Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs has a chat with God Forbid lead guitarist/vocalist Doc Coyle

Only a few short years ago there was a real sense that just maybe God Forbid had reached their pearly gates, with the departure of stalwart member Dallas Coyle. Instead the band have defied expectations, and not only continued on a career path that has spanned more than 15 years, but have come back with a new fire in their bellies. Having particularly felt the sting of his brother’s exodus, lead guitarist and clean vocalist Doc Coyle looks back on the past, but quite rightly dwells on the future…

You don’t need me to tell you that God Forbid have been in the game for more than 15 years now – have things worked out as expected? Did you think you’d be where you are today when you were starting out?

Doc Coyle- I would say that expectations have shifted since the beginning. When we started out as a basement band, there were absolutely no aspirations outside of keeping the guitars in tune or finish a song without train wrecking. As we improved, the goals became more ambitious. I would say in 2005-2006, I thought God Forbid was on the path to becoming a very big metal band. Things didn’t work out that way due to things out of our control and some things in our control. Luckily, I don’t harp on it and I feel fortunate for every opportunity that exists. Making an album that I am proud of, and persevering through recent difficult times is vindication in its own. There are no expectations, except to do my best.

The album Equilibrium has been on the shelves for about a week – what’s the response been like?

Doc – The response has been fairly overwhelming in a positive way. I haven’t seen this much great feedback to an album since Gone Forever came out in 2004. I felt really strong about the quality of the album, so this feedback validates my instincts. It will be interesting to see how the music spreads to new listeners over the course of the touring cycle. I am psyched to expose people who don’t know about our history; this album has some crossover appeal. There are some negative reviews, but I appreciate those as well; Fair criticism always makes you better.

Is there a particular theme, or concept to the album?

Doc – Nothing was discussed previously or planned. After the fact, I noticed that Byron often touched on themes of the overcoming everyday struggles life to go after your dreams. I also wrote a song similar to this called, “This Is Who I Am”, which is about the life of an artist and fighting for that existence. I suppose a theme emerged on its own. This is touched on in the music video for “Where We Come From.”

Did you try to do anything specific, or different, with this album?

Doc – We purposely went away from the progressive leanings of Earthsblood. I love that album, but the guys really wanted to write catchier, more to-the-point tracks. I thought the band would get heavier after Dallas left, but the guys didn’t really want to do that and Matt was writing a lot of more melodic, chord-driven material that lent itself to being more traditional types of songs. We always blended melody, heaviness, and had melodic choruses, but outside of “To The Fallen Heroes”, we didn’t really have anything close to a hit. Why write songs with melodic choruses if we can’t excel at it like Killswitch or All That Remains? We had to write better choruses. I think the goal was achieved while still having a very heavy, fresh album that still sounded like vintage God Forbid.

With the industry, and musical tastes, changing so much in the last decade alone is this something you’ve tried to be aware of with Equilibrium or is it very much business as usual?

Doc – I really haven’t thought about it that much because I think it would come off as contrived. The truth is we aren’t going to be as heavy as Whitechapel or as technical as Born of Osiris. It doesn’t make sense to put Dubstep parts in our songs. We would fail miserably at all of that. It’s funny because I’ve seen comments here and there referring to what we do as “dated”, but I’m not sure what is “dated” about killer riffs that groove, ripping solos, and great choruses that you want to sing along to, with meaningful lyrics. It’s just metal. We put out a God Forbid album. You have to do what you do and trust that the rest of the world will come around to your end of things. That might not happen, but I am perfectly fine with that.
God Forbid Equilibrium (2)-1
It’s been three years since your previous release Earthsblood – what else have you been up to in that time?

Doc – We toured until spring 2010. I also toured with Lamb of God in 2009 filling in for Mark. We began writing in 2010 and looked for a manager. This took ‘til the end of the year, and then we proceeded to begin our label search. This required us to record a demo to shop to prospective labels, and this wasn’t fully completed until summer of 2011. Once the demo was completed, it was only about 6 weeks before our deal with Victory was inked. Recording began in Oct 2011 and the album was mixed and mastered by Feb 2012. Now the album is out. Voila.

In fact it was around the time of Earthsblood that Dallas (Coyle) left the band – I imagine that had a major impact?

Doc – Of course, luckily the music side of things flowed out really easy. Matt and I connected pretty quickly as players, and had complimentary writing styles and similar tastes. Dallas had a foot out of the band for a while, so it was nice to have someone involved who really wanted to be there and just enjoyed playing metal. The most difficult part about losing Dallas was his lyric writing and vocals. Byron and I had recording sessions without management to help us work out the vocal ideas and this proved to be invaluable. There were a lot of growing pains and frustration, but new things are often difficult. Once we got going, our confidence grew and the evidence is on the album.

Was it hard adjusting to a new person in the group afterwards?

Doc – Not really. I knew that Dallas coming back wasn’t really an option, so I was just focused on working with the band that was there. Matt really inspired me to write after I had gone through a difficult depression dealing with my brother leaving and a tough breakup. My brother and I were inseparable our whole lives. It was much more difficult adjusting to living my life without my brother more than the band stuff.

Your line up has otherwise been unusually stable for this industry – how have you managed this?

Doc – I’m not sure exactly. I think a lot of bands start as 1 or 2 guy projects and some of the members maybe are never truly seen as totally equal. God Forbid has always been more of a family environment than business partnership. I can’t speak for everyone, but I just take it one album at a time. If there becomes a reason not to do it, then I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. I came very close to walking away before this album, but it didn’t happen. When I commit to something, I don’t walk away until the job is done.

You look to have a pretty hefty touring schedule ahead of you – feeling good about it? Will you be aiming to head anywhere outside of the US at this time?

Doc – I feel great about the tours currently lined up. We haven’t toured in 2 years, which is the longest gap of our career. It’s kind of nuts considering how we lived on the road pretty much from 2001-2007. We are working on European and UK tours currently. The time frame is still up in the air. I would have loved to get overseas earlier, but with the acceleration of the album release, it kind of put us on our heels as far as international touring, which gets booked very far in advance especially regarding the festival circuit. We may have to wait until 2013 to do some festivals, but we will be heading over there beforehand. Hopefully we can hit up many more untapped markets as well as places we have been like Japan and Australia.

You’ve been releasing a series of videos around “The Making Of Equilibrium” – does this give fans a real insight into the band’s working process?

Doc – To be honest the videos are so brief, it is really just a glimpse into the recording process with some discussions about the big picture. I think recording can be kind of boring from an entertainment standpoint, long hours honed in on tiny details over several months. We’ve never done an in-depth documentary on the making of an album, from top to bottom. Perhaps next time! The real interesting stuff is in how decisions are made; Conflicts and resolutions.

Has there been a good response to the videos? Do you think this kind of openness is more common in the industry today?

Doc – The response was great. These types of videos are more for the diehard fans. This was before we released music, so the little clips of songs were getting people psyched. In some ways, I think we modern musicians perhaps overexpose ourselves with the constant stream of insider pictures and videos posted on social networks. I wonder if people would appreciate a little more mystery. With God Forbid being absent from the public eye so long and the limited time to promote the album’s release, we had to do anything we could to get a buzz going and create awareness.

On the subject of videos – I’m loving the concept behind the new one for ‘Where We Come From’ in showing snippets of your everyday lives as a band – do you think people often forget that you have a life off stage?

Doc – I’m not sure. People certainly have an image that has been built up by seeing us play big shows, reading articles in major magazines and seeing our videos on MTV. The truth is we have had to live in two worlds during this whole band experience. Showing that was just speaking to the truth of the lyrics within the album. I thought that people would connect to something that was honest. I hope it was refreshing.

Does that in turn make it even sweeter when you do get up there to do your thing?

Doc – You just have to appreciate it while you can still do it, because it could all be over tomorrow. Having people care about the band is a blessing. Getting paid to do something you love is a blessing. Getting to see the world and meet new people is a blessing. I’m just trying to take it as it comes.

With that, have you ever heard any ridiculous rock n roll rumours about yourselves?

Doc – I heard a rumour that I was going to be filling in for Jeff Hanneman of Slayer. Gary Holt deservedly got that gig, but I would’ve enjoyed that one. I also heard a rumour that UK punk band The Gallows had a feud with God Forbid, and said something at Roseland in NYC. I never got confirmation on that rumour, but I didn’t believe it, never even met those guys. Can’t understand why they would be upset with us. Cheers to rumours!