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Interview with Devildriver's John Boecklin

On Friday, June 2, 2006, I had the pleasure of interviewing Devildriver’s drummer, John Boecklin. John was a very nice, laid back guy with a great sense of humor. After the interview, he, along with the rest of Devildriver, allowed me to eat my dinner on their bus as it was raining out and there was no other place to sit and eat.

John and I discussed Devildriver’s current success, their new album, the music scene, past and present, and the band’s plans after the tour as that night was their last US tour date. The interview is as follows:

Savagebutcher: How has the tour been?

John: It's been great! It's been about 3 1/2 weeks, tonight's the last night and the clubs are being filled with kids! That makes us happy; it's taken us 3 years to do a headliner, opening up for all those bands and we finally got ourselves a nice little backdrop (Devildriver have little backdrops when they play with their logo on it)

Savagebutcher: Are there any cities you've enjoyed playing in particular?

John: I always love playing Flint, Michigan at the Machine Shop, I'm excited about tonight, I love this venue (Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ)! L.A is always fun because we have a lot of family and friends there and that was show sold out, which was cool.

Savagebutcher: Last time I saw you play was the NJ Metal/Hardcore festival, how has the band changed personally and musically since then?

John: Personally, I think we're all a bit fatter, but musically, we put out one more record since then, which I think is light years beyond the first one! It's more technical, melodic focused, and thought out than the first one.

Savagebutcher: When you say more melodic, what do you mean?

John: Not vocally, but musically in the guitar. Their's more harmonies, not as much "chug". The elements of the first record was basically a lot of chug and not as many thought out riffs, I think it shows. We spent a lot more time writing the second record so there's more melody in it.

Savagebutcher: How did the process of making "Fury of Our Maker" differ from the first album?

John: Well, the first on was written dominantly by our guitar player, Evan (Pitts), who left the band. One the second one, we all wrote it and in terms of the writing process, we didn't have our gear, our bus driver was holding it ransom! Until we paid him money because we owed him so we wrote it all on computer and wrote the riffs on guitar of course. Our guitar player Mike (Spreitzer, replaced Evan Pitts) had it all qued up, so with the drums, we just had to sit there and program it up. We pretty much learned how to play it afterwards, we only had a week to rehearse, that's before we went into the studio, when we got our gear back, so it was pretty rushed. Not the writing, but the actual rehearsal before the recording. Then we went to this place in El Paso, called the Sonic Ranch and it was quick and painless! With the first record I was very nervous, everything was new to me and it was scary in a way because it was like "is this going to be any good?". With the second one it wasn't scary at all, I didn't have any expectations, and I just felt to go in there and it will come out how it comes out.

Savagebutcher: What are your thoughts on Devildriver's success?

John: It's unbelievable man! To be in a band and headline! I mean some nights it's just WOW! I mean as we speak, our band's on SIRIUS radio (opens door for me to hear). I just can't believe how far we've come! We've definitely had some odds up against us, some people expected us to be dog shit! Just solely based on the fact that Dez is in the band and a lot of heavy metal fans didn't like Coal Chamber. They just figured it'd be the same thing. I mean it's like if someone told me Wayne Static was coming out with a new band that's going to be heavy, no offense to them. point being, I'm completely happy with our success, everything seems to be going uphill from here!

Savagebutcher: Your drumming style sounds very intense, what do you feel sets your drumming style apart from other metal drummers?

John: Well, in the metal community of drummers, I've pretty much ripped off everybody! (laughs) So, not much separates me, but I'm trying to get flashier and flashier and better and better as I get older. On the first record, there's pretty simple drumming, I don't think there's anything really impressive, but at the time it was hard for me to do. In "Fury of Our Maker", I think it was a big step up, I think I made a big improvement on my drumming, it was as good as I can be! (laughs) Good old American!

Savagebutcher: What made you take up the drums and who are your influences?

John: Metallica made me pick up the drums. I don't know why, but it was pretty much the "Black Album", I was like 10 or 11 when they came out. It was that, Primus and Ministry was like the albums that I was just obsessed with.

Savagebutcher: How did you end up in Devildriver and what were you doing before?

John: I've lived a pretty "normal" life, I've known the bass player (Jon Miller) and the other guitar player (editor's note: unsure of which guitar player he was talking about) since I was like 15. We've always played together in metal bands in Massachusetts, but then my parents and I moved to California and after they moved out, we just started playing again. I was going to college working at a institution for mentally disabled kids, so I was going to school at night and then jamming! That's when I met Dez at a bar, he was at one of our shows, I don't think he was there to see us, but just to drink! I had learned through one of my friends that he was looking to start a band.

Savagebutcher: Growing up with the other guys, how do you feel about them?

John: I hate them and they hate me and I love them and they love me. It's like a marriage, when you have to live in these tight quarters (the bus). It's like brothers, you can not talk for a year and you wouldn't even care because you just spend so much time.

Savagebutcher: How do you feel the music has changed from when you were a kid?

John: Well, in metal, pretty much seems to be musically regressing back to older styles in bands. It went from "metal" so-to-speak, to the whole "nu metal thing", that's really died out. Now it seems like bands are regressing back to old school, but vocally progressing with a handful of drummers doing REAL crazy shit! For example, I think Lamb of God's Chris Adler doesn't do the hardest shit to play, but definitely really thought out. He's original as hell! I don't think anyone sounds like him. There's this band that just got signed to Prosthetic records, they've been around for awhile, they're called Gojira; I think they're going to be the next biggest metal band, they're fucking UNbelievable!

Savagebutcher: What got you into heavy metal and what did you listen to before you listened to metal?

John: I just heard it. When I first heard metal, I was like, I LOVE THAT! Before I listened to metal, back in the 80s, I was listening to Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, whatever was on MTV I liked. As a young kid, my parents had a lot of oldies that I used to listen to. They bought me a jukebox when I was like 6, so they stuffed it with oldies and I jammed out to that stuff.

Savagebutcher: Do you have any advice for people looking to get into the music business?

John: The best advice is to just make the best music you can, because after that it's all luck. Unless, of course, if you're an exceptionally amazing band, that's going to help. That's the thing, don't count on record deals, don't count on money, that's not the most important thing because you can get a really good record deal and make a little bit of money, but you can get dropped really quickly. In the end, going with the right people and just making music, and practicing , in metal these days, you have to be really good, everybody's so good! Every band we've toured with is just so good! Fucking, all the guitar players are just SHREDDERS! I mean Jesus! Bury Your Dead, you wouldn't think those guys are like, serious players, but those guys are like better than my guitar players. I mean they're like just sweeping down the frets, I mean everybody's so good! So it's a lot of competition these days, there's a lot more bands. So, just practice your ass off and hopefully you'll get lucky.

Savagebutcher: What are Devildriver's plans after this tour?

John: Well, this tour ends tonight and we have to fly to Italy tomorrow and do a bunch of festivals. We're doing the Download festival with Metallica, a festival in England with Korn, Deftones, and Motorhead. Then we're going over to Australia and do some co-headlining gigs with Fear Factory. Then a possible show in New Zealand with Danzig or something like that. Then, probably end up writing another record.

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