With the release of their self-titled debut, Die Hard Till Death is preparing to take the metal world by storm. I recently caught up with guitarist Stevil Helmer to discuss the release and the band. Combining groove-laden, balls-out metal with a ton of aggression, DHTD have created a record that metalheads everywhere will surely dig. Here’s what Helmer had to say.
Many of your songs are so hard and intense that I am sure they translate well into a live setting taking on a whole new life in front of a live audience. How does it make you feel when the emotion and power that you envisioned in the recording studio, come to life while playing in front of a crowd?
Stevil: There was great intention when recording the songs that they would sound the same live as they do on the record. I’ve been working on a lot of the material for years prior to playing with this group of guys. This band is very much a product of a combination of great personalities. Attitude has been everything and I am confident that positive attitude translates well live too! Safe to say we love what we do and hope you do too! It’s that simple!
Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?
Stevil: 7 of the 8 songs on this record started out as demos I did with a drum machine. It’s only natural that the guys would bring new life to all of it because honestly I suck at drum programming. None of the songs had lyrics and most had no real bass line so the guys absolute created human versions with me for the record. “8 Ball” was written in the studio at House of Guitars over two days of hashing it out and it’s really a defining moment as a very collaborative effort between all four of us. I had a pile of demo songs I had the guys listen to. The record is their choices from what I originally let them hear. My favorite way to write music is with an acoustic guitar and a piece of paper.
Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music?
Stevil: Crowbar! Compelled by the power of the riff has meant a lot to me as a player. Once upon a time I was called “shredder” and I hated that term! While I love Malmsteen and Vai it’s not even close to what I want to be compared too! When I first started listening to riffs in Crowbar songs years ago I started to appreciate the song as a whole more instead of the guitar solos. Carcass, Cathedral, COC and Entombed are also huge favorites of mine.
It’s a medley of thrash death and doom that feeds my influences evenly, but never ever leaning too far into one of those genres! High On Fire and Sufferghost are in there too. It’s safe to say industrial metal has influenced me too. I was the guitar player of Society 1 for 8 months and Klank has made impact on me too. SinDaddy definitely deserves mention also. I’m very influenced by blues musicians from every era too! If I’m proud of anything it’s that I think that my playing is instantly recognizable as me and nobody else. Hopefully that’s a good thing. Hendrix to Robert Johnson is stuff I listen to.
Eric Sardinas would shock some people that I have his stuff in my player. Last but not least the kind of guitar I play plays a huge factor in what I write. Certain guitars feel different so I write different on the three guitars I own. I have two ESP electrics. One is basically a Les Paul and the other is a V. Then I have Dean Nomad acoustic. All the songs on the record were written using a combination of all three. A very special thanks goes out to my good friend TIm Ball in Ventura CA. He’s a killer bluesman and I’ve spent many a Sunday learning blues and Latin jazz licks from him! Super great guy!!!
The name of the band Die Hard Till Death is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it?
Stevil: The name is at least ten years old. It was intended to be my “side project” of solo material, but turned into my main gig and where it is today. It was something that took on its own life over time and became something I had to do. Driven by a life of writing so many songs! I’ve got 30 full albums written already! Insane amounts of back log.
Now that your new self-titled CD is complete, how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Stevil: I’m satisfied with a vision coming into reality with all intricate maneuvers that took place making it happen. Two members live in NY and two live in WI so you can imagine the logistics of making this a band! A lot of traveling and email attachments! Our management at The Monstour Agency is tops in the business. I don’t mind saying we are treated like royalty by them and none of this would ever be possible without Todd Marciano at The Monstour Agency helping to coordinate every tiny detail. Our good friend Joey D from Uttaro has helped so much too!
Are the any tracks on the disc that are personal favorites or that have good stories behind them?
Stevil: That’s a tough one! “Blind” is my personal favorite. It’s got everything I’ve always wanted in a song. It’s all about the riff. We set out to make an album that was all killer and no filler! I feel like we hit that mark so it feels damn good!
What kind of touring plans do you have in support of the record?
Stevil: At this stage is a series of well-planned one-offs and festivals, but if a tour that makes sense for us to be on comes into the mix we will certainly jump on. “Cost effective” still has meaning. We will see based on how well the entire record is received.
What artists would fans be surprised to find on your iPod?
Stevil I’ve listened to a lot of Machine Head and Slipknot recently though that’s not all that surprising. I’m known to be very old-school so I’ve warmed up to some newer bands too. I have Chemical Tree, Foreign Contaminant and Stoned Crow in my player 🙂 all three are my new favorites!
Tell me about a book or two that you’ve read that you think other people should read?
Stevil: “The Awakening of Intelligence” by J. Krishnamurti. An absolute must read.
If you had not become a musician what other career path would you have liked to attempt?
Stevil: DJ Evil Stevil! I would love my own radio show!
What three words best describe your band?
Stevil: Memorable genuine intensity.
If you were a superhero, who would it be and why?
Stevil: Does Dethlock count? I love those guys! I’m the missing member of Deathlock!