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Dissident Aggressor Interview

Dissident Aggressor is a band from California during the later stages of the Bay Area thrash era and they had some label interest at the time, but that fell apart, but they are back and also Divebomb Records just released their 2 demos on CD so I got in touch with singer/guitar player Dale Roberts form an interview

  • Where were you born and where did you grow up?

DR: I was born in Gustine California and I grew up in South Sacramento.

  •  What sort of kid were you growing up? Did you have many friends?

DR: I had tons of friends. I was into sports and music and started playing the guitar when I was 4.

  • What sort of teenager were you and did you have a big circle of friends at all?

DR: I guess as a teen I was normal, I went to a pretty rough school- I did well In school, I was just much more interested in working and making money. I started getting more into music and played with several different local musicians and bands then started playing shows. I met a lot of people through playing music and made lots of friends.

  • So how did you end up discovering music and rock n roll or metal in general? How did you end up discovering underground metal and what were some of the 1st bands you heard and really got into?

DR: When I was young I got a hold of one of my uncle’s albums – it was Aerosmith Rocks. When I heard “Nobody’s Fault” – I realized I loved heavy music. Then I discovered  Black Sabbath and it was on.

I had a friend who was a drummer that I jammed with and he turned me on to Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East then we bought every Judas Priest album that was out at that time. Then he found Mercyful Fate and turned me on to them too. Then the metal scene was starting up in the Bay Area. So I started going to those shows. Seeing bands like Exodus, Metallica, Testament, Death Angel and Heathen.

  • Do you remember the 1st concert you saw and how about a club show?

DR: My first concert was the southern rock band Molly Hatchet and my first club show I was underage so I snuck in and saw a local band called Steel Breeze. I stood by the stage, that was my first live music experience.

  • Now was there any one thing that made you want to pick up the guitar? Was there any other shot of picking up a bass or drums? What are some of your favourite guitar players?

DR: My Grandfather played the guitar very well. My dad played a little. And several family members played as well. When I was little, Sometimes on the weekends we would bring guitars to my grandparent’s house and have big jams.

I always wanted to play the guitar. I played several brass instruments through school, played the piano but by far my main focus was on being a guitar player. My favourite guitarist is Al Di Meola, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Dimebag Darrell, Alex Skolnick, John Petrucci, Joe Bonomassa, Tosin Abasi, there are just so many from the past and present I don’t even know where to start.

  • Now how did you end up joining the band XXX or was that your band that you started and then left to form Dissident Aggressor? How did you get Lloyd Powers (guitar), Darren Minter (drums) and Chris Brown (bass) who were in the band Hans Crypt to join up with you to form the DA?

DR: I previously played with the drummer of this band and was asked to join. While playing in XXX I had my mind on forming a new band to play harder heavier music. Hans Crypt had opened up for us at a show. They were a very young band – just starting out, and they were playing heavy covers. I was impressed with their talent.  Later, after the show, Lloyd Powers and I got together and talked about starting a progressive/ aggressive project and that was the beginning of D/A.

  • Now the next move was to remove bass player Chris Brown and then you found former Hans Crypt rhythm guitarist Dennis Lindner to complete your line-up? I have never heard Hans Crypt, what kind of music were they and to you at the time was it kinda weird having 3 ex-members from that band and yourself in the band? Was there any talk of just keeping that band name since it had 3 ex-members in it?

DR: Hans Crypt was just getting started, playing heavy covers. Lloyd talked Dennis into switching from guitar to bass. And this started out like mine and Lloyd’s project. Lloyd and I created a very strong bond. There was no this side or that side, we became extremely tight and focused on the same goal. We didn’t keep the name because this was a whole new project – we were creating progressive aggressive hard music and no covers.

  • Now how was it decided you were gonna sing in Dissident Aggressor and how good of a singer do you think you are/were and what are some of your favourite singers?

DR: In the beginning, our plan was to find a singer, so I sang until that was to happen. I had a conversation with Sentinel Beast’s singer Debbie Gunn and she encouraged me and thought I should fill that role. Plus Lloyd was really pushing for me to be the singer. As for how good I am, I don’t know, my vocals seemed to fit with this band. Some of my favourite singers are Rob Halford, Geoff Tate, Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, King Diamond, Bon Scott, Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant, Paul Rodgers.  Again, just so many- where do I start and where do I end??

  • Now obviously being in the heart of the whole Bay Area scene you knew all about fanzines and even tape trading I’ll assume. Did you get a chance to visit that legendary store The Record Vault while it was open back in the day? How wild were showing back then (this is not talking about your live shows, you live shows in general)?

DR: When you said wild in the question it instantly made me think of one show where this guitar player must have drunk green food coloured milk and puked it up in his hands and the other guy drank it. Can’t remember if the band was good or bad, but I do remember that! On a more serious note, I recall being at a Testament show and I realized just how important and big the underground scene really was. It knew it was about to explode. Unfortunately, I never made it to the Record Vault.

