|'New Found Power' is more than just the title of Damageplan's debut album, it is also the band's motto—a seemingly prophetic declaration of four rockers each about to prove they could embark on to bigger and better things.
For guitarist Dimebag Darrell and his brother Vinnie Paul on drums, founders of the band Pantera, the world was curious to see what this new band was all about. Newcomer Bob Zilla on bass would have to prove he could run with the big boys. And vocalist Patrick Lachman was now wearing a different rock n' roll hat.
Lachman, formerly the lead guitarist for Rob Halford and Diesel Machine, had just traded in his guitar for the microphone.
"People are really amazed by this but if I draw the right comparison it'll all make sense," says Lachman in a candid conversation with Sass. "I always sang I just never was a lead singer. I was always singing in a writing capacity or singing with a guitar in my hands. We can take a prime example, which would be Jerry Cantrell. If Jerry sets his guitar on a stand and just got up and did a song, that wouldn't be too much of an amazing transition, would it? Or David Gilmour... But those people are primarily known as guitarists. So I guess that's the same thing, just no one had any major exposure to me as a vocalist."
"There was a slow transition period because this band essentially started in the studio in the writing process. So I had a good amount of time to adapt to it and it was pretty much a smooth transition. I also equate this to like professional sports, you know? Say if you wanted to play center instead of forward, for someone who's in the major leagues, it shouldn't be that drastic of a transition, right?"
When asked how the reactions to his role change have been, Lachman replied: "I think the main thing was probably skepticism that I've read, and then not surprisingly, people said, 'Oh—went, and saw them—did a great job.' It felt really natural for me when I got up there and did it. I think people will be more accepting as they start to forget about the past and concentrate on the present."
"Essentially, we're trying to establish a new brand name here."
After recently completing an official promo tour and tour of Japan, the Damageplan guys were riding the buzz of acceptance that Lachman was hoping for.
"The response was amazing. I think we covered about 24 days, like 45 to 50 stations in about 40 different markets. Did a bunch of in-stores and appearances, and [the response] has been overwhelmingly positive. We just got back from Japan and the response there was fantastic; couldn't have asked for more."
Currently, Damageplan is on the MTV Headbanger's Ball Tour with Drowning Pool, Hatebreed, and Unearth with dates scheduled through June.
"It's going to be great actually, we're big fans of Hatebreed, and Drowning Pool—same thing, they're good friends. And looking forward to seeing Unearth as well."
"We're going to streamline it just a little bit. We were doing like an hour and 40 minutes in Japan. Typically there are no opening acts in Japan; they want a full headlining set. It's a little different over there; you go on at seven o'clock and it's just you and that's it. So you've got to really put on a show and that's what we did. I think for the Headbanger's Ball tour, we'll probably be cutting out some of the slower to mid-pace stuff and just making it pedal to the metal, in your face."
"To round out the set [in Japan], I think there's a couple of musical interludes that we did. Dime did a little guitar solo just for fun. We actually took it beyond the required time, just because we wanted to. We figured we'd give people their money's worth. Tickets are expensive out there too, worse there than everywhere else, I think. We actually did include a couple of Pantera songs—we did 'A New Level' and 'Walk'."
However, Lachman's got some ambivalent feelings regarding performing Pantera's material.
"Initially I said sure, let's go out and do it, I can nail it no problem. Then after a while I realized that if we really want to establish Damageplan as it's own entity, we have enough material that we don't need to play Pantera tunes, but ultimately I left it up to them. I said, 'If you guys want to play it, we'll play it.'"
"It was cool for Japan because we needed a few extra minutes and it's always a crowd pleaser. But I can't honestly say that the reaction to that wasn't any stronger than the reaction to our material. People were there to see Damageplan so [the Pantera songs] were just an extra bonus for them. Like I said, I'm not opposed to it, if it happens, it happens."
As far as the Damageplan material goes, Lachman has a hard time choosing a favorite.
"Hard to say. Each one's got a different dynamic. I like them all."
