Devon Graves, frontman and flute player for the symphonic metal band The Shadow Theory, spoke with me about the band’s new release, Behind The Black Veil. After four years in the making, the band has created a record that is a hard-hitting, riff-driven collection of tunes accentuated by flute playing and fantastic melodies. Here is what Graves had to say about Behind The Black Veil.
Now that your brand new CD, Behind The Black Veil, is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Devon: I am very satisfied musically. As a mixer, I am still learning and it is a fascinating process. I think it is also my best mix so far, but in retrospect I think the bass guitar is just a tad too loud. Fortunately we have a remarkable bass player so it serves to highlight his performance.
Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?
Devon: The instrumental compositions are mostly written by Demi (keyboardist) and Arni (Guitarist). They collaborate via email using Logic (a digital audio production software program) and send the finished results to me. It is a fascinating process because Arne may send Demi a collection of guitar riffs. From there Demi will assemble certain riffs together, and then add all the instrumentation around it using MIDI instruments in Logic. Drums, Bass, Keys, orchestration… He will come out with a fabulously colored and detailed composition built around these guitar riffs, and Arne and I are just amazed how he can bring music to life this way. I audition everything and choose only the compositions that really knock me out.
I am not afraid to work them hard over this, and they welcome the challenge. Out of the 11 songs on this album, there were well over 100 pieces passed over. I am not only looking for the best music, but the most appropriate music for the kind of album I want to make. Therefore some very fine music often gets put aside in favor of certain other compositions. From there, I import the tracks into my Pro Tools rig and begin to arrange the compositions to my taste. I may cut parts out if I think they need to go. I may repeat parts if they need repeating. Often I completely rearrange the whole thing.
For example, an intro might be moved and copied turned into the verses. The choruses may be turned into a middle section and middle sections into choruses. I do whatever is necessary to write the most compelling vocal lines I can. By the time Demi and Arne hear the finished versions, they sometimes don’t even recognize the songs anymore! But they are always happy with my decisions and they really enjoy the surprise in the end.
Give us some insight into the record and the meaning behind its title?
Devon: It is my first attempt at what is called a “concept album”. Basically though, it’s a ghost story, kind of inspired by people like Edgar Allen Poe and King Diamond. “Behind the Black Veil” kind of means “behind the veil of death.” I don’t want to illuminate too much because it’s like giving away the plot of a movie. But in a nutshell, it is about a drug addict rock star who has an overdose and slips into a perpetual dream state, waking from one nightmare to the next. As each new dream is entered, the same story continues.
Are there any tracks that are personal favorites or that have good stories behind them?
Devon: I like different tracks for different reasons. I like “A Symphony of Shadows” for its complexity and I like “Selebrate” for its simplicity. I am most satisfied with the mix of “By the Crossroads”. I am really happy with the album as a whole. I must admit though, that I usually skip the song “A Candle in the Gallery” because it is really not a song, but an atmospheric bridge before the final track. I used this piece to fill in the story so I can bring it to its conclusion with “A Symphony of Shadows”. I like the piece, but I don’t always want to sit through it.
The art work is quite amazing. How is it tied to the album’s title?
Devon: It is not directly connected with the title per se, but it depicts the house where most of the story takes place. Also in the doorway stands the woman who is a prominent figure in the story as well. Note how she is posed as if she is playing the violin.
How much roadwork do you expect to be doing this 2011?
Devon: As it looks so far, little to none. Coincidentally, I have also announced the reuniting of my first band Psychotic Waltz. This has created such a stir in the scene that unfortunately The Shadow Theory is kind of being overlooked. But Behind the Black Veil is now getting such a good response all over the world; hopefully we will get the appropriate recognition once the dust settles.
Are you looking at any particular bands you’ll be touring with?
Devon: As I just mentioned, Psychotic Waltz will be touring Europe in February and March with Nevermore and Symphony X. That is about all I have on the docket at the moment.
What artists would fans be surprised to find on your iPod?
Devon: I don’t have an iPod. I do listen to a lot of Seal though on CD.
Tell me about a book or two that you’ve read that you think other people should read.
Devon: “Anastasia” by Vladimir Megre and “The Grapes of Wrath”. Compare and contrast.
If you had not become a musician what other career path would you have liked to attempt?
Devon: I would love to be in movies. I don’t know if I can act though. Writer-director would be cool. I do have some screenplays I am writing, but lately they are not getting worked on much. I have two comedies and one psycho-thriller.
What three words best describe your band?
Devon: Dark yet colorful, Bombastic yet melodic, Broad yet unified. I guess that is six words.
If you were a superhero, who would it be and why?
Devon: I wouldn’t be a superhero. I would be the Greek God Procrastinatos! The God of further contemplation. That’s my little joke because sometimes it takes me a long time to do things I want to do. A good case in point is my collection of screenplays. Another year goes by…
Any closing words?
Devon: Please support your starving artists. Download for a taste, but buy what you really like. If everyone downloads their music for free, soon (and I mean very soon) the only music left alive won’t be worth paying for. One by one the independent labels are already going bankrupt. If this keeps on, the only thing that will remain is the large corporate labels spoon feeding the world with empty pop garbage.
Their interest is to slow down human thought. To remove emotion, creativity passion and content and replace it with a “shut up and dance” mentality. All music which provokes thought or feeling, and especially creates a sense of unity among people is to be wiped clean away. And it’s working. Everyone who’s CD collection is comprised of burned copies is party to the destruction of the very music they love. So stand up, support and protect what you love. For those who do, we truly thank you. [ END ]