A Road To Damascus

author TL date 31/07/11

If you get your music news from Rockfreaks.net (as you should), then you probably know that Copenhagen five-piece A Road To Damascus are one of the more exciting young bands to have been tearing up stages around the country lately. After emerging with a three track EP and making a substitution at lead singer, the band has currently entered the studio to record their debut album. We caught up with the guys while they were just about finished with tracking guitar, and getting ready to move on to vocals. The guys were in good spirits due to being well ahead of their own schedule, so they had plenty of time to spare for an interview and a couple of photos. To see what came out of it, just continue reading below here:

RF.net: Alright guys, let's hit the record button and make things happen. Please start by introducing yourselves to the people who might not know you already.
Mads: My name is Mads, I play guitar and do a bit of screaming

Mikkel: I'm Mikkel, and I'm lead singer

Jakob: My name is Jakob and I play bass

RF.net: To begin with, can you tell us a bit about how your band got started?
Mads: Well, actually it's me and the other Jakob - the one who's not here and who also plays guitar - we've been playing together for seven years in various other bands. Those bands all dissolved, but we basically just refused to quit, so we started this band in - when was it?

Jakob: 2009

Mads: Yeah in the summer of 2009 we got enough members together - my little brother Matthias sang for us back then and, we had our drummer Anders as well, and this Jakob right here joined shortly after to play bass. Mikkel then joined as singer in 2011 after Matthias decided to leave.

Left-to-Right: Mads, Mikkel & Jakob

RF.net: Can you tell us about what influenced you and made you want to start this band?
Mads: Well it goes way back with Jakob and I getting into Blink 182 and deciding that we wanted to do what they were doing, and when you get started with music it's apparently hard to quit again, so we've just developed our stuff slowly over the years and the different bands.

RF.net: So what do you think separates A Road To Damascus from the previous bands you've played in?

Mads: Well it's just gotten more serious you know? We've continued to try harder each time, and we're working harder now than ever, and of course we try to use what we've learned about what works and what doesn't and what we want to accomplish.

RF.net: You released your "So Damn Close EP" back in early 2010 and now you here in the studio working on your first LP. What has made you decide that it's time for a full album just now, and not just another EP?
Jakob: We basically felt that we'd squeezed everything we could out of our EP, and that made us feel like we needed to go in and record something new. So we thought about what could take our band the furthest and that's definetely an LP. We feel like making EP's means you're on your way, but making LP's means you've somehow 'arrived'. It was basically our wish to try to take things to the next level and become more serious.

RF.net: The recording of this album has already made use of two different studios I understand - Can you explain a little about your choices regarding the recording, the studios and whom you're collaborating with?
Jakob: We've gotten a guy named Kristian Thomsen to produce and he's really good. We started in Black Tornado studios on Refshaleøen, where we spent three days recording drums. We were fortunate, because Anders finished so quickly that we spent almost all of the last day recording some more fun stuff like piano, harmonium and gang vocals. We decided to use that studio for drums, because its drum room is much bigger than the one in this studio, and a room with a higher ceiling simply gives you a better sound when you're recording drums. This then is our producer Kristian's own studio, and here we're recording bass, vocals and all the guitar here and also a lot of small extra things. Everything will also be mixed and mastered here by Kristian.

RF.net: Ah, so basically you just made a short trip out there to get the right drum sound?

Jakob: Yeah exactly, and since we'd already booked the days, we decided to use the time constructively and record everything we possibly could while we were out there.

RF.net: So I get the feeling that you guys have really gone all out, booking multiple studios and a lot of time in the as well, wanting to make this album. Have you guys all emptied your savings to do this or?

Mads: Yeah we're giving it everything, going all in. Those of us who had the money have spent them on this, and those that didn't have made loans to chip in, because this is pretty much it.

RF.net: Okay, so you guys already mentioned recording harmonium - What can people expect from the new record? What's going to be new compared to the EP?
Mads: Well actually the starting point has been the same. We've written them all for traditional rock instrumentation, drums, bass, guitar..

Jakob: Vocals..

Mads: Yeah and vocals. The songs are made to be able to function when played like that. But after writing them, we've definitely been open to trying to amplify the expression that we want to bring across with our songwriting. So these strange additions are only meant to sort of spice up what's already there.

Jakob: And here Kristian has been very good at communicating what he thinks is possible and what he thinks will work well. Of course we want to stay loyal to what we think is the sound of the band, but we don't hesitate to try to make the record sound as good as possible.

Mads: It's very much still an A Road To Damascus record.

