December 13, 2019 Interview – Dave Brenner of Theory of a Deadman
At the dawn of 2000s, a list of young, new Rock bands looked to make their mark on the new millennium. Bands like Three Doors Down, Nickelback, and Godsmack all made an impact, but the crop of talent did not stop there, because Theory of a Deadman also joined in on the party. Out of Canada, Theory of a Deadman, or simply Theory, would quickly become a household name in the Rock-n-Roll world and in the near 2 decades since their formation they have attained eight top 10 hits on the US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, touring the world over, but more over, have not resistant the winds of change.
Always up for a challenge and becoming even better musicians, there have been various changes in their sound through the years, including the most evident in 2017 with their album Wake Up Call. An bold move for the band, anchored by the lyrically heavy “Rx (Medicate),” they now look to up the dosage with their boldest effort to date, the forthcoming Say Nothing. Set for release on January 31st, Say Nothing is the natural next step for a band looking to showcase their mature songwriting skills. Anxious for the world to hear it, Guitarist Dave Brenner sat down to chat about the journey Theory, their bold single “History of Violence,” progression, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – Theory of a Deadman have been going strong for nearly 20 years, and the band has released six studio albums with the seventh due out in early 2020. Touring the world and having a lot of success, how would you describe the journey?
Dave Brenner – It’s exactly that, it’s a journey. It’s funny, I remember talking back in 2000 and 2001: we were signing our record deal, getting our management; it was so important to us to make decisions that were career based, and not just based on what was best at the time. We wanted to have a career and we used that word so often.
It’s weird, because we saw so many amazing bands come and go – they would release one record and they never released another record. Looking back, it’s kind of a blur; crazy unreality. So many crazy things happened over the last 20 years. It was all made possible by putting the emphasis on the music and hoping people dig the music. It’s been a strange journey, but it’s fun to look back now.
Cryptic Rock – You have accomplished a lot over that time. You mentioned how a lot of bands have come and gone, a very true statement. That said, what do you think has been the key to the band’s longevity?
Dave Brenner – I think different things work for different bands. For us, the mentality early on was ‘make it about the song, don’t make it about anything else; make it about the music.’ I truly believe people can’t deny a good product, they love a good song. Tyler Connolly is a great songwriter and he has such a great ability to connect lyrically with songs. I think our recipe is to make sure we are writing good music.
Cryptic Rock – That is the key, and then everything else falls into place. Obviously, the band has also progressed in style album to album. Tell us about the development of the songs of Theory of a Deadman throughout the years.
Dave Brenner – I think it’s all kind of a natural thing playing in a band. You have your influences: I used to listen to a lot of heavy stuff like Corrosion of Conformity, Down, Alice in Chains. I still love that stuff, but then you start touring, meeting other bands, and you start influencing each other a little. I think for us we’ve been able to push each other to create great music. You see that other bands that have been around the same amount of time and they’re pushing themselves musically.
I think it’s important for bands to progress. It’s funny because some fans want the same thing. I’m a fan of music. For example, I am a fan of Stone Temple Pilots. I love the Core (1992), Purple (1994) age, but as I’ve grown I’ve started to realize how important it was for them to grow as a band and how great those records are that they made later.
The way it works for us, I feel like our old fans that really love our heavy music still love our new music. I don’t think you can ever replace that, it becomes stamped as part of your history; it reminds you of a time in your past. I think for us musically we challenge ourselves, but also, try to be current. We don’t want to just keep ourselves sounding the way we sounded in 2002 or 2005 – not trying to recreate songs like “Bad Girlfriend.”
What works for us is keeping our eyes forward and trying to create new music. I think our last record, Wake Up Call (2017), was really satisfying for us because we took a chance and we had really our biggest song ever with “Rx (Medicate).” It was exciting, because we could say people don’t mind that we want to progress and move forward as a band.
Cryptic Rock – Right, progression is important. If you kept doing the same thing over and over again, it would get very boring. You want to keep trying new things.
Dave Brenner – It’s funny, some fans want that. When I was younger, I wanted STP to release Core again and again. Even if they had tried, it wouldn’t have done it. It would never beat what the original record was to me, because it meant so much to me at that period in my life. It’s really important bands don’t try to recreate something, because it won’t appease those fans that want that anyway.
