Today’s Feature – September 14-15: Damage

September 16, 2008 at 8:32 pm (Today's Feature)

The stage is set for Damage, the next in a line of rock, metal and alternative kings hailing from Orange County, California – a who’s who line of bands like No Doubt, Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, The Offspring and Social Distortion. The 5-piece act has been following a similar path carved out by these ultra-successful groups, taking home the Best Hard Rock Band Award from the 2006 Southern California Music Awards and finding themselves compared to the legendary Alice in Chains by Music Connection Magazine.

And these guys (and girl) have been doing it the right way from the start, figuring out their metal formula while building a fan base from the ground up through intense songwriting and heavy guitar riffs. Starting out with just three members, Damage has now expanded out to five, allowing for even more instrumentation and swinging vocals. The follow-up to their debut, “Velocity” is titled “Truth and Consequence,” a record with “More introspection about our individual places in the world and our collective responsibility to face certain truths and challenge ourselves.” There’s no denying the fact that Damage has upped their game for this collection – apart from the in your face guitar sound smashing, you’ll notice they mix up their rock style with music from the cello, viola, piano, even trumpets; like the orchestra swung through the studio.

“Truth and Consequence” brings it on so many levels, but they’re happy as long you notice the “big abusive guitars” – a personal passion of theirs. Part of the reason Damage has grown as much as they have is their live show, something they pride themselves on; an act that will have you talking about them for weeks after the performance. Get out to one, and pick up the new record. There’s a lot more to learn in the XXQ’s, so get to it.

XQs: Damage

PensEyeView.com (PEV): Tell how Damage first came together. Was it an instant connection the first day you practiced together?

Michael: About 4 years ago, I was asked by friends to sub-in for the lead guitarist of a San Diego-based band at a local gig. The other band members and I hit it off real well and we decided to embark on a new project that would soon become Damage. We started writing together and gigged all over SoCal (southern California). I was then introduced to producer Ronnie King backstage at an Offspring concert and he ended up producing our first album “Velocity”. After about a year or two we replaced some members who didn’t have the time to continue touring and driving the project forward. I’m really blessed to get to play music with my current bandmates as they are really great musicians as well as great people.

PEV: Hailing from “The O.C.” (Orange County ? California), what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

Michael: Bands like Social Distortion, Offspring, and No Doubt were and still are great influences on us and other bands in the area. Some of my other all-time favorite bands are STP, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains, G&R, Led Zeppelin, and Chili Peppers. I’m also a huge fan of guitar virtuosos like Steve Vai and EVH.

PEV: Do people often ask you about the shows like “The O.C.”, or “Housewives” when you say you are from the OC? People from out of the area do all the time. What’s one big misconception about your area?

Michael: The biggest misconception is obviously that we all live a very superficial life like they do on those shows. There is also a very real, earthy, and chill version of Orange County that many people from out of the area don’t realize. Hanging out on Huntington Beach with friends and a cooler of cold beer is about as OC as it gets.

PEV: What was it like for Damage when you were first breaking into the music business? Before you were getting press, and regular gigs?

Michael: Probably like it is for most bands, it started in a small lockout rehearsal space finding our sound and songwriting, playing any shows we could find around town. My buddy Christopher Scott produced a 4-song demo for us in his home studio and we used that to get gigs. You know, just staying after it and being focused on songwriting and doing a lot of grassroots marketing to build a fan base.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Damage show?

Michael: We really strive to sound as good as, or even better than, our studio recordings. That is always a goal of ours. Sometimes things are beyond our control with that, like the room or the sound system at the club, but we do our best. We want our fans to experience quality when they see us live. That is really important to us.

PEV: How have your shows evolved from when you first started out?

There has to be tons, I’m sure? We used to be a 3-piece, we’re now 5. We’ve added a lot more instrumentation and vocals with our 2 additional members. Fans love Erin, our very hot and energetic backup singer who also breaks out her cello on stage on some songs. She adds a very cool element to our loud guitars.

PEV: Any embarrassing or crazy live show stories? There has to be tons, I’m sure?

Michael: Erin kicking out my guitar cable on several occasions. She gets a little out of control on stage sometimes. Nothing more embarrassing than having no sound in the middle of a guitar solo. Another time we played a big show in OC with several other bands. The production guys at the venue forgot to take our huge banner down after our set and the next band played their whole set with a 20 foot wide Damage banner prominently lit up and hanging behind them. The other band was cool about it but I felt bad that they didn’t get their banner up. There are some crazy backstage stories but we’ll leave it at that.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist out today, who would it be and why?

Michael: Wow. That’s a tough question. For me it would be Jimmy Page. I would love to write and record a song with him. He’s a hero of mine, and the most innovative guitarist ever in my opinion. I was really jealous when the Foo Fighters got to play with Zeppelin recently. Dave Grohl said it was the greatest moment of his life. I totally believe he was genuine about that. That lucky fucker.

PEV: As well, is there an up and coming artist right now that you think we should all be looking out for?

Michael: Yes, an incredible singer-songwriter named Marianna Ladas. I’m a bit biased as I’m producing her debut album right now. She’s a really compelling artist. Stay tuned.

PEV: Tell us, what can fans expect from your latest release, “Truth And Consequence”?

Michael: More introspection about our individual places in the world and our collective responsibility to face certain truths and challenge ourselves. Self-responsibility is a virtue that so often is misplaced onto others and is something that seems particularly relevant to us today. We also used a variety of instruments on this album to stretch ourselves musically. In addition to our normal guitars, bass and drums, you’ll hear cello, viola, piano, trumpets, and other instruments. We wanted certain elements in the music that we felt we needed to help embody the messages we were trying to convey.

PEV: How is “Truth And Consequence” different from other music out today?

Michael: We don’t necessarily write with an eye towards being different, but we do have such a variety to our musical backgrounds that often these different concepts when combined form a unique sound. For example, you’ll hear what we believe to be pretty interesting bridges in most of these songs, things you might not expect. The bridges on “God” and “You seeing me” sound like something you might expect to hear on a heavy metal version of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s album. Overall we tried to deliver compositions that were rich and musical, relevant, yet still with big abusive guitars — a personal passion of mine.

PEV: When you sit down to write an album like “Truth And Consequence” what kind of environment do you surround yourselves in?

Michael: I like to write in my backyard on my $50 Mexican acoustic guitar with my dogs sitting around me. I probably wrote 6 or 7 seven of the songs on T&C that way. Really though, I don’t often “sit down to write”. I usually have some kind of guitar in my hands, if I’m hanging out or watching TV or even sitting in front of my computer. I’m more riff-oriented. My fingers will start doing something on their own and they’ll catch my attention. Then I take over from them on something that resonates for me musically and develop it. Then I bring it into the band to further develop it. I usually write music first and then lyrics. I like to sit with what I’ve just composed musically for a while and decipher what the music means and what it is saying to me. Then I write the lyrics. It’s a bit backwards but it’s what I do. This way, I feel like the song is a natural birth as the music is always telling me something. It would be hard for me to write a story and then put music to it.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Damage?

Michael: Tony is a cancer survivor. GW went to the famous Berklee School of Music in Boston. Spencer has appeared in over 25 movies and TV shows in various musician cameo roles over the past few years. Erin is an amazing artist (painter). I enjoy cooking.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to all your success?

Michael: Extremely supportive since the beginning. It’s really been a fun ride for everyone.

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio right now, what’s one thing we’d most likely find?

Michael: Cans of barbecue sauce. We rent a warehouse behind my buddy’s office which is home to his barbecue restaurant business. There is a big fridge with pork butt in there as well. We’ve pretty much taken it over now and it’s really a state of the art rehearsal studio. But there’s still some sauce lying around.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Good parts? Bad parts?

Michael: Good for the most part. Playing music on the road and meeting new people and seeing new places is awesome. But you definitely miss your family and friends when they’re not with you. The worst part of all time was when we hit a deer outside of Boulder, Colorado. I should say he really hit us, ran right at us from across the freeway, hit our back fender and went flying 30 feet into the air. It seemed like he was committing suicide. It was really sad.

PEV: In your opinion, is there a certain city (US or International) that you find to be the best city for music?

Michael: Austin, Texas is amazing. A lot of the Southern cities really come out hard for good rock. But places like Minneapolis and Denver are also surprisingly strong. There are so many great rock festivals in Europe that dwarf a lot of the festivals here in the U..S. We forget I think sometimes that there are great rock bands overseas, amazing bands, and great music scenes in places you would never think.

PEV: As well, where’s one place you haven’t played, you would like to? Why?

Michael: Japan. It would be a crazy experience all the way around I think.

PEV: Where will Damage be ten years from now?

Michael: Hopefully writing, recording, and performing as a group. It would be fantastic to be sustainable and relevant as a rock band for many years. So few have accomplished that. Why are U2 and Bruce Springsteen still winning Grammys to this day as best artist, best album, etc.? I hope there are some bands in our generation that can approach these levels of accomplishment over time. I just wanna be making music, that’s all. Individually, I think we’ll all be active in music, writing and producing in some fashion.

PEV: So, what’s next for Damage?

Michael: More touring to support “Truth and Consequence”. We’ll also go back into the studio very soon to record new tracks. Basically, keep pushing.

For more information on Damage, check out: www.MySpace.com/Damage

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