Interview: Theory of a Deadman
Thu, 08 May 2008 15:29:23
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Theory of a Deadman's Tyler Connolly loves Los Angeles. In fact, he's got nothing but positive things to say about the City of Angels. Perhaps, it's because Theory of a Deadman recorded their most cohesive, diverse and hard-hitting record to date in L.A. The album's aptly titled Scars and Souvenirs, and it's chock full of veritable post-grunge hits. While driving through Michigan on tour, Tyler took some time to discuss his band's latest album, why bad relationships can be great and where to eat on the Sunset Strip.
Lyrically, the songs have really evolved between Gasoline and Scars and Souvenirs. What was your writing process like?
Well, honestly, I'm a guitar guy. I've really had to step it up. I just pulled out all the stops. After time, you see what you've done wrong, what works and what doesn't work. I think time adds an advantage. I had a lot of time to focus on the record and focus on what would work for both myself and the band. Lyrically, I've always been the guy that's written songs about breakups. People have said, "Man, your breakup songs speak to me." Yeah, it's great doing that, but at the same time, I wanted to think three-dimensionally with the lyrics on this record. It's fresh to write songs just for fun and not to think about breakups.
Which particular songs move away from that?
Songs like "Got It Made"—which is just about cruising around LA with your friends—are party tracks. There are songs on here about family issues. A lot of kids can relate to those, especially "Wait for Me" and "All or Nothing;" I wrote those from a personal point of view. I talk about how being away on the road can be hard. Obviously songs like "By The Way" and "Not Meant To Be" are breakup songs, for sure, but not all of the songs are like that. On the last record, it seemed like I was always pissed off at women. I don't want to come across like that on this record.
Breakups and relationships can be a good source of inspiration, but it's important to switch it up like you have.
We never knew where we were going to take our music. We just go with what works, take what we've been doing and get lucky with the songs. Everything we recorded just seemed to work. And sometimes you go into the studio and you think, "Oh this song is going to be huge." Then you record it, and it doesn't turn out very well. With this record, there are a bunch of songs that have turned out much better than expected. We went into "So Happy," like, "Oh, it's a good rock song." We didn't even know how it was going to turn out, but it turned out really well. When it was done, we made it the first single, and it took off. We were just completely surprised and, no pun intended…"So Happy."
“We never knew where we were going to take our music. We just go with what works, take what we've been doing and get lucky with the songs.”
In the album title, you have darker "scar" imagery versus the "souvenir" idea. They're both things that people hold onto in some way. That goes along with your sound. You deal with some dark subject matter, but the songs are still catchy. There's a juxtaposition.
Yeah, and I think that the title fits so perfectly. You're right that the "scars" are emotional wounds that you've had through life. There are some songs on this record people can listen to and be like, "Man, that's gripping, that's definitely like an emotional scar that I got growing up." "Souvenirs" connote happy times—things you come away with and the good memories that you hold on to. You can listen to the songs and think, "Oh, that reminds me of when I was on tour or summer vacation."
The record has a real visual element as well. Were there any movies that you were into while you were writing that might have inspired that?
Well, I was living in L.A. when we came off the road, so the writing was done there. That was inspirational for me, because I really loved living there. During the last two records, I was living in Vancouver, and it's like the Canadian Seattle. A lot of bands come out of Seattle. Alice in Chains wrote some of the darkest stuff up there—maybe it had something to do with the weather. It rains all the time in Vancouver and Seattle. However, L.A. is so nice and fresh. It felt like I was alive in that city. That contributed to the record.
It's such a great city, what were some of the places or things that you really dug in Los Angeles?
I lived in West Hollywood. I just walked everywhere. I do a lot of thinking while I'm walking or driving. So there were a lot of places. A lot of it was new to me, because I never spent very much time in L.A. before. It just felt like new material for me to take in. If you live in the same city your whole life, you run out of inspiration. I had a lot of friends in Los Angeles. Living there, I felt like I was on a permanent vacation, which is kind of ironic. I could live in L.A. forever. I might move back there I had such a good experience with the writing [Laughs].
There's so much to do. From Melrose, where it's a little bit more underground, up to Sunset Plaza, where it's Beverly Hills-style. That's a one-mile radius too.
Yeah, I lived right by Sunset Plaza, so I would go down the street, eat and hangout on the patios of the different restaurants. I liked it all. People always complained about the Valley, but I'd drive up to the Valley, and I liked it there too.
The cool thing too about Sunset Plaza is that you have so many great restaurants, like Café Med, Ketchup, Café Primo and Chin Chin.
Yeah, Café Med is my favorite restaurant. It has that great little patio. I used to go there once a week when I lived there.
It's got a great vibe, there are always people walking around. There's always something to look at too.
That's crazy that you like that restaurant too!
It’s weird that people knock L.A., when it's an inspiring place in many ways.
I don't know why people have a problem with it. I think it's great. Maybe it's because I didn't actually work there, and I didn't have to drive in traffic every day. Just thinking about my daily routine, it was great. I always would go to Runyon Canyon almost every day, with my friend or my wife. I loved it. There are so many recording studios in L.A. It's just crazy. We worked with Howard Benson in his studio, and it was great.
Was it cool working with him again?
Yeah, he did our last record too. It was cool, because we were familiar with him. During our Gasoline record we were going into a situation where we didn't know the people we were working with, we didn't know Howard. This time we knew, so we set ourselves up. We knew what Howard was going to do, we knew what he was going to like and what he wasn't going to like. It was great for us to go back to him. Scars sounds better. He had expectations that were met. He's just a great producer.
When you use a producer repeatedly, they become almost like a member of the band.
Exactly. He knew my writing style. He was honest about which songs he thought I was writing well and which songs he thought I could do better on. That's the thing with the producer too; you get a little bit of insecurity where you feel like you have to prove yourself to these people because they work with such huge artists all the time. So you go in there and you want them to think, "Oh, that's a great song." And you just want to write a good song to show the producer that you know what you're doing.
Of course, especially when you have someone so close to your music, you want them to know and respect you immediately.
Yeah, and that works in our favor, because songs turn out great and of course it's going to help your career. It's a great situation to be in.