Last month, Damien Moyal introduced the world to his new solo records, straying far from his previous work with hardcore bands AS FRIENDS RUST, CULTURE, ON BODIES, MORNING AGAIN and SHAI HULUD. “2016” 7” and “Stay Black” EP (Demons Run Amok Entertainment) serve the payoff that DAMIEN DONE has been building to over many years of development and . We sat down with him to discuss his smart flairs of bluesy trickery, his creative process and design work. Read the full interview below.
Hey Damien! Thanks so much for taking some time with us. How are you? How’s your summer going?
It’s been a great summer so far, between the release of the two DAMIEN DONE records and CULTURE recently completing a short tour in Europe. Definitely keeping busy.
Clearly, between your work with hardcore bands and now performing solo artist, there has to be a focus on priorities. How do you do balance between contributing to various musical projects and your non-music activities?
Yeah, when ON BODIES, CULTURE, AS FRIENDS RUST and DAMIEN DONE all have things happening at the same time, like recordings, tours, festivals, records and merch to design, it can get pretty stressful. Luckily ON BODIES slowed down a bit over this past year (since two of the guys were busy with another band), and AS FRIENDS RUST made no plans for 2016 (we did several things in 2015) — This gave me a bit more room to explore and grow DAMIEN DONE. Add to those projects a full-time career and a t-shirt brand, and it’s sort of a miracle that my wife and dog haven’t packed their bags and left.
It must have been different to arrange music alone than when you’re a part of a team. How would you descrie the difference and what it means to go through similar processes all alone?
As a guy who never played an instrument, my contributions to the arrangement of songs or parts were always a bit limited in bands. I was able to get ideas across, but because I didn’t play anything, I didn’t exactly have the frame of reference required. Once I started playing guitar to write DAMIEN DONE songs, I gained an entirely new appreciation for the process of writing and arranging. Most of the early songs lack traditional structure, and not necessarily intentionally, whereas the newer stuff makes more sense.
It’s tough not having anybody to validate the good ideas or talk you out of the bad ones. In a band setting you really benefit from the critiques and excitement of others. You have 4 or 5 times the brainpower, and can determine a good song in one rehearsal. But with DAMIEN DONE, it’s just me, and I’m usually too self-conscious to send works-in-progress to friends for feedback, so I just keep chipping away at a song until either I finally think it’s good or I’m completely sick of it. Very often both of those things happen at the same time.
Compared to your various band endevours, what became easier and tougher as you began making music on your own? Are there any aspects of your solo work that you’ve found to be particularly challenging?
Well, with a solo project it’s much easier to organize a rehearsal or demo songs, because I’m the only one that has to show up. But one struggle I’m having is in figuring out how to play live. I need a band, but I need solid players who will simply back me up. In a band setting, people are excited to play because they all collectively wrote the songs and they’re emotionally invested. With DAMIEN DONE, I would essentially be asking talented musicians not to think while on stage, and that seems weird. I mean, I know there’s a whole subset of musicians out there who are happy to back people up live or in recording sessions, but having always been in bands that wrote original material, it’s sort of odd to me. Also, in AFR or CULTURE, I have help from other members when it comes to organizing tours or playing festivals or tour managing or dealing with labels. With DAMIEN DONE, there’s nobody else to share the burden with. I probably should look into a manager or something.
Is there a lot of room for improvisation in the process of making your songs? Do you establishes some rules so that you cannot alter the main core and style of your work? Tell me more about your creative process.
A lot of my parts were born from improvisation, and I try not to be too rigid about my process or sound. Some are big, full rock songs, some are acoustic, some of the newer songs are really piano-driven or use looped beats, but I think they still all somehow end up sounding like DAMIEN DONE. My process is pretty simple: I fuck around with my guitar until I have a song, or at least some parts to string together. I pick a tempo and program some drums. I record my guitars to those drums, then add bass guitar and finally vocals. Then I drive around listening to it in my car, find the things I hate, go home and fix them, repeat.
Music-wise, how do you think you will develop your sound in the future? Are you going to be adding more instruments and musicians? Where do you see this project moving?
I really have no idea. I’d like to find some people to rehearse with and play live with, but I’m not too connected to any scene in Michigan, where I’ve been living for the past ten years. I know that I do want to keep writing and recording, and I’m very happy with the songs for the album I’m currently writing.
Ok Damien, you’ve just released 2 new records, with the shorter one serving a couple of new tracks. Content-wise, what inspired you to write these recent songs?
For the past few years I’ve noticed a sensation of not feeling acutely, vividly present. I always describe it as feeling slightly out of focus and inattentive, and it’s given me the impression that others seem to be much better at living – at being excited about life and people and the world – than I am. That drove those songs, as evidenced in the line “I don’t feel here.”
What’s the progress on the new full length?
Very, very good. At the rate that I’ve been writing and demo-ing, I’ll have more songs than I need.
What do you look for creatively in terms of developing your solo work and expanding to more new projects?
I look for inspiration. Concepts and themes that play into that cold, uncomfortable landscape that I think DAMIEN DONE exists in.
Ok Damien, so what is in the immediate future for this project? Will you be touring to support your new records? Can we expect you hitting European roads sometime soon?
One way or another, I’ll be playing by the end of this year, and yes – I hope to do some touring next year for sure. Europe would be great. Right now I’m just writing and writing, and trying to figure out how to make the new album happen.
Lastly, please tell us about your current design projects, both private and professional. What are some of the most interesting assignments you’ve taken recently?
All of my personal design projects in recent years have been band-related. At one point last year I had eleven CD/LP/7″ layouts to do in a six-week period, and every time there’s a new record or show, I handle the design work. Professionally, I’m doing industrial design at a studio that specializes in bottle design. It’s actually pretty exciting, and entails a lot of engineering and technical understanding. But because we work with a lot of global brands, and the development timeline is pretty lengthy, I’ll refrain from naming anyparticular projects in the works.
Does your design work influence writing music and vice versa?
I don’t think so.
Thanks so much for your time, Damien. Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
Just that I really appreciate your time and interest in a project that’s so new, as well as personal for me. I’ve been tremendously fortunate to have supportive labels that enable me to put music out there, and people willing to check the music out. It’s been a good ride.
Thanks again. Cheers from Warsaw!