Local metal band A.K.A White Devil has a band dynamic that works

A.K.A. White Devil is a local metal band. Their front man, Jason Mack, formed the group seven years ago with his friend Jake Thrush.

Including himself on lead vocal, Mack’s group has six members: Thrush on lead guitar, Mat Osgood on rhythm guitar, Ryan Smith on bass, a new drummer named Shane Hepner, and a new backup vocalist Lauren Mee. Mack has another band he sings with on the side called Death’s Device, “A group of guys I get together with and play music and drink beer,” said Mack.

Mack uses Death’s Device’s studio space to do their studio recordings. Being Death’s Device’s lead singer allows him the use of their studio free of charge which saves the group a lot of money.  “Most studios charge by a package; the best deal around for us at a pro studio in Eugene was about $700. That only gives you six hours of recording time and 8 hours of mixing time,” said Mack. The studio recording classes he has taken at UCC help the band because Mack can do some of the sound mixing himself.

“Our group’s dynamic is a lot like Metalocalypse,” said Mack. Metalocalypse is an animated TV show on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim about a metal band called “Deathclock.” The TV band is so popular that their antics affect world economies and the government, but the band members of Deathclock are oblivious to the way their music affects the world around them. “The way the group interacts is very similar to the way the members of Deathclock interact,” Mack said.

Mack described himself as being like Deathclock’s front man Nathan Explosion, the guy in the group that tries to hold the group together. Thrush was described as being like William Murderface, always angry about everything. Smith and Osgood are like Toki Wartooth and Skwisgaar Skwigelf, always arguing with each other. Hepner is a lot like Deathclock’s drummer Pickles, always partying and easygoing.

A.K.A. White Devil’s name has caused a few problems for the group who ran into some trouble with the FBI over their name. The FBI labeled them as a white supremacist hate group and put them on their watch list until recently. The name, however, was never meant to be a message of hate.

The name was a joke that Mack’s African American ex-girlfriend’s family back east gave him. It was around the same time the movie “Ace Ventura 2” came out. There is a scene in the movie where the members of an African tribe call Ace Ventura a white devil. As a friendly joke the family started calling him “white devil.” He thought it was quite a funny nickname, and it stuck. This, however, was not the only reason for choosing the name.

Mack’s other reason for the name is to counter the use of racial slurs by the gangster rap community. Mack figured if it were okay for the gangster rap community to refer to themselves with a racial slur, then the same should go for Caucasians too. A.K.A. White Devil is not meant to cause hate but to establish equality.

A.K.A White Devil was actually the second name choice for the group. Originally Mack wanted to call the group just White Devil. Guitarist Thrush persuaded Mack to add the prefix A.K.A to the name to minimize the amount of controversy the name White Devil might cause.

“We get along as well as any group of friends would,” said Mack. Most of the members have been friends for a long time and have stuck with the group since the group started. However, the group has gone through several drummers and caused a lot of conflict. Shane Hepner was not their first drummer. The original drummer was Mike Jones and after him Kevin Smallwood. The reason for them leaving was a conflict of style. Their drumming style was punk and, while they did their best to fit the metal role, they just didn’t have the feel that Mack was looking for. “When looking for band members, I look for talent, and they must be able to hang out with us and take a joke; also they must not get offended very easily,” said Mack.

Mack’s next drummer was Tim Wilcox whose style was a mix of classic and alternative rock. Wilcox was with the group longer than their previous drummers, and was sure the group would break up when he announced his dramatic retirement, but that didn’t happen.

Their new drummer, Shane Hepner, really fits well in the group. He has a metal drumming style and enjoys a lot of the music that Mack and Thrush listened to growing up. “Really excited to have him,” said Mack. “The groups Hepner has been in have pretty much opened for everybody.” Hepner was in a punk band in the 90’s called “Blasphemous Abnormality.” Hepner is also the drummer for “Monday with a Bullet” and guitarist for “New World Sinner” as well as the drummer for A.K.A. White Devil.

The changing of so many drummers has caused a lot of legal problems with the group putting out a studio album. Every time they switch drummers, the group has to re-record their songs or come up with new ones to avoid problems with ex-band members. “There are several demos floating around, but no studio albums,” said Mack. “We are still polishing a few tracks.” The demos they have are rough recordings they use to get their name out, and they have yet to find a record label to produce a studio album. There are two new songs in the works, “In the Garden of Heathens” and “Against all Gods.” “‘Against all Gods’ is the Art Robinson theme song,” said Mack. “The song is about Robinson trying to abolish public schools in favor of private Christian schools and my political views on the topic.”

The money the group makes from selling t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, beanies, hats, patches, stickers, buttons, CDs, and posters goes into funding their merchandising. “It’s a little business that sustains itself,” said Mack. “That is when we are doing a lot of shows. Otherwise, it costs a lot of money to pay for our merchandise out of pocket.”

They do all of their own art work, and have their merchandise printed by other bands in the metal scene. “In Oregon, metal bands are like one big dysfunctional family. We all help each other out how we can, in the best interest of keeping the scene alive and the fans happy.” The group has a concert planned for April. For more information on the band and upcoming concerts visit  their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/aka-White-Devil/190552770241.

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.