Though we at Starvox get almost as excited (if not more so) than our readers when we have the chance to interview a legendary dark music performer, sometimes it can be just as exciting to present someone new, who may develop into a legend over time. Our goal is to expose readers to new and quality dark music, therefore I am eager to present Benjamin Stauffer. Benjamin is a multi-talented artist with a knack for weaving intricate webs of neo-classical ambience, as heard on his “Fading Daydreams” CD. But also, he is an excellent electronic musician as well, and he channels his techno talents into the project Ajna, which is yet to be unveiled to the public. In time I believe this artist may turn some heads. I am honestly a rather unenthusiastic passerby of both ambient and techno music, but his work genuinely won me over, which leads me to believe that Mr. Stauffer may have stumbled across a successful and impressive formula with his music.
Starvox: Let’s talk about your release “Fading Daydreams.” What are some of the qualities of your music that help set it apart from other neo-classical or ambient projects?
Benjamin: I think a lot of albums from those genres can easily recede into background noise after a while, especially most of those that I’ve heard from Windham Hill/Narada Records. Don’t get me wrong, I love ambient music. I can put in a Steve Roach CD and put it on repeat for quite a while and lose myself in another world. But for some reason when writing my own music I’d rather keep people interested in what's going to happen next, whether it's piano or techno or industrial. I guess if ambient music describes a static scene, the style I’m trying to attain is to describe a shifting or dynamic one.
Starvox: The album is released through a subsidiary of Seraph records. What kind of distribution do you have? Will you be releasing any other albums in the near future?
Benjamin: As far as distribution goes, we don't have a lot going on just yet. “Fading Daydreams" is available at: http://www.amazon.com, http://www.somnimage.com http://www.seraphonline.com. We’re just starting out, and the president of Somnimage is doing as much as he can to get me out there. There is another piano CD due out soon and Somnimage said they'd like to publish my new techno disk too so we may see two new albums of totally different genres this year. Currently I’m also working on a third piano disk and then soon the second techno disk too, so this year will be a prolific one.
Starvox: Do you have a website or Mp3 site where fans can hear samples of your music?
Benjamin: Not yet. Perhaps Somnimage will put a few mp3s of it on their web page in the future.
Starvox: You dedicate the album to your grandfather. What role did your grandfather play in your life and for what reasons do you dedicate the album to him?
Benjamin: I don't mean to be reticent, but that's kind of complicated and some of myreasons are personal that I’d rather not discuss. He is a great spirit and I think about him quite often.
Starvox: One of the titles of your pieces is “Yet Another Tragic Love Affair.” Would you say you have a rather pessimistic view of love?
Benjamin: (laughing) That song was sort of a joke. I just saw some poor sap looking out a window at the gray rain in mourning and I decided to write "background" music for it. I don't think I’m that pessimistic, really. But I’m single much more often than I am with someone.
Starvox: Why do you suppose so much great art is dependent upon the decay of love? Do you find it contradictory that lovers go on ‘quests’ to find what they yearn for only to have it leave them artistically impotent in the end?
Benjamin: The more you look for it, the more it will evade you, grasshopper. I thinkall art is object dependent, especially on love. Often the artist will create inspirational pieces when she falls in love then will in turn create works of loss or despair when the love dissipates. But that's only one example, and I try to stay away from that area. As William Carlos Williams said, “All ideas in things.” But I’m getting off track. To answer your second question, too many people look for others to fill voids within themselves, and when those others leave, the bereaved feels as if she lost half of herself. The important thing is to go into every relationship as a whole person, then evolve with another. That’s not so pessimistic.
Starvox: How long have you been a musician? Did you have formal training? If so, where?
Benjamin: I think since I was about three years old in this lifetime, with my first Kmart synth. But I started taking lessons when I was around eight or nine for about five years. That was in good old Nanticoke, PA. One of my last songs was the Rachmaninoff “Prelude in C# Minor.” I quit after that because I felt practicing was more of a chore than anything else. I’d like to start taking lessons again when i have free time. I’d like to learn new techniques. Especially jazz.
Starvox: Were you reared on Classical music? Who are some of your favourite and composers that have inspired you and why?
Benjamin: My father introduced a lot of classical music to me, and for that I’m eternally grateful. Most of what I practiced was of the Baroque style. Consequently, that's my favourite period. Bach and Haydn...ah, nothing like it. I also esteem Patrick O' Hearn and Steve Roach. (and Aphex Twin and cEvin key, but i imagine their ideas would be hard to reproduce in a classical music style.)
Starvox: Of the two genres, which have you found to be the most competitive? Which has the harsher of audiences?
Benjamin: I’m not entirely sure. I’m not a competitive person. I think Classical and techno are similar in that they don't have vast and general audiences. The techno and Classical genres are listened to only in their own respective circles, unlike top forty music, which has a much wider audience and is the cruelest genre of them all. As far as the harshness from the audience goes, I think people need to hear something new because so many artists are only expectorating simulacra from the past efforts of others. This newness can either be a rare and completely new idea, or a sharply different perspective on something that's been done before. Poets and painters have it the worst of all though.
Starvox: How would you defend synthesized symphonic music to strict fans of organic classical music that prefer authentic instruments?
Benjamin: I’m sure a lot of classical musicians scoff at electronic albums. That'sfine. I’m open to anything, as long as it fits my standards of composition and sound quality. Ultimately when I hone my skills and if I’m lucky enough to have the resources to hire a chamber group I’d like to have my music played organically. And I may have found someone to play the violin for my second disk, so that's a step in the direction I’d like to pursue. The main advantage of having a synth and sequencer setup is that you can be the whole mini-orchestra yourself. Just think how much faster Mozart would have got things done if he were alive today?
Starvox: What lead you from neo-classical into electronic music? Does one passion dwarf the other?
Benjamin: Well, I originally intended my piano music to be a side project but that's not how it started! I don't have the best of equipment for techno/industrial music right now, so I’m just focusing on milder things. I eventually plan to have at least three different projects going at one time, i.e. piano/techno/industrial-metal.
Starvox: I understand that you are also a poet, yet both of your music projects are instrumental. Is there a reason why you opt to separate the two?
Benjamin: You know, I never really thought about that (laughing). I do use sampling in my dance projects. A lot of it, really, because I treat songs as poems too; just twisting the words around to mean something other than what they were originally intended for. As far as lyrics go, I’m not really proficient at writing them. I’d rather write in free verse. One of the reasons why I don't like vocal-oriented songs is that I’d prefer to glean what I can out of the artist's pure vision untainted by the hindrance of language. Then again, if I can't understand what is being said, as in a different language, I tend to like it more. It's the sound then, it's not the message.
Starvox: How much of your classical training makes it’s way into Ajna? It may be the key to your success to do so. It is a common opinion that a great percentage of techno and electronic music is emotionally stagnant…except when Romantic and Classical motifs make their way into the mix.
Benjamin: Probably all of my classical training goes into everything I write. Just the technique, I mean. more often I’ll hear something I like from someone else and say, "That's interesting. I’ll try that." And then I go off and add my own odd twist to it. I’m still defining myself. But if you are asking if I’m going to write piano techno music I think that may not happen. (laughing)Then I’ll have to hire a dirty diva or something.Electronic music moves me. cEvin Key has written some beautiful songs on his Download project that almost moved to me tears. And some of that is organic too, which is amazing. I think I’d really like to combine the classical and industrial genres when I’m equipped for it. Now that would be something.
Starvox: Your samples are very eclectic, from Gregorian chants to spacey conversations. What are some of the messages or atmospheres you hope to convey through the structure of the music and the samples?
Benjamin: Actually a lot of the chanting is either from Buddhist or Tibetan monks and some Middle Eastern singers. I just love the sound of that kind of singing. Sounds like home to me. Especially women chanting or singing in that style, as in Anonymous Four. It's gorgeous. I think with the Ajna project I’m going to keep an eastern feel, using kotos and sitars and tabla drums and that. With the piano music, I want to convey a sense of nostalgia more than anything; songs that will remind you of something you just can't specifically remember. And with Ajna, I want to create a lighter happy atmosphere that'll make you think. I also try to make my music sound surreal, because I don't understand the number 23. (ed.- “23” a reference to a few amusing samples on Benjamin’s Ajna project)
Starvox: A lot of a listener’s interpretation of an instrumental work begins with the title of the track. Do you take great pains in finding appropriate titles? What are some of the “tests” a title has to pass?
Benjamin: I think it's even more important when there aren't any vocals in the song. I just try to come up with titles that have something indirectly to do with the song itself. For instance on the Ajna CD there's a song called “Vector” which is about being a non-conformist according to the samples and what ‘vector’ really means, in terms of mathematics, any mass that has direction. It's just fun playing with words.
Starvox: What are your aspirations as a musician?
Benjamin: I'd like to have the opportunity to meet my music heroes and possibly collaborate with them. I just want to meet as many musicians as I can and be as prolific as possible. I’d also like to have my own industrial dance club and call it "Kali's Furnace." If I may run the risk of sounding insane, with my industrial music i want to give a specific message to a soul group of mine from past lives. That will remain to be seen in the future.
Starvox: Being that you are a new and relatively unheard of musician, I ask that you give our readers a modest list of reasons why reading this interview will benefit them in the future.
Benjamin: “Spring comes, grass grows by itself.” Thanks Matthew, this was excruciatingly fun (laughing).
with Robert Melendez: DOOMSDAYKULT
The end is near. Well, at least according to DoomsdayKult.
~interview by Sonya Brown
(photos courtesy of their website)
When I first heard the name DoomsDayKult, I thought I would be listening to a death metal band. Imagine my surprise to find a 13 track dark electronic composition featuring samples from such films as Hollow Man and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas... and even a tribute to one of my favorite novelists, Poppy Z. Brite.
Fittingly dubbed “hybrid cybergoth”, The End is Near is released on RivitHeadRecords and is the solo project of Robert Melendez.
takes a moment out of his busy schedule to speak to Starvox.net.
Sonya: How did you decide on the name DoomsDayKult?
DDK: The name is a funny story I told the folks from the zine "From Dust". Some Jehovah's Witness folks came to my house and left a booklet on the doorstep (a frequent ritual here in Florida), and one day I had had to use the bathroom... so needless to say... I read a little of this booklet out of sheer curiosity and chanced upon an article talking about what the general public had called these "Jehovah's witnesses". Apocalyptic Sect was one term, and DoomsdayKult was the other. I thought to myself "DoomsdayKult"... alright , I can't stand to have religion shoved down my throat... hey wait a minute... a band name with a meaning. In need of a name for the material I was collecting after playing for "Martyr Complex", I thought well this will be it!
Sonya: Who makes up the present DoomsDayKult lineup?
DDK: So far myself (Robert Melendez) and all my equipment...but I have done some collaborations with Micheal Donnelly of Translucent from Atlanta Georgia on an upcoming unnamed side project...
Sonya: Please give us some background on your label, Rivithead Records...
RhR is a artist owned distribution label I used as my own personal cd label
for distro reasons; and
have now added my first artist, Genetic Mishap, from Philly on board. They are in the middle of putting
together a compilation cd, “The Blackened Compilation”, featuring 13 bands so far... all electronic acts from all over. It will be available to all "real club dj's FREE!!!" for artist exposure; which is what RhR is all about. My philosophy is this: as I make contacts, if I can help others meet the same contacts and help them out, feel a great sense of achievement for me and others with my same musical interests. You can view the starting website here http://doomzdaykult.tripod.com/rivitheadrecords/ it's cheesy but until my designers are done with this site and my DDK fansite, it's all I got...
Sonya: Please tell our readers a bit about the gear used by DoomsDayKult...
Guitars: Fender Stratocaster - and Ibanez Destroyer.
Synths: Roland 301 Groove Keys
Korg Poly 8--EmU Blaster Keys awaiting Korg Triton computer-hp 733mhz with Cakewalk Gold
Cubasis Avtons of Sonic foundry goodies
a Xoom 505 effects box
DoD g7 midi effects
Tapco ol'skool 6chnl mixer
Audio Source equilization and Crowne amp.
Sonya: I would love to know more about the track "PZ Brite"... does this track refer to the horror novelist, Poppy Z. Brite? Is her voice used in the samples?
