Dakesis are a five-piece progressive power metal band from the heart of England. The Birmingham quintet is comprised of three male musicians (Wayne, Matt and Adam) and two females (Gemma and Amie). It just so happens that the two females are both vegetarian, so with their latest album 'Trial By Fire' playing in our CD player (yes, we still have one of those!) we decided it was time to put Gemma and Amie on trial themselves! We find out during our rigorous questioning that they like playing Bill Bailey's 'The Magic Roundabout' during practice, that Gemma's one cat away from being a crazy cat lady and that they're apparently guilty of procrastination and immaturity. After our interrogation however, our verdict was that these girls are MORE guilty of being lovely, kind-hearted and thoughtful beings. And THAT is not an illusion!
By Shari Black Velvet
Shari Black Velvet: Your album is entitled ‘Trial By Fire’. Have you ever felt as a band that you’ve been ‘on trial’? For example, how do you feel as a band when you play in front of new audiences and how do you feel when you send your music out for review etc?
Amie Chatterley: Obviously there is always a certain amount of anxiety when putting your music out there for critique. Luckily most of our feedback has been positive and constructive, and we accept that we’re not to everyone’s taste.
Gemma Lawler: When you’re playing in front of a new audience there is always that thought of “Are they going to get what we are all about?” but we usually come offstage to a lot of smiling faces – hopefully we always will!
SBV: What is Dakesis most guilty of?
GL: Procrastination and immaturity in equal amounts! We always say that we take the music very seriously but that we don’t take ourselves seriously at all… this gets us into a lot of mischief on the road, but it’s all in good fun!
SBV: Dakesis was founded by frontman Wayne Dorman. Coming into the band, what musical ideology did you most share with Wayne and what did you bring to Dakesis that it didn’t have prior to your arrival?
GL: Well, oestrogen for one! The band was all male before I joined so that’s a definite, haha! Really I was only supposed to be a session backing vocalist for the band’s first gig, but when they came to go through the songs with me they saw I had a keyboard and asked if I could play (which I couldn’t really at the time!). We arranged keyboard parts and thus suddenly the band had a symphonic feel – plus I’m the really power metal mad one in the band so I’m sure I had a part in bringing a bit of tongue in cheek cheese!
AC: I would say that I definitely influenced a more progressive and heavy side to the band’s material. I work closely with Wayne on writing, especially on the upcoming album, and I’ve definitely worked in a darker edge to the music.
GL: I like to think we’ve both had a part in bringing a little more style and sheen to the band too, helping form a more visual side to the music.
SBV: In the thanks section on ‘Trial By Fire’ you each thank your fellow bandmates. Amie writes ‘Dakesis you are my life and I love you all’. How has Dakesis enriched your life? What has it brought to it?
AC: Dakesis are like my extended family. It's very refreshing to be able to share a passion like music with people that you love and hold close as friends. We've had so many happy memories, shared many great experiences and met so many people from fans, to friends to other bands and professionals via the band.
GL: Yeah, definitely the people we have met along the way. We’ve met so many amazing people through the band on a professional level who have become such close friends – like our amazing photographer Tony who we met in a tiny little venue a very long time ago, and now he and his family are amongst our nearest and dearest. So many fans too have become huge parts of our lives. We are blessed with a brilliant support network of friends, fans and industry people who put so much of themselves into helping us along the way.
SBV: Have you seen the band enrich the lives of others – ie. fans and others outside of the band?
AC: I think one of the first stand out moments had to be our adventure to Hartlepool some years back. We were only just starting out and it was our first ever out of town gig - the response we had was amazing, there were people we didn't know shouting out for songs and singing along, and we were just blown away that these people had heard of our little band! But most recently I'd say the album launch was a big moment for us.
GL: Yes, the moments leading up to our current album launch were crazy, our fans and friends were as excited about this as we were. Some of them had been waiting months even years for the release. People travelled from all over that night specifically to see us, but the best memory of that evening was the array of fans driving out of the venue car park with their newly purchased album blazing through the stereo. It's nice to think that we excite people that way and they would travel far to support us. Again the fans who have become friends, the people who’ve been with us from the beginning, they are as much a part of this as we are. We see our fans develop their own community and friendships too, people who have nothing in common but a love for our music... now that is magical!
SBV: Dakesis is a Greek word meaning ‘illusion’ or ‘deceit’. What sort of an illusion does your music and live show create?
GL: Oh that’s a good one! Of course when you see any band on stage you are rarely seeing the normal day to day personalities, you are a caricature of yourself really, an exaggeration. Our frontman Wayne is such a quiet, funny guy offstage, but when he’s up there it’s like he’s a general commanding an army. People always say “Oh you looked so much taller on stage” because when they are looking up the performers on stage seem like massive personalities. As far as the music, I’d say it’s a great big cover up. We write massive epic fun songs that anyone can sing along to, but really almost all of our songs are about personal conflicts, our own emotions wrapped in a layer of mythology and metaphor. When you’re singing along about being a massive Viking slaying your foes, you’re really singing about something else entirely. Probably the disappointment Wayne had when McDonalds got his order wrong or something.
SBV: In ‘To The End’ you (Gemma) sing ‘I tried to ease my pain by seeking fortune and fame’. Is that true with your life and Dakesis? Did you become a musician to seek fortune and fame and to ease pain?
GL: At the time I joined Dakesis I was in quite a rough patch of my life, and the band really gave me a new lease of life so it certainly “eased the pain” so to speak. Fortune and fame was never really a part of it though, I mean in this day and age there is not much of either to be found! It’s a cliché but it’s all about the love of music for me really, of course success is something every musician aims for. However that lyric isn’t actually meant to be from my/our perspective! Without naming any names it’s about someone who was quite close to the band who tried too hard to seem like they were something they weren’t. A lot of that song is about the frustrations we had getting to the point we are now as a unit, but the sections that Wayne sings (‘I tried to ease my pain by seeking fortune and fame / I’m losing track, there’s no way back’) are a sort of interjection from this other character who was a bit of a hanger on.
SBV: In March, you posted a video of Wayne playing guitar while trampolining – which happened instead of band practice. Would you ever incorporate a mini trampoline into your stage show and do this onstage!? I’m sure fans would love that! And what are some other amusing things you’ve done when you’re meant to be practising your music?
GL: Haha seriously though, we’ve been known to do all kinds of ridiculous things. We played a rockabilly verison of ‘Broken’ and there has been reggae ‘Trial By Fire’, Europop ‘After The Storm’, Piano ballad ‘On Wings Of Steel’ - which insanely enough we will be playing at Bloodstock this year! - and all sorts of alternative versions! Practice is rarely a serious occasion with us!
AC: It only takes one of us to deviate from the practice agenda and we go off on a tangent. We said we were very good at procrastination and more often than not we will sneak in other silly songs such as Bill Bailey's version of ‘The Magic Roundabout’ and don't even get us started on writing vocal lines and melodies...
SBV: The song ‘Trial By Fire’ begins ‘mankind is at war, our future ill-fated, our world is a hell in which we have created’. If you could change the world and turn it from hell into a heaven what would you change?
AC: Where do you even start with this one!?
GL: World peace. For sure.
AC: There's so much that would need changing. I think the biggest things for me would be looking after the environment, turning everything eco friendly and outing wars! So yes, I guess world peace is a start!
SBV: People think the world is ‘hell’ at the moment, especially with the bad economic situation and lack of jobs, but it’s a worse hell for animals that are abused, tortured, killed for food etc. You and Amie are both vegetarian. What caused you to become vegetarian?
GL: Really it was all about the welfare of animals, and that I just didn’t want to eat dead flesh. I’d never been much of a fan of meat at all, but grew up with it as a normal part of my diet. I was in my late teens when I decided to make the change, one day I made a ham sandwich and I was just looking at it, disgusted with what it was and I threw it away and never ate meat again. I can’t ever imagine eating meat or wearing leather now.
AC: I used to enjoy and eat meat many years ago but I would only eat well sourced organic meat such as beef and occasionally chicken. This eventually turned into me just eating beef on occasions until I found out that some cows were battery farmed. My reason for not eating meat is also down to the welfare of animals, I think it's disgusting that we have industrialised animals into a food business and they are bred for one purpose. If people hunted their food in a natural environment I think this would be much better, although I doubt I could ever go back to eating meat no matter how ethical it was.
SBV: Is there any veggie/vegan food that you eat that you think a lot of meat eaters miss out on due to not trying it?
AC: Self cooked festival food! All our meat eater friends eat dodgy burgers and breakfast baguettes (that tend to end up in lengthy visits to the portaloos!) but we always take tinned veg and quorn pieces and make veggie wraps on a camping stove. Because it’s difficult to keep meat fresh when camping hardly anyone cooks their own food… well, except pot noodles! But our options at the food stalls are so limited that Gem and I cook our own healthy filling veggie meals and everyone wants some then – hopefully we can convince a few people that veggie food is just as tasty to them!
SBV: How has being vegetarian made you feel as a person?
GL: When I first became a vegetarian, I suddenly felt like I had so much more energy and much, much healthier in general. On a moral level I feel so much happier knowing I live a cruelty-free lifestyle, I feel passionate about showing others they can do so too.
AC: As Gem said, much healthier. I no longer feel sluggish after a meal and the food we do eat is a lot better for us.
SBV: You have an ‘official Dakesis kitten’ called Stark. Tell us about Stark, where did he/she come from and what do you think of all the unwanted cats and dogs in the world?
GL: One day I came home from work and my housemate was holding a tiny ball of grey fluff in his hands. His girlfriend had found the kitten at work, he could only have been five or six weeks old, soaking wet and mewing for food and had decided to bring him home as there was no way he would have made it out in the world by himself at that age. It was love at first sight and we decided instantly that if no-one claimed him we would love to keep him. It’s not the first time it’s happened either, there are four cats at Castle Dakesis, Jack who was re homed after a friend of ours could no longer look after him, Helana who we homed from Cat’s Protection, Loki who my dad found at work in an industrial area – he was covered in oil and all sorts, in such a state when we first had him – and now Stark. We joke that I’m one cat away from being a crazy cat lady, but I love them all! It’s heartbreaking to think of all the animals out there without a loving home – I wish I could have them all!
AC: It’s the same at The Dakesian Ramparts (where myself, Adam and our merch girl Jo live) we have two cats Abbath and Glen who we adopted from a home that could no longer look after them. I also have a dog named CJ who is like my twin and another cat called Tabby who is very, very old. They were both from homes with unwanted litters. We’re all such massive animal lovers, I think if we ever had the means we would just go on a massive drive and take in as many animals as we could.
SBV: Recently it was in the news that animal testing has increased again and is at its highest in 25 years. Out of all the animals tested on (mostly, if not all, in laboratories), 153 cats were tested on (other animals include rabbits, dogs, cattle, pigs and mice). What are your thoughts on animal testing? Why do you think some companies still test on animals, while there are others (Lush etc) that don’t?
AC: Obviously we think that animal testing is just abhorrent, especially for cosmetics. It’s disgusting that people think it is okay to test on animals but they wouldn’t consider it okay if it were their own pet. What we both found really upsetting recently was the news of the medical experiments on newborn kittens at Cardiff University. We were sitting together reading about it, just disgusted with what the poor things had been put through.
GL: That in particular is a real stickler for me; the hypocrisy of people who claim to be animal lovers but turn a blind eye when it’s not their animal being put through such torture. Same for people who would eat meat, but screw their face up at the idea of eating cat or dog meat. Whether you are testing on a cat or a rodent, it is still an animal that under no circumstances deserve to be put through that torture. We are both always very conscious to buy products that are animal friendly in every way, I wouldn’t dream of ever using anything that had been tested on animals. What’s most awful is that it is so unnecessary! If Lush and The Body Shop and many, many other places can get by without animal testing so can the rest of the world.
SBV: While on the subject of news, recently Lennox the dog was put to sleep by Belfast City Council after he’d been seized from his family in Ireland just for looking like a ‘dangerous dog’ – despite never having hurt or done anything to anyone. What were/are your thoughts on that?
AC: I think it’s very sad that the council have the power to do that, I mean we don’t “put down” people who look dangerous or maybe have behavioural problems so why should animals be treated like that? I myself have a Staffordshire bull terrier cross whippet and although at times she can be grumpy, she is the most adorable loving dog ever.
GL: My sister and father both have staffs, that are considered by some to be “dangerous dogs” and they are the sweetest. They have bad reps and I’ve seen people give them a wide birth in the park just because of the bad press. It’s ridiculous really, it’s prejudice. I don’t think that anyone should have the power to take another life at all, animal or human.
SBV: What animal rights/welfare causes, organisations and charities do you most support?
AC: The PDSA is a big one for me, they help out families who perhaps can't afford expensive vets fees including helping out with castrations, important injections against diseases and illness and operating where necessary. The RSPCA are also brilliant, many a time I have rescued animals or injured ones have been brought in by the lovely cats and they have responded immediately taking these on board. Though any animal welfare charities like The Dogs Trust and The Cats Protection that we can support we will - we're always dropping off clothes at the local animal charity shops too!
SBV: If you could give your fans an animal rights based message, what would you say to them?
GL: Just give a thought to what you are eating. Take a look at your pet and think of what you would do to keep them from harm… because every single animal deserves that protection you can offer to your loved one.
AC: I have to agree with Gem, if you can afford to buy local food that is more ethically sourced then think about this. If you have doubts about the welfare of animals, make sure you get in touch with the relevant charities, and perhaps consider these next time you give a donation!