Latest release: The Beauty Of Destruction (Nuclear Blast/Universal)
Band site: www.facebook.com/devilyouknowofficial
“I went through a lot of crap,” Howard Jones reflects on the genesis of new venture Devil You Know. “And what’s weird (is) just getting to know these guys and everything, they wrote stuff that fit what I went through.
“The music is, it’s technical, but at the same time it has emotion, and that’s what drew me to it. Like, ‘wow, this is completely different from the stuff I’ve done, and I’ve wanted to do that’. There’s one song in particular where I was like, ‘oh my God, I’ve been waiting for this song all my life. I’ve got this’,” he laughs. “It’s just been an amazing adventure. I’m a lucky guy to get to do this again with a few friends, and here we are. I came up with the name just because it seemed to fit what I had been through, and what we kinda were.”
New projects boasting high-profile members can seemingly be just that – a project. Conversely, others emanate a fully-fledged gang mentality. Devil You Know’s blistering, yet accessible debut full-length The Beauty Of Destruction represents the latter. The union of ex-Killswitch Engage and Blood Has Been Shed front-man Jones, Australian drummer John Sankey (Devolved, long-time collaborator with Fear Factory) and All Shall Perish shredder Francesco Artusato feels fresh. A churning vortex of memorable riffs and epic melodies, contrasted with unexpected, intriguing detours throughout, it was produced by veteran knob-twiddler Logan Mader and mixed by reputable Chris “Zeuss” Harris.
Having voiced the Grammy-nominatedKillswitch Engage though nearly a decade oftouring andtwo gold records,personal issues led to Jones’ departure from the Massachusetts metallers. However, his new band-mates’ vision inspired him and on Devil You Know’s inaugural LP, the imposing front-man appears motivated again. Vein-popping screams and silky smooth crooning accentuate the clinical, groove-driven, melodic death-infused metalcore assault.
The day after their appearance at the Sydney leg of the recent Soundwave juggernaut, Loud meets up with three-fifths of the band at their hotel. “I had taken some time away from music,” Jones says. “I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do. One thing was for certain: I didn’t want to join anything that sounded remotely like Killswitch. When I heard what John and Francesco had been writing, it was immediate for me. It made me want to be creative and go back out there and prove myself again.”
“Three, four years ago John and I started writing some songs for fun,” Artusato explains. “Then we got to a point, I don’t remember exactly when, we had ten or 15 songs. We started thinking about singers; who was available and people we knew. I think John e-mailed Howard; we e-mailed Howard like three songs. We thought that was our first choice… And then we heard back from him a week later or something. Saying, ‘I really dig the stuff, let’s do this’. A few months later he flew down to L.A and started working on the stuff.”
A four-song demo made its way to Nuclear Blast Entertainment label head Monte Conner, who had known Jones while presiding over the A&R department at Killswitch Engage’s label, Roadrunner. After a few listens, Conner was sold and signed Devil You Know. The band – whose touring line-up is completed by guitarist Roy Lev-Ari and bassist Ryan Wombacher, also of metalcore heavyweights Bleeding Through – was rooted in a simple enough mindset which perhaps belies the complexity of the founders’ previous endeavours.
“John and I, we both come from really technical bands,” Artusato continues. “Just thinking about writing music, we didn’t want to have something that was strictly just technical the whole time. Something that would be a little more fun to play live; I have to think about the actual riffs, I can just enjoy playing. So that was like the theme in the beginning. We wrote almost 40 songs before we hit the studio, so it was like a big evolution of the band.
“Probably the first ten songs that we wrote were on the heavy side; really heavy. Then we started thinking about, especially after we knew he was the singer, we thought, man, we really have to write the right music for Howard. There’s certain things that I love specifically about his voice that I felt like, ‘I would love to hear this’. And then it just happened, as soon as he would work on it, it would be like, ‘that’s exactly what I would love to hear on that part’.
“It just kept evolving. Even in the studio we kind of did 18 songs, pretty much. The band was still evolving in the studio while we were recording, and then we got to, ‘this should be the 12 songs on the record’… But there’s a lot of variation. There’s some heavy songs and some very mellow songs. The overall vibe I feel is like, it’s pretty dark lyrically and musically.”
