FIRST EVER INTERVIEW WITH DOLL HAZARD MEMBERS CHRIS DAMIEN DOLL AND SANDY HAZARD
Date: November 25, 2017
IT’S ALWAYS DIFFICULT TO KEEP A NEW MUSICAL PROJECT UNDER WRAPS BUT SUICIDE BOMBERS LEAD VOCALIST / GUITARIST CHRIS DAMIEN DOLL AND DIRTBAG REPUBLIC SINGER / DRUMMER SANDY HAZARD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO THAT KEEPING THEIR UNION AS DOLL HAZARD VIRTUALLY A COMPLETE SECRET WHILE PUTTING TOGETHER THEIR DEBUT ALBUM ‘TRANSATLANTIC MELTDOWN.’ BOTH ARTISTS HAVE COMBINED THEIR STRENGTHS TO COME UP WITH A FANTASTIC DEBUT ALBUM AND SLEAZE ROXX IS PLEASED AND HUMBLED TO BRING YOU THE FIRST EVER INTERVIEW WITH DOLL HAZARD!
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on your new project Doll Hazard! How hard was it keeping everything under wraps for so long and for how long has this idea/project been secretly going on?
Sandy Hazard: We were pretty excited about how things were coming along, but we wanted to keep it quiet until it was finished. We also didn’t want to detract from our other band releases [Dirtbag Republic’s ‘Downtown Eastside’ and Suicide Bombers’ ‘Suicide Idols’] that were coming out earlier this year. I think Chris and I discussed this around December 2015 and worked out the logistics of how to do the recording, working with the huge time differences, etc. A lot of preparation went into making sure the recording process would be as painless as possible.
Chris Damien Doll: Thanks! In a word YES! There have been so many times throughout the process where I have been dying to tell people. Especially when I’ve been hard at work with Doll Hazard and someone needed me for something I had to decline, but not wanting to take away focus from our main band’s releases was the reason and after that we were kinda set in it and thought we’d keep it under wraps until it was ready. Not the usual deal for people like us, but we made the right decision. We’ve been visiting the thought of doing something together for years, but it has always been more of a “Man, if we lived in the same city, we could do something” thing, so it was never seriously pursued. This time, the technology was there, we had the free time and we were able to get serious about it. We are both so glad we did.
Sleaze Roxx: Interestingly, you started recording in January 2017 with both of your respective bands were about to release their latest albums [Dirtbag Republic’s ‘Downtown Eastside’ and Suicide Bombers’ ‘Suicide Idols’] in April 2017. Was it distracting and/or difficult to be recording a secret side project when you have your respective bands about to release their next albums?
Sandy Hazard: Not for me. Over the years, I’ve been in situations of playing in two bands at once. In my Grandma Moses days..I was drumming for that band and singing in another band called Hemp. I drummed in the McRackins while also drumming and singing in The Retreads for several years. At the very start, Chris and I agreed that we’d set a completion date for the end of 2017. That way, you have a set goal and it doesn’t become one of those things that drags on or loses priority with whatever else you are doing. Things get a bit hectic at times, especially with the time difference, but you just juggle whatever you have going on and soldier on like a good rocker [laughs]…
Chris Damien Doll: Not at all. I am in two bands and have been for the last ten years, Suicide Bombers and Ronny Pøbel, and we did this so it wouldn’t take away focus from our main bands. If I remember correctly, Sandy started laying down the drums at the beginning of the year, but I didn’t start on my parts until after the Suicide Bombers tour and finished up before the summer. I’m not saying it hasn’t been shitloads of work, but it’s general downtime that has suffered, not Suicide Bombers. In retrospect, it seems kinda funny the whole thing with the “completion date.” Not having done anything together before and not knowing how this long distance thing would work, we decided we should do it like that, but once we started, everything happened so fast and we have been way ahead of schedule for most of the process. Hell, when the new Ronny Pøbel album comes out in January, I will have released three full length albums released within the time-frame of eight months. That’s gotta me one for rock ‘n’ roll history!
