Twisted Tower Dire are back with their latest release. So it is about time for the mighty Zippo to track them down and have a brief talk about past, present and future.
Eight years have passed since the “Make It Dark” album. How do you see it now that it has completed its circle? What is a successful album or there are things that you would change now? Do you consider it to be an effort of the band to fit in the “retro” wave alongside with new more N.W.O.B.H.M. inspired acts?
I think “Make It Dark” is a great album! It’s hard to believe that it was released 8 years ago. I still remember Marc and I spending a few 20-hour long sessions with Chris finishing the mix. What a weird and challenging experience! The style of that album was a little different from our prior releases and spawned the sound that evolved into WALPYRGUS. I think people measure success differently.
TTD just loves playing and writing music and we don’t have high expectations in terms of making money or being showered with attention. The most important thing to me is having fun and doing something we can all be proud of and stand behind as musicians and metal fans. Our sound has evolved over the years, but we don’t try to fit in 100% anywhere. I’m basically a hippie that loves heavy metal so I’m used to not fitting in anywhere, ha ha! I’ve been a loner since high school and I like it that way. We seem to be associated with retro NWOBHM inspired metal bands and that’s a good fit, but the genre label doesn’t guide our writing in any meaningful way.
I wouldn’t change any of our albums because they represent a snap shot in time. Nothing is perfect and dwelling on the past doesn’t get you anywhere.
The new album is somehow a return to the roots of the band. It sounds closer to “Crest of the martyrs” rather than “Make it dark”. Was it done deliberately, or the writing process led to this result? Did your involvement in the Walpyrgus had anything to do with it, in a way that it absorbed the 70’s hard rock elements of your sound?
“Make It Dark” was primarily written by Scott and he was going for more of a party rock-metal style. Walpyrgus picked up where that album left off and I wrote the majority of the new album in an attempt to help TTD retain a distinct sound. The two bands share 3 members, including our singer, so we didn’t want them to start sounding too similar. I started by listening to our early albums, thought about what I liked about those songs and tried to kick around ideas based on that. I tend to write more thrashy, aggressive riffs so that worked its way into the new album too. It was somewhat deliberate, but once I started writing songs and got a feel for it the album kind of started writing itself. It felt very natural and nothing was forced.
What is the lyrical concept of the new album? The song titles somehow remind me of “Crest…” era with more epic/anthemic/fantasy lyrics, than the previous (more) horror themed album. Is the song “True north” somehow connected with “Snow leopard”, since it is the most Thin Lizzy inspired song of the album?
Scott originally wanted to write the whole album about war, specifically WWII. That might have been killer, but I felt like it was a bit much and wanted to explore other ideas. Eventually we ended up with some songs about war and some songs with fantasy-based themes. Several songs ended up focusing on monsters, which happened naturally. The title “Wars in the Unknown” was a way to try to tie everything together into a single concept. I think the vocal production mirrors Crest a bit with the layers and background vocals. “True North” doesn’t have any connection to “Snow Leopard” but it does continue our obsession with bad-ass animals, haha!
Aesthetically the album’s cover continues the band’s tradition of indulging the listener to a trip into vivid dream. However, I do not see the familiar Martin Handford lines. Who did the cover art? Is it connected to any of your songs? I’d say, I love the cover. It has a clumsy ridiculousness that it is way better than the computer made covers nowadays bands use.
I think the credit we’re really due is for sticking it out during a time when there were not many traditional metal bands
Martin did do this cover and we asked him to include a few elements and make it look sparse and desolate, like an alien planet. I guess we thought that would complement the music well… and I think it does. This album is very straightforward and uncomplicated, just like the cover. The hooded figure is from “Light the Swords on Fire” and the werewolves are from “Tear You Apart”. We originally wanted to include bigfoot, sharks and other things from the songs on the cover, but we decided that would be too much and come across a little goofy.
Jonny Aune somehow sings quite differently than “Make It dark”. He is more aggressive, more anthemic as if he has left the “street” hue of his voice. Was this a deliberately decision or it was the natural evolution that came with the songwriting?
I think Jonny was inspired by the aggressive feel of the songs. He’s definitely matured as a singer too! That happened naturally, but our buddy Johnny Wooten produced the vocals and probably had a hand in that as well. The two of them did a great job and I couldn’t be more pleased!
What’s the deal with No remorse records? Did you contacted them, or they contacted you? Are you satisfied with your dealings with Cruz del Sur music? And why you sign with European labels? Isn’t there a U.S. label interested in you?
No Remorse showed interest before we even began recording the album. They’re a great label and we felt very comfortable working with them. Cruz Del Sur is excellent as well, and for some reason we were under the impression that they were less interested in handling this release. It turns out they were interested (oops!) and there was a slight misunderstanding on our part. I think CDS was a little pissed off about the switch, but we didn’t mean it as an insult to Enrico or the label at all. I wish we handled that differently but it was an honest mistake on our part. Hopefully we can work together on something in the future. Cheers Enrico!!
TTD have maintained a steady line up throughout the years. How have you managed to do that? Do you think that it is important for the songwriting or it wouldn’t matter since you (Scott Waldrop) is the main songwriter? Are you in touch with the bands previous members?
