Greetings and Salutations!
2013 marks TEN YEARS OF MIDNIGHT CALLING EZINE!
A lot has been going on lately, so I have been rather remiss about posting interviews and reviews. My apologies to the bands and readers! Check out the new review of the fine EP from Stupid Bitch Reject. We had the fortune to check out John Howie, Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff at Saxapahaws on May 25th. As usual, they gave a great performance, rockin’ their unique brand of galvanized Country. We also met one of the most unique craftsmen I’ve seen in along time, the friendly and personable Mr. Johnny Mack, who hand carves wooden bow ties and top hats. Yes, that’s wooden top hats! Our Steampunk meter immediately activated! Other festival goers were rather unpleasant. More later.
Also Check out the excellent interview with Eyajo Joseph of Black Heroin Gallery; the review of The Deadfly Ensemble’s glorious third CD ; the magnificent “Living in Grey” by The Last Cry; and the review of Apocalypse Five and Dime’s excellent EP! I am working on a number of things. Reviews of the fine bands Twinmachine; Melanculia; Kill Your Boyfriend, and more! An interview with Jim Strange is in the works, and I hope that one day soon I’ll also be posting an interview of singer/songwriter Brooke McBride!
I’d like to thank local Americana musicians Matt Poore and Larry King, formerly of The Back Porch Boys, for their fantastic performance at our local library. It’s great to meet people for whom sheer love of music is their priority , not “scenes” or “creds”. They will be making a return engagement in my area this July!
Take at look at some of the bad videos filmed by yours truly at:
We are having some glitches on the website. We have lost our webmaster, so I am trying to muddle through. content buttons at the top of the page do not work (except for the Issue and Staff pages.) However, you can access all of our reviews and articles by on “The Issue” button at the top, clicking “next” at the bottom, and then scrolling through all back content from there. Or if you are only interested in reviews, culture, etc. you can click on the category headings on the right, then click on “next page” at the bottom. Not long ago I added much of our material from our original website back in 2003, some interesting stuff that well worth perusing!
I hope everyone enjoys the reviews, interviews, and articles!
“It’s not about the ‘scene’…”
It’s all about the music!“
Interview with Jim Strange, of Jim Strange with the Proud and the Damned, Portland’s most up-and-coming band in the Gothic tradition.
MC: How did the band form?
JS: After years of being in other people’s bands that went nowhere I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns and do my own thing. A friend heard some demos I was working on and offered me a show, I quickly put a band together and it’s taken on a life of its own since then.
MC: You have sort of similar foundations to a lot of horror punk bands. Yet you have gone in a vastly different musical direction. Was this a conscious decision, or just something that happened, so to speak?
JS: I’m not really capable of doing things any way but my own, it’s a blessing and a curse.I’m into a lot of old 50′s rock and roll where it’s really all about the performance and how much sex and fury one person can throw into a song. Sun records era Elvis, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis were big influences, particularly on The Devil is in Demand record. I really like the feel and intensity in those old records but never really saw myself fitting into the formalism of horror punk or rockabilly. I guess we took the same ingredients but mutated somewhere along the way.
MC: In my review of your last CD, I mentioned the “dark Western” sort of feel. I have always thought that the Old West was very Gothic, with the large dark and unknown spaces; the dichotomy of Badmen and Heroes, and the sense of fatalism that seemed to characterize the era. This is part of the Victorian era, yet many Goths gravitate exclusively towards the East, i.e. elements such as Poe, England, urban architecture and graveyards, not to mention fashions. Why do you think people tend to ignore the Gothic sense of the Old West?
JS: The idea of the gothic or weird western seems to have been leaking into the larger culture over the past decade, I’m sure like with most good things it’s only a matter of time before it’s exploited and beaten into the ground.
MC: This is related to the last question. Some people DO like the “Western” look of bands like, say, Fields of the Nephilim but few think of Country and Western styles of music as being relevant to Goth or dark music. You show that these can successfully be incorporated into Gothic music, just like many other disparate elements have been absorbed. This is pretty unique. How did you do it?
JS: I drew inspiration from bands like 16 Horsepower and Myssouri who showed me the possibilities of mixing the two elements. Hearing Ghoultown for the first time was also an eye opener as they took the horror storytelling of a band like Mercyful Fate and put it in an entirely different context. After that I realized the sky was the limit.
MC: Do you you ever listen to Bluegrass? I think that Bluegrass has some very dark, fatalistic themes, but is somehow overlooked among the “anything-dark-is- goth” crowd. What do you think of Bluegrass? Are there other genres where you find the same thing?
