Check out the song: “Insect Dirge”

Death Valley Driver are a dirty-sounding metal band from the East Coast of Canada that recently put out their Diminished Fifth Records’ debut, Choke The River. I got in contact with their grungy-sounding vocalist, Dan Hodgson, to ask him questions about their history, insight into their new album and what it was like to open for Metallica (every metalheads’ dream).

How did Death Valley Driver come together?
Dan: Death Valley Driver formed in the fall of 2008. My other band Gallactus was pretty dormant then so I wanted to start a new band a little more on the metal side. Ric and I are the only guys left from the original line-up.

How did you decide on the name Death Valley Driver?
Dan: It’s actually the name of a wrestling hold. I just think it has a nice ring to it and just sounds cool.

Recently you put out your debut album, Choke The River, on Diminished Fifth Records. How did you choose the name for the album?
Dan: Southern rock is a big influence on our sound and I wanted a song title that sounded very rural, yet has a bit of a dark feel to it. To me, it’s like a metaphor for killing a source of life.

How do you guys go about writing your songs? Also do you think about the live performance when you write?
Dan: As clichéd as it sounds, it just starts with a riff and builds from there. Usually Ray brings in a riff or I will hum something and we keep adding on the layers. Since our sound is very rock and roll based, the structure is pretty simple. It’s not like we are writing Dillinger Escape Plan songs here. When we write we definitely keep the live show in mind. If a cool breakdown or something gives us goose bumps, we know the audience is gonna dig it.

Do you concentrate on any certain topics with your lyrics?
Dan: Not really. Most of the lyrics are like images put to words. I have always enjoyed lyrics from bands like Monster Magnet, Mastodon and Acid Bath. They don’t really have to mean anything, but they create some cool images in your mind.

I noticed in the album art you show off the luchador. Are you guys big Spanish wrestling fans? Who came up with the album art idea anyways?
Dan: It’s funny that with the name and the artwork, that people think we have a wrestling theme. I just like the testosterone and chest-thumping aspect of wrestling. My stage presence is influenced as much by Brusier Brody as it is Phil Anselmo. [laughs] But none of the lyrics are about stuff like that. The album artwork was done by a local artist, John Dohe. He’s mostly known for tattoos around here, but he is also an amazing painter. Once he heard the name, he came up with the mask/skull combo. I love it. It’s become like our “Eddie”.

Recently you got to perform with Metallica, Protest The Hero, Coheed and Cambra and Matt Mays. How was it sharing the stage with such great acts? Were you nervous?
Dan: It was a dream come true. I remember when Metallica was my life. My wall was nothing but Metallica posters. To be on stage with world-class bands really gave us a kick in the ass. It made us think if we are good enough to play with these bands, then maybe it’s time to start taking things a bit more seriously. I wouldn’t say we were nervous at all – it was more like adrenaline overload. We were given a huge opportunity and we didn’t want to blow it. It was also cool that the crowd genuinely like us. The ovation was great.

Check out the song: “Choke The River With Your Dead (live)”

Do you guys have any plans on touring Canada?
Dan: For 2011 it will just be touring around the East coast. We will be doing dates in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and PEI in October. We have a had a few invites to Quebec in November. We’re really looking forward to the fifth anniversary show of our label Diminished Fifth Records on September 24 at Gus’ Pub in Halifax. Josh and D5R have done so much for metal in this area of Canada and it’s cool to be a part of that show.

What do you do on your off Death Valley Driver times?
Dan: We’re still all music nerds. The rest of the guys are usually playing their instruments.

What’s coming up in the near Death Valley Driver future?
Dan: We’re booked up until the end of the Fall right now for shows. This Winter we really want to write a new album. We have a few songs already done. So I would really like to hit the studio again in the Spring. We also have a local film maker, Amy Sark, doing a cool documentary about us and our Metallica experience. So there’s no shortage of stuff going on for the rest of this year.