Congrats on the new album! While listening to it and “The Beauty Of Destruction” last year, I realized that nothing seems impossible for Devil You Know. But in your opinion, what separates “They Bleed Red” from your previous release?
First of all, thanks for your compliments! I think it’s just an overall more aggressive and raw sounding record. Obviously, there are still a lot of different elements in a song, but I feel like all in all, the vibe is just a little more angry and harsh. That was a thing we discussed before we started working on the record. It was everybody’s intention to get a record like that.
Although the fans are used to much diversity on a Devil You Know album, is there a particular song or twist on the new album that will surprise the fans?
A very special song for me and also one of my favorites on the record is track seven, “Let The Pain Take Hold”. I love everything about that song, the way we worked on it and just the way it happened, lyrically and the vocals. It is obviously something different and it’s not easy to write a song like that. It was a big challenge for us. But to me, this shows some different elements and it was really cool to have the freedom to do that kind of stuff.
I was going to mention “Let The Pain Take Hold” – you guys released slower, calmer songs in the past, but this one actually sounds like a real ballad. Can you tell me more about how it came together?
One day, I woke up and was like “I really want to have a song like this!” and I had the structure in my mind. So I started working on it and then, I remember, I had some instrumental demos which I sent to John – he loved the song – then we showed it to Howard. The stuff that’s going on and the structure make it a challenging song for sure, but when we started working on it with the producer, it just kept getting better and better. We were like, “Holy crap, this is awesome!” Seriously, the first time Howard was recording in the studio and when he was singing the vocal melody that comes after the guitars, I was shaking. The feeling after we did all this was just awesome.
Because Devil You Know is a rather young band, you had loads of songwriting freedom for the first album. Did you feel limited to write music in a certain style this time, now that people are familiar with the band’s sound?
It’s interesting: With the first record, it’s true, we had freedom, because it was the first time being in a band and writing a record, but there were so many people trying to tell us what we should do, like “Oh, Howard should sound like this on the record, because it’s his big comeback” etc. and it was kind of frustrating. This time, part of the deal was to not get anybody involved in this, it would be just the band and the producer in the studio and the others would hear the record once it was done and they’d better like it (laughs). This way, we had 100 percent freedom. We actually have an acoustic song among the bonus tracks and I remember telling the label about it and they asked me “Are you sure this is a good idea?” and I told them “Trust me, it’s going to sound awesome” and it does. Honestly, I’m a fan of so much different music and my favorite metal bands are the ones that incorporate all the different styles and genres. To me, it’s so awesome to listen to such a record – you do have the ballad, the slow song, the fast songs – it’s a journey. Especially with this second record, it was a matter of creating that and I think we kind of did (laughs).
I remember that you guys wrote around 40 songs for “The Beauty Of Destruction”. With how much material did you enter the studio this time, and did you use any of the old material?
We thought we were going to use some of the material from the previous record, but we started writing new songs and they were better. So we kept writing and all the material on the new album is written after [the first release], which is actually weird, because we released “The Beauty Of Destruction” in April 2014, but at that time, that record was already done for months and months, so we already had new songs. We probably had half of this new record written before the first came out (laughs). This is why we thought that the actual new material is sounding better and in the end, we didn’t use any of the old material. We didn’t write so many songs this time, though. It was a little more planned, we knew that we wanted a certain song in the middle of the record and we wanted to start it with some heavy songs that have this or that kind of vibe and we did just that, focused on those things and tried to write the best songs we could. There were definitely less songs.
You already mentioned your producer – I guess it was good to work with him in the studio?
Oh yeah. We worked with Josh Wilbur. I’m a huge fan of his work with the bands he worked with, the engineering world and producing. For me, it was great to work with a guy like him and I only had heard good things about him. So we started working with him and he is just amazing, so talented and so good to work with on a personal level. He has become a friend of ours and we ended up hanging out with a friend while working – it was awesome. With some producers, you just don’t get there, so it’s always different, but this was a great experience.
