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Thursday, October 30, 2014

DAVOLA: New Album Studio Report & Interview Aaron Cloutier

Just recently we had the opportunity to catch up with Aaron Cloutier master mind behind the project band DAVOLA who is currently in the studio recording and producing DAVOLA's second album release. Aaron Cloutier writes, performs and arranges all of his music; performing vocals, lead rhythm and acoustic guitars, bass and drum programming. DAVOLA's extreme music makes sonic connotations with bands such as LAMB OF GOD, MESHUGGAH and STRAPPING YOUNG LAD.  

After been blown away by DAVOLA's debut DICHOTOMY in 2009, and being voted Best Independent Artist of 2010 by our listeners, we had to go and check in with Aaron to get the latest developments with the new album. Aaron took some time off and delivered a very complete interview and discussed how things have progressed with the new music. 

EVOLUTION ROCK: Aaron, how is the album coming along? How many songs you think it's going to have?

AARON CLOUTIER:  Slowly but surely, the album is almost ready to be mixed.  At this point, 9 songs are written and I’m still deciding whether or not to do some instrumental pieces.  I’m still a big fan of the idea of an album as a whole.  I realize in this day and age that the industry (at least in mainstream american culture) is gravitating more towards releasing singles again like we used to back when radio was all that we had.  I also notice more and more bands putting out EP’s but I’m still clinging on to that tangible album aesthetic y’know?  I always loved putting on a record and sitting down with the booklet and reading along to the lyrics and liner notes and all that.  I love hearing an album that takes you on a ride.  This record’s been at least 6 years in the making and due to …….just life… circumstances, traveling, other projects, my career as a music educator and session musician etc etc. there have been many setbacks.  In addition to that however, I didn’t want to rush anything until I felt I had the right combination of songs and performances.  Like I said, 6 years have gone by.  And with it a lot of travel, a lot of lessons, experiences and without a doubt, many struggles.  There have been a countless amount of ups and downs and this music is the closest thing I have to a diary that I can even think of.  It’s been a long learning process as I’ve been doing much of this on my own still and even when everything is prepped and ready, it’s going to take a good amount of money to properly mix, master and distribute this record properly.

EVOLUTION ROCK:  Are you doing all the instruments as a solo man project, again? Or are you working with other musicians for this album?

AARON CLOUTIER: This time around I actually have had a few friends lend their talents to the songs.  My friend Matt Moliti (Mastermind behind the progressive metal band DARK EMPIRE and now his current  Old School Swedish Influenced Death Metal Band SENTIENCE)  Contributed two guitar solos to the project that will make all the shred kids stand up and take notice.  An amazing talent.  Technically proficient, great hand tone and very precise.  Also my friend Mark Dollar contributed a……..it’s a lead part but it’s not exactly a solo.  He outlined the chords to the chorus of my song “CHAINS” and just made it explode!  I’m still blown away by that man’s playing.  So melodic and just super soulful.  And of course I have to give credit to James Stivaly who’s been a major help with the recording of the album.  I also had him and my other buddy Trevor Graham (both who play together in the insanely brutal grindcore band ORGAN DEALER) do backing vocals to a couple of tunes.  It’s was a very challenging but super inspiring time during the recording sessions.

So that said, I’m still handling all the rhythm guitar, bass, vocals and of course drum programming for the project.  I still have a couple of my own guitar solo’s to track but may have James jump on one of them.  I fractured my arm back in May so needless to say…completion of the record was delayed yet again ha ha.  But fortunately the arm is still attached and I’m back in playing form so I’ll be taking care of business soon.

EVOLUTION ROCK: How do you write your songs? Do have the lyrics already written or do you write the lyrics once the music is done?

AARON CLOUTIER:  It really all depends.  Sometimes it starts from a lyric that I build off of.  Other times it’s a riff, Other times I’m programming drums and flush out the arrangement of a song without knowing what I’m going to lay down vocally or guitar wise.  I’ve had more than a few drum and vocal numbers ha ha.  I think it’s an important approach for any songwriter to not stick to the same way of doing things.  It certainly helps give each song it’s own identity I think.  As I’ve mentioned before, I wanted this project to sound like an actual band as opposed to a solo project.  So approaching the songwriting in different ways and from different roles to me, makes it feel like it wasn’t all written by the same guy.  In that sense, it can be super challenging as you have to wear a lot of hats while doing all of this.  For example, I wouldn’t consider myself a strong bass player.  My experience with the instrument is pretty rudimentary compared to someone who’s main focus is the bass so trying to think the same way someone like that has been an interesting hurdle to jump over but you learn and it keeps things fresh.  To my ear, it sounds more like a band effort as a result of all this musical “role playing”.  Some of these songs are well traveled.  You pick up inspiration from different people, events and most importantly for me, locations and because of that I can honestly say every song on the record wasn’t written the same way.  That in itself is super important when considering the dynamics of an album as a whole.  I grew up listening to records that had peaks and valleys.  I mean really a good record isn’t that different from a good movie in that sense.  Anyway,  The opening track (with the working title of Fatal Memories) started as a riff and didn’t finish as a song until about a year later when I found myself at a certain point in my life where the song almost wrote the rest of itself.  A lot of the subject matter for this record was born out of solitude as much as it came from observation and experience.  Whether it was things I witnessed about others around me or from my own personal feelings and experience.  Much of this record came from a very honest but very dark place.  Hopefully it will translate as a positive to listeners.