DDK: Yes. it's my tribute to the unique, wild person she is. Yes her voice in the samples and at the age of 3? rare sample indeed...
Sonya: What is the process involved in deciding what samples will appear with a certain track? (what comes first... the sample or the song???)
DDK: A little of both. No particular process involved, just what I'm feeling at the time or what sounds good at a certain point while composing it just sort of hits me "oh hey that would sound good there"...
Sonya: I notice in the DDK press photo that you are wearing a Joy Division t-shirt (one of my favorite bands). Has Joy Division had influence on your music? What other bands have inspired DoomsDayKult?
Maybe a little Joy Division in some of my guitar playing and some vocal
stylings, "as far as depth".
My influences through the years vary... in the eighties it was punk/goth bands like Black Flag, Husker Du, Bauhaus, Fields of the Nephilim, Depeche Mode, Fad Gadget, Ministry... in the nineties Leather Strip, Skinny Puppy, Frontline Assembly, Negative Format, Aphex Twin, Prodigy, Orbital, kmfdm....and too many other's too list..
Sonya: Please give us some insight into the artwork used for the cover of The End is Near...
DDK: Well I found the cover... on a website full of awesome art called "Digital Blasphemy.com" and thought the pic represented the end is near philosophy.
Sonya: I am curious about your home in Florida... what can you tell readers about life in Port Richey? Aside from your music... what do you do for work/fun?
DDK: heehee... well Port Richey is dull boring and dull and boring (did I say that already?). A retirement community/white trash area. SUBURBIA would best describe Port Richey and the surrounding areas. My fun used to be at the goth clubs here. Most have closed and the other one that is left is just (to me) not a goth club anymore. The scene here has changed dramatically... very stuck on themselves are most of the people in the scene here now... my fun now more lies in LIVE SHOWS... oh yeah live for them. Hopefully, soon to Atlanta to open for my buds "Translucent". My work sux. My life is music and helping as many humble musicians along the way as I can. A sort of giving back if you will. I don't claim to be the best out there, just I have some kool tunes and just hope people enjoy them. That's the best part...FANS!!!!
Sonya: What are the tour plans for DDK?
DDK: More Florida dates to be announced soon, and soon hopefully some Atlanta dates. We have been asked to Philadelphia as well, so who knows. If the funding comes, we'll tour wherever they'll have me or us at the time. I am looking for others to join sometime soon...
Sonya: Your website states that you support anti-racism. Please tell us your thoughts on this issue.
DDK: My views are this: Years ago I sported the ever popular "Shaved head" before the whole skinhead neo nazi thing broke out in the eighties. Being half Puerto Rican and half German (what a mix) I never felt like I should discriminate as I was mixed in ethnicity myself. Not that if I were white euro descent would it make a difference anyways, but I'm a peaceful sort a guy and cruelty in any form - including animal cruelty 2nd most, is not part of my being. I think too, because goth's or ol'skool skins "non nazi skater punks" get the cold shoulder because of the way they look or what they like. I mean there's extremists in all forms, but what we are on the outside doesn't mean we're blood sucking satanists or something. I know there are some who are into that sort of thing, but for the most part we are just emotional beings deep and beautiful. Just the ol "never judge a book by it's cover". I'm not a big activist, but I let it be known I'm not about the hate thing, or satanism or bloodsucking... heehee... but a little bondage and leather and I'm ready to go...heehee...."STOP THE HATE!!!!"
Sonya: Where might readers gain access to your music?
DDK: on mp3.com http://www.mp3.com/DDK or IPM internet Radio-dj Mac seems to like us... www.gothicindustrial.com
Sonya: What are the future plans for DDK?
DDK: A show in all towns that will have us... more of a live show line-up and performance, and much more music..
Sonya: What other comments would you like to include?
DDK: I would like to thank you, Sonya, for this interview. I'd like to thank those who've helped us get where we are today- Martyr Complex, family and friends,"Digital Encryption" my Boy! But most of all the fans of DDK who make it even more worth while....STAY DARK
Robert Melendez DDK@usahotmail.com
8839 Cochise Lane
Port Richey, FL 34668
END IS NEAR Track Listing:
This Kind of EVIL
Dark Days Ahead "The GROOVY mix"
Going to HELL
Fun With Drugs
Father Mercy "The DDK mix"
Father Mercy "The Father Donnelly mix"
Rivithead "The DaRk RaVe mix"
Dance of the Dead
~by Matthew Heilman
(All these photos belong to: http://www.evoken.com)
With the exception of the infamous doom metal outfit Thergothon, I can think of no other band as crushing and relentless as New Jersey’s Evoken. The fact that they hail from the United States is an even greater surprise. Perhaps one of my most sincere ‘missions’ as a journalist in the dark music scene is to turn the spotlight on the doom metal scene, and Evoken are by far one of the most under rated yet most important bands to emerge and leave a gaping impact upon metal as a whole. Their music surpasses extremity in refreshing way, opting for slowness and surreal moods rather than speed and technical prowess. In many ways, the band’s music tests emotional and psychological boundaries, and have an effect on listeners that can be uncomfortable to the uninitiated yet sheer perfection to the bleak of heart.
Guitarist and founding member Nick Orlando took the time to offer some insight on the philosophy and inspiration behind their brand of suffocating art, which is a force that is perhaps more than just a brand of music but a means of coping within an insecure and unstable world.
Starvox: What is and is not Doom Metal, in your opinion?
Nick: Doom metal IS: Dark, unrelentingly heavy, depressing, funereal, desolate, miserable music that only a few truly understand. I don't know why I occasionally see frilly "Gothic " bands or "stoner rock" bands labeled as doom when they are missing the true essence of what this music is all about. Thergothon, Winter, Disembowelment, the OLD My Dying Bride/Paradise Lost stuff, Esoteric, Funeral, Thy Grief Eternal, Skepticism, Candlemass, old Cathedral, Dissolving Of Prodigy, Hierophant. These bands are what I consider doom. Tiamat, new Anathema, Crematory (Ger), Rain Fell Within, Moonspell, new Cathedral, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Theater Of Tragedy, etc.... With all due respect to these bands, in my humble opinion they are NOT doom. But labeling yourself doom and getting labeled doom by a clueless reviewer are two different things.
Starvox: What sets Evoken apart from other dark doom metal bands?
Nick: I have been asked this question before. To be honest, I don't really know how to answer this without sounding like I’m tooting my own horn. It is basically an opinion question and 15 people who listen to an Evoken album could give you 15 different reasons on what makes Evoken different from all the rest. Personally, I think there are few bands out there that sound similar to us, so it would be easy to tell you what separates us from the other 95% who sound nothing like us--but it would be a lot more challenging to tell you how we differ from the other 5% who sound a lot like us. And that is where it becomes pretty opinionated and argumentative, so I’ll leave it up to the people reading this who've listened to our albums to come up with their own reasons on how we sound different.
Starvox: Compared to other doom bands, Evoken are considerably more detached and less romantic, and inadvertently more foreboding. Also, the band is less prone to put keyboards or classical instruments at the forefront of the music. Is this something the band has purposely refrained from doing in order to stand apart from other bands?
Nick: We were never into making Evoken the more romantic style of doom. Don't get me wrong there are some CLASSIC releases in that style of doom. It just wasn't something we wanted for our band. We prefer the darker, more desolate sound we have now; much more ominous and disturbing than sorrowful. It's really the truest stuff we could possibly write. As for recording, we like to keep the guitars as full and up front as possible but still have the keyboards right underneath. They are right there almost constantly on the new album. We also have a session cellist; so when a cello part is up, the cello is pretty much in the forefront because we all love cello and we want it to be heard over all the other instruments. These cello parts are few and far between so for the most part it is mostly a guitar-oriented sound. Sometimes having many layers of sound such as we do creates a bit of a problem in the recording process; certain things get a bit lost in the mix. We try to avoid that as much as possible.
Starvox: How did the cello wind up on "Quietus" and will you bring it along live?
Nick: At this point in time we do not use the cello in a live situation nor have we ever. Funny you asked me that. At our last show we had a woman come up to us saying how much she had liked Evoken and how she was a violin and cello player as well. Not only that-- she was really hot looking and had a girlfriend!!! HOW GOTH!!! Anyway, she wanted to play with us but nothing really came of it. Never heard from her again. Perhaps it was because we had just finished playing and looked like sweaty psychopaths. If the chance to have live cello came about we would do it in a heartbeat. We like to give the people that came a performance as close to the CD as possible. That would be the final key in perfecting our live sound.
Starvox: From where does the intense isolation and bleakness of your music originate?
Nick: From our own bleak perspectives on life. Where else to divulge them other than in our music? Not to say we are all depressed psychopaths and isolationists in our normal lives- we just write what comes natural to us. I guess being from this area just breeds hopelessness. Overpopulation, disease, industrial landscapes and plenty of urban blight, the burden of coexisting with 10,000,000 people in one area. It can become quite tiresome. How can you isolate yourself and find peace in an area that is never at rest? Well, lucky for us we have music as an outlet to vent our anger and despair and isolate ourselves from everything and everyone else.
Starvox: Would you consider doom metal to be a psychologically devastating, perhaps harmful form of music? How would you defend its intense focus on the negative?
Nick: Not at all. Probably the opposite. A person into doom probably relates to the emotions and moods that are in the music in regard to their own lives. This is a positive experience. If you enjoy something (and not only because you can simply "relate" to it) listening to it is going to be a positive thing. It's all in the eye (or ear in this case) of the beholder. Sure the focus in doom metal is almost exclusively negative, but that's what doom metal has always been about. Now if you like country music and happen to listen to doom metal I’m sure you'd have a much more negative reaction.
The "psychologically devastating" part is only valid for people who were already fucked in the head beyond help and are just using the music as an excuse for more drastic actions. Remember, even in the most negative aspects of life there can be something positive obtained.
Starvox: Evoken perform sporadically throughout New Jersey and occasionally at larger scale events in other states. How would you describe the atmosphere and crowd reactions of a typical Evoken show?
Nick: Our shows are usually well received. It is just about guaranteed that we will be the black sheep on the bill. Doom in these parts is still pretty unknown but we still manage to get a few interested people to check out what we're all about. Usually people just stand around kind of tranced out. I guess everyone is waiting for the fast part that never comes!!! Ha ha!
Starvox: In other interviews, you have sighted Black Tape For A Blue Girl as a band you particularly enjoy. What is the appeal of that particular band to you and how has their music affected Evoken?
Nick: I think BTFABG is absolutely incredible!!!! I've seen them 3 times and they are one of my favorite non-metal bands. I enjoy their music for the profound and completely sorrowful atmospheres they create. I think that Black Tape and many other dark ambient/noise bands we love have a big influence on what we write. Only we keep the dark atmosphere and kind of make it less romantic and more desolate and bleak.
Starvox: What other artists or musical genres have cast their influential spell upon the band?
Nick: Well I love doom metal, and dark ambient stuff as I mentioned before. I also love old school Swedish/Finnish death metal as well, and a lot of old late 60's/70's heavy stoner/acid rock. Black metal to a lesser extent. My favorite bands are: Thergothon, Winter, Disembowelment, Celtic Frost, Monumentum, Portishead, Carnage, Dream Death, old Trouble, King Crimson, The Swans, Black Tape/Blue Girl, Lustmord, Lycia, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Esoteric, Grave, Funeral, Bolt Thrower, Beherit, Archgoat, Darkthrone, Manes, Bathory, MC5, Deep Purple, Assuck, old Napalm Death, etc. I could go on and on!
Starvox: The band has had three official releases. How would you summarize the progression of the band?
Nick: It has been a good, natural progression for us. We have stayed true to who we are and what we're all about. Each album has gotten a bit more experimental with new sounds/ideas but not so much that we've left behind any of our older fans. We don't want to disappoint anyone when it comes to Evoken. It will always be dark & heavy and have the death vocals. Of course, our song writing and composition skills have increased ten fold since ‘94.
Starvox: Evoken appears on the Iron Maiden tribute CD “Call To Irons.” Can you tell us a bit about the song “Strange World” and why you chose to cover that song in particular?
