Devon Graves

Deadsoul Tribe

After the break-up of legendary prog-metallers Psychotic Waltz, who released 4 studio albums of exceptional quality during the 90's, frontman Devon Graves (AKA Buddy Lackey) went on to form the equally-impressive Deadsoul Tribe. Over the course of 3 records, they have laid down some of the finest, most challenging progressive music of the last two decades, with comparisons being made to such legends as Jethro Tull and Tool.

Now as they are gearing up to release their fourth record The Dead Word, as well as release a new promo video, Graves has kindly taken the time out of his busy schedule to talk to Metal Temple about his many accomplishments, both past and present, as well as his hopes for the future.
By Chris Downie
November 15, 2005
Devon Graves (Deadsoul Tribe) interview
First of all, the new album is due out very soon. How long did you spend working on the new record, The Dead Word?

Every album takes about 14-16 months, beginning from the first stages of composition to the final mix. The Dead Word included.

You have been quoted recently as saying it's the fastest record I have ever done, but with the most polished production. Has there been a conscious effort this time to really branch out from the established, more atmospheric DeadSoul Tribe sound of the previous albums?

It was faster in terms of actual production which begins with Adel [Moustafa - drums] laying down his tracks into the existing outline of the song. The writing took as much time as always, but It felt like production moved along quite quickly, especially with regard to Adel's contributions. I have no desire to abandon my musical style, but I always look for a new way to bring it across. In this case, I use a greater span of instrumental textures. More keyboards for added atmosphere, and a lot of heavy percussion adding further dimension, while bringing the music even closer to a tribal kind of feel.

Although the previous DST albums have been widely acclaimed, comparisons have constantly been made to Tool and A Perfect Circle. While these are good reference points, are you confident that this will be the album where DST can outgrow those comparisons and really make their mark on the music world?

I really don't know. I just do what I do without a lot of thought of what they will compare it to. I am just trying to create my own range of style, which is indeed comprised of a blend of all the music that has influenced me over my entire life.

There are moments when the Tool influence becomes evident. This is more in the way I ask Adel to play his fills. Still, even since the first album I have been playing flute, piano, and acoustic guitar which could better be compared to Jethro Tull. Though there is a bit of modern influence, it serves mainly to modernise my primary influences, that being the classic Heavy Metal/Rock of the late 60's and early 70's. To better describe my influence might be to say we sound a bit like Jethro Tool.

I hear you are to shoot your very first video in Leipzig very soon. Can you tell us anything about the choice of song and the concept behind the video?

Now it has been recorded, and it is from what I understand finished. I was there of course for our filming, but Phillip (the director) had a lot of props and miniatures that yet were to be used, which I have not yet seen how he intends to use them. The video is for A Flight On An Angel's Wing. It will be as big a surprise to me as it is to you. Those who have seen it, like the guys from the label think it is really great, so I am looking forward. We chose that song because it seems like a good starting point to introduce the band to the waking eyes of the world.

You have been on tour with German metallers Rage. How do you think your style managed to go down with their audience? Are you hopeful of picking up many new fans?

Our style was met with bewilderment and with some confusion at first. But song by song, we slowly began to win them over night after night. It seemed always to really hook in by the fourth number which was The Love Of Hate. It was a challenge, but it was good to bring ourselves in front of so many strangers. I hope we won some of them over for good.

Like your previous band, Psychotic Waltz, the music of DST is difficult to categorize into any one particular genre. In a music scene where the media insist on labeling bands (many of whom are inter-changeable and predictable), do you think it helps to have a sound which is hard to pin down?

I don't have a use for being categorized. Any style inevitably leads to your limitations, your confinements. I have a wide pallet for my own musical taste. All the classic bands that taught me about music displayed a very wide range of styles from song to song, and from record to record. Blistering distorted guitar and thundering rhythms one song, acoustic guitars and pianos the next. Then something bluesy, something experimental, and so forth. This is not an unusual approach to me. It is more natural of many songwriters. The changing of moods. The creation of atmospheres. The fact that it changes is very important for the listening journey. This was in fact the very purpose of making albums rather than a string of singles.

Speaking of your old band, one influence that has remained with you throughout your recording career with both bands is Jethro Tull. Does the new faster record still manage to incorporate flutes and similar progressive touches?

