SAVAGE EXISTENCE’s DANIEL CLELAND Talks Upcoming Album Matricide, Working with GARY HOLT, Tour Plans with SEPULTURA, And Pure Filth Fest

June 14, 2022, 12 months ago

By Dillon Collins

feature heavy metal savage existence

SAVAGE EXISTENCE’s DANIEL CLELAND Talks Upcoming Album Matricide, Working with GARY HOLT, Tour Plans with SEPULTURA, And Pure Filth Fest

Costa Rica’s heir apparent to the crown of metal lords, Savage Existence are primed and ready to grab the global music scene by the jugular and twist in 2022.

Comprised of driven entrepreneurs and Canadian expats Daniel Cleland and Jesse Radford alongside Anton Darusso, Emil Minott and Andres Castro, the old-school metal wielding outfit harness the power of a golden age of thrash and groove metal, for a sound ravagingly heavy yet warmly familiar to the senses. 

Not content to rest on the laurels of their lauded debut album Animals, Savage Existence readies to drop their sophomore effort Matricide in 2022, complete with their biggest slate of performances to date, including a South American tour with the mighty Sepultura and opening slot at the Pure Filth Fest in Liverpool, New York On June 18th alongside the likes of Exodus, Municipal Waste and Voivod.

Cleland, a successful CEO, author and podcaster in his own right, sat down with BraveWords for a deep dive into the origins and inspirations of the project, a glimpse into the new album, plans for global expansion, Costa Rica’s steamy metal climate, love of old school heavy metal and much more!

BraveWords: Going through your history, and I'm amazed that you have time for a band. You lead such an exciting life with so many different ventures. The fact that you're now incorporating a band on top of that is something else. I know you've been involved in music throughout your life, and now this is something you guys are really going for. Has it been an interesting juggling process, managing your business and the life of a touring metal musician? 

Daniel: “Well, the first mistake you made was saying that I have the time for this because I really don't (laughs). It's been extremely loaded. The thing with the band is that it kind of comes in waves, though. We have a concert coming up tomorrow and it's just been all kinds of things. We've got the venue asking us questions. We've got the sound guy, we've got the lighting guy, we've got the backline guy, we've got a few models coming to the video shoot. We've got the video producer and it's just like, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. 

“And yeah I'm basically at the same time, running a multiple seven figure company that's got 30 employees from different countries around the world. And we're expanding. We went from one location to three locations this year. So like there's all kinds of massive growth related stuff there. We're redefining all of our internal systems and everything like that, trying to recruit and hire new people. And I just moved into a new house on Saturday, so I'm moving out of one place and into the next one. And I just got a dog like a month ago, a puppy. I got him in Florida, so I had to import this dog from Florida to Costa Rica and then deal with figuring out how to live with it. So yeah it's pretty nuts, man. There's just a lot going on. 

“But at the same time, for example, we had a really busy last six months of 2021. But then when we got back to Costa Rica after the craziness ended, we basically didn't do anything for like three months. It was just boring sitting around kind of watching YouTube videos. The business is on cruise control, you know? We weren't even practicing because we didn't have to go on tour, so it was like a lot of downtime. And that's how I find this whole juggling act comes into play. It's like massive intensity for a short period of time and then basically just complete dormant downtime.” 

BraveWords: In terms of the albums themselves, you've been fairly active. Obviously, you had Animals in 2021 and a follow-up EP and I know you have a new record coming this year, Matricide.

Daniel: “Yeah, the album is called Matricide. We're super stoked about it. Like the first album, Animals, was just kind of like a continuation of music that we had written in the past that we're kind of reinvigorating and actually going for a full production with Logan Mader. That was more of the me and Jesse vibe that we historically were playing together and then we did all that music and recorded all the instrumentals with Logan before we even brought Anton into the mix, and Andres and Emil, they didn't play on that album. Andres played a little bit on "Savage Medicine".

“We basically immediately went into the studio to record Matricide, which is our upcoming album, and it's just like the next level from the first album. We really had our gear locked in and started playing with unique equipment. We had our Kempers, I had the Kerry King guitar by Dean, plus started playing with Mick Thomson Blackouts by Seymour Duncan. And then that was much more collaborative. We went up to Vegas and brought Anton and Andres up to Vegas with me and Jesse and Logan. We had this kind of big jam session in Vegas, recorded at a couple legit studios in Vegas; The Hideout, Skeleton Key, and then in Logan's home studio. So there’s just a lot more collaboration. Anton contributed a few songs and he also kind of helped co-produce the songs that I wrote as well.

