Our preview coverage of the Doomed and Stoned Festival continues with Raleigh, North Carolina’s Demon Eye. There’s a reason why they were one of the first bands added to the lineup; listening to Demon Eye is like taking a Satanic time machine back to the past. They’re experts at crafting catchy songs with a nostalgic feel and a sinister vibe, while channeling 70’s era doom with a modern twist. Guitarist and vocalist Erick Sugg was cool enough to answer some questions via email. Dim the lights for this one.
Indy Metal Shows: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Everyone at IMS is stoked to see you guys on the Doomed and Stoned Festival bill. How did your involvement come about?
Erick Sugg: Melissa and I have been corresponding for a few years now. She and Billy, and everyone else at Doomed & Stoned for that matter, have been incredibly supportive of Demon Eye. When Melissa asked us if we’d be interested in playing the fest it was pretty much a no brainer for us. I think she even credits us as being the first band to confirm! We’re honored to be a part of it.
IMS: One of the things I like about Demon Eye is the classic rock feel to it. It really harkens back to the rock bands from the late 60s and early 70s like Deep Purple and Blue Cheer with a sinister feel that gives it edge. Was it a conscious effort to achieve that sound or was it a result of like-minded individuals playing to their influences?
ES: Thanks! I am a huge Blue Cheer fan, and just a huge fan of that late ’60s/early ’70s period of proto-heavy in general. Everyone in the group loves classic rock and classic metal, but each of us kind of have our own “thing” we lean towards as individuals. Larry grew up being more of a fan of tight, dexterous players like Vivian Campbell and Yngwie Malmsteen. I was more into Hendrix and Leigh Stephens, sort of that fat, dark bluesy sound from the late ’60s. I think our sound as a band is an amalgamation of everyone’s individual tastes. It’s little bit of that ’80s staccato sound meets bad-trip psychedelia. We do have those “where the twain meets” moments, though. Richie Blackmore, for example, is a huge influence for both Larry and I.
IMS: I understand that Demon Eye originally started as a classic rock cover band playing deep cuts. What was that experience like and did you ever get any push-back from audiences for playing the obscure covers verses the classic rock staples; songs that people usually request?
ES: Surprisingly, no. When we were operating primarily as the covers project we were sort of a rock geek’s dream. We’d always have these stoked people coming up to us between sets freaking out, like, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU PLAYED THAT UFO SONG!” It was a lot of fun. Occasionally, if the mood is right, we’ll bust out something from the old covers set in the Demon Eye set. My favorites to play are “Crash Course in Brain Surgery” by Budgie, “Call Me Animal” by the MC5, and “Long Way to Go” by Alice Cooper.
IMS: Your latest album, Tempora Infernalia, has been out since 2015. How has the reception been?
ES: The reception has been excellent. The vinyl is sold out. We are very humbled by the positive response. We don’t expect everyone to like what we do, but we’ll keep doing it as long as we have listeners who dig it!
IMS: The songs on this album are mostly up-tempo, head banging grooves, but my favorite song is one where the tempo slows down. I also love the keys on this and feel it really adds to the vibe of the song. Can you talk a little about how the song “Poison Garden” came together?
ES: Well, the Poison Garden is a real place in England. It’s a place where botanists cultivate every toxic, (and intoxicating,) plant known to man. When I learned of the existence of the Poison Garden I dreamt up this deranged suicide fantasy where an individual who’s feeling pushed beyond redemption visits the garden to have one last high before ending everything Socrates style. For the music, I wanted to base it off something Pagan Altar may have done. I’m a big fan and I got to meet Terry before his passing. I guess you could say “Poison Garden” is sort of my dark homage to him.
IMS: I love the retro guitar tone and being a Fender Stratocaster man all of my life, I’m thrilled to see Larry plays one. Can you talk us through your rigs?
ES: It’s great to meet heavy music fans who appreciate Fender Stratocasters. It is the best guitar ever. Even though you’ll generally see me playing a Les Paul live, at home a Stratocaster is all I play. Larry gets exceptionally great tones from his. I always played one to get vintage ’60s tones, but Larry showed me that it could be a great metal guitar as well. I mean, hell, the Maiden guitarists play them. I’ve lost track of how many Strats Larry uses. In addition to my Les Paul and Stratocaster, I also occasionally play an SG. We both use Laney AOR Pro Tube 100 Watt heads and play through Marshall and Orange cabinets with Vintage 30 speakers.
IMS: Bill is a solid drummer and I like the subtle ghost notes and accents he adds to your music. What kind of kit does he play and who are some of his influences?
ES: Bill is an incredible drummer and we are very lucky to have him. He plays a Sonor kit with Paiste cymbals. Bill is very professional. I think he plays with about eight different bands these days? Haha. He’s so good and has such a great reputation that everyone wants him, everyone from solo artists to session musicians and local cover bands.
IMS: Raleigh, being the home to North Carolina State University and part of the Triangle area with Durham (Duke University) and Chapel Hill(University of North Carolina), is a great spot to reach audiences that are from all parts of the country. How has coming up in this area influenced your music and do you think it’s contributed to your success?
ES: It’s the classic American melting pot scenario. The universities help bring people from all over the world, which increases the diversity of the local population, which in turn helps the economy and creates support for the arts, (although we currently have a wretched governor who seems dead set on stopping all of that). I can’t rightfully say that Demon Eye has droves of students from NC State or Duke lining up outside the doors of our gigs, but we certainly have more of an opportunity to branch out to a larger, more diverse audience than perhaps a band from a rural, small town in North Carolina. We’re able to reach the born and raised blue collar folks who work in the local community in addition to the occasional grad student working on their thesis. I like to think that our music is for everyone. At least that’s how I feel when I’m writing it.
IMS: Also, the Triangle must have a fantastic music scene. What are some of your favorite local acts?
ES: Tough call. Lots of good ones! Off the top of my head: Make, Colossus, Bitter Resolve, Wailin’ Storms, Widow, Noctomb, The Eldritch Horror, Datura, Bedowyn, Grohg, The Hell No, and some little old band called Corrosion of Conformity.
IMS: What’s next for Demon Eye and are there any plans to release a new record this year?
ES: We start recording album number three this fall! It will be produced by Mike Dean, of Corrosion of Conformity. As of now I can’t say whether it will have a proper release this year or sometime in early 2017, but I can say we are very, very excited about it. We feel it’s going to be a strong album.