Cryptic Rock – Very true. You mentioned “Rx (Medicate),” a very topical track that stepped away from relationship-based lyrics. Now you are back with the new single “History of Violence,” which is a very striking song about society today. The first single from the forthcoming Say Nothing, what inspired this song?
Dave Brenner – I talked to Tyler a lot when we were in the studio writing songs for this record. We talked a lot about what was going on in the world and current events. He started singing the song here and there, and I remember “History of Violence” came to me. It wasn’t really about one person in particular.
I think the correlation with “Rx (Medicate)” is that we were almost this fun Rock band and we took a chance to touch upon a heavier subject. It was so well received, it was almost a green light to keep talking about important things. It was so gratifying to have all these people come up and tell us personal stories and how “Rx (Medicate)” connected with them.
We are already getting that with “History of Violence” because we are touching on domestic violence. What it’s doing is it’s making people talk and they are saying, “Thank you guys for talking about something that’s really hard for us to talk about.” It’s a really gratifying thing we never felt before “Rx (Medicate).” It’s really cool to start seeing people come up and say this is really affecting their life.
I think Say Nothing, as a whole, touches upon a lot more subjects I really hope people dive into. I don’t write any of the lyrics, Tyler writes them all, but I’m really proud that he was courageous enough to go after some heavy stuff. I think that’s a big part of why this new record could be our best record ever.
Cryptic Rock – That is very exciting to hear. As previously mentioned, Say Nothing comes out in early 2020. Tapping into more serious topics, is it freeing to know you can touch on these type of things in your music?
Dave Brenner – Yeah. The great thing is you can still come see our show and have a lot of fun. We’re still the same people we’ve always been; we have a good sense of humor, it’s a big part of who we are. I also think it’s good to know we can be taken seriously – we don’t want to be just a party band. It’s awesome to hear it’s being received well and people are happy we are touching on different subjects.
Cryptic Rock – It will be great to hear Say Nothing once it comes out on January 31st. Theory of a Deadman are one of those bands where physical format music still exists and it has sold. What has it been like being around through the change in how we consume music?
Dave Brenner – Some people don’t want to accept change, but we are one of those bands that are very open to it. I don’t know if we expect any future records after Say Nothing will actually be released on compact disc. It’s crazy, but I don’t think that’s going out on a ledge. What’s funny is formats like vinyl are coming back, because it actually sounds better.
Young people who are coming out ingesting music are doing it through streaming. If you want to pretend like that’s not going to happen, you are just living in a closet. The world is moving forward and you have to move forward with it. It used to be you had to buy a cassette tape, then a CD, then MP3, now it’s streaming. You get on-board or get left behind. I really think part of our success is we are not trying to fight any of that. We still think of ourselves as a radio band and need to be played on radio, but people are ingesting music a lot of different ways.
Cryptic Rock – That is true, and you have to adjust with the times. The band has a few more shows before the end of 2019, and there will be a lot come early 2020 along with shows in April in the USA with Shinedown, among others. A band that has really lived on the road, what has it been like doing as much touring as you have? Also, how do you stay healthy on the road?
Dave Brenner – We’re a touring band, and I feel like we’ve had success and kept success through touring. Our die-hard fans who come up to us at meet-and-greets tell us they have seen us ten times.
It’s tricky now as we get older to stay healthy on tour. A couple of us also have kids, so things change in that dynamic. The fact of the matter is I have two kids, and when I go home I love being home, but I still have that blood that runs through my veins that requires me to be playing music and being with my bandmates; I think we all have that.
You can feel unhealthy on tour, because the road can beat you up, but you can go home and feel unhealthy too because that touring animal is what pumps the blood through your veins. They are both polar opposites but both are necessary; it’s all about balance and figuring out what works.
Cryptic Rock – That is what life is all about. Last question. What are some of your favorite Horror or Sci-Fi films?
Dave Brenner – I’m a huge Sci-Fi fan, I love anything outer space; I watch every good and bad Netflix or streaming Sci-Fi movie there is. I’m a bit old school when it comes to Horror: Army of Darkness (1992), Evil Dead II (1987).
I love Bruce Campbell and everything he’s done. I used to wear an Evil Dead hat all the time, and I was in a hotel lobby one time in L.A. with Tyler – we were getting picked up. This guy walked in, he took a double take at me, and I said, “Who is that guy?” I then realized it was Bruce Campbell! I never met him but it was cool being in his presence.