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INTERVIEW: JOE COTELA from DED – May 2020

 

According to a recent press release: “Originating from Phoenix, AZ, DED embodies elements of rock, alternative and metal, with pop melodies, cloaked in some of the most histrionic, headbanging music on the planet. DED’s 2017 debut album Mis-An-Thrope generated over 25 million streams making several Billboard chart appearances including #1 on the Alternative New Artist chart and #3 on the Top New Artist Albums chart. Joe Cotela (vocals), David Ludlow (guitar), Kyle Koelsch (bass), and Matt Reinhard (drums) are building a community by offering comfort in times of despair and positivity by exposing negativity. “A Mannequin Idol (Lullaby)” is the band’s first thought-provoking statement from their forthcoming album. The song questions what we consume and what we support – taking on the fake, surface level, vein aspects of our society that influence our perception of what’s real. DED recently released their two-song micro EP, Mannequin Eyes which features “A Mannequin Idol (Lullaby)” along with a second song, “Eyes Sewn Shut” both helmed by powerhouse rock producer Kevin Churko (Five Finger Death Punch, Ozzy Osbourne, Disturbed). DED may seem like nihilistic hellraising anarchists upon first glance, but they’re actually here to uplift, empower and contribute something positive to the world.” We were able to grab some phone time with frontman Joe to discuss new music, touring, and more…

Photo Credit: Travis Shinn

Toddstar: Hey Joe, how are you doing today?

Joe: Doing good, how are you brother?

Toddstar: I’m well, thank you so much for taking time out, I really appreciate it.

Joe: Yeah, well you know, I got a pretty good amount of time on my hands these days, so…

Toddstar: Yeah, as we all do lately.

Joe: It’s all good, man, I am happy to talk to people.

Toddstar: I was going to say, this is fun for me, this is actually the first interview I’ve been able to carve out of my day because of my day job, this is my first quarantine interview, so this is a lot of fun for me.

Joe: Oh, very cool.

Toddstar: Yeah. Joe, I had the pleasure of speaking with you years ago, and I’m looking forward to doing a follow-up, especially with so much going on in the world of DED right now, so let’s kick this off with a new video coming out in a couple days for “A Mannequin Idol.” What can you tell us about this track, the single itself specifically, we’ll get to the video in a second, but what can you tell us about this song that fans of DED may or may not grab the first or second time they listen through?

Joe: Well, it’s a new song, so it’s a new vibe, it sounds sonically different I would say. I don’t know, I guess the first time you listen to music, you’re going to just probably hear the riff and the overall vibe of the song. I guess when you dig in deeper, it would be the lyrics, and it would be maybe some of the nuances happening in the song. It’s a song about awareness of what we identify with and things like that. It’s a song about taking a step back, kind of similar to what we’re doing right now, we’re being forced to take a step back, and so I think it’s a really good time for that song to come out, and the rest of the album to come out, because a lot of that stuff is kind of self-reflective, and it’s really about what we identify with, what we consume, our false gods and things like that. I would say the song might come off as just a super heavy, head banger song, but I think there’s a lot of depth to it lyrically, as well as melodically. It’s got a pretty uplifting, kind of a pretty chorus, but with almost a sarcastic lyric, which I’m a big fan of. Growing up, there’s a band called Saves the Day that I always loved and Alkaline Trio and they’re both kind of poppier bands with these really dark lyrics, and so I’ve always been a fan of that contrast.

Toddstar: That’s one thing with DED, I mean I’ve seen you guys live, and I’d like to touch on that in a little bit, but there’s something about your image, and the music, and first gut reaction to music. What is it that you think is either interpreted correctly, or incorrectly, about the band, from that perspective?

Joe: Well, man, that’s one of those things. Everybody has a different computer, so to speak, in their mind, that’s been shaped, and it is the way that it is, and so they see and interpret things differently. We aren’t really worried too much about how people see us; you can’t control that. I think you could see it, and we’ve had people say that we’re a radio band, and then people say we’re a hardcore band, and then people say we’re a metal band, or a rock band, we’ve had people say we’re a punk band, which is a little far of a stretch, even though I love punk. Everybody interprets things differently, people call us a nu-metal band, and really what the answer is, is that we’re all of those things, and that’s why it’s such an interesting thing, because so many different interpretations. I enjoy that, I like wearing all of our influences on our sleeve, and having it be a melting pot of different sounds and different ideas.

Toddstar: It’s one thing that I’ve always identified with you guys. Sonically on the first album, there were those things that kind of lent themselves to each of the different sub-genres you just classified. I personally just wish everything was just rock and roll again, but that’s me. You guys have this video dropping on Friday, an amazing video for “A Mannequin Idol.” What can you tell us about this video, from a visual standpoint, and a concept standpoint, that you think will help drive home the lyrics of the track itself?

Joe: As far as it tying in with the lyrics, I don’t know that we really focused on that. It was really a bit more about just raising the bar, as far as the size of the video. We did it with Marc Klasfeld, who’s done very big videos, a lot of notable people that everybody would know, but really what we wanted to do was just hone in on the band. We are a live band, we are a touring band, we toured like crazy for the last two and a half, three years, and we have a different look, a different aesthetic happening now. We used to wear our contacts, we used to wear black straight-jacket things, and all kinds of different things, and now we’ve moved into a different, more of an organic, tribal look as opposed to the post-apocalyptic kind of vibe, and a lot of these new songs have really that vibe to them. On the new album, we have different drums being used, and different grooves and things, so this is the new chapter, this is the new look. We’re getting introduced to a lot of new people with our new music, as well as continuing to have fun and chill with our fan base, with the nation. I think this is kind of a reintroduction, because it’s been so long since we released the first album, and it’s just time to reintroduce ourselves to our old fans, and to new fans alike.

Toddstar: You recorded this album with Kevin Churko. What kind of direction did he take you guys in that you may not have been aware that you guys could approach when you did your debut release?

Joe: Well, he’s a different human than John is. Again, John Feldmann did our first album, and Kevin’s a different human, so he’s going to have his experiences and his ideas, and all the things that he’s accumulated and acquired over the years, working with Matt Lang and all kinds of people he’s worked for. This is the first time working with him, and it was an amazing, he’s an amazing guy, just real laid back but really smart, and can be intense when he needed to be, and that’s awesome. I guess I can be the same way, so we get along really well. I think he brought a lot of musicality to the songs. When we write, it’s a little muddier, a little darker, and just kind of chaotic, and I think he brought a bit more musicality to it, to where it’s a little more evened out, and I really enjoy that. I enjoy the flow from something really dark into something really kind of flowing, and oftentimes, pretty beautiful-sounding. I think he’s just a master with melodies, and he really pushed me vocally. He pushed me to try different shapes with my mouth, singing from different parts of my stomach and my chest and my head, and we really took a journey through all the different ways to utilize my voice, adding a new weapon to my arsenal, and I think that’s a really cool thing. I didn’t want to do the exact same thing as the first time, I didn’t want to scream through the whole thing, I didn’t want to sing through the whole thing, I wanted to have a mix, of talking, laughing, screaming, singing, growling, whispering, anything that I could think that you could do with your voice, I tried to do like a palette, so many different things happening.

Toddstar: Sure. We talked about “A Mannequin Idol,” and it was part of a micro-EP, Mannequin Eyes, that also featured “Eyes Sewn Shut,” so everybody’s able to get a glimpse of what’s coming. Do you think these are the best two songs to encapsulate what we can all expect from the new album, or is this just scratching the surface to keep us all keyed properly?

Joe: Yeah, absolutely, number two there. I think that they do represent DED, but I think that we’ve gone further, and most songs are from the first album, that these one or two songs that were maybe a tad reminiscent from the first album, as well as showing where we’re going, both songs being about cautiousness, and about thinking about the way we treat other people, the way we treat ourselves, about wiping away the clouds in our minds that we get stuck behind a lot, and then thinking and then telling ourselves, both of the songs are very empowering as far as I’m concerned, lyrically as well as just the ferociousness of the music. There are all kinds of different songs on the album. Some, to me, are almost alternative-y feeling, but they’re still really heavy as far as a DED song, so there’s all kinds of stuff happening. So yeah, this is a reintroduction to the band, as I was saying with “A Mannequin Idol,” but at the same time, it sounds new and it sounds different, and it’s a different producer, it sounds a little different, and it just sounds bigger to me. The album, there’s a lot of different stuff, there’s way heavier stuff than the new songs on the album, and there’s lighter stuff that’s on the album, but overall, I think in general, all rocks.

