PHOTO CREDIT: Kelsy Filler
Amigo the Devil
IT has been cool speaking with Amigo the Devil…
about his latest song, Cocaine and Abel, and what its story is. Amigo the Devil (Danny) talks about his forthcoming album, Everything Is Fine, and what we might expect; the songwriters and albums that are important to him – I ask whether there are any tour dates approaching.
I discover when music came into his life and how an Amigo the Devil live set differs to the studio experience; if he has any goals to achieve before the end of the year; if there are rising artists we should get behind – he selects an awesome song to end the interview on.
Hi, Danny. How are you? How has your week been?
We had some really dry months out here in the Hill Country and finally got the rain everyone has been hoping for so, besides the floods and not being able to float in the creek part, it’s been a good week. Floating in any body of water is probably my favorite feeling in the world.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Well. My name is Danny. I was born and raised in Miami, got restless at about seventeen and started moving around, trying to ‘find myself’. Haha. I tried immersing myself in the culinary world, retail; random creative jobs and finally found a home in the brewing industry.
The music I play is very dark thematically but none of it is meant to glorify misanthropy; simply present and analyze it. It’s hard to beat something without understanding the mechanism behind it so it seems logical to try and humanize what so many people simply try to ignore because it feels icky and it’s ‘bad’.
Cocaine and Abel is your new track. Can you reveal the story behind it?
The process for these lyrics was so much different than older songs. Instead of trying to craft and tell a story, it simply told itself. It would be hard for me to disclose the personal details within the song because at that point - I feel like it would shift into a song about me and that’s not why it exists.
Writing it, personally, helped me out but, hopefully, everyone that hears it will get whatever they need from it at that moment. It’s one of those moments where I can’t really take credit for this song because it just...came to existence...it was just born and I didn’t really have much say as to whether it would be or not.
The album, Everything Is Fine, is out on 19th October. Are there particular themes that inspired the songs?
If I had a single string to weave through each song on the record, I think it would be doubt and how alright that is to feel. Not necessarily doubt as a mechanism to fail through, or a platform to avoid living from atop of, but more as a mirror to identify and accept what can and will be better. I just wanted to be honest about my faults and fears in case someone else felt them too.
Somehow, it feels better to know you’re not alone in the pit and eventually, with enough people, everyone helps each other climb out of it. Like a human pyramid without the cheerleading outfits or depending on the situation with them? Who am I to say...
Ross Robinson produced the record. Was it cool working alongside him?
Working with Ross still affects me to this day after months of finishing up at the studio. It was an intensely positive experience for me. We had such a good time recording this record and when I listen back to the songs, I can still feel the energy we had in the studio on the record itself. You know how they say we only use a small percentage of our brains? Working with Ross felt like I was trying to reach the unused part.
Whether we tapped into it or not doesn’t matter; only that we were working towards the beyond at all times and it’s something I carry into my everyday life. Is this how people start to lose their minds?
When did music come into your life? Which artists did you follow when you were young?
I learned to play guitar when I was around fourteen because of a band I wanted to join and we ended up playing for quite a while. Started playing shows around that same time with those dudes and then we started touring around sixteen. I missed so much, including high-school graduation, for the tour and I remember the show in PA the day of got cancelled. Wasn’t really from a traditional high-school anyway, so I guess it didn’t matter much.
Growing up in Miami, there was always a limit to how far South bands would come so most of my musical taste came from BMX magazines and videos like Props Road Fools. From The Get Up Kids to Tom Waits; Napalm Death, Testament; Carcass, Godspeed You!; Black Emperor, Thrice; The Adolescents, Killing Joke; ISIS, The Album Leaf and Fiona Apple. Converge was a big one for me because they were one of the bands that did come down to Miami and the first time I saw them (must have been like thirteen) it was the craziest thing I’d ever seen. I think it was them and Today is the Day.
Those are just some of the bands off the top of my head - there’s a million more I’m sure but those are def. some of the staples.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
One hell of a New Year’s party?
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
I honestly don’t. There isn’t one moment that would be fair to place above another one that immediately comes to mind and, since I don’t want to keep you here all day, it’s fair to say they’re all pretty damn great.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Pedro the Lion - Control
As far as Pedro records go, I’m torn between this and Winners Never Quit but I’m sticking to Control because Second Best is a top-three song for me at all times. The songs on this are so, so, so heavy and so far from Metal. The timing, the lyrics...it’s a record I reference a lot as an example of dynamics and using quiet to make something more intense as opposed to filling every space. First to last track, it’s flawless to me.
