Interview with Colin Devlin + Intimate Performance this week

Colin Devlin

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Intimate Performance by Colin Devlin Thursday Oct 18, 2018

Did you ever wish you could attend an intimate family and friends show for an International, critically acclaimed, Grammy nominated recording artist?

If so, you are in luck. Thursday, October 18th, Colin Devlin (The Devlins) is launching his new album High Point.

WHEN: Thursday October 18, 2018, Doors 7PM, Show 8 PM
WHERE: O Patro Vys, 356 Avenue du Mont-Royal Est, Montreal, QC H2T 2G4
Price: $10 pre-show – Get tickets here.

Colin’s music will take you on an atmospheric trip through soundscapes in your mind. Your guide will be the voice of Colin Devlin. Having hand-picked some of Montreal’s best musicians, O Patro Vys will be host to an evening of amazing music and good friends.

Join us for this memorable and rare intimate show.

Colin Devlin High Point
Colin Devlin High Point

Interview with Colin Devlin

Montreal Rocks spoke with Colin Devlin about Montreal, Le Studio in Morin Heights , the curse and blessing of the iPhone and the reason he would climb into the family car at the age of 4.

As Colin picks up the phone, he starts with a story, like we are old friends. Not even a question asked, interview is ON! Awesome.

Colin Devlin

Colin Devlin: I just got off the phone with my close friend, Fred Bouchard in Montreal. Fred is a drummer. He’s going to play with me next week.

Montreal Rocks: Cool. You are gathering your gang of friends.

CD: Yeah. I have some super long term close friends in Montreal, just because I spent so much time there, working with Pierre Marchand. We go way back, when I made my first solo record, “Democracy of One”, in Montreal 6 or 7 years ago. I’ve done a few trips there, on and off.

MR: Pierre has been a key player in your music, a connector for all the musicians here in Montreal.

CD: Yeah. It goes way back to my band the Devlins, when we signed our first record deal with Capitol Records. We had the same booking agent as Sarah McLachlan, so we toured a lot with Sarah on our first record. That’s how I met Pierre, when we were playing Montreal, at the end of the cycle of our first record.  We were about to record our new one, so I asked him if he wanted to produce our second record. We were all ready to go, but Pierre said: “Listen…I’d love to, but I’m just too busy at the moment. I’m starting another record.” We said it was a pity and maybe we will get to work together sometime. He called a week later to say that the album project had fallen through…are you free next week?

MR: Wow!

CD: We were in Dublin, so we went: “Yeah!” and packed up. We ended up recording in St-Sauveur, he had a studio up there in his house. It was winter, and we were there for three or four months. It was a house Pierre had been renting for quite a long time, Wild Sky Studio. He’d done Fumbling Towards Ecstasy there. We rented a little cottage close by. It was a super cold winter, it may even have been the year of the ice storm.  It was really bad, but it was fantastic at the same time, a very creative place to go to be completely out of your surroundings and record there.

That is how we started our friendship and collaboration, way back then. He, of course, has done both my solo records.

MR: What is interesting is that I used to live in Morin Heights, right by Le Studio.

CD: Yeah! I was there before. Has it closed down?

MR: I used to drive past it every single day because I lived past it on the same road. It was sold and eventually had a fire and there has been some damage. I think you can still visit it, it’s all broken and beat up. It’s a piece of history, but no longer in use, unfortunately.

CD: We used to take a break from Pierre’s Studio and drive into Morin Heights for lunch to a little coffee shop there. At that time, it didn’t look like they were getting too many big records in there (Le Studio).

MR: The end of Analogue.

CD: Yeah, we went in the big studio and they would ask us what we were doing. “Yeah…we are just recording in Pierre’s living room.” Pierre had a great setup there, but his new studio in Little Italy is beautiful, a dream studio that he made there.

MR: I guess there was a change in the industry when in the old days, you had to have these gigantic analogue studios. Now, you can have the same equipment in someone’s living room and sound just as good…as long as you don’t have noisy neighbors.

CD: It’s true. As long as you got good gear, and often we will use analogue tube pre-amps, you know, and a microphone and you can do it from anywhere.

I was recording at the studio yesterday and there was, in the corner, a large reel-to-reel tape recorder. I said to a young girl in there, do you know what that is in the corner? She had no idea what it was. (laughs)

MR: She never spliced tape…

CD: I was trying to explain to her the concept of tape. She was like 17 or 18, and going…aah…OK.  It’s changed so much.

I remember when we did our first Demo Tape, even to go into a studio, back when I was 16 or 17, that was like a day’s recording studio costs. It was expensive, just to make a cassette.

It’s a double-edged sword because now, there are no barriers of entry at all. It’s an amazing thing, but the flip side is that there is so much music out there.

MR: It’s drowning out the good stuff, sometimes.

CD: Yes! To a certain extent. That’s why record labels are so important now. There was a whole period when people would say you don’t need a record company, you can just do it all yourself. The point of that is that if you find a record company that wants to spend marketing dollars, trying to get you out there, that’s where they become beneficial.

MR: It tends to legitimize you because it shows a certain level of curation. They have chosen you, so you must be good.

CD: Yes, there is that element as well. Someone told me this scary stat the other day, like 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Probably 99% of that is not very interesting. (laughs)

MR: Rubbish!

CD: Yeah, but getting back to your point, it’s sort of what we are dealing with.

MR: There is something that sets you apart. When I hear Irish Band or Irish Singer, my mind will first go towards The Pogues, or The Mahones, that type of music. But…that is definitely NOT the case with you. What sets you apart is that you have these amazing videos. I believe that is also a collaboration you found along the way.

CD: Yeah. I’m really close friends with an Argentinian director called Sebastian Lopez and his wife Sabrina. We are friends and they are big fans, have been for a long time. The Devlins had a lot of play in Argentina. Out of the blue, about 10 years ago, this DVD arrived at my door. The note said: Listen, we are not weirdos. I’m a director in South American and we just love your music. We made this ourselves as a thank-you for your music. It was a fantastic thing.

I just called the guy up…I just have to talk to this guy. I had just finished “Democracy of One” with Pierre and Sebastian said: If you ever want to get on a plane and come down, we’d love to shoot a video with you. So I got on a plane and went down and we shot the video for “Raise The Dead.”

We also did a lot of promo video as well. That’s how it started and from there, we’ve done so much.

I went down there about a month ago and we shot three videos for the new record “High Point”, “Just a Fire” and “Highwire”. Also, lots of documentary footage.

Sometimes I will do music for his commercials, he’s a big commercial director. It’s a cool working relationship/friendship.

MR: Every time we listen to music, especially certain songs, we have a certain image that goes through our head, even if we are listening to audio. In a video, you are actually capturing that and putting it into a medium where everybody gets to see that one version of it. Is that hard? Is it you that comes up with the concept or do they collaborate with you?

CD: We collaborate. I totally agree with you, especially with my music. It’s very atmospheric and cinematic. Each song, for me, is kind of a little world. It’s hard because you are competing with people’s imaginations. There is nothing better than that. It’s great when people project their own movie, while listening to the songs. To answer your question, having some representation of it is better than not having it. We live in such a visual world so it’s important to try. I’m lucky that I have access to working with someone who had similar aesthetics to me, and similar tastes. High Point is the perfect example. The video is fantastic.

MR: Yeah. It’s like a world in itself.

CD: The process there is that this song is not your standard rock track, with guitars. It doesn’t feel like that. It feels kind of modern, like Roxy Music meets Blade Runner.

MR: Bryan Ferry was running through my head as I heard it, but a modern version.

CD: Brilliant, thank-you, I appreciate that. So if that’s the case, we are not going to make a traditional rock video.

I’m in this neutral space. It’s dark and it feels like the song. That’s the concept.  You don’t see guitars, you don’t see drums. For that specific song, it felt like a world with a cool kind of darkness to it. That’s a representation of the song, which is better than having nothing or a standard rock 4 piece band video.

MR: I thought it was cool at the end, where you actually face yourself. Is that something you do in real life? Are you able to face yourself, face your fears? Maybe expose that in the music you write?

CD: Yeah, interesting point. We all have our interior worlds and dialogues. A lot of times, that is different from what people are projecting. How you see yourself and how others see you is sometimes very different. Same with High Point. Everyone’s high point is different. It could be a good thing, could be a bad thing. That’s what I’m trying to get across there, we all have these sides to our personalities. It’s like that Sliding Doors thing. If one thing was changed in your life, where would you be? Would you be this person, or would you be that person. Sometimes, you take one simple instance or meeting out of your life and think how different would my life be?

MR: I think we are also, at times, our own worst critic. We have limiting beliefs and that affects the decisions we make. Sometimes, facing ourselves is the only way to get through those and break on through.

CD: Yeah, taking a long hard look in the mirror. It’s a very hard thing to do, but it has to be done.

MR: I think it’s a process, that as an artist, you get to go through more than another profession because you get to spend time with your brain in silence, explore thoughts and the stories that are in your head.

