Members Of Boston's Hottest Young Metal Band Gather In Crowded Club For Interview, Hilarity Ensues
Band Photo: Revocation (?)
On a chilly Saturday evening, I dropped into the cozy Silk City Taproom in Florence, Massachusetts, for a special one-off show featuring Boston's breakout underground metal stars, Revocation. They released their jaw-dropping and versatile third studio album "Chaos Of Forms" through Relapse Records earlier in 2011 to wide acclaim, and had just wrapped up an opening slot on tour with Chimaira when they decided to revisit their regional turf in a far more intimate way.
Prior to loosing a toxic river of thrash, death, speed, groove, and progressive metal on the tiny club's adoring patrons, three of Revocation's members checked in with Metalunderground.com on Silk City's outdoor second-floor smoking balcony. Huddled in a corner and speaking above the nearby din of a rowdy, liquored-up crowd, guitarist/vocalist Dave Davidson, drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne, and second guitarist Dan Gargiulo indulged me with some amusing banter.
The full, unabridged transcript follows below - complete with some unruly outside interjections too silly not to reproduce here.
Mike Smith (OverkillExposure): Discovering you guys has been very interesting for me. On the national level, first there was nothing. Then there were whispers in the underground. And then suddenly, EVERYONE was raving about this band Revocation, and you have this ass-kicking new record to show for it. How’d that happen? Can you take me through some of the leaps and bounds you’ve made this year toward the breakthrough you’re currently experiencing?
Dave Davidson: A lot of it was just hard work behind the scenes. We formed in 2006, and were doing some D.I.Y. tours, so before we were on any of the bigger tours, we were out there booking our own shows. I think that’s really what got that initial buzz happening, us being on the road. Our first record “Empire Of The Obscene”  was totally self-released, and I think labels took notice of that, and also of the fact that we were a hungry band, wanting to tour. From there, it was about doing little tours here and there, and slowly building up our profile until we got to a level where we could continuously be on bigger tours, and even move on up the bills, and that got us more exposure. So it was just about putting the time in, y’know?
Mike: What appeals to you more these days – these types of intimate, sweaty, grassroots club gigs, or the prospect of bigger shows on bigger stages with bigger crowds? What pumps you up more?
Phil Dubois-Coyne: We like both, but as musicians, the ultimate fantasy is to play to a fuckin’ billion people at one show if possible, y’know what I mean? We want to play to as many people as humanly possible. So that’s always the lure for us, playing bigger and bigger shows, and that’s what we strive for. But that doesn’t take away from what we love about doing smaller shows like this. It’s a much more personal environment, you can throw a few beers back before the set and not really give a shit, and just have a good time. So we definitely love coming back and doing this, but ultimately, we’re basically trying to tour in front of as many people as humanly possible.
Mike: Your sound feels very versatile, and you’ve toured with bands in a number of different styles and subgenres. Who do you feel you best fit in with – at least judging from the touring you’ve done so far?
Dan Gargiulo: It’s really hard to say who we fit in best with, ‘cause we’ll do tours with the more “scene” bands, and we kind of go over pretty well, but we’re not really a full-on thrash band either, so when we did a tour with Forbidden, we were still sort of the black sheep of the tour. I don’t know; it’s tough to say.
Mike: And since your music is a kind of melting pot, it’s natural that the crowds might be too, but where do YOU see your crowds coming from? Are they thrashers, or death metal fans, or hardcore kids, or what?
Phil: It’s really a combination for us. We see people from all over. A really good sign is when we see lots of young kids losing it in the pit and rocking our shirts before doors even open, and you want to make sure you appeal to the youth. But also, I think we have a broad enough sound that we’ve had 60-year-old people come out who are huge fans. So ultimately, we like to think of ourselves as just a metal band. So if you’re into heavy metal and aggressive music, then we try to do everything across the board. I mean, we don’t do it deliberately to appeal to people, but it’s sort of a notable consequence of us having a broader range.
Mike: You do it to appeal to yourself.
Phil: Yeah, exactly. We just like playing music that we like, and it just so happens to appeal to a lot of different people. So that’s really cool.
Mike: The new record has gotten everyone’s attention in a big way. Can you take me through the making of “Chaos Of Forms,” and remember some definitive creative ideas you may have had that would make this one so special?
Dave: It was definitely a different process, recording-wise. This was the first record we recorded in between tours. Every other record, we’ve done in one straight shot. With this one, we were getting a lot of different touring opportunities, so we recorded the drums first, and then we left and did a tour with Despised Icon. Then we came back and did some of the guitars and some of the bass. Then we had to leave again and do a tour with Darkest Hour. So being able to come back to it, and listen to it in a bunch of different ways, was different. It helped the recording process, because we were able to really listen, and focus on every part. For me, it helped with the solos, ‘cause I had more time to sit with the riffs and work stuff out over it. So that helped, and was a good thing in different ways.
Phil: Yeah, and I think we finally wrote the record that we’d always wanted to write as kids. Dave thought of the title when we were 17, or some shit. So we kind of had an idea of where we wanted to take it, but it’s also a compilation of material from many different eras of the band. So some songs and riffs are very, very new, but some are years old! So during the recording process, we had time to analytically look at what we’d already done and dissect it, and we had so much time to work out every little kink, and adjust things ever so slightly. So there was very little pressure on us, as far as “getting the songs together.” That gave us the confidence to go certain places we wanted to, musically. That was harder to do before.
Mike: It really does sound like a push through the gate. I’m reminded of the “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” quote: “If you put a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks-"
Phil: There’d be a diamond!
Mike: Yep, that’s what “Chaos Of Forms” sounds like to me, musically. I mean that in the best way possible! [Laughs]
Dan: So it sounds like shit!
Phil: Yeah, we shat out a real diamond with this one. [All laugh]
Mike: Dave, I understand you were a music major at Berklee. Did that have any conscious effect on your approach to songwriting and playing in general?
Dave: Yeah. I think hopefully you get to the point where it’s just kind of “in there,” and more unconscious. Any type of part we put into our music, we try not to make it sound forced, y’know? Because everyone says, “Oh, it has a ‘Berklee Sound,’” or this or that. But I think studying at Berklee definitely allowed me the chance to learn from so many different guitar players with so many different styles. Even in the jazz realm, some teachers there are focused on being more chordal, and in soloing, some are focused on playing more “outside” or more “inside.” So I was able to draw from a wide well of knowledge from people there, and hopefully just try and grab little bits and pieces. I don’t consider myself a jazz guitarist in any way, shape, or form, but I like to borrow from that a little bit, and take what I’ve learned from studying with these different jazz people, and apply it to the metal genre.
Mike: I wonder if that’s what some bands are missing when it comes to music theory – knowing the rules first, so you can break them later.
Phil: Well, plenty of musicians are very proficient with their instruments, but being skilled and able to play technically isn’t the same as being able to write a good song. So we don’t strive to be technical for the sake of being technical. I guess what I’m saying is that you need a certain creative element, a sort of raw emotion, to put out a song that speaks to people, rather than just having nasty chops. So as a musician, you can “know the rules” and still not be able to just write a song that really speaks to somebody.
Dan: Yeah, and there definitely have been bands that don’t really “know the rules,” but still end up writing good songs.
Dave: Right. Guys in the jazz realm, too, like Wes Montgomery. He didn’t really know the theory, but he’s held up as one of the greatest jazz guitarists ever. He had his own style and everything. So that’s a case of someone who did it all by ear, who just had that natural talent.
Mike: What can we expect from Revocation in the future?
Dave: More touring! We’re really excited to get on the road and play these songs live to people. Our tour with Children Of Bodom just got announced this week, so we’re super pumped on that. So yeah, just touring and really focusing on the “Chaos Of Forms” record, and playing it in front of as many different fans as we possibly can.
Phil: As far as our music goes, the next record is so far down the line right now.
Dan: It’s pretty far down the line, but one thing I’m excited about, and have been excited about since I joined the band, was that you guys had SO much material –
Phil: [Puts arm on Dan] WE had so much material, Dan!
Dan: [Laughs] … That it’s hard to say what the next album’s gonna be like, ‘cause there’s so much to pick from and we’re still writing shit.
Phil: Ultimately, just more of the same. I mean, we still want to push ourselves as musicians, but it’s still gonna be metal. It’s still gonna be rockin’. Basically, it’s gonna be whatever the fuck we feel like! But I’m guessing it’ll just be more rippin’ tentacled douche thrash.
Mike: That’s your album title right there: “Whatever The Fuck We Feel Like.”
Dan: [Laughs] Yeah, pretty much. That’s kind of our mantra.
Mike: Why “No Funeral” for a music video?
Dave: I think collectively, it was one of our favorite tracks on the CD…
Drunk Girl #1: [Background] HEEEEEEY!
Dave: [Laughs] … And we felt really strongly about it. It was a strong song from the record, it kind of showcased a couple different styles, and was very aggressive.
Dan: I think we also felt it could really appeal to a broader audience than maybe a lot of the rest of the CD.
Mike: New England is famous for spawning the original metalcore scene, and there’s a pretty strong underground thrash scene as well. Where do you guys fit into all that? What kind of music from your neck of the woods do you want to promote? And if you feel like plugging any of your local boys, be my guest.
Phil: As far as the Mass bands go, the metalcore stuff that came up in the early 2000’s like Shadows Fall, Unearth, and Killswitch, shit like that – they sort of hit their stride well before we were ever doing anything actively as a band. We were still very young, so that was kind of a generation above us. But as far as their influence in metal goes, they definitely opened up a lot of markets in Massachusetts for people that liked that kind of music. It popularized metal in Mass, and put us on the map for that. So that paved the way in terms of venues opening up, and this and that, but as far as being influenced by it, it was a little ahead of our time. And musically, we didn’t draw that much from that emergence.
Dave: For me, I remember getting the first Killswitch Engage record – or was it the second? Yeah, second. “Alive Or Just Breathing.” And that definitely kicked my ass when I was a kid. That was my first really proper introduction to metalcore, so that was a pretty rad CD. And even bands like The Red Chord, we’re very proud to be from the same area as them. They rip it super hard, and they’re a band that constantly evolves with every release. For more local bands that don’t really get a ton of attention on a national scale, there’s a band called Sexcrement – yeah, S-E-X-C-R-E-M-E-N-T [Grins] – and they’re totally awesome, brutal death metal with a really good slamming groove to it. There’s a thrash band from the area called Razormaze. They’re doing thrash, but with a little bit of a different twist. Ramming Speed is another awesome band. They’re thrashy, but they have some grind parts, and they’re punky, so that’s great. The band Phil used to be in, Random Acts Of Violence, they were a really huge influence on us, growing up as kids. Like Phil was saying about the bands like Shadows Fall, Unearth, and Killswitch, we never really got to play locally with them, ‘cause they were already established. So we never really got to play in this kind of smaller club together, or really be able to draw from them on a live level, because they were already off playing bigger clubs when we were still kids playing basement shows. But Random Acts Of Violence was a killer local band. They were a little bit older than us, but we still played a lot of the same shows and we shared a drummer. We learned so much from them. They were like the cool dudes on the block when we were growing up, and I still jam their records all the time. So, Random Acts Of Violence. They’re not around anymore, but they were a killer, killer thrash band that had all our elements to them as well.
Mike: Do you guys have any idea what happened to that band Beyond The Embrace?
Dan: Man, I was just thinking about them the other day, ‘cause I used to have their shirt! That is weird.
Mike: Yeah, they put out a couple of awesome records that I loved, and then they just vanished from the face of the earth!
Dave: They broke up years ago. I think it’s been a while. I remember them!
Dan: I remember seeing them in New York – maybe with Children Of Bodom, but I don’t know.
Phil: Random Acts Of Violence played with them once.
Dan: I remember really liking them back in the day. I had the shirt, and then all of a sudden, I never heard anything from them again.
Dave: And then you lost the shirt!
Dan: And then I lost the shirt, and it was symbolic. [Laughs]
Drunk Girl #2: [Background] THIRTY-FIVE THOUSAND?
Drunk Guy #1: [Background] THIRTY-FIVE FUCKIN’ THOUSAND!
Drunk Girl #2: [Background] I DON’T BELIEVE YOU!
Drunk Guy #1: [Background] THIRTY-FIVE… [Trails off]
Mike: [Laughs] How about current music? What’s really kicking your asses this year? What new records are going in your top five or top ten?
Dave: Thirty-five fuckin’ thousand. [All laugh] Sorry, that was just in my head. Well, as far as 2011 goes, the new Obscura record has some amazing riffage – gotta give a shout out to Relapse. Their roster is totally kicking my ass. The new Deathspell Omega is incredible.
Phil: I’ve been digging the new Graveyard.
Dave: Ah, “No Guts, No Glory!”
Phil: Yeah, that album rules.
Dan: We love that one. And Havok, “Time Is Up.”
Dave: Man, what else? So much good stuff.
Phil: I just listen to Judas Priest. [All laugh]
Dan: As you can see, we listen to a lot of different stuff.
Dave: The new Defeatist is great.
Dan: Oh, new Absu, new Absu!
Dave: That’s incredible. I think it’s their best one, personally.
Dan: Yeah, me too. I thought it was gonna be hard for them to top “Tara,”  but they did it. Disma, “Towards The Megalith.” I’ve been really into them.
Dave: See, now you’ve got the ball rolling. [All laugh] You’ve opened the floodgates of death metal.
Phil: He’s gonna start hating his life, trying to figure out who the fuck said what!
Mike: Dave, you recently shared with Metal Underground the story of your nasty stage diving accident. Has that… how should I say it… changed your outlook on life in any way, or are you still stage diving?
Phil: Dave actually now only reads at a third grade level since then. [All laugh] Hasn’t affected us at all beyond that.
Dave: Yeah, I became like Phineas Gage, and my personality totally changed. Naw, I don’t know if I’ve stage dove since then, but I also haven’t been that drunk in a while, so you never know. We’ll see what happens tonight!
Phil: There are eight more staples out there in the world, waiting to be buried in his skull.
Dave: Let’s make it nine next time.
Mike: Since your fan base is still pretty grassroots, and you’re still plugging away toward the top, I have to ask you about filesharing.
Dan: Ah, a hot button issue!
Mike: Right. It’s a big part of our future, and it’ll affect anyone who wants to play in a band, and whatever happens is going to shape the fate of the music we listen to. Do you guys have any kind of stance on that?
Dave: Yeah, I could jump in here. For me personally, I want people to hear our music no matter what. I just want them to hear it, and come to a show and check us out, and know the songs. That being said, obviously records cost money to make. There’s a certain perception, which is true, that the bands aren’t seeing money off the CD sales anyway, and that we’re getting “gypped by the labels” or whatever, and won’t see a lot of the money anyway. But there’s another side to that. Record sales still play a part in terms of touring. Booking agents look at your numbers, and say, “This band’s only sold X amount,” and you might not get on a bigger tour. Or even with advances for future records, so you can have more money to spend on the quality of it – a lot of labels have certain caps on that. So if you don’t sell a certain amount of records, you never advance in terms of the chunk of money you’re getting from the label. So record sales do help in different ways. Obviously, bands aren’t making, like, 50% of every record sold – it’s not going to the band – but it does help in other ways, whether it’s getting on tours, or just actually seeing money for recordings for future stuff. So if you have the extra money, it’s good to support the bands you like. But at the same time, ultimately I want people to hear our music no matter what. I wouldn’t want anyone to not hear it because they couldn’t “afford it,” or whatever. So I want them to be able to check it out. It kind of goes both ways, especially with the way the record industry is now. If you look at first week sales, next week is like a 50% drop-off, if not more. So record sales in general are becoming more and more obsolete as time goes on. We haven’t really found out what the next thing is gonna be, whether everything moves to digital, or artists get a certain cut off things like Spotify or Pandora, where artists’ rates could go up from there. But it’s an interesting time to be in the music business, that’s for sure. Especially interesting for a metal band.
Mike: I’ve heard rumors – and I’m not sure how true they are – of most of the major record labels abandoning the CD format entirely within a year!
Phil: Wow. That would be… shitty.
Mike: I’d have a really hard time adjusting if that happened.
Phil: Well, we siphon gas to tour with anyway, so it doesn’t affect us as hard as some other bands. We should be okay.
Dave: [Laughs] He’s still high off the fumes.
Phil: Yeah, we siphon it for personal use.
Mike: I’d love to know a little more about you guys outside the band and outside music in general. What kind of stuff are you into?
Phil: I’m really, really into Vietnamese knife fighting. It’s something I picked up as a kid. [Laughs] Just kidding. I don’t know, we’re just dirty metal stoners that play video games and rock out. I don’t know… I drink a lot! That’s a hobby of mine.
Dan: Yeah, I think that sums it up for me pretty well. A lot of video games.
Dave: I work at a hospital! [All laugh] Like research assistant kind of stuff, and product management.
Mike: Well guys, this has been a blast. Thanks for hanging out and chatting with me, despite all the noise. Actually, let’s see if we can get everybody to say hi – [Turns toward large crowd with recorder] – EVERYBODY WANT TO SAY HI TO REVOCATION?
Random Dude #1: WHAT? [Band laughs]
Mike: SAY HELLO TO REVOCATION! YOU’RE ALL ON TAPE!
[Horns and beers fly skyward. The crowd goes berserk with a long, sustained, metallic war cry for over 20 seconds, spiked with whoops, shrieks and death growls.]
Random Dude #2: Now I can die happy! [All laugh]
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