Devilskin released their amazing “We Rise” album in the UK this week (check our review section for the low-down), and Ritchie managed to grab some time with the red bearded bassist for some questions. I knew he was an amazing musician but he is one hell of a funny guy too.
Firstly Thank you for taking some time to speak to us at DGM Paul, we really appreciate your time.
“Hey Richie, thanks very much for the opportunity. Geographically, we probably couldn’t be further away from each other, so we do appreciate it when we know our music is hitting ears so far away. It’s a great feeling, so cheers!”
It must be a pretty exciting time for you as ‘We Rise’ is just released in the UK, and release dates for Europe are very close. What are your hopes for the album in the UK? Do you just want to spread the word at this stage?
“It is very exciting indeed. Nail and I celebrated our UK release day with a cup of tea and some chit chat. It’s a fantastic feeling to have our music released overseas, it truly is. The UK is the holy land for music legends, as far as we are concerned, as well as being well known for astute taste and a nose for recognising bullshit. It’s awesome to have our music on that playing field. We hope people overseas will flock out and buy it to hear our stories of life in our great land (The land that owns world rugby). Just want to spread the word? …mmmm…no, more like ATTACK!!!”
I was very surprised at the album, and the fact that I had not heard of Devilskin when you had already hit platinum status in your native New Zealand. Are you nervous about the release over here, or are you hoping your success and the fact that this is an outstanding piece of music will do its own talking?
“We totally realise we have to start from square one over there. Not nervous, so much as excited, we’re really looking forward to mucking in and proving ourselves in new countries. It’s great to be armed with a platinum album, chart success, and a live album/dvd, to show that we do take ourselves seriously, and that we have put in some hard yards. But it’s the live shows that we are probably most looking forward to.”
There are a few rumours going around that you may be heading to the UK and Europe for a deadline tour in 2016, can you confirm or deny this, and if it is true, will it be a stripped back affair, or can we expect a show?
“I can confirm that I can’t deny, that there have been unconfirmed rumours to that effect, amid some conjecture, truth and speculation. Yes.”
Talking of tours you just finished the Mountains And The Moon tour, how did that go for you? Are you seeing more people attending and are things getting crazier?
“The tour went really well thanks, Richie. Great crowds, big venues, big production and a lot of happy people. Yes, the crowds are definitely getting bigger, crazier, and a lot louder. Most of the venues were either at capacity or sold out. Such fun!”
…and talking of mountains (are you seeing these cunning links?) I am from Scotland, and although I have not visited NZ, a lot of people tell me that the two countries are very alike. Now watching the Mountains video (and all those Lord Of The Rings movies) I can see what they mean, but I do have to ask…. how fucking cold was that video shoot, and how long were you guys up there for?
“We were up there for 6 or 7 hours I think. Yes it was cold but it could have been worse. You hardy Scots know what cold is all about! You’d love it here. You’d be out in your sunhat and kilts, with your sporrans flailing in the wind!! We had fun, even though we froze. The bus broke down, then got stuck, and I was nearly killed in a drone attack. It’s great to be able to show off some of our spectacular scenery as a backdrop for our songs, we adore our beautiful country.”
Now, speaking of Scotland (I just have to keep this up now) I also have to thank you for your recent win over the Wallabies. As a nation, we were gutted at our dodgy defeat to the men in yellow, but you made it all better. A lot of people in the UK will have no idea what rugby means to you guys, so can you let us know what the reaction was like in NZ to winning another World Cup.
“As a nation mate, we wept at the poor ref decision that robbed you of your rightful place in the cup. We felt your pain alright, that’s why we had to waste the Wallabies and show no mercy! The reaction here was awesome, fantastic vibe, and joyous crowds. It is a great moment for us here. We do have a very proud nation.”
Talking of winning (now I am getting too smart for my own good) you have been nominated in the Vodafone Music Awards, How did you react to the news, and how do you rate your chances?
“We were all pretty rapt to be nominated. Personally, it’s still sinking in for me. It’s very humbling to be recognised nationally for your passion… to receive 5 nominations was mind blowing. As for our chances? Who knows?? Some pretty stiff competition, but we’ll be enjoying the night regardless.”
Talking of mobile phones… (kidding…I am done now, all out of ideas). Seriously though, I have been raving about this album since I heard it, and grabbing and shaking people until they sit down and listen to it for themselves. It has gotten me really stoked, because there is nothing on this planet as good as finding a new band that blows your mind, and also, the feeling you get when you share this with people who have not heard it and they have the same reaction. For you guys, ‘We Rise’ must feel like an old friend, you will have played it so many times live you will know each chord in your sleep… does that mean we will be looking at new material soon?
