Music Interview: Duane “DT” Jones of Swirl

What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?

I am a former violinist so I’m the squeaky clean one in the band. No real “trouble” to speak of. Which is to say I have been very good at never getting caught doing anything too bad.

What are the five things you can’t live without?

For the longest time my life has revolved around what I call the “3 Gs” (God, Guitars and Girls) so I guess we will start there! Add football and family and that should just about sum me up. In addition to music, I am a fairly successful youth football coach here in Southern California. Growing up I always wanted to be a rock star musician or pro football player. I guess that is why Alfred likes to introduce me as the “linebacker-sized rock n’ roll guy on guitar to my left is DT Jones.” LOL.

What brand of drums and cymbals does Bam Bam play?

My brother plays Yamaha and DW drums. He uses Zildjian Cymbals.

What kind of guitar do you play? And why?

I have been fortunate enough to be sponsored by my favorite guitar company with my very first guitar endorsement. I have always used Charvel/Jackson guitars. I was using them before the sponsorship agreement. I currently have 22. Why? I am a fan of the 80s era guitar playing. If I am playing an instrument, I want to be heard. Hell, if I am doing anything, I want people to know I am doing it, I guess. My favorites from that era are Jake E. Lee, Warren DeMartini, George Lynch, Matthias Jabs and Carlos Cavazo. In fact, it was my affiliation with Carlos that led to me getting sponsored.

What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

It depends on my mood at the time. For example, I can go from “High Wire” (Badlands), to “Tonight” (Seether) to “I`ll Be” (Edwin McCain) in an instant and be perfectly content listening to and singing along with each song.

What musicians influenced you the most?

I started out on violin so I do have love for classical music, but I guess I, like many others, can credit (or blame, depending on how you view it) KISS for making me put down the violin and pick up the guitar. Specific musicians? Great question. Again I am going to seem all over the place with my answers, but let me just rapid fire ones that come to mind because I love to listen to all types of music and feel I can be influenced by everything. Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson are tremendous song writers. Any of my previously mentioned 80s era guitar heroes, as I believe them all to be not only great rhythm players, but capable of creating memorable guitar solos as well. Gene and Paul for their music business savvy and career stamina. There are so very many. I feel bad for leaving their names off this list right now.

Where do you find inspiration for your songs?

This might be a question better suited for Alfred Ramirez, as he is the main lyricist and that tends to be what most people lock on to, but as a guitar player I think it`s interesting that there are so many sounds, and rhythms to get inspiration from. Obviously, other songs that I may hear, and am drawn to, are important, but it was not uncommon for me to hear something on a construction site, then come home after work and try to recreate either that sound, or a rhythmic pattern based on it.

What is your songwriting process? Do the lyrics come before the music or is it the other way around?

Typically, I come up with a piece of music, and then get together with my brother Bam Bam to get a structure for the song before we take it to Shane and Alfred, who then add their influence. One of the sayings I have long since used when it comes to Alfred is, “You don`t tell me what to play on guitar and I won`t tell you what to sing.” It sounds harsher than it is in reality. The bottom line is I want him to feel as passionately about what he is delivering through his voice, as I do about the parts I am playing. Of course, we meddle in each other’s waters with suggestions about rhythm patterns or a word or two, but that boils down to the commitment to serving the song. All four of us have egos, but in order for Swirl to work we have to keep those in check and do what is best for the music. It has been quite a journey to find these three other guys that understand and feel the same way.

In my review of your music, I described your musical style as “plain old heavy metal.” How would you describe it?

I loved your review. We all did, so thank you. “An amalgamation of Slipknot and AC/ DC” is flattering on so many levels. As it says on our website bio, Swirl is “an interesting and diverse band to check out as they combine the best of the past 20 years of American Rock/ Hardrock.” I like that, because within the band we are into very different things musically. Alfred`s style comes from a David Bowie or Billie Idol influence, while Shane will listen to Metallica, Korn, or some very obscure band that he just discovered and wants to share with us. Brian and I both were really into KISS, but then he went more into progressive rock (Rush), as well as a lot of jazz drummers. His old school rock champion is Motley Crue and I can`t tell you how many times we have debated “Motley vs RATT” on many levels. Brian was the one who pushed me in the writing process to let my guitar voice be influenced more by modern/current bands. So I have fallen in love with the song writing style of bands like Seether and Shinedown, for example, or guitarists like Marc Tremonti (Creed, Alter Bridge). I think in my own head I wonder what it would be like to have Jake, Warren, George or Carlos playing in one of those bands.

