D.D. Verni is a Jersey metal legend. As bassist, founder and principal songwriter for OverKill, he’s been responsible for some of the finest thrash ever to come from the East Coast for the better part of the last 30 years, and his The Bronx Casket Company side-project has been exploring the more dramatic, gothic side of heaviness for more than 10 now. The Bronx Casket Company’s fourth and latest album (first for E1 Music) is Antihero, and it finds them throwing off a lot of the synth flourishes in favor of a more direct approach, still dark atmospherically, but ballsier and more straightforward.

Part of this, by Verni’s estimate, has to do with his taking over the lead vocalist role as well. Where the band’s previous albums—the last being 2005’s Hellectric—were voiced by Myke Hideous, Verni is now more than ever at the center of The Bronx Casket Company’s output, and although some might sound awkward or lack confidence their first time out, Verni had enough experience behind him to make sure everything came out just how he wanted. The results speak for themselves on Antihero.

It was an honor and a pleasure to speak to Verni for the following interview:

Was there something in particular that made you want to pick Bronx Casket Company up again for another record? It had been a while.

This record’s probably been done for a year, just sitting on the shelf. This last OverKill release, we were getting slammed. People were really into it, we were getting a lot of calls, a lot of opportunities. We did a lot of touring on this record. So I just kept looking for a spot when OverKill was gonna be slowing down a little bit where I could fit it in, because it’s been done for a year and I probably started it a year before that. So really only three years before I was back at it again.

But even that is a decent amount of time. It’s always kind of an ongoing project for me, because I’m always writing songs for all kinds of different things. I’m always putting songs in piles. Here’s a Bronx Casket pile, here’s an OverKill pile. I’m working on a musical too, that goes in another pile. This won’t work for this, but it’ll work for that, so you know, the Bronx Casket pile starts to get a little bit bigger and I’m looking at it, saying, “Okay, time to put this whole thing together.”

Do you have to be in a specific mindset to write for different bands?

It almost seems like it’s been more helpful to have Bronx Casket around, because it keeps me more focused on OverKill. When you’re a songwriter—I do, anyway—you start getting bored after a while. You pick up an acoustic guitar for a little while, then you pick up something else, looking for some inspiration, trying different things, and when you’re in a thrash kind of a band, a lot of that doesn’t fit in there. If I didn’t have Bronx or something else to throw some of those ideas at, sometimes they spill into OverKill.

Having something else helps you focus, because then when I get to doing an OverKill thing, at least in the last little while, I’ve been really fired up to just write stuff with a lot of energy, really aggressive, because I was playing around with some other stuff for a little while, and OverKill’s been doing it for so long, you just put that hat on and it feels good to get out there and start bashing holes in the wall (laughs).

You have a definite idea, then, of what OverKill is. Do you have the same kind of idea of what Bronx Casket Company is? The album has a very coherent sound. Did you go into it with a mission in mind?

Some of that is on purpose. Even the last Bronx Casket record is very different even than this one. This one is almost a left-hand turn from the last one. The last one was a lot more gothic. It had a lot of orchestrations, a lot of female singing, a lot of keyboards. It was really heavy with that kind of thing, and on this one, I guess because I had done that really quite a bit on the last record, I wasn’t as into doing that this time because I was going to be taking on the vocals, too. This is one of the first records I ever wrote where I was actually writing the vocals and the music at the same time. That almost never happens.

I’m always—I get the music right, then I’ll start to go at it with vocals, or I’ll hand it off to Blitz in OverKill and he’ll go after it like that. On the last Bronx Casket record, it’s just the same thing. Basically, how I write is music first and vocals second, but because I knew I was gonna be singing, I wanted that vibe to be right too, so I was writing the riffs and had a mic set up at the same time. Some of that, I think, pulled it together, and just from starting to do it,

I could tell I was more comfortable singing and playing when the songs were more aggressive and heavier, rather than when I knew I wasn’t gonna be singing on some of the other songs on the other records, I would play around a bit more. I think probably why the reason this one’s heavier is because of that, and I was trying to keep it in that kind of direction.

Do you see Bronx Casket Company keeping that kind of heavier, more straightforward feel?

I don’t know for sure. Generally, that’s where my feet always land sooner or later. I’ve been playing in a thrash band for 25 years [he’s counting from OverKill’s first album in 1985, the band released their first demo two years earlier—ed.]. Sooner or later, you can go walk around in the other parts of the field for a little while, but eventually I’m back to doing that because that’s where my heart ultimately is and the other stuff is just fun to experiment.

On future records, I think some of it too is how it’s received by the kids. If I get real good feedback on the record, that helps put you in a direction too. Really, you’re writing songs for other people as well as yourself, so when you get feedback about certain things, it steers you a little bit this way, steers you a little that way, but on the Bronx Casket records, because it’s not the main thing that I do, I can just go where my heart takes me from time to time. I would imagine we’ll probably stay on the heavier side of things for a little while, mostly because I’m singing and I’m more comfortable in there.

You mentioned 25 years in OverKill puts you in a certain place, but you know, at this point, the first Bronx Casket Company was out in ’99. You’ve been doing this for a while too.

(Laughs) Yeah, I know. I think it’s part of my personality. I’ve been in OverKill for how many years. I’ve had the same studio for 15 years. I’ve been with my wife for 35 years. I just tend to stick with things for a while that I like. But yeah, there’s not a lot of times that you get to say, “This is the fourth record from my other band.” I like writing songs. I like being creative. I like being in the studio. So that wheel is always rolling for me, all the time.

What’s next for you?

OverKill. We’re going to be on the road for all of March in Europe, and part of April we’re back here in the States, and that’ll button up our touring for the Ironbound record. We have some stuff in Europe—festival season, we’re always bouncing back and forth—but it’s gonna be time to start thinking about writing some new songs and getting some stuff going with OverKill. We’ll probably have a release early next year, something like that.

For Bronx, the record just came out. We’ll see what people think. We’ll see what the reviews are like, we’ll see what the reaction’s like. So far, in the States, things have been great. People have really been liking the record a lot. The feedback’s been really positive, and I guess the next thing is probably shows. I’m looking around for a situation that makes sense, that would be fun, that would be something cool to do.

Do you think you’d be comfortable in the lead singer role on stage?

You know, we’ve done a couple shows where I’ve done that, and it didn’t feel all that different to me. But, you know, again, coming from a thrash band kind of thing, the mentality of a “frontman” in thrash—although that’s not exactly true with OverKill, because we have Blitz and he’s the difference of the thing—I think he’s the best guy there is out there—but a lot of the thrash stuff, that lead singer mentality, you didn’t even use that. It was just guys playing music.

I think probably my mentality in just singing the songs is that, more like that kind of approach. I don’t think it’d be a big deal. Grab a beer and have some fun.

The Bronx Casket Co.’s Antihero is available now on E1 Music. More info at bronxcasketco.com.

Some weeks, JJ Koczan forgets to include a tagline. This is not one of those weeks. jj@theaquarian.com.

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