JD DeServio is a fun guy. He loves to talk and he loves to laugh and when he gets a big ole nasty looking blister on his finger from playing his bass, he just has to show it to you. Black Label Society had just played a sweaty kick ass show in New Orleans when DeServio comes up to me outside the venue to show me his war wound with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. A few weeks later when he called to talk about his youth for this column, I asked him what finally happened with his finger. “It hurt. When I saw you, it was killing me but by the next day it felt better,” he laughed. Playing as hard as they do, it’s no wonder that’s all he came out of the show with.
But anything for the fans, who love BLS with an indefatigable passion. And DeServio, a Jersey boy with a heart of gold underneath his tough-looking exterior that also spends time playing with his other band Cycle Of Pain, loves the fans back. Their Meet & Greets are more like friends hanging out than a band taking five seconds to take a picture before disappearing through a back door. These guys actually stick around and talk, take pictures, sign posters.
And DeServio is the last one to leave. JD, can you tell us about where you grew up and what kind of kid were you?
I grew up in Cliffwood Beach, New Jersey, and I was just an average kid. I don’t know, I was kind of crazy (laughs). I got into music really, really early. I was singing when I was like four years old or five years old, singing songs. I loved it, you know. Then by like third grade, I saw a picture of KISS and that was it for me. My goodness, what was it about that picture?
Well, they looked like horror movie people and I loved horror movies (laughs). So that was what attracted me. I loved Gene Simmons, thought he was awesome, thought he looked so cool, and that’s all I wanted to do. So that was it.What did you think about their music?
When I heard the music, I loved it. KISS was such an impact. They influenced millions and millions of kids. So I guess you would say that KISS was the first band that really blew your socks off.
Yeah, I mean, when I was younger than that, I had an older brother and he had a lot of like Doors records and Zeppelin and stuff and I loved the Doors and I loved Jethro Tull and shit. But then when my buddy showed me that picture of KISS, then I thought they were the best.Did you go out and buy their albums?
I was only in third grade at this time and back then, you know, you didn’t really buy albums, you didn’t really buy anything (laughs). It took me a little while, probably two years before I really bought a record. But I just seen them in the magazines and stuff and heard them on the radio. My friend had records so I’d go over there and listen to them with him. They had a little bit more money than we did (laughs).Was the bass your first instrument?
Yeah, the bass was my first instrument. Well, actually, I went for a guitar lesson and I played acoustic guitar, which was the first thing I had. But it was just learning songs out of a songbook. It was like “The Happy Song” and shit like this. So I got a bass in sixth grade.I read that you played a KISS song in a talent show when you were really young.
Yep, in fifth grade at the talent show we dressed up like KISS and we sang “Detroit Rock City” and my drummer actually played drums. Then the next year we all played a song off an Ace Frehley solo record called “Ozone” and that was when I was eleven. It was pretty crazy.Were you nervous?
I don’t remember but I don’t think so. Actually, you know what, I don’t think I was but our guitar player was very nervous cause he had to play the guitar solo, the lead solo, and I didn’t know what to do when he played the solo so we all just stopped and he just played the solo by himself. But he was really nervous to do it so he only did it in the daytime for the kids. He wouldn’t do it at night. He was too afraid (laughs).So when would you say you had your first real band?
We always had a band so I would say that was the beginnings of my first real band and then in seventh grade we played “Naked” from Aerosmith. Then in eighth grade, that was when we really started to get more into it because you’re getting older and your ear develops more. So in eighth grade we played “Green Manalishi”, “Sin City” and “Breaking The Law”. And that’s when it really started developing your ear. We were like thirteen years old.What did your classmates think of you being in a band that young?
Everybody loved itSo you were like the cool guy.
A lot more people had bands back then, I think, cause the older kids influenced us. It wasn’t for anything but for us, you know. We just liked it and everybody seemed to dig it. We never thought about it, we just liked it.How did you get your first bass?
My father bought it for me. We had this newspaper and I would look in the newspaper every week in this section called “The Bargain Box” and there was this one thing that said “Used Musical Equipment” and I used to read it every day. And I even remember the number. It was 727-1895. We went over to this house and it was guitars just all over the house and musical equipment everywhere. Drum things and keyboards and organs and all this was just everywhere. And I went and picked up this bass and I picked it up by the string cause I didn’t know what the hell I was doing (laughs). I picked it up by the string and I broke the string right off the bass and my father felt so bad about it that he bought it. So there you go. That was sixth grade and it was a Danelectro bass.How did it sound?
Oh I don’t know (laughs) but I’m sure it was a bass. It had a bass amp and it was good, man. That was the beginning.And you’re still playing bass.
I know, how about that. Pretty crazy, huh (laughs). From then to now. Eleven years old to forty-four, that’s thirty-three years.But that’s great because you’re doing what you love and we all should be so lucky.
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I am really blessed.Do you remember the first concert that you went to?
Yep, it was Bob Seger. It was 1980, I was thirteen, and my brother took me to see Bob Seger in Long Island at the Nassau Coliseum. It was amazing and blew my mind. What about it caused this reaction?
Everything, cause when you’re a kid everything is just so big, you know what I mean. The arena was massive and just the whole concert sounded so great and loud and the lights. It’s insane.And he had a big band back then too. He had all the horns and everything.
Yeah, Alto Reed was killing it and doing this sax solo. And at one point he’s holding this one note and you don’t see him onstage and he’s jamming and then all of a sudden he hits this one high note and then a spotlight shines up in the upper balcony and he’s up there playing in the crowd. It was really pretty insane.I read that you liked to draw when you were younger.
I used to love it when I was a kid. I used to love to draw.What kind of things did you draw?
Oh shit, pictures of Iron Maiden, Eddie Maiden. I used to draw the KISS guys, all the logos from all the bands, stuff like that, pictures of Ozzy.Do you still draw?
Not really. I only draw for like my nieces. They’re all getting big now so I really don’t draw anymore.Who would you say has been your biggest influence as a musician and why them?
That’s tough cause there’s so many different points of your life where you’re inspired for different things. Like I said, the reason I’m here is because of KISS, because of Gene Simmons. As I got older Steve Harris from Iron Maiden inspired me. And then Yngwie Malmsteen inspired me and Randy Rhoads inspired me. Then as I got older I got into jazz and funk and then Jaco Pastorius inspired me, James Jamerson. The list is just endless. I couldn’t say just one, there’s so many. And people I know in life inspire me. The list just never stops growing.So you still get turned on all the time by music.
Oh yeah, definitely.You went to the Berklee College Of Music in Boston. What made you decide to take that route?
I was playing in a band, actually with the guys from Cycle Of Pain. My singer was our drummer then and his name’s Gregg Locascio and Joe Taylor was playing guitar. We were in a band from fourteen till about eighteen, so we were seventeen and we were all going to go to MI in California, cause it just opened up and we thought we were all just going to go there. Then my drummer’s sister was going to Berklee and his parents actually talked me into going there. And we were all supposed to try and go but I was the only one who went.What did you think about that experience? Do you think it helped?
Oh immensely. Fuck yeah. What did you take?
I was a Performance Major so I pretty much studied music and playing live. Reading and just playing, that’s what it was all about.Did you find it hard?
I found it awesome. I loved it. It was amazing. It was very hard. There were certain courses that were really hard. Ear Training was a really tough course but it was amazing cause it was all music and it was really killer.Do you remember the first real rock star you ever met?
I guess Ozzy. I didn’t really meet many till I got in the business and then by that time it’s different cause you’re kind of a peer. But when I met Ozzy that was killer cause Zakk had got the Ozzy gig. And me and Zakk were friends before Ozzy. I was going to college in Boston and they were playing in Massachusetts so somehow a friend of mine knew where the guys would stay. So we went to this hotel and I saw someone come out of the bus and I said I was friends with Zakk from back home in Jersey and then we hooked up and went over to the gig. And I’m on the tour bus with Zakk, Geezer Butler and Randy Castillo and that was insane cause Geezer’s a total hero of mine as well. So I’d have to say Geezer was probably the first one but then meeting Ozzy later that day was pretty insane.So what is going on with your band Cycle Of Pain?
We did a record that came out in 2009 and we did some touring and we got to open up for Black Label and we opened up for Shinedown. We do a bunch of local gigs and stuff like that. Right now we’re writing new stuff and hopefully we’re going to get another deal and keep it rolling … It’s good shit. My singer was my drummer when we were fourteen and my guitar player, Joe Taylor, we were playing together since then too so it’s pretty cool that we’re still doing it together.And you haven’t killed each other yet.
Not yet. Came close a few times (laughs)When you do your bass clinics, do you see a lot of kids out there?
Yeah. It’s up to the youth, man. It’s up to the kids. We’ve got to inspire them like I was inspired as a kid.You’ve been co-producing the last couple of BLS albums. What made you want to go behind the glass?
I love it. I’ve always done this. I’ve had a computer and been recording with the computer stuff since like 1997. So I’ve been into it for a while. When we did Shot To Hell, me and Zakk basically produced that record together and so he was like, “Yeah, man, let’s just do it”. So now I’m like co-producing the records with him and I get to mix them as well.Do you feel more pressure doing that than performing on a stage?
Each one has it’s own pressures but I don’t let any of them get to me. I don’t even think about them. On stage I never think about it. Ever. Cause I’ve been doing it for so long. In the studio it’s a little different because it’s under a magnifying glass and it’s documented forever so you really got to make sure that it’s correct. But you have time so it’s cool.You think if one day you get tired of playing the bass you’re just going to stay behind the glass?
Oh I would love to produce other bands and write for other bands. I love to write songs and arrange and produce and mix. I’d love to eventually just be doing that and that’d be totally cool. Cause you have to travel so much and traveling kicks your ass.Next week we crawl into the world of Seether frontman Shaun Morgan, who candidly shares stories of growing up in a turbulent South Africa and how music was his saving grace.