An Interview With : Dave Davidson (Revocation)
5th July 2016, 17:30
Posted by Tristan
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Mankind in the animal kingdom is somewhat of an anomaly. Able to create free thinking independent ideas using past experiences to build foundation for theories and owing to our opposable thumbs have led us to be technically top of the food chain. Though we might be the most evolutionary of species there are arguments that our theoretical knowledge is incredibly infantile. Taking the words of one Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, Revocation begin their venture into their first ever concept album. Irrespective of time, location or ideal we as humans have an inherent urge ranging from the morbid fascination with death in the form of public execution to the entire demise of civilisations ourselves owing to repeated mistake that are supposed to have become cognitive. Speaking to Dave Davidson of Revocation we asked the singer about just what Great Is Our Sin truly entails and the answer was far larger than we thought…

 

Today I have with me Dave Davidson of Revocation fame. You’ve got your brand new album Great Is Our Sin coming out, what made you go for that name Great Is Our Sin?

Well Great Is Our Sin is appropriated from a Charles Darwin quote it says, “If the misery of the poor is caused not by the laws of nature but by our own institutions then great is our sin. The last part of that really resonated with me, it really inspired me and I thought that this would be a great jumping off point to think about actually doing a full concept record. Around that theme of Great Is Our Sin so thats where I got the title from.

So its a concept record based around that, is that various different ways that it could be interpreted in each track?

Well I took the album title and what that meant to me as great is the sin of mankind so I looked in general and went throughout history into different events and time periods that just chart the folly of man throughout the ages. For example there’s a song on the record called “Theatre of Horror” thats about public executions in medieval times. How it was it was meant to shock people into submission but also, in a weird way, morbidly entertain people. You have the powers that be that are trying to control people but you have the sort of morbidness of man, the common people would use this as a weird form of entertainment.

No matter how you splice it its kind of a fucked up situation, then you have a song like “Copernican Heresy” which is about the clash between science and religion. Copernicus and Gallileo they were charting the solar system with this heliocentric view that the sun is the centre and the church at the time, that was going against their beliefs so they were persecuted and weren’t allowed to continue their research. So here you have religion impeding any kind of scientific progress based on a superstitious or archaic beliefs system and unfortunately that still happens today. If you look at stem cell research for example the more that you research that the more you find that its useful for finding cures for all different types of diseases allowing people to walk again that were paralyzed but you have a sect of people, a very religious sect that deem this as sinful and therefore study in that field is often blocked or under funded.

Detrimental to mankind so not only goes back in histroy but it goes all the way up to current day with a song like “Only The Spineless Survive” which is a bout specifically the corruption in politics and the greed that rampantly controls making them the puppets of lobbyist’s hold unto. 

One of the things that struck me was the artwork, the artwork is very different from anything that Revocation have done before. I was just wondering is that meant to reflect this idea of various different interpretations of Great Is Our Sin and how it relates to man kind.

I’m glad you noticed that and yes you hit the nail on the head. For me personally and probably everyone in the band, not only is this our favourite record that we have done but this is my favourite artwork that we have ever had. I think Tom Strom the artist who created it really knocked it out of the park with this one. Tom is a close friend of mine and he actually does all of my tattoos but he is a brilliant painter as well.

When I came to him with this concept, I said hey you know I’m writing the first ever conept record, how do you feel about doing the album artwork again? He did the album artwork for Deathless as well and he was totally on board with that. So I said this time, rather than doing one traditional album cover how would you feel about doing a three panel, fold out piece of artwork. So its essentially three different album covers. Not necessarily as though you were looking at it from left to right but have a lot of different themes, concepts from the album incorporated into the album artwork as a whole.

He was all about that so I essentially gave him the title, the overarching theme and sent him the lyrics and song titles and what he did with it I think a fantastic, artistic interpretation of not only the album title itself but also the individual songs. Speaking specifically on one part of the artwork there was actually a moment that he and I shared together when I was in the Netherlands visiting him, he was living there for a while and tattooing me when we were on tour with Cannibal Corpse and he was just sort of showing me around town before I went in for my tattoo session and there was this church.

It looked kind of like a kiddie pool / kettle and I was like “Oh what is that right there?” and he was like “Thats a pot they used to boil people alive in right in this town square…” So right off the bat, this was on the Deathless album cycle but I was already thinking about potential lyrical content for the next record. I thought public execution is such a morbid and macabre interesting subject and I think it gets at somebody different parts of the human psyche as I was saying. You have the powers that be trying to control people but then you have this weird morbid fascination of actually going to see this happen. The cover artwork, there is this giant maggot, rat infested skull and below there is this corpse which is boiling alive in this pot where his jaw kind of extends out.

Its interesting how an experience in real life that not only tragically, historically happened but we got to experience hundreds of year later seeing that this relic not only made it into a song but manifests itself in the artwork as well. I feel like its more of an artistic statement not just the music. The artwork really ties into it, really complete statement from the band.

Yeah, yeah, everything that you were talking about, this omnipresent ties in from way back into the 16th century to 2016 when you have written album about it. What was it like once you got the idea to decide to do a concept album was it difficult? Was it quite easy?

It was a little bit of both actually, its difficult in the sense where you have to really kind of focus your ideas and plan things out but at the same time it was easy because once I had the concept in mind I was like well how can I apply this to all these different things that are not only happening today but looking back at all history to draw from. So it was a really really fun challenge.

More on a kind of technical side of things now, what was it like actually writing the album and recording it?

It was very similar to our usual process. I think we just kind of hone our skills more and more with each release. We wrote it over about the course of a year and a half lets say? We’re the type of band, well I like to strike while the iron’s hot so if I’m feeling that creative spark I will record an idea right away. The record could be done and then the very next day I might write a brand new riff and say Ok this could go on the following record.

I’m always trying to tap into a creative element, at the same time I might not write anything for a month straight because nothing was really hitting me at the time. It all sort of depends on where I am at creatively. It developed slowly over a year and a half and once again we recorded with Zeuss. This will be the third time that we have worked with him, so we definitely know what to expect with him and we were definitely pleased with how the whole process went.

I think “Copernican Heresy” is probably the fastest track I have ever heard!

Oh thank you! Actually “Communion” is actually the fastest song that we have ever recorded ever but “Copernican” is still quite a fast track!

Oh really! “Communion” is the fastest one?

Yeah I think “Communion” clocks in at about 240 bpm and I think “Copernican Heresy” is like 225 or something like that.

Oh so its a close finish haha! What about getting Ash Pearson into the band, what was that like? Was it an easy process after having Phil in there for such a long time?

Yeah it was pretty easy. Ash had filled in for us for the European tour that we did with Cannibal Corpse on the Deathless cycle. We had gotten a chance to get to know him and check out his playing style. I mean he really really just floored us with how skilled he was behind the kit. When we actually started writing with him, its one thing to sort of play someone elses songs but what do you bring to the table creatively, we were also just really floored of just how good of a fit he was creatively with the band.

I could say like I have this idea in my head and I’m picturing this beat and then within two seconds we’re already off to the races and jamming on it in the practice space. He was really really fun to work with and not only is he really solid drummer. He plays with aggression and he’s very technical and very fast but he’s also quite diverse. Frank Zappa is one of his favourite musicians so he listens to a lot of weird quirky avant garde Prog and stuff that like that. A lot of the drumming on those records is just really off the wall and intense in a different way from Metal so he can bring some of those elements in and that style that really takes our sound to a different level.

Definitely. Do you mean the likes of King Crimson and things like that?

Yeah, he’s really big into Rush and you know I think you can hear it on different tracks. There’s a kind of softer more subtle section on “Profanum Vulgus”. Its this really heavy song and then you go into this more moody kind of atmospheric lighter part and he is playing this like pretty shuffle kind of drum beat that is really light and has a lot of ghost notes in the background. You would think that a fusion drummer was playing it. I’ll say it, not only is he a Metal drummer but he can play all that stuff. Its not like listening to a Metal drummer attempt to play this and think of its cute he’s trying, he really sounds just as confident as any other drummer that I have heard playing that type of beat. I really have to tip my hat to Ash and his abilities.

Speaking of abilities, you got Marty Friedman in for a guest solo. I think you guys had a relationship before this but “Sociopaths” I know you guys did a kind of trade off sort of thing.

Yeah, I ended up writing the lyrics and most of the music to the song “Sociopaths” and Marty came in and helped arrange it and added all these great solos and melodies and stuff like that so I had such a good time collaborating with him on that song on his record that I thought that it would be great to have him on our record. It was pretty simple, I just reached out to him via email and said “Hey man, I would love to have you on the new record.Here’s the track.” Within a day he hit me back and was like “Yeah let’s do it man!”. It was really great to have him on there.

What about later on in the year, what are your plans once the album has actually been released?

We’re going to be going out on the Summer Slaughter tour which is going to happen in the US with a bunch of classic bands. Really brutal line up this year, Cannibal Corpse is on it, Nile, Suffocation and Krisiun theres so many great bands on the tour. Then hopefully, we’re still waiting on a few details so I can’t spill the beans just yet but we’re hopefully going to be doing a European tour in October / November and then something back in the states after that. Maybe take the winter off or maybe try and tour someplace a little warmer, we’ll fly south for the winter kind of thing haha!

Are you guys going to attempt to do a headline tour? The last couple of times I’ve seen you, I saw you with The Black Dahlia Murder and Cannibal Corpse at the European Deathless cycle. Are you going to try and get a litte more of a headline footing or is it going to be more support?

I think that the thing that we are planning in the fall is going to be a direct support sort of thing. So a little longer set, I think that my ultimate goal. Whoever is listening to this if you book any kind of festivals. We’re trying to get on European festivals this summer. We have never done them and we are really interested to get over there and perform at those legendary festivals. It would be great to do something like that and coming off the heels of that would be cool to do a headline tour after that to sort of really ensure that we have reached a really large audience and then we can go and see how a headline tour would do.

Reaction wise, is it not as big in the UK as you are in the UK? Every person I show the band to love you guys!

Its interesting I feel that in the UK I think that we are pretty popular. Its hard for me to say without sounding like I’m bragging. Its hard to say because we have toured with so many great bands that have great followings already so we able to play in front of a bigger fan base. When we played with Cannibal Corpse, we played like Halloween night or something and it was in London. I forget the club.

It was The Forum!

Yeah, yeah it was like 1,600 people just massive, massive crowd so it was great to do that and I think that we were also on the cover of London Metal Monthly which is a publication there. It seems like the UK is definitely embracing us which is really great. Anytime you go over to Europe I feel like that we build more and more each time. Its great that people are really embracing us across the pond.

You sort of play a bit of an all rounder, you do lyrics, vocals and guitar. Is that not insanely difficult!

Haha, its a lot of work for sure. I love to do it, its a labour of love but its definitely a lot. I’m passionate about the music that I write so I don’t mind being the captain of the ship so to speak. Its just sort of a drive that I have in me to create and I feel really strongly about the artist works that we create. I want them to be as close to my vision as possible.

Do you ever find that one might be lacking more than the other at times or it fluctuates?

In terms of…

If you were so focused on writing lyrics that maybe your guitar work wasn’t up to scratch in your point of view.

Right, yeah well I definitely spend more time playing guitar than anything else so I’m going to give it to guitar first and foremost and while the lyrics writing can be time consuming over the course of a year its just really kind of blip on the radar. Lyrics are one of the things that I kind of save until about two months before the record is going to be recorded. Its not like I’m writing lyrics for an entire year, where I’m spending multiple hours a day.

For me I’ll usually do it in like two chunks, so I will get a bit creative burst and I will start writing a song and then maybe get half way in and then feel myself start to fizzle out. Then rather than trying to continue and squeeze blood from a stone I just take a step back and regroup. Then a week later I will approach that same song and something will inspire me and will be able to finish it off or just about finish it off. One or two lines for later, in the studio thinking about things or changing things around. So its not like I’m pouring hundreds of hours into these lyrics or that I am writing different drafts of these songs. Picking a concept that I don’t think is going to work but I’m going to try it anyway. Me I have my idea and I just go for it and try and make it work.

What attracted you to the seven string then? You guys were using it long before all Djent guys came along.

I think we were just inspired by differernt bands. We all really loved Meshuggah growing up and they were real sort of purveyors of extended range guitars, seven strings, then they started playing eight strings… It was just like a compositional tool really. Ok we have six strings and we can write things if we switch over to seven then thats just one more string possibility. I think we use them in a pretty creative way, there are certain songs where we are playing on seven string guitars but the seven string riffs might not come in until the very last riff.

It creates this very climactic point or it might be a kind of bridge section where we will go low and then go back up to higher riff. Its not like we are overly using the seven’s I want to use the seven string as a compositional tool rather than a crutch where you’re only going to be playing on the open string all the time. At that point it becomes this race to get lower and lower without any real substance behind the tuning. I think that guitar manufacturing has also change in a lot of ways. Eight years even there are so many boutique luthiers now and small kind of Mom Pop makers that are sourcing these cool woods and are doing all these cool things with the instruments like fanned frets or true tempereament frets. There’s such a craft to it now its not just this mass produced thing.

To finish up what has been an album that you have beene listening to over the last six months to a year?

Oh man its hard to say. It came out not too long ago the new Wormed record is really cool!

Ah yes Krighsu.

Yeah that’s really cool, there’s this record that came out by the band called Aktor which is AK TOR called Paranoia that I really liked. Its more like traditiona Heavy Metal like Rock ‘n’ Roll with keyboard. Parts of it reminds me of Judas Priest meets Thin Lizzy but its done in this really cool way. I’m a little bit finnicky about certain bands that are doing certain throwback sounds but this band really hits the nail on the head. Aktor, that record is great. More of the jazz side of things I really enjoyed the new Liberty Elman record Radiate. I think thats an awesome album to check out if you’re into other types of music other than Metal, that came out in 2015.

Excellent. Well thank you ever so much for speaking with The Metalist today!

My pleasure!

Revocation’s forthcoming record Great Is Our Sin is set for a July 22nd release via Metal Blade.