HELLEVATE – A Talk With DAN “Danöwar” WHITMER (Guitar)

Posted on October 11th. 2017

Questionnaire by Jason Houston on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM

Jason: Hello and welcome Dan To Metal To Infinity.  I’d like to Thank You for taking time out of your very, busy schedule to speak with us.

Your band Hellevate is based out of Kansas City.  Is Kansas where you’re originally from and I was curious if there’s much of a Music scene/or Metal Scene there these days?

Dan: Yes, KC is my hometown where I was born and raised. There’s actually a very strong, thriving metal and live music scene here. The town is very heavily death metal-oriented, and the fans are some of the most dedicated and enthusiastic I’ve ever seen. So if you’re looking for a good place to play a heavy metal show, Kansas City is a good place.

Jason: How old were you when you first started playing the Guitar?  Did you take lessons or would you consider yourself to be self-taught?

Dan: I started taking lessons around age 10, I’ve taken lessons in multiple styles including jazz and classical with many great teachers over the years. Of course the longer you do something, the more you’ll learn about it with or without professional instruction, and I like to think I’ve shown some improvement over the years.

Jason: Why did you choose the Guitar as your instrument of choice?

Dan: To be totally honest, the idea of taking music lessons at all was my mom’s idea. Like I said, I was around age 10, and she asked if I’d want to learn an instrument. Of course being ten, the only instruments I really knew were guitar, piano, and drums, and I picked guitar, and 17 years later here I am.

Jason: Do you remember what was the very, first song you learned to play on the Guitar?

Dan: A lot of the early stuff I learned mostly out of the lesson books my first teacher showed my, mostly playing along to simple melodies and working my way on up. My first full rock song I ever learned, solo and all, was California Man by Cheap Trick.
Jason: Who were the Guitar Players/Bands who influenced you when you were growing up?

Dan: Cheap Trick, as I just mentioned, but also a lot of classic rock and heavy metal bands like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and KISS, and eventually graduating on to heavy and thrash metal like Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Dio, Ozzy, Metal Church, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest.
Jason: What year was Hellevate formed and how did you all first meet and come to join the band?

Dan: I first decided to try and form a band around 2007, and there have been lineup changes since then, but mostly it was people I knew through the scene and met through friends. When I was a teenager I attended School of Rock and managed to meet my bassist through them. Almost everyone else that’s been in the band have been people I’ve met through the KC heavy metal scene.

Jason: How did you come to name the band: Hellevate?

Dan: I came up with the name when I was 15 or so, I just combined the words, “hell,” and, “elevate,” as in, “raising hell,” which I thought was a good fit for a heavy metal band. Funny enough, during high school, there was a Christian kid’s club called Elevate, and everyone assumed I was trying to make fun of them. I totally wasn’t intending that, but I took the free publicity anyway.

Jason: I was curious in Hellevate how do you and Josh split the Guitar parts?  I mean does one guy handle all the lead parts or is it more of a matter of which Player has the best feel for a particular song?

Dan: We’re basically co-lead guitarists, and solos and dueling melodies are typically split pretty evenly between us. Typically, the newer songs I write, I write with at least two solo section riffs back to back, because I know we’ll most likely be splitting them up. It depends on what the song calls for, of course.

Jason: What do you remember most about the band’s very, first, professional gig?

Dan: Depends on your definition of, “professional,” I guess, but the show I consider our first real entry into the music scene at large was sometime in 2009, we were kind of a token metal band on rock shows for a little bit, but after that first show, the promoter, who went on to become good friends with us, told us he thought we had the potential to become one of the biggest metal bands in KC, and all these years later, we’re still at it.

Jason: Does everyone in the band contribute to the songwriting process?

Dan: To some extent yeah, we have a few different ways we’ll go about it. Sometimes Josh or I will have a fully-written demo recording one of us made, other times we’ll just get together with some riffs and just start jamming them until something starts to take form. Drew, our singer, has written all the lyrics and his own vocal lines since joining, and while everyone is open to suggestions from other members, for the most part they’re able to write and play their own parts in each song.

Jason: While I realize they’re two, very different animals I was curious if you have a preference when it comes to the recording studio vs. performing live?

Dan: Live is definitely much more fun, though studio work is ultimately more satisfying, I feel. Live, you get to rage onstage with a bunch of friends, whereas in the studio it can be a very long, tedious, grueling process, but by the end of it, when you’ve made something you can be proud of, it makes all the effort worth it.

Jason: As far as recording I was curious if you guys record as a live band where everybody is in the same rood/studio recording together or do you guys record the modern way where everyone records their parts separate?

Dan: We’ve done our parts separately so far in each recording, usually starting with drums, then guitar, then bass, and finishing with vocals and any other tracks or effects we use in the song.

Jason: I love the band’s Logo, it has a real METAL look to me if you know what I mean.  Who designed the logo?

Dan: I forget his full name, it was a guy named Jason who we met through the promoter friend I mentioned earlier. He drew it almost ten years ago, but I’m not sure what ever happened to the guy. He lived in Florida at the time, though, so he was quite a ways away.

Jason: What is currently going on with Hellevate?

Dan: Lately we’ve just been writing and practicing more and more material for our third album. Our drummer recently had to depart due to some medical issues, so we’ve been on the hunt for someone to take over behind the throne.

Jason: In regards to reading reviews about the band do you care equally about what a critic might write about the band vs. how your bands are reacting to the band on your social media sites?

Dan: It’s always nice to get a good review from a critic, but having people who have actually seen you, who aren’t paid to write about you, who take the time to tell you they like your band, I’ve always found that much more rewarding.

Jason: How important is Social media to the band, especially in terms of responding to E-mails/messages that fans send to you and your band mates?

Dan: It’s very important, in the underground heavy metal scene social media has become a very critical tool in communicating both with bands and promoters to organize shows, as well as connect with fans, and is a very useful promotional tool as well. That being said, it can be very difficult to stand out online, so traditional methods of handing out flyers, playing out, and selling merch to get your name out there is still a necessary part of the process.

Jason: Has Hellevate had the opportunity to tour much outside of your local area?

Dan: Yes, we’ve done a fair amount of regional shows, as well as a week-and-a-half-long Midwest tour last summer. Mostly we go east and north, to Des Moines, Chicago, St. Louis, etc., but we’ve been down to Texas once or twice as well.

Jason: Is there an album in your collection Dan that you still point to all these years later and say that’s the album that really had a major influence/impact on me, and played a major role in me becoming a professional musician?

Dan: Like any musician, there are several. My very first CD I ever bought was a 2-CD greatest hits collection from Cheap Trick, which I listened to religiously, after that, AC/DC Live had a profound role on me. I still credit Metal Church’s self-titled and The Dark for making me an actual heavy metal fan.

Jason: When a fan comes up to you Dan and they tell you how much they love yo, your band, the band’s music what does that mean to you?

Dan: Like I said earlier, it’s a lot more meaningful when someone who has nothing to gain from it tells you they genuinely enjoy something you do, especially when it’s someone you know and respect as a fellow musician or scene member. It shows you’ve managed to make an impact, which means a lot to me.

Jason: Are you currently involved w/any other bands/projects that you’d like to let us know about?

Dan: I’m in talks with some friends of mine about forming a new death metal project soon called Lycurgus, we’re hoping to have our first show before the end of the year. My guitarist Josh also plays in another power/speed metal band called EALO.

Jason: Is there anything that you’d like to say to all the Hellevate fans out there Dan?

Dan: As I mentioned, we’re on the hunt for a drummer, so if your readers or anyone they know would be interested, get ahold of us either via our facebook page or through our promotion company, Online Metal Promo.

Otherwise, thank you to everyone who’s listened, or come to see us, or have just supported heavy metal. The fans make the band what they are, and we appreciate the hell out of you!

Lastly, don’t forget to check out hellevate.bandcamp.com to check out or merch, as well as stream our music.
Jason: THANKS AGAIN DAN – Thank you for the opportunity!