We’ve been lucky enough to have members that all get along, share a common vision and are still interested in making music. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep everyone on the same page, but generally we all just want to continue with the band and do this as long as we can. Songwriting is important because we all have to believe in what we’re doing and be willing to dedicate the time and energy to do it right. We do keep in touch with most former members and they’re all doing well. Of course, we lost Tony several years ago, but we try to keep in touch with his family too. His daughter is about to get married (congratulations to Tasmin!). I met her when she was only 4 or 5 I think? Time flies!
So, what do you think would be the reaction of the fans to the new album?
We’re really excited about this album and I hope the fans are just as excited when they hear it! There will always be fans that want every album to be exactly like “Crest of the Martyrs”, or “Hydra” or whatever…you can’t please everyone all the time. People are entitled to their opinions too. I do think this album is a fun listen and the songs cover a lot of ground lyrically and musically. Time will tell!
TTD have been around for quite a long time. I think I read somewhere that you said that TTD have been to a party for far too long. Many a times you have reached the point of disbanding, yet somehow you keep on returning (lucky for us!). What is the driving force behind this stubbornness?
Being in this band is like being married to 4 dudes and having shared custody of our baby named TWISTED TOWER DIRE (ha ha!). I’m kidding, but it’s not far from the truth. I’ve definitely been frustrated at times and thought “F$#% this…maybe I should just quit”. Sometimes we don’t agree about things, but we all want the band to do well and that’s why things sometimes get emotional and heated. We’ve also changed as we grew older and went through divorces, had kids, lost parents, etc. I am proud and appreciative that we’ve been able to stick together this long. Right now we’re just stoked because this album comes out in 2 DAYS!!!! It’s been a lot of work and a long wait. Now the payoff is being able to share it with everyone!
You have been a part of the underground scene of the mid/late 90’s alongside with October 31, Skullview, Morning Star, Sacred Steel, Slough Feg, Paragon, Cold Mourning or While Heaven Wept. Do you have any memorable moments of these days? What do you think about the revival of the 80’s sound and aesthetics that it is around nowadays? Is it something genuine or another marketing product?
Oh yeah, too many memories to share! I remember first meeting Mike Scalzi in a bathroom at the Powermad festival in 2000, I believe? We then went on to tour with SLOUGH FEG several times and we’re all good friends. My first time in Germany at Wacken – holy shit! I had no idea that festival was so big! I didn’t think we deserved to be there at all! Our first show with me and Tony at a small club in North Carolina. We had a smoke machine, used Conan music as an intro. and Jimmy stood on a milk crate so he could rock out at a proper height (he’s a bit short). We played so much in the early 2000’s and experienced so much. Things have slowed a bit but we played so many great shows, watched some great bands and made a ton of friends.
I think it’s great that the 80’s metal style is doing well now, but I think some of these bands lack originality. Many are great, but some of my favorite “modern” bands manage to mix it up and don’t follow the heavy metal rule book too closely. I think some bands want to be liked so much they’re afraid to do something more original and out of the box. That’s how genres get played out and become stale…so don’t be afraid to take chances and evolve as a band. Music needs those spontaneous mutations to keep things interesting!
Are you in touch with other bands of your era like OCTOBER 31, WHW or WIDOW? Is there a strong scene right now or bands have fell apart? How internet has changed things? Was it for better or for worse?
Our bass player Jim plays for WHILE HEAVEN WEPT and OCTOBER 31, so I have to say yes! Johnny Wooten from WIDOW produced and recorded the vocals on this album too. We’re still in touch but things are different now. We don’t play a ton of shows together and we don’t see each other as often. The scene here is kind of coming apart at the seams but it’s not dead yet. Honestly, club shows here just don’t do that well anymore, so we’re all trying to play overseas where metal is still thriving. Life is all about change and rebirth, so we’ll have to see what the future holds. We all still enjoy writing and recording music and that’s the most important part.
Nowadays the 80’s sound is the new trend and younger fans seem to be digging all the “legends” of the 80’s, even the crappiest bands. Yet bands how have been around during the 90’s and the early 00’s somehow are neglected? What is your opinion about that? TTD have been fighting to keep the flame alive during the “dark ages”. Don’t you think you deserve a bigger status among fans?
I think people need to stop looking underneath the couch cushions for undiscovered 80’s metal bands. Some are great, but a lot of them didn’t get noticed because THEY SUCK! If something sounds generic and subpar I wouldn’t waste my time listening to it and I don’t know why anyone else does. I think the credit we’re really due is for sticking it out during a time when there were not many traditional metal bands. We were the black sheep in the late 90’s and I remember being at shows and having the other bands say “why are you playing like that…no one wants to hear that IRON MAIDEN crap anymore”. Well, the joke is on you because your death metal band “Fermented Pustule” is broken up and you sucked anyway, ha ha. Of course we’d like more fans, but that’s not why we play music. If we cared about numbers and having our asses kissed, we wouldn’t play metal at all.
