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Deadsoul Tribe

Hij is wat je noemt Mister Emometal. Devon Graves, voormalig zanger in technometallegende Psychotic Waltz, is reeds aan zijn derde CD toe met z?n al niet meer zo nieuwe band Dead Soul Tribe. Krap 2,5 jaar na het titelloze debuut en precies een jaar na het prachtige ?A Murder Of Crows? is ?The January Tree? alweer de derde loot aan z?n nieuwe, tegenwoordig in Wenen gevestigde stam. Nu zijn handelsmerk van vloeiende, gepassioneerde progmetal steeds meer uitgekristalliseerd begint te lijken en het draagvlak voor zijn muziek ook steeds verder uitdijt, gingen we toch eens onderzoeken of Devon Graves wel zo?n gevoelige en sensitieve man is als uit z?n muziek en teksten mag blijken. Even kijken of we Devon uit zijn tent kunnen lokken?

Door: Evil Dr. Smith | Archiveer onder prog / sympho metal

1) Dead Soul Tribe is bad live band.

I know where you are referring too. We planned to do a show a couple of months ago at a place somewhere in Germany, which didn?t take place in the end. I?m really sorry for that, but I also know it was entirely NOT my fault. Man, all things that can go wrong, went wrong. It was just intolerable. I don?t want to be too technical, but their PA system was incomplete and sounded awful, the mixing board didn?t work properly, there wasn?t a soundman which was part of the deal (I had to do it myself), the kickdrum? the very first thing you do at a sound check ? didn?t sound like the normal ?boom boom boom?, but more something like ?KGGGGGGG? [Devons tries to imitate the singer from Cannibal Corpse that caught the flue], there weren?t any cables to repair this and I could go on and on: they?re was just nothing. All the things we discussed in the deal and they had promised to be there, weren?t there or didn?t work. I wanted to help to set things up, but there wasn?t just anyone in the venue that was willing to help us. And how could they expect that I know where they put their stuff like cables and so? ?Who?s in charge there, hello, can someone help me?? In the end someone of the club even told me that I had to be at the door, selling the tickets. I mean, c?mon man! So when nothing properly worked and they hadn?t any pro?s around, or even anyone around, that was willing to help us, I thought it was better to cancel the show. I can?t perform within these conditions and the audience would have heard a terrible show. A club charges the people money for a concert with working equipment, with good sounds, with good atmosphere, that?s the least thing the people may expect for their money. This is not how you treat your audience. Well, I?m not going to take these people?s money. So when the people arrived at the club, waiting before closed doors, I was grabbing a chair and my acoustic guitar and went outside. I placed my chair in front of the people and gave them an acoustic set and apologised to everyone for the reason why there wasn?t any proper show. After three songs I?ve heard from the venue that if I would play one more song, they?ll call the police. So I played two more songs.

Also our show in Arnhem (Holland) last year started kinda chaotic, because of the bad sound. Of course I want to have a good sound, not only for the band and myself, but also for the audience. Like I said, what?s the point for the audience to see a band that sound like crap? The sound check was good, but when the show started all kind of things was changed and we had to take a lot of time to get things straight. But eventually I think we managed and we did a good show I think. But the sound and equipment has to be at least acceptable, those are the minimum demands I?m asking. If perfection is what you?re looking for, you might not see that at a Dead Soul Tribe concert. It?s very old school, maybe a little ?loose?, but extremely passionate. It?s about the vibe that flows around the room in a way that you cannot achieve with perfection, but only in a way that you can achieve with love.

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2) Devon is the most unusual and unsuitable guy in the metal scene. However he?s singing in a metal band, his personality and character seems to fit more in the new age scene. Devon is way too soft to be called a metalhead: instead, he?s a softy, a hippie born thirty years too late.

I would say that I couldn?t agree with you more. I have never intended to be part of the metal scene and I don?t really come from the metal background. I come from the background of the people that were playing between 1965 and 1975. You can call it soft if you want to, but I think that that music and those people have touched the hearts of generations. I think they were part of something greater than just simple entertainment. They were leading a revolution. What was going on in the Woodstock-era was a time of people wanting to create change. The people were united by one thing: they were united by the music they were listening to. That music had melody, it had meaning and it had emotion. Everybody that was disagreeing about everything could agree on one thing and that was this music. This was the kind of music that made me want to play. This was the world of rock that I wanted to be part of. By the time I got into this business, those bands obviously no longer existed.

I know, I don?t think that anybody could listen to Dead Soul Tribe and then picking up bands from the sixties and seventies, and saying we?re a mix from this and that band. But I think Dead Soul Tribe is a modern and heavier version of what many of those bands were doing. Not really bands like The Beatles and Byrds or so, but the harder bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple. I was willing to stand behind metal under those terms, but during the eighties with bands like Mötley Crüe heavy metal became a type of fashion, a marketing concept, even with the good bands like Maiden, Manowar and Priest. However I really like those bands, it wasn?t exactly with the same and intense emotion as I have with the seventies bands. They pleased my ears, it?s really exciting, but the words they were singing didn?t reach me in a way that it affected my life. Of course, not every song has to be some life-changing revelation, but I?m sorry, I have never once ?ridden by the full moon with ten thousand other men our spears by our side.? Maybe it sounds cool and all, but I don?t get brought to tears. I don?t stop and think and become a better person from this.

Unlike songs like for instance Black Sabbath?s ?After Forever? which really affected me and taught me something. I grew from hearing that. I became I wiser person thanks to that song, although that may sound a little crazy when you see how Ozzy is today. But what he did got into my heart. And Jimi Hendrix did that even more: he really touched me with his lyrics. I mean: ?Axis: Bold As Love?, man, I?m getting goose bumps on my arms right now when I?m saying these words only. Those songs matter. Like my way of high singing during the Psychotic Waltz-era, that is something I got from Ian Gillan. Back in those days, during the eighties, everybody was singing high ? everybody was influenced by Rob Halford and Geoff Tate, for me it was Ian - but in the end I got sick of doing it that way, it started to appear a little ridiculous to me.

I don?t want to make a fast buck. I don?t want to ?just? make music, sell a whole bunch of records and do whatever I have to do to make that happen. I?m building something here that you can?t buy with money. It?s a feeling. A feeling that you can see in the eyes of the people who understand. It?s a feeling that occurs that is so intense, but at the same time you can?t really point at exactly what it is. I sing soft in the most of my passages, because I want to capture intimacy and I want the words I?m singing to get through. When I?m shouting to the world it might be powerful, but it?s not touching. Fashion changes every few years, but what is in the heart of people will never changes. And I?m just trying to bring back into music what I think has been missing for far too long.

3) No matter how symbolic the song titles may look like, the true fact about Devon is that he?s (subconsciously) afraid of little bugs. What started quite innocent with singing about a ?Butterfly? (on the album ?Into The Everflow?), a ?Mosquito? and a ?Locust? (on ?Bleeding?) ended up with singing about ?Flies? (on ?A Murder Of Crows?) and even more flies in ?Spiders And Flies? (on the new album).

I have a feeling that you either have not read the lyrics, but only read the song titles. So that?s what you?re missing. Like ?Mosquito? is not about an insect, it?s about invasion. ?Locust? is about fear. ?Spiders and Flies? is about people and that some prey on others: one feed on many. And ?Butterfly? is about transformation. I felt I was in some kind of transformation in that time. Now I understand what kind of transformation that is. Then I was the caterpillar, now I have my wings. Thereby, by singing ?I am the butterfly? in that song I was also quoting Jim Morrison. Jim Morrison once sung ?Before I sink into the big sleep, I want to hear the scream of the butterfly?. So, during my will of transformation I sung in ?Butterfly? to him: ?I am the butterfly, but you didn?t live long enough to hear my scream? [smiles].

The reason why I have so much song titles about insects I do not really know. They have such a compelling image, although I also do not know why the images are compelling at first. I usually pick up the song titles out of the lyrics, but not the words I sing most. Mostly I pick out a word or a phrase that is sung only once. So now and then it happens to be the name of an insect I chose, but really, don?t ask me why. But I know it?s there, so maybe we don?t even know ourselves and we figure it out later. That happens a lot with my songs. I have great difficulty with the first line and from there I let the lyrics just flow. In many cases it?ll take me months, sometimes even years before I realise what the song is about and realise what I?m saying. The abstract compilation of words, which almost seemed to be written by another hand than my own, suddenly made perfect sense to me.

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4) Devon like to be called a spiritual guy who?s interested in nature, but in fact that?s also a shallow shell, because he doesn?t even know what type of tree is photographed for the album sleeve.

[Laughs] No, you?re right. I don?t know, but I do know what type of trees they used to make my guitars. They use cider for my acoustic guitar, mahogany for the back of my Les Paul and maple for the neck of my Stratocaster. But seriously, I?m not interested in nature, because that is too much of an understatement. Nature isn?t a hobby, nature is from where we are originate. Nature was the gift given to us. So far, nature remains completely superior to anything we have placed there. Anything we have torn down nature for, has never been as good as what we have torn down. We, with our fast cars, fancy clothes, big houses and expensive computers and shit, are looking down upon silly trees and plants and all. But the fact is that we are the only living things on Earth who cannot exist with just simple nature and nothing more. We depend on materialistic nonsense, while the bee or the bird only needs a flower or a tree for building a nest to live its life, completely without a job, an apartment or computers. I understand that the tree, the sun and the stars are a miracle. These things will go on forever and will never get old, will never get bored, unfashionable, outdated or obsolete.

And as far as cutting the trees down to make my guitars: well, if the trees were only cut down for making guitars, I think we will have a lot more trees than guitars. I don?t think all the logging companies are destroying the Amazon to make me guitars. I have five of them and I could probably live with one or two, but I think it?s okay to make a guitar out of a tree, also because a tree eventually dies. Nevertheless, there?s more to gain by going into the woods with a video camera than with an axe.

5) Devon is a vain person. Every two days he?s shaving his head and his beard, putting on a little bit too much after shave and looking a bit too long in the mirror: trying to look the best for his wife (and his neighbour?s wife).

[giggles] You?re half right, because I shave my head every day. I do like to look good for my wife and I DO like to look good for my neighbour?s wife - sorry my dear, but it is true ? but I do not wear after shave. And I do not spend anytime at all looking in the mirror. I used to do that when I had hair. When I was eighteen my hair looked pretty cool. That was my peaking period when it comes to my hair. After that, my hair started to decline. That was really a heartbreak for me, I thought it really affected the quality of my life. I don?t know what it was with our long hairs, it seemed that our hair was some source of pride. But instead of getting fake hair or something, I shaved the whole shit off. I must admit: that idea was also stimulated by the reaction of a very good-looking girl at that time [giggles again]. But it freed me completely of that pride. Also, I?m a little bit lucky that this worked for me.

6) Music isn?t everything for Devon. It?s just that he can?t do anything else. Devons sings and plays music, because he hasn?t got diplomas and all. He sings in a band, because he had to be on the dole otherwise.

How did you know I don?t have any diplomas? Well, it?s true. It?s in fact the other way around: I don?t have any diplomas, because I can sing. I figured: ?Fuck this, they?re not teaching me anything in school that I?m gonna use.? I got very poor grades at school, because I never did my homework. There where people who got very, very good grades and these where the ones considered to be very smart. When I met them again in adult life, I felt that I was a lot smarter - or make that more intellectual - than they were. I felt I had a greater understanding of the world and of myself than these people had. Of course it?s good to know how to read and learn some basic knowledge and all, but schools are teaching you on the wrong things. The truth is, about your line about that Devon can?t do anything else and so, that this is completely not true. I?ve learned that if there?s something that I?m truly interested in, I can learn and I can do it well. But the thing is that I don?t want to do anything else.

If I had a second choice, I would like to write or direct movies. I like comedies in the style of Frank Oz or Todd Phillips (who did the remake of Starsky & Hutch) or almost every film Jim Carey, Ben Stiller or Eddie Murphy are in. On the more serious side I really like the films with Kevin Spacey: like ?K-Pax? was a fantastic movie. But my favourite thing is to laugh when it comes to movies: I love good comedies when I?m on the road with the band, saying movie-quotes to each other and all.

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7) So when music isn?t everything for Devon, his wife and little daughter Anastacia are. He?s now so happy with his family life that he prefers to stay at home, watching the Olympic Games and changing diapers or so, instead of being on the road with Dead Soul Tribe.

First of all, I cannot stand sports: it?s so boring. So the O.S. don?t mean that much to me. I can also live without changing the diapers if I could get away with it. Let me put it this way: I like to tour as much as I ever have. And I?m touring now more than I ever have. But the difference is, when I get home now, I don?t go through that two weeks of depression. It?s very hard to go from one life to the next. You?re out on the road and everybody treats you like more than special. ?Real people? don?t get treated the way the way appreciated rock musicians get treated. Everybody is thrilled to see you: that doesn?t happen in real life. On the road I?m treated as very special, the girls like you a lot and all that. And then you get home, being your normal, dumbo self? it?s a little bit hard to adjust to that. It?s very common that musicians got a depression when they return from their tour, I don?t think it?s an ego thing. At least it?s not only ego. I think it has to do with the amount of (emotional) energy that gets exchanged. But now it?s different, because when I come home and see the look on my daughter?s face, I am so touched. She?s so happy to see me that, my God, I just cannot describe that feeling. There?s just no time to be depressed now.

When I moved to Europe, to Vienna, I was in a marriage that was really, really bad. I was really unhappy, lonely and hurt. Then my wife was telling me that she was in love with somebody else and she abandoned me. There I was in Europe: completely alone, doesn?t speak a single word German, doesn?t have a job. At this time I was making the first Dead Soul Tribe album. So I couldn?t just pick up and go home [to California], because I had an agreement I had to honour and all my studio equipment is in Vienna. All I knew was that I had a job to do: I must finish that record. While making that first album I was completely in solitude. I didn?t even see the other band members. My two cats and my video collections of comedies were all I have. I spend months on my own, just working in the studio and hanging in front of the telly until I fell asleep. I got so lonely, it was desperate. I cried to God asking him what I did wrong. Have I not suffered enough? At that time I realised I wanted to have a daughter. Maybe it was because I don't have any family here and the will of my spirit that I wanted to have family around me. I don?t really know the psychological reason why specifically a daughter. Maybe because I was hurt by other women and that I wanted to have my own little woman to let her see that she CAN believe and trust me. I also think I?m more affectionate to women. I?m nice to men, and all my friends are men, but I treat women just a little bit nicer. It?s not always that sexual thing. I have this even with my cats. I?m nicer and much softer to my female cats than the male cats I had. I had a male cat that drove me so completely mad with his endless, nightly mewing that I almost wanted to kill that damn animal. With my female cat, she?s called Morticia, I don?t have that. Even when she went into my studio as a little kitten and started to chew up one of my pretty expensive speakers. Normally someone would like to punish the animal for doing such a thing, but I couldn?t. I only blamed all myself, that I shouldn?t bring her in the studio anyway. This is just one of the things I realised I?m much, much softer and much more forgiving with the female species.

But what happened with that downward spiral life you lived. How did you get out of that?

After I?ve been lived in Vienna for several years, I sort of developed this negative attitude towards the girls that I met. I started to think that there was something about them that was not good. They acted all so cold, so distant to me. They were all very unaffectionate, very shallow. This was based on me being single and trying to find somebody new when I got out. I?m a little bit shy when it comes to girls and it?s a little bit difficult for me to approach women. It takes for me a lot of courage to say something to a girl, after we had some eye contact. Every time when I finally had enough courage, all these girls in Vienna were like: ?uh, all men want the same thing. I?m not gonna talk to you. You?re just after one thing.? So, every time I felt that I was such a fool for getting up and saying something. I got so sick of that ritual ? making eye contact, but losing interest when I approach ? that I didn?t want to approach a woman ever again. It was like ?Fuck them all! I don?t even care.? I just lost my courage. It was really psychological devastating.

