Interview with Revocation: Slow Build

Revocation first appeared on the heavy metal radar at large in 2009 on the strength of their Relapse Records debut, Existence Is Futile. First branded as followers of the short-lived “thrash revival” movement, Revocation, however, was imbued with staying power that lacked in their contemporaries.

The Boston-based quartet plays a technically demanding, break-neck take on thrash in the vein of early Megadeth and Testament but with a significantly darker, death metal bite. Their newest full-length is self-titled and expands upon their uniquely melodic, lead guitar hook-laden heavy metal battery.

Revocation drummer Phil Dubois was about to practice with the new and improved band (augmented by former East Of The Wall bassist Brett Bamberger) when he took a call from The Aquarian to talk about waiting months for the record release, first jamming with guitarist/vocalist David Davidson, welcoming Brett into the fold and having perspective on the band’s career.

For how long have you guys been sitting on this record?

Not too long, man. The record’s been done for three or four months. There are other ones we’ve sat on for longer. This one, all in all, from the whole recording process to the time we are releasing it hasn’t been as much as previous records.

When did you actually finish Revocation?

Ah, shit, [to guitarist Dan Gargiulo] when did we finish the record? We finished it in February, roughly.

Summer Slaughter starts in a week and a half, but we’re leaving for tour on Saturday. We’re doing some headlining dates out [west] and then we start [Summer Slaughter] on the West Coast. I’m very pumped for that. It’s going to be awesome.

So you’re rehearsing now?

Yeah, the boys are in town now. So we’re jamming now, getting tight and it should sound good. We’re really pumped to play the new material for people.

I can’t wait to see some of the new stuff live. Is it you who lives on Long Island?

No, Dan lives in Long Island.

So how did you all hook up in Boston?

Well, Dave [Davidson, guitarist] and I grew up in Boston. We met in high school when we were really young. I think we were 13 or 14 when we met. We were just buddies, you know.

Dave was a guitar player. He was already a ripping player at that point. I had been playing drums for about a week and he suggested we start jamming. And that was that. Dave and I have been playing together for 15-something years.

We hooked up with Dan from a friend of a friend. We were looking for a second guitar player. I was a fan of his old band Cyanide Breed. I knew he was a great player, so when we decided to fill the role, he was the first person we asked. He definitely adds a lot to our sound.

Do you remember the first song Dave and you jammed?

Yeah. The first three songs we ever played were “Am I Evil,” the Metallica version of course, “Enter Sandman” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Even those songs we couldn’t play because we were so shitty at our instruments (laughs). Those were the funny first few practices.

Was Revocation the first band you were in?

Yeah, though we weren’t called Revocation at the time. I started jamming with Dave about a week after starting to play drums, so I was terrible! Dave has always been a part of my musical development. It’s been a long time.

Have you always jammed on thrash and metal tunes?

For the most part. We’ll occasionally bust out some funk or something like that. A huge influence in our formative years was just playing Pantera songs. We would play every single Pantera song that we could. We’d learn them all by ear. There was a period of time where we played more Pantera songs than our own. That’s how we learned how to write songs.

We played other stuff too, but the other music we were into was more difficult to play stuff that we couldn’t really pull off. Pantera was that perfect level, where they were accessible but still pushed our musicianship and made us really practice. It’s mainly always been thrash or death metal stuff.

When you’re practicing on your own, do you work on Revocation songs?

Kind of. Generally when I practice, I’m not running songs. I’ll practice my chops, or new techniques or rudiments. I’ll practice moving them around the drum set. Usually I wait until we’re all jamming or I’m just jamming with Dave to run songs. I find that my own time is better spent working on the flaws in my technique, rather than running the same things that I already know how to play.

As Dave’s old guitar teacher said, you shouldn’t sound good while you’re practicing. If you sound good, you’re playing something you’re comfortable with and you’re not pushing yourself.

I probably practice more now than any point in my career as a drummer. There are times when I’m dragging and don’t really feel like hitting the kit. I spend a lot of time trying to take my playing to the next level. At this point, I’m very motivated as a player.

When did you meet Brett, and how did you decide to bring him in as the new bass player?

We met Brett on the Metal Is Art tour in early 2010. I think it was the first tour we did after being signed to Relapse. Hypno5e played, we were support and The Binary Code opened. Brett was filling in on bass for The Binary Code.

That tour was so fucking bad! It was the most poorly attended, shitty tour ever. We didn’t have any fans at that point. That was just when Existence Is Futile came out, so no one knew who we were. It was such a crappy tour on paper. But we met Brett and some of the other guys on that tour and they were the most fun dudes ever.

As horrible as that was, it was one of the most memorable tours because we had such a good time. We kept in contact with him over the years. Every time we were in Jersey, he’d put us up. Brett’s old band, East Of The Wall, would come up here and we’d put them up. We just had a good rapport with him.

When Anthony [Buda, bassist] told us he’d be leaving the band last spring—spring of 2012—Brett was the first guy we called. Within five minutes, we were like, “Brett, no questions asked.” On top of being the man, he’s a monster bass player. And he’s a great songwriter, so it was a no-brainer for us. We were very lucky that he accepted. We were stoked to have him.

How were those first jam sessions with Brett? I’ve talked to him a lot since he joined Revocation. He said he had a lot of work to adapt his style and change his tone.

They went fine. Like you said, Brett was used to a more washy, open tone. East Of The Wall is really progressive and out there. They weren’t playing a lot of tight, choppy thrash riffs like we do. He definitely had to modify his tone a little bit to be punchier. At first he may not have been used to some of the faster picking stuff we do. He adapted really well, it was never much of a challenge for him to adapt to our songs.

If anything, a lot of what we do is a lot easier than what he was used to. The transition was pretty smooth.

As the release date gets closer, are you getting anxious about how the record is going to do?

No, I’m really confident in this record. I think we all are. There’s going to be an inevitable degree of internet shit-talking. I’m too old to let that bother me anymore. You’re never going to put out a record that everyone loves. It’s a great record. If people aren’t into it, that’s fine.

At this point in your career, do you feel pressure from anything?

I think we feel pressure to turn this into a lucrative career. We all have day jobs still. We’re not really making a lot of money from this yet. So there’s pressure on that end, but I don’t even really view that as pressure. I don’t think we could really be doing any more than we already are to further our career, short of not playing metal! (Laughs)

Relapse has always backed what we do. They’ve never micromanaged us. We’re getting really good tours, we’re putting out good albums that are critically acclaimed. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’re pretty confident it’s going to work out.

From my outsider perspective, it seems like you’re getting bigger every time you do something new.

For sure, and it’s noticeable. That first tour we did where we met Brett, there were shows where we played to literally five people—there was one show where we played to one guy! (Laughs) We couldn’t have even dreamed of doing a headliner then, but now we can. Every release, every tour we do, there are more and more fans coming out. It’s a slow grind for us. We’re not one of those bands that’s just going to suddenly catch some wave and gain instantaneous popularity. For a band like us, it’s a slow grind to the top. We just need to keep our foot on the gas.

It’s nice for bands who can gain instant fame. But at the same time, that can bring fans that are more fickle. If you’re going to gain popularity that quickly, it can be taken away that quickly. The way we’re building, we’re making solid, lifelong fans. These are people who come out to see us every time we’re around.

Revocation will play The Trocadero in Philly on Aug. 4 and the Best Buy Theater in NYC on Aug. 7 as part of the Summer Slaughter tour. For more information, go to