Interview: Fred Dombrowski

Fred Dombrowski is one of those guys you just have to meet to believe. He’s one of the kindest, funniest, most intelligent, most energetic people I’ve ever met, so it’s only natural that he also fronted two of my favorite all time Buffalo metal bands: Threebelow and From This Day. Recently, I got a chance to ask him some questions that have been burning in the back of my mind for years now. It was great to get some closure on some things and also get a brief glimpse at what the future might hold for this astounding individual. So, let’s take a journey through time from the late 1990’s  to the present and explore some awesome moments for Fred on and off stage.
Mike Marlinski: 
Showplace Theatre was a literal safe haven for the scene. It was packed every weekend and Threebelow played a large handful of those shows. What are some of your favorite Showplace moments?
Fred Dombrowski:
Showplace provided an awesome opportunity for people under the age of 21 to enjoy shows letting people connect without barriers when social media was in its infancy. I have always loved playing there or even going there for a show. Some of my favorite shows were the Christmas canned good drives. These were always shows where everyone was happy to come out and help others. It was good to see people coming out to support the community and those that need the help. When Threebelow had our first CD release party back in April of 2000, it was one of the most fun shows as we were able to get our first full length out to everyone and to give shout outs to everyone that helped us. There was a moment when we were playing that Bill Page was coming up to sing a song with us. He was so pumped and having an amazing time that he actually tackled me off the stage. I had no idea what was happening and I didn’t see it coming. The next thing I know there were people holding us up in the audience while they were also singing the words. I couldn’t believe I didn’t break any bones. That was also Rich Maida’s first Showplace show with us and he had so much energy and provided the band with an amazing dynamic. But there were a ton of shows I liked at Showplace for different reasons. I loved the shows where we played with bands that were just starting out. People were so happy to play and enjoy the night with us. There was so much passion in the bands performances that it was infectious making me want to play. There were the national shows like Biohazard and Gwar. It was awesome having an opportunity to meet with Dave Brockie person to person. This was one of our first shows with a major band and it was awesome to have some recognition for all the work we would put in handing out flyers, going to shows, posting things in different places etc. Then in From This Day, the show we played with Cannibal Corpse and Black Dahlia Murder. As a fan of these bands it was awesome to connect and talk to these guys. But I think I actually liked the local shows more. There was a feeling of being around friends, enjoying each other and enjoying the music. One of my favorite shows of all time was in 2006 with Sons of Azrael and This Gun Smiles. I loved just chilling out and watching the other bands. Also, there was the show that we played a few days following September 11th. This show was with a bunch of awesome Buffalo bands and I think all of the money was donated to charity. This was a time when it felt like we were a part of something much bigger than us.
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MM:

Threebelow had several songs that many kids loved throughout the scene, but I can’t remember a single time I ever learned the band members’ favorite songs and albums? What were some of your favorite songs to perform as a band?

FD:
This is a good question and I think we all may have different favorite songs for different reasons. Although I felt our guitar players and bass players were all talented, I always felt that Al was the most talented one in the band. I loved songs like Self, Matter of Time, Amputate, and all of the From This Day stuff because Al would (who was one of the most talented people I have ever met) pushed himself to play faster and better. I loved watching him play. There were other songs I liked to play for other reasons. All of the lyrics were personal to me. But the songs like I Am, Left Behind, Self, Against the Grain, Live Through This, and Weight were always so well received that everyone just knew the words. There times when my voice was shot and I would just hand the mic off to someone else and they would sing the words. It was so humbling that my lyrics would ever read my lyrics let alone make a connection with each other because of them. I liked songs like Amputate for the guitars and the song Nothing Without You for the bass. But, I also liked when we used to play covers such as Pennywise’s Bro Hymn and Head Up when Evan would sing and I would play guitar.
MM:
Comparatively, Threebelow and From This Day had a lot of similarities, but for the most part, Threebelow seemed to have more hardcore influence and FTD seemed to gravitate more towards metal. What made you guys make the transition?
