It’s a little after 8pm on a Thursday evening. Revocation just finished its set at the DevilDriver / Whitechapel tour’s stop in New York City, and now frontman David Davidson is standing a few blocks away from Stage 48, holding a spot on a semi-busy street for the band’s van to park in. While making sure another car didn’t steal the prime parking spot might have been a tad stressful, it may have also been a rare moment of serenity for Davidson during what’s truly been a busy year. Less than a year after releasing their self-titled album, Revocation is already finished recording a follow up. As if there wasn’t enough pressure on them to up the ante with album number five, it also marks the band’s first with their new label home, Metal Blade Records. Yet if there’s any band that’s up for the challenge, it’s everyone’s favorite rising death metal band from Boston.
Davidson was kind enough to let Metal Insider disrupt his rare moment of peace as he held the prime parking spot for the van. While standing outside, Davidson discussed how signing to Metal Blade marked a fresh start for Revocation, what fans can expect from the as-yet-titled album, how H.P. Lovecraft inspired a few new songs, what it was like to collaborate with his idols Marty Friedman, and his thoughts on Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert (who he intends to collaborate with for Project Rogue) publically coming out as gay.
What inspired the band to sign with Metal Blade?
It was just sort of, I think, time for a change. Relapse Records treated us really, really well, but ultimately running a band is running a business. And when our contract was up, we got a bunch of offers from other labels, and Metal Blade had the best offer.
Did you ever consider taking the DIY route?
No, not really. We never really considered the DIY route; working with a label means you’re getting the promotion and the worldwide distribution, which is what we really need. We did the DIY thing when we first started out, booking our own tours and pressing records ourselves, stuff like that. I think as far as exposure and stuff goes, it makes much more sense to work with a label because you have a whole team of people with you rather than just yourselves.
And Metal Blade has a great team. They’ve done a lot of great work with a great roster. Given how active Revocation is as a touring band, is there a dream band on the roster you would one day like to tour with?
Basically Cannibal Corpse, but that’s already happening. We’re gonna go out and tour with them in Europe in the fall, which we’re so stoked on. I remember being a kid and watching live DVDs of Cannibal Corpse. I have their whole discography, so it’s a dream come true to tour with Cannibal for sure. King Diamond would be cool, he’s a legendary dude.
Well, there’s word that he’s gonna be touring in the fall, or at least performing in New York in October.
I’ve heard there’s rumors of that, yeah. [editor’s note: shortly after this interview took place, King Diamond officially announced dates for a North American tour]
It seems like it really took no time for you guys to finish recording this new album. What would you say was the most difficult part of recording the album in such a fast paced manner?
Every step of the way there’s challenges. No matter what the instrument, you’re under the microscope—drums, guitar, bass. You’ve really got to be on top of your game. Luckily we had a lot of time to prepare for this record. Initially we were planning on going in to record in February, but with scheduling conflicts made it not work out. So we ended up going in [to the studio] a little bit later. It gave us an extra two months to work on the material and work on getting everything tight. Definitely being prepared really helps, making sure you can bang it out and get good takes at the same time.
I know that you’ve had this material for a fair amount of time, how long would you’ve had this material that appears on the record?
For this new one? It depends. We’re sort of always writing, so some of the material is super fresh and new, some of it is older. So it depends on song to song.
Well you’ve been playing a new song called “Madness Opus” on this current tour. How did that song come about? How long have you been working on it?
That one is kind of a combination, some of the riffs were a little bit older and some of the riffs were brand new. Anytime I write, if it’s something I think is worth keeping, I’ll record it. And it might not get used for a while just because it doesn’t fit with anything else we had written at the time, or the song isn’t fully done. It might be like “Ok, here’s three or four riffs that go together, but it needs a couple more to really bring the song together.” We’ll wait on it until it’s ready to go, we don’t want to rush or put anything out that we’re not 100% happy about. So that sometimes means that you have to keep things on the back burner until you find that one riff. The bridge riff to [“Madness Opus”] was written a few months before we recorded, whereas the intro was written maybe a year and a half ago or two years ago.
Lyrically, is there anything that inspired it?
Yeah, “Madness Opus” is about the H.P. Lovecraft short story The Music of Erich Zann. The story is basically about this violinist who has to play music to lull this cosmic entity to sleep lest it completely devours all of mankind and the world. The story is super cool and I thought with us playing death metal, it would be great fodder for a death metal song.
It’s like two different worlds collide.
Yeah, well Lovecraft has so many awesome stories. Most people tend to gravitate towards the Cthulhu story, but he has so many other stories, whether they are short or longer, that are full of cool imagery and shit.
When did you first discover that story?
About a year ago, maybe. I have this like tome of every Lovecraft story ever written. So I’ll just be on tour, at home, flipping away. I’m basically working my way through the whole book right now, just reading all the different stories, and that one just stuck out to me as something really cool to write lyrics about that.
Are there any other songs inspired in a similar manner?
There’s actually one other song inspired by Lovecraft on the new record. The story is called The Haunter of the Dark, but I don’t think I can reveal the song title yet, but yeah there’s one other Lovecraft song on the record.
Last I heard, the release date was up in the air. Is there any update on that?
The fall, I think sometime in October is what I’ve been told. Things can change though, so I don’t want to give a concrete date because you never know. It might get pushed back, but I think sometime in October, it’s supposed to be out.
I always loved how detailed and stunning Revocation’s cover artwork is. Have you started coming up with concepts or drafts for this album’s artwork?
Oh yeah, it’s totally done. It looks awesome. Again, I can’t reveal too much about it. All I can say is we went with a different artist this time around. Well Orion [Landau] is the Relapse guy, like he works for Relapse Records. So every time we put a record out, it was a no brainer that Orion was gonna do it. For this record though, it was sort of a fresh start with us starting with Metal Blade, so we wanted to do everything new. So it was a new artist for the cover and the concept is super cool. I really can’t wait for people to see it. I can’t reveal too much about it, but all I can just say is it’s a new artist and it’s personally my favorite album cover we’ve ever had. It’s an oil painting, there’s nothing digital on it whatsoever.
You mentioned how this is a fresh start on Metal Blade. How else is it a fresh start for the band?
Well I mean you have a whole new team, you’re working with different people, different ideas. Everyone has different ways of doing things, and Metal Blade has been in the game longer than Relapse has. I mean, Brian Slagel [Metal Blade founder] fucking helped get Metallica on the map. So there’s a lot of new beginnings if you will this time around.
So on a side note, you had the chance to collaborate with Marty Friedman on a song for his new solo album, Inferno. What was that experience like?
It was great. Marty is one of my idols, I love his playing. He’s just a very unique guitar player; he’s got a lot of soul. When he approached me to write a song for the record, I was super stoked and I couldn’t be more happy with the way it turned out. I think his playing is absolutely stellar on the track. The whole record is out now so I’ve heard the whole thing. From start to finish, he just really outdid himself with this one.
What was the process like working with him on the song?
He lives in Japan, so we would email stuff back and forth. I would send him a draft and he would say “Cool, I like this, lets tweak this.” We just went back and forth a bunch of times before we said “Ok, this feels close to being done,” then I went in and recorded all my parts in an actual studio. Even after I sent it out, there were still changes that were made. As soon as I heard the final product, I was floored with how awesome the whole thing came out, and then him adding all of his solos in there really took it to the next level.
Do you recall the first time you heard Friedman’s playing?
Yeah, I was listening to Megadeth. I mean, Megadeth has always had great lead guitar players, but something about Marty always stuck out to me. I was probably listening to Rust In Peace, and his two minute outro lead in “Hanger 18” is just orgasmic. I mean every solo on that album is great. And Countdown To Extinction, his playing on that is super tasty. His influence definitely crept into my playing style, so it was great to collaborate with someone who has had such a profound effect on me as a player.
Is there a dream player you wish you could one collaborate with in the same fashion?
I would love to collaborate with Luc Lemay of Gorguts. I love his playing and writing. Who else… There’s so many guys out there that are great, but Luc would be really, really cool to collaborate with. Daniel Mongrain is one of my favorite guitar players, he use to play in a band called Martyr but now plays in Voivod. I’d love to collaborate with him. I mean fuck, there’s just so many awesome dudes. Tosin [Abase, Animals As Leaders], he’s a buddy of mine, we’ve toured together and he’s just a killer guitar player. So it would be cool to do something with him.
Oh actually, I can plug this thing I’m doing right now for Project Rogue. It’s basically like a laundry list of players on there and they basically asked “Who do you want to buddy up and collaborate with?” So if all goes well, I should be doing something with Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert, which will be really cool. It’s a crowd funding thing, so go out and crowd fund that shit!
I had heard about this project, but didn’t realize it was going to combine so many amazing musicians together.
Yeah! I think Ray [Herrera], who’s setting it up and also [formerly] Fear Factory, is trying to get Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse on bass as well. So if all goes well, and this thing gets funded, it’ll be me, Paul, Shawn, and Alex Webster on a track. It would be cool to do something a little bit different, maybe do something super progged out. I don’t know, I’m getting ahead of myself! I haven’t even talked to any of those dudes.
So you’re the one who’s been submitting $5 each day to make this happen?
Exactly, I’ve just been PayPal’ing $5 every day just watching it go up and going “This fucking thing better happen!” [laughs]
I hope you don’t mind me asking, but speaking of Paul and Sean, they both recently came out publicly as gay. I wanted to know what your thoughts are on this and how you think it’ll impact metal.
I think it’s great. I’d like to get to the point where it’s not even an issue and people can just accept people for who they are. I think it’s a shame in today’s society that we still judge people based on their sexual orientation or whatever. It’s just such an archaic way of thinking. Actually “Scattering the Flock” on our last record was sort of inspired by my anger towards the bigotry of religion when it comes people’s orientations. I think it’s great that they came out. Hopefully it’ll impact metal in the sense that maybe other people that listen to metal who are also gay or lesbian will feel like “Oh, I can come out in the scene, and the scene supports me.” I’ve seen a couple of assholes out there that were talking shit, but for the most part the response has been overwhelming supporting, as it should be. So I think it’s good and hopefully can show people, like “Hey, metal is a very forward thinking genre and it embraces people from all orientations.”
Well you would hope that, with Rob Halford having been out for so many years!
Oh yeah! Like Jesus Christ, we’ve been through this! It boggles my mind that in today’s day in age that people still get their feathers ruffled up over someone being gay. They act like it’s a choice. It’s just so archaic, that mindset, and hopefully we’ll be past that soon. But there’s a lot of ignorant people out there.
I’m just happy that they finally felt comfortable enough to be open about it, and like you said, if it encourages others to feel comfortable as well…
Then that’s great!