You never know what you’re going to get when you yap with a notable musician – that’s “rock star” to the laymen. In fairness, the talent usually has no clue what an interview could throw at them. Sometimes it’s the same old song & dance with an interviewer asking the same basic questions while the talent recites the same answers they just did on the previous chat. The result? Boring.

Truth be told, yours truly is casually familiar with Theory of a Deadman but had zero thoughts or inclinations about the platinum-selling band’s front man Tyler Connolly. The reason this interview was happening is that Tyler’s band just released an album last month titled The Truth Is…, and the band is preparing to head out on a North America beginning on August 10th.

His label wants free promotion. I enjoy speaking with notable bands. We both win.

And you the reader will also win; for Tyler engages in conversation – no matter what I threw at him – and tells it like it is. Plus, the guy is funny.

“I think we honestly drank beer and played.”

That was part of an answer Tyler gave me when asked about what the conversations were like a decade ago when Theory of a Deadman was in its primal stages. Tyler was taking a break from rehearsals and pre-production for the above mentioned tour that started the following day. My mind was wondering if he and his band mates at the time we’re mapping out a plan to become “rock stars” using the language all of us dreamers have uttered at one point in our lives…

“No, never; and I think that’s maybe why we are where we are today, cause there was no guidelines. We didn’t sit down and say, ‘man wouldn’t be awesome like to sellout Madison Square Garden, wouldn’t be awesome to have a leer jet and have like chicks all over of us backstage.’ I don’t think we ever sat around thinking like that. I think we honestly drank beer and played. And then after we were done playing, that was it…because we were so deaf from jamming. You know, full blast, there was no room for discussion.”

To this day, the band still pretty much does the same thing, although Tyler admits that the last couple years, their have been more specific talks about where this consistently rising act is headed. Knowing that, what do Tyler and/or the band consider success? Is it the healthy bank account? Awards & accolades? Fans? Or just simply creating music you’re proud of. And enter in Tyler’s sense of humor…

“Free-e-e-e drugs, free hookers; its great we don’t have to pay for hookers anymore cause promoters just give you women all the time. No, I’m kidding…kind of…

I think the success for me personally is a balance between when we kind of got to a point in our career when we were successful with the fans; like our last record Screaming Souvenirs (platinum in U.S. & Canada) was our most successful and that the same time, the fans felt that we finally figured out where we wanted to be in the world of music. Our first few records were great, but I don’t think – as a band – we were there yet. I think on our third record we were really comfortable, I guess, you know, to contend with our song-writing and finally came to a place where we really think the songs are the best songs we listened to.”

“The healthy bank account and the # 1 singles, that shit definitely helps. But like I said, it’s just seeing the response from the fans that helps. Cause man, there’s been a lot of years of struggle and people don’t see that.”

And his recipe for achieving all that…

“The secret of success for us is to never let go of that struggle and never stop, you know, going forward.”

Having a feel for Tyler’s persona, our conversation continued with a blend of substantial and sarcastic question and answers. On the substantial side – which doesn’t factor in all the hookers and blow the band could get if they wanted – people need to realize that there is more to being in a successful rock band than just writing, recording & touring. Although if that were the case, bands could do the pathetic three letter sentence thing that plagues social media and post on their Twitter and Facebook accounts “WRT” and just leave it there all year-around.

But is there more to this gig than just the obvious? A fourth or fifth component perhaps…

“Touring is such a huge part. When you go to a town, you sell more records, when you go to a town; a radio station plays you more. It’s more of the promotion side of it as well. So there is a different business factor as well besides just playing for the fans.”

“What we’re trying to do – that rock bands really don’t do anymore – and that’s, I guess, is sell records (chuckling). I try to look at what country (genre) is doing right now cause country is still able to sell physical records and they tour like crazy and they work really hard. And, I don’t know, you don’t really see a lot of pop artists doing that.”

He’s a big believer in hard work does pay off, so he is willing to go the extra mile in a band dynamic rather than just rely on the basic factors (WRT) most people are aware of.

Mentioned was the obvious touring component. For those that don’t know, bands make their majority of their lively hoods off tours. Even album sales twenty-years ago didn’t really cut it. Now there is a stigma attached to band’s tour: constant partying, drug use, easy women who are just as easy on the eyes. But how much does this fantasy scenario all come to fruition Tyler? You have to have some responsibility right?

“Yeah, I mean, you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want. Problem is with being a singer is that I have the most responsibility, because – you know, the guitar player gets totally wasted and is so hung-over the next day, well you can just get him a chair and it will be fine; but if the singer can’t sing, you lose your voice, the show’s cancelled. And you just walked out on all those fans because you had get totally wasted and high the night before; you know, get some STD’s or whatever. It does suck that at that point cause sometimes I see the guys partying and getting drunk and I’m like, I’m gonna take it easy and go to bed cause we got four shows in a row; it’s the winter and I might get cold and we’re screwed. And that shit sucks.”

