October 28, 2016 Interview – Edsel Dope of Dope
Billy Joel once begged for “honesty” in his 1978 song by the same title. A word many like to hear, but often never stay true to, Chicago, Illinois based band Dope have stuck by it since the start. Not bashful of who they are, the ruckus bunch led by Singer-Songwriter Edsel Dope have the balls to tear down walls with Heavy Metal leanings and the sense to drive home melodies and thought-provoking lyrics in the process. Making a big splash with their 1999 debut album, Felons and Revolutionaries, Dope has seen their share of battles through the years, but always overcome with each of their albums topping charts. A big middle finger to naysayers, Edsel and company return in 2016, rejuvenated revitalized, and rearmed with a new album, Blood Money, Part 1. A record seven years in the making, Edsel come forth as a more enlightened man as he lays himself on the line. Recently we caught up with the vocalist to talk the early days of Dope, overcoming adversity, self-realization, future plans, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You founded Dope almost two decades ago now, and in that time, the band has established themselves as a very successful Metal act with one chart-topping record after another. First, how would you describe the years gone by of Dope?
Edsel Dope – Truthfully, it has been a really cool movie that I have watched over and over again (laughs). I am very grateful that I have had a very rewarding career and achieved everything I set out to do. As you climb mountains, you set out to climb new mountains. It is a busy and crazy lifestyle. It really is like seeing the same fun movie over and over again. You still laugh at the same things, but sometimes you think, “Jesus Christ, I live in Groundhog Day.”
CrypticRock.com – As you said, as you achieve one goal, you want to achieve more; that is just human nature. Dope’s 1999 debut, Felons and Revolutionaries, really laid the groundwork of the band’s success. At the time, many would have associated the band in the Industrial Metal genre, but with 2001’s Life, the band further expanded their sound and style. How would you best describe the style of Dope?
Edsel Dope – I think we are a Hard Rock/Metal band. I do agree with you, I think we have a bit of a wider and broader sound than most bands. We get as heavy as anybody with the “Die Motherfucker Die” side of the band, but we also go the other direction as far as you can go as well. Really, for me, I feel human emotion is what our music is about. I try and not censor that for myself. I try not to write music that I think I am suppose to write because I am suppose to be in a Metal band that plays heavy music, because I don’t always feel that way. That is what I feel is me being true to myself, true to my feelings, and true to my heart; opposed to some bands, which may even have more credibility, that only stick in certain style. To me, that is kind of the opposite of being real. If you are only writing and sticking in a certain box because you think that is what you are suppose to do, that really doesn’t make sense to me. I like to cover the gamut of what I feel as a human being and hope that connects with people that like the band. You don’t always feel the same way every hour of every day.
CrypticRock.com – Very true. That is what draws listeners in. Sincerity is conveyed in music and Dope does a fine job of such.
Edsel Dope – I appreciate that. I will take whatever. We are talking about art, and at the end of the day, it is all opinion based, there is no right or wrong. Everyone has their own opinion and it either connects with them or it doesn’t. I am grateful that we have built a really cool cult-like fanbase of people that it connects to. I just keep doing what I am doing, because it works for me.
CrypticRock.com – Speaking of the fanbase, it is very strong. Dope continues to release chart-topping records, despite the fact that the band is sort of snubbed by the mainstream on some levels. Some critics unfairly discount and misjudge the band. How do you feel about being misjudged through the years?
Edsel Dope – What are you going to do? You can’t convince everyone. I kind of stopped caring about that. I just do what I do. I think that happens more in America than it does in other places. In America, trends change very fast and is quick to dismiss. Do I wish that we got more credit or respect? Sure, I will take it, because that would just mean we would have more fans and more ability to reach more people. That is often times the goal, but let me put it this way, I don’t lose sleep over it.
CrypticRock.com – Understandable. Dope’s last studio record came in 2009 with No Regrets. Now you return with the anticipated Blood Money, Part 1. Tell us the story behind the long layoff and the inspiration to release this much discussed new material?
Edsel Dope – From the onset, this band came out and we were a touring band for 10-12 years. We pretty much toured non-stop and made records. It wasn’t handed to us easily. Sure, we were on a major label early on, but we really had the political rug pulled out from underneath us. In many ways, right before Life, we were really prime with a big push coming off the success of Felons and Revolutionaries and Sony music was really behind the aggressiveness and realness of the band. We had a song called “Die Motherfucker Die” and were about to really hit it hard, then the World Trade Center fell. I am being completely candid when I tell you it did not take long for all the politics of this band to evaporate on us. It wasn’t six months after the World Trade Center fell that we were not on Sony anymore. It was a really unfortunate situation for our country, clearly, I am a pint of a fraction of that. That certainly affected my band in more ways that I think people will ever know, and that is ok.
Point being, we spent several years after that being an incredibly independent DYI band, building it back, making one fan at a time on the road, and really earning everything the band still has today. After 10-12 years of doing that, it was time for a break. I was just burnt. Once I took a little bit of a break, I began to realize there were several elements of my life, my personal life, my spiritual side of my life, that were neglected for a very long time because I was too one dimensionally focused on touring and being the singer of this Rock band that was consuming my life. The last 6-7 years, I continued writing a great deal of music, but touring took a back seat. The band continued to tour regionally, we have not been asleep. We literally played hundred of shows over the last seven years, they just hadn’t been part of any kind of a major tour or major platform behind it such as the new record. It’s just been a different approach for the band, and one necessary for me to grow in some areas of my life that needed growth; just to reconnect with myself, which is important.
This new album is entitled Blood Money, Part 1. The Part 1 emphasizes that there is a great deal of music written in this span of time. Therefore, I feel like it would feel unnaturally if the next album, which is going to feature a lot of the same music that was written in the same time frame, if it came under a different title. That is why I have chosen to make this a multipart album. It has taken me awhile to put the ducks all back in a row to get back on the road and put in the commitment you need to go out and support a record. We are out on the road right now doing the Die Motherfucker Die reunion tour, which has been fun. It started in Russia back in 2015 and culminates into the release of Blood Money, Part 1. Then fans get to live with the record in November and December into the holidays, then we will have plans for 2017 in the near future. We will get out there and start supporting the new record and see how long it takes to get the next one out. It certainly won’t be anywhere near as long for this one. Part 2 of Blood Money will come pretty quickly after Part 1.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds like a great plan. Very understanding what you were saying about needing down time. As you said, you were working very hard for many years on the road. That can be very taxing on the mind and the body.
Edsel Dope – Yes, and, with all due respect, a lot people don’t understand. This business, and especially with this band, we are definitely a very sex, drugs, and Rock-n-Roll band. I don’t want to overemphasize the drug part, I have never had a drug problem, no one in this band has ever had a drug problem. It is a very fun ride, a very party influenced ride; a lot of girls, a lot of insanity. Look at the early onset of how this band was branded, none of it was fake. It was a bunch of a guys who wanted to live in the same lifestyle we grew up watching with bands like Motley Crue, KISS, and all that crazy excessiveness. Before you knew it, Dope was on tour supporting Kid Rock. It was strip clubs every night and a crazy life. I wouldn’t change any of it, it was an amazing time and a lot of fun, but living like that can stunt your growth in many ways. That is really one of the biggest things I noticed and realized during a break. I realized I am good, I am responsible, work hard, do the right things for my band, and at the end of the day, I am a good friend, but I am not sure if I was the greatest man. I am not sure if I had developed emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to the best of my abilities.
Taking some time away from that, checking yourself in real life, and realize maybe you are not realizing you are not living life with the best set of values, it was a good thing for me; taking a couple of steps back to take multiple steps forward. That is one that I think a lot of people maybe not really get, that being out here, on this moving circus that goes from town to town that sets off a bomb of partying, you do that every night, and then you come home, it is not normal (laughs). A little normalcy was actually very good for me.
CrypticRock.com – That is really a very telling realization and very respectable. Since you had a lot of time for self reflection, would you say Blood Money, Part 1 is your most personal record to date?
Edsel Dope – Undoubtedly. I would say Dope has two distinct sides, we have the middle finger side, and the kind of personal, heart side. I think this record probably has a couple of less middle fingers and a little bit more heart. It really depends on the record, some records lean one way, others lean the other way. This one probably leans a little bit more personal for me, and I am ok with that.
The cool thing about being around in a long time like we have, when you go to see us live, we play the majority of our catalogue, then you drop in a few new songs here and there. So I never have any fear of the band being re-identified. I think Dope’s identity is pretty clear. I think people who like Dope like it for what it is, so I can push the boundaries as much as I want without fearing the band’s sound is in jeopardy of changing in any direction. This record has everything you could want in a Dope record, as far as the heaviness and attitude. I definitely feel I like I opened up the personal to a new degree on this one, because it was necessary for me to do that.
CrypticRock.com – It will be exciting to hear what people think once they listen to the entire record. The band’s latest single, “Hold On,” is quite an adrenaline rush of emotion and thick riffs. Is this track a good sample of what the rest of the record will be like?
Edsel Dope – I don’t think so. I think “Hold On” is a really good example of picking up where No Regrets left off. There are some songs on No Regrets that I feel fit right in with “Hold On.” I think “Hold On” is one of the fringe songs. It is very special to me too, for the same reasons you just pointed out, it is very personally, very melodic, but the musicianship on the song is very technical, very modern, very heavy, and super guitar driven. It is just done in a bit of a different way so the heaviness doesn’t overshadow the melodic parts of the song, I think that is really the point of that one.
I really like that song and I think we really captured what we are trying to do with it. In the same breath, the title track, “Blood Money,” same thing. It captures the middle fingers and the gnarly gutter filth that I think people have grown to appreciate. I think, if you listen to those two songs, or look at those two music videos, you will think wow, this is the same band, and it is from the same record, these guys are pretty diverse. I think that is really what the record is about. It is not us being inhibited in any way in going for the throat with both extremes of our sound. It works for us, hopefully it works for the fans too.
