» Dave Silver - Savage Messiah
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Interview conducted May 22 2019
Interview published June 2 2019

"I live a charmed life; I'm very lucky."

British power metal unit Savage Messiah put out their new effort Demons on May 17th and as they made a stop in Stockholm as support act to progressive metallers Symphony X, Metal Covenant got some time with the band's main man Dave Silver.

Tobbe: Your new record Demons was recently out and in what way do you think that record carries Savage Messiah to new frontiers?

Dave: I think it's the first record in our career where I've really been totally active with the finished product; I wouldn't change anything about it. I mean, maybe that will change from time, but, you know, obviously we've had the album since November. You know, the whole process and everything: We made the album here in Stockholm. We lived here for 5 weeks. And just the approach to it, the studio, the people we worked with; from start to finish it was, like, super creative. I didn't get, like, bogged down with anything; it just happened, so. So, that's cool.

Tobbe: The band started out more a thrash metal band and has more turned into a power metal band. You've gone a little bit lighter, I think. So how do you personally look at that viewpoint and the band's growth over the years?

Dave: Well, the thing about the thrash thing: I never ever wanted to be in a thrash band, ever. So anything that we were doing in the past was, you know, probably just immaturity of forming a band when you're, like, 21, you know what I mean? But I think if you go back and revisit some of our older records, you can always hear that there's ballads and there's melody.

For me, that's just developing as a musician. Especially developing as a singer, you know, and having more confidence to sing in those ways, 'cause it's not easy, you know. So for me it's: the band has always just been a band. Like, it's as much a thrash band as Metallica, you know. So it's an element of it, but we were never the, you know, Nuclear Assault, Testament kind of thing. Yeah, I don't hear much difference; I just think we've gone a bit better at what we do.

Tobbe: But how far off the original idea could you take Savage Messiah one day in an unforeseen future?

Dave: Who knows? I mean, the thing is: it will always be a metal band, 'cause that's what I wanna do. You see, the bands that I have always been heavy influenced by, such as, you know, like Judas Priest. What I like about them is they always made different albums. You can put Painkiller [1990] on and you can put British Steel [1980] on; it sounds like two different bands.

But the trick is in trying to find your own identity so that you can write Painkiller and you can write, you know, Hot Rockin' [Point Of Entry, 1981]. Even if it sounds like different bands, it's still Judas Priest, is what I'm trying to say. So, you know, hopefully that's where we could go. But we could go much heavier, we could go much lighter; I don't know.

Tobbe: You're obviously out supporting Symphony X at this point and you guys play pretty much only songs off the new album. Isn't that kind of a bold move?

Dave: Yeah, probably. But, you know, the thing and the beauty of being in our position… So we're on this tour, but probably, I would say, about 90 percent or something in this audience have never heard of us; let alone haven't heard a song. So it feels good to go and just hit them with what we think is our strongest material, which is the newest stuff.

And it's where you can find the 45 minutes. What happens is… you know, when we headline we do, like, 90. And so we did a headline set, 'cause we did 3 release shows, and then we started eliminating songs and you go "Well, could that knock that out?" - "Well no, it can't. We think that's stronger.". So in the end you look at it and go "Oh God, it's all new songs, but.".

Tobbe: It must be hard to put aside almost 5 albums, including the EP [Spitting Venom, 2007]. It's, like, 50 songs.

Dave: For a "young band" we do have quite a lot of songs. But, you know, the only time we ever get to play super long sets is in Japan. So that's, like, a luxury when we play songs from every record. But I think when you put out a new record, especially for us, 'cause we're not in any way like a heritage band or anything; we're a new band, you stand behind your newest material 'cause that's what you want people to get into. So that's kind of why.

Tobbe: Do you personally kind of follow any thread lyrically? Like songs with similar subjects.

Dave: Yeah. I mean, it's not, like, conceptual or anything like that, but I've always tried to be a little, you know, not, like, intellectual for the sake of being intellectual, but, you know, I don't like sort of the meathead element of heavy metal. I mean, that's fine, there's an audience for that; great, but it's not for me, you know what I mean?

And the kind of comedy side of heavy metal… I've always been like… Lyrically, I like bands like, you know, Queensrÿche. A thinking man's heavy metal. So with this record, 'cause we had a lot of time and I was reading a lot… I mean, I was reading like [Fyodor] Dostoevsky, and that's where the title of the record comes from. George Orwell, a huge hero of mine. I kind of read [Alexsandr] Solzhenitsyn. I got really into Russian history and that influenced me quite a lot. But it's more from a psychological perspective, you know.

The human psyche, in a way that… the Russian revolution, which is a pretty incredible period in history, and what really had been building for about a hundred years, and then drawing parallels with what's happening in the UK. And just the kind of total, sort of, polarized division that people find themselves in ideologically, I find quite interesting.

Tobbe: Parachute, a cover song [Chris Stapleton, 2015]. Tell me how come you guys recorded that one.

Dave: The brain chart of that was our manager Oliver [Halfin], who is really into that. You know, he has really super broad taste in music and he had been playing that song a lot around our office and I liked it. Originally what I wanted to do was just steal the chords. You know, it's minor key and the chord structure is not completely similar to a metal track and I thought that would be really interesting, so I was just gonna swipe them and then "You know what? Let's just do the song.". 'Cause there's a few reasons for it.

It's not anything new for a metal band to pick a random song and metalize it. Priest did it very successfully. One of the hardest things in the modern music industry is to stand out from the pack. I mean, you know, you take a band like us, suddenly covering Chris Stapleton, everybody, like every industry person, that we've told "Oh, we did this Chris Stapleton…", they go "Oh, my God. That's genius!". Look at the success of that guy, Little Nas X, who's come out with this Old Town Road, and it's had, like, a hundred million streams.

It's like a genre; a crossover with him and Billy Ray Cyrus. There's something in the psyche of the suits that seems to think that that's a utility in that. I don't know if there is, but, you know, Parachute has only had an interesting reaction, but fundamentally I like the song.

Tobbe: In general, when you enter a new album cycle, what do you put most focus on?

Dave: I mean, really, like, when you're sort of a younger band trying to, loosely termed, breakthrough, the emphasis is put onto touring. You have to tour because, you know, metal fans are sort of, by default, incredibly conservative, and really the only way to sort of convince them to like you. The default response of most heavy metal fans is to reject anything that's new as being, you know, completely worthless, rubbish, or "Been done before.". That's just the way it is, you know.

And the other problem, I think, with sort of a conservative mindset, in terms of consumption and music, is that it forces people to listen to music backwards. So for example, people identify with, you know, an image, so they go "I'm a thrash metal guy!" and so they create this little hierarchy in their mind, like a check box of what is thrash metal. So if someone like us comes along and, you know, we're not thrash metal, but people say we are, and then what happens is: it's sort of like the music filters through this hierarchy in their mind and they're getting, like, X's, so they go "This is bad thrash!".

So for us the emphasis is heavy on touring, basically because the only way of winning fans is repetition. They have to see you probably 3-5 times and they have to hear you quite a lot, because, like I said, they're mostly conservatists; they like what they know and they know what they like. It's a challenge, but, you know, it's why you do it.

Tobbe: Do you feel, right now, that you're with this new album kind of in a 'now or never' situation in terms of going bigger?

Dave: Not really, because I think if you look at the history of the band, we've always been on a very slow 45-degree upward trajectory. And the way the music industry is geared now, the way music is consumed now; I mean, one of the worst things, and it's difficult for, you know, younger bands like ourselves, is you can't compare the career of this new wave of bands to the careers bands had in the '80s, because technologically it's completely different and culturally it's completely different.

That's quite a complicated question when you break it down, because when you say "get bigger", do you mean Iron Maiden, you know? So, to be honest, we're already getting bigger because we can now successfully headline in the UK and we can headline in Japan and the venues are getting bigger and the fans become more numerous and engaged and stuff like that.

So what we need to do is recreate that in mainland Europe, Scandinavia, and possibly, eventually North America, but it's more of a structured goal-oriented sort of process rather than just "Fingers crossed. Let's hope this will happen.". Unless you take the old school approach, which has been done with bands like Greta Van Fleet for example, which is kind of "Turn the cash tap on and see where it goes.". But that's not gonna happen with a band like us, because the infrastructure doesn't exist and, you know, entrepreneurship doesn't exist.

The industry is a complete mess and it's the blind leading the blind. Nobody really knows what to do about it. And that's the way it is. Year on year it sort of gets more and more apparent that damage has been done to the career prospects of, particularly, metal bands.

But there's also demographics and one of the criticisms you hear on a lot of metal shows is that the audience is old; could be, you know. And that's a social, cultural phenomenon, "Does metal not resonate with young people in a way that it did 20 years ago?". But all these things are philosophical questions. We're a metal band and we enjoy doing what we do and que sera sera.

Tobbe: So how do you keep up your motivation, or energy, or focus still after 6 records?

Dave: It's equal parts stubbornness and stupidity. The thing is: I've had a parallel career to music and I've not been unsuccessful. I mean, I've worked at some of the biggest… You know, I was a tour accountant at CAA and we worked on, you know, tours like One Direction and stuff like that. I've seen that world and I know what that's like. I worked for Gordon Ramsey, you know. It's like: I've seen that world, and it's not for me. Like Frank Zappa said "Broadway The Hard Way".

Tobbe: As a sole original member of the band, does Savage Messiah get, like, more a solo band along the road?

Dave: Inevitably. I mean, it's sad to say, 'cause the idea of, you know, a band of brothers that conquer the world is something that anyone would be envious of, but again, it's always a question of economic reality, people change, they get girlfriends that make them do silly things, they have unrealistic ambitions, you know.

And what happens a lot of times is, you know, people go "You're on a big record label, you've got a big agency behind you, you tour internationally, if I join your band I've made it!" and then they join the band and… it's hard work and people get burned out.

Tobbe: What else do you do besides Savage Messiah?

Dave: My present sort of day job, if you can call it a day job, is I work with photographer Ross Halfin and I manage his archive and we work on, you know, the Metallica reissues, and we work on projects like the Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction thing. Mostly projects like that. And that's kind of what I do, and it's just him really.

And it's great, 'cause I live in Italy now, which makes a big difference. I fly to London for, like, a couple of weeks at a time, do what I need to do, go home. I have a daughter now, so I'm a dad and trying to put as much effort into that as possible. I live a charmed life; I'm very lucky.

Tobbe: Where do you see Savage Messiah in 10 years or so?

Dave: 10 years or so… It could be very interesting. I'm pretty sure I will probably still be doing it, for better or worse, because it's almost like chasing the rabbit in Alice In Wonderland. You know, you don't know "If I stop now, what would I miss? We've come this far, if I would just quit now, what would I miss?".

So I'm pretty sure I will still be doing it, maybe. I think we'll probably be successfully headlining in Europe, whether that will be 500 caps, or 2000 caps, or 10000 caps. I don't know, because that's not something I can control. We've grown steadily to this point, and the thing about momentum which I find most curious is that success isn't a linear process; it's exponential, so for every little good thing that happens, it marginally increases the chances of making something else happening.

So once that ball starts rolling you actually have no idea where it's gonna end. It could end at 500 caps, which would be a complete success, or it could end at 10000 caps, which would be a whole other load of success. [Laughs] But the point is: I'm totally objective, I have no idea.

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