Altwire recently had the pleasure of speaking with the lead singer of Theory of a Deadman, Tyler Connolly, about the band’s March 2023 release, Dinosaur. In this interview, Tyler delves into the inspiration behind Dinosaur and reveals some behind-the-scenes stories from the production process. He also opens up about some personal experiences from his career and the evolution of the rock music industry.
Originally intended to be a podcast episode, we experienced unforeseen audio issues that led us to publish the interview in text format. We are still hoping to one day publish the audio from this interview in the event we can get it listenable. Nonetheless, we were thrilled to chat with Tyler and provide you with an exclusive glimpse into the mind of one of rock music’s most talented performers. Check out our interview below!
Altwire/Derek Oswald: Theory of A Deadman has been around for two decades. You just released your eighth studio album, Dinosaur, which feels like a perfect return to the classic Theory style. How did you guys approach this album, and was there any retrospection from the band? Did you listen to your first albums during the writing process?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: Nah, there’s no going back and listening, but there was definitely some nostalgia there. There was I guess, some retrospection in a sense where it felt like a return to the beginning where a lot of the songs kind of started from a guitar riff – or like, for example, “Dinosaur” or “Ambulance” started with a song title.
Which is something I haven’t done in years. Usually, I would just come up with a song, lyrics, and melody first. So yeah, it is a return to kind of the old-school Theory of a Deadman in a sense.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: I understand the band performed the tracks live in Atlantis Studios. How did you guys end up with Martin Terefe, and what was it like to record in Atlantis Studio?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: So Martin, we’ve done the last three records with; he’s fantastic. He’s a Swedish producer who’s worked with tons of different kinds of bands. Not a ton of rock like Theory of a Deadman, which is really cool. Because I think for him, it was as much as exciting as it was for us to work with something maybe different.
But working in Sweden was fantastic. Atlantis Studios is a very famous studio in Stockholm – which was the home of ABBA. That’s where they recorded all their big hits. The ABBA piano is there.
So we don’t sound anything like ABBA, but it was a beautiful studio with all the old technology you wanted, all the old gear. They had some compressor in there that was like $80,000. Like, wow. So it was great. And just being in Stockholm for five weeks was…I mean, you couldn’t ask for anything more. It was such a beautiful city, and the people were wonderful. And honestly, the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had was in was in Stockholm, believe it or not.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: Interesting! Sweden’s definitely on my bucket list. It’s one of the places I always wanted to go to, but you wouldn’t think Sweden would be the best cheeseburger in the world.
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: Yeah, I was surprised. We went there, I would say, five or six times throughout the recording process because we’re like, let’s go back. Let’s go. It was just so good.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: Now you made a good point. ABBA recorded many of their smash hits at that studio. While recording this album, did you touch any of ABBA’s old instruments?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: Yeah, we recorded with all that gear, so it’s all still there. The studio was sold, and our producer purchased it, so everything was sold as is. So ABBAs piano we used on some songs, and I think we used some xylophone or there was some, there was some weird stuff in there that we used. A lot of old guitars and stuff lying around that we would plug in. Also, Benny [Andersson] came by from ABBA one day and recorded some piano in one of his songs, which was pretty cool, but he wasn’t able to record anything on our stuff, unfortunately.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: When you answered an earlier question, you said there were changes to how you typically did your songwriting. Could you go through your typical writing process when recording a record?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: Honestly, it all kind of comes from nowhere. It comes from the ether. There’s no real legitimate specific way. I could reach out to Dave and say, hey, send me some guitar riffs. And he has voice notes of hours and hours of guitar licks and songs he’s put together and vice versa. I’ll have some riffs and stuff. But every song is different.
Like, “Rx” is a great example. I tried this experiment where I would write a song a day, and I think I got to song or day three, and I was so bored from forcing myself to write a song that I wrote “Rx,” and it was about how bored I was. Just saying “I am so freaking bored,” and that became “Rx.”
