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BIBLE OF THE DEVIL


BIBLE OF THE DEVIL: FULL METAL GOSPEL

Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

Don't let me hear anybody whine and bitch that there are no true old school metal bands in the United States. While Chicago's Bible of the Devil continues to preach the word of classic amplitude, that assumption is patently false. Of course, they are not the only practitioners of the art, but they may just be the truest of them all. It doesn't take long to realize that these guys don't give a fart and sixpence about any sort of retro metal "movement"....they play the music they play because it's what's in their bones and they couldn't do anything else.

They have been around the Windy City for a good many years now. wowing the locals with gritty efforts like "Tight Empire" and "Brutality-Majesty-Eternity". Despite the initial impression given by their name, they could care less about Satan but they raise hell nonetheless. A mixture of classic Sabbath/Lizzy/Maiden elements with touches of more esoteric stuff like Slough Feg and Manilla Road is how one might begin to describe them, but that just provides a starting point, not an all-embracing description. Now on the superb Cruz Del Sur label, BOTD opened eyes with the truly epic "Diabolical Procession" and now has issued the earthy and rocking "Freedom Metal". This is what you want to listen to when you want to hear METAL with no subgenres or restrictions.

Mark Hoffmann is the gritty voice behind the Bible and he was recently kind enough to give me a sermon on "Freedom Metal" and all other ecclesiastical subjects pertaining thereto...


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: First, to get the obvious out of the way, give us a brief history of the band. Did you guys play with any prior outfits before hooking up?

MARK HOFFMANN : Greg, our drummer, and I first connected in 1999 with the idea of starting this thing. At the time we were both playing guitar. I had just moved out to Chicago from Washington State, where I completed my undergrad at W.S.U. and Greg had just moved from Iowa City, where he did his undergrad at U of I. I had put an ad in the local Chicago free papers looking for people to play with roughly outlining my influences at the time, and that's how we met. We had both played in Punk Rockish- sort of bands while in college, none of which really went anywhere or released anything on a large scale. Nate and Darren share similar stories, though they both joined the band at varying times a few years later.

WC: Your previous record The Diabolic Procession was an epic historical concept album. Were you satisfied with how that turned out? Is it something you'd try again?

MH: Sure. I have always been fascinated by the idea of the 'Children's Crusade', even though most historians seem to agree that accounts of it have been highly embellished through the centuries. What is more important is the symbolism of it: naive, immature individuals being inspired by despair and the belief in a futile, dangerously idealistic goal that leads them to doom, enslavement, and death. Perfect subject matter for Metal, I think. It's quite challenging to write a whole album of cohesive songs about one theme. Sure, I'd do it again. Who knows, maybe again on the next one.

WC: Did you know right away that your follow-up to The Diabolic Procession would be more of a simple, rootsy type record? Or did it just evolve that way?

MH: It more or less evolved that way. This time we took over a year to write the record. Many ideas and even recorded sessions were left behind because we decided that they didn't fit on the record. We never really have written that way before, where we have had extra songs we decided to leave off an album. Two of the discarded songs we did complete will come out on a couple of seven inch split singles. One is already out, a split with Virginia's VALKYRIE, called 'The Auld Dirt Road', another is coming out on a split single with Kentucky's BLADE OF THE RIPPER, called ''Hot Deth'.

WC: The name of the band is going to suggest something evil and Satanic to people who don't know you. What's the real meaning behind the name, because you don't seem to be into any of that.

MH: Nah. Not really. We've been asked about this sort of thing over the years ad nauseum. We chose the name when we were younger and more willing to invite controversy. That's it. Think of the name as a euphemism for Rock n' Roll. What I think is funny is that we've probably pissed off more Death and Black Metal fans than uptight Christians because they find our music thinking that it's going to be much more extreme... some sort of violent, church-burning, Christ-insulting, skree. Don't get me wrong, that kind of thing is cool too, but in reality we're more of a 'Traditional American Rock n' Roll Street-Metal' band, or 'Freedom Metal', if you like.

WC: I'd like to dig into the ideas behind specific songs on the new Freedom Metal LP. I didn't get lyrics, but it seems the track "Womanize" is condemning sexism in some fashion. Is that what the track is about?

MH: You have to understand that although we are very serious about what we do that we still carry our tongues firmly in cheek. The track "Womanize" is more of an ode to the art of "Womanizing" than a condemnation of it. I even name-check such hallowed womanizers as Casanova and Don Juan in the lyrics. It's not a condemnation of sexism, it's more of a celebration of it. The lyrics do accompany the "official" release of Freedom Metal, by the way.

WC: The track "Ol' Girl" is getting a lot of comment because of its great resemblance to classic THIN LIZZY. In fact, I called this the best track that LIZZY never wrote. How big of an influence is THIN LIZZY on you guys and were the lyrics biographical?

