Full Devil Jacket was a band on the rise in 2000, touring with acts such as Creed, Nickelback, and Type O Negative. One fateful night, while on tour with Creed, Josh Brown’s life changed when he accidentally overdosed and nearly died. That brush with death caused Josh to walk away from the music he loved in order to save his life.
For years, Josh couldn’t bring himself to return to a life of music. He had lost the desire. Over time, Josh regained that desire and once again began to feel that the purpose of his life was to create music. Once he regained that feeling the songwriting came back. With his rejuvenated energy and new found faith, he started the Christian rock band, Day of Fire, which quickly received a Grammy nomination. Over the past 15 years, there have been numerous attempts to reunite the original members of Full Devil Jacket. But with the loss of original member Mike Reeves to cancer and commitments by other members of the band, the timing was never right. Until one day Josh reached out to Keith Foster and told him he wanted to start making Full Devil Jacket music again.
Fifteen years later, after walking away from the music and band he loved, at the Fish Head Cantina in Baltimore, Maryland, I had the opportunity to sit down with Josh to talk about music, life, faith, art and the reformation of the band. Josh is joined by original member Keith Foster and long time friends Moose Douglas and Paul Varnick. Full Devil Jacket is currently reintroducing themselves to their old fans via their new album Valley of Bones (March 31, 2015).
Would you describe this as a reunion of the band or a resurrection?
Brown: I would say a resurrection. We were definitely out of the scene for years. Honestly, I never though I’d do another Full Devil Jacket record again. When I exited the band in 2002 it was dead to me. Music was dead to me. For the next 2.5 years I couldn’t write songs. I couldn’t perform. It was just gone. I eventually started another band called Day of Fire and I never thought this band would resurrect itself and that we would ever put out another record, but we did. I didn’t expect it and, you know, I didn’t even desire it. It just happened.
Check out the song “Killers” here.
With you and Keith as the only original members was it important to keep to the same sound or the spirit of the band? Or were you really just open to whatever came?
Brown: The spirit of the band is the same because the lyrical content comes from the same place. My mission as a writer is to write what I see from my perspective. That’s the way it’s always been. You can look at my other bands, Day of Fire, and A New Rebel and even though it seems like there might be a change in it stylistically, the core of it is the same. It’s the world as I see it. This record and the resurrection of Full Devil Jacket is more of a stylistically thing. I’ve always been singing about the same things. I’ve been on the same journey, the same road my whole life and this is just a continuation of where I’m at.
With the addition of the new guys, who are your friends… you and I chatted about that earlier… how has their musical essence changed a little bit of the sound from the original foundation of the music?
Brown: Well one of the core members of this band was, Mike Reeves, who passed away a few years back. He had a battle with cancer. Mike reeves was a great man, a great friend, and a great guitarist, great artist. We went back to the first record, and pulled a few elements from it. But we didn’t try to create the first record again because that element of the band is gone. Out of respect for him we started where that record left off and then we just continued out with our own creativity.
I just saw the show and you’re only playing a few songs in your set. I believe only one song from the new album. Is this tour a practice tour to get ready for something larger where you will debut all the original music from the new album?
Brown: Every tour is a practice for the next tour. There’s no way to practice for playing live accept by playing live. We’re out here with Adrenaline Mob. Out here with Drowning Pool. These guys are veterans, man. They’re awesome. They’re great people. Veterans of the road. Our mission with this set is to show people we’re back. This is what you remember. Here’s a little bit of what’s new. And as it’s reveled to radio and social media and all that we will begin to play more and more songs.
In another interview I read someone asked you about coming back and recreating the band, but you weren’t ready for it. You came back to do the charity event for your friend that passed away from cancer and at some point after that you were ready to come back. I don’t know if it was Keith or you that said you “didn’t know if you could do this again.” I believe it was you that said “we’re going to do this and we’re ready.”
Brown: In my life, if I’m not flowing in my own creativity, all of my life suffers. My family suffers. Everything suffers in my life if I’m not following in creativity. I called Keith Foster up about doing a new project and he was like, “let’s do Full Devil Jacket.” I’m like “man, we tried. We tried a bunch of times and it’s never worked.” He’s like, “we can do it!” And I made a commitment to him. I was like, “I don’t know if it can be done but I’ll tell you this. I’ll come down to Jackson and we’ll do a record. And if we can re-launch this thing, we will. But I guarantee you and me can do a record.” The sad thing about this music industry and the music business is not everyone can do it. Not everyone should want to do it. It’s a hard life, but it’s what I do.
When you and Keith decided to put the band back together how did you decide to select the additional members you have in the band today?
Brown: Well this whole project has continued and it began with people that wanted to be in the room that were dedicated to what we were doing. There’s not a person that’s a part of this project that doesn’t want to be here. From band, to management, to label. Everybody is focused on the same goal. It’s just kinda worked itself out. The other founding members of the band were not able to give the same commitment because life happens. Now, my life cannot function without me moving in my own creativity. Not everybody’s life is like that. Everybody’s life is like that but their gifts lie in different areas so we had to step away from a few friends that were not in the same place we were and we looked around and musicians I grew up with were ready to step in because they had the same vision we did.
Fans of music, when they want to talk to bands, always want to know about the creative process. Can you describe Full Devil Jacket’s creative process? Lyrics, musical structure? How does the music come together for you guys?
Brown: This record was a combination of concepts, ideas, and songs from melodies that I came up with on my own. And music that the band came up with by themselves. It was a mesh of both things. There’s no formula. A standard formula for writing songs. And if you get caught up in your standard formula, that’s how you get rock and roll that really isn’t genuine and doesn’t have conviction. This record we were able to take songs I wrote on the acoustic and songs that the band came up with on their own and put it all together and you have a collaboration of creativity. A collaboration of songwriting. That’s how my life functions, through collaborating.
Do you find that it’s an either or? Or mix? Is it the lyrics that drive a song or do you have a beat and then from the beat of that music the songs come to you?
Brown: It’s both ways, but if a song is lyrically-driven the music has to be on par with the lyrics. Vice versa, If the song is created through music first, if it’s intense enough and real enough to put lyrics to, then it all has flow, it all has to be genuine.
So what can the fans of Full Devil Jacket, the original fans, expect from the new album?
Brown: You can expect to start where the first record left off, but we venture into a lot of new territories.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to listen to the entire album. Not once, but many times! It has the feel of a band whose been together for years. The sound is tight and the lyrics are rich, deep and stay with you. How do you feel about the new album now that it’s done?
Brown: It sounds cliché, but it’s the greatest record I’ve been a part of and it’s not the best record we’ll ever do because the next record is gonna be the best record we’ve ever done. But I’m super-proud of it because I’ve done a lot of records and this is the first one that I’ve got this response off of. Because on this record it’s life or death, everything is laid on the line and we’re talking about families and children and that’s what’s on the line here. It’s life or death.
Check out the song “Valley of Bones” here.
In an interview with Examiner.com you share, “You have to live life to be able to write music about it…. This record is genuine. It speaks to my life. It’s honest! You can see that in the songs.” Fans always want to know what inspires music, what inspires the lyrics. If you picked one song off the new album, could you describe how you came about writing it or what could fans interpret what you wrote?
Brown: The record carries a story line through it and it dealt with personal triumphs and failures, but it also deals with the world around us. My favorite song on the record is probably “Picturebox Voodoo.” It’s the most dangerous song on the record in content and I feel my mission as a songwriter is to give my perspective, right or wrong. This is the way I see it. That song “Picturebox Voodoo” is the most truthful of my world view as it is today. Every song on that record. My heart and soul is inside of it. I love all of them, but that would be my favorite and that’s what rock and roll is missing, DANGER. It’s missing danger. I went and saw this band that I love in Nashville and there were three bands and it was a well performed, great light show, great sound, beautiful, easy to digest package of rock and roll. Rock and roll should not be that easy to digest. It should be dangerous and have something to say and if there’s no revolt you can’t have rock and roll. And I revolt against all of it every bit of it. Because all I do is speak what I see.
I understand you commissioned a serious artist to do the cover? Seriously, when did you take up art? Was this a one-time thing or a part of your life? Where can your fans see other pieces of your work?
Brown: I haven’t said this much, but it’s the truth. This will be the first that I’ve said this. But the one person who has been a fire starter in my life when it comes to art has been my brother Matt Brown. He’s five years older than me and he gave me my first guitar. He also became a tattoo artist when I was fifteen years old. My entire life has revolved around art and music. And because of who he is in my life I reach for these things – Art and Music. I grew up in tattoo shops since I was fifteen years old, and I’ve played music since I was fifteen years old. And that’s how I met these guys, the guys that have come into the band now. I met them when I was fifteen years old. We’ve hung our entire lives and, I attribute Matt Brown to that. And if somebody wants to check out my art, they can check it out at JoshBrownart.com. LOVE THE SET UP!!! You gotta put that in by the way.
I know faith plays a big part of your life. Does this show in the new album?
Brown: Man, if you could see the process, the two year process that it took to get this album done and, you know, as a writer that faith in your own creativity and the source of that creativity, that’s what you live on. You somehow know there’s something inside of you that believes if I follow the path and the voice in my heart, somehow everything works out. It may be a war to get there. Faith, faith plays an incredible part in my life, man. There are so many aspects of my life that need work, that need to be developed and I just believe that just as I believed that this record would see the light of day and connect to people that the rest of my life would work out the same. If I can be honest with myself and be honest with those around me, that is faith and it’s everything to me.
As you’ve matured as an artist, is it important I think probably when you started out there was a trajectory that you wanted to be something, you wanted to be the most popular thing. As you’ve matured, and grown in your music what do you see for yourself and for the band over the next couple years? Is it really about the album or is it somewhere about where you guys want to go?
Brown: It’s definitely not about fame. I have some very important people in my life that say, “Oh, I’m glad you’re following your dreams!” They think my dream is to be a rock and roller and turn the world with everybody loving me. No. My dream is to be a father and be a real person in this life. That’s my dream. Now, fortunately or unfortunately, rock and roll is my path. And I’ve gotta take that path because that’s what laid out before me. Fame and money ~ if I could survive without money, I would. I’ve walked away from a lot and it’s really about just doing what you were created to do. That’s true art, doing what you were created to do. Whatever that is. If you are made to be a mechanic, you’re an artist as a mechanic. If you are doing what you were made to do, you’re a true artist.