Dommin was set to do some real damage in the music world as the new hot band on Roadrunner Records and a huge series of tours with bands like HIM, Volbeat, The Birthday Massacre and Black Veil Brides. Then it came crashing down when Roadrunner was sold to Warner/Atlantic Records. Vocalist Kris Dommin took some time to talk extensively about exactly what happened with Roadrunner, where they’ve been for so long, and the new album Rise.
Shockwave Magazine: When it comes to Dommin, what are you doing right now?
Kris Dommin: The latest thing we’re doing is finishing up the latest cover of our pledge campaign. It’s Type O Negative’s “Love You To Death.” We did this big pledge campaign that launched in May and pretty much finished in June. One of the parts of our pledge campaign were these three covers that people could get and we would basically take any cover song that they chose and try to do it in a new way or our way or whatever you want to call it. So we’ve put two of them out so far, Duran Duran’s “Save A Prayer,” and we did a Lana Del Rey cover, “Cola.” The pledger who pledged was nice enough to offer the third song up to the fans to choose, so we did a poll on our website and we had about 30 songs. Then we narrowed it down to 10, and then narrowed it down to 5, and Type O won out. We have a lot of Type O fans that are Dommin fans so I guess it was a natural. We kind of all knew it was going to happen before we even did the poll, we knew everyone was going to choose this but maybe we’ll be surprised.
So we’re working on finishing that and we’re going to be shooting videos for a couple of the songs on the album within the next couple of weeks. We’re actually shooting this weekend in downtown L.A. for a song called “The Girls” on the record. A couple of weeks after that I think we’re going to do a fan-involved sort of video where they submit their kind of stuff and we make a video out of it for one of the other songs on the album. So right now it’s pretty much working on the covers, shooting the videos and looking for good tours. We would love to be touring in January so we’re just seeing what’s out there and we’re hitting up agents and different things to see who’s touring at that time, and where they’re going, and seeing if we can jump on one of the tours so we can go out and support the record.
So, are the covers part of a full length album or is that going to be a smaller covers EP sort of thing?
KD: No, no. We put out a record in June called Rise. That’s the record we’d be touring on. The covers was just part of our pledge campaign as something people could pledge for and we do the covers and put them up on our store page and we let people download them for free. They’ve been paid in full by the pledger. So, they pledge the money which helps us obviously to produce the shirts and the hoodies and produce the actual CD and all that kind of stuff and helps us pay for it, so we do these covers to the best of our ability put them out there for everyone to download.
I’d like to talk a little bit about Dommin history for the fans who don’t know or for anyone who just doesn’t really understand what happened to you. You were, from my understanding, with Roadrunner Records at the time and that unfortunately kind of dissolved. Would you be willing to talk a little bit about what happened there so that fans can understand why you went away?
KD: Yeah, I’m an open book so ask away.
Totally, we’d love to hear it so I’ll just ask straight up. When it came to Roadrunner, what happened? Where’d you go?
KD: Basically, we had a really tough time just getting through the process of post-first record into second record. Lots of producer meetings and just going through who’s going to be working on the next album. Through that whole process, which took about a year, and we really didn’t know that anything was happening on the inside until the very first day after everything had been approved and Cees (Wessels,) the president over there, gave us the green light to record the record, and we’re like, “Cool, full speed ahead!” Monte (Connor) was there, he’s like a veteran and legendary A&R guy, and on the very first day of recording the record I started seeing Facebook posts from people overseas, because Roadrunner has their satellite offices which are basically PR offices all over Europe, and we started seeing posts from people saying, “Wow! What a shame,” or “This is terrible!” or “Well that’s it, guys,” and all this stuff and we’re wondering what is going on. This was our first day of recording and we’re going to track drums today, we’re at NRG (studio) in Hollywood and all of a sudden I start looking up information on the internet and I see a news post that says essentially, all the remaining shares of Roadrunner were sold off to Warner because Warner already owned 25% or something, all the remaining shares were sold off to Warner, Cees resigned as president, all of the offices all over Europe got closed, Roadrunner’s basically being absorbed into the Atlantic Records office and lots of people are getting laid off. And we found out that even our A&R guy, Monte, was getting let go. So that left us saying, “OK, are we doing a record?” because here we are on our first day and the person who green lit our record and our A&R guy are pretty much going to be gone. So what is the status?
They told us, “No, no, no! Full speed ahead. Record’s been approved, it’s green lit. Lets go!” So we go to record our record and things just sort of start getting weird because all of a sudden when it comes time to start mixing the record they’re like, “Well, lets mix a couple tracks because now your stuff has to be sent to the people at Atlantic to approve whether they want to finish what we’re doing.” So, I’m saying, “We are approved. That’s why you said green light, go do the record.” But, not any more because now these people at Atlantic need to decide whether they think that Dommin is something they want to work with. In a last minute scramble Joe Barresi, the legendary mixer and who’s been the most supportive person of the band in the post-Roadrunner days, he scrambled to get a few songs mixed and sent them in, and it was just weeks after weeks after weeks of not hearing anything and asking what’s going on, and they don’t know yet, and eventually I got the call the Atlantic doesn’t want to invest.
