» Ted Aguilar - Death Angel
« back

Interview conducted July 29 2015
Interview published August 05 2015

"It's not like you make the greatest money."

Death Angel recently released its new DVD, A Thrashumentary. Metal Covenant talked to guitar player Ted Aguilar in Stockholm, Sweden on the band's 5 week European tour, in order to find out more about the film and also about the band's upcoming 2016 spring release. Ted joined the band on its reformation in 2001 and have become a big part of the band since then, but naturally he speaks in terms of "they" when referring to the band's earlier activities.

Tobbe: You have a brand new DVD out. What about it?

Ted: It's the history of the band, you know. It starts from the very, very beginning up until recent. It's like 2+ hours long. [2 hours and 34 minutes.]. It's a great story. We could sit here all day and talk about it. I suggest people to pick it up. I mean, old fans and new fans would like it. It's a really in-depth history of the band. You will know what goes on. How the band formed, how they got the record deal, and why they broke up, and what they did after they broke up, the reformation and everything. So it's really cool, you know.

The guy who did the Thrashumentary, Tommy Jones, he filmed it, directed, edit it, he did the whole thing, he put it all together. Great work, and a lot of work. He also did our video, River Of Rapture from Relentless Retribution. Good friend of ours, you know. Ever since we did the video with him, we became really good friends. He came out on tour with us. You know, finally it came out after so long, but I'm glad it's out and it seems like people are really liking it, so I guess it was worth the wait.

Tobbe: I put the documentary style way ahead of a full live recording and I think it's really interesting. Like you said, it covers pretty much the whole career of Death Angel, but I guess there's lots of material left that could fill up at least a couple of discs more?

Ted: There's still a lot and we could have kept going and going, you know. It's like writing a record. You could keep writing songs, but you just gotta stop. You gotta pick the best ones that you feel is right for that time, and we did. I mean, there's still more footage we could add, but we thought what we have right there is the best stuff, you know. So we just had to get it out now 'cause people have been asking about it and we don't want it to sit around any longer. And I'm glad we did, that we released it. You know, things happen for a reason. I think fans will dig it. I've talked to a few fans and I've seen some reviews and they seem to like it. So, it's okay, it's good.

Tobbe: So Tommy Jones did pretty much everything, but how much input did you have, as a band?

Ted: We all had input. We told him kind of a layout and he put it together. He pretty much put it together and he knows the band. He's a fan of the band and he spent a lot of time with us, on the road filming. You know, traveling around the world with us and getting to know us as people. When you have that, it's a lot easier, so he goes "Okay. You know, I know the old story. I know this new story. I know the reformation. I know the current lineup.". So he was able to put things together and, you know, we had a say, but the majority of the work was done by him. He had a vision. We looked at it and "Okay. Add this. Add this. Take out this." and he just did it. He put it together really well. I'm stoked that he did it.

Tobbe: Were most decisions like mutual or did you clash heads sometimes?

Ted: We clashed a few times, but that's okay, because it shows that we all care. But, at end of the day, we were all happy with it. That's important.

Tobbe: I guess if you have another DVD out sometime in the future it will be a live recording since you've done the documentary thing now?

Ted: Yeah, we've done the documentary thing, but I have an idea of, maybe one of these days, or years, do more of "Life on the road with Death Angel" for an album cycle. Like do a DVD of the making of the record, into touring for that record. You know, what goes on on the road, like what it takes to put on a Death Angel show. You know, crew, the life on the road, how we live it, talking to journalists, and maybe do interviews from people from the promoters and the festivals and places we play. I wanna do something like that and the documentary we have done already. You know, the history. Now let's see Death Angel in it's natural environment, like in the studio or on the road.

Tobbe: I think that is what people wanna see actually. Because if they wanna see you live, they can watch a show, but they can never get inside of your thoughts unless they view a documentary or something like that.

Ted: You know, you don't wanna give out too much. I'd like to do something like what it takes to put on a Death Angel show. Like the travel, the gear, the production setting up, and what the crew goes through. You know, stuff like that. And I think when people see that, they probably see "It's not so glamorous. It's actually work.". But it's work we wanna do, you know.

: But when it's fun it's easier to go to work.

Ted: It is fun and we're fortunate and blessed to do what we do. Don't get us wrong. We love what we do. We don't take it for granted. But I can see from people from the outside looking in, it's like "Oh, you get to travel around the world and you get to play…". Yes, we're fortunate, but not everyone is built for this, you know. We know people who want to travel and when they go out there, they got out of their comfort zone and they break.

Yeah, it looks glamorous, but it's not perfect. There is gonna be ups and downs. There is gonna be things that happen, you know. For example; We toured the US, we're on the tour, the bus breaks down, no AC - in the summer!, and you're hating it. Stuff like that happens, but you know what; it could be worse, you just gotta learn how to deal with it. It's just like life.

Tobbe: You have to make sacrifices in normal lives too.

Ted: That's what I mean, but a lot of people just think musicians have it easy. We don't. It's not as easy that a lot of people think. It is fun. We love what we do, but it's not as easy as people would think or as glamorous as what people think it is.

Tobbe: Let's talk a little about your coming album. You've been writing songs.

Ted: Yeah, we're writing some new songs. We're like 6 songs in. No lyrics yet. I know Mark [Osegueda, vocals] is still writing some lyrics. We go home August 13th and we're gonna take a couple of weeks off and in the beginning of September, we're gonna continue writing and doing some pre-production. And on October 1st we're gonna start recording the album. Now if you're gonna ask me the next question: What's it gonna sound like?". [Laughs]

Tobbe: No, actually I'm gonna say that the last album was mainly written while on tour, Rob [Cavestany, guitar] told me and this is different obviously.

Ted: Well, it's a little bit of both. A lot of the first 6 songs we're written at home. Then right now, at any chance we get, we rehearse whatever 6 songs we have, at soundchecks and what not, just so we don't forget 'em. And sometimes when you play 'em in a different environment, you get a different inspiration and a different vibe and maybe you play something different that might sound great, you know. So it's kind of cool, that we're doing that, to play these new songs in a different environment, instead of in the same old rehearsal room, where you're like "Okay. I'm in here again." and you're just on autopilot. On the road, you're kind of not on autopilot in a way. But yeah, I mean, there's some ideas written on the road. Not much, but I think we're gonna continue all that when we come home.

Tobbe: So here comes the question. Is it similar to The Dream Calls For Blood? Which I would think it is.

Ted: It's influenced. There is gonna be The Dream Calls For Blood influence. I mean, I know a lot of people love that record. And we love it too, but, you know, are we gonna try to top it? No. Are we gonna try to make something faster? No, because we can't recreate that moment in time, you know. [Sighs]. We were like a couple of years younger then, but from the writing and recording of that album 'til now, we grew as musicians and people, so we have a different mindset. It's still gonna be Death Angel. Don't get me wrong, but I think we're gonna expand a little, you know. For each album, we spread our wings more and try to check out new territories. But, we're gonna be influenced by that album because we're playing a lot of it on the road, so it's bleeding in. All I can say today is that it'll be Death Angel. [Laughs]

Tobbe: You did some different stuff in the past, with like some slower songs, but The Dream Calls For Blood was more like a display of intensity, so maybe it's a more varied record this time?

Ted: It might be more varied. Right now we're writing some really good stuff, but who knows what happens from now until we record. Rob might come up with something mellow or acoustic. It's kind of hard to tell. We'll see what it takes, 'cause right now, I mean, songs are always evolving. You know, we're always writing and it always keeps changing, up until the point we start recording. Some songs now, they sound really fast, but they might up being heavy.

Tobbe: Will Jason Suecof [producer] be around this time as well?

Ted: We're thinking about it. We're thinking about it. It's getting there. We've been in talks with him. I know he wants to do it, 'cause 3 is a charm. I'd like for him to do it, 'cause it's the third record with him and he's done good on the last two.

Tobbe: What is the most important factor when you enter the studio this fall?

Ted: To have the songs finished. You know, basically once you have the songs finished and then recording, you know, it comes pretty easy. Once you have the songs and everyone's well rehearsed and you go in there, it's still a little bit of work, but not so much if you're already well rehearsed on it. I think Jason knows we don't wanna repeat ourselves, so he's gonna hear the songs and go "Okay.". And we're all gonna hear the songs and "This is what it is. Let's just make it better.". We're not gonna look at The Dream Calls For Blood, because that would be pointless, you know what I mean. The Dream Calls For Blood sits on its own. Just like Relentless Retribution sits on its own, you know. The stuff we're coming up with is cool, so I'm kind of excited to see it when all the vocals and all the other bells and whistles come in.

Tobbe: I will know in 6-8 months what it's like.

Ted: We're shooting at end of March or early April 2016.

Tobbe: Is there sometimes a sense of hopelessness when you are recording an album, because we all know that you nowadays will have to make your money on ticket sales, festival gigs and merch?

Ted: You know what. It does cross our mind. I know a lot of bands think that way and they go "Why don't we just release singles and EPs", but you know what, we're gonna stick to what we always do and record albums. You know, we grew up buying albums and the band, even from back then 'til now, wanna record an album. We wanna put out a CD. We wanna put out vinyl. There is gonna be people who buy 'em, the physical copy. There's gonna be people who's gonna buy it and download it on iTunes, and there's just gonna be people who just rip it. I mean, there's nothing we can do about that, but the main important thing is if you have a good song. That's the most important thing and we always put our blood, sweat and tears and money into it.We're not gonna cheat ourselves from that or cheat the fans, 'cause there's still fans out there who wanna listen to the album. I mean, I know there's a lot of bands out there who go "Let's release an EP here and release an EP there.". If that's what they wanna do, cool, but we wanna put out albums. Of course it'd be nice if people all bought the albums, but you just gotta adapt to the times, you know. But we're not gonna lose sight of writing on a good album.

Tobbe: But downloading's been going for 15 years and is not a new thing anymore.

Ted: It's been going on for a while, but you know what, there's pros and cons out there. The con is, yeah, everyone don't pay for it really. The pros is; A lot of people hear it! You just hope that they'll like it and they go to the show and enjoy it.

Tobbe: Is it sometimes frustrating to never really get that big break for Death Angel? Because, you're not a small band, but you're on the edge of becoming a bigger band and I think you personally think that you deserve it.

Ted: I've talked about that with Rob and it is frustrating, but maybe it's a good thing. Maybe all that frustration is making us write good music. You know, maybe like we're so frustrated like [Clenches his fists.] and it just shows in the music. So maybe that's a good thing, maybe it's a bad thing too, 'cause I mean, I think this band deserves the break, you know. But that's a good question, man. But hopefully one day. We're still gonna keep going at it 'til we can't no more.

Tobbe: You've been in Europe for 3 weeks now and you'll be here for 2 weeks more and you've been playing bigger and smaller festivals and venues of different sizes. Is it difficult to constantly change between those things. I mean, to recharge your batteries to play for smaller crowds?

Ted: Well. It's a lot easier to play festivals because you get a shorter set. And it depends on what time you are on the day. But it's good. It's a good mix-up, 'cause it keeps you on your toes, like play 45 minutes on a big festival and tomorrow you play an hour and a half. It's a good breakup and we like that. I mean, if it's constantly all festivals, then you get used to that, and if all you gotta do is headliner, then it tires you out, so it's more of a good exercise, you know. And you know what, it's good for us too. It's a good cardio. To us, if we have a stage we could play and people that are into it show up, so be it, man.

Tobbe: What do you think Death Angel will be able to prove in the coming years?

Ted: Well. We always do what we do. We're gonna always write the music that we write. I think we've already proved that the band could continue when we lost the original members and we got Will [Carroll, drums] and Damien [Sisson, bass] [in 2009] and we've done 2 albums with them. I think those 2 albums solidify that "Okay, they're here, and they still could move on.". So right now, I think we've proved that. You know, we wanna grow as people, as musicians and as a band. The only thing we gotta prove is to ourselves that we gotta write a record and we gonna put out what we put out and if people like it, they like it. If they don't, they don't. What could you do, right? So as long as we like it and we're proud of it, we stand behind it. So we've got nothing to prove, we just gonna do what we do, as we've always been doing, as you can see.

Tobbe: You've had a solid lineup now for 6 years. What makes it so perfect? As it seems to be when you look at the DVD?

Ted: Well, we're all on the same page, kind of musically and with the goal for the band and the fact that we're able to tour. You know, the other lineup, they had families and they had kids and it's kind of hard to break away from that to tour like we do. It's not like you make the greatest money. We've seen a lot of people who left bands because of family and I totally understand that, you know. Who are we to say that the band is more important than…? Will and Damien are just willing to go out there and tour. They're there to help to get the band musically to the next level and to the success of the band. So I mean, we can just go "Dudes. We're going on tour for a year." and they go "Let's do it!". Like I said, with the other members, you know, we'd go "We got this tour plan." and - "Well, I can't really do it.".

Tobbe: That's hard.

Ted: It is hard, so there were times we said "Okay. Then we'll just wait.". "But when could you do it?" - "I can do it around this time frame." and you go "Oh.". That's hard.

Tobbe: And then the other guy can't do it.

Ted: Yeah, there were times. Like "I can do it this time. Cool." and the other guy would go "I can't. Not that time. But this time." and the first guy goes "No, that's a bad time for me.". So it was hard. And they're great guys, great musicians. Andy [Galeon, former drummer] and Den [Dennis Pepa, former bass player] were fabulous musicians and fabulous songwriters, and Will and Damien, they're fabulous musicians and songwriters too. It's just different and they're just the ability that the band could move forward, like touring without no "Oh well, I can't", you know.

Tobbe: That's what a band depends on nowadays.

Ted: Yeah, touring. That's it yeah, basically.

See also: review of the DVD A Thrashumentary

Related links: