Archive for the 'Interviews' Category
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!
Eyajo is a founding member of the classic ’90′s Deathrock band The Astrovamps, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him nearly 1o years ago. A published poet and artist as well as a musician, Eyajo has taken his music in a different direction with his new band, the excellent Black Heroin Gallery.
MCE: It is great to be interviewing you again! It is hard to believe that it was nearly ten years ago that I interviewed you and the Astrovamps. Has the past decade been pretty what you envisioned? Or did it take directions you never dreamed of?
E. December J. ––Wow, funny, but it’s true what they say; “Time flies…” Yes a lot of what I’m doing now I did envisioned, but of course other things happened that wasn’t what I expected. For example, now I’m becoming quite a prolific pin-up artist/illustrator. Whereas the last 20 years I concentrated mostly on music and poetry, taking it for granted that I could always draw, so I didn’t bother with taking the art any further. Big mistake, and since 2010, art, music and poetry are of equal importance to me, so I work on all of them—at least a little everyday.
MCE: How did Black Heroin Gallery come to be?
E. December J. ––Well it was always brewing in my soul, because I knew I had to eventually compose the music of the songs I was writing lyrically, I just kept hearing the music and after the “Astrovamps” disbanded in 2007 I knew that was the sign to go balls out and form BHG officially. Tony F. Corpse stayed on to drum for the project and Corwin originally sign on as bass guitar, but things didn’t come together fast enough and he headed to Europe to play in another band, he’s still a good friend. A few months later I meant Emort and I liked the sound and style of his vocals. With Emort on board, I concentrated on composing the songs that now make up the album we’re currently working on. Needless to say, since 2007 I’ve written a few albums worth of material, but some songs survive the writing process and some don’t. BHG had a lot of false starts, musician came and went, but it wasn’t until I decided to pick up a guitar, that the project finally began to take shape. I’ve always loved the raw guitar sound, but never made attempt, step out from behind the keyboards. So after 2008’s brush with death (I had an infection in my stomach that almost killed me) I knew I had to reinvent myself as well as my music. Answer, play and compose on guitar. The songs I write just come out more naturally on guitar and I haven’t looked back since that day. Time truly is short.
MCE: Black Heroin Gallery has called themselves “grand saviors of Post Punk/Deathrock”, which may be sort of tongue-in-cheek, and yet, on another level there is a lot of truth here. I was a huge fan of the so-called “Deathrock Revival”, but many of us were disappointed when the focus turned away from the music and more towards ‘status’ in the ‘scene’. I remember Karlheinz of Skeletal Family telling me that “revivals are for fashionistas”. At the time I did not fully comprehend the wisdom of this remark, now I certainly do. What are your thoughts?
E. December J. ––Yes, I can see their point, I do agree. People tend to get lost sometimes with the image and sometimes judge a band as maybe not being ‘goth’ or ‘deathrock ‘ because they don’t look or dress like the current fashion versions of those genres. Image is important to some degree, but to me it’s like a lyric, illustration or chord progression I choose to create. It changes to express a cornucopia of emotions. There are no rules in fashion, art and music and when you find yourself following too many rules, you loose your edge and your art becomes disposal. I love the look of the ‘death hawk’, my last girl friend of a year ago, had one. But that doesn’t make a person or band instantly deathrock or goth.
MCE: I have admired your work as a poet since I interviewed you the first time, and I found a copy of “Where Elfin Children Play”. You have said that you always considered yourself a poet first, and saw music as a way to share your poetry with a wider audience. My first love was poetry, too, and I consider the lyrics in a song to be at least of equal importance to the music, and it chagrins me when I hear people say that they don’t pay attention to lyrics and just “listen to the music”.
E. December J. –– Why thank you, I’m honored you took the time to read it. It was my first and that book has gone through some re-writes and changes over the years. What survived from that book, will find its way into my complete body of work, “Legend of The Pumpkin Prince.” Oh yes, I would agree that the Lyrics are half the song and are very important. It’s been said that the greatest songs tell a story, I truly believe this and that’s why all my songs tell some kind of story. I’ve often found, that those who say lyrics aren’t important, usually can’t write them or understand them, besides even if you listen to just music, eventually you start to hear words.
MCE: In another interview you mentioned that there have been occasions where you have had to explain or defend your involvement in the Gothic culture. I’ve had the same experience. The Library profession loves to talk about “diversity” , “inclusiveness”, and not “judging” people, but as a Librarian I had had a lot of people in my field look askance, to put it politely, at my activities in the Gothic community. I find it amazing that so many people in our society are so unaware and uninformed about a culture that is over 30 years old, especially when information is easier to obtain than ever before. What do you think might be the reason for this?
E. December J. –– I would think in a way, its still misunderstood and considered to most people as a playful phase that someone goes through. Although we all know its much deeper than that. For those of us who have embrace the Goth culture as a lifestyle or more, tend to take for granted that most people believe it be evil, dark, anti-social, etc., but the irony is thousands of people fantasize about being part of it, in one way or another. I know this to be true from experience, from fans and non-fans, I’ve meant over the years. For myself, well I’ve devoted a life time to creating art in the goth/deathrock culture.
MCE: Whatever happened to the hot blonde exotic dancer you ran into in Hollywood?
E. December J. –– Well, she ended up being my girlfriend for a little over a year, than she got tired of getting ‘hit on’ at the club, so she quit and moved back to Mississippi. She wanted me to come with her, but what the hell am I going to do in Mississippi? So we went are separate ways.
MCE: The debut album from Black Heroin Gallery is soon to be released! Were there any challenges creating this album? Where can we get your CD, and What can listeners expect?
E. December J. –– Oh hell yes, there were a lot of unexpected challenges and ‘what nots’ in making this album, Too many to list in this interview, but I’ll highlight a few of them. For starters, the “Vamps” had just disbanded and I knew I wanted to make BHG stand apart from the “Vamps.” So I had to find my sound, which proved a little difficult at first, because I wrote with “Astrovamps” for 17 years and we got into a style and sound that became our own. I didn’t want to copy the “Vamps”, even though I didn’t write the Vamp’s music, I was the Lyricist. I found in the beginning of BHG I was writing music similar, but it was because I was writing lyrics similar as well. At first I was composing on keyboards, but I then decided, I got to really shoot for something different and since I’ve always been a fan of guitar—I made the decision to ‘compose on’ and play guitar. That change the direction of BHG for the better, I’ve been so excited by the results. So I then played around with tuning, amps, distortion, piano and approach lyric writing from three different styles. The result was a darker deathrock sound, a sound I wanted to do before, but never had the chance to, until now. The CD will be on a German label, I’ll let everyone know who, when all those details are worked out. The listeners will get a few surprises, for one this is a darker and edger sound and there are extended mixes being made of a few songs by Johnathan Glass Devaney. He will also be mastering the album. So it should be haunting, creepy and raw.
MCE: You have called yourself a minimalist, and this is certainly reflected in both your poetry and your music. Recently a local Poet in my area told me that “the most important aspect of a poem is the image you create”. I think this is very true, because for me the most visceral and evocative poems and songs are ones that use a few words effectively. Sometimes it seems like there is too much “clutter” in a poem or a song that renders it incomprehensible. You are adept at avoiding this. What advice would you give other writers?
E: December J. ––Yes, I agree, that statement holds true, for both poems and songs. The image you create is the most important part. I’ve always been a minimalist as a songwriter, poet and artist. That is what comes natural to me, you see a lot of artists, find themselves thinking, ‘what’s missing? What else can I put in? Should I redo this part or that part?’ For me it’s the opposite, when I write a song, I say to myself; ‘Ok this is working, but I don’t want anything to flashy in here, what else can I take out?’ I love the strip down sound, and that’s what I go for, I can’t have a bunch of clutter going on in my songs, because I’m no longer hearing the song. In my songs I’m trying to take the listener from a beginning place, to middle place and finally to an ending place. And a bunch of musical and lyrical clutter can confuse or derail the songs journey. Of coarse this doesn’t always go over well with the other musician in the band, because they’re all very talented, they want to give their best, but sometimes their best is too much for the song, so I tell them, ‘that sounded great, but its just too much. Try something a little simpler.’ Well as you can imagine, this results in arguments and ego bruising, but after all that has past, they get on board and give me some very incredible parts. My advice to songwriters would be this; try singing your song, with a guitar, piano or just your voice. If you don’t like it in this simple form, then all the musical and lyrical clutter in the world won’t make it a better song.
MCE: Many people use the terms Deathrock and Postpunk interchangeably. Is there a difference? Along the same lines, many Deathrockers express disdain for Goths and Goth music, but I think this is a generational issue. To me, back in the early ‘80s Deathrock was Goth, so to me they are one and the same, though I fully understand that Goth music has become much more diversified now. Do you think there is sometimes too much divisiveness within the Underground? Does it ever seem to you that some people try to profit from this?
E. December J. –– There is a slight difference, but honestly to me as well as all the history on the scene, Deathrock, Goth rock, Bat Cave and Post Punk are the same, because at one point or another the bands that were listed as one of them, then later became listed as another one of them. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of well know bands, including my last band, “Astrovamps.” In the early nineties Goth rock was hot, so since we didn’t sound like “London After Midnight” or “Sisters of Mercy”, the press called us Deathrock, then Years later when the German Labels started signing all the Deathrock bands, including “Astrovamps” who were a large part of the “Deathrock revival”, it turns out no one wanted to be left behind, so now all the popular Goth rock bands were all the sudden Deathrock bands (they didn’t change music, just labels). So yes, Deathrock, Goth rock, Bat cave and Post punk, for the most part, are interchangeable. Yes I do think people are to fixed on trying to put the bands in this place or that, while some people do try to profit from it. But if making a buck helps keep the underground alive, then I guess I’m not against them making a few.
MCE: The debate about digital vs. physical CD’s will rage on forever, it seems. For me, one of the great things about a physical CD is that a band can include artwork, liner notes, photos, and lyrics to give the listener a deeper understanding of the band or the music. I don’t feel the same connection to a band through a download. As an artist, poet, and musician, how do you feel about this. In your books of poetry, what is the relation between the art and poetry? Does one come before the other?
E. December J. ––well the real thing has got my vote. I love all the art, band pictures and extras that come in the physical CD or Vinyl. In my books of poetry, the art and poems don’t really come to me in any real order and sometimes the art and poem might be placed together, yet have nothing to do with one another.
MCE: Is there anything else you’d like to add? Thanks so much for doing the interview. The next one won’t take ten years!
E. December J. ––Sounds Great! Yes, just want to let everyone know that I got a “Green Light” to start pre-production on a vampire film I was writing. Of course BHG’s music will be in the movie. Emort is currently writing his solo album and Tony has a new Project called; “Spectres of Nihilism.” Other than that we’re excited to play live with BHG.
“Black Heroin Gallery” band page
Eyajo’s Black Ink Art page
MC: How did Red Sun Revival form? How did you decide on the name of the band?
Rob: Red Sun Revival began as a collection of songs I’d been working on in my spare time, whilst gigging with a bunch of other bands. I knew Christina from various club nights in the alternative scene in London, and as the songs I’d been composing featured violin quite prominently, it seemed natural to ask her if she’d be interested. This happened ages ago when forming this band was just an idea, really. As the songs started to come together I began to think more about putting together a proper band and began asking around about guitarists. In the past, I’d always played guitar but I had my heart set on singing for this new project, so finding someone for guitar became quite an urgent priority. Tim from Pretentious, Moi? was good enough to put me in contact with Matt and before we knew it there were three of us muddling through the unfamiliar material in my living room. After what seemed like an eternity of trying to find a bassist amongst friends and associates, I ended up putting an ad on the net. Luckily enough, Panos responded and within a very short space of time we were a full band, rehearsing in a studio in London. Band names are always difficult. Let’s just say it was a long brainstorming session!
Matt: In my case I was introduced to Rob by Tim Chandler, the singer in my other band, Pretentious, Moi? Tim knew Rob was looking for a guitarist and he mentioned it to me at a rehearsal. He sent me the material and I loved it. I finally met Rob at Whitby in October 2010 and we started working together from then.
Panos: My story with Red Sun Revival starts with an ad that I found randomly on the net, saying “alternative/gothic band looking for bass player”. I replied and got a few tracks from Rob, and we arranged an audition. I had never met the guys before and my first meeting with Rob was at the actual audition. A good friendship kicked off that night. A week after I got the news that I am in the band, I met Matt and Christina and we started working on the material.
