Fireworks Magazine Online 79 - Interview with Devilskin


Interview by Dave Bott

It is difficult to bring to mind too many acts from New Zealand, especially those with a high profile. Devilskin are a female-fronted Hard Rock four-piece from Hamilton, New Zealand, who have been together since 2010. They have released two full-length albums to date (both reviewed in Fireworks magazine), 'We Rise' (2014) and 'Be Like The River' (2016), as well as a live CD/DVD set entitled 'Live At The Powerstation'. Somewhat under the radar they have toured the UK, drawing favourable comparisons to Halestorm (with whom they have also shared a bill) along the way. They are due to play Download in June 2017 so Fireworks thought it was time for a catch-up. An easy-going 20 minute slot with guitarist Nail and lead-singer Jennie Skulander, before the Nottingham show on the recent UK tour, was, despite rumbling tummies, the ideal opportunity to find out more about 'Be Like The River' and their visits to England.

Devilskin Interview

N/JS This current tour of the UK has been one of the easiest tours ever. Everyone is so chilled and we get along really well with the guys from Sumo Cyco (co-headliners). Audiences in the UK are certainly different to the ones back home. Obviously we're still in the process of building a fan base here, whereas the New Zealand fan base is already established. People may come to see the other band on the bill but we make an impression and they buy a CD or t-shirt, that's how it begins. We are not expecting to be playing arenas in front of huge crowds, we're just trying to win people over. We've done festivals before and played with some pretty major bands in the past, but Download will be huge for us and we've no real idea what to expect. We'll try and bring the good weather with us but will have gum-boots just in case. The music scene in New Zealand is healthy enough but you have to remember it is quite a small country. There are tours coming through all the time and we have radio stations dedicated to Rock music so we get exposure from them and get to know if our songs are being played. We decided to record a live CD/DVD on the back of the debut album. It seemed silly not to capture the moment and it also seemed like a good way to make an impact in America and Europe, present a live show so people could see what we're all about.

'We Rise' was recorded in New Zealand but mixed in England yet Devilskin changed tack for 'Be Like The River' and the whole process took place in England. It would seem Jennie's condition at the time dictated proceedings though the end results were no less impressive.

N We were touring in the UK this time last year and Jennie was actually pregnant. We recorded 'We Rise' at York Street studios in New Zealand but it has been knocked down now and made into apartments. Our album was the last to be recorded there. Our producer Clint Murphy is a Kiwi who lives in Tetbury (Gloucestershire) and he came over to work with us on the first album whilst visiting family. Last year we thought why not stay here to do the album rather than making trips back to New Zealand.

JS I was in the process of getting fatter and fatter whilst the mixing took place. We were back on the road when my daughter was 3 months old and opening for Disturbed. She comes on tour with us and when we're in the UK she stays with her dad, with friends and family who live in Derby.
N There's no such thing as a free ride so when she's old enough we'll have her working on the merch stall or as a guitar roadie.

The writing and recording process can vary from album to album for many bands but at the end of the day the old-fashioned way, with all band members together in a room, seems to work best for Devilskin.

N When we recorded 'We Rise' some of the songs were quite old anyway. We'd already been together for a number of years so they had been written over a period of time. This time round we demoed a lot of material with Clint and in the end had around thirty songs that were worked on. We didn't discard all the ideas or songs that didn't make the record and we may decide to return to some, work on them some more and see if they eventually work out. It wasn't that the songs weren't strong, it was just that we could only use so many and the record had to have a balance. Hopefully we can use some of them on the next record.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

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It's interesting that there is a song featured on 'Be Like The River' called 'We Rise'. A leftover from the first album's writing sessions perhaps and may be the beginning of some kind of trend from album to album?

JS We did write a song called 'Be Like The River' for this album but it wasn't included. The general theme and lyrically the song is based around 'Be like the river, cut through the stone'.

N 'Be like the river, cut through the stone' is kind of our outlook on life. It means forge your own path, take no shit. Similarly 'We Rise' reflects our journey so far, the growth we've made as a band and as people, from one record to the next. It was a natural and obvious decision to include the song on the album. It wasn't a conscious decision to leave out the title track from each record and then include it on the next one.

Lots of bands forge long working relationships with the same producer, but even though Devilskin have worked only with Clint Murphy so far the door is always open to a change.

N We've worked with Clint on two albums so far but who knows what the future holds. We'd like to keep our options open and it would be cool to record an album in America.

JS There is some stuff in the pipeline and there have been offers we can't really talk about just yet. I was approached by someone from the band Snot, who were prominent a while back, and it would be a fantastic opportunity, being such a fan of the band. They were very influential and maybe the main reason I'm doing what I'm doing now.

Lyrically Devilskin deal with a number of themes and cover a number of topics and inspiration for the subject matter can come from a number of sources.

JS Myself and Paul (Paul Martin, bass player) are primarily responsible for the lyrics to our songs and Paul did a lot of writing on this album. 'Voices' was a song written about our fans, the Devilskin Army and the lyrics reflect their importance in our lives. There is another song called 'FYI' which is aimed at our frustration with the music industry in general. It's an angry song, probably the angriest on the album.

Devilskin use strings in several songs on 'Be Like The River', to great effect and are not afraid about the inclusion of orchestral enhancements, even though there may not be strings in mind during the conception and writing process.

N We never use keyboards or programming in our music and everything is written using a guitar, hammering out riffs and seeing where they go, with us all together in a room, kind of old school. We sometimes realise that adding strings will make the song better and have more impact and we were lucky that Clint could make that work for us. We were back in New Zealand and he Skyped us so that we could watch the strings being recorded. It certainly makes the songs more powerful. It's all about drama and emotion so we'll do what we have to, to make the song the best it can be.

First impressions of 'Be Like The River' are that it is a less intense or aggressive piece of work than 'We Rise', even though Jennie's vocals and the big guitars and rock hard rhythm section are all still present and correct.

N/JS I guess 'Be Like The River' is a more mature piece of work at the end of the day. The four of us were involved as a collective this time. We've obviously spent a lot of time together during the last few years. We know each other better and the developments in those relationships come out now in our writing. When we write we try to push ourselves and we want it to sound different to the things we've done before. The song 'Be Like The River', for instance, which didn't make the album, is quite a Bluesy track and it would be great if it featured on the next one.

N I'm forever trying to make it completely different and it keeps things interesting.

Plans for the remainder of 2017 revolve around writing and that show in June, but there should still be time for more touring.

N/JS After this current tour we'll be doing a block of writing, before returning to the UK for the Download festival. We'll then concentrate on more writing with a view to getting a record done for 2018. Hopefully we'll be out on tour again in September or October this year. Writing goes on all the time but it is hard to find time when touring to sit down together and work on ideas. We actually did an acoustic performance the other day, whilst in London. It's something we've never done before so we had to find time to rehearse. Fortunately when we're in the UK we do get some down time and that's when we can visit the relatives and make use of their hot-tub! (Check out the photos online)

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