Devil's Nite

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Devil's Nite
OriginDetroit, Michigan, United States
GenresHard rock
Years active1992–2001
MembersChris "August" Kelley (Vocals)
Mike Scott (Guitar)
Tim Lafferty (Bass)
Mark Causley (Drums)
Past membersMatt DeMars (Vocals)
Rod Kelliker (Drums)

Devil's Nite was a Detroit-based hard rock band that ended up recording a number of albums and EPs throughout the 1990s until their eventual dissolution in 2001. The band's longest tenured lineup consisted of August (vocals), Mike Mitchell (guitar), Tim Lafferty (bass) and Mark Causley (drums).

Devil's Nite was considered one of the more exciting young rock acts to hit the music scene at the time, quickly developing local notoriety with their intense live performances and impressive stages built by the band themselves, using fog machines, ramps, lasers and a bevy of lights, all of which was highly unusual at the time, particularly for an up-and-coming local band. With a sound that was compared in its early years to "early Van Halen, but with a '90s edge", this band was thought to have the drive and ability to bring hard rock back to the center stage of modern music, as unlikely as it seemed in the early 1990s, with the advent of grunge. Forming in the spring of 1992, the foursome from Detroit released the Just For The Hell Of It EP (1993), The Judas Factor (1994), the Caustic EP (1996), Primitive (1999), the Four In One EP (1999) and What In The World (2001).

Early years[edit]

From The Judas Factor came Devil's Nite's first radio single, "Raging Storm", which received both national air play on the Z-Rock radio network as well as international air play in Denmark, Italy, Canada and throughout Europe on U.S. Military Radio. Having quickly established themselves as one of the most energetic and entertaining acts in Michigan, the band then went on to win the 1994 Mid-Michigan Best Band Competition and later earned nominations for Best Live Act, Best Band and Best Guitarist in the 1995 Detroit Live Awards (voted on by local bar owners and fellow musicians). With their reputation growing with each live performance, the band became one of the only local bands to grace the cover of the Weekender Magazine, following in the footsteps of such acts as Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Aerosmith and Mötley Crüe.

As songs were being written for their next album, other opportunities presented themselves, including a Star Search-type contest that they won handily (although the prize, recording time in a Nashville, Tennessee studio, was never used) and a contest held at the Ritz in Roseville, a popular rock club during the 1980s and early 1990s in the Detroit area, to record an original song for an independent film called Archangel. There were so many bands competing that the event was split up into two days, and although Devil's Nite won for their night, they lost by an extremely narrow margin to the second night's winner in a final judge's vote. It was during this event, however, that Mike Mitchell came up with the idea for Stone Soup, a series of charity events which included both a free concert where donations were taken to benefit local homeless shelters as well as volunteer work done at said shelters, not only by the members of Devil's Nite, but other local band members as well.

Halcyon years[edit]

1995 thru 1999 were inarguably Devil's Nite's most successful years, finding further success both in Detroit and throughout the musical world. During this time, the band opened for such artists as Saigon Kick, Great White, Quiet Riot, Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe, Lita Ford, FireHouse, Slaughter, L.A. Guns, Bang Tango, Enuff Z'nuff and Dokken, also opening for several dates of Warrant's 'Ultraphobic' and 'Belly To Belly' tours. In March 1996, Jerry Dixon, Warrant's bassist, was so impressed with the band that they were flown to Los Angeles to record their Caustic EP at Dreamstate Studios, Dixon's own studio, where members of Warrant personally worked with Devil's Nite in the completion of the CD. That being said, after getting back to Michigan, the band was dissatisfied with much of the end product and ended up remixing the album themselves.

Caustic, although only an EP, contained multiple songs that became staples for their live show, including "Tearing Down The Walls" and the showcase song of their early shows, "Few And Far Between". August has frequently been quoted as being extremely dissatisfied with this version of the song, citing "Dixon's desire to change every song that we brought with us to become more 'Warrant-like'"; that being said, "Few And Far Between" was played with the new structure for the remainder of the band's career.

