New York death metal veterans Suffocation finally return with a new album titled “…Of The Dark Light” which comes out June 9th, 4 years after their previous effort “Pinnacle Of Bedlam” which saw the band tour around the world multiple times and thus taking the band away from the studio for a lengthy period of time. We talk to bass guitarist Derek Boyer about the time in between albums and the creation of the new songs, the introduction of new members in the band, working with Frank Mullen and much more.
Andrew: I guess we’ll talk about the new album “Of The Dark Light” which comes out 9th of June so tell me a little about the new songs.
Derek: It’s crazy man. It’s really aggressive, really dark lyrically. It’s just aggressive man, I can’t wait for everyone to hear it, I think it’s good!
Andrew: I’ve had a chance to listen to a couple of tracks from the new album and obviously it sounds like Suffocation but was there anything in particular that you tried to do this time around that maybe you hadn’t tried before?
Derek: There’s a couple of twists. It’s not like we wake up in the morning and say, ‘Let’s do something different!’, but it happens. Sometimes you’ll be writing something and you go, ‘You know what will be an interesting twist if we do this, we’ve never really done that’. So I mean we’re not opposed to what feels natural, as long as it’s within the grounds of what Suffocation is but we don’t wake up and go, ‘What’s weird that we can do today?’ if something happens but there were a few twists on the record, some of the fastest stuff, some of the lowest tuned stuff, some of the more clean stuff that you probably have not heard from us like in “Fear From Within” and there’s interjections of clean guitar. So nothing too far out of the ordinary, we went a little faster than usual and played a little lower tuning, at least the bass went lower than before and lyrically it’s a little more suicidal perhaps but again it’s not like we sit around all day going, ‘Oh we should tell people to kill themselves!’ So it’s really just what happens like a natural progression.
Andrew: I guess it’s been a while since the last album “Pinnacle Of Bedlam” came out which was around 2013, so had much changed since as far as when you buckle down to start writing and creating new songs?
Derek: No and it really doesn’t take 4 years to write an album. What happens is we’ll put an album and the label will say you should play these festivals and the management team will talk to the production teams and booking agencies and go, ‘Hey do you want to do?’, and they will throw us everywhere. We’ll go to South America, for the last album we went to Europe multiple times, did South America once or twice, did Asia, Australia, New Zealand. We went all over the place for that record, we did multiple European tours and multiple US tours, down to South America and down to Central America. All over the place for that record so it’s for how busy they keep you is kind of what determines how long it will take to produce another record. If they weren’t putting us on the road at all, I guarantee we would have an album out in 2 years but the fact that you’re out playing and when you come home from a month or 6 weeks of work, you don’t just pick your guitar up. You kind of just relax for a minute so 4 years is a long time for a record but it’s because we were so busy.
Andrew: And the fact that you were so busy on the road, was that because of the success of “Pinnacle Of Bedlam” then? Would that be then considered some of your best work to date then?
Derek: You know, for me it was my favorite record since the band had reformed but I’m not sure. I mean we did a lot of touring for “Souls To Deny”, probably the same or more but we were somehow able to crank out a record 2 or 3 years later where this one I’m not sure. I really don’t know if it was the success of the record or if we were just like, ‘Let’s go! Let’s tour, tour, tour’. We might of been gung-ho for going back out like, ‘We just got home, let’s go back out’, so for whatever reason we were having a good time and we were just out a lot so I mean that really did hamper the time limit of putting out another one. But I feel with this current lineup, I don’t think it’s going to be another 4 years before there’s another record. I feel it will be a lot sooner.
Andrew: Speaking of the lineup, you have a couple of new members making their first appearance on a Suffocation album, Eric (Morotti, drums) and Charlie (Erigo, guitars). How was it working with those guys in the studio?
Derek: They’re great! They’re young, they’re eager, they’re really good musicians. When we say, ‘Hey do this’, some of the older cats are like, ‘Oh you’re crazy’. Whereas these young guys are like, ‘Ok!’, and they do it! So it was really fun to work with them, they are great guys and really good musicians and it was smooth. It went well, they both did good.
Andrew: It sounds like they really inspired you guys in some ways.
Derek: I think so. Something about getting new blood is always exciting and we’re no stranger to getting a different guy, especially if we can’t get somebody to go on the road like, ‘Yeah we’ll grab this guy’, and we do it because we just want to play for the people but for the most part, grabbing these guys felt right and it did give us a little bit of a pep to our step. We’ve got these young dudes, we can’t slow down because we’re the older guys. We just need to keep pushing through and show these young kids this is why they do it [laughs].
Andrew: [laughs] And also in the vocal department you had Frank (Mullen) do some vocal parts and you had Kevin (Muller) sharing the vocal duties as well so how did that all work?
Derek: Well we knew that the label really wanted Frank and we love Frank, there’s no doubt about it. We love Frank but Frank lives a different lifestyle and we respect his choice. He’s like, ‘I don’t want to be on the road all the time’, but he loves being on stage. He will tell you flat out, ‘That was so much fun, that’s my favorite thing’. But he enjoys sleeping in his own bed, he enjoys making the money, he wants to make it when he wants to make it. So he has a real job, a career type thing, drives a car he wants, lives in a place he wants. Frank is real ‘I want it my way, I’ll do what it takes to get my way’ which is great! We respect that, he wants the health insurance for him and his daughter, he wants all this stuff and for us we respect him. But of course we’re like, ‘Oh man Frank isn’t going to be able to do that much on the road this year, maybe 2 or 3 weeks.’ And we’re like ‘Damn it man but this dude Kevin is brutal and sounds a lot like Frank’. A lot of times when people have heard the record, we say, ‘Do you notice there’s 2 vocalists?’ And they say no, it sounds like Frank and there’s twists so you might go, ‘Well Frank is double cupping here’. No that’s the other guy. So basically we knew that Frank wasn’t going to do tons of touring and we knew that Kevin was really brutal, sounded a lot like Frank so we’re like, ‘Let’s throw Frank in the studio and then we’ll throw Kevin in there and we’ll put additional vocals by Kevin Muller and when Frank slips out, Kevin will slip in.’. And again Frank wasn’t even 100 percent ‘Oh man let’s go do the record’. We’re like, ‘Hey the label really wants you to do the record’, and Frank says, ‘Eh fuck it, alright’. So he did the record but he knows he can only go out 2 or 3 weeks this year so we will have Kevin out with us wen Frank can’t be there.
Andrew: Yeah I was going to ask if Kevin was going to be your full time vocalist on the road.
Derek: Yeah that’s the deal.
Andrew: I know when you came down to Australia a couple of years ago you had I think Ricky Myers doing the vocals?
Derek: Yeah Ricky is an awesome dude! Something wasn’t working out perfectly for everyone so he kinda took a step back and we had to get in the studio and we knew Frank was doing the record anyway so we had Ricky come in and do a guest vocal here and there and for whatever reason it didn’t work out. He’s a West Coast cat so he ended up going back to the west and we’re out here on the east so like, 1500 kilometres away or whatever so he’s pretty far away. So yeah this kid Kevin is from New York, he’s right there and he’s really good friends with Charlie and they play in another band called The Merciless Concept. So check out The Merciless Concept, those guys have got some really heavy shit going on so Kevin and Charlie play in that band too. And we got Kevin because Kevin and Charlie also play together in Pyrexia and they did a tour with us and that’s where we saw those kids and were like, ‘Wait a minute, these guys are really good’. So when Guy (Marchais, guitars) stepped down, Charlie stepped up and with Frank stepping down we got Kevin stepping up so it’s working out great.
Andrew: Well that’s good to hear! And so maybe we can look forward to hopefully seeing you back in Australia again on this tour?
Derek: Absolutely, 100 percent!
Andrew: Awesome! We had a lot of fun seeing you guys with Decapitated a couple of years ago, such a great tour.
Derek: Oh that was great, yeah that was a lot of fun! We love Decapitated and we love Australia so that was like a win-win.
Andrew: Yeah certainly one of the heaviest tours we had seen in Australia I think!
Derek: Oh it was great, that’s good to hear. That’s what we like to do.
Andrew: So what have you got planned for the rest of the year then? Obviously you will be on the road so how many songs will you play from the new album?
Derek: Yeah this is tricky. Right now we’re going out as direct support to Morbid Angel in about 2 weeks in the States, so it will be Morbid Angel, Suffocation and then before that, Revocation and before that a band called Withered. So we got that tour going on right now about to start and the tricky thing is we come out of the gate and our album won’t be out so we’ll only be able to play the singles and the label is about to release another single. So basically there will be the 2 singles that will be out so we will be out on tour with Morbid Angel but our album won’t be out yet, so we’ll be able to play those 2 singles and then as soon as the album drops, on the day that the album drops we’ll start playing a bunch more songs. So it’s a tricky endeavour right now, so we’re going to get ready and we’ll know how to play 4 or 5 of them really well. It’s really tough for a band like Suffocation, we have so many songs and it really does start to get tricky when you’re like Well if we play 5 or 6 new songs off the album – and it does depend if we are headlining or are a direct support – that doesn’t leave us enough time for all the other albums. This is our 10th studio release so there’s a lot of songs to choose from and it’s fun to change the set from time to time, if you just keep playing the same songs it’s not necessarily as fun for the people or for yourself. So we know we probably will be playing 3 or 4 new songs but the rest of the time we gotta make sure we play “Pierced From Within” or make sure we play stuff off “Effigy Of The Forgotten”, make sure sure we play some “Despise The Sun” so there’s a lot of records. We’ve been known to go on tour and not even play a single song off of a particular record and some guy will come up after the show and say, ‘What the hell! You guy didn’t even play a single song off of this record!’, and we’re like, ‘Yeah we got a new record and so many other older classic records that you have to play’. So it’s tricky so you gotta be smart about how you play and what you play.
Andrew: Yeah definitely. There’s a number of people I’ve talked to over the years and I always ask them about the setlist situation for bands that have been around a while and everyone has their own process of picking out songs. How do you know which songs you want to play? Do you rehearse them and it clicks then?
Derek: Yeah there is a couple that are like staples. You have to play “Pierced From Within”, you have to play “Infecting The Crypts”, you have to play some of these songs that we really love. Some of these songs we love and we think of them as kind of the more iconic songs from the record but it’s really funny because like I said, you will run into some dude and he will be like, ‘How dare you not play this song!’. And we’re like, ‘Huh maybe we should play that song!’ But at the end of the day there’s a lot of songs, there’s 80 something songs or something like that to choose from so it’s a lot. When you’re going to play 8 or 9 songs or 11 or 14 songs and you got 80, you’re definitely bumming somebody out [laughs].
Andrew: Oh yeah definitely, I don’t think you can go through it and not disappoint at least 1 person.
Derek: Exactly, yeah but they still hopefully have a good time.
Andrew: Yeah and that’s what it’s all about. But there must be 1 or 2 songs that you maybe have never played live before?
Derek: Yeah I’m sure of it. I’ve been doing this with these guys for 15 years, when the band reformed I was hired and it was a trip to me to go, ‘Wait a minute, how are we not playing “Deaths Of Depravity” from “Pierced From Within”? That’s blasphemy, you gotta play that song’, and they’re like, ‘We don’t really play it’. And I’m like, ‘Er OK’. Then when we play a ton of fucking old material and then it’s like, ‘Hey how come we’re not playing this song’, ‘Oh we don’t really play it’. I know that for a fact now that I’ve put out a bunch of records with the band, there are tons of songs where the last time we played them was recording them. It’s a weird process, you put all these songs together and you really like them and whichever ones everyone really likes i the one that you always play. This guy really likes this song so we learn that, so it’s good right when you record the record if you go on the road because then you now all the songs. If a bunch of time takes place between the time you recorded it and the time you’re going to try and play it, you might not even know how it goes. You know how the song goes but to sit there and play every nuance, it takes time and Terrance (Hobbs, guitars) is a monster like that. He will pull a song that he hasn’t played in 17 years and he will fucking pull it out of a hat and play it perfectly, it’s ‘Wow!’ For me I really have to sit with it and really get it right so yeah it’s tricky.
Andrew: Well congratulations on the new album, from what I have heard so far it sounds killer and hopefully we get to see you in Australia again as we would love to have you back!
Derek: You know it man, look forward to coming back!