INTERVIEW: FRED DOMBROWSKI (THREEBELOW, FROM THIS DAY)

I’ve always looked up to Fred Dombrowski, as not only a frontman, but a human being. If you’re unfamiliar with Fred, you’ll learn why I hold him in such high esteem over the course of this interview. Fred’s limitless energy and positivity were sorely needed in the music scene back in the days of the bands he’s best remembered for, Three Below (early metalcore – late ‘90s), and From this Day (deathened metalcore – 2004-2009). Fred provided the emotional balance all music communities need. There was a lot of negativity being spewed in and around the community back then, and Fred was there to counter it just by being himself. Those who know Fred will always be grateful that they got to exist on Earth at the same time as him.

INTERVIEW:

Where do I begin? Usually I just figure out the questions I want to ask and number them to make a simple format, but that doesn’t feel appropriate for this project. I’ve basically idolized you since I was a teen first coming to shows, so I guess I’m prompted to make this more conversational. Actually, maybe I can start there. I’d love to hear about the first local shows that you can remember attending, and which bands stuck out to you first.

I first started going to shows back in 1988. My brother was in a band and I would go check him out at the Sky Room. He was in a band called Guillotine. There were a lot of bands that he played with but the one that really stuck out to me was Baphomet. They had their act together and were a fun band to watch.

Next, I suppose I was mainly focused on Three Below when I first reached out to you, but I’d love to know about your very first live performance, and which band that was, etc. I feel like we’ve covered this before, but still…I remember watching a video of you playing Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” on stage, doing guitar and vocals. That was of course back in the days of long-haired Fred.

Ha, yeah, my first show ever was in November of 1994 at West Seneca Senior High School with my old band, Autumn. That was my very first show I ever played. I loved the nervousness, the energy, and the support we got from our friends. Knowing what I know now about music, live shows, and live presentation; we weren’t very good. (laughs) But I so sincerely appreciate those times, the people I played in bands with, and all the friends who supported us even back then.

How did you come to form Three Below? What was the initial reception for the band like (first shows, etc.)? When you think back on those days, where does your mind automatically go first? Which shows/experiences stick out the most? Maybe do a top 5-10? I know it’s difficult.

When Three Below first formed, they were under the name of Area 51. They had a different singer and I was singing and playing guitar in No Concept. Dave was a very good friend of mine and we played a few shows with Area 51. They were looking to go into a different direction with a singer and I reached out to them and told them I was interested. The next day Al called me and was like “OK, dude, you’re in the band.” It was so quick, I wasn’t expecting it.

There was so much to Three Below; the band members, the shows, our friends, touring, recording, etc. When we first started playing together, it was really weird for me because I wasn’t playing guitar so I felt like although I was singing, I really wasn’t contributing. Al, Evan, Jerry, and Dave (our band members at the time) were really cool and whenever I would write music, they worked to use it or make adjustments to add to songs. There were a few incidents when Jerry (guitar player) wasn’t able to make it to shows so I sang and played guitar for those shows. However, Dave was adamant that we had a singer that wasn’t restricted to a mic stand and that could interact with the audience. So, although I kept playing guitar, I just focused on my singing for Three Below.

Those first initial shows were kind of a struggle. We played a show with Converge in NT but we were metal at a hardcore show; not many people liked us. It was awkward for us to find a fit because we didn’t really fit in with metal bands or with hardcore bands. As time progressed, we worked to build our fan base. I was going to Buff State at the time and worked to promote the band every day. It was great to have 5 guys in the band all focused on promoting the band. This helped our audience grow. Also, musically and individually we were all growing as well. I always loved Carcass and Iron Maiden. And, although people looked at us like a Nu Metal band, I could show you riffs that I directly ripped off of Carcass, Obituary, etc. When I look back on Three Below, I feel conflicted. I am so beyond grateful for the times we shared and some amazing shows. I have regrets though as I was young and way more of a jerk than I am now. There were times when I definitely didn’t respond to things well and increased tension within the band. We were all young and I am happy that I have had an opportunity to mend some relationships. Three Below had success because of all of the members involved and their support while they were in the band. And, most importantly, we appreciated EVERY person who would support us even if they hated our music.

It is hard to identify some top Three Below shows. But, here are a few that stick out:

1. Our first CD release party. I will always love Billy Paige. She was so supportive and would sing songs with us. It was a wonderful experience.

2. Our second CD release party. We had a guy from Warner Records there. Although we didn’t get signed, the dude was really cool and just connecting was a lot of fun.

3. Butler PA: The headlining band for the show cancelled so we had to play for like 2 hours. But, the shows out there were amazing and everyone was going nuts.

4. Piqua OH: We were stranded in OH and needed transportation back to Buffalo but the show was amazing.

5. Just playing with bands I grew up on; DRI, Bad Brains, Gwar, Biohazard (they let me come up and sing with them for punishment). It was such a blessing and pleasure to get to meet people.

I’ll never forget the transition from Three Below to From This Day. I was there at what I think was the first announcement at a sports bar in Meadville, PA. The songs seemed to go in more of a death metal direction riff wise, but for the most part the music always felt like extended Three Below to me. I’m assuming that was mostly because of your unique vocal style and your stage presence. Did you just naturally adopt what would become your stage personality, or were you heavily inspired by certain front-men/women over time?

In regards to stage presence, I would see some front-men and think they were awesome. Jay Galvin was one of my favorites. But, I was developing my own stage presence prior to my watching him play. I just hated seeing singers who acted like they were better than their audience. I always appreciated going to a show and feeling like the band actually appreciates you. I ran around and jumped around like an idiot because I just can’t stay still. I am beyond lucky and blessed to play music. Running around on stage and being an idiot was one of the ways I got into the music. Plus, I felt if the band was into the music, it made it easier for people watching to get into the music. Most importantly, I wanted to entertain people, make people feel appreciated, and even try to bring a positive message to make someone’s life better even if it’s just for a few hours.

What were some of your favorite Three Below and From this Day songs you’d contributed heavily to on guitar?

I love playing guitar. Heck, I like playing all instruments but guitar is my home (although I am absolutely not very good at it). I was lucky as a singer to be in bands where the guitar players welcomed my riffs. The songs I was really happy with in Three Below were “Narrow Path”, “Self, I am”, “Matter of Time”, and “Mile 233”. When we first transitioned to FTD, Greg really pushed me to play guitar and he made me a much better guitar player. I was so appreciative of our songs together. The songs I contributed with From This Day were “Blood is Screaming:, “Jaws Forced Wide Open”, and “The End”.

Tell me everything that sticks out about From this Day’s TWO TRIPS TO CHINA!

Dude, touring China will always be one of the highlights of my life. When I think about our tours there, there are some themes that stick out from both tours. Most importantly; the friends we made on the other side of the world will always be the highlight. Meeting people I have never met, from different backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities (and even spiritual beliefs); and we were all friends and supported each other because of metal. Yes, playing in Hong Kong and the wonderful people of HK will always be a highlight of my life, Guangzhou, being on TV, the food, the trains, there’s too much to go into.

If you’re comfortable discussing it, what was it that prompted the “final” end of From this Day? I’m also really curious about the transition into doing Wulfsblood with Andy, Matt, and Larry. How did Wulfsblood come about and how quickly did your setlist come together for the first couple times you played live? I guess as a follow-up, what are YOUR favorite Misfits songs and which would be your favorite Misfits era?

When I was moving, we briefly discussed the idea of continuing FTD with me coming back into town to play shows. But, it really wouldn’t work. Al, Andy, and Shawn are excellent musicians who deserve to play and not be hindered by me or my schedule. I would’ve hated if those guys slowed down for me. I would still be in contact with them and come out and visit. As time went on, my side band Cheektavegas played a house show. Half of the Cheektavegas set was cover songs with a heavy dose of Misfits songs. After that show, I was reminded about how much I missed playing. I reached out to Andy, Duran, and the Party about doing a Misfits cover band because I love the Misfits, all of those guys can play, and it would be relatively easy for us to play shows a few times a year. Those guys were great. Wulfsblood was so much fun. Also, I want to give a huge shout out to Earackson for his shows at the Lair. That dude did so much for us and other bands. In regards to favorite Misfits songs, there are just WAY too many. We Bite will be one of my favorite songs of all time. All Hell Breaks Loose, Astrozombies, Hybrid Moments; there are seriously too many to mention.My favorite Misfits era was the original era up until 1984. I appreciate the Graves era and the Jerry singing era as I respect how much the Misfits meant to Jerry and his passion to continue to Misfits even without all the other guys. But, now that I think about it, when I saw them play in 2019 in NYC, they were freaking amazing. Having a second guitar player and having Dave Lombardo on drums; they were seriously way better than they ever sounded. So, maybe today would be my favorite chapter of the band?!

When did you officially move to CT? I’m asking for the readers, and also for myself because now it’s fuzzy. Also, congratulations on all your recent success, as well as your whole journey to achieving your current title! I know it’s hard to condense down your career’s journey into just a few sentences, but could you give a brief rundown on where you are now professionally, and how you got there?

I moved out to CT in 2009. I had a masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and am licensed in NYS as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. However, moving out to CT and more specifically working for the Westchester Medical Center with some amazing leaders in the mental health field greatly contributed to my personal and professional development. They really nourished my passion for mental health and gave me opportunities to grow. I got my PhD in 2016 which contributed to my becoming a clinical director for a few different hospitals. I then received awards for my work with transgender groups, I completed several publications, and presented at dozens of conferences. In 2019, I switched to work full time at the University of Bridgeport. I am a department chair with them. It is a wonderful opportunity. Prior to Covid, I obtained additional licenses and certifications and specifically for telehealth. When Covid hit, so many agencies and organizations needed telehealth training. I have been a member of the American Mental Health Counselors Association since I was in graduate school. Around Covid, I was serving on their subcommittees. When Covid happened, I had to do a lot more work with the AMHCA President and CEO. Also around this time, I published my first text book about co-occurring mental health and substance use treatment. In 2021, I was approached by AMHCA to see if I was interested in running for president of the organization. This organization is specifically founded by mental health counselors to support mental health counselors. I was beyond humbled and overwhelmed. But, I said yes and I spent the last year as the President Elect. Today, I am now the AMHCA President. I am more than truly thankful for this opportunity to serve and support our profession.

Hit me with any closing thoughts from anyone getting in on this interview. I’ve been thinking about all of your collective experiences from “band life” and it’s insane how many people come and go from your circle through a perpetual revolving door. “Band life” is a cacophony of sounds, a series of rooms, people, smells, etc. I guess I’m asking you to highlight any moments from the days of Three Below/From this Day/Wulfsblood/Cheektovegas/No Concept, or anything you’ve done musically that haven’t been unearthed in discussion yet.

In summation, I can say without a doubt that I am so incredibly thankful for all the people in bands I have played with. Hopefully, No Concept will be working on some new songs and new opportunities to play live. I am so lucky and blessed that even after these years, people still care. I sincerely appreciate everyone who supported us, got CDs, and even the people who still reach out to today looking for music. As a person, I am merely an investment that so many people have given support and love to. I hope that I can honor the personal and professional investments that others have made in me by hopefully having a positive impact on the world and community. I appreciate your connecting. It is an honor to speak with you!

For a printed version of this series of throwback interviews (WRETCHED SOUNDS OF THE PAST), pick up a copy of Issue #13 at:

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