INTERVIEW: Jesse Dracman (DARKCELL)
Brisbane's eminent purveyors of macabre rock Darkcell have rapidly evolved into a spine-tingling force to be reckoned with since their inception in 2012. Pairing ghoulish tones with hard-hitting industrial rock, the quartet balance their love for their craft equally with the adoration of their loyal fans, with the likes of Rob Zombie, Slipknot and Wednesday 13 amongst the many who count themselves as followers of this ferocious foursome.
Currently poised to release their latest beast, a self-titled full-length due out this Friday April 12th, it's clear this commanding bunch aren't stopping their frenzied musical freight train anytime soon. But before the album unleashes, we tip-toed through the brain of frontman Jesse Dracman to chat inspiration, evolution and the impact of the legendary Chris Fehn in shaping the latest chapter in the Darkcell story. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hey Jesse! Awesome to chat today, and it's very fun times for Darkcell, obviously with the long-awaited self-titled album out literally this week - how does it feel to finally be at this point in the Darkcell chapter?
JESSE DRACMAN: As someone said, it is "Happy Darkcell Month". And it is happy, happy, happy! Happy, happy, joy, joy is all I can say right now! It's a good time to be in Darkcell, it's very exciting times.
TIANA SPETER: I like that! And in terms of the new album, obviously there's been a few sneak peeks in the lead-up with some absolutely cracker singles, I'm particularly quite a large fan of 'Reign of the Monsters' and 'The Great Big Nothing'...but you've become slightly notorious for your evolutionary ways, and it feels like you lot have stepped it up from already pretty high heights with your previous releases. Was there a game plan going into this album creatively?
JESSE: Yeah definitely, we try to approach every album with that mindset of challenging ourselves, musically, lyrically - in every possible way. And I think any good artist will strive to do that themselves, try to push the boundaries and see where that can take their sound. And I think we achieve that quite well. We had some ideas in the beginning and then - long story short, when we had the chance opportunity to talk with Mr Chris Fehn who used to be in a little band called Slipknot...
TIANA SPETER: Oh, are they a new band?
JESSE: (laughs) Yeah! They're local, they do Wiggles covers!
TIANA SPETER: Rad!
JESSE: But they wear masks so that people can't see them and they think that they are The Wiggles. It's kind of interesting.
TIANA SPETER: It's fun for the kids! But continue...
JESSE: Oh kids love it! Big kids love it especially. It's really cool. But yeah, he heard some of the early demos and...we were very fortunate to get the opportunity to talk to him and he just gave us some ideas and insights about where we were at. And just kind of gave us a little perspective on things that we sort of knew were there but didn't really think about. For example, he talked to me about my voice, he'd say "look, I hear these things in your voice and I don't understand why you're not using it more". So I guess we sort of felt now was a good a time as any to explore!
TIANA SPETER: And we've got to see some of these tracks come to life visually as well with music videos jumping out to accompany the tracks....can you talk me through how these delightfully dark epics come to life? Do these concepts evolve organically from you guys, or do you include some outside input with this process?
JESSE: It was all us, we've gone into this album with a bit of a strong concept, paying homage to our love of classic black and white horror films. And we're big fans of that old cinematic vibe, and just all things dark and spooky in the forest, and we tried to bring all that stuff to life in this album - but with some real life messages in there. I like people to figure that out and come back to me and tell me what they figured out. But with the visual film clips, we shot 'The Great Big Nothing' on a total DIY budget, we shot it ourselves out in the woods. And I took one for the team, jumped around in the water of the black murky swamp and....yeah, had a good time!
THE GREAT BIG NOTHING (DARKCELL)
TIANA SPETER: Oh, that's very Darkcell of you. I love it! Beyond the album release, you guys are also jumping on the road at home, and also in the UK and Europe for some massive shows. What should we all expect from these shows, are there any sneaky surprises up your sleeves that you can reveal?
JESSE: Man, I would say to expect the unexpected with a Darkcell show. We never make any promises about what we're gonna do - I guess the only promise we can make is that we are going to give you 100% Darkcell. We're not gonna short-change you, and if we do, I'll personally give you your money back. That's how I roll, man! We get up there and just do our thing. And with these shows, the way the rehearsals are sounding, my best advice to the audience out there right now would be: make sure you stretch before you come to a show.
TIANA SPETER: Limber up! And on the subject of gigs, you guys have notched up a pretty insane amount of live shows over the years. But to put you on the spot, is there one particular live moment that stands out after all this time?
JESSE: I think straight off the bat...I mean, there's so many and I'm really grateful for all the experiences I've had. Honestly, they're all just so beautiful in my memory. But one that immediately comes to mind, I remember very vividly being backstage at Soundwave 2014 in Brisbane, playing for the home crowd. And all the other stages had all the big-name acts, but before we walked out, I looked out from behind the curtain and there was just a tonne of people there waiting for us to play. A lot of people in our shirts, it was a very surreal moment, and it was probably one of the first times I've actually broken out in tears backstage. I was in tears of joy! I just couldn't believe it was happening, you know? It was a very special moment, and it was really good to share it with so many people who had supported us on our journey.