CrypticRock.com – Well the balance sounds extremely compelling. Through your career, you have never been afraid to express unapologetic opinions about things. With that said, we are under a great deal of distress in America right now with racial tensions, political division, and the threat of outside terror. What is your thoughts of the struggles we are facing?
Edsel Dope – You know, I have a lot of opinions on it, but to be honest, I didn’t really voice much of that on this record. Which is probably again why I say the record is more personal. It is more of me looking inward opposed to looking outward. A lot of the albums in the past, I had been looking outward. Maybe Blood Money, Part 2 will have a little more of the outward, but it was important for me to look inward on this record.
I have a lot of opinions of where we are at as a society. Regardless of my opinion of either candidate who is running for presidency right now, that can sum it up. You have a former Reality TV star running against a former First Lady. To me, it is quite silly and almost ranting bonanza. It is more about the effect of what we are dealing with and what they can do to beat each other to get the ratings up, to get more people to tune in, then it is about serving the greater good of our country and mankind.
Sadly, we deserve it because we are such a superficial and such a fast-reactive people at this point in time. Our attention spans are shorter than goldfish. We sit here on our little news feeds all day long and stare at our phones, missing the human interaction we used to have. We are so quick to comment and give our opinions of things before we even dissolve and absorb what is actually taking place. People can’t even watch a full music video before they comment what they feel about it. They watch twenty seconds and they think they have already figured it out. That is not the case, we are not as smart as we think, everybody needs to slow the fuck down in my opinion.
Again, because we are such a single serving, immediate, reactive society, you do have candidates that are able to go out there and one day say yes, the next day say no, and no one calls them on it or cares because they look at their news feed and it says no, so it must be true. The information goes by so fast that the accountability is left out in the wind. It really is almost like a giant snow job advertising campaign. I could get much more specific about my opinions in various areas of our world and how this affects futures and future generations, but I have to say, it is a sketchy time. Everyone’s opinions matter so much, everyone feels they are entitled, everyone should have their own Reality TV shows, and I am not talking about the presidential candidates in this case, I am talking about everyday people. Or you have a great majority of people who just do not give a fuck. Those people, I respect more because they are just living their lives. Unfortunately, they have to deal with the consequences of the people that live the other way as a well.
It is a tough time, it is an interesting time as well. I am surprised the world is not more up in arms. I remember in 1999, when 2000 was approaching, everyone thought the world was going to end; there was a very menacing feeling about the general public. There was very much an aggressive call out. Aggressive music was really thriving at that point and there was a lot of angry feelings within people. That doesn’t exist right now, which is really surprising to me. You look at the general commercial world, the music festivals, and the people that are drawing the most people to them, it is a message of “Everything is going to be alright.” That is cool because it is positive, but I am not sure if that is actually going to be the case ten years from now. I don’t know, it is a crazy time. Not sure if I made much sense.
CrypticRock.com – You make perfect sense. You raise a lot of very interesting and valid points. Perhaps, as human beings, our spirit has been broken. We have become very apathetic, perhaps we are broken as a majority.
Edsel Dope – I don’t even feel like our society acts like they are broken. I feel like they act like they are ignorant. An angry person is someone who has something to be pissed off about. An apathetic person is a person that is beaten down and over it. An ignorant person is a person who walks around oblivious, saying look how pretty the sun is. That is what I feel like we are dealing with. Not with apathetic, but with pure ignorance. Don’t people realize in thirty years there will be no social security?
There is an entire two generations full of people who grew up on Jerry Springer, the Ricki Lake show. All this insane dumbness, that have no real job skills or retirement plan, what is going to happen when these generations turn fifty-five and sixty and aren’t able to work full-time jobs anymore? Just thinking about that alone is mind boggling to me. Thinking about how many people will live in our country at that point in time and how much poverty has the potential to take place. Again, I don’t think it is apathy, I don’t think it is anger. I think it is a lot of “everything is going to be ok.” Again, that is great, positivity is a wonderful thing, but I just don’t know how much of that is going to come to fruition. Again, I don’t have the answers, I am a passenger on the train too.
CrypticRock.com – This is quite an interesting topic more people should be discussing. That said, let’s go lighter. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of the genres, what are some of your all-time favorites?
Edsel Dope – Yes, I am a Horror fan. I have many I like. I would say my favorite of all time would be the original Halloween from 1978. There is an amazing scariness to that film and a weird supernatural nature to Michael Myers. You never really got to understand the mystery of it, it was so cool. As a kid, that was the boogeyman to me. I am not a big fan of the 2007 remake. It was cool, but somehow Michael Myers became Kane from WWE, and that wasn’t cool to me. Also, the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was a terrifying film. The 2010 remake, not so much. Those are two great films.