An Interview with J.D. DeServio from Cycle Of Pain: Going Up In Smoke

Many of you know John “J.D.” DeServio as the fun-loving, bass playing badass from Zakk Wylde’s band, Black Label Society. Many of you reading this might also know J.D. just from hanging around the NJ music scene because he’s a pretty accessible guy when it comes to doing things for the area. For those of you who don’t know, when J.D. isn’t on tour with BLS, he’s either hosting a bass clinic teaching kids how to play or he’s performing with his other band, Cycle Of Pain, a project that started in the garage back when J.D. was 15 years old.

Well, after putting out a full-length self-titled debut almost 25 years later, J.D. and his Cycle Of Pain boys—which features singer/guitarist Gregg Locascio, lead guitarist Joe Taylor, keyboardist Troy Cromwell and drummer Bob Pantella, who many remember from Monster Magnet and Riotgod—are back with a brand new EP called Pain Us. The EP was actually due out this past summer, but it looks like the boys are finally ready to put this masterpiece out just in time for the holidays. I caught up with J.D. to talk about the new EP and a few other things. Here’s how it went down:

So, you’re fresh off of Gigantour. How were the crowds on that tour?

I don’t think anyone told people about the tour! (Laughs) It was kind of light. Certainly not as good as we expected. It was a great bill [Megadeth, Black Label Society, Device, Hellyeah and Newsted] and I was surprised, but it was a bit light.

Was there anyone on that tour that you were really excited to share the stage with?

Well, I was friends with everybody, so it was really cool. It was really fun to share the stage with all the guys. The guys in Hellyeah, we toured with them for a long time. Dave Ellefson from Megadeth, I’ve been friends with him for years. Device was David Draiman from Disturbed and Will Hunt, who was our drummer at one point in Black Label, and Virus, who played with Dope, so I was good friends with those guys. I actually sat in with them on one tune every night. And then there was Jason Newsted. So it was pretty cool. It was like band camp! Everyone knew each other, so it was fun.

Now that the big summer tour is over, you’re jumping right into Cycle Of Pain mode, right?

Yeah, man! I’m gonna be home for a little bit. Then we’re going to release the new Cycle Of Pain EP, Pain Us, and have a CD release show at Tammany Hall in NYC on December 20 along with a few other local shows. Then shortly after that I have to go back to Black Label and do this next record with them. So it just never ends, dude! I’ll be back at Zakk’s Black Vatican recording. It just never ends, man.

Hardest working bass player in the business right here!

I’m just trying to make a living, sir! Just trying to make a living! (Laughs)

Tell me about Pain Us. Is it a five-song EP?

It’s just a three-song EP. We’re gonna release like, three or four of them in the next year.

Where do you find the time to sit down and write the Cycle Of Pain stuff with all of the touring you’re doing?

I know, it’s been like, when I’m home, I get together with the guys, but it’s been really hectic lately. My schedule has been so crazy that I wish I had more time to give to Cycle Of Pain. I really need to. It’s just been really hard trying to juggle everything and trying to make it work. Hopefully, everything will pan out in the end.

You also did a music video that I keep hearing about. Is that song on the Pain Us EP?

Yup, it’s a song called “Come On” off of the EP. We’ve played it live before on the last couple of gigs that we’ve done. I’m psyched that people seem to dig it and everyone that I played the studio track for loved it. So we just hope we get a good response to it. That would be tremendous, man.

Now, you mentioned that you were going back into the studio with BLS. Do you have a hand in the songwriting or is it all Zakk?

It’s Zakk’s writing, but I’ve been able to co-produce and mix them on the last couple that we’ve done, so I’m sure the same thing will happen with this one and I’d love to get my hand in the writing because I love to write. I’m a musician. That’s what I love to do.

Well, do you use Cycle Of Pain as your outlet to write?

Without a doubt, but I’d love for everybody to write. I want everybody to have a voice in the band. In both bands, I’m surrounded by some of the best musicians. I just have to utilize them.

Have you ever considered having Zakk do a guest spot on a Cycle Of Pain recording?

He guested on our last record and we won a Doobie Award from High Times for the song “Do My Work High,” and actually, Zakk did play a lead on it. Actually, he did a lead on another one of my tracks—a ballad I wrote called “I See Heaven.” He actually did some playing on that too, but you know what? I’d rather just the band play, man. I know politics and shit and radio people love to hear names and it helps there, but I just want the band to play.

When you’re not on tour, you also do a lot of bass clinics. I remember you doing some at Aarius Studios in Sayreville and you’ve been doing a lot at Sam Ash.

Yeah, I do clinics through Hartke. Sam Ash owns them, so that’s like one of my companies. The new one lately is through Dean Markley. They’re my new string company, so I’ve been doing clinics for them at Guitar Centers and stuff. As much as I can do them, I want to. I want to keep working. It’s mostly Black Label fans coming out, but then people who are at the music store will pop by and just chill out once we start playing and check it out. So it’s always cool. Of course, there are a lot of kids, which is great because I stress that, for the kids, that it’s up to them now, and I try to give them an insight to what I learned.

Cycle Of Pain celebrate the release of Pain Us at Tammany Hall on Dec. 20. On Jan. 3, they bring the show to The Stone Pony with Black Water Rising, Sekond Skyn, New Theory and my band, BlackOcean. For more info on Cycle Of Pain, log onto