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Artist Spotlight: DED singer Joe Cotela announces new album, talks brutal singles and taking over the rock world

Arizona rock band DED is following up their impressive 2017 debut with two brutal new singles today. This release under Suretone Records will be the first of a multiple-year deal with ADA Worldwide for exclusive distribution. Singer Joe Cotela, guitarist David Ludlow, bassist Kyle Koelsch and drummer Matt Reinhard have taken the rock and metal worlds by storm in the last three years and this album promises to be an even bigger step into becoming a permanent fixture in their genre. Atlas spoke with Cotela about the new music, what’s coming up for DED and their upcoming tour!

These first two singles from your second album are definitely heavy and brutal. How did you go about evolving your sound from the first album to now?

I didn’t know if people were going to think they were brutal. We couldn’t tell if they were heavier or not than the first album because it’s hard to be objective. We wanted to do something heavy so I’m glad you felt that way. I think it’s just a natural thing from the first album. The first album…we started writing it four years ago. So it’s been a really long time in comparison to what most bands do between albums. I think having those four years of writing it, recording it, putting it out and touring for the last three years….I think [it’s] the experiences of touring, playing shows, listening to a lot of the bands we’ve toured with. You’re getting influenced by everything you’re taking in and I think that is something that happened to us. Just life happens and your tastes change.

I’ve always felt this way since I was younger, like every three or four years I’m almost a new person and I’m smarter and I’m wiser or I’m just different in some way, shape or form. So I think that’s what it is with this. It’s just life, it’s just where we are now. We’re really stoked on the way everything turned out. Sonically it sounds great- Kevin Churko’s a monster. The new songs encapsulate DED pretty well but I think in a bigger way, to me, and I’m really excited about that. It feels great, it’s awesome.

What’s the story behind these new tracks and what made you decide to release these as the kickoff to the next album?

It’s hard to pick them because we love so many of the songs that we made off the album and I really think that they’re all special. That’s something that we tried to do. We put ourselves up against Hybrid Theory [by] Linkin Park, a perfect album and every song is great and you don’t want to skip anything. Not that we are that or will ever be that, [but] it’s something to put ourselves up against. To say [that] we need to do great, every song needs to be good.

These two stood out. They’re big statements that I really believe in. I think they turned out sonically great; we captured great energy in five takes. They’re both catchy too, and they’re on the heavier side which I know our last album was on the heavier side and it’s a good next step. It seemed like a good, solid couple songs to put out that our older fans will appreciate as well as newer people that have never heard of us before will get what we’re about. That was the main thing with the vibe of the songs. Lyrically, they’re just strong songs about…making people think, questioning what you’re supporting, what you’re consuming, what you identify with, what you fear, truth [and] all those kinds of things. It’s kind of about consciousness and that’s something that I’ve personally been going through and I’m trying to meditate a lot and take a step back and say ‘who am I and what am I about’. What makes me feel good? Is it integrity, is it honor? I’m hoping that people get that out of it. Who knows if they will, but that’s what I’m trying to do.

What inspirations and influences were you drawing on when creating this album?

Touring and being on those festivals, watching Gojira all the time, watching In This Moment all the time, watching Korn, watching all those bands do what they do at such a high level. We all listen to different stuff but also driving around for thousands of miles listening to each other’s music and you’re hearing so many things that it all comes out in some way, shape or form. I would just attribute it to intaking a lot of art, a lot of music. When we’re making something, I don’t think we’re ever really trying to be like ‘oh let’s write a Slipknot song’ or anything like that. It’s more like write something and then take a step back and look at it and say ‘okay well, what did we do?’ Do we like it? That’s really the process. With lyrics too, I try to go to a place of meditation where I’m not really thinking, where I don’t really have an objective. It’s like an exercise to take a pen and write to really get what’s going on in your mind, to really get what’s happening in your soul. And then I’ll just do that and take a step back and say ‘this is what I’m doing, this is something’ and then I’ll start thinking about it and run with it.

What are you hoping fans take away from the new music and the upcoming live shows? 

More of the same for the shows. They’re all pretty high energy songs and we like a high energy show. We really like to interact with people and bring people in and have them become part of the band. We really want to continue that. I think the last three years, we’ve grown so much to where we’ve done the biggest shows that we can imagine playing and we just want to continue that. The shows are always just high energy, it’s hyped and everybody’s just into it.

Ultimately, I just want people to hear it [the album] and to like it and if they don’t, that’s okay, too. You don’t have to like it. The goal with art- and this is something I’ve learned as well in playing music now for almost 20 years- is I think that as long as we’re happy and we love it, then it’s a win. It’s a success already before it comes out. I love it and David and Matt and Kyle love it, Churko loves it and the people that we need to love it, love it. I hope that it inspires them [listeners] to be powerful and for them to think and be individuals and to follow their true selves.

What are you looking forward to about your upcoming tour with In This Moment, Black Veil Brides and Raven Black?

I don’t think we’ve ever played with Black Veil Brides before- maybe on a festival or two. So I’m excited to see them and watch them play and become friends with them. I’ve never really seen Raven Black before either so I’m excited to meet them as well and see their show. 

It’s the same thing- getting in front of new people as well as celebrating the supporters that we know. Playing new songs- the new songs will be out by then. So that’s really what we’re looking forward to- when people have the music and then they can come to the show and know it. We just did a Europe tour with Wage War and played the new songs- and had a great response, honestly- but no one had heard the songs. I’m excited for them to know the songs and bring their energy to all of us. It’s going to be a great tour, a really good time.

What else do you have coming up for the rest of the year?

We can’t really announce what we have coming up, but a new album means a lot of touring, music videos and everything that comes with the album, and hopefully just bigger and better than the first one.

Do you ever think about a master plan for DED?

We want to be a really big band, that would be cool. We want to be successful, we want to continue creating music, seeing the world, making money and doing it in an authentic way and to create a community around our brand and our band and our music. Hopefully lifting up other bands when we get to that point to be able to do that and just becoming everything you dream about when you make a band. When we started this band, we had no objective so it’s interesting. When we started the band, we were just going to be heavy and play Yucca Tap Room on Saturday nights. There was no grandiose plan, it was really about being really heavy. Now we have the goals to be a huge force to be reckoned with in the rock and roll world. 

Success to somebody is not success to somebody else. Some people want to keep it super real and some people don’t. It really just comes down to what makes you happy and what you can go to sleep at night knowing you’re doing. And it evolves. At the beginning, we didn’t care and that slowly turned into ‘this is something we can do and let’s run with it’. The plan now is to continue making music and continue growing and [be] a staple in our genre.

Is there anything that you want your fans to know or anything you wish you got to speak about more that people may not ask?

Really I just want to say that we appreciate everything that’s happened to us over the last three or four years. It’s been like a dream, so many bucket list scenarios that we can check off. We feel very fortunate, we feel very lucky and we’re so appreciative that so many people have responded and that they feel the same way we do. We refer to songs as cooking meals and we’re glad people like how it tastes! I’m just really appreciative of everything that’s come our way. We’ve struggled in music for a long time- had some big highs and some big lows. This has been mostly highs and we’re really full of gratitude. 

It’s cool now, with the new album coming out, that we’re no longer the new kids on the block. We want to become pillars of our genre and it’s really cool to be coming from a new place now.    

Stream the Mannequin Eyes EP now and catch DED on tour with In This Moment starting March 24! Tickets available here.

Story by Olivia Khiel
Photo credit: Travis Shinn