(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Lead Journalist/Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
Dee Calhoun, or as most heavy metal fans know him, “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun, could be referred to as a “Renaissance Artist”. My claim is derived from the age-old expression equating certain figures as a “Renaissance Man”, a title attributed to well-rounded, versatile people.
Traditionally, such people possess a broad range of interests, then apply or manifest them into pursuits involving a variety of creative outlets. This describes Dee perfectly for as most people know, Dee is the well-known frontman of the legendary Maryland Doom band Iron Man.
Not just that, news recently broke of another official band endeavor, Thee Iron Hand (read here) and, as if that was not enough on the singing front, there’s this: Dee is preparing to release his second solo album, “Go To The Devil“, through Argonauta Records later this year.
It’s that tidbit of news that connects to the reason we are here today, as a song from that record, “Jesus, The Devil, The Deed“, evoked a further creative feeling within Calhoun. Dee felt that the song contained such a poignant story within it that it needed further unfurling, that a more fleshed out or fuller tale lay within it.
No stranger to authoring a written work, his first book “Tales From The Screaming And Mad” was published in 2015. Why not tackle this tale via a new novella? That’s exactly what he did. “Jesus, Devil, Deed” will be released this week (August 9th). He also lent his speaking voice to narrating an upcoming Christian heavy metal documentary, “Metal Missionaries“, that will be released on the first of September.
Renaissance Artist, remember? Having known Dee as friend and brother in the recent years, since an earlier interview at the inaugural Maryland Doom Fest in 2015, we shared a collective light bulb-like idea. Why not conduct a new exchange focusing more on Dee’s literary skills, one where we can delve into the idea behind this book? Well, that and some other stuff… let’s get this conversation rolling, shall we? I present you…
The Riff Relevant Interview With “Jesus, Devil, Deed” Author Dee Calhoun!
Pat Riot – Dee, we recently reported the news that your second published work, a novella titled ‘Jesus, Devil, Deed’ is imminent… care to give us a synopsis of its “plot”? How does it directly relate to one of the songs from your upcoming second solo release, “Go To The Devil”?
Dee – It’s a story about a man who is very down on his luck, his life has unraveled, and he decides to petition Jesus for the return of his soul so that he might sell it to the Devil. He’s always been a good man, and feels that karma has cheated him, so he decides to give the other side a shot.
It explores his coming to the decision, the events in his life that prompted his question of faith, and his confrontation with Christ, as the Devil goads him on. The story is an expansion of the story told lyrically in the song “Jesus, The Devil, The Deed,” from Go To The Devil.
Pat Riot – In reference to the ages-old question, which came first in this case..(the idea for) the song or for the book? And at what point did it dawn on you that there was the potential for a unifying thread between the two?
Dee – The basic plot came together very quickly. I was noodling with a guitar riff, and the story idea simply swarmed me. It was a basic outline, but just the basic details worked very well for the song lyrics. Once the song was written and demoed, the story kept marinating in my head, and I decided that it might be fun to sit down and find out the whole story.
Who was this man? Where did he come from? I wanted to know the events of his life that had driven him to the point where he wanted to abandon everything he had been in order to try to save himself.
Pat Riot – In your own words, how does this latest authored work differ from your first publication, 2015’s “Tales From the Screaming and Mad”?
Dee – “Tales” pretty much happened by accident, the same way that Rotgut happened. I started writing short stories for shits and grins, and when I had enough to run with, I decided to publish them in a collection. “Jesus, Devil, Deed” was a conscious effort to follow that up, and it was also my first foray into a longer narrative, beyond the short story format. The stories in “Tales” were each pretty much written in one sitting, where this novella took some time. It took some structural planning, and some double checking to make sure I at no point contradicted myself within the story.
Pat Riot – As is the same with many artists, I recognize a sense of spirituality (be it intentional or just subject matter, etc.) in much of your recorded audio works..if you agree, would you cite this being due to say, a man’s or your own inherit questioning or exploring the unknown or is there more to it in your own specific case?
Dee – I definitely think there’s a spirituality there, simply because everything I write comes right from my heart. There are occasions that I will adapt a novel or a story into song form in order to pay homage to it — I’ve written and recorded several songs over the years that were based on the works of HP Lovecraft — but I mostly write about what I feel. I either celebrate things that happen or vent on them through song. There’s a great deal of realness and truth in what I write, and I think that carries a degree of spirituality.
