Exclusive: Devin Tait – Art Damage
Where are you from?
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for the past little bit, but I’m originally from a tiny little town called Paradise, Kansas. My great-great grandparents on both my mom and dad’s side settled there in the late 1800s.
How old were you when you first got into music?
Music has always been a big part of my life. From my mom playing Carole King and the Beatles while she did housework when I was a toddler, to the Blondie and Donna Summer 8-track tapes we listened to in our family van, I was always aware of music and musicians. In church, I got to sing in front of an audience, and at school I got to learn how to play instruments like the Oboe, baritone, and saxophone. My first favorite band was The Thompson Twins.
5 Things that make you different from other music artist?
Gosh, that’s a hard question. I know so many musicians out here in LA and so many of us have similar stories. I’d say what makes me different, number one, is that I come from a town of less than 100 people. No one can believe that my hometown is that small. Secondly, I come from a stable home life, my parents are still married, which is unusual in this day and age. Third, even though I always had piano lessons and took music classes in school, I don’t really consider myself trained because all my advancement in music came from doing things by myself. Four, I never had a musical partner that was also my lover, as it seems so many people have. Lastly, I’ve brushed shoulders with so many of my heroes and many famous, respected musicians but I’ve never tried to push myself or my music on to them. I probably should have tried to do that more, but I’ve always wanted to let my music speak for itself.
Where have you performed?
With my former band, Shitting Glitter, we played everywhere from California, up and down the west coast, to the southwest and Midwest of the US, New York, Iceland, Canada. As a solo artist I have not traveled as much, but I’ve played around the southwest and northwest a lot. In Los Angeles, I’m proud to have played the Viper Room, the Los Angeles Marathon (3 times), and The Rainbow.
What are your favorite and least favorite venues?
I like any venue that treats the artist right. The Quarry in Bisbee, AZ, was great, and of course State Social House on the Sunset Strip had become sort of my home away from home. I don’t want to say any venues are my least favorite, but there are certain promoters in LA that are just terrible. They book the bands, then expect the bands to promote the shows and bring all the people to the venue. It’s like, then what does the word promoter mean, if they aren’t actually promoting their own shows?
Do you have any upcoming shows?
Right now all I have is Facebook Live, so I’m going to do a live stream on August 28 to promote my new retrospective, Recollection: 2010-2020 and then I may go busk on the Walk of Fame just for fun.
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
I can’t even imagine going back to the days before the internet. Artists have so much more freedom to represent their music the way they choose now. Social networking, despite all its flaws, is invaluable to artists today. I remember when I was in a band in the 90s, in Kansas, all you had to do was book a show and tell a couple friends, and it would be packed. But then I moved to LA, and it’s like pulling teeth getting people to come to shows. So social media has at least helped to keep your fan base aware of what you’re doing.
What is your favorite song to perform?
My favorite song to perform is my song “To Be Young & On Downers” which is going to be my new single and video coming out with this new CD. Otherwise, one of the most fun songs I’ve ever got to perform is when I was asked to play keyboards with The Gay-Gay’s, the all gay male celebration of The Go-Go’s, on the song “Head Over Heels.” It’s like the best keyboard solo ever, and so much fun to play live.
Which famous musicians do you admire?
My favorite band is The Human League because they proved that everyday people could write and perform hit songs, and they have carried on for decades, always making their fans happy with their live shows and their sporadic album releases.
What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
When my old band, Shitting Glitter, went to play at Winnipeg Pride, they almost wouldn’t let us in the country. Some members of our band had various vices and we were also transporting all our equipment and merchandise over the border but trying to hide the fact that we were a band, due to visa and work permit issues. It was scary, we were held in these little rooms being interrogated for what felt like hours, and I was sure they were going to send us back home and we wouldn’t be able to play. But, it somehow all worked out!
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
I used to say that it was when the first producer my old band worked with, Mary White, told us “your friends are not your fans.” Which is good advice when you’re starting out. But by this time, now that I’ve been playing in bands for almost a quarter century, your friends who support you really are your best fans. My parents are actually my best fans. So I guess now I’d say, don’t sweat the small stuff, cause that’s what my dad always tells me and it’s really true.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
I wish it was more like it was back in the early 80s, when record labels and talent scouts were really looking for something different and special, that they could help market and bring to a larger audience. Now it seems like the reverse is true, labels are only looking for established artists who have already built their own followings and they just want to siphon money off of them.
What’s next for you?
As I said, I have a retrospective coming out August 28. It’s a 2-disc set – the physical CD will only be sold on my website and I’m going to work with a non-profit to donate a percentage of the proceeds. The first disc will be my hits, or rather the singles I’ve released over the past decade or so. Some of them have been completely re-worked and re-recorded, and there’s a couple new tracks on there too. The second disc, which will be exclusive to my website, contains b-sides, remixes, and other rarities. After that I really don’t know, this feels like the closing of a chapter of my life, and I don’t know right now what the future holds. Everything feels so up in the air right now. I could stop recording music and never play a show again, or I might just make some completely different type of music. I really don’t know.