Can you tell me something about the connection between the cover artwork and the main lyrical topics on “They Bleed Red”?
The concept of “They Bleed Red” is that we’re all vulnerable, we’re all the same and although we all can have different lives, jobs, comfort, be in different places, in the end, we all bleed red. The idea for the album cover was to have an image that unifies everybody – the world on the cover symbolizes all of us. And actually, I think that it’s kind of cool that it’s “They Bleed Red” and you see the world, but it’s obviously us. The big picture is the world and it’s bleeding, but then, inside the booklet, there are images that show certain individuals. It’s a very cool concept visually, and we worked with Travis Smith (Opeth, Devin Townsend) again, who is an amazing artist.
Devil You Know also recently released a new video for “The Way We Die”. Ever since I’ve seen it, I’ve been wondering how you guys came up with the location and working with the Burning Angels …
It was a funny thing because obviously, the record’s got a very serious and dark tone, but then we came up with the music video that is just silly and ridiculous. At the same time, we as a band were like “Let’s do something that is silly and different and not do a performance video in a warehouse” – which is 99 percent of metal videos. We’ve done that with other music videos, it’s just that this time, we didn’t want to worry about the performance part and just do something that is fun. The song is serious, but you’re going to finish the video with a smile on your face. It’s good to create some controversy, too, with people hating it and saying “You guys are stupid” or “This is horrible because you’ve got porn stars in your video” and people loving it and being like “Oh, this is my favorite porn star, this is awesome!” It’s fun to see the reactions.
Originally, the band was consisting of three members – you, Howard and John. Ryan [Wombacher, bass/backing vocals] has been touring with you guys and is a regular member of the band now. In your opinion, how did this change affect the band in general, and did he contribute to the songwriting, too?
I just feel like right now, as four, we’re really strong. We’re best friends and touring is fun – there’s a lot of laughing and we just hang out. That cool, mellow vibe translates to the way we write music. It’s weird to say that, because the music is mostly angry, but you’re not angry while you’re writing it or pissed off at home writing a song. With these guys, it’s not stressful and so much fun and the cool thing is also that because we started touring, we also started to spend more and more time together and now, we really know each other. You end up thinking more about the people in the band and writing something that’s going to be really good for them to play it. By now, we’re all more familiar with Howard’s range and we can really think of putting a foundation for a cool melody that you can come up with later. It’s definitely progressing that way.
I’m sure that people keep asking this question – are there any news from All Shall Perish?
Yeah, there are definitely things happening with All Shall Perish, we’re working on music and with a new singer. It’s not that we’re lazy, but there are some, let’s call it complications. It’s frustrating for us because we want to be back and tour and release new music, but that’s just how it is.
I know that many musicians have their very own pre-show rituals. What do you do before going on stage?
I usually just try to relax a little bit and then warm up – I need my 20-30 minutes of warm-up on the guitar. But actually, that’s the time when we all get together and spend some time chatting, making fun of each other and getting into the right mood to go on stage after everybody was walking around and doing their things during the day – nothing crazy. Maybe I’d have a couple of beers, but not too many, I have too many notes to play (laughs).
We’ve come to an end – anything you’d like to tell your (future) fans?
We’re going to be in Europe next month, so if you’re around and we’re playing your town, please come. It’s going to be a great show, we’re playing with two big bands, Five Finger Death Punch and Papa Roach, who obviously know what they’re doing. It’s going to be a good tour and we’re excited to be on a full European tour. And if you like what you hear, buy the CD or buy it beforehand – pre-order it now (laughs)!
Interviewed by Cristina Somcutean
Howard Jones – vocals
Francesco Artusato – guitars
Ryan Wombacher – bass/backing vocals
John Sankey – drums
DEVIL YOU KNOW – “They Bleed Red” out 6th November, 2015.
Pre-order the album here.
For all official tour dates, click here.