Death Division’s Jerry Montano Talks ‘Angels of the Black Dawn, Part One,’ Sobriety + Current Lineup
Death Division are back with new music this week. Their latest effort, Angels of the Black Dawn, Part One is out today (June 24) via Bravery and is available to order via iTunes. We recently had a chance to chat with Death Division founder, bassist Jerry Montano about their latest release, his journey with sobriety and some of the key tracks on Angels of the Black Dawn, Part One. Check out the interview below.
First off, there have been quite a few changes since we last heard from Death Division. You mentioned being at a crossroads in life when the EP was written. Can you discuss the development of this EP? Where did the music come in the process of gaining sobriety?
We had just come home from doing the Fear FestEvil in San Francisco and knew it was time for a change in the band. Change is never easy, especially when it comes to major changes such as lineup, etc. We decided it would be best for the band to bring in a new drummer and guitarist. Everything came naturally, like cruising down a street at the exact speed limit the stop lights are timed for. We found our niche and the universe responded by opening every door at the exact right time. I knew it was time and we needed to deliver and step up in the writing department. We started writing for a few months and then I met Sammy D’Ambruoso, who works for my buddy Al Jourgenson (Ministry). Sammy really helped us refine the songs during all our many all-night sessions. Once we demoed all the material, through a stroke of luck and love we ended up at EastWest Studios tracking the drums in the same room so many awesome bands had before us. It was a very exciting time!
All the while I had finally come to the realization that I had a very serious alcohol and drug problem. It had cost me everything. As they say, alcoholism and addiction is a very deadly and greedy monster that’ll take your job, your home, your happiness, your friends and eventually your life. I didn’t really know how bad it was with me. I feel blessed to be alive and to have the opportunity to share my stories and battles. It’s reflected in these songs – they are filled with very heavy and hard stuff.
Going through something like that can be hard enough to come to terms with on your own. And knowing that this collection comes from that time period, was it a difficult decision knowing how much you wanted to share of yourself within the music and lyrics of the songs?
It came out naturally. It felt like confession in a sense once I got started -- it just flowed. The song “Dead Heroes,” for example, was basically my internal dialogue all the time -- my reality as someone who lived in the shadows all the time, hiding from all the terrible things I had done to others and things I thought I had “wished to the corn field," so to speak. I thought I could drink everything away and if I forgot about it so did everyone else. The truth is no one ever forgets, and reality is a bitter, jagged pill to swallow... But there are ways out. Through the miracle of AA I found a way to at least get on a path to do better. I needed to dust off and get back to work. It is pretty cool to not feel terrible in the morning.
Another thing that I am proud to be a part of is Bridging the Gap Recovery. BTGR is a non-profit started by my former bandmate and friend Duke Collins’ mother, Mama Duke, and myself to help others on their journey through recovery. It is something I am very passionate about. Duke Collins passed away last year from a heroin overdose and is gone but not forgotten. It feels awesome to memorialize him in a very positive way.
When it comes to sharing my story I feel it’s my responsibility as someone in recovery to be here for anyone that may be going through the same terrible s--t I had to go through. Hiding from the s--t we do is easy. Facing it and trying to do better is the hard, yet rewarding part.
We had a chance to premiere the lyric video for 'The Truth' earlier this year. Great song. Can you talk about where that song comes from?
That again stems from facing the demons, the voices and the monster. It's part of the lyrics: “So these are things you are fighting and bleeding for?” The cool thing about Death Division is that Sean and I write everything together. So his perception is always different than mine, yet the songs always have a completeness to them that comes perspectives on both sides. From Sean’s point of view, it was more literal and inspired my video treatment for “The Truth.”
Also wanted to discuss the video. I see you wrote and directed, but had Zano handle the animation. Can you discuss what it was like to see this all come together and your input as the animation process was developing? It's a very eye-catching clip.
Thank you. Zano has been my secret weapon! For the past year we have been developing the concept, working with the video footage and artwork. A few years back I had a club in Hollywood and happened to meet Zano, who was in town visiting from Milan, Italy. We stayed in touch and that’s how the process got started. “The Truth” was our first collaboration. I can say that the DD animated characters return in two more videos! It is something we started last year, and we will continue the collaboration.
It was so cool to see it all come together from our emails, to the storyboards and then animation. The live stuff I felt we needed a little something else to give it a different edge -- so I google searched “Green Screen colors” to learn how to do it myself. I took a trip to Home Depot to get the supplies and called my buddy Bill Weiss -- who is a porn editor that had accessibility to HD cameras. (laughs) We literally just filmed those scenes in my backyard and sent ‘em over to Zano. I am excited for everyone to see the animated trilogy we came up with, stay tuned!
Having the chance to meld your own band after playing with other big time groups, what did you want out of Death Division and who you chose to play with?
When I met Sean I knew right away we had a connection. I hadn't had a writing partner for years. I missed the vibe and musical bond like the one Tom Maxwell and I had over our 20 plus year friendship. I found that fire in Sean De la Tour. We wrote the first seven songs in a few weeks. It felt right and like “home.” The chemistry reminded me of the old Nothingface sessions. Death Division is my baby. I am “all in” on this and believe 1000 percent in what we are doing. I want to see this band working for a very long time.
“Angels of the Black Dawn, Part One” is the new EP. Do you have another favorite song off of the disc and can you discuss why that song stands out to you?
It is hard to say. It’s like who is your favorite sibling or child? I love each and every one of them for different reasons. If I had to pick another track I would say “In Loving Memory (of Hope).” This song is very special to me. Five years ago my best friend James Murray was killed on his bike coming to meet me at a bar. I was absolutely devastated. It had been a hard enough few years with burying Peter Steele and other close friends ... Then that accident happened. It was very dark, dark days. “In Loving Memory” was written in about five minutes. The song is for all the beautiful souls that touched my life. They are ghosts smiling in the wind. I have moments all the time where one or more of them cross my mind every single day. Sometimes my past and life doesn't feel real -- but mostly it doesn’t seem real they have passed and left this world behind way too soon.
You've been out touring in support of the album and poor Sean's amp died along the way. Has everything been sorted out there and is he back rocking at full strength?
Yes! We found a guy with a bad ass EVH III in West Virginia and I picked it up for him (laughs). The new amp sounds great. The road isn’t for the weak that's for sure! Once you get into week eight you definitely feel it…
Speaking of touring, favorite song (past and/or present) to play live at the moment and why?
I think my favorites to play every night are the “The Truth” and honestly all the songs from Angels of the Black Dawn, Part One and then “We Are the Fallen” from our first EP. “AOTBD” is a musical journey reminiscent to me of Holy Wars. It takes you through all these valleys and peaks. It is fun as hell to play. “We Are the Fallen” is just heavy and fun. Something about the build-up in the bridge makes people go crazy!
I'm assuming with it being Part One of Angels of the Black Dawn, there's a Part Two in the works. What's the status?
Yes, Part Two has my favorite songs from the collection we recorded!! We felt that for us, releasing less songs and allowing us and our fans to focus on five songs instead of 12 worked better... Plus we can release more material sooner! :) Part Two will be coming either later this year or in early 2017.
And what should we be looking for from Death Division for the rest of 2016?
We will be pushing the Angels of the Black Dawn EP and singles. You can look forward to seeing us out on the road, playing non-stop -- building the Death Division name the old fashioned way. As I tell my guys every day, the only way to move a mountain is one bucket at a time. It is hard, hard work… But while everyone else is out playing and talking about what they are going to do, we will militantly work night and day to achieve our goals. Before you know it we will have moved that mountain and everyone will wonder how the f--k we did it. Perseverance and dedication win the day. We look forward to playing our hearts out for ya all out on the road into 2017!
Check Out the Lyric Video for Death Division's 'The Truth'