Daniel Davison walked away from drumming in 2007, leaving Norma Jean. A few years later, I heard that he picked up his sticks again started touring and recording with Colour Revolt. A few months after that, reports came in that he was going to be the new drummer of Underoath, a band Davison has grown up alongside in the scene of the past decade. While out on tour in support of the band's new album, Davison sat down to talk about walking away and slowly getting back into the groove of his kit.
What was running through your head when you first stepped back into a studio? I hear you were working with Colour Revolt even before talking with Underoath.
When I was back, it was in February of last year...I was in the studio with Colour Revolt. I was practicing a couple of times with them...I guess the initial feelings were when i was playing in their practice space back for the first time in, seriously, three years. In the studio, it felt really good to be back in that creative environment where ideas are flowing. Just really good vibes with both bands. Recording with Colour Revolt, it was a lot shorter. We recorded the whole record, I think, in six days? We recorded straight to tape. We recorded everything live. Then they went back and did vocals over it. That was fun, because I've never recorded live to tape. With Norma Jean, we did one record that was pretty much live, but we'd go back and fix stuff. With the Colour Revolt thing, what you hear is how it was performed, which was really special. Then recording in the studio with these guys, we were in there for seven to eight weeks? It was super awesome. It was creative. I had never recorded with Matt Goldman, but I was a long time friend of his because I used to live in Atlanta.
What about the different recording experiences? Where did you feel more comfortable with? Where were you more in your element as a drummer?
I think more "in my element" was in Underoath, because all of my experience [with heavy music]. I didn't feel uncomfortable playing with Colour Revolt, because there's a lot of energy and passion to their music. They had been one of my favorite bands for four years. I had come to know them through mutual friends. I wouldn't say I was more comfortable in one than the other, I was comfortable [working with] both. I'd say I'm more in my element playing with Underoath and recording with them.
Recording this record, what was going through your mind after being in Norma Jean for so long, of those elements, what did you bring into the recording process for this album, and what elements did you want to leave behind as a drummer?
I don't know. I didn't consciously [make that kind of decision]. It was whatever suited the song. I've always been kind of a groove oriented drummer. I'm not trying to be overly technical for the sake of it. I guess one thing I'm trying to shed which was different for Underoath was the double kick pedal. I wanted to try that. The later Norma Jean stuff, I wasn't doing that as much anyway. Obviously, when I was playing with Colour Revolt, I liked it. I sort of stripped down my kit a bit. I decided to bring that same set up into this. I wanted to bring a groove and tasteful technical parts [to the recordings] and not just all over the place. That's not at all a stab at Aaron, because he's a phenomenal drummer. We just have two different styles.
Did you personally feel out of place in the studio among the rest of the members?
Not at all. You know the history between Norma Jean and Underoath and that whole scene. Our bands basically grew up together. I've known these guys for like ten years.
What about when you were initially shown the demos? I know they were working on some stuff back on their winter tour last year.
I don't know what I got is what you...
I didn't hear anything, just heard they were demoing.
Oh, they ended up scraping a bunch of stuff. They sent me three or four demos. Tim sent me some stuff with very basic shells of songs so I would have something to play when I got down there. We were basically set to start recording in little over a month. When Aaron left, they were on this set time line and it was mid-April at this point. So we had a month and a half. When I got down there, it wasn't like, "Well, let's play some old songs and see how you do." That wasn't even mentioned. We went straight into writing. I thought the demos were really cool. They were very rough and very raw. There were no vocals. I liked the three that they sent me. I set my drums up in my little guest bedroom in my house and sort of played on them for two days and memorized them. Then got up and went down to Tampa.
What was their reaction?
I mean, I was a bit nervous, because Aaron was a great drummer and a part of the band for a long time. They told me upfront that they didn't want me to play like him and that they wanted me to do my own thing. They wanted this to be a turning point for the band, a new chapter. The first day, from what I could tell, and what they told me, I was really stoked. If I was outside, I would hear they were talking and stoked. I would call my wife and be like, "Yeah, it's going really good." Still, neither of us knew what each other thought until a few days later when they said they wanted me to come back and write the record with them. From there on, there were really great vibes. More than enough material was coming in. We basically had to decide within the two weeks of me being there if we wanted to stay on the time line we had, because if we don't, it'll effect the whole rest of the year. After the first week of practice, we knew it wasn't going to be an issue. That's not to say by the end of the process we were all pretty frazzled by practicing until 2 in the morning. [Laughs]
Do you think stepping away for a while was positive to you?
I think it was definitely positive. At the time it was something I had to do when I left Norma Jean. It was hard to do, but I felt like it was a personal step I needed to take. I wasn't [looking for another band right away]. I was just doing my thing in Atlanta. I was busy and then the Colour Revolt thing happened and I think that sparked something inside me again. How am I not doing this? Not in a negative way, but that it was cool that I was doing this again. With them, that was good enough. Then Tim called me and asked [to join Underoath] and I was about to move away from Atlanta, which was further away from Colour Revolt. It worked out for the best.
What do you think of bands like Norma Jean, Underoath and The Chariot surviving and progressing for so long? How do you think that has happened and continued and still bring new and old fans?
Honestly, it's mind-boggling. It's weird. There's a select group of bands, this tight knit group....I think there was just something special happening back in 2001 to, like, 2005. There was a certain type of creativity happening, and these bands sort of just met up and toured together. Those bands were nonstop touring every year. Then the fans just kept it going and passed it on to the next generation. Even though, it's been cool to see the age differential. There are fans like you back then. Some people have grown up with us. It's cool to see that. Then you have the younger kids just finding out about those bands. I don't think there's a formula [for the success]. Honestly, all those bands are so emotional and passionate. None of those bands set out to be something. They pre-dated Myspace, whereas new bands that are coming out, and I'm not going to bash any particular band, it's just so different now. It's about how you can just download a band now and write them off. You used to have to go seek out those bands and their CDs. Maybe one of your friends bought it and you heard it and got excited about it. It put drive into to stay together and have fun and not make an agenda about it. Just have fun. I'm really thankful to have been a part of that scene.
Yeah, the reason those bands have lasted is because they were part of something that was sort of new at the time. None of the bands ripping them off now are going anywhere because Underoath and Norma Jean already exist.
I was really impressed with his drumming on the new record. It was a good amount of groove and technicality. Most of the songs on the new record I just can't get into unfortunately, but at this point in their career I'm sure they're just writing the music they want to.