Interview: DIVEST – Reunion and Brand New Lies

Posted by Morgan Y Evans - Walking Bombs on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 2:00 PM (PST)

Morgan from Metal Riot here. DIVEST reunited this year casually, an alternative metal/post-hardcore band I fronted for over 7 years that embodied some of the most intense music and experiences in my life. A lot of people don’t know us but the kids that do know we threw down for keeps. In our years as a band we recorded a lot and had great times sharing the stage with acts like Unearth, Blank Theory, Nora, 3, The Secret Cervix and quite a few more.

Newfound DIVEST fan and Halo geek xOneFlagWarx interviewed myself, drummer/bassist Nate Kelley (known for his time in Shabutie/Coheed, PPSP and The Widow Capet as well) and guitarist Joe Maggio about the reunion and future plans. It was really cool and a bit refreshing to be on the other side of an interview again for the first time in a long time.

We also discussed silly ass memories, being in a “casual” band relationship plus the many recent EP’s and our one full length from 2003, the Dr. Know of Bad Brains and Applehead Studios (Codeseven, Brian Goss, Coheed and Cambria) co-produced GHOST TOWN RECKONING, that we just put up on our new DIVEST Bandcamp page ten years late!

Thank you to MR and xOneFlagWarx…and check out the interview HERE.

Interview by xOneFlagWarx

xOneFlagWarx: 1. What can you tell us about the recent slew of re-releases you put up on your Bandcamp and about the band reunion?

Morgan Y. Evans (Vocals): This band was like a crazy marriage with moving parts. People came and went and came back. The Kingston, NY scene was very interwoven and bands swapped members. DIVEST had several core line-ups that each lasted a few years or did a lot of work or shows in a smaller amount of time. Some people know of us from a record we did in 2003 called GHOST TOWN RECKONING when we were fortunate enough to work with Doc from Bad Brains, D. Ilchuck of 90’s hip-hop group Roguish Armament, Mike Birnbaum and Chris Bittner of Applehead Studios. They all co-produced in certain capacities. We got to play with bands like Bad Brains, Murphy’s Law and Red Tape. It was a great, great fuckin’ messy time. Birnbaum and Bittner, helped me grow exponentially. If you’ve heard how good my vocals are before and after that record…I was always pretty cool but I learned a lot at Applehead that made me much, much better. But as a band…we were all nuts.

That GHOST TOWN record didn’t come out for years due to financial reasons and then later because none of us really put any more work into the band once we broke up. We were shot. It is like a flowerbed that dried up. I wanted more people to hear it, basically. Now is as good a time as any, almost ten years since we made that album… and we all pretty much get along again. The other thing is, Neesh from the A Thousand Torches website kind of lit a fire under my ass by doing a podcast where she talked about us. I hadn’t been able to listen to DIVEST music in a long time because it was bittersweet, but now it feels great.

We ALSO had all these EP’s that original guitarist Dave Parker and our old bassist McCoy mostly engineered and other odds and ends. Stuff from different line-ups over the years. We don’t have a label so fuck it…just put it on Bandcamp. Throw some stones in the pond and watch the ripples. TASTE OF SEVEN EP was us in the early 00’s with a more Nu Metal influence, but in the best sense. Deftones, early Sevendust, etc. Moody and melodic and heavy. GHOST TOWN…that record is just an emotional rollercoaster and intense and it really makes me proud how sick we got with chops and general songwriting. There are some stories in there, for sure.

I am also really happy our final EP (before whatever new we do in the future) from 2005 is finally available. It is called 5 WEEKS/ALL POINTS COLLIDE and was more post-hardcore and noise rock influenced. Lots of Cave In, Thrice and Sunny Day in our ears at the time. It was done at Darkworld Studio in Kingston with Nate Kelley on drums, Sean-Paul Pillsworth (now of Nightmares For A Week) on bass, Joe Maggio and Dave Parker on guitars and me on vocals. Short lived but another cool side of DIVEST. New cover art for these EP’s was all done by Matt Goldpaugh who did the photos for GHOST TOWN RECKONING as well.

2. Why did you guys break up and then come back now? You were together for seven or eight years the first time? What did you miss and what have you learned since then?

Morgan: I hope we have matured a lot. I think we were passionate and almost didn’t realize we were awesome. We shit on ourselves too hard and fought about the dumbest shit over the years. At the same time, I would have taken a bullet for any of the gazillion members of the band over the years if I had to…except for at a few turbulent moments. I really feel lucky to have worked with everyone who was ever in this band. When we started to get bigger shows and get attention, we ruined it by worrying too much instead of just kicking ass.

Since then I have become a freelance music journalist (in addition to working crappy restaurant jobs) and I have learned a lot! Writing about bands all the time reinforced to me why I love music so much. There are so many good bands out there. It is bullshit when people say otherwise. I could sneeze out so many great bands right now and still have more to tell you about. Choo Choo Shoe Shoot, Black Tusk, The Ocean, this cool punk band called Know Your Saints, Black Bananas. And I find out about new stuff everyday! And the more good music I hear or artists I talk to, the more I missed DIVEST. We really fought for each song that mattered to come to life during our years as a band. We wrote songs about addiction, identity crisis, existential dread, friendship, fucking righteous anger, and politics. It didn’t matter. It was all us. That is special.

I’ve also been reinvigorated by the cool industry people I have met. The awesome Earsplit PR folks or Leo Lavoro at Monolith PR or Jessica at Victory Records. There are people pushing bands’ albums who really care. Not that we are signed anymore but that is great. And people/fans still asked me often about DIVEST over the years.

DIVEST are reunited now as a collective of sorts to just play shows when we feel like it. We all have busy lives or are far away from one another or in other bands. Kurt is a paramedic, so that obviously takes up a lot of time and saving lives is pretty important. Who cares about following band rules! We can do whatever we want on our terms…even maybe nothing much!  It is our band, anyway. We aren’t trying to be top of the charts or some crap. Who knows, maybe someone will like it or take interest but maybe no one will. We are doing it anyway as we feel like it.

I wanted us to have more shows beyond just one also because one of our old drummers, Zac Shaw (now of the band Dead Unicorn) isn’t able to do the first show because he is gonna be a dad right around then. We gotta do some shows down the road with Zac and play some crazy old shit from when DIVEST was still called Bleed Theory.

I think also from being lucky and interviewing a lot of bands that were my heroes the last few years, people like Richard Patrick from Filter or Jarboe and Wino or bands like Killing Joke, Ministry, Jane’s Addiction, Prong, for example…I also have come to appreciate that lots of artists have really questioned themselves or suffered a lot to examine their belief system or spiritual feelings to the bone. It is the nature of really exploring life from a raw place. You have to expose a nerve to strike gold. And that is brave and ok. The trick is surviving it! I am happy to say that I can look at all the struggles with guilt or addictions or sexuality issues in my life now and realize it is a part of being human and doesn’t mean I have to hold on to so much pain or anger or regret. Just try to be a good and boldly honest person and learn from mistakes. So there.

3. You guys listened to a lot of variety, it seems. From listening to the different stuff on the Bandcamp re-releases, there is development and a thread but it switches numerous genres over the years. If there was one song you wish you’d written for DIVEST by another band that has come out in the years since you broke up and now, what would it be and why? What bands do you like these days?

Morgan: We did. Everyone in the band had different influences, which was great. We didn’t just change styles to try and fit in with whatever was popular but we did cover a lot of ground, sure. I could talk to drummer Dave Bodie on car rides about old prog-rock like Gentle Giant and talk to Zac about Tomahawk or Bjork in another time of the band. Kurt and I could bro down about old school thrash bands or Nate and I could talk about Hum or Weezer for a fuckin’ year. Sean-Paul and I could go on for hours about Bad Religion. McCoy and I would drive around and he’d pretend to be going down on me while we were blasting Judy Garland songs at busy traffic intersections or we sang Dio and Manowar songs drunk in front of Chinese Take-Out places to really bridge culture gaps. Or we debated if DEMANUFACTURE or OBSOLETE is the better Fear Factory album (the answer is DEMANUFACTURE). Dave Parker introducing me to the amazing music of The Notwist or just listening to WORSHIP AND TRIBUTE by Glassjaw with him and Kurt like a million times. All of these elements went into our frame of reference as artists.

You can’t help but be in dialogue with music that you love. I think what was special was that we managed to be original despite not being shy with our influences. There was a reason DIVEST could take the stage with bands as heavy as Crisis, All Out War and SubZero…three of the heaviest fucking intense live bands ever. We held our own on that bill! Our little weirdo Deftones influenced band. We brought it live, but it is also that we were being ourselves. I think if you really believe in what you are doing it will translate to a crowd.

To answer your question directly, I could say “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga because then we’d be rich but I am gonna maybe surprise some people. I think “Have Faith In Me” by A Day To Remember would have been an awesome DIVEST song. It is like the perfect pop-core song. Simple lyrics that still have depth and connect. Crazy melody and big guitars. I love that song. Best song on that whole HOMESICK record.

As for a band to say I like these days… I am gonna say Evile from the UK. I interviewed them awhile ago and they had a member die and are still going strong. That is hard to bounce back from and that band is so awesome. I am saying Evile mostly because I want Kurt to hear them, though. Their last album FIVE SERPENT’S TEETH sounds like Metallica’s …AND JUSTICE FOR ALL but modern. Lot of fun, those guys.

4. Nate, you were in the band at different times as both bassist and years later as drummer. How did you approach things differently or the same when writing?

Nate Kelley (Drums/Bass): When it comes to bass and drums, I try to tailor my parts as three-dimensionally as possible. Rhythm-section instruments offer a huge opportunity to control the phrasing of the musical dialog between the band and the listener, which I love. A good drummer, to me, provides punctuation through pauses and accents, while the bassist controls the connotation of what’s being conveyed by controlling the depth of the chord voicings of the guitars and melodies being sung. I’m a very visual musician; I constantly see colors, and lines, planes, spheres…it’s a very vivid experience for me each time.

When drumming in Divest, the three-dimensional aspect of my playing was more architectural/structural. To extend the metaphor, the length and width of the blueprint were provided by the pattern of the beat and fills, respectively, and the height was controlled through the dynamics of my playing. The final “structure” could be as big or as small, as rigid or as rounded, as I chose.

When writing on bass, it was more like sculpting than architecture. I thought of myself as

the glue connecting the guitars and drums, and the adhesive within the guitar parts themselves. One of my favorite bassists, Nate Mendel (Sunny Day Real Estate, Foo Fighters), was my go-to for ideas. Of course, I changed the context to fit the harder aspects of the band I was in, but the approach was essentially the same: Round out and smooth the monolith of guitar and drums and add depth to the mix. If you listen to old recordings, you’ll hear the trade-off between resolution and dissonance, which I think added to the depth of the sound.

5. What do you hope new music will sound like after all these years? You are recording in 2013, right?

Joe Maggio (Guitar): When it comes to writing new Divest material, I most look forward to collaborating with my old band mates again. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve had the pleasure of writing with those guys and if it’s anything like it was then, I’m sure it will be an absolute blast and the material will be amazing. I’m really excited for people hear the new stuff. But, I am also really excited for people to hear the old stuff for the 1st time as well as our old fans hearing the songs again.

Morgan: It is hard to say because we aren’t fully sure yet who will be playing on the 2013 EP we are planning. I know Kurt Brown and Joe Maggio will do guitars and Kurt and I have talked about bringing back some of the heavy, dissonant elements of DIVEST’s early days. I know Nate Kelley is going to play most of the drums, so that will be his inimitable style. Sean-Paul says he is cool to do some parts, vocals or bass…I dunno. It is exciting. New member Chris Heitzman being involved is great because I know from working with him in our indie rock project Black & White Universe that he is a genius who can add tasteful smarts to any song without tipping the balance. As soon as Kurt and Zac and I discussed loosely getting DIVEST shows happening I knew I wanted Chris involved on new recordings.

What else…I think former drummer Dave Bodie is going to just do some additional percussion. We will see. Dave is a family man now. He toured a lot with Kayo Dot and got to already do lots of amazing shit. He toured with fucking Earth when he was in Kayo Dot. I don’t think Bodie knows how proud of  him I am for that. Whatever he can do, I am really glad.

As for me…I kind of want to scream my head off but I also want to write something as infectious as “The Garden’s Tale” by Volbeat crossed with Lil Wayne’s “We Be Steady Mobbin” and “Casper the Homosexual Friendly Ghost” by Wesley Willis. That would be perfect.

6. What are some shows you played that you remember as being really sick?

Morgan: I mentioned playing with the female fronted death/sludge metal band Crisis. That was huge for me. Karyn’s lyrics helped me a lot over the years and her new work in Ephel Duath with her husband Davide Tiso is just staggering metal and so awesome. Nate Kelley and I also got to become good friends with original Crisis drummer Fred Waring and actually worked for him for a few years. We had some insane and funny adventures with that dude. There is only one Fred Waring. He is the man. Watching one of your musical heroes almost tip a backhoe carrying a huge tree while blasting Strapping Young Lad out of the subwoofers he had installed in it. That was priceless.

We played with Bloodlet once in a small room with brick walls when we were still called Bleed Theory. They killed it and people were just smooshing each other when they played. So evil. The girls liked us at that show, hahaha.

Other shows…playing a show we did with Coheed and Cambria and Codeseven to a really cool, excited crowd surely stands out. The Codeseven guys thanked us on that album they did at the same studio as us (Applehead) and we only did that one show with them. I always thought that was very cool and flattering, since I really love that band. Other times it was smaller shows where we took a so so situation and just threw down and made it a celebration for the 50-60 people there. Life is for living.

Although, one time we played a ski bar to like 7 people and were playing this fast song “Heavy Shaker” and I got so into it I kneed myself in the eye as hard as I could on purpose and flooded my eye with blood. Maybe that was overkill.

7. Is it going to be weird trying to write with people again after a few years?

Morgan: I am gonna go with no. I am really lucky in that with Nate and Kurt I have always been able to write so easily. Kurt is a really underrated guitarist, just able to crank out monster, big rock riffs. I really missed that unselfconscious take it or leave it fuck you testosterone riffing. But it has melody and brains in it also, some soul along with the groove metal or dissonant punk shit he plays. Seeing Killswitch at NEMHC Fest this year or Converge in NYC recently, I really wanted to jam out with Kurt on some heavy shit again. Nate Kelley and I still worked together in a band for awhile after DIVEST called Pontius Pilate Sales Pitch. We have written nine songs in a day together at times…and they were good. Maybe that is subjective but I am gonna side with telling anyone to suck my cock if they disagree that PPSP was awesome, hahaha. As for the other guys… I wish our old guitarist Dave Parker was participating. We haven’t heard back from him, which is a shame. He is very talented and I would hope all water is under the bridge with this band at this point.

8. What are some great memories you have, to keep it positive? And what is an old song you would like new fans to hear or that you want to play live again?

Morgan: “Brand New Lie” is the song, man. That is on GHOST TOWN RECKONING and is really just about making music for camaraderie and friendship over fake reasons. Money well earned is great but don’t lose the heart. “Why would I take your paper on my sighs and put all your weight onto my own thinking?” I am proud of that lyric. It is about getting caught in a muddy river of shit and “you should do this or else” type thinking and how it just isn’t the case. Is it really worth it on your deathbed? Am I being melodramatic again? Hahaha.

I have great, great memories of all the times we rehearsed. From the early, early days when it was me, Nate, Josh Eppard, Parker and Kurt Brown in a sweaty ass basement just playing loud as fuck in a super small room. Or renting out this place out in the Catskill Mountains called The Turning Mill, this little voodoo hippy heaven out in the middle of nowhere. The mid-later period of DIVEST would just hole up there and drink beer and tell bad jokes. I had tons of rehearsal CDR’s of us having these fucking great jams or telling disgusting jokes. That is what it is really about, man.

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