Latest release: Serpent Gods and a Dying Sun (Independent)Website: www.facebook.com/DaemonPyre/
Andrew Lilley considers himself to be very fortunate given the current climate. The Daemon Pyre guitarist and former Sydneysider is now based in Oakland, California where he feels he is doing significantly better than a lot of other people across the United States.
“I’m pretty lucky, man,” he says. “Over here, there’s 30 million people unemployed. That’s well over the population of Australia, so I’m fortunate to be able to work and have this job.”
Beyond his usual evening lakeside stroll and exercise regimen, there is little else to do with so much of the city still closed down – and, since this interview was done, with protests and riots almost right outside his door. The long awaited release of his band’s new album, Serpent Gods and a Dying Sun, has provided Lilley with some purpose, and another way to kill time outside of working hours.
“Having the album out has been a godsend, because working on that has kept me really busy interacting with people. Because I am on my own, it’s been really good because when I finish work I go and do my thing and then I do the social media stuff – I’m doing all the social media posts so that means that some nights I’m up until 10 or 11 working on band stuff after I’ve finished work. That’s better than sitting around doing fuck all.”
Daemon Pyre sparked to life from the ashes of As Silence Breaks six years ago, injecting the Sydney metal scene with a vibrant dose of savage melodic death metal that could turn theatrical on stage when vocalist Sam Rillatt would daub himself with warpaint. Just as they were building momentum, however, the band abruptly ceased all activity. A 7” they had been working on was abandoned, and it seemed that the follow-up to their 2015 self-titled debut would never surface.
“I wrote Laudem Blasphemous right after we recorded the first record. Then we started playing a lot,” Lilley goes on, “and I was also playing with Lillyé… 2014 I was recording with Lillyé and playing and recording with Daemon Pyre and 2015 I was touring a lot with Daemon Pyre so there wasn’t that much writing.”
It was a particularly busy period for the guitarist, who had spent the previous few years drifting between projects that fizzled out, not to mention for Daemon Pyre. The quintet were racking up an impressive list of shows for a band that had been together less than a year but they weren’t coming up with new material in the process.
“So in 2016 it was like, ‘Shit, you better do something’. So we ended up writing a lot of songs, and we actually recorded two, Unto a Dying World and Laudem Blasphemous with [Sydney producer] Lachlan Mitchell in 2016. That was meant to be a single.”
As the gears began turning, the wheels started falling off. Guitarist Simon Tattum departed, followed a few months later by frontman Rillatt who was burned out and suffering health problems. Daemon Pyre got the call up to play the Sydney show with Cattle Decapitation and Lilley and bass player Mat Seckold put a line-up together in order to do it, but “it sounded like a band thrown together by a group of mates”.
“As much as I’m glad we got to do that show,” he says on reflection, “I don’t think it was the best version of our band! So we made a decision that we were not going to do this unless we sound as good as we need to be – as good as we have to be.”
Lilley, Tattum, Seckold and the band’s original bass player Kiel Stanger, with whom Lilley had been writing, made a compact – the album would be completed, no matter what.
“Even if we never do a gig again, we’ll get this album done, just for ourselves. No delusions of grandeur, just because we’ve worked so long on this, we believe in it, we want to get it done.”
Plans to work with another vocalist fell through when the guy “just disappeared”, but the project was thrown a lifeline when the band’s former manager, King Parrot vocalist Matt Young, suggested they get back in contact with Sam Rillatt.
“It had been nine months since he left, and it suited the idea, which was to finish the album because we’re mates,” Lilley says. “We asked him and he was into it, which was great.”
Despite being away from the game for a while, Rillatt had plenty of lyrics he had been working on that he was able to bring to the table. Quite distinctly from the debut, his songs took on a more abstract quality on Serpent Gods and a Dying Sun, as Lilley explains.
“There was always a message in what he wrote (previously). Laudem Blasphemous has a lot of anti-religious connotations and Unto a Dying World is very much about the destruction of the planet. Those songs were written early. With the others, they are much more open to interpretation, a little more mysterious and a little less obvious.”
With Kevin Talley and Ne Obliviscaris’ Dan Presland contributing drum tracks, and Rillatt adding his vocals at the eleventh hour, Serpent Gods and a Dying Sun was finally completed, although Lilley had his own problems during the long creative process. A nerve condition in his arms that had plagued him since his early days on tour with Sydney groove metal monsters Psi.Kore nearly ended his guitar playing for good.
“I’ve had arm issues for about twenty years,” he says, “but they really started getting bad about two years ago. I’d get knocked out from playing guitar for two or three months at a time, at least twice a year. That just meant everything stopped, and I was driving the musical side of things. I was decimated, because I felt like I was letting everyone down. It was like everyone was counting on me, and I couldn’t do what I was planning to do. All of those different things, compacted into that time contributed to why it took so long. The great thing is, we got it done! At the end of the day, that’s what we wanted: getting it done.”
With work completed, Andrew Lilley put his guitar down and seriously considered never picking it up again. Since settling in to his new life in the US, however, and having little else to waste his time with now that COVID-19 has shut down normality, he has gone back to it.
“One of the good things that’s come out of this (situation) is that I have started playing guitar again. Over the last five or six weeks I’ve been taking lessons from Ryan Knight, who was in The Black Dahlia Murder, and I’m just working on technique and slow stuff and stretching, and there’s no pressure. I’ve got shitloads of ideas in my head, but I don’t have to do anything. I’m hoping that in the next month to six weeks, I can make some videos, some playthrus, from the record, which will be fun to do.”
Daemon Pyre may be finished, but there is little doubt that Andrew Lilley still has plenty of music left in him. After more than twenty years slogging it out on Sydney’s metal scene, he just needed a change of scenery.
“When you spend so much time on anything, I think you lose perspective. And it becomes a love/hate relationship where you believe in it and you’ve got to get it done, but then you think ‘Fuck this! I don’t want to do this for a while’. I just didn’t want to play. I had no interest. But taking a break was important, because I didn’t enjoy playing guitar anymore. Coming over here and restarting my life had nothing to do with music. Coming up to this album coming out, I re-engaged myself and I’m sure there will be more playing for me but I’ve got to be in a position where I’m not pushing myself too hard and just keep playing.”