Interview: Danyell and Tony of Dead Posey
Interviewer: Paul Hutchings
There are times when speaking to someone whose musical style isn’t exactly what you’d listen to is both fun and refreshing. This was the case with Dead Posey, the married duo of Danyell Souza and Tony Fagenson, whose music crosses boundaries with an aggressively provocative sound. Their music has featured on several TV shows including ‘Lucifer’ and Jack Whitehall’s ‘Travels with My Father’, as well as the ‘WWE Elimination Chamber’ intro in 2019. Tony is a multi-instrumentalist, former member of Eve 6 and son of the legendary musician and producer Don Was, whilst Danyell is the granddaughter of a retired LAPD homicide detective who worked on some notorious murder cases. Maybe somewhat fitting, given the dark corners of their minds that have emerged on their second EP, ‘Malfunction’. Paul caught up with the couple at their home in Los Angeles.
Having just eaten a Chinese takeaway, our first conversation centred on lockdown and the restrictions, the fact that this was Danyell and Tony’s favourite food that they hadn’t eaten for over three months. LA was one of the first cities in the States to be locked down so Dead Posey have been restricted in what they can do.
Danyell: And we have the BLM protests so there is a lot of commotion now.
The Razor’s Edge: We see it in the media over here
Danyell: It is stuff that needs to change.
Tony: It’s a very turbulent time but hopefully there is good coming out of it.
Danyell: The virus has probably helped people do things more as a result
Tony: People have taken time to analysis and there is positive change happening
The Razor’s Edge: I’ve spoken to a few people and with the current situation, the volatility, as artists, are you always looking for themes for your music. Do you get ideas from what is going on around you?
Danyell: That’s a big yes for us. ‘Malfunction’ was basically about different scenarios …
Tony: We’d come up with the title but weirdly life imitates art, we knew that in early March when we were finishing the EP, and even though we had the title and the songs were written before this happened, the thrust of the songs were already in place and it was really a wow! How did this happen!
Danyell: Failing to function normally is the definition, and we see chaos all around. ‘Malfunction’ came from the same tree.
Tony: I feel as far as the actual events inspiring us, we’ve only now started to compile our individual ideas, that’s how we write, with little seeds that we do on our own and bring them together. Those seeds are being influenced by the state of the world, people standing up to injustices, even some of the stuff on the current EPs cover that. It’s early for the new stuff we are writing but you must input before you can output
Danyell: And stuff had already been written down in regard to America as a whole in general, a few ideas we are going to mess with, like the pledge of allegiance, we are trying to mess with it, to say something along the lines of one nation under a false god, with liberty and justice for some!
Tony: As this new era of turbulence began we were int the final third of recording, mixing and mastering the EP so we didn’t say, we have to throw this out and start over, this EP isn’t flying in the face of everything that is going on.
Danyell: Life is chaos as it is!
The Razor’s Edge: You talked about being in the middle of the process. How much of a challenge has it been for you to get the EP finished and ready for release?
Danyell: We have a home studio and produce, mix and master everything ourselves, so nothing actually stopped at all so we could finish the EP which was great so it was good to be self-contained at this time
Tony: We feel for artists who have to get together and go to the studio and work with this producer who lives over here and luckily for us, we have mostly everything we need and it can be difficult sometimes but we have the ability to finish the product in house. We did have someone do a little bit of mixing on a couple of the songs, but it is 95% us. It didn’t affect us. The timing, and I hate to say it when so many have died from this, weirdly cut out all other distractions. We had to cancel South By South West, and this weekend we should have been at Download festival, so we were able to hunker down here and finish it.
Danyell: And the same thing when we start writing and recording the full-length album, if we must stay in that’ll work …
Tony: But we will lose our minds. We have a breakfast place here in LA called Square One and we have emailed them, it’s our one escape during working on the record, to go and have brunch, and talk about the record and we can’t do that.
The Razor’s Edge: And remind me, when is the EP released?
Danyell: 19th June.
The Razor’s Edge: Is one of the advantages with the lockdown that people may pay more attention to music that comes out, more streaming etc. And your background, the way you released your first few recordings, in terms of the streams you had, is it a positive?
Danyell: It’s been about the same. People have been listening whether they have been in lockdown or not. There are so many bands doing live streams and stuff that there is so much noise that I don’t know if it helps or be about the same.
Tony: For us, we were planning on live shows, touring and we had a May tour cancelled in the US, Download in the UK, our agent was actively looking for stuff for us so that’s a bummer, not being able to go because that brings excitement from region to region. It pins the release to something. We don’t know what will be
Danyell: When we do play live there is more engagement.
Tony: We are fortunate that the streams have been as consistent as the they have. It’s cool that people listening are ready for the new release.
Danyell: Lots of different things helped us. Live performance, placement etc etc.
Tony: We are thinking about a live stream. We haven’t done any of that so we might do something when the album is out. There isn’t a whole lot a band can do, in terms f the core stuff. Apart from write more music, how many times can you do a live stream from your house you know. Everyone looks like they are auditioning!
The Razor’s Edge: Maybe you could do live streams from the same place and just move the furniture offering a prize for the winner of spot the difference!
Tony: Or wear different outfits, pretend we are on tour, pretending we are in different states!
The Razors’ Edge: Haha! Let’s go back. When the single ‘Don’t Stop the Devil’ came out, am I right that it has had over 20 million streams?
Tony: If you combine everything on YouTube, Spotify, everything then I think that it’s close. Someone put up this video thing, and it has over 10 million, 6 million on Spotify. We are very happy with it.
The Razors’ Edge: So, you’ve made about $10 from it!
Tony: streaming doesn’t pay shit
Danyell: But placements do …it’s been good to have our music used
The Razor’s Edge: And Don’t stop the Devil has been picked up by quite a few TV shows and adverts, and even WWE.
Tony: It did. And then some of the other songs from the first EP too. The song ‘Freak Show’ got used in even more things. There’s a Netflix ad for Jack Whitehall that it was used in and ‘Holy Grail’ was used on ‘Boogeyman’. We got very fortunate that they were able to connect that and that really is what led to a lot of this with the streaming, people all around the world got curious and it allowed us to fund stuff early on, tours, rehearsals, videos, all that kind of stuff.
The Razor’s Edge: And with due respect, Tony, you’ve been around in the music industry for a while and obviously were brought up with it; streaming wasn’t a thing back when Eve 6 started. How much of a challenge is it for you as an established musician, how much of it do you embrace and how much of it is the old school vinyl style?
Tony: I’m fully embraced in the world we are in now. The first Eve 6 record was in 1998 and I was still a teenager. That was the tail end of that era, buying records and the promotional side of things and it was great when things connected exactly right you couldn’t beat it.
People got into the full album and there was money in the industry to support things. That has come a long way since then but that was its moment. We must follow the technology. What is amazing about this is that, you know, Eve 6 didn’t have an international following, but Dead Posey, because of the streaming, YouTube, I can say we have fans all over the world. I’ve been to England more times with Dead Posey than I ever did with Eve 6. In that way you have to embrace it. You must.
The Razor’s Edge: How did Dead Posey form?
Danyell: We met about eight years ago and dated. We wrote a song together and I was in another band playing in LA, and then Tony was in Eve 6 playing wherever and producing a lot. 2016 is when I stopped the other band and we started Dead Posey with a strong vision and aesthetic, and what we wanted to say. Working together we just homed in on what we wanted.
Tony: We started working together, we were already living together, and it started with one song, ‘Holy Grail’, which was even before the ‘Freak Show’ EP
Danyell: And that was before we got signed
Tony: You need those little victories to move forward and it started to click for us, you know, a positive article about us, and then the Spotify story and then the label picked us up
Danyell: And then the touring started, we could actually afford to leave LA
Tony: the best thing about the label is that it has provided a bit of support to allow us to really get out there, tour England, the States and festival.
Danyell: A band these days can do nearly everything themselves but the one thing that labels can help with is paying for bands to fund their tour and that’s helped us a lot
The Razor’s Edge: Your sound is a real combination of influences. What were the major musical influences when you were growing up and getting into music?
