Theory of a Deadman’s Tyler Connolly and Dean Back were just two Vancouver teens jamming out in Tyler’s garage until their band’s demo tape fell into the lap of Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger.
It’s now been nine years since Theory of a Deadman’s self-titled studio album with Kroeger’s record label, 604 Records, debuted. Since then, the post-grunge band has pleased their hardcore fan base by continually releasing chart-topping modern-rock hits.
Theory of a Deadman has had a total of six Top 10 songs on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, including their No. 1 hit, “Bad Girlfriend.”
As of early September, “Lowlife,” the first single from the band’s latest album The Truth Is… peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Top Rock Songs chart, while taking the 26 position on the Alternative Songs chart and 75 on the Canadian Hot 100.
Theory of a Deadman has joined with the hard-rocking bands Alter Bridge, Blackstone Cherry, Adelitas Way, Emphatic, and Theory (a different band) for the Carnival of Madness Tour this summer, which hits the House of Blues at Showboat in Atlantic City on Saturday, Sept. 10.
Atlantic City Weekly caught up with Dean Back, bassist of Theory of a Deadman. Below are excerpts from the interview.
Did you start out playing the bass?
I first started with guitar. I had a buddy in school that was playing guitar and I thought that was pretty cool, so I asked my parents if I could take guitar lessons. I took guitar lessons for quite a few years. And I actually ended up meeting Tyler [Connolly] at the same guitar school. We had two guitar players already, so I decided I would take bass.
I was reading that although you had known Tyler beforehand, you saw him again while the both of you were working at a steakhouse outside of Vancouver.
Yeah, we worked there at the same restaurant. We went to the same guitar school and worked at the same restaurant together!
From there, how did the band form?
Tyler’s dad was always a musician and played, so he had his basement converted into sort of a makeshift studio. We always went over to Tyler’s dad’s place and jammed in the basement, wrote tunes, and there was the odd weekend when we would get a gig at a bar or something like that. But, yeah, there was a lot of time spent in that basement.
How did Chad Kroeger from Nickelback hear about the band?
We were jamming. We actually went into the studio and recorded a few songs and made a demo tape. We passed that thing around to everybody and anybody that would listen. It was actually a friend of Tyler’s who was cousins with Chad’s girlfriend. [Laughing] She got a copy of the demo we did and got it into Chad’s hands. At the time, Nickelback, they were big in Vancouver, but they hadn’t had the big smash hit that threw them into the orbit they’re in now. But it was cool because they are one of the big bands from Vancouver that was starting to have success and they had an American deal, so it was good to get [our deomo] into his hands. And when he heard it he thought that he could get us a record deal. Also, he and his lawyer wanted to start a record company in Canada, so he wanted us to sign to his record company and be the first signing, so that’s how that started.
Did your initial success start in Canada?
No, well, when the first record was released it was to America and Canada at the same time. I think because we were Canadian it built a little bit quicker in Canada, but there was definitely American buzz right away as well. Our first release was on the Spiderman soundtrack back in the day.
Were you a Spiderman fan at all?
I’m not much of a comic book guy. I used to watch the cartoon back in the day when I was a younger guy. Saturday morning cartoons. But, I don’t know, I’m not much into comic books.
I was reading an interview in which Tyler said that Theory of a Deadman has finally found its place in rock ‘n roll.
Yeah, just over the years. … Over the last few records we’ve really been able to showcase who we are and what Theory of a Deadman is — light-hearted rock ‘n roll.
I’ve noticed there’s some country influences in your music at times. Do you still consider yourselves true rockers?
Oh, absolutely! Yeah, we’re definitely a rock band raised in Vancouver, two hours north of Seattle in the ’90s, so that was our main influences … the grunge scene there with Alice in Chains and Soundgarden and that’s what we grew up with and listened to. And I don’t know, the country thing is something that Tyler liked, going back to some of the older Lynryd Skynryd [music] and these kind of things that had other accents, which can also sound a bit country-ish.
The Truth is… was just released this summer. What separates this album from your previous work?
I think it’s just another step in the right direction. We had a lot of fun writing it and recording it. We tried to take a couple of chances and do something different. Like there’s a couple songs where we put a horn section on.
On the new album, there is more of a focus on the lyrics than on your past records.
Tyler is responsible for the lyrics. I think we kinda just let it out. I know before he might not have had the confidence with himself to put it all out there. But I think now he feels free to say what he thinks.
Is Tyler the one responsible for the songwriting or do you all contribute?
Not lyrically, I don’t. And Tyler’s worked with Kara DioGuardi too, she’s a great songwriter. She was theAmerican Idol judge and all that. Yeah, so Tyler’s the one responsible for the lyrics.
What is life like on the tour bus?
[We play] video-game hockey. We spend a lot of time on the bus, so we got the Playstation and we play a lot ofNHL 2011. And then there’s beer. And then there’s sleeping at some point.
With a song like “Bitch Came Back,” there is some humor in the lyrics.
Yeah, I think that early on in our career we tried too hard to be, you know, the rock n’ rollers — no smiles, you know, you gotta be bad ass. But anybody that knew us knew that we were a bunch of goofballs and liked to joke around and have fun. I think just with maturing and growing older and knowing who we truly are, I think we’ve really shown that a bit more.
Will you be hanging out in Atlantic City after you play at the House of Blues?
I’ll probably be hitting the blackjack table and then the craps table.
Carnival of Madness Tour
Where: House of Blues at Showboat
When: Saturday, Sept. 10, 7pm
How Much: $32.50, $39.50