ASHES TO ASHES, DUST TO DUST:
An Interview with Rob Traynor of Dust to Dust
on the future of one of metal's most promising bands
by Alicia Downs, March 10, 2002
Dust to Dust is
a band that has received critical acclaim throughout their humble musical career.
Last year they released their self-titled debut album with Sanctuary Records. Praise followed with
articles springing up throughout metal publications listing Dust to Dust and their debut album as
breakthrough hits. Things seemed to be going there way after Peter Steele of Type O Negative
invited Dust to Dust out to open for them on their 2001 Halloween Tour. The tour ended Halloween
night in Philadelphia and the future of Dust to Dust seemed a bright one.
But, less then a month later, Dust to Dust’s web site made an announcement that the band had parted ways with Sanctuary Records after being dropped from the label. The band that seemed to be on the brink of nationwide acceptance was now back at square one. But as Rob Traynor (lead vocalist and rhythm guitar) explains, Dust to Dust is not about to play dead and let their place in the music industry turn to ashes.
Rough Edge: Do you want to start off giving a little back ground info on how you all came together to form the band? You are quite a group of guys...
Rob: Well, it all started with a collection of songs I had written in my home studio. I recorded them with a drum machine and put together a demo. I really had no intentions of shopping it to record companies, but it eventually ended up in "the right hands" and got passed onto a bunch of record folks. When interest started coming in I was contacted and faced with the opportunity to showcase, so I had to get a band together to perform the music live. In the past I had played in numerous bands and I guess you could say I was a little jaded by the biz so when I wrote music I did it for my own head and my friends. My buddies and I are all musicians, some of us had played in bands together or just jammed so we would often get together, smoke a fatty and listen to my tunes. I respected the opinions of my friends so I liked to bounce the songs off of them. To make a long story short I pulled these friends of mine together who appreciated my music and formed Dust To Dust and started showcasing the tunes. Stu (lead Guitar), James (keyboards, Bass), and I have been friends since we were kids. Steve (Drums) came into the mix when he heard my demo being played in a local music store and tracked me down because he heard I was looking for a drummer. Now we are all one big dusty family!
Rough Edge: I guess the next question and the biggest question on everyone's mind is where Dust to Dust is as a band right now?
Rob: Right now DTD has become the band it was meant to be. We have finally become more of a band as opposed to just being some project that came about from a catalogue of songs that I had written. Although I have still written the majority of the songs the guys help with production and we have even wrote material together. Everyone has added their flavor as a musician. Like I said before, DTD as a band was put together after the label interest started coming in based on the material alone. No one ever saw us, there was no band. So I guess you could say things were a bit rusty live, but we have grown big time. We are all seasoned musicians that have played in other professional bands and it takes a little time to grow as a unit, which I feel we have. The line up has changed as well in respect to who plays what instrument. I originally played bass and sang on the first album, now I play rhythm guitar and sing. Which is no big thing being I write on guitar and have always played guitar. James was originally the keyboardist and now he is back doing what he has always done throughout his career as a musician, playing the bass. Stu now does all the keyboard parts on guitar via MIDI and effects galore. James will still jump on the keys for those songs that demand more keys. This change up has really helped our live show, and opened up more possibilities sonically without changing the sound of the band. We still sound like DTD, we still have those old dark analogue synth sounds and textures, but we are more of a wall now and twice as crushing.
Rough Edge: You toured with Type O on their infamous Halloween tour. Did you think that you make a lot of fans on that tour?
Rob: We had a great time and yes we made a ton of friends and fans. Peter and the guys thought we went over great, and we were honored to be their support. The Type O crowd is probably one of the toughest to win over, no frills, no bullshit. The response night after night was great and we were really pleased. We heard a lot of horror stories about bands that opened for them, but then again we aren't a plastic punk college pop band and we don't do the rap crap bandwagon thing so I think the TON crowd embraced us partially because they dug our sound. They dug our vibe and knew we were for real. Actually some Type O fans started fan sites for us, and they frequent our shows. The tour could not have gone better for us.
Rough Edge: Your self-titled debut album received tons of praise and DTD is frequently listed as being a band to watch in various publications. With all the acclaim, does it become frustrating when the business aspect of it all takes away from the music?
Rob: Well, the next album will be all rap and plastic punk with a little nu metal aggro mixed in. ONLY KIDDING! GOD FORBID! This business sucks! The music industry is run by robots. Most of the executives on top don't know jack about music, they know how to make money (some of the time), not music with integrity. I am very flattered by the great reviews the album has gotten because DTD wasn't a bandwagon act that conformed to the current trends and we were still embraced by the true music fans. It showed me that there are people out there that are not blinded by the bullshit that is spoon-fed by this industry. I think most people are sick of the artless crap that is out there, and they appreciated the music I was writing. I'm not claiming that I broke any new ground with DTD. We are not The Beatles, Nirvana, or Alice In Chains, I'm not claiming that we are going to start any new sound revolution. DTD is honest hard rock with our own flavor, heavy dark music, and not just another clone. I wrote those songs from the heart and I made music that I wanted to hear, not what the executives wanted to hear and I think most people could hear that in the album. I was raised with the belief that the only way to be true to yourself as an artist is to be an innovator not an imitator. I think this is what helps my music stand out, but unfortunately with this kind of attitude one will find it hard to be embraced by this shallow industry and yes it does become frustrating.