Sleaze Roxx: Now that you have announced the band, what has been the reaction from your respective bandmates in Suicide Bombers and Dirtbag Republic?
Chris Damien Doll: Both the Suicide Bombers and Ronny Pøbel have been among the very few to know about this almost all along. You only create insecurities and bad feelings in a band if you keep other musical projects a secret. Besides, you’re proud and tend to share stuff like that with your bandmates. We all do, all the time! Now that it’s announced, they are all looking forward to hearing it same as everyone else. The Suicide Bombers were amoung the very first to send me positive feedback on the teaser video, which was really cool, and I can’t wait for them to hear the record.
Doll Hazard‘s Transatlantic Meltdown album teaser video:
Sandy Hazard: I mentioned it to Woody back in the beginning of the project. He thought it was cool. I played him a few unmixed songs a while ago and he totally dug it. Andrew Cairns who is part of the Dirtbag crew designed our entire CD layout…and Kyle was originally approached to play the bass on the record, but then Chris decided he wanted to give playing the bass a shot for the album. Like Chris said, it’s always a good idea to be upfront If you are in another band and you are doing a side project etc. It keeps any animosity at bay and if you have solid dudes you play with, they will be supportive of you.
Sleaze Roxx: Your press release indicates that the songs were written over a two month period. When was that and how did it work with both of you 4,500 miles apart?
Chris Damien Doll: Once we agreed on doing the record, Sandy was on it like a hawk. He sent me a nearly finished song almost the same day, I think it was the title track “Transatlantic Meltdown” and told me to write lyrics and a vocal melody for one part. Two days later, he sent another song, one we didn’t end up using, and told me to write the whole lyric and vocal melody which I did and the day after that he sent me… “Walk On Water” I think… and told me to write a bridge and solo part. I had only sent him “Sci-Fi Child” which was a completed older track that never worked as I had hoped for Suicide Bombers and I didn’t really have anything else ready.
I was drowning in a pool of great songs I needed to work on and it seems the floodgates where really open on the Canadian side of the project. I thought “Fuck! Two can play at this game!” So the same day, I wrote all the music for “Cat’s Got Your Tongue” and “21 Grams (Off My Shoulders)” in 1.5 hours and sent off to Sandy and said “You do the vocal melody and lyrics for these,” thinking that would stall him at least for a little while, but a few days later, “Cat’s” was done and from there it just took off with both of us sending several songs on a weekly basis, offering our opinions, working on them and sending back. I ended up doing the melody and lyrics for “21 Grams” but we were on fire, creating great stuff. The songwriting started sometime in March 2016 and we were done in late April or early May. Ten great songs with only one of them being an older track.
Sandy Hazard: The time difference was kind of funny, because I would be going to bed when Chris was waking up. It would be mid-afternoon for Chris when I was waking up… so we had to coordinate that during mixing, etc.
Chris Damien Doll: If I put the letters “ti” into a google search engine on any device I have been on the two last years, it’s gonna suggest “time right now in Vancouver, Canada,” so there you go.
Sleaze Roxx: Your band reminds me a little bit of Tales From The Porn where American singer Stevie Rachelle had not yet met his Brazilian bandmates when their debut album came out. Have you two ever met in person before and was the writing and recording of the album all done on a long distance basis?
Sandy Hazard: Yes, back in 2007. My band at the time was embarking on a six week tour of Europe. Chris had asked me if we were playing Norway, and I said no, but that would be really cool. Next thing I know, he tells me we can play the club his singer is managing. So I got the details and passed it onto our promoter and we ended up playing in Oslo thanks to Chris. He brought a ton of his friends down to the show as well. We had a good party afterwards! Yes, the whole album was done remotely from one and other…. the beauty of modern technology!
