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Bile, 16volt, Chemlab (John "Servo" DeSalvo) - interview (2006)
2006-11-26 | Katarzyna NINa Górnisiewicz and Brian Backlash | e-mail interview
NINa: When I asked Jared Louche in a Nov. 2005 interview about the new Chemlab line-up he replied: "I'd like to get LeviTKK back to playing bass with me and rope in my old drummer Servotronik because he's a little fucking machine." Do you have any news about joining Chemlab again?

Servo: Right now, I have no plans in re-joining Chemlab. I support Jared in whatever he's doing; but, the only way I'd come aboard is if Dylan joined as well - and I don't think that's gonna happen anytime soon. :-) It's kind of weird when singers take the music you've sweated over, get new players, hit play on the dat machine and rock out like it's their shit. Eric Powell from 16volt is doing the same thing right now as well. C'est la vie!

Brian Backlash: You've been a drummer for decades. What inititially drew you to the drum set? Did you play any other instruments before picking up the sticks?

Initially, it was hearing my dad playing these jazz records like Dave Brubeck and Thelonius Monk. Then, this kid turned me on to Rush's "All The World's a Stage" and that was it. I didn't play any other instument before the drums. Later, I learned piano, which led me to samplers and computers.

NINa: I was watching 16volt concert videos and your drumming style reminds me a real powerful machine indeed ;) Was it difficult for you to synchronize hands and feet hitting the drums when you were learning how to play at the very beginning, or did you feel like an born drummer - perfectly capable of playing the instrument?

It was very difficult to work up the 4-way independence in the beginning. So, no, I wouldn't say I was a "born" drummer. I hate those guys! :-) But, once I got "it", it did become easy for me to pick things up.

Brian Backlash: A lot of drummers will play along to records from jazz greats and such while they practice. What are your drumming practices like?

I definately did that and recommend it to all my students. AC/DC is great for that! I use to come home from school and play along to Rush, Zeppelin, Sabbath, etc. It helps with time and it can eleviate the boredom of hours of stick control practise. Now, I break up my practise into sections. For example: start with just jamming for a 1/2 hour, speed endurance for 20 minutes, stick control for 20 min., odd time and polyrhythms for 30 min, then whatever will make me happy for however long I want!

NINa: Drummers often use headphones during a show. Why is that?

I use headphones to hear the backing tracks and click track I'm playing along to. I have all that self contained in my rack so that no matter where I'm playing I can always hear it. It's too important to let a local monitor engineer be in control of that. Trust me... also, with headphones, I can kind of slip one side off my ear if I want to hear a little more of the band. You can't do that with in-ears.

NINa: When we do this interview you are after tours with NIN / Bauhaus and European shows with again, Bauhaus. Was it Daniel Ash who asked you to join then during the tour, wasn't he?
I was playing with Daniel on his solo record and subsequent tour when Bauhaus decided to reform. Kevin Haskins drum tech joined the NIN camp, so Daniel asked if I wouldn't mind teching for them. I was like, "Hell yes!" I love Bauhaus, so I was more than happy to do it. I've teched their drums, samplers and keyboards since 2005. It's been a great experience.

Brian Backlash: You've been a drum tech for Bauhaus for quite some time. Are you itching to play in a band again? Are you involved in a project now that not yet announced?

Now that I'm back in NYC, I'm playing with "Bile" again, that's always fun - to be as loud and obnoxious with samplers as possible! I'm also doing some session work and looking for players to do my solo project "Skilfull Eating Machine". I also want to get a prog band going as well. To let out my inner King Crimson, you know? :-)

Brian Backlash: What is involved with being a drum tech? Do your skills from years of musicianship help you in the role?

Being a tech involves various duties. For Bauhaus, I helped Kevin design his rack (ie: samplers, midi interfaces, hard drives, etc.),change and tune the drumheads, maintain the kit in general, so it doesn't fall apart during the tour, load and maintain Peter's keyboard and effects pedals, soundcheck the gear and monitors, and generally be there for whatever those guys need to make the show the best it can be. If that means running to get Peter another glass of wine, so be it. It's bauhaus! You'll definately won't be seeing me do that for, say, Linkin Park! Hahaha, being a musician myself, has helped alot. I know what I like from my tech, so I can use my experience to help Kevin. From adjusting his cymbal height for better attack to putting the water bottles in a bucket so they don't spill all over the drum riser. :-)

NINa: Have you ever made a mistake during a show in such a way to mess up the rhythm and let the other guys loose the song?

Almost! This is how I learned to have my monitoring system all controlled by me. I was on tour with Chemlab playing a show in Chicago and I kept asking the local tech to turn up the adat machine in my monitor. He'd turn up the wrong thing every time. I should've known industrial music wasn't his thing when he looked at my samplers and said, "What the hell are them things? Drum machines or something?" Anyway, when the song "Rivethead" started I couldn't hear anything and came in about an 1/8 note off. I let the tape roll, went over to the guy and kicked him off his chair, walked back to the drums and jumped right in. Jared was laughing so hard he screwed up as well.

Brian Backlash: What are some of your favorite songs to play live?

KMFDM: Liebeslied, Drug Against War. Daniel Ash: Slice of Life, Walk on the Moon. Chemlab: Jesus Christ Porno Star, Suicide Jag. 16volt: Moutheater, Machine Kit. Bile: You Fucking Cunt, Betty Page. Sister Machine Gun: Sins of The Flesh, Torture Technique. Powermad: Slaughterhouse, Plastic Town.

NINa: Can you recall the best drumming you have ever given so far during a show or at the studio?

My favorite drumming I've done was with my prog band "Us" from Minneapolis. It was kind of everything I love: lots o' chops, good songs and electronics (think tool meets ministry!). I like the song "Alkali" and "An American Pornsong" from 16volt. My band Mike Peoples and I started after 16volt died called Spit Out Star had alot of sick drumming on it. Most of my favorite stuff has never been heard! As usual! :-)

Brian Backlash: As a drummer, you've naturally been behind the scenes in the bands you've played in. Have you ever considered fronting a band of your own?

Luckily, I learned how to write music at an early age, so I've been able to be more involved in the bands I've been in by writing some songs as well as drumming for them. But, I definately will be the leader with my solo project: "Skilfull Eating Machine". In that I wrote all the songs and lyrics and am now in the process of finding the right musicians to interpret them.

NINa: You are mentioned in several interviews with Daniel Ash to be injuried during a band car crash a few years ago. How did the crash happen?

Oh man, that was awful! We were heading to our first gig of the tour in a Ford Expedition ('cuz we didn't have our tour bus yet) and to make a long story short, a car spun into us while we were going about 70mph in the far left lane. We rolled 5 times across 4 lanes of traffic, ending up on our side on the far right shoulder. I mainly remember seeing our beautiful bass player, Patina Creme, on the outside of the truck just crushed by it. It was horrible. She was in intensive care for 3 weeks and survived by sheer spirit. She had rehab for over a year, including learning how to walk again. Everyone else's injuries paled in comparison to hers; but, we all were picking glass out of our skin years later! I actually had to identify the guy who caused it all 'cuz he drove off. It was great to nail him and see him get 3 years for attempted vehicular manslaughter/ hit and run. Fuck him...and fuck him HARD! Enuff said.

NINa: As for further googling ;) I found your name mentioned at Chicago Accordion Club website. You played drums at one of the meetings they had in June. Was it a break break rock stuff? ;)

Hmmm... I've never heard of that or played in that?!? Sorry, it sounds like it was fun.

Brian Backlash: Who's drumming work have you been impressed by over the years?

There's so many drummers I've been inspired by! Here's the short list: Terry Bozzio, Bill Bruford, Neil Peart, Vinnie Coliuta, John Bonham, Phil Rudd, Virgil Donati, Vinnie Paul, Cevin Key.

NINa: Brutus era. I'm sorry I hardly recall the band. Was it some short story in your musical efforts?

Man, you've done your homework. Yeah, Brutus was a funk band I was in from Minneapolis. I like all sorts of music and with Brutus I could really work out my funk chops.

Brian Backlash: You've played with a wide range of industrial-oriented bands: Bile, Chemlab, KMFDM, 16Volt...do you personally have an affinity for heavy industrial music, or do you just go where the work is?

I love industrial music! and proud to say it!!! I was a metal head starting to grow up and needed more from my music. When I first heard Ministry and Skinny Puppy, that was it. They were everything I wanted: dark, scary, heavy with electronics. The sound palette was blown wide open when I got my first sampler. It's the most punk rock instrument you can get. I was a fan of Chemlab and KMFDM, even 16volt before I started playing with them. It definately was love versus work for most of the bands I've been in, which is the way it should always be.

Brian Backlash: Can you recommend to us a good drum kit? Are there any drum manufacturers aspiring musicians should avoid?

That's a tough one. These days, most drum companies are making good drums. I use Tama and Taye. DW, Wamaha, Pearl and Gretsch all make great kits. I really can't think of a drum company someone should avoid. It's really all about taste, you know? If you know how to tune, head selection, technique, etc., you can even make a cb-700 kit sound good! :-)

John DeSalvo at Myspace

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