When the news surfaced early this summer that former Damageplan singer Patrick Lachman had started assembling a new band, he found himself the target of caustic criticism. How, some wondered, could Lachman be looking to the future with such a tragic event — the December murder of Damageplan guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott — still so fresh in his past? But for Lachman, his new band has allowed him to come to terms with the loss of someone he still considers a brother.
"I don't think there's really ever a time that it's going to feel appropriate for me," Lachman said of moving on after the shooting (see "Dimebag Darrell, Four Others Killed In Ohio Concert Shooting"). "Ultimately, you have to get back on the horse. You could easily let a decade go by and not do anything. I'm happy to have walked away with my life after the situation I was thrown into. But, I mean, what do you do? I'm a musician. I'm going to make music. What Dime would have told me was, 'You make music, mother---er. Get back on it. Do what you do.' So, that's what I did."
According to Lachman, the Mercy Clinic — which features guitarists Brian Harrah (Professional Murder Music) and Josh Stinson (Drist), bassist Steed Najera (Triple Seven) and drummer Bevan Davies (Danzig and Jerry Cantrell) — began more than a year ago when Harrah sent him some demo material he'd been working on.
"He just wanted my opinion on it, and I loved it," he said. "It was completely different from what I was doing with Damageplan. And then, after everything went down in December, I took a little time to figure out what I was going to do next."
That's when Harrah suggested Lachman give the demos another listen and consider adding vocals if he felt ready.
"It started as an experiment, and it was really cathartic for me," Lachman explained. "All this sh-- that I had floating in my head just sort of came out so rapidly; I was shocked. I never had inspiration of that magnitude. There was some heavy sh-- going on upstairs. I just started writing and dumping everything I had — all this sewage in my head — into the lyrics. I'm incredibly proud of it, and think it's the best work I've ever done."
And it's also his heaviest work, if only for what inspired the lyrics to the songs. While none of the 12 tracks the band has recorded — including "The Day the Sun Refused To Shine," "Let It Burn" and "Can I Become Me" — specifically address Dimebag's murder ("I didn't want to be that obvious," he said), the songs are reflective of Lachman's morose mood and chronicle the internal struggles he'd endured throughout the entire mourning process.
"It turned out to be the most realistic way for me to grieve," the singer said. "What am I going to do, see a shrink?"
At the same time, Lachman said the Mercy Clinic music is also the most melodic material he's ever had a hand in. There are metal elements in the songs at times, but generally, it's radically different from Damageplan. "The material's very broad," he explained. "It runs the gamut from heavy to acoustic, surreal to just wacked-out effects-laden stuff with no drums and different vocal approaches."
Lachman had some reservations about whether he was prepared to take that step toward moving on at first. Then he performed with a regrouped Alice in Chains in February during a tsunami-relief benefit in Seattle, Washington. "It was like I'd forgotten how cool it was to sing," he said. "I was dealing with my stuff, and they were dealing with the emotions of Layne Staley's passing and being onstage [together] for the first time in nine years. ... It was heavy."
Yes, the singer has heard rumblings that Alice in Chains is considering a full-time reunion, but hasn't been approached yet to take over vocal duties. "I'm just waiting for the phone to ring, to see if and when it's going to happen," Lachman said. "I would be willing to participate if it's something they wanted to explore. The door's wide open, and it would be an opportunity of a lifetime to play with musical icons and people I now consider my friends."
For the moment, Lachman is sticking with the Mercy Clinic, and that band is taking a DIY approach; there's no label affiliation or management, and that just fine with the singer. But in time, he'd like to be able to sign a recording contract, release these songs and take them on the road.
"It was important for me to keep it pure and unadulterated," he said. "I just wanted to write the songs I want to write and not worry what my hardcore metalhead friends think. I want to do what I want to do and see what happens and keep the outside influences away from tainting what we wanted to get across."
With contact between the surviving members of Damageplan "dwindling," Lachman doesn't know where the band stands; the healing process continues for everyone who was there that night, and whenever there's contact, Lachman said it only dredges up memories of the horrific shooting. The singer instead tries to focus on his favorite memories of Abbott.
"He loved the first Audioslave album," Lachman recalled. "I can remember many a night, 5 a.m., drunk as sh--, laying on the floor, listening to Audioslave with Dime going, 'What a f---ing great record this is.' Matter of fact, we got a friendship tattoo of the Audioslave [flame] logo.
"For Dime, it was monumental, symbolically, that those guys could come back from their respective bands and put something together and move forward in a new direction. So one night, he's like, 'Come on, we're going to get tattooed.' And we went. Mine's black, and his was orange and yellow, like a flame. Around it, it says 'Slave to the Power of Music.' That's how much it meant to him, symbolically, that a band could do that. Really, that's what he wanted for Damageplan."
Click here for more on the tragic death of Dimebag Darrell and the Ohio club shooting.