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Interview with JD DeServio…/ Rock Bass: Artist Spotlight with Biscuit

Meet Biscuit –

JD DeServio… Killer bassist with Black Label Society and also now Cycle of Pain. He is a man with over 30 years of Bass playing experience under his belt, which includes major tours and bass clinics worldwide. A real gentleman, in the sometimes not so gentle world of rock. JD has worked his way up to become one of the most well respected Bass guitarists and musicians in the world today, so lets put the spotlight on JD DeServio

BISCUIT… So JD, you have literally just got back from the Black Label Society / Cycle of Pain tour which began on the 21st of April I believe. It must have been great to get out on the road again with long time friends Joe Taylor and Gregg LoCascio to form Cycle of Pain.

JD… Yeah man – I was doing a double duty, playing bass for both Black Label and Cycle of Pain, hey I got to make money somehow. Ha ha. It was really cool, because Joe and Gregg and I were in a band together when we were like 15 years old, so to get back out on the road with them again some 25 years later was pretty wild… It was Awesome.

BISCUIT… That must have been pretty gruelling for you, to play in both bands at every gig JD, but I would imagine the fans kept you on your toes.

JD… Oh yeah, and there were 6 clinics in there too on this tour so it was pretty hard work… and the crowds man, they were great, absolutely fantastic. The venues were around 2000 seater’s, so the crowds were really amazing man.

BISCUIT… Which show would you say was the best on the tour… The one that really stood out for you my friend.

JD… The best show I would say was the one in Boise (Idaho) because we got to that one a little late that night and Dopes bus broke down and he was due on the bill as well, but they didn’t even get to play that night. It was just Cycle and Black Label on that night and so we went on a little bit later and we found ourselves with a crowd who were a little more rowdy and had consumed more alcohol than usual you know…We had the pit’s going and people flying over the rail, it was cool man, really Moshin’…. It was Awesome!

BISCUIT… This tour was all a great way of promoting the new Cycle of Pain album as it was released on the day you hit the road with Black Label on this one and I should imagine the album is flying off the shelves at the moment JD.

JD… Well it’s doing pretty good, you know we charted on metal radio the first week the record came out it was number 37 on FMQB and now it’s up to 18 at the moment. We got a lot of ads and a lot of spins and the people are really digging it, so I am pretty psyched. I just hope it continues because you could fall off the face of the earth quite easily. The sales of the record were around 600 in the first week and 300 the second, so slow, but steady at the moment.

BISCUIT… How long did it take you to complete the whole recording process on the new record, from the beginning to the final mix and finished article?

JD… With being on the road, and going back and forth to the clinics, and working with the studio schedules and their availability it took around two years to complete, but if I had just done it straight up without all the other stuff, it would only have taken between four to five months.

BISCUIT… In my opinion it was time well spent and there is some fabulous material to be heard on this record. With regards to your bass parts, did you record them direct or did you mike up?

JD… I pretty much went through some gear, you know, Pre amps and stuff, but no miked amps on this record.

BISCUIT… Is that pretty much your usual way of recording and do you apply the same method to both Black Label Society and Cycle of Pain?

JD… With Black label, I do both direct and miked amps as well, but we mostly use the direct sound, as it’s a lot easier and way cleaner. And these days with all the pro tools and the plug in’s we can pretty much manipulate sounds how we like, so it’s pretty easy.

BISCUIT… What generally comes first for you JD with your creations, is it the music or the lyrics, and was this a joint effort from all the guys in the band, or were you the main driving force and holding the reins as it were?

JD… Pretty much the music always comes first, and then the melodies follow and then the lyrics. And this record was definitely a group effort for sure man, and it will be even more of a group effort on the next one because I really enjoy working with the guys and really appreciate their input, they are awesome. On this record we co wrote 4 of the songs together and I think I wrote 9 of them.

BISCUIT… Have you a favourite track on the current album and why?

JD… I like “5” because it’s a cool track and we get to jam in the middle and my Guitar player really throws down.

BISCUIT… And that intro on “5” is really you man, it’s the real JD signature sound for sure, and I really love it brother

JD. Exactly… Thanks man!

BISCUIT… “Reign down” and “Dead man walking” are two of my particular favourites, and ones that I think the fans will love. So what are your thoughts on these two songs JD?

JD… Well Brian Tichy played both drums and guitar on “Reign down” so that was a really cool track to do, and “Dead man walking” has been getting a really good response, and live it has been going down really well and I imagine that that one’s going to be the single.

BISCUIT… That’s fantastic JD; I look forward to that indeed. Can you tell me if you intend to continue to run Cycle of Pain alongside Black Label simultaneously?

JD… I would love to keep it all going and continue with both. If I can or not…well that’s another question man. I want to definitely continue with Cycle and want to go back out on the road with the guys. There is going to be a break for Black Label right now until July 20th, I think. So we have the rest of May, June and most of July also to continue with Cycle of Pain.

