Interview with Dallas Toler-Wade of Narcotic Wasteland


Most metalheads know the name Dallas Toler-Wade from Nile, the modern metal band that dropped static riffing and late-1970s guitar rock structures into death metal and paved the way for a new generation of hybrids and mythological themes in metal. However, before Nile, Toler-Wade created music with his cohorts in the band that has become Narcotic Wasteland.

Narcotic Wasteland, which just released its self-titled debut album, picks up with an even more modern style which resembles the deathcore/percussive death metal mix that Suffocation shifted to around the turn of the millennium. Its emphasis is more on memorable songs than spurious guitarplay. We talked to Toler-Wade to find out more.

You’ve just launched an entirely new project, Narcotic Wasteland. How does the style of this band differ from the band you are quite well-known for, Nile?

This band musically is getting back to the things I was writing before I joined Nile. Now you will here some similarities in some of the musical ideas, but that’s part of the reason I was interested in trying out for Nile back in 1997 to begin with.

Do you think death metal is still relevant in a time of modern metal?

I think that all music that comes from the heart with the intention of connecting to other people will always be relevant to like minded people.

What spurred you on to create Narcotic Wasteland, and how did you choose your fellow musicians?

I had these ideas brewing for quite some time. When I am home one of the things I do most is record ideas. As far as the lyrical ideas for Narcotic Wasteland I really had some things to get off my chest. I have lost a lot of friends over the years to hard drugs, and I just had this confusion, anger, and sadness boiling in my stomach that I needed to purge. But not all of the songs are about this. I don’t think any band should be limited to just one subject. they should be able to do whatever they want.

As far as the musicians that make up Narcotic Wasteland I knew I really wanted to jam with my long time friend Edwin Rhone again. We worked very well together in the past, and the sound of our hands are very similar. Edwin is a great songwriter and player as well. Edwin recommended Chris Dupre for bass and vocals. Chris is very creative, and he totally fits the sound of the music. It was really hard to find a drummer with the right style. it took a couple years, but George Kollias recommended Erik Schultek for the drums, and once again the style really fit great.

All of the guys are super cool, super talented, hard working musicians. I really think the next release with all of our heads together will make an even better record.

It sounds like you’ve gone for a more explosive production sound. How did you achieve this, and how happy were you with how the album as a whole turned out, production-wise?

I am very happy with the way this record came out. I did not want it too polished, just tight and clear with not too much flash. I did not want to put just another squeaky metal album out there. I wanted it to have attitude, and sometimes things get so clean the aggression gets mixed right out. After all it’s metal as long as you can hear everything then people will be able to hear the ideas.

Is Narcotic Wasteland a conceptual band? Or is this first album conceptual, and will you be doing something unlike that for other albums?

I really feel we have created something kind of different. I think we will only expand on what we have already created.

Every time I see the Narcotic Wasteland logo (of some intoxicating white powder cut into the letters of the name) I am both stunned and intrigued. Why did you go with this logo, as opposed to a “traditional” death metal style logo? Did you make it yourselves with physical powder?

I wanted the logo readable for sure. There are too many bands out there with non-readable logos. I thought it would be something heavy and real that deals with real topics. It’s death metal, and when you look at that logo it’s like looking death in the eye.

Heavy metal has always been somewhat apocalyptic. Does your music address a collapse in process (as society or at least parts of it devolve into narcotic wastelands) or are you speaking from after the collapse, telling us how to rebuild, or something else?

I think that we are living in a Narcoitc Wasteland, and yes it is causing people not only death, but financial ruin, and also people with addiction problems cause anguish for their friends and family.

Your songs are technical but not extraneously so. What guided you in composing these tracks? What effect did you hope to have on the listener?

No matter what kind of song I’m writing I really just want to connect with the listener. I have gotten messages from lots of people saying that it really hit them in the heart. For me that’s what it’s all about, and metal has always been strong emotionally.

You’ve got your debut album out and seem to be selling it at a fast clip from the website. What’s next? Are you seeking more label interest, touring, or composing new material?

We would love to play shows. As far as labels — sure why not? — but we really want to see how far we can push it on our own steam for now. The more work we do ourselves the less anyone else will need to do. So far we have done everything in house from the recording, songs, video, and website. I think it’s very important for a band to be as hands-on as they can with everything. And yes we are already working on the next release.

According to your biography, Narcotic Wasteland seems like a continuation of a musical partnership that began before you joined Nile. How does it feel to be back, and how has your music changed in the intervening years?

It is great to be working with Edwin Rhone again. I always thought we made a great guitar team. I think we have all grown musically over the years. And music will almost always change as long as you keep learning the craft. I just want to be a better writer and player for any band I am part of.

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12 thoughts on “Interview with Dallas Toler-Wade of Narcotic Wasteland”

  1. PUH-LEASE. Nile was the biggest fraud ever perpetuated on death metal. Those aren’t even riffs, it’s just strumming to a sing-song rhythm. Nile is what happens when butt rockers and hipster emo punkers get together for a “deathy metal” jam. Look out at an audience at a Nile concert and what do you see, all the people who did not buy Suffocation and Deicide albums, or in other words lamers. Posers. Wimps. Leave the hall and do not entry.

    Necrotic Wasteland on the other hand is an improvement because it has nothing to hide. This is MTV metal for people who listen to vocals more than guitars. They play some fast stuff and then shreds the solos but the rest is there so you have something to tap your feet to. Dallas T-W has done nothing to hide this. In Nile he had to fake it till they made it.

    1. Sir Jonathon Depp says:

      If I’m correctly interpreting your pathetic attempt at communication, you’re saying that their riffs aren’t melodic enough.
      You, sir, must take 5 demerits and go home without pay.

