Interview: Suffocation

A good four years separate death metal crowd-pleaser Pinnacle Of Bedlam from new killer …Of The Dark Light. But it wasn’t always like this. Back in the ‘90s, Suffocation maniacs waited, at most, two years between old and new fixes of New York-styled brutality. Landmark full-length Effigy Of The Forgotten was only two years removed from debut EP, Human Waste. Likewise, Breeding The Spawn slayed posers and pretenders a year and a half after Effigy Of The Forgotten blueprinted Suffocation into the history books. And Pierced From Within, the wickedest death metal put to tape in the mid-‘90s, slammed fist first into mediocrity two years after Breeding The Spawn. Clearly, there were times when Suffocation's march towards total annihilation was fast and furious. We spoke with bass player Derek Boyer about the new album, they're favourite bands to play with, coming back to Australia and much more. This time, he started off the conversation.

How you doing? Or should I say, how ya goin? That's how you say it right?

Yeah, you got it right there (laughs)

I love that! Cause to us it's 'how is it going' or 'how are you doing' and when we talk to you guys it's great, I love that accent man. I think it's fucking great!

So, pretty exciting times for the Suffocation camp with your new album ...Of The Dark Light coming out June 9th. How do you feel about this album and did a lot go into the recording this time around?

Yeah, I feel great about the record. I was just on the other interviews and making the case that the label chooses what songs the fans are going to hear first and it's like, well can everyone expect the album to be just like 'Your Last Breath' which was the first single. The answer is no, definitely not. The album is chaotic and crazy, it's all over the place. To judge it based from the one song that the people have already heard is not the way to go, you really need to hear the entire album. But we like it, and it's really aggressive, it's got some twists and turns in it and pretty dark lyrical content, love the artwork, I mean everything about it came out sick. So when you soak the whole album in as a whole, that's when you can make an opinion and say 'yeah this album is great or not so great' but until you have the entire album memorized and soaked into you head then that's when you'll really know whether you like it or you don't like it. But we like it, it's pretty aggressive and really brutal, even for us, so yeah, I'm excited.

Yeah exactly right, you just can't go judging an entire album based on hearing one song, you've got to take in the whole album before you go and comment on it.

Yeah, right on, absolutely man.

You joined the band right as Suffocation re-formed pretty much in 2004. What has it been like since then for you to tour the world and make great death metal with such a well known name in the genre like Suffocation?

It's great, you know I knew this is what I was going to do since I was in school. I'd always been playing instruments right through my childhood and I like the real aggressive style of music, I was just saying to someone else, Suffocation is really brutal band and when I was younger you had all these bands that would come to town like Morbid Angel, Obituary, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, you know, all of these big and brutal bands would come through and when Suffocation would come, they would kick everybody's ass. Suffocation was the most brutal band and when they re-formed and they asked me to come on board it was totally like my favourite thing and this is 100% what I want to do. It's been a great ride and it's been just about 15 years now and I've been enjoying meeting people and touring the world and getting really proficient with our instruments. Understanding how the stage works and how the studio works, because when you're a kid and you play, it's just all about having fun. You don't really care about all the details like why things are the way that they are, so you know, when you take it as a profession and you dedicate your entire like to this, then you start picking things up and thinking "that's why this is really good and that's why we do it this way." So yeah, it's interesting, the deeper you get into it the more you realise what to do and what not to do, and it's just been a great experience. It's too much fun, we love what we're doing and it's always a great time.

When you guys went in to record the new album, did you have a clear idea about what you wanted it to sound like and was there a particular theme or any lyrical content that you guys spoke about?

Yeah, I mean the lyrical themes are already there in advance, stuff I had put together and said this is the kind of direction I'm going with it, does anybody appose it? Or does anybody want to chime in? Everybody else in the band is basically already pre-occupied with their end of the deal. My end of the deal is to play the bass and write the material and stuff with the guys. A little while back, Frank was like "I'm tired of writing the same stuff, if you really like writing these themes then go ahead and write them." So with every album I was writing more and more, and then with this last one I pretty much wrote the entire thing. If you read the liner notes it indicates who did what on every album. So for the last two, it was pretty much the same deal with me putting everything together with Frank chiming in with one song that has nothing to do nothing. Musically, I feel like we know our instruments and when we get into the studio I can't imagine anyone of us saying "Hey we should do something entirely different" you know? We just kind of go in and get our sound, this is what we sound like and it ain't worth changing now. To sit there for an extra week or even an extra few days looking for a new sound, we don't really do that. We bring in our amplifiers, we bring in our sound and we plug in our guitars and we tune them the way that we've always tuned them until we go "Yeah that sounds like Suffocation, let's start recording." For the most part it's not too pre-meditated, we just kind of go in and do what we're supposed to do.

I didn't know that you were behind putting the whole album together, that's really cool.

Yeah, two in a row. Before that, those albums are mostly me with a couple of interjections from other guys. So I started as sort of a minor contributor and then I became a major contributor to now where I'm writing most of the material on my own.Not saying the other guys don't bring anything to the table, because they definitely do. But for their one track I'll bring maybe four tracks forward and yeah that's how it's been for the most part the past couple of records. So yeah, it's pretty cool for Frank to have faith in me and let me do the writing and stuff on my own now. He just tells me to make it sound sick and then he'll get in there and Mullen-ize it a bit and change anything that he has to change.

Tell us one thing about the new album that you're really excited about for your fans to hear.

For the most part, this album is super aggressive. It just comes out of the gate swinging. Every song is just brutal. I do like the new guys, we got two new guys in the band now and they both played really well. They learned it right, when you've got the other guys that are set in their ways then some things get overlooked. Now we've got this fresh blood, and we just tell them that this is the way it is motherfucker, this is how this shit goes. They're like "Woah! Yes! I understand." If you've been playing in a band together for 15 years and one guy goes this is how it is, and the other one is like yeah, yeah I know how it is. So having that new blood in the band was awesome, it put a new level of focus where everybody is playing right and everybody understood what we were going for. It worked out really well and we think people are really going to like it.

They're probably super keen to learn from you guys and to see you in your element would be a big eye opener and amazing experience for them.

Yeah, sure man. The label has put out the one single so far that has no real reflection of how the rest of the album is going to sound. The next thing you know, the album will drop and a few people have heard it already because the label gave it out to a few places so they could hear it and review it. Which I think is really cool and I've been hearing some real positive things so far. Did they give you a copy?

Yeah they did, I've had the chance to listen to it a few times now and I love what I hear. As you said, it's extremely brutal and aggressive.

Oh wow, that's great man. I'm so stoked! I'm so glad you get to hear it in its entirety because a lot of people have only heard the one song on YouTube or whatever which is like, that's great, but that's not a reflection of the whole album. So I'm glad you got to hear the whole thing.

You're heading over to Europe in August for a bunch of shows, will you guys be doing the whole European festival circuit this year? Or is it more of an intimate run of club shows?

You know what? It's really funny because either I'm not 100% aware of what we're doing or I have zero understanding of what we're doing. I know we're about to leave and do a tour with Morbid Angel in North America, so I know all the details for that one. I know after that we're heading over to Europe and I know nothing about it (laughs). We'll be doing some festivals, and probably some smaller and intimate shows between the festivals. But to the best of my knowledge it is a festival style run with the shows in between.

That leads me to this questions actually, who are some of your absolute favourite death metal bands to play live shows with?

Oh man, that's tough. Tonnes of them. There are so many that are really sick. I love playing with Behemoth, Dying Fetus, Decapitated... There's so many good bands. We get along great with the guys in Goatwhore. The bands that I love and the bands that we tour with are not always exactly the same but I learn to love these other bands where it's like all of my favourite bands I don't necessarily tour with all the time. But last year we toured with Cannibal Corpse and Nile, that was an absolute blast. We were able to do last years Summer Slaughter and play with a lot of newer death metal bands which was a lot of fun. Other than that we have a tonne of fun with Cryptopsy, Decrepit Birth, Origin, there's just a million bands. Obituary and Morbid Angel are always going to be up there also, it's always a blast with those guys. We love playing with the other death metal bands that are in our circle, but even the newer ones like the guys in Fallujah are great, even Whitechapel, those guys are all doing something that's fresh and sounds good. We love them all.

You mentioned Decapitated, about two years ago you guys were here in Australia with them. That was an amazing tour. Would you love to come back and tour here again for this new album?

We would love to! I imagine we will definitely be over there again to support this record. Basically what ends up happening is that we will cut a record and then we will try and go everywhere for it. Whether it's South America, North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, just everywhere we can possibly get to. It's very rare that we skip Australia for a new record, we've been coming over there for the last 3 or 4 records and we loved coming over there with Decapitated. That was a blast! We will be back to support this record, hopefully with somebody really brutal playing with us.

That would be awesome. We don't get as much death metal here because we're so far away from everything but when a big band like Suffocation comes out here it's a big deal and people go nuts and lose their minds at the shows because it's not every day we get to have that here.

Oh I love it! That's great. Australia is one of my favourite places to play, the people are genuine and nice as well as very enthusiastic. We just always have a great time there. It's always great weather whenever we are in Australia also. We love playing there and we can't wait to get back.

Good to hear. Do you have any final words for you fans that are looking forward to hearing the new album before you head off?

Yeah, I mean just check it out. It's an aggressive record and I think people are going to like how brutal this album is. We can't wait to play it live to you guys when we come back, no matter where you are or whoever reads this. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks Derek, all the best and we look forward to seeing Suffocation destroy Australia in the near future.

Alright man, take care brother. Listen to that record and we'll see you soon.

Check out our review for the new album by clicking this link.

...Of The Dark Light is out June 9th via Nuclear Blast Records. Pre-order here.

Written by Steve Jenkins

Watch the official lyric video for the track "Return To The Abyss" below:

#BrutalDeathMetal #DeathMetal

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