Hello Devon! The last time I spoke with you was back in September 2007. You were about to release Deadsoul Tribe's last (?) album 'A Lullaby For The Devil'. You had two little kids then, Anastacia and James Evan. But I saw in another interview you are father of three kids now. You're still busy spoiling the world with little Graves. Where does it end?
Hehe, and it gets even more. My last son, Solomon Alexander, will be three in December and we have also a new one, who is named Angelina Sophia and is now almost four months. My daughter wanted to have a little sister, so we had to go on until we had a sister for her, hehe. But I'm hoping to stop with it now, hahaha! Yeah, you're right: I have to stop DOING it. Well, that's not gonna happen, haha!
That's quite a hectic family life; four kids. By the way, your whole world is surrounded by kids, since you are also a teacher at school.
Yeah, I give English at school for like twenty kids and also some guitar lessons to groups. So by the time I get home, I don't have the patience anymore for my own kids, because then I'm sick and tired of kids, hehe. But those lessons are just a couple of hours a day, so it's not really a big deal. No, I don't play Psychotic Waltz or Deadsoul Tribe to them, but I do play occasionally 'Tribute' from Tenacious D for the kids. That song is a real winner: anytime, anywhere and anyplace.
I think you have a good imitation of Jack Black's voice, which people can see on YouTube. On to your own music now. No offence to your new band The Shadow Theory, but do you mind we start first with the biggest surprise for me this millennium?
I assume you're referring to Psychotic Waltz? (“Well DUH, mister Graves!” EDS) That's appropriate, because I just got finished rehearsing. The other guys are practicing together out in California and I'm here at the other side of the planet. So I made a CD from iTunes with the setlist, and I'm jamming along with it every day. To keep in shape. It took me a couple or weeks or so and it was quite difficult, but I even managed to get the high notes again. They're all back!
When I spoke with you for the first time about Deadsoul Tribe, back in 2002, you told me the reason for the split-up of Psychotic Waltz was mainly because you and guitarist Dan Rock were having… well, let's say communication problems. And also that the band thought your melody lines were too difficult. However, in this month's issue of the Dutch metal magazine Aardschok there was a completely different story. Something about a lawsuit from a crew member that got blinded during the making of a video clip from the song 'Faded'. So what is it, Devon? What's the REAL story of Psychotic Waltz' break up?
Oh yeah, that lawsuit. That has been really exaggerated. There was a lawsuit against the band by the actress that was in that video. Her eyes were damaged from during a scene where she was looking up into the sky and staring in a very bright light from some flying saucer landing or whatever (watch 'Faded' and skip to 3'20”, EDS). That girl claimed that she got eye-damage because of that. And I wouldn't be surprised if she did! I mean, she wasn't really smart: she didn't even hold her hands properly to block the light from her eyes. So it's not only stupid, it's also bad acting. You do what you normally do. I don't know what her motivation was, maybe to show her pretty eyes? But I probably do believe her that she got her eyes damaged because of this, rather to think that she was trying to get some money out of this. But the band was already broken up when this lawsuit came, so her lawyer couldn't do anything against us. Although her lawyer did a little trick to Norm. He called Norm and said he was an agent and that David Letterman was interested in Psychotic Waltz to perform on his show…
Yeah right. Haha!
[Devon continues on a surprisingly serious tone] Yeah, David Letterman is a big Psychotic Waltz fan. So Norm agreed to it, although he didn't ask any of us. I don't think I would have done it, I don't think I would have been interested in pushing a band that didn't exist anymore. But Norm said yes, and I guess that legally established the band back together. So he got sued, and he was the only one who had to pay. It never touched any of us, besides Norm. I think Norm had to pay like $5,000, and the lightning company who was responsible for the light has to pay an equal share, and I think even the school had to pay. So the actress got like $15,000-20,000. So it was a burden for us, but it has nothing to do with us breaking up, since we were already broken up. But I did help Norm a little. In the end, just before I moved to Vienna, I had a huge record collection with some really good ones like picture discs from King Diamond's 'Abigail' and Metallica's 'Kill 'Em All', and I gave them all to Norm for his record store. So he said: “Thanks a lot man, as far as I'm concerned: you're share is paid.” And I would have been the wrong guy to ask for money at that time, believe me. Haha!
So the story you told me eight years ago was true?
I had a lot of problems getting along with Dan. That was very true. That was the main reason that really dragged me out the band. I wasn't able to deal with him anymore. I know it wasn't all his fault, I had my share as well, but it wasn't just me who had problems with Dan. Dan and Ward Evans (bassist) had severe problems with each other as well. Dan sorta kicked Ward out of the band, although he denies that it happened that way. That was when it really went down. And I had the opportunity to reform the band without Dan. But in all honesty: I couldn't do that. If it's gonna be Psychotic Waltz, it just has to have Dan. He and Brian McAlpin are the musical team that made PW what it was.
Despite all rumours, speculations and even personal statements that Psychotic Waltz will never come back together, the band… got back together.
