As an unlicensed phrenologist and unaccredited psychiatrist, or “quack”, I have witnessed incurable mental maladies and psychoses of every kind, and I am here to tell you that the personnel in the musical group called “Antiworld” may or may not be entirely sane. Further study is required, actually. But what IS known is that they have released a series of seven-inch records, a series of CDs, and a DVD that have left bloody wooden stake marks on the torn-up black muscle shirt of the deathrock scene. Not just horror-punk, these unruly inmates have clambered out of the asylum basement and turned up the knobs on the electro-shock therapy machine, delivering a serious dose of aural current to the gothic/industrial community around the world. They may have grown mold and moss up there in the dank, dark graveyards of the Pacific Northwest, but it certainly hasn’t been from inactivity. Antiworld has charged headlong through Europe, frightening small children in black forest hamlets and putting white streaks in the dark hair of every audience member from Leipzig to… to some other city that starts with L. I have always been impressed by their ability to put a crowd into a frenzy, and, thank goodness, I got to spend the day with them and tell them so.
Part One- My Breakfast With Antiworld
Lucas: Well, first of all, thanks for joining me here at the mortician’s. Not many people can take their morning repast amid the strong odor of embalming fluid. Have either of you, or anyone in the band, ever died before?
Granny: I do spend an awful lot of time in the cemetery but I’m not dead yet. I guess you could say I like to play dead.
Frank: No, but sometimes Tony smells like he’s dead.
Lucas: Speaking of corpses, Granny Fiendish, could you please tell me something about the song of yours that features “the hopping dead”?
Granny: Yes, it’s called “Night Walker”. It is about Chinese vampires or the “Gyonsi” which is a generic term used to describe a reanimated corpse/zombie. Belief in vampires is not confined to the western world. Legends about these beings date back to the 1600s. Basically if you died outside of the province where your family lived they might hire a Taoist priest to bring you home for burial .This was done to make sure of successful reincarnation. The priest would use spells & talismans to reanimate your body and walk you home over treacherous countryside. First I should say that Gyonsi’s hop not walk due to rigor mortis. Anyway things can go wrong on this journey home if all is not done correctly and then you could wind up with a rampaging vampire. If you are interested and checking out Gyonsi’s on film try out “Encounters of a Spooky Kind” and “Mr. Vampire” for starters.
Lucas: Have you guys ever based songs on things other than horror-related items?
Granny: Yes, Portland Zombies is based on several individuals that live in Portland but I still tied it in with horror because their routines are horrifying! Many songs are Sci-Fi based as well like U.F.O., THEM, The Day it All Went Wrong and of course King of All Monsters.
Lucas: I know that you have done dress-up shows on Halloween. What are some of the costumes that you’ve adorned yourselves with?
Frank: Granny has been a Chinese Vampire, an evil little red riding hood with a wolf’s head in a basket... This year Granny & Tombstone Tony were dead Spartan cheerleaders from SNL. I have been Sheriff Forty Five Frank, Far East Frank with kung fu grip, pirate Forty Five Frank & this year Sir Forty Five Frank as a musketeer.
Ravenscraft: I usually just do the
Carnival of Souls/Night of the Living Dead
Zombie style costume. One time I was Nosferatu.
Lucas: What sort of merchandise are you hawking these days? And how integrated is the Do It Yourself philosophy into your current projects? Is your philosophy different from when you first started the band?
Granny: We have it all: CDs, Vinyl, T-Shirts, Stickers, Buttons and the new DVD. Get it all at www.anotherstateofmind.net as well as all the most current information on the band. Yes, we still do it ALL ourselves. It would be nice to have a label put out a Best of CD and the new album we are working on. It would take a load off of us. For once I would like to concentrate on just playing music and not every damn aspect of the whole thing.
Frank: In the beginning we put out our own stuff because it was the natural thing to do and now it is survival. It would be great to be able to get our music into the hands of more people and a label could do that for us.
* * * *
At this point, the morticians rose up with pitchforks and torches and kicked us out. After wandering around Portland for a while, we ended up back at the band’s creepy, creaking wooden-house headquarters, which led to…
Part Two- My Afternoon Tea With Antiworld
Lucas: Well, first of all, thanks for having me over to your place for tea. Now pardon me, but I have to ask, what manner of beast is making that tremendous racket in the other room? I suspect that whatever it is would gladly have me for supper.
Frank: That’s just Ivy our crazy German shepherd. She only likes us so she would gladly have you or anyone else for breakfast, lunch or supper!
Lucas: Well, that’s comforting. What in the world are we drinking, by the way?
Granny: Embalming Fluid, of course.
Frank: With a shot of Jaegermeister…
Lucas: Oh, okay. The Jaegermeister threw me off. Looking around, I am overwhelmed by your amazing collection of toys! I have never seen so many miniature monsters, not even at a swap meet. Is this macabre assemblage an ongoing passion of yours, or is it an old one? It has just occurred to me that if all of these fellows were to come alive, you could have a hell of a clambake.
Granny: Indeed, you would be in trouble. I used to make spooky stuff and then when I got a job at Toys r Us back in the 80’s it just took off and now it is completely out of hand. You didn’t even see what all was stuffed in the coffin!
Frank: It is an ongoing passion that is never ending.
Lucas: Speaking of never-ending passions, “stone” rhymes with “scone”. Any comment?
Ravenscraft: Ghost rhymes with Toast.
Lucas: Wow, you’re right! And now that I’m thinking about it, “embalming fluid” rhymes with “shmembalming fluid”. Now then, you’re playing in Leeds, England at the “Under the Veil” festival. This is exciting news, certainly. Do you feel that Great Britain is a fertile receptacle for the Antiworld seed, or are you expecting the limeys to be scratching their heads?
Granny: We are not “Under the Veil” we are “Beyond the Veil” ha!
Lucas: Right, “Beyond the Veil”. My mistake.
Ravenscraft: I think we will do o.k. the British are the ones who spawned Alien Sex Fiend.
Frank: I definitely think they will be scratching their heads. The scene seems to be pretty much all electro over there.
Lucas: Have you guys ever thought of changing the band’s home base, moving away from Portland?
Granny: NO, never!
Frank: This is where it was born and this is where it will die.
* * * * *
At this point, I was eaten up by Ivy, the crazy German Shepard. After being reassembled in the lab downstairs, and brought back to life with a generous bolt of lightning, we all hopped into the Antiworld private jet (painted black) (with black curtains and seats inside) (and black carpeting) and landed in a far-away place which led to…
Part Three- My Supper With Antiworld
Lucas: Well, first of all, thank you for joining me here in Southeast Asia for supper. Do you guys like Thai food?
Frank: “Thai” rhymes with “die”. Any comment?
Lucas: Uh, “ghost” rhymes with “toast”.
Ravenscraft: I love Thai food, red curry and bamboo shoots are the way to go.
Lucas: What is your relationship like with the Portland punk scene? What about the punk scene in general, around the world?
Frank: some people get us and some don’t.
Granny: The makeup really confuses people no matter where we are in the U.S. Europe is great because we feel at home, they get IT.
Lucas: Where were the best crowds in Europe? Were some countries better than others?
Granny: I love Germany, everyone is really awesome there and that is where we have done our largest shows. I also had a wonderful time in Switzerland; I would like to visit there again soon.
Frank: The crowd at the WGT festival in Leipzig & the at the Herbstnaechte III Festival in Raben were just awesome. We love them all but Germany is very special to us.
Lucas: Do you all have punk backgrounds?
Ravenscraft: Where I grew up there were a lot of trees and mountains in the background.
Granny: Yes, we all have the Punk background.
Lucas: You had mentioned that Tony, your drummer, is taking an active role in song writing. How has that impacted your group’s creative process, especially when most of the songs have traditionally originated with Ravenscraft or 45 Frank?
Ravenscraft: We call him Ball Bag more often.
Lucas: Ah, yes. That explains why the famous German DJ, Ralf Thyssen called me from his mansion and told me that you had recently nicknamed Tony after the container used to haul around soccer balls. I guess something was lost in the translation!
Granny: Tony knows exactly what we are about. He grew up front row center at all our early shows. He understands this band, what will work and what won’t within the band.
Frank: It’s fresh & completely different than how either I or Ravenscraft write but fits in perfectly with what we do.
Lucas: That’s cool that you could find a fresh compositional perspective from within the group. It’s horrible when you have to resort to hiring songwriters. Did you know that Neil Diamond wrote a lot of the Monkees’ material?
* * * * *
And as the sun began to rise on the sultry Thai jungle horizon, we all dissolved into mist and waited impatiently in a nether-dimension to be resurrected. Which there was no doubt of. I mean, look at the Dracula movies. This scene is built on sequels. So, until “Bride of Antiworld” is released, keep your mohawk straight, don’t forget to tie and/or buckle your shoes/boots, and buy all of their albums.
*editor's note: Much thanks to guest writer (ghost writer?) Lucas for suggesting this article and following through on his marvelous idea. Make sure to check out Lucas's own brand of musical mayhem here: Cinema Strange
Official Antiworld website and family operated
Deathrock.com's Antiworld page: http://www.deathrock.com/antiworld
Join their Yahoo Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/antiworld
Strange Russia, Strange Gothic
~by Vitaly a.k.a Whisper and Denis a.k.a Trans
(photos provided by Trans)
A Note from the Editor: a few months ago I was contacted by the people who run the Shadowplay Russian site asking if we'd be interested in a little cultural exchange. They were keen to translate Uncle Nemesis's article on the Whitby Gothic Festival into Russian to post on their site. I talked to Uncle N and we both agreed it would be a great idea. In return they offered to give us a story on the Russian Gothic scene which is extremely fascinating. We hope this is the beginning of many exchanges between our magazines. It is a somewhat ironic hopeful ray of light that countries whose governments are arguing, can be united in the darkness that is the gothic underground. I think when you cut down to the bare bones of it, we are all alot more alike than our governments want us to think...it's a shame our leaders don't know what it's like to be on the dance floor, lost in music that sings to every fiber in your being. ~BluIt is not a secret that the Goth scene arose from rock music and was a music culture of its own from the beginning. However it was quite different in Russia. Russia was always an unusual country -- neither a Europe, nor an Asia. On the other hand each country with it’s own traditions and culture has it’s own peculiarities. What would you expect? May be it’s also strange but the Goth scene is alive and thriving in Russia. And how it developed is something that draws everyone's attention. Something mysterious happened here.
USSR – Neither Sex, Nor Music
“We don't have sex in the USSR,” – everyone knows this famous soviet slogan. It is quite natural that we didn't have rock music which associated with “sex and drugs” in USSR either, you know.
Rock music didn't exist in USSR till the ‘70s. Total regime control considered every rock-music event as a capitalist world influence or as a helper in the Cold War. A person whose interests and appearance didn't coincide with country's politics was a public enemy. It seems really absurd nowadays. It was almost impossible to get any information back then. However, in spite of any prohibitions, Russian people tried to follow world music events. Rock music was just to show business abroad. And it was a social protest -- a way of struggle against total regime in Russia. It seems almost unbelievable but in that time heavy-metal fans or punks could be arrested for their fashion. Because of their behavior they were considered neonazies.
The end of the Cold War is associated with the name of the first Russian president Gorbachev a.k.a Gorbi. So began the “gold ‘80s,” but music was not still free. In 1988 the famous album Never Mind The Bollocks here's the Sex Pistols was ordered in Britain by my friend and was confiscated in the custom-house. Who could even think that in 2 or 3 years later this album will be available in all music shops! I remember teachers in schools had a list of bands which they had to confiscate and the fate of a student who was not careful was unenviable. Nevertheless lots of Russian rock bands appeared that time. They started in the same conditions and they were the ones who gave us the opportunity to know about gothic music and culture.
From Russia With Darkness
Two legendary and very popular current bands started in Saint Petersburg during that time. They were Alisa (“Alice” in Russian) and Kino (“Cinema” in Russian). Alisa had post-punk sound and their image had theatrical influences (real Goth make-up and fantastic shows). Their music was very dark and the musicians themselves were the Goth music fans. Kino was very popular as well and became the super-stars in Russia though no one could have guessed at the time that they sounded like typical Goth bands in other parts of the world. Their sound was the strange hybrid of Sisters of Mercy and The Smiths complete with black uniforms and romantic lyrics…
At the same time Nautilus Pompilius and Agatha Kristie formed in Siberia. Their music was influenced by the first wave of gothic bands but following the course of rock, they became business minded and mainstream like everyone else. Thus they were the first who began to play such music.
Many bands whose sound was very close to gothic formed little by little. But unfortunately they were almost unavailable to wide audience. Among the most popular are Kazma-Kazma (baroque), Jugendstil (post punk / gothic rock) and Culture Bunker.
It’s an interesting fact that, though Goth scene developed an infrastructure, it is considered an underground culture abroad. But how do we call it in Russia where nothing exists? Super underground (ha-ha)?
Russian Gothic: The Beginning
There were the people in all parts of this big country whose lifestyle could be called “gothic” when the USSR crashed. In short time this special and elite culture attracted the interest of lots of young people. Of course the main problem was the access to information. Those scraps of information available could not satisfy any one. The main part of Russian Goths were concentrated in three cities that time: Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Voronezh.
A small community formed in Moscow in 1996. Their aim was to create Russian resource which could give Goths the opportunity to know about world's and country's music events, to advance Goth scene in Russia and to unite Goths all over the country. It was the Russian Gothic Project and their information resource was the Russian Gothic Page (RGP). It is the main portal nowadays. I could say this portal became the real break. They help expand the Goth audience and promote many Russian dark bands.
RGP released the first Russian gothic compilation Edge Of The Night: Russian Gothic Compilation. The aim was to show West Russian Gothic. The compilation included several bands who had professional studio records. These bands represent the gold of the Russian Goth scene.
Another of RGP’s merits is that what was once started as a party has turned into a festival. Edge Of The Night [festival] is a perfect opportunity to for foreign bands to visit and do a gig in Russia. Endraum, Ataraxia, Das Ish, Coil, Death In June and Melotron played there. Diary of Dreams opened their tour in the Edge Of The Night.
The Crypt Creative Crew is another Moscow community. They specialize in holding parties, happenings and slide shows. They are famous for perfect DJs too.
An amusing detail: in Moscow where the Goth scene is considered the most developed, Goth bands formed not that long ago. The most popular bands today are Bleeding Nature (synth-goth / dark wave) and Children Of The Gun (gothic rock). Among the first bands I could mention is TNT Art (industrial / dark wave), Cisfinitum (dark ambient / noise), Cyclotimia (industrial / dark wave), Dyhania (dark wave / post punk), Caprice (ethereal / neo classic), etc.
Saint Petersburg is the second capital of Russia which always competes with Moscow. The situation there is more complicated. There were no clubs and no kind of organization responsible for holding gigs. However something has changed and progressed. They held their first festival in December 21. This event proved that the scene has great potential and became a push for following parties and gigs. The Petersburg scene can boast of several great bands: Jugenstil – the goth-legend of ‘90s. They were the first Russian band whose sound was compared with Bauhaus in music magazines. And truly speaking, they deserve it. Unfortunately Jugenstil has kept silent the last five years. They were going to play last festival but (remember Ian Curtis!) the vocalist had epilepsy bout.
Ole Lukkoye is very famous not only in Russia. Their creativity spreads into many genres besides Gothic. Missionaries From The Outside is the only one whose music you would admire or hate and nothing inbetween. Oh, yes, they are very strange. They started in the mid ‘90s and continue to play orthodox gothic-rock. In my opinion it is the most striking thing in that style. Para Bellvm balances punk and gothic-metal. This band is rather similar to HIM but they characterize their music as dark rock. I would like to mention Vidna Nebo (dark wave / ethereal / ethno) and Theodor Bastard (experimental electronics with dark influences) whose re-mix Pigface released on Invisible Records.
Voronezh is the city in central Russia. It is considered the capital of Russian pagan and witchcraft. There are not many Goths in Voronezh and it probably isn’t worth the mention but it’s Goths are one of the first who represent our native Goth scene like Moscow and Saint Petersburg Goths. The reason is very commonplace: there are many Institutes and Universities in Voronezh so foreign student brought their contribution to the scene. It is said that Voronezh is a city with strong post-punk traditions. In the end of ‘80s there were about four post-punk bands. One of them influenced by Joy Division, Bauhaus and The Cure. The band I’m talking about is Molotoff Cocktail. Their music was dark and melancholic and their lyrics was devoted to the sharp social problems. Could you imagine political lyrics and music with the sound of Stigmata Martyr? The top of politics correctness (ha-ha)! I could say this band had great influence on Voronezh Goth scene.
Everyone knows the Feedback Club – Indie Music Club -- one of a few Russian clubs where Goth-parties took place. In 1996 there were several bands whose style was gothic. Among them are Taigerm (dark ambient / dark wave / noise) and Paranoya (post punk / gothic). Moreover Missionaries From The Outside started in Voronezh as well.
Today Voronezh Goths have to deal with the absence of any clubs and indifference of local authorities to young people’s interests. Nevertheless this situation didn’t influence the scene’s quality and new projects. One of them is Lovsi Snov. This band formed 2 years ago and is much appreciated among Russian Goths. It seems absurd because they having perfect material but they don’t have place to play in their own city.
Shadowplay is non-profit-making site combining Voronezh and Saint Petersburg Goth communities. It is the third internet goth zine in Russia. The aim is to advance Goth scene in Russia. The popularity of this site grows every day and the publications attract attention beyond to their own projects.
If you had read this article attentively you’d have to remember that in Moscow where Goth scene is considered the most developed, Goth bands formed not too long ago. So you would probably ask where do they appear? Don’t worry, the immense Russian geography will give the answer.
Moon Far Away is the first Russian Goth band that enjoyed popularity in the western world. They are the cult band here. Moon Far Away formed in1995 in Arkhangelsk. Originally they intended to be a ritual epic dark wave band. Nowadays this band is the cult of the Russian Gothic subculture. Two conceptual albums “Lado World” (Exotica Records, 1997) and “Sator” (Brudenia Records, 2000) are spreading by a world of gothic distributors. The band took part in many international projects. One of their tendencies is folk - lore of the Russian Pomorie and as the result this reflects in their ideology. Right now the band is preparing new album. Last year Moon Far Away started to take part in gigs that would give them more exposure to new audiences.
Rikoito is a well-known band in the western world which is located in Kenicksberg though it is not just a band. It’s a real community that unites several projects. The band plays something like apocalyptic / dark folk. This band may be compared with Current 93 and Death In June. The music and lyrics are full of Pre-Raphaelite’s and poets-symbolist’s ideas. Romowe Rikoito is working on a new project with Moon Far Away now.
Dark-project Dvar is very popular too. They keep all personal information about themselves a secret. There are many Goths who consider that this strange band a new direction in Gothic music. It is a very strange hybrid of Das Ich and Sopor Aeternus. Their last album released at the Radio Luxor (Kirlian Camera label) and their tracks have been released with famous bands like Legendary Pink Dots, Clan Of Xymox, Fields Of Nephilim, Skinny Puppy.
Stillife is a band from Rostov na Donu who play excellent dark wave. They realeased two albums during the past five years and took part in a gigs with Endraum and Diary Of Dreams.
This is not all the Goth bands from Russia of course. I could enumerate about them for a long time. What is more, the connection between Russian Goths is not good as it could be. Sometimes you don’t know what happens for example in the Far East. And there are of course many interesting bands and projects in a former USSR republics: Ukraine, Byelorussia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia…
Please do take a moment to check out these wonderful Russian sites:
Russian Gothic Pages: http://music.gothic.ru/
(live shots by Mike Huisman, posed photos by Wicked Girlfriend except jyri.jpg by Blu)
The Seattle Scene
I have my complaints about the year I lived in Seattle, but one of them would not be about the bands there. Despite how hard it is for bands to find places to play (maybe this is karmic revenge for being the home of grunge), there remains a pool of very talented and very different groups struggling to let loose their creative powers. Seattle bands would include the likes of The Daughters of the Nile (an import from Salt Lake City of all places), Fear of Dolls, SMP, The Arid Sea, Luminous Flux, Black Atmosphere, the legendary Kommunity FK and their side project Texylvania (who relocated there from LA), Faith and Disease, 3SKS (now defunct and possibly replaced by a project called Genowen), Noxious Emotion, Severina Sol (from the original version of Diva Destruction), The Spectres, The Bad Things (an offshoot of A Midnite Choir), Murder of Crows (now defunct), and a handful of industrial/ebm/synth bands like Assemblage 23, Nexxus 6, KMFDM, Daniel Meyer from Haujobb, etc. Whew.
One of the most promising Seattle bands getting a lot of recognition this year is The Sins. I had the pleasure of seeing several of their concerts and have kept in touch with them on an almost weekly basis since I moved to LA. They put out a full length CD in 2002 appropriately called The Beginning that has made its way to clubs across the US and abroad and made our Top Ten of the year twice. With influences ranging from Fields of the Nephilim, The Mission, The Virgin Prunes, The Doors to Skinny Puppy, Dead Can Dance and even classical jazz artists, they’ve been tagged with descriptions like dark rock, goth rock, old school goth and deathrock.
The Sins have been around for some time apparently but a changing lineup kept them from their greater potential. Finally, in 2000, it seemed that their lineup solidified and their progress forward has been giant. With drummer Kris Kilian already intact, members from 3SKS were added: Lee Tillman on guitar, Jyri Glynn on electric violin and later in 2001 Thomas (Tommy) Atwell on bass. I asked lead singer Nightmare Boy – the one constant of The Sins – just what it is about this particular line up that seems to make it work. Why now, why these people?
“Are you trying to fight me?” (laughing) “Actually, we've closed The Sinner's Revolving Door and decided to keep it shut forever. I was basically able to add Lee, Jyri and Tommy after I logged into the Tri-State Killing Spree Ex-Member Database and made some phone calls.
But seriously, I met Kris in '94 during a recording session I was brought in to do guitar work on. That whole fiasco is a story in itself. We got Lee through an ad in the Stranger after our original guitarist uhhh...left the band. Lee suggested that we try out this ‘really cool’ violinist to which my response was ‘what the fuck are The Sins supposed to do with a violinist?’ We tried him anyway and Jyri's been with us ever since. Tommy came along much later after our original bass player left the band. Lee actually also suggested we add Tommy. I can't wait to see who Lee suggests to replace me after I get fired. Hahaha.
As a band, we get along great. We've been known to swap wives and girlfriends on occasion. Ok, maybe we're not that close, but we do party and spend a lot of time together. We're kind of a like a semi dysfunctional family but with all the good parts.”
Flash back to 2000, before Jyri joins, when he tells me that Lee had just joined a band called The Sins. I look up their website and the first thing I mumble is, “What kind of name is Nightmare Boy?” And even though I gave him a hard time about it at first, the more I got to know him, the more appropriate it was. It fits him. Referred to as “Nighty” at times by his bandmates, I asked him to explain where the nickname came from.
“Umm.I guess since this question keeps coming up I'll answer it truthfully. I was at party looking like my typical (back then) gray, gaunt, deathly self. Someone said ‘you look like something out of a nightmare, boy!’ and it's stuck ever since. Stupid bastards! I hate you!
Later that day someone asked me if I ate asparagus.”
Yeah But Can They Read The Notes?
Musically they come from diverse backgrounds with professional training in many areas. To the seasoned listener some of these influences are quite apparent. These are no living room musicians. No button pushing boys who rely on fancy gadgets to do all the work. These are real musicians in the most classical sense of the word. These boys don’t know just how to play their instruments but if you gave them sheet music to a symphony I guarantee they could knock it out in an improv session. Kris Kilian was a Percussion Performance major in college who went on to explore tribal drumming, jazz and rock. He is, in my mind, one of our scenes most talented drummers. His work in songs like “Ecstasy in Oblivion” is nothing short of mind blowing and harkens back to epic songs of from The Nephilim with it’s dramatic changes and emotionally-laden and sensitive drum work.
Bassist Thomas Atwell spent his time in many different bands and even played lead guitar for some before finding his way to The Sins. Extremely versatile he was able to take on the position of bassist learning and mastering all The Sins’ old material in a short amount of time. The most serious of The Sins, Thomas seems to be the grounding, driving presence they need to round out their sometimes-hyper personalities.
Guitarist Lee Tillman has a degree in Music Theory and Composition and had played with several bands in the local area before settling at home with The Sins. Lee can do everything from liquid Chameleon-esque guitar passages to brutal, grinding metal riffs and solos. The thing that makes Lee stand out as a guitarist is the absence of that Spinal Tap Guitar Ego. Lee isn’t one of those guitarists, that just because he’s good, has to hog the spotlight. Nor does he feel the need to have his guitar turned up in the mix one hundred percent of the time. He is able to evaluate just how “on” his guitar needs to be – what areas to lay back in and what areas to turn it up. This serious control of his talent lends a certain air of maturity to their sound.
Jyri Glyn was taking classic violin lessens as a youngster mastering the skills necessary to play the violin as well as the ability to read sheet music and to understand the ins and outs of musical composition. It didn’t take long however, for his rebellious nature to get the best of him and he quit those lessens to peruse a more modern way of playing finally finding teachers who allowed their students more flexibility and creativity than the rigid command of classical genres. With the electric violin he’s explored many more ways to use his instrument of choice. His symphonic skills have brought a level of sophistication to all the bands he’s ever played in. The best thing though is his showmanship -- he can “out rock” many guitarists that I know. He is also adept at playing keys and bass so don’t be surprised if you see him change instruments during their live shows.
Vocalist/guitarist Nightmare Boy went to Music School gaining a solid basis in theory and composition until, like Jyri, he rebelled against the limiting rules and restricting nature of it. He was so disillusioned with the music industry that he took a five year break from it until the need to create music pushed him back onto a path he’d forge on his own. There have been many times he’s confided to me how vital music is to his life. It is certain that if he had not found his way back to making music that the outcome could have been devastating, perhaps even fatal. He clearly posses (or is possessed by?) a creative drive that needs a constant outlet.
Although you’d be lucky to get them to seriously admit to anything (they are entirely tongue in cheek in almost anything they do and are extremely humble about their skills), they have such a wealth of knowledge in regards to different music genres, techniques and skill that I feel pretty ignorant in conversations with them much of the time. Having told you their real backgrounds, here is how they describe themselves:
Kris, “I never liked music until I met this wood elf named Beeju while having a paoti weekend. Beeju introduced me to the love of child cannibalism and how the small bones make very nice percussive tools when accompanied by their skin as drumheads. Beeju left me for the golden tapir and now I'm stuck with this f*@#ing band!”
Jyri, “I am a byproduct of when classical musicians go bad!”
Lee, “Oh I've been around, I started playing when I was 16 and was tutored by Eddie Van Halen. When I got older I told him he was a punk and traded my guitar for eyeliner.”
Nightmare Boy, “Well, I started off with typical crappy top-40 when I was younger until I discovered the beauty of punk and hardcore. From there I got into goth. You can definitely hear both influences in the stuff I write. Currently, I listen to pretty much only twang country and Engelbert Humperdinck. There's nothing like ‘The Bert’ after a hard day. I also spent many nights with Elwood Thicket and Temu Von Dezu studying the intricate parts of music and the human response to it. I'm sure our findings will soon be reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.”
Tommy, “I secretly believe in world domination by Elves, in the meantime I will be a bass player until the apocalypses comes.”
And while we’re talking about individual band members, I’m going to take an extra moment to talk about Jyri and hope that his bandmates forgive me for the added attention. (I’m sure they’ll sufficiently take the piss out of him later at practice for hogging the spotlight). You see, Jyri has to be one of the hardest working musicians that I know. Not only is he married to a beautiful wife and has two adorable kids who he supports by working a full time job nearly an hour away from where they live, he plays full time with The Sins that includes weekly practices, studio time and an insane amount of live dates and ALSO is part of several side projects and contributes violin tracks to many other bands. I don’t know where he finds the time.
Jyri comments, “Well it beats sitting at home sticking your dick in a fish tank trying to convince them whose boss! Outside of drinking non-stop and hijacking fire trucks with The Sins, I do attempt to play with other projects. One being Genowen, which consists of Sean Sonnet (my old front man from Tri-State Killing Spree) and Thomas Atwell, who happens to also play bass for the Sins. We’ve thrown up a little site at http://www.genowen.com that has news and updates of the band’s happenings. Recently we released a single titled 'Afraid of gods' which is featured on a gothic compilation box set, Trinity.
I have also been working with Severina Sol (ex- Diva Destruction and Fockewolf). Our project is called Sol Sirenn but because of our busy schedules, we have had to suspend it for the time being. Severina is currently working with Daniel Meyer of Haujobb.
I have also had the honor of working with a number of great bands doing studio work on their albums. (ie: The 3-Deuces, Quantum Dots and The Arid Sea).
Most recently I recorded violin for a very good friend of mine, Jeran Dahlquist and his band Love Sick. This was for their latest EP entitled Gorgeous Tragedy, which is out on Idiom Records. The album features artwork by legendary Cure guitarist Porl Thompson. Porl is responsible for most of Love Sick's visual elements.”
All of these personalities and talents combine to make The Sins a virtual music-making machine. They create music very fast and have enough songs to fill up at least 3 CDs by now. It’s almost as if they’re channeling unseen forces.
Thomas comments on their song-writing process: “we bring in ideas, usually, and we flesh out the structure over a few practice sessions. It's a fun process, as someone has to tell Nighty that he wrote another song in the key of D.”
I asked them what recording their CD The Beginning was like: was it hard, were there obstacles and were they happy with the way it turned out?
Kris, “Hahahaha....mmmmm. Do you mean difficult? Recording the beginning was like a 72 hour gothic frat party with all the fixings: blackouts, over-the-counter ephedrine, large hats, magnum PI sunglasses, a stolen semi-truck and last but not least, a pretty bad-ass album. Of course we were happy with the outcome! The raw sound that somehow festered into the tape embodied all of the chaotic maliciousness that was and is the Sins.”
When asked if they preferred recording to live performances, I was pretty sure what their answer would be and Lee confirmed, “Although recording is pretty fun I think The Sins are more of a live band. When we record, it's all live. We try to capture the whole band at once rather than go back and overdub everything. The energy live onstage is incredible, and when you get the audience into it and they're feeling it too, it's just unstoppable. I would have to say that we prefer live over the studio. Speaking of which, we have a live album in the works now as we speak. It's just a matter of details.”
The Sins - LIVE
It’s no secret that Seattle is a hard city to book shows in for dark rock bands. Many venues won’t give bands the time of day if they’ve got the “G” word attached to them and then if they do find a venue willing to put them on, attendance by the Gothic Scene in Seattle is sporatic and sparse at best unless you’re an EBM or Synthpop band. My one big bone of contention while I was there was that the scene did not support its local bands choosing time after time to attend stale DJ’d club nights rather than a concert. Despite all of this, The Sins play more shows in a month than most bands play in a year and sometimes get paid very well to do so. What’s their secret? They don’t limit themselves to “goth” venues, they don’t approach any situation with a “holier than thou” attitude and they do not bitch and whine and complain about guarantees. They just want to play. They put themselves out there and play any spot they can get including hick bars in the middle of nowhere. They play festivals in the (gasp) daylight in places like Tacoma. They’ve done a battle of the bands with metalheads. Their willingness to play anywhere with any type of band has built up a reputation in the local area with booking agents and venues and now they are getting asked to do shows now instead of begging venues to put them on.
Nightmare Boy replies, “I think last year we did 26 shows. Through March will have 6 shows played not counting one that cancelled. It's all about diversity and being brave enough to play in a club you have no business being in.”
Lee adds, “We've played with a slew of bands, different styles, different crowds etc. Some of them are really cool, others we scare. We've played with a lot of metal bands. We've played with some hippy sounding stuff too. Recently at The Spring Suey Festival we played with a couple of blues and Jazz artist. We also did this festival called The Ridge to Rails, which was a trip. Here we are onstage dressed in black playing to over 1500 marathon runners wearing white shirts and tennis shoes. This was at about 9am in the morning no less. That was a fun gig! We always have fun and each show turns out to be a blast.”
Laughing Jyri says, “Nothing like a morning ‘Family Run w/ The Sins’! Taking the stage at 9am was actually quite painless considering we were all still drunk from the night before. We have been very vigilant not to flick our musical remains into the armpit of any precise genre. Though it is evident that we are spawn of the underground punk and gothic scene, being musically diverse has enabled us to infest a much wider audience base. The Sins continue to plague country bars, sports bars, gay bars, gothic clubs, hell we just booked a nude strip bar down in Portland. We manage to amuse an audience no matter where the venue.”
On stage they are bigger than life and something always happens at their shows by complete accident or coincident. The good thing is that they’re not uptight and take things as they come often reveling in odd occurrences. It’s like a non-stop good-willed riot.
When I asked them whether they played shows for the music or the mayhem, Kris said, “Music just turned out to be the natural product of mayhem. I think we needed an excuse to imbibe massive quantities of alcohol with friends on a work night. The resultant frenzy that erupted out of that particular flavor of camaraderie led to and continues to guide our sound."
In talking about some of the more memorable incidents at their shows, Nightmare boy commented, “Oh god! Where to start? Well, the very first show, half of my gear shorted out during the first song. That should have been an omen! Other than me forgetting words to a whole song at a time and breaking nearly every guitar that I play, there has been some other funny shit too. One of Kris' drums fell off during a song. I broke a belt when I was wearing pants that were too big and they basically started falling off me. I split my pants from the ankle to the cock-n-balls another time. Man, there has been other stuff too, but I think I was finally successful in blocking it all out.”
Jyri agrees and relates a near-death experience, “When we were playing our cd release party I jumped off stage with my wireless fiddle and was running around the crowd like a drunken crazed idiot. Right at the very end of our set a six-foot section of the club’s cement ceiling came crashing down missing me by inches! Had the crowd not been trying to get out of my way I fear we would have had a Great White story on our hands!”
And although I wasn’t at that particular show I heard the owner of the venue, relieved no one had been hurt joked and told the band, “Man, we had Motorhead in here last weekend and even THEY didn’t bring the roof down!”
Lee relies, “There was that break dancing redneck at one of our latest shows….you don’t see that every day…well maybe at a Sins gig!”
And Tommy adds, “Let us not forget the time Nighty was humping his amp at the EMP show!”
[The EMP for those of you outside the Pacific Northwest is Seattle’s state-of-the-art Music Museum which also hosts live shows. It can be pretty pretentious at times so the thought of such behavior makes me roar with laughter]
On stage, despite the mayhem and accidents, they miraculously manage to pull off a solid performance guided by their instinctive musical talents.
Kris, “Typically, the majority of our live performances turn out to be some form of improv. Prior to a performance, we'll gather around some nasty bar table and write out what we want to play on either a napkin or beer coaster (1 for each member). With the number of tequila shots and 7n7's that go into the pre-show sinners diet, we end up playing at least three new songs that we are lucky to have rehearsed at all. If that isn't bad enough, Nighty or somebody usually wanders off stage at some point with no warning, allowing time for random, unrehearsed improvisation.
The short answer? booby tassles...”
And since he mentioned it, I feel the need to recount one such incident that demonstrates how well their musical skills serve them. It was so well executed that they sent me a video tape to witness it for myself. The concert was moving along smoothly until one of Nightmare Boy’s guitars broke. He seemed slightly annoyed but managed to snag his spare and continue on. A couple songs later the spare broke and I think he performed one song, or part of a song, without playing guitar at all leaving Lee to make do as best he could filling in extra parts where possible. At the end of that song was a long instrumental section with a drum break and Nightmare Boy, without a word to anyone, grabs one of the broken guitars and walks off stage presumably to fix it. The song plays out and suddenly it’s over and Nighty has not returned. Instead of some comment by the band about technical problems (which is what most bands would have done I think), Jyri starts playing something on his violin to fill in the silence thinking their lead singer would reappear soon.