CD: Yeah, it’s weird. That time is the most important time, even more than the song writing or the recording. That is the time, as an artist, that is the most valuable time to have. You might sit there and do nothing. Maybe go for a walk, but that’s the time you need to maybe hear things that will allow you to create. That time is valuable and finding that time, for me, is hard. The last record, I got married and just had more kids, and time is somewhat limited in that area. Sometimes that time is literally 4 AM, the middle of the night. You have to have some kind of stillness as a starting point for trying to create. You have to find that situation that will help you come up with something greater. A starting point for something that you feel is original.

MR: I’ve said recently that silence is the springboard for creativity and deep thinking. You can only solve problems when you have silence. If you are always bombarded by noise, you can’t have a creative thought.

CD: You are actually 100% right. Social Media is a necessary evil in some respects. You have this platform, but you see how people end up spending so much time on it, it takes away from what they could be creating. It’s a real fine line.

MR: It even stops them from being in the moment. At show, I’m a reporter, so I have to document some of it, but I see some people watching the whole performance through their iPhone. It’s actually quite sad.

CD: Blows my mind.

MR: They might even be at the front and not even looking at the artist.

CD: Yes, to document it, to watch it afterwards. You might not even watch it because you are documenting something else. That blows my mind. You know what’s really funny? You will see people down at the front of the show looking at their phones, texting while the show is going on. It’s almost like it’s not even considered rude! Really weird.

MR: I feel bad already, because I will often go to the front. I like to have a good view. I will occasionally take notes, but I’m doing a review, I want to capture some thoughts. I even put my brightness all the way down, to make it low key.

CD: It’s the weird thing about the iPhone generation. We are attached to them. There is no going back. We are slowly doing away with laptops as we do more and more with our phones. That’s a whole other conversation.

(Colin’s 3 year old daughter erased the productions notes off his iPhone while recording High Point. Fortunately, they had just finished the last track. They do start young 😉

MR: I have one last question. You grew up in Ireland, now living in L.A. and you visit Montreal frequently. Going back to the roots of your music. What did you find when you went searching through your parent’s record collection? What were you listening to when you were a kid?

CD: My parents had one of those 8-track machines in their car. My first memories, I’m sure, affects me unconsciously in my songwriting. They had those two Beatles Greatest Hits, the blue one and the red one, with them looking down Abbey Road.

The Beatles Red 1962-1966
The Beatles Blue 1967-1970

I’m talking about when I was 4 or 5, I’d go into the car by myself and just listen to them over and over again. By the time I was 6 or 7, I knew all of those songs inside out. That’s the first thing I remember, very vivid memories of going in the car and listening to those 8-tracks, which where three times the size of my hand.

My two older brothers were getting into punk music, a couple of years later, when I was 7 or 8. Punk was really starting to happen. I was very young, they were around 11 to 13.

But when you get to about 12 and 13, where the bands sort of become your bands. I really loved all that new romantic music. I really connected with Kraftwerk at the age of 12. Slightly weird, but there you go. Don’t hold it against me Randal.

MR: No! I have some vinyl from Kraftwerk, so definitely in my collection.

CD: Great! All you want to do is put on one record and listen to it. I don’t want to spend my time, every ten seconds flipping to something else.

(We proceeded to talk for a few minutes about my turntables, DJ years…which I won’t bore you with.)

I remember driving one night and it was snowing, with Pierre, when we were recording our first record for the Devlins. It must have been 97 or 98, around then. Driving through old Montreal, there was nothing there. There were beautiful buildings. I remember saying to Pierre: Wouldn’t it be amazing to buy one of these old buildings? Yeah, they are really cheap, nobody wants them, there is nothing there.

To think how it is now!

Pierre wanted to buy an old church at the time. It was for nothing, they were literally giving the stuff away. It was big, which now would be worth multi-millions.

So, we are driving and some of the building were just empty, I’m sure you remember. Had anybody had the foresight to buy a few of those then…

I have a long history with Montreal and Canada. Canadians and Irish people are very similar. French Canadians are even more our people, you know. We are all a bit mad…(laughs)

MR: Yes. Acadians are very close to Irish in terms of traditions, music.

CD: Yes. For example, Gianni (Bodo) who’s playing in the show next week at O Patro Vys is a close friend and super guy. He’s also a close friend of Pierre. He was encouraging me to come to Montreal, see the guys and play some songs from the new record. Looking forward to the show and being there for a few days.

O Patro Vys is a nice little room, it’s my style.

MR: It’s like performing for family, it’s home.

CD: It’s also a thank-you for Pierre, for producing the record. He’s such a big part of what I do.

I would love to do some more touring in the new year. A few Canadian dates would be fantastic.

We continued talking about Montreal, a city he absolutely adores, with hosts the people he calls friend, almost family.

This is one show you won’t want to miss.

Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube.
Photos – Danny Clinch

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