An Interview with Deathbreaker
NRT's rock reporter, Ryan Adams, talks with lead singer Scott McNeil about the band's new album

A NRT EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, An Interview with Deathbreaker
Posted: June 04, 2020 | By: DwayneLacy_NRT
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The Washington-based band Deathbreaker has returned with its second album, Isolate. Their first album, Disconnect, released under the Facedown Records banner, was well-received by fans. Facedown Records is known for signing metal bands, so Deathbreaker was an obvious fit for the label.

So far, Deathbreaker has released two singles from Isolate: "Spite" and "Choke." These singles are heavier than the band's previous offerings. They might also be an indicator of heavy music to come.

Three years after their first album, Deathbreaker has a story to share. Isolate is a hardcore album that meets fans in the chaos and hurts. It screams out undeniably relatable messages and stories.

Isolate tells a vulnerable story about lies, betrayal, manipulation, hurt, and faith. Deathbreaker went to a church together where they saw growth. They loved the church. But, the pastor became corrupted. He abused his power and position.

Scott McNeil, the lead singer, stood up to the pastor and did not receive repentance. Instead, the pastor began to hurt him and the band, emotionally and spiritually. Isolate is the result of these struggles and how they endured. Deathbreaker shares their experiences in hopes that a relevant message on the album can be encouraging to listeners. 

Scott and I talked about how the band started, their musical influences, and his own heart behind the album. The music is heavy and chaotic, as is most hardcore music, which fits the atmosphere of the messages within the music. I hope you understand more about why and how the album was written and find hope in the music. 


How did the band start? How did you guys get together?

Our guitar player, Kevin, is my brother. He and I have been doing music together since 2002. We've gone through band name changes and different members. The band's taken on different faces. When we signed with Facedown Records, they changed our name to Deathbreaker. 

That is awesome. With Isolate, the music style changed from a more post-hardcore sound to a more chaotic or metallic hardcore kind of sound. Was there anything that influenced the style change?

We wanted to make a transition into being a heavier band. And so, with the last record, Disconnect, we did that. We did some artistic things we had wanted to do. So, that album was very much what we wanted it to be. But, we knew after that record, we did not want to change our sound entirely, rather just focus more on hardcore music. 

You guys have been compared to other hardcore bands like The Chariot or Norma Jean. Who have been some of your biggest influences?

This is an interesting question. Norma Jean was our inspiration for
Disconnect. We worked on that album with Matt Bayles, the producer for Norma Jean's O'God The Aftermath album, to give it that Norma Jean feel. Many influences inspired Isolate: Knocked Loose, Advent, to name a few. I know for each band member you're going to get a different answer.

You worked with Earth Groans' Jeremy Schaeffer on one of the songs. How did that collaboration come together?

We met and talked with Jeremy a few times, while we were on tour. We connected well with him. When it was time to record Isolate, we had to consider who would help produce the album. We met with at least six different producers. And,  we all really liked Jeremy.

We really wanted to work with Jeremy, and he with us.  We wanted to work with somebody who was excited to record the album. Jeremy was the perfect fit. While we were at his studio, I said, "Hey, I would love to have you do a guest spot." He goes, "Dude, let's do it." So, we just picked out a section. And, he went ahead and did that spot for us. It was cool.

In what ways would you say that your faith influences your songwriting or the band as a whole?

My simple answer is that it's is a lot easier for me to write honestly--to write about things that are real to me and relevant to me. So, for that reason, I write a lot of things about my faith. Not every song is like a worship song that you're going to hear in a church service obviously. But, I want this band to be passionate and real.

Relational struggles are one of the major themes on Isolate. What kind of experiences and stories contributed to writing these new songs?

To talk about this, I need to tell you about the last record, Disconnect. It was inspired by personal experiences that we had related to church issues and things that I saw going on in the church. These were things that made me think that this is not what church should be. So, the title of the album is basically just encouraging us to disconnect with everything we think we know about God and, instead, just get to know him.

Since then, three years later, there have been a lot of struggles for us. Each one is relational. The album's songs are written mostly about two specific individuals: the pastor at our former church and our former drummer. 

There was a point where the pastor became very controlling and started manipulating people. It was a gradual thing, but it was very obvious to me. So, I confronted the pastor and said, "Hey, I don't think that what you're saying is aligned with scripture. I think that what you're saying is harmful and goes against what the Bible teaches."

The pastor became very defensive and attacked our character. He even manipulated our drummer to betray us, hurt us, and leave the band. That drummer won't talk to us. 

For this record, I struggled with lyrical content. I didn't want to write just an angry record. I wanted to write a record about hope. I wanted to write about purpose, but I felt like I couldn't. So, I spent a lot of time in prayer about it. I prayed, "I don't care about my message, I care about Your message, and so what do You want to say?" It basically came down to that I need to write what is in my heart. I need to write this story down. 

I think the message of this is that you need to be honest about the hurts. You need to talk about the story. You need to talk about these things. Because if you just continue and act like everything is fine, that you're going to be the bigger person by not talking about it, there's little healing in that. I'm not going to name names. I'm not going to assassinate their character. But, I will bring up the story. That is what inspired this record.


Thank you so much for sharing that story. It's a story that needs to be shared for others to relate to. If you could send one message to the listeners when they hear this new album, what would you want them to walk away with?

I want them to walk away knowing that even though people have failed you--and even God's people have failed you--God has not failed you. God has not abandoned you. He knows your hurts. He hurts with you. Honestly, the way that God talks about His love for us, how could He not hurt when we hurt?

I still believe in the church. I believe in going and meeting with people who love Jesus. What we sing about on this record is not a teardown on the church or doing what God's called us to do. I'm simply saying that it's going to be messy at times and that's okay. Those are the kind of things I want to convey to people when they hear Deathbreaker.
I love it. Those are other very important messages for people to hear. How can we be praying for you?

Great question. Please pray for our future. The future of Deathbreaker is somewhat dependent on our ability to tour. In order for a band to survive, it must have fans. Keeping people engaged in Deathbreaker and keeping people excited enough to maybe come out to a show, those are the things that this band will need in order to be viable.

Facedown Records have been great for us. They took a chance on us. They have been really supportive. And, people like Jeremy, the people that have invested in this band. It means a lot to us. I'm very humbled that there are enough people out there enjoying our music that a record label would be interested in signing them. I think it is great. I feel very fortunate.

Ryan Adams loves the rock and metal scene. He wants to find hope and love in all the heavy music to share with the masses. He lives in Ohio and is grateful to share passions through NRT.

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