Nick: Actually, we were going to do "Powerslave" but someone else was going to do that one. Then we decided on “Hallowed Be Thy Name” but of course someone had taken that as well. Then our bassist came up with the idea to do that one, which is one of Maiden's more obscure tunes. It is extremely doomy and fit us perfectly.
Starvox: Definitely, I could think of no better song for you guys to have covered and it is absolutely a spectacular rendition. With the success of bands like My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Moonspell, etc, Goth metal began to develop into a huge genre in the mid-nineties and is still going relatively strong. Do you foresee the same growth and attention eventually being paid to Doom? Would you be pleased if the popularity and general appeal of Doom increased? Would you like to see more bands producing this music?
Nick: Well I'd like to see more doom bands forming that sound like Winter, Thergothon, & Disembowelment. I'm tired of all the lame Goth metal bands and all their pretentiousness and whining. I hate to be an old fogey, but the scene needs to be the way it was long ago. It was much better 10 years ago then it is today. I don't think this type of music will EVER be as commercially viable as black metal or death metal, not enough people are into it. Of course I would like to see it bigger but quality over quantity is an understatement these days. It seems in the last year or so there have been a couple of very cool bands emerging all over the world, which is a very promising sign to me.
Starvox: In terms of your outlook on the world, how much of the lyrical depictions are fantasy (or theatrical) and how much of them are your own beliefs?
Nick: Our lyrics are purely fantasy. We do not find it necessary like most black metal bands to ram our beliefs down your throat. Who cares what evil demon Joe Schmoe worships anyway!! The music is what it's all about...the lyrics basically set the atmosphere. They convey some pretty obscure images and their true meanings can be taken in different ways.
Starvox: With such an intense desperation and darkness pervading your art, what are the things that offer you solace and comfort? Through your eyes, speaking theoretically and ideally, what do you think can save this world, or at least?
Nick: My music/band is the main source of solace in my life. I also write poetry and that is something I enjoy very much as well. Very cathartic. My girlfriend--after a couple of real nightmare, heart-wrenching relationships I have finally found someone I can trust. And of course my family; luckily I get along with them well. As for saving this world, well that seems pretty hopeless. How can you ask the sole destroyers of it to turn around and save it? Man's extinction is the only thing that will save the world.
Starvox: Furthermore, what goals do you hope to achieve, what hopes and dreams do you long for more than any others to one day see as reality?
Nick: I hope Evoken someday gets the chance to tour Europe, or at least play a couple of shows there. That has always been a big goal of ours. To see us get treated with a bit more respect than we do now and hopefully record an album that will be a cornerstone of the doom scene long after we're gone. Oh yeah, and find a cello player!
Starvox: You have already recorded three cornerstone albums, my friend, you’ve already done three…
John Paradsio - Guitars/vocals
Nick Orlando - Guitars
Steve Moran - Bass
Vince Verkay - Drums
Dario Derna - Keyboards
- Official Site:
- Mp3 Site:
~interview by Michael Johnson
(photos courtesy of Katatonia's website)
Few people haven’t at least heard the name and as a band, they are quickly
becoming very popular due to their depressing themes and unique sound.
Jonas Renske, the lead vocalist, took some time out of his busy schedule
to answer a few questions for Starvox.
STARVOX: So Katatonia has a new album coming out on March 26th called Last Fair Deal Gone Down. The band has stated that this is the strongest album you have written in this vein of music. How is it stronger and what is the mood of the album compared to Discouraged Ones and Tonight’s Decision?
JONAS: It's definitely stronger in the sound department and also the songs are much more thought-out, as far as arranging goes etc. The mood is kinda close to its predecessors, it's dark and desperate, I'd say.
STARVOX: You seem to write your lyrics based on personal events in your life. On Discouraged Ones, you felt apprehensive about your then current relationship and wrote from there. Was there anything in particular that influenced your writing on Last Fair Deal Gone Down?
JONAS: Yes, the lyrics are all based on my personal experiences (with a few exceptions) and they reflect things that I've been through, things I can't say otherwise. I guess Last Fair Deal Gone Down is showing things that I've done and not done over the last couple of years, more or less taking off where Tonight's Decision left me.
STARVOX: Last Fair Deal Gone Down is a rather unique title for an album. What is the meaning behind it?
JONAS: I think it just gives a good overall feeling of what the album is about musically and lyrically. To me it means that you've missed out your last good chances, something I feel quite often, unfortunately. Also, I think it stands out a bit from the usual titles that I see nowadays.
STARVOX: Katatonia has always written very bleak music. What were your intents as a young band? What emotions, themes, desires, fears, etc did you have to convey with your music?
JONAS: When we started we only wanted to sound like Paradise Lost. I think we found our style when we did our second album. I mean the emotions back then (when we did our first recordings) were some kind of teen angst... now it's more like this big, gray cloud of nothingness that we want to shine through personally, with our hopes and aims... it leaves us with this type of music though. I wish I had a reason to write a happy song.
STARVOX: Do you feel that the newer music is more accessible now, with clean vocals and more straightforward song structures? Have you noticed an expansion of your audience to both metal and gothic/alternative pastures?
JONAS: We've noticed some expansion but I'd like to see more of that. And with this new album I actually think it can happen 'cause it's more easy to listen to but in a good way, I don't feel that we've sold ourselves out or anything, it has better songs and a better sound. People should spread the word.
STARVOX: In the early years you had a more doom metal dirge approach to your music but now it’s more akin to melancholic gothic metal. Was your progression from the early blackened doom metal natural or was it caused in part by the departures of Mikael (Opeth) and Blackheim (Diabolical Masquerade)?
JONAS: Oh well, Anders is still in the band and have always been... it's just that he dropped the name Blackheim. Mikael never was a member of the band; he just came in and sang on Brave Murder Day 'cause we didn't have a suitable singer back then. I think it has been a natural progression through the years, we always want to develop our sound and I think we will continue to do that. Also, I don't like to label the music; I don't know what style we play.
STARVOX: Ahhh, so Anders is actually Blackheim. I don’t know anyone that knows that and even music distributors list Blackheim as “Ex-Katatonia”. He seemed to have dropped the name Blackheim about the time Diabolical Masquerade started up. This may have misled a lot of listeners.
How did your relationship with Mikael develop? You both write the same type of music but in different styles. Have you both always had individual goals for what you wanted to achieve?
JONAS: Yes, but we don't play anything together, so we're not connected in that way, we're basically just friends. I know Mikael has straight goals for his music, and we have too but we usually don't cross each other’s paths, Opeth is his band and Katatonia is our band. I rather have a beer with him than sitting around listening to his new riffs.
STARVOX: Over the years the band has had many different line-ups. Was there a lack of the right musicians or were you fine tuning the line-up as you developed the sound of Discouraged Ones and Tonight’s Decision?
JONAS: Basically we haven't had the good luck to find the right people but somehow me, Anders and Fred have managed to do it ourselves... now we have a full line-up though with a new drummer and a new bass player, hope it works out, it feels good right now at least.
STARVOX: Your guitar sound stands far apart for other doom and gothic metal acts. You use a lot of very complex harmonies and backward chord progressions that help create an intense mood that most bands need keyboards or symphonic instruments to create. How did your guitar sound and style develop?
JONAS: First of all, I'm not the right person to answer this since I don't play guitar in the band but both Anders and Fred are good guitarists, they both have their own styles and they both use very good techniques.
Also I think they're creative in their way of finding new ways to explore the sound, like using different tunings etc. Especially Fred is very good at finding weird chord progressions. We also use different sounds for different parts, which help us to avoid over-use of keyboards.
STARVOX: So do you believe that keyboards are generally overused in metal today?
JONAS: Yeah because it's so easy to get an "atmospheric" sound by just pushing the keys and that's a bit lame... we try to make a song work on it's own first before adding some keyboards if necessary. Also, if it's over-used it sounds cheesy 'n' cheap.
STARVOX: There seems to be a hint of Pornography-era Cure influence in some of the simpler guitar passages. The most notable example is in the song “Stalemate” from Discouraged Ones with its slight similarity to “100 Years” by The Cure. Did The Cure at all influence you in your guitar parts and your vocal style?
JONAS: Yes definitely, we've been listening quite a lot to The Cure; their early work is brilliant. So they have influenced us from time to time I'd say. Sometimes we don't have any similarities to them whatsoever but every now and then we have an overdose of early Cure and then we can't help but presenting some total Cure-rip-off material. That's cool.
STARVOX: What inspired the Jeff Buckley cover of “Nightmares By The Sea” and did you know that Anathema has recently added it to their live sets?
JONAS: We just wanted to record it when we were in the studio for the Tonight's Decision sessions, back then we had no plans on having that song on the album, but when we heard the final mix of it we decided to put it on the album 'cause it sounds different from the rest of the material. Also it's a tribute to Jeff, who has also been an influence for the band. I know Anathema is playing that song too but I've never heard their version. Should be good though, I'm sure.
STARVOX: I’d like to touch upon some of the lyrics on Brave Murder Day. You always seem to write excellent lyrics that are fairly easy to connect with. Anyone who is depressed or in a bad mood can pick any of the songs or even albums and easily relate it to their own experience. The lyrics in the song “12” are somewhat elusive and starkly Romantic.
“…12 shapes bow before her / I am still one of themWhat is the significance of the number 12 in this song?
12 morbid ways to die / Her beauty scares me
I’m falling deeper / No more pain to feel
Now touch the silence / Afraid of hell
Black theatre / Violet dancers
Drink my blood
The Moon gave me flowers / for funerals to come…”
JONAS: Well nothing really, that was only the number I came up with when writing that certain part and also I wanted to change the original title of the song and I thought "12" was a better title. That lyric is fairly old so I don't consider it a part of my "real" work, it just doesn't represent what I write today.
STARVOX: How does your work today differ today from that of the past? Has there been a change of emotion or have you taken on a new stance or outlook on life?
JONAS: We've gotten older, that's for sure and of course we look upon things in a different way now. At least I myself get more discouraged as the years go by, which is kind of good for inspiration but not so good when it comes to trying to lead a life. Back in the day we just thought that making dark music was a cool thing, today it's more like we have to because there is no other way for us. But I like to point out that I try to strive for happiness, I'd like to get happy so I could quit doing this, ha ha.
STARVOX: Again, Katatonia have a knack for thought-provoking album titles. What can you tell us about Tonight’s Decision? Many may wonder what the title is referring to.
JONAS: It's referring to thoughts at night. The hope of coming to a conclusion, a final decision of what will, or will not, change your life.
STARVOX: With your growing popularity and fan base, your EP’s and MCD’s are becoming more and more difficult to find for those who want to hear the older Katatonia. Do you foresee a re-release of your debut Jhva Elohim Meth…The Revival in the future?
JONAS: Nope, that EP is already a re-release of our demo from ‘92; you have to put the limit somewhere. Also, it was not our debut. It was released after our first album I think. But it's our first recording and it doesn't represent shit of where we are today.
STARVOX: Not too long ago you and Anders, Mikael (Opeth), and Dan Swano (Edge of Sanity) released a major teaser to all the old school death metal fans when you created Bloodbath. Was this just a way to vent some angst or can we hope to see more of this all-star line-up in the future?
JONAS: We hope to do a full-length sometime soon but due to legal problems (Contracts etc), we're not sure that it will happen. It would be cool though, and crushing.
STARVOX: What was it like working with those guys? I’ve also heard rumors that if Bloodbath did do a full length, Dan would not be returning for it. Is this true?
JONAS: It was cool to work with them. We've been doing things together before but doing pure death metal together was something new at least. It's true that Dan will not return as he stated that he'd quit metal or something. But we have a new drummer in case; Jocke. He's a friend of ours and a worthy replacement. I think he plays some grind in a band called Regurgitate.
STARVOX: How did the Peacefest go and what was the reaction of the crowds to your new material?
JONAS: It was OK; some night it didn't work out at all and some gig was very good. It's the usual. We only played "Teargas" from the new album since it wasn't released then but the reaction seemed to be good enough. We really want to tour now when the album's out, we want to try the new material
STARVOX: Is there any hope of a North American tour to support the new album?
JONAS: It's not in our calendar right now but we would like to do it, that's for sure. It's not very much up to us unfortunately. There's so much money and business involved that you usually don't hold your breath for things like that to happen.
STARVOX: I’d like to thank you for your time in doing this interview. I know you are busy with the release of the new record. I wish you the best of luck with Last Fair Deal Gone Down and, from what I’ve heard, it sounds like yet another masterpiece. Thanks again, Jonas.
(photo credits: Projekt & the band's website)
lowsunday are currently at the epicenter of attention within the dark music
scene. After being signed to Projekt records to re-release their
second full-length album
elesgiem, there is a lot of excitement
and promise about the direction of the band’s career. It is my pleasure
to see the band finally achieve the status they whole-heartedly deserve,
as myself and dark music fans all over Pittsburgh have faithfully followed
the band for years on the local club circuit. To see our hometown
shoegaze heroes make good is truly an honour for us, but most importantly,
for the rest of the dark music world who will now get a chance to enjoy
what the band has to offer.
I caught up with front man Shane Sahene, who graciously took the time out of his immensely chaotic schedule to answer some questions to help shed light on what is quickly becoming a small phenomena known simply and mysteriously as lowsunday.
Starvox: Originally, the band’s name was Low Sunday Ghost Machine. From where did such a name come and why did you opt to shorten it a few years ago?
Shane: As time goes by, the past tends to re-define itself. From this perspective now, Low Sunday Ghost Machine was my interpretation of the relentlessness of change and it represented a post-resurrection sort of view of life and aliveness. It represented a surrender of resistance to change and the painlessness that comes with it. lowsunday, one word, lower case, says more with less. There are countless interpretations. Eventually a name becomes an icon for a feeling.
Starvox: Over the years you have been compared to Joy Division, early Cure, and Slowdive. Are you comfortable with these comparisons? What other musicians or personal experiences have inspired you yourself to create?
Shane: We have grown to become comfortable with the impressions we have left people with. When you stare at a painting, some focus on the positive space. Others focus on the negative space. Some focus on the reflection of themselves within the context. We are all products of our inspiration. We are our own greatest influence. We converse through sound by each other’s actions and reactions. We believe that there is a watercourse in some ways predetermined by truth. We search for this relative truth in the writing process.
Starvox: The latest album, while possessing a dark, indie-rock flare, seems to rise above being pigeonholed and develops a definitive sound of it’s own within the genre, still dark yet more accessible. How would you yourself describe your music and what elements did you try to explore further on the newest release? What elements did you decide to leave behind?
Shane: The only conscious decision in the process of capturing "elesgiem" was the decision to find this truth I had just mentioned. The element left behind was simply the threshold in which we explore our strengths and weaknesses, which are both the same thing. Of course when it was all said and done, it was just a snapshot in time, twelve pages of a diary. He who creates and walks away, lives to create another day.
Starvox: There have been several line-up changes throughout the years. Yet you have successfully kept the band’s sound and focus in check. What would you say is your drive in keeping the band afloat and how did you manage to do so? What works so well with this current line-up?
Shane: Thank you. Love is the drive. Escapism has always been a motivating factor, tempered by consciousness. I have an endless desire to project the presence of hope to those that are slipping along through this ocean of the life experience. Some of us stay close to shore, some of us our testing our buoyancy. We work so well together because we allow each other to find our individual thresholds, with respect and the caring for one another serving as the safety line. We appreciate our chemistry, which is the fine print of success. It propels synchronicity and unification, which refines our ideas.
Starvox: How long have you been playing guitar and singing? What were some of the projects you were a part of (if any) before Low Sunday?
Shane: Silently witnessing the recording process in my cousins recording studio was the catalyst. It was magical. I’ve been playing guitar for sixteen years, and *publicly* singing for ten years. As a teenager, the Subhumans, Government Issue, The Damned, and Half-Life were important to me. The projects I was involved never got off of the ground, nor were they intended to do so. Pure noise. An occasional show at the Electric Banana [Infamous underground ‘dive’ bar in the Pittsburgh area – Ed.] was the outcome we had desired. Introspection rolled in and everything shifted. Old House Angel was my last band before lsgm. Very And Also The Trees inspired.
Starvox: I usually avoid “techy” questions in interviews, but I was curious what type of equipment you use to create your guitar sound. What kind of guitars, amps, and effects processors do you use?
Shane: Shawn Bann plays a Jazzmaster through a Mesa Boogie Trem-O-Verb. Bobby Spell plays a Musicman Stingray5 through an Ampeg SVT Pro4 amp. I use Epiphone Dot guitars with Gibson classic 57 pickups going through a Marshall jcm2000. I rely heavily on a Digitech Space-Station. Shawn, Bobby, and I are always experimenting with various other noisemakers, trying to see how much we can disturb our "sound". We are all extremely "tone conscious.” There are times where you would hate to be in a room with us! We drive ourselves mad looking for "sound,” even though we are well-aware that the "song" is the only substance to be concerned with.
Starvox: One of the first things an audience picks up about lowsunday live is the amount of energy the band puts into its performances. Despite being a rather laid-back style of music, your performances pack quite a punch at times. What fuels the fire?
Shane: The fire is fueled by the motion of sound through our bodies. We are purists in the sense that if we don’t feel our skin vibrating. We are lifeless. Our best performances are those where we are most hypnotized by the feeling of being lost in the pulse of things. It’s regrettable at times, but the soundperson is almost always the determining factor in the end result. You can paint an amazing picture, but the photocopy is only as good as the resolution and the way the machine interprets color, a mixture.
Starvox: You are a very shy front man when compared to many other flamboyant and theatrical vocalists at the helm of other dark rock bands. You often sing with your eyes closed or droop your head low. What are some of the images or thoughts that are going through your mind as you play?
Shane: We are elitists when it comes to our fans and our music. For the most part it is an introspective and intelligent scene. We don’t feel the need to preach to the converted. I wouldn’t go as far as Johnny Lydon went in a recent TV appearance, stating that "people pull poses when they want to distract the fact that they are talent less", but I would say that we lack a desire to mask ourselves and our message. We stay in contact with our weaknesses and strengths. I close my eyes when I want to heighten my other senses; it facilitates me in the escape. It completes the circuit and lets the energy absorb. I imagine the sound as a liquid drowning the room, filling our lungs, soaking us. We don’t care about everybody, just the ones that have a thirst in their eyes from the fatigue of their own introspection.
Starvox: Will the debut self-titled release be made available again, or are you moving on from that period of the band’s career?
Shane: We are living for today. We have landslides of ideas that fight for priority. The low sunday ghost machine CD is available through our website: http://www.lowsunday.com But as the supply dwindles, I can’t say for sure whether we would re-press it or not. Our efforts will always be focused on what’s new. We have had lots of response from around the world on that disc, so it depends on the demand. People seem to have appreciated the cold isolation and empathy reflected in those mixes.
Starvox: You guys have quite a number of songs that have not appeared on any releases, one in particular entitled “Skylab,” that absolutely must be captured on record. Will that song appear on the next album?
Shane: We have tons of unreleased material. "Skylab" most likely will appear on the follow up to elesgiem. "diamond rain drain", " a letter from the moonbase", the trance-looped "polarized", and "when you wait" will also most likely surface. We will only know when we get to the bottom of the recording and writing process, which will be sometime this year.
Starvox: You mentioned “Diamond Rain Drain,” which is an incredible track that appears in your live sets, and it boasts a more aggressive guitar sound. Can we expect more material to have a similar vibe in the future?
Shane: The dynamics will increase, the soft gets softer, and the heavy gets heavier. Our best material has yet to be brought under control. It is so stream of conscious that we have difficulty de-engineering it to learn what it is. As in life, we strive to see more vividly into our creations.
Starvox: Even though elesgiem is just being released through Projekt this month, when can we expect to hear a new lowsunday album?
Shane: Most likely it will be next spring. The better a record does, the longer it must have time to takes its course. There is an incredible buzz taking place with this release of elesgiem through Projekt. We see it as a winning situation either way. It has made it to #5 on Projekt’s best seller list for the month previous to it even being released, and we are already close to being sold out of this first pressing from Projekt, due in part to the Projekt web store. http://www.projekt.com it may be later than next spring if all of the indicators for "elesgiem" being a successful release are correct. We may occasionally put a track at mp3.com, regardless of whether or not it goes on the next release.
Starvox: Supposedly, MTV’s “The Real World” wanted to use a few songs from you guys as background music for the show. How do you feel about this? What songs have they chosen to include?
Shane: MTV had called us over the past winter, while we were in the process of signing with Projekt. The music director was very interested in our sound. We were shocked by this phone call! It’s not everyday that MTV calls. We don’t know what songs will be used, but we are fine with it and proud that we did not make any sort of artistic compromise in order for the interest to materialize. We are all products of our environment. Americans are saturated by commercialism and limited to strict diets of money fueled - nuclear powered attention getters hitting us over the head. It’s nice to be given an opportunity to slip into someone’s life and anesthetize them in between the assaults on their perspective.
Starvox: You recently appeared on television for a local PBS program called “On Q.” How did that opportunity arise and how did everything go?
Shane: It was a lot of fun. PBS is a beautiful platform. Manny Theiner, who has been a huge friend to lowsunday, had spoken with them. They heard "elesgiem" and it was quite simple orchestrating the event. Television is an inflexible environment, especially for those who don’t spend much time on TV. That’s us! It was comical because we are like this serious gloom pop band, at least we thought we were, that’s playing at the Virgin Mega-Store in NYC, thinking we are too kool. Meanwhile, across from the soundstage is Mr. Rogers' television house and we had to squeeze our way around the castle where Mr. McFeely often consoles the King of the Land of Make-Believe. It’s a wonderful memory that gives us plenty more reasons to laugh at ourselves...
Starvox: Pittsburgh has been very receptive to your music over the years. Will Low Sunday continue to stay in Pittsburgh or are their plans to relocate?
Shane: It’s an interesting question. The Internet allows everyone to be in the hotspot to some degree. Yet, it’s crucial for us to connect with our fans in other cities. We will tour in the U.S and Europe any chance we get. We have all spent time in other cities or countries. We have concluded that most places are subtly different once investigated. As an artist, one lives within their passion and perceptions. The trend these days seems to be of corporations forcing artists to migrate to the "not so hot-spots". Just for the survival of their art. Pittsburgh keeps overhead low and is situated nicely within reach of many other major cities. Home is where the heart is, that we cannot change. Culture sometimes takes a backseat.
– official site:
– Miss Joi’s fan site:
– Tamara’s fan site:
– Mp3 site:
shane sahene. vocals. guitar
a t vish. drums
shawn bann. guitar, synth
bobby spell. bass
P.O. Box 10651
Pittsburgh, PA 15235
P.O. Box 9140
Long Island City, NY 11103
(photos courtesy of the Mercyground website)
One of the hardest working women in the business. That is what should be beside Monica Richards name. Really. If anyone deserves to be noticed as a "woman who rocks" it has to be this beautiful and talented artist who, like a seductive siren, lures you into a hypnotic trance with a whisper that would make a Tsunami pale in comparison. From poetry and fine art to songs of ancient myths and legends, Monica leaves no stone unturned as she explores every avenue of creativity and shows us the many faceted jewel of her soul and makes no apologies. Being a fan since her days in Strange Boutique I have seen her maturity and growth as an artists, storyteller, modern shaman, and philosopher, weaving magic in both song and print. With such books as The Book of Annwyn and The Garden Booke of Ghosts, Monica takes the reader into magical lands of fantasy and dreams, where reality can be whatever you want and hopes are spun like spider webs under the moon. Delightful characters and images populate her stories and her original artwork that accompanies her work only heightens the beauty and talent that springs from her imagination. Musically she has the power and might of the deities and heroes she sings and writes about and she has never ceased to amaze me with her live shows and magical stage presence.
the beautiful group Faith and the Muse, Monica reflects all the
raw passion and energy of her band, putting it right back into her audience
who is usually mesmerized from her performance. From her early 80's punk
debut with Madhouse to the haunting and atmospheric energy of Strange
Boutique, Monica has earned the respect and gratitude of her fans worldwide
and deserves everything that blesses her path. Instead of droning on and
on about who and what Monica is and isn't, I decided to let her speak for
herself on such topics and enlighten us with a brief, yet personal interview
about her ideas, desires, and friendly beasts that lurk about within her
StarVox: Give us a brief history of Monica Richards and who she is.
Monica: A brief history is hard, actually spanning from 1981! I am a long struggling artist still on the path to finding that out. But you can check out the little bio written for me at http://www.mercyground.com/thestudio/bio.html
SV: What kind of philosophy do you have with your music and your life?
M: I believe one must follow their heart, one must respect, and be true to, oneself. One must do what makes them happy. I place no boundaries on my music other than creating something that I am proud of, no particular genre or formula (quite evident on F&TM), just self and life expression.
SV: That is quite beautiful and I agree with you 100%!
SV: Next question, what is the process you use to write your music? What kind of influences do you look for?
M: Each process is involved with the mood and current inspiration. When I am inspired, I find a melody and try to put words to remember it, or create a rhythm that may manifest its own melody. I don't really look for influences, they come to me while the song evolves. At that time, it is choosing the instrumentation, whether or not this part or that should be loud guitar or soft piano, to carry out the music...
SV: Can you describe the kind of spirituality that you look for within the music you create?
M: Hmmm, that also changes depending on the song. Almost always its a call from the past to regain life in the present, but nothing organized, more beyond words.
SV: Do you feel that spirituality is an important thing in this day and age?
M: I feel that spirituality is linked with truly being centered, grounded if you will, with one's place in the scheme of things. I think everyone needs that, but it's certainly hard to attain.
SV: What artist, male or female, influences you the most?
M: I have always had a soft spot for Marlene Dietrich, her ground breaking sexuality and confidence. I find I am more influenced by a person's life story, who they were, rather than just their body of work. I look to find what influences created the work, how they dealt with life's webwork within their own perception. That kind of personal strength influences me more...
SV: To me, a lot of your music is strong and powerful, almost sexual in nature. What role does sexuality play, if any, in your music?
M: It doesn't play a conscious role, I can tell you that. I allow different songs to take on different personas or moods, and I may try to get a particular emotion across through how I sing, though more often than not the persona is feminine and often in search of personal strength. I enjoy whispering into the listener's ear, speaking directly to them to deliver the song's message, which may cast a sexual tone.
SV: How did you get into music? What was the turning point that created the Monica that we see today?
M: I was a punk in Washington D.C., and joined a band that considered the uniqueness of having a female singer in the harDCore genre. Those were very hard times for me, because there weren't many female singers in the scene, and I put up with a great deal of criticism and blatant lack of respect. I moved over towards the more arty scene which landed me in the Strange Boutique style, as much through my art school influences as my musical path. The turning point would have to be around 1989, when I realized that we were getting an audience who enjoyed what we did, (as opposed to many years of singing from which I didn't have that luxury). I finally began to think that maybe what I was doing was the right thing - just being myself and progressing my own way, rather than changing to please the crowd.
SV: What books are resting on your night table these days?
M: Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love and Other Demons, Elliot's The Wasteland.
SV: From his book, On the Heights of Despair, Cioran writes, ... "I am displeased with everything. If they made me God, I would immediately resign..." If you were God, what would you do first?
M: Place some lovely catastrophic storms upon all arsenal and testing facilities that deal with nothing but ways of destruction. Wouldn't that be beautifully ironic?
SV: Do you have any side projects at the moment? Future projects ?
My writing - I'm finishing up the Book of Annwyn.2 and working
on a volume of poetry, my painting - I'm creating the covers to the Vera
Causa CD... I'm in the process of negotiating a solo appearance at
a festival in Germany
this Fall. I'll bring a couple musicians with me and do a more tribal/vocal approach. That's more than enough for me right now.
SV: Where were your best live performances? Worst?
M: My best live performances were when I felt connected to the crowd, and that's been quite a few, luckily. My most recent favorite performance was our last show on the 2000 European Tour, where we performed at a festival in Austria and the audience was just so into it; as I started singing the beginning to "Scars Flown Proud" an entire contingent in the front sang along with me, and it felt wonderful... Worst performances, ugh, there are many of those as well, when I wanted to leave the stage rather than continue, and the latest memory I have of that was also from the European 2000 Tour, our show in Denmark. Most of the audience sat at tables and ignored us, a number sat with their backs to us at the stage, and someone shouted "Israel!" in between songs. I was taken back to my early days of this type of thoughtlessness, and really was ready to walk off...
SV: Do you think there will ever be a "Behind the Music...the Monica Richards Story" on VH1?
M: Oh no! That would mean I'd have to walk on the beach for the "after all the ________, she's now happy and looking forward to the future..." scene.
SV: Strange Boutique did so much for me in my younger days and I often pull them out for the memories that they hold for me. Any thoughts of a Strange Boutique reunion?
M: I'm so touched to hear that! We're thinking of a 2003 Washington DC reunion show, but it's really up in the air. We do plan on releasing a "Best Of" CD with some live tracks and unreleased material.
SV: What is in your cd player right now?
M: The Best of Cat Stevens.
SV: This may be a tad silly, but, if you were a muppet, which muppet would you be and why?
M: Funny you should ask, we have a three-legged German Shepherd named Fozzy Bear. I suppose I would probably want to be that cool blonde Jazz chick, because I'd love to just say "Oh Wow" and "Super Cool" and be really hip.
SV: What are the plans for Monica in 2002 and beyond?
M: Next year, we have a new album to finish and release and a large scale tour to do. Then I have a play and a book of short stories I'd like to publish. beyond that, who knows? I'm up for whatever I can fathom...
SV: Thank you very much for this opportunity.
M: Thank you for the interview! It was very thoughtful.
SV: Any final words you can give us?
M: Be yourself and follow your dream, no matter how hard it seems do.
P.O. Box 2286
Hollywood, CA. 90078-2286 USA
Monica's Site: http://www.mercyground.com/thestudio
Strange Boutique site :
(photos provided by Sherry except #s 2, 9 and 10 by Blu)
can't imagine my delight when I discovered that legendary deathrockers
Kommunity FK had moved from LA to Seattle. I emailed them about doing some
live shows and about featuring them in StarVox (see Feb's
features in our Archives) and was stoked when they actually wrote
me back. I've since done a photo shoot with them and saw their side-project
Texylvania play live at the Breakroom (see our
Concert Reviews). Its no surprise that Patrick Mata's wife, Sherry
Salazar is a complete bombshell. She's not only gorgeous, but she's sweet,
smart, down to earth and can rock her ass off harder than anyone I know.
(Eeegads she can play the guitar!!!). We figured she deserved a moment
(or two, or three, or four...) in the spotlight. Without further adue,
one of my favorite Women Who Rock picks - Sherry Salazar.
StarVox: So for those uninitiated, please tell us a little about who you are and what your background is.
Sherry: My name is Sherry Salazar. I play guitar & sing. Mainly electric guitar, but I play accoustic & bass as well. I've played with a few bands in my career so far. Out of all of them I would say two really rocked. One I formed while living in LA. Me and a chick singer I met while I was living down there. In that band we were always playing with people like Lunachicks, Body Count, Reverand Horton Heat, Shadow Project, Hole, L7, etc-And Iggy pop related shows...We were always refered to as 'the illigitimate daughters of Iggy Pop'. We got alot of killer write- ups in Bam, and always in the pick of the week for the LA Weekly. During this time I was alway getting approached by other bands (like 7 Year Bitch) to join their bands... It was a great time in LA. There was alot of the true 'underground' scene left in LA at that time.
Then in '93 I started a band in Seattle. I really got to open up alot in this one. I was the sole song writer, lead vocals, writing songs on everything & anything-guitars, bass, phone book drums being bounced off answering machine tapes into a cassette recorder... It was rad. This band was always playing with bands like The Torture King, The Business, Fear, The Varukers, DOA, DRI, Vampire Lesbos, Tribe 8, etc. The first two weeks I had this band together I was asked if I would put one of my songs on a comp coming out called "Seattle Women In Rock". The song I chose I just finished producing in an 8 track studio out in the industrial Airport Way area....I sang, played, wrote all the parts, & produced this song called "I'd Rather Be Raw"...when the comp came out, "Rolling Stone Magazine" did a big write up on it..Out of all the other 'well know bands' on this comp me & one other group were liked.....I was actually called "The Future of Women In Music" & "the new power of women in rock". It's the future & I'm here baby...tee/hee!
During part of that time in Seattle that horrible wanker grunge stuff was still being pushed up here. I was very happy to be part of a new style of music that pretty much killed that sound of that crap hitting venue after venue. I'd like to thank the guys in 'Zeke' for being so cool to my little project by helping us get out on the 'Shitty City Tours' that happened up here in the great N.W.
Oh, and do you guys want to hear something really lame? The chick who I let play drums in this band has had this really crappy three piece band that plays here in Seattle...and the cunt is playing my music! Can you believe that shit? How fucked up is that...I mean the piece I was told she's trying to pull off I wrote eight years ago-and at the time I wrote it I was letting this bitch & her girlfiend live rent free in my home! I was even feeding the cunts at the time....Talk about a moron...It's pretty funny-I mean TEXYLVANIA is my baby & my songs are being played live & downloaded from MP3 all the time.... One more thing you've got to put up with in rock 'n roll is there are some really low budget, low IQ'd people out there...so be picky who you share your life with!!
StarVox: How'd you get started in music to begin with?
Sherry: I never chose to be this or want to be that...Music & art were inside of me beyond the crib. I can't help what I do, I can't control what emerges from me...it just happens. I actually have had band members really pissed because I really write heavily...every time I came to rehearsal with 1 to 3 new songs that rocked & their own insecurities couldn't understand why they couldn't.
Started' was easy because it was natural for me..implementing it was a
fuckin' bitch though...
When I started playing there weren't any chicks rocking out. I mean Chrissy Hynde was out there, the Runaways, the Slits, and what not...but compared to the masses I was all alone. I would run classified ads and not get one call, so I tried dropping my name from the ads I placed as a guitarist & my phone rang off the hook. The only problem was when whomever called found out I was a chick, they'd hang up. I was even told 'chicks only place in music is on there knees blowing the band' and 'how dare I try to play rock & roll'. Anyway, those are the same guys who lick my boots onstage & move my amps for free...ha!
StarVox: What projects are you working on now and how do they vary in musical style?
Shery: I am so blessed right now. I am so fortunate to not only play in a killer band, but I get to get my rocks off in TWO AMAZING bands!! It's like a dream come true. The first band is the legendary Kommunity FK. Patrick's writing, voice, expression, & visions are true talent. Kommunity FK has been a part of my life for four years now, and I am very thankful & honored to be included in this band for year years out of Kommunity Fk's 20 year legacy.
Then there's TEXYLVANIA!!! I love the energy that emerges from this band. You see, I don't come from the 'deathrock' background created by Kommunity FK's beautiful roots. I've got to go change my panties after I listen to the Stooges, Motorhead, Sex Pistols, Plasmatics, Velvet Underground, Cockney Rejects albums....fuck, I'll go all night playing the same side of one of these albums over & over. Sooooo, TEXYLVANIA was born. Member-wise it has ended up kind of an 'offshoot' of Kommunity FK. Patrick is gracious enough to play in Texylvania. We both trade off lead vocals/lead guitar throughout the shows. Heather D. is a fucking bad ass bass player & Dan (formerly of 'Overwhelming Colorfast') just plays his drums like a madman! Texylvania just played it's debut show & Dan was playing so hard he broke his kick petal! I love this band...It's got S&M go-go girls, blood stunts, fireplay, & freebies for the fans!!
Wow-talking about Texylvania's first show for the first time reminds me of my first shows with Kommunity FK. My very first Kommunity FK show we played with Rozz Williams(Thee Christian Death). Patrick & Rozz were really close artist to artist in respect for each other. I mean it was fuckin beautiful..A show with these two giants playing a gig and hangin' out. The second Kommunity FK show was HUGE! We outdrew both 'Death in June' & the 'Clan of Xymox' shows. It felt really good that night...Patrick hadn't allowed Kommunity Fk to play for sometime so being part of that 'reserrection' was amazing. Very lucky...I'm so very lucky!!
StarVox: I recently saw you perform in Texylavania and you kicked some serious ass on guitar. How long have you been playing and how'd you learn?
