Interview: DevilSpeak pre-Arts Expo & SF17

DevilSpeak: image courtesy of Keets Design & Photography
DevilSpeak: image courtesy of Keets Design & Photography

Cape Town, South Africa: with the much anticipated ninth edition of Emalyth‘s Arts Expo – this year tag-titled Nine Lives – looming near, as well as our own SummerFest’17 day of metal entering it’s eleventh year, we have teamed up to feature some of the bands who will appear at events. . In today’s spotlight we find the extreme metallers from DevilSpeak discussing the band’s current state of affairs in 2017. Interview conducted by Kimberleigh Fae Chaye on behalf of Emalyth and M4A. ~ from the editor

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DevilSpeak appear to be in a class of their own in some regards. The band has a very different social media attitude than most, and their approach towards live performance and the inclusion of interesting props have gained DevilSpeak much rapport in both of these realms where presence means everything. The band’s rise from the garage to the bigger stages in such a short time has been… refreshing. It goes to show that a little imagination and creativity still hold value in this world, and in DevilSpeak‘s case has earned them three key slots for 2017 already, including at the Arts Expo: Nine Lives in Gauteng, then Cape Town’s SummerFest’17 the week after, and even at Witchfest 2017 later in the year (featuring international headliners DevilDriver and Mantar)

“I think people can see that we have fun on stage>” ~ Jarred Williams (vocals, DevilSpeak)

Members also describe DevilSpeak‘s music as not being too easily categorized which, along with their stage antics and online presence, has played it’s part in the band being more accessible to a variety of listeners.

“It’s a blend of many different styles of metal which can only be expressed by the five of us put together. There is something in the sound for everyone to enjoy. We use stage props that are hand made and we try to use different props for different shows to keep things fresh.” ~ Azaliyah Bester (guitar, DevilSpeak)

But more than just looking cool and sounding cool, fans of the band have found other endearing qualities which allow them to feel a connection with the performers on stage.

“The less obvious aspect would be how we overcome our personal differences and have learned tolerance in order to make this music together. We are all very different as people, but we recognize that together we make some great music, and that that is more important than any personal differences we might have to accept about each other in order to keep making the music we do. I think that aspect of our band is our strongest card, our commitment levels go deep.” ~ Derrick Leppan (bass guitar/backing vocals, DevilSpeak)

This sentiment between band members showed itself in strength when we asked them about what their favourite experience as a band has been so far. The same story echoed throughout, following the band’s return from it’s first inter-city tour just recently where they visited Port Elizabeth and Jeffrey’s Bay.

“It was awesome! We all have very different lives and, besides practice, we don’t really see each other much. So this tour for me has been life changing to say the least.” ~ Jarred Williams

“The most fun I had happened with our first tour of the Eastern Cape, and between the long drives and the intense partying we did, we definitely bonded. Quite a bit that wouldn’t have happened had we not been together in that capacity.” ~ Azaliyah Bester

“My favourite experience so far was being stuck inside the confined space of a panel van we did our best to turn into a tour van. I felt the bonding we did through that has been the best experience we’ve had to date, even with all our differences we laughed so much, and never got on each others nerves. Hosting Pulvis Et Umbra from Italy for me personally was also a real highlight. I enjoyed making sure everything was smooth and right for them for Cape Town, and had a lot of fun getting to know them and showing them around Cape Town for the little bit they were here.” ~ Derrick Leppan

So apart from getting to know this mad bunch of people figuring out their way around each other and the common thread of passion which has woven them together, we wanted to find out more about the music. The more current trend in South Africa for newer bands to make their mark – in what is becoming widely considered as “the right way” – is to first create and release music, and then to develop a stage craft. DevilSpeak have turned this school of though onto it’s head by doing the complete opposite. To date, DevilSpeak, in spite of coming to dominate within the live realm, have only released one single with their 2015 ‘Violently Leading The Blind’. However, the track has done the rounds in a grand way.

“‘Violently Leading The Blind’ has been making its mark rather well since its release with multiple plays on various internet radio staions worldwide. Recently, a fighter from the EFC (Mutuale Basambombo) asked us to use the song as his introduction while walking to the ring. The song is also going to be on a video for the SPCA; its an advert about adopting fluffy creatures.” ~ Jarred Williams

With the band’s approach to recording also having an ideological element – where they have a preference for a more traditional ‘live take’ sound – the process is naturally slower than with the current trend of programmed drums and digital home recording. Nonetheless, the band promises a new release soon. It will be a three-track EP themed along the lines of “See Evil – Hear Evil – Speak Evil”.

Apart from their own accomplishments, members of DevilSpeak remain humble and enthusiastic about their peers in the local scene. Apart from the enjoyment of traveling to appear live themselves at the Arts Expo: Nine Lives and returning to SummerFest’17 as a follow-up to their M4A debut at WinterFest’15, DevilSpeak seem genuinely grateful to be able to also experience the people of new places, both as a band and in each person’s individual capacity.

“We’re not coming all that way just to play music! I want the entire experience.” ~ Jarred Williams

“It’s the festivals that bring everybody together, and we all get a varied taste of who the scene is comprised of and everybody involved in it. Having the scene connected and supported is very important in keeping it alive and growing, so a flagship events such as these have much good to offer.” ~ Azaliya Bester

“I have only ever heard good things about the Arts Expo series, and every year I’ve watched more and more Cape Town bands make the pilgrimage to go through their right of passage of playing their first Arts Expo. To me, it seems like the Gauteng version of Cape Town’s Summerfest and Winterfest; events bands should aspire to play at. I myself think it’s something to work towards – a goal to achieve – and I am very happy we’ll be playing these back to back. I’m obviously looking forward to showing everyone up in Gauteng what we do, and how we do it. Besides that, I’m excited to just take it all in: the art; the bands; the people; the vibe. From what I’ve heard it’s a really great weekend event to be part of, as a band or someone in the audience, and I look forward very much to being able to take part in both sides of that coin here.” ~ Derrick Leppan

DevilSpeak: Image courtesy of Keet Design & Photography
DevilSpeak: Image courtesy of Keets Design & Photography

Band members also cite many local bands as being an inspiration to themselves, which displays a healthy affinity for learning and developing further as performers. Perhaps this attitude has been key to the DevilSpeak rise to prominence – that they are open to new ways of thinking, or to adapt their own signature to what is proven to work.

“I’m keen on seeing Mezzanine Floor from PE, Zombies Ate My Girlfriend, Vulvodynia and Boargazm, as we’ve played with all of them before; so I’m keen to see how the crowd up there reacts to their live shows. Crowds are different in different parts of the country. Bands I’ve never seen before and am keen to see include PitVirus, Disarmageddon, Lesuth and Deadline. I suspect my favourite band of the fest will end up being a band I know nothing about right now and have not mentioned here. I love being surprised and being swept into a great show when I had no expectations of it happening, and I plan to watch as many bands I’ve never seen as I possibly can – even all of them if that’s physically possible to do.” ~ Derrick Leppan

“For local influence, I’d say Zombies Ate My Girlfriend – brilliant performance and extremely talented – as well as Boargazm, with their ever enduring way of opening up this industry, they deserve much respect, there are many bands these days doing their utmost best to bring metal to the rest of S.A and to the world. Internationally… The Black Daliah Murder, Slayer, Rotting Christ, Marylin Manson, Tom Waites. The list is a long one, so that’s just a few.” ~ Jarred Williams

Black Dahlia Murder, At The Gates, The Haunted, Slayer… locally it will be Zombies, Wargrave, Overhex…” ~ Francois Meyer (drums, DevilSpeak)

Kreator has always been a big influence for me, Slayer as well. When I saw Mind Assault for the first time – which was my introduction to the local heavy metal scene – I was really impressed at the way the old guitarist, Francois, windmilled and played at the same time, and it definitely sparked me to do the same thing in my own performances.” ~ Azaliyah Bester

“I look up to Mind Assault quite a bit, because of the effort they put into their stage shows and how they have their sets flow with a theme, plus their length of time on the scene speaks volumes. Zombies Ate My Girlfriend is another, as they’ve charted a trajectory on the local scene unlike most other bands, culminating in the recent win at the Wacken Metal Battle; plus they’re a treat to see live, are great people to boot and command a respect and reverence one hopes one’s own band might attain one day. Boargazm also impressed upon us early on, for their masks, their fun attitude on stage and off as well as them bringing Nervo Chaos over from Brazil to tour SA and their many trips overseas; it inspires us. Internationally, I myself don’t look at too much other than enjoying the music coming from there, new and old. Collectively, we all totally enjoy Slayer!” ~ Derrick Leppan

Apart from other metal, DevilSpeak return to the theme of their fuel being the scene’s people. The essence of their spark seems fundamental to this belief, and their enthusiasm for sharing in the experience of themselves and others it what makes this band a truly special experience. In closing, we asked the members to share a few words on this matter of what they most love about being in DevilSpeak before we say “good bye for now, and see you soon at both the Arts Expo: Nine Lives and SummerFest’17“.

“I love South Africa and all the great people that I have met on this path, so it’s great to be in a Metal band in this country. The only difference from us and the rest of the world is that the scene over here is still in its infancy, I’m no father but I know that dealing with infancy takes patience. the end result will be worth all of it.” ~ Jarred WIlliams

“Needing a day job to sustain gear costs, and petrol to shows… being in a band costs a lot of money and effort, but playing to the scene itself and it’s people justifies every bit of trouble we need to endure.” ~ Francois Meyer

“The scene is small, so we don’t get to have massive turnouts, and trying to break even with the amount of money we spend doing this music makes things difficult, but my love for this music is too great to be hampered by financial difficulties. My art form needs to be expressed above all else. That its being kept alive by the passion of people who love the music – rather than by target markets and profit margins – and all the open minded people that come to enjoy some of the best music this country has to offer.” ~ Azaliya Bester

“I feel those of us who do this kind of thing in this country do it for ourselves and our fellow band members mostly, as well as those fans we have out there. I really enjoy being in a band in this country of ours, it involves different challenges to what others overseas might have, and also shares the same challenges at the same time. We do it for the passion of it, as you say, because there are no financial rewards to look forward to being in a metal band in South Africa. There’s a great camaraderie in play at the moment – within Cape Town anyway – as well as with bands who have come to play Cape Town. I really enjoy that. Right now I think there’s also an excellent energy and drive within our local scene, there’s an amazing amount of quality coming out, be it a great new band killing it live or an older band releasing a great new album or music video or playing a big show and doing it justice. Things feel like they are on the rise to me, I think across more genres than just metal too on the local South African scene, and I am quite excited to be a part of it and to be feeling it while it’s happening all around me. I also love how Italy’s Pulvis Et Umbra could pick up on this and made comments on it to me when we hosted them now, they really enjoy this scene of ours and are sincere in their expression of that, it tells me we must have something good going on even if we don’t all recognize it all the time.” ~ Derrick Leppan

Catch Devilspeak live in Gauteng at Emalyth‘s Arts Expo: Nine Lives on Friday 28 January at 22h40, then in Cape Town at SummerFest’17 on Saturday 04 Feb at 23h30.

For full Arts Expo: Nine Lives event details, visit the official facebook event page.
For full SummerFest’17 event details, visit the official facebook event page.

Interview by Kimberleigh Fae Chaye; co-authored by Patrick Davidson
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DevilSpeak stage setup at WinterFest'15
DevilSpeak stage preparations at WinterFest’15

Derrick: