Interview with Dan “Danöwar” Whitmer of Hellevate
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
Kansas City-based power thrash metal band Hellevate have released two full-length albums and an EP to date, including their most recent release, the 2016 ‘Weapons Against Their Will.” The band have encountered several fluctuating lineups and styles over the years and are currently looking for a drummer. I’m glad I had the chance to talk a bit with founding member Dan “Danöwar” Whitmer to learn more about Hellevate.
Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen: Hi Dan. It’s great to be interviewing you about Hellevate. I really like the name. How did you come up with it?
Dan “Danöwar” Whitmer: I actually came up with it when I was probably 15 or 16 years old. I just put together, “hell” and “elevate” because I figured raising hell is a great theme for a metal band. Funny enough, when I came up with it, there was a Christian club in my high school called Elevate, and everyone assumed I was making fun of them. It was totally unintentional but I took the unexpected notoriety, because why not?
Metal Babe: (LAUGHS) That’s awesome Dan. Great story! You originally founded the band in the mid-2000’s. Who’s currently in the band and how did this lineup come together?
Dan: I’m the only one left from the mid 2000’s. Currently it’s myself, my guitarist Josh “The Boss” Cole, Zack “The Ripper Burke on bass, and Drew Blood Lufkin on vocals. Our drummer had to part with us due to some medical and personal issues recently, so we’re on the lookout for someone new behind the throne.
Metal Babe: Too bad about your drummer. Hopefully you can find someone soon. What’s the scene like in Kansas City? Where do you play out?
Dan: The scene in Kansas City is alive and very healthy. It’s geared mostly towards extreme metal, especially death metal, but it’s still a diverse music scene with lots of talent and cool people. KC tends to get passed over a lot by the bigger tours, or we just kind’ve get treated as an extra show thrown in while the band is driving to Denver, St. Louis, or Chicago, and I think it’s a real shame, because we have a lot to offer the music world, and heavy metal especially. We’ve got some serious diehard metal fans here, so if you’re ever looking to book a tour, make sure to include us as a tour stop, you won’t regret it.
Metal Babe: Good point. Have you played outside of Kansas City? Ever play St. Louis? (Just curious since I’m from there.)
Dan: Yeah, we’ve played around the region a lot, including a couple stops in St. Louis. We did a short week and a half long tour last summer stopping through STL and down to Covington, KY, up to Detroit, back across to Minneapolis, and finally back through Des Moines (one of my favorite towns to play). We’ve made it down south to Texas once or twice as well.
Metal Babe: Very cool. You’ve shared the stage with some major bands including Exodus, Kreator, Accept, Overkill, Ghoul, Venom, etc. Can you tell me a highlight or two from that experience?
Dan: For me, personally, aside from the show itself, it’s that kid on Christmas morning feeling when you find out you’re going to open for one of your favorite bands who have had such huge influences on your life.
Metal Babe: That’s so awesome. I love that feeling!
Dan: Some shows are better than others, both in terms of how well we play and how we get treated by the headliner and the crew, but when they’re excellent dudes back to you and don’t just treat you like, “the local,” it makes it even better. Exodus, in particular, are super cool dudes. They and their crew hung out with us at the venue for a few hours after the show. They’re super down-to-earth, cool, respectful dudes who love taking time to talk to their fans and the bands they’ve influenced.
Metal Babe: How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard you?
Dan: Well, if it’s someone who’s not a metal fan, I usually just tell them it’s old school heavy metal like Metallica and Slayer. For fans of the genre, we typically stay pretty firmly in thrash and US power metal territory, with some occasional speed and traditional metal thrown in as well. I’d say we have a much more aggressive sound than bands typically in those genre.
Metal Babe: What are your biggest influences?
Dan: I could talk forever on this subject, and I’m sure I’ll remember plenty more after I finish this interview, but my personal influences, as you might have guessed, are mostly heavy/thrash/power metal bands, like Metal Church, Nevermore, Anthrax, and King Diamond (among MANY others), as well as classic and hard rock bands like AC/DC, Cheap Trick, KISS, and Twisted Sister, with Tony Iommi, Angus Young, Jeff Loomis, and Randy Rhoads being my main guitar heroes, as well as the dynamic duos from Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
As a band, a lot of our sound influences come from the bay area thrash bands like the aforementioned Exodus, Metallica, and Megadeth, a LOT of German bands like Kreator, Tankard, Destruction, and Blind Guardian, along with heavy/speed metal bands like Motörhead, Overkill, Demolition Hammer, 3 Inches of Blood, Iced Earth, and of course the mighty Manowar (Yes, we are those kind of Manowar fans). We’re also huge on Candlemass.
Metal Babe: Great list! You’ve released an EP and two full-length albums to date. What can you tell us about your catalog?
Dan: It’s been a learning experience for sure, recording and releasing that amount of music. It might not seem like a lot, especially when you see bands who put out albums almost yearly, but I’m proud to have been able to create and release music. So far, no two records have had the same lineup, but hopefully that trend will end soon. I’d say we’ve definitely evolved and matured quite a bit in our songwriting and style, even from one recording to the next, and I’m excited to see where we go next.
Metal Babe: What’s next for Hellevate?
Dan: We’re on the hunt for a drummer to take over behind the kit, which is definitely priority number one. In the meantime, we have a couple albums worth of demo songs written and recorded, with more writing being done all the time. So we’re working on getting new material ready to go, and, assuming we’ve found a drummer, will hopefully hit the studio this winter or spring.
Metal Babe: What last words would you like to say to our readers?
Dan: If you or anyone you know is interested in trying out for drummer, get a hold of us via our FaceBook page, or through our PR company Online Metal Promo. Otherwise, keep heavy metal alive! Bands are nothing without the fans, so don’t stop banging your heads!
Metal Babe: Thanks for the interview Dan!
Dan: Thank you very much for the opportunity!