Revocation: a nice mechanism devoted to the thrills and spills

We get into Revocation for its mad and catch-all side which defines, since 2004, the very distinctive musical identity of the Boston natives. This madness leads the band to add some banjo, for example, or a Hispanic part to a song in which the musicians’ technical expertise remains entirely devoted to the music. However, we definitely adopt Revocation for its sense of thrash/death riffs and its soli which are always incisive and efficient. It’s precisely with this formula that Revocation manages, with each new album, to score some more points.

We took advantage of the release of their eponymous album to chat with David Davidson, one of the principal instigators of the Revocation style. After he was raised to the sound of metal and thrash tenors, the guitarist perfected his technique at the famous Berklee College of Music where he got introduced to jazz music. In the following interview, he tells us a bit more about this fourth album.

« I don’t think you have to be technical to make a good song. Sometimes, it can get in the way of that. »

Radio Metal: This album, musically and lyrically, is darker than your previous ones. Where does that come from?

David Davidson (guitar): I think that over time, there has been an evolution of our sound. In the genesis of the album, we went for a heavier and darker vibe, so I think that carried over. It wasn’t a conscious thing, it was more like a natural evolution. We listened to a lot of heavy and dark bands, and I think it just bled more and more into our music.

This new album is self-titled. Usually, bands do that to make a statement. What is so special about this record? Do you think it is the most representative of your creativity?

This is a self-titled album because we had a line-up change: we have a new bass player, and this is our first full-length album with Brett [Bamberger] on bass. The band is functioning as a whole better than it has never had both internally, and creatively. I also think that the songs on this album are better written, so the decision of giving it this title came from a lot of different factors.

You declared in an interview: “This is shaping up to be some of our most aggressive material to date and will be the next logical step forward from our last EP. The songs on this upcoming record have a great deal of diversity to them and employ a variety of different techniques, tunings and tempos.” Do you think that this is what Revocation is about: aggression and diversity?

Yeah. I think we’re trying to be diverse with every release, we don’t wanna be a band that releases a new record where everything sounds the same. On this album, each song has its character, its personality, but still fit within the Revocation sound. I hope it’s making a whole coherent album, not just a bunch of song, but an album: you sit here, listen to it from front to back, and you really get a flavor of what we’re all about, rather than just getting our entire sound just hearing one tune. I think we have a broad array of styles that kind of make up our sound as a whole.

Dan Gargiulo once said in an interview that one of his favorite albums was In Utero from Nirvana. He said that the lesson he learned from this album is: “You don’t have to be an amazing guitarist to make amazing songs on a guitar.” Do you think this is what Revocation is about? That even if you play a very technical music, you’re more focused on writing good songs?

Yeah, I think we wanna be songwriters first and foremost. All the technicality is not the aim of the song, we like to use it as a way of coloring and giving different layers to the sound. We don’t write songs to have a technical sound first and foremost like it’s all that matters. Some of the songs are more straightforward, and some will have more twists and turns obviously and both will be part of our sound. But I don’t think you have to be technical to make a good song. Sometimes, it can get in the way of that. Sometimes as a musician, I’m like: “Okay this song needs this riff here”, and sometimes: “This is a really cool riff but it doesn’t get with the flow of the song”. We try to do the better for the song as a whole.

« We don’t wanna make it too formulaic, if we kinda hear a certain melody that can work overtime in our head, then we certainly aren’t afraid to experiment with that kind of stuff. »

The song “Archfiend” ends with a surprising latino part. Where does it come from?

The song “Archfiend” had different versions. I’d written some of the riffs a while back. I was super happy with it but I wanted to add a lighter vibe to it; I had to rewrite that song a couple of time until I was really happy with it. It was about making a sort of combination with a lot of different riffs that were really dark, putting them in an order that would make it flow and make something different, bringing kinda like a Opeth vibe where a heavier guitar kicks in to a heavier part and a solo. It’s definitely a unique song on the record, but it was one that took time working on and rewriting to get it just right.

You’re using more clean vocals on this album. Can we expect the band using more and more clean vocals on the next albums?

Yeah, we’re using clean vocals whenever we feel it might fit the part. I think it’s the only criteria. On that one, I think it’s still pretty gritty, except on this « Dyers Eve » cover that we did. But for us, we don’t wanna make it too formulaic, if we kinda hear a certain melody that can work overtime in our head, then we certainly aren’t afraid to experiment with that kind of stuff. It’s kinda hard to say of what it will be more on the next record… Usually, the lyrics and the vocals are the last part of the song to get done: we have all the song done with all the riffs, we have them organized in a certain way, then we start to think about vocals. So we haven’t talked about the vocals for the new material that is going to be on the next one, it’s too early to say.

What was Brett Bamberger’s implication on this new record?

He brings his own style, flavor, and personality to the band. I think you can hear that on songs like “Fracked”. He wrote this really cool, tapping part for the bridge section of this song, and I think it really takes that part to the next level. We’re looking forward to working with him and collaborating with him more on our future material, but yeah, I think he really knocked out that part with the different techniques, like using his signature style, even for things as simple as a bass fill moving from one section to another. I think you can hear his flavor and his style through our music.

You developed your playing technique by attending the Berklee College of Music, where you focused on polyrhythm for jazz. Do you listen to jazz? What are your jazz influences?

I was exposed to all the great guitarists there and learned a lot about the history of music, like classical and jazz. I would say that my favorite jazz musicians are, regarding guitar, probably Pat Martino and Pat Metheny. These are just the guys at the top of my head. As far as other jazz musicians that I enjoy I would say Coltrane, and I really like a piano player named Gonzalo Rubalcaba who has a latin feel with his jazz but is also an insane piano player no matter what he’s playing. Those are just a few that I listen to a lot, I could go on and on…

« In 50 years when metalheads get older it will maybe be played in retirement homes. Who knows! »

You did a very cool videoclip for « The Grip Tightens ». Do you intend to release a video for this new album?

We’re getting ready to release one, I think we will premiere it the next month or so. It was shot at an home town show that actually was our tour kick-off show. It was in Boston, and it was a sold-out date. All our friends came up and was just great, it was the first time we used a live video as a music video. They filmed the whole set and they gonna make it a video. It was pretty crazy, a lot of stage dive, circle pit, at one point everyone jumped on the stage… It turned out pretty crazy.

By the way, on this videoclip for « The Grip Tightens », we can see you play in a retirement home. Do you think Revocation’s music could be played in such a place?

Well, not today, but who knows, in 50 years when metalheads get older it will maybe be played in retirement homes. Who knows!

Do you think you’ll be playing that type of music at the age of 60, 70 or 80?

No… I mean, maybe if technology comes out and we can prolong our skills, but you know, metal is a very demanding genre of music to play, even just physically, like for the vocals, the strength you need to have to perform all nights and so on. I think we will cross that bridge when it’ll come to it but we might be a bit over the hill… Who knows!

The band was once called Cryptic Warning. Do you still play songs from that era in rehearsals? Do you intend to play some of these songs live?

We don’t really play Cryptic Warning songs live. Basically, when we called ourselves Revocation, we stopped. We just grew out of it. They were fun songs to play when we were kids, but I think the songs we wrote after that were much more compelling to us, so we never actually felt the need to go back to it. Maybe one day, we’re going to play some as some kind of a gag, but we never really had any plans to add them to our sets now.

Interview conducted by phone on July, 24th 2013 by Metal’O Phil.
Transcription: Chloé.

Revocation on Facebook

Album Revocation, out since August, 6th 2013 via Relapse Records

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