DÉTENTE – Breaking The Law
Metal Forces, Issue 19 (1986)
“I really think the metal scene should concentrate more on the music than on the money, because there’s so much contrived bullshit out there right now.”
Those are the words of Dawn Crosby; founding member and lead vocalist of Los Angeles, California-based metallists Détente, who’ve just had their debut album, Recognize No Authority, released in Europe by Roadrunner (Metal Blade in the US). But while that statement will be echoed by many metal enthusiasts, the truth is it will never happen. The whole music business is one big money making machine, with selling records the name of the game. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the record buying public do like, as Dawn puts it, “contrived bullshit”, and as long as they do then bands will continue to adopt previous successful formulas in a hope of finding their own fame and fortune.
But Dawn Crosby refuses to compromise – keeping her punk / metal roots is very important. Much of that earlier musical education was gained whilst living in London for a couple of years, as I found out when I spoke to Dawn during a recent promotional visit to Europe.
“I went to London in 1983 when I was 18 and it taught me how to write better, become a better musician and be more original. I have about five full books of lyrics and ideas that I got just from being there.”
Were you in any bands? “Yes I was in a punk / metal band called First Attack and also some all female punk bands, but we never got very far; it was just a learning process.”
What were the reasons for you coming to London? “Well in Southern California at that time all the bands around my age wanted to play cover songs, but I wasn’t into that because I wanted to find musicians to write original material. I just couldn’t find those elements in California, so I went to London.
“I was also into early Iron Maiden as well as punk and I was attracted musically to what was going on in London.”
So what made you return to the States? “Well, I had gone to Germany to audition for some bands after one particular punk band had broken-up, and when I came back the squat in Lambeth North where I had been staying had been broken into. So I had nowhere to live and no money for about two months, and eventually I decided to go back to America. In fact, it’s worked out quite well because there are a lot of good musicians in LA.”
Was Détente the first band you formed when you got back to the States? “Actually, no it wasn’t. I formed a band called Allies, but musical direction was a problem and there were four different personalities, so we broke-up. Then I put together Détente.”
Have Détente done many live shows? “Well, we’ve played in LA, San Diego and San Francisco, and done about 10-12 shows in twelve months, which is not bad, because hardcore shows are really hard to get in LA, and there’s only two or three venues really worth playing.”
What sort of audience are you trying to reach? You’ve mentioned the hardcore scene, presumably you’re hoping to attract both hardcore and metal fans? “Yeah, I think so. I’m more into hardcore and punk than metal, but I couldn’t find the right hardcore musicians for Détente, and the other members of the band are very metal-influenced; stuff like Maiden and Mercyful Fate. So I feel we are metal music with a punk attitude, which I think is good because sometimes punk lyrics are better than punk music and metal music is better than metal lyrics. So if you can take the best of both worlds and combine them, then maybe you can appeal to a wider range of people. It wasn’t intentional, but if we can reach both punks and metallers then, yeah, it would be great.
“In the future, I think I’d like us to get more rawer; I definitely don’t want to get commercial. We’re not into the big money at all. We’ve survived so far quite nicely living poor, and the most important thing for us is that we’re happy once we’ve recorded an album – that’s all that matters.”
So you’re happy with Recognize No Authority? “Yeah, I’m happy to an extent, especially as it’s our first album and it’s on an independent label, so we weren’t on a very large budget.
“I think the quality of the production is high. In fact, sometimes I think it’s too high. You see, it was produced by Dana Strum who’s the bass player and producer of Vinnie Vincent’s Invasion, and he’s also worked with Ozzy Osbourne. So he’s not into thrash or punk; he’s a very Hollywood type of person. But I still think he done a great job and he really stretched our budget – doubled it almost – because of his skill.”
Does it worry you that you’re probably gonna be compared to Warlock? Not musically – I think you’re much heavier – but more because of your vocal style, which, like Doro Pesch, is very raw and aggressive. “Well, I’m happy you think that we are heavier because you’re right, I am a little worried that we will get compared to Warlock. I really like Doro’s voice, I think she’s an incredibly talented woman, but I do believe we’re not as commercially as accessible as Warlock, which is what I want, so hopefully not too many people will compare us.”
How do you react to people who say that there’s no place for females in metal? “Well until recently there wasn’t anything female you could say was metal or hard rock. I mean, the minute there was some hype about a supposedly female metallist, you would go out and listen to the record and find out that it wasn’t metal at all. So I can’t really blame metal fans writing off female musicians they hear about, because in the past it’s been such a let-down.
“But now people like Doro are changing that and I hope that I can be accepted. I’m trying to be, I write the music myself and I don’t wear sleazy clothes and try to get off on the sexuality aspect; I’m trying to be as equal as a man in my field.”
But don’t you think because Détente are a female-fronted band, that it gives you an added attraction, and therefore an advantage over other bands? “Well I guess so, but I hope that’s not the main reason that people will like us, because I don’t think I could stand the pressure of being the main focal point of the band, what with all the publicity pressure and having to look good all of the time from a sexual point of view – I’m not into that at all. I’m into the music being what they wanna hear.
“Détente is not a back-up band for the singer. Détente is a band with everybody contributing on every song. And that to me is really important.”
Well those of you who haven’t heard Recognize No Authority yet, should go and check it out, because you will find that Détente are more than your average female-fronted metal band. In their ranks are five very talented musicians. As well as Dawn, there’s guitarists Ross Robinson and Caleb Quinn, bassist Steve Hochheiser and drummer Dennis Butler; all of whom gel to produce a fine mixture of speed / thrash and melodic metal. What more could you want?
Interview taken from Metal Forces, Issue 19 (1986)
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