Interview by Jamie Cansdale
First of all I just want to say how much of a pleasure it is to get to interview you. May I ask if you could enlighten our readers as to who Dawnbringer is and what it represents?
Chris: Hello, thank you very much for the opportunity. It has been said that Dawnbringer is more of a collective than a band, and maybe this is true. We’ve only played 9 gigs in almost 20 years and kept a very low profile otherwise. We don’t write or rehearse together. Dominated by illusion since the beginning…
Your sixth record, Night of the Hammer, is due to land on the 28th of October. Frankly the time cannot pass quick enough! Considering the change in sound from your previous record, was there a change in the approach you took to writing and recording it? What was it like?
Chris: Actually this album represents a change in approach, both writing and recording. I spent longer with the songs than I normally do. “Xiphias” and “The Burning of Home” were both almost one year old before we entered the studio. I wasn’t sure whether these were even Dawnbringer songs at the beginning, but when it came time to focus on the album songwriting, making the album whole, they seemed to fit with what I had written in the meantime. There are a few other songs on the album that I wrote without any expectations. In other words I just wrote the song and then decided that it would belong to Dawnbringer. This is quite the opposite approach compared to the past albums. When it came to recording the album, we had a change of venue also. We decided to record in California, where our guitar player lives, for his convenience but also to see if some fresh surroundings would be helpful. It was a great experience and at the same time it deepened my respect for what Sanford Parker brought to the previous two albums.
Is there a message or a story behind the words the album is telling us?
Chris: Perhaps it’s a clichéd answer, but in the case of this album, the listener can invent their own narrative and project their own experience and meaning onto the songs. We all have felt alienation, fear, and loss in our lives. I don’t know. I still feel like I am viewing this album from a distance.
Your 2012 album, the fireblazing opus that was Into the Lair of the Sun God was epic in sound and its aesthetic. When it came to the writing and recording of Night, were there any deliberate reasons for the change in sound? Or was it more of a natural evolution?
Chris: As I said, it was a more protracted and less concentrated songwriting period. Sun God was an unexpectedly hard album to follow. It being what it is, I think any collection of songs would sound disjointed or a bit chaotic by comparison.
Were there any bands that influenced this direction? Or, rather, were there any particular outside influences?
Chris: Not specifically. When it comes to our influences, it’s just more of the same. Over and over again while the seasons change.
One thing I have come to admire about Dawnbringer is the album art you use and this album features something different than your more recent releases; I have to say it fits the music exquisitely. Is there a story behind this image?
Chris: Thank you very much. We wanted the cover to be suspenseful, to have a bit of tension. We achieved this I think, both in terms of distance and time. Some people found it strange that the album is called Night of the Hammer and the album cover depicts a scene in daylight. We agree.
With an album packed with ten sublime songs, are there any that stand out above the rest for you? What are your highlights that you have taken from this?
Chris: I think “One-Eyed Sister” is my favorite song on the album right now. “Hands of Death” has a nice arc as well and is a good feature for the guitarists.
This is your third release for Profound Lore. How would you say your relationship with the label is?
Chris: It’s quite good. There is always some give-and-take in any label/band relationship. In this case, I think where both sides meet is slightly out of our comfort zones.
Bands tend to evolve naturally over time (well, some more than others), whether it be through their sound, their outlooks, their ideas and so on. How would you look back upon the evolution of Dawnbringer? Has it had any impact on you as a human being or would you say it is you impacting on the band itself?
Chris: I don’t know that Dawnbringer has evolved so much as become more refined. The process is basically the same since the beginning. The people, the boundaries, everything. Perhaps the continuity is more apparent from the inside, and the evolution more apparent from the outside.
Looking how the band has evolved then, is there any advice that you would give to your younger selves prior to forming Dawnbringer? Would you give this advice to other people?
Chris: I would remind my younger self that knowledge and experience are not the same thing. But I think my younger self would say my nowadays self made some damn good choices nevertheless.
Do you see Dawnbringer playing a particular role in the Chicago scene? Is there a strong Chicago scene?
Chris: Yes, there is a strong heavy metal community and fanbase here, but Dawnbringer is a quite tiny part of that. When it comes to me personally, well, this city has a long tradition of heavy metal workaholics and people with real passion for what they do. Some are more motivated than others, but there’s quite a tapestry of creative people here, and a city with the size and resources to support it.
Given the recent statements made by the reprehensible Gene Simmons and Machine Head’s frontman Rob Flynn, how do you feel about the rock/metal scene of today as a whole?
Chris: I don’t think about it as a whole, ever. I set goals and then I work for them. Money is simply one element in a complicated chemical reaction. It is never an end in itself. And it should never be mistaken for a vital sign.
The role of the internet (and social media) has undeniably caused a shift in not only music consumption but also in how music is written, recorded, and marketed. What does this mean for independent “underground” bands such as Dawnbringer?
Chris: It is a huge plus if you have the time and motivation to use it to your benefit. Fans nowadays are very accustomed to contacting bands directly for merchandise, for example. Not every band wants to deal with it, of course, but the rewards are there for those who do.
Alongside your latest release, Chris also released the much anticipated second album with High Spirits, You Are Here, for which I also have to congratulate you on, a cracking job you made! Given that you release with other bands then, do you have busy lives outside of music? Is it difficult to maintain a balance to the two worlds?
Chris: Thank you very much! At this point, life outside music means family, and nothing more. Heavy metal is my job and the essence of my social life as well.
This may sound like a really morbid question, but out of pure curiosity, is there a particular song you would want played at your wake/funeral/moment of passing?
Chris: Yes, but I’ll probably die before I write it.
Are there any bands that you would really want to tour with, or even collaborate with?
Chris: There are a bunch of singers I’d like to collaborate with. I have some songs written that would probably be a lot better if someone else would sing them. It would be fun to do something like what Dave Grohl did with that Probot LP but make it underground and cool.
Finally, are there any future plans for Dawnbringer? Do you intend to tour Night of the Hammer? Maybe touch upon UK soil?
Chris: We will be doing some shows in 2015, but no plans are really in motion yet. It would be great to play in the UK. There seems to be a lot of interested from there, so maybe a promoter will ring our phone soon. We are also re-releasing our back-catalog on CD and eventually vinyl. It’s a gradual process but one that has already begun. We had the albums remastered already, and so far we released In Sickness and In Dreams on CD. In 2015 we hope to release the same album on vinyl as well as the other early albums on CD. Of course it depends how quickly people buy them how quickly things progress.