September 30, 2012
With Diemonds’ first full-length CD ‘The Bad Pack’ about to get released via Underground Operations on October 2, 2012, Sleaze Roxx caught up with the hot up and coming Canadian band, and specifically three of its five members: lead vocalist Priya Panda and co-lead guitarists C.C. Diemond and Daniel DeKay. What quickly became evident, which you may discover by reading along, is Diemonds’ love for everything dealing with what they do — living and breathing the hard rock/heavy metal life, playing live, the endless miles from town to town, and partying all night long. However, what was just as striking was the great camaraderie between the band members.
Sleaze Roxx: Tell me about the start of Diemonds — how did the band come to life?
Priya Panda: Diemonds came to be — it’s actually a brain child of mine — it kind of just started off because I had been going to local shows since before I was in high school, so it was just so important to me to be a part of it and starting a band was my dream since I was a kid. When I met C.C. is when the band really — the line up was kind of a solid line up and started playing more shows out and stuff. I met C.C. on a tour bus in New York City. I was staying there for a while in an internship at MTV and C.C. was working for a band — he was working for Death From Above 1979 and I was on the tour bus to interview them. We both knew that we lived in Toronto so we were surprised to see each other here a year later — we were like, ‘oh we should totally start a band’, because we both like glam metal and that kind of stuff, just because there’s not that many people our age who are into that. Of course, that’s something we’re trying to change, but that’s kinda how it started initially. Then over the years we met DeKay, just cause he actually goes to a lot of shows, and that’s kind of how we met him. We did a Halloween set where we dressed up as KISS and played KISS songs and DeKay is a fucking huge KISS fan so it was just a natural fit for us cause we’re all huge KISS fans — in fact we just saw them last week.
Daniel DeKay: I was the only guy in the front row judging every move, every lyric, every lick — I was being very very critical and they did it. They were awesome, I was totally blown away. That’s the first time I’ve met these guys and they blew me away.
Priya Panda: So, yeah, it’s just been a progression of meeting the right people. I think that’s when our band really clicked, when all the members are really getting along and the music is pretty much — it’s kind of on point when everybody gets along, you can hear it.
Sleaze Roxx: What’s your band’s philosophy?
C.C. Diemond: The band’s philosophy is pretty simple — rock hard, ride free, party every day, and rock and roll all night. You know, the same old traditional rock and roll aesthetics and models you’ve heard in the past, but we do it in our own way. We try not to take ourselves too seriously — we have a lot of fun when we play live, we have a smile on our face the whole time, laughing with each other, and just goofing around. You know, keep things fun. We don’t like people who are trying to take themselves too seriously and give that ‘over thought out’ sort of approach to being in a band. At the end of the day it’s just rock and roll fun, you know what I mean? So, the model would be fun and the whole philosophy would be, yeah… fun.
Sleaze Roxx: How do you pronounce the band’s name? There seems to be a lot of controversy around that.
Daniel DeKay: I’m passionate about this one — it’s Diemonds, D I E M O N D S (think ‘Diamonds’). Everywhere you go, D I E spells die — I can’t really think of instances where you see D I E and you would think D. It’s a source of a lot of frustration for me when I hear people calling the band ‘Demons’ because I don’t get it! I don’t get it! I mean, I didn’t make up the name, I was a fan of this band before I was in it, and picking up a CD or a t-shirt I always knew it was Diemonds — never once did I think it was ‘Demons’. So it’s really out there for me to think that people could actually see to pronounce the band in that way. I don’t get it. Apparently most of our fans get it cause we get called Diemonds more often than not on the radio and at shows. People will book us and they’ll be like, ‘Oh Demons, you guys, you booked the band’ — we’re Diemonds, come on! Yeah, I don’t know (laughs). We are setting the record straight right now… We are D I E M O N D S, we’re from Toronto, Canada, and we are going to kick your ass.
Sleaze Roxx: How would you describe Diemonds’ music?
Priya Panda: Our music is, to reiterate on a previous comment, fun. I think when you come and see us you should have fun, guzzle beer, bang your head, and enjoy your life — that’s what our music is all about and I hope that translates in our sound. We are definitely influenced by tons of bands, and of course, just like every other band, if you were to talk to each and every one of our members we butt heads about certain bands but there’s a lot that we definitely agree on. Guns N’ Roses is a big one for all of us, we love Motorhead and AC/DC, KISS of course, which has been brought up before, and Motley Crue — stuff like that, so we were just kind of influenced by a lot of the bands from the 80’s, and we also like a lot of the ones from the 90’s — Shotgun Messiah, Vain, all of the kind of bands that maybe weren’t the most mainstream of the glam bands, but we’re totally influenced by them. It’s kind of cool because they are still active and out there playing, like Faster Pussycat, and we have been fortunate enough to play with a lot of them so cool to see our worlds collide. Like when we played in San Francisco, Davy Vain came out to see us which was super amazing. I was so nervous because all we do is listen to their albums in the van while we’re driving for hours and hours and then we show up at the venue and he’s there — we were listening to that record on the way to the venue!
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of opening for various bands, you’ve had the opportunity to open for a variety of really big known acts and I’m going to ask you a tough one, but which one is your favorite to open for?
Daniel DeKay: Hands down Slash was the best opening slot for sure. We’ve not putting down any of the others, we’ve had a lot of really really good opportunities and we’ve played a lot of kickass shows, but I mean Slash — there was just so much hype behind it. It was a small venue, at the Phoenix, and it was sold out. People had been lining up all day to get up close and we came on for the opening slot and the crowd just erupted — it was the coolest feeling ever. It was out of a movie — getting to play and watch Slash’s set from side stage was phenomenal and meeting him and the whole thing… I still wake up and wonder if it actually happened. It was totally surreal, it was a crazy experience and we got to do it twice! We played with Slash twice! It was awesome, I love that guy! He’s so cool! He’s the real deal — out of all the rockstars and everyone, you know, he is totally the real deal. He still believes in everything he does and he’s so fucking cool!
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s take a step back in terms of the history of the band. I noticed that you started as a four piece but now you’re a five piece. What brought that change?
C.C. Diemond: Well, we used to be a four piece back when we started out — sort of the traditional four piece rock and roll band like Motley Crue, and as the sound grew so did the need for more instrumentation. We wanted a bigger, louder, harder, and faster band, so having a fifth member and a second guitar just made sense at the time. It allows for some pretty heavy riffing, some amazing solo work, harmonizing and whole shebang in the vein of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and all the great guitar duos at the time. C.C./DeKay, it’s trying to make a name for ourselves to be on the cover of Guitar Player…
Sleaze Roxx: The Bad Pack’ is getting released on October 2, 2012 through Underground Operations. How did that come about?
C.C. Diemond: Well we recorded the album and for a long time we’ve been shopping it around to different labels and different people. We’ve had quite a few offers from labels all over the world, big and small, and we finally decided to work with Underground Operations because they’re a Canadian label that understands the needs and demands of being a Canadian band. They’ve always worked with progressive underground artists, hence their name, and so they kind of got what we were trying to do. It’s a very, very friendly relationship.
Most record deals these days end up being very terrifying — some of the stuff we’ve seen presented towards us is just signing your life away. We’re in a deal now where we’re working hard together with the label at the same pace — we’re both on par 50/50 working hard together to end up with the same thing, which is just furthering the band, the label, and the whole message behind it. So, yeah, we finally signed the deal and they’re going to release the album in a full package — CD, vinyl and we even have cassettes coming too. Yeah, we’re very happy with this relationship and we hope to do amazing things in the future with Underground Operations.
Sleaze Roxx: How long did ‘The Bad Pack’ take to make from start to finish?
C.C. Diemond: ‘The Bad Pack’ took a long time to make, not due to any fault of anyone, just the way we made it was sort of on our own budget so we had to figure out interesting and creative ways to record — that meant picking different locations, and as it says in the liner notes various flophouses throughout Toronto which is entirely true. It took four or five different actual studios to get the whole thing done and a lot of different people — a lot of friends pitched in and helped out with the recording process because we were working on a budget. There’s priority for some people so we had to wait for some of the engineers and stuff so that we could get the thing done with the right people, but we are really happy with the product. All the people that worked in it — Jon Drew, Eric Ratz, Kenny Luong, even Harry Hess from Harem Scarem was the guy who mastered it — yeah, it took a little while but it’s finally done and it’s finally ready to hit the streets so we’re really excited.
Sleaze Roxx: There’s a big jump between ‘In The Rough’ and ‘The Bad Pack’ sound wise. How do you explain the difference there?
Daniel DeKay: Well, obviously there’s a big time gap between the two albums so we went through a transition musically and adding a second guitar player changes everything — the dynamic and you know, it also like whatever you’re listening to on your record player that week. But, you know, ‘In the Rough’ is a really honest first EP from a band and that’s what I really like about it. It’s really honest and all the right parts are there. Then with ‘The Bad Pack’, it doesn’t stray that far, but there is a definitive different sound and that’s the sound I think that really defines what Diemonds is. ‘The Bad Pack’ for me, it’s like KISS has this one album ‘Rock And Roll Over’ that’s very definitive, like they know all the other stuff sorta sounds the same — kinda like ‘The Bad Pack’ does to ‘In the Rough’ — but they hit a point and they put out an album and that’s KISS. That album and from then on they found their sound and I really think that if we were able to do that in two albums, as opposed to KISS doing it in five albums, I think we did it — it’s awesome.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘The Bad Pack’ has one of the coolest covers that I’ve seen in a very long time. Who came up with it and is there any meaning behind it?
C.C. Diemond: The cover of ‘The Bad Pack’ was the brain child of all the members — maybe a little more me — they’re all going to glare at me and say that it wasn’t but I tend to do a majority of the artwork and there’s the aesthetic of the band. I really love doing that stuff, I do it on my spare time for other bands and anyone I can. I just love creating art that represents our band and creating this whole world and brand of Diemonds.
The concept is pretty simple. Once we came up with the title ‘The Bad Pack’ we decided that we wanted to represent a pack of people and wolves and bats and just this grouping of ferocious, evil, sexy beasts that were travelling down the road like we do every day. So this was our visual representation of that metaphor of being these ferocious beasts that are travelling through the country and the world and bringing our message to new cities every day so the band is represented by the motorcycle, the girl, the wolf, and the bat just sort of tying into the pack theme. A good friend of ours, Jason Edmiston who actually lives in Scarborough, Ontario, is a very talented artist and he does all kinds of stuff from comic books to commercial work to t-shirts and he was really excited because it was the first album cover he ever got to do. He’d always loved the ’80s album covers and that music so when we approached him with the idea, he was very excited and it all came about pretty quickly. From start to finish he sent us the artwork in stages, it took him about a week to complete it — it’s a hand painting, no digital stuff involved, it’s a 14 x 14 original hand painted work by him and one day I hope to bribe him enough to let us keep it. It’s the way that album covers were always done in the past and that’s the way I always would love to see them done. We have an 8 x 10 backdrop of it that we play in front of every night so if you want to see it in full beauty, come out to a live show.
Sleaze Roxx: Unlike the Motley Crues and the Ratts when they first started, you have the advantage of having the internet on your side. You have Facebook and Twitter — how has that impacted Diemonds?
Priya Panda: I’m not 100% sure that the internet is necessarily the exact advantage that it is. When Black Sabbath went to the next town nobody Googled them and was like, “Oh, I hate their appearance, I’m not gonna go see them, they’re just shit ass entertainment”. It was before our time where everybody was a know it all and a jack of all trades I guess, if you want to call it that, they didn’t really know very much about anything but they know a little bit about a lot, you know. It’s cool to keep in touch with our fans, we love doing it, but at the same time we long for the days when people would write us a real handwritten letter, which we sometimes do get, and asking for signed 8 x 10’s. We’d love to send them out, but I mean that’s just the kind of thing that maybe Lee Aaron got to do, which is super cool — it’s cool to stay in touch and awesome to know a lot of our fans personally.
This summer we toured the West Coast of the United States — California, Southern California — and what was super cool about that was everybody there we felt like we had known for years. We’d never met them before but they knew all the words to our songs, they knew the ups and downs of everything that we’ve done over the past years since we’ve been a band and we’d never even met them — that can only be attributed to the internet and being able to talk to people. I’ve even gotten to do that — you get to talk to people that you really respect and admire then you feel really connected with them which is awesome. Also, the worldwide aspect of it, really quickly it’s kind of changed the whole business of music I think. Labels tend to not take the same care in developing a band and what not — it’s more we get to take everything on ourselves, develop ourselves and if you’re at a certain level, then a label will tend to take you on at that point. So it changes that, but it also changes our relationship with our fans which I’m down with.
Sleaze Roxx: Diemonds is a big touring band — you’ve toured across Canada and the U.S. a number of times — why the constant touring?
C.C. Diemond: Why the constant touring? Cause you have to! In this day and age… we just talked about the internet and the wonders it can do for a band, but people aren’t going into record stores and buying CDs anymore. They’re going to live shows, they’re going out to meet people, socialize and be part of something, so playing live shows is the only way to get out there, meet these people and get your music heard. I don’t need to tell you the numbers, but CD stores are going out of business left, right and centre.
(Interviewer’s note: Priya’s like ‘give me, give me, give me’, as only one person could be recorded at a time via the handheld recorder).
Priya Panda: Well, this relates to what I just said. I think we come from a time where bands toured a lot, they just didn’t rely on the internet for their music to magically appear in front of somebody. We take our music to a small town in Pennsylvania and the whole town’s there and it’s a party — the grampa’s there and so is the niece and nephew and its all generations. It’s good time music and that’s why we want to take it on the road. I think we want people to have a good time in a way that’s a throwback to another time.
Daniel DeKay: And honestly, it’s an excuse for us to party down in another town just like we say in the song (“Livin Tonight”) — just play music which we love doing, drink beer which we love doing, and meeting hot girls which we love doing. So, it’s an excuse for us to do all those things pretty much across the continent on any given day so why would we be not touring is really the question? All the reasons are there — we love touring, touring’s the best, and we’re not going to stop doing it. We have the East Coast of Canada coming up which we haven’t done in a while. That’s going to be really exciting — seeing a lot of old friends and then North America and beyond… let’s do this!
Sleaze Roxx: You must have some good road stories, at least from your last West Coast tour, can you share at least one funny or horror story?
(Interviewer’s note: A quick debate ‘off the record’ ensued between C.C., Priya and DeKay before they could agree on one story they could actually divulge)
Daniel DeKay: Yeah, so we played a show somewhere in Canada — I wasn’t going to say where it was (laughs). Okay, we played in Calgary, and Calgary’s always one of our favorite stops in Canada. We’ve got good friends there so it means we’ve got a wicked place to crash, a wicked place to party, and bacon and eggs made for us in the morning which is a whole other story — that was awesome. So one of the highlight gigs of the whole tour was in Calgary — it was a phenomenal show, it was packed, we saw a lot of our good friends and then we headed back home to start the after party and you know, we’re a couple of beers deep and all of a sudden the door swings open and there’s this guy and he’s got blood stains all over him. Fresh blood, old blood, and we’re like, oh man, this guy got messed up and he proceeded to show us a wound. It was a BIG BIG thing on his head and he was like, “yeah, busted my head open tonight but don’t worry, me and Mikey over here stitched it up with some dental floss and we’re good to go!” (laughs)
Priya Panda: …and he’s a paramedic.
Daniel DeKay: Yeah, and the other friends are like, “oh yeah, yeah, don’t worry, he’s a paramedic. He knows what’s he’s doing”. I’m like okay, I saw the guy drink a ton of beer which I thought thinned your blood and made wounds not heal and of course he was clearly concussed. The guy was in rough shape and he even invited me out to his car to listen to the new Overkill album. I’m like, we can probably stream it over the internet, and he was like, “well I’ve got the CD, come out to the car”. He sits in the front he started (laughs)… I said, “Do not drive this car, you’re not going anywhere, we’ll listen to the CD but that’s as far as we’re going”. So yeah, I hung out with this concussed man and he didn’t stay there so he must have driven home eventually. So if you’re out there man, I hope everything panned out well for you cause you were in some serious rough shape — stitches, dental floss, yeah … all the best!!
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve toured in some pretty cool places — you’re done Rocklahoma two times, you’ve toured India, you’ve played the classic places such as Whisky a Go Go — tell me about that.
C.C. Diemond: Yeah, we’ve been touring for a few years now, making our way across the continent as well as all the way over to India. India for me was a very enlightening experience. It was very interesting time in my life, something I recommend to everyone if you have the ability to go check out India, it’s a whole different type of thing over there. But yeah, touring North America has been great for us, we’ve got to play a lot of places that are legendary such as Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California where every one of our heroes got their start. As well we got to play Webster Hall in New York City which is where the Ritz used to be which was where the classic Guns N’ Roses ‘Live At The Ritz’ bootleg DVD that every rock fan is aware of and has watched hundreds of times. We got to play Rocklahoma which is a huge festival in Prior, Oklahoma alongside Motley Crue, Poison, Slash and all the greats — everyone has played it. We even got to play a festival this year in Seattle, a three day hemp festival where 300,000 people go through the gate every year — it’s a privately funded hemp and other product activities and it was an amazing experience.
We love playing anywhere from small little bars to big festival stages — give us a stage, big or small it doesn’t matter, we’ll rock them all… that’s a quote from the new album so look out for that one. The new, new, new, album, that’s on the next record. But we love playing in Toronto at the Bovine Sex Club, that’s where we got our start and that’s our Whisky a Go Go, and we love playing everywhere so have us out, we’ll play a gig. Even at a garage in Belleville if you want. Mansion basement in Ottawa, what’s the most unconventional place we’ve played? We played in Kensington Market (in Toronto) on the street for the pedestrian festival they do every year, that was a blast until some drunk knocked my entire amp over while we were playing, that was not so much fun. But yeah, we’ll play anywhere anytime.
Sleaze Roxx: What’s your favorite Diemonds’ tune and why?
Daniel DeKay: My favorite Diemonds’ tune to play live, and also because I think the song is awesome, I love listening to it and it’s a really well written song, is “Trick Or Treat”. I love that song — it’s really cool and I get to show off a lot when we play that song live, it’s got the coolest solo by far out of the whole record (laughs).
Priya Panda: I’m going to say “Loud N’ Nasty”. I just like it cause it’s kind of a throwback to another time, it’s not something you really have to think about. It’s loud and its fucking nasty — it’s what we do, it’s who we are, other than fun it’s part of our mission statement and it’s easy for people to get into when they’re watching it. You know, you pick it up quickly and it’s simple and fun…
C.C. Diemond: My personal favorite would be “Get The Fuck Outta Here” which is a song that I get to play a solo in and which is the best solo of all time of course (laughs). And look out for maybe some visual accompaniment to that song in the near future. We’re going to do a new music video for it in the coming weeks on the scale of “Take On The Night”, so be prepared to have your minds blown.
Sleaze Roxx: For each of you, what’s your favorite album of all time and why?
C.C. Diemond: I’m going to do a top three just to make it even. I’m gonna go with Black Sabbath’s ‘Master Of Reality’, Aerosmith’s ‘Get Your Wings’ and Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite for Destruction’.
Priya Panda: I’m gonna say Skid Row’s ‘Slave To The Grind’. I really like the record, its hard as fuck but it still catches — not all of them make sense which is super cool and fuck, it’s Bach, he’s cool — like his voice.
Daniel DeKay: Slayer’s ‘Show No Mercy’, Alan Parsons Project’s ‘Tales Of Mystery And Imagination’ and Megadeth’s ‘Rust In Peace’.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your plans for the rest of 2012 and going into 2013?
C.C. Diemond: The plans for the rest of the year are an East Coast tour to support the release of the album out into the Maritimes, Halifax, Pop Explosion and yeah, a bunch of cool East Coast shows and then back in town for a Halloween show. That’ll be the end of the shows for this year, then for a few months over the winter we’re going to be downloading some new songs for yet another new album that will be released sometime in 2013 so keep an eye out for that. Then we sort of lock up, make new music and plan for the next year, Japan and Europe are the next two sites we have set probably for the spring and early summer and then back across the continent all over again.