Track-by-Track: A Road To Damascus

author TL date 10/09/14

With the release of their second album "In Retrospect" two weeks ago, Copenhagen pop-rock group A Road To Damascus are currently setting all sails to break out of the Danish underground and gain more widespread recognition. Some of you may have already checked out the ambitious new record, and now that you may have started to form your own opinions about it, we have joined up with the band to bring you an in-depth track-by-track description of the record, courtesy of guitarist and main songwriter Mads Peter Møller. So if you have been listening and trying to figure out what the songs on the record are about, read on as we lend the pen to Møller for a moment:

Guitarist Mads Peter Møller taking the word from here:

Foreword

This band has always been about working hard and doing things properly. We are well-organized and have great expectations of one another. It’s not always easy fulfilling these expectations when doing full time studies or full-time jobs on the side. However, we can’t really help but to put most of our time and money into the band because it’s so rewarding. We always keep an ever-updating one-year game plan inscribed on our rehearsal space whiteboard andone day out of nowhere one of us put the words: “Record our second album” on the board. We looked at each other, and agreed surprisingly quickly: Why the hell not?!

We immediately started searching for a studio to record in, along with a producer that could help us create just the right sound for the album. Fairly early in the process, we stumbled upon a producer from Stockholm, Sweden called Dino Medanhodzic. As it turned out, he was the man behind a number of very talented, Swedish underground bands that we had been listening to for quite some time. As we were listening our way through his catalogue of productions, we got more and more impressed by their quality and diversity. His skills pretty much seemed to match everything we were looking for in a producer: On one hand, he was able to create the polished and grandiose sound that we felt would fit very well with our new songs. On the other hand, he was able to make it sound punchy and heavy, without being “too metal” for our taste.

Stockholm is a good ten-hours drive away from Copenhagen where we live, so instead of paying Dino a visit we started writing back and forth with him and his production leader, Joacim Hammarström. We quickly realized that these two guys were running a serious business where nothing was left to chance. They seemed professional and extremely deliberate in every aspect of their communication. As a result they really made us feel like we’d be in good hands, using their studio and Dino as the producer. For that reason we went ahead and booked their studio a little less than a year into the future. This put a natural deadline to the songwriting, and served as a good motivation for us to put all of our focus, time, and money into the project over the next year.

"All Said And Done"

At the time when we booked the studio, I was on a roll with my songwriting, coming up with a lot of different ideas for new songs. I was having a lot of fun writing new stuff and had a good feeling about the progress and the musical direction we were heading. So even though we didn’t nearly have enough finished songs for a whole album, I was confident that I could easily write a bunch of good songs before the deadline. In addition, I had just decided to take some time off from my studies to be able to really focus on writing new music.

As this year of intense songwriting was coming towards an end however, we were still a few good songs short of being ready to hit the studio. The writing process therefore switched from a phase where I was playing around with a lot of different musical ideas, to a phase where the writing needed to be more focused on piecing the best ideas together, to make up the final songs. At the same time I was giving a lot of thoughts to what message I wanted to get across in the lyrics. I wanted them to really impact the people listening. I realized that if people are going to sing along to our songs, this was my chance to actually make the words mean something. Show people how I see things, share my experiences, and hopefully give them something to relate to or think about.

It was during this time I came up with the music and lyrics for "All Said And Done". For me the song expresses how I felt during this time, my struggle with creativity, time pressure and the knowledge that this project would reveal the truth about my talent (or lack of) as a songwriter; I'd be no better than the quality of my songs.

The lyrics also touch upon the irony of that whole situation: While I had so many stories on my mind that I wanted to tell, I constantly fought to put the right words together on paper. And all of these "speeches" I was writing were for some else to sing - because I'm such a horrible singer compared to Mikkel.

Left to right: Ex-guitarist Ronni Thomsen, bassist Jakob Lærke Munk, producer Dino Medanhodzic, singer Mikkel Raavig, drummer Anders Veikko Madsen & guitarist Mads Peter Møller

"Different Eyes"

We all have bad days. Days where you feel disconnected from everyone and everything that is going on around you. Often you arrive at the conclusion that this feeling is probably due to your own state of mind, rather than everyone else acting weird or being assholes.

This particular song went through a number of radical changes before ending up sounding like it does on the album. I wrote the initial version of the song about a year before entering the studio. Back then, it was an up-tempo song with clear punk rock references. The song was alright, but I felt like the chorus had more potential than the rest of the song. I tried changing some riffs here and there, and even made a ballad out of the chorus at one point. It was only when I started writing parts for the song with a more stadium-rock kind of feel that I started to have a really good feeling about it. So I spent a couple of weeks re-writing the whole song once again: new instrumentals, new melodies and new lyrics. Everything except from the chorus was changed, to make the song sound like it sounds on the record.

Before this transformation period we actually played the original version of the song at several concerts, so it was really cool that the other guys from the band were open-minded and let me try out all these changes. In the end I think we ended up with a much better result.

"Turn Of The Story"

At the time I wrote the lyrics, I'd had an experience where it suddenly occurred to me that I had already made a lot of decisions, directly and indirectly, about what the rest of my life was going to be like - and what kind of person I was going to be. I mean I couldn’t remember ever taking my time to really think about stuff like: What do I really want to do with my life? How do I want to treat my friends, my family and everyone else whose life I am affecting somehow? What is important for me and what is less important? It had all just sort of happened. So I started to wonder, if I have ever given these very essential questions the proper thoughts and very careful consideration. Did I ever realize that these choices are by no means hypothetical, but will have a crucial impact on the rest of my life?

The lyrics of "Turn Of The Story are based on these thoughts. It’s about being terrified when you realize that you’re already growing up, and it’s about the fear of reaching a point where it will suddenly be too late for you to change everything you’ve build up so far; your career, your perspectives, your personality and maybe even your friends.

"Home Is Where My Heart Was"

I wrote this song based on our former guitarist Ronni's experiences back in 2012, when he moved to Copenhagen from the other side of the country to join the band. Ronni left his family, his girlfriend and his friends behind; Basically, his whole life. I think he took great pride in this action and though he didn't talk much about it, I think he really got the feeling that he had accomplished something whenever he went back to visit his hometown. While he went back to see his girlfriend and family, he realized that he didn’t care much for his old life and some of the people in it.

I couldn't help but to put myself in his situation and imagine how I would feel about leaving my life behind like that - and that's how I came up with the lyrics for the song. When I presented the song and lyrics to Ronni, he was really excited. He told me that the story and feelings were scary accurate. That was a great compliment so the lyrics have remained unchanged since that day.

The writing process of the song differed significantly from how I usually do things. Usually the writing of the music, the melody and the lyrics, is somewhat entangled. Guitar riffs and drum beats come up as the melody is defined and so on. In this case, however, I brought only an acoustic guitar on a vacation with my girlfriend to a small summerhouse on the island of Bornholm. While there I restricted myself from writing anything but basic chords on the guitar while writing the song. This meant that I could really focus on the vocals, without being tempted to "cheat" and spice a rather weak melody up with fancy riffs or production.

After the acoustic song was written we were definitely tempted to let it remain that way for the record. It worked surprisingly well with just an acoustic guitar and Mikkels’ voice. However, I couldn’t help but to lock myself in for a couple of days and arrange the hell out of the song. When I returned with the new version of the song, the other guys responded very positively to it. Therefore, we decided to go for this big balled version of the song.

I still think the song reflects this alternative writing process. My guess is that there is very little chance that the song would have sounded anything like this, if I had not pulled myself out of my comfort zone.

The poster for the band's upcoming Rock'n'Charity tour from which the proceeds will go towards helping children with cancer

"The Only Way"

When I wrote the lyrics for this song I knew a number of people in my life who were facing major crossroads regarding their future. They had to make up decisions for themselves, whether they were going to stick to their current path, or follow their heart and do something completely different. All of them ended up ditching the things in their life that made them unhappy, and it was quickly obvious to me that they had all made the right choice by doing so. This song is inspired by their struggles.

