Visions of smog, traffic, subways, and rude people in a hurry always come to mind whenever I used to think about New York. Sometimes though, when you happen upon someone that is the exception to that rule, you begin to question your opinions. Edsel Dope is one of those exceptions.
Hailing from New York, with a little bit of Florida swamp tossed in, Edsel is the frontman for DOPE; one of the best-dressed, best-tressed bands to emerge on the industrial metal scene last year. He also happened to be extremely pleasant, funny, and positively enjoyable to talk to. He even has a touch left of that New York accent I love so much.
I got a chance to talk to Edsel about all kinds of things, and he was more than willing to offer answers to every probing question I dished out; including what it takes to grow a nice head full of dreads, and where the hottest chicks in America (and the not so hot!) can be found.
So how you doing, Edsel?
Uh, I don’t know. 10 months of touring?
Aren’t you done yet?
No, we’re in Detroit, getting ready to play tonight.
Cool. What size is the venue?
Ah, it’s like a thousand-seater.
So, how’s it going? Are you happy?
Yeah. You know. Same ol’ same ol’. Just a little overworked ’cause right now we’re in the middle of like, 10 different things. We have a Pearl tools rig on the road with us so we’re remixing stuff, recording all the time, and then playing shows every day, and setting up the Pearl tools rig in the hotel room and you know there’s really no rest for the wicked.
Yeah. Well just, remember to take your vitamins like Mom always tells you.
I’ve attended a couple of the recent shows you’ve played here, and from looking around at the crowd it seems like you’re doing a job of turning the audience on. Congrats on that.
Thank you very much. Well, it’s a process man and nothing happens overnight, and it’s starting to go but uh.. I guess we’re doing better than I expected that we’d do, at this point. So I definitely can’t complain.
Why do you think people buy Dope records?
I think probably because we’re a heavy band, but I think we’re the alternative in heavy music right now, you know? I think that everything is starting to sound a lot alike. And I think that uh, not just our sound but the attitude of the band And the way that we carry ourselves – I think that we’re giving the kids a definite alternative from all the heavy music that they’re being raised on. You gotta remember these kids are 13, 14 years old. The only heavy music that they’ve really listened to, other than the stuff that maybe their big brother or sister played is stuff that’s come out over the last few years.
You know, I don’t come from the school of what’s coming out right now. I come from the old Guns n’ Roses, Motley Crue lot and trying to twist that in with the industrial vibe of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Just trying to create something that’s a little bit more rock n’ roll. Everybody’s trying to bring back the old school hip-hop and that’s cool, but I wanna see the old school rock n’ roll come back in a modern day from. In the year 2000, you know?
Coming from the East coast, were you ever into the New York Dolls or Hanoi Rocks, or the Throbs, Dead Boys… stuff like that?
I was into some of it, but it was a little bit before my time. I’m only 25, so when that stuff hit, I was living down in South Florida and that was pretty much the time that the New York Dolls were big, when I was really finding Kiss, you know?
So, Kiss was really the band. Thank God, they’re a New York band. That to me is also another really big thing for us. I think that we’re really the only New York City band that’s come out in a really long time that’s trying to plant a big flag in the music world and say “Hey, we’re from New York and this is our vibe.”
What do you think have been the biggest changes in the band over the past year?
We’ve just gotten better. We’re a really, really young band as far as playing with each other. We’ve all been playing for a really long time. This band has only been together with the line up that we have right now, for going on a year and a half. We’ve been a band, a five piece for about 2 1/2 years.
My brother and me started the band about three years ago, so I mean, the real concept of what and who Dope is still developing. We’re just becoming better players, we’re becoming better at playing together, and we’re tighter. I just think it’s so obvious from the people that have seen us as we’ve grown and come back from city to city, that the consistent thing that we keep hearing is “Man, you guys get better and better every time we see you”.
I also think that, just like anybody else, our soundman has been with us for a while, he’s gotten better at learning the band, and it’s just a process.
Cool. So, all of the changes are good changes then.
Yeah, absolutely. Everything has definitely progressed. We are one of those bands that have obviously made mistakes, as does everybody, but we pride ourselves on learning from the mistakes that we make. We try to make sure we don’t make the same ones again.
How are things when you go into the studio? Are there ever any creative conflicts?
No, they go really smooth. Most of the time, it’s pretty much just me working on stuff and getting the basics laid down on everything. I give tapes to everybody in the band and tell them, “Okay, this is what I need from you.”
So you’re responsible for most of the songwriting? That’s you?
Yeah. And I think that these guys are going to be able to come forth a lot more on the next record than they were able to on the first one, as well, because the first one was done so quickly. We were on such a tight schedule. A lot of the tracks that ended up on this album came straight from our bedroom in Brooklyn. I look at this record and go, “Yeah, it’s an album that’s on a major label”. But to me, it’s still a demo.
This is like Motley Crue’s ‘Too Fast For Love’.
It’s your first effort.
Yeah, you know, like I said, a lot of the tracks that ended up on it did come from the demos that got us our record deal and even a lot of the vocals did, too. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity of writing songs we’re doing right now, and allowing the band to really work through them, and let each guy grow a little be and be more raw sound. The first one was more raw sounding than most records that you would consider to be industrial, but I don’t think that we’re just an industrial band. That’s just one of the influences that come through in our music.
Do you think you’re a better live band than your studio processed work?
I think we’re a hundred times better live. I think we’re a little sloppier, but I think that the energy… well, I don’t know. There’s just something about this band and the fact that we’ve just gotten better, grown, and rearranged songs, played in front of crowds. We’ve just really learned how to perform these songs. We’ve gotten so much better at them. I sing a lot of these songs differently now than I did in the studio, just simply based on getting better as a singer.
So, if you had to choose between constant touring and constant studio time, you’d obviously go with touring.
Well, I would go with touring because I think that we’re better at that. I think that’s the only way to get the kids the vibe, as to whether or not it’s real. You can hype something up, and you can try to sell something to people, but if you can’t perform live, the kids know it, and they’re just gonna back away from it. I think it’s imperative that we get out there, and we tour, and we kick ass every night. We’ve got to let these kids see that this band does give them something that nobody else is giving them. We deliver every night, and we put it all on the line.
However, if it was up to me, and I could sit in my bedroom and make records, that would be a Hell of a lot less… deathly on my body! Going out and screaming my brains out for an hour, every single night doesn’t necessarily make my body wake up in a good mood every day. I think though, that we’re gonna be a band that consistently tours, and we tour with a studio along with us so we will be consistently putting out music. This is what we’ve always wanted to do our whole lives, so for us to, for one second, say “Hey! Slow down!”…that would be like shooting yourself in the foot. You get one shot to really try to make it happen.
Do any of the band members come from musical backgrounds?
I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all. I know that me and my brother definitely don’t. The only person may be my drummer, but I’m fairly certain… no. He’s the most classically trained, though. He was actually a teacher on the college level of music theory, so he’s probably the most educated musically of all of us. I think that it was just a concert, or a band at some point in time that triggered it for all of us. For me, it was Kiss. For Acey, it was Twisted Sister. We all had our own little demons that made us look up at the stage and say “That’s what I wanna do”.
The thing I think that makes us all think alike is that we were guys that grew up on bands that made us feel the whole attitude and vibe of rock n’ roll. We’ve taken that into the year 2000, which not a whole lot of bands are really doing. We wanted to make a band that was everything to us, were we 15 years old right now.
Those bands were larger than life, and they put on the greatest shows. They didn’t hold anything back. I think that going on stage in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt like you’re gonna go work on your car or something, it’s not giving the kids their money’s worth.
A little of that is coming back, I think. With bands like Powerman 5000, or Slipknot. They’re putting on a real show. People really get into that, especially when you’ve paid as much as you have to get in. You want to see that.
What are your biggest vices?
Uh, vices are what hold you back…right?
Take it any way you want…
I really don’t have any. I’m one of those people that really doesn’t let anything get in my way. I mean, I smoke 10 pounds of pot all the time, and I really wouldn’t wanna live without it, but I wouldn’t consider it a vice.
My brother, you would rarely if ever see him without a Jack Daniels bottle, but I think that’s more of a pleasure as opposed to a vice.
I know I’m never happy with anything. I’m always striving to make things better. It’s very rare that I would ever come off stage and say “Gee, that was great!”
