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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Divine Heresy

By: Justin Donnelly

When guitarist Dino Cazares departed industrial death metal act Fear Factory in 2002 following the disappointing reaction to their fourth album ‘Digimortal’, many assumed that he would quickly return with a whole new outfit to rival his former group. But apart from a leading hand in Roadrunner Records’ twenty-fifth anniversary release and last year’s long overdue sophomore effort from his death/grindcore act Asesino (‘Cristo Satánico’), Cazares has been notably absent from the metal scene.

Unbeknownst to many, Cazares has spent the better part of the last twelve months putting together an entirely new outfit, and with former Vext vocalist Tommy Cummings and ex-Decrepit Birth/Hate Eternal drummer Tim Yeung (And ex-Nile/ Domination Through Impurity bassist Joe Payne in recent times), Cazares has finally returned with Divine Heresy.

Whilst on a promotional visit to the UK, I caught up with vocalist Tommy Cummings in his Kensington Close hotel room to discuss the demise of his former group Vext, the circumstances that led Cazares to have him front his new musical vehicle, the process of songwriting within the group and the reactions to Divine Heresy’s debut album ‘Bleed The Fifth!’.

“Even though we’re only on a promo tour at the moment, it’s been going really great. Everyone we’ve spoken to who’s heard ‘Bleed The Fifth!’ have been overwhelmingly positive. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing a lot of international interviews, and just before we arrived here in the U.K., we stopped off in France and Germany for some promotional things there, and everyone really seems to getting into the album. So that’s good. It’s been very positive.”

Prior to getting into a discussion about Divine Heresy’s debut, I asked Cummings about the reason why his former outfit Vexed decided to disband in 2005, especially giving the critical acclaim that followed after the release of their ‘Cast The First Stone’ in 2004.

“Vext we were signed to Lakeshore Records in the US. and it was kind of a one-off independent deal. Both the deal and the album didn’t really go anywhere for us and, after I pushed the other guys to write a new album, everyone kind of wanted to take different career paths. So I had around a year in between projects where I was just working, and taking lessons with Melissa Cross (who’s worked with the likes of Underoath, Arch Enemy, Thursday, All That Remains, Arch Enemy, A Life Once Lost, God Forbid, Sick Of It All, Cradle Of Filth and Shadows Fall) to try and perfect my craft. All the while, I kept searching for a new project. There were a number of projects that I’d looked into, but they weren’t really worth doing. I wanted to do something that was more on a professional level than what I’d already done, and just something that I could really sink my teeth into. So when I found out that Cazares was looking for a vocalist, I immediately emailed him, and sent them this very arrogant email about how great I was! (laughs) It was pretty funny. I think his first impression was, ‘Who is this kid? Who does he think he is?’ But when he asked around about me, he found a lot of people that were willing to go in to bat for me. People like Robert Kampf (co-owner of Century Media Records), Melissa Cross, and a bunch of others that I’ve met over the years through networking and things. So after getting a prop from everyone he came in contact with, he decided to give me a shot. He sent me over two tracks that he had recorded already, so I just went into Ken Schalk’s New York studio, recorded the vocal tracks and sent them back to Cazares. He obviously liked what he heard, because he called me and said that I was being given a shot at fronting his new band.”

But while Cazares was convinced of Cummings’ ability in the studio, Cummings still felt he needed to prove himself to Cazares, and at Roadrunner Records’ Roadrunner United bash at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square in December 2005, the timing couldn’t have been any more perfect.

“The actual moment I was accepted into the band was at Roadrunner Records’ big show at the Nokia Theatre. It was the day before the show, and I found out through some work colleagues that they had some rehearsals arranged, and where they planned to hold them. So I showed up, and basically none of the vocalists there wanted to sing. Cazares and Robb Flynn (Machine Head vocalist/guitarist) were like, ‘Hey, do you want to sing?’ I had known the Machine Head guys since I was a kid, just from going to shows and waiting outside to get autographs. I actually sang with them at C.B.G.B’s in 1996/97, so it was pretty cool to do it all again. We did a s**t load of songs together, like Slipknot, Fear Factory, Machine Head and Sepultura. It was cool. I was jamming with all these people who I’d grown up listening to, and I just killed it. I guess that was the point where Cazares knew I was the guy for the job.”

From that point, things moved quickly for Cummings and Divine Heresy, including the recording process for ‘Bleed The Fifth!’.

