Joe Comeau is one of those metal personalities who should be regarded in the metal god circle, but continues to dwell in the second tier circuit. His vocal style reaches the soaring heights of Halford, Dickinson, and Dio, while his personality is akin to your next door neighbor. He spent four years playing guitar for Overkill, and three singing for Annihilator, but his pride and joy has been fronting power thrash bands Liege Lord since 1988 and DuskMachine since 2010. It is time the man received some of the accolades he richly deserves.
Having released a new, self-titled DuskMachine record in 2013 and writing new Liege Lord material (while performing scattered dates around the globe), with the proper support, the world should be hearing a lot from Joe Comeau in the near future. In the meantime, Examiner managed to play a little catch-up with the man, his accomplishments, and his plans to continue spreading the gospel of metal.
What does it feel like to have a piece of your past so in demand, when Liege Lord was never really fashionable in its own time?
It's so cool…it is humbling and yet it feels like retribution in a way.
How did the resurgence of Liege Lord even come about?
It never went away I guess. It was always with us; I always wanted to revisit that music and it was just about timing with the other members I guess.
Are you working to reissue those old albums?
Conversely, are you planning to do new Liege Lord material?
We are currently writing!
Tell me about your time in Tad Morose? Why did that not work out, why was nothing during those years ever released to the public (in this Internet age where everyone seems to release everything as soon as a sample is available)?
We demoed a few tunes and played a few shows. But without proper label support or financial backing, it was difficult to have one member (myself) in the USA and the others in Sweden. Great guys and was a cool band. I'm sure we would have released some great music.
Many Americans know you for your time in Overkill. As a vocalist and frontman, did it ever bother you to take a bit of a backseat as a guitarist?
Not really. I am a musician first and can really enjoy expressing myself on multiple instruments. But I realized how much I missed the mic and that it really is the biggest part of my musicality.
Some say that you were very instrumental in giving Annihilator its 21st century second wind, so to speak. How did it feel to help bring such a classic band out of obscurity (now that you’ve done it twice – speaking also of Liege Lord)?
Well that's a nice compliment! I just do what I do…choosing the right "fit" helps. I mean it wouldn't work if I got a gig singing for a Country band or something! [Laughs]
One thing I’ve always appreciated about you is that you have the vocal prowess of a potential “metal god”, yet you always allow the music speak at an equal level as the vocals. Was that always a conscious choice that became your hallmark, or was that someone else’s doing?
Again a great compliment, thanks. The same thing here; I just try to do what feels right for the "music." It's not about the vocals or guitars or drums - it's about "everything."
How do you determine what range of vocals to use with each project? Does the music dictate it, is it trial and error, is it democratic…?
It's really about what the music dictates…what sounds natural. I try to meld into the music while still retaining my own sound.
Why was 2013 the right time to resurrect DuskMachine?
They never went away. Nikolai and Randy were just kind of laying low and busy with other things. They had been working for several years with a 2nd singer; it just didn't work out. They had originally asked me to do the first album, but I wasn't available. When they decided to make a change again they called me and I said "let's go"!
I think the thing that will surprise a lot of people about the new album is that, although the band largely comprises former members of Annihilator, it really bears little resemblance to the band. In fact, it has much more of an “American” feel, if you know what I mean. Did you have any specific parameters for how the songwriting for the album was to go?
The tunes were written before I got them. They were emailed to me and I only changed some arrangements and wrote all the lyrics and vocal melodies. The next album will be more of a joint effort, and most likely in person.
You’ve always been a rather strong presence in metal, yet remained with one foot planted firmly in the underground. Is that just your personal philosophy, or is something else part of the equation that keeps you from going for the easy cash-grab?
I don't know how that happened; I was always trying to go for the cash grab! [Laughs] No, I just am myself and if I can manage to reach a wider audience it would be great. But at the end of the day, we all should be true to our art and write for ourselves first. What I mean is, that musicians should be proud of what they write and perform and happy within for what they've created. If it catches on in a big way, then more power to you. But just to write for some bottomless, soulless and rehashed formula? Not really my bag. I could write stuff like that for other people, but not for me to release personally.
Tell me about “Dying In My Skin.” This tune jumped out at me, not only because of its slower tempo, but because it really has a personal affectation to the vocals.
It's about someone close to me that puts on a happy face every day for her family and friends, but inside she is dying. There is a point in the song where she realizes it doesn't have to be this way and she emerges from her shell - whole, happy and complete.
Another thing I really enjoy about the new album is that it has the warmth of familiarity, while sounding little like anything that is currently wading in the metal stream. With so much stuff clogging the waterways, is it difficult at all to remain not only an individual in metal, but different from everything else?
You know what? I am so glad that came across to many people that way! Even though we all have influences and most musicians have developed a way of doing things, it really turned out this way because we all just played what we felt and what was inside. It's an honest album. People can hear when you're faking it or writing/doing something for someone else.
Do you have a plan to take DuskMachine to the next level and kick the world in the backside?
Of course! Stay tuned…