Jan 2021 06

Guitar legend George Lynch, producer extraordinaire Joe Haze, and vocal firebrand Devix Aka introduce audiences to the dream punk stylings of The Banishment.
 

 

An InterView with Devix Aka, Joe Haze, and George Lynch of The Banishment

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

After establishing himself in the realms of hard rock and heavy metal as one of the premier guitarists of his generation, George Lynch hooked up with renowned musician/producer Joe Haze in 2015 on a new, darker musical endeavor. Drawing on the latter’s penchant for industrial sound design and machine/rock, the pair began operating under the name of The Banishment, named for a song by PRONG at a time when that band’s Tommy Victor was involved in the project. After Victor’s departure, the duo contemplated making the project purely instrumental until Devin Szell – a.k.a. Devix Aka – entered into their lives. Bringing his own aggressively emotive lyrical and vocal sensibilities to the band, The Banishment took on a mixture of Haze’s bleak mechanical atmospheres and programmed rhythms, Devix’s diverse vocal approach, and topped off by Lynch’s signature licks and solos, creating something reminiscent of the hard rocking vibrancy of late ’90s era industrial/metal and coldwave. Dubbing their style as dream punk, The Banishment is now hard at work on a debut album with an IndieGoGo campaign currently being held to help spread the word about the band and fund what is sure to be an exciting genre record for 2021. Haze, Devix, and Lynch took the time to speak with ReGen Magazine in the twilight of the last year, discussing the formation of the group, their musical approach, and dropping a few hints about what more we can expect beyond the self-titled debut album from The Banishment.

 

Let’s begin with a short history about The Banishment, how the band got started and what the original idea was for it.

Haze: We have a mutual friend, Mandy Lion, and Mandy actually sang on George’s first solo album; he did the song ‘Beast.’ Basically, Mandy and I wanted to work together, and George and Mandy wanted to work together, and so I said, ‘Well, let’s all do something,’ to just see what would happen. Long story short, I ended up writing a bunch of basic ideas, and it was just very strange because the first time I was in the studio with George… I mean, he’s one of my biggest influences, if not the biggest. But at the same time, doing what he does with what I do… what’s that going to be like? But George was brave enough to let me fly out and hang out, and we did a bunch of 15-hour sessions.

From what I understand, George, you were basically hoping to do something ‘darker’ than you’d been known for. Did you have a sense of what you wanted to do musically, and how do you feel Haze brought that to you?

Lynch: I was just interested in mating what I do to what Haze does – machine music meets soft machine stuff, analog. I had a sense that there was sort of a need for that, and there’s kind of a hole in that space genre-wise. I’m a fan of that kind of music. I listen to MINISTRY and The Prodigy and Nine Inch Nails or whatever, but to me, I could always imagine that there could be another guitar dimension added to that without taking away from the power of it and everything else that’s going on if you play selectively, which is what we did. It was kind of a tough balance to achieve, but we did our best. Really, it was a lot of fun just being in the room with Haze and just doing the month or whatever we did; I think it was three weeks of some serious woodshedding. The room was just covered in gear like wallpaper and carpet – you couldn’t walk anywhere without stepping on shit. I love that; it’s like spaghetti. We were just trying everything, and everything that we were trying was doing something interesting and cool. The record is this serious palate of dense stuff. We used everything, and there’s a lot going on, but definitely for that reason, it bares repeated and in-depth listening. It was more dimensional than what I normally do.

I’m actually glad that you mentioned MINISTRY, because hearing ‘Lost Horizon,’ the whole vibe of it really put me in mind of the late ’90s era of that band, like Filth Pig and Dark Side of the Spoon.
You’re calling the style ‘dream punk,’ so in what ways do you feel that’s a good tag for what you’re trying to achieve in The Banishment?

Devix: I’d just say there’s a lot to it. It’s an analysis of the genres, actually; a deconstruction and a rebranding. That’s exactly what it is. Whatever makes it harder for them to find us on Spotify.

(Laughter)

Isn’t that the antithesis? Shouldn’t you want them to find you?

Devix: Anti-marketing! It’s the real deal, it works.

Haze: The crazy thing for me, and the thing that I’m really trying to get across to the world is that this is a very interesting project because… I know guitar. I started off as a guitar player. I still play guitar in the traditional sense. I never really was into the flashy guitar players, but I always liked George because he was always sort of on the edge of sucking, but not really ‘sucking‘ sucking; just being dangerous… slipping off the edge. But then, you also have Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy and they’re distorting vocals and doing all this stuff, and I always wanted to put those two things together, but here’s the problem: you have two sides of a different coin. All the rock people are like, ‘Oh, we don’t like keyboards and weird drum stuff,’ and all the people that you InterView and are in that world are like, ‘Oh, guitar solos? Oh, it’s butt rock.’ I thought we could do a little bit of both and carve something out that’s legit. I mean, in KMFDM, Günther had some awesome solos and it was a little here and there, but it worked for me. But we’re exaggerating that idea.

Devix: Yeah, it’s found its own voice, and I was thinking earlier that it’s hard to find a voice. It was challenging to find a voice in this music because it was so well done and it requires a bit of soul searching, honestly, because it does have… not an homage, but it’s picking up where guys like that left off. But I’m kind of forced to create something new within that, while acknowledging what was done so well before, just like you said with Dark Side of the Spoon. That’s one of my favorite records.

Lynch: Did you say Dark Side of the Spoon?

Devix: Oh yeah, that’s a great record. It is an incredible album.

If you’ve not heard it, it’s one of MINISTRY’s best records.

Lynch: Oh wow!

Devix: I agree entirely, and that’s a huge compliment.

Haze: And they got heavier as they went on too.

 

 

From what I understand, George and Haze had been searching for a vocalist and even considered making the project instrumental at one point. How did you hook up with Devix, and what do you feel his style really connected with what you are trying to achieve in The Banishment?

Lynch: Well, his voice has that angst, which we needed to add to what we had going on. We worked with Mandy for a while, and it didn’t work out – collectively, we all agreed that it probably was not the right fit. So, we kind of drifted off and Haze and I kept working, and we finally hooked up with the singer from PRONG, Tommy. He sang two songs, which we may possibly release as bonus tracks or something later on after the record is released as sort of an afterthought, but it’s really good. We were doing a photoshoot with Tommy, and he came up with The Banishment name and he welcomed us to use it. I think the project just wasn’t moving quick enough for him or something; I know he’s really busy as most of us are with multiple projects, so he just let that one go, and that’s fine, which actually worked out. I’d have to let Haze or Devix pick up here because I’m not sure about the nexus of how this relationship started. I can’t really remember…

Devix: It’s foggy for us.

Haze: Yeah, it’s already getting foggy. Well, I found myself in L.A. because I commuted to and from L.A. because I don’t live there anymore.

Devix: Haze and I got hooked up by a mutual friend.

Haze: He was my ride from the airport.

Devix: Yeah, and we went to Swinger’s Diner, and we sat down, and we had breakfast after the airport, and we really just understood exactly what needed to be done. It was interesting. I had sent them a song, which turned out to be ‘Lost Horizon,’ in a full circle experience. That was over a year ago now; it’s bizarre. I worked on a whole record basically over a series of months, and no work at all, back-and-forth for the last year-and-a-half. This idea started coming through of a finished product, and we realized that we had to act quickly to get this thing out, to move it along; otherwise, this idea was going to vaporize and fall between our fingers. It happens. So, we started working on it, and it’s pretty much done. We just have to finish it.

From what I understand, it was at ColdWaves that you met?

Devix: Yeah, I can’t remember what year that was now, but I was seeing a friend of mine play. I was introduced to this mutual friend of ours, and she just walked me over, and I saw Haze and had to get in touch with him after the fact… and then, he came back to L.A. or something like that, and we ended up going to Swingers.

Lynch: We should get our stories straight before we do any more interviews. It sounds like we don’t know how we got together.

(Laughter)

Well, it does get hazy with everything going on. Time has no meaning anymore. But the only reason I asked is because I’ve been to every ColdWaves since the beginning, and I’m sure you guys must’ve seen some random fat guy in a cowboy hat.

Haze: One or two.

I was one of them.

Haze: It’s bizarre how small this industry actually is. Every day I find some weird connection. Our photographer that did our first Banishment shoot with Dev, one of his friends also shot Tim Sköld and Nero’s new project. I was like, ‘Dude, that’s insane.’

Devix: It was a whirlwind. When we met, it was a total whirlwind. They came and bailed me out of my music studio that I was living out of. It was a total hell, and they showed up with drinks and fun and photographers…

Haze: One of them was my photographer.

Lynch: And a wardrobe artist.

Devix: It was insane! tequila I think was involved, a fair amount of tequila, and whatever. We had a photoshoot.

Lynch: Then we left, and the carriage turned back into a pumpkin.

Well, speaking of the visual element, one of the perks on the campaign are paintings that are also a collaborative effort between George and Devix. Does one of you start the painting and the other finishes it? What’s that process like?

Devix: Yes, when the Earth stopped, I started painting back in March. I’d never done anything like that before; I’ve never painted. It just happened on accident, and it had to happen. George saw some of my work and he liked it, and this idea came along as we were talking about putting out this record alone without the machine – nothing against the machine, but it’s in the middle of a global crisis and musicians are making music, and I don’t know what anybody else is doing. I don’t know. It’s horrifying out there. But George saw my work, and we both just thought it was a great idea.

Lynch: Well, Devix is… he is an artist, whether he has done it a long time or not. He’s got abilities and skills and he can envision something and visualize it and make it a reality. I, on the other hand, do finger-painting. He sent me a bunch of half-done canvases, dropped them off at my front door, and I just go in the backyard with a bunch of stuff and do a little bit of a mixed media thing, and try to finish it out – embellish and add to it. And they’re all unique. I’m not saying they’re good or bad; they just are what they are. We’re not professionals, but I enjoy doing it. I think it’s therapeutic.

Devix: And it’s all collaboration. That’s the thing about this project is that even as a vocalist, these guys have not stepped on my toes at all while writing. It’s fully cooperative. It’s really amazing as we pull this off that it’s a full collaboration. You don’t find that as often anymore in my opinion.

Haze: I do admit one thing – it’s interesting because when George and I wrote this stuff, we had the ability to somehow… I could say, ‘Dude, I don’t like that.’ Or he’d say, ‘Do you like this?’ and I would say, ‘No.’ Or he would say, ‘Can you change that’ about something I did. So, we had that ability, and Devix and I are kind of growing into that. I will admit that there’s a 50/50 situation that we haven’t discussed yet – I thought it was a terrible idea to put that solo on the beginning of our song, but Dev had a completely different version of the concept, which works both ways. Some people love it and some people hate it. I don’t know.

Lynch: We trust each other to do what we’re designed to do. I can’t sing, and I can’t program, and I can’t mix or anything like that.

Devix: Well, I am helping with arrangements now too. It’s incredible. That’s what you just said, Haz, because you guys were both insane thinking you were going to lop off this ‘wannabe Voodoo Child solo,’ or whatever the hell you called it. Are you fucking kidding me, man? It sets the tone. It’s beautiful, something destroyed, you’re never going to see it again. I love it.

Lynch: That is not a reoccurring part.

It hooked me.

Haze: It’s art. That’s the art part. This ain’t your great granddaddy’s Lynch. This ain’t no ‘Dream Warrior’ shit!

(Laughter)

Lynch: And if you’re just a straight up genre band playing industrial music, you probably wouldn’t hear inflections of Hendrix thrown in there, and if nothing else, this is a unique animal.

Devix: You’ve got to go to Jesus Jones to get any funk like that.

Haze: Here’s the interesting thing though, and this is something to the Lynch fans, I am a fan as well. I’m familiar with the music. I’ve jammed along with the music. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to keep some of the solos and put them together in an interesting, tasteful way. Not every song has a solo, but it does when it’s appropriate, and I think that’s part of the balance is having those elements. Because why have Lynch not be him? Like, ‘Hey dude, play three chords and I’ll sample it.’ What’s the point? Anybody can do that. Anybody in L.A. can program, but they’re not going to have my brain and they’re not going to work with the people I’ve worked with and learned from. If you took any two other people, it would sound completely different, obviously.

Devix, as far as the lyrics, you’ve written them all?

Devix: Just with the possibility of using Tommy PRONG’s vocals, and I haven’t decided… George was saying maybe as an outlier, but I don’t know. If it fits on the record, then it fits on the record, but that comes with creating a structure and something that makes sense as you’re listening to it. If it stands out too much and it doesn’t find a place within the actual record itself, we’ll see.

Lynch: We definitely took some sideroads when we were writing initially. We got a little more adventurous and went off the beaten path and wrote a couple of things that didn’t sound like they’d be on the same album as the rest of the songs.

Devix: And I found them!

Lynch: We weren’t intending to include them, but Dev found a way to make it work, and he loved them, and it’s awesome.

Devix: Yeah, there’s a story in there somewhere, and I’ve got a lot of it on paper and a lot of it is recorded. It’s not the easiest task to create something out of nothing, and it’s music, of course, but my job is coming in with my vocabulary and… it’s funny, because George actually was describing something about this music very early on – he said two words, he said ‘Soft Machine.’ And I’m very much a fan of Burroughs, and I grew up reading Burroughs as a teenager, and the cutup method is always great fun. The story that I’ve found through this record and this experience through my life over the last year-and-a-half is pretty wild, so I don’t know how much of that is going to go in there, but all writing is autobiographical. We’ll see what comes out.

I know you’re all in different cities and that a significant chunk of this record was done before the quarantines, but with live music being in turmoil with no shows going on and artists and bands are doing livestreams and using online technology and recordings, what are your thoughts on how The Banishment will be using them? Are there plans to do any kind of videos or shows?

Devix: A video is in pre-production, if not actual slow-motion production. I was supposed to start shooting our music video for ‘Lost Horizon.’ I kind of got something ready to start shooting some actors and creating a video here in L.A., and anyway, I have to wait.

Lynch: We extended our IndieGoGo campaign by a couple of extra months, so we’ve got time.

Haze: We’ll see what happens. I’ve always preferred to go darker; I want the video to be super dark and terrible and evil. But we’ll see what happens.

Devix: I’ll say something really quick about that, because it comes back to the Soft Machine, it comes back to dream punk, and it comes back to industrial music. This is a lot of music that was actually designed… it’s grieving music. It’s not about it being dark or evil; it’s grieving music. It serves a purpose, and they did a good job with this. So, the vocals have to connect. Anyway, it’s going to be great fun.

(Laughter)

We do live in an age of nostalgia with bands bringing back the sounds of old with synthwave and post-punk revivalism, and some bands even coming back and getting back together. What are your thoughts on how these trends are being perceived by new audiences? Does it inspire a deeper dig into the past, or is it a fad?

Devix: The more, the merrier. Keep coming out of the fucking woodwork. Keep going. That includes coming back. Push forward, put the art pedal to the metal, to quote Terrence McKenna. That’s where we are right now – art pedal to the metal. That’s the only thing that some of us have. Well, it’s not the only thing, but it’s an exceptional thing that some of us have that works when you push back against any kind of negativity that may be invading your psyche or system.

