Derek Boyer Q&A
New York’s death metal titans, Suffocation, are set to return next month with their seventh bone-triturating and soul-brutalizing studio effort. Bassist Derek Boyer stopped by Metalholic to talk about the new record, “Pinnacle of Bedlam“, his own influences and path to music, as well as his take on the state of America and what appears to be its imminent demise.
“Pinnacle of Bedlam” features Boyer as well as founders Frank Mullen (vocals), Terrence Hobbs (guitars) and Guy Marchais (guitars). Pinnacle marks the band’s only album except 1995’s “Pierced from Within” not to feature drummer Mike Smith, who has been replaced by former drummer Dave Culross who filled in the band for two years back in the mid-90s. Smith does lend his sticks to one track on the record.
“We’re really proud of this album,” Boyer proclaimed. “Everything was there; the songwriting, the performances and the production. All in all we were extremely happy and proud.”
Pinnacle of Bedlam is not a full concept album, but there is definitely an apocalyptic theme running through it.
“Terrance came up with the Pinnacle of Bedlam title and that concept, where I was pulling concepts from the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the cycles of living and dying. You’ve got Terrance’s idea of the closing of humanity and the unlivable conditions, and my stuff with the transferring of energy. So we kind of just smashed the two ideas together and it worked out great.”
The “Pinnacle of Bedlam” theme raises the specter of the “end of days” for America. What are your thoughts on that subject and the current state of America?
“It’s fucked up. The whole financial aspect is turned upside down with the bail outs and the loans. It seems like we’re in the final stages. It’s pretty much the end of an era. Any of the other empires went through these stages, and if you look at it, we’re in the final stage of the collapse. Like the Romans had their time and that whole thing crumbled down at the very end and I think we’re pretty much on the brink of this thing totally exploding. I don’t know if it’s going to go to a nuclear war type of thing or if the whole thing just has to hit the rest button—I’m not sure how it’s going to unfold, but it’s definitely a crazy time we’re in right now. It’s a scary time. We don’t know if it’s going to happen now or in 20 years, but it is definitely coming.”
Every member of the band has a song or two on each album that stands out. What tracks on “Pinnacle of Bedlam” impact or speak most to you?
“For some strange reason ‘Purgatorial Punishment’ is really my jam. There’s something really hooky and slam you right out of the gate. It gets into some quick pieces and then the guitars trading off solos, and then the ending is just super intense bombing on the way out. For some reason ‘Purgatorial Punishment’ is my favorite. Then I really like ‘Cycles of Suffering’, the way the album starts. It’s kind of like more of the masterpiece composition where it’s got a lot of facets and room for some really comfortable, powerful vocals scheme. To me those two just hit really hard. ‘My Demise’ has got something really fun in it too, but the whole record, all in all, I’m really pleased and proud of.”
Besides family and friends, what do you do outside of Suffocation to wind down and relax?
I’m into aggressive Motorsports, the European stuff. So I’m into wrenching on my BMW. Other than that, not too much. Hanging out with friends, enjoying the social environment, you know smoking and drinking, just basically lying low and cutting loose, but all within reason. You have to be able to balance what you do between your tours and your album cycles. You know; family first, Suffocation second, and just music in general. I’ve been getting into producing stuff, co-producing. Like on the last two Suffocation albums I’ve assistant-engineered so to speak. I’m the liaison between the band and whoever ends up mixing. The last album was Zack Ohren and this one was Zeuss, and he was just great to work with. So I think more than anything else, on the side, I’m enjoying engineering and producing music.”
Boyer talked more in-depth about the creation of the album, the songwriting process, as well as giving us a look into his journey into music and his thoughts on the state of extreme metal. Check out the full interview below then prepare yourself for the “Pinnacle of Bedlam” out next month on Nuclear Blast Records.