Chris Damien Doll: Sandy was a fan of my old band Trashcan Darlings and I was a fan of his band the McRackins, so getting to see those guys live in 2007 was great. We hung out for the whole day, got along great and proceeded to get pretty smashed in the evening. I came home with a lot of McRackins records that day and Sandy came home with shitloads of Trashcan Darlings. We nearly met again in 2008 when I was in Seattle and contemplated making the trek to go visit, but it didn’t happen. Still we have stayed in touch over the years and always check out whatever music the other one does, offering our opinions. While working on the Doll Hazard record, we kept trying to schedule a Skype call… you know, one with beer and background music involved, to have a good time and discuss the record face to face, but we still haven’t managed to do that, so it’s all been mails and messenger.
Sleaze Roxx: Both of you handle lead vocals on the album. How did you decide which song that each of you would sing?
Sandy Hazard: We decided to do five songs a piece originally… In most cases, we sang all the songs we were the primary writers for, then there was a few differences with “Cat’s” where we fully split the writing duties and with “Transatlantic Meltdown” where we thought it would be cool for each of us to sing a verse. We did backing vocals and harmonies together on the whole record.
Chris Damien Doll: What Sandy said… We sang lead on the parts we wrote the lyrics for. We never discussed it, it just seemed like the natural thing to do.
Sleaze Roxx: Obviously, there are some Dirtbag Republic and Suicide Bombers influences and similarities on the Doll Hazard album. If you have to choose one, do you think that the Doll Hazard album sounds more like Dirtbag Republic or Suicide Bombers, and why?
Sandy Hazard: I think you can definitely hear similarities here and there, but it’s more like a hybrid of the two bands when you listen to the whole album. I mean a song like “Doghouse” is totally different than anything from either of our bands. That sucker is straight up Dogs D’Amour vibing going on.
Chris Damien Doll: Yeah, and it’s a true story too! I told Sandy about it, never knowing the phrase, he threw it out there and I thought “that’s a great song title!” It stuck and a couple of days later, I had written the song. To me, Doll Hazard has it’s own sound, which was important. It wouldn’t make sense to release a Dirtbag Republic, or Suicide Bombers, record under a different moniker. There are similarities and some songs might have worked in our main bands, but Suicide Bombers has more of a hard rock/metal edge and Dirtbag Republic more of a punk rock edge. Doll Hazard is smack dab in the middle, with a dirty sleazy rock ‘n’ roll sound… except for the two times we go metal, ’cause then we go both punk and metal at the same time with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Prostitute” and “Sci-Fi Child.” I’m guessing if you like Dirtbag Republic or Suicide Bombers, you’ll probably like this too, but don’t expect an exact copy.
Sleaze Roxx: I love the album title ‘Transatlantic Meltdown.’ Who came up and how did you come up with the album title?
Sandy Hazard: Thanks! The song morphed from kind of a fear of flying theme to a guy getting out of control on an airplane. I think I said to Chris that it might be a cool album title and have a double meaning kind of thing. The other meaning of two guys rippin’ it up across the Atlantic Ocean and causing your stereo to meltdown [laughs]…
Chris Damien Doll: It was the first song Sandy sent and he was quick to suggest it as an album title. It’s a great title and a great song that fit perfectly to what we were doing.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your favorite Doll Hazard songs and why?
Sandy Hazard: That’s hard as I love the whole album, but if I had to choose I’d say “Fire & Gasoline” as it’s such all out rocker. I also enjoyed writing “Rock n’ Roll Prostitute” which many musicians will be able to relate to. It’s basically a real life tale of how most serious musicians dedicate their life to being broke and getting ripped off [laughs]. The other tune would be “Doghouse.” For some reason, a slow bluesy song would be our nemesis. I think I redid the drum tracks about four times on that until I was happy. We were both really frustrated as to how that was going. Then everything just came to together after the bugs were sorted out. We also got my buddy Roger Salloum to play some tasty piano throughout the tune. It’s one of those things that you can get super frustrated about, but it all works out and you’re happy with the end result. “Cat’s Got Your Tongue” is another favorite, as it was our first collaboration and turned out super rad and kicks all kinds of ass.
