Interview ~ Brett Petrusek of Downtread

Downtread is back and about to unleash an album on the entire world that will silence some of the critics who seem bent on the demise of rock music. Although the charts and airwaves seem to be dominated by pre-manufactured fluff, thank goodness there are bands out there like Downtread who refuse to let the long burning flame of rock music be snuffed out. Their new album is entitled The War Behind the Wolf and on November 6 the world will be reminded of exactly how special these guys from Minneapolis are. Their commitment to keep the flame of rock burning bright resonates all throughout this new album and it deserves to be heard by the masses and especially those critics. I had a chance to sit down with lead singer Brett Petrusek recently and have a great talk about this dynamic new album, the band and the general state of rock in the world.

I’ve read a few things that mentioned that the band was back after a brief hiatus and I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more on that for our readers and for me?

Brett Petrusek: Yeah, we kind of took some time off; we put out our first album, then our second album that we kept hitting it hard. As you know, we are still kind of an undiscovered and unknown band. There are a lot of people who like us when they discover us, but it’s tough trying to cut through because there’s just so much out there. We did our EP, then our first album 144, our second album Stand Your Ground and we started working on The War Behind The Wolf and we just took our time. We took about a year plus off to go do our thing with our families and just take a breather because we had been doing this for a long time. If you keep making withdrawals and you don’t make deposits creatively to keep yourself on track, then you will burn yourself out all the time. It’s good every now and then to be reflective and enjoy your life and enjoy yourself. We were going to take six months off and it ended up being nearly a year and a half, but we’re really pleased with how this album is turned out. It’s a bit of a departure from the first two albums, but it still sounds like classic Downtread in a sense.

The music nerd in me always likes to find this out about a band and I’m going to throw it your way as well and ask if there is a story behind band name or was it something that you thought sounded cool?

The good old band name question (laughs). You know what; we just thought it sounded tough. It seemed to match our sound and I know a band’s name is super important, but we were kind of challenged with that proverbial, ‘oh gosh, we have to come up with a band name right now’ moment. It’s always a tough thing to do, but we kind of liked the ring of it and it sounded kind of nasty and aggressive.

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Click image to pre-order ‘The War Behind The Wolf’ on iTunes for only $4.99!

The new album is called The War Behind The Wolf and that’s not the title of a song off of the album, so I was wondering where you came up with that?

The lyrics and the stories on the album, which you’ve gotten into while listening to it and probably discovered yourself, contain some pretty politically charged content and some pretty dark topics. It’s juxtaposed with some sort of triumphant hopeful message as well and then you get to the end of the album. The last song on the album is “Buried Not Dead” and it’s the token hard rock and metal song on the album about a werewolf. We were putting the album art together and a good friend of mine Johnny Jones, he actually did the artwork. We had gone through a couple of comps and we weren’t too stoked about it and it just wasn’t quite right for the album. We thought about this notion of war, destruction and everything that the album is about and we thought about the last song. I have this photo of a wolf that looks super aggressive and he had a menacing look that sort of summed up the feeling of the album. I showed it to my 10-year-old son and looked at me and said, ‘dad, put the wolf on the album and put the war behind the wolf,’ and that was it. You know, sometimes kids know best.

So, you took some time off to recharge and then you started working on this album and I am wondering if the approach for this album was any different than in the past, other than just the time that you took off?

You know, we did actually; I think I focused a little bit more on the stories this time and tried to take it up to another level. I tried to come up with something compelling and intriguing you and as far as the sound of the band, I think we were going for something just a little bit heavier and a bit rawer. Our producer/engineer Jeremy Tappero definitely went for a more stripped-down approach for the recording; the album before this one was produced a little bit slicker. We wanted a more aggressive and a bigger sound in the way that you throw on a classic album like AC/DC Back in Black or Def Leppard’s High and Dry and the album sounds huge. There are a lot of guitar tracks and overdubs on this record, but nowhere near the amount of what we would typically go for. You mentioned listening to the album a couple of times on your road trip, we want people to put the CD on in their car and just get their ass kicked and love it.

What do think is missing in rock today?

More rock (laughs)! Here’s a somewhat antiquated analogy, but do you remember when Guns and Roses first came out? That was just good old killer rock and you can still go out and see some of those bands that we grew up on as kids. I’m going to see Black Sabbath and I’m taking my little guy to his first show. I think it will be fantastic, but just think about that. Okay, that’s a real rock band and these guys are how old now? I think just more real rock with big guitar, big drums, great songs and I guess it’s still coming out here and there, but we need more.  For Downtread, we take all of our classic influences and try to restate things in a modern context. We need more big guitars in music today with solos that actually have something to say, not completely, ridiculously over-the-top. Still ripping but less about acrobats and technique and more about something you’d remember with vibe and attitude. 

Speaking of technique, did I read something about George Lynch being on your first album 144?

Yes, he actually played some solos on the first album, so there is a connection there. If anyone’s not familiar with that, they may want to go check that album out, especially the guitar guys out there.

Wow, that had to be a pretty cool thing to sit there and witness right before your eyes.

Oh yeah because Lynch was the guy that really did it for me when I really got into learning how to play. We became friends over time and met at a show and then fast-forward to our first album and he ended up playing on it. It was so cool because he brought the Tiger with him into the studio and there’s a ballad on our first album that he plays a solo on. He actually looked at me and asked,’ hey man, what do you want here?’  and I’m like,’ dude sing it like (David) Gilmore.’ He just closed his eyes and he started burning up over the whole song and it was kind of a surreal moment for me. Here I was watching my hero play that iconic guitar in the studio and I remember he even used one of my Les Pauls for one of the other tracks.

Wow, that’s pretty incredible and what a way to end our talk with such an amazing story. Brett, thanks so much for our talk and congrats again on such a killer album. Do you have anything that you’d like to close with?

No man, thank you for reaching out to us and wanting to talk. I would like to remind everyone that the album comes out on November 6 and they can pre-order it both physically and digitally on our website. The iTunes pre-sale that is going on will get you an instant download track with the pre-order. We appreciate everyone’s support and can’t wait for all of you to hear this on November 6.

Order a physical copy of ‘The War Behind The Wolf’ signed or unsigned HERE.

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