Dangerous. Compelling. Heady. Seductive. Dark. Addictive. It's Dope, and after one listen, you'll be hooked. Felons and Revolutionaries, Dope's Flip/Epic Records debut, is much like its creators: smart, in-your-face, raw and innovative. From the blazing first radio track "Debonaire" to the gutsy, headbanging assault of "Pig Society," Dope serves up 13 subversive and stimulating songs.
The musical madness of Felons and Revolutionaries is the brainchild of the Dope Brothers (who actually are spawned from the same parental units). Dope is described by fast-talking frontman Edsel as "a post-industrial metal band...yet we have hooks and melodies, pop influences. We're a pretty damn heavy band, but we don't do a lot of drop tuning. 'Pig Society' is in the key of E, which is unheard of in heavy music today. It gives us that punk edge."
But the New York-based quintet are much, much more. The Dope Brothers' own story is a tale full of sound and fury. New York City, circa late '90s, two brothers lived together in Brooklyn. Now, these siblings had not grown up to-gether--back in their home state of Florida, post-divorce, one lived in separate cities with each parent--but in their early 20's, they came together in New York to make music. To support that habit, the brothers admit, they sold drugs--which fueled and funded their music. ("And there were a few rock stars who helped pay for our demos," Edsel snorts with a grin.)
Felons and Revolutionaries, produced by Edsel and John Travis (Kid Rock, Sugar Ray), and tracked mostly at Greene Street in Manhattan, is an attack on hypocrisy. It questions the way our society makes and enforces its laws, mocks the lack of responsibility parents take for the actions of their children, and comes down hard on police brutality.
"I love how parents use the television as a babysitter and then bitch about how the images their children see are harming them," rails Edsel. "Change the fucking channel or read your kid a book, for Christ's sake!" Conservative critics of mass culture "drive me fucking crazy," he mutters. "How can you place blame on a fucking video game?"
Felons and Revolutionaries also recounts stories "about what our lives were or are about: being misunderstood, living in crappy neighborhoods, being hassled by cops, selling drugs and being scared of going to jail for victimless crimes. That's where a lot of the mental aspect of this record came from." Edsel, the lyricist, quotes from such pointed songs as "Pig Society" and the lines "Sick of politicians and politics and prisons/Lying and running my life" and "Locked away in a cage today so I'm doing what I can/Take these fuckin' chains off me and I'll show you what I am."
"The song is written from a perspective of me in jail--where America wants me to be, thinks I should be," Edsel explains. "I knew that, any minute, the cops could break my door down and find a kilo under my bed and take my ass to jail for 40 years. Here I am, a 22 year-old kid trying to get ahead..."
Brother Simon interrupts: "I think it's difficult for the leaders of our country to relate to the society we live in. If one of those people walked a mile in my shoes, they'd think differently about the laws they make and the sentences they impose. Child molesters get out of jail sooner than drug dealers!"
Dope played less than a dozen shows in late '97 and early '98, and in October '98 inked a deal with Jordan Schur's fast-rising Flip Records (home of Limp Bizkit). Flip, in turn, made a production deal with Epic Records to allow maximum exposure for the band. Dope will release Felons and Revolutionaries on August 31, 1999 and begin touring with Orgy on July 17, followed by a national tour supporting Fear Factory.
"We never let ourselves become part of a scene," Edsel says of their Manhattan modus operandi. "We had a following before we ever played a show, just by giving out sampler tapes to kids and working the Internet. I worked my ass off on those demos and we answered every e-mail that came our way."
"The first show we played [March 7, 1998 at the Elbow Room in NYC] there were 300 kids going crazy. They were totally into what we were doing. It had a lot to do with the whole mystery thing. We were never that band that played on a Tuesday night to four people. We made sure that when we came out, all our pistons were firing."
Originally a drummer, younger brother Edsel began his career in punk-metal bands. For flexibility's sake, Edsel traded his drum kit for a bass and a guitar; he began traveling around the country with a four-track recorder, writing songs and honing his craft.
"I basically became a vagabond," Edsel recalls. "I spent time in New York, Atlanta, Vegas, LA, New Orleans, and everywhere in betweenówriting songs, meeting people, and just growing up. The song 'Everything Sucks' kind of depicts this period in my life. After that, I wound up back in South Florida, where there was nothing going on. I picked up the phone, called my brother in New York, and asked if I could crash on his couch. He didn't hesitate to say yes. A week later, I got on a plane."
"It was weird," Simon adds. "Before we knew it, we were best friends."
While Edsel was finding himself on the road, Simon was studying chemistry at the University of Florida where he was a DJ spinning the likes of Skinny Puppy and Ministry. He later relocated to New York after receiving a scholarship to Polytechnic in Brooklyn. It was a few months after this that the two brothers became reacquainted in their early 20's. They proved an ideal musical matchup, Edsel's metal- and punk-fueled edge combined with Simon's more precise and machine-driven industrial background. After the first Dope demos were completed, it was time to form a band, get a deal, and conquer the world.
All they needed now were "three other guys who had nothing else on this planet to live for but our band." In the fall of 1997, they stole those musicians--three frontmen, no less--from other bands. Tripp Eisen, Preston Nash and Acey Slade had all been leading their own bands, but cast off all other commitments to join Dope.
The release of Felons and Revolutionaries isn't the culmination but the beginning of a collective dream. "I'm an angry person, angry about a lot of things," says Edsel with considerable understatement. "And for me on stage--I want the crowd and me to be in that full-on aggressive mode. We live and look what we are and what we sound. I'll always be that white-trash guy, always be about metal and punk and guitar...I like keyboards and we use them," he concludes, "but don't expect the aggression to disappear on the next album!"
Perish the thought. For now, Dope's agenda is not just clear, but what some would call a clear and present danger: to create a society of Dope addicts. With Felons and Revolutionaries, you will get hooked on Dope.