Interview: Catching Up with Revocation Guitarist David Davidson
On Revocation’s recent Boston tour stop (and hometown show), I had a lot of fun hanging out with the band's wailing singer, founder and all-around badass guitarist, David Davidson, and the band's monster drummer, Phil Dubois Coyne.
I caught up with David recently to talk about Revocation’s new CD, Chaos Of Forms, his influences, gear, practice regimen, and his thoughts on music piracy, among other things.
How did it feel when Metal Sucks named you the No. 1 Modern Metal guitarist?
It was a tremendous honor to be named the No. 1 Modern Metal guitarist; it totally took me by surprise! They didn't let anyone outside the MetalSucks camp know about their picks, so when it was announced, I was kind of in disbelief. I thought my band was just pulling a joke on me when they told me, but I saw the website and it was legit.
What kind of things do you do to keep your chops up? Do you still practice regularly?
I don't practice as much as I should. When I pick up the guitar I usually tend to just focus on writing, which is obviously not the same as practice. When I do work on technique stuff, I try to focus on one aspect of it, like picking or legato and just come up with little simple exercises to work the kinks out. If I'm doing picking, I'll come up with some sort of chromatic or diminished line and gradually work it up to shred speed. If I'm doing legato, I'll take a Lydian scale or something and descend down it or up it at various tempos till it sounds smooth.
You guys really gel well as a unit, both on the record and live. How did the band form? How do you guys approach songwriting; and what is the band's process when you are about to gear up for a tour or studio work?
Myself, Anthony and Phil started playing together when we were in the eighth grade. We've been jamming together ever since, so we have a long history together and I think that shows in our performances. We brought Dan into the fold a year ago and he's been a great addition as well. With songwriting, I write the riffs and then we all jam on them in the practice space. I have an idea of the structure when I'm writing at home but we really work it out when we're all jamming together. When we gear up for tour we just run the set a bunch of times, it’s pretty simple. When we're planning on entering the studio it's a little more labor intensive because we have to map out all the tempos and make sure everything feels right.
Phil is a beast on the drums. What does he bring to the group that is special or unique?
Phil hits hard as hell, he's also a really creative and proficient drummer. All three of these elements combined make up the driving force that propels the rhythm section.
I saw you guys perform on this recent tour you did with Holy Grail when you came through Boston. Great stuff. Could you talk about the tour? Also if I'm not mistaken, this was a hometown show for you, right? What was that like?
It was a hometown show, but we weren't on the tour with Holy Grail. That show was just a one-off because it was our CD-release party. The show was a total blast; we love playing in Boston because all of our friends come out and rage with us!
What is your live rig like right now? How does it differ from how you approach your gear in the studio?
Right now, I'm running an EVH 5150 3 head through an EVH cab. I just got it in the mail the other day and it sounds HUGE! I play Jackson guitars. The Warrior is my favorite model and I was fortunate enough to have them build me a custom one so I've been shredding that nightly. I don't really use much effects, but I have a Boss Delay pedal that I run in my effects loop, and I just started using a Crybaby wah for certain new songs. We've used different gear in the studio on every record, so that's always changing depending on the sound we're looking for, but I've always played my Warrior in the studio.
What advice do you have for young bands out there who want to get where you guys are? Any advice on managers, agents, labels or publicists and the like?
If you want to be in a heavy metal band and get signed, the best thing you can do is record a really good-sounding demo and get on the road as much as possible. If you can hire a booking agent, that's great, but we did it all by ourselves at first. You need to generate a buzz around your band on a national level. You could be the hottest band in your state but if no one's heard of you anywhere else than it doesn't matter. Labels want to see that a band is willing to tour and having a good sounding recording will seal the deal. Obviously you can't suck, but that goes without saying (laughs).
What has your story been? How did you start out in music and what has been the journey of your career?
I started out playing guitar in the fifth grade. I saw an Aerosmith music video, and when I saw Joe Perry solo I knew that I wanted to play guitar. I started off taking lessons and then taught myself for a while. I went to an arts high school where I learned about jazz for the first time. I played in the big band and a couple of other jazz combos. After I graduated I went on to college at Berklee.
I got to study with so many diverse and incredible guitarists there and I had a great learning experience. My high school also asked me back to teach so I was part of the faculty there while I attended Berklee. I graduated and got my bachelor's degree and I have been teaching private lessons ever since. Through my whole high school and college career I was always doing stuff with my band so that drove me to want to learn as well because I could apply it to the music that I was writing at the time.
