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Following a line-up change and a new album this month, Comrade Aleks renews his acquaintance with Pale Divine drummer Darin to find out what's happening as the band reaches its 25th year.

Interview with Pale Divine.
"Pale Divine are one of the modest heroes of the American Traditional Doom scene. Founded 25 years ago, this band steadily grew and developed their sound, until their fifth self-titled album - released two years ago - reached the point where they had recognition and their own individuality. But 2020 brought changes in Pale Divine's life. The band was a trio for years, while founders Darin McCloskey and Greg Diener also played in Doom rock/metal outfit Beelzefuzz. And when that disbanded in 2019, they invited Dana Ortt to join them and Ron McGinnis in Pale Divine - a winning situation! The quartet were catalysed to celebrate the band's 25th anniversary with the fresh killer album 'Consequence Of Time', which we're going to discuss with Darin."

Pale Divine Ron McGinnis (bass), Greg Diener (guitars, vocals), Darin McCloskey (drums) and Dana Ortt (guitars, vocals).

Darin, you started Pale Divine in 1995, what motivated you to follow the Doom path? What was your vision of the band?

When Greg and I met and starting playing together the basic idea was to combine all the music we loved into one form of music. So, basically we had traditional metal (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, early Rainbow, etc.) meets seventies rock (Mountain, Thin Lizzy, Grand Funk, Leafhound, etc.) meets traditional doom metal (Candlemass, Trouble, Pentagram, etc.). The output of that idea manifested itself into what became the songs on our first demo, "Crimson Tears."

What was the Doom scene back then? Did people use this definition? And if so was it used regarding Death/Doom bands or Trad bands?

Doom was relatively underground...and I suppose it still is but I'd say it's definitely more popular now than it was then. I do think that the scene was more accepting of bands that were more "death doom" as well as traditional since there weren't really as many bands. This was before "stoner rock" stepped up and became reallly popular and blended with traditional doom. So, early to mid-nineties I was listening to bands like Anathema, Paramecium and My Dying Bride as well as Cathedral, Candlemass and Trouble...so it all more or less sort of blended into one genre at that particular time.

How were you active as the band back then? Did you play live during the '90s?

Well, there wasn't much, if any kind, of scene for bands like ours at the time in our hometown and it was difficult for Greg and I to find like minded musicicians to play with. We hit local newspapers to try and find musicians that were into what we were doing and we used "Black Sabbath" as a general reference point. Of course what we didn't realize was that "Black Sabbath" meant different things to everyone...so we had guys that leaned more toward a Pantera style of Black Sabbath "influence" and others that leaned toward a Type O Negative sort of influence but we couldn't really find any one with the right vibe to fit what we wanted to do. We did evnetually settle on a friend of Greg's who came in and played bass for us in the early days by the name of Jay Purnell. Jay managed to hang in with us long enough to record the "Crimson Tears" demo and play some shows. We were aware there was a burgeoning scene in Maryland with bands like Internal Void, Revelation, Iron Man, Shine (soon to be Spirit Caravan) so we basically migrated there.

Your song 'Serpents Path' appeared on the famous underground Doom compilation 'At the Mountains of Madness', The Miskatonic Foundation, 1999. How did you get there? Did it help you to draw attention to the band?

Oh, it certainly did. It helped us spread our music overseas. The way that came about was, I contacted Russell Smith over in England through a contact with a penpal or a flyer I received in the mail and sent him a copy of our "Crimson Tears" demo. Keep in mind this was all before the internet so most contacts were still through tape trading and letters. Russ wrote me back saying he really liked the demo a lot and that he let Richard Walker from Solstice hear it and he liked it very much as well. Russ said that I will probably hear from Rich sometime soon about a compilation that he was going to be doing. That of course was "At the Mountains of Madness." Rich did contact me and was very gracious and said he would like to put the song "Serpents Path" on the compilation. That compilation basically formed the foundation and built some of the realtionships we still have today. It was a very important part of our history as a band and we still very much appreciate Rich's support for us back then.

Live, February 2020.

Was it a hard task to find a label for the 'Thunder Perfect Mind' album? How did you get a deal with Game Two Records?