FD:
I think this kind of reflects who we are and who we were at the time. Al, Dave, and I were always into death metal and we were all huge fans of bands like Carcass, Obituary, and Cannibal Corpse. During the mid 90s, we were also fans of punk, Snapcase, Dead Guy, and Biohazard. Our love for hardcore music and even punk music may have come out more in Threebelow. But, there were parts of Threebelow songs that I wrote that were directly influenced by Carcass. I would joke with Greg as we would play the songs side by side and it wasn’t until we did that anyone ever noticed the similarity. The end of Threebelow was a heart breaking experience for us. We loved playing, we loved being in bands, we loved what we were doing. But, things were changing. We weren’t getting the same reception for our music and there were so many changes in the lineup that things just weren’t the same. This contributed to us having an existential crisis considering our next move with a band. There was no doubt that Threebelow had some pop-punk influence especially for the choruses. We loved punk and we actually considered moving in this direction as we had friends that were in LA and we had connections in NY and they were telling us about the bands that were getting signed. But, we really worked on this and thought about what we wanted to do. We wanted to do something that was going to make us happy. We all knew that at the end of the day we had to look at ourselves and do what we loved to do. We loved death metal more. Plus, we were really frustrated and heartbroken about the end of Threebelow. From This Day was the right move to channel our anger and frustration as well as coming back harder and faster than ever. This was one of the best decisions I have ever a part of and I really thank Greg, Al, and Dave for being big parts in this decision.
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MM:
A lot of people still regard you as one of the best frontmen in scene history for your positive and energetic lyrics and demeanor/stage presence. When/how did you first get the urge to front a band and what were some core values that stuck with you throughout your stint in the scene?
FD:
My love for Buffalo music began back in the late 80s when I was in elementary school and my older brother was in the band Guillotine. We would go to see my brothers band but we would also check out Baphomet, Humungous, and Cannibal Corpse too. Listening to these bands and also listening to Metallica back in 1987 made me want to play music. I got my first guitar in 1989 and I always wanted to play in bands. I had friends I would jam with when I was in elementary school and middle school. When I finally started a band in high school, I never had the intent or fronting a band as I was more interested in playing guitar. But, we never found a singer that worked out so I just sand and played guitar. Eventually, that band had morphed into a band called No Concept and we played with another band called Area 51 (this was Threebelow before Threebelow). Dave Jednat was in Area 51 and was one of my best friends at the time. They had a different singer and things weren’t working out. I loved my band but the other guys in the band had obligations that prevented us from making any headway as far as playing national shows or touring. I told Al one day that if they ever needed a singer to let me know as I loved how Al, Dave, Gerry, and Evan connected as a band and worked to promote. I wasn’t expecting anything to really come from it but Al called me the next day saying that they parted ways with their singer and I was going to practice with them. When playing with Threebelow, I was used to singing and playing guitar so when it was just my job to sing it felt weird and lazy. I always loved bands that had energy and would have fun on stage. Whenever we would play a live show the only thought in my head was “keep moving, keep moving, have fun, run around.” I never thought about my style as a front man because I just wanted to have fun and put on a good show. As far as being positive; this connects with my reasons for ever joining a band. When I first wanted to play in a band, I didn’t really care about getting signed. I just wanted to make the world a better place. I am a Christian and have always thought that everyone is worth being loved. I wanted to be supportive of people and be encouraging to them. Also, I always believed that any person that has ever gone to any of our shows always had another option as to how they could spend their time. I always wanted to show my sincere appreciation for everyone that came out to see us as I knew they didn’t need to be there. Some bands treated shows like an entitlement and expected people to be there. But all of us in the band were on a constant mission to promote the band. We were so thankful for every person that came to our shows.
MM:
FTD disbanded back in 09. Since then, you’ve been living in the NYC/Connecticut area working your dream job and periodically returning to Buffalo to perform with Wulfsblood. Talk about your professional accomplishments over the last 7 years and the current status of Wulfsblood.
