Infinite possibilities exist in this world of ours, flat or round, from minute to minute there is an infinite number of things that could or could not happen. (And does it really matter what the shape of the rock we call Earth?) Sitting at THREE LINKS in Deep Ellum while waiting for my interview with AMIGO THE DEVIL to finish the sound check, my mind was in that holdover pattern, hovering, waiting to be told to land a thought…any thought for that matter. Like a mobile hangs and spins with the movement of the air, the zillion thoughts were circling and waiting for me to line them up for selection. Well, they’ll have to wait a little longer until my interview starts.
AMIGO THE DEVIL is a singer/songwriter, a one-man-band if you will. And no, not one of those oddities that “wear” instruments like a suit of armor whilst making funny faces keeping the beat of the carnival tune he’s playing. AMIGO THE DEVIL is DANNY KIRANOS who is a Texan by transplant, originally from Miami, Florida. His instruments of choice are the banjo and acoustic guitar as conduits for his craft that has been categorized as folk. I would say that DANNY creates spirited, emotional songs that are translations of something from within him. Just because an artist plays the acoustic guitar and performs as a solo act, does not instantly qualify him or her as a folk artist. If anything, DANNY writes music that I would call deep folk or em-olk, short for emotional folk, (I totally just made that up right there – emolk. ) if you have to classify his music as folk.
But I’m just going to refer to it as music that I really, really dig. Let’s be frank, shall we? In order for a person to get up on a stage with just an instrument and their voice, that person has to have something to say at the very least. Talent also has to be a huge factor as well because, well, it’s just them and an instrument. And if you know anything about a banjo, they’re not easy to play or they’re different than playing the guitar, I should say.
DANNY comes out to the patio and sits down across from me at the picnic table that’s been adorned with the scribbles of over-served patrons with Sharpies. It’s strange at times reflecting back on some of the interviews I have had, and as I’m writing this intro to the interview a few days after the show, it strikes me as strange. Not DANNY, but these encounters with some people I meet and chat with like DANNY.
See, music binds us in ways that words sometimes cannot. And no matter what style it is written in, that music creates killer, meaningful conversations that might not have ever happened. It’s strange for two people to sit in front of each other and talk with this underlying connection. One person being the creator and the other person the interpreter of sorts that just by being a listener has an insight into the creator’s mind. That’s the part that’s strange, you get my drift?
Here’s our conversation that night, Friday, October 19th in Deep Ellum, Texas. Enjoy!
CB: Your music has some social references tied up in both the lyrics and the instrumentation, I mean there’s not many rock/folk rock artists that play the banjo! With the divisions in our country and not just political, mind you. What do you think causes these divisions and how is it that your music speaks to them?
DK: Once you start peeling back everything, the ideology…One of the biggest problems is a lack of empathy. It deals with people’s existence on several levels. Like for example, depression. No one should have to feel like they’re going to burden someone else. Society’s problem resides in not wanting to carry the burden of its people.
CB: Finding yourself alone even though you are in a crowded room or have a ton of friends, is a very dark feeling. I think some of the disconnect is not wanting to share innermost thoughts for fear of being dismissed or not validated in some way.
DK: People are so easy to dismiss people’s faith because of a lack of their own. We shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells because we have a different opinion.
CB: So true. How did you come about singing or writing music for AMIGO THE DEVIL? Your voice is distinct, and uniquely powerful. How did you know you wanted to sing and do this for your career? Side Note: note the response in his next question. Humans…please take note of this response!
DK: I believe everybody can sing, they just have their own tone. Take for example Leonard Cohen, he took what he had and used that to create his own sound. And he changed people’s lives!! You have to work with what you have. Like I love opera, but I’m not going to be an opera singer. I just took what I have and made it work for me.
CB: You’re currently on the road in support of your release Everything Is Fine that literally came out today, congrats by the way. How is touring for you, life on the road can be challenging for some. Others love it. What is your experience with performing on the road?
DK: Thank you. Ya, it actually came out (Everything Is Fine) today. My phone was going crazy and I was playing last night, got off stage and was like, “Oh no, what happened?” with all the notifications. It was after midnight, obviously. Then I remembered that my CD came out! But ya, you have to adapt to touring. Once I’ve been home for a week, I’m ready to go again. I get to meet a ton of great people out here. There are great places to play and I always get so much from being on the road.
CB: I really like what you said about making things work with what you have. I think a lot of people, like myself, don’t try new things because we feel we don’t have the right tools or our tools aren’t good enough or better yet that we will fail, so why try. You know?
DK: If something doesn’t work it’s not over or not a failure. It just didn’t work at that time for you, and it may not be the place for you. But it’s not necessarily you, or about you.