TIANA SPETER: That kind of beautifully preempts my next question, you guys aren't just a band who kick ass onstage and tear the walls down with your sound - you also have a pretty huge reputation for your connection with your fans, obviously there's the whole 'Army of Darkness' thing in particular as well. But how important is that fan connection, is this something you guys set out to do from the start?
JESSE: You know what, it's a relationship that's organically grown over time. It's taken a life of its own. People have really connected with the Darkcell sound over the years, and have shared that connection with us very deeply. I've had many very touching stories come to me from experiences with our music, and it's really shown us that these people have a deep connection to the music, it's not just head-banging and having a good time. I know at least five or six families with autistic children who told me that their kids connect with our music, and it brings the family closer together, things like that. People dealing with depression and serious illness as well, there's a lot of "weight of the world" type stuff that I've taken on, but I feel like this is more than just generic heavy sound. It's almost like it's its own kind of religion to people, and it's very special to a lot of people, so I love it.
TIANA SPETER: Not gonna lie, I just got some goosebumps there briefly. You bloody got me! It's pretty amazing in these heavier genres, everyone becomes this weird and wonderful little family, and it's that authenticity that drives it. It's really nice to hear it's reciprocated on both sides with you guys.
JESSE: Yeah, I take a lot of great pride in doing live videos for the band. It was originally more just to promote stuff that we were doing, but in time I just found myself connecting more and more with people, and people love that! Because they know that they can join in on the live chat and they can actually be part of it, and not just listen to me talk. They can actually talk to me, and I'll talk back to them. And so many people commend us on that, but it's like....well why wouldn't we do that? That's one thing I never understand with bands, so many bands fail miserably in that department of communicating with the people that give so much to them. It's the least we can do as artists, to give back by communicating.
DARKCELL PERFORMING AT PSYCHO CIRCUS 2018//pic by Nick Hargans
TIANA SPETER: And something seemingly so small for you to do would mean the world to someone else. It's a very nice thing to see. Now - as the frontman for a band who celebrates all things dark and creepy, I'm a little bit interested to delve briefly...what music or artists inspire you? What led you to this delightfully dark musical adventure?
JESSE: Yeah, that's a good one! Well, it's very varied...for me, I love a lot of diversity with what I listen to, and what inspires me. Different music for different moods! But for me it's things like...I love vintage funk, like 70s funk and jazz. I love James Brown, love the way he moves onstage. But I also love all things rock and roll like Kiss, Rob Zombie and Zeppelin. There's so much music out there that just connects with my soul that inspires me to do what I do, and I think it's good to have diversity in your repertoire. I think if you remain a very one-dimensional entity, you miss out on a lot of the different colours out there of the spectrum.
TIANA SPETER: So - let's narrow it down a little bit further here. You're stranded on desert island, and you can only bring one record, and one musician, alive or dead, for company. What and who are you taking?
JESSE: Oh wow! You know, I think I have to roll with right now: Mötley Crüe's self-titled. I absolutely love that album to death at the moment, and I don't see myself getting sick of it anytime soon. But as for musicians...that's a good one! I'd probably say Rob Zombie. I think we'd have a cracker of a time together! We both love horror movies, I think we'd have a fabulous time hanging out.
TIANA SPETER: That sounds like a possible great little sitcom idea right there!
JESSE: Oh yeah! Yeah, I think it'd be pretty funny!
TIANA SPETER: We can talk about that later, we'll sort out copyright and all that.
JESSE: Absolutely, I reckon that's a great idea.
TIANA SPETER: Well, to wrap things up - it is obviously such an exciting time ahead for Darkcell, and certainly something to be savoured. But casting your gaze slightly beyond the obvious with the album release and the huge run of shows coming up...what else is on the cards for Darkcell in 2019, considering you're pretty solidly killing it for the majority of the year so far?
JESSE: It's pretty much just us getting out there and just giving people a totally memorable Darkcell experience all year round! That's our goal this year to spread the darkness worldwide as far as we can! And Matt (Matt Shorter aka Postmortem Matt - Guitar) and me can't sit still, so we're already twirling up ideas for the next album. The creative brain never stops! And sometimes the greatest minds are often the craziest minds So count me in, I guess! (laughs).
TIANA SPETER: Crazy is where it's at! Well thank you so much for your time and hope it's an absolutely amazing week for you guys with the album release.
JESSE: Thanks so much, Tiana!
DARKCELL'S BRAND NEW SELF-TITLED ALBUM IS DUE OUT THIS FRIDAY APRIL 12TH. FOR ALL INFO, HEAD ON OVER HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER