WORDS: James Weaver
SUFFOCATION have been considered one of the pioneers of death metal for years now. The New Yorkers have been raising the bar for extreme music over the course of their 27 year career. Now in 2015, the band are on the road touring Europe with fellow label mates NILE. Before a brutal show in Manchester, we spoke to bassist Derek Boyer about death metal today, SUFFOCATION‘s upcoming eighth studio record and whether you can make a living playing in a death metal band.
You’ve been on the road with NILE for a couple of weeks now. How is the tour going so far?
Derek: The tour is great man! Those guys are awesome, sick musicians and it’s the same with the opening acts; BLOOD TRUTH and BLOOD CORRODED. Everything is going good!
Has there been any shows which have been a highlight for you?
Derek: The very first show we played was killer, it was a big festival. The agency that put this tour together, I believe it was their festival, it was in Poland. A bunch of sick bands played that festival, it was my favourite because VADER played, MARDUK played, SUFFOCATION, NILE and then a couple of local bands. It was such a good show!
You are still on the road supporting 2013’s Pinnacle of Bedlam, has there been any progress on a new record?
Derek: Yeah, I have it here on my phone. It’s sick, I’ll give you a little taste.
*Derek plays a segment of the new untitled SUFFOCATION album. We can tell you know it’s incredible. *
Derek: Yeah, so we have the album written, it’s almost done but we’re probably going to go in early next year to produce it. We’re really excited about it, it’s really aggressive. I’m stoked!
It is untitled right now, do you have a title for it?
Derek: Yeah we have a title, we have all of the concepts but we aren’t letting that out of the bag right now. We’ve been doing pre-production so it’s not the actual recording, it’s a demo of the final product. So we will probably go in, maybe in January. We will probably produce the record at the end of this year and then we will probably release it in either the spring or summer of 2016.
So when you were writing, were there any new elements you wanted to bring to the table?
Derek: We always try to stick to the tried and true SUFFOCATION format but there are a couple of new elements in there, nothing so far off the path that people would be like “what are you thinking?!” So there is no clean vocals, there is no keyboards or anything. It is still SUFFOCATION but there are a couple of new twists.
SUFFOCATION have been regarded as a pioneer of death metal, what do you think of the death metal scene today?
Derek: Death metal today is interesting. There are a lot of young kids playing the slam stuff. It’s cool but we don’t want it to be too redundant, we are looking for creativity in the youth. But everyone is playing really well and it is good to see the youth doing it because it brings younger fans and those fans go “oh I’ve only heard of SUFFOCATION.” But maybe we can do some touring with the younger bands just to reach out to the younger fans.
With the internet, do you think death metal is more accessible but increasingly stagnated?
Derek: Yeah, everyone is seeing what everyone is doing, everyone is hearing what everyone else is doing but in the past you had to go to the show or it would be word of mouth. Your friend would go “oh man you have to check out this band!” Now you can get anything you want so yeah it is a little bit lost.
So when you go to make new music, do you find it a challenge to be constantly at the top of your game?
Derek: I feel that if everybody still has that enthusiasm, we’re not trying to outdo ourselves as much as that’s the goal. You always want to put out a better record, but as long as everybody has that fire inside and that we’re excited to do it, we’re not worried about what we will end up doing.
So when Frank Mullen announced that he wasn’t going to commit to any long-term touring, has that done any damage to your live show at all?
Derek: Some of the fanboy promoters have been a little bit afraid but when we show up with Ricky [Myers, DISGORGE], he does a really sick job. When we played Ricky’s vocal submission to Frank, Frank said “when did you record me doing this?” We were like “that’s not you!” And he goes “well that’s who you should take.” We’ve tried a couple of different guys and Ricky is a permanent fit, Frank is still in the band but he will be doing a lot less. We’ve just played a show in New York with him and it went great, Ricky came on stage and did a song with Frank. It’s working and we haven’t seen any real negative feedback. You’ll get a little bit of hesitation but once we show up all is fine! There is no problem.
Do you think with Frank stepping down due to work commitments and financial reasons, do you think it is still a big problem for touring bands?
Derek: It always is, if you can earn good money playing and you don’t have a lot of expenses in life; if you’re driving a brand new car, living in a big house and you have a wife, I don’t if death metal can afford you that lifestyle. But if you own your car and have lower expenses in life, you can definitely make a living doing it.
So at the end of the day is it passion over finances?
Derek: Absolutely! We do it because we love it and the more you work, the more earnings you can make. So that’s the tricky thing, Frank only wants to go out on tour for a couple of weeks but you can’t live on that. We’ve also looked at it like if you did 150-200 shows a year, you can definitely live on it. But again, do you have a brand new car? Do you have a wife and kids? If you have all of that, you have to pretty much work every day of the year.
Certain metal bands are doing really well commercially, do you think that metal is getting more accepted in society and the mainstream media?
Derek: I do, bands like LAMB OF GOD and SLIPKNOT, any of these bands in the commercial spotlight. They are still singing relatively in metal, obviously not doing the guttural death metal vocals, but yeah it’s more about the passion.
So you have this tour, what else can fans expect from SUFFOCATION for the rest of 2015?
Derek: We are looking at a North American run but we are still working out the details, we’ve heard a couple of things and now we are hearing something different. So we don’t know which offer we are going to take but we will definitely do something in North America this year and then it’s just focusing on the new record. It’s been two years since we put out Pinnacle of Bedlam so we really need to get the new record out so then we can do a new touring cycle.
Pinnacle of Bedlam is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.