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Resistance's Dan Luna: "With “Skulls Of My Enemy” we take it even further - holding the battle standard high for traditional heavy metal"

Interview with Resistance from Dan Luna
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 13 September 2022, 11:49 AM

Because it is true, it is mighty, it is strong and it is Metal. Not one of the most original lines, but what the heart feels is much meaningful than anything else, no question about that. To be inspired of what lives inside, that is major. Talking with Dan Luna, guitarist of the US Power Metal band, Resistance, shows that the flame is strong, alive and breathing well. It is ageless. Coming with a new album, "Skulls Of My Enemy", through Pure Steel Records, there is an attack on the way and it is bound to be listened to. Steinmetal had a good chat about the album, the experience, new people and more…

Hello Dan, I am pleased to have you for this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

Thanks you for having me. All’s well around here. I’m happy and relieved that the album is done and I look forward to talking about it.

As a long time follower of the old American Metal scene of the 80s, in particular what is, or was, referred to as US Metal, Resistance comes along as a bright reminder. I am wondering, with the modern stuff going on in the US, and it has been for more than two decades actually, do you feel that there is enough room for old school Metal to express itself properly?

Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I think there’s room for all sub genres of metal. We’ve never had trouble getting on bills regardless of genre. Modern metal is a hodgepodge in the US. My Spotify playlists and recommendations are so varied - everything from Loudness and Nevermore to Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy. It’s all in there and it’s all good. I’m not sure if I’m the “average” listener of music but I find something new and good almost daily. Label playlist, genre playlists and playlists that friends and family send my way are the way I get most of my music but sometimes I just let things play and stumble across something new and exciting.

Last time I heard from you guys was five years ago, when you released “Metal Machine”. After supporting it, I guess there was the pandemic that didn’t really make you move much forward. Did it have an effect on the gap between your new offering and the former? Actually, “Metal Machine” itself was after more than a decade that you weren’t, so-called, in the game

The pandemic hit us hard like many bands on our level. We had built serious momentum prior to the shutdown and that could be difficult to replicate going forward. The forced time off gave us the opportunity to write and record at a more leisurely pace. Not that we’re ever in a rush but the extra time allowed us to really dig deep into our songs and performances.

You started a new relationship with the German Metal group, Pure Steel Records. When it comes to Germany, and western Europe in particular, they have a good hold of the old school Metal front. What do you make of this signing with a high level label as Pure Steel? What are your expectations?

Pure Steel Records has been a great partner for us. They’ve been enthusiastic about “Skulls Of My Enemy” from the demo stages all the through the release. Very supportive and encouraging. Their web presence and social media in general is well managed and I think our visibility has benefitted greatly from this alliance. The other thing is that they be pressing “Skulls Of My Enemy” on vinyl which is important because I think it’s important to see Dusan’s (Markovic) artwork in a larger format.

Recently, you released your fourth album, “Skulls Of My Enemy”, which I have to admit that it raised a few Manowar-ish references there. In your view, other than the reason that this title sounds brutal and cool, what does it really reflect?

“Skulls Of My Enemy” was originally a song title. A title that we all loved. When it came time to put lyrics to the songs we just couldn’t find room. The lyrics for the song “Skulls Of My Enemy” will someday see the light of day. Hopefully soon because they’re killer. Some of Matt’s (Ohnemus) best work. As far as the meaning, it speaks directly to any detractor or naysayer who tries to put you down and hold you back.

Even though the album takes a somewhat Fantasy related path, but not entirely. I always feel that there is always something else hiding in the shadows of everything that is dragons, swords and skirmishes. What is being expressed through between the lines? Was there something that you wished to let your audience know about what bothers you perhaps?

Matt (Ohnemus) has long been out primary lyricist. His world view is hyper political and blunt at times but lyrically he speaks through metaphor. His lyrics often have a dark and heavy feel but it’s always what the song calls for. It’s funny that his lyrics can be so brooding because he’s one of the funniest and high energy people that I know. Matt has since inspired and influenced the rest of the band to contribute lyrically. Everything gets put through the hive mind of Resistance and we know when it sounds right, reads right and feels right.

Dušan Marković, which for me is no less than a wizard when it comes to Fantasy related artworks, once again honored you with a wonderful piece. From what I could gather, there is the dominating effect of the warrior king with the naked ladies around. So, is this the sheer projection of power, which is also the music itself or there is more to it?

It’s that and more. Dušan is amazing! Matt (Ohnemus) came up with the concept after it was decided that “Skulls Of My Enemy” would be the title. We wanted to incorporate our warrior (Einheri) who first appeared on “V.I Battle Scars” and then again on “Metal Machine”. The concepts were for Einheri to be seated on a throne of skulls in a catacomb-like throne room. The cover is very detailed and has elements from several songs on the album. The idea to have the girls at his feet comes from Kiss’ Love Gun album. Dušan nailed it.

Earlier on, at the beginning of the talk, we spoke about the old school Metal scene in the US, due to the continuity and rise of the modern type of Metal. Gladly, Resistance, and also on “Skulls Of My Enemy”, preserved the pure reflection of US Power Metal, and its ferocity from the late 80s, but with a modern sound to fit its needs. In your perspective, is “Skulls Of My Enemy”’s musical effort a sort of keeping the flame alive or rather a step forward for Resistance?

Both. We’ve been on this path sonically since 2015”s “V.I Battle Scars” where we intentionally set out to return our roots - roots grounded in NWOBHM and US power metal. 2017’s “Metal Machine” carried on that theme and added to our visibility internationally. With “Skulls Of My Enemy” we take it even further - holding the battle standard high for traditional heavy metal. I definitely see it as a step forward both in terms of song craft and production.

The songwriting of “Skulls Of My Enemy” produced the punch and the iron fist of a straightforward Metal album. What can you share about the songwriting process? What elements that previously weren’t part of how you usually work on the songwriting sessions, became relevant on “Skulls Of My Enemy”?

I usually write a suite of songs that, in my mind, all have a cohesive thread running through. I usually start by going through my lyric binder which a filled with lyrics written by Matt (Ohnemus), Robbie (Hett), Paul (Shigo) and myself. Once I find something inspiring I get to work trying to match the feel of the lyrics. It’s an odd method because often times the lyrics that inspired the music aren’t the lyrics when the song is finished. I then take and track a full demo with guitars, bass, vocal melodies and drums. I like to live with the songs and workshop over a period of time before presenting them to the band for feedback. I write a lot so there are many songs that don’t make the cut and I’m ok with that because everyone has to be on-board with a song to sound inspired. The biggest difference on this album was how much we workshopped the songs. Rearrangement, key changes, lyric changed etc.

Talking about the songwriting sessions, with all the restrictions, which were part of your lives earlier on in 2021 in particular, did you have the option to meet and write or simply doing it over the internet?

Much of the preproduction was done virtually but as we started tracking we met regularly in our rehearsal/recording studio. We may have been tempting fate but it was worth it to be in the same room hashing things out.

Nearly four years ago, you recruited a new guitarist, Nano Lugo, which was also part of several local bands in his past. What can you tell about Lugo’s influence on the songwriting, on the riffs and of course the lead section on “Skulls Of My Enemy”?

Nano has been a great addition to Resistance. We had all been aware of him for many years and when the position became available we reached out to him. Aside from bringing your favorite song, “Empires Fall” to the album Nano has added a sincere, ego-free voice to the band. He’s inspired me personally to become a better guitarist and I think I speak for the rest of the band is noting that he inspired everyone to appreciate each other more.

What puzzled me was the change of producer / engineer for the completion of “Skulls Of My Enemy”. Last time it was yourself along with the legendary Bill Metoyer, who handled the engineering of “Metal Machine”. This time around you used the services of Ronald Sandoval. The end result turned out quite good, but it would be nice to know about the decision making for an engineer for this album? What made you step down as an engineer this time?

I didn’t. I produced, engineered and recorded this album in its entirety and Ron Sandoval (REV Studios) was brought on only to mix the record. I say “only” but in fact the mix is the most important part of any album. Ron (Sandoval, REV Studios) has been at it as both a performer and producer for many years. Ron has seen us perform many times and in preparation for mixing this album he told me that his vision for “Skulls Of My Enemy” was to make it sound the way we sound live. He listened to our back catalog and determined that what was missing all along was the bass guitar. Paul (Shigo) plays finger style and has a very aggressive attack. In the past we tried to tame his attack to sound more like a traditional bass and to make it easier to mix. While tracking this album the goal was clear for Paul (Shigo) - play it like you’re on stage.  In the past, I would track my guitars at my home studio and we’d do drums, bass and vocals, at a pro studio. This is true of “V.I Battle Scars” where Bill Metoyer tracked the drums, bass and vocals and he also mixed and mastered. With “Metal Machine”, I tracked all guitars at home and our rehearsal studio and for the first time I tracked the vocals. Then, Bill Metoyer tracked the bass and drums. After the tracking was complete I did all the edits and then the tracks were then sent to Neil Kernon for mixing. “Skulls Of My Enemy” is my first go at tracking everything. I’d never tracked bass or drums prior to this album so it’s far and away our most DIY project.

“Earthshaker”, the war song that takes you back to WWII, and not the Fantasy related, is a pure blaster, there is a lot of room for your vocalist to continue showing his worth, and a series of solos that really made an impact. What can you tell about this song and its creation?

The music for “Earthshaker” was written before the lyrics which is somewhat rare because when I write I usually look through my lyric binder for inspiration. This song came about from the verse riff. Because, of the tom blasts during the breakdown, Matt (Ohnemus) thought the tom blasts during the breakdown sounded like cannon fire so he set out write lyrics based on that. He researches his lyrics thoroughly and this time he found the story of the 704th tank destroyer battalion and that’s how it came together. During tracking for this Rob (Hett) stumbled upon a YouTube video of one of veterans of the 704th and his words were haunting and powerful. That video moved Rob to deliver one of his most inspired performances.

I think the album’s major hitter, and catchiest tune, is “Empires Fall”. When this one is going to hit the stages, it will obliterate. Other than being a heavier note within the album, and as I mentioned, a hooking tune, there is a lot of criticism going around here. What can you share about your input music wise and the song’s philosophy?

Nano (Lugo) brought this song to the table in later stages of song selection. We felt the energy immediately and Matt and Rob set out to craft the lyrics. Matt’s core idea of a civilization in decline made for one of the heaviest songs on the record. Together with Rob they came up some of my favorite lines on the album. Matt also got incredibly creative with his drums. This song features some of my personal favorite drumming from Matt. So many subtleties and grace notes - elements that Ron (Sandoval REV Studios) was able to highlight in the mix. This was a fun song to track. Everyone got in on the backup vocals and as I remember it, everyone left for home that day feeling like a band of brothers. We will debut this song live when we get to Europe next year.

Being this year just a little more than two decades since the first release under the Resistance moniker, looking back, what can you say that you mostly learned from the experience? What things would you have done differently, perhaps things that would have changed the band’s future?

Musically, I wouldn’t change a thing. I like to listen back at our body of work and think about the recording process, the shows we played the friends we made and where we were in our lives. What I’ve learned along the way is how live performances can be so impactful and memorable. I have a tremendous respect for those who get on stage and give it their all. It takes an incredible amount of time, discipline and courage to get out there and make meaningful noise. The only regret I have is that we didn’t take advantage of the European interest we had when 2007’s “Patents Of Control” came out. We got plenty of offers for shows throughout Europe but, because our other guitarist was unable to travel, we passed. We thought we’d make it out when the situation changed but music is time sensitive and you have to strike while the iron’s hot.

Back in 2019, right before the pandemic hit a year later, you were in Europe touring with Visigoth and Bewitcher. Now, with “Skulls Of My Enemy” out, what are your plans forward to support the record? Is there a plan for Europe once again?

That was an amazing tour. Everyone from Visigoth and Bewitcher are supremely cool and professional. It was awesome to catch their sets every night. We’re in the process of scheduling our 2023 European tour now. A lot of bands are back on the road now so logistics will play a big part in our planning. We’ll be playing anchor festivals interspersed with club dates. As far as tour mates, those are TBA.

Dan, I wish to thank you for this interview, and for your time. Thank you for reminding me how strong the old school Metal flame in the US is. All the best sir. Cheers.

Thank you so much. You and Metal Temple rule. Respect and cheers.


 



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