Stalwarts of the modern Thrash and Death Metal scenes, Revocation have built a massive following with their seminal Thrash-sterpiece ‘Empire of the Obscene.’ A legion of Metal fans such as yours truly have followed the band since, watching in awe as the band carefully and skilfully flit with technical prowess, flashy riffage and above all, a sense of fun and experimentation.
I caught up with guitarist Dan Gargiulo right after dinner. Fortunately, he’d eaten more than 30 minutes prior, so it was safe to dive in. We chewed the fat on Australian touring, songwriting, playing live and the evolution of the band and the scene.
When asked about it, Gargiulo notes that, “It’s difficult to tell what’s my favourite city in Australia. Oftentimes we don’t get to absorb much of the city’s vibe due to only being there a short while and all that. I’d have to say Melbourne but only ‘cause we’ve been there the most.” With regard to the recently announced tour dates in Brisbane and Sydney with Psycroptic, Gargiulo says he’s, “more than excited to be able to diversify a bit more and catch fans there, too.” One of their friends Todd Stern also recently joined the Tasmanian devils on bass, which they’re more than stoked about.
I was interested and pried a little into what he and the band thinks separates us from the rest of the world, “apart from geography,” he laughs. “Today, I was just thinking about how, in contrast to your question, I was thinking about how I can kind of go anywhere around the world and you know, meet people who are similar to myself. They might look different, they might talk different, but they’re kindred spirits, so I don’t really know.”
A brief pause in silence, and a reflective chuckle.
“The Aussies definitely have their own sense of humour. We love that about you guys, every time we come down we’re always cracking up. I might say that that’s what sets the Aussies apart from the rest, you’re definitely the funniest!” Wow, what an honour, to have an idol musician bestow one of the proudest cultural compliments upon us.
With regards to playing alongside the mighty Ihsahn on the upcoming Direct Underground Festival, Gargiulo’s tone animates just that little bit more, indicating a mutual level of fanboying between us about the Norwegian legend.
“Well, I grew up listening to a lot of Emperor and I learned a lot about his songwriting, how he uses two contrasting guitar parts, and that’s something I definitely try to use when I’m writing both for Revocation and Artificial Brain.“ Indeed, within the latest excellent releases by both projects in 2016’s ‘Great is Our Sin’ and 2017’s ‘Infrared Horizon,’ respectively, there’s always an element of harmonic and dissonant interplay between dancing, spiralling riffs of lead and rhythm guitars which seem to bounce and reverberate off one another, never straying too far apart but definitely their own beasts.
Wondering about their best and worst experiences touring here, Gargiulo notes that while touring Europe with Cannibal Corpse, “I broke my ankle, then the rest of that world tour was just really brutal for me. I was recovering from a busted foot, I felt like shit, we’d been drinking hard and by the end of it – I remember we were on tour for four months straight and I wanted to pretty much kill my band members and myself by that stage….not really guys!” he adds with a laugh. “I always have a good time in Australia though, even despite all the stuff I just told you. I’m really excited to come down ’cause we always enjoy it no matter what.”
Considering the technicality of their music, I wondered which tracks Gargiulo found particularly challenging, or if it was challenging enduring the setlist in general. “Not really, to be honest,” he says with an open but modest admission. “When we play live I make sure I am very rehearsed, to the point where the songs basically become muscle memory.” Despite this, he notes that it’s “often a challenge to learn Dave [Davidson]’s material. We don’t live near each other, so I’ll have to learn real slow by ear. Dave still to this day keeps me on my toes.” Intrigued by this, I enquired about the differences between the two guitarists’ writing styles, considering the overall synergy the band possesses.
“We had a different education. Growing up, Dave had a much more rigorous education, you know, he went to a music high school AND a music college whereas I had more private lessons.” I was quick to assure him this in no way reflected on him in any lesser part! “With me, I kind of know music theory, but I liken it to Black Metal. Those guys might not always be the most theoretical but they play hard and with some sort of substance which is hard to quantify.”
With regards to Black Metal, Gargiulo was often returning to the genre when describing his own musical style and taste palette. Noting the bleakness of Artificial Brain, I was curious as to how much his beloved sub-genre influenced the ethos there.
“The riffs themselves are very much similar but different. I formed Artificial Brain in 2009 and joined Revocation in 2010, so the early material I was writing was more technical. After coming back from playing with them the two bands’ sounds kind of split more, in my writing. A lot of what I write for Artificial Brain comes naturally and from more a Black Metal kind of vibe.”
When prompted about how they stay fresh for new ideas in both bands, given the increasingly technicality and material over time, Gargiulo notes, ‘We’re always listening to new stuff, all the time. Dave has constantly got something new to show me. There’s new sounds we’re constantly exposing ourselves to – lately I’ve been binging hard on classical music, whereas Dave has been showing me all this new jazz.” Interesting choices, but not totally unforeseeable given the bands’ tendency to eschew traditional riffs at times for some very out-there passages. “I feel like it gives us an endless muse to draw on, to take in from outside the parameters of Metal.”
With regards to the not-to-be-forgotten, seriously talented rhythm section, Gargiulo notes he lets Brett (Bamburger, bassist) “do his own thing and while he sticks to it, he also brings in some serious licks on top of the basic root notes ill record, and flesh things out on his own.” And as for drums, Gargiulo prefers to program drums and send them to Ash Pearson to give him a general feeling, and “I trust his instinct as a drummer to pad out some really cool parts in there and go with it.”
And, as for the young aspiring guitarist wanting to learn how to shred with the best of them, Dan has some very specific advice: “Go old school. Put on a record you want to learn, sit down with it and your guitar and learn it note by note as accurately as you can. Honestly that’s what helped me to learn how to write music, listening and playing it naturally.” He definitely wishes that he “pursued guitar more seriously using music theory during high school,” as opposed to “being a stoner who didn’t give a shit,” he laughs.
“Don’t neglect the boring academic shit, ‘cause that’ll be important later.” Duly noted, and something I personally wished I’d done myself before picking up instruments. Do your homework, kids!
Gargiulo personally cites some go-to bands for those looking for Revocation-style inspiration as Abigor, “super-fast blastbeats but some amazing songwriting,” Australians Convulsion, The Clearing Path, “ah – there’s too many dude. It’s a great time be into music, especially Metal.”
Couldn’t agree more with the dude.
You can catch Revocation on tour at the Direct Underground Fest alongside Ihsahn, Belphegor, Diocletian, Wiegedood and Encircling Sea on Saturday 5th May at Max Watt’s in Moore Park, Sydney, and Max Watt’s in Melbourne on Sunday, 6th May. Tickets available here.