Toddstar: Just from this tease, I know I’m very interested, because I was a big fan of the first album, from the first time I heard “FMFY.” One thing, and it was pointed out to me, but it’s something that I picked up on, especially having seen you live, you not only speak to the younger generations of rockers and metalheads, and everybody else in the clique, but you speak for them. Is that something that you guys kind of tucked into the ideology behind DED? You didn’t want to just preach, you wanted to represent.

Joe: Yeah, I would say that. I really also can only speak for myself, but I do think that maybe the things I’m saying, look for other people, if that’s what you’re saying. I do, I think people … I was always a fan of, my favorite band, they said things that empowered me, or that made me think about things differently, and I try to do the same thing, whether it be a band, and my influences are all over the place, but I could turn on Pantera, or Strife, or some of the more hard, heavier stuff, and I could feel like I’m 1000 feet tall, and I’m empowered if I’m having a bad day or some of the more introspective, something like Bright Eyes, something like that. I think lyrically, I like potent lyrics that are about the human condition, life, and that’s the most important thing we have, and changing ourselves first is how we change the world.

Toddstar: It’s funny, because one of my favorite quotes, was a quote that was floating around in 2017. You actually said, “If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention.” Do you still feel that way when it comes to especially right now, with what’s going on in the world – is that still something that you carry close to the vest, as far as an opinion?

Joe: Yeah, I mean I do in a lot of senses, but at the same time, this is something that I’ve said. On this album, we looked at the first album, and it was a lot of just yelling in everyone’s face, and just you’re opening the front door and yelling at them. On this album, I feel like you can almost be more productive, and you can be heard more, when you’re having dynamic with your approach and your attack. I think we did that a lot more on this album, and I do still feel that way. You just got to care, you got to care and you’ve got to be thinking about how to become better, how to improve things, complacency is the enemy, and that’s pretty much what that statement means to me, is you can’t be complacent, and you can’t be in a place where your mind is thinking for you and you’re on autopilot. It’s not about all the times being a super tightwad person that’s always angry about everything, that’s not what it is, it’s just about being conscious, and it’s about challenging yourself and challenging the things that we accept.

Toddstar: That’s great insight. What would you say was the most dramatic change that the four of you took when approaching this album, from the writing, to the recording, to the production? What was the biggest change between now and back when you recorded the data?

Joe: We’re in a completely different place. When we did the debut, we started it, and it was really supposed to be just for fun, it was really just supposed to be… I was giving up on trying to even be in a band when we did DED. We just did it really to just make a really heavy band, especially in the very beginning we were heavier with the first album. We did an EP that never came out, and maybe we’ll get to release that someday, who knows when. When we first started, it was just to be heavy, it was just to make something that sounded a certain way. As it went, we kept writing and everything, and we had so much time, and this time, we did space it out. We had a pretty good amount of time, but the first one we did in LA, and we did it with John Feldmann, and we were coming from a different place. We toured, we watched so many other artists, we listened to so many bands, we played our own instruments thousands of times, so you’re just a new person after all that, after all that traveling and after all those experiences, and then going out to Vegas and doing it with Kevin Churko. The variance is there that changed things, and this is just where we are now, and I guess when we do the next album, there’s going to be new experiences and new things that we’ve seen and appreciated, or whatever it is, or even consciously digested that comes out, whether we know it or not.

Toddstar: On that, and building on that, you say that tour is set up with In This Moment for this year, which obviously got hopefully just postponed, not canceled. I look at all the different tours, I’m watching them drop like flies, and it’s so depressing as a journalist and photographer. The first time I was able to witness you guys, it was on a very base stage. I witnessed what you guys did on stage at Chicago Open Air. You guys killed it on that show, it was an amazing set, and it took what I loved about the album, and it made it very visual and very live for me. How were you guys preparing for the new tour, and the new set of visuals? How are you guys preparing differently for a tour in 2020, as opposed to something in 2017?

Joe: Well, it’s I guess a little more involved with the production now. We’ve got different lights and different things like that, backdrops, try to up the game from what we did initially. It’s a little more, I guess in the beginning to me, it was a little more stripped down, and so I think we’ve gone a little more in-depth with the show to try to make it more visually exciting, as well as there’s still the intensity and the interaction and all that stuff, which is what we’re there for, is the interaction with people and sharing energy, and making the room feel electric, or the stadium for Chicago Open Air or something like that. Right now, yeah, we’re not really thinking about it too much, because we need to get the go-ahead and green light for everything to go ahead, but it really is, we try to up the game, watching a lot of other bands, watching a lot of people, taking little things from certain things here and there, and making it our own. It’s always a building process, and as your fan base builds, and you want to give people more as you get more. So you’re just always upping the game, and that’s part of what makes us feel excited to do more touring.

Toddstar: You guys have had a lot of road time and put on a lot of miles over the last three and a half years, what’s the band or two that took you out that taught you the most about connecting with your fan base, or putting on a show to top all shows?

Joe: I would say there’s been a lot of different ones, I could appreciate what everyone’s doing. We did tour, I mean a lot of our first tours was with Korn, and I remember watching them every night man, and they have such a confidence and such a presence, but really, they don’t talk too much, they just let their music speak, and I love that. They’re just this force, and they’re just so loud and they’re just amazing, as well as my friends in Beartooth. They’re one of my favorite live bands, there’s so much energy, it’s so punk-rock, and it’s just so celebrating rock and roll. Caleb’s just this amazing ball of energy up there, so they’re another band that I really, truly like to watch. In This Moment of course we’ve toured with a lot, and Maria’s my love, so I watch them tour a lot. Again, their artistry, it’s almost like a play on stage, it’s like you’re watching theatrical performance, but you’re also listening to heavy metal. There’s so many, like the Starset guys, they do such interesting things live as well, so there’s just always bands we tour with, played with, become friends with, and we’re not going to try to mimic anybody, but I can appreciate all those things, and really spending time with those people, and you come to appreciate it, and I’m sure you get influenced by it in some way, shape, or form, by all the things you’re seeing.

Toddstar: Right, and you mentioned it, and I’m going to throw it out there, because anybody who wants to hear and feel a different side of Joe, they need to pick up or at least download “Hunting Grounds” from In This Moment. That showed me, vocally, such a different side of you. It wasn’t what I expected, it was so much better.

Joe: Well thank you very much, I appreciate that.

Toddstar: Your fans don’t typically get to hear that side of you, and to hear you actually have a vocal range like you said, whereas the first album was just a pissed off, yelling and screaming, and the new album is showing more of that, but it was very cool to see and hear that different side of you.

Joe: Thank you man, because that was an honor to be in that song, and we ended up, we were in the studio at the same time as In This Moment, so that was nice, Maria and I got to spend time and work on the song together too, which it’s amazing to be a part of that. It was really cool to show that side, and there is some of that on the new DED album as well, it was just more singing like that on certain songs. So it’s, again, been this new weapon that we added.

Toddstar: Well, you’re just out for the tease today, dangling the carrot for everybody. With you guys having nothing to do but interviews and kill time like everybody else, you’re going through interviews, and I want to ask, what’s the one thing that you always wished an interviewer would ask you?

Joe: Very interesting. I don’t know, I’ve been asked a lot of things. I’m not sure which ones I appreciate the most. You know, I really enjoy an interview just like this, where it’s really laid back and we’re just having a conversation about music, and artists and stuff like that, so there’s some podcasts I enjoy listening to whatever it is, because I can follow a musical band, and there are a lot of people that love music, can do the same thing. I don’t know what I’d want to be asked, I guess I’d know it when I hear it, and there have been times where I’ve taken this stuff back going, “Oh, that’s a good question,” whatever, but I just can’t think of anything off the top of my head, but everything we’re talking about, I’ve enjoyed.

Toddstar: Cool, I’ve done my job.

Joe: There you go, exactly.

Toddstar: Other than the DED stuff, if there was something, or a piece of music, anything throughout the history of time, that you can go back and be part of, if you were part of the recording sessions, what album influenced you enough to where you would actually want to be in the room when it was being recorded?

