(Suffocation’s new album Pinnacle of Bedlam is a stunner, but what did you expect? As TheMadIsraeli said in our review of the album, Suffocation “define the three things that make a great band: Consistency, legacy, and relevancy.” We’re honored to present Andy Synn’s interview of Suffo’s uber-bassist Derek Boyer.)
So a couple of weeks back I was asked if I wanted to interview Suffocation… and who could say no to something like that? I wasn’t aware who exactly would be answering my questions, so I tried to make them of a type that could easily be answered by any and all members of the band. In the end it turned out to be uber-bassist extraordinaire Derek Boyer who was tasked with responding to my inane queries, and – all credit to him – he did so in a thoroughly entertaining and really detailed manner.
You’ll notice that I didn’t bother to touch on any of the recent line-up changes, the he-said, she-said back and forth between the band and departing drummer Mike Smith, or even the storm-in-a-teacup that was Fran Mullen’s decision to cut down on his own ability to tour. These have all been covered pretty thoroughly elsewhere, and, as I think you’ll see, it seems like Derek certainly appreciated not being asked about them for the 100th time.
Ultimately, I hope he got some enjoyment out of answering the questions himself, and I hope you all appreciate his answers and his generally very friendly and relaxed demeanour, which really comes across despite the limitations of the email interview format!
So you have a new album out very soon – which unfortunately I haven’t heard yet (though I think our site has just been provided with a review copy as I’m typing this) – and I’d like to start off with that, and then maybe go in a few other directions with the interview. So what is the current mood in the Suffocation camp?
DEREK- Yeah, Pinnacle is dropping now… We’re all stoked on the record. We’ve recently picked the songs from the new album that we’re going to perform on these up-coming tours, we’re playing the stuff at rehearsals and it’s feeling really KILLER!
How do you guys decide when you want to actually settle down and write and record a new album? Who is it who brings the idea to the table, who gets everyone going and on the same page?
DEREK- We don’t actually say “Let’s stop what we’re doing, write and record a new album”, it just comes together. We, the string section of the band, are always batting riffs and sections off of each other. Hobbs will just start playing some crazy ass riff and Guy or I will propose a sister rhythm or a way to bridge his section to one of our sections. We are constantly doing that until there’s a body of material that we can consider as a piece, that will eventually become a song.
As far as writing goes, how much do you guys share the load – specifically, are there times when the vocalist brings a guitar riff, or the bassist suggests a drum part, etc, or are you all pretty territorial about your parts and instruments?
DEREK- As for this record: Hobbs, Frank and I wrote the lyrics. Guy, Hobbs, and I wrote the music and Dave wrote the beats …but there are no set rules, there are plenty of cases where someone would have a suggestion. If any one of us had envisioned a certain feel for a section, we would speak up and discuss the variations until we reached the best solution…
Are there any particular favourite songs on the new record that stand out – in terms of particular significance for you personally, either as a band or as individuals?
DEREK- Currently, my favorites are “Purgatorial Punishment”, “My Demise”, and “Cycles of Suffering”. I really could just go down the list and name them all, there isn’t a song on the record I dislike. The songs are satisfying to play! They really feel and sound AWESOME!!!!
And are there any new things you’ve tried, whether that makes it more or less ‘extreme’ or not, or is it more of a case of refining and tweaking the formula these days?
DEREK- We just do what feels right. I don’t think we’ll ever set out and say “let’s try something new”… We play the stuff we enjoy and think the fans will enjoy.
What are the hardest parts to play on the new album? And how do you deal with recording those parts in particular (i.e., has anyone ever smashed a guitar out of sheer frustration at not being able to get them down)?
DEREK- The hardest parts for the string section are in the opening track, “Cycles of Suffering”. There are a few really demanding pieces in that song. Not sure what is most difficult for Dave or Frank… None of us got too frustrated during the recording of this album, it was relatively smooth. It’s like anything else, if you have a challenge in front of you and you’re inspired to overcome the obstacle, it’s do-able, and often times rewarding.
You’ve also just been doing a video for ‘As Grace Descends’, which looks like a fun time from some of the shots you’ve released. Any words about the whole video-making experience?
DEREK- Yeah, it was a fun shoot, and probably the most comfortable shoot yet too. It seems like every other video we’ve done always took place in the worst conditions. This one and maybe the BTK/history channel shoot were ok, but every other video was either in FREEZING conditions, or ridiculously HOT conditions. So yeah, it was a fun shoot and Tommy Jones of theStudio did a great job (you’ll all see soon enough) .
Thinking over the past several years, who have been some of your favourite touring partners, young or old?
DEREK- We have fun with most acts we go out with. Most recently the band that comes to mind is Blood Red Throne, BRUTAL mother fuckers! The Goatwhore guys are awesome too, Psycroptic, Decrepit Birth, again- I could go on and on… There are so many great bands out there, its cool to inspire each other to put on good shows, and to cut loose with good friends!
Any crazy or unexpected onstage/offstage antics from recent years, or are you all now too mature and sensible for that sort of thing?
DEREK- Nah, we still joke around… Nothing too serious when it comes to antics but there are last day of tour pranks and stuff like that. We have fun, for sure.
What are some of your favourite places (in the US, and around the word) to play, and why?
DEREK- In North America, I’d say NYC, Montreal and CALI. My personal favorite places abroad would be Australia, because it’s beautiful there and the fans flip out. Also, South America (or any Latin American countries), because those fans are completely committed to death metal (more so than just about any other fans)
While we’re on the subject of touring, can we get some thoughts on the ‘Brutal Big 5’ idea [Suffocation, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, and Obituary] that’s been floating around recently?
DEREK- The Brutal Big 5 was our guitarist Guy’s idea. It’s a great idea and the shows would be sick… I just don’t know who’s going to attempt to pull it off (agency wise). It would be an expensive ticket thats for sure, haha.
Outside of the band what do you guys get up to? What do the members of Suffocation do to relax when they’re not ramming death metal down willing young throats?
DEREK- We’re all actually pretty chill. If we’re not doing the Suffo thing, we’re probably layin’ low enjoying friends and family. We’re pretty simple I guess you could say.
On a wider level, what do you think of Suffocation’s legacy and lasting influence on the death metal scene today? How does it make you feel these days to be a band who so many people look up to?
DEREK- It’s cool to see that it’s lasted as long as it has (the influence that is). It’s an honor that so many people respect what we do. We have so much fun performing and producing these albums its a win, win, scenario!
What are your plans for 2013 (and even beyond, if you’re looking that far already)?
DEREK- Well, 2013 is the release of Pinnacle, we’ll shoot a few videos, play some 1-off shows, then the touring starts in April. We have a bunch of tours mapped out for the year starting this spring! We’re excited to take the new material to the stage!
And – penultimate question – what is it that still drives you guys? What keeps you going, keeps you playing, keeps you making the music you make (if you can simplify it in words at all)?
DEREK- There’s a feeling inside that would be hard to explain but to simplify it: we love what we do! We feel a sense of satisfaction producing albums and performing this stuff. You really can’t put it into words, but either way it’s an awesome feeling!
Final question (which I always try and make a bit more random) – what are Suffocation’s recommended/favourite date movies? I’m sure our readers would appreciate the advice and some suggestions!
DEREK- Grab your sweetheart and snuggle up on the couch with ANTICHRIST, (otherwise known as the “Willem Dafoe Genital Mutilation Hour”) hahaha it’s horrible! You and your sweetie will be drawn into each other’s embrace HAHAHAHA!