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December 2021 / January 2022

Dooms Children: "My life was in such a state of chaos"

Wade MacNeil is back with his new solo project Dooms Children, his most personal and revealing to date.a
Published: 11:41 am, November 01, 2021Words: Alex Bradley.
Dooms Children: "My life was in such a state of chaos"

It started with a tweet. "Drunk. Miserable. Depressed. August 4, 2019," read the caption accompanying a photo of Wade MacNeil onboard a plane, drink in hand, with a wincing, pained expression on his tired face. The thread that followed confirmed that he had been to rehab to tackle head-on his addiction and depression as soon as he finished touring with Alexisonfire in January 2020. "I feel ok in my own skin for maybe the first time in my life. I woke up happy this morning. IT'S FUCKED," he tweeted three months after the time in rehab before concluding the thread by quoting Leonard Cohen's 'Anthem': "There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in," he wrote.

From that light that got in, the spark, that bit of magic, comes Dooms Children. It's a project saturated in colour as a direct contrast to the dark place it was first conceived.

The music is part of the healing process, and knowing that goes some way to explaining why there is a lot of looking back to move forward anchoring this self-titled album. It allows for moments of brutal honesty, like singing, "My father cried when he dropped me off at rehab / Caused so much pain I didn't even know," in the opening line of 'Psyche Hospital Blues'. It's performed by Wade in a lush blonde wig while straddling his motorbike in the music video; serious, but don't take it too seriously.

There was a need to make 'Dooms Children' to get the songs and thoughts out of his head, but now that they are, Wade is in a completely different astral realm where he is sober, happy, and thriving.

"Writing these songs was a way to deal with the difficulties I was going through at the time," he opens up. "To work out where I was at emotionally, putting pen to page and then recording them too, felt like the next step of trying to get on the other side of all that pain."

"It was certainly not easy to do; it was very emotional recording the songs. I certainly tried to bring myself back to the places that they were written from and really feel it when I was playing the songs, and that was trying, but I think you can hear it in the recordings, and I think the last step to that is putting this record out into the world.

"The heavier parts of the record, the more difficult parts lyrically, the more personal things, I hope that allows me to look at those things as something that's in the past and I'm trying to heal and move away from. Hopefully, people can see a little bit of themselves in that, and that's the stuff that connects with people the most."

It's a genuine and honest confrontation with his struggles, but they seem more like traits he barely recognises now. Yes, 'Dooms Children' is an album about depression, but it doesn't mean it had to be depressing. It was all down to perspective and, when it came to songwriting, Wade had some psychedelic friends to help change the way he looked at the world and his struggles.

"A lot of these songs were written in a space when I was taking a lot of hallucinogens," he laughs that raspy laugh. "Doing that can certainly open your thinking up and the way you emotionally deal with things to a different kind of way. I think it's something everyone should do at some point in their life," he advocates.

"That being said," he considers, "it's not a way to escape because it has a tendency to bring the thing you're actually trying to escape to the forefront of your mind. It's certainly an incredible experience, but if you're looking to keep that experience going, the answer isn't a bigger dose of mushrooms or more hits of LSD; it's focusing on a meditation process and finding a way to get to the same space in a different way."

"Writing these songs was a way to deal with the difficulties I was going through"
Wade MacNeil

Album opener 'Trip With Me' is an invitation to challenge those perceptions, join Wade on a spiritual journey and open yourself up to the magic of everyday life.

"There's magic happening around us all the time, I think," he says, explaining his perception of how magic works while not sounding too much like a hippie. "The creation of music is magic. Willing something into existence that I hear in my head that doesn't exist yet in the world really feels like magic to me. There are a lot of ways to touch on that and to be connected to that; it's just your willingness, how much you want to try and find it," he reasons.

You can see his point. He has developed a talent for turning losses into wins in the last few years, and this solo venture is the pinnacle of that. At his lowest, the music he loved wasn't hitting the way it should. "My life was in such a state of upheaval and chaos that listening to black metal and listening to punk and all the bands I like and I still love, it wasn't helping. It was making me more anxious. It was having the opposite effect that it used to have on me," he explains. He turned it around by enjoying The Allman Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and a "deep dive"-turned-obsession with The Grateful Dead.

The Dooms Children album features a re-imagining of The 'Dead's 'Friend of the Devil', but their influence doesn't stop there. From the soothing gospel sound on 'Morningstar' (the first-ever Dooms song), the blissed-out bluesy lilt of 'Skeleton Beach', and the psychedelic haze of 'Flower Moon' all have the same loose feel that was ingrained in The 'Dead.

The one deviation comes in 'Lotus Eater' as "the one moment that we allowed ourselves to go full Sabbath on the record," Wade admits. Shining in the middle of the album with a brooding vocal performance that Leonard Cohen would be proud of and lyrical nods to Kurt Vonnegut, Wade slipped back into something more familiar. "I was like, "we can do it once'. It's hard to resist the urges," he confesses. "That's the one where we really let ourselves go, and I imagine we're going to play that intro riff fucking forever when we play it live. I can't wait."

Other than that, 'Dooms Children' sounds like a love letter from a Deadhead. Wade was already becoming more of a "wah-wah guy" after touring with Cancer Bats recently but Dooms Children has pushed his playing style further again as he looks to emulate The 'Dead. And when it comes to playing live, Wade will be completely reinvented.

"What's interesting about doing this project is doing different things, having different expectations, having different types of players playing with me. With the songs I've written, we could have a looseness, we could have a more jam approach to the songs, and we could really take them to some pretty out-there places, which is the complete antithesis of playing in a punk band or playing in a post-hardcore band. Those things are pretty dialled in," he reveals.

"I think starting this, when we recorded the Dead cover, that first song in my friend's living room, I thought, 'man I could like play a show and we could play this song for like a half an hour, we could play a show and just play THIS song'."

"That probably sounds like self-indulgent shit, but I'd love to do that. I'm going to do that at some point. There's going to be a Dooms Children show where we just show up and play a 35-minute version of 'Friend of the Devil', and to the people in that room, we will either be the world's greatest band or they will leave. Probably a bit of both," he laughs.

Those first Dooms Children shows are fast approaching in December, and Wade is understandably anxious about returning to live shows after a long time away. "I'm excited about it, but I'm nervous, which is something I haven't been for a show in fucking 20 years… maybe it's kind of nice," he admits. Thankfully, the shows are opening up for City & Colour, and the whole thing feels like it's meant to be.

"It's been interesting that it's all circled back around again and that Alexis is touring again and then, in a very weird way, that I put out enough of a sad bastard record that Dallas [Green] and I can go do some shows together."

It's all about growth. That's what City & Colour was, and that's what Dooms Children is for Wade. It's depression in retrospect, and there is no underestimating the hope that lies beneath the surface of that knowing he is flourishing on the other side that battle. It's bleak but packaged beautifully, but the whole project is named after a bad guy from Conan the Barbarian, so you can't take it all that seriously. So grab your favourite wizard's cloak, glitter, some colourful make-up for a 70s Alice Cooper eye-diamond chic and enjoy the psych-rock soundtrack to Wade's darkest days.

Taken from the November issue of Upset. Dooms Children's self-titled album is out 20th October.

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