Joe Cotela of DED talks about how the band is holding up during this current pandemic, A Mannequin Idol, and other fun topics.
Originating from Phoenix, AZ, the band showcase elements of rock, alternative, and metal, with pop melodies, hooks, and choruses. DED has only been together a little more than three years since the release of their debut album, Mis-An-Thrope. Their latest release, Mannequin Eyes, is a micro EP featuring the two new tracks “Eyes Sewn Shut” and “A Mannequin Idol (Lullaby).” DED’s music is about bringing hope, relief, and self-awareness, often speaking to and about the young generations that are contending with many deeply embedded issues in today’s society.
LH: How is the band holding up during this time?
Joe: Um, I would say as good as we can. Just like everybody else. It’s not what we want to be doing. We had plans to be out on a tour that would have been ending around today actually. We would have been out for the last two months. Everybody is healthy, staying inside and doing our part. That’s first and foremost being people and serving your purpose as a person in the world. We’re trying to do the best we can with a lot more live-streams and just, you know, social media stuff is all you can do right now to connect with people, so really just focusing our attention on that for the time being.
LH: I know coming up with a band name can sometimes be tricky. How was the band name decided upon?
Joe: [Laughs] Got to love a trick question. So when we started the band like four and a half years ago, I believe, I remember just texting the guys and I texted “DED” and everybody liked it. We were going over so many different names so it was cool, DED was short, concise, and bold. It can be interpreted as morbid or dead or whatever, it’s also a good aberration for dedicated, which I also liked the name dedicated a lot too but that kind of sounded more like an old hardcore band which is also cool to me too but it’s not our vibe [laughs]. So yeah, DED was just a cool name and it kind of took on its own and we give it its purpose afterward but you know, DED is also something I know people use it on memes and things like that where something super impactful whether it’s happy or sad. It’s explosive so I also think it serves in that way where, hopefully, it’s polarizing or shocking or even affective in some way shape or form.
LH: Is there anything you have accomplished that you’ve always wanted to do but just never had the time to before? Since we have nothing but time on our hands.
Joe: During quarantine and downtime, honestly for the last four or five years we’ve been working so hard on traveling, going to other countries, going to states for months and recording albums, touring, and barely being home. So honestly that whole time there was always this part of me that wanted to be stuck at home and watch Netflix for like two months straight and I guess I got that. It’s kind of a joke but it’s kind of serious but at the same time, I’m enjoying the time working out. I’m focusing on using the time also to keep track of my health so I’m eating well, you know it’s nice you don’t always have the time to self manage so I’m really enjoying that aspect of it and hopefully I want to come out of all this being in the best shape of my life. That’s kind of my goal and now I’m in the middle of working on that, so yeah.
LH: Tell me about “A Mannequin Idol.” How was it influenced and how was the writing process?
Joe: “A Mannequin Idol” is the lead track of the micro EP. The writing process was interesting. I remember writing the chorus, and the lyrics and all kind of ideas for the song. When I was leaving the record store in Arizona called G Records one day, I usually write a lot in my car, so I remember driving and I was singing the chorus and the lyrics, and everything kind of came to me there at the time. A guitar player had given me some music some months later ’cause we stockpile ideas in our phones and computer whatever and the music just worked perfectly for what I had written before that and so we recorded the demo, it came together and also got changed a bit from what it originally was, to sort of, to strengthen it. It’s been through different phases and now it is where it is and it’s a song about false god in a sense and consumerism and also what we identify with. Most of it is just hoping to make people a bit more conscious about who they are and what they support and consume.
LH: Marc Klasfeld was the director of the video. How was that set up and how was it working with him?
Joe: It was great working with him, he’s a video legend. He’s done so many things if you google him, his accolades are pretty high. He’s friends with our manager, I believe. It’s how we got in touch with him and we really wanted to go with a kind of like a re-establishing ourselves with the world-type vibes video. So it was us in a room showing our energy where we thrive as in the live setting on stage with people in the room. There’s a lot of new fans getting exposed to us now because the last album came out about three years ago so you know, that was the thing to re-established ourselves with old fans and show the new fans who we are and also a bit of the new aesthetic to our look and that kind of thing. Marc shoots things in such a huge epic way, we’re excited about it.
LH: Were you and the other bandmates present when “A Mannequin Idol” video was being edited? Or was it a wait and see?
Joe: Yeah, well they edited it and sent it to us and we make notes and stuff and things like that. We weren’t in the room when they’re editing it but we send notes back and adjust things to our liking for the most part. They handled it pretty well.
LH: How excited were you for the release of the new video and what are you hoping to expect?
Joe: It’s just like anything, you create something and then you put it out to the world and you hope for the best. You hope that it reaches every person in the whole world at the same time. Realistically, I just hope it has an impact on as many people as it can and you know, it’s really exciting to put out another video as it’s been a long time for us. I don’t know exactly how long but only last video was at least a couple of years ago. So it’s cool, really exciting to put out new music and a new video to accompany that just as much excited to show people where we are now in 2020.
LH: How did you get into music? Did you wake up one day and decide to become a musician? What was the influence?
Joe: [Laughs] Well, that’s a long story probably so I’ll try to keep in concise, which will probably still be long. I’ve always loved music. It was always in my household, my parents aren’t musicians or anything like that. My mom is a graphic artist. They said when I was really little at the age of two or three I would walk around singing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” or something like that so I just, that’s the very beginning of it and you know time went on. My dad would expose me to different musicians like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and my mom liked The Beatles and stuff, so I just got influenced by them. They would play music in the car and they would quiz me. Like Elvis would come on and my dad would ask me, “Who is this?” They love music. I would say around the time when I heard Nirvana and Korn and stuff, I was pretty young still and probably shouldn’t have been listening to those band at the time but I did and it got my mind being creative and, eventually, I got a guitar and I played like punk rock Blink-182 which I think everyone’s first-time favorite band is like a pop-punk band probably. So I did that and then, you know, I just slowly go, go, and go and as they say you learn how to be in a band, how to write songs, who to record albums, how to put out things all that stuff. So it was a very long road but it was a lot of fun at the same time.
LH: With that being said, if you didn’t pursue a career as a musician, what would you be doing instead?
Joe: Well, back in the day, I used to be on a basketball team so I wanted to be a basketball player, I wanted to be a professional skateboarder. I do like athletic things and I also was more into art as my mom is a graphic designer. I’d be doing something along the line of that. I like photography, make shirts, make CDs, album covers and things like that for other bands or artists. I’d probably get behind live photography or videos but it might be something I’d get into regardless, just to do on the side or I might be a producer or songwriter, you know. Something in the arts I’d imagine.
LH: You’ve been all over the world, right? What’s one of your most remembered/favorite performances of all time. What’s the venue and why?
Joe: Oh man, well there’s a few of them.
LH: Give me your top two.
Joe: Top two, okay. The first one would be Rock on the Range festival which was probably the biggest crowd we played at that point. It was such an amazing lineup with Metallica headlining and there were so many great bands on it. It was such an exciting time and one of the earlier festivals we have played. It was also one of the last times I remember being nervous on stage because it was a lot of people and we haven’t really done that many people at that point so it will always stick in my mind. I remember saying that I can’t see where the crowd ends, it was that many people. Such a crazy feeling. The second one would be playing Download Festival overseas. That one was also something that I just wanted to play because it just was an amazing reception there, to fly over the ocean and have that many people show up to the stage and know your music. The first times of doing these things are really special.
LH: Out of all the songs that your band has released, what would you say is your most favorite? What influenced your choice? This is a tough one, I know.
Joe: Oh wow! This is hard. I’d say from the new album we recorded, I really like a song called “Perish” that no one has heard yet, so I’m loving that one right now. As far as one that is out, I guess I just have to get behind “Anti-Everything” which I guess is our most popular song because of just what it did for us and commodity I see it brings people together at shows, the chanting or the lyrics and just the energy you know. I’m very grateful that we worked on something that connected with a lot of people and I’m very proud of that one. It was important for us.
LH: Would you say making a music video is more challenging than a recording session in the studio?
Joe: It’s a different kind of challenge. So, in the studio, it’s mentally exhausting because you’re thinking and breaking things down. It’s like pulling magic out of thin air I guess, so to speak. So yeah, it’s mentally draining. By the time you’re done recording, your brain is mush. With a music video, you’re doing more of a performance-style, you know, you’re head-banging, jumping around as hard as you can for a whole day, or who knows maybe two days. So you’re just annihilated after a music video. It’s like a bang-over which is a hangover from too much head-banging.
LH: A bang-over! I guess I need to start using that now. That’s great. Carry on.
Joe: [Laughs] Do it! Yeah, we call it bang-over. So you’re just physically and mentally done after a music video. So they’re different but both very much real.
LH: You sort of answered this question a bit but let’s get a little more into it. Everyone’s got that one or two favorite musicians or bands that inspire them. Who would you say inspires you musically and why?
Joe: Yeah, I sort of did when I said what got me into music but for me, there’s no one person, there’s no one band. I’m such a music lover so I can really never say one thing inspires me the most but Nirvana was very impactful to me. The music’s got this punk rock background to it but it’s still just kind of rock and heavy in its own way but there is a beautiful pop sensibility and it’s great. So yeah, all those things I think I’ve carried with me so I guess I would have to hark back to that being important and outside of that, you know Nirvana came out like thirty years ago so since then I’ve listened to so much. I’m a huge fan of Bob Marley so it’s all over the place for me. Do you have a favorite musician or band that you like?
LH: For me, it would have to be Machine Head and Wednesday 13. I photographed Machine Head at Webster Hall for Loud Hailer and it was a great show. The music is very uplifting to me and the energy they bring is insane. I had a full three hours of Machine Head live. Wednesday 13, on the other hand, I can say they know how to work the stage and the audience which is nice to me. As a photographer, it gives me a chance to get very inspiring photos showing music bringing people together. It’s always such an honor to see them perform and you know Machine Head and Wednesday 13, their music makes me happy.
Joe: Very nice and three hours of Machine Head. Oh boy.
LH: [Laughs] Could have been more. Other than the new music video, what else can we expect for DED moving forward?
Joe: Well, I know we’re putting together a lot of live-streams, acoustic things. We’re talking about how to release our album which is done, just waiting to get some attention now to figure out how we’re going to release it, whatever that case may be. We’ve never been in this position before where we’re having to figure out how to do things but excited that the video is out and I know we’re going to gameplan things as we go.