(photos by Rick Rodney)
Amigo The Devil plays the banjo, and makes bouncy, jangly, “murderfolk” music you want to slow dance and square dance and drown your sorrows to. The kind of which is most appropriately consumed in a dimly lit Texas saloon while shooting pool (and Old Crow) beneath a taxidermy bison head, in an all denim ensemble and a spit-shined pair of cowboy boots. The well-groomed, slick-quiffed, morbidly-inclined gentleman with the dexterous, heavily inked fingers and fully-loaded lyrics (pictured above in the rustic Sunset Lodge recording studio) first serenaded us with “Perfect Wife,” a tune as traditional and upbeat in tempo as it is dark and eerie in undertone, and which chronicles an ill-fated relationship between troubled man and wife, ending in a bloody Tarantino-esque vengeance at the barrel of a shotgun. Pow.
With the Diggers EP barely one week out of the womb, the handsome, baby-faced devil returns to charm us, pulling a total Jekyll & Hyde and unleashing his frighteningly sensitive side on an unwitting audience in a rapid fire succession of three gut-wrenching and emotionally abusive “love” songs. With a nostalgic sound about as sweet as a Cyanide cocktail, Diggers, produced by Strife guitar player Andrew Kline, is sad and macabre and messy and melodic, and best accompanied by a strong glass of whiskey. Neat.
But, the thing that’s so intriguing about Amigo, and why he’s currently in our heads on repeat, is that if you can look past the his perverse obsession with the object of his affection whom he desires so intensely he wants to stalk and kill her while she’s sleeping just to keep her from being in the arms of someone who isn’t him (which you probably can’t), there is a familiar desperation in his voice –a nostalgic, bluesy bleakness, that is reminiscent of a Bon Iver or Johnny Cash or Nick Cave on a murderous rampage. The Devil’s world isn’t pretty, but it is tragically romantic; a dystopian fantasy that is part-Freudian, part-love-sick-country-crooner-dead-too-soon-from-a-toxic-combo-of-cocaine-booze-and-heartache. I’m no sadist, but I like it. And if you’ve ever had your heart trampled all over like a rodeo clown, I’m certain you will derive some demented pleasure from it, also.
A little creeped out and a little curious, I spoke to The Devil, birth name Danny Kiranos, on a sunny Sunday Southern California morning. We discussed music, muses, and murder, and I was surprised to learn that even this Cimmerian songster is not exempt from the tear-inducing powers of a Hollywood heartthrob. For all that and more, read the full interview. (A special thanks to Andrew Kline and Rick Rodney of Strife Los Angeles for producing this EP and taking awesome pictures).
What are you doing right now?
Sitting on the porch drinking coffee, re-stringing a banjo, loving everything about this day.
Speaking of sunny days, when did your obsession with serial killers & murder begin?
It’s always been this way. Back then I didn’t really have an outlet for it, so I watched a lot of movies and read books.
Were you ever worried about scaring people?
Of course. My mom was always freaked out.
Do your own twisted thoughts ever freak you out?
No. I’m pretty comfortable with who I am, and knowing I’d never do anything too crazy. I’m a pretty stable guy.
Who is your muse?
Without sounding like a cry baby, I’d say suffering. People’s suffering. The suffering around us. It doesn’t hurt to pay attention to what’s going on in the world.
Did you follow the Dorner case?
Ya. I still don’t think he’s dead.
What is your idea of abject misery?
Being completely incapable of taking care of yourself and unable to live independently.
What is your idea of total happiness?
The opposite of that. Being able to live independently. Not relying on anyone else.
Are you worried about the blow-back from people, women in particular, who think your music promotes violence against women?
In the beginning, that was definitely something I was worried about, especially because “Perfect Wife” does have some strong violent sentiments. My aim is actually to show that women are the backbone to men. More than anything else, I think I portray men as these pitiful, dependent beings. So far, most people have seemed to understand the intention, but if anyone had a problem, I would definitely try and speak to that and clear that up.
So, you’re not angry at women?
Not at all.
Your music isn’t in reaction some terrible heartbreak?
Nope. Most of my songs aren’t actually about things that have happened to me.
Do women fuel your creative fire?
Ya. They do.
What is your guilty pleasure?
The Notebook. It’s so sad.
Do you cry when you watch it?
Oh ya. Every time.
What’s your vice?
I have to say, I love my vices. I love drinking and drugs and other stuff. But, I’m all grown up now, so I’ve had to cool it a bit with some of that
How old are you?
25. I still have a lot of growing to do.
Does being under the influence help your creative process?
No. Not at all. It just leaves my sort of blocked. There’s nothing better than a clear head. That’s one of the biggest reasons I’ve had to slow down with that kind of stuff.
Do you have a favorite lyric you’ve written?
I do, actually. It’s off of the new EP Diggers, from a song called “Recluse”, which we just put out a new video for. It’s about the Matthew Shepard murder. The lyrics are, “It’s always a drag to be on the fence, about who you are and its consequence.” It’s about what happened to Matthew, but also just in general, the struggle to be who you are, and the difficulties that go along with that.”
So, it’s fair to assume that you’re pretty liberal and progressive in your beliefs?
Absolutely. I don’t give a shit what you do, as long as you’re happy. Just don’t hurt anyone.
What’s next for Amigo?
I think it’s going to be a pretty big year for us. We’re going to do some touring in the Southwest and Santa Fe then maybe Australia. Diggers comes out on Tuesday, so I’m just really excited to see what happens and how people respond. This album is a lot less about being catchy, and lot more complex and thought out, I’m trying really hard not to say grown up, but…
But maybe it’s a little grown up?