By: Rob Cavuoto
Edge of Paradise might be a new band, but when your debut album includes the rhythm section of bassist Tony Franklin (Blue Murder, The Firm) and drummer Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth Band), you know you’re already in great shape. Now add the powerhouse vocals of Margarita Monet and Dave Bates’ towering guitars and you have a record essential to any fan of melodic metal.
Formed by Monet and Bates earlier this year, Edge of Paradise recently released Mask, an album chock full of industrial-tinged metal coupled with soaring vocal hooks. I had the chance to speak with guitarist Dave Bates about the new CD.
Rob Cavuoto: Your debut CD, Mask, has some has some great songs with killer riffs. Can you tell me about the writing process?
Dave Bates: The writing process for me always starts with the guitar. I play guitar and that’s what I live to do, and fortunately riffs kind of just form. I know that sounds otherworldly and all that, and I can remember reading Steve Vai’s lesson articles on the “spiritual side” of guitar playing. As a kid I can remember thinking, “Yeah right, he’s making this stuff up to mess with us guys out here trying to build our chops!” Fast forward many years later, I had gone through the phases, you know, where you clone Eddie Van Halen, or Randy Rhoads or even Yngwie Malmsteen, and I hit a brick wall, man! I have learned that you can’t force the writing process; I let the guitar guide me. I put a click track on and try to imagine a cool idea, when it comes I use the theory to shape it into a song.
For the CD Mask, the writing for some of the material came together in a prior band I had with Robin McAuley, who I had been introduced to through a friend. We had decided to form a band and off we went. I actually gave him completed songs that I had already recorded with Gregg Bissonette and Tony Franklin and was like, “Sing here, man!” Of course, we had to change a few things, but Robin is a gifted writer and he rolled with it well. Robin ended up getting a gig with Survivor, and shortly after I had the good fortune of meeting Margarita Monet. We rewrote what I had, added some new stuff and formed Edge of Paradise.
Rob: How long did the CD take from beginning to release?
Dave Bates: It was pretty quick. We had decided to do a CD, myself and Margarita at the beginning of February this year and wanted to get some music out so we could establish the sound of the band, something to build from. Since I had a bunch of songs that we could choose from, and we worked hard every day to get Mask completed. We ended up releasing it September 15th.
Rob: Where do you get your inspiration when writing songs?
Dave Bates: Life! Living every day provides a ton of artistic inspiration. The guitar of course is the initial motivator; all of the music starts with some guitar riffs and grows outward from there.
Rob: The song “Mask” is deeply personal and emotional. Was it difficult to write such a song and open yourself in that way?
Dave Bates: To me, artistic creation is all about the exploration of some emotional content. Trying to capture some soul or “essence” and put it into the music and then using my guitar to express that. The musical portion of “Mask” started without direction, and then sadly a former drummer and friend hung himself. As if that wasn’t enough, two days later my mom informed that my cousin had also just hung himself! I still find this to be mind altering. Ryan Jones was a co-writer on this one, and he had his own previous inner struggles as a motivation, and I think him knowing the drummer caused him to look inward. Margarita actually came up with the name “Mask” after examining the motivation and content of this song.
Rob: What do you want people to take away from that song?
Dave Bates: I can only hope that if someone is at that crossroads in their life and happen across this song, it will help them to know that we all struggle from time to time and wear these masks of facade to hide the inner turmoil. Weather the storm, tough times and life struggles are only temporary and part of life. You can’t have good times without the bad, otherwise you would never recognize when things are good.
Rob: Who are some of your influences and your prior band experience?
Dave Bates: My first major influence on the guitar was Randy Rhoads. I played his solos before I could properly play an open G chord! I had a routine where I linked to together six of the great solos from <em>Blizzard</em> and <em>Diary</em>. There is so much great music to be inspired by. The 24 caprices by Paganini… I read somewhere that the student who completes all 24 caprices has now become intermediate—talk about discipline!
Eddie Van Halen was another player I set out to emulate chop wise. When I was young I focused on one player at a time, stole their bag of tricks and moved to the next. It was inspiring and fueled my passion. This of course led to playing in several cover bands for a number of years, including several versions of an Ozzy tribute band on both the east and west coasts. My first real band experience started when I was 16 playing in a top 40 rock band on the east coast where I grew up. For 4 and half years we played 2 to 4 shows a week 60+ songs a night! That was a great learning experience for me and forced me to play things I wouldn’t have played otherwise. Since moving to Los Angeles I have played with many bands out here, which need a guitar player for recording a CD or live shows to support an artist. I was part of a band that played on the sets of a couple of TV shows at Warner Bros. We played for the live audience while they moved to different scenes—that was cool. The last gig was how I met Margarita, actually. She had been recording a song with a producer and needed a guitar player, they asked me to play on that song and we hit it off and decided to form Edge of Paradise.
Rob: There is some tremendous guitar work on the CD. Are you a schooled player as far as theory goes?
Dave Bates: I have studied a great deal of theory. I am a graduate of Musicians Institute in Hollywood and I have studied music at a couple of other colleges here in California. Music and the guitar is what fuels me, I hope to be able to have an impact on guitar playing in some way shape or form someday. I strive to reach another level, or as I like to think of it, musical fusion. I smash the current 12 notes together hoping to find the elusive 13th note, but you can’t split notes without theory first.
Rob: Who are some of the band’s influences?
Dave Bates: Margarita is inspired primarily by Ronnie James Dio and Robert Plant on the vocal end, and classical music for the songwriting side of things due to her spending a number of years as classical pianist. The other current band members have a variety of influences from jazz to ethnic percussion. It’s a pretty varied mix. We try to draw from as many styles as possible and bring it back to our heavy foundation.
Rob: What did you use to track the CD? You really captured a great guitar sound.
Dave Bates: I always use the same guitars; I have a Charvel San Dimas re-issue from ’95 and a Jackson Dk2 from ’94 that has been completely rebuilt. They both have Dimarzios. For 7-string songs I have a Schechter A7+ with Seymour Duncans, a custom in the bridge and a jazz in the neck. The amps were combinations of a Marshall Super Lead, an Orange and an old Vox AC30, or a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, Marshall and Vox AC30.
Rob: How important is it for new bands to have contact with the fans on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other social medias?
Dave Bates: I think it’s crucial. The Internet has allowed anyone to share their music with the world; it has allowed us to grow really quickly as a band. Unfortunately it has also caused an overwhelming amount of content to be unleashed upon the world. These social mediums allow the people who want to find a particular thing or keep up on a band easy access, but only if you’re in contact. This takes an enormous amount of time to do though. We are looking forward to when this process becomes a little more streamlined, and it is headed in that direction. It would also be nice to someday have a robot capable of taking care of this!
Rob: What do you think has been your biggest challenge, both musically and professionally, so far in your career?
Dave Bates: Every day presents a new challenge… I guess what’s good about that is you don’t have time to get bored. The music is the fun part. Most of the challenges lay on the “professional” end. The logistics of getting Mask done has posed many challenges. By far the biggest challenge has been finding a way to stay true to making music that feels right and comes from the heart and not just following whatever the current trend is.
Rob: What can we expect from your live shows?
Dave Bates: Our focus has mainly been on sounding exactly like the CD, there are many layers to the music on Mask so that has been a bit of a challenge. Now that we have a pretty good grip in that department, we have begun to cultivate the entertainment portion of the show. We keep the energy up!
Rob: What are your touring plans?
Dave Bates: We are planning to head to the East Coast and work our way back to California at the beginning of the year. We have been working with a number of different people putting shows together and right now the challenge is to coordinate everything.