The Safety Fire interview
with guitarist Derya ‘Dez’ Nagle
27th June 2012
at O2 Islington Academy, London, UK
Interview by Ashlinn Nash
With a latest album “Grind the ocean” released on InsideOut Records, The safety fire are a five piece British band who have been going since 2006, with the two releases under their belt so far, “Sections EP” released in 2009 and the current LP: “Grind the Ocean”. With their mix of progressively enchanting tracks and charismatic live performances, the band is becoming one you should keep ear out for. I caught up with Derya Nagle aka: Dez who plays guitar whilst warming up for the nights gig.
What has been the journey for your guys, from the early EP “Sections” right up to the latest “grind the ocean”?
Dez: I think what we’ve done musically has really grown; initially it very much started out, like the band when we were kids. We were sort of fourteen, fifteen, and there we taught ourselves, learning how to do everything the long way round, it’s been a constant kind of growth in that sense.
The EP’s we had all done before hand were always pushing towards a more exciting musical direction for what we wanted to do. So from the “sections EP” right up to “Grind the ocean” there was defiantly a big gap, in terms of our performances not only but our musicality too with song writing. I think it was in terms of writing a year and a half maybe, because we’d all just come out of university. The band went through some changing points such as we’d all moved back to London which helps massively, Which meant we could do it properly instead of sending emails around all the time with ideas, and just solidifying things really. That’s the main growth of the band.
Did all have bits of ideas before you went into the studio, or just went with the flow when you where there? Also what inspirations do have for the lyrics?
Dez: it was very much kinda, we’d decided what to write as we’d already had quite a lot of interest from the EP itself we knew we could do better, and we’d already started demoing some songs. We thought we might as well just fully demo a whole album and get interests that way rather than necessarily trying to go and find and label and then them give us money to go and carry on. We knew what we were able to do, I mean I’m able to fully produce all of the music, I’ve done that for other bands now as well, a producer in my own right as it were, we kinda took that on board and realised what were able to do so we wrote the album completely and did all the pre-production process and kind of got again more interest from labels.
I think it was at that point where we thought so might as well have the album completely done and then hand it out management and labels from there, then everything kind of fell into place at that point. It was a defined thing of lets have the finished product, and that was with the artwork and everything so that we had a finished product to show people,” this is what we’re about” as it were. I think that’s a lot easier to grasp then to necessarily imagine all the blanks in-between.
With the lyrics it’s inspiration through all kinds of any social input, with observations of society and kind of workings and literature which is defiantly quite a big inspiration in terms of topics and ideas, for example the track “sections” is an interpretation of Dante’s inferno, and a couple of the other tracks take inspiration from literature too. Which gives the lyrical content more of a ambiguous, which often gets misconstrued or people think is complete gobble de goop
What have you gained from the start until now?
Dez: I think we’ve gained a kinda of change to the crowds who have come to see us defiantly have a much greater appreciation for what we’re doing, in them knowing the material of what we do too, I mean with the experiences we’ve had I think to some extent quite early on in our careers we’ve been to America after releasing a debut album is quite an achievement for a UK band especially of our size to be able to go and do that has made us not take things for granted in any kind of way at all, we’re striving to go back and do these kinds of things again. Be as professional and kind of productive as we can which comes down to everything we do in terms of what concepts we give to the fans and everything else, we’re taking everything one step at a time but we can’t wait for what’s next.
I really like the artwork, done by Kim Taylor how’d that come about?
Dez: A friend of mine who has a dance label called “Totem Records” he does all that kind of branding and I saw that and thought “Wow that guys amazing” I talked to him and he listened to the album and kind of went from there, that artwork is very much inspired by the music and we kind of had that synergy and he knew exactly how we’d like people to kind of perceive us, so that aesthetic is defiantly matched very much with what we do.
It’s a very environmentally driven art piece is this part of the bands mindset?
Dez: I think we’re defiantly socially conscious, I don’t think necessarily with any of the lyrics directly towards that but are defiantly more of a overview of social views that get talked about in his lyrics and are more psychological points as well.
You’ve released a couple of music videos, most memorable “floods of colour” what’s the story behind that?
Dez: (laughs) I think that actually came about after “huge hammers” we kind of felt that we did everything we could do with a performance based video and not only that but we felt it was more important to kind of expand on what we want to show with the aesthetic of the band and what we do. So we talked to Jaz Goddard who directed the other video and said we wanted to do something different and have more of Foo fighters type video, at that point we thought “see what we can do” and the idea kinda came from there we thought it’d be fun, it was the idea that we were going to have fun that kinda appealed. I mean the performance stuff is can get quite tiresome after a while of being under a studio light all day.
You did the North American tour not too long ago how was it?
Dez: was awesome, firstly to go to America in the first place is amazing, and then to go with the tour package we went with was even better, Protest the Hero, being one of our favourite bands to just listen to for a long time now. With Periphery and with Jeff Loomis just playing as package was so good, every show was just mind blowing.
I mean to get the opportunity to go out there and to do it was amazing! We drove round in an SUV which was interesting sleeping upright for about a month was yeah, challenging. In all honesty it wouldn’t have changed anything to do it again.
You’re quite an energetic live band, what can we expect tonight?
Dez: we try not to break our instruments, or break ourselves, but you know it happens, luckily none of us have broken any bones yet! We’ve had a lot of backs being put out of place and kinda ache days the next day. We kinda manage to get on anyway, we’re now much more aware of stretching now that’s defiantly something we try.