“In February 2006, I moved to Los Angeles to be a full time part of this band. The moment I hit Los Angeles, we went into the studio and then started writing songs for the album. We recorded our own demos for around a month, and then in March, we went into Logan Mader’s (former Machine Head/Soulfly/Medication guitarist) studio and officially started recording the album’s demo tracks. I think we recorded four songs the first time around, and then five songs in the second session. So by the time we’d gone in to record the record, we’d already recorded demo tracks to all the songs on the album, and we already knew what we wanted to do with them. We knew the changes that we wanted to make, and I think it was just an issue of wanting to get the tones correct. We wanted the drums, the guitars and just everything else on the album to sound perfect. We wanted ‘Bleed The Fifth!’ to be an album of real quality, and not just a good sounding demo. Mader and (Lucas) Banker (who are collectively known as the production team Dirty Icon Productions) really gave us a great sound. Mader is amazing as a producer and an editor. He knows the sound that we we’re going for, so it made it work all the better. I think Mader is really on a roll at the moment. He just finished working with Still Remains, and I think he’s working on a new project with Marc Rizzo, Max and Igor Cavalera next. So he’s pretty much in demand these days. Overall, it all ran rather smoothly, and we’re all happy with ‘Bleed The Fifth!’”

While the recording of ‘Bleed The Fifth!’ was a relatively quick process, and Cummings was the newest addition to the group only months beforehand, he’s quick to point out that the song writing was a group effort.

“Basically I wrote all the lyrics on the album, but there was around thirty percent of the album where Cazares and I discussed over in order to get our feelings and inspirations together on. To give you an example, ‘Failed Creation’ was like a collaborative idea. We were watching a documentary on the History Channel about ‘The Book Of Revelation’, the Antichrist and the end of the world, and then basically switching to CNN. and taking notice of the obvious comparisons. We thought it would be cool to suggest that it might be the end of the world now with basically the war, all the terrorist activity and the natural disasters like tsunami’s and hurricanes that have been going on in recent times. We were just kind of playing on the tragedies of the world and comparing them to ‘The Book Of Revelation’ in the Bible. We used a lot of religious metaphors elsewhere on the album as well. There are a lot of other lyrical influences as well. There are songs like ‘Savior Self’ and ‘Impossible Is Nothing’, which are kind of like positive reinforcement statements. They’re songs where you can take the negative aspects of life out of the equation, and you persevere and you push through and come out the other side a better person. The lyrics are kind of like life lessons, and they apply to everyone in the band differently. Obviously, I think Cazares would say that he could take some of those positive messages and apply them to making the transition from not being in Fear Factory anymore to doing this new project now and coming out stronger. It’s the same with Yeung and me as well. We feel the same way about having dropped everything, leaving behind our past lives and moving to Los Angeles to make things better with our lives. Those songs are written in a way that’s vague enough so that anyone listening can apply it to their own life. We all go through struggle, and we all go through hardship, and that’s the tone of those songs. You know, there are also some personal things on the album too. The last song at the end of the record is called ‘Closure’, and it’s basically about dealing with my abandonment issues from being adopted, the things that I’ve gone through in my life and living with the question of never knowing my origins. It’s very therapeutic, as well as cathartic for me.”

Although Divine Heresy is a brand new chapter for Cazares after five years away from the scene, there’s no mistaking the band’s strong sound connection to Fear Factory. But as Cummings explains, the comparison will always be there, especially given Cazares’ influence on his former band’s sound.

“Oh yeah, of course there’s going to be a comparison between the two bands. I mean, Cazares has a signature sound. I think that sound is always going to be a part of Divine Heresy’s sound, but there’s also a difference between the two bands as well. I think Cazares took his playing to another level on ‘Bleed The Fifth!’. The riffs are constantly changing, and I think the playing has become more technical sounding. I think that’s because he has both him and Yeung are very locked in. Yeung in particular is a bit part of that technical aspect of Divine Heresy too. I think he’s far more technical and faster drummer than Raymond (Herrera, Fear Factory drummer) is, and I think that shines through.”

With recording now complete and the official release date for ‘Bleed The Fifth!’ in late August, Divine Heresy are preparing to hit the road for as long as they can.

“We played our very first show together back in September 2006, but we haven’t played much since then because we wanted to finish off the album. But now that ‘Bleed The Fifth!’ is done, were currently trying to hook up a couple of tours. We’re just combing through all the red tape and what not at the moment. We’ll be touring in the US during September, and then we’re trying to get back to Europe by November for an official tour. That is of course the album does really well. We’re all hoping it does anyway! I’m really excited and very proud of everything that we’ve put into this, and I think that people will respond to that. With ‘Bleed The Fifth!’, we basically wanted to contribute to the legacy of that inspired all of us all those years ago. For us, it was like going back to your adolescence and approaching it as you were back there. We thought about what we would want right now, especially compared to what’s out there now. We thought about what we thought was needed, and basically tried to make the songs great ones, and have ‘Bleed The Fifth!’ stand the test of time. At this stage of the game, I’m just going with the flow and am preparing myself for the best and the worst. But I think we’re quietly confident that ‘Bleed The Fifth!’ will do well.”

I would like to thank Tommy Cummings for his generous time, and Janine Morcos at Roadrunner Records for making the interview possible.

"Bleed The Fifth!" is out now through Roadrunner Records

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