From Alt Press Magazine:
MIKE HRANICA and CHRIS RUBEY of the Devil Wears Prada take AP track by track through their new album, Dead Throne.
Hranica: I love that “Dead Throne” ended up opening the record, because lyrically it really explains a lot of the questions about the title and everything. You’ll know exactly what Dead Throne means when you hear the first song on the album. Song-wise, it’s short; it’s really easy to follow. It really never goes anywhere too far from the beginning. It sticks along the same track [of] just [being] pretty relentless and aggressive.
Rubey: “Dead Throne” was one of those songs that was written in demo form right around [the time of the Zombie EP], and it was intentionally written as the opener to the album. We knew we wanted to start with a fast, heavy song, and we were okay with having some shorter songs around two minutes, two-and-a-half minutes [in length]. It’s the first song on the album that I do vocals on—I just do some backing vocals, which is pretty cool. It is kind of hard to tell which ones are me and which ones are Mike, just because he does a lot of his yells [and] a lot of new vocal stuff on this album as well. I just do some backing yells/scream type things.
Hranica: “Untidaled” is kind of a bridge into the rest of the album. I wrote it a little bit differently than I’ve ever wrote anything else; [I wrote it] like a poem and then put it to the song rather than building off the song too much. “Untidaled” lyrically is one of my favorites. I feel like the way it breaks into the singing part later in the bridge—it’s very Prada-esque. The way we recorded vocals for the choruses was an interesting process, and I’m really glad how it sounds. “Untidaled” starts with the lyric “back for the fourth time around.” We were thinking about opening the record with it, but instead we did the second song, which still works as far as the fourth full-length.
Rubey: I think a lot of [band members] forget to mention [“Untidaled”] when they’re saying what songs are their favorites, just because it sits as second on the album. I really like all the breakdowns with the bass where it drops out, the bass guitar and everything like that. The one singing part in it Adam [Dutkiewicz, producer] made a whole bunch better. That part used to be really different—I think Adam actually took a few breakdowns out of the song just to keep everything flowing. The chorus has lots of fun guitar parts to play. That’s one of my favorite songs on the album.
Hranica: [Producer] Adam D. really took [“Mammoth”] and transformed it from a bunch of parts into a verse-chorus song. It opens with a really beefy part, but at the same time it has a very moving air about it, which we all really like. It feels like it goes from sounding like one band to sounding like another band—and at the same time really being us, though, not a rip-off song by any means.
Rubey: “Mammoth” interestingly enough was the last song that was written for the album. Adam went through and he actually removed the main riff from the song that was in the demo version. He basically cut it up and was like, “The song is going to start here.” And where the song starts is a minute into the demo version. I love how it has a punky thrash feel to it the whole time. The middle section of the song where everything stops and Mike says, “Pick it up,” and goes back into it—Adam says it makes him feel like he’s playing Need For Speed or some racing videogame. I’m kind of pulling for it to be a single at some point.
Rubey: As the main songwriter, I view [“Vengeance”] a lot differently than people who hear the song do. People that I’ve showed the CD to tend to say that “Vengeance” sticks out to them as a song that they really like. It’s honestly one of my least favorites, just from a guitar standpoint, because the song is simple. “Vengeance” is actually a song that we wrote [as a] full band. Normally, I write a good majority of the songs on my computer sitting by myself. [But] we do some time-signature changes and some tempo changes in [this song] that I normally wouldn’t have been able to come up with on a computer. The only reason that I’m not the biggest fan of “Vengeance” is because the song is composed of the same three root notes the entire song, but if you listen to it there’s so many layers. Maybe that’s why people think it’s so catchy.
Hranica: I feel like anyone who hears [“Vengeance”] and knows that Jeremy McKinnon helped us out on the record would be able to tell that he definitely had a part in [the song]. The chorus is bouncy and very singy. Lyrically, it’s something that McKinnon and I both collaborated on, basically an experience that we’ve both been through. It’s just super funny that we actually did it, because it’s something I would usually never really write about—but it’s something that Jeremy would always write about. It’ll always be a memory getting to work with Jeremy like that.
Hranica: “R.I.T.” was a Jeremy McKinnon idea as well. When we were naming the song, he was like, “Let me name it, let me name it.” It’s super cheesy, but “Rest In Torment” which is what “R.I.T.” stands for. The song itself is probably one of my favorites from the album. If someone said, “Alright, pick the heaviest song from the album right now,” I’d have to say “R.I.T.” Lyrically it means a lot, too; basically, the idea of the song is taking an angle of depression in the form of a female. It’s definitely one of the darker songs.