"I guess "Fuck You" is a pretty good one," he chuckles, "The power behind it and the response that we get. I think that everyone can relate to it. I mean the song is intended so that anyone could relate to it, and I think that everyone's got that person they want to associate that hand gesture with. I figure that's going to be like the [Judas Priest's] "Breaking The Law" of the new millennium; everyone's going to know it... or at least know the chorus, right?"
As far as Damageplan's future, the 'plan' for this year at least is a lot more touring.
"We'll probably be out for quite sometime. Definitely through the end of the year I would imagine. Anything beyond that, I don't have my crystal ball out," he laughs, "We're definitely going to do as much live stuff as we can."
When asked about the future sophomore Damageplan album, Lachman seemed to welcome the new topic.
"Everybody right now's fixated on the origin of this band and I've told the story a million times. I know for a fact—I can't give you the time line—but we're going to hit this thing on the live aspect as much as we can. But as far as the next record, I'm just going to state that we're going to definitely top ourselves. I think it wasn't until well into the writing and recording process that we actually started to get that chemistry that bands really need to bring it to the next level. I'm very proud of everything that we did on this record but I think that it's only going to get better. We're all actually eager, we've got some things we're kicking around, sort of like seeds that needs to be watered and fertilized and they're going to grow into monsters."
"Any time we even get a fraction of an idea, it can grow into a whole track. Anytime something pops up we'll write it down or record it, you know, just little snippets of a drum groove or a guitar riff or just any lyrical or vocal ideas I have—always write the stuff down. We've got stock piles already but sometimes the more spontaneous stuff is more exciting."
"The majority of your time on the road is spent getting from point A to point B, or doing your job. So sometimes it's a little tough to have a jam session but it happens. I've sat down with Dime...Dime will have a riff and he'll just have a little guitar, and not even a practice amp, to strum on but then Vinnie will just tap on something and I'll be like, 'Ok, I've got an idea.' It could be that simple."
Lachman, who recorded three albums with Rob Halford, talked about the differences in working with him as opposed to his new band mates.
"Other than the obvious role changes, the atmosphere that we create in is a lot more open. I mean working with Rob—he's very open to ideas and we collaborated on riffs, lyrics, melodies, and different approaches on stuff together but once we got other people involved, managers and producers and stuff like that, I think the agenda tends to change a little bit...less musically and becomes more of a business interest and that sort of thing. I think that the art suffers for that reason. In this case [with Damageplan] essentially, the four of us in a room without managers, outside producers, labels, industry—anything like that, we just made the record that we wanted to make. They were extremely open to any of my ideas; they gave me free reign with the vocals. They'd say, 'Here's a track,' and wouldn't give me any hint as to what they were picturing, they just wanted something to come back that would blow them away, and I did the best I could. I think on the first five or six songs that I wrote, most of it went unchanged except for like one song, and that was a song I had a little bit of trouble with initially and was just trying to figure out what direction to go with it. It turned out that musically it was a bit disjointed and that's one of the songs that ended up getting a musical rewrite, which I ended up doing and I rewrote all the lyrics and melodies and everything to that and it became a completely different song."
So was that one of the songs that made it onto the album?
"First track," replies Lachman with pride.
"Peeling layers off sometimes and getting down to the core is what you really need. That's why this record is so good, there are no tracks on here that are seven and a half minutes long with a lot of bells and whistles and progressive instrumental soloing. It's really just straight, meat and potatoes, in your face, streamline songwriting. And I think the diversity is there; everything from heavy to melodic and even some mellow passages that creates a lot more interesting album. Anything you listen to, if you get 60 minutes of the same thing, it'll get boring. We like to have a little bit of a roller coaster there as far as the dynamics are concerned."
And Damageplan intends on giving audiences a pretty wild ride live throughout 2004.
As for Lachman's views on touring and performing, he comments: "There are some hardships the other 23 hours of the day, but it's all worth it once you get on stage."
Interview by Melanie "Sass" Falina