Interview: Dead By Sunrise
Mon, 05 Oct 2009 12:28:15
Dead By Sunrise are just what pop culture needs right now.
Fronted by Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington, Dead By Sunrise make unapologetic, down and dirty riff rock that's got soul.
On their Warner Bros. debut, Out of Ashes [Due out October 13, 2009], Chester rips and roars with an undeniable fire. His voice and lyrics hit like a .44 magnum, blowing a hole right through all expectations and conventions. Dead By Sunrise isn't afraid to go into outer space either. With a little help from Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck [Orgy, Julien-K], songs like "Fire" ascend into vibrant, spacey soundscapes that beg for repeat visits. Bringing Bladerunner-esque electronics into a grungey gutter, Out of Ashes is pure cyber punk paradise.
While shooting a video for the album's next single, "Let Down," Chester sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor Rick Florino to discuss his rebirth Out of Ashes, the difference between Dead By Sunrise and Linkin Park, how he writes lyrics and mashing up Trainspotting and When Harry Met Sally…
Do you feel like Dead By Sunrise is balancing old school grit with a spacey, ethereal sentiment?
Yeah, it's good rock that's a bit grungey and dirty, but, at the same time, it's still really clean and poppy in places. Some of the songs have this really interesting, like you said, ethereal vibe going on. It's cool that you felt that way, because that's exactly what we were going for [Laughs].
The record starts off unexpectedly with those strange textures at the beginning of "Fire."
"Fire" opening up the record really sets the tone for sure.
Given the amount of raw attitude on Out of Ashes, is this your outlaw record?
I don't know if I'd say that. For me, it was really about sticking to what the songs were telling me to do. The whole reason why the project even started was because I really liked the songs the way they were. If there was anything that needed to be added, it simply became a nice addition to what was already there. We didn't have to take anything away from these songs. I knew that if Linkin Park was working on these songs, the grungey, punky and real straightforward rock element probably would've been taken out and replaced by another form of it. That's how I feel about the record. I'm not sure if it's my outlaw record. I really didn't break too many rules on this one. I went for simplicity. I started out with the guitars and the melodies. If I could sit down with my acoustic and sing it and it sounded good, then the hard work was already done. It was merely a matter of finding a style and a vibe at that point.
You come through in these songs more than anything else. Is it the most personal music you've recorded up to this point?
The fact that I was the only one writing lyrics on the album was really crucial to that. With Linkin Park, Mike [Shinoda] and I both have to really connect to the lyrics. So if I'm writing about something Mike has never experienced—like an addiction problem or something along those lines—the only way for Mike to relate to it lyrically is if we take the actual story out and only leave the emotional attachment to it. We end up doing a lot of character roles with Linkin Park, whereas with Dead By Sunrise I'm the only character to relate to. In a lot of ways, it is very personal, but with Linkin Park I also write in a very personal way. We just generalize it more in Linkin Park, by taking very specific kinds of words out of the songs. With Dead By Sunrise, I was able to be very forward about what the songs were about, especially within the lyrics themselves.
Did you feel a certain amount of freedom having this blank slate?
There was a lot of freedom in the fact these were my songs and this was my thing. They're my words, so I got to do whatever I wanted. But, at the same time, that is probably the scariest part of it. The reality is if people don't like this record for whatever reason, then it all comes back to me. I don't get to share the blame with anybody else but myself [Laughs]. I feel like this is a great record though—the songs are strong and the melodies are good. The lyrics are important to me, and I feel like that gives them validity. I was involved with every aspect of making the album—from the songwriting to the programming to performing with various instruments. I think that opened me up even more creatively than simply being the guy who comes in and does melodies and lyrics.
Lyrically, the album is very poetic and visual. Were you reading a lot or watching movies while writing?
When I write, I'll watch a lot of movies, and I will read books. I stay away from music. Usually when I'm writing, I don't listen to anything because I end up writing songs that sound like what I'm listening to. If I'm listening to Alice In Chains, then I want to be in Alice In Chains because they're awesome. Then I end up writing songs that sound like Alice In Chains, and that's not good. They need to write Alice In Chains songs—not me! I need to write Linkin Park and Dead By Sunrise songs; that's what I'm supposed to do. When I was writing the lyrics for Out of Ashes, I tried to use sentences that were really visual and words that inspired people to see a moving picture in their heads. That way, listeners can really catch the vibe of what the music is about. In doing so, there's a more colorful flare to the lyrics. That also allows people to feel how dark a lot of the record is. I think the darker thing are, the more they make an impact on you. In terms of writing, I definitely went a little more poetic on this album than normal.
By delving into that darkness, you give fans more of yourself, especially in a song like "Inside of Me."
I wrote that song specifically about being away from my family and my wife, and how I really don't like that. I get into a very dark place. I'd battled relapse at that point. I'd been away from her for so long that I was like, "I'm not doing well—I want to drink or do something." That's the kind of thought process that my brain goes into—well, it's bad, let's make it worse. That's not cool, you know? That song is exactly about that. "Fire" is the only song where I didn't go directly to something with me, but after I wrote it, it actually related to me. In a lot of ways, that song is about doing some soul searching and trying to feel that greater power out there in the universe—knowing you're connected to that. Some people feel like it's a sad song about losing somebody and having them look down on you. You always imagine, after someone passes, that they're up there looking down at you and watching over you—that brings comfort to people as well. In that way, I think that song does connect in many different facets. Every song on this record is about a specific thing that happened to me—that I dealt with over the past four or five years.
If Out of Ashes were a movie, what would it be?
[Laughs] I don't know! That's interesting…I think there are a lot of movies that may have similar elements—like if you put them all together it could make a cool movie. Maybe if you mixed a little bit of Trainspotting with When Harry Met Sally and you smashed those together, that's the movie it'd be [Laughs]. I don't know; I'm trying! That didn't make any sense, but it's funny [Laughs]. I have no idea what movie this record would be.
Why'd you call the album Out Of Ashes?
I thought the title really fit where I am now. I look back at the past five years, and I realize that I've built an entirely new life for myself. In order to do that, I really had to wipe out everything else that was going on before. In a way, it's a metaphor for the idea of cleansing yourself through fire. I felt that it fit.
Each song is like its own rebirth.
It's not really all about one thing. It's about some dark stuff. It's about falling in love. It's about looking at the world from an outside perspective. All of those things add something a little different to the record. It does tell a story but, at the same time, each song does have its own life. I like the ebb and flow that the album has from the first song to the last.
Are you writing more music now?
Basically, Dead By Sunrise and Linkin Park work really similarly. We never stop writing. Through the process of making this record, I did turn something on. I'm writing a lot more frequently. I used to write something like 15 or 20 songs in a year. Now I could probably do that in a week or so. Things have really progressed and everything's been kick started. We're not going to turn it off.