Ward and Norm Leggio (drummer) were the first people who reformed the band. Then Brian came along, and also a little later Steve Cox (guitarist). Brian actually wasn't too happy to have Steve in the band. Don't get me wrong: we do love Steve, we love him to death, and it's actually crazy to fight so hard to get Steve out of the band and to get Dan in, because Steve is just one of the most wonderful guys you could have in a band. Positive, full of energy, kick-ass performer: just the best attitude you could possibly want from a band member. But like I said, this is about Psychotic Waltz. When I formed another band, I would love to have Steve in the band. I found out that already in the first chapter of Psychotic Waltz, when Steve replaced Brian. iIt worked out on the road quite all right. When it comes to playing, it's no problem. But when it came to writing new music, it was just not the same. Dan and Steve wrote cool music together, but it was not as cool as the music Dan and Brian wrote together. So when the band reformed with Steve and without Dan earlier this year, the results of the new music were pretty much similar. I heard the demos they made, and I had the same feeling about it. In fact, my criticisms were quite severe. Now that I have The Shadow Theory with all those phenomenal musicians, it has set the bar very high. And the new music Brian was coming up with, wasn't blowing my socks off. There was cool stuff in there, but there was also music I didn't like so much. This is why I knew Dan had to come back. Dan would have a similar opinion. He would hear the cool riffs and he would recognize the weak ones, and fix them. So I pretty much fought to get Dan back, to preserve the legacy of Psychotic Waltz. I have The Shadow Theory now, and even Deadsoul Tribe if I want to, so Psychotic Waltz isn't the only thing I have anymore. I have other things to escape to. Dan and I talked a lot with each other the last couple of years. I think it started from the moment I got an offer from I think it was the Rock Hard Festival to play with PW there for a large amount of money ($20,000 – EDS). We didn't take the offer. But now I entrust that we all have grown up a little bit, and that we all have a new appreciation for each other. And Deadsoul Tribe taught me to really appreciate the musicianship of Psychotic Waltz. I started to miss those guys, and I realized how big PW really was.
Since Dan and you are so important for the band, it's rather strange to see the first reunion gig on YouTube without you and Dan. There were video's showing up from Psychotic Waltz live in San Diego last June, but with Steve Cox on guitar and Cage-singer Sean Peck on vocals.
Oh, but that wasn't a reunion! That was a Cage concert and it was Norm's birthday. Those guys had been jamming for a little while, so they thought “why not playing a Psychotic Waltz tune at the end?” So that wasn't a reunion, that was just a surprise.
Same thing about the Facebook of Psychotic Waltz, which is the official site where PW-members are actually active and respond to the fans. Why were Dan and you the last names that were added to the line up, even when in retrospect it was clear that you guys were already in the band again?
I asked them not to say anything. Especially since I was so busy with The Shadow Theory. I hope when the Shadow Theory album will be out, everyone will be just as excited about it as they are now about the reunion of PW. But right now everybody is excited about the PW thing. And so am I. I'm actually really into it. The e-mails between us are countless, so we are very busy with it, although it wasn't really musically but more administratively so far. And meanwhile I was trying to produce the Shadow Theory album.
You'll do an European tour with Nevermore and Symphony X next February and March. Nothing's wrong with those two other bands, but the fact that Psychotic Waltz is the openings band was quit disappointing for me. It means you only play like 45 minutes or so. I understand that was even one of the conditions to get on tour anyway? Explain!
That was mainly because of Dan. He hasn't played like six years or so, and he has now a family life (he just became a father a couple of months ago) and works in some laboratory, working as some… ehem, “endangered species ejaculation facilitator”. Yeah, that's not very far away from running a pornshop on internet, haha! (which Dan actually did a long time ago, EDS) So this was actually the reason why he turned down the offers before, because those were all about headlining shows. He didn't have the time. That's the only thing he can realistically relearn within the time that we have. He wasn't able to learn two and a half hour set or so, but when we got the chance to play a 45-minute set, he said that he was able to do that. In fact, he said this was the exact sort of thing he was waiting for. Ultimately we gonna do headline or co-headline shows again, after we have a new album out.
What can you tell about that new album? Is there already something composed, rehearsed and/or recorded new material? People have high, extremely high expectations. Maybe so high, that eventually the results can only be disappointing.
Haha! Well, we are at the very beginning: there's nothing. There is NO material. I know about the expectations though, so that's why I send those previous demos all back to the drawing boards and made Dan come back! But the band will probably record their part in San Diego and I will do my part here at my own studio in Vienna. I have here some really cool equipment here, that even in the most expensive studio's isn't available. And I don't have any time pressure, which was always the case with especially Psychotic Waltz, so I'll do my own stuff right here at home. And I'm extremely picky, so I can record my stuff here over and over and over again, just as long until I'm completely satisfied with the results. For instance, there are songs on the new Shadow Theory album like 'Welcome' and 'The Sound Of Flies' that I've written four times with completely new lyrics, completely new melodies and with completely new ideas. Completely starting over with whole other ideas.
Mentioning your own studio: you only use it for your own material. You don't produce other bands, isn't it? With the exception for the Dutch band DIAL that is.
Well, I did some demos for some friends that's not really worth mentioning and also one album for the German band Re-Vision. But hey, I'm a singer, you know. I like to produce, but every time I do it, I swear I'll never do it again. I mean, I have a band living in my house for like a month, I work at least twelve hours a day, I don't see my kids for a whole month. I just don't think it pays well enough to do that. I'm enjoying it in the beginning, but at the end I'm pretty sick with it. I'm enjoying it way much more for my own use.
At this moment we changed our subject to the original subject this interview was intended for. A good moment to take a little rest and invite you to the second part of this interview, which will be published next month, in our January 2011 issue. Hopefully then there will be also more information about a possible upcoming tour of The Shadow Theory, which isn't clear at the moment of this publication. Nevertheless, Psychotic Waltz will definitely do a European tour next February and March, supporting Symphony X and Nevermore. Check Psychotic Waltz' facebook for all details and in the meantime: enjoy 'Behind The Black Veil'!
Psychotic Waltz new and 100% original line-up:
Devon Graves (aka Buddy Lackey) - vocals
Dan Rock - guitar/keyboards
Brian McAlpin - Guitar
Ward Evans - Bass
Norman Leggio – Drums
The Shadow Theory:
Arne Schuppner (guitar, ex-Complex 7)
Kris Gildenlöw (bass, DIAL & ex-Pain Of Salvation)
Johanne James (drums, Threshold)
Demi Scott (keys)