The Drug - Menace interview
Cat. D. Lawless 14/08/2006
Menace, lead vocalist for Hollywood's most exciting and awesome metal group, The Drug, is one guy not to be messed with. Not even after a few too many Jagermeisters when you think you're Johnny Concrete and could take on the World. No siree. This guy means business. He's power personified - a breathtakingly handsome man with a supreme air of confidence and intelligence. So you'd expect a guy like that in such a
position of authority, having once been in a band with Korn's Jonathon Davis and now fronting America's only threat to super groups like Avenged Sevenfold, to be standoffish, arrogant and ignorant, right? Not so. In fact, Menace (he would not give his real name) is an extremely friendly guy, both funny and affectionate with an appealing charm about him. He chats affably, holding back on nothing and giving honest and well-thought through answers, which makes this interview both insightful and intriguing. They're not called The Drug for nothing - once you've heard this band you're hooked and cannot get enough.
CDL: The Drug are an incredibly fresh and diverse band, a kind of Linkin Park for people with common sense if you will. How did you create your original sound and where do you draw your inspiration from?
Menace: I started The Drug in 2002. It's been a vision of mine I believe, since I was a kid.... I started out as a drummer playing live at 12 & 13 yrs old - also playing guitar, keys, bass, and song writing. One of my first bands was called SEX ART. I was on drums, Johnathan Davis (Korn) was the singer, Ryan Shuck (Orgy) on guitars, Dave DeRoo (Adema) was on bass, and our main guitarist name was Ray Solis. Some press called us "The Super Group" and questioned if we were a band of modern time...
When Johnathan left Sex Art and went to Korn he actually had stolen the songs that I had written in Sex Art. Those songs landed on Korn's debut album. Songs titled 'Blind and Daddy', which to this day we all know as the landmark songs, which defined their whole sound and writing style. I had to then go after them for my rights to those songs. I won of course - it settled outside of a courthouse.
Since that time has past us by, I now am attached to nine Korn products on the marketplace, eight, which are certified platinum. As for The Drug, it was my goal and desire to go beyond the "Korn sound" and take it to a new level.... something that's new, fresh, hip, and oh sooo fun. That sound is just getting to old. Every band's being all serious, and in some way seem to have had childhood trauma where this sound became super depressing to me.... It wasn't alive. So I dug back into certain genre's of what I felt Rock 'n' Roll is all about; that its about being dangerous, raw, sleazy, and most of all exciting and fun. I was really drawn into a band called Refused. They didn't sound "Metal" to me... they started this whole post-hardcore movement, and as it stands now, this IS the new movement.
So to be fresh, and ahead of the rat pack, I am taking this sound, and applying an indie/ punk vibe to it, and then adding my voice and character. And about my name?
I have to step back and say who the fuck is Menace..??? (laughs) I view Menace as a rock n roll mad man, cartoon character. So then I apply that ingredient. Now we have The Drug and we are representing the "Wild Wild West" - The Dangerous Rock Movement.
CDL: Your songs are very funky and accessible - how important is it for you not to alienate your fans by staying true to yourselves and not trying to follow the latest trend or scene?
Menace: I feel that the scene is packed full of multiple flavours at the moment. So the question is which flavour do I think might stick around the longest, and which flavour might die off first? I feel that electro-pop rock is already dead... I think the wannabe pop punk is way too played out, it's fun but it's over. Korn, and any "Nu Metal" band, also dead, over with - gone. Bands such as Under Oath, The Bled, Every time I Die and Refused, those bands have started something great but that one missing ingredient is the hooks. None of them have musicality nor hardly any vocal hooks in their songs - now that's where I come in the mix as a songwriter, and just being a weirdo with my character! The Drug brings the power, raw energy, and smashing beats, but as a singer I also have to add that hook that will draw everybody into the song. As far as trends, it might sound a bit cocky, but I will personally create a new blue-print for a so called trend. I say as long as it's good then it's ok, and yes, as for our fans, we gain a lot and at the same time we get player hated on from other bands. I would like to think it's just because I'm here to take their jobs. No need to try anymore because Menace is here! (laughs). I'm here to bring back the fun and hype and much needed Rock 'n' Roll controversy. Hey, I had the biggest band in the world get famous off my songs! I fought them and won! So what's next? Whatever it is, I'm definitely not afraid of it. I'll embrace the danger as if it were my lover, because that's what feeds me. I love my fans, and they love me back because I truly pay attention to them, and live I give them everything I have. I feel my life belongs to the fans.... They can attack me as I do a flip into the crowd, rip my clothes off my back, and punch me at the same time and I still love them as much as possible.
CDL: Your song, 'Waste Your Time', shows a whole new side to your writing - it's a melodic, thoughtful song about love and loss. What or who was your muse when writing this song in particular as it is so different to your other songs?
Menace: 'Waste Your Time' came about one day when I was at Ali's house...
We were in his room messing with his new recording gear and all of a sudden he started to play this guitar piece. Instantly, a melody came to my head, and I turned on the mic to capture the moment. Well, needless to say, we finished that song in about 30 minutes. I quickly structured and produced the final guitar movement so I could then turn it into a finished tune. Ali was like, "Holy crap how did you do that so fast?" because this was Ali's first song that he was ever a part of in his life...he's never done this before. My answer to Ali was: "Hey, this is what I do!" with a smile.
I then played drums off the drum machine, finished the bass and Ali did the guitar work. I cut the vocals in about 15 minutes, and then did a quick mix. The version that you hear was started from scratch and finished in less than 3 hours, so I can say the moment was well documented. As for inspiration... well I try not to think too deeply about what I might write about, and I never have a book of lyrics... Hell, I never write anything to tell you the truth I scribble sometimes, just so I won't forget what I just said, but it's kinda like the Jay-Z approach. I seriously sing whatever channels through me at that exact moment. So what does this song mean to me? I say, what does it mean to you?
CDL: Your band has an incredibly appealing ethos and image; you're the bad boys that the girls love and the boys want to be. How important do you personally consider image to be for bands today?
Menace: Image has a lot to do with everything, for starters; this is entertainment, and nothing else, so why be a dud? Why not create something that's fun and something that represents you correctly? As long as it's a natural creation, and not contrived -the thing I hate the most is someone being contrived. If you have to try so hard with your style, then chances are your doing the wrong thing for yourself. If it's contrived then it comes across whack. But you have to remember; Rock 'n' Roll was partially designed by image -just look at Elvis for example. There's only a select few that seem to pull it off correctly. However, some need to completely re-think what they are about. What's funny to me is that EVERY rock band out these days are covered in tattoos, piercings, and freaky hair. Now that everybody's doing it, it's not special anymore to look like this... To me it's just a bunch of posers trying way too hard! (laughs).
My personal style is: No tattoos, no piercings, and no hair to colour on my hair. I do nothing to myself and somehow I have a stronger image than anybody I know. Not being cocky or said with no ego, but this is me being natural and real and that's why it works and that's why I've become "Rocks newest bad boy". Yeah, I'll bust a little eyeliner, but I keep it simple but oh so sweet; It's my natural persona that gets me the "Menace" name, and that official "Bad Boy" title...
It's because I am very deadly right now, and I know this about myself. So I embraced it instead of trying something that would be contrived. My songs, sound, attitude, performance, and image is very real to me I live that bad boy Hollywood dream. I have kicked people's asses before, I've destroyed stages I've performed on and have had sex with some of Hollywood's biggest A-List female stars. Yes, I'm that guy who will take you home and make you cum seven times and you leave my bed walking crippled. And then she'll be coming back and back again. All this but, I do not drink alcohol, I don't do any type of drugs (but I used to be a dealer) and I don't even smoke cigarettes.... Ha! So how can I be bad when I have passion, and having love and respect for people? It's just how I operate. The Drug is my band obviously, so as the front man or leader (whatever you wanna call me) I personally hand pick each member and they all naturally fit this outfit. They were a Drug Member before they even met me, I just gave em' the title and put them to work. I love my boys, without them I wouldn't be shit, just like The Drug wouldn't be shit without our fans.
