Friday 3 May 2013

20 Questions w/ Devil!

Forgive me sludgeheads, for it has been two weeks since our last 20 Questions confessional! 

You know the deal; we don’t fuck about with short concise interviews here.  We go deep and try to find out, what makes bands tick.  This week, for your viewing pleasure, we bring another Norwegian export to your attention.  None other than Devil!!!

There must be something in the water over there, as there is a raft of superb bands belting out blinding music of the Nordic variety.   Fortunately for us, we have been lucky enough to have secured the services of Lucas Klaukien on our writing team, and it was his great review which inspired me to approach them for an interview.  Here is a snippet of the great review:

All in all, a satisfying array of air guitar headbangery, ‘Gather the Sinners’ makes an appropriate soundtrack to a goat sacrifice.  I’d say as a full album ‘Gather the Sinners’ blows ‘Time To Repent’ out of the water.  The first had more than its fair share of great moments but for consistency and pure diesel-chugging firepower, give me the new one.  Words: Lucas Klaukien

So, with nearly 1000 hits of the review later, here is my in depth interview with Stian from the brilliant, Devil!  Sit back, enjoy and thanks for reading!!


Hey Stian, How are you?  I appreciate you taking the time to talk to talk to us.

Stian: Our pleasure, thanks for your interest in Devil!

SL) How are things in the Devil camp? What are your immediate plans for the rest of 2013?

S: Well, as always we’re the poster boys for the old slogan “Keep calm and carry on”. We don’t have much planned. We’re working on material for the upcoming split with The Sabbathian, and we’re playing the Beyond The Gates festival in Bergen late this summer. Also we’re working on a couple of gigs in Europe for next winter, and hoping still to be invited to one or two of this summers festivals, although it’s getting late for that now. Would be cool to do some open air gigs, meet people, watch bands and drink beer. Besides that we’re doing as best we can answering interviews and promoting the album.

SL) First of all, congratulations on your recent release Gather The Sinners.  Lucas  did a great job with the review, I felt.  Can you tell us about the record and the process of putting it together? 

S: Thank you, sir! I also enjoyed Sludgelord’s review a lot, it’s always nice to read feedback when the reviewer is so thorough as Lucas, and not least has followed the band some time. The record is really just the continuation of Time To Repent. We haven’t, at least not on purpose, tried to do anything new here, but we feel like we’re less bound to our initial style here. We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve decided that there are no boundaries for Devil musically, and I guess that can be heard in songs like “Demons on Wheels” and the acoustic interlude on the album. The recording process, however, was a bit different. One of the things we wanted to improve this time around was the drum sound. So we went to a real studio for that, and Thomas joined that studio session for the bass. We wanted to try that to get a more lively and authentic feel on the rhythm backbone, and we think that worked out great. The rest is done at the blacksmith’s as usual. So if you imagine the book of Devil, with the demo being the introduction, and Time To Repent is where you get to know the environment and the characters, I feel Gather The Sinners is where the story really starts. And hopefully the plot thickens, haha.

SL). I always apologise about this, but readers who may not have heard about you guys, could you tell us a little about Devil? Current band members?  A brief history?

S: No reason to apologise, we’re a small fish in an enormous pond; I am still more surprised when people HAVE heard about us. We’re five guys who has known each other for many years, and played together in several constellations, the most of us, and after living in Oslo and the time came to settle down, we did for different reasons end up near each other in Nes in Akershus, an hour drive outside Oslo. Me and Ronny had already done the Metal Merchants Festival together, and one late night we talked about starting a band, and have some beers, jam some old songs or maybe even write some of our owns, and he even wanted to take up drumming again, which he hadn’t done since he was a kid. He does one of the guitars in Vesen otherwise. So we decided on that, and also that we wanted to include people we could hang out with. Thomas was in instantly, also he normally playing guitar in Vesen, alongside singing, and Kai who I played with in Rikets Crust (obscure Norwegian punk/core band) were also very positive. So we were only short of a singer, and asked Joakim if he wanted to try out. He had never sung in a band before, but wanted to give it a shot, and so he did. Time went by; we recorded a few songs and put them on Myspace. Amongst several labels, we got in touch with Soulseller really quick, and the rest is history, as they say.

SL). Which band or artist turned you guys onto music and specifically introduced you to Heavy Metal/Rock and wanting to form a band?  What was it like growing up in Norway and being fans of metal for example?