Rough Edge: I know that Metal Edge named your debut one of the best albums of
2001. So with a statement like that, where do you go from there?
Rob: I will continue to create the kind of music that appeals to me first, as I did with the first album. If people dig it great! If they don't, oh well. I feel as a writer I still have room to grow and I hope to continue writing music that will touch people. I'm incredibly flattered that the album was recognized by such a leading authority in heavy music. I've been reading that magazine for years and it was like a dream come true to be placed on such a list.
Rough Edge: I know you said you were working on some new material - any particular direction that you guys are leaning towards?
Rob: The newer stuff is a bit more guitar driven and a bit more "rockin," but the stuff isn't that much different from the first album. I'm still a miserable fuck and my music reflects that.
Rough Edge: Do you feel that you all were ready to start another album or are you just dealing with the cards that you were dealt?
Rob: I guess it is kind of strange that we would be coming out with another album not even a year after the first, but that's the way it goes. We were dropped from our label and we were fucked out of an album. So in order to get back in the game I had to write another album to shop for a new deal. The situation sucks, but what is one to do. I am very happy with the new tunes but you kind of feel like the first album was a waste. I feel it had so much potential, and I wish we could still share it with the Hard Rock community. We did sell a decent number of albums all things considered, well over 12,000 albums and this was done with no touring, no video, no street teams and virtually no radio. This told me that we had something special here. We still perform songs off the first album, but now it's a new ball game, and we have to showcase the new tunes to keep DTD alive. So, yes, we are dealing with the situation DTD was dealt, but I wasn't about to roll over and play dead just because some lame label doesn't have what it takes to break a new act, let alone break wind! Just a bump in the road, that's all, so you get up brush off the dirt and forge forward. I'm always writing new songs, so I was ready. Actually I'm ready for the third album already!
Rough Edge: Any plans to do some local live shows? I know that in the NYC area you guys are well known and have a solid base of people that rave about you all.
Rob: We plan on playing as much as possible in the tri-state area right now as we showcase for a new deal and tweak our new live performance. We hope to build up a nice following here at home in New York City.
Rough Edge: There is the ever so clichéd question of influences. But beings that you all use such a variety of melody and arrangements in your music, on this one I suppose it isn't out of place to ask what you all dig on?
Rob: I like everything and anything. If I dig it, it influences me. I grew up on Metal music and I infuse different styles of music with it. I love heavy music, I love emotional music with attitude. I love music that is interesting.
Rough Edge: You are the main guy when it comes to writing. I know that "No Surprise" came from the abundance of school shootings that we saw. Where else do you look for lyrical inspiration though?
Rob: I always write the music first. Lyrics are an afterthought to me, they usually just fall in place when the music is done. Just living in New York City gives me plenty of lyrical inspiration. Living on planet Earth gives you plenty to write about! I write about things that piss me off, or things that are on my mind. I write about the things I see going on around me, and the people I encounter in daily life. I touch on many things, social and political. First album I sang about God to porn stars, drug deals to drug addicts, dead beat dads to homeless people. Nothing is safe or sacred.
Rough Edge: Do your band members ever poke in and contribute to anything or would you say that you are content running the show?
Rob: Although I am the key writer in the band, the guys have always contributed as musicians to the music. Everyone has become more involved because all the newer material is now worked out in the studio as we rehearse. The first album was just me in the home recording studio. James and Stu are very involved when it comes to the production and arrangement of the material and I'm all ears when anyone has an idea. We have also written songs and parts together as a band. I have no problem with ideas as long as they are in line with the sound and feel of DTD.
Rough Edge: Do you see any production work in your future? Any desire to step onto the other side of it all?
Rob: Right now I'm primarily concerned with working on my own stuff. I have other musical ideas I plan to work on in the future but right now it is all about DTD. I'm a musician and songwriter first. Actually I would like to work with a producer on the next album, I would like to bounce things off someone who is somewhat tried and true and knows what they are doing. Doing everything yourself is a lot of work and it doesn't always bring about the full potential of a song. Working with the guys in the band has helped me see the benefits of working with a team as opposed to doing it all yourself.
Rough Edge: The debut album had such moments on it. There are serene tracks like "If I was God" and then songs that were more driven like "New Low." How do you balance both aspects when you are putting pieces and albums together?
Rob: I just put the type of album together that I would like to hear. As for the songs, I guess it depends on the mood I'm in when I write a certain song. I grew up listening to albums from incredible artists that didn't just write every song on the album to sound the same. That sucks, it's boring and way too many bands do that nowadays. I would think you would want your album to say something to have some depth to it. When you throw on some old Van Halen they were all over the place. No two tracks sounded alike, but it was undeniably VH. Or when you would listen to Floyd it would take you on a trip. That is the school I came from, those were just a few of the teachers I learned from. The name of the game is to offer the listener variety and substance in your music while maintaining identity. I like to picture an album as if it were a movie, a beginning and an end not just a bunch of songs that all sound the same that gets you irritated by track 4. You want the listener to enjoy the whole ride.
Rough Edge: Well that is about it - any last things you want to throw in?
Rob: Thanks for your time. Hope to see you on the road. Peace!
For more information on Dust to Dust, check out the band’s official web site at: http://www.dusttodustmusic.com
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Copyright © 2002 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:09 -0400.