Dave Davidson is perhaps the best guitarist in metal today. That’s why we were especially stoked when he took the time to sit down with you and talk about his writing process and the direction of Revocation.
How the hell are you?
Dave: Doing great man! Playing Saint Vitus tonight, looking forward to that!
Revocation has been in a quiet place for a few months now…
Dave: To some people it’s been quiet but to us it’s been anything but. Our last show was in Colombia in the fall but then as soon as that show was done we were just writing and getting through the recording process. We started recording in January and finished in February. We had maybe two weeks off before we started doing shows again and now we’re back at it.
What’s the process been like with the new record? How was it an evolution?
Dave: With every record we try to evolve but maintain our core sound. With this new record our new drummer Ash had to fly in from Vancouver to practice. He would document his practices with the GoPro though and the way technology is we can send files to each other and Skype to come up with ideas. We definitely made it work I think he did a fantastic job on the new record; it was a little different in that regard. We couldn’t just meet up and practice.
One thing I found interesting from your perspective with this record is that you’re the only person left from the founding days of the band. How has the dynamic shifted with you being the only original member left?
Dave: The writing process is basically the same. Dan has been in the band for years now and he started contributing songs in 2012 or so. Usually how we do it is I will write 8 songs and Dan will write two. We kept that pattern of writing. Not much has changed.
The other thing people note about Revocation is how prolific you are. Where do the riffs come from?
Dave: I just really am passionate about metal and I love a lot of different genres of metal and I find a lot of inspiration, not only from the metal genre but also separate genres of music. I think having a diverse taste in music helps to inspire me. You never know when inspiration will strike. It’s one of those things where I could be at home or on tour but when a riff comes to me I try to document. That seems to be the key, being able to document it on your phone or something before putting it onto your computer. I try to make sure that I have the means to capture stuff when it hits me.
What’s the attrition rate on riffs?
Dave: It depends. With songwriting the more songs you write the better you get at it. I think I’ve gotten better at self critiquing. Just because you like a riff doesn’t mean it fits with the vibe of a song. Sometimes a riff will initially make it into a song and then be taken out. That doesn’t mean that we will never use it again, but if it keeps getting kicked out of songs then that suggests it’s not gelling or vibing with a certain set of parameters we are trying to go from. Maybe you can take something from that riff that you liked though.
This happened to me recently with a riff that was in a different tempo, I had written it a while ago but I wasn’t quite as in love with it anymore. But by playing with the tempo and altering the feel I ended up really liking the riff again. I managed to update it into something that would suit my taste now. Just because you’re not feeling something doesn’t mean you have to totally scrap it. I try to explore riffs so that I can see how I can make them fit.
If you’re stocking away riffs like that for so long, how do you label them?
Dave: I used to label them at random. I would just name them after the bands it reminded me of. I have a better system for it now where I organize ideas by tempo.
A couple times now you have mentioned the Revocation aesthetic. What defines that for you?
Dave: I think we are a death thrash band, that’s a core element of our sound. There are other elements in there as well. There is a progressive and technical side. We even take influences from black metal atmospherics or even riffs from a band like Alice of Chains who were an influence on us growing up. Death metal and thrash metal is the basis of our sound but we try to be creative in the context of that genre.
You as a player have a very interesting sense of timing, especially in terms of how you end your riffs, where does this distinct timing come from?
Dave: I think it comes from an open mindedness and a diverse taste in music. I studied jazz in high school and went to Berklee and studied with a lot of great musicians there. Jazz timing always intrigued me and is something I still work on. It’s a very different way of feeling the beat. By listening to a lot of jazz guitar players I can hopefully pick up on some of their vibe. Rock and metal tends to have some more straight eighth notes. Our producer actually was mentioning to me how the songs have a triplet feel, it’s definitely swung. Listening to jazz and learning transcriptions and working out different jazz guitar parts like Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkle, there’s so many great players, Wes Montgomery’s 4 And 6 was one of the first I ever transcribed. That really changed my sense of timing.
When I was in high school, Empire Of Existence came out and that changed everything for me. One thing I noticed with jazz and death metal is that after a point you can ONLY write jazzy death metal…
Dave: Well if you’re passionate about something and love it then that inspiration will creep in. Death metal and jazz are both very anti status quo genres. They are meant to push the limits. That’s what drew me to both those genres. It was the same thing with classical music. There were constantly new sounds and it requires such a passion for the music. If you share that passion it comes through in the writing process.
What do you love so much about music?
Dave: Just the myriad of emotions it can conjure up for me. It can be nostalgic but it can shock me. It can make me feel deep emotions that not many other things in this world can make me feel. Great music is an expression of the ineffable. It connects with you in some way and it’s too difficult to put into words in some cases and that’s what I love about music.
More Interviews from June 2016 Vandala Magazine: