performance. I want to encourage people to keep in touch with us on all the social media. Our gratitude towards all the early responders is boundless.


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 5 at
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