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Interview With DREAMS OF DAMNATION/DARK ANGEL

Jim Durkin of DREAMS OF DAMNATION
By Stéphane Bélanger

One of Metal's most influential force from the mid 80's/early 90's is a name that still makes head turn even today: DARK ANGEL! Their member have all dispersed throughout the years, the most well known active member being Gene Hoglan... But Gene certainly isn't the only one of those guys that remained close to the scene; their great guitar player Jim Durkin is one of them! I recently had a chat with him about the past glories and the coming blitzkrieg of his new band DREAMS OF DAMNATION, a great revival of the DARK ANGEL sound with some Death Metal influences mixed in there! Until the band officially releases their debut material, I suggest you pay attention and read this very cool interview!

—>So, what's up man!<—
"Oh, I'm doing good man! I've been composing and recording for my new band DREAMS OF DAMNATION!"

—>Yeah, I heard of that... Have you been together for a while?<—
"Well actually, I originally started that as a project in 1992."

—>Did you release anything back then?<—
Well, I put out a small EP..."

—>As DREAMS OF DAMNATION?<—
"Yes. There were members of HERETIC and METAL CHURCH. I had my own record label and I had a lot of bands back then!"

Darkness Descends

—>That you produced yourself?<—
"Yeah! So what I did is that I recorded some of that stuff in my home, where I have my studio. Now I decided to put that thing back together last year..."

—>With the same members?<—
"No, totally new members. Back then with the other members, it was all Heavy Metal... Now, it's a lot more brutal!"

—>As in... DEATH or something?<—
"Well, more like DARK ANGEL actually... I've been working on that for the last couple of months."

—>Have you demoed it yet?<—
"Yes... In fact, we are working on it for an album."

—>When is it coming out?<—
"Maybe by the end of the March..."

—>On your own label?<—
"No no, we'll be shoping for a contract in the coming weeks."

—>But you've started producing too..!<—
"Yeah!"

—>And did you do other bands too?<—
"Nothing yet, but I'm looking! We'll see what comes out. I've been putting all my time into my band right now."

—>Did you participate in the productions when you were doing DARK ANGEL?<—
"Somewhat... Not very much though. Now I'm being a little more into it. With DARK ANGEL, I was more concerned with writing the music. I was doing a lot more of the song writing. Now I do it all! But it's a lot of fun! I get a kick out of this!"

—>Let's go back now to the formation of DARK ANGEL... How did you guys come together in the first place?<—
"Well, it started with me, Robbie Yahn, the original bass player who played on the first two albums and Don Doty, the singer from the first two album. We started the band back in... Oh god... '82 maybe..."

—>You probably met in high school then...<—
"Yeah, we were all high school buddies, playing in cover bands. Then we started getting into heavier bands, like MOTÖRHEAD... Along came METALLICA... As a matter of fact, all the METALLICA guys and their roadies went to our high school. That's how we kind of got turned on! So I had a buddy that would bring me tapes of all those new bands. So he got me into all these heavy bands back then, when DIAMOND HEAD was real underground... ANGEL WITCH... So that's pretty much how we came to play that... Kind of the same story as other bands from that era. We got into the heavier stuff and it just kind of progressed from there."

—>Gene wasn't playing on your debut "We Have Arrived"...<—
"What happened was that we had a guy named Jack who played on the first album and then he left the band. We then had one of the original MEGADETH drummer, a guy named Lee, that came in to play. But it didn't work out. Gene had always been one of my friends! But he didn't own a drum set. But he said: 'Hey, I can play your stuff!'. So I'm like: 'Really!?' And I had been friend with the guy for a long time. So one day, he got a drum set and he was playing with a band called WAR GOD. They were like a Thrash band. I wasn't very happy with the drummer that we had, so..."

—>And just seeing that freakin' moose on the drums must have been impressive!<—
"Oh yeah!! You know, he always talked like he could play! He is very knowledgeable about music. Plus he was my friend! So what better guy to get in the band. And then when I heard him play, I was like: 'Oh my god, you've got to be in the band!' That's it, there won't nobody else. And there never was! He came in and stayed."

—>So after he came in, he also started to compose, right?<—
"Yeah! He and I did all the song writing. I have written almost all the stuff from the first album, then "Darkness Descends" came and that's when we started collaborating. I had a few of the songs written already and then he started writing lyrics... Then, he wrote pretty much all of the lyrics and some of the music."

—>That album was so influential... How does it feel to be part of an album that probably influenced most of the actual extreme Metal scene?<—
"Oh man! I guess that's my pride! If I ever had a masterpiece!!" Laughters... "Actually, since it's been re-released, I still see it around..."