To me, there’s always something that was wrong that made the night suck.
Everybody is his or her own worst critic.
Well, the cool thing is that everybody in that band is pretty much the same way. We’re just trying to, like you said, make sure that everyone who buys a ticket is getting their money’s worth.
What’s the coolest thing you ever got from a fan?
We’ve been getting a lot of really kick ass artwork. I always get cool little stuff. Like, you get the kids that bring you candy and all that shit that’s really cute.
Yeah. Candy’s great!
Then it kind of graduated to really cool jewelry, t-shirts. I mean, these kids are really cool! They make us all kinds of shit. But now, we’ve gotten to the point where kids are showing up with really, really cool drawings, paintings… and that kind of stuff is really cool. I’m gonna start featuring it in a ‘Fan Art’ section on our website. I want to put up all the stuff that kids are giving us from all across the country, so everyone can see what they’re being inspired to create.
How do you deal with fans that are… over-obsessed?
Well, we’re really a very accessible band. We’ve always made that part of our thing. The bands that I grew up with were always accessible. I could always wait outside the bus to meet Taime Downe (former singer for Faster Pussycat, and now fronts the Newlydeads).
I know Taime. I see him out all the time.
He showed up at our last show! He was like, “Edsel, man, I love you guys.” And that’s really, really cool! And I learn from guys like that who, when I was a kid, I was going to see shows, and they would hang out and talk to you. They’d tell you what it was all about.
We do the same thing. You’ll always be able to find us talking to everyone. The obsessive ones are the ones that kind of just stand there, and watch you, and not talk to you. There are the ones who have followed us to five different cities. But I love that. I get off on the fact that someone just skipped school for 4 or 5 days just to follow my band. That’s awesome.
Who gets the most fan mail?
I guess it’s either me, or Tripp. He gets all kinds of crap. He’s the kooky, weird one. I don’t even know how to explain him. He’s such a weird dude.
Yeah. He just kind of hangs out for hours, and talks to people about the weirdest things.
Yeah. He’s got serious problems.
He’s the only one in the band that has never even taken a sip of alcohol, or any kind of drugs whatsoever in his entire life. And he’s the weirdest one.
I guess he must have been born with it.
No doubt about it.
Do you have a stylist or a designer that makes your clothes for you, or do you guys just go out and go shopping? You’re a pretty image-oriented band, and you guys always look really good.
We just kind of go on our own. Everyone just kind of walked in with their own identity, and that was how we got the look we’ve got. It was like well, to be in this band, you’ve gotta have dreads, so you gotta sit down in the Edsel Dope make-up chair so we can take care of this and make you look cool.
That was the first step, and then over the last year of being with each other, everyone has developed their own persona.
How long does it take to braid you hair?
Oh my God! I haven’t had a haircut in going on 13 years! I’ve had dreads for like 6 or 7 years now. I guess Tripp was the first guy, I did his hair and it took me like 2 days to really get it started. And then he wasn’t allowed to wash it for like, a couple of months.
It’s a pain in the ass, but if you do it right…
It becomes really easy then..
Yeah. It’s not really difficult to maintain, and it looks fuckin’ cool, man! It looks really good in the lights!
There’s always people out there that want tips on growing dreads, and the best way to keep them nice, so I thought; ask an authority on dreads!
There’s no real system to it, other than taking care of them.
What do you use on them?
In the beginning, I was using beeswax, and a lot of hairspray.
Hairspray’s really good, because it holds it together. Then we started using this stuff called ‘Curd Clay” for a while. We’ve tried egg whites, we’ve tried all kinds of crap.
For the most part, the one thing that really helps us is that we use rubber bands at the roots.
If you keep a rubberband in your hair at the root, then it will help it to knot up. It won’t allow the hair to separate and stuff.
And just try not to get it wet, you know.
Cool. So now we’ve got the Edsel Dope salon tips.
That’s my calling! To be a hairdresser.
If this rockstar thing doesn’t work, just go to New York, open up a salon.. you’ll make a killing!
Yeah! I’ll try..
The problem is that everyone wants dreads that you can someday get rid of? But if you want cool dreads that are real, man, you have to sacrifice your hair. And just know that when it’s over, you’re just gonna shave your head.
Oh yeah. Have you seen Karyn Crisis?
Oh yeah! Her hair is ridiculous!
You talk about dreads, man!
Oh, hers are NUTS man!
I’m supposed to ask you about BandBitch Wear.
We haven’t hooked up with a lot of their gear yet. A lot of the stuff that they gave us was extra large.
And we’re little guys. I’m like 6’1″, and 140 pounds.
Okay, so you need the tall, skinny, Goth guy stuff. I’ll let them know.
What CD did you buy over the past year that you think everyone should hear?
Anything Sevendust does is awesome. Those guys are such an amazing live band. They’re 5 guys that are the exception to the big ‘rockshow rule’, in my opinion. They go out therewith nothing more than amps and a backdrop, and they’ll blow any frickin’ band out there off the stage. They have the most amazing singer. They’re just a great, great band.
I love the new Chili Peppers record, too. I’ve never been a Chili Peppers fan, but this new one, I really like. I think the melodies are great.
What city has your favorite strip bar?
I know you have one…
Uh… you know what? I have many! I would say.. uh.. there are so many, and I’m always trying new ones. (Edsel asks someone who’s with him, probably one of the band members, for help on this one.) I mean, Vegas is the shit. (His friend says Toronto.)
Yeah, Toronto’s got great ones.
What city has the hottest girls?
The Flashlight, in Toronto. Best looking girls…no, wait, Montreal has the best strip bars!
The best looking girls are in Vegas, or Atlanta.
Yeah! Atlanta’s got some amazing strippers. I don’t really like the strip bars in Atlanta though, because most of them are too snotty and upper class if the girls are really hot.
I thought they’d be more down home, or something.
You would think they are, but they’re not. Atlanta is a very business, touristy town. There’s all these big-spendin’ businessmen. Texas is the same way. Like, in Dallas there’s a lot of hot chicks, but it’s all about the big, fancy clubs. I want a place where you can spit on the floor.
Now, the worst strip bar ever, has to be Lubbock, Texas.
The worst? Why’s that?
There is the biggest, fattest, nastiest, most desperate stripper there… and she was deaf!
A deaf stripper? Did you get a lap dance with her?
NO! I tried to get one for Acey. I even paid the girl. I gave her 20 bucks, but she didn’t understand me. This guy had to look at me, and go ‘Dude, she can’t hear you!”
I was like, “You gotta be fucking kidding me!” So I gave her the 20 and walked her over to him, and he just ran. “He was like, dude, I am out of this joint!”
Well, at least you had fun.
Boise, Idaho was pretty fucking disturbing, too.
Like, if you combined all the strippers in the bar, you could make a full mouth of teeth!
Okay, that’s disturbing!
But actually, lately we’ve just been on like, the mullet hunt!
We’ve been going out and trying to spot the guys with the longest, coolest mullet.
If you’re the one who handles the website, and putting pictures up on it, you should check out this mullet website I saw! You could post all of your mullet sightings there!
Oh those are great!
What’s your take on the Metallica/Napster thing?
They’re fighting a battle I wouldn’t want to be fighting. All the bands that putting out records right now are the guinea pigs. I don’t feel like anyone is in a position to make any decisions about this thing just yet. I think there are good and bad things about it. 5 or 6 years from now, we’ll be able to do things we can’t do now, and obviously this medium will be a part of that. I guess I just have mixed feelings about it, and I’m still forming my opinion.
Okay, Edsel. Last question.
If there was a movie made about you, who of the following choices would you like to have play you?
Oh, you’re gonna give me choices? You mean I can’t give you my own?
You can give me your own, but let’s see what you come up with from these.
…Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction, or Mike Patton of Faith No More?
Okay, first off, it would be Clint Eastwood.
And if Clint Eastwood wasn’t available, then I would definitely grab Perry.
Dude, Perry fuckin…
I know he does!
He was the man!
Hats off to Perry. Clint Eastwood would be the one though. He’s a little old now, but fucking, put a bandana on him, up there shakin’ his ass…
That’s quite a visual.
That would rule! He’s my hero.
Is he? He’s your favorite?
Dirty Harry. “Go ahead, man.. make my day.”
Special thanks to Kristine at MSO, and of course to Edsel for being such a great interview.