CDL: Can you talk me through how you construct your songs?
Menace: My song writing formula always consists of a few set things; it's basically certain things I want to always hear in a song. A strong intro is very important -if you don't get people's attention within the first ten seconds, then they will skip to the next one. Then I try to create a hook that will lead the song off... whether it be vocal or musical, there just needs to be some sort of hook in the beginning, then you role with the natural progressions for what ever the song desires after that. I like to make my point lyrically, while keeping it simple. As the song continues then it's time to bring back the hooks after a verse. So I apply it; as long as the song has a natural feel and natural transitions, it will turn out fine, but what makes it great is being able to add the elements that make people feel attached to it.
A few examples: '3-2-1' has the end of the world concept and it makes you think about your place with God... When I die, where will I go?
Then you have, 'Wild Wild West' one of my personal favourites. Because this is the life I lead, and I see all the Hollywood grind every time I go out. As the lyrics go, summer nights, celebrity fights, living it up in the wild wild West. This life style gets pumped out to the rest of the world through magazines and TV.... Everyone wants to know who's fucking who, who dresses the best and worst, who should I love this week, who should I hate this week. Oh, you know what, the Hollywood press will tell me, US Weekly or IN-TOUCH will also tell me, haha! So I wrote about it.... it's a fun Hollywood Rock Anthem. So yeah, a good song needs to be straight forward with its message and people will get it...
CDL: Do you feel like being in The Drug allows you to create the songs that you've always wanted to hear?
Menace: YES!!!!! Seeing I write 98% of everything you hear, I do try to create what I like to hear. My favourite combination would be late 70's punk / a hint of Classic Rock (because of the substance it offers) then some early 80's Rock, (because it was a fun time for music) then jump to the power of Post-Hardcore music, so I will add each element to what I am doing then I cap it off with my own brew of vocals. I love many different vocal tones, so I taught myself how to sing in ten different voices basically. Most of all I want the "Alive Spirit" to come out in my music, because we are all still alive. And being alive to me is The Drug.
CDL: What's the best experience you have had since starting The Drug?
Menace: This is a difficult question to answer because it can cover so much stuff. But I guess I'll start with this. My favourite experience is because of The Drug, I now have gotten the attention of a few rival old band members and they didn't see me coming, but now that they know I'm here, they all the sudden start talking about me as if I'm some bad guy or they are completely hating on my voice and stage performance. They say I can't sing for example.... So why is this so good for me? because I was the guy that actually formed their first band, and I also had taught them how to play music, so once they even got to where they were becoming pretty good, they started to be real competitive against me. I never cared much for competing in music. This is my gift that God had blessed me with. I've known this almost my whole life and so now that they had a different level of success, they think they are hot shit. The try to put it in my face as if it's gonna bother me or something, so now that they are freaking out on me only tells me one thing - I must be pretty good if I have them scared.... and yes I am talking about Ryan (Orgy, Guitarist) and Johnathan ( Davis, Korn). I say listen to The Drug and then go listen to "Jullian-K" - that's Ryan's new band, that he also is the singer for - and I say let the fans decide who is better as a singer... My opinion on his music, not because it's him, but just my opinion is that it's very two-dimensional, it's not alive at all. It's a contrived sound. Electro-rock... it's also very dated and has no substance or balls. Ryan as a singer is a joke to me. He has no character and the songs aren't good at all... Who can relate to the space life?! Nobody but a true astronaut! Haha! Yeah he's a pussy and it shows in his cheap music. And as for Korn, and yes this is me being cocky... If they wanna survive in their old age, then they better ask me to write more songs for them, so they can sound fresh again... because they are also playing like their backs hurt or something (laughs). Kiss, kiss to those fucks.... they can get stomped on as I walk on by.
What do you make of "The Drug"? Addictive rockers or wasters?