Dave Davis (Annihilator, Rock City Riot): On the path to Rampage

It’s quite possible that the chief-ed has even met the legendary Canadian Metal guitarist Dave Davis personally, some time back then when Annihilator supported Judas Priest on tour… In this interview you can find out what else is connecting these 2 bands with Dave – it’s  in a way the “twin” to our recent chat with Duane Chaos!

How’s it going and what are you working on now, David?
I have been primarily writing my own songs, but in 2017 stagnated musically. I actually stopped jamming altogether. During Covid, I met up with an old friend and started golfing. He was feeling equally frustrated about the complete collapse of live music due to the pandemic and we decided to start something up musically. We weren’t really sure what our first sessions would be like, other than having a few cold beers.

After we plugged in our instruments and tuned up, we just kind of looked at each other and said “Well, let’s warm up with stuff we all know” (which is an incredibly common thing to say in such circumstances). It turned out that everyone in the room had played a ton of Judas Priest at one time or another and then the cobwebs cleared out of our heads, we suddenly realized we had a full set of Judas Priest. It came together rather quickly and the result was a Judas Priest Tribute Band named Rock City Riot, focusing on older Priest songs with a few newer bits like The Sentinenal and some Iron Maiden. To be honest, I had not wanted to play covers, only original materials but it felt good and sounded better. We ended up inheriting a bassist and singer from a local band along with a drummer and formed Rock City Riot. We are just going into our second year now and our shows are getting better and our following gets larger.

I am also working on some original materials which will be introduced in coming weeks and months. I also just started working on some songs recorded by my good friend and ex-Annihilator frontman/former DOA bassist Randy Rampage in his band Rampage, just before his death in 2018.

When did you begin playing music?
I started a few months before I turned four years old and performed at a young age. I got sick of playing and decided to get into sports instead at around 7. At some point I heard the KISS Alive album and it was at that point I was clear what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Growing up in Victoria, BC Canada, most of the radio stations only played Top 40 and pop rock back then. There was a large underground group that detested those songs and wanted faster, louder, heavier and more raunchy music. We had to seek out the bands that played that which was when things got really interesting. I started playing guitar in bands at that point.

We had Black Sabbath, Kansas, Led Zepplin, Boston etc but the scene really took off when Van Halen and Blizzard of Oz dropped along with Judas Priests’ Screaming for Vengeance and the Scorpions Blackout. Dio added to that excitement. In parallel, the punk scene in Victoria chased the same dynamics until the scenes kind of amalgamated into a more generalized “hardcore” direction.

Any favorite metal bands?
Aside from those mentioned above, I am really digging a lot of new metal. Avenged Sevenfold is amazing and a local Victoria band, Unleash the Archers, is always at the top of my playlists. The newest Priest Album brought me back to them big time, especially with the instant classic (my opinion) Trial by Fire. I still like my post-Annihilator band Meatwagon. We actually toured Europe with Annihilator and have an album that many metal fans loved. Sadly, it was a three piece and one of our members passed so we haven’t pursued it. Possible in the future.

I also listen to Children of Bodom, In Flames, Stratovarius, Insomnium, Omnium Gatherum, Wintersun, Dark Tranquility and many more. To anyone who feels they have music in this genre, please send me your tunes! I’m always looking for new metal.

When did you join Annihilator? How did you join?
I joined in March 1989. It was a bit of a long story, but Wayne Darley, one of my best friends, was also friends with Randy Rampage, who had just joined as the lead singer for Annihilator. My friend Wayne Darley was playing bass and joined Annihilator and told me that Anthony Greenham (who later on went to manage Nickleback) was not working out as a guitar player. Wayne encouraged me to come over. I went to Vancouver and did a try out with Peter Caroll, Wayne, Ray Hartman and everything seemed fine. They liked the way I plaed and more importantly, the way we played together.

I had to wait until Jeff got back from a promo tour of Europe to see if he liked me. By the time he got back, I had sort of cemented with the rest of the band.

Jeff came back, we played a few songs, and he just kind of made up his mind I was in the band.

What is an Annihilator live show like?
There are two different aspects of this. One is being in the audience and one is my experience on stage. From an audience perspective, the shows are hard-hitting and punch you in the face for the entire set. It is an energy climax that brings up the temperature of the room for most.

From a musician’s perspective, the experience is quite different as the material is quite complex and really compels a total commitment to focus and attention. When I used to get off stage, I found I felt qute energized by the feedback from the crowd but also relaxed and ready for beers! I was also relaxed before shows. Yes, it was fun and we always engaged a lot with the crowd, but doing that night after night after night does demand a lot of downtime to recover and prepare. Luckily I was surrounded by many great people who took care of the more routine aspects like hotels, rides, flights, guitars, tech etc. so it was actually very enjoyable. A little known side note, Jeff Waters really liked the way I strung guitars, so I would do both his and my guitars.

What has it been like playing in Annihilator for all those years (1989–1991, 1993–2001)?
Years? It just seems like “An-hour-lator” (laughs). Haha – its’ still with me and I remember the details. Rock City Riot covers some Annihilator and we literally played one song all the way through the first time. I guess I liked it more than I thought.

The one thing I do think about in retrospect is that the band should have not experienced such a high rate of member turnover. I believe it would have been ultimately far more successful if it was more of a democracy and the five original members had stuck together. Note that a lot of fans feel the same way and they express this to me all the time. Who is to say though? Jeff Waters ran Annihilator as a business and he succeeded on many fronts. I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of that and many members left the group on their own so in no way should fans be critical.

At the same time, it was hard at some points. One of the most critical incidents was just before the Testament tour, we were traveling to the United States and Wayne Darley, being the honest person he is, decided to disclose a juvenile record for possession of a very small amount of cannabis. Since he was a juvenile when it happened, the US Border and Immigration services would have no way to find out on their own, but when Wayne disclosed it, his rights to enter the USA were arbitrarily denied. That was a pivotal and very hard moment for Annihilator. I had to immediately switch from second guitar to learn all the bass parts prior to some tour dates in Japan. I had ten days to do that. It was also hard seeing Wayne done from the band. It would not have been possible for him to tour anymore once blacklisted.

Fast forward 30+ years and now the US is going to decriminalize possession of smaller amounts of cannabis. This is where drug laws have had a purely adverse effect on people’s lives. Wayne Darley was literally the most harmless person on the face of the planet and ended up suffering because of the laws.

What are you doing when not playing music?
Golfing, drinking, enjoying BC’s new cannibis laws and chatting with beautiful women (chuckles). I’m actually living a great life in Victoria. I have a great place with a water view and find it very relaxing and food for musical creativity. I do golf whenever I can with our other Rock City Riot guitarist Duane Chaos. Life is just a gift – living it one day at a time. I also call up Jeff Waters sometimes to ask him where my royalty cheques are (chuckles).

I do spend a lot of time with music though so there is not always the time I want to do everything else. I am a huge hockey fan, too, so going to games is on the agenda.

Any future plans and projects?
Yes! I have started working on our late Singer Randy Rampage’s unpublished songs with his guitarist Duane Chaos and former Annihilator bassist Lou Bujdoso. Randy had finished a studio album just days before his passing. The band name was just “Rampage” and he and Duane had written and recorded the songs. It hasn’t been released as the tour fell apart when he died and record companies were a bit reluctant to sign a band with no lead singer. Luckily we ran into Lou (Ex-Annihilator bassist) during a tour en route to play in Western Canada and Lou can still sing. The question to me was “who will form the band for the record release”. After all, it has to be people with a connection to Randy, especially whoever sings the material. Luckily Lou can mimic the vocal range Randy hits to a large degree and I played in Annihilator at the same time as Randy, so it feels right.

As we learn the Rampage stuff, we are also putting together some Annihilator material to perform and writing some new stuff. We will probably keep the name “Rampage” (note it was not named “Randy Rampage” as per Randy’s wishes). Randy believed everyone in the band should be equally a part of the band with an equal split. That is how the band was formed.

Interview: John Wisnewski
photos: Rock City Riot

GastmitarbeiterInnen / guest contributions

Regular guest contributors e.g. Melanie Kircher, Tatjana Tattis Murschel, Grit Kabiersch, Marina Minkler, Jasmine Frey, Maria Levin, Elvira Visser, Nina Ratavaara, John Wisniewski