Interview with David Davidson of Revocation
The Fleece, Bristol
Interviewed by Paul Hutchings.
Ahead of their headline set at The Fleece in Bristol on 16th February, Paul and Rich were lucky to have a bit of time with Revocation’s David Davidson. The main man is a shredder extraordinaire and one of the nicest people in the world of extreme metal.
David is relaxed and looking in good condition considering the band are four weeks into their tour. How had the tour been so far?
“The tour has been great. I mean all the bands are getting along. They’re playing great every night. I think just the whole package all around is really slamming and yeah, it’s nice when we can all hang out and have a great time after the shows as well. So yeah, it’s just been a real pleasure to work with all these bands.”
The tour has travelled through a wide range of European countries before arriving in the UK for a few nights. Have any shows stood out?
“The reception’s been good in all places” David confirms, very much echoing what Sammy Duet (Goatwhore) told us. “We always have great shows in the UK. I don’t know what it is over here. The UK has been great. We played Dublin for the first time in like a decade. That was a highlight for me. But across the board they’ve been really great. I mean Italy was awesome, France shows went off, you know, a lot of the German dates were sick. I really have no complaints”.
Before Rich and I hooked up with Dave, we had a quick chat with bassist Brett Bamberger who deals with much of the tour managing. He was telling us about all the additional stuff that he has to deal with now across Europe and the UK. How much of a challenge has it been for Revocation to tour this time around?
“I don’t really handle any of that stuff, you know? I mean, Brett, feels the brunt of that shit. So luckily, he makes it so that we don’t have to feel the pain quite as much, but he’s, he’s definitely taking that one on the chin.”
Like many bands, Revocation was on tour when the pandemic broke. They were actually in Japan at the time and were lucky to get back to the US before a lot shut down. Having endured a two-year break, how was the muscle memory when they finally got back on stage?
“Um, I feel like, I mean we’ve done so much touring over the years, it was a little bit of dusting the cobwebs off, but at the same time, we all practice and stuff like that, when we’re home. I was writing music, teaching students online. So, I felt like I was able to stay sharp with my abilities. But there is no substitute for playing live and being on a stage and having that energy of the crowd. I feel like yeah, after like a couple shows that we just got right into it.”
Was there a genuine relief at those first shows?
“Yeah. I mean, those shows, were, like, slamming. I mean, it was one of the first metal tours that really came back since the pandemic and the line-up was just berserk. It was like, Cannibal Corpse Whitechapel, us, and Shadow of Intent opening and pretty much all of the shows were sold out. I think two didn’t sell out. Yeah. So, um, the fact that many people had the energy from being kind of pent up was also kind of cool. Probably a sizable amount of the audience, it was those kids first time ever going to a show. I thought about that a lot as a musician. Like, oh man, like I mean like my formative years were in that 15/16 age range, when I could go to shows and experience that. And you’re so impressionable, you know, in those younger years obviously, and that was why I wanted to start, you know. But when you’re a kid, you’re just like, oh my god, this is the sickest thing ever. And like, yeah, I want to start a band that I’m gonna like to dedicate my life to and that’s when that spark can really ignite. So, you know, I was kind of a little concerned for the youth. Like man, are they going to miss out on it all? You know, is that shit going to sail? Or you know, are kids going to even be interested in going to live shows? You know, twitch streams and YouTube and shit like that, but people came out. I saw a ton of fresh faces out there and I saw kids and people my age and older just losing their shit the whole time. So, it was cathartic for a lot of reasons.”
With the changing times, how has Revocation’s audience changed over the years? Are the hardcore fans that were there at the beginning still here, alongside the kids that are coming in, who’ve just discovered this new band that have been going since 1990 or whatever it is? Does David see that mix in the crowd, the people like Rich and me, standing a little bit further back, because our pitting days are behind us?
“Haha” David laughs, “you guys are in mosh pit retirement. Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the cool part about metal. It’s, you know, it’s a niche genre, but, you know, people that are really into it, I mean, they’re fucking diehards for life. Yeah. But it’s also a young man’s game at the same time, right? You do always have that mix. You’ll see people with white hair and white beards, you know, just kind of head banging at the back and then you’ll see someone that’s, you know, 18, a high school kid, hanging from the rafters!”
Revocation released their latest album Netherheaven in autumn last year. David had already completed much of the writing before the pandemic.Did the two two-year gaps give him time to refine it?
“Yeah, for sure,” he says. “I mean, we just had more time off, more time to write. I certainly learned a lot about recording in my downtime. So that was sort of one of the hobbies or skills I picked up along the way during the downtime. I think we certainly put that time to good use.”
The themes of the album were quite deep. It was quite dark, very much looking at exploring hell and that kind of thing. How much research did David do as part of the writing?
“Yeah, I went to hell. Whenever I’m trying to write lyrics on a particular subject, I certainly try to immerse myself in that way. It’s the same way when I’m writing songs, it starts with the riff for me; I kind of obsess over that. I’ll put the riffs together and start obsessing over the song structure until it all feels cohesive for me. I never want the lyrics to be an afterthought. When I’m in that process of writing it’s like the kind of the first thing I think of when I wake up and I’ll just sort of think about it throughout the course of the day. I was writing most of the songs, like bits and pieces of the lyrics, just kind of sketching things out and just writing things that came to my mind before we got into the studio. I think maybe because I was engineering this and taking on more of a producer role, being in the driver’s seat as far as the engineering and everything goes, I ended up writing a lot of the lyrics while I was in the studio. I would wake up, pace around Brett’s backyard like a madman for an hour and a half. I had my coffee and was just sort of thinking up ideas and putting the pieces together in my mind and then I would go track all day. And then I would probably write more lyrics like after the tracking was done or even midday to kind of give myself a break. It was pretty much full immersion on all fronts when it came to that. But yeah, I mean in terms of things I was reading, I drove back into Dante’s Inferno. I read that in high school or something like that, so I dusted that one off. And then had kind of general themes. One song, ‘Strange and Eternal’ isn’t sort of directly Hell related. It’s more inspired by the works of Robert W Chambers who wrote a book called ‘The King in Yellow’, which is sort of a collection of short stories, and I read that. There were different ideas, like even things from movies and stuff like that. The exercise obviously is very like, hellish, you know, demonic possession. I wanted to have something with the demonic possession seance-gone-wrong type of thing. So that’s what ‘Lessons in Occult Theft’ is about. Sometimes, the inspiration comes from literature. Sometimes it comes from movies. Sometimes it just comes from things like reading the book on the state of American politics.”
If you’ve heard the album or read the reviews, you’ll know that the result was overwhelmingly positive. In term of the writing, it’s a progression on the last album and people were picking up that it was a little bit more progressive in terms of the delivery. How does David respond to reviews?
“Oh, I like to read the positive ones for sure,” he laughs. “Overall, the response was really positive and it’s always great when someone really connects with you, especially if they connect with it enough that they want to sit down and you know, write several paragraphs on it and put it out there”.
He continues, “As far as like, you know, people’s takeaways from the album or their critiques, that’s the cool thing about music because everyone can hear it because I’ve read opposite things. I’ve heard people say, oh, no, “Netherheaven” is the most progressive album we’ve done, and then I’ve heard people say, oh, it’s not as progressive as the other ones or whatever. I guess, you know, it’s all in the ear of the beholder. Uh, I mean to me, we’ve always written music for ourselves. Yeah, first and foremost, we don’t, not trying to sound rude or anything like that, but we don’t really take anyone else’s account into things when we’re running music because you know, it’s got to come from the heart. It’s got to come from your soul and, we poured our hearts and souls into every album that we make. But it is always nice that people like the music that you’re writing. Sure, it’s a great feeling honestly. Same thing with playing a live show, you know someone comes up and says, oh that blew me away. It’s yeah, it’s great when you can have an emotional response with people because that’s what we do it. I listen to music, because it just ignites something within my soul, and it makes me feel such a myriad of emotions. I could put my finger on certain things, so this is happiness or sadness, this gives me, like, an aggressive feeling that pumps me up, but a lot of shit, you know, is just ineffable or like unfathomable to me. I think that’s where the real magic lies in music. Hopefully, we can kind of capture that element, the intangible with the reason because that’s certainly, I think a big part of death metal, you know whether it’s, you know, cosmic or sort of esoteric themes, there is this sort of idea in the death metal world or in classical. Certainly with death metal, it’s a lot of grand themes, and a lot of things that are ineffable in certain ways, especially when I’m just thinking of the riffs.”
A lot of death metal in particular can be dismissed as a little bit one dimensional. If you are a fan, you’ll actually appreciate the music and if you actually listen to it in depth, and you’ve got an ear for it, it is actually some of the most amazing music that you’ll ever hear. The complexity, the structures, the compositions, that creativity.
“Yeah, yeah, for sure. I couldn’t agree more,” David says. “I mean, your average person’s going to hear the vocals and they’re going to be turned off by it. But, you know, whatever. Fuck them. People can like what they like, of course. Yeah. It’s very niche because of that fact it’s abrasive; it’s not for everybody. Yeah. And I guess in a way, like, it shows who the real kind of music lovers of that style are, because it is so difficult to get into. But once you cross that threshold… I mean, I remember listening to death metal for the first time and like, hearing the vocals and it didn’t compute to my young brain. And then, especially hearing melodic death metal for the first time. Because it’s one thing to hear Cannibal Corpse, that music is super brutal and I get that the vocals sound like a horror movie monster or something like that. I could make sense of that. But then hearing bands, like In Flames for the first time and I’m like, oh my god, this is so melodic. And there’s aggressive vocals. I remember listening to it, it was so wild to me and then of course you get used to it, and you can’t hear it any other way. Once you kind of get used to it, I think you just kind of crave that intensity? But yeah, it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.”
What about current listening? Are there any younger bands, which ignite the same fire in you today?
Yeah, there’s a lot of great up and coming bands now. There’s some incredible music there. I don’t know how old the Ad Nauseam guys are, but they’re also Italian. That’s like some crazy metal there. There’s a great resurgence in that sort of new breed of old-school death metal. Creeping Death, who we’re on tour with right now. Like a killer live band, super fun dudes. Gorephilia from Finland. I don’t know how old those dudes are, but that’s really killer stuff there. It just seems to be a constant stream. And the old school dudes are still putting out records; that newest release from Voivod, that kicks ass. That’s the cool thing about metal, there’s so many different genres, you know, death metal, thrash metal, black metal, and everyone’s kind of doing their own unique thing with that.”
Revocation live need that additional guitarist to help beef up those riffs. On this tour, the band have a relatively new guitarist in Noah Young. David is full of praise.
“Yeah, he’s a great guitar player. He’s been our touring guitar player for a few tours. Now, absolutely ripper. Great dude.”
Revocation are not strangers to the UK and have toured several times. Does it hold a special place for David?
“Yeah, for sure. I mentioned at the very beginning of the interview, we just always have great shows here. I remember our first tour over here; we were with Dying Fetus. We’ve toured here enough where people know us. There are some crowds in certain sections of Europe, it was very much like we had to prove our worth and we had to win them over and yeah, you get a lot of kind people just watching you the first time you’re over there. Like, who’s this new band? But the UK, I remember that London show. We played the Underworld, and it was just like just fucking sick.”
Revocation’s most recent UK appearances were with Killswitch Engage. An unlikely pairing, you might think, but David explains that it was incredibly good. Having been on tour for a couple of months in the US, they had prepared to return home when they got the call.
“Yeah, we had the message that Killswitch wants to take you out on a tour. And by the way, all the shows are sold out. So, they didn’t even need support. Yeah, they just wanted to take us out. So we were, like, fuck, how can we turn this down, this is a legendary band. And they treated us great. They were all super cool dudes. Just little things like the fucking catering on that tour. We ate like kings every day. And the shows were awesome. Even with our name on the bill, we couldn’t have brought out any fans, so we didn’t really have many of our fans in the crowd. It was pretty much just do what you do. Yeah, just do what we do and try to convert as many people as possible. I can say confidently that we definitely brought it every night.”
And what about the choice of playing a support slot to a bigger name in bigger arenas or headlining a smaller show. Is it comparing apples with oranges?
“It’s just different, you know. I love intimate venues. It should be a real packed house in there tonight, judging on what pre-sales already are. But you know, when we played like O2 Brixton that’s just five thousand people, like sold the fuck out. It’s a legendary venue too. Faith No More did their live album there, you know, Elton John etc. But the energy is just different when you’re in this more intimate environment, you can kind of get right up in people’s faces than with the bigger shows.”
A couple of hours later, Revocation did indeed get into our faces with a blistering show, the review of which can be found in these very pages. Articulate, and fiercely intelligent, David Davidson was the ideal interviewee. You can also find a review of “Netherheaven” here.
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Paul Hutchings and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.