What are your thoughts on music piracy?
Good and bad. Obviously you want people to hear your music, even if they can't afford it. I still want people to check it out either way. The reality is CD sales are getting lower and lower and labels aren't seeing as much of a return. As artists we don't make anything off of CD sales to begin with but it can affect us a couple of different ways. For instance if we sell a certain number of CDs per album cycle we get a bigger advance for the next record, so while we're not making money off of the CD sales directly the more we sell the more money our label will give us in the future. It also affects touring because a lot of booking agents want to know what your Soundscan numbers are and if you have a higher number of scans chances are you'll be able to get on better tours and get a better guarantee.
I've seen people on the Internet compare you to the great Jeff Waters from Annihilator. Was Annihilator an influence on you personally? When you guys played in Boston, I had a long talk with Phil (Revocation’s Drummer) about the Annihilator CDs with Mike Mangini on them; that’s why I ask.
Yes, I love Jeff Waters playing. His riffs are deadly and his solos are phenomenal. I like how there's a certain whimsical humor to his playing, his style is very fun to listen to.
Your solo on "Dismantle The Dictator" is awesome. What inspired you on that one? I hear elements of jazz, thrash and all kinds of different stuff on there. How many takes did you do that one in? Also was a song like that very hard to write or did it all just kind of come to you?
Thanks! Yeah, that solo is very fusion inspired. There's some chromatic jazz lines in there as well as some shreddy stuff. I don't remember how many takes it took off hand. I do remember that writing that song took a little while because there are so many different grooves in it ranging from techy to thrashy to funky. It really runs the gamut of a lot of genres in just under four minutes.
How has the new CD been received by fans? Is this your favorite Revocation record yet? Why should people buy it? What lies ahead for you guys?
So far the new CD has been very well received. We all feel that it's our best work to date. People should buy it if they dig us and want to show their support. As far as the future is concerned, we can't wait to get out on tour and play these new songs live.
You guys shot a new music video recently right? How did that go? When does it come out?
We just did a video for "No Funeral" with David Brodsky. We feel it went well, it's in Dave's hands now so he's gonna edit it and send it back to us so we're pretty stocked to check it out. I think it'll be out right before we leave for the tour in October.
Ok I'm going to put you on the spot, who are your Top 10 all time favorite guitarists and why?
I can't put a ranking number system on it but here's ten guitarists I really love in no particular order: Slash, Joe Perry, Pat Martino, Dan Mongrain, Jeff Waters, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, Fredrik Thordendal, Luc Lemay and Trey Azagthoth.
Are there any all time favorite guitar solos you have been particularly inspired by? What do you like about them?
Pat Martino's solo on "Just Friend's," Fredrik's solo on "New Millennium Cyanide Christ" and Dan Mongrain's solo on "Carpe Diem" are all particularly inspiring, to name a few.
What is on your iPod David that you really enjoy that your fans might be surprised by? Any guilty pleasures?
I love David Lee Roth's solo project stuff. "Just a Gigolo" is always cranking in the van (laughs). I really dig Michael Jackson’s stuff too; I think Thriller and Bad are like the pinnacle of pop music. I just don't think it can get any better than that pop wise.
Thanks a lot bro, keep up the awesome work! Anything else you want to let the GuitarWorld.com readers know about?
Check out the new record and come see us on tour with Chimaira in October! And thanks for the interview, Dave!
For more about Revocation, stayed tuned for the December 2011 issue of Guitar World! And be sure to visit Revocation on Facebook.
Dave Reffett is a Berklee College of Music graduate and has worked with some of the best players in rock and metal. He is an instructor at (and the head of) the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal department at The Real School of Music in the metro Boston area. He also is a master clinician and a highly-in-demand private guitar teacher. He teaches lessons in person and worldwide via Skype. As an artist and performer, he is working on some soon-to-be revealed high-profile projects with A-list players in rock and metal. In 2009, he formed the musical project Shredding The Envelope and released the critically acclaimed album The Call Of The Flames. Dave also is an artist endorsee for companies like Seymour Duncan, Gibson, Eminence and Esoterik Guitars, which in 2011 released a Dave Reffett signature model guitar, the DR-1. Dave has worked in the past at Sanctuary Records and Virgin Records, where he promoted acts like The Rolling Stones, Janet Jackson, Korn and Meat Loaf.