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The Devil & The Universe - Interview

Interview with: Ashley Dayour
Conducted by: T.V.

It was April 2013 when the first EP, Evoking Eternity, of Austrian project The Devil & The Universe came out. Since then their recognition, success and impact on the underground dark scene rapidly increased and it was the All Hallows' Eve day, 31st October 2014, when the perverse ritually dark realms striked in its full glory again with their sophomore album named Haunted Summer (read a review over HERE). An album par exelence in the fields of experimental/ritual/ghost-wave/dark-ambient soundscapes, or how they would say - "goat wave". Now, The Devil & The Universe, who were formed as a duo by charismatic leader Ashley Dayour (Whispers In The Shadow, Coma Divine, ex-L'Âme Immortelle) and David Pfister (Neigungsgruppe, Sex, Gewalt und gute Laune), are joined by Stefan Elsbacher (Black Manna) who took over the drums. Everything around The Devil & The Universe is about magick, occult, chaos, humour and surrealism, but is the immense creative vision of the three "goats" that permits their soundtrackish sonic deviant art to reach the unexpected levels of obscure journeys of mind. Here you can read already our third interview with Ashley Dayour, but the first one devoted exclusively to The Devil & The Universe. He kindly explained us many things behind the unholy name in this another one in-depth interview. The Goats have risen!

T.V.: Hi Ashley! How are you? Many new things happened in The Devil & The Universe camp since our last interview, you have a new album, The Devil & The Universe become a three piece instead of duo,... Tell me, what was the reason or need for another member, Stefan Elsbacher? Can you also say give us some informations about him?
: Well to be exact, Stefan is with us since last autumn. We wanted someone who is playing live E-drums and percussions, to sharpen our live sound. Therefore we needed a third person on stage. Four hands can’t handle everything. After the first shows it was just obvious to get him into the band for real, so to speak, and there we are, a trio now.
T.V.: And of course I'm interested in your point of view about the new album, Haunted Summer...
Ashley: Well what can the artist say about his new work other than he likes it. But honestly I think we managed to move the Goatship further on. The production has more depth, there is much more going on in the songs and it is even more cinematic than the first album, which was one of my main goals. The reactions of our listeners were really enthusiastic; it seems this is our best and coherent work so far. And of course there is the concept, or shall I say, main inspiration behind it: the “Haunted Summer of 1816”. Let me say a few words about it: In the summer of 1816, poet and author Lord Byron, sent out an invitation for friends to enjoy the summer air at his villa on Lake Geneva. The invited party partially consisted of the novelist-couple Percy und Mary Shelley, Mary Shelley’s half-sister Claire Clairmont and the author and physician John W. Polidori. The host and the guests combated boredom at the Villa “Diodati” by consuming drugs, and partaking in sex and séance sessions. The decadent time-filling got increasingly radical and culminated in a frenzy of physical and moral transgressions. More than a few of the guests and the household staff left the Villa psychologically rattled after that summer holiday. Mary Shelley, deeply affected by the experience, went on to write her world-famous book "Frankenstein".
T.V.: It's interesting talking about the concept albums when there's mostly instrumental music without any words. Still, how do you think that the listeners can connect with this story behind the album?
Ashley: Of course a concept album can work without lyrics. What is a Motion Picture Soundtrack other than a concept album without words? So the new album is like a Soundtrack to a film never made. But having said all that, actually it isn’t a concept album in the true sense of the word, it’s inspired by that original Haunted Summer, but not a concept album as such. This famous summer of 1816 always inspired me. The very first Whispers In The Shadow album was called after the drug they used, Laudanum. So it is a subject I always come back to, but after this album I think I'll have it out of my system. Funny thing is that the BBC aired a fantastic documentary of the “Haunted Summer” at the same date as we released the album. Coincidence? Or rather synchronicity.
T.V.: Ok, I understand. I can't go past also the influence of John Carpenter's film scores on Haunted Summer...
Ashley: Yeah of course, his influence on our music is not a secret and nothing new either. I love his scores, always did. It was a great day when he wrote back and told me that he likes our stuff. I was surprised that he wrote back at all.
T.V.: That's really a surprising fact. Have you remained in any kind of contact since then? Have you maybe suggested to John if he would like to use your music for a soundtrack to any of his new works?
Ashley: Nope, we haven't. I just sent him the new album. Let's see if he takes the time to write back again. If not that's fine with me. He is busy, releasing his first non-soundtrack album ever. And from what I heard this is going to be fantastic! From interviews I know that he is not so much into doing another movie, he rather wants to rest, stay home and play computer games. That's ok, he has done enough.
T.V.: I see, let's return to the new album of yours. There's a certain dose of humour involved in each The Devil & The Universe release. What's your recipe to find the right balance between that, magick, music and everything else?
Ashley: Good question. I simply just do, not too much thinking involved. I guess that's all.
T.V.: Haha, good answer! Then please tell me what kind of humour inspires you the most?
Ashley: Well, life itself, that's the best joke ever told in a universe of jokes.
T.V.: That's the sad truth! Tell me if were all the three members involved in the creation of Haunted Summer?
Ashley: But wait! Why is that sad? I did not mean it in a sarcastic/bitter way. A joke is something funny, even the most grotesque and black ones. Yeah everyone was involved in the creation of the album.
T.V.: Still, how would you compare the new album with the debut one, Imprint Daath?
Ashley: I think the first one was an easier album to listen to, the new one might take a few run throughs until it catches you. But that really depends, some people told me it craped them by the head the very first time they listened to it, others told me they needed some time. It certainly is different but not that different, it still has the same kind of sound, just more developed. I'm really proud about the last track "Gipfelrausch", which is inspired by my mountain trips, as you can hear very well I guess. The song people mentioned the most is "The Goat Head", it is the closest to a dance track we ever came. It is a tribal ritual dance stomper for your next WitchFest, so to speak. Ritual techno as a friend of mine called it. So the whole Album is more diverse in styles and songwritting than the last one. Which is funny cause it was written much faster in much shorter time span.
T.V.: Have you used the same "machinery" as before?
Ashley: The main part of the album was created in a small chapel in a forest in Styria. Four weeks were spent to evoke the ghost of that "Haunted Summer of 1816". Tools of the occult such as automatic writing (as demonstrated during Tarot card reading) and necromancy were used to help form the musical ambition. And naturally, just like with Mary Shelley or Lord Byron, here too, legitimacy and faith play no roles. It’s more about the effect and a libertine attitude.
T.V.: I'm also interested how much does the compositional process of the songs of The Devil & The Universe differs from the songwriting for Whispers In The Shadow?
Ashley: Actually a lot. The whole outcome is very different. For example we don't need to think about leaving space for the voice, or lyrics. It's much more a stream of consciousness, less structured compared with the writting process of Whispers In The Shadow.
T.V.: Billyphobia exposed that in his review of the album and I can sense it too, kind of a early Black Sabbath feel in the title track...
Ashley: I wouldn't exactly say Black Sabbath, but it does have that doom feel to it, I'll give you that. We wanted a really dark and somehow unexpected and different opener. I really like that song especially when played live.
T.V.: Before the release of Haunted Summer there was an EP titled What Time Is Love? Actually the title track is a cover of The KLF and I wonder what was the reason to make a cover of this 90' dance hit?
Ashley: We have a lot in common with The KLF. The KLF are not just a 90's dance band, there is far more to it than meets the eye. The whole "Illuminati Trilogy" /Robert Anton Wilson thing. And to mention the humor thing again, they match pretty much my creteria of good humor, besides we wanted to do a cover version that really nobody would expect us to do. I remember when we played it the first few times people's reaction was, "What the fuck is going on?" We had a person dressed as a pink unicorn dancing on the stage during our WGT show this year,  when we blasted out "What Time Is Love?". The reaction of the audience was priceless. Afterwards one guy from a radio station asked me "What was that all about?" "To cause confusion", was my answer and that brings me back to The KLF again, they loved to cause confusion and so do we. We are a very confused bunch of Goats you know!
T.V.: As you mentioned the goats,... Who made those masks you are wearing?
Ashley: Well the masks. The are very cheap ones, ordered from the depths of Internet. It was very important that these are not well made super professional latex masks. They had to be the most cheap looking C- movie style masks there are available.
T.V.: Do you ever put them off during the show?
Ashley: Actually yes we do, after the first song. That's meant to be an artistic statement. The de-masking of the artist, after that we are becoming one with audience. No wait, actually it is not, we just can't see a thing in this damn masks.
T.V.: Hahaha, you guys really need some professional latex masks! Ok, jokes apart... The track "Danaus Plexippus" got its video form. Tell me more about the video and of course, what happened to Corina when you finally got her?
Ashley: We re-programmed her of course in true CIA mind controlling style. They do that with all of you all the time, remember the TV set at the end of the video? "Danaus Plexippus" means Monarch Butterfly, the monarch MK Ultra programming conspiracy theory was the starting point of the video, and we ended up in a field pushing around bales of straw, how far did we come? The video itself was directed by Edie Calie, the very one who also did all the Whispers In The Shadow videos and the last The Devil & The Universe video as well. She's also responsible for our live projections.

T.V.: Any plans for another video for any of the tracks from the new album? Maybe as a part 2 to that story?
Ashley: You mean a Roland Emmerich style world devastation video with giant goats trample over L.A.? That would be nice but to be frank, we don't have the money for that.
T.V.: Maybe haha,... You did a lot of live shows with The Devil & The Universe and I wonder how in general the audience accepts your "not really typical live music"?
Ashley: Well from the beginning we wanted to do a real live show, with as much instruments played live as possible. I also do some guitar besides the drumming and keyboards. So there is much more going on if you compare it to your usual dark ambient/industrial show, you know it’s not the usual two guys with laptops plus some screen projections. It's closer to a rock show than one might think, but on the hand still very different. And of course all the visuals play a big role as well. I think that’s the reason why we get swamped with offers to play live, it just works really well and the show at WGT, Leipzig was most certainly the highlight so far. Very good response, it really was a big step for us playing there. By the way we already have many shows fixed for 2015.
T.V.: As you mentioned that. Can you reveal us some dates?
Ashley: Yeah of course, here is the list with all forthcoming shows: 28.11. Frankfurt, DAS BETT (with Sixth Comm + Vortex) (GER), 06.12. Berlin, DEATH # DISCO at Urban Spree(+ Ghost Actor) (GER), 19.12. Padova, Back Pop at Circolo Mame (IT), 20.12. Ravenna (IT), 31.01. Stockholm, Kollaps Records Festival (SWE), 31.05. Solothurn. Schaltzentrale - Slave to the Rythm (CH), 25.07. Amphi Festival, Cologne (GER), and there is more to come!
T.V.: What are your screen projections during the show about. Are those in a strong relation with the music you play at the time?
Ashley: Yeah most of the time. The range goes from fractal and very psychedelic stuff to weird occult movie scenes from the 70s.
T.V.: Recently you did a couple of shows with Ghost Actor and I enjoyed very much in their album, so I wonder how does it sound played live?
Ashley: Well, we only did one show so far, and will do another in Berlin on the 6th of December. They sound pretty much as on record, which I like a lot btw! Very much recommended.
T.V.: It's strange to ask right after the release of the album, but beside lots of shows what are the future plans now with The Devil & The Universe?
Ashley: To do another album of course. Maybe an EP before that, or an 12" not sure. I guess at the end of next year we will have the third one ready. Let's see. At the moment I'm concentrating on a totaly new project which has nothing to do with neither nor The Devil & The Universe nor Whispers In The Shadow. It's a collaboration and will see the light of day in early 2015. And that's all I want to tell you right now.
T.V.: Oh come on! Now you are teasing me. At least you could reveal with who is this collaboration?
Ashley: Nope I won't. It's still a secret. With whom is not that of a surprise, but how it sounds will be. It sounds nothing like a mixture of both of our projects and that is really all I want to tell you at this point.
T.V.: Ok, let's keep that in secrecy for now. Can you expose one of the songs you ever did with The Devil & The Universe as the one that you are most proud of?
Ashley: Hmm difficult one. I wouldn't say I'm proud in the true sense of the word. But I really like "Evoking Eternity", that's one of the best tunes in my opinion. From the new one my fave is "Gipfelrausch". It's a mountain hike in sound, i'm very much into mountain hiking though. And I have to mention "The Goat Head" again, it is the closest we ever came to a disco stomper, and that is a surprise.
T.V.: Cool choices! Yeah you said it also the last time we talked that you became a real mountaineer in the last couple of years. Can you share with our readers which mountains you climbed lately?
Ashley: Sadly I didn't had enough time lately for a lot of hiking. But they were all Austrian mountains in Styria and Salzburg. Nothing really "Grand".
T.V.: Which one was the highest one?
Ashley: Not that high. Just about 2800m. But I would love to hike a real "Gletscher" some time. But again that's a time issue more than anything else, and at the moment it seems 2015 is going to be a very busy year.
T.V.: Still good! Ok, can you tell me what's going now with Whispers In The Shadow. I know that you had some gigs, but are you planning any new songs?
Ashley: We are playing mostly Festival shows in 2015, apart from that nothing is planed. First I want to finish this mentioned new project, after that I will start to work on new demos again, if something comes to my mind which is worth writing that is. I have some fague ideas about how it could sound and where we should go, but so far nothing is written, it's all in my head, so who knows. Maybe we have a finished album by the end of 2015, maybe it will take more time, who knows. I also have a certain person in mind as a producer and/or mixer, let's see if this will work out.
T.V.: That's good to hear. I was afraid of some bad news regarding Whispers In The Shadow. And any news from the camp of Coma Divine?
Ashley: About Whispers In The Shadow: We are not splitting up, at least not now! Something inside me really wants to play that 20th anniversary gig in 2016. Regarding Coma Divine: It is on ice, everyone is doing their own projects now. But to be honest it is very unlikely that there will be something new if you ask me.
T.V.: I'm sorry to hear that about Coma Divine..., ok, I won't bother you anymore with other bands and projects of yours this time. So, please tell me, have you ever expected when you've formed The Devil & The Universe that it will get such a success in such a short time?
Ashley: Actually no we didn't. It grew really fast and things are just working out for a change. It seems the Goats hit a nerve.
T.V.: Since the beginning you are signed with German underground label [aufnahme + wiedergabe]. Are you still satisfied with their job? And I wonder, because of all this fuss around The Devil & The Universe that went and is going on, if you got any offers from some bigger labels?
Ashley: Actually we are very happy with [aufnahme + wiedergabe]. I think they are doing a great job, especially if you know that there are no deals with all the magazines and no real advertising canpaign. If you do it clever you don't need them anymore. Facebook and the internet is enough. Besides they builded up a good reputation. People know if theres something coming out on [aufnahme + wiedergabe] it has to be good. It's almost like 4AD in the old days. It's more like a record label, it's alamost like a style. I just hope they continue this way. In my opinion every release of theirs was very "tasteful" if you want to use this word.
T.V.: Yeah I noticed that. They work really hard and have a good taste for the obscure sounds. I know that you are also a follower of new interesting releases, and I must ask you which albums are your favorites of 2014?
Ashley: Personaly I think 2014 was a weak year when it comes to new releases. At least for my taste. I really like the new album by Earth a lot, the new one by Esben & The Witch is pretty good, Lion by Peter Murphy was a real surprise, the ambient album Celestite by Wolves In The Throne Room was my kind of taste as well. My album of the year is the Beyond The Black Rainbow Soundtrack by Sinoia Caves, which finally was released a couple of months ago. Also loved the New Model Army live album, the live versions of their last album are so much better with the two drums and all that, very driven. Ah yeah and the Soundtrack to the series "Penny Dreadful" I listened a lot as well, and Max Richter's score to "The Congress" and Hans Zimmer's score to "Interstellar". Hmmm, you know what, it wasn't that bad a year after all, just not a lot of good stuff in the rock sector. I'm mostly into soundtrack and instrumental stuff these days. I just can't bare all these bad lyrics anymore.
T.V.: Bad lyrics? That's often a problem... But what do you actually expect of lyrics to be alike?
Ashley: Can't say, just not the usual stuff. More than "just words" that fits to the music I guess.
T.V.: I remember that you also enjoyed Lana Del Rey's latest album if I'm correct...
Ashley: Yeah that's true. Very nice mellow atmosphere. I have nothing against commercial music per se, when it's well done and fits my taste. In parts it even reminded me on the band Mazzy Star.
T.V.: All releases from The Devil & The Universe were released on special dates of the year. Is this just for fun, for more commercial exposure or is there something deeper behind all this?
Ashley: Yes of course, all these dates do have a significant occult meaning. That's why we choose them.
T.V.: When we did our first interview you said that the sentence that best describes your debut album, Imprint Daath, is: Flesh is a trap and Magick sets us free. Is there any similar line for description of Haunted Summer?
Ashley: Yeah there is, "Conjure up your deepest darkest fear, and call that fear to form, to life!" Like the quote from the last album this is a sample we used in one of the songs, "Phantasmagoria" to be exact.
T.V.: Thank you Ashley once again for taking time to answer my questions. Hope to see you someday playing live! And what would you like to say to your fans and our readers at the end of this interview?
Ashley: Certainly hope we will meet in person someday. Let's finish with a quote from the new album: "Even someone you might know is taking drugs and even praticing witchcraft."

The Devil & The Universe links: Official website, Facebook

Photo Copyrights: Krist Mort, Edie Calie, Renate Ackermann, Eraserhead


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