“We’re five guys who play together like our lives depend on it,“ said Angus Clark, aka Rogue, about the vision for the blistering new band DareDevil Squadron. “And we depend on each other. An aerial combat squadron has to fly within inches of each other, yet never touch. It takes extreme discipline. And while each pilot has a separate role, there is a common goal. Much the way we perform a song. We all have our part, but we have to work together to make it rock.”
Angus is one of the guitarists in group, and is joined by Andrew Ross, aka Awesome Wolf, on lead vocals and mandolin, Aurelien Budynek, aka The Bordeaux Bandit on guitar, Jason Gianni, aka El Torino on drums, and Chris Altenhoff, aka Thunderball, on bass.
The monikers each member uses signify their call signs, which help connote the unity of the group. “Call sign is technically supposed to be a unique designation for your aircraft when making radio contact,” Angus explained. “We were inspired to use them as nicknames the way the pilots in the movie Top Gun did. Tom Cruise’s was ‘Maverick.’ Each one is significant in some way or another, but we’ll leave it to the fans to figure it out.”
The music on the bands debut CD, Out Of The Sun, is straightforward, no bullshit, heavy rock and roll. Smoking hot guitar riffs, big hooks, nods to classic rock, melodic rock and some of the newer heavy bands form the basis for a powerhouse of in-your-face rock. Angus described it as a combination of influences. “New Wave of British-Inspired American Heavy Metal.” He cites Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and Rainbow, especially the early recordings with Ronnie James Dio, as major influences.
The musical prowess of the group should come as no surprise, as the members’ resumes speak for themselves. Angus has toured and recorded with numerous major acts, including Kitaro, Naked Sun, Drill and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Aurelien has toured with Cindy Blackman featuring Vernon Reid. Chris has played with Queen V and Hawkwind. Jason Gianni has worked with Magellan and Days Before Tomorrow. Andrew Ross has a diverse background, including work with Blue Wheatgrass Massacre, which does bluegrass versions of metal tunes.
The power of the music is already being recognized, as songs from the CD have been chosen to be featured in the new Top Gun 2 video game for the iPhone and iPod touch.
The group had its genesis when a couple of the band members got together, and they forged the partnership by recruiting others, whether they wanted it or not. “Andrew and I had the idea, then enlisted Chris,” recalled Angus. “Chris knew Jason, who was then informed of his participation in the project. Andrew and I both knew Aurelien through entirely separate means. Andrew and Aurelien are neighbors, and I met Aurelien on a gig. We figured he could cut it, so he was told to join. We were watching the Iron Maiden: The Early Years documentary/concert DVD, and just found the whole way they went about their business to be truly inspiring. ‘Forgotten Son’ was the first song written, then ‘Back Lounge,’ then ‘Out Of The Sun.’ We had such a good time writing and playing those songs that we just kept going until we had a whole record.”
The aforementioned title track, “Out of The Sun,” has turned out to be one of the most popular songs from the CD. “‘Chronicles is a big fave,” added Angus. “As well as ‘Power Trip,‘ and ‘Lillian.’”
Besides musical dexterity, the band members all bring songwriting to the table as well. “We all write,” said Angus. “The process is usually based on a goal or single idea: ‘We need a fast song,’ or ‘We need a song about aerial combat.’ Or we want to do something like ‘The Boys Are Back In Town,’ but let’s call it ‘Lillian,’ etc. Then riffs are written, then lyrics are added, then chords are added to help move it along, then Jason comes in and suddenly the song is in 7/8. Then we add really long solo sections so that we can shred. Then we’re done. It’s complicated, but totally worth it.”
While many bands of accomplished musicians are strictly studio projects that may not be able to reproduce the music live, DareDevil Squadron is definitely a group that wants to show they can cut it on stage. “We have played a few live shows in the New York area,” said Angus. “We were just making sure the material works live.”
While the music is intense, and the musicians focused and committed, there is room for levity. “We take what we do extremely seriously, but there were some moments where we were recording, like, the 15th layer of us shouting ‘Punishment Fits,’ where it just suddenly seemed completely ridiculous, and somebody would just start laughing and blow the take. We were there all night. That, and any time you’re using a bullhorn in the studio, it’s just an opportunity for hilarity.”
The potential for DareDevil Squadron to become a major band in the heavy rock world seems unlimited, and plans are in the works for a European release and further licensing of the music. But the group is more focused on the playing and the songs, with goals more about what they are doing than reaching any particular industry plateaus.
“To rock the globe, and have the time of our lives doing it,” Angus said. “We’re playing a very honest and straightforward style of music. The musicianship is intense and so are the stories we’re telling. We believe that people respond to all of this on a visceral level where they are both moved and entertained. Each member of the band is challenged by the experience bringing the very best out of all of us. We’re looking forward to a good run of making records and videos, and playing killer shows.”