It’s not that the massive, monstrous cascade of crushing, psychotic, steel-toed stab-gaze that makes up the sonic break-up of “Visitors” – and defines the sound of Last Remaining Pinnacle, writ large – contains any particularly sunny elements. Quite the contrary – this is what they call the dark stuff (albeit the dark stuff you can kind of dance to, kinda sorta) and Last Remaining Pinnacle have a confident control within the shadowy elements.
Instead, the title “Visitors” has us reflecting on the path of the core of Last Remaining Pinnacle, one Dave Allison. Dave has been making noise for about as long as he possibly could – from the start of LRP in 1995, from his time spent scorching the earth in the 90’s hardcore heavies Façade Burned Black, from the records he puts out on his own independent label, Custom Made Music (which, in addition to Last Remaining Pinnacle’s sounds, has unleashed to the world great records from Screen Vinyl Image, Pete International Airport, Ringo Deathstarr, The Sky Drops and plenty more).
So when it comes to deep, personal, proactive involvement in the music that has enhanced our lives over all these years – he’s no visitor. He’s a presence.
As is “Visitors” as an album – certainly a presence in our headphones since the time of its release, and for some time to come. We feel incredibly fortunate to know Dave Allison and even more fortunate to share his answers to our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.
What was the first band that made a dramatic impact on you in a very personal way? What was it about that band that captured your attention so directly? What place does that music have in your life today? What is the most recent band that you can think of as having a similar deep impact on you?
Well, I’d say the first music that made an impact on me was when my Dad and I watched “Easy Rider” when I was about five. After we watched the movie, he played the soundtrack on his reel-to-reel tape machine and “Born To Be Wild” struck a chord in me right off the bat. I also enjoyed the Hendrix and Byrds tracks from that record as well. Soon after that I was at my Uncle David’s house and he had this double compilation LP of 50’s rock n roll and I got turned on to Little Richard and Fats Domino and Chuck Berry from that. But as far as the first band that captured my attention directly … well, that would have to have been Kiss. I have an Aunt Adrienne that’s ten years older than me so when I was six in 1979, she was sixteen. One day she was playing her piano and I was sitting there listening and watching and I started looking through her sheet music and noticed the cover of the “Beth” sheet music which featured the “Destroyer” album art and I was blown away. I had never even heard their music but I immediately went and told the entire family that Kiss where my favorite band. A few months later another Aunt named Peggy told my mom that she was out shopping and was planning on buying Aunt Adrienne the new Kiss record (which was actually “Dynasty”) and wanted to know if it was o.k. if she bought a copy for me, too. Mom gave the seal of approval and soon enough I was blasting Kiss’s cover of the Stones “2,000 Man” with Ace on lead vocals. That Christmas my Dad went out and bought me the entire Kiss back catalog and once I heard “Destroyer” and “Love Gun,” I was hooked. I got my own Kiss Army membership, all the records and even a Kiss Cake for my birthday. My sister Kathryne ate the Gene Simmons tongue part of the cake, which was made of strawberry jelly, and she proceeded to puke everywhere.
Is the name “Last Remaining Pinnacle” representative of something specific to you? Pinnacle, as a word, can be used in multiple ways – from an architectural sense to a bit of military code – how do you think of it in regard to the music you create with Last Remaining Pinnacle?
Well, back in 1995 when I started making the first LRP recordings, I wanted to choose a name that represented the sounds I was making and the visuals I was getting in my head while I was making and playing back those first tapes. I thought of world wide destruction. I though of isolation and what it would be like to be the only person left after an apocalypse. I imagined if there were one last building standing after everything else had been destroyed. I also looked at the project as something I would have as a life-long means to create the feelings and thoughts I experienced and Last Remaining Pinnacle was the name that fit all these ideas perfectly.
What were your experiences playing in bands or projects prior to Last Remaining Pinnacle? What was most satisfying about those experiences? What was most troublesome? How do you think those experiences informed what you seek to do with your music today?
Well, when I was in high school, I started learning how to play bass primarily and I learned a little guitar. I had a few “neighborhood” bands that played around the area doing parties and multiple club gigs here and there. We looked up to other Norfolk alternative bands at the time like Antic Hay and Buttsteak, and metal bands like At War and O.T.T. Once we got a little older I figured out that the guys I was playing with were never going to go past playing local shows and all I really wanted to do was tour and make records but they looked at playing music as more of a casual thing to do once in a while, so I started looking for new people to play with, which resulted in a couple of short lived punk bands who appeared on some compilations in the early-mid 90’s. In 1996, Facade Burned Black formed. I was the bass player in that band, which lasted till 2005. We released a bunch of singles/EP’s, an LP and did several tours. I was also in a band called Revenge Therapy that toured the Southeast multiple times. I think that the most satisfying thing about playing in Facade Burned Black was the amount of aggression that I could unleash in that band. The live shows where always very cathartic. It was as straight forward and “brutal” as you could get. Revenge Therapy was also a lot of fun. That band was more of a traditional-style hardcore punk band and the shows where always full of energy and crowd participation. I think the troublesome part of being in a band made up of four or five guys is that there are so many different things going on that effect the band. Relationships, work, finances, musical direction, etc., etc., all cater into how the band functions and when you have all that going on it can get crazy. I really enjoy the fact that LRP is a two man band. Just makes it way easier to operate and easier to focus.
