Revocation: Art & Music are Deathless
Since they formed back in 2000 in Boston, Massachusetts, Revocation have released five impressing records including the last one “Deathless”. Revocation’s music is not in any way predictable or common, it is in fact very diverse, intense and fascinating. It is death metal at the core but it is possible to hear classic rock and funk bass sections as well as brutal thrash and black metal influences in their albums. I met with Revocation during their latest tour with Cannibal Corpse and Aeon to find out more about their newest release, what’s behind their music and the importance of art and what it represents beyond the music.
HMA: Tell me about your new album “Deathless” Do you feel is an evolution from your past albums “Revocation” and “Chaos Forms”? There are different genres that can be heard in there, even some funk, is very diverse and very interesting
Revocation: Thanks. We’re a melting pot. I think at the core of our sound is death metal and thrash metal, but we all listen to a lot of different types of music and a lot of different types of metal. There’s going to be some progressive influence in there. There’s grindcore influence. There’s some black metal influence. We try to make it so it’s cohesive and sounds like it can still fall under the umbrella of Revocation, but at the same time we’re always constantly trying to push ourselves to expand our sound and bring different elements. As long as they work, we don’t want to try to force a square peg into a round hole and have this really mottled mishmash of influence. We try to keep it cohesive. The new record, I think, is probably the darkest record that we’ve put out to date. I think the death metal elements are more at the forefront, but there are still the thrash metal elements that we’re known for. I would say it feels more like a death metal record to me. It is very diverse and this is good. I think it’s good usually when it’s not the same sound over and over again. We don’t want to put the same record over and over again. We want to try to do something, bring something new to the table each time. Someone could listen to it and be like, “Oh, this sounds like Revocation, but it sounds like this record,” as opposed to just any record interchangeable throughout our career.
HMA: What about your lyrics? Where do you get your inspiration and who writes the lyrics?
Revocation: I wrote most of the lyrics on this new record. I write about a lot of different things. Sometimes it’s a life experience. Sometimes it’s more something being inspired by our history or even an escapism thing with some Sci-Fi, horror stuff and then people love craft bands, so I wrote a couple songs about some HP Lovecraft stories. As far as a personal song for me, the intro track is a mixture of symbolism from the Greek myth of Charon. Charon was the ferryman who would take the souls of the deceased across the River Styx to the underworld. I used to work at a hospital. Part of my job was taking patients that had died to the morgue and bringing them to the other side if you will. That song is a reflection of my own life as taking on that role of a ferryman because it’s a weird thing when you’re taking a dead body to a morgue for the first time. I remember the first call that I got. It was a bit surreal. Here is this body bag and there’s a person who was once alive in it. You know? That was looking back on that myth of Charon and putting myself in that role, and combining my real life with that stuff, that story.
HMA: What about your album artworks, how involved are you with the process? And do you use the same artist?
Revocation: The newest record was actually the first time we’ve worked with someone new. Tom Strong was the artist that did the cover art and actually, he’s a good friend of mine. He actually does all my tattoos. I’ve had a very long and close relationship with him regarding art because he’s been hammering pigment into me with a needle for years. We’re very much on the same page with that stuff and he’s also a brilliant painter. He paints for himself first and foremost when I feel like I write music for myself first and foremost, so we’ve had a very good connection when it comes to that. We basically just sat down. I told him, “Okay. Here’s my general idea in terms of here’s the vibe of the music and here’s what I’m thinking colour-scheme wise.” We looked through some of his books. Beksinksi is a Polish painter who is dead now, but he was someone that Tom really turned me onto. We looked through a bunch of those art books for some inspiration. I think the piece that he delivered is my favourite cover art today. Actually an interesting thing, there was this weird telepathic connection that we had going on where I never actually … That story I told you about the first song, about the Charon or whatever. I never told him that was going to be in a song in the record, but if you look at the album cover in the eye of the skeleton on the tombstone is a coin. That was the payment that you would put a coin either in the eye or the mouth of the deceased as a payment to Charon. I never told him I was doing that. He just put that in on his own.
HMA: Oh, creepy.
Revocation: It was weird, yeah. It was a weird thing where I was like, “Whoa! That’s so strange.” It’s like I said, we’ve had a really good relationship in terms of art and stuff like that. It was cool that we had this unspoken thing that wound up making its way into the artwork.
HMA: Do you think the artwork is very important for your fans as well? For example Cannibal Corpse or Maiden have a very distinguished artwork and you can tell it is them as soon as you see the artwork. Do you think that the artwork is really important for an album to represent the band and the music?
Revocation: I think it’s very important. Yeah. I remember growing up, speaking of Cannibal Corpse, my first introduction to the band wasn’t even their music, it was their album covers. I remember being in a music store and seeing the cover for “Butchered at Birth” and being like, “This is so fucked up.” That was my first. That was what drew me in initially was just how gory and over the top their covers were. I think in metal there’s been a really close relationship between artists and musicians. Look at Dan Seagrave; he put out so many classic album covers for Morbid Angel, “Altar of Madness”. He also did classic Suffocation album covers. All that artwork I immediately think of those album covers when I listen to the music. It’s hard for me to separate the two because it’s such a total package. I think it’s cool and I think it’s, no pun intended, but a lost art to have good album covers. It seems like sometimes bands these days, like you said, just slap anything on there or whatever. I’m always a fan of something that ties in with the music somehow or is just a cool image that fits with the vibe of the music. I think it’s important.
HMA: It seems as well that death and black metal bands put a lot more thought in their covers than other branches of rock and metal.
Revocation: Yeah. It’s more about the image of the artist and stuff like that. If it’s pop, it’s like they’re not going to have a cool hand pick of the album cover. It’s probably just going to be a picture of the singer or something. I think it has more to do with the image of the artist and pushing that. Whereas with metal, the image of the artist is important, but I think having artwork that fits with the music is more important. That’s what’s always drawn me to that. I’d rather see a really awesome album cover than just a picture of the band. The artwork is something special.
HMA: Do you paint, or do any sort of fine art?
Revocation: I have no artistic ability whatsoever. I’m good at thinking up ideas and concepts. I love art. I had a deep appreciation for it actually when I was in college; I studied different art historians and like that, like really was inspiring to me. I like a lot of artists and painters from various time periods, but I am sad to say that I have no ability whatsoever.
HMA: In terms of music, which are your biggest musical influences?
Revocation: I would say Pantera really got me into the heavier side of metal. They really opened up a door for me. Once I started going down that rabbit hole, I was finding a lot of all different bands, but Pantera was the first one for me. I’ll say that in terms of getting into weirder death metal and stuff like that, Goreguts was a big influence on mine. There’s a band called Martyr from Canada. They’re broken up, but they put out a few records and had a really, really big impact on me growing up as a kid. I’d say those three bands. Let’s throw Megan up in there too. I’m going to do four.
HMA: Are you a horror movie fan? Do you prefer supernatural or slashers and what’s your favourite horror movie?
Revocation: My favourite genre is probably Sci-fi Horror. I just love that element of aliens and stuff like that coupled with the terrifying vibe that the horror movies have. My favourite horror movie is probably like “The Thing”. I really like that one. I like the Alien series, but I also like a lot of really fucked up horror movies. There was a whole wave of French horror films that came out that were really, really brutal, “Martyrs” is one of them. It’s just so dark. It’s a horror movie, but it’s also just like a soul-crushing film and just affects you when you walk away from it. It’s not like you’re checking under your bed for a monster, but it’s just mixed, it’s psychological. It fucks with you so that one. The most brutal horror movie I’ve seen recently has been The Divide. That’s another similar “Martyrs” type of movie. It’s not French I don’t think or it’s definitely not French. I’m not sure who the director was of it because it has a little bit of that vibe in terms of it’s really, really intense. Oh yeah and “The Divide” will fuck you up.
HMA: What kind of things do you still want to accomplish as a band?
Revocation: I want to make this my career where I can come home from tour and be in a good place financially and not have to worry about getting a job, and going from job to job in between tours. I really want to be able to focus 100% on music and writing music and creating things like that. That’s my ultimate goal. I don’t need to be a millionaire off this. It’s actually probably way too lofty of a goal to think about being in this with the music. Yeah. If I could make a good honest middle class living off this, that’s all I really want anyway. It would be amazing to get to the point where I can come home from tour and not have to worry about like, “Oh, I got to get a job, so I can pay rent.” It’s like I could go home and be like, “Oh, I can write new music for the next record or work on different projects that will help me write music, whatever.” That’s my goals… Maybe I also want a Ferrari, It’s still Hollywood, right?
HMA: Today is Halloween, what’s the creepiest, scariest thing that happened to you?
Revocation: Okay, the creepiest thing that happened to me. I was in Greece on vacation and I was sharing a room with my friend. She was sleeping on the bed and I was sleeping on a pull-out mattress thing. It was a really windy night and I went to sleep. I was just getting a weird vibe off this room. Anyway, I had a dream that I was in Boston just walking around. Then this voice in the sky above me started talking to me. I don’t remember what it said, but it was very cryptic and omniscient and just not good. Then these tentacles started bursting out of the ground and wrapped me up. I was just in this crazy … It went from normal, to bad, to worse, and it was just insane. I ended up waking up. The room I was in was so windy. The window was open that it ripped the curtains off the wall. The tentacles in my dream, I was actually wrapped up in the curtains, right? I never really think much of it other than that was a really crazy dream and that was really scary. The next morning I was talking to my friend Leah. She is like, “I’ve never seen any ghosts or anything like that. I’m not tapped into that, but I’m willing to believe in it If I see it, I’ll believe it or whatever” right? She is one of those people that are very tapped into that; she has seen ghosts of dead relatives or this, or that. It’s 100% real to her.
She’s not pulling anyone’s leg, so you have to take it at face value and say, “Okay. Well, maybe you are tapped into that.” I was like, “oh, it felt like there was a ghost in here last night,” just joking around. Her eyes did what you just did where she opened up. She was like, “Whoa!” I was like, “What?” She’s like, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I’m like, “Did you see a ghost last night?” She’s like, “Yes, but I do not want to talk about it right now at all.” Of course, I wanted to talk about it so I asked her, “Was it in the bathroom? Were you going to the kitchen? Where? What was up?” but she wouldn’t tell me. I finally get it out of her. She’s like, “I saw a ghost in this room of an old creepy man and he was hovering over you talking to you in your sleep like this.” I went back to my dream where there was someone talking to me up above in the clouds. She said it was an old man in the room going like this and whispering shit to me in my sleep. She just was frozen in fear looking at it. I was like, “What’d you do?” She was like, “I didn’t do shit. I just closed my eyes and hoped it would go away.” She was not fucking with me. She was 100% serious and of course. I believe her. That’s the creepiest thing that ever happened to me
HMA: That is an incredible story, you should write lyrics about it.
Revocation: I did, actually, not on this record, but on our last record, it was the last track on the album called “The Visitation”.
HMA: Okay Dan, time is up thank you so much for the interview.
Interview by Manuela Mattera – Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved