In-person interview with Jeff Duncan of DC4 and Armored Saint
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal
March 27th 2010, House Of Blues, Hollywood CA
Andrew: What's going on with your band DC4 these days?
Jeff: Right now we are recording in the studio, making a new album. It's our third album and we're working with Bill Mattoir who is pretty known in the metal world. He did some early Slayer stuff and I've worked a lot with him in engineering some Armored Saint records as well, so we're doing our new album with him. So that's what we're up to right now and playing tonight, which was last minute.
Andrew: How did this last minute gig happen?
Jeff: Well, Rob Sheriff who works for Hollywood Productions, he works with DC4 and one of the bands [Echoes Of Eternity] dropped out. So Live Nation called Rob and basically asked if we wanted to do the show, so here we are! We just found out yesterday. It was pretty interesting too, because I just happened to look at myspace on my phone. I don't look at myspace that much. So it worked out pretty good! (laughs)
Andrew: Can you describe the music on DC4's 'Explode' and how it's different from the Armored Saint records?
Jeff: It's not Armored Saint but it's still really hard music. Its hard to explain because we are a pretty aggressive band but we are not a thrash metal band. We are not anything like that. Armored Saint is power metal and we consider ourselves power rock. So it's a little more on the rock side but we find that the band is appealing to rock fans as well as metal fans, which is a good thing. We don't really think about it too much. The whole reason I started this band was because I had a lot of songs that I had written and wanted to play them. So me and my brothers put the band together and once we got Rowan [Robertson, guitar] in the band, it all seemed to click really well.
Andrew: The new Armored Saint album 'La Raza' was released just a few days back. How satisfying was it to record an album with the reformed line-up after such a long time?
Jeff: Yeah! It seems like Armored Saint does an album every ten years (laughs). But the thing with Armored Saint is it's never broken up, other than when it was broken up in the 90s when John Bush joined Anthrax. The band didn't exist then but when we got together in 2000 again to do the revelation record, after that the band was kind of together again but not in the traditional sense. We just knew that we would do some touring, some shows together and eventually we would record together again. But it just took ten years to happen! But its great and I love Armored Saint. I love being a member of the band, I love playing music with those guys and whenever it pops up I'm always thrilled to do it. It's a cool band to be a part of.
Andrew: Can you talk a little bit about your involvement with the Rock Band game?
Jeff: Yeah a company called Hit Play Creations hit us up for one of our songs that was off of the Explode album, 'Candy Caine', to be on this site that's coming up from where you can download songs. You know like when you buy Rock Band you can get the Aerosmith, Guns N Roses or Beatles or whatever, and for a long time it's been like you can only do it with real classic bands or real huge bands. What this website is going to do is, make it so that you can download songs from all kinds of bands, which I think is great. There must be a lot of people out there who would like to be able to play their Rock Band with DC4, who they'll be seeing tonight, and would like to play on the game some of our songs that they like. I think my brother Shawn got a hold of them and asked them about it and they were immediately all over it, offering us to be on it. I don't know when it's going to come out but it's in the works.
Andrew: This must be a good thing as it's a new outlet for bands these days, isn't it?
Jeff: Oh yeah! It all helps. Some people criticize the internet and all that sort of thing, but I've noticed that it's great. It has really helped DC4. In fact, Explode wasn't our first album. We had an album we put out in 2001 called 'Volume One'. We had a different guitar player that time. But it was really hard to promote that record. We don't even really acknowledge it so much now. That album was a lot different musically I think but that was a long time ago. It took us a long time to make another album. That guitar player wasn't in the band anymore and we were just waiting to find the right guitar player. But it was really hard to promote that album because the internet was not really active with music at that time. But by the time we did Explode, everything had changed and we got a lot of momentum for that album because of the internet.
Andrew: What else are you doing besides DC4 and Armored Saint? Do you have any other projects going on?
Jeff: Not really. I go and jam covers with some friends sometimes. Sometimes I get hired to play for somebody. But as far as projects go, I have my hands full right now. I get overwhelmed easily (laughs), so when we did the Armored Saint album, I went straight out of that intro pre-production for the new DC4 album. So there's really no time to do anything else, but you never know (laughs).
Andrew: You've been based out of LA. According to you, what have the positives and negatives of the LA hard rock scene been over the years?
Jeff: I was born in a hospital in downtown Los Angeles, so I'm about as LA as it gets. But it's changed. In the 80s there was quite a scene and it's positive in the sense that because of how that scene was back then, I was able to kind of establish myself and build my reputation as a musician. A lot of people from back then remembered me. It has helped me today. The positives of the city, there are a lot of them and I love living here. I'll never live anywhere else. But as far as the music scene goes, the negatives now are the whole making bands sell tickets, pay to play and all that. What happens is you end up getting six to eight bands on one night and it's really the bands that are willing to pay the money. So you don't necessarily get a good show because the venues don't care! They care about the money. I remember what it used to be like. I would go out on a night and see Motley Crue and Ratt. I remember seeing Saxon and Metallica at the Whisky-A-Go-Go and all kinds of great shows that were put together. Whether you like those bands or not, the fact is that they were all quality bands with songs that were good. They all got out of LA and went on to do good things. So the quality of the shows was better back then because it was really based on putting together a good show and having a good night, and it worked. Once that scene died and the whole Seattle thing happened. They had to do something because the scene died. What's happened is it's gotten out of control and greed has taken over. If you have to sell 100 tickets to do a gig and give the club a 1000 dollars to play for a half an hour, that's ridiculous. We won't do that. That's why we work with Rob Sheriff and he makes sure that we don't have to do it.
Andrew: Does it help you creatively to be able to write songs for two bands, as compared to other musicians that play in a single band?
Jeff: Yes and no. For Armored Saint's La Raza album, I didn't write anything. When the writing began for that, I was getting demos by John [Bush, vocals] and Joey [Vera, bass] who were writing. They were on a really good roll. I just loved everything they sent me. They were like, 'Yeah send us some ideas' and I thought they were on such a good thing creatively together, I just told them I like what you guys are doing. I'll send you some ideas may be, but keep doing what you're doing. This is killer! I opted not to interfere with what it was they had going. My opinion anyway is that the results speak for themselves. I think the songs are great and I played guitar on it of course. Its no big deal to me because I'm the primary writer on DC4. Also, when I joined Armored Saint, I was playing a bunch of songs I didn't write. Then I started offering songs. I was co-writer on 'Symbol Of Salvation', 'Last Train Home' and then on the Revelation album I wrote some stuff on there. So it's about the best material and not necessarily who writes it, and I understand that. But I'll always write songs. That's why I have my own band. I have to do something with this music, so why not let everybody else hear it and hopefully they like it!
Andrew: What are some of the gigs and tours that you have coming up?
Photo credit: Tyler Crooks
Jeff: Armored Saint is actually playing here [House Of Blues Hollywood] on the 28th of May. We're going to do that show and after that John is going off to do the Big Four tour with Anthrax. So he'll be doing that for the summer time. So Armored Saint won't be doing anything for the summer. But after that, I'm sure we'll be doing some stuff. I don't see why we won't be going to Europe. The album will be out for a while so a lot more people will be familiar with it by the time John's done. So it all works out. But I'm happy that John's doing that. That's about as big as it gets in metal. I'm really happy with him that he has the opportunity to go and do that. He's been around a long time. He's a great vocalist and a good friend of mine, so to see him go and do something that big is thrilling for me. That gives me time to do DC4 in the summer, so it's OK! I'll have a new album out with DC4 too. So everybody is still rocking out and doing the deal. So in the end that's all that really matters, everybody is playing loud and having a good time.
Check out the band's official myspace.