The crowd, at this point, is totally clueless about what’s going on. They think this is part of the show. The notes Jyri plays start out as long draws of the bow across the strings, then they slur and whirl and kind of magically weave themselves into what becomes a melody line. As if on cue Tommy comes in on bass and the bottom of this melody is filled in with Lee joining shortly thereafter in counter-melody. Kris hits the symbols softly in just the right place and suddenly there’s a song being created right before everyone’s eyes. It builds and builds. It changes. It’s dynamic and they actually work their way up to a feverish climax, drums at full volume with the three other musicians working contrasting but complementary parts in harmony against one another. It dies down a bit, makes another change and then, as if on cue again, they hit another climax and at that very moment, Nightmare Boy appears on stage. He makes a sweeping gesture with his arms as if it were all planned – even his re-appearance. Knowing this was all improv in advance I think to myself, “now this will be the tricky part… how they’ll end this song. Will they just let it die out?” And to my utter amazement, again, without words or even a glance between them, they come up with a confident ending altogether, precisely timed and there is only the smallest pause before Lee plays the intro to the next song, the transition as smooth as glass. The crowd never had any idea what they witnessed. So goes a night with The Sins.
In their short time with this final lineup, they’ve gained a huge fan following that loyally shows up no matter where their shows are held. They call themselves The Sinners. I attribute this to not only their music but how in touch they seem to be with their fans.
Lee explains further, “We have a message board up [off their webpage] where you can stop by and say hi as well as a chat room. We also have a mailing list too that we send out keeping everyone up to date. The fans relate to us because we are fans ourselves. We like to drink, hang out and have fun just as they do. There are no egos within this group and I think they respect that.”
And speaking of their message board – almost all the members can be found chatting and posting there including an amusing episode when a religious zealot found their way to The Sins forum in order to do a little preaching.
Jyri comments, “Ah... yes, us Sinners have been known to play a little verbal hopscotch with a Christer or two. Seems it all started with Nighty booking a show last year with this Christian Rock band (he's got a sick sense of humor that way). Anyway a number of their fans stuck around for a dose of Sin and one of them ended up buying one of our ‘Sinner’ shirts that lists the seven deadly sins on the back of it. Apparently the kid's mother didn't think is was as witty as we did, so she proceeded to fill up our message board with irate babble of Biblical vomit and threatened to picket our shows (which unfortunately never came to pass). After a few weeks of The Sins ‘turning the other cheek’ and quoting a few scriptures of our own, she finally went away. Seems we knew her bible better than she did! Gawd, some people are so uptight! No sense of humor!"
If You Can't Laugh At Yourself...
As you may have noticed by this time, The Sins have a unique brand of humor and are hard pressed to be serious about anything. They avoid drama and band conflicts and keep their energy focused on their main goal – to create music and to have fun while doing it. I thought it would be fun to ask them to describe each other with one phrase and although their answers are littered with many inside jokes, I think you’ll find the humor in their replies:
“Nighty – I didn’t do it! It was Thicket!
Kris – Boobies
Tommy – Just keep playing in the key of 'D' and we’ll all be just fine
Lee – A dangerous, yet beautiful man”
“Jyri - Gothy creature of maniacal fury
Nightmare - mmmmmmmm....the badger creeps behind the thicket
Lee - He is and will always be, one hell of a beautiful man!
Tommy - why god? why?...just make it stop!”
Lee, “They’re all goofy and weird.”
“Kris - Everything that is sick, twisted and wrong.
Jyri - The only person grumpier than me.
Lee - He is the beautiful strong horse that gallops triumphantly through the valley on a warm summer day. With wind blowing through his mane, he looks at the sky and says dangerously, ‘I will own you this day.’
Tommy - You know, I actually just feel sorry for him that he has to put up with the rest of us.
“Kris – He’s the only person more demented that I am
Jyri- gother than hell
Nighty- I could think of a haiku, but I won’t
Lee- He’s a beautiful man sausage model”
So what’s next for The Sins? A little more of everything of course – they are the cult of over indulgence after all. Tommy answers, “There are so many new songs! We could easily do a double CD if we chose to, but then the last time a band did that it was called ‘Use Your Illusion’ and I would rather release 2 albums over time. We are at work on the new album though.”
If you happen to be in the Pacific Northwest, if you see in the paper that The Sins are booked at Bobby Dean’s Tavern in Hickville, WA, it’s probably not a misprint. They’ll be there along with their fans, entertaining a crusty old biker and his mullet-wearing friends and getting paid to do it.
Nightmare Boy: Lead vocals, guitar
Thomas Atwell: Bass
Kris Kilian: Drums and percussion
Lee Tillman: lead guitar
Jyri Glynn: electric violin, bass
official webpage: www.nightmareboy.com
Sound samples at:
The Sins debut CD, The Beginning, is now available online here in the states at www.cdbaby.com and www.amazon.com.
If you're overseas, you can purchase the CD from www.darkcelldigitalmusic.net
Cool interviews with Jyri on In Music We