"This record is the realisation of how much we care about and love this band.”
Devil Sold His Soul's new album 'Loss' is released this Friday (April 09) via Nuclear Blast Records.
Arriving nine years after their last full-length 'Empire Of Light' and being the first body of work to feature both vocalists Paul Green and Ed Gibbs following Ed's return to the band in 2017, it is a piece of art that represents perseverance and passion in their most powerful forms. Perfectly encapsulating the hurt, anger, confusion and sadness that comes with the experience of losing someone or something, it's a harrowing yet hopeful journey that will stick with you in the most brutal and beautiful of ways.
We sat down with Paul and Ed to walk through the years that have lead us here and how they went from the edge of oblivion to creating a masterpiece...
Before we even think about right now, we have to go back to the point where there may not have been a band at all. What do you remember about that period of purgatory?
Paul: “Things really did nearly finish. The song that we brought out in 2016, ‘The Reckoning’, was written to be our last track. Lyrically it’s about everything going to shit, and in the band, the motivation wasn’t there. The vibe was fizzling out, and everyone felt super low. Not because anybody had fallen out, but we’re one of those bands that need positivity to keep on going.
“That was when we did the ‘A Fragile Hope’ tour in 2017 and the first moment that we asked Ed if he wanted to come and do the shows. That was the first time that it started to get good again, and I felt like things could happen again. It was the first moment that we felt like we could get back to the good times. Seeing how much people cared about the band on that tour was a real pick-me-up.”
Ed: “The thing that the tour taught me was that the band could be about having fun, and it didn’t have to be anything else. During my first stint with the band we were, of course, trying to write the best music we could, but it was also about how to get bigger. We flogged ourselves back in the day, really. We were desperate to make the band our day job, and I don’t think we ever compromised ourselves, but we put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves to try and reach that point.”
When you first stepped away, Ed, what was that like? How did it happen?
Ed: “We ended up having a conversation at a service station in Reading because that was the easiest way to get us all together across the M4, and I went into that meeting trying to reorganised our perspective and what we needed to do as we looked to the future. We had spent ten years making no money, and I needed to start thinking of making a living. The band was never about making money, though, but you have to think about things as an adult a bit. So I had to think about getting a job. It was an interesting conversation as we were all on different vines, really. It just came to a head where overall it felt like everybody wanted to do one thing and I wanted to do another.”
Paul: “Me and Ed have spoken about this quite a lot, but if it hadn’t have been on that very night and things had been left a couple more weeks, I don’t think it would have happened.”
Ed: “I think there were a lot of decisions made on one specific evening. The thing is that I wouldn’t change anything right now, and even though I wasn’t happy, then I’m incredibly happy with how things turned out. If things hadn’t happened the way they did, we wouldn’t be here now, and this new album wouldn’t exist.”
What did it feel like being on stage together, playing these songs from two different perspectives and moments in time?
Ed: “The whole thing just lit that fire under us. It made us realise that we shouldn’t just throw all of this in the bin.”
Paul: “They were just amazing in terms of positivity. Looking out at a crowd and seeing them singing back made me feel very lucky to proud of all of this. Obviously, the circumstance in joining was odd, but I’ve always had a good time, and now it’s both of us, it’s even better. I’ve never been the strongest frontman and that good at talking to the crowd, but it feels like so much of that burden has been lifted now, and we are able to bounce off each other.”
Ed: “Me and Paul really didn’t know each other that well four years ago, and by the end of those ‘A Fragile Hope’ shows, we were just best mates. That’s why the dynamic works so well. Neither of us have big egos.”
Paul: “We don’t want to be super famous or anything; it’s about writing and playing music together first and foremost.”
So, when did the first bit of writing start taking place? Was there always an intention of writing a whole record?
Paul: “It just came around, really. I think there was talk of doing an anniversary tour for ‘Blessed & Cursed’, and I put my foot down and said, ‘I’m not learning another album unless we have new stuff’. It didn’t suck to be doing all of these old songs, but it was just the fact that after being in the band for seven years, it felt like a lot of effort was going in when we could be writing new stuff.”
Ed: “Somewhere between playing a few festivals and heading to Japan for a tour, somebody just said, ‘Shall we have a go at writing some new songs?’ It was an explosive start by any means. It was about having a go.”
Paul: “The process was really bitty at the beginning. 2018, we did a few bits and pieces. 2019 we did loads of stuff, which was when it really started to kick off. We trailed a new way of writing around then, where we didn’t just meet up and try and fit it into a band practice but actually get a hotel in Reading and stay there for a weekend.”
To force yourself to inhabit the band fully for a few days rather than a few hours before nipping back out then develops different conversations and you covering different topics. You realise you’ve done more in those few days than in whole years…
Paul: “Absolutely, it felt so positive to do that. Before then, it felt like it wasn’t moving along fast enough, and it could have gone on for three or four or five years of writing.”
Ed: “We were trying really hard to work remotely because we were so far away from each other, but it just wasn’t working this time. We needed to get in the room together and thrash it out.”
Paul: “The thing is that if we hadn’t have left things bubbling for as long as we did, we wouldn’t have then had the life experiences that led to the meanings behind these songs. Wrongly or rightly, they aren’t nice experiences, but they shaped what the record became.”
Ed: “We’ve had the time to really build up the desire to really go at it. That’s pretty rare for any pro-active band because they just have to keep on going no matter what. For us to be able to get away and have a break from that has given us all the creative motivation.”
When you’re bringing something as personal to the table, you want to be able to do it justice. What was the process of pulling those thoughts and feelings into this?
Paul: “It was a real tough write at times. Alex [Wood, Drummer] lost his mum and the last song on the record, the title track, is basically for him and his family. I got on the phone with him for a couple of hours and chatted about his experiences and how he was feeling. He was really open and candid, and I really appreciated his honesty.”
Ed: “It happened when we had just started writing again. Before we had even put much together, it suddenly shaped the whole process. He’s still processing and going through it now, but during the songwriting process, it was really hitting him hard.”
When you let that level of emotion in and allow it to shape what you’re doing, it must help all of you in terms of coping but also creating…
Paul: “I just know that it’s all going to mean a lot to people. It’s like when we wrote ‘Time’ on the ‘Belong ╪ Betray’ EP, that was about my grandfather passing. I didn’t really think about it at the time and focused on how it had helped me to get through that experience. The reality is that a lot of people connected to that track. This album has much more of that stuff. ‘Time’ was good for that, but this album goes deeper.”
Ed: “That last song when it kicks in is that feeling of unleashing every single bit of emotion that we have all felt throughout this process. It makes me feel really tearful every single time I feel it.”
It must be pretty amazing to find yourself at the other end of this whole process with a whole record's worth of songs to show for that struggle…
Ed: “I’ve never been so proud to have a finished thing in my hands. I’ve loved all of our records, but this is by far the most personal thing we have, but I also feel like it’s the best thing we have done.”
Paul: “It’s so easy for a band to say that the latest thing they have done is the best thing they have ever done. It’s the heaviest; it’s the lightest; it’s the most melodic. But this really is the best thing we have done. It’s a really personal record throughout every aspect. The photographs of the artwork are all by Rick [Chapple, Guiarist]. The layouts are by Alex. Some of the thank you notes in the credits are also pretty heartbreaking as well. It’s so personal, and I don’t think everybody will realise that to start with. But they will soon get to know it.”
Ed: “We wouldn’t have finished this record if we didn’t think it was actually good. We wouldn’t be putting anything out now if we didn’t like it. There’s no specific drive for us to put it out. The only drive is putting out music we have written together out. We’re not tethered by anything, and we’re just doing it.”
It’s a record forged from feeling and nothing else….
Ed: “When you’re making heavy music as we do, if it’s not cathartic to you in some way, I don’t really understand the purpose of it. That could be said of music in general. I don’t understand music that isn’t in some way expelling something from you, whether that be pure joy or rage or sadness. If it’s just, ‘Let’s chuck a bunch of notes together and put it out because people like it’, then why are you doing it? If you’re going to scream, you need to have a reason to scream. You’ve got to want to do it.”
What role do you feel as though Devil Sold His Soul plays in your life now, with you creating music like this, compared to the role it played in the past?
Ed: “It’s all just about passion. It’s about enjoying and loving it. This record is the realisation of how much we care about and love this band.”
Paul: “When I started back in 2013, I was scared. I was so far outside of my comfort zone, and I had to learn so much on the spot, I didn’t really have the chance to think about things too much. As time has gone on, I’ve become much more comfortable with it. Though all of those previous moments almost feel eclipsed by this. They feel like a distant memory that doesn’t really matter anymore. Right now, this band feels like home. It feels so different in every way than it may have back in the day. The band felt quite cold back then. Now it feels like the best it can ever be.”
Ed: “We can’t speak for everyone, but we know that everybody feels stoked right now.”
To have bottled that poignancy in the way that you have is proof enough of how much this means to you right now…
Paul: “Even looking at the tracks on the record that aren’t directly about the events in our lives but still pick up on the vibe, they’ve taken on whole new meaning during this period.”
Ed: “There are DSHS songs in the past that are about one thing, but then their context within how life shifts completely change their meaning altogether. I love that fluidity to our music because the songs are about feelings.”
The band has been around for approaching 20 years, and each of the four albums you have put out has been released in such different parts of your life. To be able to look back on those different periods with a completely different perspective is something not a lot of bands have the opportunity to do…
Ed: “Whenever we finish a record, I have always thought to myself, ‘I don’t know how I can better this right now'. I suppose that has always been a good thing because then, by the time it would come for us to do another record, there were new things that I could try out. I always think that whenever we finish, it’s the last record I could ever write. Yet even now, six months or so on from finishing this one, I’m already thinking, ‘I could write some more songs actually’.”
And the thing that binds them all together is the prospect of connection…
Paul: “The thing is that I’m never prepared for when somebody tells us that they have connected to a song at any point or in any manner. I think it blows my mind. I know it’s a common thing in music, but you never write this thinking that will ever be the case. It’s still really humbling whenever it happens. I can be quite cold emotionally at times, but it comes to stuff like that, it really breaks me. I don’t think that I’m totally ready for people to be messaging me this time around saying how these songs have helped them.”