What’s been the best gig so far?
Dez: It’s been getting better and better really, for us Sonisphere when that happened was amazing! Then we went out and did the Rise to Remain tour in September and then a headline how in London, which was also amazing! Then the New York Show in America and that was probably the biggest show we’ve played to date, we actually saw crowds singing back words for the songs; I think before that the album hadn’t come out yet so it was a lot harder for people to get into the songs for the set we were playing. It really came to a point at download this year which was the first show we’d played since getting back to the UK, to have a tent full of people completely rammed going completely crazy was awesome! All the shows we’ve ever toured on have been amazing, very different crowds to what used to but all good.
What’s it been like with the recent tour with Gojira? How’d that one happen?
Dez: We were offered the shows and came to us looking for support for it were like (pause) well yes (laughs) but to be given that kind of opportunity was great! We’ve been fairly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to play with some amazing bands so early on, and Gojira are one of our favourite bands, having the opportunity to see them and play with them three times in a row is an amazing thing in itself.
It’s been great, they’re really awesome guys really friendly and I think it’s really nice to see a band of their size really humble as they are that’s something we’d always aspire to be like if we ever got to that size. As I say the crowds are very different they have quite a wide span of audience base more tech and progressive side and then more Lamb of god and Machine head fans, and that’s the fan base coming to these shows so obviously I think for some people we might be a bit more out there then they’re used to necessarily. Where I think the band tread a fine line between those two fan bases as it were, overall it’s been really, really good and we can’t complain. I think tonight’s the gig with most fans of our own there.
Got any funny gig stories?
Dez : one of the good ones is the last show in America with Protest the hero, all the other support bands pranked them. Initially we went on stage when they were playing, then went into the crowd and sprayed everyone with water, we told them before hand we were going to prank them and crowd surfed and stuff. They said “that’s tame, I hope that’s a decoy” so then we did a naked conga line during their last song (laughs) I think they appreciated that second one.
What gear do you use?
Dez: I use for my main guitar, Wirebird telecaster and so does jack the other guitarist we run that through a fractal audio axe ll, which we recently got while out in the states. We also use Zilla cabs which are made in the UK all hand built and also Bare Knuckle pickups as well which are also hand built in the UK. So we’re very much kind of about supporting our local smaller music shops.
Who would you love to tour with?
Dez: Oh wow! Karnivool is defiantly on the list, I feel greedy saying this because we’ve toured with a lot of bands, love to do a tour with Between The Buried And Me and Periphery again. Deftones would be another one defiantly, I’m not sure how much their fans would like us it’s just something I’d like to do to be honest. Mastodon those would be the top three, yeah Mastodon, Deftones and Karnivool! Gojira would be great again sure.
What would a new fan expect to hear from the new album?
Dez: it’s quite a dynamic album in the way that they’re a lot of to take in on the first listen, I’ve had quite a few people say they’re heard one or two songs and not been too sure on them or what to think about them. Then there are other people who can get it in one go, I think it’s a very eclectic mix of our influences matched into what we do and I think that’s why with the album you can’t just take one song necessarily feel like you get what we do, because there are songs like “DMB (FDP)” are frantic and frenetic. Then tracks there are tracks like “Anomalous Materials” pretty much just a guitar and a vocal, and those two are contrasts of what basically forms us in general that kind of complete brutality mixed with melodic serenading (laughs).
What musicians inspire you?
Dez: I’m a massive fan of Prince, so that’s probably one, that’s the sort of stuff I’ve listen to since I was a kid to now and it’s still massively influential in the ways of song writing and even fashion possibly. (laughs) Peter Gabriel as well, being brought up on that kind of music as well stuff like Aphex twin Venetian Snares, Squarpusher all the IDM kind of stuff which comes in as well which covers a lot of the electronic stuff we listen too.
In terms of guitair playing and stuff like that Allan Holdsworth, Stephan Carpenter from Deftones, Adam Jones from Tool, Jerry Cantrell from Alice in chains, there are a lot, the guys from Skith were are a group as well were defiantly a big inspiration. I think it changes every day, at one point I was very much interested in technical points of music listening to stuff like Dream theatre, not for so much vocal parts but more a pure astonishment at the technicality of the song writing and how gifted those musicians were. Steve Vai, Joe percucci and all of the shredder kind of stuff, that defiantly kind of adds to what we do.
What are your top five albums?
Dez: “Lateralus” by Tool, Prince “Christopher Tracy’s parade”, “Diamond eyes” by Deftones or at least one Deftones album so I’ll go with that. “A living room hush” by Jago Jazzist, Kaki King’s “until we felt red”, Pantera would probably have to be in there somewhere. Although in relation to what we do musically those are the kinds of things I suppose I bring in with the heavier edge to the music five albums is tough! Especially to span all the different kinds of music I listen to.
How would you describe the band in five words?
Dez: Fresh, (laughs) fresh times five, let me think, Progressive, I want to say funky but that is defiantly not the word, this is quite a hard question. High-Energy, take that as one word otherwise it’d wouldn’t make any sense (laughs). Dynamic and fun!
What have you got planned coming up?
Dez: After this tour with Gojira we’re off to play Hevy festival (Port Lympne, Kent) in August, we’re also doing one for converse represents which is during the Olympics they’ll be doing a music vent at the 100 club, where basically ten genres of music across ten days, and we’re lucky enough to be playing the metal night, also Brutal assault (Czech Republic).
Thank you very much for your time.
“Grind the Ocean” is out now via Insideout records