MORE ABOUT DAMONE
“It’s all about Bon Scott and AC/DC, man. Everything he wrote about being in a band, that’s the soundtrack to what we’ve gone through. ‘Ain’t No Fun Waiting Around to be a Millionaire.’ Now that’s a song we totally get.”
– Damone bassist Vazquez
Every rock band has a story, or maybe two, involving break-ups, fights, label battles, money issues, health problems, etc. Fuck ‘em.
Damone has had all of that, and ten times more.
Let’s start with Vazquez, the bassist.
He died. Sort of.
“The thing about recording is that it seems like a walk in the park,” says the bassist. “But for our new record, I got lost in the process. I wasn’t sleeping or anything. So one day, I call up [vocalist] Noelle, and I say, ‘Why don’t we go to the gym and get fired up?’ So I get off the treadmill, and all of the sudden I feel this weird sensation going up my head.”
Moments later, Vazquez is passed out and being rushed into an ambulance. “We didn’t have insurance or money at this point, so when I woke up, all I could think about was how much it was going to cost. But then I noticed a priest was over me reading me my last rites.”
Fortunately, the bassist recovered from his brain hemorrhage with only a two-day coma and a maddening stutter to show for it (“It’s cool, man, I can still play spin the bottle and shit”) But for Damone, this is just one of a hundred obstacles they faced while making their latest record.
The problems started two years ago, after the Boston, Massachusetts band was finishing up a year and a half of touring behind their debut record, From the Attic, a solid piece of punk-metal that was most notable for its lead singer, then 18-year old Noelle. It was good stuff, but also a little hard for the general masses to swallow – after all, it’s not every group that can take their musical cues from Rick Springfield, Dinosaur Jr., Def Leppard and Joan Jett, and then top it all off with a kick-ass girl singer.
“All we wanted to do was bring back the spirit of good rock music,” says drummer Dustin Hengst. “We love stuff like the Crue, Queen and Andrew WK. Shit like that. What we do is a celebration of what we like about big rock’n’roll. Even the hair-metal bands of the 80s – we love ‘em. Sure, they copped everything from Aerosmith and Zeppelin, but man, they were slaves to songwriting. They made some of the coolest songs ever. I think today everything’s become really formulaic, or it’s that irritating, miserable wallowing.”
Unfortunately, not everyone could figure out the pure rock brilliance of Damone, or their charismatic lead singer. “It was hard for a lot of people, and especially our old label,” admits Noelle. “I wasn’t poppy enough for them to market, and rock radio stations don’t like playing females.” Dustin still seethes about it. “Noelle’s an amazing singer and guitarist. She’s not like these other bullshit chick-rockers you see nowadays, with their army of songwriters, producers and personal trainers pulling the strings. I’d challenge anyone to compete with her. I’d take her any day over any singer …” He stops, and then laughs. “Well, except like, Axl Rose or somebody.”
Faced with a small but dedicated fan base, little radio play, lukewarm label support and an uncertain future, the band could have gone a million different directions on their follow-up record. But then the best possible thing happened: Damone’s entire support structure caved in.
First, their guitarist (and main songwriter) quit. Then, the label, while going through two mergers, stopped giving a damn. Finally, the money ran out. “In hindsight, it was beneficial for us to go through,” says Dustin. “It created a lot of motivation, but … there were a lot of headaches. But it really brought us together musically and emotionally.”
With no support, the band convened in Noelle’s apartment to record some new material. Problem ..1: no money. So they all pitched in. Good friend and engineer David Spreng, brought over a bunch of gear.