BISCUIT… There is quite a workload on your shoulders JD. I would imagine you must get quite exhausted trying to keep it all going continuously my friend.

JD… Yeah, it can all get pretty exhausting man. On this tour we also did meet and greets for Black Label in the daytime where we get to meet all the fans and all that sort of stuff. So I got to load my gear, meet and greet the fans, do a sound check and then do the show, then after that it’s off to the merchandise booth and come back and do another show, so it’s pretty gruelling stuff.

BISCUIT… You have mentioned the bass clinics a few times now JD, and I know that you do them all around the world. How do you keep the clinics fresh and interesting and what do you think people get most out of them.

JD… Well, mainly it’s all Black Label fans because that’s how they know me, so to keep it fresh; I try to do different things at each clinic or each clinic run I should say. I have different settings on my Zoom pedal and I will show them how I write with the delay and get a certain tempo, and then write the track around that tempo and things like that. On the recent clinics it was real fun because my drummer from Cycle of Pain and my keyboard player did a couple of them with me, so it was much more fun working with a real person than the drum machine. The real Killer one was in Vegas… It really was the best man and I think there is a clip on a website called “Full metal rock” and it really came out cool.

BISCUIT… Moving on to your gear now JD, Do you use the Schecter bass for all of the clinics and gigs, and do you have a back up for those unforeseen circumstances? And also, do you take your Hartke rig to the clinics?

JD… Ah yes, I use my Schecter and the Hartke rigs too, but the rigs were already at the clinics because they sponsored the tour. I did one clinic in Vegas where I could not get my bass out of the truck, so I had to pull one off the shelf…. I used a Spector on that one, ha ha ha. I love Spectors too man, I really love them. I really don’t have any spares as such, I have the Schecter 5 string bass with the Black Label flag on it and also the one 4 string with the flag too, and that’s it. They are the only two of that type made and I have a couple of back ups without the paint job.

BISCUIT… Great to hear that you used a Spector for the Vegas clinic my friend, as they are my particular brand of choice. Do you think that the “ghs” super steel strings and the EMG soap bar pick up’s that you use are a large contributor to the all round JD bass sound?

JD… I think so… I really like the ghs strings I’ve been using and I have designed a model and I have been using them. They are not out on the market yet, but they should be out later this year. They are really, really bright and they last a long time man, I think people are going to dig them. I definitely love them for sure.

BISCUIT… For the live shows, I know you use a Samson wireless system which you have said is very reliable and robust, and of course there is the Hartke rig. What kind of configuration do you use with regards to the rig, and what amount of power does your gear pump out?

JD… What I am powering with is a Samson 3200 watt power amp and I split that, so on the one side I have the LH1000 Hartke head – the new one… and use just the pre amp on that one, and on the other side I am just using the Zoom. So for example, with Cycle of Pain I use two 8 x 10 cabs…. One 8 x 10 cab with the LH 1000 sound and the other is the Zoom sound. So when I change my effects sounds, like if I put distortion on, only the one cabinet changes and the other one stays the same, so you never loose the “thickness” and the power of it all. When you put distortion on the bass, a lot of the time it will take the low end out of it or the presence. So it’s really cool to have my sound like this because the real presence in the sound always stays put.

BISCUIT… How did you get to team up with Larry Hartke?

JD… Well, Larry is from New Jersey, as well as myself, and I have kind of known him for many years, and first met up about 20 years ago. When I got back with Black Label, Zakk Wylde thanked Samson on his record and then Samson called to see if we wanted to use their wireless system, and I said that I would love to. So I got to use the Samson stuff and then I went to the factory and they had all the Hartke gear there too, so I tried it out which was great. When I tried out the latest Hartke Hydrive rigs, I was really psyched after hearing the power of the new heads through those Hydrive cabs and had to have them…. So it was actually through Samson that I got back with Hartke, and Larry is such an awesome dude… He’s the greatest, a real goof ball, ha ha.

BISCUIT… O.K. JD, let’s take it down now my friend as I know you are real tired after the recent tour. I would just like to take you back a while if I may. Could you tell me, was the bass your first instrument of choice, and why, or did you learn another instrument first.

JD… It was bass man, and the reason I played the bass is because I saw a picture of Kiss and I loved all the horror movies and stuff, so when I saw that picture and asked “what does that guy do” (Gene Simmons) and they told me…He plays Bass! I said right there…That’s what I want to do. In 5th grade I had my first bass and we had a band that played at a talent show and we did a cover of “Detroit rock city” by Kiss. In the 6th grade my band did a track from an Ace Frehley solo record and I think that the 6th grade band was my first “Real “band so to speak… It was Gene Simmons man, that got me started on the bass…It’s his totally his fault, ha ha.

BISCUIT… What other early influences did you gain inspiration from JD; I heard somewhere that you were a bit of an Iron Maiden fan in the early days. Is that true?

