In 2003 out of Italy, Victor Love, Darin Yevonde, Grace Khold, and Brian Wolfram created a musical jugernaught that some of you may know by the name of Dope Stars Inc. Like the fine wine of Italy, Dope Stars Inc. as they age they continue to grow momentum like a bullet train with no breaks. In five short years they have managed to gain recognition that is nearly unheard of in this day and age for the still maturing ďcyberpunkĒ scene. Their two Trisol Records released EPs entitled í10,000 Watts of Artificial Pleasuresí(2003) and íMake a Starí(2006) have long since completely sold out. They have had their material produced by none other than Thomas Rainer of LíAme Immortelle and legendary producer John Fryer (who has worked with the likes of Depeche Mode, NIN, HIM and White Zombie just to name a few).
Their fame has spread like an infection on speed through Europe having played Wave Gotik Treffen twice, and Míera Luna Festival; playing alongside legends like Ministry, Clan of Xymox, and Bauhaus. But all of this could pail in comparison to being not only being a featured artist on both Saw III and IV soundtracks, but they had the distinct honor of playing the Saw III official movie premiere with movie director Darren Lynn Bousman in Munich, Germany. With a doubt with their success growing and women about falling from the shock of being anywhere near them, it would appear the sky is limit for Victor Love and company. Having just released last year their new album íGigaheartsí(2006) it would seem the perfect time to catch up with them and see where they have been and where they are going, ladies and gents I would like to present you, in his own words, Victor Love:
DeathWish: There is not much written about how the band came together how the original line up came to form Dope Stars Inc. How did it all start?
Victor: It all started in 2003 when I hooked up with Grace. I knew Grace for some time cause he was a designer and I worked with him for the design of my other bands. He introduced me to Darin and told me they met one year before and already wanted to do a band together. Since Grace knew about my works as producer and songwriter asked me if I wanted to write some songs for a demo ep. In the meantime we found Brian that joined us on guitars and we founded Dope Stars Inc.. When I started working on songs that completed our first ep ď10.000 watts of artificial pleasureĒ the basic idea was to create an Industrial band with a strong Rockíníroll/punk attitude but I was also very influenced by Ebm, Techno and electronic music by the times. So it all started and till then we did a lot of things, toured intensively in Europe, released 2 albums but also had to face line up changes and rough times. Now 5 years passed by and we are still on the road and ready to work on our third album.
DeathWish: So in five short years, you have managed to take Europe by storm. Did you ever expect when you first started Dope Stars Inc. that it would catch on with the public so quick?
Victor: We did not expect such a positive feedback indeed, when we started we had of course a lot of dreams and targets in our minds but we could not imagine that a part of them would have been happening in such a short time. We are still far from a real international success but considering we are coming from Italy all we did till now is already a lot more than our expectations. We worked a lot to make this happen, thatís for sure, and itís a big satisfaction for us to see it has been worth it.
DeathWish: You have managed to play festivals with the likes of Ministry and Bauhaus, what was it like to play with legends such as these?
Victor: There have been experiences like this that changed our life and gave us even more motivation to continue working hard to reach a higher level. We also met a lot of artists and bands that we consider our idols and there have been moments that we could not believe it was really happening.
DeathWish: Are there any crazy stories you want to share about playing these festivals?
Victor: Yeah, one time we could not get in our sound engineer as he was not included in the backstage pass list that had to be sent months before. We tried all our best to explain them he got in touch with us just in recent weeks and so we could not send his name but these festivals sometimes have some very strict rules! So in the end he had to stay inside the tour bus and could not go outside either in the parking zone for the whole festival and had to wait there till the tour bus left the festival. It was crazy !! Fortunately the engineer of the festival that worked with us that day did a really great work.
DeathWish: You just recently played two shows out in Russia, what was this experience like versus other countries you have played?
Victor: The live shows in Russia have been the most exciting experiences ever. The answer of the crowd was so hot, venues packed of loyal fans and we had a great time on stage. Besides we had a wonderful stay in Russia during all the 3 days and the promoters that arranged the shows was really professional. We are already in process to fix a new show in Russia to be announced as soon as possible.
DeathWish: As testament to your success with your fans, both of your EPs sold out almost instantly, and I know that some of them are featured on your first album, are there any plans though to re-release the rest of the tracks from the EPs?
Victor: I think with the new album weíll have all new stuff going on definitively. Every album has his proper role and sense in the times when it has been written and released.
DeathWish: It seems there is a great deal of information to fans about the last few years of success for Dope Stars Inc. though I have to wonder that there were tough times for the band, would you like to shed some light on some of the possible rough patches for the band?