CHAD LOVELL (sound engineer at The Curtain Club and drummer from COURSE OF EMPIRE), comes out to the patio and says hello to DANNY and sits down. An intricate cog in the Dallas music scene for many years, it’s no surprise these two know each other. CHAD is one of my favorite people on the planet, I welcome him to sit down. We all exchange pleasantries while someone drags one of the giant wood picnic tables with two benches attached, It was a thunderous racket that seemed to last a lot longer than it should have to move it the three feet it was relocated to.
CB: What is social media’s role in promoting yourself, the new record, or touring? How do you use it for the band?
DK: Social media is so time-consuming. I will find myself scrolling through for hours and hours. I’ll be looking up something like “Zion Natural Park” and 3 hours have gone by and I’ve watched 15 videos about a lost civilization living in Zion Natural Park.
CB: Oh, don’t get me started on those tumbles through rabbit holes. I got lost for a couple of hours in the “flat earth” topic…
DK: Don’t look up “Finland doesn’t exist” then.
CB: Oh, I probably will later, so thanks for that!
DK: I love it when there is an effort that goes into an insanely silly concept that isn’t true, but the production value and thought that went into their concept is amazing. So it’s almost like I have to believe it for just a second! (laughing)
CB: Seriously, look, at one point, I was thinking to myself, “Ya, I haven’t seen the Earth before so how do I KNOW it is round?” I mean, some of these points are very convincing. (both of us are laughing at this point). I mean, some of the videos look like they were filmed on an old camera that you have to crank a handle and some look like they were shot by a movie studio!
But in all seriousness, making music for you, not just on this record, but throughout your life, that brings you joy I am guessing. What motivates you to make music and what do you think connects people to it (music)?
DK: I just want people to do the things that make them the best of who they are. I write about the things around me that I understand. I’m not saying I’m smart, I just talk about or write music about the things that are around me. I try to understand somebody else’s struggle before I try and understand myself.
CB: I can see where people would relate to your songs. The lyrics are quite stirring. You have a lot of tattoos. It’s like a book of stories – the symbols and the pictures that are memories of things you like or that influenced you over the years. The imagery, I’ve noticed show up in your music as well. I can’t see you killing anything. The lyrics you write – where does that come from, the honesty… It’s not as though I can see you as a murderer or that stalks serial killers! (laughing)
DK: No! (laughing) They’re not real. I don’t want to “kill” anyone’s husband. Or I’m not wanting to be like Jeffrey Dahmer or whoever. That’s why I don’t get why people that think the symbolism within my record, or the words in my songs are real. They’re not, but they are my observations of what is going on around people in my life. Like short stories. They’re what I see that I wish I could help or take away.
CB: Ah, an empath…
DK: Ya, it sucks. I have a dark sense of humor, it’s the way I process things. A lot of my songs come from my friends experiences, and what they had to go through.
…end of transmission****
DANNY’S tattoos aren’t the only thing that depict portions of his life. His music he creates also speaks volumes about his past, what he may like for his future, and the fact that he can convey both in healthy ways with music in the present kinda makes him a superhero in my book. In a genuinely honest way that only an empath could convey, Everything Is Fine is a culmination of stories, thoughts, modes of processes, sprinkled with a sweet coating of that darkness that everyone has and feels in some ways.
Live, DANNY takes that same energy that he trapped like a firefly in the summer in the studio and performs i on stage, just him the banjo and the guitar, emote that same vibe you feel listening to the songs alone. Only live, there are tons of folks, just like you that are catching what he’s doing as he’s plunking out the chords or flicking the banjo pics against the snared top. They are signing, with smiles on their faces, even when singing about Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer. Are they under some spell or are they MK Ultra’d? Not hardly. AMIGO THE DEVIL’S fans are having fun, throwing a few back and relaxing with music at a rock sh…er…fol…er…banjo…oh to hell with it – at a rock show. There, I said it. It’s a rock show for the love of cream!!
There is humility in DANNY’S face as the audience sings along and even more so when it is over and they cheer louder. It’s actually kind of amazing how his performance boiled over in the room and out the front and back doors of THREE LINKS DEEP ELLUM from just DANNY and an instrument. Along with the intonation from the crowd choral, this set was more like a ritual to expel whatever each person in the audience need to rid or soak in, with DANNY the cantor leading the service.
Everything Is Fine is not just a great record. DANNY’S not just a strapping singer with a knack for lyrics and a killer performance. Because DANNY was observant to the people around him, those he knew and those he didn’t know, he is able to see or feel and communicate things in his friend’s lives or even a stranger’s life that impact them. They also impact him. It’s what happens to the listener within those two elements that gains so much ground; with the humble offerings, honest storytelling, and the healing found within the darkness. This is why I consider Everything is Fine from AMIGO THE DEVIL one of or the most consequential records of 2018.
Check the band’s Facebook or Instagram page for more info or remaining tour dates and if AMIGO THE DEVIL is in your neck of the woods, make sure you get out to see this show. You won’t be disappointed!
Til Next Time – MLMR – Cherri
All images subject to copyright.© Cherri Bird | AntiHero Magazine | 2018