The Clay People – Demon Heroes Don’t Wear Capes
Written by Liam Sweeny on November 7, 2018
The highways and back-alleys of the Capital Region’s punk-industrial landscape would arguably be best put to the music of The Clay People. This Albany based band is as much a movement as a collection of musicians. Through the current line-up of Daniel Neet on lead vocals, Brian McGarvey on guitar and Dan Dinsmore on drums, and Vegas Nacy and Eric Brayner on back-ups, beats, and bass respectively, the Clay People have been able to cultivate a sound that has evolved over decades to be just as razor’s edge as it was before many of us had to shave. We sit down with Dan Dinsmore and Brian McGarvey with our usual brand of oddball questions. Let’s hope they’re good sports.
RRX: I remember seeing you guys at the QE2 back in the 90’s, maybe ’94, ’95. You were opening for Fear Factory, I think. There was a ton of energy back then, I mean, we were hanging off the walls. Part of it is that QE2 is such an intimate (read: small) place. In all of your touring, both back then and even recently, can any of you talk about places, here or elsewhere, where you felt the energy really matched what you guys do?
Dan: All of the shows have had that vibe since we started touring The Demon Hero record. We really were not sure of what the reactions would be but it has been unreal. It is the same feeling you describe and in bigger places. We just got back from playing the Gramercy Theater and The Starland Ballroom and it was people having a great time and letting go. I think that The Clay People really evoke a community togetherness vibe like there is no difference from being in the crowd or being on stage we are all there together letting go and celebrating the ridiculousness of everyday life.
Brian: We’ve been fortunate to play many iconic venues that no longer exist like CBGBs, Limelight, and Coney Island High, also The Whisky in LA, Metro in Chicago, but really any venue where we can feel the energy of the crowd with us. It makes the show fun. Otherwise it can feel like work. The Chrome show we played in August was a highlight. It was such a triumphant event for us. New material with a new lineup after so long. It felt like everyone in the room was a part of it.
RRX: Being that The Clay People is as much an institution as it is a band, are there any rituals, rites of passage, etc. – even if they’re normal everyday things that would tell a new member, “Well, you’re in The Clay People now!”?
Dan: I think it is just the insanity of the constant joking and laughing. There always seems to be some sort of drama flying around we are just trying to pinpoint where that insane dark comedy comes from but I think we all have an idea. There definitely is a unique vibe to the band. We are all very different people with our lives and very different musically.
Brian: I don’t think we do anything consciously. I think we all just sense when the chemistry works. And we’ve all been friends for over 20-25 years, so we know each other. Jared Weed is half our age and probably twice as wise. He is an asset to any band and he just seamlessly meshes with the rest of us. We couldn’t be happier with the vibe in the band right now. It’s alot of fun. It feels so natural for all of us to be playing together.
RRX: There have been long breaks, and for whatever reason the group has gone dark before. Was it totally dark? Were there moments that didn’t rise to the level of a resurgence like you’re having now, but could’ve been? May a tasty jam session, or listening to a shitty band (no names) that you all knew you could’ve taken what they were doing and blown it up? Can you talk about any moments or scenes like that?
Dan: Sure, There were definitely times we had gotten together and even did some one off shows. I was always in touch with Dan, Brian and Mike. Brian and I would jam when we could and I was very busy with Overit and the band OWL for about 9 years. We always had it in mind and knew we would probably get to writing at some point but it just kept getting pushed. Brian and I started recording Demon Hero like 3-4 years ago and we always had a vision but the timing just was not right for me and I knew when the time arose we had to be 150% to do it right. So here we are.
Brian: I never wanted to take the breaks, but when we did, I took the opportunity to play solo and with other bands and other styles and discovered musical dimensions that I was not aware of, including writing the Outlaw Mystic record that featured Dan Dinsmore on drums. In the long run, it made me a better more well-rounded musician when I came back to TCP. And nothing else really felt as comfortable and natural to me.
RRX: You’ve had your songs in movies, such as Strangeland and Universal Soldier. And your music, and I’m talking Demon Hero, which we’ll get to later – would just fucking slay in so many movies. So this is a weird question: If Demon Hero was being used as the soundtrack to a new movie coming out, what’s that movie about? Bonus points if you can give me the director.
Dan: Well I’m a bonus points kinda guy so I would say David Fincher or Tim Burton if he did something darker. I also am still holding a flag for M Night. Im sure the other guys have strong opinions on that but those are some I think we would be awesome in. The movie could be about underdogs overcoming hardship and misery or could be about the utopian lie we are all living with right now. Ah hell maybe a creature living under your stairs.
Brian: I’d love to have a tune in a Christopher Nolan Batman film or one featuring a misunderstood villain/anti-hero figure. Or anything that features fast cars and monsters. I think our music fits the darker action stuff.