—>It's been re-released on CD, right?<—
"Yeah, Century Media put it out. I didn't talk to the guys, somebody did... They put it out! I think they bought the Combat catalog and put it out. So that was really cool! I'm glad to see that it's out and that a good label got a hold of it."

—>Was it remastered?<—
"I think so! Actually, I'd like to talk to those guys and see what they did. I ran into one of the guys at THE HAUNTED show... They're good friends with the guys from THE HAUNTED. I went and saw them open for TESTAMENT. One of the guys from Century Media approached me and said: 'Hey, we just put out your album! You want me to send it to you?' I said sure! and he sent me a copy."

—>Was it the album that sold the most?<—
"I think so... I really do!"

—>But you're not sure though...<—
"No. I don't know for sure. Until this day, I never had sure figures about that."

—>I heard that you reformed a few months ago...<—
DARK ANGEL "You know what, we didn't reform... It just didn't come together. I was busy doing my job and we were going to do this tour in Europe... Eric was trying to get me into it. But then, we couldn't get the original members. I only wanted to do it with Don Doty, etc. All of a sudden, we got a different bass player, Ron Rinehart was going to come back in, which is okay, you know! But I really wanted to do the "Darkness..." line-up. But the bass player is in the army now... Everybody has their lives... It just didn't seem real attractive to me. The money I would make on it really wouldn't handle my other things in life, etc. I just decided that the time will come but now is not the right time."

—>It might still happen?<—
"We never know! I'm certainly not against it. I just think that the time has to be right, with the right members. Eric wanted to put it together... He wanted to get all the guys just to do the tour. I don't blame him! But I don't think it would be fair to the fan. They want to see Don Doty, they want to see the original line-up. Don hasn't sang in what, ten years?"

—>Oh! So he might not be good anyway?<—
"Yeah, it takes a long time... You can't just walk in and start doing it. I haven't seen him in a long time too!"

—>You have not seen any of the guys in a while?<—
"Yes, I talk to Derek now and then... I talk to Gene about every few months.."

—>Is he still in TESTAMENT?<—
"No, he's in STRAPPING YOUNG LADS..."

—>He keeps on switching bands...!<—
"I don't know... I think he's living in Vancouver still... Do you like S.Y.L.?"

—>Not really...<—
"I think it's really good! The drumming is insane! I actually like it because it's different for him. Plus he's got good musicians. It's an acquired taste!"

—>What would be the best tour you ever did back then?<—
"The best tour? You know, the Gates Of Darkness Tour with POSSESSED was THE best!"

—>You played in Montréal on that tour... The Nuclear Impact Festival I believe!?<—
"Yes I did!!"

—>So you remember that!<—
"Oh yes! It was a blast! We had a great time up there. But when I got to Canada though, I was sick... I got the flu... It was in the end of the tour... So I didn't get to get out and mingle. I played my gig and went back to bed. I even threw up on the stage!" Laughters! "Yeah, right between songs! I walked out right between the amplifiers to throw up! That was pretty nasty."

—>And did you see other weird stuff like that?<—
"One time, we played the Whisky out here in Hollywood, with Gene. The band before us was lighting their drum sticks on fire! They left the lighting fluid up in a cup. Gene thought it was water and drank it! We thought he was going to die, right there in the show!" More laughters!

Leave Scars

—>That must have been horrible!<—
"Oh man, I was freaking out like 'What's wrong with you!?' And he was all chocking, trying to get the roadie to get him some water! That was pretty funny! I saw that whole story again in great details on our web site... I didn't do too many sick shows though, but that one in Montréal was rough... Plus it was cold up there! Us California boys man, we didn't know what the hell was going on..."

—>I don't remember what month it was...<—
"It was February, believe me! You know what, I've never even saw snow until I was about fifteen years old. I went to the mountains one time and said; 'Oh, I've got to stop and see this!' But until that time, I had never even seen snow. But when we went on that tour, oh man, we were not prepared! We did not bring enough clothes and by the time we got to Colorado, we were freezing our asses off! And the farther we went, the colder it got! All the way to New York and everything up there until we got to Canada... Oh my god, I was glad to get back south!"

—>Why did Don leave after that?<—
"Don had some personal issues he was dealing with, you know! He just wasn't dedicating the time to the band. So we had to get somebody else. He was just kind of flighty... You know, nothing bad against him! Everybody's got a life! We got Jim to do it and he was great! Then when we got back, we wanted him to be in the band but then Don wanted to get back in and we thought shit, we've got to have the original singer... We should have just kept Jim. That's all there was to it. But it was cool! That was my favorite tour!"

