In 2016 you simply cannot have a conversation about Thrash metal without bringing up DEATH ANGEL. So when the opportunity to speak with guitarist Ted Aguilar presented itself I was all over it like ants at a picnic. Ted is one of the most likable guys you’ll ever meet in metal and he was very excited to discuss new album The Evil Divide (out now via Nuclear Blast Records), life outside the band, and other things. Pull up a chair and join us:
Amps: Talk to me about The Evil Divide. What’s different, but what makes it classic DEATH ANGEL?
Ted: Put it this way. It’s DEATH ANGEL in 2016. We’ve progressed in that it’s very different, but still familiar. All DA elements are there, but we’re two and a half years more mature than the last album.
Amps: Much like your contemporaries in EXODUS, TESTAMENT, and OVERKILL it seems like you’re doing the best writing of your career here in the second half.
Ted: Oh, thank you man. I think with our contemporaries and us it’s the fact that we all realize that it’s REALLY hard to get a second chance with the music, for one. It’s very rare that a band gets to do this again. Plus, we’re all getting older, so we want to write the best music we possibly can. We’re not one of those bands that just throws a record out there so we can go tour. We put a lot of effort into the writing, recording, and the final product, you know? It seems like a lot of bands, especially in pop, just churn out disposable hits with no substance, whereas we care all about the substance. How a riff sounds, or if the drums sound good, we take pride in all that. No one promises us tomorrow so we wanna write the best music we can.
Amps: It really sounded to me like on the last two records you guys played like your lives depended on it. Just brutal, unrelenting punishment.
Ted: Well, with Relentless Retribution we went through a tough time before that album. We lost a couple of members, then we got some real fucking kickass guys who know what DEATH ANGEL is all about and could take us to the next level. All the negativity and criticism that came from losing members, that has a lot of influence on us and we were like, “You know what? Fuck you!” and that translated into the music we wrote on Relentless. For The Dream Calls For Blood, you know we had been on the road almost three years, and we made a lot of sacrifices and compromises, which is the blood part of the dream. It’s all about trying to fight our way to the top.
Amps: But having Will (Carroll, drums) and Damien (Sisson, bass) in the band all these years now has definitely solidified you as a writing and live machine, right?
Ted: Oh, definitely! They’re so into it and they’re awesome players. They love being in this band and are enjoying every minute of it. We’re all on the same page, especially when it comes to touring. These guys can leave for a six-month tour, whereas in the past some guys might not have been able to get away for that long because life happens, you know? Plus, whenever you get fresh blood in a band like ours it changes the writing for the better, I think.
Amps: Well, you’re a very hard-working band both onstage and off, and you tour a lot. Yet The Dream Calls For Blood doesn’t sound at all rushed even though you did it in a relatively short time and wrote most of it on the road.
Ted: Oh yeah, it was one of those situations where we knew the touring cycle wasn’t gonna end anytime soon, so Rob (Cavestany, guitars) started writing riffs and we put stuff together. Usually when we come off the road we take a break to decompress and spend time with family. Then when we have enough songs written we go in and start recording.
Amps: The Evil Divide is the third album with Jason Suecof producing down at Audiohammer Studios, correct?
Ted: Yes, this is the third. What’s cool about Jason is that sonically all three albums sound different. That’s something Jason is really good at. So is Rob; he actually produced this one with Jason. He knows how DEATH ANGEL should sound and he’d bring all his thoughts and ideas to Jason and they’d work on that together. Plus, Jason pushes everyone in the band to be better.
Amps: Do you and Rob collaborate on the songs or does he send you demos?
Ted: Rob actually starts the initial writing and he’ll give us a skeleton, an early version of a song and say, “This is what I’m hearing.” So what we normally do is he goes in with Will and they hash out the idea. The thing about this team is that when Rob has a vision we all see it through. We’ll play it for a while, and the more you play it the more you get used to it and come up with ideas along the way. Like with the guitars I usually try to come up with counterparts to Rob’s ideas. Things are always evolving with the songwriting, even right up until the recording. I think everyone’s gonna be excited about this new album, I’m really excited.
Amps: Away from the band, what do you do to relax? Any hobbies?
Ted: I’m a movie buff. I love movies, either at home, or going to the theater. I love the whole experience of getting in line, buying your ticket and popcorn. I also have a couple of Labradors, a chocolate and yellow. I love hiking with them. I do mostly domestic stuff so when I come back to DEATH ANGEL I’m re-energized.
Amps: I was really bad this year at seeing Best Picture nominees. I didn’t see Spotlight till just before the ceremony and I loved it. I’m very happy it won. Did you see it?
Ted: I LOVE that movie! All-star cast, and based on a true story. You can’t go wrong. It’s incredible how much power the church has, right? And a movie like that, a story like that, to see people actually give a shit, and put their lives on the line to make sure that story gets told while other reporters were busy chasing “big” stories to make sure newspapers got sold, that’s really something. Same with The Big Short. Man, it’s incredible. If it’s based on a true story I’m all over it. But I have a softer side, too. I like my chick flicks a lot (laughs).
Amps: Hey, as much as I love my murder, violence, and mayhem I will still stop everything to watch How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days whenever it comes on HBO!
Ted: Isn’t that a great one?!? Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson are great in that. So is Kathryn Hahn.
Amps: Ohhhhh, that scene where she’s pretending to be the therapist began my unholy obsession with her!
Ted: (Laughing) I get it!
Amps: What guitars are you playing and what is your current set-up?
Ted: Dude, I’ve been waiting for you to ask that (laughs)! I’m playing ESP guitars. I have a new signature series called the Ted 600. It’s all white, I’ve always been a fan of white. I don’t wear it, but I love how it looks on a guitar. As far as amps go I’m playing the Mesa Boogie Mark V running through two Mesa Boogie cabinets with Vintage 30’s. As far as pedals go my rig is MXR Carbon Copy Delay, Zakk Wylde chorus, a flanger, an EQ, a phaser, and it’s all running through a GTX Voodoo Lab. My head and all the effects run through that also. And it’s all powered through a Furman AR 18 voltage regulator rack. For wireless I use a 6G-90 and the BEST Noisegate ever, the ISP Decimator. I wired it all myself, it’s a hodge podge of cables. Dunlop strings, Dunlop picks, and ready to go. I’m a gear nerd!
Amps: What would you like to say to all the DEATH ANGEL fans out there in the world?
Ted: Thank you for everything. This band has been around since the 80’s and the support has always been there. We couldn’t do it without all of you, and we are forever grateful. I’m glad you enjoy the music and you enjoy what we do. We’re gonna keep doing it as long as you let us do it.
This was definitely one of the most fun conversations I’ve had in the few years we’ve been doing this whole A&GS thing. It made the excruciating wait for The Evil Divide a little easier, and also shed some new light on what makes one of my favorite bands tick. If you are reading this and you still haven’t purchased the record, please find the nearest hammer and hit yourself over the head 32 times.
LIVE PHOTO: DARKHOUSE IMAGE