So yeah, every song is different, but a lot of it comes from nowhere. I couldn’t tell you where I get the ideas from.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: Is it ever weird that a song you wrote about being bored became such a smash hit?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: Yeah, and that’s kind of the beauty of it. That’s the exciting thing about, I think, being a creative person, a songwriter, or being in a band is that you really never know. I think the harder you try, the worse it’s going to be. I think sometimes it is just one of those kismet things. Lightning in a bottle, they call it. “Bad Girlfriend” was another song that no one heard. The label didn’t hear it. We didn’t know. We just thought it was a cool rock song. And the same thing, it just became a big song of ours.
So I think it’s exciting because it motivates us to continue to make music because you just never know. It’s like Rx was on our sixth album, so you never know what the next one could be.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: In some reviews of Dinosaur, many people have said it’s a rock album that gives back much of what’s been missing from rock in the past few years. What personally do you think has been missing from rock, and how has the industry changed in the last 20 years?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: Well, I think many rock bands have unfortunately been forced to make records on zero budget. There are bands now making records in hotel rooms and laptops, and they sound pretty good. But, you know, it’s unfortunate because we really need to get back to making records where there are some people in a room. That’s the whole reason we make music. You get in a room with people, and it’s the energy of three or four people. Just vibing, and all of a sudden, you hit something, you play something, and you’re like, what was that? You can feel it. It’s a really great part, a great song, and then you got to get that down. You’ve got to record that.
I think we’ve lost that a bit, and it’s no fault of the bands. It’s just because of the industry and how things are. There’s not as much money going around; labels aren’t spending money and whatnot. Bands are doing it the only way they can, so yeah, I wish there was a way you could get that back somehow. Now, we had the budget, so it’s kind of lame for me to say that, but that’s kind of what we tried to do on this record.
We tried to do something a little more lo-fi, like it was us in a room, push record, what you hear is what you get. If the bass is flat, I hit a wrong chord, or I’m late on something, that’s it. It’s kept. So I think we’re missing a little bit of that. I think we’ve lost all the humanizing of rock, the punk kind of element of just going in there and mashing away on some instruments and recording that. It doesn’t seem as cohesive.
You know, when you have a drummer that’s pushing, what happens is when you record, like, say we record scratch tracks and we keep the drums, the drummer may be pushing. And then what happens is you go into Pro Tools, and you snap it all to the grid. And, of course, then all the other instruments are off. So you have to re-record all the other instruments, so I like when you all record together.
And if the drummer’s pushing, which feels natural, or pulling the band back, leaning back, that’s how it’s recorded. Which makes it harder for MIDI or stuff like that. It forces you to do a lot more stuff live, like on analog keyboard or something. But it just sounds way better, man. It just locks in sonically. And having everything snap to the grid, I feel it doesn’t sound as good. That’s my opinion.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: Earlier, you talked about how much the industry changed. Do you feel like it’s more difficult for younger bands starting out to make it in the industry versus when you guys started?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: Yeah. 100%. It is so difficult now financially. When we started out, everybody was involved. Everybody wanted a piece, whether it was a publishing company or a label, or a manager, everybody wanted to have a piece. And so even when we started on our record label, they would put us in a tour bus, and off we go. They would have tour support, and they would have a tour department at the label. So then they would find bands for you to tour with. It was ridiculous.
Now it’s tougher on bands. They have to try to find investors and stuff. I will say the good thing is that now that things are being more direct to the fans, you’re finding that younger bands are so good at being able to connect with fans. They’re really good with technology. They’re great with social media. They know that social media is how you connect with fans. Those are the people that are now the boss. The labels don’t really have that kind of power anymore.
The payola that was back in the day where you could pay for play. It’s kind of gone now.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: Thank God.
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: Yeah, so I kind of admire that because we’re getting older now. We’re literally doing TikTok lessons with people because we don’t know what we’re doing. I’m like, “so how do I…what do I do?” And they’re like, “you got to go to this page and push this filter button.” We have to force ourselves to get with the times because that’s kind of where everything’s going.
