INTERVIEW WITH JOE COTELA + LIVE PHOTOGRAPHS
BY ERICA VINCENT
A lot has changed in the world since DED’s breakout debut album, Mis·An·Thrope, was released in 2017. The band has premiered a new single, “Kill Beautiful Things,” igniting DED’s appearance on tour with Black Veil Brides and In This Moment. We spoke with vocalist Joe Cotela to discuss “Kill Beautiful Things,” how to find your way when everything is crumbling, and DED’s second album, School of Thought.
DED has been making major moves through these wild times. You have new songs and videos, 25 million streams, and a fantastic tour.
Yeah, we’ve been really fortunate. It seemed like there was no end in sight for a while. To have this tour, it’s good because we’ve been dormant for so long. It’s good to come back and go everywhere.
“Kill Beautiful Things” touches on being stuck and breaking out. What has motivated this song?
Gratitude. It’s part of who I am, especially as an artist or musician. Everybody knows there’s been times when it’s been challenging. You just gotta push through and know that there is always going to be something better at the end of a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, or a bad year. That’s something I always keep in my mind. I do breath meditation and gratitude for loved ones, Maria [Brink, In This Moment], my family, and things like that. All those things you fight for, the people around you, and the people that believe in you. There is a lot to live for, a lot to push forward for.
“THERE IS ALWAYS GOING TO BE SOMETHING BETTER AT THE END OF A BAD DAY, A BAD WEEK, A BAD MONTH, OR A BAD YEAR.”
Tell us about your new phenomenal release, “Kill Beautiful Things.”
It was a song that was written late in the writing process. We released our first album in 2017, so it’s been a long time. Over that time, we were touring all the time, and we would write songs when we could. We got to the place where anybody in our crew was writing. Our friend Alex [Adamcik], who does all our merch and has his own company, was writing songs with our bassist Kyle [Koelsch]. They turned this song into me, and it was a great song. It was one of those where everything came together organically. I wrote all the vocals in an hour in my car.
It boggles the mind that artists can do that from time to time.
It doesn’t always happen that way, but that’s why it feels special. We then brought that into our producer Kevin Churko, and he elevated it and did all the stuff he does because he’s incredible. When Kevin first heard “Kill Beautiful Things,” he loved it right away. We ended up doing the video in the middle of the pandemic. We thought we would be able to go back out last September or October, and the tour got pushed and pushed. We couldn’t really be around each other, so it was a different vibe for the video because usually we have the whole band, but this time it was just me by myself. It made for a different video for us. We talked about a handful of videos that were outside of the box of metal, and we were, “Cool, let’s do that.” We’re usually in a dark room. This time it was all in nature, and the way everything started happening with the video, we noticed that it really made sense for the time. I like to leave the video open to interpretation a little bit, but the overall feeling and vibe is you go through all of that, you’re tearing down everything or ruining everything around you, and then you find your way through when everything is crumbling away. There is always another way, another day, and new beginnings are amazing. That moment when you realize everything is going to be okay, that relief rushes over your body—that’s the vibe of the video, and it goes hand in hand with the song.
“THERE IS ALWAYS ANOTHER WAY, ANOTHER DAY, AND NEW BEGINNINGS ARE AMAZING”
You had an incredible team with you for this song and the video. Who helped bring “Kill Beautiful Things” to life?
We did it with Marc Klasfeld, who did our last video for “A Mannequin Idol” that came out at the beginning of the pandemic last year. He was the main guy, and our manager Jordan got involved. He’s a legendary guy and has been around with everybody—Limp Bizkit, Blink 182, and many others—and Maria got involved. We were out scouting things, and she had a lot of great ideas. She’s just so good with visuals. I’ve never met anyone else who comes up near what she comes up with. Her eye is incredible. All of us got together with Marc’s team, and we shot it out in the woods. Surrounding yourself with strong people, strong artists, and good people really makes a difference.
What can you tell us about the new album?
The difference for the new album is four years of life, traveling, and being exposed to so much music. If you think about it, you change every couple of years in a small way. The difference is finding out who we are and who we want to be. The first album was very centered around a nu metal vibe. We were intent on bringing in some Slipknot, Korn, Limp Bizkit, System of a Down, but modernizing it and combining it with punk and metalcore. We didn’t plan on doing what we did with the first album. I was sick of the music industry at that point and not wanting to do it anymore. We were just going to be a heavy band that plays dive bars, and that’s it. Then it turned into something that was well received and a lot of people got excited. Now, those influences are still there, and they are bands we grew up listening to and bands we still love to this day. We’ve broadened that spectrum a bit. We let a lot more influences in, making for a more diverse album. There is more alternative and alternative metal vibes, and it is still heavy. I tried some new things vocally as well. If we had done an album a year or two after Mis·An·Thrope, it would have been a lot closer to that. There is a lot of stuff that is still similar, but a lot of growth as well.
“WE’VE BROADENED THAT SPECTRUM A BIT. WE LET A LOT MORE INFLUENCES IN, MAKING FOR A MORE DIVERSE ALBUM”
How are things shaping up with guitarist Alex Adamcik?
Alex has been awesome. He wrote the guitars for the new single. He’s been in many Arizona bands and was always the frontman for deathcore and hardcore bands, but he’s a fan of all kinds of music. He’s been on tour with us doing merch for us for a few years, so he’s met a lot of the people at shows and it just made sense. You travel with someone for a few years, and you know they work as people. I’m at the point that I just want to have fun and enjoy who I’m around. You surround yourself with good people and good things happen. It’s been great with Alex and seamless as can be. He’s a very talented guy and easygoing. We’re really excited to have him.
Do you have any pre-tour or pre-show rituals?
There is a lot of working out to get your wind back up, lifting weights, and that kind of thing. Try and spend time with family and loved ones before leaving, of course. Pre-show, we exercise, do some stretches, have a few drinks, and listen to something heavy. I like listening to Black Breath and Pantera, really powerful stuff that makes you feel energized. I don’t really do a vocal warm-up. There is warmth with your voice that happens when you’re warming up that I like. I don’t want to waste any of that warmth warming up. Maria and I are mapping out cool food places to go while on tour in each city. That’s a big thing we are looking forward to for pre-shows.
Here’s a special question from someone you may know. Randy Weitzel [guitar, In This Moment] wants to know who your second favorite member of In This Moment is?
(laughs) Well, Chris [Howorth, guitar] will kill me if I say Randy. I love them all. It was an automatic connection with them. When I started doing “Black Wedding,” the Rob Halford part, it was an honor. And that’s where Maria and I started meeting. So, they are all my favorite (laughs).
What’s next for DED?
I don’t want to wait as long as we did this time to release a new album. Pandemic aside, it was way too long for us to go back into the studio and do another album. We have more shows coming up, a cruise with Rob Zombie, Mastodon, and several others. That should be amazing! Supporting this album is our focus now. I’m full of gratitude for everything we have. There are so many amazing things happening. We can only do so much, so we appreciate everybody getting involved and supporting us. It’s amazing.