LIGHTSPEED CHAMPION

 

What about the man behind the Lightspeed Champion moniker? Who is he? Where did he come from? How much free time does he have? Working backwards: very little. Dev Hynes is a man who doesn’t like to sit around waiting for results; by the time the results are in, he’s on to bigger and better, or at the very least worse but different. A selected history of Dev rather breathlessly testifies to as much:


He began piano at age 7 (and yet he doesn’t hate it today). Next came cello, then the double bass, drums in high school, all the while teaching himself guitar. Early Dev Hynes band history involves several shitty punk bands whose names, according to him, “involved a celebrity’s name of some sort, either exactly copied, or made into some sort of irrelevant pun.” (No examples were provided, but one assumes that ‘Meg Ryan’ and ‘Crispin, Her Fingers Are Blue, Glover’ can’t be far from the mark.) Dev’s shitty punk band run culminated in Test Icicles, a shitty punk band that was actually pretty good, taking a skewed approach to shitty punk that telegraphed an intelligence not always present in the genre (‘Test Icicles’ is an anagram for ‘Eel Tics Tics’ (probably).



Test Icicles were picked up by Domino, and when, in the spring of 2006, the bandmates parted ways, Dev started the Lightspeed Champion project on Domino. In early 2007, he flew to Omaha and recorded with Mike Mogis and other Saddle Creek illuminati, and soon after began playing shows. He spent the next two years on the road playing everywhere in the world except for Europe, North America, and the Pacific Rim (my notes here are smudged; please forgive minor inaccuracies). A week after the Lavender Bridge tour reached its terminus at the 2008 Reading & Leeds Festival, Dev bought a plane ticket to New York and changed the end of his email address from “.co.uk” to “.com”.


The extensive touring had ravaged his throat, and in December he underwent surgery that left him unable to speak for weeks, incapable of anything but whispers and scowls for a good while after that. So he scorned the world, holed up in his apartment, and began writing Life Is Sweet! Nice to Meet You. It was finished by March.


He also blogged profusely, wrote short stories, and began work on a comic book with his girlfriend, graphic designer Nicole Michalek. The blog has been read by over 300 million people (guesstimate – official numbers unavailable); the stories will be made available by Domino in late 2009 as a collection called Bad Era of Me (an anagram of ‘Boa: Mad, Free’, perhaps coincidentally); and the comic book, Juice This!, will be released as part of CTRL ALT SHIFT’s campaign exploring corruption in November. That’s just the non-musical stuff, of course. New paragraph!


Dev’s musical drive – his need to remain musically active – is more apparent than the hat on his head. He’s often not wearing a hat, for one thing – he is always, always making music. During the last year alone, Dev:


-performed Cat Stevens’s soundtrack for Harold & Maude at a special screening by the British Film Institute.
-sang songs from Moondog’s Sax Pax for a Sax with the London Saxophonic at London’s Barbican Centre on the 10th anniversary of the composer’s death.
-arranged for and sang with The Britten Sinfonia orchestra, conducted by André De Ridder and Andi Toma.
-co-wrote with legendary composer and arranger Van Dyke Parks, the fruits of which will see release in the near future.
-wrote and recorded with Basement Jaxx (see "My Turn," the new single from their recent record).
-wrote and recorded with Solange (sister of Beyoncé, a well known R&B performer).


He also covered, this year, something like thirty records in their entirety – recorded them and everything – while sitting around his apartment (his latest, as of this writing, is Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard A True Star). These covers are rarely heard by another soul, although in 2007 Dev put his Nimrod take on Myspace (Green Day continue to nurse their cover of Falling off the Lavender Bridge). He also started a new solo project called Blood Orange (a “slightly disco Chris Isaak Oriental thing”).  He also scored an album for two cellos, which he aims to release in 2010.


Dev Hynes is 24. You will not be surprised when I tell you that he sleeps, on average, less than three hours a night.


--CHRIS CAIN


 

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FILES BY LIGHTSPEED CHAMPION