Jakob struggling to finish his guitar part under the watchful eyes of his friends

RF.net: So do you already know how many songs are going to be on the record, and when it's going to come out?
Jakob: Yeah, we're recording nine songs for the album, and to begin with, we're releasing it ourselves via itunes and TDC Play and then we're basically just going to wait and see who's interested. We've planned some different stuff, but we're trying to also keep our calendars open, so we have a chance to jump on any opportunities that might follow the release.

RF.net: What about artwork? Have you got that down yet?

Jakob: We're on it. We've found an American artist who's agreed to send us something to look at later this week, but nothing is set in stone yet, so we don't have anything to reveal just yet.

RF.net: After the release, I know you guys are going on a second Rock'N'Charity tour. Can you tell us how you got involved with the first one, and why you decided to do a tour like that, instead of just an ordinary tour?
Jakob: Well, basically it started when we met Silence Of September last year, and they had a lot of good ideas to share with us. One of them was to make this charity tour, and as a new band, it's pretty hard to get out there and find places to play, so we saw it as an opportunity to both do something for a good cause, and also get to play in places that would normally be harder for us to reach at that stage of our band. It was a success as well, as we collected around 13.000 DKK which we donated to a Danish foundation for Children with cancer. We thought that was pretty good considering that what started as just two bands with a good idea, also turned into a six stop tour which also had a great amount of cool bands guest on the various stops. And now this year we've been fortunate to get an even bigger band on board in The Dreams, so we're hoping it's going to go really well again this year.

RF.net: So you think it went even better than expected?

Jakob: Definitely. It was really hard work, but it was definitely worth it.

RF.net: So have you been able to feel the impact of it, for instance on your facebook or anything like that?

Mads: Haha, I don't know about that..

Jakob: I think so. We've been told that our name had been mentioned in places where it otherwise wouldn't have. For instance one day we were driving home from the show in Randers, and we'd been driving through the night to save money on accomodation. The other Jakob was driving, and I my job was to keep him awake while everyone else was sleeping. We were listening to P3 (Ed: biggest radio station in Denmark) on the radio, and there was a show on that invited listeners to write in and tell about what they were doing. So we wrote them how we were on our way back from the charity tour, and then it was mentioned on the radio, and basically hearing that was enough to make us yell and scream and wake up the entire bus.

Mads: Yeah, that's the closest we've come to getting on the radio so far though.

Jakob: Haha, true, but honestly Rock'N'Charity definitely has helped to get our name out there...

RF.net: Speaking of radio, do you guys have an ambition to get on the radio?
Jakob: Yeah, that'd be cool..

Mads: It'd be cool but we recognize that Denmark and P3 probably aren't in the centre of our target audience. We make the kind of music we like, that's the point of departure, and then we'll just have to see who embraces it. Obviously there isn't a lot of music like ours in Denmark, and definitely not on the radio, but if people like us and want to put us on the radio then that's just awesome.

Jakob: We've had a little bit of interest from some smaller American radio stations, and we're definitely sending some stuff over to them to see what happens.

RF.net: So what do you think about the Danish music scene then? What's good and what's bad about being in a band here?
Mads: Haha, you answer that Jakob, you're on a roll!

Jakob: Heh.. Well there are great advantages and great disadvantages to being a Danish band. An advantage is that it's a small country and you don't have to drive far to get to different venues to play, the problem just is that not a lot of people show up. It's really really hard for an underground band to draw a good crowd in Denmark. We play a type of music that does not have a very large scene here, and it's been difficult to get out there and try to find an audience that understands where we're coming from musically. There are generally a lot of cool initiatives for underground bands to participate in, but you have to really invest a lot of energy in those yourself, and it's important to keep asking yourself if what you do is worth it. We've tried many of these things, and we've gotten a lot out of it, but you also have to recognize when it's time to take the next step. So basically it's cool that there are a lot of initiatives supporting small bands, but it's still very hard to get very far here.

Mads: Mostly it's people who play in bands themselves that go to concerts here. It's not very common for people other than that to just come and hang out at shows.

RF.net: So do you have as an ambition for the new record that it must open the ears of the more general population, or are you more interest in maybe using it to gain attention outside of Denmark?

Mads: Yeah, we definitely believe that if we want to progress, then we have to look outside of Denmark. It's a completely different world south of here in Germany, and also in England and the USA, so I think we're more interested in pushing our record on those places, because there's already a market for our kind of stuff there. We're hoping that we can do well enough for people there to also think that our take on the genre is interesting.

Jakob: We've been fortunate to also get a lot of online attention from other countries, so it does look a bit like our music also appeals to people beyond Denmark's borders.

Jakob showing his skills on the Xbox

RF.net: I know the next thing you've planned after recording is the next Rock'N'Charity tour, but do you also have further plans after that?
Jakob: We're actually currently talking to a band from Malmö called Tag Your Targets, trying to sort out a small tour with them in Sweden and Denmark. We're also having a release party for this record on October 8th at Beta in Copenhagen. Beyond that we don't have any further plans though, firstly because we've been so busy with this album, but also because we want to have open space in our schedule until we've seen what kind of reception the album gets. We have no label and we do everything ourselves, so all the small things that need doing around the release, we have to do them ourselves, so we want to have the time available to really take care of the release. I believe things will get pretty busy for us when we reach 2012 though.

RF.net: Following the local scene, we've seen a lot of bands get out a couple of EP's or maybe a first album, and then stalling a bit when those fail to generate the desired response. Have you guys thought about what you're going to do if the record doesn't become as much of a success as you want it to?
Mikkel: I think everyone in the band agrees pretty much that this is hard work. It might take a year to get successful, it might take two, regardless, we mean to fight on for however long it takes. Then if ten years pass and we're still not getting anywhere.. Or, haha, that's worst case scenario maybe.. But if we feel like we're not moving forward for a long time, then I guess we'll have to try to evaluate what we've done right and what we've done wrong and just take it from there. For now though, we're all aware that this is like..

Jakob: It's a long time project

Mikkel: Yeah exactly

Mads: It's not like we're just going to roll over if people don't like this record. We're going to soldier on in that case, it will just mean we have to get better.

Mikkel in the vocal booth

RF.net: You haven't said a lot so far Mikkel, but I'd actually like to ask you something. You joined the band recently, because former singer Matthias left. Can you tell us a little about how you got into contact with the band and why you decided to join them?
Mikkel: It's actually pretty simple. I had been studying classical singing at MGK for a while, but I dropped out because it didn't really feel like my thing. Then I had a period where I didn't really pursue music, but eventually I felt like doing so again, so I went to this site called Soundvenue and wrote an application hoping to find a band. I was then contacted by our drummer Anders, who asked what kind of stuff I liked and so on, and things just developed from there. I soon joined the guys in their rehearsal room, and I've basically stuck with them since then.

RF.net: The next question one we put to a lot of bands, and while it could be that it's a little early for you guys to start answering it, I'd like to ask you a question about the economics about being a band in this world of downloading. If we imagine that you do get a lot of success following this record, have you guys had any thoughts as to how you hope to get by economically, with music piracy being what it is these days?
Jakob: Well so far we've really just enjoyed the good experiences. Obviously, being in a band is not the most profitable thing to do, and we don't do this for money, but getting money does allow you to do more things, like going on tour further away from home for instance. About downloads it has pros and cons. It's an advantage that more people will listen to our stuff yet the downside is that we don't earn any money off it. It might make people come to a show and/or buy a tshirt however, and that way the money might come in anyway. Our attitude is that we're not expecting to get any help financially, and all we really want to do is to get out and play and that money will come in that way.

Mads: Yeah we're not bitter with the way things are, we'd rather try to embrace it and find ways to work with or around it.

Mikkel: But that's not to say that we encourage you all to download the record! Haha!

Jakob: Haha, yeah, but seriously, if people like our band I think they should buy the record, because the money does go to us and not to some shady label or anything. We release it and we take home a very large percentage of the record's price ourselves. We're a very organised band, and we are very serious about maintaining the rights to our own stuff, so we prefer things to be this way.

Guitarists Jakob and Mads

RF.net: Okay, well the last thing is also a fairly generic question - It's recommendation time, so imagining that people out there want to stop listening to A Road To Damascus for just a little while, each of you are welcome to give a suggestion as to what you think they should listen to instead:
Mads: Then I think people should listen to our good friends in UpUpDown. Those guys work really hard and they do really well I think.

Mikkel: Hmm.. I don't know.. It's no secret that my all time favourite band is Queen, so I guess I'll say them.

Jakob: I'm really down with Circa Survive's "Blue Sky Noise" these days.

RF.net: Right, only thing left is to give you guys the last word, in case you want to shout out something to the readers:
Jakob: We just want to say thanks a lot to everyone who's heard our music. Everyone who hates us. Everyone who loves us. Buy our shit! Haha! We love you!

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