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The Damned Things’ Scott Ian and Keith Buckley Talk New Album, Fighting the “Supergroup” Tag, and More

on May 03, 2019, 11:02am

While The Damned Things may seem like a hodgepodge of musicians from well-known bands, the group’s new album, High Crimes, is one of the stronger rock releases so far this year. As guitarist Scott Ian admits, “On paper, it looks like five people that met at a bus stop.”

But on tape, The Damned Things sound like a cohesive unit that’s been together for years. And technically, the band has been around for a decade, but it just took the members eight-plus years to put out a follow-up to their 2010 debut, Ironiclast.

Featuring a lineup of the aforementioned Scott Ian of Anthrax; singer Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die; guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley of Fall Out Boy; and new bassist Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio, the members of The Damned Things found a window of opportunity to record High Crimes, and embark on a spring US tour. That trek kicked off May 1st in Los Angeles, and runs through a May 25th show in San Diego.

Both Ian and Buckley caught up with Heavy Consequence to discuss the band’s return, the new album, High Crimes, the revamped lineup, and the dreaded “supergroup” tag. Read the interview below.

On the process of getting the band back together

Scott Ian: The band was never not together, even though we weren’t doing anything. We never said we’re not The Damned Things. We never broke up. We were all off being in our other bands for the last nine years or so. The thing about this band, it started out as Joe and I, we were friends, we were introduced through a mutual friend ’cause he thought we would hit it off and he was correct. And we started hanging out and out of that hanging out came the first album, as well as of course the other members joining, because we were friends with everybody. And we remained friends even after making a record and touring and all through all the years we really enjoy getting to hang with each other. Joe ended up moving to L.A. My family and his family are friends, and Andy from The Damned Things and Fall Out Boy ended up playing in [my wife] Pearl’s band on tour at some point.

And Keith and his family are good friends of ours. I mean we’ve just been friends. So that’s really what this band comes down to. We all just enjoy each other’s company a lot. And then the bonus is we get to make music together. And Joe started doing that a couple of years ago. He sent over a couple of songs and said, “What you think of these?” and I said, “These songs are great. What is this?” And he was writing songs for other artists at the time. He had been asked to try and submit a couple of songs. And he wrote these songs and then that whole thing fell apart, he’s like, “I really like these songs. I think they could be Damned Things songs. We could just work on them and it can be The Damned Things. And I said, “These songs are great dude.” And that was like the beginning of it — again!

Keith Buckley: It wasn’t like the Mighty Ducks — we’re getting the team back together! It was a lot of phone calls. The way that it ended last time, I knew that there was going to have to be some major changes moving forward. Joe knew that. I mean it started with a phone call from Joe. He was pretty much seething with riffs … and he thought that they might make for really good Damned Things stuff. And he sent them to me and we started patching them together and put lyrics to them and eventually the ball was just all of a sudden rolling. We lost some members, we gained some new ones, but the journey’s been worth it.

On guitarist Rob Caggiano’s exit from The Damned Things

SI: The thing with Rob is that it’s a complete mystery novel to me. I really don’t know the answer to that. It’s something that evolved over over the years and it’s something I really had nothing to do with, so I’m not quite sure. That’s an odd thing for me ’cause I’ve usually been the guy who’s been the reason why people are not in bands anymore. In this case, it just kind of evolved without me being a part of it at all. And I really don’t know the answer to it, which I kind of like, because we get asked that question, “What happened with Rob? And I’m like, “You know, I don’t know.”

KB: The thing is he wasn’t even in America. He was in Copenhagen with Volbeat. It just seemed like Joe and I were at a point with Andy where we really wanted to start working fastidiously and we weren’t getting calls back. And eventually, it was just like, “Okay, let’s just go forward.” And that’s kind of what happened really. But no hard feelings.

On welcoming Alkaline Trio bassist Dan Andriano to The Damned Things

KB: When Joe and I realized that Josh {Newton] wasn’t going to come back, we just started brainstorming, and my wife actually brought up the idea of Dan, because we’ve been friends with Alkaline Trio for a while. We’re fans of theirs. Dan was kind of on hiatus because Matt [Skiba] was doing Blink-182. And when she said that, I was like, “That’s almost too perfect. And if it doesn’t happen, I can’t even imagine who else I would want.” But luckily he was in. His energy as a person is just phenomenal. His knowledge of playing and instrumentation is incredible. He’s not like a guitar player that turned into a bass player. He’s a fan of his instrument and really knows how to make it work..

SI: Dan is amazing … I will admit, of course I know who Alkaline Trio is, but I wasn’t that familiar until I listened to it. And then I’m like, “Yeah, Dan is an amazing bass player.” And as soon as I heard him on the tracks, it all made sense. And he’s a great dude.

On the first single “Cells”

KB: That one was just really fun to do. I remember it just really coming together in the demo stages and I think the second verse is actually the demo take. I loved when we were working on it and realizing that we were going to be a band capable of writing songs like that and not afraid to include them with other songs that might have bigger hooks. That one just had a kind of fast, hardcore punk feel to it, so I felt right at home with it.

