Currently heading towards the end of their UK headline tour alongside Griever, The Dead XIII have had a whirlwind of a year. Following the release of their highly acclaimed debut album ‘Catacombs’ last summer, they wasted no time in promoting the material. Releasing music videos, taking their album on the road and playing powerful, unforgettable shows is no mean feat but comes somewhat naturally to the Manchester five-piece. GIGsoup’s Evie Myers caught up with vocalist Kurt Blackshard and guitarist Symon Strange to talk all things New Grave, fan loyalty and the future of The Dead XIII.
Can you tell us a little about yourselves and your music?
Symon – Well when we originally started, everyone called us “horror metal” and all that sort of stuff, but lately we’ve been put under the New Grave thing which Kerrang! have started and that’s pretty cool. But we [The Dead XIII] are metal music, bit of punk, a lot of synth based around horror.
How does it feel being put in the New Grave subculture, has it created a sense of community?
Kurt – Yeah, definitely. New Grave is basically all about community because, say bands like ourselves and those in the horror metal scene, you don’t really get much recognition and our fans don’t know where to go. So with the New Grave title, it gives them more sense of community, people they can meet up with, bands to like, it just adds a lot more to the general sense of it really.
Symon – It just means that no matter where we go in the country, there will always be some people. It’s like a little family around the country and it’s good, we like it.
Does this give you a sense of identity as well? As opposed to being “another rock/metal band”.
Symon – It was always difficult to explain to people when they said “what sort of music do you do?”, and we go “horror metal”, and some people would think that was some sort of death metal or something. When it’s hard to explain, it’s good to say to people, “We’re New Grave, go look it up.”
You’re on tour at the moment, how’s it going so far?
Kurt – It’s going really well, last night we were in Manchester and that was epic. Home town shows are always great.
How does it feel co-headlining this tour alongside Griever?
Symon – It’s been really good. Oddly, normally when we do a tour, it’s always with a band we’ve known for a while, but with Griever we didn’t actually meet them until the first date of the tour, so it was interesting. Admittedly we were a bit apprehensive at first, but they’re great guys, they love what they do and we get on with them brilliantly, it’s been so much fun so far.
You’ve toured over the last couple of years with big bands like Aiden and upcoming British acts like Ashestoangels and FVK, how does it feel being out on your own headline tour?
Symon – Yeah it’s good.
Kurt – It’s kind of surreal because we get more time to spend doing what we like to do: longer sets, more music and definitely more madness.
Recently, you’ve released the music video for The Greatest Mistake featuring footage from fans at your live shows, how does that feel? Is this something you’ve done to give back to the fans?
Symon – Definitely. It’s kind of a cliché, every band says it but our fans really are everything to us. We still feel like just a bunch of mates playing music. We don’t really feel like a real band, but when we turn up at the shows and all our fans are there singing along and getting involved, it’s just a wonderful feeling and we literally couldn’t do it without them. There’s also the fact of even on a financial level, without them we could not do it. We are paying our rent and our bills via them coming to our shows. It just means the world to us.
There’s been the rise of DIY, unsigned bands over the last few years. Is this something you’ve come across as a band or found difficult, like planning your own shows etc?
Symon – Not really, we’ve always done things this way. We were all in other bands before this and they never felt right, and we all knew each other and formed this band, just to do what we truly wanted to do.
Kurt – You make it work however you want to do it. If it means enough to you, you’ll find the way to do it.
Symon – We kind of like the whole aspect of it, we like planning our own stuff. We just see it as part of being a band, we don’t see it as a separate thing. You can’t have one without the other really.
What’s your highlight of the last year been?
Symon – I think ‘Catacombs‘, our album coming out was definitely the highlight. We were working on it for so long because we wanted it to be perfect and killer, and we were so proud of how it came out. We spent a week living at the studio, at Hellfire Studios and it’s turned out even better than we thought it would.
Kurt – It’s always a great feeling when we’ve spent so long making the songs, when you hear it all finished and polished, it just sounds so killer.
Symon – I loved finally getting it as a proper CD, some of those songs I wrote maybe four years ago, even before this band had formed. I could never get anything done with them, so I’d write the songs and Kurt would come round and we’d get the lyrics sorted. To see it all come to fruition, it’s a dream come true. Plus all the reviews it’s got with Kerrang!, Terrorizer and Metal Hammer, it’s just been brilliant.
Is it almost better than you expected?
Symon – Massively. We’re an unsigned band, it’s our first ever album and we got a 4K review in Kerrang! We are over the moon with it. But it’s all change now in the music industry, you have to get to a much higher level to get signed than you used to. We’ll get there, it’ll happen eventually.
Kurt – Everything takes time doesn’t it, we’ll just grind away, do what we like to do and if it happens, it happens.
Symon – We cannot imagine doing anything else, any of us. It’s all we do with our lives.
Finally, what does the rest of your 2016 look like for The Dead XIII?
Symon – We’ve got a few things in the pipeline, but unfortunately we can’t really say anything at the minute. We’re in that awkward, middle stage before we’ve announced anything so we’re not really allowed to say. All we’re allowed to say is, there is something.
Kurt – I know one thing we can say is that we’re playing The Travelling Morgue Festival at the end of this month as well, and that’s on the 30th [April in Nottingham] That should be fun, a lot of killer horror bands in one place.
Symon – We’ve got a few good shows and maybe a few festivals over the summer though but we’ll see how it goes. We’re in talks, so keep checking back with us and we’ll keep you posted.
This The Dead XIII article was written by Evie Myers, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson