Heart of Steel: Interviews

 

blackphoto
Interview With God Forbid
Interview by Lord of the Wasteland
Pics courtesy of godforbid.com

 

God Forbid has just released one of the best CDs I’ve heard in a while, GONE FOREVER. The band released a “teaser” E.P late in 2003 called BETTER DAYS and it was an excellent introduction to God Forbid. It featured a song from each of their four releases. Comprised of brothers Dallas and “Doc” Coyle on guitars, John Outcalt on bass, Corey Pierce on drums and Byron Davis on vocals, God Forbid is an American metalcore band from New Jersey. Now put away that sneer, because God Forbid isn’t your typical ballcap-wearing, baggy-pant having, downtuned-guitar playing, microphone-shouting band of meatheads. They mix some thrash elements and clean vocals a la Shadows Fall with the aggression of hardcore. And these guys can actually play AND sing! When asked if I wanted to interview the band, I jumped at the chance and was fortunate to spend half an hour with guitarist “Doc” Coyle (the bald one of the two brothers :) ) talking about the new CD, internal conflicts that nearly shattered the group, and the ever-hot topic of American politics.

 

 

Your new CD, GONE FOREVER, doesnít hit stores until February 24th, but thanks to Century Media, I got a promo copy. Iíve been listening to it over and over for the last 3 days and I have to say that this is one of the best CDs Iíve heard this year!

Thanks a lot! I appreciate that.

 

 

I was looking around online to see what some other people thought of it and I really couldn’t find very much. Have you seen any reviews for the new record and if so, what have they been saying?

There’s really not too much. I think I’ve maybe seen 4 or 5 reviews? We’re still kind of awaiting some of the major sites to review it but every single review I’ve seen has been very, very good.

 

 

That’s great! You must be very happy about that. The last album, DETERMINATION, had some great buzz about it and this one seems to be heading in that same direction.

Well I think this album is much, much better than the last one. I mean now we’re more well-known and it’s not so much of a surprise. You know, “who’s this band?” People call us “metalcore” or whatever and I think the whole metalcore scene has become over-saturated, so I think it’s harder for a band of that genre to really stand out. When people give us a good review, it’s more of a testament to the time because I think a lot of great records have come out since our last album. If our album can hold up to that, that’s the true test.

 

 

Did you approach the recording of this album any different than DETERMINATION?

Well, we had a different producer work on this album-Eric Rachel-as opposed to Zeuss, who did the last one. On DETERMINATION, we were all still kind of figuring out what we were doing songwriting-wise and recording-wise. I don’t think we had any specific goals in mind. This time, we knew exactly what we wanted to do. Eric knew the ways to help us get that and with Colin Richardson mixing, that helped a lot, too. We had a bit more time to record this time, too. Probably twice as much time for this record, so that helps a lot.

 

 

It’s been 3 years since DETERMINATION was released. What took so long to get GONE FOREVER out?

We toured for a year and a half. We didn’t really write much on the road. I think the only song we wrote while we were still touring was “Force-Fed.” Everything else was written after we got home from touring. It was hard for people to adapt to the new writing style and the songs we were going for, so it took us a while to really get comfortable with what we were doing and what we were going for. We had some personal issues with each other that kind of came to a head that we had to work on. There was a time when we almost broke up because there was tension within the group but we worked that out if we were going to move forward. We recorded the album in July, so it’s been 7 months since we actually recorded it, too. A lot of that has to do with the label wanting to set it up properly.

 

 

I saw you live on The Headbanger’s Ball Tour here in Vancouver in November. From what it sounds like, the album was long done by that time?

Yeah, everything was completely done by that time. It was mastered and everything. We’ve been sitting on it for quite a while and we’ve known how good it was, so it was kind of frustrating to have to sit back and wait for everyone to hear the record. We believe in the album and we think that once people actually hear it that they’ll kind of get what we’re all about. We’re not the same band that we were 4 or 5 years ago. We really feel that we’re a new band and the new album really represents us in a completely different way than our older material.

 

 

You mentioned “Force-Fed,” which happens to be one of my favorite tracks from the album. I love the thrashy intro!

Thanks!

 

 

Who writes most of the riffs? Is it you or your brother, Dallas?

On this album, I think I was the catalyst. I’d say I wrote probably 60 or 70% of the riffs on the new record. Towards the end, my brother started getting into it. The song “Allegiance,” which is on the “BETTER DAYS E.P., he wrote that entire song. He wrote “Soul Engraved.” He came up with all of the melodic vocal melodies and such. (Laughs) He’s over here looking at me when I said that I wrote most of the riffs. It’s true, punk! (laughs) After I get off the phone, we’ll have to go over every riff on the album (laughs).

 

 

Does Byron write his own lyrics?

This time around, we actually split it up. Anything that went on with the record was really a collaborative experience. On our past records, we just let everyone do what they wanted to do. This time around, it couldn’t be like that. Every single note, every single word…EVERYTHING had to be scrutinized. If it wasn’t good enough, we went in a different direction because it just had to be good, you know? But he definitely contributed to the lyrics as well as Dallas and myself. We really wanted the lyrics to represent everyone’s views in the band. They needed to speak to people on a broader level and be more specific.

 

 

One of the lyrics that really stood out is from “Washed-Out World,” where you ask, “What does the future hold?” Is God Forbid politically-minded, if that’s what you’re asking in that song?

Well, that song is actually written about the end of the world and the destruction of the Earth. Heat boiling over and earthquakes destroying everything. It’s kind of an apocalyptic song. I think Byron wrote the lyrics to that one. My brother might have contributed a little. I don’t remember off-hand. I think lyrics take a life of their own because they have a meaning for people and how you take them in and apply them to yourself. I think they can mean whatever you want them to mean.

 

 

Who is, “Antihero” about?

George Bush! Yeah, that song is about the whole war situation and how much hate we have for our current president-A LOT!! We’re just waiting for the next election so we can get him out of office. I think most people realize that he’s a really bad president who shouldn’t even be in office because he wasn’t even elected, but that’s another story (laughs).

 

 

It’s not looking too good for him right now either, is it?

I hope not. He’s really just terrible. He’s done a lot of band things for this country. We shouldn’t be at war. War is not good! He calls himself a “war president!” WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?! I mean, grown people do not go around getting in fights when we walk down the street! That just doesn’t make sense to walk up and hit somebody but it makes sense if you fly 5,000 miles away and kill people who you don’t even know? It’s barbaric and it’s an ancient concept. Hopefully, we can get beyond that and move on. If not, then we are doomed.

 

 

Getting back to the songs, who plays the piano intro to “Judge The Blood?”

It was Mike Pinnella, the keyboard player from Symphony X.

 

 

Really? How did you get involved with him?

They live right around here. He and my brother also worked at a guitar center together. There’s keyboards on a few of the songs actually. “Washed-Out World” has some, “Precious Lie,” “Force-Fed” in spots and “Gone Forever,” too. He just kind of helped us out for a couple of hours and did that stuff. He didn’t even know much about the group at first, either. He just came in as a favor to us and he’s one of the craziest musicians I’ve ever seen in my life! We’re punk rockers compared to guys like that! All those guys could probably have instructional videos. Not us!

 

 

I read that you’ve done a video for “Better Days.” What is happening in the video?

There’s a storyline going through one week in this one individual’s life and what he goes through. His feelings of depression, anger and sadness. The footage of the band is taken from stuff we did in Philadelphia with my brother and I on top of a building. There’s stuff with Byron in the subway. It’s really cool! We did a lot of location stuff, which is kind of different because usually it’s just the band in one room but we got out and did some scenes with us in different environments. We did it on 16mm film for pretty cheap but it came out really good. I haven’t seen it on the TV, yet. Just on the computer, but for what we spent on it, it came out really good. It doesn’t look like everyone’s video. It will premiere on February 28th at 10:00 PM on The Headbanger’s Ball. Do you get the same channel in Canada?

 

 

We get MTV Canada but you have to pay extra for it and other than the hour a week of metal, it’s complete shit, so I don’t get it. We do get a show called Loud on MuchMusic that is a half hour of metal a week on Saturday nights. I imagine they’ll be playing the video on there soon, too.

Oh cool. I hope so.

 

 

The BETTER DAYS E.P. came out and was priced at $3.00, which is a steal! Why did Century Media put it out for so cheap? They can’t possibly be making any money for that price?

The main reason behind that was to tide people over who had really been waiting for something from us because it had been such a long time. It got people familiar with what the new material was like and also if someone had never heard of the band, it kind of gives a brief history of us. There’s songs from every release we’ve done and it also has an unreleased song called “Allegiance” that is exclusive to the E.P.. If you’re a big fan, you’ll feel like you’re getting something extra. I didn’t even want the E.P. to come out! I just wanted the album to come out but I think it’s a good idea just to keep your name out there and have a presence until the new record comes out. My opinion is that, yeah, there is one song that isn’t on the new album but I don’t think it’s representative of what the album really is. I’d just be afraid that if someone heard it and didn’t like it then they wouldn’t get the album.

 

 

One of the older songs, “Mind Eraser,” doesn’t even sound like the same band as you are today, in my opinion.

That is not even the right version of the song. We re-recorded “Mind Eraser” when we did DETERMINATION. It had a better recording and the label put the wrong version on the E.P.. It would have made it a lot better and worthwhile because it would have been a rare version of the song that no one had. I was really pissed off about it, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.

 

 

“Reject The Sickness” has a volume increase about halfway through that seemed strange. Was that supposed to be there?

Honestly, I think they completely messed up that master. I think I know what you’re talking about, though.

 

 

Yeah, about a minute and a half into the song, it starts getting steadily louder!

I don’t know what happened with that E.P.. They let us approve everything except the actual music when they put it out.

 

 

So the band didn’t even pick the older songs that were used?

I picked the songs and I sent an e-mail to my manager to tell him what to put on there, but between the time I sent out those instructions and when the E.P. came out, there was about 4 months time and they just put it out without verifying that they had the right things! They just did and see what happened? I’m not saying nothing! Hopefully if they repress the E.P. they’ll put the right versions on there.

 

 

The covers for both the E.P. and GONE FOREVER are pretty cool. I see where you’re headed with the crow as representing death and standing over the grave. Who was it that designed them and did they do both covers?

Yes, it was Travis Smith. He’s done covers for Nevermore, Opeth, Strapping Young Lad, Skinlab and Soilwork. I had the concept for the back of the E.P. with the snowglobe. Now it’s kind of the general idea and he kind of took that and ran with it with the help of Tom Bejgrowicz who was our original A&R guy at Century Media. He did the art coordination. The album cover art basically represents the same landscape as the E.P., but years and years later. On the back cover, the bird is actually flying away, so it’s supposed to give you some kind of feeling of hope. I think it really catches what the album sounds like.

 

 

There were three instrumentals on DETERMINATION but none on GONE FOREVER. Why did you decide to drop that?

There was one instrumental that I wrote but we ended up running out of time. It wasn’t that long. It’s just this really cool guitar harmony thing. We’re actually going to play it live on our upcoming tour, but it’s not on the record, which I think is kind of cool because it will be something that people have never heard. In a way I’m kind of happy that there are no instrumentals on the album because now, everyone’s doing instrumentals! We had instrumentals on REJECT THE SICKNESS and DETERMINATION but now Shadows Fall has instrumentals on their albums. I really like doing instrumentals but I think it was cool for us to do something a little different this time.

 

 

There’s an instrumental version of “Better Days” that’s going to be on a Sony Playstation II videogame. How did you get involved in that project?

The person who worked at the company for the game just happened to hear the song and called Century Media. We really had nothing to do with it. I can’t wait to get the game and check it out!

 

 

GONE FOREVER is coming out in Japan. Have you guys actually toured over there before?

This is our first release in Japan. Japan didn’t pick up DETERMINATION, which was actually a big disappointment for us. They’re very specific about their metal and what they like, so I think this album will do really well over there. Metal is huge over there! It’s such a different world so I’m hoping it works out. Toy Factory is the big label there that all the metal bands are on and this is going to be on Toy Factory.

 

 

Are there any plans to tour in Japan?

I’m sure we will, but there’s nothing planned right now. We’re still working on locking up some of these U.S. tours first and then we’ll try. You’ve got to start at home and work your way out!

 

 

You’re starting a tour next week with Walls of Jericho. Who else is on that tour?

Blood Has Been Shed and Full Blown Chaos.

 

 

And will God Forbid be headlining?

Yes we will. Blood Has Been Shed actually features Howard from Killswitch Engage. That’s his side band. They’re pretty damn amazing themselves. They’ve been around for a long time. This should be a really good tour because Walls of Jericho’s new record comes out the same day as ours does and they haven’t toured in the last few years. They actually broke up for awhile and got back together. We’re a little nervous because we’re headlining and we haven’t really done that before, but you’ve got to do it sometime (laughs). I think with the strength of the new record we should do pretty good. After that, we’re doing a week with Chimera in the Midwest and then we continue headlining for another 4 or 5 weeks with Walls of Jericho and 36 Crazyfists. They’re originally from Alaska but they live in Portland. We’re good friends with those guys.

 

 

Will you be heading up to Canada at all?

Um, I don’t know! Besides Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, we haven’t played there. I don’t even know what the middle of Canada is like.

 

 

If you’ve been to North Dakota, it’s the same thing: Farms and wheatfields as far as the eye can see!

North Dakota?

 

 

Oh yeah. You can stand on the west side of the prairies and see a thousand miles east with nothing in between! I lived there for 20 years, so I know what I’m talking about.

So the shows probably won’t be too big, huh?

 

 

Well you know, they don’t get a lot of shows there and the people are starved for heavy music, so when the bands do actually go there, there’s huge turnouts! But…nobody ever goes there!

