Monday, November 8, 2010

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience: Michael “Denim“ Devin

It was on all the music sites and magazines in August:
After months of speculation, Whitesnake are thrilled to announce their new bass player/singer… 35 year old Michael Devin.

Recently Michael was playing with Lynch Mob with new Whitesnake drummer Brian Tichy.

[caption id="attachment_478" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Michael 'Denim' Devin(left) with Jason Bonham."]Michael 'Denim' Devin (left) with Jason Bonham.[/caption]

Brian Tichy turns up a lot in the Michael Devin story. Whether it’s as the organizer for the tribute to John Bonham, Bonzo: The Groove Remains the Same, that Devin played in (along with JBLZE keyboard/guitar/lap steel player Stephen LeBlanc); as the drummer for Lynch Mob and Whitesnake with Devin; or just in passing mention as Devin’s favourite drummer to work with:
He’s the best drummer in the west. That playing with him was utter madness and they brought thunder to every concert.

When asked about playing with Jason Bonham, Devin is similarly ebullient:
My favorite drummers are those that I learn from, whether I know them or not. Jason is that kind of drummer, undoubtedly, and I'm fortunate to have made a new friend with Jason. He’s a great drummer. A real good guy, too. He’s a musical person, like his dad. I love playing with him ‘cause he’s such a hard hitter and takes chances. His groove is powerful. His downbeats are heavy as hell. I’d say Jason is a lyrical drummer - with his phrasing - it's because music is so much a part of his personality. I love playing with Jason. He’s a hard worker when it comes to music, too. Nothing gets by him when it comes to Zeppelin, not a note.

Michael “Denom” Devin seems to have come of age in the mid-1970’s, not born then. His nickname, Denim, is, according to band mates, “because he emits such a 70’s demeanour.”

He picked up the bass when he was 12 and has been exploring it ever since. Although he says he also plays piano, vox, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, piano, drums, guitar and taurus pedals, "sings a little,” and has been playing harmonica during When The Levee Breaks on the current tour, the bass has always been his primary instrument.

He comes by his musical tastes honestly: the New England town he grew up in was a factory town, and the local radio stations played hard rock. Eventually he followed in the path of his sisters, who were rock fans.
My sisters… went to see Whitesnake in 1988. They were supporting the 1987 album. I wasn‘t invited, being the kid brother. They returned with T-shirts. I nicked one and wore it for years, ‘til it faded.

As an 18-year old rocker, Devin set up a makeshift studio in his parents basement:
I got an 8-track tape, put up some walls, covered them in egg crate and carpet, rolled in a drum kit.

In that studio, he says, he learnt how to write songs and play different instruments. "It was paradise," he says now.

After high school, it was off to The University of Massachusetts Amherst where he got a BA in creative writing. He then got a Masters Degree in Sound Engineering from Emerson College, working at Cherokee Studios on Fairfax in Los Angeles until 2002.

During 2001-02 he gigged around Los Angeles, playing with former Motley Crue singer John Corabi, and Danzig Guitarist John Christ. In 2002 he joined the Brian Tichy fronted band BALL, about which he now says it was a band he loved being in:
BALL was FUN. Lots of amazing talent in the BALL family tree. Joe Travers, John DeServio, Dorian Heartsong, Mark Dannells, and Joe Taylor. I made a good friend in Brian because of that band.

After BALL, Devin went on to master bluesman Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s band, who he played with for three years. In Shepherd's band he played alongside guitarist Shaun Hague. The Massachusetts born Hague organizes tribute concerts in LA, bringing together numerous musicians to pay homage to artists like The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, which Michael Devin plays in.

Then a year ago a change. In November 2009 he joined former Dokken guitarist  George Lynch‘s band, Lynch Mob. Since then Devin has toured with Lynch Mob, Joined Whitesnake, played bass at the John Bonham tribute concert and toured with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience.

In September he was at Lake Tahoe with Whitesnake, recording their new album. While a release date is still unknown, a tour begins next spring, leaving Devin little time to enjoy the successes of 2010.

He is a fixture in the LA circuit, and Jason Bonham heard about him through his sister, singer Zoe Bonham. Devin then introduced Jason Bonham to Stephen LeBlanc, who is also touring with The Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience.

When Brian Tichy organized a tribute to John Bonham on the 30th anniversary of his death, he called on Devin to play bass in the evenings house band. "Bonzo: The Groove Remains the Same- A Night In Honor of John Henry Bonham," was a great success, "a magical evening," that "lined up perfectly with JBLZE rehearsals and the tour we’re on now."

About playing with Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience, Devin pulls no punches:
Playing Led Zeppelin music to such enthused crowds, big fans like me, enjoying it as much as I do, coming together to celebrate Led Zeppelin and John Bonham, it’s awesome. I’m completely humbled by the experience. I’m not new to Zeppelin’s music, I was deep into the trip by about 13 years old. First songs I ever learned on bass were Zeppelin numbers. I love that band so much. For me it’s always been Zeppelin, Sabbath, Floyd, Purple - they pushed the boundaries of what a rock band could do musically. Playing these songs with Jason, with the band, every show is special. The shows have been really intense, really charged. Plus, just in listening to the inside stories, Jason’s experiences, hearing new bits of history every other day, it’s all higher learning for me.

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