Bible of the Devil Interview
Bible of the Devil are a four piece Rock and Roll threat hailing from Chicago, Illinois mixing the best parts of Thin Lizzy, Drunk Horse, Slough Feg, Boulder, and Running Wild into a brew all their own. Bible of the Devil is the kind of band you are singing along to after listening to them once. They are the kind of band that makes you miss Manilla Road because you drank too much enjoying their set. They make you break out your air guitar and wonder how it’s taken you so long to discover them. They are one of the harder working bands in Heavy Metal right now and their newest album “Freedom Metal” is a welcome addition to any collection. I recently asked Guitarist/Vocalist Mark Hoffman a few questions and this is what he had to say. –Mike Bushur
Hello! Ok, let’s get this out of the way, did you ever laugh while writing “Ol’ Girl” knowing how ridiculously good it is? Its seems to be the song most people talk about when discussing the new album, though “Turning Stone” is probably my favorite.
M: Nate came up with the riff on “Ol’ Girl”, and we immediately started joking around (half-seriously) that it would be great for a beer commercial. We are not opposed to cashing in on that, by the way, if any beer company execs are looking for a catchy jingle to put their product over the top! That seems to be the tune a lot of people are talking about. I’m glad to hear that you also like “Turning Stone.” We just finished filming a video for that one that should debut when we return from our European Tour. It’s currently in the editing process.
Bible of the Devil has been pretty busy the last few years, but it seems you have kept a fairly low profile. Or am I just seeing things wrong? You’re about to do battle on European shores again soon, what kind of reception do you get over there?
M: We try to keep as busy with the band as our ‘real lives’ will allow. As we get older, that is more and more of a challenge. None of us are married or has kids, though, so for now we can keep making albums and tour as much as our jobs will allow. You could say we keep a fairly low profile, I guess, but I would rather describe it as a sustainable profile. The band has never “blown up” or whatever on a large scale or anything, but that isn’t even necessarily the goal. I’d rather we produce a large catalog of kick-ass shit, keep getting to tour in moderation, and stay sane than blow up and be some flash-in-the-pan like, say, that band from a couple of years ago – was it Wolfmommy or something?
We’re stoked to go to Europe again. To be honest, it’s not much different than touring the U.S. in that some places people love us, and in others they don’t give a shit. The real appeal of touring over there is the obvious cultural immersion and the hospitality. Clubs and promoters actually act like they care that you came all the way to play their venue, and you’re usually provided with generous food and drink along with a place to stay that night. Those things are rarely provided on U.S. tours – at least to the extent they are over there.
You’ve toured a lot and been in quite a few bars. What’s your favorite brew sampled on your journeys? And what is it about the live situation that drives you to ride in a van with a bunch of smelly dudes, for a bunch of smelly dudes, and deliver every night?
M: I’m sure the other guys would agree that our favorite brew is always the free kind, but given a choice and a connoisseur’s perspective, my favorite domestic brews are made right here in the Midwest by 3 Floyd’s Brewery – particularly their Moloko and Black Sun Stouts. I can’t wait to go back to Belgium in a couple of weeks and drink the beer over there again, though. You go in a pub over there and drink stuff like La Chouffe, Duvel, Orval, and Chimay right from the teet – and it’s relatively cheap compared to what you would pay here in the States.
Playing live is probably my favorite part of being in a band, especially when the crowd is rowdy and into it. That’s what you do it all for! It makes all of the other hassles of band life (almost) worthwhile, including the monotony of mostly male company and ‘dude odor’ for days/weeks on end.
Your last two albums, “Brutality, Majesty, Eternity” and “The Diabolic Procession”, were based loosely or largely on a concept. “Freedom Metal” is not. What was it about the topics discussed in the previous albums that made you dedicate a concept to them? And why did you decide to go in a different direction this time?
M: ‘Brutality, Majesty, Eternity’ is conceptual in the very loosest sense. A lot of the lyrical matter deals with disasters and calamities: war, natural disasters, bands that suck, murder, the toil of the road, etc. I find it easier to write lyrics if I have some sort of concept or direction in mind, especially if I’m writing lyrics for a number of songs in a short amount of time. With ‘The Diabolic Procession’, I was able to purge my longtime fascination with the Children’s Crusades, a metaphorical episode of history that aptly fit the political climate at the time. Over the year or so that we wrote the material for ‘Freedom Metal’, I didn’t really have a concept in mind until I noticed that themes of ‘Freedom’ kept appearing in my lyrics. We had also been toying with the idea of declaring ourselves sovereign to our own genre with the title of the album, hence the declaration of ‘Freedom Metal.’
One of my favorite aspects of Bible of the Devil is the importance of the vocals. They just seem to fit like a glove and really carry the music, though they don’t have to. When composing music how much thought is put into vocal delivery? Have you ever composed anything with the vocals in mind before the music? It seems as though the music is getting stronger while the vocals have always been strong. How big of a part do your influences play in this aspect?
M: I’m glad you noticed the importance of the vocals too. If you’ve ever had the fortune (or misfortune, not sure which) of talking to anyone in our band about how we feel about the rash of “instrumental metal” bands out there, you would know how highly we value vocals in our songs. Whenever we’re writing new material, I’m thinking about where the vocals will go. It is very rare that we will write a vocal before the music. Usually it’s only if we come up with a clever chorus or phrase that we just KNOW we have to put to music. I’d say 95% of the time the music comes first, though. Nate is really good at finding the harmonies to my vocals. He always jokes that he sounds like Paul Stanley when doing it, but I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing!
