22 fucking years. Yes, it's been a long time since Dropdead released a proper studio album. Sure, there have been other releases (splits, EPs, etc.), but there's something truly special about holding a full-length from a band as great as Dropdead is.
So, here we are this week with the release of the Rhode Island hardcore stalwart's third album, an eponymous collection recorded by Kurt Ballou (Converge) and Zach Weeks (Cerce) at GodCity.
Musically speaking, things are as fast and punishing as Dropdead have ever been, and on the lyrical front, topics like right-wing extremism and other social schism are (sadly) made for these turbulent times.
No Echo has the privilege of premiering Dropdead below, and as an added bonus, I chatted with vocalist Bob Otis about the new record, his 2018 motorcycle accident, and some of the authors and activists that have inspired him throughout the years.
The press materials for the record mention how your newer vocal approach help "the words have an impact more so than just raw screaming.” Is that something that has been on your mind a lot throughout the years? Do you feel that your previous delivery style got in the way of the lyrics a bit?
I made a conscious effort to make sure the lyrics were really heard on this one. I think the subject matter is urgent as is the timing of the release of this record. I approached it with a more Anarcho vocal style because that's what felt the most natural in front of the music and how I interpreted it at the time.
I think if you listen to my progression through the years, especially on some of the splits with Systematic Death, Brainoil, and Converge, it's just an extension of how my vocals were progressing at that point. On many of the earlier super fast releases the pure scream vocals seemed right for the time.
20 years is a long time between albums to progress. I do think listening back on some earlier work, I wish I had been more enunciated and controlled as I think that would have made some of the songs more memorable. I'm just a guy screaming in front of a very loud band, I don't have any particular special skills, what comes out comes out.
Staying on the subject of your vocals on the new album, since you’ve had back surgery, and also suffered a motorcycle crash, I’m wondering if you had any issues tracking your parts?
No, it didn't affect me in any way, there has been a lengthy time since those events and it was just doing vocal tracks not running a race. I do have issues I am still suffering from, with the spine and knee injuries sustained in the motorcycle accident, but it happened and I live with it.
It's made travelling when we are on the road a bit more uncomfortable at moments, but my bandmates are right there like the brothers I expect them to be if I'm having a bad day. I love playing gigs and getting out there, so I'll do this until the day I keel over. I believe in what we do and it's important to me.
Are you still riding motorcycles?
Currently I am not riding. I took the bike out a few times after I was mostly healed up, but because it's a 1200 Harley and a heavy bike with the damage to my knees it wasn't gonna work out, so unfortunately it's sitting under a tarp until better days or I sell it.
In terms of the songs on the album, did you stockpile lyrics throughout the years that you knew you wanted to include on it, or was this mostly fresh material you worked up closer to the sessions?
The lyrics wrote themselves on this one. The last few years with the absolute cloud of madness and oppression we have been living under, it was easy to have so many things to write about. I do keep notebooks of lyrics that I randomly write and use, but this album I wrote fresh as the songs were being fleshed out.
For as brutal as he's playing, Ben has a great knack for writing super memorable and catchy riffs that make it really fun to sink my teeth into, so I could really get a flow going and put some thoughtful and meaningful words in front of it. I'm truly stoked on how it came together.
Speaking as a Dropdead fan since the ‘90s, I’ve always figured you were a well-read person in regards to politics, sociology, and other related subjects. Would that be a fair assessment? For someone reading this interview right now who is looking to start digging into the aforementioned topics, where would you suggest they start (books, websites, etc.)?
I would say I am moderately "well read" compared to a lot of people. I don't pretend to be any smarter than anyone else. I do have strong opinions and my own philosophy of right and wrong that I have cultivated from travelling, life experience and trying to learn more about the world we live in.
These days I read a ton of animal rights and vegan philosophy based material when I'm in serious reading/research mode, people like Tom Regan, Keith Tester, Melanie Joy, James Aspey, Gary Yourofsky, groups like Wayne Hsiung's Direct Action Everywhere and Anonymous for the Voiceless, all the way back to Peter Singers early writings.
I take bits and pieces of what I relate to and mold my own opinions.
How closely do you follow the punk scene these days when it comes to newer bands? What are some of the records/artists you’ve been listening to in recent years, punk or otherwise?
I'm probably not as plugged in as the other guys in the band, but things I have been playing recently are Ruidosa Inmundicia, Anti Mob, Kaleidoscope, Kohti Tuhoa, Active Slaughter, Larma, Bad Breeding. I was stoked to see the Seein Red/Lärm boys jamming new stuff recently.
I really liked the newest Wolfbrigade album that came out last year. Honestly, I'm a man of habits, so I am just as happy playing my old Wretched, Health Hazard, and Icons of Filth records.
Dropdead will be out September 25 via Armageddon Records, and you can pre-order it today.
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