Interview: God Forbid

GOD FORBID
interview by mike bushman


The last time God Forbid put out an album, we put them on the cover. Two years later, the brutal New Jersey unit is gearing up for the February release of their latest effort, “Gone Forever”. This album will prove to be a benchmark in the bands career. After touring the trenches with the best bands in American metal for two years, the group has honed their skills. Without taking down any of the aggression, God Forbid has streamlined the riffs, and added some backing vocals that provide some melody against main vocalist Byron Davis’s baritone growl. It’s an amazing leap forward for a band that already could shred a song into pieces and sew it back together seamlessly.

The press kits seem to be quick to point out the fact that God Forbid are mostly black dudes in a predominately white musical genre. While those situations seem to be a big deal when the roles are reversed (white guy in a predominately black musical genre), metal could care less. No one seems “shocked” that a bunch of brothers can kick out metal this intense. To the metal fan, it’s an afterthought that has zero bearing on the final musical product. And unless someone told you, or you saw a picture of God Forbid or caught their live act, you would never know. Because again, even though the European roots of metal tend to give it a large Caucasian fan base, the scene itself has never seemed too concerned about ethnic barriers. Remember Death Angel?

While every day seems to bring God Forbid a higher degree of success, the band has worked diligently to achieve their level of talent and acceptance in the metal community. And while Dallas Coyle is quick to sing the praises if his bands talents, his is still in awe of his peers and admits their band is still in it’s growth period. It seems to keep him grounded as well as focused on the most important thing. The music. And “Gone Forever” definitely shows this dedication has produced an album that is beyond anything the band had previously accomplished. I caught up with guitarist Dallas Coyle who [with his guitarist brother Doc Coyle] writes the bulk of the God Forbid music. I was curious as to what two years on the road has taught them and how it resulted in the creation of their newest, and best release.

“Gone Forever” is the title of newest album and set for a February 24th release. How does this album define itself from your previous releases?
Dallas: I think it makes our other two albums kind of obsolete in certain ways. We’ve always been a band that wants to write good songs. Real technical. Real powerful songs. And with this one, every single song has an identity. Like with the [previous] album “Determination”, like with “Broken Promise” and “Divide My Destiny”, those songs are really different songs to each other. There are similarities but you can’t really say every song on “Determination” takes in the quality of the whole album. I think the new one is more of a complete God Forbid album just because every single song has every single element of what makes us God Forbid.

I hear a streamlining of the riffs and the backing vocals stepped up three notches.
I’m glad you think that. I mean, you’ve met us and shit. We are just like normal dudes, we aren’t like scenesters. We are not really metalheads. We are not hardcore kids. We are just music lovers. For us, to add that element of singing, was just a logical progression. I really think it makes our songs so much better. We always wanted to do dramatic songs. Be a song-orientated band. Songs go up and down. They have a peak and a valley. On “Determination”, it had peaks and valleys but it was all technical. We actually tried some clean singing on “Determination”, but no one in the band at that point in time was in the right state of mind to do that. It seemed like we were forcing something. Y’know we had all those problems with rumors about [singer] Byron leaving and stuff…

