Interview by Thom Hawk
Daemon Pyre,a Melodic Death Metal band from Sydney have released their final album titled ‘Serpent Gods and a Dying Sun’. They went into a permanent hiatus back in 2017 when Frontman Sam Rilatt left the band to focus on his personal health and family commitments.
“It was a great way for us to reconnect as friends and finish what we started”
– Sam Rilatt
I had the pleasure of talking to Sam Rilatt of Daemon Pyre yet I had only recently started listening to them. I was thoroughly impressed with their style and production of their songs, especially their new tracks. When the opportunity came up to chat with Sam, I jumped onto it.
Daemon Pyre consists of:
Sam Rilatt – Vocals
Andrew Lilley – Guitar
Simon Tattam – Guitar
Matt Seckold – Bass
Simon O’Malley – Drums
Grab yourself a snack or a drink as you read through this inspiring and captivating interview to hear how a band that was loved has made a return, even if it’s only briefly to get out their songs for everyone to enjoy!
What was the inspiration behind this album and getting it out there to your fans?
“Well, when I left the band a few years ago, it was obviously to focus on a bunch of different things. Primarily my health, family obligations and focusing on being a dad and husband. A big one was my own personal health as well, I was getting pretty overweight and had some health dramas I had to deal with. In fact not long after I left the band I had to go get some surgery. When the guys rang me up a year and a half to two years later and said “Hey man, we know you’ve got other priorities and things on but do you want to do this?” I had a thought about it and the more we spoke about it the more it made sense. We started work on this record years ago before I left the band and there was a couple of songs already recorded. They were recorded as singles that were meant to bridge the gap between the two records and then I of course went and left.
Andy, as the chief songwriter and lead guitarist, he really wanted to see the songs come to fruition and didn’t like the idea of them being parked forever and for all eternity. He then moved over to California and got relocated permanently. That just made any chances of the band carrying on not happen anymore cause it was really just a couple guys left. The band went basically into indefinite hiatus. You know, something I have a huge amount of respect for the guys is that despite the fact I kinda left them high and dry, they were still like ‘we want to finish this thing off as a family, as a team, as a bunch of mates who started the band with no particular purpose and vision from the very beginning,’ they want to see it come full circle.
It would have taken a lot of courage on their part to put their trust in me. There was never any animosity, they understood exactly that I had to go and get my life together. But I really respected that and the fact that they respected that if I was going to come back in and be apart of the record, I just didn’t have the bandwidth or headspace or the time to be able to devote anything more than just tracking the vocals and writing the lyrics and being apart of that process. I didn’t want to get back into running all the admin. ’Cause I was always primarily myself and Andy who steered the ship and we were running all the business side of the band. One of the things I found was that getting to come back in and just focus on the artistic side and creative side was really refreshing. I personally think that’s why the lyrics are probably the best lyrics that I’ve ever written. I got to explore a bit more about what I could do vocally because I didn’t have any of the other pressures that I had to worry about.
So coming back to the original question of why do it? I know that Andy has sorta said and I agree with him that it was a great way for us to reconnect as friends and finish what we started and also for the fans that do enjoy Daemon Pyre to give them a swan-song and say this is as much for you as it is for us. That’s the reason I think why the band decided this is going to come out digitally; we want to make it readily accessible and easy, simple to get your hands on, low cost and just put it out there and have people enjoy it.
The creative force behind the band included people like Kyle Stanga, as he was one of the original members of Daemon Pyre when we first built the thing. Kyle had been in As Silence Breaks as myself and Andy before that and had been in another band before with me, and was the best man at my wedding. To have him come in and co-share the writing process with Andy and Matt and Simon was really cool. We’ve had old members come back and be apart of it! I think the reason to do it was that there were great songs there.”
I have so much respect for you guys and coming back to finish it and re-find each other as mates!
“Thanks man! It wasn’t really a planned thing. I got a phone call from the guys and I give them far more credit for having the courage to talk to me. Having them put all their trust and faith in me, I just think that was an incredible gesture about our friendship on their part. I have tremendous respect for them to even have the courage to say ‘hey man, what do you think about this and we’ll take the pressure off you from the other stuff, we just want to see you finish this’. On a friendship and relationship level, this band was always about that. We set the tone of the band right from the start about how we were going to run the band and behave. We just did fun things together! Most bands would go out drinking after shows we didn’t do that. We would go get pancakes, that was our tradition. With some of the bands we used to tour with we were known as Pancake Pyre.”
That honestly sounds like the best thing to do after shows… Go and get pancakes with ice cream and maple syrup!
“We were more OG with it. We went Canadian style and got savoury pancakes, big breakfast style. It was a lot of fun and we just became the fiercest of friends over a long period of time. The guys just wanted to finalise the project as friends which what lead me to feel a sense of creativity that I’ve never had the freedom to experience before.
Just not having to worry about any of the other stuff and being able to focus on crafting the lyrics and trying different things with my voice. We got to work with some really cool people too. We had two different drummers on this record. They are world-class drummers that were capable of anything. Lachlan Mitchel did the first two singles and Shane Edwards from Karma Sound Studios in Thailand doing the rest of the stuff. The whole project was a joy to be a part of, I’m just really glad to come back and do it.”
I’m keen to hear the rest of the album. I just listened to The Dying Spark and the intro has a cool feel to it and then goes into the heaviness, it’s really well put together!