RRX: With a band that has history, been around in some form or another for as long as The Clay People, you have a good timeline on the changes that have occurred between getting the music and the word out before social media, and how it is now. The way we’ve democratized production and crowd-sourced funding and developed DIY platforms… What does all this give, and what does it take away? And examples would be great.
Brian: Thanks to the internet, we now have people from all over the globe following us. Countries and areas we’ve never been too. That’s really cool.
Dan: This could turn into a long documentary answer. I can remember when as a kid I would know every members name, could recite orders of songs on albums and really dug into a band i loved. Those days are now gone with the amount of data being thrown at us on a 24/7 basis. It’s kind of sad to not really grab onto an artist and really give it the time to tap into your soul. This was a big factor in what we set out to do with Demon Hero. We wanted to create a record and not try to write some shit box single. We wanted to write material that people could grasp but also something real and personal.
I think this record is anti-industry and that is okay by me. As far as social and DIY, Overit and Magnetic Eye Records have been developing a new digital marketing system we have built out that is proving to be very successful in reaching new audiences that will like what we are doing. We are going to continue building this out and I think it has a shot to really help a lot of emerging artists get in front of the right people. You have to be in front of the right audience and let people hear your music or see your videos and content. That has not been easy it’s a ton or work and it’s about time the industry needs a shot in the arm.
RRX: You have a new album out, Demon Hero and Other Extraordinary Phantasmagoric Anomalies & Fables. For someone who grew up on Clay People, it is a little bit of a change. Not in any bad way; it seems that it’s evolved. The sound is tight as ever. Would you like to talk about the direction that you went with Demon Hero, and where you see yourself musically going forward?
Brian: We had no preconceived ideas regarding direction. We never discussed anything or were even in the same room together during the whole process. We just knew we wanted to bring our A game. For more than half the record, I played to my demo tracks with just an engineer in the room. Then I conducted Dan [Dinsmore] through the glass when he tracked drums. For the other songs, I received drum and vocal mixes and wrote guitar to them at home. There really was no band until we had to get a live show together or shoot a video. This may seem unusual, but it allowed us an incredible amount of freedom to develop ideas and express ourselves in the most authentic ways. We’re never trying to be anything other than what we are. So that’s what constitutes our sound.
As far as the future goes, I have unlimited amounts of more of the same and am always recording new demo ideas, but I also am open to adding to our repertoire and evolving.
Dan: I would love to hear how you feel it has evolved / changed. It is interesting you say that because it definitely has. We want to always keep the energy and angst that we have always had but we have grown as people and wanted to expand musically and also be more real or as real and open as possible lyrically. Dan [Neet] has gone through a lot of experiences as we all have but I really think he relates to a lot of people and is being very honest. We also wanted to tap into statements of what we have experienced and taking a stance / drawing a line in the sand as to what we believe in.
I think we will just keep writing and have a lot more to do. We already have enough tracks laid down for the next record but we also have a bunch more ideas. I think Brian has ideas daily. It is so inspirational when you have folks just churning ideas and creativity. We really forgot how creative this unit is and I think we all have so much more appreciation for the band and each other. Moving forward I am sure we will dig deeper and push ourselves. We also have some new blood in the band that really brings many new ideas and influences.
RRX: I like to ask every band or musician about influences, and as important, people who are contemporaries that you wish more people had heard about. Seeing as word of mouth is still the number on way for bands to get exposure. So let’s combine influences and shout outs into one; give us a mix-tape of bands past and present, local and national, that you would throw onto a cassette tape and chuck into a time machine that was heading back to each of you when you started out. Who would be on that mix-tape?
Dan: Again your going to get different answers from each person in the band. BIG differences.
If i could send a mix tape back it would go something like this.
The Jackson 5
Sunny Day Real Estate
One King Down
Rage against the machine
Section 8 & Ill remembered
System of A Down
Brian: Early Metallica and Iron Maiden were untouchable in my formative years. Pantera, Sepultura, Prong, Fear Factory, all brought metal to a new level for me. Then there’s the laid back heavy of Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Kyuss, Clutch, Monster Magnet. Ministry, Neurosis, Massive Attack, and Dead Can Dance altered my musical perspective as well.
Locally speaking, an aha moment for me was when Cranial Abuse, who later became Stigmata, played my high school and I saw guys my age on stage playing original heavy music.
I’ve seen Super 400 at least 50 times and they always bring the rock as well as anyone ever. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like what 1000 Young was doing. Very cool band.
Be sure to check out The Clay People’s newest, Demon Hero and Other Extraordinary Phantasmagoric Anomalies and Fables. I have it; it is great. And if you are feeling a winter road trip down south, check them out on The Art of Dissent Tour with Otep and One Day Waiting in December, kicking off in Atlanta, GA and finishing off in Memphis, TN.