      1. Richard Head says:

        You are incorrectly interpreting. The only bands he compared Nile to were Suffocation and Deicide. You think their riffs are more melodic than Nile’s? How did you stumble into that inane conclusion?

        1. Sir Jonathon Depp says:

          This part:
          “Those aren’t even riffs, it’s just strumming to a sing-song rhythm.”
          Also, are you the same guy? How do you know that’s not what he meant?

          1. Richard Head says:

            When he used the phrase “sing-song rhythm”, he was describing the rhythm, not the melody.

            No, I am not EMBM. I know what he meant because my level of reading comprehension outclasses yours.

            1. Sir Jonathon Depp says:

              OK, so let’s focus on a smaller fragment of his sentence above:
              “Those aren’t even riffs, it’s just strumming”
              So, if this isn’t in reference to a lack of melody (on the guitars), then what? Educate me, oh wise one!

              1. fenrir says:

                It means it is the simplest rhythm you can get. Strumming. He means they are really poor as riffs. How is this difficult to understand?

                1. Sir Jonathon Depp says:

                  I think it seems clear to you because you already held the same view of Nile as that guy.
                  And if you think Nile uses the same picking pattern at all times, you’re not paying attention.
                  They do tremolo pick an awful lot, but so do those other bands that the OP likes. (And given that that’s an essential stylistic element of DM, I doubt anyone would say that’s a bad thing, per se.)

              2. Richard Head says:

                You have some sort of magnetic drive toward conclusions that are not logically related to the discussion at hand.

                I will educate you; despite the generally mocking tone of my commentary, my intent is to help you understand what we’re talking about, not to make you feel stupid.

                To strum means to move one’s hand rhythmically, usually alternating up-and-down, perpendicularly across the strings of a guitar. Often, the guitarist’s hand that is not strumming is holding strings at certain points (frets) on the guitar neck in order to form a specific note. When two or more notes/strings are strummed together, that is called a chord. Chords, by their very nature, are harmonic, not melodic. Harmonic means two or more tones being voiced at the same time. Melody occurs when notes are separated not by tone but by time. Two notes played, one after the other, is melodic.

                Now, melody is easy to create when you strum different chords, one after another. See; Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Pete Townshend, Johnny Ramone, Al Di Meola, and most every other fucking guitarist in the history of guitar playing. They create melody by strumming different chords. With the exception of Di Meola, they do not “riff”, which is an almost-totally melodic approach to playing, because it involves using single notes strung together in a methodical way to establish a sense of movement. Now that we understand these basic definitions, we can go on to assert that riffs are not harmonic on their own; they require other instruments to voice other notes in order to bring out the harmonic quality of the riff. As opposed to strumming chords, this method of riffing is one of the basic foundations for playing metal. See early Judas Priest, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Scorpions albums for examples of playing single-note-at-a-time riffs over multi-note chords. Notice that, generally, the notes in a riff move by much faster than the notes in a chord, which can stay around for a while because they do not get boring very quickly, being much more harmonically rich than a single note. The next step in complexity is harmonizing riffs, which the above bands demonstrate aptly as well.

                When a band tries to play metal, but lacks the skill to piece together riffs (to create a sense of movement) and compliment the riffs with other chord voicings (to establish a harmonic context for the riffs), you get dressed-up rock music. EMBM was claiming that Nile lacks this specific skill, and therefore is a weak metal band that plays dressed-up rock music.

                Anyway, now that *that* is over, I would like to add the caveat that Black Seeds of Vengeance is a pretty cool album. Being death metal, there are many instances where the lines between a riff and chord-strumming blur, unlike in traditional metal. With techniques like “tremelo picking”, a riff might actually be made up of a handful of chords, shifting and looping. Extreme metal bands (by which I mean any metal that came after traditional heavy metal; grindcore, black metal, death metal) have moved the root that supports the riff away from the rhythm guitar, away from the bass guitar, and generally rely on the drums to establish a solid basis for riffing over. Death metal bands can get away with this because they rely less on traditional harmonic context (see; Slayer, Napalm Death) and therefore allow the riff to become its own structure and establish its own melodic and harmonic rules.

                1. Sir Jonathon Depp says:

                  OK, first, my fragile ego requires that I mention that I actually play music myself, so I’m familiar with the general musical concepts you mention above.
                  HOWEVER, I’ve actually gained quite a bit of insight into your view from your post above, so thanks!
                  In fact, I have a friend IRL who basically shares this view, but lacks the vocabulary to explain it the way that you have above.
                  I still don’t necessarily agree with your conclusions (at least in relation to Nile), but now they make sense to me.
                  Honestly, the reason I reacted in such a vehement (and admittedly somewhat illogical) fashion to the OP was that I get tired of people online who confuse opinion with fact, and try to use logical arguments to invalidate someone else’s subjective viewpoint.

                  1. Richard Head says:

                    I realized while typing my last response that I was going to sound pedantic whether or not you were a musician, but I went ahead and began at retard-level just because I wanted to make sure my definitions were clear.

                    Also, keep in my mind that I never leveled any criticism toward Nile. That was EMBM. If you’re not convinced that I’m not the OP, well… Just look at his ranting and compare it to my posts (which may be long but are hardly rants). Like I said, I like Black Seeds of Vengeance and some stuff from later albums. I think EMBM’s criticism is pointless and didn’t even deserve to be argued.

                    You have no need to justify your vehemence. This is the internet, where you can have fun being a dick head (notice my user name?) with minimal consequence.

  2. eman says:

    Group plays very tightly together. Not annoyingly complex or brootal.

    Production is bad though. Good to hear articulated vocals with comprehensible lyrics, but they are mixed much, much too high. Drums sound way too poppy and cheesy. Bring up the guitars, those should be the leading voices anyway. And just because barely audible bass guitar is a death metal trope does not excuse this kind of mixing.

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