JS: I like any kind of music where the songs have a body count. Harry Smith’s Anthology of American folk music has some pretty coldhearted songs on it. Gospel music is a favorite of mine, I really enjoy its mean-spiritedness. Those songs are frightening to me not just for their subject matter and theological implications but because there’s a whole segment of society who think it’s perfectly ok to sing about how i’m going to hell for the way I think and behave. Listening to it is like staring the beast in the eye.
MC: What kind of music scene is in the Portland area? The city has always had sort of a reputation of an a Hipster haven, concurrent with a strong alt-Country scene. Is this still true? Has this been an impact on your music?
JS: We tend to stick out like a sore thumb amongst the sea of flannels and beards, but are carving our own niche.
MC: You have mentioned Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash as being some of the Country antecedents to your music. (I am certain you have a copy of “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs’!) Who has been influential from the Goth end of the spectrum?
JS: Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs is a favorite for sure. On the goth end, I’m a huge fan of Peter Murphy, particularly his “Dust” album. Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim are also favorites. On the heavier end we’re big fans of Type O Negative and we’re sad to see Pete go.
MC: How is your new album coming along? When and where will fans be able to get it? Are you going to be touring?
JS: New album is done! It will be called Pox Americana and will be out in a matter of months.
It’s much darker and heavier than the last one with more of an urban tone to the songwriting while still retaining a dark western feel. It’ll be plastered across the internet soon, either free or on a “name your price” kinda deal. No plans to tour yet but it’s definitely something I want to do and am actively working on.
MC: What are some of your favorite books? What do you think of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series?
JS: I really liked the first 3 Dark Tower books but he really lost me with Wizard and Glass. I want cowboys and death, not teen romance. I keep meaning to check out some of the new Dark Tower comics that have come out so I’ll probably give the books another go. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is essential. The Sea Wolf by Jack London is an all time fave. Anything by Joe Lansdale.
You Can’t Win by Jack Black is a must read for anyone interested in what it was like to be a lowlife in the dying days of the old west, the same goes for Carl Panzram’s autobiography. These days I mostly read crime fiction like Iceberg Slim, Jim thompson or James Ellroy. I like having my shitty worldview reflected back at me.
MC: Is there anything else you would like to add? Thanks so much for doing the interview!
JS: Thanks for having me, the best is yet to come!
DJ Hex has been spinning Deathrock and Goth in the Houston for over three years Currently living in the New Orleans area, he has organized a tour of the East Coast with varied bands and venues. Midnight Calling Ezine wanted to find out more, so I asked DJ Hex for an interview. Here it is:
MC: How did you get involved in Dj’ing?
DJ HEX: I first got involved with DJing when I started doing my New Death night in Houston back 2010, I had been doing fanzines and a small record label before hand but decided that Djing was a great vehicle for getting word out to the kids about the new crop of goth and deathrock acts plus giving people the opportunity go out and dance to great music was one of the best things of all.
MC: What are your musical foundations?
DJ HEX: Hmm good question, well, despite what a lot of my detractors think, I actually have a very diverse musical pedigree, my dad raised me on cajun, honky tonk and outlaw country and delta blues and my mom raised me on everything from motown to zydeco to and early rock n roll , I got my more overt rock influences from my uncle who got me into early 80′s metal and some hardcore punk and that lead into my later of love street, anarcho and Oi! which in turn lead to post punk, goth, deathrock, coldwave etc.
MC: You’re on tour, so to speak. What are some of your upcoming events, and how can people find out more?
DJ HEX: Ah the tour, yes I start the tour on June 26th at the Shelter in Atlanta, GA and I will be spinning with the VJ Anthony Lamont, should prove interesting as seeing I’ve never toured before let alone on the East Coast, the next one after that is June 28th in Chesapeake, VA with Asylum XIII and Sapphire Rebellion at Roger’s Sports Pub, and then afterwards onward to Baltimore for a night being run by myself and DJ Wyntre Mysteria at the Sidebar Tavern called Burnt Offerings.
MC: Are you still looking for venues? What are your requirements, and how can a venue contact you? How far in advance are you looking to book?
DJ HEX: to answer that, yes I actually would love to still snag a Richmond and North Carolina date if possible, my requirements aren’t much, at least 100 bucks cash wise and I’m a laptop DJ who runs through a console so I’m low maintenance, as for how to contact me, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for booking, Attn: DJ Hex booking, and booking me requires about at least a two weeks notice]
MC: What genres are you spinning/promoting? Do you stay within a clearly defined format, or do you sort of have a format that includes broadly related material? (I know that ‘broadly related’ can mean many different things!)
DJ HEX: The main styles I’m promoting are goth rock and deathrock but I also do a lot of promo for darker styles of punk and post punk as well, on occasion I’ll drop some dark synth or early industrial but it’s not nearly as common, it really depends on the city I’m in and what the people respond to.
MC: What are some of the challenges you have faced across the country?
