Dragged Into Sunlight – American tour diary 2012 – Part 1

by Jay H. Gorania, performance photos by Luna Duran and Albert Mansour

Prior to our reunion at Maryland Deathfest 2012 in Baltimore, my last encounter with England’s Dragged Into Sunlight was about a year ago when I toured with Today is the Day and Soilent Green in Europe, a run that intersected with the DIS/Rwake tour for a few dates. DIS is a great band that I’ve been familiar with and in contact with for several years, but witnessing them perform was definitely special.

I suppose I could have done without the abundance of penis pictures that they would draw on that tour. When I say “they,” I really mean their old merch guy who maintains a healthy friendship with the band in spite of the fact that he threatened the touring drummer they used back then by holding a bottle up to the guy’s face in what amounted to a “stand off” of sorts. (A true maniac, to be sure, one of his recent Facebook profile pictures featured a set of glasses resting on his penis as though it was a face.)

At any rate, I joined them when they recently flew across the pond for their first tour stateside—along with Cough and then Make—this time with a different merch slinger, and in place of the penis drawings they brought with them crude and vile humor that had no limitations.

Most importantly, however, they brought their insane arsenal of sonic violence culled from their atmospheric and aggressive debut full-length, Hatred For Mankind, an overwhelmingly bleak and misanthropic expression that brushes the canvas with shades of death, black, doom, grind and noise.

Saturday, May 26 – Baltimore, Maryland – Maryland Death Fest (Club Sonar)

Prior to their set, Singer shared his joint with me and appeared quite wound up. I heard a bit of bickering and cussing from other band members as they were sorting out their gear for what was the first show of their tour, and it was a pretty big show at that.

Unlike many dark metal bands who convey an expression that seems focused on surface aesthetics, DIS uses visuals to flesh out the experience of their music that is intense and passionate.

Rather than paraphrasing myself, I’ll plagiarize my Hellbound review of their MDF performance:

“The UK’s Dragged Into Sunlight defies rigid metal sub-genre categorization, a nebulous beast, to be sure. Granted, they reference chaotic black metal, death metal, guitar-oriented noise and doom, but they merge and mesh said styles in a seamless and undoubtedly unique manner. Billowing stacks of fog machine mist fill the air, and seizure-inducing lights march in tandem with the blasting sections, a visually enticing delivery augmenting the bleak, hateful experience. While an unsettling, noisy collection of riffs is the core of their sound, it seems that everything about the band is constantly salient.

Aside from their drummer, every band member has his back to the audience in fine anti-rock star form. But it’s still a rock show, and there’s a big fucking skull mounted on a mantle which also holds candles.”

The Sonar’s inside stage was jam-packed, and the crowd seemed to love it, translating into solid sales for the first day of their tour. They unloaded about $4000 worth of merch, leaving them with the very good problem of having to figure out how to replenish stock for the rest of the tour since they were nearly out of everything.

DIS wasn’t impressed with the heat wave that’s continuing to scorch America, though. Drummer, who shares my brother’s name—yes, my brother’s name is Drummer—was quite vocal in that complaint department, surprising me since he has Indian blood, like yours truly.

“This is terrible. These conditions are inhumane! I want to die!” Sorrowful notes were being plucked on a violin for him somewhere. I did feel sympathetic for Guitarist, though, since he slept in the van throughout the tour in fear of the possibility of it getting broken into. Paranoia? Perhaps. Beneficial for the band? Absolutely.

They had a day off following the fest, which was greatly needed since someone needed to recuperate from the aftermath of a hellish acid trip.

Following MDF, I went home to dive back into my 9-to-5, daily routine as the band moved southward along the East coast, winding around the South toward Austin where I reconnected with them a week later.

Sunday, June 3 – Austin, Texas – Chaos in Tejas (Hotel Vegas)

I hopped in my friend’s truck and we left Midland, the West Texas oil town I call home. We made it to Austin by the skin of our teeth. You see, while my friend was on the phone with his girlfriend, he got in a wreck on the highway and drove off because he didn’t want any trouble since he’s on probation, and didn’t get his probation officer’s approval for leaving the county, insisting that he would have “stopped to render aid if the accident was worse and someone was hurt.”

