Photo by Clay McBride
Trohman Births The Damned Things
Written by Chrissy Mauck
For fans of world-renowned emo rockers Fall Out Boy, the involvement of drummer Andy Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman in the Damned Things — a new heavy rock supergroup also featuring metalcore vocalist Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die and Anthrax axe royalty Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano — might seem like trying to mix oil and water.
But for Trohman, a longtime Anthrax fan with deep-seated classic rock and metal inclinations, the Damned Things feels like a long-awaited realization of his true self.
“I loved doing Fall Out Boy, but it became less representative of me over time and more representative of other personalities, which is fine; it is just what happened,” says Trohman during a recent phone interview with Fender News. “I still love Fall Out Boy and it’s much a part of me, but it’s definitely awesome to just go out there and play guitar how I naturally play; play what I’ve been itching to do for a long time. So it’s nice to go out there and play some really riff-y stuff and maybe rip a couple of leads and solos here and there, and to do some things guitar-wise that would be inappropriate with Fall Out Boy.”
Trohman attributes his love of classic rock and blues-oriented guitar riffs to his Led Zeppelin/Jimmy Page-obsessed father, but, strangely, it was computer camp that doubled as a crash course in thrash metal. When the 10-year-old Trohman wasn’t overly occupied trying to best computer adventure games such as King’s Quest, he’d seek out his camp counselor to discuss his two favorite cassette tapes.
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Photo by Lykke Nielsen
“I was super into Metallica’s Ride the Lightning and Anthrax’s Among the Living, and I saw that this counselor was wearing a Master of Puppets shirt, so I asked him, ‘Hey, do you know this band Anthrax?’” says Trohman. “And he’s like, ‘Yeah, little dude, of course.’ I don’t even remember his name, but he turned me on to all of the thrash metal I listen to now because he started telling me about all of these other records I needed to check out. So I’d leave computer camp every day and have my parents drive me to the nearest record store to buy more Anthrax, Metallica and Megadeth tapes.”
Years later, when a friend asked him if he’d like to meet Scott Ian, Trohman assumed it was merely a rhetorical question.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, there are a million things I want to do; ask me more,’” shares Trohman.
But upon learning that it was a bona fide invitation, Trohman actually hesitated before responding.
“I’ve always been the kind of person to stick in my comfort zone, but there was also a little voice in my head that said ‘Push yourself,’” recalls Trohman. “So I said, ‘Sure, let’s go have dinner with Scott Ian.’ But I’m thinking to myself, ‘He might totally dislike me and a little bit of my dreams will be shattered, but it’s fine. No big deal. I’m an adult now; I can handle it.’”
Sometimes those little voices pay huge dividends, as the dinner at swank Los Angeles Italian eatery Osteria Mozza eventually led to an acoustic jam session with Ian.
“There were a lot of drinks involved,” says Trohman. “By the end of the night we were in this really heavy discussion about our mutual love for heavy rock and particularly Thin Lizzy. I think we got together a few more times for dinner and at some point I finally got up the nerve to mention that I had some stuff I had been writing for a long time. He said he’d like to hear it and jam some of it and so we just did it. That’s one of the great things about Scott; he really leaves himself open to jam with a lot of people because he never knows what is going to come out of it and I learned a lot from that because, obviously, the Damned Things is what came out of it.”
Despite logging more than three years of jam sessions with Ian, Trohman is still blown away that he now finds himself in a band with one of his idols.
“It’s insane to be playing with one of my childhood heroes,” he says. “I never thought I would even be able to play with Scotty, who is so awe-inspiring to me, let alone be in a real band with him. It’s so cool, but everything happened very organically. What started out as jam sessions turned into a side project and eventually became a real band.”
Once Trohman and Ian actually decided to record together, the Fall Out Boy guitarist immediately enlisted his Fall Out Boy band mate Hurley. The trio soon scheduled a few jam sessions in Chicago, which eventually gave birth to the melodic hardcore tune “Ironiclast”; one of two rough mixes that first appeared on the band’s MySpace page in late May.
“That song was definitely an example of something I had been working on for a while by myself, but by working together over time on it, it really became something better and something we became attached to,” says Trohman.
Ian and Trohman also really dug Every Time I Die, and while listening to the band’s music one day on the way to rehearsal, the Anthrax shredder was hit with inspiration.
“Scott suddenly says, ‘Man, Keith’s voice would work really well over this style we’ve been creating,’” recalls Trohman. “So I hit Keith up with a text and he said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ Little did I know at the time that Keith is a guy who gets bombarded left and right to do projects, so while I think he was leaving himself open, I don’t think he was really expecting anything. Little did he know, however, how persistent I would be.”
Trohman eventually landed Buckley’s vocal services for a demo session in California.
“We recorded ‘Grave Robber,’ ‘Ironiclast’ and an earlier incarnation of ‘We’ve Got a Situation Here,’ and the moment we heard Keith’s vocals on them, we were like, ‘OK, this is definitely going to be a band.’”
Eventually, the Damned Things grew from a quartet to a quintet with a three-pronged guitar attack when, after a Fall Out Boy show in New York, Trohman hooked up with Ian and his Anthrax bandmate Rob Caggiano at a local bar.
“We were all pretty drunk, and Scott comes up to me and asks ‘Should we have Rob join the band? I think he’d be a great asset,’” recalls Trohman. “So I was like, ‘Sure.’ The next day I wake up and am like, ‘Did we really just ask someone else to be in the band?’ He’s an incredible guitar player and killer dude, but I wasn’t really sure how we would mesh. So we got together and worked on some stuff and ended up finishing three songs that were in the halfway stage, and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this dude and I work way too well together for this not to happen.’ So it was a drunken idea that turned out to be a very good one.”
The Damned Things demonstrated just how well they’ve gelled during their live debut at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory on June 1. As Spin magazine noted, “The Damned Things may be a new band, but they played liked old friends.”
|Photo by Lykke Nielsen|
Even Trohman was surprised by the show’s smoothness.
“Even though everybody in the band is an incredible player, I still didn’t expect it to go as well as it did,” says Trohman, who suffered from a severe case of nerves that night.
Although at every turn during the hour-long chat with Fender News, Trohman goes out of his way to mention the contributions of all of his band mates, it’s still evident that he is truly the driving force behind the Damned Things. And, although he’d like to say otherwise, media and public perception of their first showing deeply mattered.
“It feels a bit like my baby, and it is so crazy to finally be putting it on the front lines after three years being under wraps and on the back burner,” he says. “It felt amazing, but at the same time really nerve wracking and really scary. It’s the kind of nerves I hadn’t had in a long time, but everything went so amazingly and by the end of the night I was on cloud nine. I’m really happy that everyone seems to dig it. It means a lot to me because this has been my baby for a long time, and I’m really excited to make it my main thing now.”
The Damned Things, accompanied by Every Time I Die bassist Josh Newton, followed up the Brooklyn show with a two-week European run that included club shows and festival appearances including Download in the U.K.
“All the festivals were great because we had really big crowds to play in front of,” says Trohman. “What I love about our music is that there’s so much groove, killer riffs, cool changes and turnarounds that it really kept people bobbing their heads and grooving along with the music even though they’d never heard it before. So to have people come out who want to see what’s going on and have them leave satisfied off of 45 minutes of music they’ve never heard before is totally difficult and totally awesome, and I love the feeling of going out there and trying to win people over.”
The Damned Things plan to tour heavily once they release their debut album, which, because of engagements with their other respective bands, means postponing its release until October 2010 or even January 2011.
“I know that seems like vastly different times, but we want to make sure we can get out on the road as soon as it’s released,” shares Trohman. “Either way, by then, we’ll have some more stuff for people to hear. I’d definitely like to preview some more of the record.”
To keep up with the Damned Things, visit their website here.