Early 2020, in the middle of the world wide pandemic, in the United Kingdom Toothdrinker emerged. A solo project that collaborates with artist to create new music. This eventually led to a fell length album, named Last Escape, wich will be released at the 17th of November, 2021 as an independent release! About this album, future plans and some other things I sat down with Sam. Founder and creative mastermind behind Toothdrinker!
Hey, thanks for taking the time for an interview with Maizter Underground!
How are you doing? Covid and all.
Hey, thanks for having us! I’m doing well, thanks – I have been dead excited to start seeing live music come back locally, so that’s keeping my spirits up! How about you?
I’m great! Thanks for asking!How did the band came to exist?
So, Toothdrinker is a bit of a weird one in that we’re not a traditional “band”. Instead, it’s sort of a “solo” project, where I’ve been extremely lucky to coax a number of guests to take part. Sort of like Avantasia, but obviously I’m no Tobias Sammet!
It all started near the beginning of 2020 when I and a few other people were trying to get another band off the ground, Dangerous Cactus. We had just completed our line-up and were prepping for gigs, and on the side I thought it’d be fun to write some rock opera songs about Resident Evil – sort of as a proof of concept, but also with a view to hopefully using the songs for Dangerous Cactus. However, when COVID came along, it sort of put an end to Dangerous Cactus and I just kept writing the Resident Evil-inspired songs. Before I knew it, I’d written most of an album, had demoed lots of it and then just started to keep recording from my flat. At that point, I started reaching out to friends and musicians to assemble a cast and we just went from there, eventually culminating in the album Last Escape!
Can you introduce the bandmembers one by one?
Absolutely! So, firstly we have a plethora of awesome singers playing different parts across the album; Elly Lock from bluesy grunge act Hubert’s Friend, Helgi Jónsson from prog outfit Ring of Gyges, Kyle McNeil of West London’s finest Seven Sisters, the fearsome Kjetil Walseth, Overthrow’s Jay White and Memorium’s Alex Mullings. A range of very different vocalists that really bring the characters to life.
Then, musically, the vast majority was recorded by me, Sam Khaneka. But I was able to convince the aforementioned Kyle, an old friend Blev P, and Fyrdsman’s Tim Shaw to contribute some amazing guitar solos to a few songs to help break things up a bit. Kyle also came on board to mix the whole thing, which made a world of difference to the overall package.
I’m super grateful to all the guests involved for contributing so much time and energy to the whole production.
You guys call yourself Toothdrinker. How did you come up with this name and what does it mean?
I wanted something a band name that was a bit spooky and a bit silly – seemed fitting for a Resident Evil themed rock opera. According to the internet (so take it with a pinch of salt), the word for a half-vampie, ‘dhampir’, translates to ‘tooth drinker’ in Balkan. I liked the sound of that so ran with it.
Can you tell me something about the journey this far? Where did the creativity came from for your first “own work” and who (if any) did inspire you?
I think one thing I underestimated at the start of developing this album was how much time and work it’d take – who knew there’d be a lot of prep involved in a rock opera?! The process of writing the songs, all under a unifying theme and laddering up to tell a (somewhat) coherent story was a massive challenge, but also dead satisfying. Then, getting singers involved and working with them remotely to record their parts took some work – I’m lucky that everyone involved was extremely self-sufficient and proactive, as things could have easily fallen apart at that point!
In terms of creativity, ultimately things came pretty naturally. Ultimately, I love writing music and had always wanted to record a full album. I also, unsurprisingly, love the Resident Evil series of games – they’re a perfect mix of terrifying and camp, and felt rich enough for me to interpret and put my own spin on in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way.
When doing Last Escape, there were a ton of things that inspired me. I’ve always loved music with a narrative, whether that’s concept albums, rock operas or classic musicals. I also love a bit of comedy in music, when done well. On the metal side of things, Savatage’s Broadway-esque records like Gutter Ballet and Streets are all-time favourites that I tried to channel – I love Jon Oliva’s approach to songwriting. Similarly, I’ve always loved Ayreon and in particular The Human Equation is something I’ve always found super captivating.
Outside of metal, there were a few things. A couple of catalysts for going down the rock opera route were two favourite musicals; I rewatched the ridiculous South Park Bigger, Longer and Uncut (genuinely a great musical) and cult classic Little Shop of Horrors in short succession and that definitely lit something up inside of me. Then, about halfway through recording, I heard Prince’s Purple Rain for the first time (I must have been living under a rock) and became obsessed with that album. I’m also a big fan of The Protomen, a US band who made some extremely elaborate concept albums about Mega Man games – they’re ace.
I’m sure there was a ton of other stuff, but those are definitely some of the big ones!
What are the (longtime) goals with Toothdrinker?
Honestly, it’s pretty open! I’m very focussed on getting Last Escape out first and seeing how that goes, but I have a couple of other irons in the fire. There is a Toothdrinker covers EP in the works and I have plenty of other ridiculous rock opera ideas if I can convince some guests again..!
Are there are singles/ an album coming up?
We’ve just put out our first single, Valentine’s Day a few weeks ago. However, it’s not long until the whole album, Last Escape, is out – November 19th!
Do you have any festivals/gigs/shows planned?
Sadly not, but maybe one day we can put on something with all our far-flung guest singers and hilariously low budget costumes – wouldn’t that be great?!
Allright, Thank you for your time Sam! On behalf of everyone at Maizter Underground we want to wish Toothdrinker all the best with all you take on in the future!
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