We came in contact with Conan Hultgren and Mike Knecht through some of our friends in the underground. I believe it was through Rob Preston at Doomed Planet records that we caught the attention of Conan at Game Two. I was talking to Rob fairly frequrently in those days and I had sent him a "Crimson Tears" demo as well as a rehearsal tape of us playing a cover of "Twenty Buck Spin" by Pentagram. Rob was into trading tapes back then and he traded our demo along with our Pentagram cover to Conan. Conan is and was a huge Pentagram fan so that really captured his attention. He contacted me through his associate in Maryland named Mike Knecht (who has since passed away) and the original plan was to put out a 7" record through their label Game Two with our cover of "Twenty Buck Spin" on one side and an original song on the other. Conan was in contact with Bobby Liebling through a record they were in the process of putting out called "Death Row – Death Is Alive: 1981-1985" so I asked if he was in favor of the idea of maybe Bobby contributing vocals to the original track of ours for the b-side of the 7". He thought that sounded like a cool idea so he passed on Bobby's phone number on to me and I got in touch with him. Bobby was not only receptive to the idea of contributing vocals (and lyrics) to the original song, which became "Dark Knight," but also asked if he could sing a few lines of "Twenty Buck Spin " as well which of course we were delighted to hear!

As talks began to progress Conan and Mike decided that they wanted us to do a full length album. So, we basically completed writing the songs we had started after the "Crimson Tears" demo and combined them with the Pentagram cover and the one-off with Bobby into what eventually became our first album, "Thunder Perfect Mind."

How did they promote the album? Did they pay an advance for the studio?

Ahhh, not very well...haha...but we really didn't mind at the time. We were young and we had no preconceptions about anything at the time really. It was a big deal for us that a record label even wanted to release our first album. I don't remember if they gave us any money to record but I don't believe so, no.

Pale Divine - 'Tyrants & Pawns (Easy Prey)' (2020):

You recorded 'Eternity Revealed' (2004) with Chris Kozlowski, who worked with lot of Doom bands in the '90s. Did he help you to settle Pale Divine's sound on this album?

Sure, I'd say he pretty much guided us on what we wanted to do with that album. I mean he certainly contributed his expertise and that helped us realize what we wanted to accomplish but we were pretty pressed for time based on our budget through Martyr Music Group so things came out feeling a little bit rushed in the end. Prior to that we actually worked with Chris briefly on "Thunder Perfect Mind" as he was the one who recorded Bobby's vocal tracks for us and did the final mix and master of the album. It was during that time that we had planned to ask Chris to work with us on the next album so when the time came to do it we contacted him and he agreed.

What are your memories about the 'Cemetery Earth' sessions? How was everything organized this time?

Well, that was a lot more organized and we had a better budget from I Hate for that record. I remember having a lot of fun recording that album. We had a new bass player by the name of John Gaffney who had contributed a few of the songs on that album. John was a very focussed and productive member of Pale Divine for the relatively short period of time he was in the band. He definitely contributed to that recording session being as productive as it was. There were however times that it was just Greg and I there with Chris and that's when a lot of ideas really took shape. Chris knew us pretty well by that time and in some respects he felt like a member of the band. I think there were times when he was just as excited about what we were doing as we were. We definitely got a much better production on "Cemetery Earth" as a result and I personally feel it was a tremendous step forward from "Eternity Revealed."

How would you describe the American Doom scene in the '00s? How vivid was it? Maybe in comparison with the European scene...

I think it definitely became more comparable as time went on depending on the band. Bands like Pentagram, Witchcraft, Graveyard and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have become very popular here in the US and the turnouts for these bands have been excellent by and large. Otherwise, it's hit or miss when it comes to shows...you can never really predict which shows will sell out or which one will be poorly attended. Overall the "scene" is miles away from where it was in the early to mid-nineties...no question about it. Plus there's a lot of festivals here in the US. Psyco Vegas is a huge affair basically comparable to festivals like Roadburn or Desert Fest overseas. So the US is starting to catch up it seems.

How would you compare the recording sessions of 'Pale Divine' and 'Thunder Perfect Mind'? What are their differences, technical-wise?

Well, they're rather difficult to compare since there's roughly 25 years of experience in between those two records. I think the process has definitely changed and a lot of that has to do with some of the newer programs and technology that is now within our reach. We've taken advantage of that in so far as buying equipment that allows us to track in a more comfortable atmosphere that eleviates some of the cost of booking studio time. For "Thunder Perfect Mind" we were in a studio and paid an engineer to record us then another one to mix and master everything so at the end of it all it was pretty expensive, all things considered. It's not as necessary now as it was then to have a large budget in order to record an album. Still, knowledge is the key to anything and when it comes to the mixing and mastering we defer to Richard Whittaker in the UK who we've been working with over the past few years. He has been laregly (if not entirely) responsible for the production on our last two albums.

How do you see the band and its place in the Doom scene after the self-titled album release?

I basically go by how people describe us in some of the reviews I've read. Somewhere over the course of time our status has ranged from, "Doom legends" to "I've never heard of them before" and everywhere in between it seems. In some ways it seems like we're perpetually "starting out" and in other ways we're a "long running doom metal band." So we run on both sides of the spectrum it seems. Sometimes we're even competing with previous albums that some people apparently hold near and dear. Some people have made a personal, or emotional investment in some of our previous albums and are very loyal to those records and perhaps less receptive to some of our more recent material. It's quite impressive but also somewhat discouraging too at times. Pale Divine is a band that has always wanted to move forward and progress with each album. That's why it's taken us several years sometimes in between albums because we don't like to rush anything or do anything that is less than deliberate when it comes to our music and creative output. We take a lot of pride in what we do and we'd rather sacrifice expedience for excellence.

Darin, Cruz del Sur Music are ready to release Pale Divine's new album 'Consequence Of Time' and the date is set for 26th of June. What kind of options are left for the band to support this release?

Right now, not much other than press and social media. Live performance, touring etc. is on indefinite hiatus for the time being. I suppose that will be the case until next year. As soon as the restrictions are lifted we'll play out as often as we can. As it stands we have a couple festivals that were postponed and rescheduled for next year that we'll be taking part in.

Pale Divine - 'Saints Of Fire' (Lyric, 2020):

A year ago Beelzefuzz split up, but your colleague Dana Ortt had joined Pale Divine in 2018 and took part in the 'Consequence Of Time' recording: how did this happen?

Well, it was Dana, Greg and I playing in Beelzefuzz (along with Bert Hall). When Beelzefuzz decided to call it a day it was a pretty natural thing to ask Dana if he was interested in joining Pale Divine. The three of us enjoyed working together and there didn't seem to be any reason for us to discontinue that relationship. So why not make it a part of Pale Divine? Dana was into doing that so, here we are.

Usually Pale Divine don't hasten to work on new material, and then...bang! Only two years between 'Pale Divine' and 'Consequence Of Time'. Did you have some complete songs which didn't get on the previous album? Or did new blood play its part?

We generally have a back log of material that either needs to be finished or refined. That was the case here but also some of the material we were working on with Dana was also included. I don't know if you want to call it "Beelzefuzz" material per se because it was all stuff the three of us worked on together...and since the three of us are now all in Pale Divine it's fair to call it Pale Divine material...don't you think? So, anyway that's how that came about. Also having one band to focus on allows things to move along a bit faster without any distraction.

Did Dana have a chance to contribute his ideas to this material? The album stays close to its predecessor, but it has its own clear individuality and its lighter mood naturally reminds me a bit of Beelzefuzz.

Yes, absolutely. Dana brought it in plenty of contributions as well as his "Beelzefuzz" personality which is ingrained into his creative work. So, sure by default there was going to be some similarities which you obviously picked up on. I think though that there is a very strong, traditional Pale Divine presence as well that blends with it and fashions it into something unique to this release...and a significant step forward in general, if I do say so myself.

Adding another person into the creative process is certainly going to change the way things are done from that point on. So, yes there is a difference but nothing I feel that caused a strain or made things difficult in any way. In fact, I think it's more of a productive and a generally pleasant atmosphere in the band now. Certainly that has proven to be fruitful and I can only expect it to continue.

Maryland Doom, 2019.

Darin, how did your priorities considering the music you play change with time? Was it also a sort of inner growing that led Pale Divine to the changes we hear in 'Consequences Of Time'?

25 years is a long time so of course there's going to be a lot of growing, and changing taking place in each of us personally. It's only natural for that to contribute to the way the music has changed as well. Music is obviously the outward expression of what is contained inward so any changes that have occurred emotionally and mentally have all been manifested in the music we've created over the period of time from 1995 to 2020.

Are you happy with this material? Can you say whether you and the guys have fulfilled everything you wanted in the new songs?

I'm very happy with the new album. I'm pleased by the way that it shows how much we've grown since the Crimson Tears demo or Thunder Perfect Mind album in a way that never contradicts or deviates from those recordings in anyway but further elaborates on it. I feel that 'Consequence of Time' is the sound of Pale Divine in the present tense...not dwelling in the past and regurgitating old ideas into "new" songs. That material is already recorded and available to anyone who wants to listen...there's no reason to keep rehashing it. We've always been a band that strived to progress and improve over time I think the new album is a definite step forward for us.

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Interviewed on 2020-06-30 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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