Chris Damien Doll: “Fire & Gasoline” is one of my faves too and I am also really proud of “No Valentine Cards” which has so many different parts that the vocal melody carries seamlessly throughout the song. The melody is strict which means it was a difficult one to write lyrics for, but I am very happy with the end result. “21 Grams (Off My Shoulders)” was another early favorite. The lyrics are a mix the old “Robert Johnson at the Crossroads theme” and “the 21 grams theory” with a bit of personal coloring thrown in. I thought that was a cool idea and it turned into a great lyric.
The title track “Transatlantic Meltdown” also deserves a mention. I’ve played lead and rhythm guitars on a bunch of albums and also sang lead vocals on a few by now, but I’ve never played bass on anything but demos before and here Sandy is sending me this great song, our only duet on the record, and he decided to give it a fucking shuffle beat! Not only that, but a fast shuffle beat with bass riffs that are quite hard to nail for someone used to the comfort and convenience of a guitar. I think I did bass for the whole album in April 2017 and redid it all in May. Not sure how many times I had to redo “Transatlantic Meltdown” until Sandy was happy, but I am glad I did and it sounds great now. With it’s shuffle beat, the title track is a little off center to the rest of the songs musically, but it’s such a cool track. I could go on… I like all of them for different reasons and there are no songs I skip on this record.
Sleaze Roxx: It seems that some of the material on Doll Hazard could have been either on a Suicide Bombers or Dirtbag Republic album. Were there any concerns that starting this new project might detract from your respective bands?
Sandy Hazard: Not for me, We planned it to come out at a time where it wouldn’t conflict with either of our bands. All the songs were written fresh, so it wasn’t like we were taking from a pool of Dirtbag Republic or Suicide Bombers tunes. I had about ten or so songs that are written for the next Dirtbag album, but I didn’t want to poach anything from that pool. We wanted things to be organic as we went along during the writing and demo process.
Chris Damien Doll: We made a pact to only bring our A game as far as writing was concerned. So many collaborations and super groups, with all the talent in the word, fall flat on their faces because they save all their best ideas for their main bands. That wasn’t an option with us. We quickly found the musical landscape we wanted to navigate and decided that whatever came while we were writing the album would end up on record. There was no saving anything for later. There would be no point in this if the record wouldn’t be up to the standards people come to expect from us, and it wouldn’t be any fun either. So when we started writing we were dead focused on making it great.
There was a friendly competition between us and we discovered that not only do we have the same work ethic, but our talents are a little different too, which complimented the writing and arranging of the songs. I’m a quite minimalist writer. I like to edit songs down to the bare minimum repetition wise and I am very careful with what I add on top. Sandy is the complete opposite and can cough up three or four vocal harmonies for a part in no time and they are all great. So Sandy was pushing for more guitar fills and more backing vocals, while I was chopping away parts from the demos and it really worked. None of these songs would have come out like this if we hadn’t both worked hard on all of them. It’s a true collaboration.
Sleaze Roxx: Both of you are the respective band leaders or at least the most prominent ones on social media and in the public eye. Usually, one person will have to take a backseat to the other when two leaders collide. How did you two fare in that regard?
Sandy Hazard: This is what I loved about doing this record. We both have definite opinions and are highly motivated to promote/market our bands. So to me, this was the best possible scenario. I have someone who is very like minded. Everything we’ve done has been easily agreed on. There has been no head butting, ego clashes etc. We both were very enthusiastic and supportive of each other during the whole writing recording process. Sometimes forcing better performances out of each other and critiquing when we needed to. I actually had somebody critiquing my drumming for a change, which was nice. I found that quite useful. So in a nutshell, due to both of us being very motivated, it’s been a really great experience. Shit just gets done, and fast!
Chris Damien Doll: It’s about chemistry and work ethic for the most part. We get on well, like a lot of the same music and agree on what we want to do. When we started, the work ethic and sense of competition kicked in, where both just wanted to outshine the other one with writing and performances as fast as possible, in a friendly way, for the good of the band. We had very few disagreements and have both been a little amazed at how easy it’s all been throughout the process. We have both been very up front and spoken our minds, which is always the way to go, and we have also been very involved. Giving feedback on everything from writing to performances instantly, which is very gratifying for the one who just wrote or recorded something. We have also come with suggestions for everything to make the record as good as it can be. On the few instances where we disagreed, it’s been easy to either come to an agreement or see who takes the backseat on that particular issue. Sometimes records are hard to make. This one was easy.
Sleaze Roxx: In terms of your promo photos, Chris, it appears that you won the discussion about how each of you should look as Sandy has adopted your heavy eye make up look [laughs]. Take me through how this happened!
Chris Damien Doll: I wish there was a cool story there, but in all honesty there isn’t… I’m no stranger to discussing image in a new project, but for some reason we didn’t do it. Sandy wears eyeliner and looks cool in the Dirtbag Republic photos, but I had no idea he would expand on that for this band [laughs]. I just did my normal street wear and that was it.
Sandy Hazard: I must disguise old man face [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve decided to release the new Doll Hazard album only in CD format. This seems against the grain where many bands only release their albums in digital formats. What was the rationale in that regard?
Sandy Hazard: Most of the fans of both our bands are really big music fans. They for the most part, don’t like digital downloads and when it comes to CDs, they don’t like DigiPaks. It’s jewel case or you’re dead to me [laughs]. Seriously though, it’s the gateway to having your album leaked on day one. Both the last two Dirtbag Republic albums were actually leaked online the day before the official release dates. When you’re an indie band footing the bill for everything, each sale counts to recouping your costs and then putting any profits back into your next record. If you value music, you’re going to get it legitimately. People will pay for a McDonalds combo meal for $10 and get one enjoyment out of that… and the shits. With us, you’ll pay close to the same thing and enjoy it for years and won’t get the shits…. unless heavy drinking happens during consumption [laughs]. Will we release it on iTunes etc.? Possibly down the road but not for a while. We’re also talking to some indie labels for a possible vinyl release, so fingers crossed on that!
Chris Damien Doll: There is no money in digital format and Sandy wants to buy a second house [laughs]. Seriously, we have a lot of expenses as we made every effort to get the album as good as it can possibly get. Since we are not a touring band, the album needs to recoup the album, so to speak. Digital format would guarantee that this would be a 100% out-of-pocket project, with a CD, we have the chance to recoup. Also, for myself, I am old fashioned. Files on a computer or streaming services doesn’t mean shit to me. I like making decisions. I like to go into a store, online or in real life, check out the records and choose which deserve to be added to my collection. I like to make the commitment. In my old apartment, I didn’t have the space to organize my CDs, so I used iTunes on my computer for listening to music. I found myself listening less and less… When I moved here, I bought a brand new stereo, organized all my music and listen to a lot every day. There’s just something a whole lot more sexy about a physical copy and I am so happy there are still people who agree. Spotify is killing music, legally.
Sleaze Roxx: I totally agree there. For the most part, I loath listening to music digitally. That experience compared to listening to an actual CD, cassette or vinyl album seems so different. Are there any thoughts or plans of playing live and if so, will, you be recruiting some additional band members?
Sandy Hazard: I never say never, but it would be a challenge to coordinate that.
Chris Damien Doll: Additional members would not be a problem on either side of the Atlantic and it would be very cool, but I seriously doubt it will happen.
Sleaze Roxx: If someone wants to purchase Doll Hazard’s debut album, where can they get it?
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything else that you’d like to mention that we have not covered?
Chris Damien Doll: Yeah, we’d like to give a big shout out to the people, beside ourselves, who have put work into this album and made it what it is. First and foremost, Maria Maxwell who has mixed and mastered the record. She’s done a brilliant job on both of the last two Suicide Bombers releases as well and this time was certainly no exception. She’s one of the best up and coming people out there and is always a pleasure to work with. Andrew Cairns for the great cover design! There was no way in hell we thought the pictures we sent could look that good! And Roger Salloum for the piano on “Doghouse.” That was the finishing touch and the song wouldn’t have been the same without it. Also a big thanks to you Olivier for being so supportive of Doll Hazard, Suicide Bombers and Dirtbag Republic and thanks to everyone who buys a CD and helps spread the word about it.