Christina: I knew Rob from various clubs in London, namely Slimelight and Reptile. Through getting to know each other, we found out about each other’s musical backgrounds and Rob bravely asked me if I would be interested in playing electric violin for Red Sun Revival without even hearing me play first! Our first practice session together with Matt went well and Panos came along later.
MC: What are the musical backgrounds of the band?
Rob: I started playing guitar when I was 14; singing came much later. I was one of the founding members of Voices of Masada, along with Eddie Crofton-Martin. Over several years we released a couple of albums, played numerous gigs and even toured the USA and Australia before breaking up a few years ago. More recently I was a member of Adoration before we disbanded earlier this year. I’ve also played session guitar for The Eden House and session bass/guitar for NOSFERATU.
Matt: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 15. My musical background is really rock, blues and soul, so Rob took a chance when he agreed to let me join Red Sun Revival! I also play rhythm guitar in Pretentious, Moi? so it’s great to be involved in two prominent bands in the current goth music scene. As well as guitar I play piano and drums, but neither of them well enough to perform live… yet!
Panos: My background with music starts from an early age, and apart from listening to all kinds of rock sounds and genres, I started playing bass when I was 16. I got involved with a few bands in Greece, and for the last few years I have been living and playing in London. Apart from Red Sun Revival, I also play with a hard rock band called Portrait.
Christina: I started learning the violin in school from the age of 6 until I passed Grade 7 RAM during sixth form college. Alongside lessons, I played in the school orchestra and in the local youth orchestra. I have a traditional classical background but I didn’t really play much after going to university. A couple of years ago, I was kindly given an electric violin which reignited my interest. It was a lot of fun to experiment with different sounds using a guitar effects board!
MC: In my review of your promo I made a comparison to Fields of the Nephilim. But I hear other more subtle influences too, such as British invasion. What are other musical elements that you try to incorporate?
Rob: It’s not a secret that I used to be, and still am, a big fan of Fields of the Nephilim, particularly in its original manifestation. Clearly, it’s impossible to escape all of your influences but I really didn’t want us to be yet another Nephilim clone. I also love Pink Floyd, The Chameleons, and Depeche Mode and I’m particularly interested in film soundtracks. I wanted to create an orchestral tapestry upon which to build the songs, without turning us into a progressive rock band!
MC: Do you ever find the band pigeonholed into a stereotypical musical category? How do you deal with that?
Rob: Yes, I see that happening all the time. Personally, I’m not going to lose sleep if that happens to us but it would certainly be nice to have some cross over and broad appeal. I think there are elements to our songs which defy a strictly trad goth genre, and others that openly embrace it! That’s probably because I like trad goth, as well as other stuff. Hopefully, people from a trad goth background will enjoy the occasional departures from the genre. I also hope people from other genres will find our songs accessible and become interested in this kind of music.
Matt: I think we know that we are mainly a goth band. I think we accept that so there’s nothing to ‘deal with’ in that sense. However, we also hope that some of the other influences in our music might appeal to a broader range of people. We’ve got orchestral elements, some folky moments, some ambient, swirly passages. Rob is influenced by film soundtracks which gives his music some diversity. But we’re not going to lose sleep over whether we’ve been stereotyped or not. We’ve got some fantastic songs and we’ll play them for whoever likes them, whatever pigeonhole they fit in to.
Panos: As a band the only thing we can do is to write and perform the music we like in the way we like. The creative process cannot be pigeonholed and as musicians we try to keep our minds and ears wide open. The result though can be stereotyped in many ways, and there is nothing wrong with that and nothing we can do about it. Each listener can find different things in our music. My hope would be for people of different genres to embrace our music so that it can reach a broader audience.
Christina: I find it hard to describe our music when someone asks me what it is like. I tend to say that it is “trad goth with elements of folk.. sort of..”. There’s a long description on our Facebook page and website which fits the bill quite well. I think it will be interesting to see where we end up playing as we aren’t strictly goth so I can imagine us getting some quite varied audiences!
MC: I’ve found that people do this usually have a limited knowledge of the musical range of the Gothic subculture, and are the same people who like to declare that trad Goth is dead/stale/passé, or some other uncomplimentary term. But bands such as Red Sun Revival are proof that it is certainly is not dead. Do you ever think that some people simply ignore things that don; fit their perceptions? Have you seen other examples?
