I was introduced to Devilskin in 2015 through Sentinel Daily, being asked to review their fantastic Be Like The River album. I then got to do my first ever interview and that was with Paul Martin, the same person I am talking to tonight. He really made my life easy by being such a great guy to have a chat with. I subsequently went to see the band in Sydney when they were supporting Halestorm. The band put on a brilliant set and now I am hotly anticipating the release of a new album and wanting to get up to see them again in Sydney, where they will be supporting Slash with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators.
After a catch up on how things are over in the band’s native New Zealand, how bloody hot things are here in Canberra (forty one degrees Celsius as I write this) in comparison to a warm day of twenty eight degrees, and that I’m keeping out of trouble with my photography gig (so we will see you at the show taking some snaps), we realise that it has been over two years since we chatted over the phone or at the gig. We have a quick reflection on the fact that when I first talked to him it was my first interview where he offers some words of wisdom from the band’s side.
“The thing is musicians or band members are all so fucking grateful to be in this position. You know when people take enough notice of our band to come and see us, we get to have an interview with so many cool magazines, radio shows or whatever, it’s just like… I think for most people, it’s a dream come true, I’m Rock ‘n Rolling, so why would you be a prick. You get to talk about your band and you want everyone to get a good buzz.”
“Through my radio show, The Axe Attack (running for over thirty years now) I get to talk to a lot. It’s really cool when people are exactly who they seem to be on TV. Zakk Wylde, Dimebag (Darrell), and Lemmy that’s what you got. They were the real deal, not pretending to be someone else. The passion of musicians is still to be recognised for their art and they’re happy to talk to people. I read something about Lars (Ulrich) from Metallica, where he’ll do an interview even if it is a podcast with 15 listeners because he loves to talk about his band.”
You’ve been undertaking a large amount of touring around the world, been going to England, Europe and even a few dates around NZ. How has the tour been going? “It’s been amazing, we’ve just finished an NZ tour with a band called Blindspott, with really good crowds. Before that we were in the UK for about two weeks and before that we toured Europe for about six weeks with Halestorm. That was just incredible, twenty four or twenty six different countries, and it was all go. Austria one night, Switzerland the next. It was a really busy schedule, on such a big scale because Halestorm are freaking huge over there. We were playing to amazing crowds and incredible venues. On the odd day that we got a moment to ourselves we did a little bit of sightseeing and we got to see some beautiful places. We had the morning off in Vienna and went to the Museum of Natural History, wow, it was just insane. It’s not very often we get to do the touristy things but every now and then you just sneak out and do it.”
The latest single Endo is quite an interesting track and based on the lyrics seems that it could be quite personal. It is certainly an interesting filmclip. Where did the idea come from? “Jennie (Skulander)wrote the lyrics and Nic (Martin) come up with the music. She actually had Stage 4 Endometriosis, she was really, really sick. They took a while to figure out what it was and it resulted in surgery. It was a shock to everyone, and it shows how amazing Jennie is. That she can turn something like that into this really amazing and powerful piece. The lyrics are quite beautiful, visceral and beautiful at the same time. She just wrote it because that’s how she felt at the time, she just come up with these lyrics. When we demo’d the song and realised that it had potential as a single, we went this songs sounding great, maybe this could be a single. We said to Jen, hey these lyrics are really confronting and personal, are you comfortable with people knowing this is about your surgery. She went ‘hell yeah, let’s spread the word.’”
“So many women have got this horrible condition and they live with it, it’s painful and everywhere. To be able to create a little bit of awareness, it’s really cool. Before we released the single we approached ‘Endometriosis New Zealand’ and asked them to be aware we were releasing this single, we just wanted them to know the content of it. They were just blown away and happy that someone was raising awareness and gave us their full blessing. They are going to use the song in one of their campaigns to create awareness of it. We didn’t set out with any agenda to do that but that was the way it evolved. We’re really happy with that and we’re now getting all these women coming out to shows now and saying, wow I can really identify with that, it’s a curse I’ve had for years. It touches a lot of people, so it was cool to be able to put something out with a message. I was really happy with the way the video came out, it was a lot of fun to make. It looks confronting but it’s got the Country and Western in there as well. Jennie just started a line dance at rehearsal one time and we just lost our shit. We just do that, take the piss out of ourselves.”
I’ve seen a response from Jennie to a question on Facebook saying we can expect a new album to back this up by the middle of the year. What can we expect? “Yeah, we’ve written an album. We’ve been writing a lot, we ended up demoing something like thirty songs that we’re really excited about. This is where it gets tricky as we get really attached to these songs and for different reasons. Some of them are personal to one of the band members and when you’ve got to whittle down thirty songs to thirteen or ten or something… It’s like oh jeez, getting rid of your children. So that’s been a really hard process and there’s a lot of soul searching that goes on. We’re just really working really hard to craft the best songs that we can. We are really happy with the way the direction is going. We’ve got a song that we recorded at the same time as Endo called All Fall Down and it’s the next single. We are shooting the video this weekend for it. It’s away getting mastered at the moment. It’s exciting, it’s more upbeat and stompy and in your face than Endo. The video concept is going to be dark and scary, big brotherish, so really looking forward to the shoot this weekend.”
I love the previous two albums (We Rise and Be Like The River), how has writing this album been compared to the first two albums. “I think there’s a natural evolution from We Rise to Be Like The River and we grew a lot as songwriters, felt more comfortable with ourselves. We’re just evolving as a band and songwriting wise on Be Like The River we weren’t afraid to experiment a lot more with layers and atmospheric stuff. We had some different stuff on, we had sound effects, we had bells from the local church near the recording studio. We put little bits in to make it personal and I think with the new stuff that we are writing now the subject matter is all over the place we are all writing about a heap of different things. I think we’ve now lived so much more than we can put into practice on this. We were going away for weekends and book out a beach house, just the four of us, and just write. We’ve done that about a dozen times now and we always come out with stuff that we are really happy with.”
“The last session we had we were at this remote beach, it’s kind of to the West side of Auckland, on this little peninsula that no-one goes to and we were on our way back from that and we came across this really bad car accident. We were first on the scene, luckily no one was killed but it was a family of five that were smeared all over the road but luckily they all survived. It was really confronting for us, a really horrible thing that unfortunately happens every day somewhere. It’s horrible to come across and we ended up writing a song about that because it really affected the whole lot of us. It’s a terrible tragedy that we came across that makes you think, gives you a whole new perspective on things. So there’s a song about that, a song about Big Brother, and all sorts of things but I think all of them share the… fact that we’ve played together more and are more comfortable writing as a result. After so many years together you hope that you mature and grow.”
“Writing songs, it’s still a lot of fun for us and we really do climb inside these songs. We get to places like, we’ve played in Spain and there’s people here that knew our albums, have lyrics tattooed on their body. You never quite realise how deeply that your songs can touch people. You wish you could be able to do that. Today I’ve come from a funeral and they played Burning Tree for the committal. It’s like people think that much of your songs, that it’s touched them in some way that it’s special enough to be included in their goodbye. It’s an honour to be able to touch people’s lives in a way like this and through something that you feel passionate about, they get what you get. That’s not something that I could ever take for granted.”
That’s pretty heavy, but very moving. “Yeah, sorry to bring it down but you know, music is life and life is a journey. We’re just lucky we can speak with this other language. So without being morbid, we are very excited to be coming back to Australia again. Especially being in front of Slash’s people, holy shit. Crowds are going to be incredible and we are just chomping at the bit now. We’ve got a mixture of songs from both our albums and some brand new stuff as well. It’s all up beat, it’s all in your face and it’s all got us really excited.”
Excellent, I can attest to that you guys rock and I think a good part of Australia will get to experience that this time when you hit our shores again this time. So how did that tour with Slash come about? “Slash came to New Zealand about two years ago and he played two shows, Hamilton and Wellington. We opened for both of them and his sound engineer got really sick and had to stay in Hamilton. He had to go to hospital, he was really ill. We did the Wellington show and he was still in hospital, and they’re going shit, what are we going to do, he’s left in Hamilton. We said we’re from Hamilton, so we’ll take his bags back, we’ll go visit him and keep an eye on him until he’s released so he can rejoin the tour. So he was in hospital for about a week and it’s just up the road from my house so we were catching up with him everyday, just keeping the guy comfortable. He was a really nice guy and he’s regaling us with stories of Slash, poor bugger he’d been doing front of house and with Slash since the Snakepit days. So we were more than happy to keep an eye on him, look after him, do whatever we could for him here until he could go and rejoin the tour. Got a really good rapport and maybe that had something to do with us getting invited back for these gigs.”
Well I think you will get a whole heap of new fans out of this tour as it is being played in some big arenas and expecting a massive turnout. “Thanks for that man, I think the people that generally enjoy our music and the people that enjoy Slash’s music are pretty similar sort of crew. You really hope that they embrace our music. I have a really good feeling about it and I’m really looking forward to having a lot of fun and getting out there and partying. It’s a Slash show, so that’s freaking expected.”
At this point we’ve hit our twenty minute limit so I’ll have to hang up as I don’t want to piss off the others who are waiting to chat with Paul. I thank him again, as having a chat with him is very easy. I’m looking forward to getting to the show in Sydney and catching two amazing bands. For those who haven’t seen Devilskin, do yourself a favour and get to the show early to make sure you do. You won’t be disappointed.
Devilskin will be supporting Slash on his New Zealand and Australian legs.
Fri 25 Jan 2019 Tauranga, Baypark Arena
Sat 26 Jan 2019 Auckland, Spark Arena
Mon 28 Jan 2019 Sydney, Qudos Bank Arena
Wed 30 Jan 2019 Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
Fri 01 Feb 2019 Melbourne, Margaret Court Arena
Sun 03 Feb 2019 Perth, RAC Arena