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A Dirty Dozen with DAN DYKES from MEXICAN APE-LORD – December 2020

| 8 December 2020 | Reply

 

According to a recent press release: “Mexican Ape-Lord have just issued their second studio effort, ‘Survival Cannibalism.’ And this is no average / ordinary metal release, as it is also conceptual. “It’s based on a true story of shipwreck and cannibalism,” explains the band’s guitarist, Tony Nichols. “If you listen from beginning to end, you’ll experience a trip from utter darkness to the ultimate thrill of cheating death, but the songs are also designed to stand alone. We’re a rock band first and foremost, and we want every song to pack a lot of punches.” Formed in 2012 by Nichols (previously of MELIAH RAGE) and singer/bassist Jon Hardy (formerly of THE BAGS), MEXICAN APE-LORD are purveyors of raw and epic mountain metal. Nichols recruited producer Peter Rutcho (Metal Blade, Century Media, etc.) who recommended a monster drummer named Steve Fry (CROTALUS, GRAVEHEART). Lead guitarist Dan Dykes (TRIPHAMMER), who had just produced MELIAH RAGE’s ‘Dead to the World’ record, completed the lineup.” We get the guitarist Dan to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Our latest release is called Survival Cannibalism. It’s a concept album based on a real shipwreck that occurred off the coast of Maine in 1710.   As the story goes, fourteen men were left stranded on a giant rock (Boon Island) without food or fire for nearly a month, in frigid winter conditions no less. When things got dire, they had to resort to cannibalism in order to survive, hence the title.  The lyrics tell the tale of what happened to these men, but also focus on other themes that come into play like treason and mutiny. It’s a fascinating tale that most people don’t know about.  Jon Hardy did an amazing job of creating a sense of what it might be like to be there, both on the island and inside the heads of these poor souls.  His unique lyrics paint a visual backdrop full of maritime references and other descriptions that allows the listener to take a journey into this strange and mystical world of the past.  What’s even more interesting is the double meanings hidden within the lyrics that draw parallels to current events in the modern world.  It’s a really deep album, one that will probably take a few extra spins to fully grasp and appreciate, but well worth the effort for those looking for something different.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s during the golden age of rock. My parents had a great record collection full of 60’s and 70’s stuff like Beatles, Stones, Led Zep, Jethro Tull, Yes, etc.  As a little kid I used to play air guitar in front of the mirror to “Stairway to Heaven” and things like that, LOL, but it wasn’t until I heard Eddie Van Halen that I actually picked up the instrument. I was so in awe of the sounds he made that I just HAD to learn to play. My cousin had an old Hondo guitar and a little amp that we used to mess around with but neither of us could play.  One day we hooked up a distortion pedal to the amp and it blew my mind! Hearing all that fuzzy crunch and hissing feedback coming out of the amp was like a whole new universe opening up for me. From that point forward I became totally obsessed.  I would literally sit alone in a room for hours and hours making noises. Although I had no clue what I was doing, I was so determined to be good at guitar that I just kept going every day until I finally succeeded.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

For me that would be Iron Maiden. Hands down.  They were my first true introduction to metal at the tender age of 13. A schoolmate loaned me the Killers album and I immediately fell in love. So much so that I never gave it back! I just gave him 10 bucks instead haha. I bought all of their albums and they were my first concert. A vast majority of my early musical knowledge (and ear training) came from playing along with Maiden records. I would just keep moving the needle back over and over until the licks sounded right. They’re still my favorite band to this day. UP THE IRONS!

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Every sound we’ve ever heard (with frequency) becomes an influence on us to an extent, but it’s the ones we choose to dissect and emulate that become our main ones. For me it would these five: Murray/Smith, Hetfield/Hammet, EVH, Michael Schenker and Yngwie.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Devin Townsend, cuz he’s the man! I’ve followed all of his work (which is a shitload) since his early days with Strapping Young Lad to other projects all the way through his solo career. He’s like the Frank Zappa of metal to me, for more reasons than one. Not only is he the most prolific metal artist on the planet, but he’s also musically fearless. He has literally expanded the bounds of what is possible in heavy metal.  From his insane compositions that are a complete joy to listen to, to his superhuman musical capabilities on both guitar and vocals   There is just no one else like him. Best of all he’s really funny and totally down to earth. I would kill to collaborate with him.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I would describe our music as a mix of old school and modern metal with a dose of punk.  It’s very dynamic. One minute it’s balls out metal, the next minute it’s calm and beautiful with different layers and textures. The vocals are coming from more of a punk rock place than a metal place which gives it a unique sound.  That said, I find it very hard to compare us to other bands. We don’t really sound like anybody else to me. The only band I’ve heard or seen us compared to is Meliah Rage, but that’s only because Tony played in that band and his guitar tone is very recognizable. Thankfully nothing cringe-worthy as of yet.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Unfortunately, we don’t get to hang out together as much as we’d like. I live in Florida now and the rest of the guys are in Boston. When we do get together, it’s usually to shoot a video or lay down tracks so it’s pretty much all business. I’ve known Tony the longest and we definitely come from a rowdy drinking crowd but these days we’re pretty well behaved for the most part. Perhaps we’re overdue! I’m not sure who the cook in the band is, but I’d be the one breaking out the acoustic for singalongs. It’s my favorite pastime.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I used to manage a car rental agency years ago and on one fateful day Brad Whitford of Aerosmith walked in my door in a long trench coat and I was completely awestruck. He tried to introduce himself by saying, “Hi, my name is Brad…..”  and I immediately rose up and said “WHITFORD! in a goofy fanboy voice lol. He saw the guitar magazine I was reading and asked, “Oh. You play guitar too?”  and I bashfully answered, “Well… not like YOU!”  haha. We ended up chatting briefly about their new album Just Press Play and then I proceeded to rent him a car. I didn’t dare ask him for his autograph because I had to make him sign the rental contact about 10 different places!  I even had to make a photocopy his license. Much to my chagrin, he was one of the coolest people I have ever met. The other one that comes to mind is Joey Ramone. My old band was playing at CBGB in NYC and luck would have it, VH1 was interviewing Joey right next door. Talk about perfect timing! He came walking out the door right in front of us and somehow I worked up the nerve to ask him for a photo. He hesitated for a moment and then said, “Umm Ok. Just hurry it up”. It was such an intense moment. We felt like I was in the presence of royalty. We ended up with a classic photo of him standing with us in front of the CBGB’s sign. Sadly, he died about a month or two later.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Playing is the best part. There is no greater joy for me than playing guitar, especially live. It’s such an adrenaline rush! But I also enjoy creating and recording music. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s very rewarding. The fruits of your labor wind up being a song that gets published, or an album that gets released. That’s exciting to me.  If I could no longer be a musician for some reason, my dream job would be some other creative job like a record producer or something -preferably a well-paid one!

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

The guitar nerd in me would probably want to hear questions about my technique, or the equipment I use, etc.,   but in truth only other guitar players care about that stuff.  I think a more interesting question might be: “Where do you see the band in 5 years and what creative directions do you see the band going in?”. It’s a puzzling question (one that would definitely require pondering) but I imagine answer would be very interesting.  There’s no question I’m tired of answering right now. I used to get tired of “When are you guys ever gonna put out a second album?” but we’ve finally done it so I’m happy to answer that now.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Absolutely. I really wish I had written and recorded more music throughout the years. I’m very grateful for what I did do, but I could have done more. I also wish I had branched out and collaborated with more musicians in various projects. There was this silly unwritten rule back in the day where it was frowned upon to work outside the current band you were in. Like you played for a certain team and couldn’t break the contract. So instead of branching out with other musicians, I stuck it out with the same bunch of guys for years putting all of my eggs in that one basket. Had I branched out in various projects (as is common today), I might have gone farther having cast a wider net.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I had to think about this one for a minute. My instincts told me to say, “the first Black Sabbath album!”, but then I remembered that they recorded it over the course of a single weekend. Where’s the fun in that?  So upon further thought decided to go with Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time album, which was recorded over the course of a month (or longer) in sunny Bahamas.  The pictures from those sessions show them all tanned and relaxed, handing around the beach with palm trees everywhere. A someone who is a huge fan of the record, I think being there for those sessions would have been the tits.

BONUS QUESTION – Due to the current world situation with COVID-19 / quarantine / shelter in place, what have you discovered you miss the most from your life before the pandemic struck?

In the addition to missing concerts and parties, etc., I miss the carefree nature in which we used to conduct our lives, something we obviously took for granted. No one was paranoid about being around other people. We all hugged, kissed and shook hands with reckless abandon. Sadly. we can’t do that anymore, which really sucks. I fear the social impact it will have on young people especially. It was bad enough with everyone living their lives in a virtual reality on social media pre-pandemic, but now that’s all we have! Still, I’m hopeful with the coming vaccines that we will return to normalcy and this will all feel like a bad dream. It can only get better from here!

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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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