Joe: I mean I can just go with my gut, the first one would probably be… well now I’m thinking of all kinds of stuff. The first one I’d say would probably be Nirvana Nevermind. It was such a huge album for me to want to get a guitar and start playing music. It was one of the reasons I wanted a guitar, I wanted to be able to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on guitar, and kind of learn how to blend yells and stuff, and yells and sings kind of seamlessly together, was really impactful to me. That would be one of them. There are other ones as well, I mean if I could go back and kick it during Led Zeppelin II – that would be pretty crazy as well. I can’t even imagine what that would be like. There’s all kinds of stuff, but I guess probably the first one would be Nirvana. That was a really impactful album for me. I was really young when it came out, I probably was listening to it before I should’ve been, but it really changed everything for everybody, it changed the world, so it would be cool to see that.

Toddstar: Sure. I know you’re a busy guy, so I’ve got one more for you before we cut you loose, if you don’t mind…

Joe: Can I flip that on you, what album you’d want to be in the room for?

Toddstar: What hits home, and thank you for asking, because no one’s ever taken the time to ask me. Being from Detroit, and growing up in the era I did, I’m 50 years old now, I would’ve loved to have been about five or six years older, and been in the audience when KISS played Cobo Hall and recorded KISS Alive!. We all know now, it’s not a real live album, there was a lot of overdubs and everything, but just the vibe, and the fact that that album kind of made their career, because they were going bankrupt before that album hit…

Joe: Really?

Toddstar: The story is Bill Aucoin put that whole tour on his American Express bill, they weren’t making a penny, to know that it really turned the tide, not only for KISS, but also live albums. All of a sudden, live albums were the thing, and being from Detroit, to be at that show would’ve been just a turning point for me.

Joe: Sure, absolutely.

Toddstar: Everything said and done, you’ve done tours with lots of bands, you’ve met some of your idols, I’m sure you’ve got a peer group now that has probably expanded exponentially over the last few years, but who’s the one person out there you’d still like to do a collaboration with? You’ve done a duet with Maria now, but who’s out there you’d like to write, or produce, or sing with, that would be a total bucket list for you?

Joe: There’s a few. The first one to come to mind was Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails. I would love to do something with Dave Grohl in any capacity, I just want whatever that would be, and then a hip-hop group called Run The Jewels that are just so sick. So yeah, those three are the ones that come to mind, and Dave Grohl and Trent Reznor are just huge idols and inspirations for me, as far as their songwriting and their musicality, and the way that they’ve… I guess the careers they’ve made for themselves, and the way they’ve held themselves with integrity, but also have commercial success while still keeping true to themselves. I think that’s a pretty amazing thing.

Toddstar: It’s crazy to me how many people grab Dave Grohl as an answer, because the top two answers I’ve gotten to that question over the last five years are Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney.

Joe: Paul McCartney, yeah, okay. I don’t know if I’d want to work with Paul. I’d love to just say hi to Paul McCartney, and I would love to have written with him back in the day. I think I’m a little more interested in writing with John Lennon than Paul McCartney, if I was going to pick a Beatle.

Toddstar: Right, well listen man, I appreciate you taking time out again. I’ve loved you guys since Mis-An-Thrope. I can’t wait to be part of the press that helps push the new video on Friday, I can’t wait until you guys quit teasing us all and put a release date out for the album, and I especially can’t wait for a lot of touring to resume, and you guys to hit Detroit-proper like you should’ve late last month.

Joe: Yeah, thank you very much man, I appreciate it, and I can’t wait to tour and everything too, but mostly I just want everybody to get better, and everybody to get back to life and all that stuff. It’s just such a crazy time. You’re so thankful for all the people that are doing so many things right now to make things sustainable; the people delivering the mail, delivering goods to the grocery stores that are out there, it’s a crazy, crazy thing, and the doctors and nurses. It’s hard to think about music, but at the same time, music’s important too, because people need music, I need music, I need other people to keep making music and tour again stuff too, so it’s just such a weird time, but we can all bounce back and everybody should just lay low for a bit until it goes away.

Toddstar: Couldn’t have said it better myself. Again, thank you so much for taking the time out, Joe, and we’ll talk when times are better.

Joe: Sounds good man, thank you, and take care. Peace.

DED LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

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Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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