EVOLUTION ROCK: Besides mastering your voice as an instrument, how is your guitar work doing for this album?

AARON CLOUTIER: All rhythm guitar has been tracked for all the songs as of now.  With this project, guitar duties have always been a challenge for me in that along with all the other instruments, I want to make sure it sounds like a real band effort not just a solo project.  I was always a fan of what Morbid Angel did with tracking a certain riff on one side and having something completely different rhythmically going on on the opposite side.  I really started noticing them doing that kind of stuff more and more on albums like “Gateways to Annihilation”.  A lot of really cool polyrhythmic stuff.  So if that’s any indication of some of the influence on this record.  Morbid Angel is in there for sure but of course the old Strapping Young Lad and Meshuggah influence is very much there as well.  I don’t know, a bunch of different influences went in to this one.  Everything from the aforementioned to Neurosis and Pantera to Alice in Chains, Gojira, Cannibal Corpse, Decapitated and the Devin Townsend Project.  I’m sure I’m forgetting something here.  Just a ton of different things went into this.  I’d say in comparison to Dichotomy, the listener will hear a maturity in the songwriting and yet there is much more experimentation going on.  It’s just as heavy and fast if not more so but there’s also more melody.  More “color”.  I think melody is an important thing to have in metal but it’s very easy to go overboard and sappy with it in my opinion.  My goal as a songwriter is to keep things interesting and I’ve found that melody can add to the dynamic in just the right dosage.  I’m very proud and excited about the new material. 

EVOLUTION ROCK: Have you thought of any possible titles, yet?

AARON CLOUTIER: It’s still up in the air at this point.  The concept behind the record is based around a reoccurring theme of unconsciousness.  By that I mean the ego and the consequences of being so consumed in a particular thought or feeling or belief that you don’t realize the damage you’ve caused to yourself and those around you.  These songs are an observation of many examples of how we as humans can be controlled by our own unconsciousness.  …………..So the short answer would be no….no title yet ha ha.  Been tossing around a couple ideas.  I initially thought it was going to be called I UNCONSCIOUSNESS which is taken from a lyric from one of the songs.  I don’t know I’m pretty bad with names and titles but a decision will be made soon.

EVOLUTION ROCK: Are you also doing the cover artwork like you did with Dichotomy?

AARON CLOUTIER:  I’ve been going back in forth with the artist (CUBE IN THE DESERT) who worked on the cover art Dichotomy and if all goes well, she will be on board again to do the artwork for this album.  She’s very busy with her business as a tattoo artist over in Italy so it’s been an ongoing conversation but hopefully we can make something work out as far as artwork goes.

EVOLUTION ROCK: Roughly, when do you think the album will be ready?

AARON CLOUTIER:  Well editing is reaching it’s completion.  I’m currently making a list of anything additional to add to spice up the songs.  It’s been an interesting lesson in producing over the last year and I’m excited on the results!  Everything is about 80% ready to be mixed.   It’s all a question of budget to be honest.  All of this has been done independent from a label or any kind of financial backer and professional mixing and mastering done properly doesn’t come cheap so that will have to be something to sort out when the time comes.  The goal is to have this record out before the new year so the more people who know about it and are interested in helping out, the better.  I was considering having a crowd funding campaign to raise money for mixing, mastering and distribution but really it all depends on the audience and how enthusiastic they are about the project.  I have a ton of thing’s I’d love to do for the project as far as packaging and distribution as well as video but the reality is that it all depends on the budget.  We’ll see how everything goes.  I’ve got a couple snippets of new songs up on my sound cloud page and will be posting a demo reel with snippets of the album in it’s entirety when everything’s ready to go.

EVOLUTION ROCK: What can you tell us about the sound clip you have at soundcloud?

AARON CLOUTIER:  It’s a snippet of a song called “For What it’s Worth” and it’s probably the most groove laden track on the record.  Very heavy but you can definitely bob your head to it.  It’s definitely got a Gojira vibe for sure.  I’ll need three other heads to sing this one live :) 

EVOLUTION ROCK: Can you mention 5 of your favorite all time singers, and in what bands do they play in?

AARON CLOUTIER: Ugh man I have a ton of favorites ha ha but if I had to choose….it would have to be Jens Kidman/Meshuggah, Devin Townsend/Devin Townsend Project/Strapping Young Lad, Phil Anselmo/Pantera/,  Mike Patton/Faith No More/Mr Bungle/Fantomas/ Tomahawk and Mikael Akerfeld/Opeth

EVOLUTION ROCK: You mentioned you also worked as a hired musician. how is that coming along?