So far, has Swirl been well-received by the critics? By listeners?

It has been a resounding “YES” from critics, as evidenced by the “Global Press” reviews we have on our website. It`s quite flattering to see this thing we have all worked so hard on being commented on so favorably by so many.

As for the listeners? People really do like our sound. In fact, when we finished the Swirl release we had a hard time picking the first song to introduce, so we put clips up online and it was our much-smaller-at-the-time fan base that picked for us. There`s even a name for our now rapidly growing fan base. It`s been dubbed the “Swirl Society,” and it has steadily grown since we introduced the songs “Rise Up”, “Fourth Of July” and of course “Time To Fly.” With the release of the film both internationally, as well as here in North America, the Swirl Society is becoming bigger by the day, but there is always room for more.

The production values on Swirl were superb. Who produced it?

The Swirl release is a product of us taking the lessons learned from previous studio experiences with very successful musicians in their own right, and then going off on our own to see what would happen. We have done recording sessions with Carlos Cavazo (Quiet Riot/ RATT) , Matt Thorne (Rough Cutt, and a Grammy nominated engineer in his own right) and Fred Coury (Cinderella), who co-wrote, produced, mixed and recorded the drum parts for “Time to Fly” and “Mad Disease.”

When it came time to record “Rise Up,” “Spell,” “Fourth Of July,” “Message” and “We Are Alive,” we left Los Angeles and went to Wildomar, CA to track the drums, guitars and vocals at the now closed Baxter Road studios; then went to Lake Elsinore to finish recording parts, mixing and adding all the ear candy with James Rieger. The Swirl release was produced by James and the band.

The confirmation that we were on the right path with our production was when all the songs were presented to the writer, and then the producer of Ditch Day, and three of the James and self-produced songs were chosen. Even “Fourth of July” was picked for the Ditch Day post release campaign.

Will you be touring in the near future? If so, where?

We are hoping to be on tour again very soon. We have always said Swirl requires two things: “electricity and interest.” We can`t wait to get out on the road and play anywhere they want us. Obviously a good starting point would be any territories where the film has been released, followed by places we have been to before (Japan). With any luck the film will be out in Japan as well by summer.

Currently we are making tour plans on the heels of the release of the Ditch Day film in the US, and Ditch Day Massacre film in the UK, Brazil, Germany, Korea, and anywhere else it is available.

Are you working on any new songs?

We are always writing. We have several new songs to record, but we want to be smart about it and do the current Swirl release justice before we move on to the next one.

Our next release will come after we have promoted the current one. We have four film projects coming up in the next two to three years, and those will be just one of the vehicles for us to introduce new music.

Have any major labels expressed an interest in your music?

No majors have come calling yet. It used to be a point of frustration for the band, but we have become comfortable with the way we have chosen to get our music out to the public. Licensing affords the opportunity to get our music heard without major labels. Don`t get me wrong. We are not opposed to a major. We just don`t feel like we are stuck waiting on one either. We were able to get on a fairly large theater tour, several opening slots on large club tours, licensed our music into an indie film that has become a two-time award winner, secured sponsorships and received press in the Huffington Post without a booking agent or record label. We are self-managed. Again, we are “open for business,” but either way we just work hard at it and try to make smart decisions.

Did you study music in a formal setting, or pick it up on your own?

Well, like I said, I started out on violin so I had some training there. I was taking guitar lessons for maybe six months in Alaska when my instructor said to me, “You have a choice. You have the basics of the instrument down. So either continue to come see me, which is perfectly fine, or go off and develop your own style. Can you guess which path I took?

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