David Kennedy | Interview
On November 23rd, 2013, American metalcore band The Chariot played their final show in Douglasville, Georgia. Drummer David Kennedy had been a band member for 5 years but a drummer for the past 15. After The Chariot disbanded, David went back to school and then returned to working full time. In 2017, David reconnected with former band-mate and guitarist Bryan Taylor and together they started The Threats over the internet. We talked to David about what it’s like to be a musician when also working full-time and the creative freedom that comes with making music without being dependent on it for income.
Tell me about you and your music
I was introduced to the drums when I was 10 years old, but it was an unremarkable instance in many ways. I grew up in a fairly wealthy neighbourhood and my family bought a drum kit off our neighbours, which (perhaps to their annoyance) coupled well with my boombox. I would crank my boombox all the way up and play Nirvana albums at home, imitating Dave Grohl.
Back then, the focus was on performances a hundred percent of the time, I couldn’t wait to play every bit of new material for live audiences. It was all about making our music just as enjoyable live as it was in the studio. We weren’t trained musicians so all we really knew is to give it our all, so by the end of the first set on stage I would be knackered.
Since the Chariot I’ve returned to working full-time, and have immersed myself into the writing process more than I ever have. And it’s a lot easier to write drum music in your own home than it used to be! Back in the day we used to just hit record on our computers and bash out a beat, but now I can trigger an entire drum set on software – which also has become a lot more affordable.
How involved are you in the writing – from what I understand you write the drum bits first?
Look, garbage in, garbage out. It’s difficult to polish a song that was badly written, so naturally that’s where I want to put in a lot of work when creating music.
After The Chariot, I went back to school, got my accounting degree and started a business career. I’ve been taking insights from business and applying them in the music world. In 2017, I reconnected with Bryan Taylor, an ex-Chariot guitarist and an old buddy of mine and we started writing music together. We were on the same page as neither of us wanted to be stressed out or have music become our main livelihood again; really, we just wanted to get together and make some heavy music. Our first EP was really just some guitar over drum tracks I’d made in the past. Soon we brought on our friend Travis Saddler – another bandmate, this time from high school – to play bass.
Heavy metal is driven by its drum beats so I would map things out while imagining the guitar bits in my head. I wrote about 8 or 10 tracks that way, purely drum. I figure this is how hip-hop is written these days, starting with a base beat and working from there.
I was a fan of The Chariot before I joined the band, so I already knew their brand and vision. Once I was a member, I got to be an active part of that decision-making process. Particularly, the images and visuals we were putting out there were most important to me, especially our album covers.
Tell me about The Threats?
We’re a bunch of dudes that grew out of the touring game but never outgrew heavy music. We wanted to continue writing off-beat, dissonant and often trashy chords and go on to mess that all up when we’re playing live. We’re not attached to any labels and don’t have deadlines to rush material towards. It’s stress free and allows for true freedom, I’m absolutely loving doing it all ourselves.
I love working with these guys. We’ve been writing music together for years so there is this implicit understanding between us. I write the drum bits first, without any guitar prompts restricting me, or holding me back. My band mates trust me but also expect me to go beyond what’s tried and tested.
We want to make heavy music but we want to place ourselves on the very end of the genre’s spectrum, broadening heavy music’s horizons. When it came to picking a theme for the EP, we tapped into our shared love for old-school horror films: the adrenaline-fueled visuals and the graphics and how they make people feel. Chris Stow is the mastermind behind The Threats’ branding and artwork.
I think we would be happy with doing a few tours a year and putting out a record every one or two years. One of our most important decisions for our EP was whether we should release it on vinyl. People look for something new every year and we felt good about sharing our work through that medium, so we went for it!
On a personal note, I’d love to keep being creative and continue to push our boundaries as a band. As much as I can!
What is your biggest challenge at the moment?
Social media got hard for us after a while. It can get exhausting to constantly be putting ourselves out there. So if there’s somewhere we can improve as a band, it’s that. None of us have spent too much time on the band’s social media platforms – we haven’t quite jumped on the bandwagon.
Our most active periods are when we have material to release. We released three songs over a few months and closer to the date of our EP’s drop, we put out the music video for our fourth song. A lot of artists make singles these days and the hype cycle on new content is getting shorter and shorter.
One of the things that always impressed me was that you guys were putting out end-to-end material. Seemed like you had a lot of control in the music and video recording process?
We worked with the same sound engineer over a long period of time and that really helped. Matt Goldman (who’s also a drummer) is an Atlanta-based producer and engineer and he really got to know us. He knew how we liked to do things, how we went about recording. Over time, he’s become a close friend of the band.
It’s so easy to start to second-guess yourself, especially when you’re creating within a group of fellow artists. I stuck to it with the mantra of not letting anything stop me from doing what I love. I didn’t have a guitarist when I started the band, but I still just went for it.