FD:
This is actually pretty funny how things worked out. I will always love FTD and it was a difficult decision to move out of Buffalo. Professionally it was difficult at first but thank God, things eventually clicked and I got jobs that just weren’t available in Buffalo. I am a coordinator for the Gateway Program at the Westchester Medical Center. I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor providing treatment for those struggling with multiple mental health problems and I also provide specialized treatment to members of the LGBTQI community. However my job is connected through the Westchester Medical College and as this is a training program for medical doctors, I got to provide supervision to post-doctoral psychiatrists for mental health therapy. This was an amazing opportunity as I also taught classes for them regarding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other counseling techniques. Because of this, I received an award in 2015 and then again in 2016 for Teacher of The Year through the Medical College. I have been an adjunct instructor for Medialle College as well as City College of New York. These opportunities encouraged me to work on my own PhD. When I was working on my PhD, I had spoken at several conferences on multiple counseling related topics such as Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, preventing secondary trauma for counselors, and working with sex offenders. I have also submitted articles for publication regarding the potential drawbacks of therapist self disclosure. My dissertation was about how counselors vary in attitudes towards sex offenders based on their gender. I recently defended my dissertation and thank God I now get to introduce myself as Dr. Dombrowski to my students. Wulfsblood was created for our love of the Misfits. This was something we wouldn’t have to give too much time to. Now that the Misfits are back together, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I know that we all enjoyed playing these songs and we all enjoyed the time with each other. We still may play some shows occasionally and still love playing.
MM:
Does your time in the Buffalo metal scene still have an effective role in your life today? What have you taken from your past Buffalo experiences into your new life?
FD:
Yes, being in a band has had a positive long term impact on my life. When I first joined Threebelow, I never thought that I would have ever toured or have been signed or even had people care that we were playing shows. But the guys were committed to making more opportunities and were dedicated to working to make things better for the band. When things actually happened, it was an opportunity to really see that good things can happen if you try and never give up. But, being in a band wasn’t only about things being fun. There were many times when we would have people talk crap about us and blatantly be disrespectful to us. There were times when we would have to play shows with members of the audience yelling at us and making fun of us. Other times, there were bands that would invite us to play in their cities only so we could open or close the shows because the local bands in these cities didn’t want to. There were too many times when we had to put up with broken down vehicles, being stranded, paying money out of pocket to try to make things work. There were times when we got scammed, or got passed over because we didn’t look or dress a certain way. In spite of all these negative things, we believed in ourselves and still pushed to play the best show we possibly could in any circumstance. These interactions taught me how to interact with people from a business and professional perspective because even if people put you down, as long as you stay focused on your goal and don’t give up, you can succeed.
MM
Many local bands were inspired by Threebelow and as a band, you guys were responsible for a good chunk of the metal scene’s shape today. What kind of advice would you have for bands starting out today that no longer have the pleasure of Threebelow being in the mix?
FD:
Oh man, there are so many good Buffalo bands and a ton of good music from WNY even beyond metal. I would encourage each band as a unit to be on the same page with all members of the band participating in doing something to make things better for the band. It can’t be one person in the band doing all the work. If all the people in the band are working for the band, so much more work gets done and good things happen even if your band isn’t really good. I am sure we can all think about terrible bands that got signed and are on tour and also think about thousands of good bands that never broke through. Hard work pays off. Don’t rely on anyone else and don’t expect anyone to do anything for you. You have to do it yourself. You can’t rely on people being nice to you and you can’t expect to have a record randomly walk into a bar and see your band. Work to make connections, take advantage of every opportunity, embrace any negativity that people give you, and ALWAYS be thankful for any one person that supports your band in any way.
MM
I’m sure you miss a great many people from Buffalo day to day. Is there anyone out there you want to give a shoutout or thank you to in particular?
FD:
There are too many people to give a shout out to. From moving out, I have actually become closer to some friends from Buffalo. My friends didn’t forget about me and I have had people come out to visit me often. There were times when I was really homesick and people still encouraged me not to give up. In February of 2015, I lost my mom. It was a difficult time for myself and my family. I couldn’t believe all the support I got from my friends. I was so humbled by the people that came out. There were people calling me and being supportive and offering any assistance. This was such a difficult time but I can say that myself and my family were deeply touched by everyone. I want to give a shoutout but, my arms are too short to hug everyone all at once. I will however thank Andy, Morrow, Al, the Party, and Duran for always being more than generous and giving me a place to stay when I come out and visit.