Lynch: The shelf-life for these re-synthesized genres and microgenres are very short, it seems like in a lot of cases. They’ll attract attention and come and go, make an impression, and they’ll be gone within a year, and it’s not really about having staying power, which is what I grew up with – having a massive rock movement that sticks around and sticks to your ribs. It almost makes you think, ‘is it worth it?’ Is it worth paying attention to if it’s not going to be here? But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important; it just means that people’s attention spans have diminished, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think eventually, all music appreciators and creators will morph into the same thing – we’ll all be our own music creators, and people won’t need people like us; they’ll just be able to think it, and there will be a very easy bridge between thinking and doing… it won’t be like you’ll have to learn a skill. You won’t have to learn guitar for 10 years, or keyboards, or have an inherent vocal ability, or learn all the machines that Haze uses.

Haze: That kind of takes the fun away from it though.

Devix: The producer, in my book, is the one who ends up pulling that stuff off, and that really is all about chasing… literally chasing trends. We’re not chasing trends; we’re just making music that we liked or that happened. It wasn’t really about that.

Lynch: We chase chemistry, not trends.

Haze: But honestly, I face this challenge often. When I was in the studio making rock albums with Sylvia Massey, it’s great. ‘Cool, we have guitars, great bands, and this and that.’ I always felt like there was something missing. It was always like, ‘Can we do some sound design? Can we do this and do that?’ And Sylvia was really creative, so that’s why we got along really well. But I think there’s a huge lack of that. Hey, AC/DC’s great, and people respond to it, whatever. In my opinion, that stuff is kind of boring. You know what I mean? Like, ‘Dude, that’s 25% of what we can do. I want to do 75% or 100%’ And it really keeps me up at night because there’s so much, and if you’ve heard my remixes, I’ve put stuff into that. I could tell you, it’s insane. It’s stuff that you don’t even know you can do. I push myself. You can do it; you just have to want to do it. It’s the same thing with George. Most people pick up a guitar, and it sounds fine, and you have these people on YouTube that can play amazing technically, but it doesn’t matter. ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ It’s a circus act. I think that that’s the cool thing about this, and hey, maybe I’m up my own ass with it because it’s our band, but there’s something awesome about George doing what he does, and I’m doing what I do, and it’s taken years.

Devix: It has taken years, and I should’ve said this from the beginning. George took me aside and I’ve been working on my best Sammy Hagar impression since I started this thing two years ago, and this is the best I’ve gotten, so I’m trying… I’m trying. We’re going to bring the next dimension into this noise. Just wait! Wait until you get the record; it’s going to be great!

Lynch: Come to our first show! It’s going to be in like two years at the Enormodome.

Devix: We should just get a slot in Vegas and play all the hits.

Lynch: Yeah, we’re going to have MINISTRY, The Prodigy, and Nine Inch Nails are going to open up for us. They’ll only play for 15 minutes, and we’re headlining.

Devix: We’ll just steal their music.

(Laughter)

What other projects are you all working on that you’d like to tell people about?

Lynch: Who wants to go first?

Devix: I’ll go first. It was interesting, this opportunity came up right after finishing up a record with a group called Symbolism, and that was with two original members of Christian Death – that’s Rikk Agnew and James McGearty – and London May, the drummer of Samhain. I had to do this job once before, except they’re two different worlds and they meet, and I don’t know how this happened, but it is happening, and something very interesting is going to happen once this all finishes. It’s pretty intense. So, that’s what’s coming from me. We were going to play a show with Body Count at the Fonda Theatre on May 25; it was our third show.

Haze: I love the Fonda.

Devix: Yeah, and then the fucking COVID hit us like everyone else. ‘Oh, we’ll be open by April.’

Haze: What am I doing, you ask? I just got done with another remix for Cat Hall of Dissonance – we love her, she’s awesome. Yeah, this one was interesting. I did some crazy shit on this remix, and that’s a good one. I’m also producing and doing a bunch of stuff for Johnny Price, the percussionist and second singer for Motograter, so that’s cool. And stuff I can’t talk about – secret projects.

Lynch: I started a landscaping service called Mr. Scary’s Lawnmowing Service, and I bought a new lawnmower. I put it in the back of my pickup truck, and people pay me $40 a month and I mow their lawns, and it’s really cool. Sometimes they recognize me and they give me a tip… the tip is don’t quit your day job.

(Laughter)

Lynch: No, I’m just kidding. My wife and I are hiding out. We bought this kind of adventure four-wheel-drive solar vehicle that we use to escape. We’ve just been… we’re actually driving across the country right now. I’ve got a little studio set up – I’ve got some guitars and some gear, and I just write when I’m on the road and do what I can when I’m out here. I’m just trying to stay safe and sane and still have some adventure in my life.

Is there anything else you’d really like to talk about?

Lynch: Well, the IndieGoGo campaign, I don’t know if we hit on that.

Devix: Not really; we should.

Lynch: It’s pretty important.

Devix: It’s pretty important. Without it, we’ve got nothing.

Lynch: Just to spell it out, we’ve got about three-quarters of the record done instrumentally. We’ve got a lot of arranging to do, some recording to do, which we’re doing all remotely. We’re not in a room together anymore, but we just send stuff back-and-forth. Devix has sung a couple of songs, but we’ve got more songs to sing and arrange and, of course, mix and master and all that stuff. We’re going to press vinyl and CDs, and we’re doing artwork, we’ll have T-shirts and things that we’re giving away including a couple of pieces of gear that we used during the recording process like a guitar and things like that. So, if people want to go check that out, just look up The Banishment on IndieGoGo, and you’ll see our campaign there. We’re going to be running that for another three weeks, and we’re looking for direct fan support, and we’ve never done that before. It’s a lot more gratifying just to have people who love your music and appreciate you and want to encourage you to put something out that they live, and if they’re not particular, they get to be a part of it in any small or large way. We have things that we send you for that generosity, and it’s all one big happy family.

Devix: It’s all about that name – The Banishment. That’s how great of a band name this is. They found a thing, and the idea has been waiting for years to finally come out, and it was still available, so we got that. You can find us very easily.

Lynch: I think that our solid tangible product will be out in mid-February and available to people, so if people do send us a couple of bucks and want a CD, that’s about when we’re looking to have that finished up and sent out.

Devix: And basically, employing me to take care of business, and that’s what I’ll do. I’ll make sure I hand-seal everything for you. It’ll be beautiful.

Lynch: You know, there’s the Gospel of Prosperity where preachers promise you that if you donate to God, he’ll reward you tenfold. Well, this is sort of the Music of Prosperity – it’s the same thing, the same mechanism. Anything you give will be returned. You’ll probably win the lottery if you donate to our record; it’s probably just going to happen. Or something way better.

(Laughter)

Lynch: At least, a Rolex. That’s the worst that can happen.

Devix: A hint that I’ll give you that I’m aiming for is… do you know the song ‘Vex & Silence’ at the end of Dark Side of the Spoon? I’ve always wanted to cover that song, and it would be a dream to sing that song, and that’s the last song on that record, and there are no more vocals. They did come back and kill with another record, but there’s something about that world and I kind of want to see where that world goes, so that’s what I’m aiming for with this record. So, we’ll see… there’s a lot that you haven’t heard.

Haze: The other thing is you InterView a lot of people that I’ve worked with, my friends, but I really want to spread the word to that community, to our community as well. We have the rock thing, and that’s awesome too, but it’s like two different worlds in a lot of ways, so I’m really looking forward to spreading the word to our community.

 

The Banishment
Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, The Banishment IndieGoGo Campaign
George Lynch
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube
Joe Haze
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube
Devix Aka
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube

 

Photography by Moira Ross of Platinum Black Design, Kevin Baldes of Kevin Baldes Photogaphy and NRG Recording Studios, Nick Watland, and Devix Aka – provided courtesy of The Banishment and Kelly Walsh of SRO (Schneider Rondan Organization) PR

 

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