Dystopia A.D. – Interview
Interview with Chris Whitby – vocals / guitar / bass and Aki Shishido – lead guitar of Dystopia A.D. and Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
CW: Dystopia A.D. is an American two-man modern metal band consisting of lead guitarist Aki Shishido and myself (vocalist/bassist/guitarist Chris Whitby). Our signature blend of death metal, thrash, and progressive rock features blistering shred guitar solos and a variety of vocal styles.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
CW: Both Aki and have deep roots in the underground metal scene. As teenagers, we were both in a melodeath band called Vigrid and played local shows in NJ/NY. Aki continued playing guitar with thrash/death metal bands Ash&Elm and Strains of Bellum, while I moved on to sing with international death metal acts Hellbore and Black Negative Domination.
In 2018, we released our debut album Designing Ruin, which included guest appearances from numerous musicians in the underground metal/progressive rock scene, including Justin Greczyn of Swashbuckle and John Tuohy of Mile Marker Zero.
Our latest album, Rise of the Merciless, will be released in July 2020 and pushes our sound to new limits in terms of technicality, musicianship, and songwriting complexity. The album was partially recorded from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan where Aki was deployed as a Major in the U.S. Army.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
CW: Musically? Probably the same stuff we were listening to when we were kids. Sepultura, Death, Blind Guardian, and In Flames come to mind. We also listen to modern bands like Revocation, Cattle Decapitation, and Pig Destroyer, and I think the influence of these bands shows in our songwriting. Non-musically, I think I just need a nihilistic outlet where I can unleash unbridled brutality while still expressing emotion and passion.
AS: Chris and I literally went to grade school together, and we listened to a lot of the same stuff early on. I started out into the classics: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and evolved into some of the modern bands at the time like In Flames and Dark Tranquility. Now, in my old age I find myself listening to a ton of Testament and Death. Non-musically, I am influenced by science, justice, patriotism, and beer.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
CW: My goal is simply to connect with fans that will feel the same exhilarating rage and joy when listening to Dystopia A.D.’s music that I did while writing and performing it.
AS: Chris hit it on the head. We’re making music that we want to hear and hope others will enjoy.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
CW: I’m Dystopia A.D.’s primary songwriter, but Aki’s guitar playing and influence on our sound cannot be understated. He and I think on the same wavelength and are connected in a way that only true metalheads will understand! Thematically, our songs explore the concepts of the occult, suffering, and insanity.
AS: Chris is an absolute prodigy. When we met and started making metal together, the concept of actually sitting down and thinking about what the hell you’re doing was foreign to me. I just played fast and hard and whatever came out was ’music.’ It should be very clear that Dystopia A.D. is masterfully crafted over much revision and torment to make the best metal product possible. I was in Afghanistan for the entire recording phase of the album, so to me the war is in the music.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
CW: To date, we have a small following on social media thanks to exposure through the proverbial blogosphere. As much as I love the thrill of performing for a live crowd, the physical distance between us and our demanding personal lives mean that we’re strictly a studio band. for the time being For what it’s worth, I think that our recordings illustrate our raw passion and intensity and how seriously we take being musicians.
AS: If someone wants to make us an offer we can’t refuse, by all means…
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
AS: I think that online music and technology has been a great leveler for the music industry. The fact that we can independently make professional sounding music and get an immediate audience is awesome. Additionally, the musicmakers are beginning to get a lot more credit. Pop music used to be dominated by ‘stars’ who sang other people’s songs; now, it seems that the producers are the stars. I also feel like it’s an incentive to play live shows, whenever that starts happening again.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
CW: Tough question! I’ll cheat and say I wish I wrote the entire album “The Gathering” by Testament. Every song is masterful – the performances are polished without losing that raw thrash metal aesthetic. The album is masterfully composed and, for me, is the best answer to the question, “what is metal?”
AS: Agree with Testament’s “The Gathering.” If an Alien asked me “what does metal sound like?” I’d play him or her The Gathering. As for a single song, I’d have to say Metallica’s “Battery” – it’d mean that I was a Metal Legend, and to this day the song is an absolute joy to play.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
CW: As a singer, bad vocals drive me crazy. Even in extreme metal styles where vocals are more of a rhythmic or complementary element, I wish more singers had respect for practicing and refining their craft instead of processing and autotuning their way to decency.
AS: iTunes. Outside of a few significant exceptions (e.g. the new Testament album), the top metal acts featured on the iTunes metal playlists are very uninspiring. There is so much awesome new metal out there, and it is not recognized on the largest platforms. I understand that there is definitely pride in staying underground – but dammit why is all this garbage so popular?
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
CW: It hasn’t happened yet! The release of Rise of the Merciless in July 2020 will be the culmination of two years of passionate songwriting, performance, and engineering that I can’t wait to share with the world.
AS: I played a few shows in Japan with Ash&Elm. It was pretty low key but there were a few kids out there who actually knew who we were – it was awesome! That said I’m absolutely psyched for Rise of the Merciless to drop.
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
CW: I’m currently working on recording vocals for new tracks with Black Negative Domination, a German death metal band. Creatively, I’d like to explore different styles of world music before sitting down and starting to come up with ideas for the next Dystopia A.D. album.
AS: I go through cycles of writing new material, taking a break, learning of bunch of songs from my favorite bands, then relearning songs I’ve written, then writing music. I’m currently back at the learning-more-songs phase. Silly as it is to say, I just learned Angry Again by Megadeth – the main riff is just so much fun to play.
PD: What music have you available online and where can we buy it from?
CW: Dystopia A.D.’s first full-length album, Designing Ruin, is available everywhere (Spotify, Bandcamp, iTunes). Although Rise of the Merciless represents a new high-water mark for us in terms of songwriting, technicality, and production, Designing Ruin is a 40-minute neck-breaking sonic ride through themes of agony and desolation.