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  • LJ DeWitt

The Dev Interview

Floridian Hellraisers, The Dev, have arrived to tell us about their childhoods, touring during the pandemic, and horror! Somehow the last one is the most lighthearted part of this interview, but as is the way with musicians. Though the band has a small discography currently, it’s void of any flops or filler. A trend I hope to see continue, as they are a truly down to Earth, wonderful, spooky bunch.

D&D: Please introduce yourself and tell me your favorite movie slasher!

Chris (drummer): As far as horror movies, I love zombie movies. Can’t pick one really. As a kid, they were one of my favorites.

Nikollaj (vocalist): I love horror movies, but one scene that made my hairs raise is actually not from a scary movie. It's when the aliens/god possessed the psychologist in Fourth Kind and it's paired with actual footage and audio from the real event. The movie is supposedly based on the truth and that concept alone is chilling because it's so unknown! Ryan (guitar): I love halloween, surfing, horror movies, walks on the beach, living in florida, my corgi Mulder, pirate history, New Orleans, the color purple, tiki culture, and GHOSTFACE! The first Scream was the horror film that got me hooked. I remember watching the opening sequence where Casey Becker got gutted and I was just floored by the shock, intensity, and ever since horror has been my favorite.

D&D: Your most recent single, “Hellbent”, is noted as being inspired by the stories you lived through and listened to while touring in 2021. Can you share with me one of those specific stories?

Nikollaj: The whole concept of Hell Bent was born from the first tour we had ever in 2021. Specifically, a bar called Tribbles, named after the owner Tribble. The crowd was weird and wild and literally everything we wanted. And there was so much weird shit happening! Like an abandoned MASSIVE meat cooler directly behind the venue, and what seemed to be an emptied out room next to the venue that also had a bunch of animal bones (mind you we are in the Bible Belt).

But that didn’t mean anything because these people knew how to have a fun time. After a fun and long show, we bonded with the crowd/bar so well that it inspired us to write the song because just months prior we were all cooped up from COVID and the next thing you know we're at this bar just having a blast! That night ended up with us taking a tipsy selfie with the owner, Tribble, while he took down a picture from the wall to give to our guitarist, Ryan, which he still has to this day.

Ryan: Meeting the owner who shared his experience and story of lockdown, but his determination to bring his music scene back by having shows and providing a place for his community to come back together was truly inspiring. We partied the hardest with him that night, and he even gifted me with a John Wayne Gacy painting in his venue. It really meant a lot to feel like we were providing some much-needed relief and entertainment and to be so welcomed and create a friendship.

D&D: While we’re talking stories—I find the rock ‘n’ roll mentality usually starts young for rockstars. Share with me your favorite troublemaker story from your childhood/teen years!

Chris: As a kid, I’ve set fire to my neighborhood, and just before I moved to that neighborhood I flooded and destroyed the basement of a new house being built (which lead to being shot at by security). I was on a vandalism streak because I hated my neighbor and I smashed his pool pump equipment with my friend using rocks. Needless to say, I was grounded for my whole age of 10 years old, lol.

Nikollaj: I guess for me I was pretty chill aside from the pounds of eyeliner I used over the time of middle and high school. I did skip high school a lot and would purposely get lost and explore random towns. I used to drink at dive bars that we will not name (because I was literally 16-19) and sing a bunch of blues at karaoke/open mics, which is how I would get free drinks, and later would find inspiration from talking to bar drunks about their life, breakups, etc and write songs about it.

Ryan: Well, growing up in Ft. Lauderdale and going to Catholic school, I promise all the partying, beach punk rock stereotypes are true! Lol... for me. I started playing music and sports when I was like 5yrs old. I didn't really get gnarly ‘till high school, but I definitely indulged and had my "dazed and confused" smashing mailboxes, and parties on the beach moments… Over and over and over again!

I think some of the crazy troublemaker stories came from when I worked for the Miami Dolphins football team in high school. I was on the equipment staff/ball boy for games, and well a teen working with celebrities and athletes? Let's just say my first beer, strip club, and crazy club experiences were because of that job and its perks. All completely underage and green.

D&D: If you were sent to Catholic school, I have to ask, how do your parents feel about your music career?

Ryan: I played piano in middle school at services. I also played a lot of guitar at home and in high school jamming along to my favorite songs. It wasn't until college that I started playing in bands. My career started right at the end of college. After 2 years in the music scene, I got a gig as a hired gun for a signed artist. When that happened, they saw I could make a living. As well, they would come to shows and watch me play in a band that was opening for HEART and artists they knew. I'm sure they had hang-ups about it, but when they saw me succeed and do something I love and have a passion for, they supported me. But the tattoos and piercings took a minute!

D&D: Alright, time for the obligatory COVID question. How has the touring environment changed since the pandemic?

Ryan: It's been so topsy-turvy. We ventured out early spring ‘21, but at that time it was touch and go with cancellations and very limited to where you could actually go. Regional bands like us could thrive with shows because only a smaller cap. venues were available. Then, it all opened back up, which flooded markets and shut doors for smaller level bands. Too many bands were out at once. Then it pulled back again and the same scenarios. And the other side for bands is venues and budgets. With prices rising and as well business being down, can venues afford the guarantees? I think, though, we’re seeing the light at the end of the COVID tunnel, if we really aren't there already. Live music is back and in full effect, honestly maybe to a somewhat pre-COVID state as far as events/shows. There are just some new checks and balances we have to take.

D&D: Are there any aspects of the industry you hope will be viewed differently now because of COVID?

Ryan: I think post-COVID, we must always and continuously value the importance of live music. The industry doesn't allow for a lot of revenue streams for artists. It's no secret that streaming and other digital outlets don't pay out generously to musicians. Live music offers one of the last big value income sources for bands of any size. My hope is that the fans still want to come out and support the music and art of their favorite bands and musicians.

D&D: Alrighty, here’s your spot to plug whatever you want!

Chris: We would like to thank MVK Music Group, SIT Strings, WB Gear, SJC Drums, InTune Guitar Picks Inc., Collision Drumsticks, Saluda Cymbals, WTF Publicity, and Black Card Films.

Ryan: I'm gonna plug DOA Co.; It's a Halloween, horror, cult classic apparel and goods company I started at 17 while in between bands. I was drunk in a haunted house line at Halloween Horror Nights and brainstormed the idea. I've always been involved with merch design in bands, and since I have a huge love for Halloween/horror, it seemed fitting. Now I do events and conventions in the southeast us.

D&D: Finally, do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to leave your fans?

Ryan: PASSION IS YOUR PURPOSE. FEAR A MOTIVATION. Respect yourself, create a reality you live for. Live. Love. Learn…


Get radical.


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