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Interview with Dean Wallace and the Black Flames
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My elder brother actually got me into metal, guitar and music in general. He was playing in a cover band when I was 7, so he used to bring me over to their rehearsals. I spent hours watching them playing, especially the drummer, so I guess it influenced me at a pretty young age. It's only at the age of 14, when I started to play guitar that I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When I was 10, I wanted to become a helicopter pilot, so I think it's the path I would have followed without music.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Beside music, I like to do sports (cross-country skiing, mountain biking, sports that we have the chance to do in the French Alps). It helps me to clear my mind, and the clearer my mind is, the more creative I am. When I have too many thoughts in my head, the songwriting isn't fluid. I also love spending time with my wife and my 4 years old son. They don't inspire me much for the music, but a lot for the lyrics.
How long has your band been around?
The band was created in 2011, and has been inactive between 2017 and 2023. The current name and line-up is pretty young then, let's say January 2023.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We are based in Chamonix, the world capital of alpinism. Beside what's going on online, we don"t have a great offer for music and culture down here, as everything is focused on tourism and sports. We stay out of any trends, without being influenced by any other bands in town, as there are no bands around.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Back in 2014, I wanted to create an international stage name by merging the names of some of my heroes. I was a diehard fan of Braveheart, the movie by Mel Gibson, so I chose Wallace after the Scottish hero William Wallace. And after spending days trying to find the proper first name, my eyes finally got caught by a Dimebag Darrell poster (Pantera guitarist) in my bedroom, with this huge logo on the headstock of his guitar : Dean.
Lately, when I decided to write and release music again, I really didn't know if I wanted to create a new band from scratch, or to continue Dean Wallace. So I came up with the idea of "Dean Wallace & the...", as it's the best way to describe how the band works. The Black Flames is a name that came very naturally to my mind (a divine intervention maybe ;)
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
My most memorable show was my very first show, at the age of 19. I was so fucking nervous, it was in a venue in Geneva called "The Undertown". The band was named "Whymper" back then. When we did our soundcheck, 20 people were in the room, and when the sound engineer asked me to sing on the mic, I did a "Yeah", and everyone shooted a "Yeah" back at me (like Freddy Mercury in Wembley). I was like discovering a new super power.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
We had a very good time playing at "L'Usine", in Geneva. The sound and the light are great. While we were in the dressing room, the bass player told me : "Do you realized Hellyeah played here ?". I was so excited to play on the same stage than Vinnie Paul (Pantera drummer), he was, and still is, my favourite drummer. I remember us wondering if he had been using the same dressing room, sitting on the same couch, using the same toilets...
And yes, any venue in the world is a place we wanna play. If we had to pick one, I would say "Stade de France" in Paris ;)
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Ah ah, ok, here is my choice. I would like to play Monster of Rock 1991 in Moscow with :
Metallica (Hetfield, Newsted, Ulrich, Hammett)
Megadeth (Mustaine, Friedman, Manza, Elefson)
Pantera (Abbott brothers, Anselmo, Brown)
Iron Maiden (current lineup)
ACDC (Young brothers, Bon Scott, Rudd, Williams)
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band ?
Don't try to copy anyone and be honest. If you want to have a very original and unique band, be yourself. It is necessary to work on image, social media, networking etc... but focus most of your attention on writing the best songs possible. And remember, you are here to give, not to get.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
I'm from the future, and I can tell you, you will make a living out of music at the age of 24, so stop fearing you will never have a career. Stop being shy, take your phone, find some gigs, believe in yourself, and don't give up. Spend more time on social media and networking, it's part of the game.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
It's "Get Away From My Home" (
). We had our first success with this song. We had just released two demo songs online when a californian radio station specialising in metal contacted us offering to include a song in their monthly compilation, Kill City. We accepted the proposition without hesitation. Each month the station organised a vote amongst its listeners to find the most popular songs on the playlist. We came in first with "Get Away From My Home" winning precious radio airtime. In another overall vote including all the groups featured on the monthly compilations, we finished second out of over 600 groups ! It was an absolute surprise, and I remember thinking : "Woa, my music is appreciated in California !". I think my determination to become a professional musician builded up from this point.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I think it's Metal Family (
). This song is at the top of our streaming charts, it's quite simple and pretty heavy. It's easy to play, and the lyrics deal with the sense of belonging you can feel at a rock show, so it's pretty appreciated live.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
The creative process is my job. I usually start with a riff or a chord progression, and pretty quickly, the vocal melody and the drums appear in my head. I record a draft on my computer, and use a DAW to work on the structure of the song. I then write the solo and record a vocal line without lyrics. When I'm very happy with the demo, I record the whole song again, and I write my lyrics at the last moment. Why ? Because it's quite hard to write in English, French being my mother tongue, so I don't wanna waste time writing lyrics for a song that won't go any further than a demo. Emotions inspire me the most. When I feel a strong emotion, I take my guitar and I try to convert them into a riff.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
On the upcoming EP (New World Disorder - to be released in April 2024, with The Animal Farm Music), I write about myself a lot, about my weaknesses, and I try to create a story around it to make it interesting. I think the answer is in your question, I want my music to be considered as full of messages, because it's the case. Some are obvious, some are a bit more subtle, but they reflect my vision of the modern world and the modern man.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Sure, a lot. But disagreements are a good thing when everyone can give his point of view. We just talk and care about each other, so we never consider a disagreement as an attack. When we make a decision, and it's 3 against 1, there's no problem to stick to the majority. When it's 2 against 2, it's a bit more complicated. Our manager, Ville, plays the role of the fifth member.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I trust my music. I know that not everybody is gonna like it, but I'm sure a good part of the rock and metal community is gonna appreciate this band. Everything we do has one goal, get our music heard. So we're gonna release 4 singles to promote the EP
and probably release an album in early 2025. We also try to play live as much as we can. If we count and add the experience of each member, we reach around 1000 concerts. Playing live is fully part of our lives. We will do our best to find gigs by ourselves to kick start the new EP and lineup, but I really want to find a booking agency anytime soon to help us out on this.
Thank you for these questions, ones of the best I've seen so far.