JD… When Iron Maiden came out they blew my mind, because my ear was just starting to develop… I was probably around thirteen years old then, and I was actually hearing the bass cutting through on the music, and I had not heard the bass come through as much on other tracks as I did with Iron Maiden’s music, so it definitely blew my mind and made me want to practice.

BISCUIT… What player these days do you see as a real force in the world of music on the bass guitar to watch out for in the future, and who are your favourite bass players and influences in general?

JD… In rock, it’s really hard man—you know the bass does not seem to get to voice it’s self as much as in Jazz and funk, as you know, but that guy in Dragon force is really cool and one to watch. I myself actually look more to the soul players and my top soul player would definitely be James Jamerson. He for me is the Godfather of all bass, and everything else comes below him… because of Jamerson came John Paul Jones, and Paul McCartney, etc, and if it were not for James Jamerson none of these guys would have evolved.

BISCUIT… In your early days of learning, did you follow any strict code, like certain length of time to play each day? I know that you can play most styles, if not all, so what was your learning format, and what indeed were, and are now your favourite styles and ways of playing?

JD… There were no set hours for me really. I would just come home from school and just practice and play for as long as I could. I didn’t even start slapping until I got to Berklee, aged about 18. I never really heard it that much, and at that time I was into Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and old Scorpions, in fact all the Metal stuff. Then Yngwie Malmsteen came out and blew everybody’s mind, and I started to shred Yngwie style leads on my bass… ha ha ha. It was aged 18 at Berklee when I started getting more into the Jazz and Funk styles.

BISCUIT… I gather you are a bit of a pianist J.D. What can you tell me about this area of your musical abilities, and are there any others that you may have?

JD… Ah yes… I have been playing piano for around six to seven years now, and I wish I had the time now to play as much as I did when I first started. I used to play for around six hours every day back then, but during the last three years I have been so busy with Black Label and doing my own records that I have not really sat down to it you know. I do actually play a bit of drums too, and also the guitar, so it all goes on at my house. I also have my studio too, and every room in my home has some form of music in it. Ha ha.

BISCUIT… It appears to me that you are indeed a One-man musical circus my friend.

JD… Without a doubt.

BISCUIT… When you get some free time, and I think we can deduct from this interview, that you don’t get as much as you may like sometimes JD, what are your favourite ways to relax when you are away from the music and not on the road or in the studio? Do you get time to watch films etc.and do you drive at all?

JD… When I am avoiding the studios, I really love sports, like Hockey and Football (U.S.) and not the soccer version–they are my favourites. I skate and also play Hockey too, so that is my main passion outside of the music. I mainly watch films when on the road, the old classics like Blazing Saddles, Airplane, and Team America was a recent one. But at home I pretty much just chill out or hit the Hockey. I live in the suburbs, so I have a car, which is a ’03 Chevy Tahoe. I like it, and it was in really good shape until my girlfriend smashed it up on me… that’s what they are good for right? Ha ha. She is standing right beside me laughing about the deed that was done to my Tahoe… I just thank God that she wasn’t hurt at all. She had our two dogs in the car too, Ike and Marvin, and thankfully they were unharmed too so that’s cool. You can replace vehicles but not people and dogs. Right?

BISCUIT… Absolutely my friend, it’s great that they all got out o.k. …Thankfully …… o.k. JD, I am going to start drawing to a close now, so just a few last questions if I may. Firstly, if you were not a musician, what career path do you think you would have taken and why?

JD… Hmmm, if I were not a musician I would probably have been an artist because I love to draw and paint and all that stuff. When I was a kid man, I used to draw all the time and I was getting really good at it and then the music came in. I still draw a bit, but not like I used to…. So yeah, I picture myself as being an artist.
BISCUIT… The bass always gets us in the end does it not JD, and I must say that it really got you good my friend.

JD… Thanks man…yeah, it’s beaten me up over the years.

BISCUIT… Well JD, here is my last question for you and you may enjoy this one…… If you had to spend one week on a desert island, what would you take with you and why?

JD… Well… I would have to take my woman and my dogs because they would be a little upset with me if I didn’t. And if I could take a piano, I would love that… that would be real fun. And…. Hmmm, let me see, oh yeah I would definitely take my sling box and my television too for sure and a bottle of Captain Morgan… I would have to have that and also some good herb. I am very needy, so I would need a lot of things – Ha ha ha!

BISCUIT… Well JD we have covered quite a lot of ground now my friend, so it just leaves me to thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me for this interview with Bass Musician Magazine, especially after literally just getting back from the tour this very day, I appreciate it very much.

JD… It’s my pleasure brother, anytime…… You have my number so give me a shout whenever you like.

BISCUIT… Thanks’ JD…… I wish you well and look forward to hearing more of your bass creations very soon, whether that is with Black Label Society, Cycle of Pain or indeed any other musical endeavours that you may embark upon in the future…. It was a pleasure to have spoken with you JD, Catch you soon.

JD… Thank you so much man, I appreciate it so much Biscuit… God bless you brother, Bye Buddy.

Visit online at www.johnjddeservio.com

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