“So yeah, we're really proud of that second album and we would love to get it out. I mean, we would have gotten it out. It’s just how it is trying to find the right distribution channel. We started off with Blood Blast distribution and, you know, they're not really a label. They don't really do any promotion or marketing or anything like that. It's just basically uploading your music and then that's on us. So it's been kind of trying to figure out how to run a business that's a band and do all the marketing and stuff like that in-house. So we've had some trial and error with that, which has been pretty challenging. 

“About a month or two ago, we got linked up with a manager … that's working out well. They're taking a bit of a different approach, more like a long term strategic approach, rather than just like publish and promote, publish and promote, publish and promote. It's more about making the right connections and setting up the right shows and the right tours and the right media events and the right press. We're also negotiating with a few different labels as well right now, like legit labels, not just distribution platforms who will also help us get the music distributed and get it out there. And it'd be a lot easier to get on tours and making connections for different tours and publicizing different tours. We're looking for the right option. It looks like, ideally we're putting the album out in the fall range.” 

BraveWords: I know you have some pretty huge shows coming up, chiefly of which is Pure Filth in New York later this month.

Daniel: “Yeah, we've got some tour plans coming up. We've got the Pure Filth Festival next week. We're doing an acoustic show on the 17th, kind of a meet and greet. We put on a barbeque at Sharkey’s in Syracuse and then we're opening for the festival on the 18th, so that's going to be pretty cool. And then in August we're playing at another festival in the States, in Kentucky. We're organizing that. I don't know if I'm allowed to mention or name drop or anything like that, but that looks pretty much 100%. 

“And then in October we're going to tour with Sepultura, which was supposed to happen in April. But a week before the tour Eloy Casagrande fell off a stage in Texas and broke his tibia and fibula. So he's been in traction and recovering. They had to postpone their whole South America tour. So that got pushed all back like six months. I think they're going back out on June 21 or something. They're going to Europe, then they're coming back to do their Central and South American tour. So we're going to be out with Sepultura in October and hopefully around that time we've got the full album coming out. 

“However, we did release one song off the album. It's called ‘Dumpster Water’, and we released it because we just wanted to give people a taste of what the sound of the second album is. So that's on our Spotify and Apple Music and everything like that.”  

BraveWords: You mentioned Sepultura, and I get a lot of Sepultura vibes from this music. Really classic groove metal, thrash, death metal, even some southern influence in the vein of Crowbar, Clutch or Down. I'm sure the bulk of you have been or are still influenced by that rise in that bubble and the change of the metal scene in the early ‘90s, with Sepultura helping really lead the charge in that.

Daniel: “Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Sepultura was the first metal I heard. I'm kind of too young for the Metallica heyday, you know? Late eighties, early nineties. The same with Slayer and Exodus and all that. I kind of missed them blowing up and started to get into metal when you're in the Far Beyond Driven days, the Sepultura Roots days, the Machine Head The More Things Change… and Burn My Eyes. 

“Those were really our primary influences, especially like for me and Jesse, because we grew up in a very small community and we used to jam together in his parents basement playing cover songs from Sepultura, Machine Head, Slipknot, Pantera, things like that. And to me that's going to be metal forever. And I know there's all kinds of different vibes and genres of metal right now. But to me the core passion for metal came from those bands. I can still remember like the first time I heard Sepultura’s Roots on a cassette tape I was like ‘what the fuck is this? Like, where have you been all my life,’ you know? And then I just became super obsessed with it. 

“And when 2000 rolled around I started getting into Hatebreed. Lamb of God became a staple. And Cannibal Corpse of course is a core. I don't know If I could call Cannibal Corpse an influence, maybe some of the singing that we do and the rhythm of the lyrics and stuff like that, especially on the new album. But I can't play any of their songs (laughs). So not much of a guitar influence, maybe a little bit. But yeah, I have never really strayed too far outside of that kind of circle of style and vibe in metal.” 

BraveWords: I'm curious, as a Canadian coming up in a small town in Ontario, albeit with the option to see major bands in bigger cities, what are your thoughts on the heavy metal scene and climate and different venues and bands bubbling up in Costa Rica?

Daniel: “Yeah, Costa Rica has an established yet small underground metal presence. You know, you get a band like Slipknot. Like I was just recently at a Cannibal Corpse show. It was packed. There were maybe 2000, 3000 people there. Shirts off in the mosh pit, sweating, just blasting through the mosh pit, you know? Not me. I was on the edge. But I'm just saying there were a bunch of guys doing that. Tropical climate, everyone's sweating. 

“You get established bands that come through and you will fill up a venue. There's a couple of rock bars around that cover bands pass through and stuff like that. But Costa Rica itself, for one, it's a small country. It's got the population of Toronto, for example. In the whole country there's one major city, San Jose, and it's got maybe one or two million people in it. And it's a tropical country man, you know, surfing, nature. It's not like this gritty kind of urban environment where you might feel a little bit more of a metal vibe. Mexico has got a ton of big cities that are real gritty, urban environments where metal just fits. Costa Rica is more of a reggae, salsa, hip hop, reggaeton, that kind of music. So when you see the big events here it's a lot of that kind of thing. And Latino music in Spanish and stuff. 

“So we're not really developing our band for the Costa Rican market … maybe when you're internationally recognized then you can fill a venue. We're gearing up more for like the US markets, the Canadian markets, the European markets, Mexican markets. And then there's some places in South America, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador. That's really more where the metal markets are.”

BraveWords: Transitioning to Pure Filth Fest, because this arguably could be one of the biggest gigs you guys have played in the relatively short time span of this band. Obviously you have Exodus headlining alongside Municipal Waste, Voivod, Bewitcher. It's a crazy festival.

Daniel: “Yeah! I mean, being on the bill with Exodus. I'm a huge fan of Gary Holt. Gary Holt actually played three solos on our new album, Matricide. Double solo on the title track, “Matricide”, and then he played another long solo on a song called "Enigma". I met Gary at the final Slayer show. He's a great guy. I consider him somewhere between an acquaintance and a friend. And so I'm looking forward to opening for Gary. It's a real honour. 

“We had talked about potential touring in the past when we were hunting for bands when we played with Monstrosity in Mexico. But they didn't want to go down to Mexico when there was still all the COVID stuff going on and restrictions and stuff like that. But finally we're going to be on the same stage as them opening for the festival. They're going to be closing the festival. So that's kind of cool. And hopefully they can make it out on the 17th for some meet and greet action and socialize with the other bands there. 

“Voivod, that's as old as they come as well. I mean, they were around in the ‘90s when I was in high school. I remember them from back in the day. Yeah, some pretty high powered talent on the stage. And yeah, it’s the biggest festival we've done.” 

BraveWords: Moving forward, you have album number one with album number two on the way. The gigs are getting bigger, big touring coming up, big opportunities. Things are moving and progressing. For yourself, a CEO, an author and podcaster with a new house and a new dog, do you see this as being a full steam ahead project for you?

Daniel: “Yeah. I mean, it's really the dream man. I think it would just be the coolest. We're under no false pretenses. The other guys in the band, they want an international level band, they want Lamb of God size and they are professional musicians. Anton is a professional musician and Andres is a professional musician. Emil's a professional musician. Jessie and I, we are becoming professional musicians. I think I'm going to be able to manage the other stuff.

“You know, we have a really great team at Soltara and my COO, Melissa Stangl, if we get to a point where the band is demanding more of my time than what it's needed by my CEO role at Soltara, Melissa's kind of growing into that role anyways. I'd probably switch to being more of a consultant and a chairman there in that role, and Melissa will be able to take the company and run the company. I think I'll have time for it. In regards to the dog, if we're ever gone for a month or something like that I can leave him at Soltara man. It's doggy paradise. He'll be there, he'll have all kinds of people to socialize with. He loves getting attention from people. And we have other dogs on site just running free on this big, beautiful, forested beachfront paradise.

“I'm not really doing much of the podcast anymore. I've got a new book coming out this summer in August about entrepreneurship. Who knows where all that kind of stuff goes? I wouldn't mind getting back into podcasting in a more efficient way, but I kind of need a new direction to take it, be it related to stories from the road or something like that. But yeah man, long story short, I think I'm going to be able to manage it. And if everything else I'm doing just gets us to the point where we're touring six, seven months out of the year, we are playing big stadiums, I mean, then that's where life takes me and I'll go with it, man. Like that to me would be just amazing. So if that's what destiny has in store for us, I will make arrangements on the other stuff to accommodate that.”

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