The world of metal is one that is exciting, ever-changing and sometimes hard to keep up with. However, there are bands that effortlessly stand out, playing music that is hardcore, a true representation of who they are and Revocation from Boston, Massachusetts is undoubtedly one of those bands. Formed in 2006, this death metal act has consistently put out a record every couple of years, played numerous tours and gathered quite a fan following in the last decade. I had the pleasure of chatting with bassist and all-round nice guy Brett Bamberger, about the last tour Revocation played, some of their wildest times on tour, what he’s learnt over the years from being so passionate among other things.
We greeted each other, with Brett speaking to me from the States during the initial week of civil unrest and protests.
“It’s pretty weird here, especially in Richmond, Virginia since it has a lot of confederate monuments which have been a point of discussion and protest for a long time. It has been a crazy time but the protests are for all the right reasons. Hopefully things get better over time, it’s been a pretty brutal year so far!”
That, it certainly has, and in such a short span of time. One of the last shows I went to was Cattle Decapitation and Revocation which was in February which was also one of the last tours the band went on, and just about managed to get through before the pandemic hit.
“Yo, we got through by the skin of our teeth, straight up! We were one of the last tours that happened. We did that tour in Australia, had a sick ass time, the shows were killin’, everyone was selling a bunch of stuff and the vibe was just way cool. We also got to see a lot of our friends. We also went to Japan and that was tight - everyone was wearing masks already, every establishment had sanitizer; they were geared up and ready to go, all set to deal with it, taking our temperatures on the way in. It was brutal! We had a lot of fun on that one, the promoter kept handing us corona beers from stage, it was all good. But it was brutal, when the pandemic started in China, or around that time, I was being a bit of a jerk about it, not getting it and thinking that hopefully it wouldn’t come to the States. We went to Hawaii after that for a show and things started getting real - within a week of that show, everything started shutting down. It was crazy!”
Anyone who attended that tour in February knows just how incredible it was and how perfectly well the two bands work together on a show.
“I think every show was awesome, we love those guys and touring with them; we’ve been friends with them for a while now. We’ve done so many tours with them in the last few years because it just works well- there’s a good vibe all around, fans like both bands so we know that it will actually bring some people into the room as a combined effort and everyone seems to have an enjoyable evening. It was a no brainer when that one came through while we were on tour with Psycroptic. Usually we work with Dave, obviously, but this tour made sense and so we did it - all the shows were killer!”.
Thinking back, everything did happen in the blink of an eye - no one was really prepared for this. With that thought in mind, I asked Brett, just how much things had changed for him as well as for his bands, after the start of the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, he had a very cool approach to it all.
“I live with Mike from Inter Arma and he told me straight away, how his tour with Deafheaven got cancelled. I was supposed to work merch for the Archspire guys on a Canadian headliner tour - and right after that, everything started getting cancelled; every single tour we had booked. Even though we had tour cancellations, we were lucky enough to have not had any plane tickets booked for the international shows so it didn’t get too messy. But for a minute, everyone was like ‘shit, what are we gonna do? There goes my income for the year!’ But then we all strapped up and got jobs. I’m honestly, really enjoying my time at home now; I redid both my bathrooms, my house, planted some new trees. It’s great! I also turned my shed into this crazy room where my other band called ‘Garbage People’ pretty much gets together every saturday, we break bottles in there and have a good time, it’s pretty cool! We all work and live together and just have a super sick timeI like recording a lot too. We’ve actually turned our house into a recording studio and bought a bunch of gear, getting pretty good and pretty into it!”
I’ve seen Revocation live, a few times now and each time, it becomes even more obvious, as to why they are one of the best technical death metal bands out there. The band gives every show a 110%, performing with so much energy, dynamism and honouring a totally no-bullshit vibe.
“You definitely play and perform well when you’re expressing yourself and being yourself. I mean, it’s rock ‘n’ roll - we're a technical death metal band but that rock ‘n’ roll spirit is strong. It’s important for us to let that breathe. In general, we’re all pretty relaxed guys with a sense of humour but we like to keep it a bit more serious for the most part in terms of playing gigs and show our goofy side a little, here and there. It really comes down to just being ourselves as a band!”
Speaking of just how insane these guys are live, there have been some wild times during their shows, ‘wild’ being an understatement. Asking Brett if he remembered any of the wildest moments and there was certainly one story that came to mind.
“Aw man, I don’t know. I drink a lot of beer, especially while I’m playing so I don’t remember everything that clearly. I remember like Dan broke his ankle on tour with Cannibal Corpse in Europe - he fractured it it was fucked up - he had to sit in a chair while he was playing - he couldn’t stand. They were like get up, why don’t you stand up for Germany, why are you sitting in a chair! They were heckling the shit out of us for that. We played in Lyon on that same tour - crazy times - people were crowd surfing in between songs and were super hyped up - there was a fight, and we had to stop the show. I’d have to really sit and think, push the drunken cloud away to find out the really wild ones haha!”
Revocation has consistently put out an album every couple of years, bringing their total number of releases to seven along with two EP’s, which, when you think about it, is a massive achievement given they only began in 2006. Their latest album ‘The Outer Ones’ sees the band in it’s boldest form yet, removing all clean vocals, delving into Lovecraftian literature and being a straight up death metal release.
“Basically, I think we were in the van before we even started working on the record and we all decided to get rid of the clean singing. We’ve been touring with death metal bands for so long now and having the most success with that so we just wanted to move more towards that and it definitely came out the way we wanted - more brutal, some weird moments but in a good way! I love it. I do think I might be the only one who isn’t super geeked out on Lovecraft though. It’s definitely interesting and I do enjoy it. I’ve read into some Lovecraft and I’ve gotten in touch with it because we’re so heavily involved with it so I do look into it more just so I can understand where it’s coming from.”
