Interview with Claire Percival of Dead Label!

Irish trio Dead Label! became the envy of bands all over the island of Ireland when they landed the prestigious opening slot for Machine Head’s only headlining shows outside Download – at Belfast’s Ulster Hall on May 28 and Dublin’s Olympia Theatre two nights later.

As the young band gear up for what is arguably the biggest brace of gigs in their burgeoning career, PM catches up with deceptively diminutive drummer Claire Percival to get up to date with the Dead Label! story to date – and the background to landing those shows…

PM: First of all, can you tell us a little bit about the band, where you’re all from and how you came together?
CP: We are a three-piece from Celbridge, Co. Kildare. We all live within five minutes’ walking distance from each other. I’ve been playing in bands with Dan (O’Grady – bass/vocals) for over six years now, and Dan and Danny (Hall – guitar) went to school together. We all used to be in a band together called VX, and when that band broke up we decided to try again, the result being Dead Label!

PM: Is there any special significance in the name Dead Label?
CP: Yes, there is. When we first started jamming together as this band, there was a girl in England called Sophie Lancaster who was murdered for being a ‘Goth’. We were disgusted at this and wrote a song based on those evil people: the song was called ‘Dead Label’. When we were talking about band names, we were discussing genres etc.: we didn’t want to be labelled in any specific genre of metal, so then we decided to call the band Dead Label and that song now goes under the name of ‘Rest In Pieces’.

PM: What are your musical influences?
CP: We all have very similar musical influeneces: Machine Head, Metallica, Pantera, Slipknot, Caliban, Bring me the Horizon, Architects, Thin Lizzy, Guns N Roses, Megadeth (although that’s mostly Danny!), Lamb of God…

PM: How would you describe your style?
CP: We have been called everything under the sun, from metalcore to grindcore, thrash, speed, groove, everything – even death! I guess I would say we are mostly groove metal, but that just kind of happened! We only ever wanted to be a metal band!

PM: You’ve just released your debut album (‘Sense Of Slaughter’ – available now on Rising Records): for those who haven’t heard it yet, what can we expect?
CP: ‘Sense Of Slaughter’ is the beginning of our sound… its straight forward, head banging, groovey parts, and riffs! There is no singing, just screaming! There are some curve balls in there, like ‘Enslavement’, but mostly its an album of songs that flourish being played live!

PM: Tell us about some of the songs: what influences your song-writing and particularly the lyrical content?
CP: The lyrical content is all Dan, and he is influenced by things going on around him, so world events and things that get to him: some of it’s personal stuff too. As for music, the songs are written and structured to capture your attention the first time you hear it, so if you see us at a gig, we hope that the song will be hooky enough for you to enjoy without having heard it before! My favourite song on the album for structure is ‘Catechism’, it’s a short song and it just kind of keeps hitting you in the face! That’s what it feels like to me anyway!

PM: Tell us a bit about the music video, ‘Self-Immolation’ (which you can view via the link at the end of this interview): where was it filmed and what’s the story behind it?
CP: This video was done on an extremely low budget: we knew we had to try and get a video done to promote the album! We wanted it to be a video with us playing in it, to try and give some of the energy we give live too! And also to let people know we were a three-piece etc.! It’s impossible to get anywhere cool to film a video, particularly when they know you’re a metal band – they just presume there will be sheep sacrificing and stuff! Eventually, a friend of Dan’s dad actually let us use his chair factory: outside it, there were containers and stuff, so the director saw this as perfect – and he was right! We got very lucky with the trains behind it too – that was total fluke! It was so cold that day! We shot some footage inside the factory too, and the solo vocal shots of Dan were done in a basement of a pub in Drogheda! Doing the video, we were very lucky as the director knows us, so we were comfortable… but it was really hard to mime playing with energy! Needless to say, that one was all Fiaz’s good work!