Sherry: Thank you! You're such a doll, Blu!! Ummm, I've been playing for a long time...As a kid I went through trying out every instrument under the sun. Then I played a guitar & it's something that never stopped. I mean I wasn't this natural phenomenal player. I sucked. I love music so hard I just kept playing. But this thing inside of me wouldn't ever let me stop-I knew that one day I'd finally pick up one of my axes & it would happen! And sister, it did!!! I only play Gibsons-nothing else-The real deal Gibsons!!
Starvox: What can fans expect at a LIVE Texylvania show?
Sherry: Killer music. That's the main motherfucker that is Texylvania! Yes, we do add show along with the music, but when it all comes together live on stage the show we add to the tunes becomes an extention of what's being pushed through the amps. We got things going on like 'blood wrestling' matches between the Tex-ettes, (our go-go girls). I also try to always have something to give to the kids that come. You know, buttons, stickers, singles, what ever I can pull off. I'm such a fan of rock & roll, I believe the fans are the shit...They'll get a little mayhem, alot of sexual rawnchy sweaty rock 'n roll!
StarVox: How did I meet Patrick Mata of Kommunity FK?
Sherry: During my time I had my band rocking Seattle, I was called by Triple X records. On of their signed bands just had a guitarist smack out so they wanted her out. They flew me down to write & record the record for this group on their label in two weeks....write & record! Well, I did it. I also was asked to play some of my 'feedback hendrix-style' feedback riffs on the 'Adolecents' album that was being recorded in another part of the studio-Those fuckers never even listed my credits for that- Anyway, I did my job, the lp came out & it started doing really well over in Europe (especially Germany). So Triple X calls up & says that they're taking me to europe for a tour to support this release. Those boners didn't even have an itinerary lined up for us even after I hit the landing strip at Burbank again. Since I got a plane ride to LA I decided to book some immediate shows (which was easy at the time via my rep down there & my friend worked at William Morris...) & fly down the girls in my band to rock Hollywood for the summer.
The studio I pulled the girls into to get ready for these shows was where Patrick happened to be working at. We just hit it off really fast & really well. He didn't mention one thing about who he was or what he had created out there...There's still hidden Kommunity FK & Sativa LuvBox material I still am never to hear...(he wants me to be fully clear when I come into each song for my style sake).
After the shows I headed back to Seattle to play some gigs with Fear (by the way, the guys in Fear were really cool & so are the Business-Real nice guys!) at that time. Patrick & I kept in touch as much as possible. He was working on new Kommunity Fk material & in & out of studios with comps coming at his left & right & I was getting ready & in the studio recording my full length LP. Finally he called & all was ready. So here I am. I've been with Kommunity Fk for almost five years now. We've done some huge shows, recorded for comps such as 'Witchcraft'/on Cleopatra, 'Goth Oddity'/Cleoptra, & more. Patrick also asked me to play tracks on his debut solo LP 'HydroCarbons from a Meteorite (Green)'...Awesome album by the way.
StarVox: How do fans get ahold of your music?
You can listen & download MUSIC for TEXYLVANIA at:
Here you can listen & download music, check our show calendar. There's more tunes coming...Just waiting to be cleared....
can go to TEXYLVANIA's online store at:
is quite a new band you know. We will soon have a full website hosted by
the one & only 'Hip Magazine'. That URL will be: http://www.hipmagazine.com/texylvania/
Keep checking in...it's under construction as I'm writing this.
Meanwhile, you can reach us by Email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Fk's official website is:
FK music can be heard at:
http://www.mp3.com/kommunityfk and at vitaminic.com
or write us at:
15600 NE 8th #B1 PMB307
Bellevue, WA. 98008 USA
Of The Carrion
Surprise! I bring you more Doom! Though it is only natural to assume that the integrity of any form of underground music will be diluted when it reaches a more accessible surface, it is actually a shameful disservice to music lovers the world over to allow bands of such unquestionable talent to remain undiscovered. Thus is my intent in consistently bringing the doom metal scene to the attention of fans of dark music, whatever preference or persuasion in question. Until my efforts are all but exhausted, I hope to continue to shed light on this scene and hopefully acquire more faithful fans that seek to quench their thirst for something honest, dark, and gorgeously sinister.
With that said, I present Thorns Of The Carrion, one of the most ambitious dark metal bands active today. With an uncompromising dedication to their art and a sincere and old-fashioned intellect at the heart of the music they create, they are already and destined to continue to be one of the most important assets to the sustenance of the doom metal genre. They faithfully capture the dreary yet passionate essence of the ‘Gothic’ aesthetic in a brilliant, captivating manner. The band is responsible for the seminal release “The Scarlet Tapestry,” an impressive work of conceptual genius honouring the craft of not only music, but also Romantic poetics. Allen Scott, founding member, guitarist, and primarily lyricist for the Cincinnati outfit has graciously shared his insight upon the band and the various themes and philosophies that foster the continued growth and development of the band. Though the following interview is indeed a lengthy and dense account, Allen’s genuine enthusiasm and excitement animates his words and offers a fascinating analysis of the band’s heady past and promising future, not to mention a very generous and thorough analysis of the concept behind “The Scarlet Tapestry.” If you are looking for raw and unbridled emotion, melancholy and despair at its most beautiful and classic epitome, you have no further to investigate than Thorns Of The Carrion.
Starvox: Thorns Of The Carrion has been working very hard since the early nineties. Still unsigned yet with an unquestionably loyal following, how has the band managed to stay focused and stick it out all these years?
Allen: I guess we could have turned our back on the scene, or changed musical directions and cashed in like so many others, but we love music, and creating a passionate form of art is all the incentive we need. Creating the art is the most important aspect of the band, not compromising, and having the freedom to write the most depressing songs we can. Label or not, I could easily foresee Thorns becoming a band that continues on for many more years, making music for ourselves. Yet at this point, having a label is the best thing for the band, and we are actively seeking a deal right now. To make enough money to concentrate just on music and to expose the bands music to more people who would like what we are doing is important enough for us to be a signed act now. We'll see what happens....
Starvox: So far what has been the high point of Thorns Of The Carrion’s career?
Allen: Probably the "high" point for me is just the friendships I have created within the band and all the people we have met abroad. I take nothing for granted, and to be able to sit down and write music with the talented musicians in this band at any time is a high point in more ways than one.
Starvox: How is the project Estuary Of Calamity related to Thorns Of The Carrion?
Allen: I’ll try to brief, Estuary of Calamity started back in 1992 under the name Necrolatry (Thorns was called Carrion Lord then) and put a few demos out in 1993. I was doing mail with Ash Thomas of Necrolatry (bassist/vocals) and his brother Marquis was into Carrion Lord, which led to him playing keyboards and me changing the name to Thorns of the Carrion. Later on, Ash joined Thorns as well, and both bands did shows together from 1993-1996, practiced together, and hung out together, etc.
In 1996, Estuary split, and Leslie Anderson (keys/harp/flute) joined Thorns full-time, and much later Brad Howard (bass) did as well. In 1999, Estuary of Calamity got back together, put "The Sentencing" album out, and to this day still features three members in Thorns of the Carrion. Just as we always have, we practice, party, and tour together like one big family, which later on included The Vladimirs, which features Ash and Marquis Thomas as well. All three bands sound completely different, and we all support each other to the death...
Starvox: The band released an album by the name of "Gardens Of Dead Winter"back in 1993, which was an excellent and quality release for the time it was written. Yet that release is often not acknowledged. Why is that?
Allen: The band had changed from Carrion Lord to Thorns of the Carrion in Sept. 1993, and with a new line-up we finally had the music direction we wanted, yet not the skill or time to develop it. Thus, "The Gardens of Dead Winter" was written and recorded in less than 3 months. The basic premise of Thorns is all there, but not until "The Willow Weeps for Me" demo from early 1995 did the band pull it all together, and we consider "The Willow..." demo to be our finest moment back then. It featured the core line-up of "The Scarlet Tapestry" era, which is still together to this day.
Unfortunately, "The Gardens of Dead Winter" didn't die a quick death in the scene like we should have let it. In 1994 it was licensed to Wild Rags Records in California, and found a new life, which is odd, but it’s still available from a lot of places today. It’s really basic doom/death metal, very poetic, entirely our style, but very primitive. It’s not an album, just a really long demo that got re-released on CD. It’s not horrible, but like I said, we were very young then (Marquis was 14 then, he's 22 now) and didn't know how to play very well. We all grew up in this band over that time, and we have progressed tenfold over every year that passes.
Starvox: The 1997 release "The Scarlet Tapestry" is hailed an underground doom classic. Though you have said that you wished to leave the concept of the album open ended for a fan's personal interpretation, could you be convinced to elaborate at all upon where the band was mentally when the album and lyrics were being composed, now that many years have passed since its release?
Allen: The basic idea for "The Scarlet Tapestry" began in 1994, and in actuality is based on my fascination with history and literature, and in particular, the story of Ivan the Terrible from the Moldavian/Wallachia area (Transylvania).
Ivan the Terrible was a prince (much like Vlad Tepes) that tried to rid his people of the Tartars, and various hordes that ran his country. He sent his wife away, fought his last fight, and then was drawn and quartered. It began as my appreciative nod to Bram Stoker, Sheridan LeFanu, E.F.Benson, August Derleth, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, etc. To try and write a short story or novella based on the vampire myth, and in our case, write a whole album of dark, passionate music behind it.
The storyline for "The Scarlet Tapestry" was the death of this historical character, yet it is not your typical "vampire" fare after this. Our character is dying in the opening of the album, witnesses the beauty of "death" in a raven muse, that gives him life after death, and thus begins the path he must take. The whole album is written as a life's story, a memoir of this character, many years after it all happened. In the second part of the album he is reunited with his wife, who at this point has perished as well. In Part Three of "The Scarlet Tapestry", it is taken from an old man’s perspective, telling these tales to soothe the pain of a long life. This is the storyline of the album, and if you follow this storyline, the lyrics will be more complete for you, maybe begin to make some sense. Tracks like "Bleak Thorn Laurels," "The Drifting Snow," "Beautiful Thorns to Caress the Girl”; all of these songs reflect the story perfectly, the whole album complements the story as good as any concept album I have ever heard.
Yet it’s not that simple. "The Scarlet Tapestry" (and our current project "The Shadow Masque") does follow a storyline, but it also contains very personal comments. It is a very detailed and complex album, but looking back, it is basically a story of life, and the myriad of emotions we must endure. Life in its nature is a very tragic endeavor, we all must perish, no matter how poor or famous we become. We endure because the alternative is nothing (that is for another time to discuss) and the joy that is intermingled within all the bad times is enough for us to keep grasping for more. "The Scarlet Tapestry" is the fulfillment of this philosophy, and every single member of the band put everything they could into it. With Thorns of the Carrion, you must remember there is always a story behind the story.
Starvox: The band had at one point planned to release a short novel to accompany the release of "The Scarlet Tapestry," but the idea fell through. Has there ever been any more discussion regarding the novel and if it will ever see the light of day?
Allen: Was there ever a finished, actual written novel for "The Scarlet Tapestry?" No. The plan for the novel is the album outline, the lyrics are my narration, and the CD cover is the book cover. I poured my heart and soul into "The Scarlet Tapestry," and could have easily finished the novella. But I feel the album says it all. I don't think every idea can translate well into different areas of art. The idea for "The Scarlet Tapestry” as a book was good to mediocre, but it could never compare to the album, Thorns of the Carrion is what made that idea complete for me. For "The Willow Weeps for Me" demo (1995), we combined literature and metal together to form a unique experience, which fed off both the short story and the music. I look at music, art, literature, and even new technology as tools in the creative process. Everything is a means to an end, an idea may not be completed with only music, it may need art to enhance the feeling, or a story to tell it’s tale.
Starvox: You must believe that literature and metal can overlap. The track "Carmilla" is based on the original story by Sheridan Le Fanu. Where and how long ago did you discover the story and how did you go about making a musical counterpart to it?
Allen: I was re-discovering some childhood favorites so to speak, and stumbled backupon "Carmilla" by Sheridan Le Fanu. I had been a fan of "The Hunger" movie with Susan Surandon and David Bowie as well, and when the music and lyrics for what became "Carmilla" was evolving over a period of years, I saw the movie again and finished the song. So most of it Le Fanu's story, and the other part "The Hunger.” The main part of the song was written in 1993 or 1994, but it never saw the light of day until 1998. It was an older song that had a gothic metal type of feel, and the mood of the song fit with the idea for "Carmilla" well.
Starvox: The metal genre is often portrayed in a very negative and clichéd light. Many people have a difficulty shedding the stigmas of eighties heavy metal and atypical satanic death metal. Yet your music is so overwhelmingly emotional and sports an intellect with the literary and mythological origins of the lyrics. In what other ways do you think Thorns Of The Carrion (and doom metal in general) supports the overlooked integrity of metal music?
Allen: I think of doom metal as a very honest style within metal, it’s meant to convey the sadness in our lives in a modern world. The coldness of despair and heartache, and the slow grind of life. Doom Metal will always exist as long as metal does, and I think any band that has supported the scene and takes the time to bring something new to it, will bring integrity to the scene. The thing with doom metal in particular, is that it has always existed within the metal scene, and outside of it at the same time. What I believe to be doom metal may not fall in line with what others believe. A lot of people would not even consider us doom metal, though we are not just a death metal band, or gothic rock, or a traditional type metal band. We have always fallen between the cracks. It’s a good point, yet I don’t see the "community" I saw back in the late 80's/early 90's with underground metal among the fans. Within the bands, it’s a closer-knit group than ever. But things changed over the years. Thorns of the Carrion is a metal band, we are all metal heads from way back and that we'll never change, but that sense of "belonging" to a scene kind of disappeared. "Metal" will exist with or without us, but hopefully when it’s all said and done, we can say we brought something new to the scene, made some quality metal, and maybe brought a little more integrity to the metal community.
Starvox: There are several members in the band, which leads to a dense and fairly complex sound. When performing live, is it difficult to recreate the atmosphere of the album? Does Leslie bring along her harp and recorders?
Allen: In late 1997 and throughout 1998, we performed concerts with the flute and harp pieces live, but it always presented a problem with sound. We had "metal" sound guys looking at us like we were fucking crazy; they had never set up a flute live, or a harp. So we changed the band around a bit, Marquis went from keys to guitar and vocals, Leslie took over all of the key parts, and Brad went from guitar to bass. We split with original vocalist Matt Chapman in 1999 after 7 years, but Ash took over his vocal parts while \on drums still. Though we don’t do the album live precisely to the CD, we have had many people tell us they liked us live a lot more than on CD. We still do the flute/recorder parts live, and we've beefed up our sound as well with a new keyboard synth. So though it’s not the album live, it is still very true to the originals, and we come across a million times heavier live.
Starvox: Throughout the writing process (which according to your CD's liner notes can take over a year before the band is satisfied with a particular song) is there a system that enables the band to smoothly write music? Do you ever argue about how to arrange a song?
Allen: In almost 8 years now since we started, we have never had an argument, were all friends who just happen to write really heavy music. There is no writing system per se, but it usually revolves around a guitar melody or riff. Marquis and I sit around and smoke a lot of weed, work out arrangements for the song or album, and then we go to the next practice to work it out with Ash on drums. Once we get it down, it goes on tape for the rest of the band to learn, and write their parts. Once it starts taking shape a title is hatched, we work out vocal melodies, and then lyrics follow. It’s about a three-month time frame, but some songs may drag for years until we are completely happy withthem.
Starvox: One of the most intriguing and overwhelming aspects to your music (and quality doom metal) is the guitar sound. How do the overlapping melodies and harmonizing of the guitar riffs develop?
Allen: Either Marquis or myself comes up with a riff, then we write a counter melody for that (for the most part) and then Leslie adds another keyboard or flute melody, then bass lines. Even though Ash is a drummer, he is probably the best guitarist in the band, and he also writes some solos for us, or counter melodies as well. A memorable riff is the key, or a really heavy chord progression to branch out from. We just try to be melodic, and make the songs make sense, no outlandish guitar solos or repeating a riff 5 thousand times just because it is good. I like the guitars to have that thick as mud, wide-open distortion as a backdrop to the keys, flute, and vocals, etc. That is going on in a song.
Starvox: "Eve Songs" is the latest E.P. from the band. The music is slightly more varied and of a faster pace then usual. Was this intentional?
Allen: I believe that no matter what we think it should sound like, it’s always going to turn out differently than we imagined. We wanted to be more over the top, with more of a live feel, but the music really dictates the sound and tempo. A song like "Naomi's Waters" or "Carmilla" wouldn't have had that same edge to it slow, and the song would have dragged too much. There's no sense taking a good 5 minute song, and slowing it down to make it more "doom" metal friendly.
Starvox: Some older fans were taken aback by the sudden shift of pace. Yet the mood of the music is consistently depressive and darkly seductive and the "faster" moments are rather sparse truthfully. Why do you suppose fans were at first skeptical? Could not a doom band stand for an occasional bout of faster intensity to accentuate the mood and still be considered doom metal?
Allen: Well, since day one on all of our recordings we have always had some “speed” elements. If Thorns of the Carrion played fast all of the time like older Immortal, it’s still going to sound fuckin' miserable, and be depressing, that’s just the nature of how we write music. I'm not going to mention names, but I think a lot of other bands abandoned what their fans thought they were all about. When our older fans heard "Naomi's Waters" I'm sure a few of them thought, here we go again. Yet, the sound from the bands past is there. Everything we record from here on out is going to sound different each time, but it’s still Thorns of the Carrion. I mean, just because we grew as musicians and people, we never changed who we are as a band or individuals. Our philosophy on life or music hasn't changed at all, 90% of the time Thorns of the Carrion is a doom metal band, but it's that other 10% that I feel makes us truly unique.
Starvox: You are planning a few new releases for later this year. The first is “The Story Of The Leaves” and later another epic full-length “The Shadow Masque.” How will these albums differ from one another? What can you tell us about their directions or concepts?
Allen: “The Shadow Masque” is an eleven track doom metal “opera.” It’s on the same scale as “The Scarlet Tapestry” but more complex, and with eleven complete songs, no interludes. It’s more involved than “Eve Songs” of course, but stylistically it is a mixture of both CD’s. We recorded “The Story of the Leaves” just a few days ago. It’s just a very old song that was supposed to come out after “Willow…” in 1996/1997 sometime, but it got pushed behind “The Scarlet Tapestry” and almost one year in the studio. It’s getting put on CD with “The Willow Weeps for Me” and “Darkness in the Elegy Season” demo tapes from 1995, completely remastered. “The Story of the Leaves” is the last chapter in “The Willow Weeps for Me” short story that came out with the original demo, and we should have it out by May.
Another new song we recorded called “A Relic of Joy” will be released though the mp3.com site, with a sort of “best of” Thorns of the Carrion theme. Just a sampler of songs from all of our CD’s and “A Relic of Joy,” which is a older song from a few years back as well. Unfortunately, “The Shadow Masque” is going to require a couple hundredhours in the studio just like “The Scarlet Tapestry” and won’t see the light of day for another year or so without label support.
Starvox: Though the process has been slow, it seems that Gothic Doom metal is currently starting to receive the attention it deserves. Do you foresee the genre expanding and coming more to the forefront of the metal underground in the upcoming years? Would you be uncomfortable if it started to gain a larger, less concentrated following?
I think quality bands get the support they deserve, the ones that transcend
a genre and create something unique. A big scene doesn’t happen without
a few great bands, and when that larger scene dies those bands go on.
When we started Thorns of the Carrion there was no label such as “gothic
doom metal” or “gothic metal.” We were just fans of bands like Fields
of the Nephilim, Sisters of Mercy, old Nosferatu, The Cure, etc, but diehard
metal fans. We do what we like, and I think gothic doom metal is a fair
description, but it doesn’t describe the full scope of what we write or
sound like. Bands like Paradise Lost transcend their genres, survive
past the initial “scene” and continue to write great music, I mean [the
brand new Paradise Lost release] “Believe in Nothing” is fucking brilliant.
If “gothic metal” becomes bigger, and brings whatever success, fine, it
would be great to make money. Yet, I’m not holding my breath, the original
fans of any scene will survive with the bands, and grow with them.
The people that are there just for the “trend” will eventually move on,
it never has nor will it
ever define us, or influence our sound. We make miserable fucking music, and that’s not going to change...
Starvox: In terms of your outlook on the world, how much of the lyrical depictions are fantasy (or theatrical) and how much of it is your own belief?
Allen: We all live in a very modern world, but my heart is of a poet. Dealing with all the shit in this world lends itself to me writing in a very elaborate, poetic style. As I have said, with Thorns of the Carrion there is always more than one story behind our lyrics. I write from the heart, and I pour as much emotion as possible into my writing, lyrically and musically.
In my world, the fantastical and theatrical always collide into raw misery, and I create music as an escape from this world. I think when you succeed in music, it is when you write something that takes another person into another state of mind, or emotionally touches that person in a sincere way. Everything I touch is in some way backed by my beliefs, nothing is fake or false. Everything can be reduced to its most basic, primal emotion. Like everyone else in this world, I know what it is like to lose someone close, or fight depression, or to be lonely, I just deal with it a bit differently. We are all bound by the tragedy we must endure in our lives. We all share a common thread. Even though I may write about a fictional character, say as in “Carmilla,” where you know the story, and it’s source. It conveys a feeling, whether it’s sad, beautiful, or grotesque. I tell the story from my perspective; I make it personal while at the same time telling the tale.
Starvox: Obviously, the emotion in this music as portrayed by your band and the other artists that are active in this genre stem from loss, fear, suffering, sadness: a wide array of personal grievances. I ask you then, through your eyes, what can save this world? What are some of the sacred things left on this earth that you cling to? What hobbies ormore personally, what hopes do you harbor that get you through the days?
Allen: Everything must die, you, me, the person reading this interview, the earth, the sun, everything. Who am I to say what this world needs to be saved? Because I am not really a part of it. It’s going to end no matter what I say or do. As I go through life, the only thing of importance is happiness. I find great joy in my wife, my friends, music, drugs, sex, art, etc. My world revolves around what brings me happiness; it’s what gets me through the day. I think true art is sacred, because it offers us the chance to live beyond our years for a time. Love is sacred, friendship, good weed, ha ha ha ha. Seriously, I am an optimist, I look for the good in everyone and I always think everything will be okay. A lucky man is one who finds true joy in life, and I feel lucky. But my motivation is the fact is that it will end, that nothing is forever. Thorns of the Carrion is the harbinger of that end, we revel in the innate sadness of mortality. We play music for all the funerals that will follow. The happiness I find in this world is my own, but the heartache and pain I find is there for all to hear. In the end, I can say I brought nothing but sadness and misery to this world. Could there be a better way to be remembered?
Of The Carrion (2000 line-up)
Allen Scott: rhythm/lead guitar and backing vocals
Ash Thomas: drums and vocals
Leslie Thomas: keyboards, flute, and harp
Brad Howard: bass
Marquis Thomas: rhythm/lead guitar and vocals
Of The Carrion – Official Homepage:
Of The Carrion – Mp3 Site:
Of The Carrion
P.O. Box 3537
Cincinnati, OH 45201
* Both the “The Scarlet Tapestry” ($12) and “Eve Songs” ($8) are available directly from the band. Inquire at the email address or web sites above!
~interview by Adrian
(photos courtesy of the voice industrie website)
It seems that over the past three years, many electronic acts have gone two ways …. Synth pop or techno. Much of what we see within these realms are bastardizations of what was once pure and simple, but lately, we have seen a new era coming about. One that takes the elements of both and creates in itself a new form of sounds, one that takes that step and risk to merge the scenes together, to push the proverbial envelope of what “should and shouldn’t” be as far as the rules go within the scenes. This is a good thing. Too many groups are afraid of what will be thought of them if the (gasp and cover mouth) “sound techno”, which in my eyes is totally silly and they deserve to stay in that void that they place themselves in. Voice Industrie is not one of these groups, but they are ground breakers who have taken that envelope and not only pushed it, but have rearranged it like a origami swan, and they deserve MAJOR props for what they are doing and have achieved over the past decade. Haven’t heard of them? My, my, my……..time to be educated. May I present to you, out of Canada, ladies and gentlemen…..Voice Industrie.
