Since 1995 the heavy metal act Twisted Tower Dire have been releasing discs and touring the globe. They have played numerous European Festivals and their 2002 release Crest was named as one of Terrorizer Magazines top 20 power metal albums of all time. I recently had the opportunity to catch the band live and these guys put on one hell of a show. Afterward, I spoke with guitarist Scott Waldrop about the band and their upcoming release entitled Make It Dark.
You guys are in the middle of a tour with Dokken. How is that going so far? Have the fans been receptive?
Scott: Actually Dokken is doing a stadium tour right now with Poison I believe. This Richmond gig was a one night club thing from what I understand. We were on the bill because we’re somewhat locals (one member lives in Richmond and the rest of us are from Raleigh) and our guitarist Dave knows some of the people who work at Toad’s Place. We’re actually getting ready to go to Canada and do a tour with Cauldron this coming week. As for the Dokken fans I think they were quite receptive. Our music is a little more “intense” in places but right in the vein of what a normal Dokken fan appreciates – old school metal with pedigree influences. We got a lot of great feedback from spectators and lots of shots bought so we were happy we came. Our singer Johnny had a group of cougars getting him drunk so I see the whole thing as a successful gig.
The name of the band Twisted Tower Dire is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
Scott: Well back when we started the band in the early 90’s we were more into psychedelic doomy weirdness and the name was born out of a love for the epic and bizarre. I’m a huge fan of authors like Clark Ashton Smith and HP Lovecraft and a lot of lyrical imagery for TTD was borrowed from the likes. I’m also a huge Blue Oyster Cult fan so if they’re allowed to have a weird three letter word name than I figured we were too. In a nutshell we named the band Twisted Tower Dire because we thought it was original, weird and for lack of a better reason – we thought it sounded “cool”. Lyrically we followed through with this concept in a lot of our demo material and up to our debut album which was entitled The Curse of Twisted Tower. It tells the whole “dungeons and dragons-esque” story of a witch that puts a spell on a clan turning them into ghouls and ravishing their land. Pretty nerdy stuff really.
What is the hardest part about being in a touring metal band and what is the biggest obstacle TTD faces?
Scott: A. Finding a good place to take a shit and avoiding diarrhea, B. Not getting too drunk and putting yourself through tremendous pain traveling hung-over, C. Not pissing people off that you’re trying to be cool with when you’re drunk (One time in Germany I was sleepwalking drunk and stuck my bear ass on our bus driver’s head). I would say our biggest obstacles are ourselves. Every time TTD goes on the road there’s an easily avoidable debacle involving alcohol; scraped faces, broken computers, barfing in inappropriate places, etc. Minor stuff really but you have be careful partying.
When you are on the road for a while I am sure you see and experience many different things you might not even have known existed. Are there any stories that stand out in your mind as being exceptionally strange or odd?
Scott: Sure! Lots of those. All the weird stories are from Germany. On our way to the Wacken festival the police asked us if they could hide pot in our bus to see if their search dog was “working properly”. At first it freaked us out but our German bus driver assured us it was best to go along with it. So they stashed a bag of weed away and it took this little wiener dog they had about 45 minutes to find the weed. Also, in Germany they gave us a lot of Absinth (if you drink several it makes you trip balls) and TTD wound up at an open mic jam in a WHORE HOUSE playing an acoustic set with the pimp on guitar. We played for like 3 hours or something (in sombreros too as I recall, totally weird). All classic rock covers that the pimp knew like “House of the Rising Sun,” Skynard etc.
When you are out on the road anything can happen and often does. Can you think of any disastrous events that happened while out on tour? How did you solve the problem?
Scott: Two years ago we flew to Puerto Rico for just one festival show. We wound up giving our slot to the band after us because they wanted to finish early. Right after they played, the cops came and said the whole show needed to be shut down because of a noise ordinance (it was in a municipal coliseum near an apartment complex), the show was delayed in the first place because of a volleyball tournament that morning! Then our flight got canceled but instead of being stuck in Puerto Rico we had to fly to Charlotte, NC and be stuck. The plane to Charlotte was full of irate overweight black women, it was total hell. Playing music dumb crap like that always happens. We’ve had a few situations where we’ve been at festivals and members of the band don’t even show up to play for one reason or the other. I’ve been that asshole before (but never again); I still get my balls busted for it 8 years later.
Do you find it difficult being away from family and friends for such an extensive period of time? How do you cope with the separation?
Scott: Well because I’m a Dad now TTD hasn’t made many efforts to be on the road for any extended period. The band isn’t our livelihood so none of us can justify it for more than a few weeks at a time. It’s hard being a way from my kid but I really enjoy playing music and I try to balance both worlds as best I can. If we go somewhere particularly cool I try to bring my wife. She’s half Greek half Irish and last year we played Ireland/ Greece back to back (geographically a strange choice but that’s how the tour turned out) so she came along for that which worked out well. Other than that I cope with the situation by sampling as much local beer as possible and competing with our singer Johnny for being the band clown.
All of that passion that you play with must be tough on you physically. How do you prepare for the physical demands of a tour?
Scott: When I’m at home I don’t drink much and exercise daily. I actually jog everyday with my dog (a Siberian husky who can run for miles and miles). We do stretches and medicate with Jagermeister. That’s pretty much it. It gets harder and harder every year. Soon the Jager will be replaced with Geritol I suppose. We also all play in other bands at home that play regularly, locally. Me, Jim and Johnny have a cover band called Rokker in Raleigh which plays Thin Lizzy, UFO, Maiden, Van Halen covers etc. That helps us keep our chops up between TTD stints.
You guys have toured quite a bit since your inception in 1995. Do you still find it enjoying being out on the road? What lessons have you learned?
Scott: Sure! We can’t seem to get enough of it. We’re all tight friends like a little family so it’s like a vacation every time we go somewhere. Some friends go skiing, some go mountain hiking, we play heavy metal. Biggest lessons have definitely been, don’t party too much at the beginning or you burn out quick (we ALWAYS fuck that rule up) and fly as often as possible because the middle of America is generally quite boring to drive through.
Netherworlds was released in February 2007, what song is still exciting for you to sing?
Scott: Honestly that album is kind of a black cloud for us. It represented a tough time when we were struggling to keep things together. Our previous singer of nearly 10 years went through a major mental breakdown while battling addiction, my house burned down etc etc. It took us a long time to get it done and it didn’t turn out the way anyone wanted – that goes for songs, production, even they CD layout! I still like songs like “Dire Wolf” and “Fortress” but really we’re focusing on moving forward now that things are stabilized and “fun” again.
What have been the best countries to play so far?
Scott: TTD has been to Germany, Ireland, Greece, England, and Canada. Hopefully more in 2009!
What is next for TTD?
Scott: When we get back from Canada in August we’re going to start doing the demos for our 5th album “Make it Dark” the songs are all done but one. It will be our first album without Tony Taylor on vocals and we’re excited to unleash our new songs with new singer Johnny Aune. So we’ll be recording this album through the winter of 2008/2009. Every band always says their newest material is our strongest but for TTD it’s very true. I think we’ll be putting something out that people aren’t expecting – something the music scene needs. [ END ]