“Thanks for the kind words Richie and for sharing our music. We are all big music freaks too, so we know the feeling when you really ‘get’ an album and climb inside it like that. It’s a pretty special feeling when others get our songs. So cheers! Yes, We Rise is very special to us but we have been writing a lot of new material in the last year. There was also about 7 or 8 songs that never made the first album, so we have no shortage of exciting material that we have been peppering the live sets with, and are currently recording demos for the next album.”
As a band, and individually, you have supported some massive bands, with The Axe God that is Slash even giving some seriously good feedback, but who was the best to support? Which ones were your out-and-out heroes, and did you get have any shy fanboy reactions?
“No big fanboy moments as such, but getting to hang with Slash was really cool. Ivan from 5FDP got all gooey over Jen, haha! It was pretty funny. We got to hang with Nita Strauss from Alice Cooper’s band, she was really lovely and dug our band. She messaged me from Aussie saying she missed us! I guess the Motley Crüe stage was the best fun to play.”
What would you say is the pinnacle of your career so far, and do you have any immediate goals you want to reach?
“For me, every day feels like the pinnacle of my career. I’m grateful to be doing what I love, on a big scale, with the people I love. A gold record was a massive achievement… then we went platinum… then we opened for Megadeth, Five Finger Death Punch, and Rob Zombie… then Slash, Alice Cooper and Motley Crüe. All pinnacles! Now performing live to TV at the VNZ Music Awards, and being nominated is pretty spesh too. We eat pinnacles for breakfast!”
There is a lot of anger, frustration, and very personal moments on the album. Where does that come from, and who does it centre around?
“All sorts of things, mostly our real life adventures! ‘Violation’ was written after Jennie’s house got burgled. I wrote ‘Surrender’ for my wife. ‘Never See The Light’ was written for a friend who took his life. Jen and I write all the lyrics, so the subject matter is diverse and just like real life. The gamut of emotions is explored.”
Of all the messages within the album, what do you feel will have the biggest initial connection with the audience? Not so much the music, as it is all fantastic, more so the lyrics.
“Burning Tree’ seems to be one track that people take to heart. It’s a pretty soft ballad with a powerful ending. It builds majestically, and just evokes a lot of imagery and emotion. Lyrically, it’s about confronting inner demons, regrets and self-realisation, so I guess the struggles that we all go through can be read into this for a lot of people. Jennie’s delivery is superb.”
Before we finish up with our usual DGM bizarre question, for anyone here in the UK that has not heard of you, can you tell them why they need to drop everything and resolve that problem now, and what to expect from ‘We Rise’.
“Because you will love the depth and the drama of the songs, the lofty heights they will take you to, and the soft caress of Jennie’s voice as it spirits you to another world. You’ll feel secure that these four know how to craft beautiful melodies and words and capture minds and hearts with their passion.”
Lastly we like to finish on a little bit of a light-hearted note, so please picture the scenario and respond…. You are traveling together between gigs late at night, and the van suddenly stops in the middle of nowhere. A UFO appears, and in an instant you are all transported to the ship and find yourselves strapped to tables, face down and naked. The main alien is standing with a rectal probe the size of a table lamp, and telepathically informs you exactly what they are going to do with it if you cannot answer their question.
They have no concept of music. Without any mention of music, you have to explain what you do for a living. If you can convince them that this is a worthwhile job, no one will get the probe. If you don’t, one of the band gets a good seeing to, who will it be and why?
If you do manage to convince them, you now need to make a pitch to be the first band ever to play music on their home planet… go!
“We bring happiness to many people, in the form of good vibrations, to let people forget their worries and woes, and live in a magic moment of serene ecstasy and joy.
Jennie can have the probe, ladies first!
With us performing on your planet, you’ll be the envy of the greater galaxy. When everyone dances at the same time, it will rebalance the harmonic resonations of the planet and restore peace, calm, and love. After intergalactic noise control has left, we can all sit down for a hot toddy and some Irn Bru!”
Thank you for your time today, and can I take this opportunity to wish you all the best with the release of the album, and with your nominations at The Vodafone Music Awards. I do hope to see you live and as soon as possible… please?
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Interview: Ritchie Birnie