Devon Graves interview: "Psychotic Waltz don't really fit perfectly into any established category. We forged our own unique voice in the world of rock"

27/11/2012 @ 15:35
It might be the third time I'd be talking with Devon Graves during the last three years, but each time has been quite different and at the same time even more interesting. With a bunch of acoustic shows taking place in our country in a few days, we had the chance to talk about all his musical activities, the past, the present and the future, but also the special relationship between him and the Greek audience. From the 'Strange Mind Of Buddy Lackey' to 'the incredible Mr. Devon Graves' you can find out all the interesting stuff we talked about below...

Dear Devon, how are you doing?
Doing really fine, thank you. You?

I’m fine too. Well, I was thinking that it’s the third interview in 3 years and each one is quite different than the previous one! Would you like to sum up a little bit how things evolved from disbanding Dead Soul Tribe, to forming The Shadow Theory, releasing the debut album of The Shadow Theory, reuniting Psychotic Waltz and disbanding The Shadow Theory?
Well, that is not exactly my view on all this to be honest. I don’t see things in disbandment and ex-band sort of thinking. To me it is an organic journey of many experiences. These bands first exist  in our thought. They are venue in which to express certain feelings and ideas, but as a shared experience between like-minded partners. The body of work is part of our soul, and you never disband with part of your soul. Same for Deadsoul Tribe. I may release a new Deadsoul Tribe album very soon. Then again I may try an acoustic album. There will certainly be a new Psychotic Waltz album. The point is, any of these 'bands' is always a single thought away. At the moment the focus will be on Psychotic Waltz, but I am sure I will do a lot in this upcoming year. I am still in all these bands. It is just a matter of opportunity and which doors open to me along the way.

Devon GravesNow that the Psychotic Waltz reunion finally took place, were things as good as you expected them to be?
This time around, I didn’t expect anything. You know, when a band disappears for 15 years, you never know what to expect when you return after all that time.  There is a whole new generation of rock fans out there. How the hell are they gonna take Psychotic Waltz? The truth is it went better than I imagined it would.

All these years you’ve quite active while the other members were more or less away from the process of creating music. Are you now all on the same page or do you think that something has changed since the last album you made together? Is the chemistry still there?
I am sure the chemistry is still there. Some things never change. That said, we still have to really decide for ourselves which way we want to go into the future. A lot of people have opinions of what album they want the new one to sound like. But I don’t want it to sound like any of them. That is the whole point. We don’t need another Social Grace because we already have one. I want to take another step in the musical growth of Psychotic Waltz. I want this album to be our finest work. I want it to set a new standard for us. One thing we don’t have is the kind of time together we used to have. Therefore it is slow to get running with all the past tour preparation, and more recently with my studio redesign which took my personal time ever since. But as I said, now it is just about finished. In fact the studio came out so nice, I just cant wait to hear how it all sounds now. It is so beautiful in there that it inspires thoughts of only the finest music will be worthy. I am so inspired to start. 2013 will be a big year.

Devon GravesSo, how would you describe the new songs to someone really curious like me? Is distance a constraint to the writing process?
Having said what I just said, I think the biggest challenge we have is fulfilling our own expectations. So far a lot of cool riffs, songs and ideas have been put forward. Personally I am still waiting for that ONE that really makes me believe we are into our finest work yet. But things will move forward much faster after December. Then I begin to roll up my own sleeves in writing some Psychotic. Also, Dan needs to start putting in some Epic Space Rock that he promised me. Things have been slow, but once they get rolling, it will come together rather quickly I think.

No doubt, there is this special connection between you, Psychotic Waltz and the Greek audience. If someone followed your social media pages, he could easily claim that the Psychotic Waltz reunion was a demand from your Greek fans, then you came for two amazing shows here and now you’re coming back for a solo acoustic tour. Would you like to try to explain this bond from your side? Isn’t it amazing?
It is a great feeling I confess, but I was never so sure it was about the Greek audience and Psychotic Waltz specifically. But really the Greek rock fan and how they feel about their music period. The Greek audience is very passionate about their music, and they are not afraid to show their feelings. With a combination like that any band they love is gonna feel special. I think it is important to not let that go to your head as an artist. Cause when we pack up and move on, they are gonna love the next thing that comes along too. But yes, personally I am digging it.

Devon GravesWhat I really appreciated about the PW shows was that they weren’t just 'a job to be done', as you played for two and a half hours! 28 songs! Of course, I am pretty sure that someone complained for his favorite one that you didn’t play, haha. What do you recall from these nights?
It seems like it is over in the blink of an eye. I remember images and feelings from my perspective on the stage, so my personal experience was different than anyone else in the room (as was everyones), yet we were all connected by this same feeling of an emotion that would grow and evolve throughout the concert. Different songs were a different emotional ride, but one feeling remained constant. I guess you could call it gratitude.

Yet, having in mind that it’s been quite a while since these songs were released, today the are considered as classics, especially among the progressive metal fans. Why do you think that happens and what is the element that makes Psychotic Waltz so special?
I can only tell you why it is special to me. I like it because we don’t really fit perfectly into any established category. We forged our own unique voice in the world of rock.  We have our influences, but they are extremely broad influences. Therefore our musical scope is very broad. Yet at the same time, a common thread runs though it. Every song is different but you can always tell it is us.

Devon GravesIf you could pick one band that would make the ideal pair for Psychotic Waltz to tour with, which one would this be?
Either Katatonia or Opeth would do nicely. My favorite would be to open for Black Sabbath. But it would only count if Bill Ward were with the rest of the original guys.

Moving on now, what should we expect from the upcoming acoustic shows? I suppose songs from your entire career as well as some covers, but just give us a few hints.
I will pay a visit to just about everywhere I have been since the beginning. Naturally I have to do a lot of Deadsoul Tribe songs because that is my guitar playing, and I can do it properly. I am playing a lot of songs I never played live before. Some are electric songs completely rearranged into new acoustic songs. You’ll see. I am really happy with the set I put together.

Devon GravesHow different is it for you to express yourself as a solo artist than a member of a band? Recently I had a talk with Geoff Tate from Queensryche and he told me that 'being in a band is compromising'. Do you agree?
If I say I agree, I would go further that most human interaction results in compromise. But I think it is the key to human evolution. That said, sometimes an artist can better express his or her ideas without that compromise others sometimes impose. On the other hand, if people are musically compatible and they have that chemistry, even greater things can be possible. But it is a matter of having a common vision. Or at least a compatible contrasting vision. Personally I like to go back and forth. I am that way though. I like variety, especially in my work.

Ok. Then, what went wrong with The Shadow Theory? I personally loved (and still love) the album, it was my number 1 for 2010 and it was among the top releases according to our editors’ choices. Was it mostly internal or external reasons that didn’t help the band to continue?
I couldn’t tell you my friend. Personally I think that album could be the best of my career. The reviews were great and the response was fantastic. It just didn’t sell, they tell me. Weird stuff. Maybe it got squashed by Psychotic Waltz, or maybe the ball was dropped on the sales floor. Either way, it is a pity because I really had high hopes for The Shadow Theory. That band would have been a total monster on stage.

Devon GravesWould you see any possibility of making new music with Demi and Arne in the future, if the chance appears?
As I said before, there is no 'disbandment' in my thinking. Life is only this very moment. Life is only this very tick of the clock. Whatever tomorrow brings, tomorrow will bring. If the door opens for The Shadow Theory I will be very happy to spend some ticks of the clock with those guys.

Is there any other musician that you’ve met during these years and you’d like to collaborate with on a project? What about Arjen Lucassen who’s preparing the new Ayreon album as we speak? Your work on "The Human Equation" was amazing and you seemed to work good together...
Sure, but then again, Arjen works well with anyone. He knows what he is doing, and what he wants to do. He also knows where to find me if he needs to. At the moment I am really looking forward to collaborate with Psychotic. But just off the top of my head, Kitaro might be cool.

Now, what happened to that Dead Soul Tribe DVD?
Actually we still have that. I am actually doing a final mix and the video is still in a first cut form. We just never finished so far because there is no door opened to it at the moment. At the moment everybody wants to focus on Psychotic. Especially the labels who finance the thing. On that point, I am working on a whole new way to put my music out directly. It will allow me to do a lot more work (New Deadsoul Tribe album, Live Deadsoul Tribe DVD, Acoustic album, New Strange Mind album?). And have it available to anyone who wants it. In fact you don’t even have to pay if you don’t want to.

Devon GravesIt’s ten years since "A Murder Of Crows" was released and I still consider it as one of the best albums that were released in the previous decade. It has something special and I think it is your best personal work. Do you agree?
It is strange, but I have to agree. If you knew the panic that album was written and recorded under you would laugh. I think I started and completed the whole thing in 3 months. That includes all the writing. When it was finished I didn’t think it was as good as the first one. Adel and I both said 'We will make it up on the next album'. But I think I was just too close to the production for too long to have the proper perspective. Only time has its way of doing that. I think it is my best 'solo' album, but I think other albums have certain songs that are just as cool, or better. I should make a 'Best of' album and it will rule.

Devon GravesAll these great songs from Deadsoul Tribe and The Shadow Theory deserve to be played live. Would you consider forming a live band, so as to play songs from these albums?
Maybe I can just get Psychotic Waltz to play some of it with me. It would be fitting actually, because any Deadsoul Tribe song they would pick would have been a Psychotic Waltz song anyway sooner or later, had there never been a Deadsoul Tribe. The Shadow Theory is different though, because that was a different group of writers. I would like to play TST with The Shadow Theory though.

Devon, thank you once again for your time. Can’t wait to hear new music from you really soon and of course see your acoustic shows here.
Looking forward too, my friend!