There is an old saying which claims that great art is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. The truth though is that exceptional creativity is nurtured by a complexly brewed combination of unswerving dedication and God-given talent. It’s a fact no better illustrated than by the history of Vancouver’s hard-rockers ART OF DYING and their talismanic frontman Jonny Hetherington. From hours busking on the corners of frozen streets, to catching the ear of members of DISTURBED, to gatecrashing some of North America’s biggest venues, to writing and recording records of truly epic proportions, the trajectory of the quartet’s career has astonished both fans and industry insiders alike.
“In my early days as a musician I just wanted to play and hone my chops,” explains Hetherington, “and playing on the street seemed like the best way to do that. It teaches you a lot about songwriting and about yourself, because you’re having to learn and make mistakes in front of people. I’ll never forget the folks who came and took notice of what I was doing back then, lots of them are ART OF DYING fans now and I think that’s testament to what we’ve been able to create as a band.”
And what ART OF DYING has been able to create is muscular, vivacious hard-rock bursting with lung-shattering choruses and a sincerity that is impossible to fake. Equally at home with a lead-fingered riff or a deft slow-burner, there is an ease of breadth in AOD’s repertoire that would send most of their peers salad-green with envy.
Gradually, Hetherington’s ambitions grew beyond his local sidewalk and he began to seek out like-minded collaborators that he could expand his already impressive template with. Drummer Jeff Brown was swiftly recruited and he and Hetherington set about formulating the powerful nucleus of what ART OF DYING would soon become. It was recordings of those initial sessions that would eventually find their way into the hands on DISTURBED’s Dan Donegan - a guitarist with both a fine personal pedigree and a keen ear for new talent.
“I was blown away when I first heard their demo,” enthuses Donegan. “I lived with it for quite a while and I was so impressed with the quality of the songwriting that I had a feeling there was something special going on. Me and David [Draiman, Disturbed vocalist] had been looking for someone to sign to our imprint for a while, but I wanted to make sure the guys could do it live - it’s hard to find a band that are the complete package these days. So, we invited them out on a DISTURBED tour of America, we really threw them in the deep end!”
Plucked from relative obscurity, the band introduced guitarist Tavis Stanley and bassist Cale Gontier to their ranks on the eve of the run with DISTURBED - the quartet playing onstage together for the very first time during the soundcheck of the opening show of the tour. But suddenly, everything clicked. “The moment I knew that we had it right was when our voiced started harmonizing,” says Hetherington, of the band’s now-trademark three-way vocals. “It felt like the band I had always been looking for and that tour went brilliantly for us - it was the catalyst for us to rise to another level.”
Now, with a critically-acclaimed and widely-played major label debut under their belts, ART OF DYING are returning with new long-player RISE UP, their most imperious effort to date and, by the band’s own admission the truest representation of their sound they’ve ever distilled.
“We pushed ourselves incredibly hard with this record,” explains Tavis. “We went to the studio with our producer David Bendeth (Bring Me The Horizon, Breaking Benjamin, Of Mice & Men) thinking we had the album pretty much done, but he challenged us far beyond where we thought our limits were.”
“In fact, a lot of the lyrical content on this album is about the idea of overcoming adversity,” continues Hetherington. “About taking yourself beyond where you thought you could go… about proving the naysayers wrong. Take the opening track “Best Won’t Do” for example, it’s basically a conversation between me and the son-of-a-bitch who’s telling me I can’t do what I set my mind to!”
Indeed, if RISE UP is about one thing above all else it is a study on the power of the human will and the uplifting capacity of one’s own self belief. This is rip-snorting rock ’n’ roll that will smash your self-doubt into a million pieces. It’s a record for the believers, for the die hards. “Rise Up”'s swaggering riffs and audacious groove belie a potent message of underdog spirit which permeates every bit of it's three and half minutes. Boasting a huge chorus, it's a feel-good anthem apt to galvanise any audience, anywhere in the world. An exercise in fist-pumping adrenaline, “Tear Down The Wall” showcases Hetherington's exemplary vocal range in all its impeccable glory. From understated slowburn to full throttle power, Hetherington effortlessly guides the listener through a modern rock cut that kicks like a mule while wearing its heart firmly on its sleeve.
“The most important thing for me is connecting with people,” finishes Hetherington. “I want people to leave our shows or finish listening to our album feeling something, and hopefully feeling inspired. Really, that’s the most powerful, potent thing about music in my experience - and this album is my statement saying ‘I’m not going to go quietly, and nor should you’!”
Going quietly they most certainly are not: ART OF DYING has only just begun.