I love music. I flit between gothic rock to 90s rap to 80s power ballads. What I rarely do nowadays at the ripe old age of 34, is get hugely into bands. My MP3 player is full of random songs but I don’t often get into an entire album by one artist any more. There’s not many bands that make me ‘fangirl-out’, that make me churn out cliches such as, “Their lyrics speak to me”, or, “Their music has helped get me through difficult times”. Dommin is one of those bands. I first discovered them on MySpace, close to fifteen years ago, and felt an instant bond to their music. A rare moment when a song punches you in the gut from the first listen and you desperately want to hear more. I played Mend Your Misery on repeat, started up a Facebook page for fellow fans and finally met the band on a tour supporting HIM. In the queue outside, HIM fans were wondering who the support act was and I gushed about this Californian band called Dommin. On the way out after the gig, I overheard echoes of my own thoughts, that they were a support who blew away the main act. Sorry, HIM!
Dommin went from humble MySpace beginnings to be signed by Roadrunner for the Love Is Gone album, and then made the hard decision to leave the record label and go it alone. This June, the band release their next album, Rise, having received incredible support on Pledge from their loyal fans across the world. Kristofer Dommin took some time out from the pre-release bedlam to chat music and, of course, a bit of video games.
You recently started a Pledge campaign for your upcoming album and you’re over 1000% of your original goal. Is that more success than the band imagined?
It’s definitely more success than we expected because pretty much, our expectations were pretty low. It has been so long, we weren’t sure if anyone would care, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised and it makes us feel that the connections we made throughout our first album were stronger than we thought.
Pledge isn’t always used to cut out labels as you’ll see lots of signed bands funding their recordings here. For us, however, it IS the way we are trying to raise funds to do what ultimately a label would help us do in the past. The differences are numerous. On one hand, it’s great because we are setting our own timeline. That can be good and bad… good because when we want to do something, we do it, but also we can only juggle so much at a time and that can delay things. A good example of that is we wanted the first day of Spring to be the release date, now it’s the first day of Summer. A label can make things run smoother (or delay your record for a year like they did for Love Is Gone). Our say is the final say. We don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen with different opinions. The two main disadvantages are money, Roadrunner, for example, had us on 3 tours before our album ever came out and paid for us to go to Europe, and contacts/connections. If marketing/promo at Record Label X calls up a magazine, a radio station, an agent, a tv show, a festival promoter, someone will pick up and at least take the call usually and they’ve probably done business on other bands before, they’re professional peers. The person on the other end of the line knows that whatever band they are pushing has a machine/money/people behind it and isn’t some random band no one has ever heard of looking for a hand-out. For us, we don’t have a department of people for that. It’s us, that’s it. We’re making the calls while doing everything else. Sometimes that can make things take a little longer, seemingly, but this is where Pledge comes in. Labels are all downsizing because the money just isn’t there any more. So now there are labels with maybe six people and some money and then they hire out 3rd party Label Services companies for marketing and promotion. This is essentially what we hope to do. We started our own label called DNR (Dommin Nation Records) and if we raise enough money, we’ll be able to hire out our own 3rd party label service to basically do what a label does. Essentially we would be hiring a marketing/promo department. Right now we’ve reached the minimum goal we have of being able to produce physical products. My hope is that we get to a point to where we can really do this effectively. Time will tell.
While I can only speak for myself, I imagine a lot of fans will feel the same connection to your music and lyrics. Everyone experiences heartbreak of some kind and can relate to what you sing about on a personal level even if the circumstances are different to what inspired you to write. Your first song from the album, Rise, gives off an air of ‘sucking it up’, moving on and not letting lifes events drag you down for long. Is that a theme that runs through the album?
Yeah, I think any time you put out your initial work, people define you as that. So I had people thinking I was melancholy, down on myself and down on life, the sort of characteristics you might apply to the pseudo-deep. But it was only a small part of who I am as a person and was only intended for specific incidences at specific times. And I think when you’re making music and expressing yourself, you want the picture to be complete. You want to be understood. So in Rise, this is another piece of the overall picture, and that is the theme we wanted to focus on. There are a couple of songs like Falling Into Ashes or These New Demons that have a little bit of the first album’s sting, but hopefully the attitude of those songs aren’t lost on the listener. They are coming from a different place, but this new direction is also only temporary. We already have plans for the third album that are different from both the first and this second one.
Did you have any musical influences for this album?
The musical influences of this album aren’t any different than previous albums necessarily. It’s just that the ideas on this album may make particular influences shine a little brighter than others. I’d be curious to know what fans hear. I think generally one might hear a bit more punk and blues this time around.
As an ‘outsider’ and just a buyer of music, it feels like the industry needs a shake-up, what with piracy, Spotify seeming to pay artists only pennies, etc. Do you have any advice for fellow aspiring musicians out there?
I recently read an article that made a lot of sense regarding Spotify’s payout system for artists. That instead of a metalhead’s $10 for that month being distributed to pop acts they never listened to, that the monthly fee charged should only be dispersed among the artists they listened to. It seems like common sense to me. Ultimately musicians need to make the right decisions depending on where they are in their career. Taylor Swift and The Beatles can afford to be unavailable on Spotify because they aren’t trying as hard to expose themselves any longer. A band of our stature isn’t looking to make a dime from Spotify, and chances are we won’t. Our goal right now is to go where the ears are. Our goal is to let people know we exist. And if we are ever lucky enough for that to change, then we can make a different decision down the road. So my advice to aspiring musicians is the advice I’m putting into practice, go where the listeners are.
How does the band enjoy spending your free time when you’re not making music?
Everyone in the band spends their time doing different things. Most of us spend free time doing other things to make to make a living; whether it’s Cameron working side jobs, Billy running his skate shop, Styx, Konstantine producing video games or myself as part of a production company behind pop singer, Ivy Levan. There isn’t much time for down time. Family, friends and girlfriends also demand time. So the free time, well, there’s not much of it.
As is evident from this blog, I’m pretty big on my gaming. Are any of the band also into their video games?
I don’t think Billy plays at all. I can get obsessive about Call of Duty and I used to love the Medal Of Honor games. I really miss all the more time period themed ones. When the CoD games start shooting laser guns, I sort of lose interest. Basic fighting games are cool. The new Mortal Kombat looks pretty awesome. For me it becomes a time issue. I haven’t really had much time for leisure. I know Cameron is into a few things but Konstantine would be more of our video game guy, since he produces games for a living, he’s up on everything and regularly attends the E3 convention. Regardless of what’s out there, there’s a good chance he’s heard of it and played it a bit.
We created a couple of Twitch accounts so that we can start engage our fans who are into gaming. My Xbox Live gamertag is ‘the domminator’ and Konstantine’s is ‘TheKonstantineX’. But be aware, sometimes my nephew is playing under my tag so it may not be me. My Twitch account is ‘domminband’ and Konstantine’s is ‘TheKonstantineX’. So hop on and join us!
Finally, what are your best Dommin-related memories so far? And, do you see anything in Dommin’s future or is all your focus currently on the upcoming album?
My best band memories are being able to visit other countries and meet total strangers that have connected to the music. I love hearing a crowd of people all singing together. Right now the future is wide open. We are running our PledgeMusic campaign and it’s gone much better than we could have imagined. Now it’s up to us to figure out what we should do from here. We’re just happy to be in the position of having decisions like that to make. Hopefully this new album is just a new opportunity to connect to more people.
Live image courtesy of photographer CharlieRaven.com