It’s been over a year since the album American Dream landed in our inbox from Chicago based one-man act Death On Fire (formerly LazerWulf). The band took melodic death metal to new heights with successful infusions of jazz and thrash along with influences ranging from In Flames to Carcass. The album received a lot of critical praise from music fans, the blogosphere, and myself. Multi-instrumentalist Tim Kenefic continued to make strides by repackaging the album as the LazerWulf Demos, recruiting musicians to tour with, and recently recording the follow-up album, Witch Hunter.
I were fortunate enough to chat with Tim Kenefic about the new album and more! As a bonus, Tim let us share a new track off of Witch Hunter. Check out an exclusive stream of “Your Lies,” a hard-hitting track about family and betrayal!
Indy Metal Vault: Hey Tim, thanks for agreeing to this interview. I originally had you pegged as being from Indiana for some reason. Later I realized that you’re based out of Chicago, but you’ve done some fill-in-work for Fort Wayne’s power metal outfit Zephaniah right? I’m guessing that’s how I made that mistake. How are you connected to the band?
Tim Kenefic: I am originally from Fort Wayne. I went to music school with Justin from Zeph. and we have stayed in touch since then. I am actually in the process of relocating to Indiana for work so you aren’t too far off on your assumption. I got asked to sit in on bass for a few shows when Ian wasn’t available. I am by no means in Zephaniah, I just help out when they need it. they are an awesome group of musicians so it is always an honor.
IMV: Death on Fire has come a long way since you started the band under the name LazerWulf. You released the LazerWulf Demos earlier this year, did some shows to support it, and now you’ve got your first full-length album coming out early next year. What’s the journey been like getting to where you are now, and are there any insights that you picked up along the way that you can share with us?
TK: It has been a lot of fun. That isn’t to say it hasn’t had its struggles, though. I have been doing this a bit back to front, meaning I put out music and then did shows to grow my fan base. Ideally you would do it the other way around. It would’ve cost less money and been a bit easier to get the first few shows. Aside from that, it has been a blast. I enjoy all aspects of the business. My biggest pieces of advice are: don’t get discouraged, do it because you love it. Very few people get rich in this business. Secondly, have a good product, write good music (however that is defined) and be personable to everyone you meet.
IMV: By the way, what made you change the band’s name from LazerWulf to Death on Fire? I kind of dug the name LazerWulf, but Death on Fire seems to fit better with the tone of your music.
TK: It turns out there is another LazerWulf in Athens GA. they were around before I was so after we started making some buzz online it was pointed out to me. We changed the name to avoid brand confusion. It was a bit of a task because I loved the name. They were great guys and understood though, giving me time to settle on a new name.
IMV: From other interviews, I’ve read that you’re a family man. How do you balance family and work with Death On Fire. Is your family supportive of your musical ventures?
TK: I am. I have three amazing kids and a very understanding wife. My work allows for some flexibility with travel for shows. Aside from the money pit of starting a band, the balance has been pretty easy. I just make sure I have equal time home as I do on the road.
IMV: Getting into the music, I noticed that The LazerWulf Demos start with the song “American Dream” and Witch Hunter closes with “American Scum.” Both songs have similar themes around American disenfranchisement. Was the order intentional? Do you see these songs as bookends?
TK: I never considered that. They do make nice bookends from a thematic standpoint. I guess if the news keeps happening the way it does, I will keep writing about the subject matter. I will just have to be a bit more creative with the titles. 😉
IMV: Since you do all the writing, what’s your process like? Are you more of a guitar-centric writer, or do you start with a lyric and develop the songs from there?
TK: Definitely start on the guitar. Sometimes it is jamming on an idea, sometimes it is a much more structured approach; planning time meter and key changes, chord progressions etc. Sometimes it is a mix. I enjoy both ways for different reasons, but on the whole I jam a bit more often. Lyrics are usually written completely separate from songs and I go back to see what fits the music and the vocal meter I have in mind. I think lyrics are important, but I always remember a melody line before I remember the words, so that is my focus.
IMV: And speaking of lyrics, you cover topics like politics, religion, and substance abuse, but songs like “Betrayal” and “Your Lies” seem deeply personal and build a connection to your audience. Are they based on real people in your life and are they aware that they’re in your music? Do you find catharsis in writing and performing these songs?
TK: They are. the last few years were rough in a few areas personally and writing those songs was a huge emotional release. It is probably the most honest/direct I have been with lyrical content. I hope people can connect and get the same benefit from the music as I do/did. I haven’t told the person/s that are involved about the songs. I am sure they will figure it out if they ever buy the album though.
IMV: I also wanted to talk about the recording of Witch Hunter. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but are the drums programmed? From firsthand experience, I’ve found it to be tedious and frustrating, and it’s difficult to keep all the beats and fills varied. You’ve pulled it off really well. What do you think of the process? What software did you use?
TK: I use Cakewalk (sad to see them go, please someone buy them and reopen the doors) and addictive drums. I have an e-kit that I will hash some basic ideas on. When I reach my drumming abilities limits, I use a few stock beats, and program some too. The real genius on the drums was Ryan Newman. He is a close friend and a great producer. I am lucky because he enjoys the tedious process. I am not sure which kit he used or if it is custom, but I like the sound. I think moving forward we are using SD3 and an upgrade to the e-kit though. It is a more intuitive interface.
IMV: You recently played some shows around the Midwest. Who did you recruit to fill out your live sound to bring Death on Fire to the people?
TK: I have Justin Zych from Zephaniah and some mutual friends: Sam Stephens and Kylie Smith. They are all seasoned live performers. I am lucky to have them along for the ride, and even luckier that they dig what I am doing.
IMV: Are there any plans to do a release show or a tour to support the album?
TK: We are working out a mini tour in March/April across the Midwest. After that we will do some shows regionally across the US and possibly a short European run. I am working with some friends to figure out the logistics right now. Stay tuned!!!
IMV: Are there any last thought you’d like to add?
TK: Thanks to everyone for the support.! All of the venues, bands, fans – it has been great. Go grab Witch Hunter on preorder or when it releases February 2. We will see you on the road.