Vancouver rock band Theory of a Deadman are currently thrilling rock fans nationwide with their return to the scene with their fourth studio album, “The Truth Is…”. A lot has transpired since the release of 2008’s breakthrough, Scars & Souvenirs. Through a pair of #1 singles in the form of “So Happy” and “Bad Girlfriend” as well as “Not Meant To Be” landing Top 5 at Hot AC, their patented, arena-sized hooks and non-stop touring with the likes of Daughtry, Motley Crue, Godsmack and everyone in between, the album earned Platinum status the old-fashioned way. The band aims to keep that tremendous momentum going with “The Truth Is…” which cycles through an array of infectious anthems and mid-tempo rockers that don’t scrimp on sense of humor and even a ballad or two! Armed with an extraordinary work ethic and the chops to back it up, Theory of A Deadman will soon hit the road with Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Adelitas Way and Emphatic. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with frontman Tyler Connolly to discuss the Theory of A Deadman’s musical roots and evolution, the writing process of the new album and what lies in store for the band in the months to come!
We always like to start by giving everyone a little bit of background and I was also curious about how music first came into your life?
My dad was a musician and was in a band so we had all of the instruments at our house. Drums, guitars, keyboards, it was all there! I was pretty lucky early on. I learned how to play drums early on, I hated it! I quit and moved onto the guitar which is where I grew up.
What made you pursue your music as a career as opposed to going a different route?
Free drugs. [laughs] No, no! I don’t know, man. I think that it was kind of an outside shot for it to become a career. I had a day job and I was just in a band for fun. We didn’t play that many gigs and we were just jammin’ for fun. There was always original material because I got a kick out of writing my own songs and never did covers. To this day, I still don’t know any covers. It just kinda fell in our laps and we were really lucky. We kinda won a lottery! It took us quite a few years to figure out how to make it a career and in the music business. It is a tough business to make it in and we have learned a lot along the way.
How did Theory of A Deadman initially form?
Myself, Dean [Back] our bass player and our old drummer all worked together at the same restaurant when we were in high school. That is when we formed Theory of a Deadman. Then our guitar player, Dave Brenner, called me one day, he was a friend of mine from another band, and told me his band had just broken up, could he come play in my band. I said, “I don’t know man, I play guitar and sing, I don’t know if we need a second guitar player.” He said, “Well, let’s see what happens!” So he came over and the first thing he wanted to do was throw out all of the songs. “Pussy songs” he called them! [laughs] He was really interested in playing a lot heavier stuff. He was into Alice In Chains, Corrosion of Conformity, Pantera, Down and all of that heavier stuff. He kinda influenced me to write heavier riffs and get into that sort of sound. It worked, it was the four of us and we became Theory of A Deadman. Unfortunately, the drummer didn’t make it, we kicked him out of the band early on and moved on. The remaining three moved on and that is kinda how we got started.
Did you have any inkling that your last album, “Scars and Souvenirs,” would serve as the mainstream breakthrough album for Theory of a Deadman?
Not really. We were all pretty happy with our career up to that point. We had success here and there and felt that there was a lot more to be done. The “Scars and Souvenirs” record, the songwriting, for me, just felt good. The songs felt good. To tell you the truth, we had no idea that the songs would do as well as they did. It was really a big surprise. I think it took a few years, pretty much when that record was over, to hone in on what we were doing that was right. For me, it was just about being honest with the songwriting and writing songs from my own personality. Some of the stuff was tongue-in-cheek and I have a dry sense of humor that I put into the lyrics and I think that was what the fans were attracted to. We have kinda done the same thing on the new album.
What was the biggest challenge in putting together “The Truth Is … ?”
I think that the challenge that we had was that for the first time in our career we had a lot of people looking at us under a microscope for the first time. We had to follow up a platinum plus selling record. We went in thinking, “How are we going to better ourselves or is it even possible to do that? We don’t know.” So that was probably the only challenge, trying to make a great record. There was a lot of stress but the good thing for us is that we have always worked great under pressure, which some bands don’t, they just crack. For us it was like, “Yeah, let’s do it! Bring it on!” We actually wrote half of the record in the studio because we went in with seven songs and just started tracking. Someone asked, “When are you gonna start writing the rest of your tracks?” The answer was, “Now! Let’s keep going!” For us as a band, it was a very exciting way to work.
This is your third album with producer Howard Benson. What does he bring to the table?
Bagels. That’s about it. [laughs] He buys lunch sometimes. [laughs] The great thing about Howard is that, when we worked with him on the “Gasoline” record, the first thing he said was, “You are tuned too low. Your guitar is tuned so low that you can’t hear the melody. You are losing the melody of the songs, you got such catchy songs but you need to tune your guitars up.” That really made sense. Then he started to really gravitate toward me, my lyrics and my vocals. He said, “It is kinda all up to you here. People don’t listen to the bass, so I am not going to spend four hours with the bass talent, it is a waste of time. We have to work on your vocals and your lyrics, you need to invest more time in those.” I started concentrating on having more quality lyrics and making sure that the vocal takes were really good. It made a huge difference and that is what he brought to the table for us and it was really important.
You released a video for “Lowlife” which stars Donal Logue. What was that experience like for you? Do you enjoy those shoots?