—>Then it was "Time Does Not Heal"...<—
"You know what, I didn't even play on that album. That was right after I left the band. Gene and I had some songs... He started writing on 'em. I had some songs for it but after I left the band, I kept my songs."

—>Oh yeah, that's right! Did you use them for DREAM OF DAMNATION?<—
"Some of 'em... I'm working on those songs now, just king of looking at 'em and changing them and doing stuff to it... But "Time Does Not Heal" is a great album though! It's awesome!"

—>Yeah! I was wondering how much time it took them to compose it...<—
"Well, the best thing about that album to me is the production... I would have really liked to work with that producer. I love the drum sound and everything that he does. So that's the one thing I regret; I wish I could have worked with that guy. Especially that I'm now into that stuff, I would have liked to see what he did."

Ultimate Revenge 2

—>I think the Ultimate Revenge 2 is the only video you ever did, right!?<—
"Yes it was."

—>Did it sell good?<—
"I don't know what the figures are!"

—>It seems like Combat had a lot of problems with their bands... Many of those bands never got any selling figures...<—
"You know, I don't think it was Combat's fault for us. I left it up to the management. At the time, we didn't really care. We just put the shit out and didn't care! So I really never got to know how many albums were sold or anything. I didn't pay attention to that. I know that "Leaves Scars" shipped A LOT when it came out! It sold a lot!"

—>Probably more than "Darkness..."?<—
"Once again, I don't know about that... But "Darkness..." is still selling. People keep on picking it up."

—>What are you into nowadays, aside from the soundman thing...?<—
"Well, I also work for a company where we set up casinos. I do videos, etc. It's a good living! It allows me to have my recording studio and do all the other things that I'm working on. As for my musical tastes, let me see... Some of my favorite bands at this point are; of course WITCHERY, I like them a lot because Jensen is my friend... But not only that, they're a great band! THE HAUNTED is very good! I like their energy! A lot of DARK ANGEL in there he told me... He was quick to point out that the influence was there! Then... I don't know, I buy so many CDs..."

—>So you're still pretty much into the actual Metal as well...<—
"Yeah! Definitely! I'm not into the Gothic thing that's going around. I don't have anything against it but it's not my bag... I'm still pretty much a Metal purist. Death Metal, Black Metal... That's pretty cool, as long as it doesn't get too silly... Pretty much all that. I keep my hands on the scene to see what's going on..."

—>So what do you think of some of the things that happened in Europe, with those Black Metal circles and stuff...?<—
"I just got done reading the Lord Of Chaos, which is a book written about the church burnings... It's a very good book. I got the opportunity to meet the guy in EMPEROR when they came with WITCHERY and I'll tell you, they're nice guys! So I can't really draw an opinion on what they've done, or if they did anything... What the whole deal was about... It doesn't matter what scene you're in, there is always going to be somebody that's going to ruin it for everybody else. My impressions of those guys was that they're very nice fellows. But what are you going to do with the hardcore stuff that's going on... Music is music and leave it as it is!"

—>You like any bands from here?<—
"From Canada? Let me see... I saw INFERNÄL MÄJESTY, which were good! Are they still around?"

—>No, I don't think so...<—
"And there was a band we played with in Montréal... I can't remember the name..."

—>I think you're talking about AGGRESSION...<—
"Was it AGGRESSION?"

—>The drummer was a bald guy with two feet metal spikes on his head...<—
"Yes, that's right!!"

—>Yes, they were one of the best band ever from here. They've been dead for years though.<—
"Really! That's too bad because I was really blown away! I had never heard of 'em and then when we saw them, I was really impressed! They were good! They just fucking blew me away! I heard them in the soundcheck... No, I don't think they even had a soundcheck. They were the first band on and I watched them! You know, there are very few bands you play with that you remember. But I remembered them... And I remembered bands like CANNIBAL CORPSE and look at them now! These are bands that marked me! Sad about AGGRESSION"

—>They were the first band ever from here to have blast beats and some of the basis of the genre we now know as Death Metal...<—
"Yes, I think you're right! I remember that they were real fast and heavy! Good insane sounding singer, it all sounded really good!"

—>So you're still very much into the scene...<—
"Yeah, I try to be but I'm also stuck in the 80's... I'm still into the old stuff... Old KREATOR... Mille was a pretty cool guy! I met him a couple of times. He's nice. I've got a couple of things going on... I've also got a Hardcore band on the side..."