SI: Most of this record was written by Joe. He would send songs over to Keith and I to listen to, and I don’t know that I ever had a note for him at any point in time for “Cells”. He sent over this thing and I was like, “Dude, this is super cool, can’t wait to hear it with vocals.” So, this record was very much written by Joe and Keith, and I just got to be a very happy, innocent bystander to most of the project. Of course, once we were recording, I would go in and put guitars down on songs. But as far as writing goes, I think Joe was writing when he was home or out on tour with Fall Out Boy and I was on tour with Anthrax supporting For All Kings.

On the song “Something Good”

SI: I had sent riffs to Joe a long time ago that I had completely forgotten about. And the next time I heard them was him saying, “Remember you sent me these riffs? Well, I worked them into this song.” That’s the next time I heard them, years later, in the arrangement of the song “Something Good”. But I love what he did with it and I love how he put it together and they came up with the cheerleader part, and the way they arranged it. But again, these are just guitar parts I sent him years ago for older Damned Things stuff and here they are again.

KB: That one I see as the complete opposite end of the spectrum from “Cells”. I feel like that’s the antithesis to “Cells” because it’s very catchy the whole time. It’s not a long song. It kind of gets to the point really fast.

On the song “Let Me Be Your Girl”

KB: It was just one of those things where it shows that we’re doing things differently than we used to and it’s a different way of looking at it and it’s not this hyper masculine “supergroup” of rockers. I mean we’re just a bunch of dudes that are trying make some music and that sort of tag of “Let me be your girl” is just kind of, I don’t know, striking, I guess.

On the heavy album-closing track “The Fire Is Cold”

KB: It’s a good way to close the album. I feel like it will sort of bridge the gap between this album and what comes next. I just think it was a really good foot to sort of leave the ground on, as we go into the unknown of the next record.

On The Damned Things having the feel of a main band rather than a “supergroup”

SI: We never looked at it from the beginning as a supergroup. If anything, we would have been the opposite of a supergroup. We would have been a “medium-group.” On paper, you got a guy from Anthrax; you got guys from Fall Out Boy; you got a guy from Every Time I Die. On paper, it looks like five people that met at a bus stop. So, we never ever looked at it that way. Our attitude right from the beginning, when we first started writing songs together, was we just loved Thin Lizzy. We were also big fans of Kyuss, and we just wanted to write songs like that. We were making music that we felt was kind of filling this void that we don’t get to play music like that any of the bands that we’re in, because it’s not metal like Anthrax and it’s a bit too hard rock, let’s say, for Fall Out Boy.

It was this middle ground of basically trying to write our version of Thin Lizzy songs. This is the genesis of the band. So I think we did have a very strong focus, oddly enough, on what we wanted to do. And then that became The Damned Things, and we wrote the songs on the first album, and we became a band and we had a sound. It sounded like The Damned Things. And I think that very much continues into this record. It sounds like the Damned Things. And I think that’s why it doesn’t sound like a “supergroup”, where you’re just putting a bunch of puzzle pieces together.

KB: When it started so many years ago, and people were saying that is was a supergroup, I didn’t like that tag. I didn’t like what it implied. I didn’t want to just come together and try to sell it because of these names are in it. I wanted it to be a band. So when we kind of split off and went our own ways, and I realized that we weren’t coming back anytime soon. I was like, “F*ck, it was what I didn’t want it to be.” And I realize after that it had become that. And it was exactly what people were framing it out to be. And, f*ck, I was so mad about it and really hurt that it wasn’t happening again and weren’t doing it again.

So that was one of the reasons why I was so adamant about this new record was because we really were a band. Not to disparage anyone that’s not in it, but I feel so much stronger about it now that it’s who it is and that it’s our second record and that we’re still able to make songs like this that are just as catchy, if not more so, than the last record. And even go a little harder even though we’re all nine years older.

On the band’s spring US tour

SI: Obviously, Anthrax takes up nearly all of my time between touring and this year we’re writing a record. So, it’s hard to find windows to do anything. I’ll tell you, I’m not looking for reasons to leave my house — I have a family. But to get to go do the first Damned Things shows in nine years, that was something I couldn’t say no to. I was like, “Holy crap, we get to do this again.” That’s f*cking amazing that the stars lined up and we were all available. It’s going to be us playing f*cking bars, but I’m so excited to get to do that again.

Our thanks to Scott Ian and Keith Buckley for taking the time to speak with us. Pick up The Damned Things’ new album, High Crimes, at this location, and tickets to their current spring US tour here.

The Damned Things 2019 Remaining Tour Dates:
05/04 — Jacksonville, FL @ Welcome To Rockville
05/06 — Lancaster, PA @ The Chameleon
05/07 — Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bazaar
05/09 — Pittsburgh, PA @ The Rex
05/10 — Nashville, TN @ The Cowan
05/11 — Rockingham, NC @ Epicenter Fest
05/12 — Lexington, KY @ Manchester Music Hall
05/14 — Grand Rapids, MI @ Elevation @ The Intersection
05/16 — Flint, MI @ Machine Shop
05/17 — Chicago, IL @ The Bottom Lounge
05/18 — Springfield, MO @ Outland Ballroom
05/19 — Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey
05/21 — Denver, CO @ Oriental Theater
05/22 — Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep
05/24 — Tempe, AZ @ Tempe Marketplace (KUPD Concert Series)
05/25 — San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick

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