Interview by Barry Egan
Matthew Devereux resembles nothing so much as a post-millennial mutant of shamanistic superhero and bald bohemian with a fiendish wit, even wisdom, at his disposal.
Of his pronounced Boho bent, The Pale frontman says, with typical verve: “I like the idea of being unbound. Boho chic is like something to sell shampoo.”
The Baudelaire of Timotei laughs. “I love self-exposed exiles and isolation. I do love the romance of being a song writer — but not in the folky style. Beneath the surface of me is a hippy dude trying to get out, but I am not a Luddite under it. I am quite modern.”
Yet he can’t be that modern as he lives outside Swords on a farm “with a donkey and cats and chickens — and my Czech girlfriend.
“I took an unpainted apartment in Prague,” Matthew explains, without elaborating precisely when. “Then I stayed longer. Then I met a Czech girl. Then she moved here with me. Then my dad died,” he says. “He died within four days of me arriving back home.”
Did he hang on for you?
“I think he did hang on for me,” Matthew smiles, his mind suddenly perhaps elsewhere, in a sadder place without his dad.
“I didn’t want to move back here but she loves this country. She is more sarcastic than me. That’s probably why I fell in love with her.”
The Pale, his idiosyncratic band that formed in 1990 and have made 12 or 13 albums, are something of a beautifully kept secret in Ireland and further afield sonically.
“I am in pursuit of a great record,” Matthew says.
You haven’t made it yet?
“Then I would not be pursuing it,” he replies.
Matthew smiles at my suggestion that, like his late father, he is hanging on for the great record and then he will stop. There is no sign of the creativity stopping, however, as he and his band do David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes for the Windmill Lane Sessions on Independent.ie.
I remember being at one of The Pale’s early and highly theatrical shows in Dublin, when Mr Devereux jumping about like a out-of-kilter Bowie singing such Pale classics as Dogs With No Tails, Butterfly, and Shut Up Venus.
“It was theatrical as a way to get over my shyness,” he says now, some two decades later. “Our life then was rehearsals wherever we lived,” he adds. “We lived in an apartment above an launderette on Sandford Avenue on the South Circular. Every time I smell a laundrette now I always think of how the band formed.
“I used to have a theory that the chemicals coming up through the floor from the laundrette affected our music and we suffered hallucinogenic side-affects! We couldn’t afford our own chemicals, so we went for the cheap ones!” he laughs.
“We were quite strict about how we rehearsed. We rehearsed in the City Arts Centre, which I walked by on the way here,” he says sitting in Windmill Lane’s studio in Ringsend, “and it is gone — it’s like a ghost building.
“We rehearsed six days a week for six months. We developed a sound quite quickly.”
Matthew recalls The Smiths “meant everything to me”, he also grew up with a love of reggae and ska. “There was something of a utopian society to it. I felt it would all lead somewhere. A really big influence on me would have been the idea of fusion.”
That idea is finely articulated in the intriguing music of The Pale. Of the band itself, he says with his de rigeur philosophy: “It kind of surprises me that we’ve been going this long. It was a difficult road to go down. But I chose it. So I can’t cry foul. I’ve been trying to secure a future for the band. The only way we have found it satisfying is to make the art and just get it out there.”
Long may the Gospel according to Matthew continue.
Windmill Lane Sessions: The creative wisdom of the Young Folk