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ROCKET Interviews Dan Hyer of MAHOGANY HEAD GRENADE


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Dallas, Texas instrumental progressive metal act MAHOGANY HEAD GRENADE have self released their debut studio effort entitled “Return to the Point of Departure” in 2013. The band recently placed first in TMD’s Battle of Unsigned Prog Metal Bands online contest and are set to take the metal world by storm with their highly unique brand of technical guitar shred. With influences ranging from Joe Satriani to Dream Theatre and Steve Vai, it’s hard not to get excited about this incredibly talented trio.

The Metal Den’s Randy “Rocket” Cody has conducted an EXCLUSIVE interview with guitarist Dan Hyer of MAHOGANY HEAD GRENADE for TMD’s loyal following of DEN HEADZ all across the globe!

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ROCKET: Where were you born and raised?

DAN: I was born in Rockford, Illinois, and grew up in Eldridge, Iowa (right outside of the Quad Cities). There wasn’t much to do, other than get in trouble, play sports, or do music. I tried all three, but music seemed to be the most rewarding.

ROCKET: Do you recall your first rock concert?

DAN: First concert was Whitesnake and Great White, on the ‘Still of the Night Tour’. Whitesnake was at their prime at that time; Adrian Vandenburg and Vivian Campbell on guitar playing those monsterous riffs and the late 80’s crowd going nuts. It was surreal.

ROCKET: When did you first start playing the guitar?

DAN: I was a late bloomer, junior in High School. I tried it after trouble, and sports.

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ROCKET: Who are some of your biggest guitar playing influences?

DAN: Eddie Van Halen, Matthias Jabs (from the Scorpions), James Hetfield, Satriani, Yngwie, Zakk Wylde, Dime, Andy Timmons, just to name just a few.

ROCKET: Did you take any guitar lessons?

DAN: I took one classical guitar lesson. The instructor told me I was playing wrong, which did not sit well with me. I was young and felt like I was invincible since I had some nominal levels of success at that point. His criticism coupled with the fact that I was broke caused me to never go back. Later in college I took some Jazz improv classes. While they weren’t specifically guitar lessons, I learned a great deal in those classes. Some of that stuff I still work on today.

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ROCKET: Congratulations on being selected the winner of TMD’s Battle of Unsigned Prog Metal Bands online contest in 2013. How does it feel to know your band got the most points from the judging panel?

DAN: It’s certainly a sense of validation. We know that listeners may not instantly understand instrumental music, but we do want to make some kind of a connection. We work very hard at composing songs that tell a story, and take the listener somewhere, and it feels great to know that the judges ‘got it’.

ROCKET: Let’s talk about your new CD released in 2013 entitled “Return to the Point of Departure”. Where was it recorded and who produced it?

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DAN: We reached out to Sterling Winfield over a year prior to going in the studio, but nothing ended up formulating because our calendar started really filling up with live shows. Also, I think he may have sensed that we weren’t ready just yet. He didn’t ever say, no, but nothing came together at that point. Through 2012, we played a lot of dates, our songs got much tighter, and we got way more polished as a trio. We reached out to Sterling again in Dec of 2012, he came out to a rehearsal, and after a song or two, he agreed to take on the project. We recorded ‘Return to the Point’ at Casey Diorio’s Valve Studios here in Dallas. It’s a great studio to record in, especially if you want to track live. We were able to see each other, and there was great isolation between instrumentation. Very little bleed. Much of that was due to Sterlings know how. They also have an old neve board that ads a color to the tone that is classic, and warm. Sterling made the process very cool, incredibly laid back, and efficient. Maor Applebaum mastered the CD; he too did a great job of working with great gear, and collaboratively with Sterling to get the ideal final product.

ROCKET: Who is in the band with you? Please describe the other members of your band and tell us what instruments they play.

DAN: Mike Pritchett is our drummer. He’s a beast who hits really hard, but he has hellacious chops too. He’s also the most musically communicative drummer I have ever played with. He listens on an intuitive level where I’ll sometimes do a fill, and he’ll answer me, and I really don’t think he’s even thinking about it. It just happens. I also like how I can ‘wind Mike up’. There are some passages of tunes where we really play on top of the beat; if it feels right, we’ll increase the tempo. Likewise, sometimes it’s good to pull it back, and Mike will go with that as well.

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James “don’t call me ford” Falcon is our bassist. He does a great job of laying down a solid foundation harmonically, so that I can twist the melodies around and squeeze a lot of dissonance and resolution out of what would otherwise be a ‘more normal’ melodic line. He also lays that foundation down rhythmically so that when Mike and I go crazy, James is the glue to keep it all together.

ROCKET: What kind of guitars are you playing currently live and in the studio?

DAN: My main guitars are Ibanez RT650’s. I had two of them in the studio, as well as an Ibanez RT450 for the slide parts on ‘Trouble for Trouble’.

ROCKET: What kind of amp rigs?

DAN: My main amp is a Marshall 210H through 2 ada 2 by 12″ cabinets. In the studio, we used Casey’s 4 by 12″ Marshall Cab; I forget which model it was. I have a Boss DS1 and an Ibanez Tube Screamer, both with a Keeley Mod. I use a Steve Vai Bad Horsie II, a Boss Noise Gate, and a T.C. Electronics Time Machine for delay.

ROCKET: How does the songwriting process work for this band?

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DAN: It varies, a little bit. Early on, I’d present fairly fully composed tunes and the guys would build their parts around them. We would change sections, as needed, and that really took the songs to another level. All the songs on “Return” were written that way. As we’ve gotten more years behind us, we’ve written songs from the bottom up. I’ll present a phrase, or a riff, and then we will over time construct a song from it. It’s very gratifying to have guys who can present cohesive musical ideas that make the original seed of an idea better. We really trust each other in that way. Most of what will be on the record in 2014, will have been written that way.

ROCKET: Looking back at all the great metal albums released so far in 2013, can you tell me which one is your favorite record?

DAN: That is a great question – as it has been a banner year for metal music. Very tough to pick just one. DGM’s “Momentum” is at the top of that list. They are an italian progressive metal band with incredible talent – and a ridiculously talented guitarist. Also, The Aristocrat’s “Boing! We’ll do it live”. They are a Rock/Metal trio with Guthrie Govan, who is another insanely sick guitarist.

ROCKET: Who are some of the other underground metal bands from your scene that you have seen jam live and think deserve a mention?

DAN: There’s a lot of really talented people out there. Jakub Zytecki, guitarist for Disperse, has a free instrumental demo he did in 2010. He was in his teens at that time, and it is just amazing that someone that young had that much control. Jeff Loomis is someone known for his work in Nevermore, but his instrumental stuff is ridiculously good – he played trees twice in the past year. Andy Timmons I mentioned before, but he’s worth mentioning again, just because it’s so humbling to have someone that talented living in our area, playing Dallas regularly. Also, Andy James & Paul Wardingham are relatively unknown, at least in the states, but they melt faces in a world class way.

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ROCKET: What are some of the upcoming shows for MAHOGANY HEAD GRENADE that fans need to keep an eye out for?

DAN: We are doing Boiler Room on November 16th and December 6th. Then we have a show booked at O’rileys on January 18th. Then we will probably take live time off to get ready to go back into the studio.

ROCKET: Thanks for rocking this out with me. Best of luck with your music moving forward. Any last words for the fans?

DAN: Be good to the people you know, but be especially good to the people you don’t know. You never know how some random act of kindness to some stranger could be all that that person needed to get through a really rough time. It’s really easy to do, and it makes a big difference.

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