Hard Talk

Deadsoul Tribe: Interview with Devon Graves

Deadsoul Tribe have just released their latest album, The Dead Word. This is the fourth release, via InsideOut Music. And according to Devon, the bands sound and style has come into it’s own. A style Devon Graves has been working on for many years. A style that you’ll either enjoy, or you won’t. One thing is certain, there is a certain beauty that surrounds the music that is Deadsoul Tribe. And for those of you who do not know them that well, here is your chance to read up on them. And when you’re done, you’ll need to listen as well. I think you can figure it out from there.

JH: For those who may not know , could you give us the Devon Graves rundown?

DG: Well , I’ve been doing this band called DeadSoul Tribe for five years now . I just made the fourth album called “The Dead Word” . And you know , for people who don’t know about the band, why they would even be interested enough to read this interview? But if they do know , I really don’t know what else to say. But just another band. What more can I tell you?

JH: The new album , “The Dead Word” comes out next week?

DG: Yeah , yeah.

JH: Can you tell us a bit about it? Give us a description?

Well , you know , it’s kind of the style of music I’ve been developing since the beginning of this band. And I really started hitting on the style on the second outing and developing it more and more. Now by the fourth album, it is really come into its own . It’s very atmospheric . It’s described as dark. And the melodies are described as melancholic. But there’s more to it really than that. It’s got a lot of beauty to it as well. At least to me.

JH: Yet there are some heavier moments to it at times.

DG: Yes . But to me that’s beautiful too. Kind of being heavy without trying to be particularly aggressive. Like the riffs can be kind of the brutal at times , but I think pretty melodically over the most of it. A little brutal once or twice. But that’s only to create some contrast you know . I like to use different sounds and my voice from time to time . And it’s good to turn the heat up every now and then, but I wouldn’t consider us an aggressive band by any means.

JH: Is there a general theme or concept to the album?

DG: Well , not intentionally. And not for any albums that I’ve done. Yet they can, you know , all songs , kind of blend all under one roof . Not just because of this one album , but all albums I do. Because I guess I’m writing in a certain style . There’s a lot of variety in the style switching instruments from acoustic to electric or whatnot . There’s kind of a darkness that pervades all of this work . And lyrically, there’s a thread that runs through all of it as well. Which has something to do with, it has a lot to do with human existence and so there’s like a lot of poetry and philosophy on this one . But each song in and of itself is about its own idea . Its own little piece of the story. But I wouldn’t go ahead and call it a concept album by any means . But there is a certain common thread in everything I do.

JH: So you pretty much write all the music and lyrics for the band?

DG: Yes.

JH: And that’s normal on all the albums?

DG: Yes. Sometimes I do riff exchanging with the drummer. If I get a little , you know where I can get a little breath of fresh air or something . You know , instead of taking my guitar , I actually hand to my drummer and he comes up with some pretty cool riffs. And a lot of that was really shown on the third album “The January Tree”. At a lot of songs, you can see work co-written by Otto. And that’s a result of me putting my guitar in his hands . But that happened a lot less on this album.

JH: What inspires your songwriting?

DG: You know , when I make a song , I first imagine the atmosphere of the song. And I’m just trying to create something that I would want to hear . You know if I was to put on a record that I would really like. I’m trying to create what this would be and then lyrically, I would come at it from, it’s a little bit hard to talk about how I come up with the lyrics because in a way , when I make up songs, they kind of come with these melodies . I hear in my head . I can almost hear perfectly clear . I hear the voice . I hear what even the production would sound like. But I can’t hear the words themselves . I hear the singing , but I can’t exactly hear the words . So I get attached to certain vowel sounds in these melodies . They kind of carrying the melodies so when I’m writing lyrics , they have to contain these vowel sounds. And this is really hard to think of something that first of all has these vowel sounds and makes any sense at all .Let alone making some sense of something that I would really like to say . And so this takes really a lot of thought . But what inspires me musically , and what inspires me lyrically are kind of separate . Yet they fit together. The art is that they have to fit together . The lyrics that a right, somehow have to fit the feeling of this music.That somehow has to fit the feeling of the music. That somehow have to carry this melody legitimately . Especially if the melody is somewhat sorrowful sounding, the lyrics have to back that up.

JH: You do the recording , you produce , and do the mixing on the album?

DG: Yes. But I don’t do my own album covers , you know.

JH: What?! No artwork?

DG: No ,no.

JH: Everything else?

DG: Yes .I do all the all the mixing. The recording and stuff . It’s kind of like a like my dream you know . Kind of like you could say this could have been my hobby . If I was just never going to get anywhere in this business . It would still be my hobby to produce music . It’s an interesting challenge when you get the songs dancing around in your head . And then just grab the instruments and try to bring into reality . So that’s what I set about doing many, many years ago . Buying the instruments. Buying the bass or whatever and getting really into it. The only thing I never really bothered learning to do was play drums. I use a drum machine for creating the arrangements that I replace that with Otto’s drums in production.

JH: Have you ever done any producing for any other bands?

DG: No . I haven’t really had time to . I get asked from time to time . But it’s really hard for me to find the time because I put out album , about once a year. And there’s just not time to lock myself out of my own studio . But sometimes it would, it would be fun to do this. Kind of like not have to worry so much what it is I’m doing musically or lyrically .But just kind of relaxing. Let other people do the performing and try to make a good album for them . It would be fun if I really liked the music.

JH: So what does the touring schedule look like?

DG: Well , there’s not a lot coming up . Just a small tour in January . And that’s gonna go through a lot of Europe. But even this tour itself is pretty short compared to what we did last year . This tour is just a little over a week and then after that we just gonna just do one offs. Go play here or go play there . Get some festivals for over the summer.

JH: Any plans for the U.S.?

DG: So far no substantial invitation has been extended. So if something really comes together, it would be really fun to go. But I foresee that being a little bit difficult for a promoter to do this . You know , we make a fee right now to do this . We play for a concert, we probably get about €2000. And it’s probably, it’s OK to say OK come to Holland or come to England , Greece or whatever . Because sometimes we have to pay our way out of that fee. And sometimes we don’t . It depends . But in America , I can’t imagine anyone saying or being able to afford to pay what it would cost just fly us out. $5,000 for a concert . I think that’s a little bit high. And then we would still be doing this for free . I guess we would have two get a little bit bigger for any promoter to really afford to bring us out . But maybe in a tour could be lined up . Maybe the cost would thin out that expense of all the separate gigs. It would take the burden off any one promoter . But so far, nobody’s been beating down my door with offers, so…

JH: Now I see that all Deadsoul Tribe albums were/are released on InsideOut Records . So does this mean they’re treating you well?

DG: Yes , yes. This label is really awesome . It really is . I don’t know as far as the American branch . I don’t know what they’re really doing , but out here, like contacts and my dealings with the German label and they were willing from the beginning to do things on these unusual terms . When first of all its not normal that an artist can shop themselves to a label and get listened to. Normally ,you need some agent. Or somebody who knows somebody or they wouldn’t even pay attention. Having been in Psychotic Waltz gave me a little credibility . But I told them it was really important that I do this with my own two hands . Not to go and get produced by some engineer or go rent out some studio and have a month to do an album and have two be finished. Whether, whether it’s right or not . I just don’t like working under those conditions . I really wanted to . I asked how this much money and I’m going to take this much time in the studio and make of this album myself. And they actually said yes .They actually trusted me . And believed in me . And so every year , this room here grows and everything with the label seems to go up a notch and up a notch. And now we’re taking a step forward . Now we have a video made . That’s a new thing for us . So I think they’re treating us pretty well. And just by me working with this label , this is the way I make a living now. This is my job . And so there would be no say OK . I’d ago , I wouldn’t want to go out and try to find something to give me more because I would probably just end up with less.

JH: That’s great that they don’t try to interfere with the outcome of any of the releases.

DG: That’s the biggest thing. Is that I get not only to produce it, but it’s, you know I’m signed for my next album . Every year on I’m signed for the album next . And they don’t even know what it’s gonna sound like . I don’t have to make demos . I don’t have to shop anything or ask anybody’s permission for anything . They just take care of me . And at the end of the year, they get a new album that they signed before. You know normally, they want to hear this in advance.

JH: That’s cool. Any handy music industry advice for the beginning musician?

DG: As far as the industry goes, I don’t know what to tell you. Especially out there in America. And the flavor of the day is going to change right when you get good at the style your playing. So don’t go changing your haircut . Don’t go changing your music, following the big successes because by the time you get up to the plate they’re gonna pull the rug out from under you and start signing something completely different . Just do what you want to do . Do what comes from your heart. Do what makes you happy. And sink or swim, in the end, you’ll be able to live with the work you’ve done. And if the world has the use for what it is your making, you’ll probably do well.

JH: The that’s about all I can think of. Anything you want to add?

DG: No , think I’m good to go.

JH: Well I appreciate your time and I’ll talk with you later.

DG: Yes, yes. And you try to get a tour together . Call some promoter’s and make some concerts happen and we’ll come out.

JH: OK, will do.

DG: OK , I’ll be looking forward to it.

Deadsoul Tribe Ball-Buster Interview conducted November 2005.

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