Raymond Westland recently put some questions to God Dethroned guitarist Danny Tunker. Read what Danny had to say from WWI to Spinal Tap moments.
Hi there and thank you for doing this interview for ThisIsNotAScene (TINAS). Your latest album, The Sign Of The Iron Cross, was released late last summer with very positive feedback by press and fans alike. Were you surprised by these kind of reactions and what are your views on the album 6 months after its release?
Danny: Well, the album has only been out since November, 20th, so closer to 2 months. It was a bit of a surprise, yes. You always hope people will like it, but you never expect them to like it this much. We’ve played the new songs live a couple of times and reactions are pretty wild so far.
As on Passiondale the new album covers The Great War as its main theme. What do you find so inspiring about this war and what specific subjects hold your fascination?
Danny: WWI as a whole is a fascinating subject because of how big a conflict it was. Not a lot of people realize it was not only fought on the Western front. This was the most famous part of the conflict, of course, but there were many other fronts, too. Also the way it started it pretty fascinating, since Europe around this time was a bomb waiting to explode. Tensions between nations were rising and they would’ve taken any excuse to go to war.
The thing with this war is that it isn’t awarded a whole lot of attention these days with movies or documentaries. Certainly not on the same scale as WWII is. So you slowly find out a bit more from various sources and the fact that you do find out about it on your own makes it a lot more engaging.
Can you elaborate on the themes and subjects you tackle on both Passiondale and The Sign Of The Iron Cross?
Danny: Passiondale covers various subjects but is set mainly on the Western Front covering the horrors in the trenches, use of poison gas, fighting for tiny pieces of land and losing them the next day. Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross covers various other themes like ethnic cleansing under the Ottoman Empire, the first dogfights and The Red Baron and conflict on the other fronts. This time a lot of inspiration came from ‘In Stahlgewittern’ by Ernst Jünger, who was a soldier in the German army. In this diary he describes his experiences in a lot of detail, making it ideal for lyrical themes.
One of the striking features of the new album is its ferocious aggression, most notably on Storm Of Steel, Fire Storm, The Killing Is Faceless and Chaos Reigns At Dawn. Was this a deliberate decision when you started to work on the album? Can you share some light on the creative process?
Danny: From the onset we wanted this to be a very punishing record, a ‘Soundtrack’ to the Great War, if you will. Some of the themes not covered on Passiondale were the themes handled in the songs you mentioned and screamed for a sonic assault.
On the new record you enlisted the help of Jorg Uken and his Soundlodge Studios. What makes him and his studio so good?
Danny: He’s a consummate professional and his productions keep getting better. On top of that he’s very easy to work with. You couldn’t ask for anything more in a studio.
Henri is the principle songwriter for God Dethroned since the early days and you got nine full length albums under your belt. How do you keep things interesting for yourself and how do you manage to find fresh creative angles when you’re working on new material?
Danny: You take it where inspiration takes you. On these last 2 albums Henri found a new interest and found many sources, so inspiration came very easy. If something can hold your interest and you can immerse yourself in it, it’s a lot easier to come up with workable ideas.
God Dethroned has seen its fair share of line-up changes. Is it an annoyance to you or do you see it as a chance to try some new things?
Danny: A bit of both. You hope you find good people, but once you find them it is a chance to see what new directions you can take.
I’ve done my bit of battlefield WWI touring and I visited places like Ypres, Verdun and the Somme region. Especially the Ypres region seems like a commercially exploited circus, while the French treat their historic heritage with more dignity with Verdun being the best example. What are your thoughts on this?
Danny: Unfortunately I haven’t been to Verdun and Ypres yet, so I’m afraid I can’t comment on that from own experience. I have heard various things about Ypres, but have never heard it called a commercially exploited circus before.
After more than 90 years WWI is still part of a heated political debate, especially in Flandres. The annual Pilgrimage of the Yser (IJzerbedevaart) is the linchpin of that. What do you think of that? Aren’t you afraid that God Dethroned might be labelled as a political band or even worse, a band that glorifies war and violence, because of Passiondale and The Sign Of The Iron Cross?
Danny: We’re not afraid to be labelled a political band as none of our lyrics are political and they don’t glorify war either. All lyrics, especially on these last 2 albums, take on the role of observer. They neither condemn nor glorify.
You’ve been active in several bands through the years. What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed and how did they affect you? How did that affect God Dethroned or other projects you’re involved with?
Danny: The most profound changes would be how trends come up, disappear, change and come back again. Like the Death Metal scene which all but disappeared in the mid 90’s and in the last 5 years has gained a lot of popularity.
Time for the final question. What is your ultimate Spinal Tap moment with God Dethroned?
Danny: I’ve only been in the band for a year and there haven’t been any real Spinal Tap moments. I’ve had a funny thing happen in one of my old bands, Detonation. We played in Marseille and after the gig a befuddled French guy walked up to us and told us he loved it so much, we had played so good that ‘his ass hurt’. Still don’t see how that would be a compliment, but hey.
Thanks again for doing this interview. Do you have any final thoughts or comments for our readers?
Danny: Thanks a lot for the interview and everybody reading this check out ‘Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross’!