John Kevill has always been a charismatic dude, and a very intelligent one too. Picking his brain about the spirit of metal, what Warbringer really is and what it means to be a performer was a fascinating experience.
So how are you?
John: Doing good man! We just trucked it across the US of A and now we’re here at Gramercy Theater!
How was the trucking?
John: We had what I thought was way to much marijuana but it turned out to be not enough. We have a driver this tour and so we spent a lot of time just sitting around smoking. He did a thirty hour driving shift which was nuts. It was so badass.
So you’re swinging back into tour life?
John: This is day one. After a few shows we’ll see how my neck is handling it. I wanted this though and I signed up for it!
What’s happening with Warbringer now?
John: We’re going to do this tour and then I will let you know after! If I am able to I am going to make another album. But we’re going to do this tour and then see what happens.
How has it been coming together with the new lineup?
John: We’ve had to replace guys right and left throughout the history of the band but this time it’s extra shitty because I put together a whole new lineup that fell apart right before the tour. Rather – those pussies quit! If you’re going to sign up to people f*cking do it! If you don’t you don’t have my respect! Within two months of this tour starting we had lost three guys in our line up. Fortunately Carlos Cruz came up and he is my favorite drummer to work with. He hit me up and wanted to do it again and that was like “Hallelujah.” So then you had me Adam and Carlos and Adam has been a longtime member as well as Conan from Exmortus doing double duty. We basically reached out to people in our scene who we knew could do it. After this tour all I know about the line up will be me, Adam and Carlos and between the three of us we have all the instruments covered and I know how to make Warbringer songs be Warbringer songs.
What defines a Warbringer song?
John: I don’t exactly know man. I don’t know how to play an instrument but I know how to read music and stuff so I can communicate usually. I try to make the structures a certain way. We have a design philosophy to our thrash. We don’t want any fat – we want to be tight, lean, quick and hit you in the face. We want it to be catchy, evil and I want their to be hooks but also brutal and dense riffs. I focus on that and I think we have a way of doing that and I think that as a vocalist I have a pretty different personality. I think that a lot of the way I do things put’s a stamp on it along with the way Carlos and Adam write the music. I feel like at this point that I’m sort of the thing that keeps it being Warbringer and not some other band.
It’s like Gary Holt in Exodus because he will always write those immediately identifiable riffs. He just kind of has that. If someone else were to write that it would sound like a knock off of that.
I was impressed at the bitterness in your voice when you called the ex-band members “f*cking pussies”…
John: One of them had legitimate reasons. The other two were to young and had unrealistic expectations. Our first show was a giant festival in Indonesia in front of thirty thousand people. We had a string of good shows and then a string of bad shows and then they quit. It was funny because one of these guys had previously paid to play opening for Warbringer, this time he had been paid at least something for every show and he was complaining and I just don’t get it. I’m like “Don’t you know that you just joined a band that is doing super well? If you were to get a record deal today you wouldn’t be as well off as we are now” That doesn’t mean we have it easy but you better have a realistic expectation. It’s for the best that they quit because we got Carlos back in. I don’t care anymore because Cruz is back in. The attitude that some ex members have had are just not attitudes that you can have in this band. With three legit members of the band and two strong fill in I really hope that we will be able to give the fans a really good show and keep the band on the map. We want to get out there and play live because that’s what Warbringer has always been about – wrecking shit on stage.
Full Photo Gallery from Warbringers show in Edmonton, AB HERE
On a totally separate note – what is it like for your first show in a year to be in front of thirty thousand people?
John: It was crazy. I’m used to playing shows so once we started it was fine – but before and after it was like “Holy shit” I’ve only played a few shows like that in my life and it’s amazing. Most people are afraid to stand up and speak in front of a room of ten people.
Why do you think that you are able to do that?
John: It’s just what I’ve always been doing. If you’re going to be in a band and play a concert you don’t get to say “I’m not going up there” If you’re afraid of how it might go you have to trust in yourself. If you’re the only person who can do it then you have to do it. You have to believe in what you’re doing and give the people watching you, whether it’s two or twenty thousand. You have to give it your all. It’s like this bullshit with Guns n Roses getting back together. F*ck that. Axl Rose leaves the stage for petty reasons as a performer myself I’ve nothing but intense disrespect for that. There’s so many better musicians that would love to play in front of half that many people and you’ve got a fat old washed up guy complaining and bailing on shit and being prissy. Being prissy is so not rock and roll. Rock and rollers grit their teeth.
Lemmy, rest in peace, was a real motherf*cker. I was watching his documentary and his attitude about playing a show no matter what and doing it for the people was awesome. That dude was on stage right before he died. That’s what you’re supposed to do! Stage fright won’t stop me. I get it too but I’m going to do it anyway. No matter what bullshit is happening we go up and do the best we can and that’s it. No one can touch that.
That’s something I’ve always admired about Warbringer, that of American thrash metal wave you were among the most… unique. After such a long break are you afraid of meeting the quality of material from the last record?
John: No. I think we can do better than then last record. I feel like the last record broke a lot of new ground. If I could make that record again I would focus more on the darker stuff. When we made that record we wanted to prove that the people who claimed that we were ’80s knock offs were wrong. We made an album that looked different and had songs that were a total left turn. We did that very much on purpose so people who said we were copying the 80s would be objectively wrong. While you could legitimately say that maybe the first record was like that the second and the third record had plenty of shit that the 80s bands didn’t do. If you find one part that’s like one band then the next part is not like that band.
Warbringer has been able to carve out a sound for itself. I sure as hell can tell that it feels different to me. Empires was really an effort to show how much this band could do. In retrospect I would have toned that down a bit and cut some of the more lighthearted material to make it darker, but that’s just me in retrospect. There’s other record where I’m like oh “This song would be better with this part” I’ve thought of all kinds of shit, but it is what is. That’s what art is like.
For the next record, I hope we make a next record and I know what I want to do for it. On the last one I handed over the reins a lot though on the first three I had a much more dominant role. On the next one I have a very specific vision. It will be different. I know what it’s going to be like and I’m not worried that people won’t think it’s awesome.
John: It’s human expression, it’s awesome. Writing it is one thing and that’s creatively rewarding – working with talented people. Live you get to go out and play that for people who stood out in the cold and paid to see it and that’s amazing. You get to physically express and perform this stuff that you wrote. Once I started doing it I couldn’t fathom stopping. It took a lot of tenacity to be here in New York City. I thought about folding a lot for a time it was a rough time for me because I didn’t know who I was anymore, it was all I had done since high school. I’m studying to be a history professor now and that should be doable within three or four more years but I still just want to play metal. I’ve got a few more years of this left in me and I want to keep doing this until I Don’t have an idea for a next record. I want my last record to be a good one. I don’t want to put out a shitty record before deciding to hang it up. In the end I just want to be proud in what I got to take part in making.
What inspired you to be a history professor?
John: I’ve always been into it. Why else do you think the band has the old military theme? It’s a logical thing. I like to perform and talk it’s kind of like being on stage, some of that skill is transferable. Before I was in metal people said I should do that – then my band got a record deal.
Any final words of wisdom?
John: Keep rocking. If you are in a band and play a show you had better sweat, or else you suck. Keep it metal!