S: Oh, that’s so many. We’re not young, you know, we’ve been listening to hard rock and metal since the 80’s. When we grew up, it was about Kiss, Accept, Wasp, Maiden, Venom, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Metallica, Motörhead, etc. You know, the metal classics. I for one started to listening to hard rock in 1980, when Unmasked came. Then it was a short way to Venom and Twisted Sister, and a little later Bathory, Candlemass, Celtic Frost, Slayer, and so on. So the Norwegian scene didn’t really trigger anything that wasn’t already there, but the early 90’s bands sure made some fine records.

SL) G N’ R and then Metallica inspired me to pick up the guitar, then I thought I was gonna be Frank Zappa or Steve Vai, haha, but I never formed a band (For the record, I don’t play now!).  What was your motivation to start the band?

S: The first time I started a band, I have no idea what the motivation was. It was called AWFUL SHIT and we were like 12? Probably because we thought the older guys in bands were extremely cool, and to flip the kid finger to society. Now the motivation is different, for instance being given the opportunity to travel places. And hopefully create a legacy. It would be cool going out knowing that your work would be enjoyed even in the future. You should start a band!

SL) So, you form a band, perhaps kick out the jams for fun.  When did you go from that to writing and releasing your own music? 

S: When you’re our age, it kinda happens naturally. We’ve all been writing and making riffs and songs for years and years. So it’s really an unspoken decision from day one. And being an extremely creative band, we’re almost writing more than we have the time to record!

SL) In your experience, how easy/difficult was it for Devil to get coverage and get gigs in the early days in Norway and how does that compare today? 

S: I like to think of this as the early days for Devil still, haha! But Norway is a hard country to make it in. There’s always opportunities, but they are limited due to extreme distances and a small scene. However we’re so lucky we got a good network, and we’ve always been able to play where and when we want to. We’re also very picky on playing in Norway, because we see a lot of bands that maybe do 4-5 gigs in Oslo during a year, and after a while even the fans stop showing up. So we’re trying to create a demand rather than pushing the supply.

SL) It might sound like stupid question, but is playing live important to Devil, because touring can depend upon work commitments etc?  Often touring is the main source of promoting your band.

S: It’s actually a very good question. Playing live is extremely important to us, both for promotion and sales, but also because we, or at least most of us, love it. But as you say, we have a bunch of other commitments that means we have to have our priorities straight, which again means that we’re missing out on a lot of touring compared to other bands that’s going for the whole nine yards. But we’ve agreed on doing it this way rather than maybe losing members along the way, even though it at the same time probably means we’re giving up all chances on ever making money on the band, not to mention living off the music. But the music is more important to us than the money, so we stay on the nine to five-train because it still allows us to make and play music.

SL) Based on your own experience, what do you think is the most important thing for a new band to do in order to promote themselves?

S: Internet, of course. I’m from a time with no internet, and we all know what great bands that never made it back then, and what shitty bands that the business pushed and made big. But more specific it’s a combination on being active on social networks, and make the music available through soundcloud or bandcamp or whatever. And Youtube, of course. Myspace WAS the shit, but it’s utter rubbish now, it seems. Youtube could be the main thing, because it’s easy to promote further, and not least embed in blogs and webzines. There are very many of those out there that’s doing a fantastic job, and must not be underestimated. And it helps having good music, haha. Otherwise one must rely on masks or old church burnings or some gimmick solution…

SL) You’re signed to Soulseller Records, what is your experience of working with them?  How much input do labels have in terms of the bands music and artwork? Or is their approach to let the band have creative freedom?

S: With Soulseller, and probably most independent labels, the bands are totally free to do whatever they want to. I also think that the major labels has a bad reputation because bands often have shitty taste, but low budgets forces them to behave. As soon as some bands are given money, they hire plastic on all accounts, not because the labels tell them to, but because they now can afford it. But back to Soulseller; We’re very pleased with them. They’re dedicated, reliable and genuinely interested in doing what’s best for Devil and the other bands on the label. We’re very proud of being a part of their roster who has a lot of quality and bands that’s in it for the right reasons.

SL) What are some of the difficulties/frustrations of being part of Devil, because there are many other commitments such as family, work etc, that perhaps restrict the amount of time you can dedicate to the band?  Maybe losing members can disrupt the momentum of any band?  What are your thoughts?

