Interview: Mat Devine
By Rebecca Schiller
Located in NYC
Back in October, the wonderful Mat Devine (of Kill Hannah fame) kindly gave us an exclusive listen to his first ever remix of Blue Foundation’s ‘Lost’ – but that was just the beginning of his solo music endeavors. With a temporary home in LA, Mat’s been locked away, recording his debut solo album, and providing fans with daily photo updates from the studio. “My number one goal for this release is to reach the dedicated fans FIRST,” he says. “I’m amazed that they stay so dedicated, even when we go into hermit mode.”
We decided to check in with Mat Devine to find out how the project’s progressing and what happened when My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way stopped by the studio.
Why did you decide to write/record a solo album? Why did now feel like the right time?
I just wanted to stay creative, stay active. I was so tired of being in limbo, waiting for another Kill Hannah record to come out. We were spending more time in meetings and phone calls and answering emails than we were making music, and it was bumming all of us out. We have the next record written, and it’s insanely good, but we aren’t gonna move until we have serious support from the right label. With me, I can be more nomadic and mobile. I wrote 12 songs that are super honest and intimate, and rented part of my friend’s house in LA and just committed to it. It’s wonderful (in LA). Even at night it’s warm. I let the sun hit my arm for five minutes yesterday. Vitamin D, they say. Never had any before.
How does it feel working on a solo record? Were you feeling any pressure when you started/do you still?
It feels like I’m cheating on my band a little. It’s weird being in a big studio, and the guys aren’t here, but it’s forcing me to man up and make my own decisions again. It feels like the earliest days of Kill Hannah when it was just me in a dorm room – except no Ramen noodles this time.
How different has the process of making a solo LP been to making a Kill Hannah record?
What’s different is, the budget is smaller, so I’m nuts about staying on schedule.
I take it from your studio updates that the LP will be called ‘Gold Blooded’? How did you come up with that title? And will you be releasing the album as Mat Devine or Wrongchilde?
Right now I call it “Wrongchilde”. It’s a moniker that came to me in my sleep many years ago. I’ve been writing it in notebooks and on my arm ever since, and this seems like the perfect time to use it. I could have used my own name, but it sounds fake. And as far as fake names go, “Mat Devine” sounds extra douchebaggy. The album will be called ‘Gold Blooded’ because the intention behind it is all about the keeping the youthful spirit alive, and to never lose your true self, nor your hunger for adventure.
You’ve been bringing in loads of guests for help on the album – who’s been in so far and what have the done?
I’m lucky to be getting a TON of help from friends. Gerard from My Chemical Romance is featured on a duet called ‘Falling In Love Will Kill You’. Aaron Miller from Assassins is doing all the drums and programming. Alain Whyte from Morrissey (and Setting Fires) played some guitar. Sierra from Versa Emerge sang a really cool duet. Morgan from M83 is singing on a crazy cover. Caleb Owens (The Becoming) sang on a song, and Jeremy Hatcher (Andrew McMahon) helped with guitar. David Julson-Rieley (producer) and I work every day from noon until 9pm, and usually once a day we have a visitor. I met a wonderful witch (Fiona Horne) who came in and performed a spell on the studio – that was the bomb.
You wrote that Gerard Way was giving you advice – what were his top tips for you? Can you tell me anything about the song he collaborated on?
As for tips, he was giving me a lot of encouragement to stay weird, and to make choices that are unpopular and not to apologize for them. Then when it came time to sing, it was just epic. He’s crazy gifted at coming up with incredible harmonies on the spot. I try to do 45-minute vocal warm ups and I still sound like a buffalo. He smokes one cigarette then sings like a fucking canary.
Think you’ll ever help out on an MCR track in return?
I’d be his roadie. I owe him big time.
Who else are you expecting to drop by your studio/contribute to the album? Anyone you’re still dying to collaborate with?
Well, I never intended it to be such a menagerie of contributors. That said, my fantasy is to work with Trent.
How’s the music sounding? What are your biggest influences on the solo material?
To me it sounds like if Fever Ray and The Cure wrote songs for an undiscovered John Hughes film.
Think you’ll do any solo live shows in the future, or keeping this just to recordings?
Planning three special shows in NY, LA and London, Maybe Helsinki. Maybe Paris. But that could all change, depending on how it’s received. If there’s a demand, then I’ll definitely tour.
Can you update us on the plans for the next Kill Hannah album? Will Jonny Radtke be recording with you this time?
Planning on starting tracking new Kill Hannah in Nashville in late April, theoretically. Yeah, I can’t imagine another KH record without Jonny. It was amazing to play with him again in Chicago in December. Oh boy.
I remember you saying a while back you were writing a song for Enrique Iglesias and Kelly Rowland? Any other plans to write some songs for others?
I’ve been doing a lot of pop co-writes to pitch to big artists – it’s crazy fun. I have a taste for huge radio hooks and cheese, when it’s done correctly. It’s an incredible challenge to do something original and meaningful within the strict Top 40 formula, but it’s rewarding as hell when you nail it.
‘Gold Blooded’ is set for release on August 6th.