Rob: I think trad goth is going through something of a resurgence recently, albeit on a much smaller scale. I don’t think we’re ever going to return to the days of bands like The Mission getting into the Top 10, because music has diversified since then. Anyone can write music at home now, and every person that does so is free to take things in their own direction. I think the role music plays in people’s lives has changed, not that it’s less important, but rather that it’s easier to get involved in making it. Music is no longer the preserve of enormous stadium fillers like U2, it’s something that a lot of people can do themselves, quite well, if not fantastically well. I’d love to see goth bands topping the charts again, but at the same time, I love being able to write songs on a laptop on the train, and so does everyone else who’s writing now. I don’t think we have any control over musical trends now that the Pandora’s box of home recording has been opened!
Matt: There are as many different perspectives as there are people on the scene. We’re not here to ‘bring back trad goth’, if it ever went away. We don’t have a cultural agenda. From a personal point of view I think that culture rarely stays still and almost never goes backwards. So ‘trad goth’ today will never be the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. It will evolve and change just as every other culture and subculture does. Some people will like those changes, some people won’t, but no-one can stop them from happening. So we’re not trying to bring back an old style of trad goth, but we’re not trying to define a new one either. We have a music and a style that we like and that’s what we’re going to do.
Panos: The gothic scene as any other scene of music is a functioning society. In all scenes of music people always embrace and reject stuff with different criteria and different perceptions. There are lots of bands of different kinds that can appeal differently to people and that is healthy. Changes will always happen in music and people will adapt their own way. We can only give our best to play and produce the music we like. We are only here as part of a scene, trying to express ourselves with no further intention other than people to find something interesting in our music.
MC: When is your album due to be out? How will fans be able to get it?
Rob: We’re hoping to release the album in late September/early October. The album will be available digitally in all the usual places and as a good old-fashioned CD digipak. We’ll be releasing the album through distributors and we will also be selling it on our website and at gigs.
MC: Red Sun Revival has done some pretty extensive touring in the short time since your formation. How has that been for you? Where do you go from here?
Rob: We’re actually quite new to gigging. We did our first ever gig at Whitby Goth Weekend earlier this year which was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity for us. We have more gigs coming, both in the UK and abroad, and we hope to land several more when the album is released.
Christina: My only previous experience playing a gig was with FutureFrenetic when I played keyboards at 2 gigs so Whitby Goth Weekend was rather a new experience for me! We had such a warm reception from the crowd though that I am both looking forward to, and am rather petrified about, our first London gig on 3rd November at Electrowerkz supporting David J (Bauhaus), especially as there will be so many familiar faces.
MC: How do you compose your songs? Is there any sort of philosophical thread that runs through the music?
Rob: The songs usually start off as a vocal melody. I’ve always thought that strong vocal hooks are the key to any great song, and once you have these writing the rest of the music is quite straightforward. In the past, I’ve come up with lovely guitar lines and keyboard parts, only to find that the vocals have eluded me, and the whole thing ends up feeling like a bit of a waste of time. Once you have a strong vocal melody, you can hang stuff off it and build things up around it. Keyboards come next, to generate the right chords and harmonies, followed by drums. The guitars follow, adding decorative secondary melodies, and last the lyrics…always the hardest part! In terms of philosophical threads, the songs tend to reflect introspective ideas, and in my case often relate to aspects of my religious upbringing, and whilst this may not be the most original source of inspiration, it is certainly relevant to me. I think you have to look to your own experience to write good lyrics.
MC: Over about the past ten years or so, I have noticed a definite shift in gothic music towards a more “classic” sound than the electronic dance music that seemed to dominate the mid to late ’90s. This is not really a step backward because it does differ from trad-goth, and it has certainly proved to be more than a so-called “revival”. It’s also proved to be deeper than a generational issue, since many pf the new bands were too young to have seen the 1st generation of goth bands. Why do you think this shift has occurred?
Rob: I think this shift is reflected in the wider music scene. Dance music was huge in the ’90s and still important in the ’00s. We saw the effect of this within the alternative scene also, with music departing from guitar-driven compositions to more upbeat electro styles like EBM. I’ve never taken issue with this, although it is not really what I’d choose to listen to at home. In the last few years we’ve seen guitars returning in popular music. I guess the whole long rave had to come to an end some day! Guitar-based bands have dominated music since the ’50s and were still popular even when they were briefly eclipsed. I personally welcome the return of guitars in music of all genres.
Matt: Just as culture shifts and evolves, so does music. There has definitely been a shift back towards goth rock and away from the electro. I think that’s natural. Electro dominated so much of the late ’90s and ’00s that it’s inevitable people would want a change. There are more guitar-based bands on the scene than there have been for years. I think it might be a generational thing. If you look at the bands around at the moment, many of their members are the right age to have been teenagers in the early ’90s, when goth rock was still influential. They’re now taking those influences and putting them into their own music. In 10 years time I expect electro will have a similar revival. That’s the way these things work.
Christina: There are so many sub-genres of goth music.. trad goth, post punk, EBM, industrial, noise, 80s, electro, synth pop, neo-folk, medieval..You’ll find all of these and more being played in clubs nowadays. Most people tend to like a mixture of music and aren’t selective to just one genre. This has also led to a merge of sub-genres and I think that this widens the audience so that when they come across a style which is new to them, they’ll naturally do some digging and listen to the older bands to see where it all came from. The “younger generation” nowadays won’t have grown up in the ’80s so they will discover these older bands and with that comes a possible resurgence.
MC: It seems like “scene” politics overshadow the music in some areas. It’s really too bad that stuff like this takes the focus away from the bands and music. Do you think that social media has contributed to this? What are your thoughts?
Rob: It’s a shame, isn’t it? I think the scene is like society in miniature and many of those in it want to have their own special role. I suppose as musicians, we’re not really any different in this respect! I think these things are somewhat inevitable given the size of the scene and the fact that there are so many connections between the people in it. It’s amazing how difficult it is to avoid getting caught up in stuff despite efforts to the contrary. I think we’ll have to live with it.
Matt: Politics is just another term for human interaction. Any group of people interacting together will have politics. Some of them will get on with each other, others won’t. It’s not specific to goths. Any creative scene will have it. Wishing for a scene without politics is like wishing for a fire without heat. It’s not going to happen.
Social media has made it easier for people to interact, but I think that’s a good thing. It’s easier to feel part of the scene now, even if you’re not in the same physical place as everyone else. You can still keep up with what people are saying and doing, even if you can’t be there in person. And as a band it’s much easier to get your music and news out to people. So overall I think social media has been very positive for music.
Panos: Politics were and will always be part of music as they are part of any other extent of our life. We just have to live and cope with it. Sometimes it is hard but it is completely normal and bands need to be able to get through everything related to the business. However, as far as social media is concerned, I truly believe that it is a positive thing that has happened to music in recent years. It is easier to promote your music and be part of a broader network that, before social media, was not reachable. All in all this micro-society of music business has all the aspects of social interaction that we meet in any other sector; we have to cope with it and use it wisely.
Christina: Fortunately I haven’t come across any “scene” politics but I can imagine that it exists no matter what type of music you play. Social media has so far been only a positive thing for Red Sun Revival, making it easier for us to keep in touch with those interested in hearing the latest news.
MC: Is there anything else you would like to add? Thanks so much for the interview!
Rob: I’d like to thank all those who’ve worked so hard to help us make what I believe is a fantastic album. We’re looking forward to releasing it and I hope that your readers will enjoy hearing it as much as we enjoyed making it.
Matt: We’re just getting started so we really hope people will give us a chance, listen to our album when it comes out and come to see some of our shows. We’ll try to get across to all of you the joy we feel when playing our music. Thanks.
Panos: Thanks a lot to those who helped with the creation of our album. I hope that you will all love this album, and I can’t wait meeting some of you in our future gigs!
Christina: I’d be interested in any feedback that anyone would like to give us! When I first listened to the rough mixes of what Rob wanted to do, I had my favourite songs. Over time, these have changed. Now when listening to the finished album, they have changed again! I like it when songs seem to evolve the more you listen to them; it makes the album interesting and it has quite a few layers – I hope that you enjoy the music too. Thank you for taking the time to interview us.
MC: What is Awesome Grey up to these days? You’ve done quite a bit of touring lately, how did that go? What are some of the highlights? Do you think you will eventually tour the US?