I picked up on some of that. I was glad to see his name on the press releases for this new album.
A lot of that stuff came from writing the new album. The songs that we were writing, the songs that you hear on the record, if you took those songs without vocals, that’s the stuff we had when we were having those problems. We were having a lot of problems trying to implement clean vocals with screaming vocals. We wanted our singer to be the singer, y’know? We didn’t necessarily want me and my brother [guitarist Doc Coyle] to be singing on the record. And that’s why a lot of the rumors went around. After the rumors subsided, I started singing. Just to get over all that shit. It took a little while, but it worked out for the better. But it forced me to really take a step forward and do something about it instead of relying on other people. Mostly it’s me on the record “singing” and our bassplayer does the higher backgrounds after I lost my voice in the studio. But most all of the arrangements and stuff I came up with, so it helps a lot for the integrity of the band that I started singing, and my brother started singing and our bassplayer started singing. There were so many things going on. Every single person in this band, this is their first band. Like, Killswitch Engage, those guys have been in three other bands that have been as notable as Killswitch, integrity wise. Shadows Fall, those guys were in other bands. Lamb of God… they’ve been doing Lamb of God for 10 years and Burn The Priest before. They’ve gone through their little growth period. Our band is still actually going through it. Days are really hard sometimes because our record is not out yet. Like we get to listen to our record, and I’m really proud of it, and really, the record, right now, is the one thing that I go back to that gives me structure for what this band has always been about. “Determination”… if you go back and listen to that now, it’s so scatterbrained compared to the new one. The first song is like solos, and the second song is like a Dillinger [Escape Plan] song, and the third song is like a thrash song, and fourth song is like a melodic and clean song, then a hardcore influenced song and then a metal song. We didn’t really think about writing an album to impress metalheads. On that record we were thinking about intense power. Not really technicality, because even the new record is pretty technical guitar-wise, but [on the new one] instead of us thinking about writing technically, we decided we wanted big riffs. That’s what my brother said, “Big Riffs”.

And the backing vocals are going to bring out the live stage presence.
Like our singer Byron, he has an inner deep tone. As far as his singing voice, I think he has one part on the record that he “sings”. We have it in there, but you can’t really tell. He’s been wanting to start singing more just to feel more comfortable with it. Like, if you look at him… so many people are afraid of him that sometimes it’s hard for him to be just like, “Damn, I can sing.”

He could get that Barry White thing happening.
Yeah, his voice is that deep.

That would be funny if you covered a Barry White tune.
I was thinking of covering, “Let it be”. It’s such an uplifting song.

That would sound good with a big bassy baritone voice.
Like doing that song with distorted guitar and keyboards and stuff. That would be great. I don’t know about the rest of the band though. It would be good for our next record just because I think the Beatles are the only band you can really cover that are radio songs that people have heard.

And you can’t fuck off when you are covering the Beatles.
That’s the thing. If you are going to cover the Beatles, no matter how good it is, somebody is gonna hate it. You could secretly have Paul McCartney singing the song and not tell anybody, and people would still hate it. But every time I hear the song, I have to listen to it twice. And just the way our country is going right now, and the fact that George Bush is probably going to get elected again, it’s gonna happen again. If you look at the polls, I know they change all the time, but so many people are afraid of things, that they feel more comfortable with someone who will make the decision to go to war for them, than they are to pick someone who might not take them to war. For someone who might take a different route. Because most people in the world think that violence is the answer. They don’t want to say that, but they think that. They think that just because you knock somebody out, it’s done. But they don’t think about the repercussions a week later. But at this moment in time, let’s take care of them, let’s get rid of them and then we won’t have to worry about them. That’s how our country was run 50 years ago and that’s a BIG reason we have people blowing shit up right now.

I think there are a lot voices that aren’t being represented fairly in the decision making processes and that’s breeding a lot of dissatisfaction. We have a president that didn’t win by popular vote making decisions that a lot of people don’t agree with. But no political rants, let’s talk about God Forbid.¬†You guys just wrapped up a Headbanger’s Ball tour?
It was the best tour. Obviously, The Headbanger’s Ball tour is a heavily sponsored tour. People are gonna say what they want about MTV2, but they really did a lot. They helped so much with this tour. The thing is, so many people were thinking that MTV put this together. No, no. The tour was put together, and MTV wanted to be a part of it. But the fact that MTV was there, every single day there was press. Even on the Cradle of Filth tour, there wasn’t as much press as The Headbanger’s Ball tour. And it wasn’t like one band was getting press and the other band wasn’t. It was like all four bands. We only did three weeks of it. And Unearth was getting press just like we were.

