– Hello, thanks for taking your time, how are you holding up? Even the end is drawing nearer, these are still uncertain times.
JD: Hi Tania! Hope you’re doing the best you can, we’re certainly trying. Sometimes it feels like hanging on by a thread, but even inside the uncertainty there still is hope.
-How is it like to create an artifact during a world pandemic? While you’re working on it are you actually aware of how a dystopian situation is it? Does the album become a sort of haven, a means of escapism?
JD: Yes, very aware, it’d be impossible not to be. Making the album gave us something to focus on and take our minds off the negativity swirling around us… but you’re right that it’s an artifact of the times, and many of the songs are directly about that very dystopia. So it’s almost like escaping from something in the form of building a monument to that exact thing.
-In practical terms, how did the pandemic affect the process behind your new album, “Shock to the System”?
JD: The pandemic kept us away from each other physically, so a lot of it was written at home and then worked on by myself and James Jones (drums) so the arrangements would be intact by the time we were finally able to play as a 5-piece.
-What significance does having this second album out hold to you? Is a second full-length a step further into your own personality and learning from the experience of making a debut album?
JD: Well, this album is long overdue, so it’s a big relief to finally have a proper follow-up to the first full length. The delays we had to deal with felt like a real drag at the time, but because of it we were able to create a more mature and personal record, lyrically and musically. Only in hindsight can we see that it turned out to be worth the wait.
-I guess it may also be a challenge to write a second album. Were any of the songs a challenge to write too? Which ones?
JD: Some songs were sitting around for a while, but once I started jamming with Jones, about half the album started flowing suddenly and came together quickly. The songs «On the Line», «Hired Gun», «In Dreams» and «Running Out of Time» seemed to come out of nowhere over a period of a couple of weeks in early 2021. «Blood Moon», «Metatron» and «Lay Down the Law» were already fully formed, while the rest of the songs came from ideas that took some work to complete, but nothing too crazy.
-“In Dreams” is the longest track of the album. And you experiment quite a bit here, it has a lot of layers and textures, ambiental passages… What’s the story behind this song? How did it born?
JD: Oh jeez. In July 2020 a friend of ours, a very popular and well loved figure in the NYC rock community, took her own life. Even though we weren’t the closest of friends, her death shook me to the core and I couldn’t stop crying for weeks. The band went to her memorial together and someone mentioned us while giving a speech, how she liked our music, and when we heard that we just huddled together and bawled like babies. The idea for the song didn’t come about until January when I blurted out a couple of riffs at rehearsal, not thinking much of them at the time. One day soon afterwards, I turned on my laptop first thing in the morning and read that Marsha Zazula of Megaforce Records had died. At that very moment the hook came to me, «In dreams you’re alive»…. I sent a quick phone recording to Sarabeth who responded right away with the verse melody as well as the melody and lyric «I need your, I need your, I need your light…» From there I sat at home and arranged the tune, wrote the lyrics and everything. I’m amazed we pulled it off. Up until the last minute I wasn’t really sure we could. It’s the most personal song I’ve ever been a part of, and something to be proud of, as tragic as it was and still is.
-Overall this is a very varied album, with hints to Thrash, Speed, Doom… What albums were you listening to while writing “Shock to the System”?
JD: Our tastes are all over the place! You might be surprised we’re as likely to listen to Billy Joel or The Eagles as much as Slayer or Motörhead. The song «Blood Moon» was the only song we’ve written so far with a particular style in mind – Claire Vastola, our previous drummer, asked specifically if we could write a song that sounds like the band Acid because she wanted to play some faster & heavier stuff. «Prince of Darkness», the doom song, started as just a guitar jam between me and Zak, but ended up too good not to keep. It’s so out of character for us that our original phone recording of it was titled «omg lol» like, is Tower really gonna do a song like this?! The fastest one «Metatron» is actually pretty old. In 2017 we were in the middle of a tour when the band fell apart and broke up. After driving across the country as a broken and tattered unit, we finally stopped at a friend’s house in Nashville. I took my guitar out of the case, and in pure anger and desperation the very first thing I played was the ‘verse’ riff to «Metatron». At the time, I felt like my whole world had ended. Back then I never thought Tower would exist in 2021, let alone record that song. Now here we are four years later and the song is on an album I never dreamed we’d make. It’s an important lesson to remember: keep your head up, you truly never know how things are going to turn out in the end.
-Varied yet traditional. How easy is to take something classic and give it a twist to make it sound personal without straying from the path?
JD: Thank you! We’re not out to reinvent anything, just to come up with memorable songs. Sarabeth is a fucking powerhouse and I’m sure the freshness and energy people hear in us has a lot to do with her. Even aside from her songwriting, our material just wouldn’t and couldn’t be the same with any other singer.
-“Shock to the System” is a quite clear title, and I think it’s a representation of some of the themes on the album. You touch on some social issues too. What do some of the lyrics on the album deal with? And how does this connect to the record’s title?
JD: «Running Out of Time» is the only song that’s overtly political, though «Powder Keg» can be interpreted that way too, it’s written like that on purpose. We don’t want to get preachy, but seeing things go from crazy to crazier the past 4-5 years and then culminate in an attempt to overthrow of the entire government was just too much not to write about. As far as how it ties into the title….just when you think nothing’s shocking anymore, Surprise! We’ve lived through some truly unbelievable shit. The songs «On the Line», «Lay Down the Law», «The Black Rose» and «Prince of Darkness» all deal with various aspects of personal relationships. «Hired Gun» is our tribute to Jeff Filmer who announced he’d be leaving the band after recording the album. I’ve played in bands with Jeff most of my adult life, we’re as close as brothers. To me, the music reminds me of something he would write. In general it’s about having fun doing something you know isn’t going to last. And sometimes you think something will last but it doesn’t, but you can still still look fondly at the fun you had while you were doing it, ya know?
-Are there any specific experiences or events that inspired some of the lyrics?
JD: «In Dreams» as mentioned above, and «Running» is about January 6th, 2021 specifically. «Powder Keg» was sort-of inspired by the George Floyd civil unrest, but it doesn’t have to be interpreted like that. It’s just about shit hitting the fan when people have reached the boiling point. The last verse is specifically about music and partying, things we’ve been deprived of that people want back in a major way.
-And would you mind to shed some light on the cover artwork? It’s pretty strong too. And a tad claustrophobic. What does it symbolize and who’s the artist behind it?
JD: The art was created by Morgan Jesse Lappin prior to the pandemic, but the image was so striking and so fitting that we just had to use it! It is most definitely a claustrophobic image, and it makes you think, what’s gonna happen when you finally do break out of your box? Is it better? Can you even survive? As they say, out of the frying pan and into the fire.
-All this about “Shock to the System” being said; how would you describe it in just 3 words?
JD. Life. Is. Crazy!!
– Having a front woman in the band I guess the “female fronted” tag will be often used to refer to TOWER. How do you feel about it? Are you OK with it or sense it like a non-accurate description solely based on gender?
JD: It’s weird to me that women in rock are still viewed as a novelty. People like to be able to market and label things easily, and «female-fronted» is seen as a selling point, so there’s no escaping it. It’s not how we would ever describe ourselves.
– Talking about such, during the last years there have been more and more organizations and movements in the Metal scenes that take actions against sexism and different forms of discrimination. Would you say the Rock/Metal community is more inclusive or at least being more aware of certain issues that seemed unaddressed until recently?
JD: I hope that’s what’s happening. It’s a worldwide movement toward growth, understanding, tolerance, education, levelling the playing field and trying to right the wrongs we’ve gotten so used to living with. Unfortunately it’s also polarizing with many in the metal scene shunning it as «pussification» or censorship or whatever. Music has always been a unifying force, but even that now is affected by a major schism in politics and worldview. We’re in for some very interesting times as live music returns. People are going to make decisions they’ve never had to think about before, regarding who they want to support or share the stage with.
-And finally what’s next for TOWER?
JD: Please get us back on the road!!
– That’s all from our side, thanks again for your time. If you’d like to add some final words, feel free to do it.
JD: Thank you very much!! Take care and hope to see you in ’22!