April 2, 2009

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Heavy metal school
Black Label bassist to hold in-store clinic
By Dana Unger dunger@hippopress.com

Aspiring rockers are in for a crash course in hard-hitting metal when Black Label Society bassist and Cycle of Pain founder John “JD” DeServio appears on Wednesday, April 8, at Daddy’s Junky Music in Manchester. Currently, DeServio is touring with the Black Label Society, who will appear at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena on Thursday, April 9 (tickets cost $29.50; see www.verizonwirelessarena.com).

“The tour has been going great,” DeServio said in a March 27 interview from Milwaukee, Wis. “All the shows are sold out. It’s a lot of work too, because we’re doing a lot of meet-and-greets before our shows. In fact, since we have a show tonight, that’s what I’m going to be doing today.”

Though he now lives in California, DeServio’s rocker roots run local. He briefly attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music, before leaving in 1989 to tour with Jodi Bongiovi (Jon Bon Jovi’s cousin). He later toured with Lita Ford, opening for Motley Crue on their ’89-’90 Doctor Feelgood tour.

Before DeServio joined Black Label Society, he had already had a long musical relationship with its founder, guitarist Zakk Wylde, who has been Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist for 20 years.

“I knew Zakk even before he was with Ozzy,” DeServio said. “We’re both originally from Jersey, and we met because I had heard about this burning guitar player from a friend of mine. We got together and just started playing stuff together and got along really well.”

After playing with a New York band called Defunkt, he went back to New Jersey teaching music until Wylde brought DeServio in to play on his first solo project, Pride and Glory, touring Europe, Japan and the U.S., where they opened for Aerosmith. Wylde formed Black Label Society in 1998, and DeServio was brought into the band in 2000 for their first world tour, and then again in 2005.

But even during that time, DeServio continued to teach music.

“I love doing it,” he said. “I’m getting to educate and show kids there’s so much music out there. The more you know about music, the more likely you’re going to keep playing it.”

The clinics, which DeServio is conducting at several stops along the tour, are a way for aspiring musicians to learn more about the music process. “It’s pretty much me playing bass with one of my zoom pedals and just jamming over some chord jams, explaining what I’m doing and the techniques,” DeServio said. “I also play along to some Black Label tracks and Cycle of Pain tracks.”

Though DeServio said that he didn’t have one particular mentor when he was an aspiring musician, he did have influences who pushed him in his passion for music.

“I always loved music,” he said. “I had older brothers, so they introduced me to bands like The Doors, [Led] Zeppelin, [Black] Sabbath. Once my buddy brought in a poster of KISS and I pointed at Gene Simmons and asked what he did. My buddy said he plays bass, and I knew then that I wanted to be him.”

After the tour, DeServio said, Black Label will be done for the year but will be back to record another album, while his other project, Cycle of Pain will release its debut album on April 21.

“We’re going to be doing double duty, because the album drops the same day that Cycle of Pain jumps on the Black Label tour,” DeServio said. For musicians seeking the same kind of career he’s been able to cultivate over the years, DeServio said that the key to success is just to play.

“Play with as many people as you can, listen to as much music as you can, and practice and study as much as you can,” he said. “But I’d have to say that jamming with other musicians is the most important thing.”


Learn it
Music clinic with John “JD” DeServio
When: Wednesday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Daddy’s Junky Music, 1279 S. Willow St., Manchester.