FIona Apple - Extraordinary Machine
This is one of those records that make me feel as good about myself as it does bad. It’s also the kind that puts how I feel into words for me; descriptions I would have never come up with on my own despite them being my own feelings. At the same rate, there isn’t anything Fiona has ever done that I’m not a sucker for.
Jason Isbell - Southeastern
Modern-day masterpiece. Even if you ignore that each song is itself a major accomplishment, I chose this because it’s one of the best examples of what a record should be front to back. The track-listing, the moods; the flow...it’s a coherent sentiment. The whole record tells one sonic story through completely unrelated concepts. Bahhh; it’s so goddamn good.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mike Dunn
Might we see some tour dates coming up? Where might we be able to catch you play?
There’s a loaded few months coming up. We have a few festivals coming up: Sing Out Loud (St. Augustine, Sept 22nd), Crucial Fest (SLC, Sept 28th) and Aftershock (Sacramento, Oct.14th). After that, we leave on a full U.S. run with Harley Poe that starts on Oct. 17th-Nov.18th. In December, we’ll be doing U.K., Paris and Amsterdam for the first time! We’ve been out there a bunch but never to play, so it’s exciting for me. I won’t bog this down with all the specific dates but they’re all on the site and around the Interwebs.
How does your live set differ to what you play in the studio? Are there big changes and adaptions?
It’s a huge difference and, personally, I prefer it that way. Every time an artist plays their set differently to how the record sounds, it feels more intimate to me. It’s a new experience that can only be had in that moment. As much as I say that, though, it isn’t really a choice for me. Haha. There just isn’t anyone else on stage with me so it’s impossible to recreate the record.
It was and continues to be a huge learning experience when it comes to adapting the songs, recorded as a complete band on the record to a solo environment but that’s half the fun. Turns out to be very interactive and I’m grateful to everyone who comes to the shows for putting up with my sh*t and helping out! Hell…who needs a band when you have so many awesome people with you in a room?
PHOTO CREDIT: Karen Jerzyk
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
It sounds so strange as the first piece of advice but don’t ignore merch. Get creative. This isn’t even from a financial perspective: it’s your most tangible marketing. What I struggled the most with, and this applies to solo artists more than bands, was the embarrassment of playing songs that meant so much to me while no one gave a sh*t.
This was when I was trying to get shows anywhere I could, local bars; coffee shops...a bar full of people talking over the songs; ignoring my existence in general and the worst part is that I couldn’t blame them. It wasn’t their fault because, most of the time, it was me coming into their local spot expecting them to stop their lives to listen to someone they didn’t know.
With that in mind, don’t blame yourself or take it out on your craft. It’s not you and, although it feels like hell because there’s no other band members to rely on for motivation/fun/support in moments like that, the more personally you take it, the more it’ll eat your will to find ways to make them want to pay attention. That’s the game: How do I make them WANT to pay attention? Sometimes, it’s as easy as having a cool shirt design they see when they walk in. This phase doesn’t last forever if you keep your head up and learn from every experience instead of punish yourself through them.
IN THIS PHOTO: Emma Ruth Rundle
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
On my playlist right now: Colter Wall, dakhabrakha; King Woman, Tyler Childers; The Dead South, Jack Ladder & the Dreamlanders; Alex Cameron, Emma Ruth Rundle; The Bridge City Sinners, C.W. Stoneking; Pharmakon, Timber Timbre.
(I know some of these have been playing for a while but still new in the grand scheme of things).
IN THIS PHOTO: C.W. Stoneking
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Alicia (my better looking, more intelligent half) and I always try to keep busy one way or another off the road. Sometimes, it’s tracking down weird sh*t for the house, hosting friends and showing them around and, other times, it’s just floating in the creek with a cigar listening to weirdo songs - but usually it’s just brewing beer. We also travel as much as we can, so plotting how to get places takes a huge chunk of our downtime.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
If you wanted to ruin everyone’s day, I’d say Loudon Wainwright III - Good Ship Venus but, since I can’t suggest that with a good conscience, I’ll leave you with one of my other favorites: Leonard Cohen - Take This Waltz
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