MM
Which were your favorite venues to play in the area and were there any venues/festivals/shows you never got to play that you wish you had?
FD:
I loved Broadway Joes and the fun times I had there. I also miss the Continental and Club Diablo. There were Sunday shows that we would play at the Skate Park and Palmeri’s that were a lot of fun. We never got to play the Warped Tour. I wish we would have done that even if it was the local stage. We also got passed up to play with Sepultura. I wish that I would have had an opportunity to play at the Funeral Home. That venue was so much fun.
MM
Aside from Showplace, what other shows really stand out to you from either Threebelow or From This Day?
FD:
In Threebelow, we played a bunch of memorable shows. We had a ton of fun playing in Piqua Ohio and with our friends in Butler PA. One show specifically in Butler, the band that was supposed to close the show out cancelled and we had to cover the time that the other band would have played. We played every song we ever recorded and covered for the time. No one was tired or sick of us at the end and everyone kept the energy up the entire time. When we were on tour in Atlanta and Rich and Dave got drunk before the show and had some intestinal problems. My first show with Threebelow and at the time we all played the drums together. We played at the Tudor Lounge for a Halloween show and we opened up with playing Wake Me Up Before You Go Go by Wham. And seriously, playing at CBGBs was one of the greatest highlights of my life despite the fact that it took us 13 hours to get there through a snow storm and there was only 5 people there. In From This Day, there was one show at the Skate Park where Andy and I wore Hello Kitty shirts and we introduced all the songs with a Chuck Norris quote. The From This Day CD release party where I nearly killed Jay as I tripped over his amp almost knocking it over on him and I totally blamed Topher. We played a Halloween show and Cory was wearing a little kids Ninja outfit. It was amazing. The shows in Norwood NY were always fun and we had so many good friends up there. When we played in Hong Kong spending time with our friends out there, it was beyond mind blowing to have support on the other side of the world. In fact, the entire China tours even breaking my nose were all memorable.
MM
Did you end up liking one project more than the other?
FD:
I don’t know. I think that From This Day matched my personal preference for music and what I wanted to accomplish more as a musician. Threebelow had moments and experiences which I could never replicate and it was because of Threebelow that From This Day even happened. I can’t really decide.
MM
Can we expect to see more of you in the future with either Wulfsblood, another band or just in general?
FD:
Wulfsblood was created because of my love for the Misfits and my belief that the Misfits would never ever get back together. Now with the Misfits actually back together, I don’t know what to do. We have a benefit show lined up in September that we are honored to be a part of. Also, Al, Andy, the Party, and I have a band called Get Him a Body Bag, Yeah!! We have recorded a few songs which sound like Torche. I have actually written about 5 other songs but these songs are all over the place. I wrote song grind songs while I also wrote some songs for my side band Cheektavegas. I will be recording these songs one way or the other and I will make an opportunity to play. Also I love seeing live music when I am back in Buffalo and I love going to metal shows. I can’t stop making music. It is as much a part of me as breathing. And, I also want to thank you for all that you do for Buffalo music. I love reading your blogs and your discussions. You do a lot for the music and for that I sincerely thank you.
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In conclusion:
It’s always great to know that you’ve touched someone in some positive way with your creative works. In my own endeavors as a frontman, I know I’m no Fred and I never will be, but thinking about his stage presence back in the Threebelow/From This Day days really gives me the courage to run around and scream my head off set after set. I’ll always be grateful to him for that. Wulfsblood will be performing again on September 24th for the Dale Hinz Benefit Show, along with 9 other killer artists. Let’s all get together on that awesome day and have a real metal scene reunion for the books! Hope to see you all there. Thanks for checking this out!
– Mike Marlinski
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One thought on “Interview: Fred Dombrowski

  1. Dude, I think you are probably a better frontman! I appreciate your time for the article and I also appreciate everything you have done for this scene! PBWY, Fred

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