Interview by Tracey Moyle – ‘The Music Maven’
New Zealand heavy rockers Devilskin are back with a punch with their third studio album ‘RED’. Due for digital release on 3rd April, ‘RED’ brings us colliding worlds of dark and light, not only brandishing their versatility but establishing themselves as a force to be reckon with in the world of rock music.
With Corrode, the third massive single from the album eating up the charts, the band have manage to produce possibly their most personal album to date. All of this off the back of relentless touring, building an army of followers from the UK to Europe to our own rock loving nation.
Tracey Moyle, our local Music Maven spoke with Devilskin bassist, Paul Martin. They discuss not only the release of their brilliant new album but the uncertain times the world is facing today, the deeply personal meaning behind the songs and how much fun it was (or wasn’t) filming their amazing video for Corrode.
First up Paul, I hope you and all your family and friends are doing ok through this crazy time.
“Yes everyone’s well. You know everyone is just staying home it’s what you’ve got to do. Everyone wants to beat it (COVID-19), it’s our best hope. So we’re locked down and we’ve been painting today. I’m not a painter. (laughs) It’s a really good time to listen to music, take some time out for mental health. Some enforced rest. Listen to your favourite music and try and sooth the soul a little bit in these crazy times I think.”
Absolutely, it’s a tough time for everyone and the music industry has felt it pretty hard, they were probably the first to feel it with everything shutting down so quickly.
“Yeah, it was just something that was happening overseas and we were keeping and eye on it but you know we had twenty something dates booked in the UK and Europe and we had another six or seven over here (New Zealand) for our album release parties and everything pretty much got canned at the last minute and we just watching it all collapse and it was crazy.
We are lucky we can still release the album digitally on the 3rd April but we can’t ship physical units this year until everything calms down. All I can say is probably now more than ever people need music. They need to find something they can immerse themselves into and sooth the soul a little bit.”
I agree with you, music saves lives every day. On my Instagram I always use #Musicislife, because it is.
“Yeah, it really is you know. We’re big music fans, that’s why we play in a band, because we love music so much. I’m the guy that whether there’s Anthrax or Slayer or Glen Campbell, I’ll charge my way to the front to get a guitar pick. I mean, we have our music collection and we love listening to music and we’re big fans, so to the opportunity to be in a band where you have other people who get your music as much as much as you get someone else’s music is a really special feeling. It’s a great way to connect with people on this level.”
I guess there are ways that people can keep creating during the down time and be ready to come back stronger than ever with new music and write new songs. It’s just about making the most of it.
“Yeah you’re right, and a lot of people are going to be doing that. So many artists at their fingertips and they don’t have to go anywhere. So that’s what you do, you get creative and you try and keep positive and you inspire other people and you look after yourself. You look after your mind and your heart. Music is a great healer, it really is.”
New music is exactly what we are talking about today; your new album ‘RED’ drops on April 3rd. This album has definitely been eagerly awaited by the fans. I have been lucky enough to have a preview and I love it.
“Thank you, that’s awesome. You know, we didn’t leave anything in the tank. In the studio we pretty much laid it all out there. The songs are pretty personal from Endo being about Jennie’s (Skulander) battle with stage four Endometriosis through to The Victor which is basically about a car accident that the band came across. We were the first car on the scene for a horrific accident and it was miles from anywhere. I was holding a nine year old boys head covered in blood on the side of the road and I didn’t know if he was going to live or die and it was absolutely horrific. It was cathartic to write words down about what we were feeling, what I was feeling on that day. It just evolved into that song The Victor. It was about overcoming it, this poor kid, he couldn’t speak English, his family were all over the road, thankfully no one died but it was horrific, it really was.
It was cathartic to write the words and build a beautiful song out of it. Nic’s (Martin) drumming on the album was outstanding. I think my favourite part of the album is his drumming towards the end of that song, I think everyone just steps up because that song meant something to us you know. It’s all very real and we want to keep it pretty honest, you know. Everyone really stepped up in the studio and I’m really proud the way the album came out.”
It’s been four years in between albums now but in that time you’ve toured the US, Europe and Australia with some amazing bands. With Halestorm and Slash amongst them. I actually flew to Melbourne for 2019 Download and I saw you there as well.
“You know, we get such a great response from Australia and it’s fantastic. We absolutely love playing those shows. Playing with Halestorm and Slash, we couldn’t have been luckier to have been invited on those shows you know, it’s insane, just to get the opportunity to play in front of their crowds and the Download crowd there, we’re very grateful. You know the whole Slash thing came about, when he toured New Zealand just over two years ago now and we had two dates with them in Hamilton, which is our home-town, and Wellington. The day of the Hamilton show his front of house sound engineer, who is also their tour manager, he fell over, slipped, and got carted off to hospital. Everything was in disarray, they’ve got no sound tech and obviously everyone was really worried. We all flew to Hamilton the next night for the next show and they had this standby guy and they were booked to go to Australia straight after. Their mate was still in hospital in Hamilton so we all stepped up and said, ‘hey we’ll go visit him, keep him company, take his bags to him and keep an eye on him’. They were so stoked, the whole Slash crew. So we get to hang with guy who’s been Slash’s right hand man, he’s been doing sound since Snakepit days, you know, and he’s in hospital, a stranger in a strange land. He’s such a lovely guy, we got to spend hours with him and he’s telling us stories about life on the road with Slash and it was just amazing. I think he was really grateful he could have someone he could really talk to because he was here for over a week I think. So that’s how we got the Australian dates and the next New Zealand tour with them, they wanted to say thanks. It was a real cool thing. A really great bunch of people and we were just so stoked to be invited on the tour.”