Rubey: I’m assuming that people are going to think “R.I.T.” is closest to the Zombie EP. It’s got the same aggressiveness and heaviness as the Zombie EP, but I wasn’t trying to make it scary. The chorus has a really nice groove, the intro riff is just groovy and weird. It’s all meant to be, I guess you could say Devil Wears Prada a little bit techier, but still understandable for our fanbase. If we went too math metal or technical, we would lose a lot of listeners, and I didn’t want to [do that]. I do some backing vocals on that song. That’s probably my favorite song, backing-vocal-wise. I think the only thing people won’t like about it is that it doesn’t have too many elements of melody in it. It’s more of a shredder.
Hranica: Funny enough, when we wrote “My Questions,” I thought it was going to be the first single, my favorite song [and] the best first chorus song to put out. Honestly, it just ended up blending in with everything else. “My Questions” is definitely one of the more love/lost songs definitively and intentionally. It brings back very powerful memories for me, and it has some of my favorite lines from the record.
Rubey: This one is more of a test of the melodic side of our band. The lyrics and the vocals, even though I didn’t write them, tend to give me chills if you read along with the lyrics and you know what [Mike’s] saying. It’s a really emotionally driven song, since it’s so melodically driven. It’s got the longest bass slide the Devil Wears Prada has done, right smack dab in the middle of the song—like, a two-measure-long bass slide in it. “My Questions” was actually one of my favorite songs before we recorded it, and then we made some changes that made it a little less this and a little more that, and I’m not sure if I like the album version more than I like the demo version. That’s the only song [on Dead Throne] I feel that way about, from going from demo to album version, but I still like the way it came out.
Hranica: I am really proud of the song, and I really like the way it turned out. Everyone does a ballad song or an instrumental song to break up the record, and we did “Louder Than Thunder” on With Roots Above [And Branches Below]. “Kansas” sort of does that as far as breaking up the album, but at the same time, we hope it doesn’t come off as, “Okay, they’re slowing it down, now they’re going to pick it back up again.” I had the idea to do an instrumental song, and I know we very well could write an instrumental record as fast as a vocal record if we wanted to, because we always write these jams and interludes during our sets between songs. Basically, that’s what we did with “Kansas.” That song probably had the most effort go into it even though it doesn’t have any vocals on it.
Rubey: “Kansas” was written full band. There’s a sample that plays that’s a voice speaking, and it’s that portion of the song that I had written super, super long ago. Some of the riffs I took from songs that I was writing a long time ago for some solo project I had that never happened. It was kind of like Minus The Bear, Pelican-y influenced guitar-driven stuff, so that’s why we decided to put those parts in an instrumental.
We intentionally wanted an instrumental, and when we were conceptualizing the whole album, the album definitely needed some breaks. You can’t just give full-blown metal the entire time. We didn’t want to give the fans something we made in GarageBand. It turned out to be a three-and-a-half minute track, so I think it’s something that the fans haven’t really heard from us. If we ever play that song live, I think Mike is going to play guitar on it because there’s so many layers.
“Born To Lose”
Hranica: I really like the way “Kansas” kicks into “Born To Lose.” The reason it is the first single was because we thought it was the song that was like the middle ground. Lyrically, it follows the no idols thing. It has a pretty non-extreme perspective at it.
Rubey: It’s got a good groove, but it’s not too different; it was a safe song for us to put out first. We didn’t want to alienate any of our fans that like the sound that we have already. [But] it pushed what we’ve been doing a little bit already, and it lets people know what the new album is going to sound like as best as you can from one song.
Adam took some breakdowns out of it. A lot of what he took out of Dead Throne was where we would change tempos for a specific breakdown and then we’d have to do some weird tempo change back up. A lot of bands will just do that and not think twice about it. There’s such a thing as good songwriting that flows, and we try to adhere to those basic guidelines. Adam made sure of that. There’s a part in the middle of the song where all the guitars cut out, and it’s basically a breakdown with no guitar. The only reason that even happened was because before the song was even recorded, he muted the guitars there and was like, “This keyboard part is so cool that I don’t even want the guitars to be here.” There’s no way we would’ve written a breakdown with no guitars, but working with Adam in that scenario, that’s how a lot of the parts that are considered creative came about on the album.
Rubey: We wrote that one, like, “Alright, guys, we need a metal song. Let’s make a super-metal song.” It’s kind of a sleeping giant, you could say. When I listen to it, it definitely pulls out a lot of emotions in me. I would describe it as a very aggressive song, a very in-your-face and emotional [song with] lots of rewind-worthy moments. “Forever Decay” and “Vengeance” are two of the only songs that we have in the tuning of drop C.
Hranica: “Forever Decay” is very love/loss theme. It’s super-dramatic—I’m not afraid to admit that, but I like it. There’s a part, it’s the second pre-chorus of the song, that’s this big, driving progression with this lyric: “She fell in love with the city line.” It’s super emotional, and it just drives. That’s definitely my favorite part of the song. When we finished the song all I could really think was, “Wow, this is so old Prada.”