He went on to tell a quick tale about how he had food poisoning just a few weeks ago and they had to cancel a show. This action was met with a bad response as people started spouting off that it (cancelling a show due to health) wasn’t “rock-n-roll” and what not. So yeah, the “show” does take a break now and then and the guy does mind himself on the road. And although he says they can party whenever they want, the tales you hear doesn’t always happen as frequently as one may think these days…

“Yeah, it’s usually not the Victoria Secret models that are knocking on the bus door that want to take their tops off. It’s usually the chicks that have had about eighteen-too-many-drinks and got lipstick on their teeth and you’re just like, ah, if I get drunk enough I guess it will be alright.”

Although I was tempted to keep asking Tyler about stories of rock-n-roll debauchery – which he seemed to be willing to share – the discussion went to song writing. Specifically, what the process is like when writing about a subject matter that he doesn’t have direct experience with…

“It’s fun. There’s a song on our new record called ‘We Were Men.’ I can’t experience that, it was all about the military.”

In contrast, 2008’s ‘Hate My Life’ was directly about experience he and the band had prior to breaking through so to speak…

“Actually, when I wrote that song, I just got off the phone with someone from our record label, that was breathing down my neck about these singles and hit songs, and I just wanted to fucking throw the phone out the window. I’m like Jesus Christ, there’s so much stress! And that’s where Hate My Life came from.”

What about disagreements within the band on what songs make the cut? I used an example on how some of the guys in Aerosmith were against putting “Angel” on Permanent Vacation back in 1987 and it took them a long time to finally accept that song. Did Tyler ever have to lobby to get a certain song on one of their four albums or is there a tune that he has grown to like over the years…

“No song in general, but there was stuff in the beginning where I was (writing) a lot of ballads and a lot of poppier stuff and Dave was a lot of heavier stuff. So if I played something that was kind of wussy and he’d say fuck that.”

“I think from the success from some of the crossover songs we kind of learned over the years that when we hear a song that is good in general, but its not a rock song or if its kind of a ballad song for a woman or something, we kind of look at it from the perspective of is it a great song or not? Where maybe ten years ago, we’d say this doesn’t have enough riffs or it’s not heavy at all but you know it will sell a bunch of records and the fans will probably love this song. Our thinking has changed so much over the years.”

In interviews, the interviewee can go off on rants and unknowingly – or tactfully – avoid the question at hand. Tyler wasn‘t going off on a tangent per say at anytime, but he was always mindful of answering the question posed. Trust me folks, this is a rarity when speaking with musicians (I believe he is the second one to stay on task so to speak).

To close this out, Tyler seemed like a good candidate to ask about drummers. Theory of a Deadman has kept the core group together (Dave Brenner, Dean Back & Tyler of course) since 2001. The only turnover has been found on the drums. All people who have been brave – or crazy – enough to play in band probably realize that drummers are a unique breed. Therefore, I asked Tyler if he subscribes to my theory that drummers are just out there…

“To be a drummer you have to be a little mentally retarded. I don’t man, drummers are all cukee (no clue what the correct spelling is), they’re different people I tell ya. I think every musician will agree with you. So yeah I don’t know.”

“We got Joe (Dandeneau) now and he’s great. Obviously he still is kind of cukee, cause he’s a drummer. I totally agree though. I mean, if you want to smash something for a living, get the anger out maybe…maybe Joe beats women, I’m not sure (laughing) You can print that too.”

Being a former pro-wrestling fan (I have a few relapses here and there), Theory of the Deadman was on just about every promotion from 2006-2008 as their tunes were used as themes for various events and wrestlers. How does something like that come about man?

“We’re a little bit of media whores. If someone asks if they want to put a song in a video game or TV we just say YEP. And then they say, the fee isn’t that much, and they’re waving all the licensing fees, we’re like ‘that’s all good.’ We love that kind of shit.”

On that note…

Joe: Well Tyler, thanks for taking the time, I actually enjoyed our chat here man and I hope you get some 9’s &10’s knocking at your door on this tour.

Tyler: Dude there’s probably 9’s and 10’s out in the audience its just that, like I said man, its too much work, you’re on stage and the 3’s or 4’s will do just fine.

By Joe Belcastro

Album is out and the tour has begun.

By Joe Belcastro

Joe Belcastro is an established movie critic in Tampa, Florida. As a member of the Florida Film Critics Circle, most of his time is spent reviewing upcoming movies. He also covers news pertaining to the film industry, on both a local and national level as well as conducting interviews. To contact Joe Belcastro regarding a story or with general questions about his services, please e-mail him and/or follow him on Twiiter @TheWritingDemon.

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