Since the time when we named Last Remaining Pinnacle a “Band of the Week” back in February of 2011, you’ve had at least one line-up change – which is fairly significant when there are only two people in the band. How did it come to have Dave Dembitsky as your co-conspirator in Last Remaining Pinnacle? What perspective does Dave bring to the band that you feel is unique to him and his creativity?
Well, Dave Dembitsky joined Last Remaining Pinnacle in June of 2011. We have been best friends for years and I think we always knew that we would play together and collaborate on writing and recording songs at some point and when he joined LRP I felt like, “O.K., now the pieces to this puzzle are complete.” He brings a very distinct method of guitar playing that I feel is very complementary to mine. Our styles really play off each other well. There’s definitely a menacing feel to the way he plays guitar that is rare to find these days. He also comes up with some of the most distinctly original riffs I’ve ever heard and he works incredibly hard in the studio, constantly evolving as an engineer. In the words of the great Reynaldo Rey, “He’s the greatest musician I’ve ever worked with.”
Your new album, “Visitors,” is really monolithic, and monstrously heavy, as we would expect – yet it still racks up a beautiful hooks-per-minute ratio. Do you have a similar sense about what you created with “Visitors”? Was there anything in particular that you wanted to accomplish with this album? Were there any albums that you thought of as totems for the sound and feel that you wanted to achieve?
Well, I think the songs on “Visitors” really flow together in a very cohesive way and it all came very naturally. Dave and I didn’t sit down and say, “We need to write this kind of record,” or, “We need this kind of song to go after this song for the record to work” – it all just came out of us which is how I’ve always worked. I think when you approach music as a calculated or “forced” type of thing then that’s when you start to go wrong. As far as what we wanted to accomplish with the album, I think we wanted to make a record that was as straight forward and honest as possible. All of the things I’m singing about are things that have affected my life in a major way. I needed to get those thoughts and feelings out and making the record really served as a serious form of therapy for myself and I think Dave as well. As for other records, Cream’s “Disraeli Gears” was certainly an album that influenced “Visitors” in a major way. We we’re both listening to it a lot when we where recording and not to even put ourselves in the same league of musicianship as Cream but I think some of the tracks have a similar vibe. There’s such an organic feel to that record and that’s the feeling we wanted to get across while making ours.
We couldn’t help but notice that the album was mastered by our old friend, Jarrett Pritchard, legendary death metal guitar guru and sound magician extraordinaire. What were Jarrett’s impressions of what you created on “Visitors”? What did Jarrett bring to the album’s sound, in your mind?
Jarrett and I go all the way back to fifth grade. He’s the first person I ever played music with. At the age of ten we performed Motley Crue’s “Shout At The Devil” and “Looks That Kill” in front of nun’s at the Catholic elementary school we attended together. I don’t think there are many people who can lay claim to something like that as their first public performance. I think Jarrett was able to enhance some of the sounds we wanted created with the record. So many bands are looking for their albums to be pushed so far into the red to make things “loud” that they loose the dynamics of the songs and overall presence of the record. Jarrett really helped cement those ideas and make the feel of them even better.
Aside from working diligently on the music of Last Remaining Pinnacle, you’ve also got your hands full with one of our favorite record labels, Custom Made Music. What is the most fulfilling thing about running a label? What is the most frustrating? In your view, what record label represents the “pinnacle” of what you would like to accomplish with Custom Made Music?
I think the most fulfilling thing about running the label is discovering music I really enjoy and then getting it out to people that also enjoy it. That’s why I started the label. I have always been in love with the networking world of music and sharing music with others. The frustrating side of things are the obstacles that you run into during the day to day grind of running a business but I always push to overcome those things and move forward. As far as the “pinnacle” of labels in my world, I’d have to say I have always been inspired by the Factory Records mindset of things. I have never wanted to “own” a band’s music. The way I look at it is, first off, the band own the music because it is their music. I enjoy this music and like to help get the music out to others that may also enjoy it. That seemed to be Factory’s way of looking at things and they have always been my favorite label.
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what is your favorite Velvet Underground album of all time and why? Please show your work.
I have been listening to a lot of blues recently. Mose Allison, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Winter … I’ve also been rediscovering older bands that I love like Turkish Delight who where based in the Boston area in the mid 90’s and also Hose. Got. Cable. from your town of Richmond, who might be my favorite Virginia band ever. As far as newer music goes I’ve become a big fan of New Speedway out of Philly in recent months plus other bands like Ttotals from Nashville, and Modern Man from South Carolina. As far as my favorite Velvet’s record, I go with “The Velvet Underground and Nico” due to the fact that it contains the tracks “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and “Venus And Furs,” which are two very influential tracks to me. I love the guitar sounds and the minimal drums and percussion and the trance-like feelings that those two songs bring with them.
The Muslim poet Rumi – who (and a lot of people don’t know this) was also an original member of Joy Division – wrote the following:
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor … welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice – meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
For one, I find that a truly beautiful statement. All kinds of people or “Visitors” come through life everyday and we must take the great things with the bad things about what our life and people bring. Take the bad things that come in life, harness them and turn it into something positive.
What’s next for Last Remaining Pinnacle?
We are playing as many shows as possible right now. Pushing “Visitors” and getting the record out to as many people as we can. We are working on new songs in between shows as well. There will be some videos for some songs off “Visitors” debuting in the coming weeks. The long term plan is to be on the road more and more. The more we play the better we get and that’s what we like to do. At some point we will book a two month US tour where we hit every single state all in one run. I think our live show will evolve to include more things over the next few months as well. And as always we look forward to new recordings and releases which are also in the works.