Their new album “Revocation” is pretty much on constant play for me just now, and offers a remarkably intense musical journey. So it was a delight to interview backstage for Mudkiss David Davidson (lead vocals, guitar) and Dan Gargiulo (vocals, guitar) from the band, before they took to the stage for their gig at the Cathouse venue in Glasgow (the gig is also reviewed in Mudkiss).GARETH: How did it feel cracking the Billboard top 200 for the first time with the new album?
DAVID: It felt great. We have been on the Billboard Heat Seekers before, which is when you don’t sell enough records to get on the top 200 but your still going up. So actually breaking in for the first time, that’s something I have always wanted to do. It’s always a goal in your mind. The fact we did and did so well. I think the newest record in the first week outsold over double what the last one did in its first week.
It was just awesome in a time when everyone is downloading. To get your fans that are really supportive going out there and buying the record and really showing their support in that way. It was a great validation for us.
GARETH: How has the UK leg of the European Tour been so far? You have been in London and Manchester.
DAN: It’s been awesome. The shows have been good. Yesterday in Manchester it was an early show so we played to a slightly smaller crowd, but the day before in London was pretty sick, it was pretty packed out. But even though the crowd was a little smaller they raged even harder, so it felt even better.
GARETH: You will get that in the Cathouse, they are great for reacting.
DAN: Yeah we played here last year with Dying Fetus, and it was a riot.
GARETH: The artwork for the new album is stunning. What was your reaction when you first got sight of it? How did you link up with Orion Landau?DAVID: It was definitely a surprise. With this one being self-titled you can have a little bit more of a different interpretation of the artwork. A little bit more abstract. Basically we didn’t want to go in with any specific concepts… like we want this. I just told him, hey we want to self-title it, and this is what self-titling means to us, and here are some different lyrical themes that are on the record and just the overall vibe. I told him it was one of our darkest and heaviest albums to date; however you envisage that.
It was definitely a surprise because we didn’t really know where he was going with it. But at this point we have worked with Orion on three previous releases…”Existence is Futile”, “Chaos of Forms” and also for “Teratogenesis”. So we trust him and his vision. It came out really cool and it one of those things people were really remarking about, because it is so unique and different.
GARETH: I’ve been reading some of the lyrics off the new album and “Archfiend” I really like, its really evocative; who is the “beast” that we are “slowly becoming one with"?DAVID: The beast in that song is the media. Essentially its my critique on the news outlets in the US, its become very ratings driven and news that’s…Dan like television media. David yeah, it’s trying to go for more of an entertainment angle rather than delivering facts in an unbiased way. Even watching debates, a debate would happen and then it would cut to a table of talking heads that tell you how to feel about it. If it’s a right leaning news organisation it would have only right leaning opinions on it, and if left leaning the same thing
So it was just one of those things where it was my frustration with watching the way that the public gets delivered its information. There are a couple of songs about the media on the newest one. But with that one I tried to do it a little bit more metaphorically, using more metal imagery with a message.
GARETH: It really works, a fantastic track.
DAVID: Thank you.
GARETH: “Fracked” of the new album seems to be informed by a real concern for the environment, did you want to make a statement that people would understand and hear through that track?
DAVID: Yeah, I think so. Right now in the US it’s become a really hot button issue. Its certainly been spreading out to the world, I know that there are different corporations trying to frack in Europe and frack in Australia….and it’s just one of those things, where that method of resource extraction is just so detrimental to the environment. I wanted to shine a light on that and bring it up.
I think thrash metal has always had a little bit of the environmentally conscious tinge to it. Going back to bands like Annihilator and the song “Stonewall”. This is our modern take on an environmental topic that’s a reoccurring theme with thrash.
GARETH: And a great song as well.
GARETH: I know you have been asked this question before, but I am just really intrigued about it. I know your training was as a jazz guitarist and I feel on the solos I really hear that, its part of the inventiveness about the work. Do you see that there is some of that in there?
DAVID: Yeah I think so. I went to high school and studied jazz there and went to Berkley and studied jazz. Being taught by all those different jazz musicians and playing jazz and the other people. It definitely influenced me. It’s one of those things where however it seeps in, whether it’s sub-consciously or consciously, its part of the fabric of who you are as a player. Just like if you learned classical, maybe that might come through in different ways.
So yeah I think there is definitely an element to that. I wouldn’t say we were necessarily like a jazz metal band (laughter) or our solos are jazzy straight up. But I think there is a little bit of that flavour that comes through here and there, in some of the phrasing or just note choices. So its cool that people can hear that and can hear that there is something a little bit different we are going for.
GARETH: The guitar lessons on the upcoming American tour, what will people experience when they come along to those?
DAVID: Those are just group lessons. So under three people a lesson, sometimes one person, sometimes it’s fully maxed out. I like to do it more like a clinic style where people have different questions they can ask me. Like how do you play a riff in this song? Or sometimes its more general theory based. I try to answer everyone’s question and hopefully questions that will benefit the whole group. If it’s a theory question I can answer that specific question for that one student, but maybe the other students will pick up something from it as well. So yeah its like sitting backstage, somewhere like here or somewhere else in the club, or even outside sometimes, and just rolling up with some chairs, and a practice amp and just going for it.
GARETH: Two weeks ago Nile and Ex Deo played here in Glasgow and played a place called Audio, and they sold it out, which was amazing; and the vibe was that death metal had sold out a gig in Glasgow! You get a sense that the audience is growing for tech and death metal. Do you have that sense?
DAN: Yes it’s like that in our country too. Definitely…tech specifically is becoming more popular, whether it’s death metal or some other form of metal. Technicality is definitely coming to the forefront. I don’t know what started that trend, but I’ve noticed it in the past five years. Something is going on.
GARETH: There were people queuing for tickets, it was just amazing.
DAN: That’s really something.
GARETH: I’ve got one final question and it’s a bit of a left field one, so I’m hoping you say yes to this one. Do you like the music of Frank Zappa?
DAN: Phil’s the guy you want to talk too (the drummer with Revocation). I like Frank Zappa but I’m not super familiar with everything he’s done but Phil’s definitely into it.
DAVID: I am not that versed in it to be honest with you but I love Mr Bungle and I think they have a Zappa influence, and I’m a huge Mr Bungle fan. So I’m sure if I listened to Zappa I would probably get into it. There are so many different artists out there; sometimes you miss a couple of the crucial ones.
GARETH: There are some fantastic time changes in the music and all sorts of stuff going on….
DAN: Its really well written. I would say his influence on me and probably you too is indirect.
DAVID: Right…well Steve Vai played with Zappa, and I’m a huge Steve Vai fan and I still am. Some of his early records…
DAN: And you can hear Zappa in his solo stuff.
DAVID: Like Dan says it’s indirectly, we probably don’t even know the level of influence he has had on us.
GARETH: Well thank you I really enjoyed the interview.
Interview and photograph by Gareth Allen