Sunday, November 3, 2019

November 3rd, 2019 - Remaining Violent: An Interview With John Kevill!

Hey there headbangers!  A special treat for you today... I had the great pleasure of attending the Enforcer, Warbringer, and Truce In Blood show a week ago Friday, October 25th at Liquid Joes in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Warbringer put on an intense and amazing show!  While there I sat down and chatted with John Kevill, vocalist and founding member of thrash metal monsters Warbringer!

Here's that interview... enjoy!

B&T: I'm here with John Kevill from Warbringer.  So you guys are finishing up the tour.  You're right at the end of the tour with Enforcer.

JK: Day 51 of 54 today.

B&T: How's the tour been going so far?

JK: It's been going.  It has been pretty damned good honestly.  It has been really intense.  No days off so it has been a real challenge, but we've doing well and getting through it.

B&T: You just... well, not just, but you put out a new single...

JK: During this tour, yeah!  

B&T: That single ["Firepower Kills"] is a fantastic song, an excellent song, which I was excited to learn is a precursor to a new, full album coming out in February, yes?

JK: Yeah, it is the opener on that record.  

B&T: Is that going to be the title track of the album or do you have a title yet, a working title?  

JK: There is a title.  It is in the song "Firepower Kills".  It is not "Firepower Kills", but it is in the song and is prominent.  To figure it out, you can definite pick it up from the song.  It is repeated a lot. [laughs]

B&T: I think I know what it is, but I'll keep that quiet for now.  So that's really exciting news that a new album is coming out.  You guys have been working pretty hard lately... a lot of touring going on.  I know you did 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise back in February.

JK: Yeah, that was pretty fun.

B&T: That was the first time you guys had been on the ship, correct?

JK: Correct.

B&T: What were your thoughts?  Is That something you would want to do again?

JK: Of course!  Of course!  We like playing shows where there's people basically [laughs].  It is an exciting event.  We hope to go back and do it again.

B&T: Cool!  Any highlights for you in terms of bands you saw on the ship?  Anybody that you had always wanted to see?

JK: I enjoyed Sodom a lot.  

B&T: Nice.  I had read before that Sodom is a band that influenced you a lot as well as Kreator... German thrash metal.

JK: Thrash metal in general is something we look to... you know, all the classic records.  

B&T: How did you get into music?  What was the inspiration for you?

JK: Hard to say.  One just hears music and likes it or doesn't.  Um, I got into hard rock and early heavy metal in my late teens and from there just more and more down the rabbit hole of different metal that exists.  By the age of 19 I started this band without ever having had a band before or anything.  I pretty much just enjoyed metal music and wanted to play it.  That's all I knew and tried to figure it out from there and it has been quite a learning experience for well over a decade at this point.

B&T: And you and Adam [Carroll] started the band together in high school, correct?

JK: Correct.  Well, right outta high school.  

B&T: I once read that when you guys got signed by Century Media that the rep had come to see somebody else, but saw you and decided "this is the band I want to sign".

JK: Yeah, pretty much!  We've always prided ourselves in putting on a really energetic live show and even before we are as tight as we are now.  We always had that factor going for us.  We try to never change that or lose it.  

B&T: I remember seeing your band several years ago,  you opened and kicked ass.  You blew the other bands out of the water in my opinion.

JK: Oh, that's good to hear.  We try to bring the best show we can every night and it shouldn't be an easy act to follow.  And it's... well, no matter who the hell we are playing with or opening for, it is not about competition with others so much as it is being the best us that we can because otherwise why do this.  That's kinda how I feel about it.

B&T: In terms of your vocals and your song writing, who are your biggest inspirations?

JK: Basically what I'm trying to do is something that incorporates the elements of the real like rapid fire, extreme thrash guys... your old Mille Petrozza, Tom Araya, Don Doty from Dark Angel, stuff like that where you got spit fire, machine gun vocals with a touch of early death and black metal in there.... just a really extreme thrash vocal, but with the articulation and rhyming and catchiness and some of the theatricality of some Halford, Dio, Dickinson type of classic metal singers.  So that's kind of my own little theory within my head of what I'm trying to do as a vocalist and as a songwriter.  As a songwriter, I generally try to write songs about something real or existing that has some amount of seriousness to it in a way that walks the line between being catchy and song focused, but also artful and interesting.  So that's kind of the theory of craft behind it.  How much I succeed, well, that's up to the listeners.  That's the aim behind it and on each record it gets a little better.

B&T: Speaking of your lyrics, do you ever get frustrated with the listener misinterpreting what your are trying to say?

JK: Not that I know of.  I don't hear a lot of misinterpretation.  I do some... I think it either goes over peoples or one ear and out the other more than I would hope, but I don't know.  It's really hard for me to judge that objectively.  What I can say is I try to not be too on the nose.  I don't know.  "Remain Violent' is a very simple song with 2 verses and a chorus and it is clearly about police violence and brutality, but it doesn't really have a stance in terms of the current political climate.  It is just the subject and I guess some of the feeling of the subject and that's it.  I think that's kind of a better way for music to address it.  If you want a specific opinion, it is better to just write something where you can actually explain it with some nuance and detail.  I also think that historical themed lyrics... I never give you dates or anything.  That's not really what songs are for.  I'm more trying to extract a feeling out of something and then write a song about that.  I try to put the references in there so if you care to find them, they're there.  It's not obscure.  I tend to write in pretty simple rhyming language and try to use it as best as I can.  So that's some of the theory of what I'm trying to do as a vocalist and in general subject matter-wise, I want it to be serious and thoughtful as much as I can and also to fit with basically to fit with really aggressive and vicious music.  It shouldn't be meaningless.  It should have an emotional heaviness to match the sonic heaviness if it all wants to "turn to 11" so to speak.

B&T: It is interesting... you mentioned politicism.  There's always been political lyrics with a lot of bands, especially thrash metal... anti war, etc.

JK: I mean we are in a sense, you know?  I would certainly call my self in the real world a pacifist expect in the most dire situations, but at the same time, Warbringer is very much embodying the evil of large-scale warfare, the military industrial complex, disregard for human life.  You know, all of that.  It's sort of embodying that and the evil of it.  I shouldn't have to state "and it's bad" in the lyrics ya know?  [laughs]  That speaks for itself.  It's just an embodiment of evil.  There's sometimes a cynical turn of phrase or twist in the song.  I try to do it that way.  It's a little more subtle and if you are paying attention whatsoever, it is not a mystery.  If you care to look at it on that level, it is there.  And if you just like it because it is a loud blast of aggression, that's fine too [laughs].

B&T: I think you have a nice balance of both.  

JK: It is just trying to balance the song.  I want to do something as a lyricist, but I also want it to be a song.  I'm not writing a paper or an epic poem or anything.  Warbringer songs do tend to have a lot of lyrics, but I do keep them to pretty definite rhyme schemes.  I try to articulate really well, especially with some of the tempos and intensity of the music.  I do want the stuff I write to shine through and I do think that it is a problem in a lot of metal I hear from the modern age, our entire career basically where the vocals are just kind of a resonance and they don't do all the stuff that I'm used to like a tradition metal or rock vocal are doing where it has some kind of story element or idea element to it that goes in with the feeling of the riffs and solos and all that and enhances the whole thing.  I think just rumbling, roaring, and gurgling can be appropriate for some...  I like extreme music, but if I'm going to write lyrics that I want to get across, I have to annunciate.  So that thought about my lyrics also shapes part of how I actually do the vocals.  I try to make it where everything is really, really clear for the extremity of it.  I think that may be a little unusual in today's metal.  

B&T: In terms of songwriting, how does Warbringer write?  Is this a collaborative effort?  Do you bring lyrics and then the song is crafted around that or does somebody bring a riff?

JK: There's no hard and fast rule.  We are 6 records in now.  We'll take anything that works basically.  You gotta have your eyes out for ideas from whichever angle. The songwriting nucleus since "Woe To The Vanquished" has been myself, Carlos Cruz [drummer], and Adam Carroll [guitarist].  We all come at it from different angles.  Sometimes Carlos will give me a piece that he's structured out of a couple riffs that Adam showed him.  There's a riff segment that Adam showed him that he then developed on.  That then goes to me and I'll have a structural edit... "cut this part" or "this part needs to go here".  "Can I make a verse and chorus and have a coherent idea about this piece of music?"  Sometimes I just put lyrics on it the way it is already because I don't feel I need to change anything.  It is very reciprocal.  Other songs, such as the aforementioned "Firepower Kills"... that one, I came with all the lyrics and all the verse and chorus riffs in my head and I handed them all to Carlos and they came out basically as they were.  Carlos then rounded out the song by writing the intro and the middle break and solo segment.   It was pieced together that way.  There's another song on the new record that started with a lyric idea as well.  And "Silhouettes" [from "Woe To The Vanquished"] was done that way too.  I usually have one or two where I head it up and it will be built around a lyrical idea.  I don't play an instrument, but I'm used to working with the guys and I can describe sound reasonably well to where we are able to work off of that.  But then other times Carlos or Adam put a song together and I'm like, "alright, here we go!"  "Divinity Of Flesh" from the last record was a me and Adam give and take.  He put all those riffs together and then I edited the structure four different times.  Each song really has its own story on how it came into being.  It is largely myself, Carlos, and Adam.  Chase Becker [guitarist] basically comes in and puts a really killer solo on any spot we give him.  We give him a lot of room.  Especially on this new record, we gave him a lot of room to tear it up on leads, which is something he is really quite fantastic at and the kind of player we really hadn't had before.   We also write around the capabilities and skills of our band.  There's basically a lot of moving parts in the songwriting process.

B&T: It seems like you guys really gel.  You seem really tight and not just on the record, but especially live.  You guys play off of each other really, really well.

JK: We try to be a strong live band and we try to keep our musical skills top notch.  There's a real culture within the band of professionalism and seriousness about what we do.  That's because we all really value this music.  We know what we want to see as fans.  We want to see guys up there completely shredding it and tearing it up legitimately and not because of some studio trickery that you really can't do live... no, where it is ironclad the whole way through.  The live ethos is definitely a part of that.  The band is really, really tight right now live after 51 days in a row.  It is something that I'm really proud of... it is really paying off with people's reaction and perception of us.

B&T: One last question, so you finish a show, a set, what beer do you crack open and what album do you throw on?

JK:  I tend to favor IPAs and a commonly available one that I like around where I live is the [Ballast Point] Sculpin brand IPAs.  Those are pretty solid.  I generally like stuff more on the bitter side... pale ales, IPAs, as well as a really good straight lager in the German style.  As far as albums I throw on, there's a load of those.  Honestly, the road go-to that nobody ever has a problem with no matter how many times we hear it is Thin Lizzy.  "Pick one, doesn't matter.  If you have a problem with that, get the fuck off the bus!"  [laughs]  That's the eternal go-to that fits any kind of situation.  Other than that it would have to depend on my mood like I'll put on my favorite thrash albums when I'm feeling really amped up or often when I'm driving.  Sometimes I really like the late '80s into early and mid '90s  Euro speed, power type of stuff... your Helloween and Helloween derived bands.  That's something Adam and I listen to when driving late at night.  And then also your Maiden, Priest, Dio, Motorhead, etc. are all evergreen classics.

B&T: Thank you so much for this interview!  I really appreciate it.  It was great meeting you and talking to you.

JK: Awesome!  Thank you!

Make sure you check out Warbringer's latest single "Firepower Kills" and look for their new album scheduled for release in February 2020!!

Cheers and hails!!

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