Local Los Angelino heavy metal rockers, Death Division, have been making their way to the top with the tight-knit crew that has been working hard these last couple of years to get where they are now. With many acclaims for their latest music video for the single, “The Truth,” one thing that is for certain is that these guys take given talents with precision. With Sean De La Tour on guitar, Alex Rivas controls the drums while Jerry Montano tackles the lead vocals duties. The music is hard-hitting and exposes the serious and personal lyrics the group can craft.
The band caught the ear of Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and was invited to play with them on their Gingantour Trek festival back in 2013. With a current EP release, Angels of the Black Dawn, Part 1, the band is out on the road spreading their message one town at a time and collecting more and more hardcore fans along the way. With a release for the second part schedule later this year, Death Division’s Jerry Montano took the time to chat with us about their music, their love of classic rock and the bright future up ahead.
You guys have had an exciting year. It seems like one minute you’re recording then the next you’re touring these large shows. Does it feel like it happened overnight?
JERRY MONTANO: It seems like it was over night but to us it felt like it was forever because we were already doing it for a little over a year and we had that idea of where we wanted to be and what we wanted to do. But yeah, looking back now, it did happen really fast. At the time we weren’t ready but we went out and did our best and just did it.
Had you toured before?
JM: Oh yeah, I’ve been touring for the past 17 years. For Death Division and the band, it was brand new. For me, no, I’ve done Ozzfest.
What is the best and worst part of touring?
JM: The best part of touring is being on stage. Being out and about doing something on your off days and meeting new people. The terrible part is a lot of down time and it’s expensive and there’s not a lot of money in it, believe it or not. It’s a lot of hard work that goes into being able to do this every single day, day in and day out. It’s not like the old days where there’s endless money and there’s someone there to babysit and take care of everything. These days it’s very DIY. To be able to survive and to be able to continue this twenty straight days in a row, you’ve got to be on point as much as you can be. Which is how we do it.
It takes its toll, I bet.
JM: It does but I have a dry band. We don’t drink, we don’t party. We have fun but we’re out here to keep coming up and put on the best shows that we can. Partying and all that stuff is something that is not conducive with what it takes for us to keep out there and control what we do.
The song “The Truth” is a tough and powerful song. Is that song about the current events with U.S. politics?
J: That’s the good thing about our music. I think that if you dig deeper into the stuff that we’ve done you’ll find that there’s always a deeper meaning. We like to leave it to interpretation to the listener. When it came to a lot of these songs, I started into my journey into recovery with Alcoholics Anonymous and started getting my life together, a lot of that came through into the music, into the lyrics and the overall vibe of the album. When it comes to “The Truth” from my point of view, it’s a lot of these feeling and the things that I see we’ve been fighting for. It’s kind of an internal dialogue. These things that you go through, these things that you put yourself through, sucks. But it can also be taken into many other ways. Which is cool because when you asked me the question, it wouldn’t come from that point of view whatsoever. That’s why I do a lot of distinct writing styles. Generally one song between the two main writers, they have two entirely different meanings.
What was the hardest part of making the latest EP? Is there a part two in the works?
JM: Yeah, there’s a part two. It’s a collective. There’ll be a part two and I’m hoping that maybe next year before our next release, after we put out part two, we could put it out as one piece with bonuses. The hardest part of about this is when the journey from being on all on one hand I going through the recovery phase and I was writing and recording and trying to handle business and on the other hand, it was my first time producing a record. From a producer and production stand point, it was a work in progress as well. Meaning that I would say that my biggest challenge was knowing in that moment that it was tough. I mixed the album three times before we had found what we were looking for. I got to learn a lot of things. Like most things, you trail and error and you persevere.
What has been your greatest rock star moment so far?
JM: That happens all the time. We’ve had great and awesome shows and shows where we played for 15 people. Even some of these shows where we play for 15 people you’ve got to start somewhere, you come back and there’s more people. Sometimes it’s the shows where there’s very few people and you meet some of the coolest people. We played somewhere in West Virginia a few weeks back and there was a guy that we met from our tour last summer who saw on Facebook that we were playing in some little bar two hours away and got in his car and drove two hours to see our show. That means the world to me. That guy is like playing for twenty people. This dude, first of all, knows who our little band is; this band that I created in my bedroom in Burbank. He goes out of his way to come to the show and hang out with us. It’s those little things that make it worth it. Those times when maybe it’s just us and the band standing under the stars in some beach in Florida going, ‘Can you believe that we started this thing a year ago?’ It’s all relative in different ways and it’s also rewarding and super cool at the same time.
What was the firsts album you bought with your own money?
JM: I think the first record I bought with my own money was Queen’s The Game or Def Leppard’s Pyromania. Those albums are awesome. Lately I’ve been listening to more Queen. I’m a huge fan of My Chemical Romance. I love hearing cool, old influences in doing music. That’s where you’ll find a lot of my own influences in Death Division because I’m a huge fan of harmonizing guitars and comes from Thin Lizzy and Lynard Skynard. Those are two of my absolute favorite bands.
I can hear the comparisons with the guitar solos you have on the EP.
JM: Yeah man, those are some of the first records that I bought. There’s so many. The past week we were somewhere in North or South Carolina and we were at a mall and there was actually a record store. I was like, ‘Oh my God, a fucking record store.’ A record store with t-shirts and records and record players and I was just like, ‘This is heaven.’ That was the safe haven. It was pretty cool. I think after going in there, there was this vibe. I think people are sick of buying ‘air’. You know what I mean? Buying air sucks. I think that’s with the resurgence with vinyl.
I’ve seen cassette tapes release for some bands.
JM: That’s been a thing for a while, which is weird because when I was a kid I would listen to the radio with a cassette player and record songs that I wanted to record off the radio. ‘Oh man, I missed the beginning part.’ I can’t tell you how many Motley Crue songs I had on cassette that were missing parts of the song.
Do you have any advice for new bands starting out like you did?
JM: First is you’ve got to love what you do. You’ve got to follow your heart. You’ve got to not be afraid to work. It’s not easy. It’s a really hard lifestyle. It’s a hard one to get into. I think you’ve got to look past those things. You’ve got to play music because you love it. That’s the bottom line. People can tell when it’s not genuine and it’s not real. Play with your buddies because you love it and do it because it’s fun. Everything after that is bonus.
What’s next for Death Division?
JM: Next for Death Division is our EP release show is in Nashville. We’re going to be heading back to the west cost for our first time in the past two months. Probably head home for a couple of weeks and get right back out on the road throughout the summer and into the fall. We’re just going to be out there doing this one person at a time if we have to in between whatever shows we catch. We’re going to be in everyone’s head. That’s what’s on the agenda. Please come check out Death Division. We’ve got a Facebook and Twitter. Check out Bridging the Gap Recover, which is a non-profit organization that helps people get on their feet. We always have cool things on there to help raise money and raise awareness for people with addiction.