What bands blew you out of the water on that tour?
As far as records are concerned, the Killswitch Engage record is like one of my favorite records. All of the Lamb of God stuff to me is just amazing. For me, it’s just a new experience seeing how much more powerful they are live. Lamb of God… seeing their new songs, is just like crazy for me because I love their albums so much. Shadows Fall, I haven’t seen them since they got their new drummer, and I was equally impressed with them. And all three bands were killing every single night. And it’s not like you can play favorites. Because all these dudes are like my brothers. We’ve known all these bands for at least five years. We’ve known Lamb of God since… we played a garage basement with Lamb of God when they were Burn the Priest with like 10 people there when me and my brother we just hitting puberty or something. There is so much history involved. Even if like we had a bad night, and I knew it, and everyone else knew it, they wouldn’t say that. They’d be like, “Hey man, good show.” None of those guys had bad shows because they were on tour so long. All those bands are at the end of their record cycles.

I’m sure if you asked them, they would say they had a bad show or two in there.
I can’t tell. All I know is that all the bands we toured with are the best metal bands out right now. A lot of people ask me about the resurgence of metal, and I think those bands are the main reasons there is a resurgence of metal. I don’t think Slayer has anything to do with it right now. So many people are trying to contribute all these factors to why metal is getting big. I just think the right bands are releasing the right records. And it killed off nu metal. Killswitch killed off nu metal.

So it’s been almost two years since we put you guys on the cover when you were out supporting, “Determination”. What have you learned in those two years?

Those two years is the reason for this new album. A lot of that had to do with just looking at all the bands that we toured with and looking at what they were doing right, and what we were doing wrong. And just learning. Two years of touring, that’s like college for me. Music college. As far as writing songs. Learning how to be effective. The business end of everything. A lot of the label struggles that every single band deals with, it teaches you how to kind of distance yourself from it and look at it and realize what you can and can’t do. For us, the one thing that we learned, the one thing that we can do and will always be able to do, is write the music. It taught me that we have to do the best we can possibly do at that, before we can do anything else. I’ve learned being on tour how talented I am. I never thought that we were that talented. I just thought that we were doing what we like doing. You meet a lot of kids on the road, and they talk to you and tell you how much they like you just because you can do this thing well. It’s makes me realize the gift I have. Because I have two parents that are musicians.

What do they think of your path of music?
My dad is thoroughly impressed and so is my mom. It’s real cool for them because they are kind of living through us now, because they both had bands and tried to do what we are doing, and we’ve already gone past what they did. So they are real proud of us. The only thing, that for me that is bad, is that right now, we haven’t been able to like… I want to be able to show my mom that what I’ve done has enabled me to live comfortably. And that’s the one thing that I haven’t been able to do. That’s the one thing I need to do. That’s when I become an adult. When I don’t need that support. Right now, I need my dad, I need my mom, I need my grandmother, whatever, and they are still supporting me. I think that if they didn’t support it, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Corey said in the last interview I did with you guys that you couldn’t afford to trash hotels rooms yet, but as soon as you were making enough money, he’d definitely be breaking stuff. I take it the hotel bills are still relatively low?
Aw no. There have been no hotel bills. Really, a lot of the bills have been with drugs. We are not straight edger’s by any means. Instead of spending money trashing hotels, we’d rather spend money on some weed. If we do get signed to a major label, then there is money. Then there is liability stuff we can get away with. I know myself, I get really wild. So if there are no restrictions, I know that I’ll probably throw a chair or two out the window.

You guys have stuck with Century Media again for this release. I take it they take care of your band?
Century Media has been amazing to us. We had some problems with them, well, the European office with the last record. Creativity issues with the cover. Shipping issues, like we only sold 2500 records of “Determination” in Europe. 2500 records in all of Europe is just horrible. What they did was, they told us that the record was dead after three months in Europe. And that really made our band kind of suspicious of the label in Europe. But in America we’ve always had support. We’ve had more support than I thought we would ever get. So it kind of balances itself out. On the new release, every single person at the label that I’ve spoken to likes the album. And I generally believe they do. We were looking for other options for Europe for our new record. Century Media said they would help us out with those other options, but it turned out that they were really into our album in Europe and wanted to put it out. But we are definitely a priority in Europe. They are arranging tours for us. The support now is definitely there.

What entertains Dallas on the downtime?
My and my brother are big screen buffs. Right now I’m writing a screenplay. And trying to get into acting. But not just any kind of acting, I’m pretty particular about what I act in. That’s really my other passion. Film. Trying to learn how the film industry works. Making a film is such a collaborative process. In a band, you have two guys that write most the music, and they other guys kind of add to what they do. But with movies, a vision is created by the passion of a ton of people. Like the Lord of the Rings, 20,000 people worked on that movie. Obviously, Peter Jackson was the director. But if everyone else wasn’t there and as passionate about the project and as really into it as they were, you would not get that great of a film. Return of the King, for me, was one of the best movie experiences I ever had. Star Wars doesn’t live up to it. And the Matrix fell off hardcore. But what [The LOTR] accomplished and the fact that there was so much work put into it before they even filmed it, it showed the determination and vision and will power that people can make something great. See, I’m the type of person that wants to do everything. My band makes fun of me. But I believe I can do that stuff. That’s all it takes, is you pushing yourself.

Just like being in a band, when you start, people don’t think you are going to be successful and accomplished. But everyone starts somewhere.
Me and my brother were really reclusive as children. We were the sons of two musicians. My dad was a piano teacher and didn’t make that much money and he had to really raise two kids by himself. I really didn’t relate to any other kids at school. I really think the rest of the world doesn’t think they can do anything with their lives. I just look around, like a Wal-Mart, and most of the people who work there, you look in their eyes and there’s nothing. And it’s a terrible thing. I think the one thing that was good for my childhood was being creative all the time. Me and my brother, we drew comic books. We started playing guitar. We’ve always been creative. I wish more people were like that.

What guitarist did you admire so much you decided to play the guitar?
James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett were the first two. Actually, my brother picked up the guitar first. But metal caught on to me for some reason. I remember seeing “Enter Sandman” on MTV, and that was probably when I started liking the sound of the guitar. But before that, just rock and roll, Guns And Roses… “November Rain”. I was like 14 and living with my mom and dad. It was all hip-hop and R&B. Like, I didn’t really have anything I could call my own. When I saw Metallica on MTV, that was my own. I didn’t think anyone listened to that. It wasn’t until I was like 16 years old that I met anybody that actually liked the type of metal that I liked.

Care to call out ‘bullshit’ on anything? (Anything at all, the last instance of bullshit you saw that no one said anything about).
Samuel Jackson for not getting an Oscar for his role in Pulp Fiction. I know George Bush is bullshit. But you know what, I don’t think it’s him. I think it’s the system. I think his family has learned how to use that system to the best of their ability. And you know what? More power to him. Because if you learn how to work a system, you are doing something right. It may not be moral. But you are doing something right. Unfortunately, everyone thinks they are right. I think they are wrong for doing what they are doing as far as the whole world. I blame George Bush for making America the bad guy. Everywhere besides America, we are the bad guy. All it’s going to take one more terrorist attack on our country for all hell to break lose. I don’t want to be a pessimist, but I think it’s gonna happen. I’m gonna call out CNN and FOX news. They are bullshit. You never get two sides to a story. They always run out of time for the other side of the story.

Touring plans for 2004?
We are doing like a two week headlining tour when the record comes out. Then we are doing a two week tour with Walls of Jericho. We picked them specifically because we’ve known them for a little while, and their record comes out the same day as ours. They are on Trustkill records. They are more of a hardcore band, but they definitely have the metal influence. What we are trying to do with that tour, is get a few genres and styles in there. And after that, a tour of Europe. We are definitely going to be on tour.

Leave the kids with some words on how to get by in this fucked up world.
Try and find something that you are really good at and go with it. Follow whatever is your passion. That’s what I’ve done and it’s helped me so far. And I see people who have done that are well off. Don’t be afraid to go and do a lot of things. Life is short, but it’s long for everybody who is enjoying it. Follow your heart. Find your
niche.