How do you view Heavy Metal/Rock n Roll now that you are a part of its development compared to when you were on the outside looking in so to speak.
M: Well, thank you very much for saying so! You know, the people that deride us as “derivative” or whatever really don’t get the point of this sort of music. We never set out to re-invent the wheel or anything. We harbor no illusions that we’re playing notes or chords on our guitars that no one has ever played before. I believe very strongly in Rock n’ Roll/Metal as an extension of the folk tradition. If you are able to put your own stamp on it and write some memorable tunes, than you’ve succeeded.
If anything, I think we’re the sort of band that would have been more in place in the 70s or 80s when there were a TON of Rock n’ Roll/Metal bands around. I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with me that the current state of popular music is WOEFUL. I don’t really even pay attention to that shit though. I’m so cut off from what “the kids like” it is immaterial to me. I haven’t watched MTV since I was a teenager, I listen almost exclusively to my own record collection – even at work, and when we’re in the tour van we listen to a lot of satellite radio. If you really try, I believe it is totally possible to avoid listening to shitty music.
With five albums under your belt, do you ever worry about running out of themes or do you see this rock n roll freight train never slowing down?
M: There’s always something new out there to inspire me, whether it’s a film, or a book, some crazy classic record from thirty years ago that I haven’t found out about yet, or some crazy life experiences. I know the other guys feel the same way. I don’t think the well is running dry for us just yet.
I’m going to assume that you, Mark, did the majority of the writing for the first couple of albums…How is it different writing Bible tunes now that the band has been full for sometime now compared to the early days? Do you like to bounce ideas off each other or does someone bring something in, everyone learns it, and adds a little something here and there?
M: When Nate joined prior to our second album, ‘Tight Empire’, I think it was clear right away that we could work well together. The nucleus of the song usually forms with a guitar riff or idea Nate or I has come up with. We have written some great songs bouncing ideas off one another, and some equally great ones when one of us comes in with a near-completed idea. I like to think we can work successfully either way, which is obviously a good thing.
What will we find if we “look into the eye of Willie McGee” as mentioned in the track Judas Ships? Ok, that’s what I hear for the line “Hugh the Iron and William the Pig”. So what’s your favorite misconstrued lyric?
M: That’s a pretty funny one. That’s the value of actually BUYING an album instead of downloading it… you get the lyric sheet so you know what’s going on! I remember this chick I used to work with remarked to me once after seeing us years ago that she thought I was saying, “Drinking the Pee”, instead of, “Drinking the Pay”, on that old ditty from ‘Firewater At My Command’. She did have an alarmingly low I.Q., though.
While Bible of the Devil has put out various split 7”s with other rockin’ bands, none of the albums have been pressed onto vinyl. Why is this? Cruz Del Sur did a great job on the Pharaoh-Be Gone lp, why don’t they or someone else put out your records on vinyl?
M: That is a great question. ‘Freedom Metal’ is about to come out on vinyl via Heavy Birth records in The Netherlands. We have wanted to do that with the past albums, but it just never came to fruition. Now that no one seems to be buying CDs anymore, I think it will be a necessity from now on to offer a vinyl release of everything. I’d love to see our older albums re-released on vinyl too. We’ll see what develops on that front.
I personally have never “got” most of the cover artwork for this band. Can you shed some light on this confusing aspect? To me it’s the only negative aspect of Bible of the Devil, though it’s not a big one. I thought that the artwork for “The Diabolic Procession” could have been way better and to be honest just didn’t look good. Did you have any say in it or why was it chosen?
M: Well, there’s a simple answer there, and that is that no one in our band is really much of a visual artist. It seems with everything that we have released, the artwork always comes down to the last minute. On several occasions, we have just used the label’s choice of artist, since it was their money going toward pressing the album. We’re working with a guy now, Martin Cimek, who has a lot of good ideas, so hopefully we will see more aesthetically pleasing cover art on our future releases.
Bible of the Devil is probably known well for its Flying V twin attack. So it was of course a shock when Nate started playing with a white Strat. How did the rest of the band handle this?
M: Ha! Well, Nate’s brother got a Strat a couple of years ago. Nate started playing it a lot and decided that he wanted one too, for the advantage of the locking tremolo to add a different “flavor” to his leads and whatnot. We were cool with it I guess, if for nothing else than to mix things up a bit, but I must agree that it LOOKS a lot cooler when we both play our Vs! Around the same time, I started playing a Les Paul a lot, so I guess we were just looking for a little tonal variety. It has come full circle, though, as we are both back to using our Vs the majority of the time, especially live.
What was the initial idea behind the Alehorn of Power fest? I think it is Greg’s venture is it not? I’ve been to two of the three events and I must say I’ve quite enjoyed both times! Maybe a little too much actually. Can we expect to see this keep going? Last year was quite impressive.
M: Yeah, Alehorn is kind of Greg’s baby. For years he worked for a booking agency called Tone Deaf Touring that still books BOTD. Through his many contacts at the agency and through the obvious alliances we have formed through the years with bands we like, Greg just decided to put together a night during the summer when a slew of raging, kick-ass metal bands were all on one bill and there would be no weak shit to dilute the lineup. After drinking home-made wine from an alehorn and listening to metal LOUD while in Italy a few years ago, the name we came up with for the fest came naturally.
Ok, I believe that is enough for now. Thanks for your time and your music! I know I didn’t talk a whole lot about “Freedom Metal” so if there’s anything you want to add about that or about the band in general that wasn’t covered feel free to do so.
M: That seems to cover it on this end, Mike. Come and see Bible of the Devil, everyone! Live Rock n’ Roll is good for you!
BOTD on the net: