Following their month long tour of Europe with Halestorm, New Zealand’s finest, Devilskin return to the UK for a series of 10 dates in just 12 days. I was lucky to chat with vocalist Jennie Skulander and bassist Paul Martin before their gig in Hobo’s in my home town of Bridgend.
PD: Welcome back to the UK, you’ve got 10 shows in just 12 days, are you gluttons for punishment?
PM: Yeah, that’s how we roll.
PD: What can we expect from the live shows this time around?
JS: Lots of energy, we’ve got a few new songs in there, depending on places we might have some props as well.
PD: You’ve just come off a European tour with Halestorm, with the last date being a week ago in Madrid. How was the tour for you?
JS: So good (laughs) it was amazing.
PD: Loads of different countries?
JS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
PM: It’s all a bit of a blur really, there was a lot of countries, a lot of gigs in a row and a lot of travelling around for us, but man, it was such a good time. They were really good to us, the crew were amazing to us and we were playing to ready made crowds that as soon as we hit our first song they were in our pockets. It was really cool, really cool.
PD: Can you tell us a bit about the origins of Devilskin?
PM: Basically Jennie, myself and Nail were playing in different bands and we were all sort of fans of each others bands, we’d do the odd gig together. When Jennies band broke up, we sort of made a b-line for Jen, on the premise of just getting together for a jam. Jen said, “Yeah, as long as we don’t do any hard out gigging, or go out of town or anything. Let’s just keep it simple.” And we were like “Sure!” It kind of went from there. Our original drummer had a motorcycle accident and was on a waiting list for an operation. We had some dates booked in and he couldn’t do them, so I roped in my son, Nic, who was fifteen at the time…
PD: Wow! Just fifteen?
PM: Yeah and basically, once he played with us, we didn’t look back. It was just the line up solidified. Everyone felt great. It was all coming down from a mutual admiration for each others skills and talents if you like. It’s been a really cool journey. Now, after making the bed for 8 years together, we are rock solid now. And Jennie’s my sister-in-law now.
PM: So it’s pretty tight. We just need to adopt Nail…(laughs) everyone thinks we’re brothers anyway…
PD: The evil twin??
PD: Has the band’s sound changed over the years, if so, how?
PM: Yeah, definitely, I think we’ve matured as songwriters and we’re not afraid to take more chances in the studio now and we’re a lot more confident in the studio than we had been. The last record has been a big leap from the first record and it feels like it’s organically growing and I think it’s just a confidence thing really.
PD: Do you think things take longer, now that you are more confident and want to try different things?
PM: I think you can’t rush stuff like that, it’s gotta happen when the time is right and you can’t push things. Everything’s felt really organic for us from the beginning, things just naturally progress and evolve. When we did our first album tour we were only a few gigs into it and found out that the album had gone to number 1 and gone Gold back home. Things like that get us by surprise and we just keep rolling with it. Cool things keep happening, we get offered bigger gigs. It’s all just growing exponentially.
PD: You have just released the powerful ‘Endo’, a track that is obviously personal to Jennie. Have you had any feedback from Endometriosis sufferers and support groups, regarding the messages contained within that track?
PM: Endometriosis New Zealand, the foundation for Endometriosis in New Zealand, got in touch and they were just overwhelmed by the fact that we were bringing attention to the subject. Also, we’ve had a lot of fans write in and say “Hey, I can identify with this.” “I’ve suffered with this for years.” It’s so wide-spread. I know that Nail, Nic and myself didn’t really know too much about it until Jen got it. It’s really opened our eyes and we know so many people affected by it. It’s brilliant to go and raise awareness and get people talking about it.
PD: Yes, it’s one of those conditions that, when you actually look into it, you realise that so many women are affected by it. It was pretty frightening to see just how devastating it can be and that the word has to go out about it. It is something the needs people’s attention.
PD: Tough question now, what has been your proudest moment in music?
JS: There’s been many. We’ve gone to number 1 with 2 albums in New Zealand, we’ve gone Gold, we’ve gone Platinum in New Zealand, played Download Festival in the UK, touring with Halestorm, winning a New Zealand music award for Best Rock Artist’.
PD: I can do a list, that’s not a problem (laughs)
JS: Yeah, I mean there’s so many….we played Whiskey A Go Go….
PM: Yeah, there’s quite a list. I think for me on this last tour with Halestorm, Arejay the drummer, does this incredible solo every night. He and Nic get on really well and he’s been dragging Nic out with him for a ‘Drum War’ sort of thing for this drum solo and especially as his dad, it’s like the proudest ‘Dad moment’ I can get. I’m sitting there watching that night after night and it’s freaking amazing you know?
There’s been a lot of great moments and everything that Jennie said is mind- blowing enough so it can’t be put down to one moment really.
PD: But there’s been a lot of good ones?
PM: There has, yeah.
PD: If someone came up to you and asked to play them a track that defines you, which one would you choose? And I will only let you have one.
Both: umming and arring…
PD: Paul you look like you’re really thinking hard about this one…
PM: I really am, to me all the songs are like…have their own life and their own personality and character, like this one’s really good ‘cos it’s fast and thrashy and this one’s really deep and emotive, this one is spine-tingly. If I had to pick one song, I would have to know the person, know what type of song they’re looking for, you know. We’ve got a song called ‘Animal’, on which Jennie gives such a great vocal delivery that I’ve noticed it instantly gets everyone’s attention. We’ve got another song called ‘Limbs’ that’s really epic and seems to get everyone’s attention as well. Also our faster stuff that gets people’s necks snapping, I think it would be ‘We Rise’, from out first album for that feel that we had and the whole energy we had at the beginning.
PD: Jennie, you didn’t answer…
JS: Yeah, I don’t know, we’ve got so many different songs, it’s hard to pick one to define us.
PD: Is there one that you’re proudest of?
JS: Yeah, I like performing ‘Animal’ it’s a great song, Endo is a new favourite, but it sounds a little different to what we normally do. It’s kinda heavier, especially in the riffs. It’s a hard one.
PD: Who would you say has been your main influences in your music career?
PM: For me I’d have to say Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin all the old school metal acts that I grew up with, Judas Priest. Yeah a lot of that stuff influenced me quite heavily and still does to this day. Having said that I like a lot of new stuff. I like Periphery and I like Good Tiger and a whole bunch of bands. I think I’m getting influenced all the time by so many, but I would have to put down my main influences are Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and definitely Judas Priest.
JS: For me it would be, Deftones, Faith No More, Jeff Buckley, The Mars Volta……Coheed and Cambria. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head.
PD: What plans has the band got after the UK tour ends on the 11th November?
PM: I think we get maybe a week off but we will be rehearsing and we have some production rehearsals that we’ve got a small tour around New Zealand with another band called Blindspott. We’ll do some beach shows and some pretty big shows with them. And we’re hoping to be in Australia in January. Yeah, we’ve got a few bits and pieces in the pipeline like release another single and record another album.
PD: So you don’t rest then?
PM: Not really (laughs) This is rest time, right now.
PD: You’ve already partly answered this one, but how is 2019 shaping up for the band?
PM: We’ve got a lot on…We got a really, really good reception in Europe, especially around Sweden, Denmark and Norway and stuff like that, so we’re really keen to get back there and try and get our foot in the door for some of the festivals and do more of a comprehensive tour around the place. I think it’s important that we’ve just been there and we don’t disappear for like 2 years,we’ve got to act quite smartly and keep our name going. So there’ll be a lot more touring and we’ll be recording an album early in the year somewhere. We’ve demoed something like 30 songs for it. So I think we’re pretty much ready. So you can’t take your foot off the throat for a minute, you’ve got to keep rolling. It’s all about momentum and keeping things moving.
PD: Great stuff. Final question then. Have you got a message for the readers of this interview?
PM: Thank you very much for reading. We hope you guys check us out on YouTube etc. (all the links are below) We are really happy to be here, this is our first time in Wales and it’s a real treat to be here. It’s a long way to come. We’ve been to the UK a few times so coming to Wales was on our list of ‘must do’s’. We are totally grateful for the response that we’ve had and I think that there’s something about the Welsh and the Kiwis, there’s a bit of a bond there, you know, especially with ….well I’m a mad rugby fan, so there’s always been something a bit special, there’s always been a mutual respect between the Welsh and the Kiwis and it’s a real blast just being here.
PD: Wow, thanks for that and many thanks for taking the time to chat to us today. Good luck with the gig tonight and the rest of the tour.
PM: Thanks for the chat, hope you enjoy it.
JS: Great, thanks Pete.
Band location – Hamilton New Zealand
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