S: That’s what I was talking about earlier. Losing members COULD be a reality, but we’ve chosen to do whatever it takes to keep the band running without breaking other commitments. If we were a bigger band and could make a living of it, everyone would love to focus on Devil as the daytime job, but we’ve chosen a path where that probably won’t be an issue. The utter most important thing is to carry on, and we’ll just have to settle for those gigs and tours we’re able to commit to, even if it’s not very many.

SL) Please, do not think about this too much, but if someone was unfamiliar with your band, what words immediately spring to mind when you think about your sound? 

S: Retroprotometalrock. I don’t know, it’s so many terms. But heavy rock that’s part 1973 and part 1983 is usually suitable.

SL) Tell us some of your influences/heroes both musically and artistically, both metal and non-metal?  

S: Oh, I’ve always been a big fan of Elvis. Both as a singer and person. In metal it must be Lemmy. He’s never taken any bullshit, and not given any either. And he has proven that you don’t need to follow trends or being part of a scene to succeed. He’s driven Motörhead through all times, and as I can think of not doing ONE shitty album. They’re not top all of them, of course, but I can always listen to any Motörhead album and enjoy it. Tony Iommi as a guitarist, and Alan Jones. Waylon Jennings and the other Highwaymen in attitude and song writing, Orbison with his soul, Maradona as a player, not as a person, haha. My parents for teaching me insane work ethics, my wife for her compassion with both me and everything else, and the list goes on and on and on.

SL)  It might sound like a stupid question but, how important is the band’s chemistry when writing and performing??

S: Chemistry and the ability to cooperate is important in all aspects of life. And being friends from back in the day has probably helped us in many ways. For one, it’s contributed to being a band, where everybody is equally important and has just as much a say as the others, and not least when you travel. When playing live you spend a lot of time together, and that’s when you really appreciate playing with friends. We could just as well travel together on holiday, so I guess that says a lot about the chemistry. Another good thing is that we’re not afraid of criticizing each others work, because we’re so close. That helps us producing a better end product.

SL) What were your aims for Gather The Sinners and how do you feel about it now that it has been release in the public domain?

S: Our aim was more or less to build on what we had. Gain even a few more friends and listeners, getting all over a little nicer review, and do a few new places live. We’re not aiming high. And so far it’s turned out good. Low expectations reduces your disappointments, haha.

SL) I’m assuming all musician like to talk about the gear they use, so with that in mind what do you use in terms of guitars, amps and why? Also what tuning do you use?

S: I’m not a musician in that way. I’m more like a cab driver compared to race car drivers, who is looking for the reliable stuff that delivers what you expect rather than wanting something that maxes out and you have to maintain every other day. I play mostly a Gibson SG, and the preferred amp is a Marshall JCM800. But when we play live, we only demand tube heads, and from there we’ll work it out. Thomas uses the fine Rickenbacker, and Kai’s just bought himself a sweet Nebelung guitar. He’s more of a gear head than me, so he would be the right person to talk to here. I just want it simple and efficient. Ronny is also pretty interested in gear, and I think he’s working on customizing a drum kit for Devil use now. But do other people than nerds find this interesting at all? Haha!

SL) How important is support from your peers and how do you feel your band has generally been received and does it still surprise you when people buy your music and merch?

S: We’re still pretty overwhelmed by the response out there, yes! And when I understand that we’ve sold 1000, 2000 or even more of a release, it’s very flattering. We’re extremely grateful for the reception we’ve got, and our partners such as Soulseller, Sure Shot Worx and Omerch are great. We’ve always had the approach that we want to work with people that like the band. Genuinely LIKE the band, not selling anything as long as it’s popular.

SL) Taking a more general view of the changes in the music industry as a whole, what with illegal download and perhaps more pressure on mags to feature ‘scene’ bands or bigger artists.  How valuable are blogs such as the Sludgelord to bands and artists covering your music? Does all forms of media coverage translate to people buying merch, downloading music etc, coming to shows?

A: The main thing is that everything is more complex now. It’s easier to record and release, but there are many contributors such as yourself that cannot be taken lightly. It’s our duty (and pleasure) to provide everyone out there that supports us with whatever they like. A blog feature may just create a click on youtube for us, but perhaps it’s someone that loves what he or she hears, and then it’s worth while.

