By Alice Roche Cody
We recently caught up with Doc Coyle '98, guitarist for the heavy metal band, Bad Wolves. About to release its third album, Bad Wolves blew up the charts three years ago with its cover release of the Cranberries' song, Zombie. Like most musicians these days, Doc is grounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the LA resident hasn't taken much downtime – he's busy with his Ex-Man podcast and perfecting his musical craft – his break from touring gave us the opportunity to talk.
Doc – the son of two musicians – grew up in a tough, low-income neighborhood in New Brunswick. His sophomore year of high school, Doc received a partial scholarship to GSB, where he played basketball and started his first heavy metal band, God Forbid, with his brother, Dallas Coyle '97. Doc credits GSB for helping him learn how to navigate different spaces, a skill that still serves him well as he manages his music career.
In the following interview, Doc talks about what it's like playing for packed stadiums filled with thousands of adoring fans and how much he misses live music.
Enjoy this preview! Doc will be featured at-length in our soon-to-be released GSB Magazine. Stay tuned!
Q: You came to Gill St. Bernard’s as a transfer student from New Brunswick High School. What was it like, starting at Gill?
A: I saw GSB as my golden opportunity to explore beyond the limitations of my circumstances at the time. I liked the smaller classes with really engaged teachers on this picturesque campus. Just being there, I felt special and lucky.
Q: How was your time at GSB?
A: I loved playing basketball. I was a gym rat and ran cross-country. Mrs. Ripton, my English teacher, gave me a hard time, but she was instrumental in teaching me how to write and become a better student. Back then, I started my band as a hobby. I played guitar at a campus poetry night, Dee by Randy Rhoads.
Q: Your progression from playing a campus poetry night to guitarist for Bad Wolves developed over many years and required a tremendous amount of effort. What was it like being on stage with Bad Wolves, with tons of screaming fans at packed concerts?
A: It has evolved over the years. When I was younger, I needed that ego validation of a good crowd response that spoke to an internal sense of self-worth. Beyond that, there has always been a cathartic element of physically connecting with a crowd and collectively honing in on an energetic pulse. That feeling can be addictive. Playing a great show is like being on a sports team and coming off the field a winner. You're sweaty, exhausted, but you're high fiving each other and feel like you've overcome something as a team, as a unit.
As I've gotten older, it has become more about playing my instrument well and performing at a high level. Being a professional is the most important thing. I take the hour or so before I go on stage seriously. Stretching, listening to music, focusing my mind on being locked-in for the show so I can be totally 100% present in the moment. If you're thinking on stage, you've lost the game. You want to find that flow state and just be. Then you can really connect to the audience in a pure way.
Q: What is your favorite part of playing live music? The hardest part?
A: Playing music you like is fun. I mean how many go out to do their job and people are screaming in excitement, asking for an autograph, or a picture? It's a surreal job, but if you’re vigilant not to take it for granted, you can stay tuned into the novelty of it all. When people come to your show, that's their night out. It might be a weekday for me, but every show day is a Friday night for the audience. That's a real privilege to have a job that involves something exciting and fun. My favorite part is that it's an event. That kind of feeling never gets old. It's show business. The hardest part is touring for long periods of time. The lifestyle itself can be repetitive and mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing. I think touring for too long is unhealthy, and you start to lose yourself a bit.
Q: Are you missing it now that live music has been side-lined due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: I wasn't at first, but I’m yearning for any kind of excitement. The boredom and monotony of not leaving the house and not being able to socialize much is really taking its toll on me mentally. I love the traveling aspect of it all. It's a cool thing to randomly be in Prague, Finland or Australia. And Bad Wolves gets to tour with lots of big bands like Nickelback, Megadeth, Papa Roach. I still really get a kick out of watching and learning from all of these great artists. I dearly miss going to shows, period. We had some festival dates scheduled with Metallica that were canceled. That's a huge bummer.
Q: Is songwriting a big part of your musical life? Which bands did you collaborate with?
A: I wish I would write more. With my old band, God Forbid, I was the primary writer for a big stretch of time, and my other band, Vagus Nerve, I wrote most of the music for our EP. But with Bad Wolves, I'm a peripheral writer. I've written stuff for the band, but not a massive amount. I continue writing for other artists though. I wrote a track for Body Count featuring Ice-T a couple years back as well as a few tracks for Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed's solo record. I also just wrote a track for Lajon Witherspoon, lead singer of Sevendust for his solo album.
Q: How was it playing with your guitar heroes?
A: I had the fortune to tour with Metallica in 2009, when I was filling in on guitar for Lamb of God. They are my all-time favorite band, so this was a dream come true. Subsequently, I became friendly with the band, and when I moved to Los Angeles, I ended up playing with Metallica bassist, Rob Trujillo's side project, Mass Mental. And recently, I joined up with Kirk Hammett and Rob's All-Star cover band, The Wedding Band. Playing in a band with two members of Metallica is something I never dreamed of. I've experienced some very good fortune to have these opportunities. I try to be as professional as possible, be prepared, and have fun. Jamming with those guys is a blast because it's very old school and loose. I am comfortable with that type of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants environment.