My father always told me that the only reasons to go into the big city were to get a hooker, score some crack cocaine, or see the Last Days of Jesus play a concert. I’ve followed dad’s advice staunchly and steadily, up to and including the third article, and I truly feel that my character and constitution can’t but have profited from such high moral and philosophical doctrine. I’ve seen the Last Days play twice; once in their hometown of Bratislava, Slovakia, and the second time in Prague, Czech Republic. It was at that second show that I posed a few questions regarding their megalithic entertainment enterprise, a venture that results in circus-sideshow stage manias and a hodge-podge of industrial-strength calliope music with a martial flair and a fairy-dust sprinkling of… the theater! In other words, Magic.
Prague, Czech Republic, backstage at the Futurum Club, after midnight, some time in November, 2003
Luc: mary0, are we scoffing at the Bohemians by sipping wine instead of drinking beer? Is your Moravian pride at stake, or do you simply prefer wine?
mary0: Well, we just use to drink anything what does not use to drink us. We prefer beer and wine. Anjou drinks wine only, Fessy is a beer drinker, and Vajco’s and my preferences depend on the instant condition of our stomachs. So we like both good wine and beer. That’s it.
Luc: Well, this is definitely good wine. Do you drink before you play, or is it the reward after an evening of hard work upon the stage? And speaking of the stage, your new material seems to have a crazy carnival edge, which I thought was great! Have you gone through a stylistic renaissance, or are you simply exploring new ideas? It seemed quite a new musical direction compared to the last album.
mary0: Our work has always been about trying to combine the classical atmosphere of bands from the early eighties with contemporary sounds. At the same time a typical part of our music is a huge portion of irony (also in the band name) and some mad schizophrenia, which is often confusing the listeners. The new circus-like moments are connected to this approach; it is a logical result to us. It reflects our state of mind and corresponds with the lyrics.
Luc: Now you’ve been doing this for quite a while, I think. You’ve been around for nearly ten years, or a bit longer. What are some of the philosophical changes that have occurred for you during that time, as it relates to songwriting and playing rock and roll in general?
mary0: Some changes occurred for us, it is logical. We started when we were 17-20 years old after being just in small bands before. There is a shift. Our ideas have changed, we are more skeptical, ironical, our music is more aggressive. We do not want to beat about the bush anymore. Everything is more particular and straightforward but includes also some biting and sarcasm. We are not messiahs, even our name evokes it to some people, but that’s it, both the name and our work are still on the edge between seriousness and mockery. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish if we are serious or not, but it is up to anybody to decide. We are speaking to people who use to think about things. On the other hand, some people just do not care and would never bother themselves with thinking - such persons suck!!! At the end of the day we are just a rock and roll theater anyway.
Luc: I think Ye Olde Praha Towne was ready for your rock and roll theater, judging from the crowd’s reaction tonight. Is Prague a fun city for you?
mary0: As you know, Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia until 1993, so Prague was "our" capital city and we have a bit different relationship to this town and the Czech Republic as other foreigners may have. I like Prague very much, but in my opinion its magic seems to disappear in some way. But Prague belongs to cities I like in general because of their rich history, lovely narrow streets and small cafés, bars, vaults... We have many, many friends and fans over there and we love to come back and have a good time (and a good drink). But one thing has not changed - there are still many Russians in Prague. In the communist era they were soldiers stationed abroad, today they are... OK, next question please.
Luc: Ah, I see! Let’s talk about your home city, then. How is the local, Bratislava support for the Last Days of Jesus? And what other cities do you like performing in?
mary0: We love Bratislava. We love to travel, too, but enjoy coming back home. That is why I like to develop the scene here. It is still underground of course, but maybe that is the best. We have a good fan base here, the concerts always have great atmosphere. But we like to play also in Poland, the Poles are very enthusiastic and open, the Germans for instance are a bit more reserved... Last year there was a great audience in Nancy… Brno and Prague are always OK, we love to play at the Beyond the Veil Festival in Leeds… we enjoyed our last gig at Cafe Transylvania in Birmingham... We have a good feedback very often. Paris was also great…
(At this point Anjou leans in, and with nostalgic reverence, speaks briefly, but poignantly, of the magical hills of Scotland before moving off to explore the possibilities of a half-empty bottle of a dry Moravian vintage of some sort.)
Luc: Ah! The magical hills of Scotland! He’s right, of course. But wait, what happened that made them magical for him? What was her name? Or was it merely the landscape?
mary0: Ha ha... We have a lot of nice memories of Scotland; the landscape really impressed us. Anjou cannot remember any femme fatale… I think it was really about the hills... During our last UK tour we spent some time with visiting various places and cities and we liked what we saw very much. The mystical city of Edinburgh or ruins of abbeys- everything was quite exciting. The Castle of Tantalon for example- a ruin at a high cliff- it kicks ass, everybody should see it...
Luc: In other words, the ideal place for rock and roll theater! You guys have actually been involved with a variety of theater productions, besides your regular stage shows, haven’t you? Tell me about some of these other projects.
mary0: GUnaGU is a well-known avant-garde theater here in Bratislava. The piece is called Gothic, but is not about Goths, just about weird relations between people, about pretence and chaos inside of us caused by the changing society after our velvet revolution in 1989. The play was written in the mid nineties but was put on the stage a bit later. Karol Vosatko, the director, knew our music and found the chaos of our songs would match the chaos of his characters, so he used our songs in the soundtrack. It is very exciting to co-operate with other artists and see how they interpret, transform and redesign the ideas of your music. The things get a new dimension and it is great if your work evokes something... Martin Gerboc, the director of our video clips, is working on something again, so we will see!
(Here, there was a very marked devolution in the collected party’s social antics, as rowdy debate was joined with raucous laughter, the linking of arms in dance and strength competitions and tender affection, and erstwhile barbershop quartets adopted new pastimes rather than contend with the natural acoustic consequences that arise from alcohol-induced merriment, romance, and combat, sometimes all at once… and so the conversation was there ended, to be resumed some time later on...)
An undisclosed veranda, overlooking an undisclosed landscape, at an undisclosed time
Luc: mary0, greetings again! Now that we’ve had some months to meditate and reflect, I have a few more questions for you!
mary0: OK ;-)
Luc: The new album, Alien Road is out, and I love it! It seems that a long time has passed since the last one. Was it a hard-fought battle to release this guy? What’s the story?
mary0: Frankly speaking, I do not know what the reason was. Maybe we were more critical with our work, we rejected many ideas right at the beginning. Besides this, we wanted to have more time to record the album and listen to it, we adjusted many things after the first recording. Above this, we had no idea who our label should be. We had the intention to release the album by ourselves. But finally the guys at Strobelight Records decided to put it out and today we are very happy about this. We want to release a vinyl version of it very soon with some bonuses – two cover versions featuring the Slovak Punk-legend ZONA A. Together we decided to cover the song EMI from the Sex Pistols, as both bands had a very "special“ experience with this label, the second one should be the song "Potopa“ (Engl. "The Flood“) originally recorded by the mentioned ZONA A – this will be a very special thing, because it will be our very first song sung in Slovak language.
Luc: How was your recent tour with Antiworld? Did you have fun? Let’s hear a funny story about those Portland zombies.
mary0: It was absolutely great. We are still remembering the time spent together, we love them, they are great people. We like their humour, the whole tour was a big funny story, I just remember days and nights of big party. Well, there are some special funny things, like MARSHMALLOW, RAMONEEEEES and DRUNKULA, but I am afraid this will be understood by our friends from Portland only!
The cast and crew from Antiworld chime in with a special tour commentary…
Luc: Okay, guys, tell me the truth about the Last Days of Jesus.
Ravenscraft: They are totally fun and can drink beer 24 hours a day!
Granny: They love the punk rock music...and they can sing a gypsy chant!
Frank: They like their wine too!
Luc: And you were on the road with them for how long?
Granny: Not long enough, only one week.
Luc: At the end of the tour, did you want to take them home and keep them as pets, maybe putting them in a crucifix-shaped terrarium? I hear that young Last Days of Jesus' need more protein in their diets, but these guys may be mature enough to subsist on vegetable matter. And don't forget they'll need a heat rock or some other source to keep warm.
Granny: I know what to feed them. One of their favorite foods is called "Banany"(chocolate covered banana gel) mmm mmm good. Just lay out a trail of those and they will follow you anywhere.
Ravenscraft: We already have a bunch of crazy animals in our house!
Jenn: I wanted to keep them as pets and name them, Mr. Giggles, Marshmello, Rudy Ramone, and Count Drunkula.
Frank: More like a castle shaped terrarium and a diet of Couscous.
Luc: Did they show you any magic tricks?
Granny: They told us some jokes...ask them the one about the rabbit and the bear!
Ravenscraft: They showed us how to make a lot of beer disappear in a short amount of time!
Frank: They showed us the bomb shelter where they create their magic.
Luc: And your grand, overall conclusion?
Granny: I am convinced that they are my long lost brothers and that we were separated when the mother ship landed on earth!
Ravenscraft: We didn't get to spend enough time with them.
Frank: Never Go Home!
Luc: All right, thanks for the data, my friends…
END SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL SECTION
(Back to mary0 and Luc)
Luc: Anybody change their name since our last talk? And, just curious, but do you guys have any pets?
mary0: ...and what were the names the last time? Ha-ha… Let me think, Vajco, our drummer, has a cat, Anjo-Pithecus, our keyboarder, had a dog, he died recently, I have a fish and a snail, but after buying a house, I mean when I will get the fee from this last CD, I would like to buy a dog... And Fessy, the guitarist, had also a cat...
Luc: Okay, now I have to get serious. As a black man living in America, I have a certain idea of what it means to have a white, trans-gender girlfriend. Does the central European ethos, in general, discourage unorthodox romance, or can a poor man in the Carpathians love his goat without fear of social stigma and/or persecution?
mary0: He still cannot, even this problem is not so huge or minimal in bigger cities, but there are not so many. There is still a big influence of orthodox or conservative opinions in general. Maybe this is caused by the history, the communists never tolerated foreigners or ideas from abroad (except those from the East of course), so many people still use to be not very friendly to things coming from outside, here are maybe the roots of a certain paranoia from anything unknown, bigger, stronger. Today the catholic politicians still prefer heterosexual intercourse without a condom and present it as the right way of life. But the new generation perceives those things differently.
