Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Damien Moyal interview, Vocalist/ex-Vocalist for: As Friends Rust, Morning Again, Culture, Shai Hulud, Bird Of Ill Omen, Damien Done. July 15, 2010.

Vista: Hey Damien. The first question that I have for you is, what was your first introduction to Punk/Hardcore? What bands did you gravitate towards when you first got into the scene? Also, what was the first Punk/Hardcore show that you attended & what year was that?

Damien: Hi John. My introduction to punk and hardcore was a byproduct of 7th grade thrash fanaticism. At the time, I was really into Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, Megadeth, Exodus... the big ones, I guess. Some of them, namely Anthrax, DRI, Nuclear Assault, etc. were already walking this weird, fine line between metal and (what I would later discover was called) Hardcore. Anyway, I would spend hours studying their album artwork, "Thank You" lists and pictures. So all of a sudden there were new band names that I would see keep coming up a lot, in liner notes or on t-shirts in band photos. Exploited, Dead Kennedys, Agnostic Front to name a few. Exploited were a big one for me. In fact, "Let's Start a War" may have been the first Punk tape (remember those) that I ever owned. I think I stole it from Tracks Records in North Miami Beach, at 163rd Street Mall. This would have been 1989 or so. It was so raw, so dark. Then I ended up with a copy of Minor Threat's "Out of Step" and couldn't believe my ears. It didn't have that 'mature', poetic, medieval drama that a lot of the Metal stuff had... Instead I was floored by the the prose of it all. There was this pride in being young, in still figuring shit out, in not knowing where all the anger was coming from, in not knowing what to do with it. That changed everything.

Vista: As far as your solo project Damien Done, is it a solo project or are there other band members, plans for other band members in the future? Have you ever done any shows live under this name? Also, can you give a brief history of Damien Done?

Damien: Damien Done started after As Friends Rust broke up, in a vain attempt to prove that I didn't need a band to be actively making, recording and playing music. Eight (8!) years later, I think I have successfully and officially, not proven shit. I've written and recorded, but have never played live, and to this day still have not released the album that was originally slated to drop in 2003. Oops.

Vista: Everyone reading this doesn't know this, but you and I came in contact with each other because of a review in a past issue, of the Damien Done recording. I'm glad we are in contact. But, my question is, what are your thoughts on music being posted on the computer & people downloading music in general? Is it "just the way it is" or does it make you want to get in a car & drive to someones house & kick the shit out of the person who puts your music on the computer? I suppose I should also ask, did you want to kick my ass for putting in the review? 

Damien: Hell no! I steal the fuck out of some music. And I encourage it in others. Plus, if it weren't for file-sharing, nobody would ever have heard any Damien Done songs. Because of file-sharing, at least four people have!

Vista: I've been a fan of all the bands you've done through the years but I'm wondering, why the hell has it taken so long to release the Damien Done album? I mean, I've heard about this project, literally years ago as far as ads from Goodlife Records. I'm pretty sure I have a postcard from well over 5 years ago? 

Damien: Really, it's all my fault. Originally, I recorded 5 songs with James Paul Wisner, to be released as an EP. Then Goodlife said they now would only release a full-length, so suddenly I was short 5+ songs. Not having money to spend, I was forced to write songs quickly, and record them myself. This was a recipe for insecurity and self-doubt, and I have since (for almost 7 years now) just been a little pussy about simply turning the songs over to Goodlife, who still ask for them. It's become a joke between us, although I don't really think either of us find it all that funny.

Vista:  Speaking of Goodlife Records, you obviously worked with them as far back as when you were in Culture & Morning Again. You must have known Edward when he was young!? Ha! I'm kidding, I'm sure we're all the same damn age! My question is, how did you initially gt hooked up with the label & tell us a bit about the label, the man, the myth, the legend...Edward Goodlife!?

Damien: Edward decided to hit up both Morning Again and Culture at the same time, in 1996. At the time, he thought I was still singing for MA, when in fact I was back in Culture. We were sister bands, and both sisters were bitches. Frenemies. For some reason, Culture had a weird cult appeal in Europe that it never had in the States. Morning Again enjoyed the same attention there. That was about it. When the opportunity to get that kind of distribution in Europe - and tour there - presented itself, none of us were about to pass it up. Ed's a great guy, and fuck anybody who says otherwise. He's been an outstanding friend, and has been there for me through some dark times. The only thing Hardcore kids hate more than themselves are Hardcore kids who DON'T hate themselves, and who are successful. Edward gave bands access to thousands of listeners and show-goers. He fronted incalculable costs to provide merchandise, CDs, vinyl, plane tickets, van and equipment rentals, drivers, etc. to connect bands with fans, and vice versa. In the process, he made a few bucks. We should all be so lucky.

Vista: For me, one of the standout songs that I've heard from Damien Done is, "Dude Becomes Sea". What is this song about lyrically? 

Damien: Slaves on a ship decide to row the boat off of a cliff, taking the lives of their captors at the willing expense of their own. Why is there a cliff in the ocean? I don't know. There just is. Anyway, one slave lives on as The Ocean itself, but is apparently pretty sad and upset about this destiny, as he seems to really miss his woman, and probably just misses land, because too much water as we all know can get a bit tedious. So I think he turns into kind of an asshole of an ocean, and takes to fucking with other ships that sail him.

Vista: "Damien Done"...Where did this title for the band come from? I'm not a dumb-ass, so the "Damien" part is obviously your first name. What is the "Done" part in relation to the name? Details man, details?

Damien: No details to tell, I just thought it sounded catchy. Maybe it was a bit of commentary on my being through with bands for a while, or just feeling jaded in general.

Vista: What are you thoughts on the current Hardcore scene? I know the style of music you are doing is not Hardcore per say...But, you're on a label that is known for putting out Hardcore, so you're guilty by association buddy! Do you follow what's going on with the current scene & are there any bands you're into? 

Damien: I accept the association with both pride and shame, but I have no idea what's going on today. None. Zip. Something about Mongoloids, right? That's all I got.

Vista: If you could blame one vocalist/performer for encouraging you to front a Hardcore band {Culture/Morning Again}, a post Hardcore band {As Friends Rust} and now as a solo project...Who would you pin that on, other than yourself!?

Damien: I don't know if I can say that these guy encouraged me (I've never met them) but their voices and attitudes were definitely in my head while finding my voice for certain bands: For Culture, Morning Again and Shai Hulud, I kept Zack's Inside Out voice in the front of my brain. During As Friends Rust (at least the earlier stuff) I think I was going for a sort of Chain of Strength-meets-Dag Nasty kind of thing. And for Damien Done, probably some Neil Young/Danzig hybrid.

Vista:  I vividly remember being so pissed off at you close to 10 years ago! I went to see As Friends Rust perform when they played in Upstate New York. As the band was setting up their gear, I see a singer setting up the mic & I asked someone, "who the hell is that guy"?! And they said, "Oh, their singer quit the band a week and a 1/2 ago"! Needless to say, I was hella pissed! Haha. Eh, I've let my anger subside since, but my question is, why did you quit the band? It seemed like you guys were just really starting to get the recognition during this time period? 

Damien: We definitely were starting to get somewhere. The problem was, for me, it wasn't any place I wanted to get with that line-up. Three of the core (Coffee Black era) members were gone (James, Tim and Kaleb), so it was just Joe and myself and three new guys. Don't get me wrong, these dudes were also friends, but it wasn't the same. We wrote more material, and certainly got better recordings, but it was never the same for me. It was just time to walk away.

Vista: What were your thoughts on the rest of the guys continuing on with the name: "As Friends Rust"? I mean, you were the only original member at that point. I know they ended up going under the name, "Salem". I know it has been a long time ago now but at the time did you think it was wiggity-whack of them?

Damien: I did think it was whack. But I also felt terrible for quitting at such an inopportune time, with a nice buzz forming around the "Won" LP, a new (even better) EP on its way, and tours booked. Not the coolest timing, but why drag it out, right? So I let the name thing go. I may have even encouraged it, out of guilt, when I quit.

Vista:  Personally, I think AFR really hit an incredible stride with the album "Won". From your perspective, how was the writing process for this album? Where were you pulling influences from vocally & even lyrically? Musically, the band was a lot different as well, compared to earlier releases. I'm sure that was due to different band members? But as far as the music goes, where were those influences coming from as well?

Damien: Lyrically and vocally, I just wanted something more critical and confrontational. Dirtier, and a couple shades darker. I was not happy. Musically, the new guys definitely brought new influences in, and Joe's leads gave them just enough of a recognizable element to still make them AFR songs.

Vista:  How was the band perceived during this period, in Florida? I remember reading fanzines back in the day {90's} with interviews of AFR & I always got the feeling that there was tension and/or shit talking from other local bands/people? True? False? Was that due to the bands you were in prior to AFR? Was is because you were no longer SxE? Was it a combination of both, mixed in with people just not allowing you or the band {AFR} to become whatever it was that you set out to become? 

Damien: True, probably, not likely. More of the "not allowing me or the band to become whatever it was we were becoming" thing. 

Vista: One of my favorite lyric from the "Won" album is: "Don't Tell Me What I Need Until You've Needed Anything". That line has really stuck with me over the years & I'm sure I've used that phrase as a defense while arguing with an ex-girlfriend or some shit! Haha. So, thank you! My question is, after all these years, pick one lyric from one of your songs that really sticks out in your mind?

Damien: I got nothing.

Vista: One thing that has driven me crazy over the years are the lyrics to the song "14 or So". I've really always wondered? Who's "Matt Craft"? And you mention someone named "John"... Do you ever see Matt Craft & is John still around? Def a song that paints a picture {movie} lyrically. Thoughts?

Damien: Thanks, man! Nobody ever comments on that song at all, let alone as painting a movie. It's really just a recap of a couple of years in my life where I was running away from home periodically, getting into some stupid shit, and transitioning out of my parents' custody and into the court's. Matt and John were two of my best friends at this time. When I wrote the song, there was a nostalgia for those years and for my old neighborhood in South Florida in me, despite it not exactly being a rosy period. John still being around meant that he was still in Miami, but not too many others were. There was no going back. We just age. It is a one way fucking street. Nonetheless, I'm still in touch with both of those fuckers on the regular.

Vista: As time went on & during the "Won " era & the "A Young Trophy Band" era, the lyrics really became more introspective but the song: " The Most Americanest" seemed more to me, kinda like a Morning Again type of lyrical content. I thought the lyric: "Wear your flag like a badge, like it matters". What were some themes and inspirations for this song?

Damien: It was both a response to post-9/11 lemming-like patriotism, and an aversion that I think I've always had toward nationalism of any kind. This weird, mindless willingness to argue, fight for, die for, hate for a piece of land with hand-drawn borders simply because you were born inside that particular square of soil... it's weird. What would happen had you been born 5 feet over on that other square? You kill for that one? Weird. It's not that I don't think people should be proud to be American... it's that I don't think people should be proud to be from anywhere. These are lines drawn by men who negotiate or appropriate different parameters through purchasing or military power. That's all. And that's OK. But to drape yourself in that land's flag-of-the-moment (remember that borders, historically, are ever-changing) and to actually take pride in your geographic, accidental happening as if you even had anything to fucking do with it in the first place... is really just weird.

Vista: As Friends Rust played one show in America {I think?}, then did a small tour of Europe back in 2008. How did the idea come about & how was that? After all those years of not performing as AFR, was it strange or was it like it never ended? How was Europe? Thoughts? Highlights? Lowlights? Ha!

Damien: It was absolutely like it never ended. It was that 'core' line-up that I mentioned earlier, and we were better than ever, as people, as friends, and as musicians. We've stayed in touch over the years, and just really felt like we owed ourselves another party. So we threw one.

Vista: Earlier I asked you what your first introduction was to Punk/Hardcore. More importantly, what was your first introduction to music in general? Thinking back, was there a specific person who turned you onto music? My Grandmother played Beatles & Elvis when I was very young. Then by the time I was 13, I was all about Twisted Fuckin' Sister & Ronnie James Dio was my first metal concert. That was 1984! O.K, your turn. Come clean & spill it!? 

Damien: My parents played a lot of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and jazz and blues. My mom was a bit more of a rocker, and gave me some Zeppelin and ELO. I think my first concert was seeing Paul Simon with my parents. I wish I could say Dio was my first Metal show, but it was KISS and Ted Nugent in 1988, and it was a field trip, and it wasn't really all that cool.

Vista:  How old were you when you joined Morning Again? I never knew a lot of the back-story on the band. Who formed Morning Again & what year did the band officially begin?

Damien: I was 19. John Wylie, who I'd already played with in Culture a year or two earlier, had just quit Culture and wanted to start something new. He called me and I accepted, despite our relationship being pretty rocky since the Culture days. We started in the Fall of 1995, and I was in the band until soon after a 2-week tour in the late Summer of 1996.

Vista: Morning Again went on to put out material on the label "Conquer The World". At this point in life, most people don't know who the frig CTW Records is/was. Whatever, This is a question I've had in my pea-brain for a decade and a half! How did the band get hooked up with that label? Was it through your band Culture? That band also put out a release through CTW. How did the hookup come about? Was the label, in hindsight, shitty? Did they rip off both Morning Again & Culture? Did anyone ever beat the snot out of the guy that did that label? 

Damien: Yeah, it was pretty much entirely because of the relationship we had with CTW from the Culture days. The label was not shitty in hindsight... it was shitty at the time! We knew it, but back then you were just happy to get shit released, even if the graphics sucked and the dude running the label was a jackass. I don't know if he's ever been pounded for his shady dealings, but I don't think it would serve any purpose. He's kind of a sad case. I don't wish any harm on him, and I actually think it's pretty unfortunate that he was sloppy and slimy because he was, and I'm sure still is, an otherwise pretty nice guy.

Vista: What year & why did you leave Morning Again? 

Damien: End of the Summer of 1996. I was given the boot (or canvas flip-flop) by John Wylie, as old personality clashes resurfaced.

Vista:  Morning Again was another band that went on with another vocalist. I see a pattern here! Haha. Anyways, what did you think of them continuing on? Did you even give a shit? 

Damien: I sure didn't. I had my hands full. But I'll admit...I was a bit insulted by the new vocals, because I really didn't care for Kevin's voice or delivery. Sorry, Kev! So I guess that did kind of bug me. But they went on to do well and gain a lot of respect and attention. Shows what I know, right? ;)

Vista: Thinking back to your time in Morning Again, what are some standout moments, both positive & negative?

Damien: Well, Morning Again was the first band that I ever toured with. Prior to that, in Culture or Shai Hulud, I'd only played around Florida, but hadn't gone out of state with it. So that first tour, albeit only two weeks, was really an incredible and exciting time for me. To be honest, I wasn't really in the band long enough to have a standout negative moment. I do remember that some of the tension between John and I had to with his desire to turn the band into a vegan, straightedge band and my refusal to do so. One of my conditions for even joining MA was that he'd agree to NOT attach a vegan or straightedge agenda to it. You'll notice that, once I left the band, X's showed up in the logo... even on the Goodlife Recordings version of the releases I'd already done with Morning Again.

Vista: I wanted to ask you about the artwork that you do. As far as the paintings/drawings that you do, have they ever been in any galleries or is it just something that you do exclusively for yourself? I see that you made/make end tables? Where the hell did you learn to do that!?

Damien: I've done some smaller group shows, and have sold paintings here and there, but it's not something I do very actively, and never something I've done very aggressively. I work as a designer; formerly as a Graphic Designer, then Art Director, and now as a Design Strategist/Creative Director for an Industrial Design group at a packaging design company. This means that, for many years now, all creative juices are leaked all over some office, and by the time my weekends roll around I'm bone dry. The end tables are just concepts that I modeled in 3D, and the images you saw were photorealistic renderings. The idea was to shop the design around, but... I'm fucking lazy.

Vista: The picture you did of two cute little kids dancing in front of an upside-down cross is fuckin' genius! Haha. What were the thoughts behind this piece? I see that not only was that made into a shirt, so was other art that you've done. Do you sell these?

Damien: Thanks! No, I don't sell them. I originally did that design (a bright, obnoxious, full-color version of it) for a band that my friend was in at the time, Moutheater. It ended up not being used (I think he left the band), so I just had the design laying around. Then I stumbled upon Hexed, an atheist apparel company, and offered the guy the design if he liked it. I told him all I wanted was a few shirts.

Vista: At one time you were in a band called Bird Of Ill Omen. Did you ever record anything while in that band? Why did you leave that band? Is it true that you sang for every fuckin' Florida band that ever existed except Bloodlet!? 

Damien: Never recorded anything with BOIO, but they did go on to record some material with the singer who replaced me, who had an incredible voice. A couple of the songs on the first release were mine (lyrically/vocal arrangements, anyway) but that was it. I left to focus on Culture. I also sang for Miami Sound Machine before Gloria Estefan, had a brief stint in 2 LIVE CREW before Luke Skywalker - and (little known fact) at one point, before the Backstreet Boys expanded their line-up, it was a solo act called Backstreet Boy, and that motherfucker was ME.

Vista: You've been in many bands that covered many genres, so I have to ask. Hands down, name the best Metalcore band, the best post-core band & the best rock band ever! One choice per genre! 

Damien: Integrity, Quicksand, Van Halen (DLR era only).

Vista:  Damien. Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview. I really appreciate it. Is there anything else you'd like to say? Also, what's the best way to get in touch with you?

Damien: Thank you, John! This was awesome. I can be emailed at, or just left alone.

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