MH: THIN LIZZY is probably my favorite band, ever. I think that most of the other guys in the band would agree that it is one of theirs, too. A little-known fact is that when I was in Dublin about 5 years ago, I actually met Phil Lynott's mother, Philomena, on a bit of a lark. I was procuring a couple of rare THIN LIZZY LPs in a record store in Dublin, and I casually asked the clerk whether or not if there was any sort of THIN LIZZY / Lynott "attractions" that I should check out while in town. Very casually he wrote down Philomena's number for us, and recommended that we, "Give her a ring. People do it all the time. She loves meeting his fans." Well, I'm not one to impose, so I was very hesitant to do so. However, my female friend who I was travelling with persuaded me that it was a chance of a lifetime. She phoned Philomena. To make a long story short, we took the train and met her in Sutton, North of Dublin, where she and her brother picked us up in their car and drove us to the graveyard where Phil is buried. I actually have pictures of myself with Philomena Lynott next to his grave. I know that a lot of THIN LIZZY fans worldwide do as well, because she said as much. We stopped over at the Lynott house for tea, and we got to look at a TON of amazing THIN LIZZY memorabilia. I even have another photo of myself with the red flag that graces the cover of Renegade. It was very surreal, I assure you. So yes, you can think of "Ol'Girl" as an intentional THIN LIZZY tribute. It isn't the first from us, and it won't be the last. And yes, you could call the song auto-biographical.

WC: "Heat Feeler" was another different track. The first half has an almost alt-country feel to it. What was the idea behind this one and could you see yourself doing a cut that is all in the vein of that first part?

MH: We envisioned that song, at least the first part, to be in a WISHBONE ASH sort of vein. Nate wrote that first guitar sequence with that feel in mind, in fact. However, I do enjoy stuff like GRAM PARSONS, TOWNES VAN ZANDT, and WILLIE NELSON, so I can see how a bit of a country feel could leak into the vocal performance. We've always been musical mutts that way. Very little is off-limits in terms of influences when we're composing songs. As long as it is of high quality...

WC: What are some of the non-metal influences Bible of the Devil has?

MH: I'm a big fan of "true" country music and power pop. You listen to quality stuff in those genres and realize that the almighty riff isn't the ONLY thing that matters. I come from a background in college radio, too, so very little is off-limits to me across the spectrum. I think we try to be selectively aware of what is going on in the "outside world" as to what is popular for "the other" people. We all like STEELY DAN. Nate usually takes the reigns of keeping us appraised of what's happening in the Hip-Hop world because he actually still listens to the radio, Darren listens to stuff like SEX GANG CHILDREN. Greg is a closet FLEETWOOD MAC fanatic - and not just the oft-touted PETER GREEN era. Obviously, we're not going to take a lot of those 'other' influences literally and inject it into BIBLE OF THE DEVIL's music. Don't expect a freestyle Hip-Hop breakdown on the next record or anything.

WC: How does the band compose songs? Does everybody write or is it just one or two members specifically that come up with the songs?

MH: Most times Nate or I will come in with a riff idea that we'll flesh out into a song. We work closely together on vocal melodies and harmonies. I'm responsible for much of the lyrical content, but Nate offers input on that as well. Darren and Greg glue it together with their essential responsibilities on bass and drums.

WC: What sort of subjects inspire you guys to write? It seems subject matter is evenly broke up between epic historical or fantasy stuff and more gritty, real-life subjects?

MH: I would say that is pretty accurate. Good lyrics are very important to me. I'm a cerebral sort of guy, so I don't like just spouting a bunch of silly nonsense if I can avoid it. There's a time and place for that, too, but lyrics should complicate a song and not be a burden to it. I won't lie, we ALWAYS write the guitar parts first, but part of the challenge is coming up with the right, melodic way to sing over the music. I speak for everyone in the band when I say that we are no fans of this new wave of "instrumental rock" that seems to be all the rage these days. If you don't have anyone in the band that can sing or write lyrics, stay in the rehearsal space until you do. I'm so goddamn tired of seeing bands that are INCOMPLETE, because it's somehow hip "not to sing". That's bullshit, dude. If no one can remember any of your songs, how are they supposed to give a shit? It's a total cop-out. Grow a pair, scribble some lyrics and step up to the microphone. Or stay home. That's fine too. Nothing most of these bands are doing is interesting enough to remain "instrumental" anyway. That is, unless I missed something and they are playing magical chords no one has ever played before on instruments that no one has ever invented before.

WC: How would you rate the Chicago metal scene right now and are there any up and coming bands we should be aware of?

