Dark Angel are one of the most legendary thrash metal bands ever. Formed in the early eighties during thrash’s peak popularity, Dark Angel are finally coming to Australia for the first time ever to descend their darkness on us all. I have the absolute honour of chatting to one of the most iconic metal drummers in history, Gene Hoglan, who joined the band before they released the seminal Darkness Descends in 1986 and has been a member ever since.
Metal-Roos: Looking forward to coming to Australia with Dark Angel?
We are absolutely looking forward to coming down to Australia! The guys are all so excited. We’ve been to Europe, we’ve been to South America and Japan, so this is a territory or market or just a place to play that the band has never been to so all the guys super stoked. It’s gonna be really exciting and productive week. We’re just excited to bring some Dark Angel metal to all the incredible Australian fans. I’ve been playing Australia for twenty something years now and it’s always such a great place to play the fans are so killer. That’s one thing I’ve been telling the guys “you guys are gonna love the fans! They’re sharp, they’re intelligent, they’re into extreme metal”. That’s one thing I’ve always loved about Australia you guys took to extreme metal just like that. Australia always like it extra heavy and that’s cool with me. So, we’re all really excited and we can’t wait for the tour to happen.
M-R: When Dark Angel re-united in 2013 with the current line-up, what made you guys want to make it work?
Somehow the idea came up and I admit we took a little time; it was an idea that was brewing with myself and my management for some time and it was just the right time to get it rolling. I had time available and at that point it was merely doing some shows. Over the years we’ve been receiving offers. We got to a position where, if those offers still stand, we’re now in a position we can take advantage of that if everything’s cool with everybody. So, you know, we “got the bed back together”. Again, it was only under the idea that it was for some shows but we just gelled like it was 1989 again. We’ve always been friends, I’ve maintained close contact with everybody with the band over the years, so it was like we have the same youthful enthusiasm without the youthful dickishness that we all had when we were young. We’re grown men, we enjoy each other’s company, we have a good time together, we have a good time playing and well…why not? let’s go have some fun with this. Then it started growing into “Hey man we should try and do some recording”… so Jim Durkin and myself got together and revived some of the old days of writing together. That’s always fun, Jim is a great riff writer and I’m no slouch myself. So, let’s see what kind of magic we can create to see if we can take this to another level. Things are slowly occurring for us but we’re making it happen.
M-R: I’m so glad that it’s about having fun with the band. I think that is so important for touring musicians of today
Absolutely! You know this was the first band for all of us so to be able to relive that brotherhood which turned into a lifelong friendship is fantastic. With young guys in a band you’ve known each other for four or five years or whatever then thirty years later you’ve known each other for a lifetime. It makes everything great, very magical and special and we’re all very excited.
M-R: With your work schedule and commitments, not to mention the members living different states in the US, how do you find the time to work together?
Well, I freely admit that it is a big challenge. What happens is, I’m on the road a lot, I have a lot of sessions and all that stuff that I do, being out on the road as much as I am it is a challenge. When I’m in town in San Diego here where I live, Jim Durkin lives about two and a half hours away, we’ll setup days to get together and bash it out. Jim has his schedule too… music is all I’ve ever done, and these guys focussed on their own thing outside of music, so we’re talking thirty year plus careers to work around. Every time I get together with Jim that’s a bonus, every headache associated with getting an album out is a bonus and super awesome and I’m very fortunate to be in that position. We just wanna take as much advantage of the time together as we can…. try to be as productive as we can, that involves a two and a half hour drive each way, but it’s worth it when we’re working hard towards getting a new album underway.
M-R: I know that there has been an album in the works for a little while, any possibility of hearing new material during your Australian shows?
That is a good question! I know Jim has brought it up saying “Hey it would be nice to play a new one”. I guess it would just depend on how much work we can do leading up to the shows. If we can get some serious time together and work on the songs, then I’m open to it. I wouldn’t expect it as a fan. I’m just letting you know, I wouldn’t expect it, but we will do what we can and see what we can do to play a new one live. I tell you, in this era of YouTube it has changed bands approach towards this situation. Before it was “Hey we got this brand-new song let’s take it up and play it live and work it out”… but now because of YouTube your work in progress becomes kinda final. Once it’s online it’s committed to finality. So, the question is do we want that, or do you want to play it smart, there will be a time for the new material. We’ll see if it’s involved in the Australian shows, but if it’s not we’re sorry, but we’re working towards it. That is one thing I’m saying if we don’t do that, we gotta come back to Australia with a new album next time and give you a whole swag of new songs.
M-R: Writing both lyrics and drums seem far ends of the scale when it comes to creation, but are there any similarities in the moments of inspiration?
I would say that drums kind of become secondary with me for Dark Angel because the rifts are import. I gotta admit when it comes to lyrics, are they important? I don’t know…lyrics for me when I’m listening to another band, if they got nonsense lyrics, that doesn’t really matter to me. But if the vocal lines are catchy and killer then alright, cool man. I like how the singer is approaching it, and the lyrics are kind of secondary. I will admit my lyrical style has evolved over the years of writing lyrics, so these days I try not to beat you over the head with the concept like I did before. Now I veil my words a little bit and still have the concept be prevalent, but for me the concept of songs were more important than the actual words going into them. So, with this, and with my evolved lyric writing style it’s gonna be a little more cryptic I suppose. I’m not gonna hit you over the head with “Oh this is a terrible thing that’s happened”. I’ll let you make that decision for yourself.
M-R: Have you ever heard a drum pattern and thought ‘No Way!’?
Absolutely! Oh, big time, I can tell you one right off the top of my head. It’s from Death’s Sound of Perseverance record, a track called Spirit Crusher. Holy Moly, we do a lot of Death DTA stuff and all the Death To All shows that we do and I know Spirit Crusher is a popular song for the fans. There is a part in the middle of it which we play two times in the song where Richard Christie, I swear he just unplugged his brain and played everything he could with no rhyme or reason to what he played. After a whole year of trying to work this out, you know, I don’t write or read music, so it is just learning it by osmosis, just repetition, listening to it over and over again to figure out the part. I was finally able to get it. There’s some stuff that Richard Christie played where I’m like “what were you thinking?!”. I know it makes sense to Richard and probably only Richard, but I was able to figure it out. The rest of the guys in the band on tour would be like “just do your own thing, just come up with something to fill the part” and I was like “No! I can’t do that I have to play it as it is”. I can’t half ass it, you know, so I whole assed it! I figured it out. So, there’s an example of like “woah, what’s going on there” but there’s a whole lot of prog stuff, a whole lot of Jazz-Fusion stuff. When I was growing up, I was like “Oh God, Christ, how does Dave Weckl play that part”. As you get a little bit older with a little bit more experience you realise there is a method to that, like Meshuggah for instance. Jesus, I told Tomas Haake many times, like dude your style…I’ve got your right hand down and that’s it, yeah I’ve got the right hand down but the rest of you I’ve got no idea what you’re playing, so there you go.
M-R: Is there any advice you would say to any aspiring young drummers in the world today?
Well, I’ve said this in the past, when it comes to band life… being in a band with other guys or girls from the town or whoever you’re playing with, find other musicians who share your passion, share your vision. They don’t have to be the best musicians in town, like, if you have the choice between a guitarist who is coming along and working at their craft and who is a total cool bro, or that other guitarist who is the best in town but it’s kind of a headcase. I would choose the guy that you can grow with. When you put together your band when you’re 18 you might be thinking this is the band I’m gonna be with forever, we’re gonna go places… and say you do, and this is the band that you’re with for 10 to 15 years and the band does go places. You want to share those experiences with like-minded musicians. People can evolve at the same rate, even though they might not be the best musician at the moment. You guys are young, you’re 18, 19, 20, whatever, everyone’s going to improve overtime if you’re passionate about what you do and want to improve you’re going to improve. Your musical skills are gonna grow together. Look at Lars and James you know, James was the best guitarist in thrash metal back in the day and Lars was doing what he did, but they had this relationship just works for Metallica and therefore the rest of us and an entire generation of heavy metal. You never know where your future is going to lead, you may as well set up your future to be shared with other people that can appreciate it along with you, not that jerk guitarist who is great, or the vocalist to is just unreliable. Find the people that you gonna be able to grow with.
Another thing I would suggest to people is to learn how to read contracts. I’ve said this many times in the past: if it is truly your vision and if you’re committed, and you know you if you’re committed, you feel it if you’re committed to this life and this business. Then you should arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can to stay one step ahead of the business and to be able to grow and change with it. You’re gonna see a lot of circumstances in the business where it’s like “Wow, I’m glad I know what I’m talking about and what I’m doing here”. Don’t be a victim like I was when I was 18 signing stupid contracts that still affect me to this day. Get to know your legal, the wording of contracts there a little bit easy to figure out then you might expect. They might look like a lot of big scary words but just learn them and arm yourself. That’s the best weapon you can have, the knowledge of how not to take a knife in the back.
M-R: Legendary! Thanks, so much for your time this morning it has been a pleasure and an honour!
Thank you! The pleasure is all mine! But, one other thing that I’d like to mention is along with the Dark Angel shows, I’m going to be doing a few clinics around Australia. If anybody wants to come down, pay attention to your socials, pay attention to the to the pulse of their scene, they’ll know where I’m going to do the clinics. Come up because they’re super entertaining, they’re gonna be as cool as the Dark Angel shows. You get real intimate action, it’s more one on one than a gig is and I always take questions, so if you got questions bring him down and I’ll answer them! Good thing about the clinics if you don’t have to be a drummer! I like to make them super entertaining for everybody! It’s a good time all round.
Interview Date: 2019-07-26
Interviewer: Jonathan Hurley