PM: It’s quite unusual for a metal band to have a female drummer – and especially one so fucking loud: have you in any way struggled to be accepted by fans / others on the scene, or do you not worry about and just get on with laying down kickass beats?
CP: To be honest, most people are very complimentary about the whole thing! There has been a few incidents of people pre-judging, but they apologise after, which is nice! There are actually a good few female drummers coming out now, so it’s great that in a few years it won’t be so much of a novelty and it’ll just be the way it is! But, most of the time, it makes no difference!

PM: I’ve seen one of your live shows: for those who haven’t had that pleasure, tell us what they’re like?
CP: (With) our live show, what we aim for is to get everybody moving and having a good time! I think the more energy you put in the more you get back, so we just go fucking crazy and hope that some people bang their heads too! It’s hard to get people who aren’t locked to mosh these days, but when they do its awesome! We strive to play our songs as accurately as we can while headbanging and getting the crowd into it!

PM: It’s a pretty massive coup getting the Machine Head slot… you must be pretty stoked? How did that come about?
CP: I can’t describe what an honour this is for us! Of all the bands to open for in the world, Machine Head have always been number one for us! It’s like the culmination of everything we have ever done and ever hoped for! So, yeah, we are stoked!!! Our video director, and the artwork/visual guy, worked with Machine Head before, so he showed Robb (Flynn) our video – and he liked it! That was probably the best moment of my life, getting that phone call!

Irish metal trio Dead Label!PM: How will you combat the nerves of playing two such massive shows, especially in front of MH’s notoriously loyal and rabid fanbase?
CP: I am a notoriously loyal Machine Head fan, and I have been there watching support bands going “hurry the fuck up and let Machine Head on!”, so I know that the crowd are just going to be excited and waiting – so, we’re going to go out and do our job and warm that crowd up! The set we have planned is just heavy, groovy and face melting! So, we are going to go out and get those fuckers ready to wreck the place for Machine Head! The scariest part is going to be playing our songs, which are so heavily influenced by Machine Head, in front of Machine Head! It’s like playing on front of God you know! But, it will be awesome!!!

PM: What’s you assessment of the Irish metal scene at the moment? It seems to be pretty healthy…
CP: My assessment is that it could be so much better! This country is full of really talented people and bands! I mean, there are bands in this country that rival Lamb of God, yet most gigs are only one quarter full! There are very few decent venues! The Pint in Dublin is getting quite well known, and the sound in there is impeccable, Fibbers is back doing gigs now too but it’s not so busy! And ‘The Siege of Limerick’ is always guaranteed success! But, apart from that, there’s no full scene…  there are more bands than people who go to these gigs, you know!  It’s the recession and the prices of drink and all!  There are loads of bands, and there are a good few venues, but I think something has to be done to get people out!  Maybe free entry or something – just to save the scene!

Also, down with cliques!  There are loads of cliques within the scene too:  I know it’s impossible to avoid, but if there was just one big metal clique that incorporated everyone then it would be a force to be reckoned with! 

PM:  Apart from yourselves, what other Irish bands would you recommend to fans in GB and elsewhere?

CP:  Be sure to check all of these bands out:  Vile Regression, Edenfire, Dichotomy, Magalligog, Spittin Bones, Death of a Salesman, By Consent or Conquest, Zero tolerance, Skewered, Gutrench, Xenocide, Specter, Celtachor, Words that Burn, Uproot Chaos, Warpath, Pyskosis, Exzeltic, Purge, Shardbourne, Army Rising, ZhOra… and many, many more that I am sure are just slipping my mind at the moment!

PM:  Finally, after the Machine Head gigs, what’s next for Dead Label?

CP:  After Machine Head, we have a few more gigs lined up in Ireland, then we are going to do another music video.  We are supporting The Dead Lay Waiting on their Irish tour, then we are touring England for the month of August – then, we have some big plans that we can’t announce just yet unfortunately! J

Dead Label! play Auntie Annie’s in Belfast on Thursday May 17, with support from By Conquest or Consent and Stand With Heretics.

You can see the video to ‘Self Immolation’ here:

Follow Dead Label! on Facebook at

Photograph of Claire Percival courtesy of Radient Tiara Photography

About Mark Ashby

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