Victor: There were some tough times indeed in particular when Grace left the band just after the release of Gigahearts. Sometimes it is very difficult for people to understand the reasons behind and rumours always help to complicate things. This happened especially cause Grace, with his dramatic leaving statement, tried to make our fans believe he left only cause of personal problems with me. But this is just a part of the tough truth. We never answered to his attack as we didnít want to throw alcohol on fire and we were exhausted of endless discussions with him. It was the only way to have a break. We really wanted to put a stone on this story but we also want these rumours to stop, so we all think in the band itís time to clear up some facts. Of course I had personal problems with Grace but for a reason that is not connected to something exactly personal. When we started he stayed in the band not cause he was a talented musician or songwriter but just cause of his skills as graphic designer and of course cause we were great friends that wanted to rock and have fun together. Fact is he had the role of Keyboard player in the official line up just cause we thought it would have been easier and faster for him to start practicing keyboards and get ready for live shows. In fact we founded DSI in 2003 but we did the first live shows just in the end of 2005 some months after the release of Neuromance. Fact is Grace never wrote any synth line, beat or drum pattern for any song of DSI as I was taking care of all the electronic parts. Differently from what Grace stated I was always open to work on something brought by other band members and I also told Grace to do the same but he never produced anything written by him. So we always ended working on my demos that were usually quite complete about concept, melody, riffing, synths, basic vocal lines and structure. Besides all songs were also properly recorded as I am a sound engineer and producer. His effort was most of the times derivative and not decisive on each song. Sometimes he also contributed in the arrangement like the other guys of course but after a while this situation became really difficult and turned into a problem when he started claiming to be credited on all the songs in an exaggerated way and requesting also an unjustified share on copyrights that I have been forced to agree in the end to avoid a premature split. And just to be clear, they didnít sounded exaggerated just to me but also to all the other band mates and people informed about the facts that tried many times to make him think in a reasonable way with no success. This was all caused of course by his lack of experience as DSI has been his first real experience in a band and I think he really believed in his conviction but we all realized this wrong attitude would have just brought nothing good for the band. In the beginning I also accepted a lot of compromises in private and public to just keep things cool and protect all the sacrifices we were doing. But since reality was far away from his convictions after Neuromance and cause also of other personal reasons I decided to not work on songs in his presence anymore as it was really not possible for him to understand how to work together in a correct and peaceful way. I left an open door for him though, and I told him again to finally produce something concrete but again he didnít deliver anything. In the other hand I had a very positive period in song writing and wrote a lot of songs in a very short time. Songs that have been released since then on the Make a Star Ep and Gigahearts. A lot of other things happened in the meantime and as a consequence also on the personal level we had lots of problems that (partially) ended when he decided to leave the band. It has been a hard period for everyone but after one year and a half and recent progresses with the new line up I think it has been better as we have finally found an atmosphere of serenity that brought new life and strength in the band.
DeathWish: Despite the downs one of the bandís highlights was working with producer John Fryer, how was this relationship forged, and how was it to work in the studio with him?
Victor: It has been great to work with John and he did a great work on Neuromance giving a very aggressive sound to our first album. There have been a lot of experiences like this one in our past that made us grow and become what we are now and it has been a big satisfaction to have the opportunity to work with such a legendary producer.
DeathWish: I know that you, Victor, have produced a great deal of tracks yourself, how has working individual like John Fryer and Thomas Rainer help you to evolve as a producer?
Victor: The experiences I had with them has been really important and interesting to me and helped me to find my way into the production world. After these experiences I started to get really interested in producing music for other bands and since then I worked with several bands as producer.
DeathWish: Dope Stars has managed to make it on not one but two Saw soundtracks and even play the premier of Saw III in Munich. How did this opportunity come about?
Victor: We made it also on Saw 4 hehe. The opportunity came from the production team of the movie that was looking for bands to join the soundtrack and in touch with our label. They offered to place one of our songs on the soundtrack and we could just say yeah! Afterwards they offered this opportunity again and again and it was just an honour for us as we really love the Saw saga. Also we had a great time in Munich at the premiere and it was great to meet the production team.
DeathWish: Are there any future soundtrack plans for Dope Stars Inc.?
Victor: We hope to work again with them in the future and also for other movies of course but right now we canít say when this will happen again.
DeathWish: With your European conquest a definite success, are there plans for a full scale world invasion, and when can we all look forward to this?
