Recently, the Houston Press was lucky enough to catch The Devil Wears Prada front man Mike Hranica. Speaking over the phone about his busy life, Hranica opened up about a variety of topics everything from the metalcore veterans' current tour, their new SPACE EPand his life as a writer. That’s right, when not screaming into a microphone in front of hundreds of fans, Hranica also writes comics, poetry and everything in between.
Houston Press: So, you’re touring with Motionless in White on the Apollo X Tour. What can we expect at this show? Mike Hranica: A bunch of bands [laughs]. We’re pumped. We had approached Motionless about touring together, and they were always busy or it was bad timing for either them or us, their schedule finally opened up and we were like, ‘Oh, great!’ and we were able to make it happen. We're excited to share the stage with them, so [it] makes it a little more interesting for fans, too.
Are you only playing tracks from SPACE or is there a set list variety for this tour?
I think there’s over 13 songs we have picked out for this set list. There’s some from Zombie. I think we’ll hit all the records except our first one. Old stuff in there, too.
Cool. So, this is a club tour — what’s the appeal in that after playing large venues?
Really just the general variation in venue. Just something different. I like to do something [big] like Mayhem, like from amphitheaters to something more like a club tour and then just doing side shows with everybody. I appreciate the smaller places. It’s just reminiscent of early shows and playing on floors and what not.
You’ve said in other interviews that this EP would not be as heavy as your earlier stuff, which is certainly true. What was your vision for SPACE?
We wanted a certain specificity to all the songs, we wanted each song to have something that only existed within it. Nothing would bleed over into other tracks, you know? There’s something that you can swap in each song on Zombie — something that kind of runs together and we didn’t want to do that here with SPACE, that was a big point for us with SPACE, sonically, we wanted to be very aware of what was happening. I also wanted it to be transparent as to what I was trying to do lyrically.
So, you've also been writing new material. Is that complete and ready to record?
We’re just writing right now, we won’t have a new record for release until a year from now. We’re just trying to keep the wheels moving, so to speak. We’ll promote SPACE and continue to do that through next year, too. Probably through the summer as well. We’re just trying to keep the wheels in motion, keep the momentum going.
With Zombie there was a comic book — any special merchandise or collectibles we can look forward to with SPACE?
Yeah, right now as a matter of fact we’re in the very, very early stages of a comic book specifically going off of [the track] “Alien” but I’ve got a friend [who's helping]. He’s very connected in the comic-book world. So I’m really looking forward to it, it’s going to be a very different vibe than last time. We hope to have that all finished up and ready for release early next year.
That's exciting! Are you doing the storyboard? Who's doing what exactly here?
I’m doing some co-writing with him. He’s definitely doing the front work, this will pretty much be his project but I will be working with him, so basically just kind of guiding along and directing and what not. I’m looking forward to it and we’re gonna try to spin it satirically and it will be kinda funny. I’ll be working on the basically everyone's role.
I just finished the Three Dots and the Guilt Machine, which was not funny but a serious work. This seems like something totally different than how you’ve been writing. So, your work feels a bit like, Bukowski-inspired. There’s many moments of glory in the ordinary. Can you speak to who are your influences? Who are you reading now?
Thank you for saying that. I appreciate that. Right now, I’m reading Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, when we released SPACE I had an interview with two ladies who asked me about Illustrated Man, and if it had been an influence. Now, that I’ve read it, I see where they got that from. Otherwise, this year, hope to move onto Lolita next. I had picked it up a few years ago and really liked Nabokov and his work. I've also just read a local author from Chicago...
Define for us what you mean when you write “eclectic truth fiction."
It's a line that started everything…this is the idea, the viewpoint, so to speak. I was reading that Bukowski said, “Once you write the first line, the rest just writes itself…” I think that the Guilt Machine doesn’t really have a first line, its [about being] to very raw and abrupt with things and scatterbrained and to have the independence to write about certain things like, Scarlett Johannsen or whatever; Johnny Depp or just whatever I’m watching. It’s very eclectic and truth fiction, things can be very exaggerated, and that was another thing — that it's truthful to some extent yet is also nonfiction.