I generally think it's a lot of fun writing stuff based on other peoples' lives and experiences. Mainly because it makes me feel less inclined to stick with the truth. Thus it gives me a certain freedom to craft the story in a more creative way. And as a bonus I avoid the recurrent, hard decisions about how "honest" I want to be in the end. I rarely feel obligated to stick with the true story if I can take the story to a more interesting level, by interpreting it creatively, while still keeping the same themes. On the other hand, I still feel like the best stories usually come out of elements of personal experience.

Musically, this song began life as a punk rock song. I was listening a lot to the Living With Lions' album "Holy Shit" at the time and I felt like I wanted to write a song with a similar kind of vibe. However, when we started playing "The Only Way" together we realized that the song sounded better the more we decreased the tempo. I think we dropped at least 20 bpm from the initial version of the song. I remember still thinking of the song as a ‘somewhat slower’ punk rock at this point. When we entered the studio with Kristian Thomsen (who co-produced this song), he had this crazy idea about writing a whole symphony and add it to the song. We knew from earlier work with Kristian that even though his ideas initially sometimes sound insane to us, he often ends up being right. So we went with it and let him do his thing. Once again, Kristian proved himself to be a man of brilliant ideas, and we were all stoked about the new expression and identity of the song. Later Dino Medanhodzic applied his finishing touches with another round of mixing and production, and we ended up with a version of the song that we could not be happier with.

"In Retrospect"

This song is about reminding yourself of telling people in your life that you appreciate them and care about them.

When we started the band back in 2009, one of our very first shows was a support gig for the British band, Yashin. We really looked up to those guys, because they radiated so much confidence and energy on stage. So four years later when we found ourselves discussing how cool it would be to get a guest vocalist to sing the respond on the chorus of the song "In Retrospect", the clean vocalist of Yashin, Harry Radford, was one of the first guys coming to our minds.

So we took a long shot and wrote his manager an email with the demo version of the song and told him our idea. A few days later he responded that Harry really liked the song and would be eager to sing the parts we had in mind for him. Harry recorded his parts in a studio in UK and subsequently sent the files to our producer who put everything together.

"With All Due Respect"

We have all found ourselves the middle of an intense argument with someone close to us. One of those arguments or fights that are driven solely by emotions rather than rational statements. I think these discussions rarely end up solving problems or help you progress. "With All Due Respect" is about that moment when you are tempted to just turn your back on the person sitting in front of you and walk away.

If you haven't yet, you can read our review of "In Retrospect" right over here

"Trash What's Broken"

These lyrics revisit the idea of taking a step back from what you’re doing – or who you’re doing it with, and then evaluating if you really feel like you’re on the right track. For me "Trash What's Broken" focuses on the latter. I think in general that it’s important to listen to your gut feeling and not just go with the flow without questioning your current path. This idea unintentionally became a theme of this album. This only became apparent to me after the album was finished.

"Tried And True"

Sometimes (unfortunately, not so rarely), I run into people that really piss me off with their attitude. However, I am not the most confrontational person in life so at some point it usually ends up with an angry song instead. "Tried And True" is an example of this. It’s about a person I used to work with who had an incredibly bad attitude. It was amazing how a couple of words from this person’s mouth could ruin the atmosphere. So this is a small reminder to this nameless girl.

Musically it is a straight forward up-tempo pop-punk song. Initially the song was built upon a guitar riff and a chorus in the same vibe as some of the more lighthearted songs of Yellowcard. After the rest of the song had been written, we realized that this guitar riff and chorus melody were actually the weakest parts of the song. So, I had to throw them in the trash and come up with something completely different. In addition to a new chorus I came up with a new bridge as well. With these new parts in the song all of us suddenly got much more positive feelings about it and we decided to put it on the record.

Though it might not be our favorite song on the record, it is definitely one of our absolute favorites to play live. So when you come to one of our concerts make sure that you know the lyrics to this song!

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