Guitarist Dan Spitz Discusses Red Lamb, Collaborating With Dave Mustaine, And Anthrax’s D.I.Y. Roots
Posted by Zach Shaw on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 11:06 am
It’s been roughly five years since Dan Spitz left Anthrax following the brief Among The Living-lineup reunion. And while the guitarist’s former band went through many ups and downs in the public eye, Spitz went through his own struggles while creating new music privately. Finally, after three years in the making, Spitz’s new band Red Lamb has unleashed. With the self-titled debut now available in all digital outlets, Spitz and Red Lamb are off the ground and running full steam ahead. But as we already mention, getting to this point hasn’t been easy for Spitz.
Earlier this week, Metal Insider was fortunate enough to speak with Spitz himself following the release of Red Lamb’s new album. During our chat, Spitz clarified the role Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine played in the album’s production, revealed the struggles that plagued recording (both business wise and personal), and explained how he aims to make Red Lamb a “fans’ band” in the same way Anthrax was in its early days.
There has been a little confusion as to what role Dave Mustaine has actually been playing in Red Lamb. In the band’s most recent biography, Mustaine is credited as co-producer and co-writer. This past Summer, though, many were under the impression that he had actually joined the band as the singer. Was Mustaine ever an actual member of the group or a behind the scenes collaborator?
This project itself has been three years in the making. I know Dave had mentioned something in the press once that we were kind of excited and that we were doing something together. But we tried to keep what we’ve been doing kind of quiet and under the radar so we can work and concentrate and have that time, which you usually don’t have once you get going. Things happen very fast in today’s music culture once you launch. So there probably was some confusion only because people were trying to figure out why me and Dave were eating breakfast somewhere or something together when I live on the East Coast and he lives on the West Coast. Pretty much, everybody knows in the metal community that we’re like best of friends for a very long time. Up until now, we have actually tried to keep that kind of quiet. This is our personal lives and he is very public, and I used to be very public until I kind of took a break. So it’s just the way we did it. So there was no official statement saying that Dave was doing anything more or anything less up until yesterday. If you want to know exactly what the role is between us I would be glad to lay that out for you.
That’d be great because as you said there hasn’t been an official statement.
Yeah so that’s what’s really funny. People have been asking like “how come Dave’s not doing this, and Dave’s not doing that, and I thought this and I thought that.” There’s this giant thing on all the websites, it’s called a biography [laughs] and it explains what the band is, who’s in the band and what all our roles are, what the producer’s roles were and so forth. It’s kind of weird, but I guess it’s just a day out of what’s going on, everyone is a little confused. So I guess it’s good we’ll clear this up.
Dave heard what used to be my project before Red Lamb and we were just cruising into the studio in one of his crazy cars, I think it was an Aston Martin or something. And he just fell in love with the music, and as a friend offered “can I take this from you and kind of help?” At that point in time I was wearing 50 hats so it became quite difficult. It was just a blessing for Dave to say “Yeah, absolutely!” and that’s where we started. His credit is he’s a co-producer; we worked together on taking that material that was already recorded. All the music was done by me and recorded and we edited the music and moved verses and choruses around, shortening songs and got rid of the seven minute solo if there was one [laughs]. I do like to kind of play long lead breaks and stuff. It’s just like in the past in Anthrax, where we hired producers to do that same thing; be that fifth or sixth member of the band and see what we can’t see when you wear so many hats. And to find that person is just such a comfort.
We’ve been friends for so long so it’s beyond comfort. He was able to edit all the songs and really worked feverishly. He actually pushed the Megadeth album [TH1RT3EN] and recording of it for I don’t know three, four months down the line so we could work in Vic’s Garage [his studio] and do that. We tracked a lot of rhythm guitars in Vic’s and then we flew Donnie [Chaffin, singer] out to do all the vocals. Dave worked with Donnie consistently day in day out on all the vocals. He lives this album along with all of us. And previous to that, via electronic means, meaning email and so forth, me and Dave took all the lyrics that I had written for the CD and we dissected those the same way we dissected the music. And Dave co-wrote every song on the album with me as far as the lyrics go and so that’s his role in it. He’s the co-writer on every song. So it’s a wonderful collaboration. I don’t think anything like this has happened between two members of what everyone is calling The Big 4. Obviously, I’m absent from The Big 4; I’m just not there. So I don’t think anyone has worked together like this. People don’t just play lead guitar, play rhythm guitar but we’re there at onset and this music is just in our blood. We don’t manufacture it; it is a part of my being.
As you mentioned it really is unusual to see two members of The Big 4 collaborating. That’s why, and I hope you don’t mind me saying it like this, but I was really surprised that the album was released out of nowhere [last week, February 3]. Was there any reason why you didn’t wait till you got some press backing or distribution support?
It’s kind of what I would like to do. I don’t want to be an old time dinosaur, like “Hey can we be signed to a record label?” Because during the recording of this and trying to acquire other people, friends and so forth to play on it, we ran into so many stumbling blocks. It was beyond fathomable, of the people actually wanting to play on it, playing on it and then their record label being like “Eh ya know, we don’t want him playing on anything but his own band. Take it off.” We’ve run across that a bunch of times. And that’s not good in today’s music industry. If you look at all the newer bands and so forth, there’s no record companies. The distribution is “Hey let me put your album out” and I’ll put it on iTunes and put it on Amazon and anyone can get it. If I want to do something separate from Red Lamb and I want to do three more things, I don’t have that boss beating down my neck. I can do whatever I want and have free reign.
It’s really just self-funded music for the fans by the fans. If you remember the beginning days of Anthrax, where it was me and Scott [Ian, Anthrax guitarist], this is the same way we did it. Nobody would sign us, nobody would sign Metallica. Our manager Jonny Z [Zazula, founder of Megaforce Records] had both cassettes for two years taking them around to every record company and they kind of laughed at it and said “What is this noise?” So we just went grass roots and just started playing. So Red Lamb is the same kind of thing for today’s market.
So I’m just going to release it fast. It’s out, you can get it. The fans will help me and Red Lamb connect with them by going out to play by purchasing whatever they can purchase and just being part of our band. I don’t know how to explain it except this is what I did in the beginning days of Anthrax in a different way because of those times. This is what I’m going to do with Red Lamb. It’s not going to some pencil pushing guy behind a desk, we don’t need that anymore. Most of the new bands coming out now, it’s the same way I’m doing this now. It’s been “coming soon, coming soon, coming soon,” but we’ve been working so hard on this. It’s just time for it to come out. And everything is done behind the scenes, it’s been a lot of hard work for a very long time to be able to just kind of launch it out there and get on the road as soon as we can and get back on stage and just say hello to everybody.
Do you plan on actually releasing a physical version of the album?
Oh no, you can buy a physical form of the CD from Amazon. It’s just not in their pipeline yet because I guess it takes longer then digital downloads. We’re distributed through TuneCore. That’s your online record company. You got CD Baby, you got TuneCore. That is your modern day record company. I don’t understand why anyone would try to do anything different because they’re not going to give you four million dollars to go out there and play somewhere. I just don’t fathom why anyone would go to a record company for distribution. There’s almost none of them left anyway, so how much are they going to give you in today’s market? I don’t see it, I just don’t see it. Again, it’s just grassroots, like Periphery. I’m sure you’re familiar with this band.
The nephew [guitarist Jake Bowen] of my friend John [Petrucci] from Dream Theater; That’s grassroots man. I’m just going to put our albums out and get on the road…
As you mentioned, though, it’s taken three years to actually get to this point,. A lot of struggles and line ups and even band names I believe. So what would you say has been the biggest struggle that you’ve went through just to get this point with the album out?
[Laughs] It’s one stumbling block after another. The biggest stumbling block…there’s been so many, this is not easy…I wouldn’t even know where to begin. There’s been so many stumbling blocks. Probably finding the right members to create what was in my head. It took me about a year of playing to come up with the sounds for my guitar that is reminiscent of what I do. I may not be the most incredible guitar player in the world, or as people view me and so forth and whatever that is. I like to create and I don’t really listen to much music so I like to create something that’s a little bit different, and that was the hardest part. And it popped one day with certain chord progressions and how they worked in unison.
And then I found Patrick and he just matched my riffs. That was it. I knew I had that sound. Just like the beginning days of Anthrax, I knew there was something there. You’re going to get 60% of the people who are haters and 40% who are like “Wow this is really cool.” It just is what it is. I don’t really pay attention to the masses, otherwise there would be no Anthrax.[laughs] We do what’s inside of us and it just somehow connects to so many people and I just feel so good when that happens. So a stumbling block would be to create something familiar for my past fans but is more for the future, where music is heading. And I think we got that in pretty much every song.
You mentioned how you pretty much have the same attitude you had when you were first starting off with Anthrax. What, though, do you want to accomplish with Red Lamb that you couldn’t with Anthrax?
Cross the genres and interconnecting with fans, meaning I don’t want to be pigeonholed into “Red Lamb is this type of band or that type of band.” I mean, I think it’s a heavy metal band, but I just don’t know what type of band it is. That was the hardest part. I don’t want to be pigeonholed into that. I think when people hear it they know it’s me, people who know me. I went away for a long time and now I’m back full time. There is a whole generation of kids who think “oh Dan was a lead guitar player in Anthrax,” which is fine. But you know what? Now I’m back, and there is a difference between people who play and people who like to create, and I really like to create. So this is my newest creation.
In addition to that, our singer Don, he owns video production company. So well have lots of videos, lots of videos from on the road. Well have video editing facilities with us on the road at all times. He loves to do that. He eats, sleeps and breathes that just like I eat, sleep and breathe my guitar once again. So were going to release our first video [editor’s note: the band’s first video was released shortly after our chat], then we’ll be onto the next. We’re going to be a people band, a fans’ band, whatever you like to call it, because I’m still just a fan and I always was. And there’s no real difference between that connection, standing on stage and, in the past, playing Anthrax songs, and there’s not much difference for this band at all.
I’m sure you’re probably tired of everyone asking you about Anthrax so I apologize in advance. But I was wondering if I could get your opinion on Anthrax’s current lineup. As you’ve gone through your own struggles to get Red Lamb off the ground, Anthrax also went through a lot leading up to the release of Worship Music. I was just wondering if you had any thoughts on everything that’s happened to Anthrax since you left following the 2005 reunion.
To tell you the truth, they are all my friends and I wish them the best of luck every day with what they do. What we do is not easy and it’s hard sometimes for the fans to understand that. They think it is easy. We live on a bus, we live away from home, and we don’t get to go home and visit if there’s an emergency sometimes. And this endless list of not really having a home is just really hard. I think it’s best we just wish everyone the best. And if you have a stumbling block, it’s cool to have a friend to help you along and get you out of that stumbling block just like in everyday life somewhere else with someone else. So I wish them all the best wherever and in whatever they do and I’m sure well cross paths live cause I plan to play live with Red Lamb and not stop.
So you mention you want to play live with Red Lamb. When can we expect you guys on the road?
The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned. We’re just releasing music and we’ll see what offers come our way and what we can arrange and get into rehearsal as soon as we can and get out there and pound some metal [laughs]. Cause I’m itching really bad, I haven’t played since the reunion and previous to that obviously everybody knows I was in Switzerland for many years doing what I was doing. This time I’m not going to stop until I drop dead onstage, and hopefully it’s not from another heart attack. [laughs]
You know, I have two kids with autism, I had a heart attack so you just never know. There’s a song on the album that is about our struggle here with Autism with our twins that have it and other people that have it. So there is a cause and a mission with our music and we hope we can at least do something in our metal community for that cause because it doesn’t exist in our community yet. It’s one of the few communities where it doesn’t exist. So stamp one of those blue puzzle pieces on my forehead or whatever you want to do, but that’s another reason to give a listen to our tunes.
I can only imagine how difficult it is to be away from family on the road, let alone under such circumstances.
Yeah that’s one of the, like you asked, struggles during making the album. There’s a disaster in our home pretty much every thirty eight seconds with two four year-olds with autism. They’re identical twins. During the making of the album, we all obviously have home studios, so every thirty seconds or so you’re trying to take a lead break and trying to come up with an idea. And when I say disaster, only people who live what I live would know what that disaster is. So you’re interrupted all day and many times of the night, asleep, and so forth and so on. So that was a very hard struggle to get through to get where we are going.
Watch Red Lamb’s new music video for “The Cage” below: