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Catching up with the timekeeper…….No beating around the bush with Mr. Dino Mifsud Lepre.

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Interview by Keith Muscat

You cannot count yourself to be familiar with the Maltese metal scene and not know who Dino is. Apart from being the drummer in countless bands, he is an ardent supporter and promoter of anything that moves in the metal scene circuit, both locally and abroad. To top it all up, over and above being a very good musician in his own right, Dino is a gentleman. Knowing how busy he is, I am especially grateful to him finding the time to put down the sticks and answer a few questions. On 1st July 2023, Hemplifier, one of the Dino’s bands, will be releasing their debut album ‘The Stoner Side of the Doom’ at The Garage, Zebbug.

KM How long have you been in love with metal and which band gave you the first sting?

DML Well, I honestly can’t really tell how long, because it is basically since I was born, since both my dad & my youngest uncle, Alex, had vinyls and tapes of various bands. I basically own these same vinyls and tapes now. Uncle Alex used to play drums as well, whilst my Dad guitar, he played in a band called ‘The Lost Souls’ (how cool is that name?) and my mum the piano; so music was always a part of my family. The first bands/artists I loved were The Police, Rush, Iron Maiden, Halloween, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, KISS, AC/DC, Saxon, Judas Priest, but also Blondie, Bob Marley and Duran Duran. However, having said that, I think Black Sabbath would take the cake! For me rather than a sting, they made me feel something indescribable in my bowels & instantly gave me chills down my spine… sort of like when someone likes horror movies, you’re afraid but still quench for that feeling over and over again, and can’t wait to get that same feeling again, because each time it takes you to a place you don’t experience constantly in everyday life.

Would you care to share some memories of the first local gigs you attended?

I was at ‘MaltaSajf’ in 1992, I believe that was my really first gig! Last ‘MaltaSajf’ to be organized, if I am not wrong. To date, I haven’t experienced anything like that on local soil. Simply because, since then, you don’t find any rock or metal festivals, here in Malta, where people actually camp on the site anymore. Mind you, I didn’t camp there myself, but seeing people camping there gave that extra feel to the whole festival, same feel or sort of, of what you experience in big festivals abroad. Well, I remember Vandals playing, Lord Adder, No Name Yet (who I believe was their first gig & that was the day they got the band-name), Beheaded (with a completely different line-up of today’s), Biblical Infamy and if I am not wrong also Forsaken.

Definitely, I cannot not mention Black Sabbath’s gig at the Orpheum in 1995! Memorable one! Although it was like one was in hell due to how hot it was in the venue! But also the gigs of Iron Maiden here, both in Gozo and Malta, both memorable of course too. If I am not wrong respectively in 1996 & 1998. However, other gigs with local acts were those like ‘Live Buzz’ in the grounds of Msida’s Higher Secondary School & ‘Rock for the Fort’ where I played my very first time live and with my death-metal band Lithomancy. This was organized twice, we played on the second edition and it was organized to raise funds to restore Fort Rinella, there was a magical feel there, total buzz! Good old times I really miss!!!

Allow me to mention also for good old times sake: Nick Grima’s ‘Grim Reaper’ both in Zebbug & St.Paul’s, the gig in Xemxija I played with Weeping Silence also was memorable but I can’t remember the name of that sorry. However, there was Totema and Loathe that I remember playing too that night. Heh too many gigs, too many memories, maybe I am getting too old! The gigs at Signals… the gigs at Strings, my first Festahwid at Strings.

Apart from being a musician yourself, you are a constant source of support both to the local and foreign bands. Why do you feel that supporting the local scene and venue/s is important?

Simply because I love music, love the scene and the underground scene especially (not only in Metal), but most importantly, I strongly believe in the local scene & the local musicians! We damn have an incredible potential here! As mentioned in the previous reply to your question, I have also experienced a lot of events here on our small rock and know what it means and how much one has to struggle to get his own music out there. Many of the younger generation, don’t have the minimal idea of how much things were very different back then! How much it was more difficult to simply organize an event, or even before that, to get your own instrument to start playing and at a reasonable price. Let alone the quality, everything was sky high in price and would cost an eye if you target to get simply the second best in quality of some brand. Keep in mind there was no internet first of all and to get your music heard outside of your own country was quite a difficult task. I am not a big pro social media and all of this, but I admit that for a band, internet in general (not only social media) helps a lot to get your music heard, especially outside your own country. I also admit that in certain cases also shitty bands get noticed and get more credit than they deserve unfortunately of course too. However, that’s why I try my best to ‘pass the word’, same thing I used to do pre-internet, when I used to ‘pass on the flyers’ of various releases (especially those of demos) to others I was in contact with through tape-trading or those whom I was in contact with thanks to my fanzine ‘Call of Angels’. Same goes with flyers of gigs that would be happening here locally.

Allow me to mention one last thing… going back to what I said regarding how difficult it was to organize an event back then. Many don’t realize how much lucky we are to have a venue like The Garage, where unlike ‘back then’, we don’t have to rent &/or organize ourselves to construct a stage, get lights and all that is necessary to simply get started! We don’t need to get & pay a permit to organize an event. Many don’t realize, that with a venue such as The Garage we have all that sorted out and for no additional cost! We simply have the luxury to contact Rene’ or Darren and check if a specific date is available to book, and then you’re sorted. Apart from that, the entrance fee goes all to who is organizing the event. I from here would like to thank once again both Rene’ and Darren for the opportunity they have given to all the local music scene, a vital contribution coming from their passion to keep the local scene alive! The best support one could have ever hoped for, let’s keep this place alive!!!

Do you feel that there is enough cooperation and support between bands in Malta?

Honestly… not really! At a certain point yes there was but then something happened and it seems like many just started attending gigs of bands of the same genre they play with, with their own band, or because they are their friends! That doesn’t help, it’s totally not sustainable for the scene! Not to mention once again the old times, but back then, members from various bands (and gig-goers too, mind you), from any kind of scene, be it rock, death-metal, thrash, doom, punk… they all attended gigs of other bands from other genres which might not play their cup of tea. Ok, one might argue that events were less frequent than today and thus everyone would be more looking forward to something happening live… that’s also true, but my point is that everyone would be supporting everyone!

One thing that fuckin kills me, allow me to mention also this & get it off my chest… is that even if two bands from different genres play in the same gig or festival, there’s the tendency that after one band plays, all (or most of) the band members of the band that has just got off the stage, packs, loads the stuff in their own car & leave! Damn… that’s not supporting each other!!!

Added to what I said in a previous reply to your question, I would also like to mention one last thing regarding venues & support… always support the other bands and the local events also for one other reason… I think we all miss Coconut Grove & Remedy, for those a bit older, V-Gen & Signals, for those older than me there are other venues and/or locations they might be missing I am sure about that… let’s NOT get to the point where we post pictures of the The Garage and then write something like ‘Miss the good old days’ or ‘Miss this place’ or other bla bla, especially those who attend one gig from ten… I understand not everyone can attend every single gig, be it because of money, health issues, because of other plans… but I am pretty sure one can make it to more than one gig out of ten. Especially the band members, who are supposed to be those who should have the biggest interest in keeping such a venue existing so they themselves would still have a place where to perform, I think at least one member simply to represent his own band, should attend gigs of other bands and give their support!

You know how it is after all, it’s also a matter of give and take… one shouldn’t then pretend that people will give their support to your band if you first of all don’t support others! At least I know not everyone is stupid as much as me to try to attend all events heh anyway, once again I understand not everyone can make it to each event but I am sure a better effort could be definitely done by everyone especially band members because it is also in their interest to keep the scene alive & such a venue like The Garage existing!

One last thing, thankfully people like Noel Mifsud with the same (and all of you at and his own radio shows, and Michael Bugeja also with his radio show, but also Toni Sant, and their support in general, definitely also give their vital contribution to the local scene in general, and from here I would like to thank them also. Same goes with Alan & Timmy from Krishna with their cool Krishtalk.

Let’s focus a bit on your musical career. Why did you choose the drums as your instrument of preference and how long have you been entertaining from behind the kit?

Well, as said before my youngest uncle, Alex, played drums and my dad guitar. I always liked the drums and I believe I always felt the beats and rhythm inside of me, but I started out as a guitarist, probably being majorly influenced from my dad. I played guitar together with two other friends of mine, we all wanted to play guitar, together we basically learned the first chords… it’s Victims of Creation’s first days and we couldn’t be three guitarists… meanwhile, just for fun, I, together with Lithomancy’s drummer Muttley (back then before I entered the band), and Lithomancy’s guitarist Carlo and Victims of Creation’s guitarist Jeffrey, we started jamming and rehearsing together just for fun and created this White Metal band called Horridal. Basically, only Carlo and Jeffrey played guitars, as they did in the respective bands, Muttley sang there and I played drums… there I started and switched to drums also in Victims of Creation since anyway we didn’t had a drummer as yet. This must have been circa. 1992-1993

Do you play any other instruments?

I played guitar for a while but I don’t consider myself a guitarist, I wish one day I could have time to learn a few things and get a grip on that. Sang in Weeping Silence and a project I had, called Wound, plus I did some backing vox in Xtruppaw and Hemplifier. So, well the only other things I might consider mentioning as other instrument I know how to play is percussion, which I did especially in Deluge of Sorrow and in the good old Naasha jamming sessions!

Are there any particular drummers who inspire/d you?

Michael Briguglio (Norm Rejection), Stewart Copeland (The Police), Neil Peart (Rush), Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Mike Bordin (Faith No More), Bill Ward (Black Sabbath)… those especially, but also Mike Smail (Cathedral in ‘Forest of Equilibrium’), Ken Owen (Carcass), Nicke Andersson (Entombed), Chris Reifert (Autopsy), Donald Tardy (Obituary), Rick Miah (My Dying Bride), John Douglas (Anathema), Matthew Archer (Paradise Lost) and Mitch Mitchell (The Jimi Hendrix Experience).

You are in quite a number of bands. How do you manage to keep track of all the different songs and styles in your head?

Well, I take the risk until my memory is good basically, heh, luckily when we rehearse something we haven’t rehearsed for a long time, I need to go over the song twice maximum and I seem to still have a good muscle memory. Apart from that, with all of my bands, we always recorded jamming sessions and new ideas even back then on tapes, so sometimes I just need to re-hear certain things and in a couple of trials they’re back there. One other crucial thing, is that I never really force things on myself, as in, I prefer doing beats I feel, rather than complicate things. I am not saying I am lazy and am not in for a challenge, I also do that, but the initial idea of the beat I lay is always quite natural and how I feel it in that particular moment, and that definitely helps remembering everything afterwards, even if it’s after a long time.

You form/ed part of bands like Deluge of Sorrow, Griffin Device, Lithomancy, Pilgrimage, Victims of Creation, Wound, Hemplifier etc. I’m sure I missed a few. Which projects / bands are you still active in?

You basically named all, or at least all those I played live with except The I SKAndal, whom I dearly miss!!! But I also had Horridal (although it was for fun) which I mentioned before, Tree (initial Victims of Creation version 2) and a very interesting old-school Death-metal project called Commiseration.

At the moment, some bands are on halt but those I am mostly active with are Pilgrimage and Hemplifier.

Apart from keeping the beat to some of Malta’s cream of the crop bands you also form part of Xtruppaw. How did that experience come along and are there any plans for the distant future?

Thanks for your kind words first of all, I really appreciate bro. As for plans for the future with Xtruppaw, honestly it doesn’t depend much on me and Xtruappw are one of those bands of mine who are on halt at the moment unfortunately.

Xtruppaw was born thanks to the friendship of us five who form the band. We basically used to hang out together all the time, we have been friends for a very long time and maybe some don’t know but Victims of Creation’s first line-up was the same as what Xtruppaw is today, minus Noel our vocalist. Back then VoC’s vocalist was already Rex, whilst Marvin and Jeffrey were on guitars and myself on drums. So basically we have been friends since the late 80s / early 90s.

Anyhow, after both Jeffrey (first) & then also Marvin left VoC, we kept hanging out together although we weren’t playing in the same band anymore and one of the things we loved doing most was BBQs and of course getting smashed during BBQs! We used to compose these silly songs whilst drunk, mostly in Maltese and they were becoming quite popular with our closest friends, most of whom used to be together with us in the same BBQs. Anyway, we once thought “why not adapt these same songs on electric guitars and have real drums on them instead of percussions and maybe one day play a gig for our friends?”. That was the initial idea… also for good old times sake of playing together as mucisians once again! By then, I had just started playing in The I SKAndal and I got to know that JP (our bassist/vox in The I SKAndal) organized ‘Festahwid’! It was perfect! I convinced the others to do the Xtruppaw idea thing during ‘Festahwid’, anyway, no one will really bother since everyone would be “merry” and we didn’t have to be perfect on stage, we just wanted to do this for fun after all! We thought of maybe doing a quick garage recording of ‘Malta’ and ‘Generazzjoni ta’ Meqrudin’ and share them, so the people attending the festival would have an idea of what or who we are and what we do…………the feedback was mind-blowing! Something we had never expected, heh, everyone singing along with both songs because in the meantime they went viral!

Apart from drumming you had a sting as a vocalist with Weeping Silence between 1995 and 2001. Do you feel more at ease fronting a band or ripping it out from behind the kit?

Definitely back behind the drums! Heh, I even feel not at ease presenting our own ‘Reeferfest’ at the beginning of the festival each year. But I treasure the experience I had with Weeping Silence, from which I learned a lot and it also helped me personally to be less shy on stage from then onwards. It was a struggle since back then I was more shy than what I am now, but that helped me personally also in my everyday life I guess. …but yes once again, I believe drums is also perfect for me also because I am back there hidden and simply do (or try to do) my own thing without being in the forefront.

You have a very vast experience in playing gigs and concerts both locally and abroad. Any events that have a special place in your memories?

There are many honestly… most of the times I played at ‘The Malta Doom Metal Festival’, which I miss dearly, dammit and from here I would like to thank them once again for every single opportunity they gave to my bands. ‘Rock the Rock’, which although many consider an event gone wrong, for me it was memorable since we VoC played exactly before one of my all-time favourite bands, Entombed (AD ok but still with the amazing Petrov)! With VoC also: the gig at the old Rock Café’ in Paceville (not sure if it was our very first gig live), at the last edition of the amazing ‘Doom Shall Rise’ in Germany (there I also played with Griffin Device), ‘Metal Days’ in beautiful Tolmin (Slovenia), the ‘TILL DOOM DO US PART tour we had with our bros from Germany Calliophis, the two gigs in Ireland (thank you Jim bro!), ‘Dutch Doom Days’. With Xtruppaw: ‘Beerfest’(s) & ‘Earth Garden’(s), especially the election one but also both launches of our albums and the events organized by Hairyamp (thanks to you also bros) with Brikkuni and those with our bros Fakawi, the ‘Xtruppakawi’. With Pilgrimage: the last gig we played in Turkey (especially) supporting Therion but also our very first one at ‘Metal Gates’ in Romania and once again ‘Metal Days’ in Tolmin (Slovenia), last year, where we spent some good quality time with some good old friends but also cool bands such as Suffocation! I might be forgetting some too…………

It is difficult to make it as a musician if you do not have the support of your loved ones. Anyone special you feel like thanking?

Let’s say it does definitely help of course. Both mum and dad always supported me, as much as my aforementioned younger uncle Alex and most of my closest true friends and my better half Katrina… thank you all for believing in me, giving me your support, understanding me and pushing me when needed! It is also thanks to you that I kept expressing myself through music all this time and that I do my thing, love you all!!!

Is there any message that you would like to impart, especially to the younger generation who are taking their first steps as a band or musicians?

Yes of course! Always believe in yourselves, have breaks if needed but never give up! Always do your thing and never copy others or try to emulate others, use your mind and do what you feel inside. The important thing is that finally, you are satisfied with the result and that the result makes you feel fulfilled. This is one form of art and art is all about expressing oneself! It’s good to have influences, observe what others do, listen to what others do… be it contemporary, old or even in some other genre you usually don’t listen to, you can get influences or pick up ideas from everywhere, from any genre… just don’t emulate it finally, make it your own by twisting it to your character or feel or simply add another idea to it to make it sound different than the one you got the idea from. Inspiration and ideas come from different places and in different forms. Learn to listen and observe, always accept criticism but never let them get you down, simply learn from them and let them make you stronger and more convinced about what you finally want! Listen to opinions, always respect other musicians and other bands and what they do. Play music because you love it and feel it, not because you want to start playing an instrument or want to become famous. It’s ok to play mainstream stuff but always try not to copy others, always do your thing… after all, in the end, what remains in the memory of most is what is mostly original or what gives a certain feel to the listener. Always support the other bands & musicians, always support the events… it is also a way of learning while there plus you have some good times with your friends who are like-minded while listening to live music which is always the best!

photos by Bloodography where stated, others property of Dino Mifsud Lepre

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