Tony: Coming up as a child of the 1990s, it was the heyday of alternative rock, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, but also the punk rock of Green Day, The Offspring NOFX, that kind of thing but I also had a love for 80s pop and new wave, Depeche Mode and Peter Gabriel, the soundscapes. And then you start getting influenced by everything which I think comes into our sound
Danyell: For me, growing up, there was always rock n’ roll in the house, Zeppelin, Kiss, the Doors, The Offspring, even Elvis. When I started honing in on music it was more Depeche Mode, Garbage, Joy Division, The Kills now are an influence, Manson, Nine Inch Nails…Anything that has provocative and sensual, dark and twisted themes that get me going. It is always who are the bands, the artists, what are they about aesthetically, lyrically, the sounds that can make you feel different emotions. Grimes was cool, a different vibe to her.
Tony: We both like dark melodic.
The Razor’s Edge: I mentioned the EP and I really enjoyed it. I hope that everyone who hears it does to. It seems a little darker than ‘Freak Show’.
Danyell: It definitely is. The lyrics as far as the ‘Freak Show’ EP went, there were dark lyrics in there. ‘Freak Show’ is a little cheekier. As far as the sonic, we dug deep to make sure the lyrics had darker tones but also to make it more sonic
Tony: Getting signed to the label, having to navigate this rollercoaster, being on tour and having to deal with some of the shit out there, the sexism you know, adds to the lyrics and we wanted to add that in. We didn’t want to lean on everything we used in the first EP
Danyell: It’s more gritty, bluesy influences which is great
Tony: And we still have that but let’s not be afraid to add some electronic touches, maybe a synth or two, you know, what the hell, why not, there are no real rules, just that it should feel like a Dead Posey song
Danyell: Our sound is evolving, with all that we’ve gone through, there are more electronic tones and stuff, like part of the evolution of our sound which we will continue to follow. I am happy with ‘Malfunction’, even though we’ve added more to the sound
Tony: We are also starting to hear stops and claps everywhere in it, so it is time to move on. We still want the power, the choruses, the guitar/bass, but more of the Depeche Mode style, they are top 3 band for me.
As a reflection, if you played them back to back you’d know it was the same band but there is also a development and changes which is what I want from the music I listen to.
The Razor’s Edge: Your music has reference to religion. Your press release refers to spiritual beliefs, ghosts, and voodoo. Have you had any specific incidents that have shaped your beliefs?
Danyell: We’ve been asked this before. It’s not so much having seen a ghost but I’m sure as humans we have feelings on intuition, sometimes in our life, maybe near-death experiences, weird situations. For me, there have been a few times in life. There was a car accident when the car flipped over, something told me to switch seatbelt because I wasn’t other driving and the car crashed, slow motion. I ran over a dead body about ten years ago, and just before I felt something was going to happen and it did, a guy already dead on the freeway. It’s that kind of thing. We can all experience those types of vibes and experiences. I do believe that there are ghosts and aliens.
Tony: I consider myself more of a sceptic. There are things, coincidences, which make you think things are connected. There was a story with the old band, Eve 6 was named after a character in the X Files and when we had broken up and were talking about getting back together I actually ran into the actress that had played Eve 6 in a café that I went to all the time. So that was a kinda sign. The aesthetic of Dead Posey has these kinds of things. We always try and have a song, with a foot on the ground about something you are really going through. The state of the world. Everything has a setting the right vibe.
Danyell: And we are also trying to tap into the way a long time ago, death was celebrated in a beautiful way whereas now it’s like everyone thinks they are going to live forever; we have everything at our fingertips so without being morbid, we want to, with our name and the aesthetic, bring that death element into it in an artistic way.
The Razor’s Edge: I think there is a whole rethink to the way people approach and deal with death, certainly in the UK and I’m sure in the States as well. Death will happen, and it often isn’t the way it’s portrayed in the media.
The Razor’s Edge: When you tour, I understand you have additional musicians that play with you.
Tony: Yes, we do. We do all the stuff in the music and I play all the instruments. Live, we want to recreate the sound fully and not let people down, so we have a drummer and we’ve had a bass player or another guitarist. Touring musicians, with a state of flux, with different shows having different formats but we are homing in on that. That’s the way we do it.
The Razor’s Edge: You are a married couple. How difficult is it to let others into ‘your baby’ for want of a better description?
Danyell: As far as the live shows, we rehearse beforehand and focus on what parts they will be playing. We’ve never just wanted someone to come in and play whatever they want, there is a framework which Tony and I have arranged. So, it’s easy to show them what we want them to play
Tony: And there is room for them to interpret it. They do, and when it’s the right thing it really adds energy to the live show
Danyell: It isn’t a big deal
The Razor’s Edge: You toured the UK with Theory of a Deadman last year. How was that?
Danyell: It was great, we just wished it was longer. It was only five shows, over a week. We were just getting started and they were good to work with. The shows were full, and it was fun. We hope to be back soon and for longer.
Tony: We felt a lot of love in the UK, interacting with fans on line and that is why it was such a bummer with Download, as we’d be there right now!
The Razor’s Edge: Having been to Download several times, I can tell you that having had the hottest May on record in the UK, today, at the start of what would have been Download 2020, it hasn’t stopped raining. Every year, apart from the rare occasion, there has been torrential rain. It seems the gods haven’t realised the festival has been cancelled because they have continued with the shitty weather regardless! You may have dodged a bullet!
The Razor’s Edge: The artwork for the EP is striking and I understand that it was a last-minute decision to change it?
Danyell: Our EP cover was going to be a cat scan of my brain and at the last minute I dropped the idea to make it a bit more provocative and more in line with the music.
Tony: Don’t sell it short, this was very last minute. We had a totally different cover in the can for two months.
Danyell: I was trying to portray that religion and war has caused the most destruction in the world and I was trying to portray that in those two images.
Tony: It was taking some of the stuff we had here, fully in lockdown. I was in the orocess of doing a final mix or mastering one of the songs and I hadn’t seen D for four hours and then she appears and says, I think I have a different cover. It was a mock-up, so we shot it and that is my hand with the gun.
Danyell: the rat is a symbol of everyone, all the rats getting stuff shoved down the throat.
Tony: It felt right with the music.
The Razor’s Edge: You talked earlier about the album. What are the plans?
Tony: Up until a month ago we were still doing this EP. We did a lot of prep for this and a video we had shot for the song ‘Parasite’ and another thing for ‘Head of the Snake’ so it’s been more focused on this EP. Some of the ideas, themes, guitar ideas are starting to form.
Danyell: I’ve an app so we can add stuff so we can share. We are preparing for the show and tell moment in the studio!
Tony: Ideally, a full-length album this year would be great. Realistically, a few songs from it towards the end of this year is more likely.
Danyell: It’ll be properly promoted with singles from it.
Tony: And then early next year, February time, the album should be out. That’s the plan, the ideal timeline. We are not fully into the process, but the palette is coming together.
The Razor’s Edge: In a world dominated by Social Media, and a requirement to promote the band via this medium, do you do all your own social media?
Danyell: We do it all. I wouldn’t want anyone else. For us, it’s coming from us, our direct connection to the fans.
Tony: we don’t hand it off to a promoter. We like to have dialogue with fans. We get a lot of direct messages from fans, asking all kinds of questions and it’s impossible to give everyone the full response but we try to.
Danyell: especially now as there is no other way of connecting
Tony: We did the postcard thing, where it was for fun. We asked people post pictures of how music got them through and signed for our mailing list we sent them a personal postcard. Things like that you can do, and it was a little bit of a connection.
Danyell: We used a lot of stamps!!
The Razor’s Edge: I’m of an age where physical copy still means something
Tony: We have a merch bundle that is available for pre-order and we pushed to have a CD, as a lot of fans have asked for it over the last two years. Some good art and tees and a signed picture. Fans do like the physical stuff. We never had a CD before, the first EP was entirely digital.
Danyell: It was fun as we could add our own touches to the CD.
The Razor’s Edge: That’s brilliant and we can link that for you. www.deadposey.bigcartel.com
The Razor’s Edge: My final question is for Danyell and it refers to your stated ability to “piss in a Starbucks cup in your sleep”!! What’s the next trick going to be?
Danyell: There is a popcorn bucket now! Since the virus, everything is closed, so there is an area we like to walk around, and I have the bladder the size of a walnut so if I have to pee, I take that! The Starbucks cup came about because we were on a six-week tour literally chasing the headliners in our van and they were in a bandwagon, and there was no time to stop so I started peeing in the cup. I do prefer the bathroom where possible!! I’m not shy!!