Meet The Band: Bone Dagger

In the Meet The Band spotlight this week is the Portland, Oregon heavy rock group Bone Dagger. They just released the EP The Veil. Vocalist/guitarist/bassist John Lund introduces us to his band.

Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Bone Dagger.
John Lund: Bone Dagger was founded by me in a downtown apartment in Portland, Oregon. I had just shed the last inauthentic version of myself and reintroduced myself to my guitar after 7 years of hiatus. I decided that this time, I wasn’t going to quit – no matter how long it took, no matter the obstacle I was going to write my own style of rock and release it. I had about 3/4 of the Veil instrumentals written about a year later and decided m rent was too steep and my personality was too loud for a complex, so I moved to a barn loft in the country near Estacada, OR, set up a home studio and record everything myself to cut costs and learn something new. A few members cycled in and out and I ended up right back where I started, solo. Bands are hard. The odds of finding the right fit in terms of personality, ability, stability, and drive are very slim. The story could be pumped with details and member changes, but thats the cliff’s notes.

Describe the songwriting process for The Veil.
I wanted to write something that was reminiscent of Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age. I wrote a riff and piled on some Horton Heat in a metal style for a second part. I don’t write just for the sake of making content. I only write if I really feel strongly about how my ideas sound. I had never really written an entire song myself so I had no idea about structure. All I knew was I liked the flow and arrangement from “Prayer” by Disturbed, So I used that song as a framework for The Veil. Eventually, I had a basic framework. Now I had to come up with lyrics and melody – another first for me as my last project was instrumental metal. I had always thought that songs just downloaded from the ether instantaneously; they don’t.

I wish I had saved all the drafts for those lyrics; it was probably about 50 pages of chicken scratch. I heard pieces of Slipknot, Mudvayne, and Paramore in the vocal lines but I had no idea what I was going to say. I had to sit with how the music made me feel for a long time. Eventually, I decided to get over my fear and scat a basic idea. From there it was like Michaelangelo freeing his subjects from a rough block of marble. I knew I wanted to borrow the storytelling from Maynard and be creative enough to not just repeat entire sections verbatim. So I chiseled and shaped the words until I had a story that flowed and there weren’t any rushed or overly stretched syllables. It’s gotta be smooth or it doesn’t feel right. So I had the song finished and mastered, and then decided it needed more. So I added the acapella intro after “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi came on the radio one day in a friend’s car. It really made the song feel more succinct and to the point, even though I hadn’t actually changed the overall length. It was a 3-year exorcism. I get obsessive and can’t think of much else until it’s finished.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Probably how fast “Hit and Run” came out of me. It was scary. The arrangement took a casual month. But the melody and lyrics probably took me 3-4 days. I wrote most of it in my head. It was a trip.

What was the biggest challenge in recording it?
Vocals. Vocals are fucking hard. I take twice-monthly lessons and I still am not satisfied with my ability

How would you characterize its style/sound?
A sonic orgy featuring AIC, Korn, Slipknot, Paramore, QOTSA, FF, and much more. Can you tell I was a NuMetal kid? Don’t answer that. (laughs)

What lyrical topics do you cover?
I think a lot about existence. There are many facets to that experience both micro and macro. I like addressing my takes on subjects like soul travel, human connection, and our ever-constricting society. I had to sprinkle in a heartache song to keep it human.

What led you to go the independent route for its release?
I wasn’t even going to put it out on Spotify. Labels and streaming platforms are predatory. One is just more subtle about it. “But the exposure you’ll get is so valuable” Yeah, in a saturated market?…sure. Thanks for the .00446 cents per stream, Uncle Danny. BTW, how’s the billionaire lifestyle treating you after capitalizing on the artist’s natural will to create, no matter the conditions of the industry? Call me jealous, call me what you will – he and the others in his club are unethical dildos. Every last one of them fucking any market they can find a hole in until it has nothing left to give anyone doing the actual work. Ranting aside, I went independent because I’ve heard the stories of 11 album deals over 12 years, advances, and the very narrow odds at recoupment from a release. I wanted control over my own art and my own timeline upon which to create. I write very slowly.

What are your goals and expectations for the EP?
My goal was to release it. Check that off the ole to-do list. I have no expectations. How can I? There are millions of bands and artists that would put me to shame in a variety of ways, I’m sure. I just hope I’m releasing at the right place and time to move a few people. I have a day job/career that sustains me. I’m not riding on this like it’s the end of the world if it does nothing. The next step is physical copies, and merch – which relies on finishing the website: Vinyl and CDs, maybe a few cassettes for the retro-heads.

Do you have any plans to put together a lineup to play live?
Unless a drummer shows up that tickles my fancy, no “lineup” per se, just me and the live rig system I built to allow my computer to pump the DAW tracks out through a split snake to any PA system for a digital backing band.

How did you get started in music?
Piano lessons at 7 years old – I hated it.

Who were your early influences and inspirations?
Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani at 6 yrs old, then Green Day and all the Fat Wreck and Epitaph bands at age 10. Middle school was Trustkill Records, mainly Poison the Well and Dillinger with a smattering of Lamb of God.

What was the first rock/metal concert you attended?
Propagandhi at the Warfield in SF – unbelievably good. I was standing right next to Fat Mike during the show. First metal show…I think it was Poison the Well and Cursive at the HOB Orlando when I was 15.

What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
I’m kind of a mad scientist – I do all the screen printing for the band merch, I bought a huge press and all the peripherals while I was recording the sound. I also love my Diesel VWs and tinker with them constantly. Gaming computers – building those is fun and I love kittens. Kittens are amazing.

What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
I haven’t been listening to much music lately, I probably should be. When I return to being a listener, probably Sikth and Gojira. Goijra has my heart and Sikth is their own breed of WTF?!

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Just want to give a shout-out to Brett Walker of Kaupe for being hard on me during our time together in Key of Solomon, it made me a halfway decent guitarist. I’d also like to thank Jonas Sanders of Pro-Pain for being such an outstanding human, and professional musician – he is who you hear bashing the kit in my recordings. I have to thank John ‘Turbo” Leitch for helping with getting “Filthy Machine” and “Cycle of the Self” to their current arrangements. Finally, Riki for the absolutely sick artwork for the single covers and the shirts that will be for sale soon. Thanks for picking my brain.

(interview published August 26, 2023)

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