I found some interesting motifs, You seem to simultaneously run toward and from the noise, distractions…there’s also lots of emptiness and loneliness. Could you speak on those themes?
Yeah, I think emptiness and loneliness has [sic] actually driven me for a really long time. Actually, I spent a lot of time alone as a kid, that’s still a very strong basis and part of my character and personality and of course that comes through in my work. As far as the noise motif, during that time, we were recording 8:18 and then I wrote everything is “screaming so quietly." And not to be conceited or anything, I mean hopefully not, but I’ve been driven by that ever since I lived it. And basically I kind of struggle terribly with things like anxiety and social pressures and whatnot. It feels like sort of a congestion or a pressure and very real claustrophobia that can exist in both the noise it also occurs with out the noise and in loneliness.
So that’s a battle and it comes through in the writing. There’s also great incompletion in ThreeDots, you know. I describe it as, "writing that doesn’t finish it’s breath." I would never consider it proper, well-executed poetry, but I like the shortness of it, I think there’s a tension building in it that I’ve seen in other writers. That's very much something that inspired me and it was something I wanted to pursue. As far as short little bits of prose, anyway.
Is it more interesting to write about love or loss?
Loss, I think. At one point there’s a comment about it’s better to have never loved than loved and lost... I find a great immediacy in loss and sorrow and that’s why I’m always headed that way even in my own songwriting in The Devil Wears Prada. There’s something so abrupt about it .I always find it in my own musical tastes. There’s always some urgency about loss that I find [interesting]. The drama and being able to exaggerate is something I gravitate toward.
I read somewhere that you don’t use an editor, why?
No, I don’t and I think it’s very apparent in all my errors. Well, firstly, it frightens me. I’m very secretive about my work before I put it out, no one ever, ever reads anything before I actually publish it. I think a manager might have read my short story but I just think that my message and my self-publishing is very independent. I just kind of do what I want and its a DIY thing. I don’t use an editor, and I kind of close off in that way. I don’t like obligation. I don’t like for the weight to be beyond me. Somethings I like doing things myself because If I don’t like them, I can only blame myself. And that same kind of principle carries into the editing and writing process for me.
What's coming up for you and The Devil Wears Prada in 2016? I’m really looking forward to more writing. You know, Chris [Rubey] left the band last Halloween, about a year ago, and we’ve been working with Kyle [Sipress] and he’s tremendous, a great guitarist and a great dude — it's so energetic and colorful and we’re all hitting it off. Starting with being in a barn for two weeks...We want to get out of the States, which is what we wanted to do last year and it didn’t happen, Just like where Three Dots begin, mainland Europe, then Sweden [and] lots of ferry rides. We’re hoping to do more of that — find another barn to write our songs in.
This barn wasn’t metaphorical, then? [laughs]
[laughs] No, no, we actually did an AirBnB-type deal and rented out this barn and farmhouse for two weeks in Wisconsin. It was really great—- all on this huge, huge piece of property. Yeah, it was one of the best writing sessions we’ve ever had. As far as, no expectations, no obligation and just having the time to write and the freedom to just go out and be as loud as you want, whenever you want. It’s rough when we get together and stay in a hotel or something and have to travel to a writing space. Now, [it's like] I have to be creative in this schedule and it’s terrible. Honestly, it's drowning, it's suffocating. Being able to just sit around was perfect.
What do you want your fans to know?
Early in my career I was hell-bent on making sure everyone got it and understood everything. I wanted everything to be comprehensible. I gave up on that because you can never just have that kind of control when you’re doing something as abstract as what I do. I want fans to think for themselves. I want them to be honest with themselves that’s my sort of conviction, my sort of message I perpetuate upon others: just be honest.
The Devil Wears Prada performs with special guests Motionless In White, Upon a Burning Body, The Word Alive, and The Color Morale Tuesday, November 10 at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE...
Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kristy Loye is a writer living in Houston and has been writing for the Houston Press since July 2015. A recent Rice University graduate, when not teaching writing craft or reciting poetry, she's upsetting alt-rights on Reddit.