“We were like 14 years old, 15 years old in high school, just loving music and playing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Metallica, old Scorpions, and shit like that. It’s really amazing that I actually did get it from the basement to stage. It’s pretty insane,” Gratefully proclaims John DeServio, a.k.a. J.D., when referring to his four-piece, Cycle Of Pain. The native New Jersey bassist also resides in Zakk Wylde’s brutalizing brew, Black Label Society. Appropriately enough, J.D. spoke the Aquarian Weekly on March 19, the 27th anniversary of Wylde’s teacher, Randy Rhoads’, passing.
J.D. was more than amped about the release of Cycle Of Pain’s debut self-titled record on April 21 via Reform Records. The group, completed by guitarist Joe Taylor, vocalist Gregg Locascio and latest addition Rich Monica [ex-Tantric] on drums, taps into the same artery that circulates the whisky soaked riffage and bluesy vibrato as BLS on “Dead Man Walking,” but this group that technically formed decades ago, offers many expansive soundscapes. “Down Witcha Pain” toys in same the experimental domain that Soundgarden created on Superunknown and Gregg replicates vantage Chris Cornell crooning, well more closing than Chris Cornell himself these days. There are a few moments of old school thrashing mayhem interlaced with full-bodied and sexy very organic rock hooks.
Cycle Of Pain will deliver their own brand of punishment on tour with Black Label Society, Dope and Sevedust.
Have you all just stayed connected over the years?
Yeah, we were a band since we were 15 years old, we have been friends and just jammed together ever since. Off and on in different situations, and a few years back, me, Joe and Gregg actually went out as a three-piece. We did a few gigs as C.O.P and that was in ’03. Then I got a record deal last year and I played the people all the music that I had recorded over the years, it was a lot of my old stuff, jazz music, a bunch of rap stuff, a bunch of rock and some stuff I had recorded with Joe and Gregg. They [record label] said I could do whatever I wanted, and I said, ‘Well, I’d love to do a rock album and use my guys that I grew up with.’ That’s kind of how it happened, which is pretty insane. I was like, ‘Yeah, put the band back together bro!’ I am 40 years old and starting a band up. That’s pretty funny, actually.
Yeah, but you’re obviously exuberant yet have all that experience backing you up.
I am way seasoned. [laughing] They left me on the grill a little too long. No, it’s all good. I can’t wait till we actually play the first show and we look out into the crowd and it’s like a sold-out house and my band will be playing at the show. It’s really amazing man, it really, really is.
You’ll be doing double duty on your Maiden tour, do you feel a little overwhelmed or are you looking forward to it?
I will be the double duty. I learned from the best, Zakk does double in Black Label and Ozzy (Osbourne, OZZfest). I am looking so forward to it. We only get to play for like a half-hour to 25 minutes because there are four bands on the bill. That’s going to go by so quick. I am not even going to have time to get tired.
How did the writing workout, did you do it while touring with BLS or on your downtime?
Actually, I did both. This record is 13 songs and I happened to write nine of them myself and four of them with Gregg and Joe. Some of them came when I was on the tour bus, sitting in the back lounge just coming up with ideas and then, here they are on the record. There are a couple of songs that I had written back in like ’99 and some that me, Joe and Gregg had written in ’03. We wrote a couple last year so it was a compilation of all that kind of stuff through the years recording the riffs, and that leading us to a recording a record.
‘Do My Work’ is going to surprise a lot of people. Is that what you were aiming for?
Definitely, my drummer, Gregg wrote that song. He is our singer, he was our drummer when we were 15, and I keep calling him my drummer. He wrote that song I think in ’03 and he wrote it on a four-track. He played it for me, and I was like, ‘Dude, you sound like B Real from Cypress Hill.’ I was dying laughing, and I said, ‘Dude, I am going to get Cypress Hill on this one day.’ Years later, we record the song for real and then I get Sen Dog from Cypress Hill to do a rap in the middle of it. That’s definitely going to confuse some people. It’s a one-off thing, it’s funky, rap and hip-hop, but we love all kinds of music in this band. That’s what is really, really important about this band. It’s very diverse, we are not just going to stay in one box, we want to try to expand our audiences, we love so much different music and we just want to play as much of it as we can.
He really does sound like B Real.
You know what’s funny, is that Sen Dog did the rap in the middle and Zakk did the solo on the end of the tune, and the whole time that we were in the studio Zakk thought that was B Real singing. Zakk said, ‘The dude from Cypress is singing.’ I am like, ‘Dude, that’s my singer.’ But we had such a good time when Zakk came in and recorded the lead on a tune for me. I was in L.A. at my buddy’s studio and Sen came in and knocked that rap out. It was really a lot of fun, it was really cool.
There is something really metal about Sen Dog, I saw him at a benefit concert that Tom Morello spearheaded and he has a real metal presence about him.
Sen Dog is real metal. He has a metal band called FX1O and he was recording a record and that’s how I actually got to meet him. Sen’s band was across the hall from Black Label when we did Shot To Hell at American Studios in L.A. I was just next door parting it up with the dudes over there, and he was like, ‘Yeah, Slash is supposed to come in and do a solo for us.’ I was like, ‘Zakk is just across the hall, why don’t you get him?’ Zakk’s the greatest, he’ll play on anything. He just wants to play.
So I got Zakk to play on Sen Dog’s stuff, and they were all like, ‘Dude, you’re the greatest.’ I am like, ‘What do you mean? I’m the greatest? What did I do?’ So when the time came, I was like, ‘Dude, what about doing a track on my record?’ He was totally down with it man.
You actually have a lot of guests on there, did it all come together just as fluidly for you?
Yeah, most of them are my friends that I chose. The record label had a couple of people come in. Zakk is my bro and Sen Dog. Ray Luzier from Korn plays drums on a track. Clip Payne from P-Funk sings back-up on the same track that Ray plays on. Brian Tichy, a great drummer, played with Billy Idol and Ozzy and all these bands, he is on a track and played guitar as well on a track. Burton from Fear Factory, he did some screaming on a song. Symphony X singer Russell Allen did some back-ups and Hugo [Ferreira] from Tantric and the violin player [Marcus Ratzenboeck] from Tantric, they are also on the record. It’s pretty insane.
That’s a real accomplishment, especially on your first record.
Yeah, the record label really didn’t want to break a new band per say, so they wanted to try to get a bunch of guests on there to entice whoever. It just carries more weight.
Yeah, like for instance a few years ago a record label made sure that every new record had a huge ’80s cover song on it.
Exactly, I was like, ‘Whatever man, you take the music and just fucking roll with it.’ It’s a bullshit business that I deal with, but I am what I am. I am so blessed and fortunate.
You’re also doing bass clinics as well while on this tour. How do you keep up with the pace?
I take Viagra! [laughing] Listen to this shit, with Black Label, we do meet-and-greets in the daytime the day of show. So there are going to be days where I am going to be doing a bass clinic, a Black Label meet-and-greet, a Cycle Of Pain show and a Black Label show all in one day. I am the new hardest working man in show business, James Brown ain’t got nothing on me. I am like, ‘Oh shit, how am I going to get through this one?’ That’s when alcohol comes in handy. Let’s see if I can do it. When all this shit is over, then I can sit back for like a minute in my house and say, ‘I fucking did it!’
You’re looking forward to that cycle of rest.
Exactly, I need that cycle of rest, because I have been on a never-ending Cycle Of Pain! No, in all honesty, this is an amazing opportunity. I mean, our first tour is opening up for Black Label, that’s insane. Sevendust is on the bill, and Dope. That’s like the big time. Black Label has been around for like 10 years and Sevendust and Dope have been around for a long time and for my band to get that opportunity is pretty cool.
You must feel like you have already made it. It must feel pretty surreal for you.
It is pretty surreal. We have to get some spins on the radio and then, it’s really going to be surreal. I’ll be like, ‘It really is happening.’ Once we play our first show—I don’t know what I am going to do. I am going to like stab myself to make sure that I am really awake. It’s really, really cool.
‘Down Withca Pain’ is a great song on the record.
‘Down Withca Pain,’ thank you very much! I wrote that one in 1999. That’s the first one I got together with Gregg, my singer, on. I didn’t realize how great Gregg sang. I was in cover bands for years in the ‘90s and Gregg would come up and sing like Alice In Chains with us and Pearl Jam and all this other shit. He blew me away singing ‘Man In The Box,’ and I can’t believe how well he is singing now! I brought him over the house and he sounded like Chris Cornell-meets-Ozzy-meets-Bon Scott. I said, ‘I got to get this dude on a record,’ and here we are man. A few years later, but it happened. The record is being released April 21 and that’s the same day we start opening up for the Black Label bash. It couldn’t have worked out any better, the record comes out, and we are on tour.
Seems like there is some divine intervention happening for you.
I definitely got God rolling all through me. I am just so thankful and blessed. I just hope that the people dig it man, and maybe we could make a little career out of this. That would be really cool.