Once I arrived, it was ear-deafening madness. Chaos in Tejas was a great time, dominated by crust punk and a pungent odor. I reconnected with DIS at Hotel Vegas for their headlining set at a fest-ending showcase.

Since it was the birthday of Tom Dring—their regular tour-mate, who also happens to be the producer of Hatred For Mankind—I was happy to get him a shot of Patron, but not long thereafter some wasted dude gave us shots of cheap, disgusting tequila while we were seated at a picnic bench. Almost as quickly as Dring swallowed it, he puked it out on the side of the picnic bench. But he was a trooper, keeping his party dress on for the rest of the evening, not even flinching after he barfed.

Heading toward the stage, I was distracted by one of DIS’ merch items depicting an image of a woman with a cross stabbed through her open mouth. Guitarist informed me that the image was a sketch of an actual photo of a nun who was raped and murdered. As a life-long metalhead who was once a high school kid giggling over the the gore of Cannibal Corpse’s album covers, I’m not typically shocked by brutal, visceral imagery; but this shirt literally stopped me in my tracks.

“It’s not pretty. It’s horrible. It’s heinous. It’s awful. But that’s real life. Life isn’t always pretty. That’s reality,” Guitarist said.

As a child, Guitarist’s own life was far from pretty at times. He was ridiculed by other kids for being a long-haired metalhead. He wasn’t simply hassled by relatively harmless young agitators. It was more than being pushed into lockers or into a sandbox. There were numerous beatings. During one such incident, someone stabbed him with an object that may have been a screwdriver.

During that period of his life, he turned to metal for comfort, whether it was his music collection or his guitar. He continues to turn to music for therapy.

Monday, June 4 – Dallas, Texas (La Grange)

Earlier Sunday, Singer got inked up with some evil imagery on the top of his foot, and it was certainly more visually appealing than the horrendous, rotten big toe-nail he has infecting the Earth. It became a running joke that the “Wisdom Toe” was hundreds if not thousands of years old, something you could bring questions to as though you were speaking to a psychic.

Necessary healing time explained why Singer frequently wandered around without shoes, but what about several of the other dudes? “I dunno. It’s comfortable,” merch slinger Al said. They fit in quite nicely in certain areas of the South.

Come Monday, it was Bassist’s turn to get a snake tattooed on his forearm, around which time I took a stroll to a nearby eatery to use the restroom and grab a drink, surprisingly stumbling across former Acid Bath singer Dax Riggs who was actually enjoying lunch rather than kissing a girl with 13 fingers.

Dallas wasn’t a far destination, however, and we arrived in good time. After swallowing some excellent pizza and married-woman tongue, we returned to the venue across the street. Baring Teeth were strangling the hell out of their guitars in a display of tech-metal madness, meaning we fortunately missed the band that was added on to the show: the pretentiously named, melodramatic post-hardcore act Touché Amoré.

“I almost want to buy their shirt because my friends back home wouldn’t believe that’s a band name. Touché Amoré. No. No. No,” Miller, the band’s tech, said while laughing and shaking his head. He was wise for not making that purchase, just like it was wise to prohibit the girl with the crash helmut, satanic ink and multiple self-inflected cuts from staying with us, regardless of whether or not her mouth felt like velvet.

Tuesday, June 5 – Little Rock, Arkansas (Downtown Music)

Drummer was wandering around more than he was looking for snacks during a gas station pit stop the next day, unleashing his idiosyncratic cackle when he stumbled upon a basket full of pins emblazoned with the American flag. “The American flag,” laughter interrupting his words, “and it says it’s made in China.” Some guy’s jaw dropped to the floor as he heard Drummer, a very Indian looking guy with a thick British accent. And the local continued to stare.

With the van’s gas filled, bellies satisfied, and locals rubbed the wrong way, we moved forward…

The sun was shining bright as we rolled through the beautifully green, hilly terrain leading up and into Little Rock, arriving early enough to stop by the sushi joint neighboring the venue for some fresh food and to slam some saki bombs.

