Edsel Dope, vocals
Simon Dope, keyboard and sampler
Acey Slade, guitar
Sloane “Mosey” Jentry, bass
Sketchy Shay, drums
I started out playing drums when I was four. Animal from the Muppet Show was my hero until I saw Tommy Lee of Motley Crue,” says Edsel Dope, singer and songwriter for the New York-based six-piece that shares his surname. Edsel ditched the drum kit when he was 16, but never lost his love for Reagan-era hard rock. You can hear its influence on “Life” (Flip/Epic) - Dope’s sophomore effort co-produced by Edsel and Josh Abraham (Staind, Limp Bizkit, Orgy).
The follow-up to Dope’s debut, “Felons and Revolutionaires” (1999), features Edsel on several instruments, his brother Simon Dope on keyboards and sampler, guitarists Acey Slade and Virus, bassist Sloane “Mosey” Jentry and drummer Sketchy Shay. Dope embraces the melodic hooks and vocal harmonies that made metal a hit in the ‘80s, but update that sound with an aggressive streak that a modern generation weaned on Adidas-rock and rapcore can relate to. Dope succeeds in creating a new sound that is also strangely familiar.
It was essential, Edsel says, for Dope to set itself apart musically and lyrically from its contemporaries. “I’m sick of listening to music that’s all energy and no substance. We set out to make music that has energy, but also makes people feel something on an emotional level.”
“Now Or Never” – the first single from “Life” – finds Edsel reflecting on hard lessons he’s learned. “It’s a song about relationships, new beginnings and taking risks, but it’s not necessarily directed toward one person or situation. It’s about watching everything fall down around you, but not letting everything around you fall apart. The title says it all.” That theme of self-empowerment runs through many of the songs on “Life.” It’s a reaction, Edsel says, to music that is quick to place blame, but slow to accept responsibility. “It’s so easy to sit back and bitch about everything that’s wrong, but it’s hard to keep trying. I hate people who give up. My motto is “Die Trying,’ and a lot of our songs reflect that attitude.”
On “Take Your Best Shot,” the rhythm gallops like the cavalry riding to the emotional rescue while Edsel shouts his battle cry: ”Don’t let them say that you can’t be the things that you want. Just believe in yourself and take your best shot.” New songs “Slipping Away” and “What About…” cover more emotional territory than previous Dope efforts, but “Life” doesn’t sacrifice any of the intensity the group established on its debut. “Die MF Die” and “March of Hope” rank as some of the band’s heaviest work.
Edsel says both of Dope’s albums accurately reflect his state of mind when the music was written. “The first album was devoted to a two-year period of my life and only deals with a few emotions – mainly anger and frustration. With the new album, I wanted to tap into the 22 years and 52 emotions I didn’t explore the first time around. I called this record “Life,” because it deals with everything people go through in a day.”
Dope has definitely matured since its debut, which featured Edsel railing like a foaming lunatic about the world’s hypocrisy while buzzsaw guitars and abrasive beats coalesce in a punishing industrial grind. The old songs illuminated a paranoid period of Edsel’s life when he and his brother ran a drug delivery service to finance their musical aspirations.
“It was a smooth operation,” Edsel says with a grin. “Most of the time, I stayed home, worked on our demo and took orders over the phone. I dispatched my brother and Mosey, who made the deliveries. Knowing that 10 guys wearing camouflage with M-16s can bust through your window any second definitely messes with your head. But my biggest fear during that time was that my brother would get nailed and I would spend the rest of my life looking at him through a cage.”
Selling drugs for two years convinced Edsel the government’s war on drugs is a monumental waste of the country’s resources. “It’s ridiculous how much money is spent combating what is essentially a victimless crime,” Edsel says getting worked up. “When you do the math, the only option that makes sense is legalization. Then the government could use the money it saves from interdiction and incarceration on much more worthwhile things.”
“Most politicians are old and know they have the support of other old farts who still think marijuana and masturbation will make you go blind,” Edsel continues. “I guess we’ll have to wait for those old idiots to die before we can actually be free.”
Born in Melbourne, Fla. Edsel and Simon were young when their parents split up. Edsel was four years old when he moved with his mother to West Palm Beach. Simon was seven years old and stayed with his father in Melbourne. At 16, Edsel dropped out of school and moved to Miami to play drums in a band. He lived in the band’s rehearsal space, and taught himself to play guitar when everyone went home. A year later, he quit the band, began writing songs and started bouncing around the country.
Simon took a more traditional path growing up. He finished high school and attended the University of Florida, but left after earning a scholarship to study chemistry at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, N.Y. Then a phone call from Edsel changed Simon’s life. Edsel asked to crash on Simon’s couch while he put a band together and Simon agreed. After hearing his little brother’s music, Simon dropped out of college a year before graduating and joined Edsel’s band. It was a risky move considering Simon’s only musical experience at that point was DJing at the nightclub he managed. "Dope’s music requires a lot of weird sounds and strange tones. I knew computers and loved the songs so it was natural for me to become the guy in the band who played those bizarre noises,” says Simon.
When Dope’s six-song demo was finished, the brothers began a grassroots campaign to build a buzz about the group. The band hit every hard rock show in New York to pass out copies of its demo. “We had our girlfriends dress in slutty outfits, go to the shows and hand out our tapes and stickers,” Edsel says. “They would walk up and down the line asking people if they wanted free dope, while were around the corner tagging everything in sight with stickers and spray paint. How can you fail with a marketing campaign like that?”
Indeed, the buzz grew even though Dope had not played a single show. In 1998, the group performed for the first time – in front of a sold out crowd no less – at the Elbow Room in New York. A year later, they signed a record contract, the Dope Brothers retired the drug delivery service and the band recorded its first album. Then Dope hit the road for almost two years opening for Slipknot, Kid Rock, Sevendust, Staind and Fear Factory, including a special Halloween show with Alice Cooper in New York.
After the tour, Dope’s membership began to evolve. Sketchy Shay, Edsel’s friend from his Florida days, replaced the band’s touring drummer. Bassist Acey Slade replaced the touring guitarist, which cleared the way for Mosey, a member of the original Dope line-up, to return to the band. Tired of playing guitar in concert, but still wanting to retain the band’s double guitar-attack, Edsel recruited Virus and expanded the band to a six-piece.
“This line-up feels right and sounds right,” Edsel says. “All the changes have improved the band’s musical and personal dynamics. Before, it felt like playing with a couple of mercenaries. Now, it feels like family.”