SL) Quick fire question, what’s your preference?  Cassette, CD, Digital Download or Vinyl? And why?
S: 1. Vinyl
2. Digital download
3. Cd
4. Tape

Vinyl for quality, digital for convenience. CDs and tapes are usually worthless to me nowadays.

SL) As music fans yourselves and given that music seems to be so disposal at times, how important for you as a band what it for  Soulseller to  put out a great package for the release of your record?

S: For us it’s just cool. But for the buyers it’s important. An album isn’t free, so when people actually take the effort of buying an album instead of listening to it or downloading it online, we should provide a little something extra, a whole package. That’s why we try to have some proper artwork, releasing gatefolds, maybe some fun vinyl colours, etc.

SL) What sets you apart from your peers and what are your thoughts about being part of any scene?

S: I have a feeling that if you ask the others in the scene, or wave, as I think is more correct, of retro/proto/occult/heavy/doom/rock/metal/bellbottom things, they will feel we’re the guy in the back of the classroom that really doesn’t belong, and he would rather be out fishing, and the other would rather him be out fishing too, haha! But we do think the movement has some great bands, and we’re proud to be mentioned amongst what has become to be significant names such as Ghost, Graveyard or The Devil’s Blood. And when you see those three together, you realize how diverse the scene is, and how it’s inappropriate to call it a scene at all. It’s more about time and style, just as NWOBHM was. You really can’t compare Iron Maiden, Pagan Altar and Praying Mantis either.

SL) Did you learn anything about the band from the recording and touring of your last record, that you wanted to change or incorporate in your new record?

S: Holy shit, you have many questions, don’t you?? Just kidding! Really the song writing process is so ongoing at all times with Devil, that we really don’t stop and think “where are we now?”. We just keep on trucking, and whatever discoveries we do, is not depending on whether we are working with this or that. The only thing I can think of is that we somewhere between Time To Repent and Gather the Sinners really decided that we’re not going to be limited by our earlier work. There are no limits within Devil, and as long as we like it, it’s going to sound Devil whether it’s a new At the Blacksmith’s or a 17 minutes instrumental song.

SL) Did you have an agenda when you began writing the new record? Like more of the crunch, less of psychedelic type approach or just get together and jam?

S: Nothing at all. We’re not writing for a specific album, and some of the material on this is older than some on Time To Repent, and some weren’t finished until we mixed it. So the only agenda was to try to do it just a little bit better and cooler even than the last time.

SL) Do you have any interesting stories from your tours, favourite places you’ve toured and bands you’ve toured with or bands you’d like to share the stage with?

S: We’ve been so lucky as to meet a lot of good friends along the way. Atlantean Kodex, Serpent Venom, Orchid and Electric Wizard to name a few that we had really good times with. Age of Taurus too, of course, but we meet them every now and then anyhow, haha. I don’t know what places to mention, but Hammer of Doom was very cool, with lots of people in the audience. Also being a part of the final Hole in the Sky was great. But I could go on forever about this.  As for the future we would just love to play bigger stages, and with cool bands. We’ve already played with St. Vitus and Pentagram, so I guess Black Sabbath is the next natural step…

SL). Reflecting upon your time together as a band, what have been some of the high and low point in your career.  Are you a stronger unit now, than when you first started.

S: Because we were friends from before, and hang out a lot besides the band too, I think the strengthening really wasn’t needed. But musically we do know each other better now, of course, so it’s easier to work together than it was in the start. The high point is probably being invited to Roadburn, that’s something you normally don’t achieve after only a year or so… Also touring with Electric Wizard was awesome. And getting a record deal, of course! The low point is for me personally that we aren’t able to play as much live as I’d like. But it’s a give and take situation, and we’re happy where we’re at now.

SL). In terms of the band, what are your plans for the rest of the year?  Can we expect new music or big tours ahead?

S: Haha, no. We’re hoping to get back to London though, we love London. Especially the Crobar. Tell your local promotors!

SL) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans?

S: My pleasure! To our fans we’d just like to thank them a helluva much for continuing to support us. Hope to see you out there some time!

As always show your support to the band. You can buy the CD and vinyl is available here. Thanks to Jan @ SureShotWorx for setting up the interview and Stian for taking the time to talk to us.  Many thanks!