DJ HEX: Well some of the most routine challenges are just trying to ensure that a night turns out well enough that I can make my money back on travel expenses in addition to trying to get people to do what they say they’ll do and get the crowds to turn out, at times it really is like trying to herd a flock of cattle haha (twice as stubborn!)
MC: Who are some of the bands you have had the most fun with?
DJ HEX: Hmm, well working with the Spiritual Bat from Italy was a great experience Dario and Rosie are some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met and their live set is fantastic, also Strap On Halo were very professional and friendly and considering they do so much to promote and preserve the goth and deathrock subcultures I have a lot of respect for them.
MC: Have you ever tun into any territorialism or cliquism that made it difficult to produce an event? What advice you you give others in similar situations?
DJ HEX: Oh my god yes! when I first started spinning and doing shows in Houston I had to deal with the stereotypical scene crap and drama that was really, just a complete and utter waste of my time, New Orleans I’ve had similar problems with people who just can’t grow up and get along, sometimes asking people to be adults about things is truly asking a lot. My advice is just to keep it firmly business and remember that is about the music first and foremost, petty personal grievances and ego’s have absolutely NO place in a scene though they may keep creeping in.
MC: Do you think the concept of “underground” has changed in the past few years or so?
DJ HEX: Yeah, the term underground in itself has been hijacked as nothing more than a pseudo edgy tag to sell shitty pop acts and street cred to people who never spent the time to actually get out there and talk to the kids and learn the music and flyer and promote etc; To me, to be underground is not so much as being in the position of not being well known or only known by the select few but to just quite simply be off the radar of the mainstream media and to have absolutely no relevance to the average, “jack off”
MC: Is there anything else you’d like to add? Thanks for doing the interview!
DJ HEX: Yes! be on the look out for me when I come to town, I promise good times, good tunes and general mayhem, also remember to support your local goth, punk and deathrock scenes ceaselessly, it’s only through team effort and hard work that the music can survive and thrive!
The excellent French band Stupid Bitch Reject consists of Ophelie (Vocals, lyrics, programming) and Franck (Guitar, bass, programming). Harkening back to artists such as the Cocteau Twins, Strange Boutique, and Norma Loy, Stupid Bitch Reject tempers solid Gothic elements with Cold Wave and Ethereal perspectives to deliver a rich and evocative musical tapestry that is simply mesmerizing.
The sharp, yet languid guitar of “Bean Niochain” reminds me of the Cure. The bass is a steady foundation, as the eloquent layering falls like a soulful rain amid the smooth, yet gripping vocals.
“Side By Side” speeds up the pace, with great postpunk guitar and strong, yet muted bass. Vocals are bewitching and the electronics are dramatically layered. Think of Echo and the Bunnymen merged with Dead Can Dance.
“Inside My Asylum” has more than a hint of Siouxsie, but manages to have a raw sort of early Sisters of Mercy sensibility before the flowing, visceral, vocals blow the listener away. The backing electronics rise majestically behind the vocals, adding a masterful touch of subtle dissonance, somehow remaining very harmonious. For all the dark undercurrents contained here, the song is delightfully danceable, and should be on the playlist of every cutting edge Gothic DJ.
“Only” continues in the same vein, with a very danceable pace. Bass driven, but with layers of edgy guitar soaring with the compelling vocals. This song has the energy of Bloody, Dead, and Sexy fused with a symphonic backdrop that is both poignant and stirring.
“How It Tastes” features very expressive vocals that tug at the emotions. The expert layering and echo imparts a dreamlike quality that brings Lycia to mind, ably enhanced by sharp yet introspective guitar. Synth is very reminiscent of an ’80′s kind of sound, but is superbly integrated with a futuristic, faintly industrial rhythm at about 2 minutes in the song. The song flows perfectly, with faint and disquieting currents that occasionally break the surface.
Stupid Bitch Reject brings back memories of the many a closing set on the dancefloor, after the harsh notes of electro-dance had faded, and the moments before dawn were spent in a languid and euphoric celebration that the faithful had been waiting for throughout the night. But Stupid Bitch Reject is more than just Goth for the 21st century. They combine the emotional resonance of Ethereal with the “bite” of Post Punk. Arrangements are tight and there is no meandering. I look forward to hearing more excellent music from Stupid Bitch Reject!
The Master of Minstrelsy returns, accompanied by none other than The Abandoned Buildings! ‘To the Weak and Weary” is the debut album by this wonderful collaboration. Eli is famed for the starkly intimate nature of his music, which reaches into the soul of the listener and resonates with our collective experiences of loss, regret, and heartache. Oh, it is never done in a sappy or contrived manner as is the case with so many other artists, but with a genuine, matter-of-fact delivery that demands no sympathy but just states unequivocally what “is”. The Abandoned Buildings do not detract from this at all. They add a magnificent depth to Eli’s music.