StarVox: Give us a brief history of Voice Industrie.
voice industrie: Basically, it evolved out of a project called "Boys in Factories", an electro dance project started by two keyboardists and myself in 1989. After the addition of a second drummer and my migration from the drum kit to front-man/vocalist, we took to the stage for the first time in 1992 as voice industrie. Over the course of 11 years, v.i. has ventured into different areas of electronic dance music. but the concept is pretty much the same now as it was then, and that is to release music on CD, take slightly re-worked versions of that music out to live audiences and provide a (hopefully) entertaining show.
SV: What kind of philosophy do you have with the band and your music?
VI: I don't profess to be able to write powerful lyrics, so voice industrie isn't out to influence or amaze anyone. The themes of the songs are mostly based on situations that human beings are faced with on a daily basis. some desperate, some tragic, and some good. I try to offer my interpretations of those situations in hopes that they will be exposed, understood and maybe even corrected or alleviated. I think people extract their own interpretations from the songs, which I think is great! Personally, as an artist the most difficult question to answer is "what does this song mean?". or "what is this about?" I usually turn the question back to the person asking what he or she thinks instead and agree with them. It's easier that way, and I don't get in to this long drawn out and boring explanation trying to defend my reasons for choosing the particular topic to write about.
SV: Who are your current members?
VI: The band has been compared to Nine Inch Nails in that I basically do all the writing and producing, then rely on players to support the live show. Fran Tetrault (keyboards) came in to replace the two original keyboard players in 1995 just ten days prior to our anatomie CD release show. We did numerous shows as a duo until Shaen H joined us in 1998 to shore up the keyboards and provide another live presence on the stage. At one point, we experimented with a female vocalist, but things didn't work out. I wanted to push the band into new areas but eventually realized that a female voice was going to change things a bit too radically. and I wasn't prepared to accept that. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the female voice in electronic music. but I just couldn't see it become a major piece of the voice industrie sound.
SV: You have been around it seems from the amount of time the band has been alive. How have the styles of music developed over the past ten years in your eyes?
VI: I believe an artist is the product of his or her environment. and I think the changes in style you speak of are basically the results of those artists creating music by listening to what others are doing, interpreting and reworking those ideas to make them work for themselves. possibly creating a new genre in the process. The styles have all evolved in this way. and I hope it continues. If we all just remained static and never ventured beyond the invisible borders of particular genres, electronic music would get boring awfully fast.
SV: You have seen the early days of the "rave" scene and the techno explosion and even opened up for a few live techno PA's. How has this influenced your style and sound?
VI: As much as I love house and rave music, I've never really wanted voice industrie to reproduce it. I've always felt that this type of music belongs in clubs to be played very loud to a group of sweating bodies tripping out to it under the influence of the prescribed drug. There are plenty of artists doing it, and doing it very well. I'd be honored to hear v.i. at a rave, but I wouldn't be disappointed if I didn't. It's just not that type of music. The v.i. sound has gone from one of a vocally driven harder-edged barrage of beat-filled rhythms and melodies to one that is still beat-filled but smoother, more musically prominent and less harsh. Dynamics and complex rhythms still play lead roles in the new music as in the older stuff. I think the newest v.i. offering "Transmission" encompasses elements of both the old and new sound, and is the CD that best depicts the transition I made to writing longer and more "balanced" tracks. I find now that some of earlier works tend to be too "quirky" in that the changes within the songs are too dramatic, too cutting. I've gotten criticism for the lack of this "edge" in the new stuff. so I guess you can't please everyone. The next album is gearing up to be much more aggressive than Transmission, so we will see what happens.
SV: What is the process you use to write your music? What kind of influences do you look for?
VI: It varies. sometimes inspiration comes from something I hear on an album, or from something I listen to very loud in a club. I sometimes find myself jamming vocally or just humming abstract melodies over top something blaring out at a thousand watts while I trip out on the dancefloor. it gives me ideas and feeds my addiction to loud pounding beats. Earlier on, most of my ideas began as drum patterns that I'd hammer out on the pads, and I'd build from there. Layer by layer the songs would evolve. I now approach the process from a different perspective in that I refrain from using drum patterns as the foundation for songs. This is more challenging, but the material will tend to sound less repetitive and more dynamic and flowing. I have only ever written one song around a vocal or lyrical idea, as I don't see myself as a very good lyricist. At this point, music is THE important ingredient for me, and vocals are kind of just there to fill things in. Transmission has far less vocals on it than the older stuff did. but I may have more to say in future offerings. who knows.
SV: Who are your greatest influences over the past decade?
VI: I think if you heard any "Boys In Factories" stuff and early voice industrie you would hear a heavy Gary Numan influence. then of course came the comparisons to Depeche Mode with the release of "psychotica" in 1992 and "the anatomie" in 1995. With "Transmission", I have yet to hear what we are being compared to now. My first taste of electronics in music came way back on my 15th birthday when I got a Pink Floyd album entitled "Obscured by Clouds" which blew me away. I became fascinated by the electronic sounds and wanted so much to hear more of them, thus I was led to bands that used electronics in their music, which included pretty much every 70's art-rock group such as Yes, Genesis, King Crimson. Later on came Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Depeche, Front 242. and now I find the likes of Fluke, Underworld and Banco De Gaia to be some of my "go-to" artists for inspiration. I like Curve a lot, Massive Attack, Prodigy, and still like the mainstays of the past but don't really draw much from any of them anymore.
SV: Who have you toured with?
VI: Does opening for 2-Unlimited count? (LOL) We have yet to actually "tour" with anyone. We've opened for Cassandra Complex and several other acts, but never really left the confines of the city yet. I'm rather leery about doing that. I've heard so many horror stories about bands getting screwed while on the road that the thought of going on a tour is not a high priority. Given the nature of the music industry and the predominance of "ex used car salesmen" that populate desks professing to be agents and AR people, I remain tentative to venture out anytime soon. Despite this, I would love to go to Europe for a month or two, and maybe the West coast. If I knew all the people involved in the setting up of a tour, then maybe I'd feel more apt to take the show on the road. I have yet to be convinced that this would be a good thing for me. Unless we headline, I doubt I'd be content with the outcome. Warm up bands have always been discriminated against in that their volume is always turned down, their light show subdued, and no matter what happens they always get stiffed by a short set limitation. Fuck that. If we venture anywhere, it will be to play a minimum 90-minute show with as much sound, lighting, and value for the dollar as possible. I suppose it sounds arrogant, but that's how I feel about it.
SV: Any collaborations?
VI: Not with voice industrie, no. I did use words from poems written by an ex-band member's sister on a couple occasions, but that is about as close as I've come to collaborating with anyone. When I was drumming for bands in the past, I used to convey my ideas to the other guys and we'd write stuff. but I found that my ideas didn't get transcribed as I'd imagined. Very frustrating. Thus, my move to electronic keyboards that provided me with the means to do things on my own. This continues to work very well for me because I am a control freak and find it difficult to share my ideas or rely on anyone to get the job done. I'd rather just develop everything on my own then present the finished work to the players for them to learn their respective parts. If I were to collaborate with anyone, it would be with people I have utmost respect for, but even then, the "individuality" of the ideas would tend to get lost or watered down in the other person's interpretations. It wouldn't be so bad if I weren't so passionate about what I write, but I am.
SV: How is the scene in Canada? How does it differ from those in the US or overseas?
VI: I think Canadian electro artists are highly regarded everywhere except in Canada. I really don't know why this local snubbing occurs, but with an obvious lack of promotion and support of the genre by SOCAN and other music services and organizations, it's no wonder. We will sell 20 times more CDs in Europe at any given moment than we would here in our homeland. Here, we have pockets of dedicated supporters of the genre scattered about the country, but the scene is basically underground. I can't see this changing anytime soon. unless the government suddenly declares pop, rock and country music illegal to own. I don't really know how it is in the States, but I assume it is the same situation.
SV: With the synth-pop explosion that is happening now, do you think this will help you or are you trying to steer away from that style all together?
VI: I'm not really steering toward or away from any particular style, and trends come and go all the time. It would be a mistake to try and "catch the wave" because your sound would get old very fast. And, deliberately going the opposite route simply to counter-act the trend and fill a void might throw you into unknown territory, possibly forcing you to abandon your original aspirations and alienating you from your followers. You'd always be trying to catch up too. I think that maintaining one's own direction despite what happens around is the best route to follow.
SV: I have read that people use to compare you to Depeche Mode. Care to go into how this myth was started?
VI: At first, I was honoured and quite happy for us to be compared to such masters of electronic music. so I began describing our music in such a way that Depeche fans might recognize in hopes of attracting them to our shows. As it turns out, this was a mistake. Accusations of "DM wannabe's" and "rip-off artists" began coming our way. We had to defend ourselves time and time again in interviews. What people didn't understand is that it was NEVER our intention to copy DM in any way shape or form. We were just using DM as a guiding light that pointed the way to the style of music we did. Nothing more. Frankly, I don't think I sound anything like Dave Gahan, either. Nor do I want to. There already is a Dave Gahan, and a Depeche Mode. Still, I am the target of false accusations of wanting to be a Dave Gahan clone. Hopefully this will all go away soon. I'm hoping that with the release of subsequent albums, people will accept us as voice industrie. period.
SV: Do you think that the collaboration of techno and industrial that is happening so often now is a positive growth for both scenes?
VI: Yes, definitely. Globally, I see hardcore fans of the genres getting upset and complaining because bands or DJ's who used to serve up the "bread and butter" industrial or techno are now expanding into other areas and offering something new. Good. Change promotes longevity. Not so good for the hardcore follower of the industrial bands wanting to hear the same puppy-esque distorted vocals and grinding riffs until the end of time or the raver who has to contend with vocals and aggression in his music now. These people have to learn to accept change. Otherwise, electro music will stagnate and will die out.
SV: How is your relationship with Inter-Dimensional Industries?
VI: Generally, I am very happy with them. I.D.I. is a small label led by a hard working individual that makes things happen despite a next to non-existent operating budget. Barring any major catastrophes, I am prepared to release the next two v.i. albums with them. I just wish they had financial resources available allowing them to establish themselves firmly as serious contenders in the marketplace. In the meantime though, they do what they can with what they have. and they do it very well.
SV: You have the patience of a saint when it comes to holding on and getting your name out. What was the hardest part over the past ten years?
VI: About six years ago when it became evident that I wasn't about to become a musician by trade any time soon. That affected my behavior, and how I approached things that involved the band. Early on, I had great expectations; I'd hoped that I could eventually earn an income by writing songs for voice industrie. I'd have time to develop my ideas, without having to worry about working at some mindless job just to pay the bills. I'd release an album every 18 months, and play live about 4 to 5 times a year. So much for that great idea. Now, I am quite content to accept things as they come without any expectations, and am happy just to be able to find the odd moment of serenity to allot to writing music. It seems I have less time commit to the band, with my real job getting in the way more and more. but every available second I get to do music is welcomed.
SV: What kind of advice would you give to those who are also still waiting to break through but close to giving up?
VI: Be patient. If something is meant to be, it will happen. Be proactive, keep on making noise, and don't form any expectations. Accept what you do as the best you can do. Most of all, have fun! Enjoy what you do. If you are merely in this for the money or whatever, you'll get discouraged real fast. If you don't enjoy yourself, then what is the point?
SV: If each of your band mates were muppets, who would you all be?
VI: I'll probably regret this. but I'd be Kermit, Fran would be Beaker, and Shaen would be... Ummmm... hmmmm... I don't know, I still haven't nailed him down.
SV: Who is your favorite visual artist? Favorite director, Favorite writer?
VI: Ridley Scott, David Lynch, and Arthur C Clarke have all left lasting impressions on me.
SV: What has been your best live performance?
VI: Playing "in the round" on a circular stage at the center of a planetarium under a laser light show immersed in crystal clear sound.
SV: Any plans for a tour anytime soon?
VI: No. See above for explanation :-p
SV: When should we be expecting another cd from you?
VI: "power" should be out in the fall or winter of 2001, but the "psychotica" re-release will be out this summer.
SV: Strange Brew or Kids in the Hall?
VI: Both, but kids by a margin.
SV: Thanks for your time. It was a pleasure! Any final words?
VI: Thanks for the opportunity to do this. Best wishes in all your endeavors.
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org