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Devolved

A lot of bands operate in the margins of extreme metal. They release several good albums that are only listened to by very devoted fans and judged for what they truly are. Touring almost always is a financial issue so promotion of the band is difficult. Their dedication to the trade however is commendable with the money being so terrible. One of those bands is the australian/american band Devolved, a band that plays metal similar to bands like Fear Factory and Strapping Young Lad. With drummer/bandleader John Sankey at the helm they try to write their own chapter in metal history. John Sankey took the time to tell his story.

By: Berto | Archive under death metal / grindcore

To start things off with a little history lesson, how did the band start and how did the bandname come about?
We began Devolved in 1998 at the Gold Coast, Australia. I had been playing in various cover bands for a while but decided to begin my own band because I wanted to play music that was more extreme and technical, so that's how Devolved started. At first it was just myself and the guitarist writing all the material then we found a second guitarist and bass player who also did the vocals. We began playing live gigs and built up a solid local fan base, then we added a full time vocalist to the line-up and took some time out to complete writing our first album, 'Technologies', which was released in 2000. The band name came about when we were discussing the overall concept of Devolved, it was the perfect name to represent the music and the image.

What bands would you consider to be a great influence?
At first I was very influenced by a lot of death metal bands like Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary and Suffocation, that was the basis of what I wanted Devolved to be, then we incorporated a more mechanical approach into our sound similar to Fear Factory and Strapping Young Lad, who were two very inspirational bands to me. Once we fused those two elements together I felt like we had found the perfect formula for Devolved, which has become our style ever since.

There was a small change in your style between the albums 'Calculated' and 'Oblivion', how did that come about?
When myself and the guitarist were writing the material for 'Calculated' we decided to push the boundaries of our playing as much as possible and intentionally made the song structures and parts very complex. With 'Oblivion' we wanted more flow to the songs and started writing using a more conventional approach to the structures. There was a number of other reasons for the slight change in style between 'Calculated' and 'Oblivion', for one it was a number of years between those two albums because I had been busy working on various other projects and albums overseas. During that time I also relocated the band to America which was a big change and the music environment in LA is very different to Australia. There were changes in labels and management which was time consuming, and there were line-up changes as well which I think definitely changed up the internal workings of the band. Previously it was only myself and the guitarist who wrote most of the material but with 'Oblivion' there was influence and input from other band members which I think certainly changed up some aspects of our sound. I was totally open to trying some new things and I was willing to compromise for the sake of experimenting, I think there's some great parts to 'Oblivion' and I'm very proud of what we achieved but looking back there's definitely a number of things I would have changed up and made far more brutal. Listen to the new album 'Reprisal' and there's a huge difference from 'Oblivion', it's far heavier than anything we have ever done while being the catchiest album as well, that's the album I wanted to make!

band imageYou are currently releasing your albums through Unique Leader, what is their role in helping you move forward as a band?
We have released three albums with Unique Leader now and they have been very cool to us and given me great support. Erik (Label Owner) has great belief in Devolved and the potential of our music which is the most important thing to me. Although we are an extreme metal band we are definitely different to most bands on the Label and Unique Leader have embraced that and weren't afraid of taking us on. Obviously the music industry overall has changed a lot in recent years due to the internet and downloading, that has had a particular effect on the record labels, but at the end of the day it's the label's job to get the music out there and make it available and promote their bands, which Unique Leader has always done for us.

With today's technologies that are available to anyone at anytime, would it not be more rewarding financially to be releasing the albums by yourself?
I have considered releasing our own albums and it would be possible for us to do that but I'm still a big believer of the old school 'system' and having a label to work with, my job is to make killer music for them and their job is to get our music out there. It works both ways and as long as we are all doing our jobs and working hard everyone is happy. I wouldn't have the time to take on more responsibilities in any case since I'm already so busy writing, recording and playing with numerous bands and projects. I think for new bands who are not yet signed to a label it's certainly a credible option to release music yourself, but for Devolved I'm more than happy where we are at.

What is your main influence when writing your lyrics?
I have a specific concept in mind when I write the Devolved lyrics, I like to make them somewhat abstract and open for interpretation. There's always been a very strong humanity versus technology theme in the lyrics which is still very strong on this album but a lot of the songs on 'Reprisal' come from a really personal perspective which was something I wrote very deliberately. I had a lot to prove with this album since I decided to do things on my own after our last album 'Oblivion' and removed the previous band members. Obviously there were some 'people' who weren't very happy about that and decided to air their frustrations online. Instead of talking shit about anyone I'd much rather let this album do the talking, everything I needed to say is in the lyrics. The ultimate response for me was to create the best Devolved CD to date and prove I could take the band to the next level beyond anything we were capable of in the past... 'Reprisal' proves that without doubt and it's an album that is going to stand the test of time as well, so that's all I have to say!

You wrote all the music, lyrics and arrangements for this new album, is it still a band or a solo project?
Devolved is obviously my band and always will be, but I still write and record with other musicians so I wouldn't refer to it as my solo band. The two other members I recruited for 'Reprisal' (Mark Hawkins - guitars/bass, and Mark Haggblad - vocals) are both very talented and great guys, so if our schedules work out I definitely want to continue working with them for future releases and touring. Mark Hawkins and I wrote the music for 'Reprisal', I had all of the arrangements worked out with just drums and vocals which I recorded roughly myself then Mark pieced together the riffs to fit, he nailed all the parts and did a killer job. Once all the drums, guitars and bass were recorded I then went into the studio with vocalist Mark Haggblad and he tracked all the final vocals. Both of those guys really helped make this album far beyond any of our previous material, it was a very focused effort and because of that the album turned out exactly how I wanted it to be.

How do you see internet, just as a tool to spread the name of Devolved or also as a means to enhance sales?
The internet is a great promotional tool and obviously that turns into a percentage of sales, it is also an excellent platform for hearing new bands from all over the world which is very cool. My problem with it is I think it has become more 'image' based as opposed to being about the music. It's easy for a young band to sit on the computer all day long and get thousands of fans to their page rather than getting out and playing and working for true fans the old fashioned way. Of course we use websites like Facebook and Twitter for Devolved to keep fans updated with latest news and what we are doing, but once again I don't have the time to sit on the internet for hours at a time to promote Devolved. Ultimately it can't be denied that the internet is great for bands but like everything there is also a down side.

Having produced several albums now, you really did not tour all that much. Is it something you are not interested in or is it difficult to find tours?
Personally I love touring, that's the greatest reward for being a musician in my opinion! We get offered numerous tours but unfortunately there are many issues that can stand in the way that can make touring almost impossible to undertake. Finances would be the main one, it is very expensive to be on the road and in this economy it's only becoming more and more difficult. We have done many tours in many countries across the world and it's an amazing experience but every time it's over you have to return home to face the reality of rent and bills that don't stop just because you're on the road. Being away from home is not for everyone either, some people thrive out on the road, others can't take it at all. I remember we were touring Europe a number of years ago and our singer at the time decided he was too homesick to continue and flew back to Australia late one night in the middle of the tour, luckily our guitarist sang for the rest of the shows and we completed the gigs but those are the kinds of thing that can happen on the road, it sorts people out very quickly and I've definitely learnt to expect the unexpected when touring!

Finally, can you describe Devolved in just a few words and in a way that would convince even the pope to listen to your music?
I have no idea what the pope would listen to but if he likes fast, brutal, aggressive, technical modern metal he definitely needs some Devolved in his collection! Much thanks to Lords Of Metal for the support!

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