And just when you least expect it, there she suddenly was?

Right. I even remember exactly the thought what was going through my head when I saw her for the first time. You know, I have this real liking for women, yet at the same time I have this real anger I can?t stand [laughs]. So I supposed to go to the studio that day. It was during the recordings of my first album. It was getting a little late in the afternoon and I had to eat something. So I changed my daily route and didn?t go directly to my studio, but went to the store to get some Mexican burritos. While I was walking home from the store with my groceries, I see in the distant a woman walking on my path. My first thought was: ?Hmmm? a girl!? But my second thought was: ?Oh no, a girl??. So I was thinking: ?Fuck it, I?m not even gonna look at here. I?m just gonna walk right by, not even gonna look up. Fuck her, no way.? As I was walking by, not looking up, she spoke to me. She asked me in German if I knew where a certain place was, which I didn?t know. So I said: ?Sorry, I don?t know.? Then she said: ?Oh, I?ll walk with you anyway.? Well, I knew that place wasn?t there where I was walking to, but I said: ?Okay.? We were walking and talking, and I was acting nice to her, but in my mind I had this terrible attitude towards her, especially when she said she was a singer. I thought: ?No girl, I am a singer!? We walked all the way to my home, but I didn?t looked at her. She told about some bad recording facilities she experienced at the moment. So I said to her that she could lend one of my microphones. I offered this in a way that I was thinking: ?If I let her borrow this microphone, then she have to give it back, so that means I will see her again.? Not really seriously, because I thought she was too young. She looked like seventeen or so (eventually she appeared to be twenty-seven, and already gave birth to two sons). And still, I haven?t looked at her very good. Just after we said good bye - when we arrived at my place - and she shook my hand, that was the first moment I looked into her eyes. And when she said ?good bye? she had a smile in her eyes. I haven?t seen that in so long. I fell in love at that moment. To make this long story a little bit shorter: she got pregnant almost immediately [giggles].

What about a little brother or sister for Anastacia?

We have one! This is a little bit different, because I didn?t really wanted another child. Having two older boys from her side, I thought the Graves family is now big enough. I am satisfied with my one child. Our son Evan James came as a surprise. When she told me we were gonna have a second child, I was actually a little bit upset. Quite upset. I wanted to spend more time with only Anastacia, giving her my love for a couple more years. I thought this new child came too soon and in fact I didn?t even wanted a second child. It took me some time to change my view, to understand that I can?t have this attitude. I had to find room in my heart for this other child. I started to think about the positive aspects of having a second child: the fourth in our family. But the thing was that I only wanted girls. So I was expecting a little baby girl, but there came this little boy. It?s a sad thing to say, but I was really disappointed when the baby came out: Boom, it was all penis and testicles! I just wanted so much another girl, that I wasn?t thinking of a boy. I didn?t want to act disappointed, but it took me quite some time to change my thoughts and feelings to my newborn child. It was also because I was pretty hectic with the recordings of ?The January Tree?. It was a weird time for me. It was difficult for me to focus on my son completely. I prepared room my heart in the wrong direction: for a girl, not for a boy. We even had a name for her. I?m really sorry about that, I felt so bad because of these thoughts I had. But the moment Evan James learned to smile, I completely felt for him and I knew that I am his father. Now he smiles all the time. I have a daughter, I have a son: I have everything.

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8) Devon would rather read esoteric books or watching movies than hanging out with his friends.

No, I would like my friends to watch the movies with and I would like to teach my friends about the esoteric books. Especially the books by Vladimir Megre. Those books are written in Russian, but my wife can translate that into English for me. Those books have a lot, if not everything to do with my ability to be completely content in life. Completely content with things like the sky and the stars and not to put so much importance on the dead creations in life, like cars and computers. I do have a car and a computer, but that is not the basis of the quality in my life.

9) Devon doesn?t know shit about the actual metal scene. He isn?t interested in it and if he hears something new, he thinks it sucked anyway, because it has only got do to with ?creating an image?, instead of making good music. He sticks to the old seventies rock and is happy with that. He just doesn?t care about modern music.

That?s pretty true actually. I mean, every now and then someone?s come up that I really like. Tool is a good example. There is a lot of modern music that I like, but that?s not called metal usually. Like Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie. It?s really creative, it pushes the limits what can be done in the recording studio. At the same time I think it?s also heavier than most metal. I really do. So I don?t know why metal fans don?t like bands like that. Even Korn. I don?t understand why a lot of the metal people don?t like Korn. I think that band is phenomenal.

Maybe metalheads are missing the guitar solos or the Manowar-like lyrics in it?

Well, I can totally do without the guitar solos these days. When I?m writing songs, the last thing I?m thinking about is using guitar solos. I only use them when I think it will really do something extra with a specific song. In the days of Hendrix it was a fresh thing, he turned the guitar into a real instrument, but since then it has become a cliché. It?s intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, guitar solo and it is always like that. Why? Originally it was intended as a structural technique to bring the listener to a new place. Usually the guitar solo was based on the melody of the song, just like a saxophone solo or so. Hendrix his solos were really totally worth listening to, and this turned into a style of music that was really interesting for a while. Each guitar player has its own style. It was the time of really experimenting. Every guitarist was unique. Like Jimmy Page was using the violin bow, which I ripped off from him. Or Ritchie Blackmore: when you hear a solo from Ritchie, you KNOW it?s Ritchie. Just like with Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, etc. Now all the guitarists started to sound the same. It was exciting at first when (Eddie) Van Halen?s first album came out. He really turned up the heat for guitar players. Jimmy and Jimi couldn?t even compete with what Eddie was doing. It was really amazing at first. Then came Yngwie Malmsteen, who turned up the heat even more. That was so impressive. People just couldn?t believe it existed. But that became the standard. Yngwie?s solos became the style-signature, the way guitar solos had to be played. Since then, it evolved into nothing more but a trick. Music is about passion, ideas, creativity and most of all it?s about transmitting an emotion from your heart to mine. Guitarists could do that by playing their solo, without words. Nowadays, many of these guitar solos are not about musical ideas, melodies and phrases, they?re simply exercises. Even in the days with Psychotic Waltz we had various solos that were nothing more than playing from the bottom to the top as fast as possible. That?s not interesting and it stopped being impressive. Now I can?t tell one guitarist from the other. They all sound the same, showing off with their breakneck speed they?ve learn at school. The guitar solo has been degraded to nothing more but the fastest flurry of notes.

10) So in real life he may be a soft guy, when it?s up to making music, Devon is a very tough guy. Just like every genius, he?s almost impossible to work with. So band members go and went, all the time. No one stays for long. Devon is the Yngwie Malmsteen of Vienna.

Hehehe, well, it?s not true. Since the first album every one in the band is the same. The only guy that left was my first guitar player Volker [Wilschko]. The thing is that I recorded this new album by myself, only joined by my drummer, Adel Moustafa. But the other two guys [the two Rolands playing bass and guitar, EDS] are still in the band. Although I am the leader of the band and yeah, I do make the decisions, but not before consulting them. Everybody got a role in the band. Roland never lets me down when it?s up to the logistics of touring, or playing a concert. Mine happens to be creating the music. But Adel is starting to become creating the music too: he started to help me co-writing some songs. So, except for Volker, we are still the same guys as always!

Here ends part 1 of the interview with Dead Soul Tribe. Next month we will continue provoking Devon; calling him a sell-out by participating a type of music he probably hates (Ayreon), the commercial and artistic failure that Dead Soul Tribe is compared with the cult status of Psychotic Waltz and that he got screwed by the record company, because he didn?t get a single penny from the recently released Psychotic Waltz reissues.

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