From dancing and singing in front of his mirror, to performing the very same moves on stage at the biggest Goth and Industrial festivals in the World, we chat with Jay Smith, the eccentric mastermind behind Deviant UK.
The band based in Stoke, are the biggest act on the UK Goth scene right now, never mind just the North of England. This is a claim Jay is all too happy to back-up in both his words and with every live performance:
“I love every second of what I do. Of course, there are ups and downs but the exhilarating highs massively outweigh the very rare lows”.
It’s true that while the name Deviant UK is now fully established on the scene, the group are only just starting to make an impact in mainland Europe which is incredibly rewarding for Jay. Of course, being a man who is never really satisfied with anything, he always wants more.
”My desire to succeed and fierce ambition are key drivers. Coupled with a good old-fashioned marriage to the whole sex, drugs and rock n
Jay truly loves what he has created and he feels like he is finally doing the one thing he always wanted to and the adventures he says, are pretty much non-stop: “I have met some incredible people and been to some outstanding places with the band so far.”
A testament to this is that Jay has just recorded a track with Peter Spilles from German synthpop powerhouses Project Pitchfork for his forthcoming solo album, for Jay, the man behind the ego, this is an absolute honour: “When I first started producing my own music I never dreamed that I would one day be working with one of my heroes. I never know what is waiting for Deviant UK right around the next corner and that makes my life interesting to say the very least.”
When questioned about the confidence that has put Jay and Deviant at the top of the list in terms of contemporary Goth bands, Jay laughs a little and comments:
“I am the worst kind of perfectionist. I always want to improve, get bigger and better. I think my confidence is a strange combination of total commitment and egomania.”
This manifested itself when Jay was recording his 2006 debut ‘Barbed Wire Star’, continually fine-tuning it to the day it had to go to the mastering studio. For the singer it is both a blessing and a curse: “While I am incredibly proud of the first album, I know I can do much better just on the strength of what I have learned since then as a songwriter and as producer. Besides, you never actually finish an album – you just reach a final deadline.”
Like most bands within the genre, Jay emphasises the importance of writing music that you like, even if it is not going to be commercially viable: “You must believe in what you do and be proud of it , otherwise it becomes soulless and hollow.” Jay says: “While we would all love commercial success, it comes at a price. Right now, I am just about making a living with what I do. If topping the charts means resorting to a Westlife ethos, the Ferrari can wait.”
Even though Jay is not the biggest fan of boy bands it is true he still believes that his music and appearance have to go hand in hand to create a successful product that is truly going to make an impact within the Goth world: ”I think that seeing us live is best way to experience Deviant UK with the songs being delivered the way I want them to be seen. In my case, I have worked hard to create an image that is synonymous with the music.”
Again he brings up how his personality translates into what we see on stage: “I suspect it is just the real Jay Smith amplified slightly. While I don’t tend to walk around town sneering and snarling, the rest of it is pretty true to the way I am. That’s actually quite a frightening concept.”
Jay says that the best advice he ever received was just to enjoy what you do no matter what level of success you achieve: ”My success is miniscule in the big picture but it is still the best job in the world. I have had the best times of my life with Deviant UK and I have honestly never been happier.” However, Jay also mentions that this happiness comes at a price and he must constantly work in order to satisfy his drive:
“I am always stressed” he says with a sigh, “But if anyone finds something like recording an album for release a breeze, they are doing something wrong. Writing music is very cathartic, particularly as my lyrics are very personal to me.” Jay adds that the recording process can be a huge magnet for stress: “At times I feel like I am flirting with insanity, staying up for three or four days at a time just to record that one perfect vocal. That said the end result was so fulfilling that all the pressure was forgotten in an instant.” Deviant’s epic journey to the top has not been without setbacks, playing a show at an after gig party on Gary Numan’s “Replicas” tour in March in front of Numan’s wife they put on a gig that was fraught with sound issues.
Most recently the band’s car blew up on the way back from Berlin and all the live band, including keyboardist BJ Johnson (who has a fear of flying) had to be put on a plane home carrying the majority of their equipment. Jay says that often these setbacks make for a very humorous anecdote.
“The disastrous sound at the Numan after show party gig was excruciating at the time but looking back, we got away with it. As for our Berlin adventure, I personally enjoyed every second of it. We don’t do anything by halves. If things go smoothly, it just wouldn’t be Deviant UK.”
When Jay discusses his long term live partner, his already positive mood seems to perk up. BJ Johnson also happens to be Jay’s best friend, in fact Jay recently received an invitation to be BJ’s best man at his wedding, Jay comments and thoughtfully considers each memory: “You share all the highs and the lows that the adventure throws at you and so it is absolutely critical that you get on well or things will implode pretty quickly. Fortunately, we are pretty much the best of friends and so it is an endless pleasure.” With a smirk, Jay adds: “Deviant UK is a democracy…ruled by a fascist dictator.”
Jay’s big black ball, containing his wonderfully extravagant routines will be rolling around for some time to come.
Deviant UK will play a multitude of European dates in September and beyond including gigs in Eindhoven and Madrid.
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