AG: We now have new management and will try to play as many shows as possible in 2012 and the next year. It´s not easy to find locations offering Punk Rock shows in Germany, because there are a lot of lesser quality bands! The highlight of our last tour was definitely the show in Freiburg, Germany, with very cool bands and an awesome audience. We would love to tour the US, but we first would have to find a sponsor and enough locations to play our shows! But that would be amazing!
MC: Where did the title of “Do You Have Friend’s” come from? Is there a story behind it? And what the story behind your name “Awesome Grey“?
AG: We think about people and their behavior quite often. Why are they acting the way they do? Usually because of one reason: they want to get seen! But how do other people gauge this behavior, are you accepted in your community and social surroundings or are you alone?
→ Do You Have Friends?!
The history of our band name is similar! A lot of people are just yelling about their problems and don´t enjoy their life! So their day is almost dark, sad and boring – grey! But we think life should be the opposite! Because life is just wonderful, so make the best out of your day, even if it´s grey!
→ Awesome Grey
MC: How is the new album coming along? When do you anticipate it will be released?
AG: We haven’t written all he songs for the new album. So far, 2 or 3 still need to be finished. The new songs are a little bit more coltish/playful but still have a big Punk Rock attitude. If we can finish song writing in the summer of 2012, we would like to release the album sometime in 2013.
MC: When I first heard Awesome Grey, one of the things I really liked was that even though you definitely have newer influences, they don’t obliterate the roots. How does your music develop?
AG: All of our members have been into Punk Rock music for a very long time. We all like to listen to a similar bands like Rise Against, Rancid or Blink 182 (early songs).We try to develop our music, because Punk Rock should not just be made out of 3 chords! So experience helps, as well having as a straight Punk Rock basement!
MC: Lately I think there has been something of a resurgence of that original Punk style we just mentioned, with more bands looking back to those roots and more fans looking for the music. Why do you think this is happening?
AG: All newer songs are made “electronic“, a lot of remixes of old songs! There is no creativity, just fast money! Much popular music today is mainly electronic music, but where is the music played live by musicians and not just by scratching turntables!? So we hope more people will find their way back to selfmade and handmade music!
MC: Over the past ten years or so I have been to Punk shows where I was appalled to see Moshers who were deliberately attacking people who were not in the Pit, as well as other Moshers. They were targeting people who seemed unlikely to fight back. Back in the ’80s I remember that there was sense of camaraderie in the Pit, and people would help each other out, not kick you when you were down or hit you from behind. Has this been happening in Europe, too? What do you think caused this change?
AG: Yes, this definitely is happening in Europe too – unfortunately! We grew up with a sense of respect : if somebody fell, we helped him up to continue dancing together! Today it´s a strange kind of aggression that many people show in their everyday life and not just while they are dancing.
MC: What do you think sets Punk apart from other kinds of music, particular the “popular” music today?
AG: Punk Rock is a special kind of music, because of the type of dancing for example. Not a lot of people can cotton up to this style! For most of society, Punk Rock includes piercing, colorful hair and alcohol, so it´s hard for them to understand that there are „normal“ people listening to Punk Rock music too. Unfortunately some Punk Rock bands have gotten more and more commercial (Green Day, Blink 182…).
MC: Besides music, what are some of the interests of the band members of Awesome Grey?
AG: We like to hang our with our friends, play soccer, enjoy life or travel somewhere around the world! Even if it sounds pathetic: carpe diem (= seize the day)!
MC: One of the great myths of the club scene is that “you can’t dance” to music unless it is electronic with an overpowering beat, yet many bands such as you prove this to be wrong. Why do you think this myth persists? From the footage I’ve seen of your shows, fans of Awesome Grey have no trouble dancing at all!
AG: It´s because of a lack of knowledge and no existing connection to the song itself. How can you dance to songs, you have no feeling for? An overpowering beats just force you to get this “feeling“. Our fans feel our fun and good mood on the stage, so it is quite easy for them to dance to our music.
MC: Is there anything else you would like to add? Thanks so much for doing the interview! And for such great music. We look forward to your next album!
AG: Thanks for the interview! We will let you know, if there´s a new album going to be. Keep in touch and perhaps we see each other on day in the US!