Writing for Britney, Solange, Cheryl and Sky, reluctant Romford pop star Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange, is the prolific musician who sees sound in colour and quotes Kafka in casual conversation.
Dev Hynes constantly reinvents himself. Unbound by expectation, undefined by trend, born in Essex and now based in New York, he is the singer/songwriter who thinks his voice is a "monstrosity" and hates touring. An introvert by nature, Dev fronts an extroverted, mismatched kind of vintage style, characterised by dreads, polo necks and leathers. Writing mostly for others and only occasionally recording for himself, Hynes’ self-deprecating mannerisms remain unchanged, despite the various and vast accolades and awards over the past decade. Motivated by originality and rocked by mortality, the artist formerly known as 'Lightspeed Champion' turned 28 last year and released his most accomplished album to date via Domino entitled Cupid Deluxe. Adopting a dog to coincide with the LP drop in early November, Dev proudly named his perfect black and white puppy ‘Cupid’. Soon after, Dev’s Manhattan apartment caught fire - a result of faulty wiring in the building - and he lost everything, most tragically, Cupid.
When we chat on the phone, following the Blood Orange show at London’s 100 Club, his first performance in three years as part of the club’s Converse Gigs series, Dev is reflecting on the importance of death. "We can’t escape mortality,” he says, “Everything we’re doing is a distraction from what’s going to happen. But that’s fine.” Experiencing the spectrum of sound as a kaleidoscope of colour, Dev was born with synaesthesia, a condition that confuses the senses. His rich, acoustic blend of electronic music is bright and timeless, mirroring his mixed up choice of outfits. Mates with Alexa Chung and dating vocalist, Samantha Urbani, girls easily relate to his quiet confidence and collaboration is key to his success. If an artist wants a track, it’s theirs. He is the chicken and the song is the egg, "I write for people and sometimes I write with people. And then other times I’m just writing, and I have no idea who it’s for, and then people want to hear it, so I’ll play it, and if they like it, they can have it." Dev chatted to i-D about being back in London after his three-year hiatus away from the capital…
When you’re back in London do you feel like a different person because it’s been so long since you’ve lived here?
I don’t really view it that way because I’ve been to London a lot of times not playing. Of course you grow and go through changes, I’m probably a bit different but that’s only because I’m 28.
I just turned 28 and I’ve noticed a real change, I’ve started to consider the future a bit more seriously, do you feel the same way?
I feel exactly the same. I’ve become increasingly aware of my mortality and I don’t know if it’s morbid or not, but it is a realisation. There’s a quote by Kafka about a man who’s being chased by a monster and he jumps down a well to hide, but at the bottom of the well he sees a dragon. He hangs onto a branch, but as he’s hanging onto the branch he notices there’s little rats biting at the branch and at some point he’s going to fall onto the dragon and the dragon’s going to kill him. At the corner of the branch there’s like a little drip of honey, so he sticks his tongue out and starts eating. And that’s the metaphor for life; we can’t escape mortality but everything else we’re doing is just eating little drips of honey.
What do you want to achieve in your thirties?
I have no idea. I just have constant tiny goals. I try to take everything as it comes. I’m constantly just trying to please myself. That’s what I’ve basically realised now, that nothing else in the world matters at all, just please yourself and the people you love and that’s it.
Yeah, Writing music, skateboarding, playing football and tennis and going to the opera, going to jazz bars. They’re my pleasures.
Do you go back to Essex?
I’m going on Sunday to see my Mum but I don’t really kick it there.
Have you ever watched TOWIE?
I’ve still never watched it. I’m too scared.
Were you an anomaly in that town or was there a gang of you that were different from the usual Romford crews?
Yeah there were a few of us that skated. We didn’t fit in too well.