This depth is immediately demonstrated by “Alone”. The fast pace of the song imparts a strong sense of urgency. The cello is darkly poignant and contrasts with the powerful percussion. Eli’s vocals display his traditional hallmarks of deep and gripping empathy. The female vocals add a whole other dimension to the song, emphatic without becoming strident.
“The Sounds of Trains” is magnificent! Eli’s guitar is incisive and evocative, with the cello adding a deeper, and sort of eerie, sense of reflection. Mell’s vocals compliment Eli’s perfectly, coming in at just the right times. Her harmonies are exquisite. After a very poignant guitar interlude, at about three and a half minutes, the song turns a bit heavier, with cadenced cello. percussion, and guitar. Eli’s vocals exude a feel of grim fatalism, though it is remarkably tempered with determination. “Into the dark, we go…”
‘The Living World” is very moving, with fine, yet subtle harmonies. The clarinet lends a mournful sense of solitude as percussion affects a nearly funereal demeanor. The song flows seamlessly, like a river of remorseful memories, and a yearning for times past.
The faster “Warm” is a precipitous change of pace. The guitar is fast, almost a polka, while glockenspiel adds a whimsical touch. Percussion emerges with military precision, as the clarinet weaves breezily around the vocals.
‘Fools Philosophy” is intensely personal in classic Eli August style This is no teary ballad for the pop charts. It has the sound of total sincerity, like looking into the singer’s diary. This beings to mind his song “Laid Bare:”: there is a reflection of the real world here. Sometimes there are no solutions. Musically, the song is astounding. Starting slow and measured with an almost country cadence, glockenspiel bells lend a catchy, whimsical air that is in stark contrast to the theme. At about a minute and a half, plaintive cello and Mell’s backing vocals add a moving emphasis. Then the song abruptly shifts gears. Cello and clarinet become brooding, while the percussion becomes harder and ominous. The shared vocals peak majestically, and the song closes.
‘Where No one Knows” has a very interesting juxtaposition of what I can only describe as sort of Klezmer and Latin rhythms. The guitar has a rolling gait, reminding me of a train, accompanied. understated clarinet and bells The melody is infectious, and vocals are sincere and smooth.
Almost a continuation of the last song, “Kind” features excellent backing vocals and a rousing pace, with clarinet chafing at the bit and rollicking guitar. Eli manages to sound energetic and pessimistic at the same time. Bells add a whimsical element that is nicely discordant
The vocals on “Petals” are simply stunning. Eli’s vocals are matched perfectly with the backing vocals. The clarinet and ukelele are smooth and upbeat, and will set any toes in audio range to tapping. The steel guitar effect adds a sense of poignancy.
“Riverbend” starts out with a very visceral feel, with eerie tremolo cello contrasting nicely with the fast paced guitar. Clarinet is subdued and hovering darkly under the quite emotional currents. Percussion is likewise muted, yet effective. Lead vocals are classic Eli August, fervent and sincere. There is an interlude of guitar that sounds almost like a prelude to a gunfight. Cello and backing vocals rise to a height of total majesty.
“Rise Above” is epic Eli August. Nearly an anthem, tinged with regret, yet filled with purpose, the song soars above the perpetual darkness of the soul to catch feeble rays of eternal optimism. No mere dirge, ‘Rise Above” is driven by Eli’s energetic guitar and vocals. Cello and clarinet are just as moving, and on the chorus the backing vocals are masterful. Rattling percussion drives away any hint of malaise.
The closing song, “Ghosts in the Dark” is in the vein of Eli’s earlier works. Quite minimalistic, with solo accompaniment, this reminds me a lot of his incredible live performances. Poignant and sad, there is yet a a feel of cautious optimism here that is reminiscent of ‘Steady” from his “The Bottom of the Sea” album. This is a fitting and superb ending to a fine album.
“To the Weak and Weary” is Eli’s finest album to date. And not simply because he has a full band behind him. I am still very much a fan of the kind of minimalism that Eli has done so well on his previous albums, and it still shines forth in places here. Yet it is a true mark of fine musicianship that Eli transitioned so smoothly to a full ensemble, with the spirit of his music remaining as potent as always. The other band members have a wealth of talent and truly mesh well. Each one adds a vital part to the finished product. Characteristically of Eli’s works, there are many musical layers which are revealed with each listening. Eli’s guitar work is also a bit more aggressive here, which I like. More importantly, Eli’s voice has matured wonderfully, and has never been finer. His vocals have evolved with each release, and “To the Weak and Weary” really highlights how far has come.
“To the Weak and Weary” is simply a fantastic CD, and I look forward, as always, to hearing more from the incomparable Bard.