DC4 – Living With Electric Ministry

DC4 – Living With Electric Ministry

(…this article is in English…)

Guitarist Jeff Duncan is a metal veteran. He got his start in the Los Angeles music scene with Odin, and probably is best known as one of the current axe players for long running traditional band Armored Saint- whom he’s been playing with for over 20 years. Given the busy endeavors of vocalist John Bush through his years with Anthrax as well as Joey Vera producing and playing with Fates Warning and Seven Witches among others, it made sense for Jeff to return to his roots and form a band with his brothers Matt Duncan on bass and Shawn Duncan on drums.

Recruiting former Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson (you may remember how young he was on "Lock Up The Wolves"), DC4 has recently released their fourth full length album "Electric Ministry". Aligning with a focus on delivering passionate hard rock and heavy metal at its roots, they’ve now secured a record deal and are ready to establish themselves further on the scene.

Thanks to Dave Tedder at Head First Entertainment for setting up this interview with vocalist/ guitarist Jeff Duncan, a very personable individual who has a good head on his shoulders and sincere appreciation for the gift of music. Dive into more about this man’s long career…


Tell us about the most recent Armored Saint gigs over in Germany this past week- how does it feel to be revered more so outside the states than inside your own country?

We did two shows- one in Cologne and one in Hamburg, and the last time we played before that was here in Los Angeles, which was a really fantastic show. However Europe- particularly Germany- has always been very good to Armored Saint. It’s great, as far as like the country goes, Germany would have more consistency as far as the fanfare being spread out. I think it’s just great to be loved anywhere, to be perfectly honest. I don’t care if it’s in the United States, Germany, anywhere- it’s just nice to have fans and be appreciated.

At what point in your life did you decide to pick up the guitar- and how does to feel to be consistently playing in a band with your family?

I started playing guitar when I was about 9. Playing with my brothers- it’s the best! I get asked this question often. I feel very fortunate, we see eye to eye on music, and we play very well together. We already know each other and the quirks, it’s cool because you don’t have to wait for somebody’s true colors to show because you know them so well. I feel very blessed and I just love the sharing of creating music and playing shows, making records and I get to do that with two people that I’ve known for all of my life.

DC4 is your own band you’ve been playing with since the late 90’s- and we now have the latest release "Electric Ministry" that runs the gamut from traditional heavy metal to slightly modern hard rock styles. How long did it take for this album to come together, how was the studio process and were any songs more difficult than others to pull together?

It took from start to finish about one year. The process is pretty basic- usually what happens with the band is I’ll write the main songwriting, I put them together and demo them at home. Then I give everybody a CD of the material to get them familiar with the music and then we get together and hash everything out as a band- changes and adjustments. Everybody gets to put in their opinion on any given song. Some of the songs are newer and some of them are from past demos. I think the song that was the most challenging in terms of getting the arrangement exactly right was probably "Broken Soul". We spent a lot of time on that- when you have a tempo that has to be right on, that one was a lot of work. We wrote a whole new bridge in that song. As far as recording-wise, I think "The Ballad Of Rock And Roll" was a challenge because there were so many things I heard in my head, thanks to producer Bill Metoyer we were able to get everything happening and some of the friends I have, my cousin Erin Duncan sang on that, Dizzy Reed played keyboards and organ on that, my friend Juliette Primrose played violin- but it was a lot of work.


Speaking of that song "The Ballad Of Rock And Roll"- I sense a little bit of The Beatles influence in that song, was that kind of a tribute to them?

I think Melissa Etheridge once said, "The Beatles already wrote everything, we have been recycling them ever since." I don’t know if it’s necessarily a conscious tribute but I am a big Beatles fan. So it comes out here and there, I think when I wrote that song I wasn’t thinking that way. It’s built into me, that approach to writing with those ninth chords, minor chords, sevenths and that sort of thing. If you listen to some of the earlier DC4 records like "Volume One" there’s a lot more of that on that album.

A lot of your vocals on this album remind me of John Bush, especially in the lower ranges. Who would you say are some of your vocal influences, and is it a challenge for you to play guitar and sing in live situations with DC4?

First of all, any comparison to John is a compliment to me because he is one of my all time favorite vocalists. Having been around him and playing music around him for 20 plus years, even before I decided to tackle lead vocals, the influence is bound to come through. Especially in terms of enunciation and approach, everything like that. John is great- my other two influences vocally would be Bon Scott and Ronnie James Dio. Not that I think I sound like them or anything, but those are two of my most inspirational rock vocalists. And of course The Beatles. As far as singing lead and playing guitar at the same time, that just came together naturally. Sometimes I have to sit down and think about what the counter rhythm part would be to play it, but I don’t find it all that difficult. I’m strumming and singing the song like a troubadour.

What’s it like to play with a talent like Rowan Robertson in this band? How do you decide who covers what parts in given songs?

It’s fantastic playing with Rowan. We are very fortunate to play music with Rowan and to know him as a person- he’s just the greatest person and has become a dear friend. Usually like solos we tell each other to take the solo- we have a little friendly argument about who’s doing the solos- it’s the opposite of what other bands go through. He certainly is very humble, we feel it out- we have a very good chemistry as guitarists. It comes together naturally and we make sense together.

How did the guest appearances from Dizzy Reed and fellow Armored Saint drummer Gonzo come about?

The two songs I wanted Dizzy on were "The Ballad Of Rock And Roll" and "Dirty Hands", I needed some Hammond organ and piano. He was the first guy that came to mind, and I’ve known him since 1983 before he was in Guns. He’s just so good, fortunately when the time came he was not on the road and available and he came in and knocked it out of the park. There was some percussion stuff I wanted done and Gonzo, he does some drum circles and different things as far as percussion, so I gave him a call and he was completely open to it. Everyone that did a guest appearance on this album was very gracious with their time and their talent, they all did a great job on this album. How cool to know you have such talented friends.


You have a regular deal with Metal Blade for Europe but are releasing "Electric Ministry" on your own in the US. Is this frustrating to not be able to find a suitable label in your home country- or do you believe it’s just a sign of the changing times with downloading and digital media?

It’s definitely a sign of the times. We are really happy that we did get a deal with Metal Blade in Europe because our previous two albums didn’t have a deal, "Volume One" did come out on a small label over there but it was a questionable label. My frustration with getting a deal kind of subsided a long time ago. I accepted the fact that it makes more sense to gear the band towards Europe in terms of how the fans are and the demographic of people who appreciate what is it that DC4 does for music. We could land something here eventually but it’s not something that we’ve been constantly pursuing. Our deal with Metal Blade is Metal Blade Europe and worldwide digital- so that’s a pretty good deal because the record is available worldwide. We have CD’s available through us in the states that we are making ourselves. So if people want to buy a CD from us in the states, they can get it through us directly.

In all of your years playing in bands, what do you think are the most important elements that keep your passion for playing on high and your creativity going?

It’s what I do, I really don’t know much else. I joined my first band when I was 13 years old. I just love it. I love to create, I love to play music, it’s just what I do. As far as what keeps the passion going, the ideas keep coming. Something that definitely helped is when I started getting into home recording and having my little home studio. That helps in getting volumes of work done and cataloging things. Trust me there have been plenty of times during this whole music thing where I thought about going to law school- it can be very tough and frustrating, but in the end it’s really an awesome thing. I love making records , I love playing guitar, I love singing and writing and that’s the hand I was dealt.

Have you started writing for the next DC4 album- and if so will it continue in the "Electric Ministry" mold or do you see things advancing in terms of sound for the band?

I was just talking about this with my brother Shawn yesterday. He was asking me if I had been doing any writing- I have been pretty busy this year and I do have some songs cataloged, but I will start writing in September. It’s time to start preparing for the next record. I don’t think we will try to duplicate "Electric Ministry", just like that record didn’t try to duplicate "Explode". It’ll definitely be hard rock with melody and hopefully the same sort of power and approach. DC4 music, and it’ll be a progression from the latest album. We consciously don’t think about it- we do what we do and hopefully the collection of songs is cohesive and makes for another good album.


Out of the Armored Saint albums you’ve played on, which one is your personal favorite and why?

I do like all of them very much, but probably my favorite is still "Symbol of Salvation". I think song for song it’s a great album, plus there was such a good feeling making that record. Not that there was any bad feelings making the other two- "Revelation" or "La Raza"- but we definitely had a mission when we were making "Symbol Of Salvation" and there were a number of songs written on that album with Dave Pritchard. I had been in the band with Dave initially when I first joined Armored Saint. We played guitar together on all the demos for the album, and when he passed away I was the only person who knew how to play those songs on guitar the way he wrote them because he showed me them. We were on a mission to make a great Armored Saint album and we also wanted to honor Dave’s legacy. He was a very great musician and a beloved friend and it was such a loss, so we had a sense of duty to present something to his legacy that was high standard. The results are great, whenever I hear that album I can hear the spirit and the heart.

What do you like to do in your free time for hobbies and passions away from music?

Well, fortunately or unfortunately for me my hobby is music. As well as what I do, in my down time I am a pretty simple person. I enjoy hanging with friends, getting some coffee, having good conversation and that sort of thing. I always put time into music- which is probably why I am still not married (laughs). It all comes down to that with me. If I’m not making a record or at a rehearsal I will grab my acoustic and go over in the park and play to relax. I don’t go hang gliding or anything like that on the weekend. I’m not building ships in a bottle. I am always playing somewhere, or if I’m not doing something musically I am tinkering around on the acoustic guitar, I just love it.

What type of touring plans is DC4 looking at for the next year or so? I would imagine some European dates on the horizon, but will there be plans for some US touring, even if it’s on a regional basis?

We are intensely working on getting touring going- because DC4 has never really toured before, which is kind of amazing we got a deal at all with no touring. We have played a lot of shows out here in Los Angeles and some regional dates in Arizona, but we plan on doing both Europe and the US. We want to pursue it intensely. We would like to do a package with somebody, it doesn’t have to be a big band, just something that makes sense.