All of us go through times of personal turbulence, and musicians are no exception. The trick is to pick oneself up, and eventually put past troubles behind. This is something Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster frontman Dallas Taylor is currently going through, channeling his frustrations into the band's music via their current album as well as live performances. Sometimes through misery those who create end up creating their greatest work. Whether that is the case here though is up to fans to decide.
Produced by Brian Virtue (who has previously worked with the likes of Audioslave, Jane's Addiction and Deftones) and Rob Graves, fourth Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster album - simply titled "IV" - was released on September 27th, 2011 through Ferret Music. On the outing, the personnel consisted of: Dallas Taylor (vocals), Chad Huff (guitar), Jake Duncan (guitar, backing vocals), Brad Lehmann (bass) and Miles McPherson (drums, percussion). From July 29th until September 3rd, the outfit embarked on a thirty-date United States trek, some of which additionally included either 10 Years or The Damned Things on their bill.
Revolver Magazine previewed the track "In Dead We Dream" on August 4th exclusively via their website. Eleven days later on the 15th, Alternative Press' website exclusively previewed the track "Open Your Eyes". A day prior to the album's issue, AOL began streaming its entire contents.
Similarly titled, Maylene's previous albums are "I" (October 2005, Mono Vs Stereo), "II" (March 2007, Ferret), and "III"(June 2009, Ferret).
On December 4th at 23:00 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned Maylene frontman Dallas Taylor to discuss "IV".
Dallas Taylor: Hello?
UG: Hello. Is this Dallas?
This is Robert Gray of Ultimate-Guitar.com, calling for the interview.
How's it going?
It's going well. How are you?
Good, good, good.
How's the tour going?
It's going really well.
That's good to hear. Would it be ok if we began the interview?
Yeah, for sure.
Maylene And The Sons Of The Disaster issued its fourth album in late September. Could you provide details about making the album? Some background information on the release?
We wrote a lot of songs for the record, like twenty-something songs. We were deciding on producers and didn't know what to do, but we ended up hiring a guy named Brian Virtue and co-producer Rob Graves. We went into the studio, rented a place for two weeks and wrote the whole record and pretty much put it together in those two weeks. The album was recorded in a month and a half to two months.
How would you compare 'IV' to previous albums?
It's not nearly as heavy, but it's a more focused record. We wanted to tell a story from start to finish that would all tie in. I think with the way the record came out, we made that happen. We had a goal in mind for the sound and the story, and we wanted to have a dark feel. We wondered what we could do to get that feeling across.
In the past three years, the group has gone through several personnel changes. Has that affected the musical style of the album?
A little bit, but not much really. A lot of it has been the same vision from the start, and it was a progression we were gonna take no matter what.
Does it feel weird being the only remaining original member of Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster?
Not really because I guess the guys I'm playing with now are some really good friends I've known for a long time, that I've played with before or have known throughout the years. It feels normal, and not any different.
Is the current lineup a stable one?
For sure, yes. Our drummer left before this record came out, and he's a really great friend. He just started driving tour buses and was very busy with that. We haven't approached any drummers to come in, but we're working on finding a steady drummer. The guy we have with us right now is an amazing, awesome drummer. He's from New Jersey and we decided to have him onboard, but yeah, that's the only position we're not sure about right now - the drummer situation.
Are there different reasons for each member leaving, or a prevailing reason?
The going gets hard on tour (laughs), and it's not as much fun the longer you do it. Also, it's not a super-steady income. For instance, our drummer who left us to drive tour buses. He knows his income at the end of the week - he knows how much his income is gonna be at the end of the year. With us, we don't know what we're gonna make each week and we don't know what tours we're gonna get on. Never knowing what you're gonna be doing with your future makes it hard to have a family. Our drummer had a baby and that was another issue, having a stable income and not knowing what you're making. The other members wanted to settle down and didn't want to tour much anymore, and it's in our nature to tour a lot. It's one of those things where they knew. I'm still great friends with all of them, and bump into them once in awhile.
Are Maylene's albums numbered as a tribute to Led Zeppelin?
It started out as a fan tribute to bands like that, but with this record the label and management thought it was a good idea to stay with it. We were actually gonna give it a title, but we stuck with the numerals "IV". We had five to six ideas we were gonna narrow down, but I really don't remember them. I couldn't even tell you them. Sometimes we never think of titles, but sometimes we come up with titles. We let the albums speak for themselves.
You said that 'IV' is the most grown-up album you've ever recorded. Why do you feel that is the case?
I think we've just all individually gone through hard times, and this is the most real record that I've ever made. I laid my heart out there. I guess that's what I mean, that I've grown up. This is my dark record. It's one of those records where that's what we felt. Just a real focus and a heartfelt record that laid it all on the line for us.
"The going gets hard on tour (laughs), and it's not as much fun the longer you do it. Also, it's not a super-steady income."
In referring to hard times, are you alluding to the personal reasons why you took time off from Maylene from late 2009 until early 2010?
Yeah. I was going through a divorce - I was separated at the time, and was trying to work things out. Obviously things weren't worked out, so I went through a divorce and just that whole process. My son's five now - I had a son involved. Just going from having a house with a kid in the front yard to adjusting to a whole new way of life... My lifestyle pattern is completely different now, and I have to relearn my whole life I guess from the past seven to eight years. Trying to adjust your whole way of life is a really hard thing to do when you've been used to something for so long.
Is touring a relief, where you can forget about such things for awhile?
Yeah, and it also helps me escape reality for a little bit, and just not think about it as much yeah for sure. On the road I stay a lot more busy, and I don't have time to think about rough times or anything.
So your divorce flavoured the album?
Yeah. The record is pretty much about that, and friends departing from the band took its toll on us too.
Are there any other topics the album explores?
I write a lot about people struggling with their minds, and how the mind is a powerful thing. To me it's for either good or bad. There's also a song about my great-aunt who was raped and murdered - I wrote a song about that. It's a really messed up story, and made Time magazine and all that. She was murdered and raped by a black man, and that was around the time of civil rights and all that. He was the last guy to get lynched in the state of Florida and how they treated him is a messed up story, even though he had done something so wrong and so horrific. The way they took their anger out on him was just horrific. The song is about how you hurt someone else when you're hurt and justify the things you do in life. When the person has even done something wrong, others try to justify their actions by torturing someone else.
Are you saying it then became an issue of colour when it shouldn't have been?
Definitely that whole era was dumb, but yeah the civil rights movement and a black guy murdering a white girl... The KKK came down, broke him out of prison and tortured him for hours, some of the worst torture I've heard of. Anyone can look it up - it was the lynching of Claude Neal. The whole story of my grandma... She was twenty-four I think when it happened, and seeing that whole thing go down... I think you can carry the gene for schizophrenia, but it has to be triggered. If it isn't triggered, you'll never have it. A lot of times it'll be triggered when you're aged between nineteen and twenty-five. I forget where I read that, but at twenty-four she saw her sister dead and went crazy. From that point on, she was schizophrenic and really, really crazy. The song is just about that whole family growing up; my grandma not being right, her being not right in the head, and having a lot of hate and not understanding why I guess.
The artwork resembles an old LP.
Our first record had that look too, like the old seventies. The guy that did the layout did the first record too, and went and did a throwback on the first record a little bit, trying to make it look like an old record from the seventies era. It also shows respect, and being fans of bands from that era.
How did the lyrics affect the types of vocals you decided to use on the album?
I guess the way the vocals came out was actually affected by the lyrics in some way. The vocals came up the way they did just because of whatever we were feeling for the lyrics, and what kind of song we were trying to make. Yeah definitely though, there's a lot of different vocal styles.
"It's not nearly as heavy, but it's a more focused record. We wanted to tell a story from start to finish that would all tie in."
And what would you like to share on the music which accompanies your vocals?
We had lots of slide guitar and some pedal steel, but with this record we didn't try to experiment as much. We just tried to make a rock album, and not pull out every instrument that we knew of. We just focused on the songs in general, and not just a bunch of weird instruments which we love to play.
Is making the songs the focus a hallmark of Maylene? The group has a lot of two to three minute tracks in its catalogue than some other artists.
We never really notice that - what comes out just comes out. If you pick apart a three minute song and try to make it a five-minute song, you're just trying to add and you're trying to basically put more fat onto the pile. Some songs are alright when they come out at five to six minutes though.
Within Maylene, how does the songwriting process generally work?
It always varies. Sometimes it can start off with the lyrics, sometimes it can start off with the melodies or sometimes it can just start off with a guitar part. You never know. One guy can write most of the song, and then the other can just pick it apart and come up with some lyrics or melody ideas. You never know; they can come about in all different types of ways.
What was working with producers Brian Virtue and Rob Graves like?
They're awesome guys, and really cool dudes. We had always gone with the same guy on our previous records, so it was really cool having a change. It made us comfortable and was a fun experience, and we are fans of what Brian has done in the past like Deftones and Jane's Addiction.
Thanks for speaking to me Dallas, and all the best.
It was very good speaking to you, and thanks so much.
Take care. Bye.
Interview by Robert Gray
"Sometimes we never think of titles. We let the albums speak for themselves."