After things were sorted at the venue, Dring and I ducked out for a few minutes so he could hunt for nicotine, meaning that we fortunately didn’t have to endure much of the initial opening band that wore cloaks, unconvincingly. (Um, I’m not sure how one would “convincingly” wear cloaks, but you know what I mean.) Apparently their Myspace page prominently featured an image a few years ago that was a direct rip-off of one of DIS’ designs. Disrespectful icon biters. In any event, they sounded like they formed that very day.

But Dring and I returned from the corner store in time to catch a bulk of Iron Tongue, the solid blues/seventies-style hard rock band fronted by Rwake vocalist CT. A few other Rwake members were on hand, making the evening a reunion of sorts for the former tour mates.

Sleeping isn’t in abundance on tours, but going into the tour with a minimal amount of sleep for weeks made matters worse. I hoped to remedy the situation this evening.

But along with Richmond, Virginia’s sludge crew Cough, we shacked up at Pallbearer’s vocalist’s crib that night, a nice home with an unbelievable back porch overlooking tall trees that reached up a hill that was a hundred feet below at its lowest point. It resembled a mini forrest of sorts. Shit was shot, beer was guzzled, and green was smoked. The usual. So much for trying to catch up on sleep.

Wednesday, June 6 – Nashville, Tennessee (The End)

Crawling across the South, we found ourselves in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the most renowned musical cities on Earth, predominantly in the realm of country, of course. More important than that nonsense, it was reunion with Rwake day 2, since Rwake’s bassist John Judkins was on hand to play guitar and sing for his other band: Laser Flames on the Great Big News, an act merging Southern hard rock with heavy metal’s edge and a dose of blackened vocals countering some soulful, clean singing.

Music biz goes hand-in-hand with Nashville, but not on this night. First off, the promoter’s underling gave DIS money for dinner, which was obviously spent entirely, yet it turns out that this buffoon was supposed to split that amount between DIS and Cough who arrived afterwards.

What’s more, the promoter arrived after the show trying to pay the bands in checks. Checks. Checks? What underground band takes checks? Does a band have ample time to make a stop at the bank the next morning? Or, if no band member has an account with a local bank, are they expected to find somewhere to cash the check along with a wonderful transaction fee involved? I had to speak my mind.

“I’m not in the band. I have nothing to lose, so I need to call you out. You’re a douche.”

He didn’t know how to respond to that obvious fact, and DIS wasn’t having any part of the nonsense. This is where Singer’s experience and intrinsic value as a lawyer, his day job, came in handy. He pointed out that he emailed the promoter directly prior to the tour without response. DIS ended up getting paid by the time the quarrel was over.

It is out of the norm, to say the least, for a lawyer to front a metal band. And back home, their recording drummer is a successful mental health physician. They’re all hard working people and intellectually inclined. Every member is an aggressive alpha male in some form or fashion, and yet, mysteriously, they didn’t appear to bump heads extensively. Overall, their interactions appeared to be relatively smooth, on the surface, anyway. But I digress…

Once the band was paid, they had to embark on their journey to John’s home outside of Nashville, and I had to part ways with them to catch a flight home the next morning to tend to some things for a few days. Standing outside the van, I was laughing because they couldn’t hang and join me at the strip club.

“I need milk and cookies. Milk and cookies. I need to go to bed,” I kept mockingly repeating with a poorly-executed British accent. But the joke was on me.

The only near-by strip club was ten minutes from closing. Efforts to find floor space: unsuccessful. Last-minute hotel or motel room: unavailable if not ridiculously over-priced, because little did I know beforehand, the CMT Country Music Video Awards Show was in Nashville that evening.

I ended up sleeping under a tree between a hotel’s parking lot and a bank. The grass was my bed, the sky was my blanket, and the obese rent-a-cop yelling at me around 7 a.m. was my alarm clock.

The second and final segment of this tour diary will be published late next week.