After the L.A. recording sessions, the band decided to focus on creating their own studio to record music with more of their original vision intact. Their Primitive CD, released on February 20, 1999, was their first release on Primitive Records, Mike Mitchell's personal label which he then used to release all subsequent Devil's Nite albums on, and was the first recorded in Primitive Studio, which was housed in Mike Mitchell's basement. With the sole limitation for recording being the amount of time available to them, Primitive was a longer and much more diverse CD than its predecessors, containing a mix of hard rock, acoustic balladry, psychedelic rock and even a rap-rock track called "Strut", which featured a guest appearance by Detroit-based rap act Etched In Black, a collaboration which would affect the members of Devil's Nite greatly near the end.

The album received many positive reviews by local publications both online and in print, and local shows at Detroit clubs like the Palladium and Harpo's were frequently sold out, a rare occurrence at the time for a local rock band. Detroit's largest rock radio station, WRIF 101.1 FM, had also gotten behind the band, having the band in for multiple radio interviews, and on-air talents Doug Podell and Screamin' Scott Randall often showing up at their concerts and offering to introduce them for their live performances.

Troubles[edit]

High off their success from Primitive, the band decided to adopt the process of recording songs as they came up with them and as a result, the Four In One EP was released on December 23, 1999 (although it did not ship to local record stores until early 2000, instead being sold exclusively at their shows for the first month of its release as a thank you to their fans). The band was quickly becoming more comfortable with recording and mixing their own music, and this album's tracks benefited from it. The songs were primarily a mix of melodic hard rock, and that, combined with greater uniformity in the mixing technique, caused Four In One to sound more cohesive as an album.

On the other hand, touring, for so long a pilgrimage for the Devil's Nite faithful, was starting to slow down for the band. August has said, "some members of the band felt that they had earned the right to play for more national acts, and as a result, some local shows actually started getting turned down; in retrospect, and although in a sense it was understandable, that was probably the beginning of the writing appearing on the wall".

As Devil's Nite prepared what would end up being their final album, What In The World, it seemed that the band making a much greater impact on the national scene was just a matter of time. Uncle Kracker came to Primitive Studios to help them with recording and mixing some of the album, particularly the song "Train", which the band intended to be released as the album's first single. The band appeared on a Billboard compilation CD showcasing what the magazine termed "the state of hard rock in 2000". Devil's Nite was the only band without a national presence that appeared on the CD, and "Train" found itself on an album that included artists like Sevendust, Slash's Snakepit and Alice Cooper. They also wound up with a full-page ad in the December 2, 2000 issue of the magazine, promoting What in The World to all of Billboard's readership, so it was expected that an extensive tour would follow. It never materialized, however, as internal friction between August and the rest of the band, as well as a side-project that stemmed from a collaboration on their Primitive CD, began to take its final toll on the band.

"I thought it was weird that, just as we were putting out a new album, the rest of the band decided to work on a rap-rock project with Powerdise (one half of Etched In Black, the rap act that made a guest appearance on 'Strut'). What made it worse was that I wrote all of the lyrics for our songs as was usually the case, but nearly half of the songs on that CD were ones that I had written as well, and they were all just so personal", says August. "The timing for the side project, to my way of thinking, was terrible, and since I was commuting an hour and a half each way to practice by that point, I basically told them that if they wanted to work on that project during what were supposed to be Devil's Nite practices, they didn't need me to show up, and I started blowing off practices. Lots of them. Way too many, and that was entirely my fault. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when I found out that we were parting ways, but I still was."

August had become so reclusive near the end of the band's life cycle that he was informed of his release from the band by a close personal friend, who actually read the news as the headline on the band's website. "That hurt. There was no voicemail, no attempt at a sit down, just a blurb in gigantic font on our website. A few months earlier, I thought this was going to be the album that was going to make us a major player on the national scene; instead, it was over. Do I blame them? Not at all. There were four big egos in that band, and I was able to be as much of (a jerk) as anybody. At the time, probably more so. But to this day, the timing seems crazy. Why, of all times, then? I don't think I'll never understand that part."

Afterwards[edit]

The rest of the band continued on with Powerdise and became the rap-rock act Critical Bill, which has received a fair amount of success on their own, with years of touring and multiple CDs, although bassist Tim Lafferty and drummer Mark Causley ended up leaving the band after a few years. August, meanwhile, has spent the years since Devil's Nite writing and demoing many albums' worth of music, and plans on releasing his first solo album in 2012, the tentative title being In The Embers.