Sacred Metal, Sacred Leather: A Chat with Dustin “Dee Wrathchild” Boltjes
Some people just exude The Metal. When looking at the lives of many metal musicians, you tend to be able to put them into two categories: those who lead rather mild-mannered lives outside of their extreme musical output, and those who are metal 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Certainly, Dustin Boltjes falls into the latter category.
While probably best known as the drummer for the mighty Skeletonwitch, Boltjes has played in more bands than most people have heard of. His bulldozing drumwork has appeared in such acts as the metallic hardcore of The Dream is Dead, the vicious thrash of Demiricous, and the black metal stylings of Christ Beheaded, just to name a few.
When not singing or playing drums, Boltjes tends to pass his time doing any number of metal-adjacent activities, such as judging tattoo contests and acting in underground horror films like “I Spill Your Guts," "Cool as Hell 2,” and “Catch of the Day." And if there’s any doubt about what’s in Dustin Boltjes’ heart, just listen to his vocals, nothing short of an alchemical marriage of Rob Halford and King Diamond.
Today we bring you the premiere of the song “Power Thrust” from his new band Sacred Leather, which oozes this same unabashed love of all things metal. “Power Thrust” is pure old school metal, dripping with twin guitar harmonies and crunchy riffs, and just the right combination of force and swagger. Mr. Boltjes ("Dee Wrathchild") himself is here to talk about their new record Ultimate Force and his love of 1980s metal.
-- Todd Manning
You're probably best known as being a drummer, particularly for Skeletonwitch, but you’ve actually done a lot as a vocalist as well, culminating in the new Sacred Leather album Ultimate Force. How did you get started as a singer?
It really all started with being on tour with my old band, The Dream is Dead. We would hang in the van, before and after gigs, listening to King Diamond, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, etc. and get loaded and sing along. I was the only one loud enough, and always in key [laughs]! So, yeah, realistically it all started there. Which then lead to many drunken karaoke nights, which then lead to, fuck it, I’m gonna sing in a band.
And how did you end up hooking up with Sacred Leather?
The band had decided to start taking a different direction with the material they were writing. They knew at that point they needed someone with a serious voice. Magnus (the bass player) was familiar with my tribute band, Iron Diamond, and knew I had the pipes. I went to a rehearsal to listen to some of the newer material they had been working on, and was blown away. I immediately thought, this band is special, and I have to be a part of it. The rest is heavy metal history.
Now that you have an album of original material out with you as the vocalist, does it change how you see yourself as a musician? Do you think of yourself as a drummer first, or a vocalist, or do you not draw a distinction between the two?
Not really. I will always be just as passionate about playing drums, as I am singing. It is a nice change of pace, to step out from behind the kit, and become more vulnerable as a performer. Oh, and I also love the fuck out of wearing leather. Can’t drum in that shit.
Who are some of your main vocal influences?
Man, so many great rock and metal singers have influenced me over the years. I’d say if I had to name a few: Rob Halford, King Diamond, David Coverdale, and Geoff Tate.
Your work as a vocalist has really centered on the 1980s. What is about the music from that era that really strikes a chord with you?
It is just so goddamn raw and powerful. No auto-tune, no bullshit. Vocally, it’s the Ultimate Force. See what I did there...
Does your drumming also take major inspiration from that period?
Definitely! I gravitated towards drumming as a kid because of heavy metal. Twisted Sisters’ Stay Hungry was the first album I ever owned on my own. The drumming on that record made me want to be a drummer. And then, once I heard Slayer, I was like, “Yeah. This is how I want to play."
To switch gears a bit, things have been a bit quieter than usual on the Skeletonwitch front. Do you guys have plans coming up?
We have a ton coming up. We are releasing a new record in the spring, which I am extremely excited about. In my opinion, it’s the strongest record this band has ever written. Once that drops, it's tour, tour, tour!
I’m sure Skeletonwitch will be hitting the road hard, is Sacred Leather going to be touring as well?
Schedule permitting, Sacred Leather will definitely get out on the road as much as possible. Our live show is really where the band truly shines the most. I want to push this record as hard as humanly possible.
When you're not doing your thing in Sacred Leather and Skeletonwitch, you’ve been known to play in about 20 other bands at a time, act in movies, and judge tattoo contests, and do god knows what else. What else are you planning to cram into your busy schedule in the near future?
Yes [laughs], I am a glutton for punishment. I have quite a bit going on. I am doing a band called The Secrecy with some very close friends who I have played in other bands with over the years. I have a synthpop/darkwave project called Stranger Attractor that is playing our first show in February. And of course, I’ll be performing from time to time with Iron Diamond, the greatest 1980s heavy metal tribute band on the planet. I think that’s about it for now, but I’m sure the next time we talk, there will be several other projects to report [laughs]! I just can’t stand still, man. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Ultimate Force drops on February 23rd. Go get it! Cheers!