I asked Brett to share his thoughts on the band’s mantra to success and whether there’s new Revo music on the horizon.
“We’ve been doing the same old thing, year after year, really. On the last release, we only had four practices to rehearse the songs - everyone did their shit at home.Technology is a hell of a tool though. I remember I was chatting with Dave a while ago and I’m like ‘just send me the demos and I’ll start working on them’ - it’s that quick and easy. It’s good because that way, we can let each other know, what parts need to stay, what parts need to breathe in a different way. We’ve found a system that works for us. We’ll be doing the new record soon, the idea is to have one ready to go once all of this is over. We don’t know if it’ll come back in the fall again for round two, so we’re being very cautious about what we book and just focusing our efforts on making the new record. So hopefully by the time there’s a vaccine and the virus cools off, we’re ready to go. For the moment I love spending my free time skateboarding, drinking beer and just working weird jobs. I love working, I’m down with that, I work 60 hours a week sometimes!”
I told Brett how that reminded me of a mutual, close friend of ours, Todd Stern, bassist of Psycroptic which was met with a really nice little story from the past!
“Oh yeah, I talk to him everyday, he’s my best friend! We used to manage an ice cream store together, that was pretty cool! It was like 2006; he and I were on the same school bus when we were kids, I hadn’t seen him in forever and at the time I was playing in a band called Day Without Dawn, we had a tour booked and I just got this job at the ice cream store. I saw him later at my favourite pizza place and we started talking straight away about our bands and shit, about doing a show together. Eventually I told him to come work with me at the store and he came through so it was just him and me, icing cakes. It was a sick time!”
It’s always inspiring when you meet and talk to people who have a solid grip over their time and an unrelenting passion for what they do, so much so that they're able to do it for much of their time. Brett plays and writes music in seven different bands including Revocation, Garbage People and Publicist, each one different in it’s own way from the last. What’s the story behind the name ‘Garbage People’ you may wonder? Well, so did I!
“Well, TJ from Inter Arma and I started drinking beers together years ago and when we got together, it would be like this dark swirl of energy, we’d just be having a good time. So one time, we were like ‘let’s just do a band!’ John Rice, also from Inter Arma, played drums for us in Revo in 2014 and actually came up with the name saying we were ‘Garbage People’. I told TJ that we could write a record and have John play drums on it. And that’s where it all began - TJ came over, we’d write a song, do drums and bass, I’d cook a big lunch and then we’d get real f*cked up! That was our ritual for two and a half weeks! It’s our vacation band, we just have a really good time playing music. Eventually we want to put the record out in Japan, maybe digital and do a couple of tours. In the States, we want to do a couple of weekend shows and then maybe camp in between for five days. It’s just a fun band full of wild people!”
While Revocation and Garbage People are more on the wild side, Publicist, his other project dives into more of a post punk realm. It was great, hearing him talk about how he’s able to work on all of his projects and enjoy some downtime too.
“I’m doing like seven other bands right now, it’s sick! Keeps me busy! I’m also in Publicist, more post punk, all the music is demo’d up for the second record, Netflix just bought a song from us, that’ll put us in good standing with the label and everything. There’s something else I’m doing with some guys from Australia but it hasn’t been announced yet so I can’t say too much, but yeah that record’s completely done which is awesome. So at the moment, it’s easier because it’s all remote - not everyone is a touring band and you can’t tour right now either. The only bands I’m gonna play shows with right now are Revocation and Garbage people. But other than that, having time at home right now allows me to do it all, which is awesome.”
There’s a lot to be learnt from life as we go through it and Brett had some very important life lessons to share from his own journey, not just as a musician but as an individual.
“Man how deep should I go here? I think for me, what was really important was accepting the fact that I’m not a normal person - that was a big discovery. For a minute I thought I was just a normal person but I’m not. Always came up on Skateboarding, always working as hard as I could and as long as I could while partying as hard as I could while dating someone - everything was on a 10 like I wanted to get every drop out of life. Being kind of addicted to moving all the time, finding out what that meant for me and balancing that out was probably the most challenging thing for me. I’m kinda getting a grasp on it now for the first time in my life and I’m 39 years old - had to go through a period of two years where I was in a really interesting relationship with a person and I stopped drinking to save money to buy a house, focus on working with this person through both of our issues and I learnt a lot about myself in there. Also, I found out I needed to let loose a bit more. So I guess it was all about finding a little more balance in my life and learning to look in the mirror.”
To end what was a really insightful and beautiful conversation, Brett had some very sound advice to share from his years of experience in the game.
“I can only give you my personal experience - every band has a different combination of people which is a different combination of ingredients, personalities, chemistry which will yield different results. It’s hard to generalise but personally, I think if you find something that works for you, then stick with it, find out more about it. That’s what I learnt when I was coming up with the guys from New Jersey, we were working 80 hours a week but still writing all the time, we wanted to tour more so we started booking our own tours, doing it all ourselves, and that worked. I found that I wasn’t touring enough, so I just started filling in for bands - any band that needed anything, I’d be down to do it. That’s how I kind of got myself out there and that’s how I eventually joined Revocation by filling in in a band with Todd Stern actually, he could probably say that this path worked for him as well. But that’s just how we did it, you network and meet people and keep at it because eventually, if you put yourself out there, you’ll find the guys that want to play as hard as you do and tour as hard as you do.”