“One of the things with Daemon Pyre was that we’re a death metal band but a more Melodic Death Metal band than anything. We wanted there to be range in the music. We’re all massive fans of bands like At The Gates and Dark Tranquility, we all grew up on that stuff and all the bands that were in the Swedish Death Metal landscape. But then we’re all big fans of progressive stuff on one end like Psycroptic and the other Gojira. Kyle, myself and Andy are all fans of Deftones. We wanted to take those elements of beauty and ambience and really create a larger soundscape on one hand and counterbalance that with really abrasive and chaotic and raw and emotion-filled grind and death metal influences.
The Dying Spark opens with acoustics and has sections where Andy whipped out a seven string (guitar) where all the songs are written on six string guitars. Before the recording process began the boys went and bought seven’s cause they wanted to add some extra tone-wise and from a layering point of view. There’s something interesting about that as well. Having something like that juxtaposed to string arrangements on one of the songs and then again juxtapose that against acoustic and heavy riffage. We really feel like this album represents well the broad range of influences and tastes that we have across the band.”
I’m very interested to see and hear what the rest of the songs are like on the album!
“I’m a big fan of Sleep Token the sort of anonymous phenomenon that’s hit the ground the last couple of years. I really dig the way he approached the release of ‘Sundowning’ and how basically every fortnight was dropping a new single. It demonstrated an awareness of the way that streaming platforms and the digital age with how algorithms function. I said to the guys ‘let’s not do that and just drop singles every few days or weeks.’ It might just build some momentum for a band who’s not going to be backing it up with a touring cycle or a physical release. So far it seems to have worked, our Spotify listeners have jumped dramatically in the last couple of weeks and we’ve had lots of people wanting interviews. Even had people asking if we are going to do shows. So that’s a really cool response to see that people are keen!”
It’s great to see so many people still supportive of you guys and are all keen to hear the new songs!
“I gotta say, we were really lucky. We’ve worked with Chris Maric our publicist right from the start and came up with a way to attack things right from the very beginning. I credit a lot of the reason why Daemon Pyre became well known relatively quickly and the fact we got to jump on and support some of the bands we’ve looked up to for years like The Haunted and Kreator. Also, local bands, we love and are mates with like Psycroptic and King Parrot. A big part of that is we had an idea on how to do things from the start. We didn’t allow the slow burn thing to do its thing, because we were a bit older when we started Daemon Pyre, we’d all been in bands previously and didn’t want to waste five years slowly building everything.
So, we’d take some resources that we had cause we weren’t 19-year-old kids anymore and out that into paying a publicist into getting ourselves out there. Of course, you have to have a product that’s good, so that suggests that people liked what we had to offer. We all played with a range of bands over our professional careers and the one thing that always makes a difference to you as an up and coming act is that if you play with bands that are good, high quality acts, just by association that will rub off on you a bit and do the same service and be the best that you can be – it works in everybody’s favour. More people will come to the shows, more people will listen to all those bands. We tried to find our little niche and to make sure that we always had something that our fanbase would connect with.
The band laid dormant for a couple of years and as soon as we dropped new material straight away, some of our old fans were messaging us and saying ‘this is awesome’. As cliché as this sounds, any band with half a brain will always acknowledge it. If you don’t have fans that care then its literally just you and your mates in a bedroom making music for you.”
That’s a really good way to look at things and approach it.
“That’s just because I’m an old man!” *laughs*
Well, they do say you get wiser as you get older.
*laughs* “Nah, you just get crankier and more tired. It’s not wisdom its fatigue.”
Before we finish up, what would you say is your top advice for someone starting out in the music industry or someone wanting to follow their dreams?
“The best thing you can possibly do is to focus hard on the things that bring you joy and remember that as human beings balance is one of the most important things we can strive for. Coming back to do this record it reinforced for me how important balance is – that harmony that exists within human beings. If that balance is off-kilter it can have a huge amount of impact on your physical and mental health. I learnt a really valuable lesson from leaving Daemon Pyre and the radio show I used to do – It was I spent most of my life opening doors and never closing any and that brought me to a point where I was burnt out.
There are only so many hours in a day. If you open all these doors because you see all these opportunities that excite you and don’t recognise the value of being able to close a few doors so you have the bandwidth to actually do things well, then you’ll end up doing 100 things poorly compared to 10 things really well. This was one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt in the past couple of years.
From an industry point of view, Daemon Pyre has been the most fun and successful band I’ve been in! A big part of that was having a plan right from the beginning and working with professionals that you trust. You have to accept that the music industry is a very different beast to Twenty years ago. Having resources put aside to back your product but also taking advice and direction from people that know better. There is a difference in music between the art and the business. I enjoyed this record because I didn’t have to worry about the business. I got to be creative without having to worry about any of the other stuff for the first time in my music career!”
With that, we wrapped up the interview. The chat I had with Sam made me acknowledge how much of a down to earth person he is, who really cares for music, his family and mates. I have so much respect for him and Daemon Pyre for what they have done with this album and how they have approached and dealt with their trials and tribulations!
Once COVID-19 blows over and I’m in Sydney next it’ll be amazing to catch up with Sam in person and talk about music and life! This was my favourite interview and I hope you all enjoyed it and give a listen to this amazing album!
‘Serpent Gods and a Dying Sun’ is out now on all major streaming platforms. Links can be found here
Connect with them on social media;
With thanks to Maric Media