I won’t forget that night, I was so excited to be seeing you guys again but some of the crowd didn’t really know you at that stage. Then by the end of your set the crowd were going off. I think they called encore.
“You know Australia is so famous for being a bastion of rock and all it says to me, you know, for us to get accepted by the rock crowd over there is huge. It’s really cool.”
‘RED’ is a maybe a little heavier than ‘We Rise’ and ‘Be Like the River’ but hasn’t moved away from what is that amazing Devilskin sound. Is it just the natural maturity of the band being together for over ten years, or did you look for something a bit heavier?
“I think it’s always been quite organic with us. We always just seem to write songs, we don’t want to get too complex. Our songs are like our children and they have their own life, and they come to life, and this one needs more attention than this one, they’re all your children. The album, we wrote 30 songs for it and we had to amputate all these other songs that we were really attached to. The songs stuck their hands up and said ‘put me here’, it was crazy. Do You See Birds was the last song that we chose for the album and it nearly didn’t make the cut. We fought really hard for it, it’s funny cause as soon as we recorded it, Jennie came out of the studio and she goes ‘I think we should open the album with this one’ and we all went ‘yep’, straight away. It’s like a throat punch straight to the point and full on. The freaky irony is, I wrote the lyrics about someone who is confined to their room and they can’t get out of the room. They’re looking outside, they can see hills and trees and birds, all this freedom and they can’t reach it. Obviously you know, it’s the irony of it all, the world gets locked down. Straight up, I did not see it coming or anything like that, I just wrote the song because I had a picture in my head of how I would write this song, I had this cool bass riff and I just wanted it all to happen. It was the last song to get put on and we opened the album with it.”
I love the dark and light and all the shades in between in your music.
“That’s what life is. Life’s just not all light and lollipop stands at Hershey world, there is light and dark and there are some dark moments on there. Sweet Release is a story I wrote five years ago about a young man who took his life in town while under mental health care. He was on suicide watch and they let him escape basically and he drowned. It’s a horribly tragic story and his parents have been fighting for change in the system so that it doesn’t happen again. It’s dragged on for five years and I’ve followed it since day one. It’s tragic. This boy was just 21. I just wrote this song when it all came out and then it became a thing and the band were like, yeah this will go on the album. I went out and I saw this boy’s parents and told them what was going on and I played them a copy of the song and asked them if it was cool. Basically, I wanted their blessing to use their story. It was such an incredible moment and it was so emotional and they were just overwhelmed, really happy that I told the story of their son and kept his name alive.”
It’s great you can do that through music.
“Yeah, I feel very privileged to able to do that.”
Corrode is doing really well on all streaming platforms.
“Yeah, it’s crazy, we’re happy it’s taken off like that, it’s getting a brilliant response. It was a lot of fun, well it wasn’t a lot of fun, it was horrific to make that video. (laughs). It was a lot of hard work. It came out really well and the freaky thing is, the video director, because we sent the song out to four or five different directors to give us some feedback on what they wanted to do with the song, Alex Hargreaves – we picked her straight away with what she wanted to do, and we hadn’t mentioned RED, we hadn’t mentioned the name of the album. She just came up with this wicked concept of us coming out of this red liquid and filming from the top so it looks like we’re coming out of the wall playing in it. As soon as we’d read what she said we thought ‘wow this is crazy, this is meant to be’. But like I say it was a lot of fun to make but it wasn’t because it was the most uncomfortable thing to film.”
I so keen to see everything back to normal because I can’t wait to see you guys headline a show in Australia. There are so many songs from ‘RED’ that will just go off live. I think Devilskin are one of the most amazing bands I have seen live and I can’t wait to see you here again.
“Thank you so much. We love what we do, we love what we create together, we love the bond that we have. After ten years you kinda know each other’s strengths and we’re all very inspired by each other. This album was so satisfying to make and it’s so satisfying now to hear people say that they get the song. We want the album to be an immersive trip for the listener and to come back and say you’re getting us, man that’s so cool, that’s our job done.
The song Be Like The River, didn’t make the cut for the album ‘Be Like The River’. We got this thing going on with the Album title you might have noticed.”
I did notice (laughs)
“But Be Like The River, the whole thing with that is the river that captures the stone, if you know your path you’ll find your way there. Just keep going, keep doing what you believe, just believe in yourself, strive to do your own thing. We don’t have a record label, we do our own thing. We have a really good manager but we fought pretty hard for everything that we’ve got and all this love, the fact that we’re in a position where we can sell albums and people get our songs. When someone comes up to you outside a gig and says, ‘look at my arms, I use to cut myself and I’ve been listening to a song of yours that’s changed my life’ you know, people who are that touched by your music, it’s amazing, you don’t want to take any time in it for granted, it’s really humble and you feel good about yourself and you think, well my job as a songwriter, I’ve just got to ask that guy again, I’ve helped someone out. Especially in stressful times like now it’s important to take some time out for your own health and well being, for your own sanity and listen to some music. ”
Devilskin are Jennie Skulander – Vocals, Tony ‘Nail’ Vincent – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Paul Martin – Bass, Backing Vocals and Nic Martin – Drums
‘RED’ will available on Red and Black Vinyl and digitally from April 3rd
Pre-order your copy HERE
iTunes Pre-sale link HERE
Stay tuned for Tracey’s album review of ‘RED’ coming soon!