“We’re not a supergroup,” said Tom Morello when he introduced his new band PROPHETS OF RAGE feat. members of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, PUBLIC ENEMY, and CYPRESS HILL last year, and I bet members of SECRET SOCIETY would say exactly the same. The band brings together members of dozens of hardcore punk projects from 3 continents and is a true testament to the partnership, unity and creativity within hardcore community, and proves what DIY, cross border collaboration is all about. We spoke with Don D (ex- LAST HOPE), John Conner of DOG EAT DOG, Brad Hyra of TRAPPED UNDER ICE, and Georgi of EXPECTATIONS about how it all came together. Oh, and we have an exclusive record premiere below. Dig it!
SECRET SOCIETY‘s core members are Don D (guitars/bass) and Marin Vendetta (drums). The project gathered members from loads of veteran Bulgarian hardcore bands and other acts from various different countires, including some bigger, well-known brands like the following brands like DOG EAT DOG, NEXT STEP UP, TRAPPED UNDER ICE, and DARKEST HOUR. SECRET SOCIETY features members of: OLDHAM BOYS, HARDFACED, VENDETTA, FAC
Hey there guys! Thanks a lot for taking some time with us! Please tell us about this new project. Who came up with this idea?
Don D: I always loved side-projects in HC and metal – SOD, PATH OF RESISTANCE, DODGING BULLETS, SKARHEAD, BRUJERIA, NAILBOMB, HAZEN STREET, ICEPICK, RAGMEN, WORLD BE FREE, PROJECT X, SOS … its always amazing to listen to such collaborations. Often they have better songs than the original bands … sorry for that LOL! On a more serious note – it’s been almost 40 years of hardcore madness starting from BAD BRAINS in 1979 till now 2017. These are 4-5 generations of HC bands and the movement has become a global phenomenon across the world. U.K. and US have pioneered the style, but other parts of the world have picked up and created markets and generations of loyal HC disciples. We have HC people in every country, at every social level, you can even discover that your boss in the corporate world is a HC kid or your neighbor is an active HC hero – it is a global Secret Society and I’m so proud of it! Im inspired everyday by the HC people I meet, regardless of our different backgrounds and lifestyles. I thought it would be cool to pay respect to all that and bring together my childhood friends from Bulgaria and my new friends from Washington, DC in one all-star project. How I select the guests? Well, I tried to avoid the usual suspects – when I was in LAST HOPE 1996-2010 I was lucky enough to have toured Europe with AGNOSTIC FRONT, MURPHY’S LAW, MADBALL, 25 TA LIFE, SICK OF IT ALL, HATEBREED, IGNITE, BIOHAZARD, TERROR, so we already had some of these people singing over my songs, so I purposely didn’t invite them. I wanted to dig deeper into my personal Secret Society of HC, like the diehards who you still meet at your local show after 20 in the scene. In my case some are local heroes, while some are from big names like DOG EAT DOG, DARKEST HOUR, NEXT STEP UP or TRAPPED UNDER ICE. All of us create our Secret Society no matter what we do 9 to 5. Everything in the record has a meaning and a message from the artwork to the riffs to the lyrics to the guests. You gotta dig deeper on that one, or find your own symbolism.
On recording: The idea to record the songs was given in Sofia, my hometown, when I was on vacation with my family last summer in 2016. I always have a lot of riffs piled up, and one of my childhood friends and one of the best Bulgarian drummers and a HC icon – Marin VENDETTA / FACE UP / UPSURT / THEM FREQUENCIES invited me to jam with him one afternoon. One thing let to the other and from AF and SOD covers we ended up in the studio recording our own songs. All music was done in 2 days at Sub Zero Studio, Sofia with our old friend and studio rat Bebo, a Bulgarian underground legend. Since I don’t visit Sofia often I had many of my friends at the studio so it was a big party! Check our Facebook photos!
John Conner (DOG EAT DOG): Check 1,2, 1,2 – this is john Connor of DED and Secret Society member. I got involved with Secret Society through Don D – him and I met at a MADBALL show in Washington, DC at the Pinch and Hoya Rock from MADBALL introduced us. Dobro told Hoya he was working on songs, had a bunch of riffs and wanted to add different singers, and Hoya was like – yo, the biggest singer John from DED is standing right next to you, don’t you know him? So he introduced us, don D told me he’s doing the songs for fun, and I like that kind of spirit – DYI, just for fun, so I was in. Those are usually the best intentions and the best inspirations come out of such projects, so that’s how I got involved.
Brad Hyra (TRAPPED UNDER ICE): This was Dobro’s brainchild from day one. I know he got all the music recorded in Bulgaria last year. He comes home and tells me “I just recorded 12 songs”. What a maniac.
Georgi (EXPECTATIONS): Dobro aka Don D contacted me as he already had the idea. He had recorded songs with Marin from VENDETTA and though I will be a good fit for some of them.
Ok, so it’s a band of a couple of core members and loads of guests. What was the key to selecting this particular set of members?
Don D: The band is more than a band – it is a Secret Society, every member of our HC community is welcome to contribute. The core was mainly childhood friends and new friends from D.C. On this record the core is Marin drums, and myself guitars and bass, then we added many singers and four sick guitar players who added solos and additional guitars – my brother Chavesa ex LAST HOPE/URBAN GREY, my metal angel and neighbor Mike Schleibaum DARKEST HOUR and BATTERY, my Bulgarian / Dutch evil twin Sven GET SOME / BROTHERS IN BLOOD and the most important – my childhood idol Chaikata from the legendary Bulgarian bands TUMNO, PANAKA, BICHETO.
The key was to select specific vocals for specific riffs and songs. There are always like 2-3 singers per song. John Connor from DOG EAT DOG helped me a lot with finding the studio in DC and finalizing the vocals and gangs. He’s an amazing talent, a professional career musician and in the world of amateur/semi-pro HC bands his experience was crucial for finalizing the record. Thank you Only One Pro! You’ll have to interview him separately on that record, I’m sure he’ll have a lot to say! In general, most guests – singers and guitarists are amazing talents with 20 + years on stage, so the result is sick! Imagine the landmark growling of JR Next Step Up meeting the madman high pitch of Alex LAST HOPE or the VENDETTA duo savages Delyan and Shutta meeting the Bulgarian post-core Bon Jovi – George EXPECTATIONS who can paint the apocalypse with his voice! Add to that the perfect insanity of Stoyan BFH/ADRIATIC, the raw aggression of Itzo INDIGNITY and Stambeto ANOTHER DAY, and the Cro-Mags barking of Dewon, ex-STRENGTH IN NUMBERS and you’ll lose your mind! I think we covered all aspects of hardcore singing and beyond.
Brad Hyra (TRAPPED UNDER ICE): That was all Dobro as well but I think what he had in mind was getting friends from different locations all over the world to come and participate. People from all different types of hardcore bands, different places, and different eras.
Technically speaking, how did you guys find the time to actually write and record together? Tell us about the process leading up to this debut release.
Don D: Finding time is easy – only the diehard remains! You have to have the commitment from the youth crew lyrics, but for real – that’s all. As a riff head, I always have riffs and hooks, which I record on my camera as I don’t play often and I might forget them. Thats the music. I also know what bass lines and what drums go with the riffs, so everything sounds arranged in my head. When you play for so many years its very easy, but also dangerous because you might end up getting sucked in into a black hole of riffs without end in sight … I know people with 1000 unreleased songs and they just continue writing more and more … it’s like an obsession. Anyway, the music was the easy part, the hard part was to find musicians to complete the songs given my full-time job and family obligations, and the fact that I live in Washington, DC while most musicians I know and play with were in Sofia or New York. At the end the music was tracked in two days in Sofia. Then the next day we added vocals and gangs on three songs, its was so much fun! We even added Bon Jovi and Metallica quotes in the lyrics and I had my 2 years old son doing vox too!
Then we did the vox from Australia and Netherlands, Varna, and the DC/Baltimore/NY people, which all came to D.C. to the studio of Mike Schleibaum of DARKEST HOUR/BATTERY. Talk is cheap, so It’s all about determination and sacrifice. My guests probe that they are keeping it real – Amazing friends, Amazing commitment, I can’t believe I know such cool people! Secret Society for life!
John Conner (DOG EAT DOG): Hey, Everybody is pretty busy, but you make time for it if you want to be involved with something, that’s the way it is. If it’s not paying you, than it’s a creative thing. Artists always make time for creative stuff, it had a cool feeling, it wasn’t difficult writing some lyrics and e had only two recording sessions, no practice, everybody had their parts done or written, so it worked out good.
Brad Hyra (TRAPPED UNDER ICE): All I can tell you is that my vocal parts and a ton of others were recorded one magical spring night in a DC garage.
Georgi (EXPECTATIONS):So he sent me two songs and I chose one which became No Gods,No Masters. It was a very excited process and I am happy with the end result. For me it is really important for people to try to experiment, do new things and in general get out of their comfort zone musically speaking. Also this is quite different then my main project EXPECTATIONS so it was super fun doing it.
What kind of energy have so many contributions brought to the final effect? Are you happy with how the album came out sounding?
Don D: It’s insane – you gotta hear the songs. That’s a multi-generational, multi-country, cross-scene global HC record without boundaries. The lyrics span from inside HC topics like touring (Van Therapy) and recording (Studio Rat) to social topics like populism and ignorance (Marginalized and PC Smile). We even wrote a song based on Harley Flanagan’s book entitled 90s HC Tribute commemorating those HC bands who shaped the global HC in the 90s and those who are rocking the scene today like TUI and TURNSTILE. As Mike Schleibaum put it – the HC version of “We didn’t start the fire”. There will be a lyric video on that one, I just have to give props to all these bands – old and new. TERROR gave props to LAST HOPE in their new lyric video, I’m giving it back! And I wrote the lyrics way before TERROR did the video with LAST HOPE in it … that’s another prove of the existence of our HC Secret Society – we just read each other’s minds!
John Conner (DOG EAT DOG):The feeling is good when you bring different people into it, as I said the inspiration and the feeling behind it is DIY – people making music just because they can and they love it. It’s always fun having people from different bands, different backgrounds, different counties, it’s a special thing. Dobro is a funny guy and is able to bring people together, and that’s a precise skill, imagine having dinner, and everybody is bringing different dish to the table with the same goal, the same thing here – we just wanna make fun sings, good songs that people enjoy, things that make us laugh. I’m very happy with some songs, overly I’m not disgusted by the lyrics, but some of them are so stupid (meaning funny) that I can’t believe it, but it definitely has to be heard. If you area Hardcore fan you should check it out.
Don D – the lyrics are a HC buffet. John: hey don’t spoil it, that’s for the next record …
Brad Hyra (TRAPPED UNDER ICE): The energy is amazing and all the songs have a certain intensity because Dobro picked the right people. I met Dobro two years ago when I saw a guy at the CVS down the block from my house wearing a BIOHAZARD shirt and pushing a baby in a stroller. I though “who is this guy?”…turns out we’d lived down the street from each other for years. Since then if there’s one thing I’ve learned about him, it’s that he absolutely loves hardcore. He managed to find a bunch of people who feel the same way as him to make this record and I think it shows.
With everyone’s busy schedule, is there room for wider lineup of SECRET SOCIETY to actually hit the road and arrange a tour?
Don D: We are people from 3 continents, so it’ll be impossible to get the whole “line-up” together for a tour. I’d say, depending on the reception of the record it’s realistic to expect shows in D.C. and Sofia. It’s also important to know that most of us are veterans with over 20 years of HC history behind us and a lot of hours playing shows around the world. We are not that hungry to play shows or spend countless hours of van therapy from city to city. Been there, done that, and we even have a song about that called Van Therapy. But since, we are more than a band, we are a HC Society, the door is open for any guest to play as far as live shows. We can play any day any city, or we can afford to come up with many new songs in two days. This is our DNA. For now we are planing to play a show in Sofia in my neighborhood, and then in D.C. in my new neighborhood, obviously with different line-ups. There will be a big hype if it happens :-) remember, our Society is everywhere – commercial media or Facebook – you can’t avoid the hype!
John Conner (DOG EAT DOG): I have no idea. There is awakes a possibly with people who are already in band meeting up or playing shows together. DOG EAT DOG played with LAST HOPE just in April, so we had a little bit of DC, NY and New Jersey up in Sofia, we had a good time, it’s not the first time we played with LAST HOPE, so maybe we’ll play as Secret Society when we meet up again. It all depends on Dobro, he’s the chief of the project, so …
Brad Hyra (TRAPPED UNDER ICE):It would be tough to get everyone together for a tour I think. Maybe a show would work. Where there’s a will there’s a way.
Georgi (EXPECTATIONS):I don’t know whether we are going to tour some day as we are based in different regions of the world but who knows. The main thing here is to show the world that hardcore and metal music is alive and borders does not matter.
Alright buddy, thanks a lot for the quick update! Please drop your final words and take care!
Don D: Check out our record “Out of the Game” on bandcamp, Spotify and iTunes, like our Facebook page, spread the word and never forget – you are all part of the secret Society of hardcore. Give props the the little invisible people in hardcore – studio rats, riff nerds, gear kings, stage hands, merch guys, vinyl junkies, local heroes, show zombies, zine kings like you or Chris In Effect – they all make our scene the way it is. Give them props, it’s not only about the bands. It’s about every kid at every show. Even when you are grown up and out of the game like me, something can trigger you and without knowing it you will be back in the studio or back in the van. Support your local bands, go to shows, buy merch, buy records, start a band, write a song, it is all in our hands.
Last thing – order the fresh new records of our members who made this record possible: DOG EAT DOG, DARKEST HOUR, GET-SOME, ADRIATIC, DC DISORDER, TRAPPED UNDER ICE … Expect new records form LAST HOPE, VENDETTA, HARDFACED and EXPECTATIONS. Continue living the HC dream – Secret Society for life!
We are 100 DIY project, order the record, and thank you all for your support. Thank you IDIOTEQ – the newest member of Secret Society!
John Conner (DOG EAT DOG): Shout out to Poland! It’s always great there, we had a lot of support over the years. If you like DOG EAT DOG, and know I’m involved in Secret Society – check it out. It’s a fun project, it has a lot of fun lyrics and great music, don’t take it too seriously, just enjoy it!
Brad Hyra (TRAPPED UNDER ICE):Thank you for the interview. Thanks to Dobro for getting this together and being a great friend. His enthusiasm is infectious. Viva Bulgaria!
Georgi (EXPECTATIONS):It’s a cliche but we are all one and we should try to be good people and bring positive vibes to the world. Long live Secret Society!