—>You've got a few side projects?<—
"I'm starting! The Hardcore band is called BLISTER right now..."

—>Right now?<—
"Yeah, there's probably a million BLISTERS... But my singer, that's his thing. We kind of sound like TURMOIL... I've got my Metal thing and then I got that too."

—>So you like good old Hardcore, like THE VARUKERS and stuff like that?<—
"Yes! When we played up there in Montréal, we played with the CRUMBSUCKERS! They were good! The drummer got his pedals ripped-off! I remember that!"

—>Well, I'm real happy to know that you're back with DREAMS OF DAMNATION...<—
"I think you'll be very pleased!"

—>What is going to be the title of the album?<—
"'Demonic Celebration'... We're hoping for a March release... We're definitely working hard on the album. It's very, very heavy! My writing on it is very "Darkness Descends" era-like. Well, we sound the way we sound..."

—>Would you say it's a "Darkness..." mixed with a more modern touch?<—
"Not a whole lot... Maybe a little keyboard here and there for the intros and stuff. But very Death Thrash with a few Doom elements."

—>What about the vocals?<—
"Oh man, wait until you see our singer man! He's six foot eight inches and weighs about three hundred pounds! He's gigantic! Not fat though. He's a big skin head from Brazil!" Laughters!

—>Pretty frightening!<—
"Oh yes! You're going to love this guy man! He sounds BIG!! He has like a Death Metal growling voice without even having to try! You know what I mean! And it's clean, you can understand what he sings. It's not the total Cookie-Monster type of singing. It's the heaviest shit I have ever done!"

—>You look very pleased with this new band!<—
"Yeah! You know, I'm doing it purely for the enjoyment of it man!"

We Have Arrived

—>Yeah! Plus you can't really do it for the money anyway...<—
"No. So why not just write stuff that we like to play! There aren't too many bands in Los Angeles right now that are doing this sound, like my friends from SADISTIC INTENT and all those guys..."

—>They're still together?<—
"Oh yeah! I talk to them all the time! In fact, they're recording an album for Necropolis Records now. We're hoping to get on Necropolis too. I really like that label."

—>So you're aiming for them?<—
"I'm hoping to do something with them. I'll be talking with them for the next couple of months. I really hope to do something with them."

—>They did a good job with SADISTIC?<—
"And WITCHERY. Look what they've done for WITCHERY! They're always on tour... In fact, I think they're on tour now in Europe."

—>That's one of the most important thing: Touring! There are so many labels that go; 'Well, we can't put you on a tour if you don't sell...' How the hell are the bands supposed to sell if they're not on tour?<—
"Well, it kind of happened to us. So we would just go! Take on small tours, like going down to Texas, stuff like that... Finally, when we got with Combat, we were able to tour because they could support us. I don't think that we're going to tour with this band (D.O.D.). We might do a few shows here and there..."

—>Then again, if they do offer you a tour?<—
"Oh well, if the money is right! I've got a house to pay!" Laughters! "I'm hoping everybody will be really pleased with this because it's really heavy! Everybody who likes the old DARK ANGEL stuff is going to love this. It's not DARK ANGEL part two by any means! It's got a different sound but it's very brutal. I'm happy with it. I still have to put some guitar solos down on it... I'm not done yet. We've been working hard on this."

—>For what, the last few months?<—
"Yeah!"

—>And you've been recording since when?<—
"Hum... About within the last three or four weeks. We're not even close to being done."

—>All the basics are done though...<—
"Yeah, pretty much... But we've got some songs that are not even recorded yet..."

—>Oh, so you're still deep in the process of recording!<—
"Oh yeah! I actually just did one of my first Doom songs... It is the title track 'Demonic Celebration'. It's a six minutes song..."

—>The songs seem to be recorded with a drum machine... From what I can hear on the phone...<—
"It sure is."

—>You don't have a drummer yet?<—
"Well I did get a new drummer, so we'll see how it goes! I used a drum machine on a couple of these songs. We'll see what happens... I have this guy now... I'm trying him out!"

—>Cool! Well man, I'm telling you, you got me all exited to hear that stuff! Thanks a lot for your time man!<—
"Oh, it's my pleasure man! Spread the word! DREAMS OF DAMNATION is for real!! Thanks man!"

So that's it! I hope you're as exited as I am to hear this stuff! Until then, I suggest that you do get the re-edition of classic Metal albums like "Darkness Descends" and be sure not to miss D.O.D.'s "Demonic Celebration" when it comes out!

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