When quizzed for further insight into his lyric writing approach, Jones shrugs. “You just get a feeling with each song, and then there it is. There were certain songs where it was, boom, there it is. Then there were some you have to work with and you’re like, ‘this is terrible’, and then you re-write it. But some of the songs, it just came. It’s like they wrote stuff, that like, it actually gave me the feeling of where I was in my life. I got to write stuff that really meant something. They weren’t the easiest songs to write or sing, but they’re as honest and direct as anything I’ve ever written.”
As referenced earlier, Devil You Know had such a wealth of material at their disposal they even considered unleashing a double album. They remain adamant said unreleased cuts will see the light of day eventually.“I was lucky enough to be able to hear a couple of the songs that aren’t on the record, I heard like three extra ones, and they’re just as good as any of the songs that are on the record,” Wombacher enthuses. “They’re great. It’s like picking your favourite child – you can’t tell the other one that they’re your favourite. You go in the other room and say, ‘hey, you’re my favourite’.”
Their drummer’s considerable work ethic was also a crucial facet facilitating the band’s prolific nature. “I love working with him, just writing music with him,” Artusato says. “When we started, it felt like finally I’ve got somebody who just… I can send him a riff at midnight, and he’ll just send something back at like one o’clock. Just incredible working with him, and he never stops.”
“John is one of those guys who is completely committed to doing music,” Jones elaborates. “He loves music more than anyone I think I’ve ever met. This is all he’s wanted to do with his life, and he’s good at what he does. He is just an amazing person. He’s one of the nicest guys, but one of the most committed guys in the world.”
The camaraderie within the ranks is readily evident throughout our conversation. Several passages of Loud’s half-hour chat degenerate into various in-jokes regarding Lev-Ari,a long-time friend of Artusatowith whom he attended the Berklee College of Music.“Roy” has clearly and unwittingly assumed the role of being his colleagues’ unintentional source of amusement, particularly for the burly singer, who frequently bursts into raucous laughter when discussing his antics.
A quick rundown of some Roy “facts” seems necessary at this point. He’s sometimes referred to as the Artist Formerly Known as Roy; the symbol is a giant “r”. There’s a potential documentary regarding Devil You Know called Roy. His sweat may be bottled for a band-branded scent called “Essence of Roy”. The new outfit was also tentatively slated to be dubbed Roy, or Roy and the Roys.
According to the vocalist, he’s a “comedian that doesn’t know he’s a comedian”. “Every band has that guy, but he’s that guy to the infinite level,” Jones says. “He is the best. I love him, all of us love him. He’s the greatest guy in the world. But still – Roy,” he cackles, literally clutching his sides with laughter.
Another key factor of the still burgeoning band’s gelling as a unit were their Soundwave appearances, among their first shows. The members believe it has laid vital foundations, even if punters in attendance weren’t then privy to the album. “It’s pretty weird that we’re introduced this way, at a festival,” Wombacher ponders.“It’s such a trip… Most bands before they do any type of festival or one festival show, they’ve done numerous tours and bands know about them, that’s how they get on a fest. This is our introduction, which is great. Yesterday was great; a few people lined up the barrier knew about us and knew who was in the band, but they don’t know what it sounds like, so they’re excited. As long as they’re entertained, that’s all we can really ask for right now.”
A slew of fans are rapidly becoming well and truly familiar with the new songs and the band’s identity. The Beauty Of Destruction was released in April, selling about 6000 copies in the US in its first week of release to debut at No. 45 on the Billboard 200 chart. The band is currently supporting Black Label Society and Down on this year’s Revolver Golden Gods Tour,and have plans to tackle the European festival circuit.
“We seriously don’t know how this stuff happened,” Jones says of current and future plans. “It’s just kind of snowballed and it’s moving forward, and we’re happy. I’m a bit shocked at how naturally this has all come together. In past bands there have always been difficult personalities, difficult situations. This band has been the exact opposite. There’s no stopping this. There’s nothing we can’t face.”