MH: There's some stuff here that we like, and plenty that we don't. We've been around this Chicago "scene" a relatively long time now. What that has taught me is not to discuss other local bands' music in interviews. Whether you mention them positively or negatively, inevitably someone goes away feeling slighted if they read it.

WC: Has it been an advantage for you to be located in the Midwest instead of the East or West coasts or has it been a setback?

MH: Touring-wise, I think that you have easier access to almost anywhere in the country living in the middle of the country if you don't want to do extended, multi-week tours when you go out. We don't do a lot of those anymore, so it's handy living here if you just want to do a week or two out in any direction. As far as press and "attention" go though, you're always going to get more of that on the coasts. It seems like Chicago is still just a footnote to the mainstream music press.

WC: Have you had a chance to tour outside the States yet? I would think Europe would be a natural for your style of music?

MH: Yes, in fact we're preparing to go to Europe for the third time in March. Our label, Cruz Del Sur Music, is based out of Rome, Italy. That relationship, and the ones we have with Scarey Records out of Torino, Italy, and Heavy Birth Records out of The Netherlands, have allowed us to extend our touring interest over there. I won't sugar-coat anything here, though. Touring Europe isn't all that different than touring the States, except for the hospitality, which never fails to be better. Some places people are totally into us and some places they couldn't give less of a shit. In truth, the real appeal of touring over in Europe is that you get a unique chance to absorb different cultures through the lens of a Rock n' Roll tour, the food is way better, and shit is just generally wacky. We like that.

WC: Your line-up has been pretty stable. Do you guys hang together outside of the band or does everybody do their own thing?

MH: Sure, we hang out. As you get older and the responsibilities mount, there is not always as much free time to hang out as much as we might like. It is safe to say that we are all good pals outside of the band, though.

WC: If you could ask any three people in history to dinner, who would they be?

MH: That's a great question, and my answer today would be: Barack Obama, Phil Lynott, and Jesus Christ.

WC:. How do you see the Bible sound evolving in the future?

MH: I think there's still room to grow. We haven't written our Yeti record yet.

WC: Any tours or major shows in the works?


MH: Every show is major, my man! The aforementioned European tour with Belgium's SOLENOID in March, 2009, is the next major tour.

WC: What was the last CD you bought because you wanted to check it out?

MH: There's been a couple of newer things lately I've really liked, JEX THOTH's self-titled album is pretty great, as is the recent debut EP from DEVIL'S BLOOD. Great, epic, haunting, stuff by both bands. I've been immersed in a bunch of classic stuff lately, as well, such as TRUTH AND JANEY's No Rest For The Wicked, SPOOKY TOOTH's Spooky Two, AMON DUUL II's Yeti, and NIGHT SUN's Mournin'.

WC:. What was the last gig you saw because you wanted to really see the band?

MH: Well, I took my lady friend to see NEIL YOUNG in December. I won't mince words here. It was incredible. That man is just a majestic rock warhorse. NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS was incredible a few months back. I bartend most nights when we aren't rehearsing or playing shows, but I'll always take the night off to see essential stuff like that.

WC: In the history of BIBLE OF THE DEVIL, are there any SPINAL TAP moments of craziness or things going wrong that you'd like to share with us?

MH: Oh yeah. All the time. SPINAL TAP is even more representative of life in a band than most people realize. Here's one... Years ago, we were on tour out on the West Coast with the late, great Lawrence, KS band FILTHY JIM. We were supposed to play some dump of a venue in Eugene, OR. We roll into the show only to find out that they had misspelled both of our bands' names on the flyer. How that is possible is beyond me, but we quickly realized the level of intelligence that we were dealing with. Nonetheless, we loaded all the gear in and began drinking our way through the free band beer, with the growing assumption that the show would be a disaster. The only local on the bill insisted on playing first. They were just an unforgivable nu-metal abomination. Even the locals hated them, and everyone that WAS there left. They were the last straw. Rather than playing to an empty room and sticking around this B-boy disaster area, we quickly loaded the gear back into the trailer. Between the four guys in FILTHY JIM and the four guys in BIBLE OF THE DEVIL, we had the gear loaded back up in less than 5 minutes. The dipshits at the club were so dense, they didn't even notice until we were pulling away in the van. They demanded we pay for the beer we drank, but we told them in no uncertain terms that we would NOT be paying them a goddamn cent. They threatened that we would, "Never play Eugene again." We told them that we would hold them to that promise, hit the accelerator, and to this day have never been back. That was about 5 or 6 years ago, I think, so the statute of limitations is probably up on that one.

WC. Any final words?

MH: Nice to chat with you, Dr. Mality. Thank you for your interest in BIBLE OF THE DEVIL. Keep fighting the good fight and we'll do the same.


Bible of the Devil's Official Website