So there are pros and cons. It is going to be tough, though. It is tough for rock, especially. But, like I said, it’s one of those things that’s exciting because you never know. The band can have a huge hit song, and off you go.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: You have such great insight. Looking back on the last two decades, what are some of the hardest things you’ve learned, both touring and performing, and some wisdom you could impart to bands following your footsteps?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: You know, it’s such a dichotomous life. I think a lot of people don’t understand that it’s not for everybody. You’re spending a lot of time on the road, and you’re spending a lot of time away from family and friends.
When we started, like a lot of young bands too, they got girlfriends; they got pets, they got families. And then you go on tour for endless amounts of days, weeks, and months, and it all unravels really quickly. So that was a hard lesson I learned. It’s tough to choose. It really is something where you have to have balance. That’s something that not everyone can do.
Not everybody can go out here and enjoy the life of the road. It’s a carnival life. We call ourselves pirates because it’s just a weird life, man. I know there are some people out there who get out here and are like, “Man, this is not cool. I don’t know if I can do this.”, I know it’s not for everybody. It’s a weird life, man.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: Do you happen to have any funny memories from that “Dictonomous Life” as you put it, that you’d like to share, maybe some funny experiences over the last 20 years?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: I mean, there’s so many, like you’re on the road and you’re a rock star, and then you go home, and you’re like gardening or at Home Depot buying lumber or something in flip flops. And this happened not too long ago.
I was returning an Amazon package at Whole Foods by my house and was in line. I literally look like a homeless person wearing pajamas or something, right? And I’m in line buying avocados, and I turn a look and am staring at this dude beside me. It was Daniel, the drummer from Nickelback. I’m like, “What?! What are you doing here?” and he’s like, “What are YOU doing here” and it was the weirdest experience.
It turns out they were all in in in LA doing press for their new album, and so they were all outside in a Sprinter van waiting to go back to the airport. I guess Daniel wanted to stop off and get some food or something at Whole Foods. So I went outside, and the whole band was there hanging out, and I just looked like a hobo. It’s just such a weird thing to have the two worlds colliding, you know what I mean? Like it was just like things that you shouldn’t ever see.
But it was great to see the guys. That was an instant where you never expected to run into those guys, like at a Home Depot or a Whole Foods on a Tuesday at 11 a.m. What a weird experience.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: Have you started to think about the legacy that Theory of a Deadman is leaving behind? Have you thought about where you’d like to be within the next 10 to 15 years?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: Yeah, I think for us, it’s like it’s probably the same as in the beginning. I think when we started, it was just about world domination. We’ve done so many cool things. We’ve had number-one singles and stuff like that. And I think for us, as we get older, it’s more about touring. It’s more about trying to get to places we haven’t been.
So I try to get to South America, places in Eastern Europe, and things like that. Bucket list stuff. I think as you get older, it’s like, you know, we should really try to get down to Brazil. Or try to do some of these shows where, like, they do a show in the Bahamas or something like that. Those are the kind of things that are on our minds now; just about getting to some cool places on tour. Touring with some bands we’d love to tour with, that we haven’t in a long time.
Music-wise, It’s kind of status quo; whatever comes, comes. We don’t really focus too much on what the next Theory sound is going to be. I mean, we played in so many places. We’ve done Wembley a couple of times in London and Madison Square Garden with Motley Crue. That was obviously a bucket list. I think just like playing places in Paris or somewhere like you never think you’d play a show.
I remember, like, the first time I played Amsterdam, we were with Three Doors Down; I think a couple of the guys had a little “too much”, you know? They went to a couple of cafes before the show. Had a little too much before the show and had an interesting experience on stage.
There are plenty more Buckle-less places to come, but I think for us, we’re just excited that we’re actually touring again.
Altwire/Derek Oswald: To close things up, is there anything else you’d like to add or share with the fans?
Theory of a Deadman / Tyler Connolly: I don’t think so, man. Just lots of touring to come. Playing a lot of shows. I’m just excited for this new record. There are lots of songs on here I think fans are digging. So I think this will be a record where we play a lot of stuff from the new album.