The Devil and the Universe, brainchild of Ashley Dayour and David Pfister, has grown a lot in the past 12+ months. Stefan Elsbacher made the band a three-piece; after three singles, one EP and one celebrated debut album and gigs supporting Sixth Comm, it looks that a first resume can be made about the band’s existence. Ashley Dayour answered a few questions about what matters to The Devil and the Universe, goats, mysticism and good old-fashioned horror fun. Plus- a few news items concerning details about a new studio album and other interesting things the goats have plotted.
Post-Punk: Hello Ashley, thank you for this interview. You’ve been extremely busy in the last few months. You supported Sixth Comm on various occassions on their ace Ontogeny tour and you’ve been playing a massive gig at Wave Gotik Treffen which surely brought you a lot of new fans. Now, since times are less busy – are you happy about a short break?
Ashley Dayour: I cannot really say that we’re having a break – in two days we’ll hit the stage at HRADBY SAMOTY Festival in Brno (CZ), a festival with a great, somewhat experimental line-up (e.g. In Slaughter Natives, Bad Sector, Lamia Vox…). But yes, there won’t be any gigs until october after that one – but we’ve found a great occupation for this time, we’re working on our second album! So, we’re filling the break in our touring schedule with recording and studio work. And yes, we the WGT gig brought us a lot of new audience! It was a real magic night in one of the best locations available – the Kuppelhalle is just an amazing venue. And the gig was recorded for television (WDR Rockpalast), and parts of this will be aired soonish!
PP: You and David, you usually play in two very different bands – Whispers in the Shadow are a part of your-Ashley’s biography, and Neigungsgruppe Sex, Gewalt und Gute Laune and Black Manna are projects (co-)run by David. All in all three very different projects! So, obvious question: How did you meet and how did the idea for The Devil & the Universe come into life, and who influenced you?
AD: Well – Vienna is a small city, and it was only a matter of time that we met. In 2012, I’ve had a gig with my very short-lived solo project „Music for Rituals“ – which can be seen as the first glimpse of The Devil and the Universe. But I couldn’t do that on my own, so I asked David on short occassion whether he wanted to join in – and he wanted to! Then, we had the idea for a whole new project – and within less than one year, we published our first EP, „Evoking Eternity“. And by the way, we’re three people now. Stefan Elsbacher has joined the band after he supported us on stage for some time. Musically, we’re very influenced by film music, especially the horror scores of John Carpenter are extremely important! I’ve always wanted to do something like this, but this was never possible with Whispers in the Shadow – A rock band, after all.
Your first album, :Imprint Daath:, was extremely successful. The first edition, released by [aufnahme+wiedergabe], was sold out in no time, as well as Evoking Eternity, being sold out within one day! You must have been baffled by so much resonance, have you?
AD: Yeah, sure we hoped for a good resonance, but none of us did expect such enormous – and overall positive – feedback! And yes, I’m really astonished that our, quite experimental, music is that successful. Though as we’re really happy about that, it is still astonishing.
PP: As we’re talking, the 3rd edition of your – still awesome – debut album is out. After it was released on vinyl two times, both editions were selling like hot cake, the album is now available on CD since today (june 28th). And today, you’ve released another EP, „What Time Is Love?“. Earlier this year you released the Walpern single as a free download. You’ve been really productive with in one year, but – why did you cover „What Time Is Love?“, originally by the british electro band The KLF? It is a somewhat unlikely choice.
AD: And you’ve even forgotten the „It is our Will“ 12“ single! So, five releases in one year – this really baffles me. But it is big fun writing songs for The Devil and the Universe and it feels liberating to break out of the rock/song context. Plus I don’t have to write lyrics which is getting increasingly harder, I’ve said so much after 18 years of Whispers in the Shadow.
Why we picked a KLF cover – we share a selfmade dogma to ignore all borders. This consequent escapism, which features both parody and graveness, makes us feel really connected to The KLF.
PP: „What Time Is Love?“ does not exactly fit into the The Devil and the Universe puzzle. Not just that it is a cover, it is the first song with vocals. Your first releases have been strictly instrumental. Will this stay a sole exception?
AD: Who knows. We really don’t want to limit ourselves. If it fits, we might work with more vocals. The great thing about The Devil and the Universe is that (nearly) everything is possible!
PP: In general, your music can be described as Soundtrack/Ambient/Industrial-influenced, so it does not rely on traditional song structures as they’re used by Neigungsgruppe Sex, Gewalt und Gute Laune and Whispers in the Shadow. You’ve already mentioned John Carpenter. Coming to the entertainment especially what John Carpenter stands for, I felt really entertained at your gigs! „Satan is Real“, performed by the 60s country band The Louvin Brothers, is a really interesting choice for a concert intro. I have to say that, especially live, you remind me of an occult variant of KISS, entertainmentwise – which is underlined by those great goat masks and the comic-like shirt designs for the „What Time is Love“-shirts. How important are horror show elements for you – and how important is it for The Devil and the Universe that you don’t take yourself too serious?
AD: Well – many people don’t know that there’s a humorous variant of Occultism, called “discordianism”, which is strongly
influenced by authors like Robert Anton Wilson. Coming back to The KLF, they felt connected to him as well, and so the circle becomes complete. In my humble opinion, if someone or something takes him- or herself too seriously, this person loses authencity and becomes ridiculous. Humour is the only way to survive in a universe which is, basically, a joke that tells itself. But, humour isn’t just ridiculousness! That’s a big difference. Our sense of humour is indeed a grave one, though as it isn’t always clear on first sight – especially when you’re not well-versed on the symbols we’re using. This really bugs some people, the reaction to our new shirt designs has shown this – but this kind of ignorance comes from a lack of knowledge or, even worse, „wrong“ knowledge, which makes us giggle every now and then.
PP: I’ve thought of the word „funfear“, which was invented by Anton Szandor LaVey – one’s scared while riding on a rollercoaster or seeing a horror movie, but when the fear is gone, one wants to do it again! Would you say that this „funfear“-scheme appeals to The Devil and the Universe as well?
AD: Yes, I would… though as I am sceptic towards LaVey, but this really makes a point. Especially those horror movie concepts are very present in our work. We’ve even been asked whether we want to write a score for a horror movie, and yes, we wanted to, but that’s a thing that we will talk about in the medium-term.
PP: Obviously, you really seem to like goats. You call your music „Goat Wave“ and your stage outfits are monk’s habits and awesome goat masks – those trademark masks of yours must really have been living hell to wear at Wave Gotik Treffen with its stupid heatwave this year, and you took them off quite early at that gig. So I ask myself, why goats? Though as I think I’m on the right track when I say it is influenced by the identification of goats with Baphomet, a mythical being with a goat head.
AD: First – heat wasn’t the reason why we put down the masks. Thing is, one doesn’t see enough to play instruments properly. It is okay during our first song, we really don’t have that much to do, but playing drums or bass guitar doesn’t work with our masks on. And yes, the goat style stems from Baphomet! Also, in ancient egypt, the goat was a symbol for magic. So this really fitted into our concept.
PP: Though as you work a lot with fun and humour, especially live, you’ve got a very grave – and very interesting – way to work on your music. „The Devil“ and „The Universe“ are both cards off Aleister Crowley’s Thoth tarot with an ambivalent message. The devil is the dark side of any card – it adds black magic to the Magician and greed and lust to the lover. The universe, on the other hand, stands for totality in anything and your own place in the world. Together, this is a really strong message, and those cards were drawn at random. If you laid down those cards in front of you – which message would they tell you?
AD: We’ve had this idea that the tarot shall dictate our band name. Each of us drew a card, and so it was done – but we were really lucky, we could be named „The Lovers and the Fortune“… and that’s a real stupid one. The message we would read out of those two cards is a dualistic one, and this stands for the whole project. The name came out as a great one for this project, it really matches our concept.
PP: The tarot set doesn’t just have a big influence on your band name. You sort of let the cards make your music – each card is a chord or a pattern, and arranged in order, a song is done. But despite of your seemingly random workflow, your music sounds very structured. You wouldn’t say that this is only coincidental, would you?
AD: “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”, that might describe it at best, and honestly, I don’t believe in coincidences, I prefer calling that „synchronicity“. And who is is influenced by that synchronicity could use those „coincidences“ or not, if this person can use them, or this person can aceept its „fate“, and this is what differs a „magically“ thinking person from others, and this is meant absolutely unbiased! I’d never say that a spiritual/magic human being is a better one; spirituality and religion should never become a crusade or a mission. This differs magic/spirituality from religion.
PP: Ashley, you have worked a lot on chaos magick, thelema and other occult/magic systems with your other band, Whispers in the Shadow, whilst David was a buddhist monk for a certain time, so I assume that you have a very spiritual background that doesn’t imply a personal god as it is known from e.g. christianity. So, the concept of The Devil and the Universe is very transcendental and spiritual – you would agree?
AD: Yes! Every kind of spirituality influenced us, no matter which one – even christian spirituality, which might seem surprising for some. „Kruzifix“ e.g. is strongly influenced by christianity, and there is no irony in these words; by the way, it is based on a field recording of a procession in Lourdes. As you state correctly, I am strongly influenced by Chaos magick. This kind of magick doesn’t exclude any system, it uses everything.
PP: Your tracks are influenced by ethno/world music, standing next to post punk structures, samples and field recordings, and your song titles mostly refer to the far or near east, like „Sitra Ahra“ or „Parvati’s Lament“, resemble the far and near east, „Gamaliel“ is a synonym for Lilith, a demon from jewish mysticism. So, mysticism and religion have a huge influence on your song titles and topics – how do you decide which one to choose? You use a lot of different imagery from lots of religions, from christianity to hinduism.
AD: This is always different. Sometimes, the title’s there in the first place, as well as field recordings or music could be the first things in existence. As I just stated, we don’t exclude anything, no system, no religion – we just go shopping down the supermarket of mysticim and take everything matching our concept or what inspires us.
PP: Your album is named „:Imprint Daath“, which sounds very esoteric. Until now, I always interpreted it as „Imprint Death“, but in the kabbalistic system, „Daath“ means knowledge, so it is imprinted knowledge. So it could just be interpreted as „Vinyl record“, a conservator of your strictly musical knowledge, similar to the Buzzcocks’ „Spiral Scratch“ – or as something completely different?
AD: That’s a tough one to answer, I have to go back a step at first; the term “daath” stems from the Kabbala, this is true. And most of us have already seen the kabbalistic „Tree of Life“ – which is, to put it easily, a cosmogenesis, a map or plan of everything existing, living and created. This tree has two sides, a bright and a dark one – the latter called “Sitra Ahra”, which is also a song from our album, or „the dark side of the moon“. The entrance, or connection, to that dark side, is called “daath” – without daath, which can be seen as the knowledge that both sides exist, one cannot achieve wisdom. Though as your interpretation is a fun one, “:Imprint Daath” indeed has a deeper meaning!
PP: As we’re coming closer to the end of this interview – we’ve taken a look on the past and present of The Devil and the Universe, now we should have a peek into the future. What is planned for this and next year?
AD: Well – we’re working on our new album! End of july, we’ll start recording in an old mill now being a studio, where we will work on the details. Plus we’ll have seances and evocations we want to conservate in our music. The album will be inspired by a ominous summer in 1816 – when Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley and John Polidori met at a villa next to Genfer See, took opiates and told each other horror stories; in this very summer, at this very place, the novel „Frankenstein“, alongside others, was written, it was the birth of the „gothic novel“.
And, of course, there are some more gigs planned… The Nocturnal Culture Night (Deutzen/Germany) in september, one in Frankfurt, in Vienna, Berlin and Leipzig. The new album will be released end of october, again via [aufnahme+wiedergabe]. We will again be supporting Sixth Comm, and we’ve already got some festival dates in 2015 confirmed. The goats are here to stay!
PP: Then, thanks a lot for this very interesting interview. Some words at last?
AD: Sure – kiss the goat!