Pat Riot – Do you think “Jesus, Devil, Deed” will be able to appeal to a wide cross-section of people be they Christian, Atheist, or what have you and why do you believe it may have that ability?
Dee – I think it will appeal to anyone who is open-minded enough to dig beneath the surface and find the story’s true message. There are some very blasphemous themes on display here, but that’s not what the whole thing is about. My mother was an extremely God-fearing woman, and I’ve already been contacted by someone who asked me “Do you really think your mother would have approved of this?” That’s someone who won’t look beneath the layers to get the whole story, the REAL story. I would like to add though that I address the topic of my mother’s approval in the book’s closing thoughts.
Pat Riot – Since it’s you and I talking, in your own opinion, why do you think Jesus gets such a bad rap in Metal? I mean, He’s a long-haired rebel that railed against the status quo / establishment, loved and accepted everyone, etc..to me, that’s pretty darned Metal!
Dee – Metal has always strived to be the bastard stepchild, the hell-raiser, the partier, and Christianity has always seemed to be the opposing force to all of that. I’ve never understood why the two couldn’t be good neighbors; not necessarily best friends, but at least tolerant of one another. The tolerance from metal towards Christianity seems to be broader than Christianity’s tolerance of metal. I went to church three times a week growing up, and I always enjoyed the annual “Rock and Roll is EVIL” sermon, as it always excelled in exaggerations.
Pat Riot – It was also recently reported that you lent your voice to narrating a Christian Heavy Metal documentary, “Metal Missionaries”… how did that gig come about and what can people expect to take away from it?
Dee – I met Bruce Moore, the filmmaker who did “Metal Missionaries,” in 2014 when Iron Man was on tour and did his web show “Brutally Delicious.” It’s a cooking show that features metal bands, and it was great fun. He and I had stayed in touch since, and this spring he reached out to me regarding the film. He knew that I had done some voice work with the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, and said that he needed someone to narrate his film.
He sent me a sample page of dialog, and I shot him the recording. He loved it, and over the next couple of weeks I recorded the 20 minutes of dialog that the narration encompasses. I’ve seen the finished film, and it is great. It paints a very nice picture of that music scene, what those artists strive to do, and the obstacles they face while trying to accomplish their goals and present their message.
Pat Riot – Speaking of Christian Metal… what, if any, were / are some of your favorite bands in that style?
Dee – It’s a scene that I’m very unaware of, but now that I’ve taken part in the film and been exposed, I may have to remedy that. There are so many great bands, heavy bands, playing ferocious music.
(It’s here I’ll name drop some of my own: Mortification, Living Sacrifice, Corpse, Stavesacre, ZAO, Ethereal Scourge, Tourniquet, The Showdown, Paramecium, Vengeance Rising – Pat Riot)
Pat Riot – Dee, you know how I like to close things, by allowing the interviewee the final word so anything you’d like to say or share with us, have at it…
Dee – As always, I want to thank everyone who has supported the new endeavors of mine. Over the past two years, I’ve stepped way outside of my comfort zone, taken some creative chances that I never dreamed would be well-received, and they’ve been embraced beyond my wildest expectations.
Fans loved the first book and the first solo album, and I think the follow-ups to each are huge steps forward. Whether or not they’re received that way remains to be seen, and I look very forward to finding out. I stand by the claim that I belong to the greatest music scene in the world, and I’m happy to be able to create for you. Thank you so much for enjoying it.
And enjoy it so, so many of us do… and do so immensely! I want to say “Thank You” to Dee for conducting this exchange and to you, the readers, if you persevered this far. In the fast paced world we live in today, sometimes it is easy to miss something that we would otherwise find interesting.
With that in mind, this is something that has one foot rooted in the music world while planting another in the literary. Hopefully, you will find both enjoyable and intellectually stimulating, so let me close by saying that those of you that do read Dee’s new book (that includes me too), let’s get some feedback here once you / we do, okay? With that, here’s what you need to know….
Dee Calhoun‘s second solo record, “Go To The Devil“, will be released through Argonauta Records later in 2017.
The Dee Calhoun-narrated “Metal Missionaries” Documentary will be released September 1st, 2017. Find more info and details at their Facebook page here.