  • So now armed with the 4 of you, how did you come up with the name “Dissident Aggressor”? Was it because it was a Judas Priest song? Were any other names thrown around? What were the early practices of the band like? Did you fool around with any cover tunes at all or did you go right into originals?

DR: Being an early hardcore Judas Priest fan I knew of this song and the look and the sound of the name just seemed to fit. No cover songs with this band, we had the intention of writing songs with the stories and feel of the rough environment that we lived in.

  • So how long was the band together before you decided it was time to go in the studio to cut a demo? Did you kinda know where you wanted to go and when it was time to go in did you feel you were fully prepared?

DR: We were probably together with a little over 2 years.  Lloyd and I had taken a short break from D/A to do a side project with Mike Spencer, bassist from Flotsam Jetsam / Sentinel Beast and Greg Williams, guitarist from Sentinel Beast called November 17.  Steve Clausman worked out a deal with Prairie Sun Studios and secured the services of mixer and producer, Steve Fontano. We were definitely prepared. We worked with Frank Hannon and Steve Fontano and knocked this 7 song demo out in 3 days.

  • Now did really practice 5 hours a day to prepare for the recording of your debut demo? Now your debut demo had 7 tunes on it clocking in at 32 minutes. Were they the first 7 tunes that you had written?

DR: Yes, we worked like that and more at times. We didn’t just practice like that for the demo, we did that in general. We were determined and did that on a regular basis. We didn’t do anything special for the recording – we were ready to go. As for the songs, we had written several songs before this demo, these were the songs we chose to put on the demo – we still have several good unrecorded songs, like the live recording of Premonition we added as a bonus track on the CD. Some of our songs that haven’t been recorded, we feel are some of our best stuff and we’ve recently been talking about getting together and doing just that

  • When the demo came out what was the response like to it? Did you send it out to all the fanzines you could and even radio stations? What was the feedback from reviews and local fans who now had some material to digest on tape? Was it a pro done tape or done blank tape to blank tape?

DR: We all felt like we finally had something special and our plan was to work on getting signed. We would sell the tapes at all our live shows. And we did get some radio play. Our main focus was on getting signed. We started getting support from our local rock station and it helped to build our fan base.

  • I saw from Divebomb’s bio on the band that you shared the stage with many thrash bands from the Bay Area, but also Pantera and T.S.O.L. How was it playing with the latter 2 bands? How would you rate a live show with you guys and are any live clips floating around on YouTube and stuff?

DR: I remember opening up for Pantera in Fresno on their Cowboys From Hell tour. Their live show was over the top and getting to witness, in person how much of a badass Diamond Darrel was.

D/A live was great. We were never nervous about any show. We were tight, loud and aggressive, we knew we were gonna kill it. We practised so much that it was second nature to us. We had a special groove. To see us live was the only way to get the true vibe of our band. Below are a few songs from the very first Thrash Awards show at the Omni in Oakland California.

  • Now did you send the 1st demo out to any record companies or did you feel it was too soon and you would do it after demo # 2? Last question on demo # 1, how did you manage to get Tesla’s Frank Hannon to produce your 2 demos?

DR: Our manager Steve Clausman sent copies to the major labels. We started working with Clausie Productions and Steve had a relationship with Brian Wheat and Frank Hannon from Tesla, which both were interested in working with the band. Frank and I are friends, we went to the same schools together and I also played in a band with him back in Jr. High school. Frank also did some recordings for my band XXX. Either of the two would have been a great choice but because I had a relationship with Frank, D/A worked with him.

  • So now in 1992, another demo followed this affair an 8 song, over the 30-minute affair. Did you notice by now that the thrash metal scene was not as big as before, well it was as more of the bigger ones were changing their sound due to them being on big labels and death metal starting to take over the underground?

DR: Yes. We had seen some of the bigger bands were changing up a bit. The labels were having some influence on them. But it didn’t have an effect on what we were doing or our writing. We just wrote what we liked and wanted. We weren’t trying to follow any trends or follow anything.

How was the response to demo # 2? Were you still playing a lot of live shows and how was the Bay Area scene at this time? Also, we’re still selling a lot of your demos and stuff and was the morale of the band still high?

DR: We went back into the studio with Frank, not necessarily with the intention of making a 2nd demo to shop or sell, but because we had several songs we needed to record. It was mainly to have more material. We were still playing shows but the metal/thrash scene was definitely starting to change. With not yet landing a deal with a major label and management unwilling to work with independents, we were losing some of our momentum – and that did weigh on our moral.

  • Now I saw on the Divebomb Records website that your management had Chrysalis Records and Warner Brothers amongst others, interested in signing the band, but that your management at the time blew it. What exactly happens and if you had signed to a major label, what do you think would have happened with the band?

DR: Well we aren’t really sure but We know he was pitting the labels against each other and was trying to get the best deal. I remember doing a showcase in the Bay Area in Joe Satriani’s studio with Chrysalis and walking out knowing that they wanted the band. We just weren’t involved or worried about the business part of. We trusted it was getting done. If we were to have been signed I think we had a good chance to go big. We felt confident in our material and we feel with that type of promotion, I believe we would have done well.

  • Now after this didn’t happen was the morale of the band just crushed? How long after did the band end up breaking up? Was it a mutual sort of break-up or a sort of nasty one at the time?

DR: We never really broke up, We just kind of stopped. With growing families and growing responsibilities, it was getting harder to find the time to balance both. It never was a problem with band members. We were close, tight friends. With not landing a major label, and management Unwilling to consider independent labels we were kind of stuck.

  • Did any of the 4 of you join any other bands or was that it as far as being in bands go? Did any of you, do your knowledge, get asked to join any other bands? After the and broke did you miss it much early on or did you just accept it and move on?

DR: I think we all did miss it and I’m sure we all got asked by other bands to join. I think all of us just needed a little break. Later on, I met a singer- Keary Gibbins and started a band called Fat2zday, who caught the interest of Ronnie Montrose. Lloyd and Dennis formed a band called Mad By Design and played shows. Paul also played in several different projects as well.

  • Now did you keep following the scene and go to shows every now and then? Did people from time to time ask you about the band or ask about a possible reunion? Where you ever considered to ask to play the Thrash of the Titans shows a few years back?

 DR: For years people were always trying to get us back together. Local promoters were trying to get us to play shows. We finally decided to do a reunion show. We packed the house and the crowd went crazy, so we did a couple more. It was great to be able to experience that again with my brothers. I don’t recall being asked to play Thrash of the Titans. We had our own separate projects going on at that time.

  • Now did you ever search the internet looking up stuff on the band or to see if your demo was selling on Ebay or stuff? Do you have original copies of both your demos and fanzine articles on the band, old band flyers etc?

DR: I hadn’t really searched until we started the reunions shows. I still have 1 cassette tape of our demo and I did save a few magazine articles. Since looking on the internet a lot of fans have posted old flyers so there is a bunch of stuff floating around that pops up from time to time which is fun to see.

  • Now through the years did you know a lot of old band’s demos and stuff that is out of print and from labels that have gone out of business has been re-issued on vinyl or CD? Were you aware of that or no? Has anybody ever approached about such a release before Divebomb Records?

 DR: No, I really wasn’t aware. It was pretty cool that Matt from Divebomb approached us about doing the CD. Since then we even had another label that wants to re-release it as well.

  • So how did Divebomb get in touch with you or was it one of the other members? Did you have master copies of both demos to supply them? I assume there was no other unreleased stuff to be included on this release?

 DR: Matt contacted Paul, our drummer. Everyone was so busy that the task of getting this started took about a year, so I finally got in touch with Matt and started the process. We gave Matt the masters plus a live performance for the CD – Premonition, as a bonus track.

  • So did you contact the other band members (if all are still alive, hopefully) to let them know what was going on? What were their thoughts on it? So how long did it take to gather up all the material to send to them? Why the name “Death Beyond Darkness”?

DR: Yes. We got together and agreed to do this. Everybody was fired up about getting this thing done. It didn’t take long at all to gather materials. We all had stuff available and Matt had found a bunch of stuff on his own (not sure where he got them). The artwork we used for the cover was done by artist Mitch Foust and Death Beyond Darkness was an early instrumental song of ours, that named fit the artwork.

  • What was it like seeing your music out on CD after all this time? Is there any chance of you guys putting out some new music or playing a live show or 2 in the future?

DR: We were very pleased with the final product. Matt/Divebomb did a great job.

Now seeing it for sale all over the world is pretty awesome. We have several unrecorded songs that may be some of our best material that we have been talking about recording. As for live shows, we were offered a gig with Exodus in February 2021, but with COVID we’re not sure if this show will happen. As for myself, I am totally up for doing shows and even a tour.

  • Please plug any social media sites you have.

https://www.facebook.com/DissidentAggressor2016

  • Dale, horns up for taking this trip down memory lane with me and I was right there with ya during this time only on the East Coast. Any last words to wrap this up?

DR: Chris, I appreciate you and this interview. Your questions bring out a lot of memories of how exciting and important it was at that time. It was so cool discovering and becoming a part of the underground metal/thrash scene and watching it grow and branch out. Thinking back to our shows at the Omni in Oakland and Morty’s and The Stone in San Francisco. It’s been one of the most important times of my life. The bonds and the friendship I shared with my brothers.

I just want to mention how much these guys have always meant to me. And I want to thank all of our fans for keeping our name out there for years. Without them, this would have all never happened. And one last thing – Long Live Metal.

CF: My pleasure Dale and you can get the cd at www.divebombrecords.com

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