So that was the end of the relationship with Roadrunner because all of a sudden the people who really saw value in Dommin and said, “Lets keep going with this band. They just put out their first record, let’s see what their second record could do. Lets go on this journey with them.” they were gone. So, all of a sudden we were at this label and even though I don’t doubt that we had supporters in the office but generally speaking, we didn’t have a team anymore so we were sort of left there with a record that was, maybe, half done. We didn’t want to lose our momentum. Everyone knows we’re doing this record and from that point on it just ended up being a real cluster of terribleness. It was just, all of a sudden, it was a halt and Roadrunner wanted some ridiculous amount of money for any other label to take us on, which would just scare anybody away. Like, six figures amount of money, and we’re a young band, and with the music industry changing the way it is, no one’s going to want to pay that much money for an album. It’s above the budget that even you were going to pay.
So, at that point, it just became like a nail in a coffin because we don’t want to lose this record that we just spent the last year and a half to two years writing and making, but we also don’t want to just sit here, so it basically slowed everything down, and we’d already waited a full year to even get going on the record because there were so many delays as it was that everybody in the band was like, “When? We can’t hold on anymore. We’ve got to do other things.” Everybody had to find jobs and get careers. So, everybody, pretty much, got busy and I just kept hammering at the attorneys. I wanted a contract that told us what our rights were with this record. Because we didn’t want to start a relationship with someone else and have them change their mind. After they said that they wanted this amount of money, they said if we signed with an independent they could work out some sort of deal but they wouldn’t put anything in writing for the longest time. I said, “I’ve got to have it in writing! I’m not going to go and do something and have you guys say nevermind!” because they were already notorious for doing things like that. Even our manager at the time, Rick Sales, was like, “I’ve been in this business for 20 years and the stuff that I’m seeing here is criminal.” He’d never seen anything like it before. Stuff like, our first record’s release date got delayed 5 times and then it was about to come out and they held us hostage and said, “If you don’t get your merch rights, we’re not putting out your record.” Stuff like that, so we’re kinda used to the shady stuff so that’s why I wanted it all in writing. It took me probably 14, 15 months to get it in writing. After 4 or 5 months I started mixing the album myself. I started spending all my time just taking the tracks that were all over the place and putting them together and trying to mix them, but I’m not a mixer. I’m trying to, basically, get on the job training to the best of my ability and I did an OK job, but during this 15 months I’d make a phone call to the attorney and they’d call Roadrunner and I’d give them a week, maybe two weeks and I’d follow up and ask if they’d heard anything and they’d say, “No, no. I’ll call them again.” It went on like that for, literally, over a year. So, it really put the brakes on everything and it sucked because when it came to our fans they just wanted to know what was going on with the record and what was happening and for us it was like, “We don’t know. We’d love to be able to tell you that we have a record coming out in 3 months and we’re going on this tour and do that,” but it was such a dark sort of place that we were uncertain about. It was also changing the makeup of the band in terms of like, “Is everybody still in? This has been a really trying time or is everybody saying screw it because they can’t do this anymore.” We didn’t know ourselves what was happening.
So, after that extra year to 15 months that it took to do that, I started sending the record that I had to labels to see who I could get interested, and it was actually Joe Baressi, who mixed one or two songs for us previously, who kinda saw everything that was going on and said, “I’ll mix the record for you.” So he really saved the day in a lot of ways just because he made it go from a record that was okay produced and probably not well mixed by me to a record that sounded like a good rock album.
But, that’s true because you need that outside ear. You’re not going to hear your own work a certain way when an outside person or professional is going to be able to say that something is not going to work for you when you thought it would.
KD: Yeah, that’s right. So, he came in, he mixed it, we were stoked and then all of a sudden we had the record and then I was like, “Well, what do we want to do with this?” We needed to decide what we were going to do, whether it was try to get on a label. We had a lot of trouble with that because we’d go to labels and hear the same things we used to hear before we even signed with Roadrunner. Which is really just a bunch of B.S. It’s people who don’t want to take risks, who are afraid and their jobs are on the line and I get it. They see that Roadrunner invested the time in us and we didn’t blow up to become the next Foo Fighters or something so they’re all very hesitant. We’ve always heard stuff like, “What lane does Dommin live in? Is it a rock band? Is it a metal band? Is it an alternative band? What lane does Dommin live in?” and I’m like, “You know what? I don’t know. I’m here making music and I think we, sort of, fit in the same mold as like maybe The Cult or Faith No More where it’s rock but sometimes there’s an alternative influence that’s got the keyboards in it. That’s, sort of, the way I always pitched it to people because I look at The Cult and I think they’re a band that was pretty much a straight up rock band, but because of the times and what was going on at the time they got mixed in with bands like The Cure and stuff like that. Faith No More’s the same way; it was one of those things where they were this quirky band and are they a rock band? Well, they have these keyboards and they were, sort of, in their own lane too. Not to compare us to how good they are or anything but in terms of when you’re trying to sell yourself and trying to make an A&R guy understand what lane you belong in so they know what to do with you because there needs to be some kind of clear marketing path about who they market your record to and that was they best way I could describe it.
So, that was really a pain in the ass and I was just tired of hearing that stuff and tired of banging my head against the wall with these people. I understand their position but I’ve already been in the position long enough for the last two to three years where we were, kind of, dependent on someone else saying, “Go,” or someone else saying, “You’ve got the green light,” or someone else being like, “We’re not sure yet.” I was so tired of relying on the gatekeeper that I just said. “Screw it! We’re gonna do it on our own,” and when it was suggested by Joe Baressi’s manager that we do a pledge campaign and take it directly to our fans I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if anybody cared anymore because there’s always that handful of people and we did tour a lot on the first record and we made lots of personal, meaningful connections with people all over the world and there’s people that have taken the time out of their day to send me Christmas cards and birthday gifts so there’s always going to be that handful of people, but you didn’t know if it was really emblematic of the general sense out there if anybody cared anymore, if anybody wanted to know anything which is hard to gauge, and social media’s never really a good indication because people can “Like” a photo or something but that doesn’t mean they’re actually going to spend a hard earned dollar on what you’re doing.
Absolutely, Kris and I wanted to clarify for any fans that might not be super familiar with your catalog. When you were talking about your first album into second album, you were talking about from Love Is Gone to your current album Rise and not Mend Your Misery to Love Is Gone, correct?
KD: Correct. Mend Your Misery was something we did pre-Roadrunner. That was an album we put out before we ever knew Roadrunner. It was us just doing it on our own, sort of, like we’re doing it now in a way. But, without the fan base that we have now and the knowledge base that we have. Love Is Gone is what we consider our first album. We put out Mend Your Misery and it was such a small independent effort that most of the songs that were on Mend Your Misery ended up on Love Is Gone and the ones that didn’t end up on Love Is Gone ended up being on Rise with, maybe, the exception of one or twice songs.
For fans that want to go out and pick up the Rise album, did you guys get any type of distribution where they can get the record at Best Buy or F.Y.E.? Or, is it just best to go to your site?
KD: It’s best just to go to the site. We tried to work out some distribution things but because of the timeline and we didn’t know when we were going to be out on tour they couldn’t do it. We still may get distribution for it. It might be something we still do surrounding whatever tour happens, and if we can solidify something in January, obviously it would be post the release but as of right now the best place to go is our site, www.dommin.com.
It’s been a couple of months since it’s come out, what’s your initial reaction to the reception of the new album? Are you happy?
KD: Yeah, there’s always a difference between your casual fan that likes the tunes but doesn’t really pay attention to the intention of the message and the people who are just all in and know what’s going on. But, I would say I’m extremely happy with it because what we wanted to do with this album is go to the next piece of the puzzle which I like to call it because there are so many elements within Dommin and part of what we did with Love Is Gone is we put songs on that album so that we could really go in any direction we wanted to go so it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear someone say we changed our style or something. So we made Love Is Gone really diverse so we could go in any direction and when we did Rise we knew this was probably going to be the most aggressive record we would ever do, the most rocking record that we’ve got and that’s what this is going to be. We’re not going to repeat the last record. The last record was called Love Is Gone and it was pretty melancholy and it was about broken relationships, and that’s what it was but that’s not what this is going to be, this is going to be the next step. This is going to be, building yourself back up, finding your strength and all this kind of stuff. So, we made it so the songs were like that and anybody that was paying attention to what we post in our news post, in our blogs or anything we would talk about, knew that’s what was coming. So they weren’t expecting Love Is Gone part two, but there’s always going to be people that like the first thing you put out and don’t like the second thing. There’s always the one or two people that are going to wonder what happened to the darkness and why aren’t I singing about this anymore? I always say that if they want that, that’s what that first record is there for, but that’s not what this record is. The next record might be more to their liking because it’s going to have different themes and stuff. But for this record we really wanted to accomplish a certain part. We wanted to broaden out and be like, “Here’s this part of Dommin. You got a little taste of it on this song and this song on Love Is Gone, but here’s a full frontal, in your face, illustration of that.” So, I’m definitely happy with it. It’s definitely, exactly what we wanted it to be. It feels like that from the beginning to the end and I’m glad that it’s out there in that type of face so Dommin exists in the world.
And to wrap things up, since you have been gone for a while is it the same band? Same members?
KD: Same band, same members. I always tell the fans and anybody who’s interested, Dommin’s never really going to be in danger of breaking up because everybody in the band, we’re friends and even if they decided they didn’t want to do the music thing anymore Dommin wouldn’t cease to exist. I’m always going to be making music and playing on some level and I’m pretty sure that the guys are going to be wanting to play. And even though everybody has their hands in different things and it can make it harder to tour there is always the possibility that someone will have to fill in for someone. But, this is the Dommin band. It always has been and it always will be.