Victor: We really hope with the new album to find a way to cross the ocean and arrange a tour in USA and Canada. We have never been there and we know very well there are lots of loyal fans that are waiting for us to come for a long time. With the new album we are working to have a distribution/promotion setup that will open channels also for some touring in other countries outside Europe. So itís just a matter of time!
DeathWish: Not to jump off topic but it would appear that you have a strong relationship with your growing fan base, even giving them your own personal email address for a contact point. What kind of crazy emails do you have to sort through?
Victor: Yeah we like to stay in touch with our fans and to reply at any question they have. I have to say we do not receive such crazy emails to be honest but rather most of our fans have always demonstrated a loyal respect for our privacy.
DeathWish: I know the ladies are without a doubt crazy over you, can you share any instances that you may have encountered from this?
Victor: Yeah thatís true and sometimes it can be embarrassing when you are in a relationship for 5 years hehe, but of course there is always someone in the band that is able to calm down their instinct hehe. La Nuit is our saviour; he has always succeeded in keeping everything under control in some way haha.
DeathWish: Ok back on the topic of music, you did a cover of the infamous single by Motorhead ĎAce of Spadesí with the drummer of London After Midnight, Joe S., what made you decide to cover this particular track and how did Joe end up becoming involved?
Victor: We jumped on tour with them without any idea that weíd have ended playing Ace of Spades with Joe. When on tour we became great friends and since we had this cover in the set list we asked him if he wanted to perform it together. We already played it at our first shows and then we realized it would have been damn cool to play this cult song live with real drums as the original version. So after a quick rehearsal during the sound check we just did it..and it has been damn great. It was one of these things you do on the road.
DeathWish: Last year you released the album ĎGigaheartsí, it seemed like a big step in the evolution of Dope Starís sound since Ď://Neuromanceí what do you attribute this growth in the band?
Victor: Yes Gigahearts has been a little evolution as we tried to explore different things. It would have been too easy to write more songs in the same mood of Neuromance and we already felt some shadow of repetition into it. With Gigahearts instead we tried to give a particular character and style to each song in order to complete the sound of DSI. This growth has been of course also a consequence of all the experiences we did and the motivation we felt after the great feedback with Neuromance. Also on the production side I experienced many things from 2005 till 2007 then we worked on the album with a more mature point of view also concerning the selection of sounds and the overall production. We also worked a lot more in studio as we had it booked for 2 months and of course the more you spend on production the better is the final effect. In Neuromance we had a lot more synths going on and even it sounded great on a technical side it was not easy to make them work, while in Gigahearts we tried to keep in the arrangement just the essential in order to get a more clear and direct sound. With the new album we will probably make a sum of both these methods and create something new that will represent the definitive sound of Dope Stars Inc.
DeathWish: I am interested to know, as I am sure your large following is as well, is there new material currently in the works? Any hints you would like to give us on its direction?
Victor: We still have to start working on new songs but weíll do it very soon. It happens to me that a long pause in song writing always brings an explosion of inspiration in one go. I usually do not have time or will to write songs everyday and in every moment but when itís time to write I have a lot of material just in few days. With Neuromance and Gigahearts for example I wrote most of the songs in one day and it took around 1-2 weeks to record demos of each album. I would like to spend more time with the band on the arrangement of songs this time. We will also have a drummer so it will take more time to get ready to record in studio, but Iím sure it will be a big step forward. When we founded DSI we didnít wanted a drummer for a matter of choice related to the cyberpunk band concept but after a lot of shows we realized it would be very cool to have a real drummer to reach a better sound and dynamics in future shows and on the new album recordings.
DeathWish: On a more personal level, with your constant touring schedule and writing for the last five years, what do you do in your spare time away from the band?
Victor: Well Iíve to say the band takes a good amount of my time but I am also working in studio everyday as producer/engineer so itís even worse for me ?. I usually consider touring more like a moment to relax and have fun even if itís not always so relaxing. But at least I can just forget about everything else and just think about having a good time on stage and with my friends. When I got spare time I stay with my girlfriend, visit my parents, watch movies, meet up with my friends and of course I have to deal with so many delayed things that Iím actually always doing somethingÖhehe.
DeathWish: As we have covered your large fan base, are there any words of wisdom you would like to share with them?
Victor: I want to tell all our fans we are in terrific shape right now and to expect something really special for 2008. We really hope this new album will help us to get our music and live shows also in these countries where weíve never been. For all the fans in Uk we are waiting to see you all in London on 20th September at the Electrowerkz, Slimelight. The show is all ages and we are getting ready to bring you an explosive show there so you canít miss it!! May the rock be with you.