One of our crazy world’s most revered Death Metal axemen, DANNY TUNKER, celebrated a birthday recently. While ALKALOID is currently holed up at Hannes Grossmann’s Mordor Sounds studio, working on their anticipated sophomore follow-up to their ground-breaking debut, The Malkuth Grimoire, The Black Siren dug into the memory files to pull up one of our favorite interviews with the man during a tremendous time of transition.
T. Ray Verteramo
June 26, 2016
Not too long after his surprising departure with Aborted, after three strong years, Danny Tunker did the obvious: release a killer jazz track.
…and work on a new video, start writing for another band, while working with his other band members for another band member on a project that is not for the band, but played by the band. And incidentally, the band members who just played for their other band member, but not for the band, also played on said killer jazz single, “Bare Trap.”
“Bare Trap” – Danny Tunker’s independent single: https://dannytunker.bandcamp.com/releases
The guy is busy. But, it took some doors to close before all these others could open.
There is a distinctive breath of freedom exhaling from that groovy tune. But, it wasn’t the material or creative differences that caused the Aborted split; it was just time to abort.
“We had done too much in too short a time,” Tunker explains, “and it was a situation I just had to get out of.
We were touring anywhere between six to eight months a year. It was fine for a while, but it started to wear thin. And as it happens, it just turned more and more into a workplace where you don’t go home at the end of the day, you just hang with your workmates. So, it kind of had a ‘submarine’ feeling, where you really like everybody, but there was something in everybody that just rubs you the wrong way.”
It was not a rash decision, either. “The next nine months, I was going back and forth all the time, also keeping in mind there were also good times, a lot of good times. The first three years with the band were just great, almost the whole time it was fun…but the next nine months until when we were in Egypt, it just, yeah, I had enough.”
He said, “I think it’s all for the better. I mean, it sucked for a bit. Once I had made the decision, I was 100 percent sure. At least a few weeks before I broke the news, I was entirely sure that this was what I wanted to do. If I had stayed, it could have ended badly.”
As for work itself, Abhorrent received the treasures that may have potentially been trashed. “There is a bunch of stuff that I originally wrote for Aborted, but wasn’t sure it could fit because it was kind of different. And with Aborted, essentially because it’s a pretty old band, there’s a certain mold. Not like everything has a formula, but there’s a certain mold that has to fit and Aborted is also pretty democratic.
Essentially, there were five people writing music — well, four people writing music and one that didn’t write music but had conceptual ideas and also a lot of rhythmic ideas that he wanted to try. So, it was difficult to try different things.”
And now Tunker is giving Abhorrent, the Texas/Norway-based unit, his expertise, while allowing the lead guitarist, Marlon Friday, a chance to breathe. “I know the bass player,” he explained. “I know him really well. He sent me one of the songs before the album was released last year. I checked it out, liked it, but never really thought anything else about it. Then somewhere, I think, two months ago, we’re talking about the band and he was saying that Marlon could use some help because he’s still the main guitar player and he wants to bring in somebody else to bring in new ideas and maybe also help with live shows once they’re happening.”
As for a chance for a permanent gig, the thought is nice. But, Abhorrent, much like his staple band, Alkaloid, is “geographically challenged.” This phenomenon happens when artists are willing to think outside the borders to find the right person, for the right sound, with the right skills for the right project. It’s hardly convenient, but it can be very worth it, as both bands demonstrate.
Alkaloid, spearheaded by ex-Obscura and Blotted Science’s Hannes Grossmann, joined by Tunker, along with Florian “Morean” Maier, Christian Muenzner, and Linus Klausenitzer, are a natural fit, in spite of their long-distance challenges.
The band’s winning formula of their bond in friendships and perfectly meshed, superior skillsets keep each other in constant rotation for each other’s side and solo projects when they are not each working on assorted commissions, teaching, touring, or other human pursuits.
In fact, the same line-up, including Tunker, has just finished supporting Grossmann with his second solo project, Hannes Grossmann II: The Crypts of Sleep, along with other extremely well-regarded talents such as ex-Obscura’s Tom “Fountainhead” Geldschlager, Per Nillson, and Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal.
Yet, it was only last year that the five virtuosos, after many many moons, finally played together face-to-face, in September 2015. “I don’t think any of us had played together, at least not in the same room, which can always be a little bit weird. It felt like we’ve always done it — for me, anyway. The first rehearsal didn’t feel like a ‘first rehearsal’ to me.”
Aborted was headlining, supported by Alkaloid, along with a local band and Nader Sadek. It was the last show with Aborted, but the first real show with his comrades. Though they had technically played three tiny gigs in Ireland the week before, it was that night in Cairo that conjured true majick.
And it was there, in Egypt, where Danny ended one chapter to begin another.
“The Alkaloid show, for all of us, was the main thing,” Tunker said. “Turned out to be great. That show was a lot of fun. What I liked most about it is that we had done those three Irish shows the week before that…even though this was an early gig for us, only our fourth show and there were a lot of technical difficulties, still I don’t think anyone noticed because in those three shows before, we grew really tightly. So, we could work and just play on anything that would happen.”
And as it happened, something did. “At some point, something on the drums broke and it could have been really embarrassing because there were 800 people in front of you who were really into it…Without ever missing a step, Florian just started doing this a cappella thing where he did that Dark Fortress song, ‘Sycamore Trees,’ I think. He just did that and everybody just lost their minds. It was just so cool. And the best thing ever was that when he was finished, the drums were resolved and we could just go again. It was great.”
“I am glad we got those few rehearsals, and then those Irish shows, because we got to work out a lot of the problems before we did that Egypt gig. Even though all the songs are pretty easy to play, at least for me, I’m still glad we got to work out those ‘Dyson Sphere’ songs because those songs are a pain in the ass…”
There is a poetic irony in knowing a classically trained Death Metal icon was inspired by Bon Jovi.
However, if anyone else but Danny Tunker said so, they would be thrown into the pit without their boots on. But, Tunker can get away with it because he, in spite of bringing some of the most brutal and bloody meat to the table with his work in Aborted, never claimed to be a purist, which in itself, is very Metal.
In fact, his shiny diamonds have many facets, which is what makes him the “Gene Kelly” in the long chorus line of Metal axemen.
“I’m not really a death metal guy at all,” he said. “At least I wasn’t. I got into death metal really late. I mean, I’ve been listening to music for a long time, but to be honest, until 2006,
I’ve only owned two Death Metal albums. I didn’t like any other Death Metal at all except for those two albums which were Domination by Morbid Angel and Vile by Cannibal Corpse, and those were only if I were in an extreme mood.”
“I liked Metal. I liked a lot of Metal, but essentially, the heaviest thing I’d ever listen to would be Slayer. There was a whole period when I wasn’t listening to Metal at all, when I was studying classical guitar, and that was for six years.”
He elaborated, “I was playing classical guitars with orchestras and playing electric guitars with orchestras for a long time, pretty much since I was 17 or something. So, I was doing a lot of cover band stuff, a lot of funk or even straight up rock or whatever. But, mainly I started working with orchestras because I can read music really well. I was doing a lot of teaching, too. I’ve been teaching guitar since I was 14, which was cool. So, I got to grow into that.
And of course, I always liked…yeah, I was more of a Rock guy. I really, really loved the grungier bands like Alice in Chains. And of course, I love Iron Maiden, I’ve always loved Iron Maiden. But, the first band I really loved was Bon Jovi and the eighties stuff.”
“‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ is, like, the best song ever.” He grins jokingly, then backtracks, “Okay, maybe it’s not ‘the best song ever,’ but I really like that song.” Of course, he was only four or five at the time he first heard it. So naturally, cowboys on iron horses will score big over itsy bitsy spiders. In this case, in all seriousness, that video solidified his decision to take up the guitar for life.
But, it seems no revelations, epiphanies, or omens from the gods were responsible for bringing him into his legacy.
The answer he gave as to how he became the Danny Tunker that is known, loved, and highly, sleeplessly utilized today is no different than how one usually loses one’s virginity:
“It just kinda happened.”