Hranica: I love that song. We wrote “Kansas” when we wrote the first half of the album in Lawrence, Kansas, and we wrote “Chicago” when we wrote the second half in Chicago. I’m excited, because I like a lot of post-hardcore bands and that’s kind of what Chicago is for Prada. It’s the love/loss theme. It’s always going to hit me in a very particular place emotionally. It’s something very memorable to me and reminds me of a specific time in my life. When we did “Louder Than Thunder,” it had a much bigger reaction than we thought. People would like us to do the same thing again, but we’re not a band that does exactly what is going to sell. We do exactly what we want, and “Chicago” is exactly what we wanted to do.
Rubey: Whenever we get into band practice, we don’t sit down and jam metal, we sit down and turn on our delay pedals and put on the clean channel. “Chicago” was a song that was all of us sitting there. We played it exactly like that on the first take, and then we were like, “Go back and do exactly what you did again. Just try to refine your parts and remember what you did.” Mike put his vocals on it and made it into what it is. It kind of defines a new sound that we possibly could explore in the future. I really like that song.
Rubey: “Constance” was written along with all the songs on Zombie EP, and we didn’t use it because we were like, “This one is good, we have to use it for the fourth full-length.” We toy around with playing major notes over minor notes in the chorus, and I really like the feel that gives to the chorus and the melody. That’s the song that has our guest vocals from Tim [Lambesis] from As I Lay Dying.
Hranica: “Constance” turned out to be one of my favorites, but the other guys hear the song and they’re like, “Eh, it’s not the greatest.” The song is about insomnia and not being able to sleep. I think if I were to ever go to hell, it would be not being able to sleep. To me, that sounds like the absolute worst thing ever. So “Constance” is about sleep. When we wrote the song, it was always called “The Egyptian Song” because the pre-chorus is this octave part that is just super winding. There’s a riff in the middle that’s hands-down my favorite riff of the album; it’s just the most insane thing ever. That’s one of my favorite parts of the song.
My other favorite part of the song is the guest vocalist at the end. I got ahold of [Tim Lambesis] to ask if he wanted to do the album. He said yes, and I sent him over the parts. He was adopting a child from Ethiopia, so he comes back to me and he’s like, “I’m super busy with this, but [if] we have some time…” [The] whole time I kept telling him, “Don’t feel like I’m trying to obligate you into doing the record. I know you’re busy, and obviously your new child is much more important.” I was down in Ohio visiting and listening to it and taking notes, and the part comes on in “Constance”—and he was on it. I wasn’t expecting it at all. The way I describe it to everyone is that it’s blatantly evil, which is funny for the people that know who he is and what he stands for.
Hranica: Lyrically, the song is bitter. It’s aimed at bands I don’t like, bands that are super unoriginal and have no substance, [and] people that jump on trends—which is why it’s called “Pretenders.” All the songs have a very personal identity, which is why I’ve been able to rant about them for so long, but “Pretenders” has a very specific identity to me personally as far as having ideas. It definitely has that power and strength behind it. It’s also one of Jeremy’s favorite songs.
Rubey: I play “Pretenders” on a seven-string guitar. We kind of went through and picked the heaviest [songs] and said, “These ones are going to be the heaviest ones, let’s tune them the lowest.” “Pretenders” is just supposed to be the heavy song. It has a slower vibe to it, a more chill vibe, but it’s definitely supposed to be super, super, super heavy. I would say it’s our breakdowniest song, our moshiest song. I rarely hear people say [it’s] their favorite [track], but it’s definitely one of mine.
Hranica: When Chris wrote “Holdfast,” he actually had it called “Radio,” because it was a song that he wrote similar to when we covered [Big Tymers’] “Still Fly” as far as a very understandable verse-chorus-type structure. I love its purpose in the album. Lyrically, it’s the most positive song. I thought it was cool to end the record with optimism, which is weird, because in retrospect I’ve always thought you end the record super heavy and super angry and leave people on that bitter note. To me, Dead Throne is very depressing. The end of the song is cool as far as just absolute vocal chaos.
Rubey: That one truthfully was written right after Branches came out, and we were like, “Well, let’s write a song that if it ever was to be our radio song, would be our radio song.” “Still Fly” on that Pop Goes Crunk [compilation], that’s still our number one song on iTunes, and I was just asking myself what makes people like songs like this. Because to me it’s just kind of repetitive; I broke down the song structure and it’s just chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse…
So I used the same structure as “Still Fly” but tried to write a way better, more metal song. I was telling myself when I was coming up with the riffs and everything, “Write harder Killswitch, more metal Killswitch.” I think it’s the most different song. It doesn’t necessarily sit with the rest of the album. I think it’s the most With Roots Above-esque song on the album, but I think there [will be] a lot of people that are going to desire that, so that song is for them.Read More