I know Hatebreed played up there, but they’ve also sold 250,000 records. To be able to do a tour like that, you have to have very large drawing power. If you can draw 2,000 people in New York, then you can probably do a Canadian tour (laughs). We’d certainly be happy to do a Canadian tour if one was ever handed to us though.

 

 

How did you end up on The Headbanger’s Ball tour? When I saw the Vancouver show, you were the first band on and everybody seemed pretty into you guys.

That tour was amazing! You saw it…there were probably 1,000 people at that show! It was like that pretty much every night. The shows were packed and we had really, really responsive crowds. For us, I think Vancouver was a pretty tame show because we’d never played there. That’s pretty much how we built up our entire fan base was through touring and being in places several times and playing with other bands and stealing some of their fans. We hadn’t toured in a while. It was probably a year before that in some of those places. I think there are a lot of newer metal bands that kind of went into this style. There are a lot of people who were into nu-metal that are finally getting into REAL metal bands, so I think it was a new audience for us. Right now, we’re working on getting on Ozzfest. If we can lock that up, that would a huge help.

 

 

They’re getting some big names on Ozzfest this year! The last couple of years were kind of weak.

Yeah, there’s Judas Priest, Slayer, Dimmu Borgir, Slipknot, Hatebreed, Lamb of God… This year, they have REAL metal bands that people actually care about, so it will be interesting to see the draws they get without Linkin Park or P.O.D. on there. They sell 5 million records but we’ll see if that affects the actual attendance of the shows. I guess they feel with Ozzy, Priest and Slayer, they can do it!

 

 

I was just reading somewhere today that Ozzy’s got a dozen doctors that he needs to bring on tour with him because of that accident he had a couple months ago, but it’s a real testimony to the man’s determination to come out on the road again.

Yeah, I can’t believe he’s going to do it. I thought they would cancel it for sure, or at least he would cancel and they would let Priest headline or something. Hopefully I’ll be able to see all that stuff from on the tour and not as a paying customer (laughs)! I think this is the type of tour that makes bands, you know? It lifts your status. After you do Ozzfest and you’re in this band that people know and say, “WHOA! They did Ozzfest. They must be a top band!” With the record just out, too, I think that will elevate our status. Gotta see what happens (laughs)!

 

 

God Forbid was involved in a Guns ‘n Roses tribute album awhile back. How did you get involved with that and what track are you doing?

We did “Out Ta Get Me.” We did that this past summer while we were doing pre-production for GONE FOREVER. It was fun! We went in and recorded the song in a day. It’s really raw but it actually came out pretty good. I’m pleased with it. We really had to get into that rock ‘n roll mode because we can’t really play Guns ‘n Roses like a metal band. We had some fun, had a couple beers and turned up some G’n R (laughs)! They’re definitely one of my favorite bands of all time. That’s the reason I play guitar today!

 

 

Really! That was actually my next question…who are your guitar influences?

Starting off with Slash, there’s Metallica, Megadeth, Marty Friedman, Randy Rhoads, Dimebag from Pantera, Chuck Schuldiner from Death, Carcass, At the Gates, Meshuggah. A lot of great players! It’s cool to be finally be in these guitar magazines, too. It’s really weird because you’re in the same magazines that you were reading as a little kid!

 

 

Where did you get the nickname, “Doc” from?

I got it from my brother when we were little. I don’t even know what it means. He just started calling me “Doc” and it kind of stuck. Everyone calls me “Doc,” even my parents. My grandmother…everybody!

 

 

What is it like working with your brother in the same band?

Well, we’re best friends and worst enemies. We’ll fight like it’s nobody’s business. There’s no one that can piss me off more than him and there’s no one that can piss him off more than me. It’s kind of like a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde act. People either find us really annoying or really amusing?

 

 

What are you listening to right now? Any CDs stand out from the pack?

Coheed & Cambria, The Darkness record, The new Walls of Jericho album. I usually listen to older stuff.

 

 

Alright, Doc. That’s all the questions I have for you today. It was a pleasure talking to you and thanks for taking the time to talk to Metal Rules! Good luck with GONE FOREVER and the summer tours, man!

Thanks. Are you going to be reviewing the album for Metal Rules?

 

 

Yeah I’ve been listening to it like crazy. The review should be up the first or second week of March.

OK! That sounds very cool. Take care, Sean.

 


Thanks to George at Century Media for setting up the interview and rushing me the promo in time!

Read my review of GONE FOREVER here:
    - Gone Forever

Read my review of the BETTER DAYS E.P. here: 
    - Better Days

Band Website: www.godforbid.com
Label Website: www.centurymedia.com