Danny Kiranos, known by his musical alter ego Amigo The Devil, is an approachable and kind man. A gifted and hard-working songwriter who possesses a robust knack for an honest and emotional release. Kiranos captures potent moments in time, linked into each other, palpable and rich in their vulnerability and authenticity.
On his sophomore record, Born Against, the creative force within him shines, though he and his comrades shine more like a rare coin might glisten; dusty, bent, though perfect in form, golden and representative of a time before mimics ruled the world and copies of copies held a seat at the head of the table. His music is a remembrance to those who came before him, scattering raw and choice feels across the sonic landscape, forged in a creative process of openness and a pulsing vibration from a world riddled with lackluster renditions into a more hopeful future.
Glide sat down with Danny Kiranoes and talked about his new record, what inspires him, the growth of Amigo the Devil, and much much more.
Where are you based?
I’m an hour west of Austin in the hill country. I love it out here. It’s peaceful and has endless views. It really is a separate beast from the rest of Texas.
How do you spend your time out there?
Kayaking, swimming, a lot of floating in general. I homebrew, read a lot, smoke cigars… Very relaxing.
You’re a brewer?
Yeah, it’s a fun hobby. It’s definitely time-consuming and a whole different world when you’re talking about the hobby versus the actual career of it. I didn’t necessarily love the career side but I loved the brewing side.
It’s interesting if you really love something it can be dangerous to make it a profession. You might end up hating it.
100%. I will say that I’m sure a lot of people get things out of the school side of it but I feel I would have learned a lot more if I’d have gone straight into working in kitchens instead of going to schooling. Even with the brewing, I loved the school itself, it’s a great program, but most things that I use to this day are things that I learned first hand, things that someone taught me from their experience as opposed to reading it in a book.
Do you find that cooking and brewing and music translate into each other?
I think they do. I think it’s more the analytical side of it. You have this idea in mind and a result you want, and you think, ‘how do I achieve that final product?’ You end up shaping the dish you’re making and figuring out what it’s missing or what it has too much of.. It’s the same with songs.
I dig that. I really love the tone and overall sound you get on Born Against. Can you give us some insight into your recording process?
It was simultaneously much more direct than other recordings and much more…I don’t want to say scattered though basically Beau, Jeff, and I would go in every morning and pick the song that we were going to record that day. We would sit down and run through all the notes I had for the track. I’d come in with the lyrics, the song itself, and then some notes for ideas on tone or percussive elements. We would start figuring out which songs belonged and which ones didn’t. In that sense, we were kind of freewheeling it. We had time and could take liberties there. Most of the morning we would spend figuring out the sounds themselves then we would record the bass – which was just me with an acoustic or banjo or piano – and begin to shape the song aside from that. For example, there’s a track on the record called Shadow. The percussive element here was very specific in my head. I spent an hour walking around the studio scraping this knife on different surfaces. I finally scraped it in this one part of the floor and it was the exact sound I wanted. It was an adventure, it was exploration.
There’s a sense of freedom in the songs. When you can balance exploration with focus it’s a potent combo.
I definitely think it was awesome to have the liberty to change things as we wanted to, opposed to having a rigid structure on all the songs.
Tell me about the song Quiet as a Rat. Sonically I love this track so much.
That one was so much fun to do. To be honest, that was a recording that we really did just cruise through. We did the bass on the acoustic guitar through this old little amp – not a name brand thing – this shitty little amp that sounded awesome. Then we started hitting the percussion. The big thuds are a road case that we ended up hitting and it sounded better than a kick drum, just banging this mallet on a road case. I was having a blast hitting shit. Then Jordache Grant came in and did the horns on it. He’s a killer player.
Do you guys mix the record?
Beau (Bedford) mixed the whole thing.
Musically what are some of your big inspirations?
The standards across the board for me that don’t change much are; Fiona Apple, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, John Prine, those are the standard fixtures. On this record there was a lot of world folk inspiration, like Selda Bağcan and Taraf de Haïdouks. A lot of stuff that was tucked away in my ears, things that I hadn’t listened to in a long time, music my mom and dad used to listen to. Aside from that, a lot of Dr. John is going on in my life at the moment.
Tell me about Amigo the Devil day in Austin TX. Is that for real?
Yeah, Amigo the Devil Day, it’s kind of crazy. There’s a proclamation that we have framed in the house because it’s ridiculous and I love it. That was one of those things where once the idea was being tossed around, I was like ‘no way, that’s not real, it’s never going to happen.’ And when it did I was like, ‘oh shit, this is crazy.’ I’m grateful for it but at the same time, I think, ‘do you know what you guys did?’
What’s the musical journey been like, playing small empty rooms to large full rooms?
There are very sobering moments where I snap out of the autopilot and I realize what’s happening at shows now and it knocks the wind out of me, it’s insane. There’s a strange thing that happened where we’ve been touring so much for so long – where I kind of equate it to gaining weight to be honest – It was such a slow process. It was five people to ten to twenty to forty to a hundred. It wasn’t a hundred to a thousand. It was such a slow growth. When I snap out of that tour mode, that autopilot, go go go mode and I’m standing in front of a thousand people and they’re singing these songs back to me I think, ‘what the fuck is happening, when did this happen?’ It’s been incredible, it’s so special.
Born Against came out just recently. Are you thrilled to have it out there in the world?
I always get really nervous. Waves on confidence into anxiousness into deep doubt. (both laugh)
It’s a killer record.
I’m more excited for everyone to hear all the other players on the record. We had some wonderful musicians come in and do specific parts, the parts that make the songs exactly what they need to be.
That’s beautiful. Talking about the waves of confidence and doubt in releasing a record, do you think this doubt cycle may play into the process of your songwriting?
I’m going to guess it does. On some subconscious level it probably dictates a lot of what goes on. I will say that while I’m writing I throw away a lot of songs, and I’m guessing most people do. I dissect and throw away way more songs than I record.
Being a good editor is such a big part of being a good writer.
It hurts when you have to take out your favorite parts but sometimes that part doesn’t fit and it’s not necessary.
What’s in your tape deck?
Listening to a lot of Cinder Well, Stephanie Lambring, Dougie Poole and Morgan Wade just came out with a killer record. This band from New Zealand called Night Lunch. There’s a video for House Full of Shit, I started watching too and thought this must be a joke and it ended up being so fucking good.