Just because a band has multiple personalities doesn't mean it's ready for a straitjacket. Though ungodly heavy practically all of the time, unleashing mesmerizing torrents of distorted guitar noise upon tender, unprotected ears, the Burning Brides do have a soft acoustic side.
It doesn't come out much on Hang Love (self-released), the band's frightening, ferocious new record, but it's there, like on the triumphant album closer, "And I'm Free," a stinging "Emancipation Proclamation" with Beach Boys-style harmonies and lovely piano moments growing like flowers through the broken, concrete power-chords. Nobody contrasts beauty and darkness better than the Brides.
"We've always come from the school of thought that a great rock band is one that can change shapes and change moods at the drop of a hat," says Coats. "Led Zeppelin, the Stones, the Who, even early Aerosmith ... all those great records [they made] are full of really heavy tunes and really sweet acoustic ballads, and we like to show off our range as artists. I think that's what makes for a dynamic story line. I'm still into the art of making an album and how the songs are threaded together and what sort of picture they paint at the end of the day."
In a sense, Hang Love, which features a cover with Dimitri's head in a noose, is a rebirth for the Burning Brides. After going through major-label hell and back, all the while dealing with drug problems and relationship issues that could have destroyed them (Dimitri and bassist Melanie Coats — formerly Campbell — are now happily married), the Brides almost didn't survive.
Hiring a new drummer, ex-Guzzard stickman Pete Beeman, was a move that helped glue the pieces back together.
"We were down and out in L.A., Melanie and myself, and my friend, Aaron North, who plays guitar in Nine Inch Nails, knew we were looking for a drummer — he's a big Burning Brides fan, and he used to be in the Icarus Line, and we toured a bunch back in the day — and he hadn't even auditioned for Nine Inch Nails yet," relates Dimitri. "We were talking about the possibility of maybe putting him in our band as like a crazy sound-texture guy, and he went to see his ex-girlfriend's band play at some small bar here in town and just saw Pete setting up his drums and sort of like taking a couple of whacks at the floor tom, and he could tell just by the way that Pete was setting up his drums that he should stick around and check this guy out. Pete was playing in another band ... and Aaron was just blown away by what he saw. And he went up to Pete and said, 'Listen, my friends in the Burning Brides need a drummer, and you are exactly what they're looking for.' And Pete said, "Really, because this band is breaking up.'"
Dimitri eventually called Beeman and set up an audition. "We flew him out, and he just destroyed the competition, and it was love at first listen," says Coats. "And also, later that night, we went out, and it was clear this kid just had a ton of heart and that he was the real deal. And you know, he f**king drives a motorcycle, does wheelies ... he literally would give you the shirt off his back. He's just uncomplicated, and you could set your watch to the guy. He's exactly what a rock drummer should be. He's a f**king oak tree."
That's about how strong his new guitars are. Made by Mark Fuqua, known around L.A. as guitar repairman to the stars, the guitars are one-of-a-kind, custom-built jobs (Coats says Queens Of The Stone Age plays Fuqua's guitars) that Dimitri treasures.
"I gave Mark an unmastered version of Hang Love, and he just absolutely fell in love with it, started coming to the shows and he's like, 'Listen, I've never built a guitar for anybody before, but I want to take your guitar, I want to find out what you like about it so much, and I want to build a $2,000 version of it — something that will stay in tune, something that you can just beat the f**k out of, and it will do what your guitar does and more, and it might even bring your guitar playing to a new level, and it sure has," explains Coats.
It even comes with a special coating. ""It's a super-charged version of what I was getting into," says Dimitri. "I even had him put a drop of blood into the paint of the black one, just to give it a little mojo. It changed the color. It's this weird black that you can't really describe. He called it 'vampire black' and he'll never do it again. I feel like when I go out on tour, I'm going out to battle, you see? And I have my two Excaliburs now."