Interview with drummer John Devos
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 19, 2013
Funeral Age is a 4-piece blackened Death/Thrash Metal act from Seattle, WA, that has recorded two full-length albums thus far (Fistful of Christ in 2004 and Thy Martyrdom Come in 2010); both being well received by the Metal crowd. The band is currently preparing songs for their next release with the hopes of getting some attention from record labels and plans on touring as much as possible in 2013.
Drummer John Devos wanted to share a few thoughts about the comings and goings of Funeral Age, and what's in store for them in the coming months. It also needs to be mentioned that he killed his interview virginity as this was his first-ever interview. Congrats on this achievement, John ;o)
Luxi: First off, how's it going in Seattle? Are you disappointed that the end of the world didn't come on December 21th 2012, according to the Mayan calendar?
John: It's going pretty well. Obviously, the weather sucks, as always, but it definitely gives us a good atmosphere to play what we play. I am going to be completely un-Metal and say that I am happy it didn't end! We still haven't even done a real tour! Let us at least play in Europe ONCE before the world decides to end!
Luxi: How would envision the end of the world?
John: Ah, I can picture it now. We will be playing Wacken with Immortal, Absu, KISS, Mayhem, hell why not an Emperor reunion!? We will end our set with "Dying Time Is Nigh," and right as we hit the last note all hell breaks loose! The ground opens and up rises the man himself - ROB HALFORD!!! He sings "White Hot, Red Heat" while we play the music, and then all of Wacken is engulfed in flames! Then it'll spread from there.
Luxi: Ha-ha! That's was a good one. Alright, let's cut the crap now and start talking about your band, Funeral Age. It was formed around 1998 but under a different moniker, Suicide Culture. You weren't in the band back then, but joined in 2006. What you were doing before joining Funeral Age?
John: I was still in High School when I was contacted by Kevin (singer/guitarist) about joining! I wasn't sure if it was for real since Funeral Age had opened for bands such as Kreator, Cannibal Corpse, Vader and Incantation, so I was shocked that they would ask me to join! To be honest, I told him no a couple times before finally giving in and giving it a shot. The first song I learned was "Damnation Rain," which was still in the writing process at the time, and I was beyond excited to be a member after jamming that song. Prior to Funeral Age I was in a couple of bands. No One Lives was my main one, which split up in 2006, and then I was in the band Decension with an ex-NOL guitarist, which broke up around the same time I joined Funeral Age. Other than that, I was just a student in High School!
Luxi: Funeral Age was just a 3-piece band when they recorded their debut album, Fistful of Christ, Mike Sillifant playing drums on that one. You replaced him on the band's 2nd album, Thy Martyrdom Come. I was just wondering if you felt any pressure after taking Mike's place behind the drums, knowing that he had been with the band since the days of Suicide Culture?
John: I definitely felt a bit of pressure, especially since I was still in High School, but I wanted to give it a shot and do my best. I was surprised that they asked me to come back, and then, later on, to become a permanent member. Doing 200+ BPM blast beats was not in my repertoire at the time! I was under even more pressure since my first show with Funeral Age was playing the 2008 Seattle Metal Fest. A ton of people came just to see how we sounded since it had been about 3 years since Funeral Age had played live.
Luxi: Thy Martyrdom Come was recorded at Two Sticks Audio in the summer of 2008 but it only came out two years later. What caused the delay; financial problems, perhaps?
John: Financial problems were definitely there, as well as layout issues and just getting the right mix. I cannot even begin to count how many times we had to remix the album, re-amp the guitarist, etc. But that is what you do when you want to have a good strong release, especially one that is on par, if not better, than the first album. It took a long time to get the booklet done, as well. Kevin and I would bust our ass on it day in and day out. Neither of us was really good with that kind of work, so it was rough. After we completed it, we found out we had actually done it wrong! So we had to start from scratch. At that point we got a friend of ours to help, and she got it completed in one sitting.
Luxi: Musically, Thy Martyrdom Come, falls somewhere between Death and Black Metal. Would you tell us about Funeral Age's musical influences?
John: To be honest, we bring in inspiration from all forms of Metal. Judas Priest, Possessed, AngelCorpse and Dark Angel are some major influences in the overall sound. A big influence we had on this album, in particular, was Emperor. Fistful didn't have many keyboard parts, and clean vocals were completely absent on it, but we wanted to try something new for the follow up, thus we gave it a shot. Our bassist, who recorded on the album, was really into bassists like Steve Harris, so he added a whole new dimension with his very unique style that is not heard in a lot Black/Death Metal. At the time of the recording I was still trying to find myself as a drummer. I was really into the work of Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy), and Emilio Marquez (Sadistic Intent, Possessed, Asesino), but it wasn't until later on that I found Proscriptor (Absu), who is my main influence for the new Funeral Age songs currently being written.
Luxi: What could you tell about the cover concept for Thy Martyrdom Come?
John: The cover artwork is titled "A Pilgrimage to San Isidro" by the artist Francisco De Goya from 1820. Not many bands use actual pieces of art for album covers anymore, so we wanted to bring it back. Kevin and Marlon (live guitarist at the time) were looking for something that was cool, but also gave you an idea of what the music would sound like. They found this piece of art, and we all fell in love with it. Some of the faces on the cover just strike you with "Ok, this is something to check out..." so we went with it!
Luxi: You shot a video for the song "Lives for an Eye" from Thy Martyrdom Come, featuring lots of real war scenes. Could you enlighten us about the actual video shoot plus what made you to choose this particular song for Funeral age's first official video?
John: We wanted a song that was intense, that really showed who we were right from the start, and a song that just jumped right into chaos. Also, this is one of the "catchier" songs off of the album, so it is easier to get into. We filmed the video at the house of our current guitarist, Henry. One of the rooms has a very Gothic feel to it, and we felt it would be the perfect space to shoot the video.
Luxi: Were there other candidates for the video that you were seriously considering?
John: If we could, we would shoot a video for all of them, ha-ha! When we were trying to decide which song, it was a toss-up between "Lives" and "One Abomination Under God." "One Abomination" is one of our fan favorites, so it was definitely another option. But we felt we still hit it strong with "Lives." Who knows, maybe another video will be shot?
Luxi: Now you have two well-crafted and well-received albums out, so I assume you also got some label interest; any revelations regarding this matter?
John: At the moment, we are still shipping our material out to labels and trying to get some more interest. I mean, we have gained a lot of interest in the band, more than when the band started out, but since both albums were self-released and self-funded, it has made us work a bit harder and given us more obstacles to jump over in regards to getting signed to a major label. It has also been rough since we are always dealing with line-up changes, but we feel that our current line-up is strong, and the best that we have ever had! So hopefully something good will come of it soon.
Luxi: Do you believe that labels, these days, care for their bands as much as they did in the past or have they become greedier, only caring about the profit they can make?
John: You know, it really depends on the label and how it is run. Obviously, when you look at record labels that sign pop acts, all they seem to care about is the profit. They want to make the band, give them a style, give them a sound, tell them what to do, everything! It's extremely fake and obviously they just want them to be the next hot thing. When it comes to big labels that sign Metal acts, it depends. I mean, look at a band like Wintersun. How long did it take for them to release their follow-up? The label obviously wasn't bothered about not making money off of them and just wanted them to release the best thing they could. Also with Indie labels, they don't seem to be about the dollar. A lot of them are just cool dudes sitting around their room and wanting to help promote bands that they like MUSICALLY.
Luxi: How important is it for you personally that vinyl are still getting released nowadays? Are you vinyl freak yourself, by the way?
John: It's rad that people still go for it! I personally am not a vinyl freak (I am – a huge one, Luxi). I only own maybe 10, but the fact that it is still there is great. It's just another piece of merch for someone to collect and show their love for the band.
Luxi: Funeral Age has shared stages with many well-known bands during these past two years or so. As you told me there already, you guys have played with Dying Fetus, Marduk, Possessed, Cannibal Corpse, Moonsorrow, Decapitated and so on. How much have all these gigs helped to get the word out about Funeral Age in the modern, internet-based world?
John: The shows have helped us get the name out greatly, not only online, but in person, too. Opening for big names has really gotten the name Funeral Age out there, especially since we try to be very open with the types of bands we play with. We will play with Marduk, and then play with Korpiklaani, and then Dying Fetus. They all have their own fan base and there are different people at every show. A lot of your average Metal fans here in Seattle don't pay much attention to the local scene, so when they see us and how professional we are, they get hooked! We sell CDs and shirts at every show. It's nice to get out there and play an all-local bill, but then you get the same people out at your shows and you don't gain many new fans.
Luxi: Is playing live fun for you or is it work, a necessary evil to get the Funeral Age name out to the masses?
John: To be completely honest, it's a bit of both. I love playing shows. I love getting out there, on the stage, and sharing with everyone what I do. I don't have an amazing job, I don't have much of a life either, so to be on stage and do what I love doing is an honor, especially when you get great feedback. At the same time though, it can be a hassle. Setting up your gear to just play for 30 minutes and then tear it back down is a serious downside. Here in Seattle the local bands sell tickets for the big shows they open, which is another enemy of us. It's fun to promote, but after a while you feel like it's another job that you don't really get paid for.
Luxi: How important is Funeral Age's look when performing on stage? Do you have a dress code for what kinds of things to should wear so that the visual side of Funeral Age lines up with the music that you perform?
John: We like to make the visual experience as good as the musical experience. Look at a band that just goes on stage wearing jeans and band shirts. Sure, the music could be good, but there isn't much to see. Now look at a band like Behemoth, or Watain. They have a look; they make an atmosphere for the crowd to enjoy. In Funeral Age, the guys up front wear the black shirt, leather pants, and the spiked gauntlets. Luckily, I am the drummer, so it doesn't really matter what I wear, but people look at those three and think "Wow! These guys are serious!" Along with that, we like to use the fog machine A LOT. It creates an atmosphere like none other, and makes the visual experience that much more exciting!
Luxi: How's the club scene for Metal bands in Seattle? Is it good or could it be better?
John: The club scene is strong! There are plenty of places to play, and plenty of bands to play with. The only downfall is that many of the venues that solely support local acts are quite small, and we have a lot of gear! Honestly, there is always room for improvement, but you can't really complain about it when there are places and bands to play with!
Luxi: You also have a gig coming up with Nile on March 22nd 2013. How much are you looking forward to playing with them? Have you ever played with them before?
John: This will be the first time that we get to share the stage with Nile, and we are insanely excited to share the stage with them! George Kollias is one of my favorite drummers, and Nile is one of [our guitarist] Henry's favorite bands. We weren't expecting to get on the bill because we contacted the venue very last minute, and apparently Nile is sent the bands that request to play, and they get to pick who opens for them! So when we got the confirmation we were beyond excited to get the opportunity.
Luxi: There's a note on the gig poster for this forthcoming Nile show that says "Nile supports local Metal bands." I guess that tells something about the attitude of the Nile guys, doesn't it?
John: Exactly! It is great to see such legends still supporting the local scene. I have opened for many big acts, and honestly a lot of them just hide in the tour bus or show no interest in who the locals are. It is quite a letdown, but then there are other bands that are all into it. Back when we opened for Possessed, their guitarist came up to me and said "You guys were sick!" and asked for a CD. It's cool to have an ego, everyone does, but when you act like you are better than everyone and the unsigned "no name" bands are nothing, it is just sad.
Luxi: Do you have any tour plans for 2013?
John: As a matter of fact we are currently working on booking a spring tour down the West Coast! It has been rough since, as I mentioned before, we are always struck down with line-up changes, so we have always had to push things back, but this current line up feels solid, and everyone has the same goal! We are hoping that 2013 is the year that Funeral Age finally breaks out from the Northwest and gets a bigger following than we have already gained.
Luxi: It's been 2+ years since Thy Martyrdom Come was released, so I have to assume Funeral Age have some new material in the works. Is there anything you can reveal about your new songs? How do they compare to the previous stuff you have done?
John: For sure! The new songs still have the same Funeral Age sound overall, but we are trying a lot of new things as well. We have played two new songs live, "We Want Blood" and "Victim's Soul." "We Want Blood" is a straight up blackened Thrash song that really gets the crowd moving. I took a lot out of Absu's book for the drum fills and patterns. "Victim's Soul" has a more old school Death Metal vibe, along the lines of Morbid Angel's more mid-tempo sound. The rest of our new songs all have their own vibe, but still the sound of Funeral Age!
Luxi: What are some of the essential things that you try to keep in mind whenever there's a new Funeral Age song under the hammer of the songwriting process?
John: The main thing is that we don't want to play the same part too many times in a song. We want the songs to be exciting, so we don't do the normal verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus; we like to mix it up. Some things we keep in mind are "what beat would this riff sound good with?," "does this sound like a rehashed version of an old song?" and "have we played this part too many times in the song?" It's quite the process. We really take our time on writing because we want to release the best thing that we can and not just some thrown together, cookie-cutter, generic Black Metal song.
Luxi: Your vocalist and guitarist, Kevin Bedra, has been responsible for most of the song and lyric writing in the band so far. Will the rest of the band take some songwriting responsibility or do you believe it will probably remain the same as always, with Kevin leading the ship?
John: Kevin is the guy who has the big picture of how he wants the songs to sound. He knows where he wants to take the songs, so we let him do his thing. We have two new members in the band since Martyrdom came out, and both bring new ideas to the table. Henry is just a flat out amazing lead guitarist, so when there is a section that needs a solo we hand it off to him to do his work. Our new bassist, Victor, is A BASSIST. He adds more layers to the songs than ever before. He learned our two unrecorded songs in one session and added his own flavor to them. So, to answer the original question, Kevin is definitely the main songwriter, but we all bring our own flavor to make the song as "multi-cultural" as possible.
Luxi: What are some Metal bands from your area that you'd recommend people keep their eyes on in the future?
John: Seattle is FULL of up and coming Metal bands. To be brutally honest, it seems there is more quantity than quality, but the good bands are good and there are a ton of bands to play with. Some bands that really stand out to me are Terra Morta, Shaded Enmity, Phalgeron, Divinorum (my side band), Skelator and Ceremonial Castings. There are plenty more, but those are some great bands to start with.
Luxi: Last question, and then we are done; what do you hope that 2013 will bring for Funeral Age?
John: I am hoping that we can finally break out of Seattle and tour, get our name out there more, meet more people, anything to help promote the name of Funeral Age! I envision it to be a very successful year for us!
Luxi: I want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, John, and I wish you all the best with your future endeavors, both personally and with Funeral Age. May the force be with you, or something like that (any last comments, perhaps?)
John: Thank you very much for the opportunity and I look forward to seeing where things go from here!
|Other information about Funeral Age on this site|
|Review: Fistful Of Christ|
|Review: Thy Martyrdom Come|
|Interview with Kevin Bedra (Guitars/Vocals) on October 26, 2003 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)|
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