The first reincarnation of the band involved Janet Rubin on vocals. At that point of time bands didn’t use often female vocalists, yet now it is one of the new trends. What is your thought on this? When Janet left the band why didn’t you looked for another lady to handle the vocals?
Janit was still our singer when I joined the band. I thought it was cool and she had a great voice! She actually left the band and moved to Germany to sing opera. I guess we beat a lot of bands to the punch on this, but it was really just about having a good singer that was willing to be in the band. It wasn’t a conscious decision to have a female singer. I think she answered an ad they posted in the newspaper, can’t remember…but that is how we found Tony! It’s hard to believe but it’s true!
TTD’s early sound was more into doom metal rather than classic stuff. Do you think that the evolution of your sound was something natural or you pushed it towards a certain sound? What is your opinion of your early demos “Hail Nothern Virginia” or “Triumphing true metal”? A couple of years ago you re-recorded “False Orion” and “Beyond the gates”, yet some other songs like “The mourner in the nethermist” seem to have been forgotten. Have you ever thought of re-recording your other demo songs?
I think the early demos are great! We played those songs with Janit when I joined the band. I guess after releasing several full-length albums we decided to focus on playing the newer material. The early stuff (excluding Beyond the Gate) is more simplistic but I still like it. I’ve always wanted to re-record “Epic War” from “Curse” and I’m hoping we can do that soon. I’m not sure about the early demo songs but we’re not ruling anything out! TTD was originally supposed to be a Iron Maiden meets Candlemass kind of band, but we obviously leaned more towards traditional metal as time went on. I guess that was somewhat intentional, but not because we began to dislike doom metal. It was just a natural progression.
I know that “Netherwords” represent a dark period for the band. Yet I think the album is fucking awesome. Isn’t it time to leave the past behind, and bring “Dire wolf” or “Fortress” to your setlists? Isn’t the neglection of “Netherwords” a kind of self-punishment? And do you feel that the song “These ghosts can never leave” is a reference to all this? I believe that confronting your personal demons is the best way of dealing with them, do you think that if you deal with “Netherworlds” like any other album you would be relieved from this burden?
I think you’re partially right about the self-punishment. We’ve never been to thrilled about that album for many reasons, but the songs are pretty cool. We played Dire Wolf and Starshine live a few times after Jonny joined. I love Dire Wolf…one of my favorite TTD songs. Our usual live set is 45-50 minutes and we have to choose based on what we think people most want to hear. I guess the Netherworlds stuff just doesn’t usually make the cut, but we should rethink this.
At the time of the “Crest…” the band seemed stronger than ever. At that period, you had mentioned that you wanted to release an album each year. Yet this project fell apart. Do you think that you pushed it too far or that the band lost the momentum and never made it to the mainstream scene? Yet the mainstream is full of pressure from the labels in order to sell more. Don’t you think that it is better in the underground?
There is less pressure in the underground, but people often seem to expect more than we can deliver. This album took 8 years to complete for many reasons. Although the wait seems ridiculous, it’s better than not putting anything out at all. We were definitely at a peak when “Crest” was released. We couldn’t follow through on a few great tour opportunities (SAXON, DORO) and then things began to go south with Tony and then the label. It didn’t take long to find ourselves in a rut without a clear way out. Luckily we recruited Jonny and managed to put out “Make It Dark”. We definitely lost some momentum, but we hope a new set of adventures will follow this release. We’re ready to get back in the saddle!
TTD used to have a lot of releases in 12’’ or cassettes. Nowadays that the lp format is somehow a fetish would you go with the wave or you think that there is no point of having them in the digital age?
I think the cassette thing is a little silly, but to each their own. 12” releases are great, but it takes almost the same amount of energy and planning to put one out as a full-length, excluding writing and recording. We usually wait for offers to do a shared 12” or something like that. Maybe we’ll get the chance to do another one again soon. It’s cheaper and more convenient to release things as digital, but metalheads love the physical media!
So tell us, we (the fans) will have to wait another eight years for a new album? Are there any plans of touring in Europe and do you have anything in the making?
We’re hoping to return to Europe soon! We just have to release this album and see where it takes us. Jim wrote a bunch of songs that we hope to begin working with very soon, so the wait shouldn’t be nearly as long for the next album.
The bands members are involved with other projects as well: VIPER, VOLTURE, FINAL SIGN, DIVISION. Are these projects running?
VIPER is no more. VOLTURE is without a singer and drummer right now (RIP Carlos), but we hope to get that band back on track. Jim’s still playing with FINAL SIGN and a bunch of other bands and Marc plays for DIVISION. I also have an unnamed project or two in the works.
Last question for gear freaks: What kind of gear do you use? Guitars, amps, pedals?
I play Ibanez guitars and a Marshall JCM 2000. Scott plays Les Paul and BC Rich guitars and a Marshall vintage modern with a ton of pedals. Jim plays Spector bass guitars and a few different bass heads. Marc plays a custom DW drum kit with a custom Voivod snare that he’s very proud of. Jonny sings through whatever you put in front of him.
Thanks for the lengthy interview and the favorable album review. We appreciate it! Cheers! Dave