Yes, it does. You don't have to call it a faster record. I think that is overplaying the fact that Adel took less time to get his part down. It should not imply that this album was rushed. Because things moved along quickly, the album was NOT rushed.

In previous interviews, you have expressed your concern at the policies of Bush and his administration, for trying to bomb our way into their paradise. Were you dismayed at the election result last year and do you now feel even more justified in your opinions?

I could not feel more justified in my opinion. But this goes beyond Bush. He is just another face to hold responsible in the history books, while the people with the real control remain un-noticed and continue what they have been doing long before Bush, long before any modern historical figure. Even the Pharaohs had someone to pull their strings. There are those who lead our leaders, our leaders lead the masses. Bush is just the guy who fit the part.

One thing which I have always admired are your complex thought processes (a rare thing in the present musical climate), particularly your concept of paradise. Does it feel awkward, being in a minority who actually try to think for themselves, trying to find a deeper meaning behind things?

Sometimes. And sometimes I really feel that I have connected to someone. The thing that is frustrating is, I am not thinking anything so unusual. I only hold nature as our finest example on the meaning of life. Anyone who can dispute that is confessing that our creator did not suffice. That Man needed to correct His Creation. Ironically, the greatest resistance I have is most often from the Christian population.

On that note, many argue that the Rock scene of today has become really dumbed-down for the masses. How do you think the genre compares to when you started off as a recording musician?

In some ways it is ahead of what it used to be. The bar for playing ability has raised considerably since Jimmy Page and John Bonham. Production is certainly more powerful and without limitations. But what seems to be lost is the individuality of the bands and the songwriters. The best musical contributions didn't require such technical players, but rather just very good ideas. I think many great players that followed simply used speed and dexterity in place of a real, valid musical thought. Also, the limitations in the recording studio in those days forced bands and producers to become very creative. The art of recording and mixing an album was an art in itself.

For Pink Floyd to have the cash register intro for the song Money, they cut tapes of containing the various sounds, to specific lengths for musical timing, then taped them together end-to-end making a loop from the takeup reel on the tape machine across the room to wrap around a mic stand, just running in an endless loop. They had to create a method by which to make this sound happen. Now, we just tell the computer to repeat the sounds in a loop. We don't grab tape, scissors and sticks of chewing gum to make records. Therefore we are all in the process of being dumbed down. So we must stay awake and don't let our conveniences wither our creativity. They are in fact trying to NOT dumb us down for the masses, but rather trying to use us to dumb down the masses. Maybe that's why I am never going to become a big star. You see, I don't fit the part. Music should do, in fact, inspire or provoke thought or feeling. Preferably both.

Looking ahead to the future, do you intend to tour extensively for The Dead Word, possibly taking in countries where you previously missed?

I like touring and I hope to do it as much as possible. We have a few things coming up, like a tour with Sieges Even in January. We will go wherever the love is.

Is there a chance that InsideOut Records and yourselves may record future shows for a DVD or live album?

There is that chance.

After a long and successful recording career with two amazing bands, is your biggest inspiration exploring new musical avenues in the studio, or do you prefer the intensity of the live shows?

That is a good question and one I cant answer. They each fulfill something that the other can not. The recording is a very intellectual process, while the performing comes from my deepest heart. Certainly the performing is a higher high. No question about that. But it is a bit overwhelming to go through that for weeks. You see, there is a tremendous exchange of energy occurring, and on many different levels. A lot of passion and feelings resound through the audience and the performer. Like huge waves of energy breathing through us all. And to each, a very personal and individual experience, yet at the same time we are all connected together by this same force. There really is nothing like it. But I must say, it really drains the artist because we must be the source of this energy every night. It comes back to us through the audience, but when the connection is unplugged at the end of the night, the audience leaves with more power, and the artist leaves with less.

Being in the studio is great because it is at home, and I get to play with my toys. I do so love them both. If I had to give up one, well let's say I will never stop writing and wanting to create new music. I could see doing that when I am 90. However my current style of performance might get a bit creepy at that age.

Finally, what do you wish to say to all the DST fans and readers of Metal Temple out there?

It's all there in the songs...To be continued.

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