Yeah, man! I think I have made 16 or so videos now. I have shot so many, I can’t even remember! They are always fun. You don’t do them once a week, only once every four or five months and it is always something different. Each different director has a different take on the band. It is a lot of fun, especially when there is some sort of concept involved, either acting or a cool storyline. The “Lowlife” video is one of my favorite videos. Getting Donal in it with his acting ability and the story was so funny. At the end of the video the trailer blows up — it is just so cool to watch it when it is all done. We are never there for very long, maybe 12 hours and there was literally a truck waiting for us at the side of the shoot that we jumped in to take us to the airport where we flew away. It was probably about three weeks later that we got to see the video for the first time. It is a very exciting process. It’s always cool.
You have a very busy schedule coming up. Any plans on shooting any other videos before you hit the road again?
Yeah, we are going to shoot a video on Friday [August 5th, 2011] for our next rock single which is called “Bitch Came Back.” That’s going to be another fun video. It takes place in Malibu and we will have a bunch of chicks in bikinis and stuff. It’s not like a raunchy Motley Crue video, it is more about this chick that offs the band, she kills each one of us throughout the video. It’s gonna be cool and there is beautiful weather down here, so we are blessed and I am sure that all of the guys will fly in for that!
You’re headed out on the Carnival of Madness tour. Are you looking forward to touring the land once again?
Yeah! It is my favorite part of being a musician, getting out there on the tour bus and waking up in a different city every day. I love being on the road and playing an hour to an hour and 20 minutes a night! It is just amazing. When I started my career, touring was the bane of my existence. It just tore me apart. I guess I just wasn’t ready for it at that time. Nowadays, I live in LA and I have a great place but I just sit here and I am so bored! [laughs] I just want to get back on the road and play! We always try to load up on new gear, guitars and make our stage look great and do a better show each night. Lookin’ forward to it, it is going to be a lot of fun!
The live performance is as tight and powerful as it has ever been. What do you guys do to keep the performances exciting for yourself as well as the fans?
For us, I think it is about building our fanbase. I think that when we walk on stage each night, it is about trying to win over the crowd. Sometimes I feel like a comedian who has just stepped on stage and everyone is staring at me like, “OK, what do ya got?” Some people get scared to death by that but for me, when I take the stage it is my time to shine, be a goof, run around and do guitar solos. It’s like Christmas morning, man! I hope that it is the same way for the crowd too.
So much has happened for you and the band in the past few years. Is there something that jumps out at you in your mind as the defining moment of your still blossoming career?
I don’t know. I think it is the struggle that drives us to keep going. More than anything it is that we keep winning this rock ‘n’ roll lottery, over and over. I think it comes down to the fact that we are four regular dudes that grew up in a small town and worked really hard. There are no drugs, no egos. For us it is just about running a successful business that is rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t know if there is any one thing in particular that has stood out. Actually, what was really cool was when Dave and I were in France doing press. This is no joke at all, I am not even embellishing. We were at the top of the Eiffel Tower on our day off when I got a text from our manager, about two years ago, saying, “Your album just went gold in the United States!” That was pretty cool man! It was the moment in our career where we were looking out over all of Paris, we got that text and we were in awe, sayin’ “Holy shit, man! This is pretty badass!”
Do you think there are any misconceptions about the band?
I don’t think so. The great thing with me is that lyrically, I just lay it all on the line and write how I feel. We are a very honest band. I don’t know if there are any misconceptions. Ya know, I really like mystery. I have never seen Led Zeppelin but I have seen Page and Plant which is close as ya get, I got nose bleed seats, just even being that close to those guys was one of the most exciting times in my life.
I think that nowadays, that the mystery of bands is really gone. You can pretty much have a Twitter conversation with someone famous. I want people to still be able to have that kinda mystery about a band. Sometimes I like being mysterious, not always but sometimes. I don’t have a Twitter account or a Facebook page just to say that I am going to Starbucks or that I am walking my dog. [laughs]
In your opinion, what does the future hold for Theory of A Deadman? — no plans on packing it in any time soon I hope!
No, definitely not. We are very focused on the band. You see so many bands get successful and then they implode. For us, we are still the same guys that we were starting out and we just want to go out there and play. We are going to spend a lot of time in the States. We will be there until the middle of November touring nonstop. Then we go to the UK. So for us the future is just to keep it going worldwide and we want to get the chance to play some countries that we haven’t played before like Australia. Supposedly, it is a huge rock market that we haven’t played, which is almost embarrassing! We want to get down there and to Japan as well. World domination! [laughs]
Do you work on new material while you are on the road for those long periods of time?
Ya know, I find that when we are on the road, that when we are playing the same songs every night, if we work on new material, it just ends up sounding the same as the stuff we are playing. So we don’t write anything on the road and we usually need a couple of months away from it at the end of a record cycle to get some fresh ideas.
Anything you want to tell your fans before I let you go?
It’s going to be a great show. I will buy all of them a drink or a beer or an eight ball, whatever they want! [laughs] But seriously, We can’t wait to see everyone out there and look forward to doing what we do best!
Thanks so much for your time, Tyler. All the best to you and the rest of Theory of A Deadman.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.