AARON CLOUTIER:  It’s been going well!  I just finished up a vocal session for a client last week in fact.  I’ve been doing session work since 2009 and have been having a blast with it.  Pretty much everything that I’ve learned over the years from my time working in studios as well as doing Davola and my other projects (Beneath the Halo, Animus Rising) I’ve made available to the public whether it’s vocal and guitar work or full songwriting and production through an online company called studiotraxx.  I’ve done all of that and more over the years and I love it.  Right now it’s a balancing act between teaching, this project and my work as a session guy but I hope to be doing much much more of it in the near future. 

EVOLUTION ROCK: What have you felt is the best accomplishment so far working as a hired musician?

AARON CLOUTIER:  I would have to say having my performance included on a metal record with (actor) Sir Christopher Lee.  I was hired to record vocals for the song “The Devils Advocate” for the record “Charlemagne: The Omens of Death” that was released in 2013.  In the song, I play the role of “Duke Lop” who’s basically a personification of the Devil.  According to the storyline that goes throughout the record, Charlemagne (played by Christopher Lee who sings and does much of the narration) and his army was betrayed by the Gascon’s and my character is basically their general so there’s a back and forth between myself and Sir Christopher.  It was an absolute blast!  The producer Juan Aneiros wanted me to also do all the voices of the gascon army in addition to the voice of Duke Lop so I had to create this evil choir all composed of different screams ha ha.  I would have to say that was the biggest highlight thus far.  It was an absolute honor being a part of the project.   I mean Sir Christopher turned 91 last year and decides to release a metal record on his birthday?  That’s fucking baddass man!  I would love to do it again in the future. 

(side note:  here’s a link to a blabbermouth article on the album to check out)

EVOLUTION ROCK: What is metal to you?

AARON CLOUTIER:  Besides Christopher Lee? Ha ha.  To me, metal is passion, conviction, perseverence and individuality.  Being the oddball out of the bunch and never apologizing for it. 

EVOLUTION ROCK: What album releases are looking forward to for next year?

AARON CLOUTIER: Man I’m already blown away with the new releases this and last year.  I’m still catching up to be honest.  “Colored Sands” from Gorguts is absolutely the best album of the last 5 years in my opinion as far as death metal or progressive death metal or whatever you want to call it.  So refreshing.  I don’t know man, I’ve been pretty stoked on what’s been out lately.  The new Cannibal Corpse record might just be my favorite that the band has ever put out.k I’ve been turned on to an amazing guitar player by the name of Mattias IA Eklundh and his band Freak Kitchen.  They’re basically a heavy rock band that incorporates a bunch of outside influences from Frank Zappa and Django Reinheart to Slayer and Meshuggah to traditional Indian music.  Very interesting stuff.  Very…….musically nutritious with a lot of socially conscious material as well as humor incorporated into the lyrics.  And the fact that Mattias is a virtuoso on his instrument is icing on the cake.  He’s redefined the idea of the guitar hero for me in my mind.  Just brilliant!  They just put out a record this year called “Cooking With Pagans” GO BUY IT EVERYONE!  IT’S GOOD FOR YOU! EAT IT UP!!!!!!  I’m kind of out of the loop when it comes to new albums coming out in the future though.  I’m trying to keep an ear out.

EVOLUTION ROCK: Are you performing live?

AARON CLOUTIER:  Currently no.  No live shows as of yet.  Would love to be able to do this stuff live but would need to find the right people. 

EVOLUTION ROCK:  Anything relevant you would like to add about the new music?

AARON CLOUTIER: Like I mentioned before, it’s a very honest record.  A bit more artsy if you want to call it that in comparison to Dichotomy but I feel it still retains all the foundational elements of where I started.  To me, “One Second of Clarity” and “Fate” were the most fully realized songs on that record and I think this one picks up where that left off.  Each song is very very different from each other as well stylistically.  Everything from death metal and thrash to Sludge and more groove based metal a la Pantera.  Just crazy, intense, over caffeinated music but I think I took more chances on this one.  I think fans will be pleasantly surprised with the progression.

EVOLUTION ROCK: Thanks Aaron hope to hear more from DAVOLA soon!

AARON CLOUTIER: Thank you Malignus.  I can’t express enough my appreciation for your continued support in my music throughout the years.  I wish you ridiculously massive amounts of success man.

DAVOLA would like to thank everyone involved with the new record! 

James Stivaly, Trevor Graham’s band Organ Dealer:  
Check out their 2 song demo on band camp  (For Fans of Grind-core) 

Sentience: Check out Matt Moliti’s 3 song demo here  (for fans of Dismember, Carcass, Edge of Sanity)

Promo photo by Phil Silverberg for Mr. Silverberg photography.

For those interested in my services as a session vocalist/guitarist/songwriter/
producer can find me two ways. Either email me directly at davolametal@gmail.com or Find me on Studotraxx.com
click here

Support the making of the 2nd record by buying the first one!  
Now as a physical CD available at CDbaby 

In 2010, our listeners voted DAVOLA as the Best Independent Artist of 2010

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