Luc: I see, thank-you. Now I’ll change directions again. As an Asian-American living in California, I can tell you that we have an abundance of fine sushi restaurants. What’s the cuisine like in Slovakia, and what are some of your favorite places to dine? Is there a wide variety of foreign fare to choose from?
mary0: There are quite a lot of Chinese restaurants, but three of the four band members are vegetarians, so we do not use to go there, because they often prepare the sauces with chicken soup. Other national cuisines are represented poorly, so I think you still can be lucky in California. But the gastronomy in general started to develop itself just after 1989, when the communist regime fell down, so maybe in a few years also an Afro-American Eskimo will find his favorite meal here... We have some favorite places, there is a good vegetarian restaurant we are having lunch at nearly every day, they cook vegan, vegetarian but also with meat, so our manager SexDwarf can join us too. The Slovak cuisine is very traditional with classic ingredients like potatoes, ground vegetables and first of all meat, but it is quite wide. From those traditional meals I like for example potato pancakes, Antiworld tried them also the last time... But I like to cook, so I often prepare meals at home, I like probably all cuisines of the world, so it depends on how I am, sometimes I like it spicy – Mexican, Arabian, Asian, sometimes just simple, like Italian. Above this I love to sit around with my friends drinking good beer and wine. We are very social beings in the band:-))
Luc: That sounds just fine. Next interview will have to be conducted during one of these home dinners, I think! Back to music; have you begun work on material for another album? Do you think the group will take a new musical direction, or is there still more to say using the sounds that you’ve captured in this recording?
mary0: We have already started with some new stuff, but at the moment I cannot say, this will be for sure the sound of our next album. We never pre-define how our music will or should sound like, we are just doing things how we feel them right in that moment, or how we think the main idea should be transported. After some time we could say many things about our former recordings, but they are a picture of our state of mind that time, so at the end of the day we would not change anything. And the future? Well, we “Live for Today”...
Luc: And are there any new film or theater projects you’d like to mention?
mary0: Yes, but I would talk about it a bit later… We are also working on some special tracks, one of them is a song to be published as a bonus CD together with the new book from Martin Gerboc, the director of our video clips. The book is called “Kvapky krvi” (Engl. Drops of Blood) and it is a S/M fetish study...
Luc: Lastly, tell me about your website, some of the history and what it covers. It seems as though you guys have really done some hard work, through this site, in keeping an underground scene alive in Slovakia, and in the region.
mary0: The whole thing started somewhere at the beginning of the 90s. Together with my friend DJ Stigmata we begun to run parties (even he was DJ-ing already before), a fanzine called Stigma (we managed to publish two issues as an official magazine in 1998) and a local radio program dedicated Goth/Deathrock/Batcave/Electro and blah, blah music. Stigmata started then do things by himself, so at the moment I am running all the things together with my friend and our band manager SexDwarf. We are organizing parties, added the webzine www.batcave.sk to it and making concerts and a lot of other stuff… We decided to go on-line with the site, because we wanted to bring a local information source about this kind of music and last but not least because many especially younger Goths started to consume all those bullshit magazines, which are very often just deforming the scene by featuring dark-electro-non-sense and metal-like stuff. Our banner is “BACK TO THE ROOTS”...
At about this time, several servants made their way onto the veranda and began to sweep the dust away, and we were compelled to move inside. The conversation turned to ethereal topics and questions of historical trivia and some time later I took my leave, happy to have had this second chance to visit with one or more of the very fine fellows from the Last Days of Jesus. Between the backstage three-ring circuses, the magical hills of Scotland, and the tour escapades of the mysterious Count Drunkula, I hope I’ve illustrated sufficiently that the new Last Days album, Alien Road, needs to be on every CD player in America. And I demand my right as future President of the United States to state firmly that this interview is ended.
The Last Days of Jesus: http://www.lastdays.host.sk/
Cinema Strange: http://www.nightmarezone.de/cinemastrange/
Interview w/ Ryan Henry
~by Matthew Heilman
Necare has been making waves in the relatively small and still firmly underground Doom Metal scene for a couple of years now. Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, the project is the work of Ryan Henry and Greer Cawthon and the contributions of various session players for the odd violin or female vocal passage in the past. A self-produced, four song EP entitled Ophelia appeared in 1999, followed by another self-released full-length entitled Appassionata in 2001. One of Necare’s ever-present formulas is the manner in which strong, opposing contrasts are explored lyrically and musically. Romantic love is merely a preface to spiritual torment, beauty is but a mask for ugliness, youth will wither and decay, and life is a part of death, rather than the other way around. There’s can’t be light without darkness, and the light can be truly valued only after experiencing darkness or becoming aware of its imminent threat.
These relatively bitter (though rather matter of fact) existential themes are scored by comparably contrasting musical accompaniments. Fluid guitar riffing and resonant, rhythmic chord-crunching overlap to achieve a pensive melodicism and primitive, raw directness necessary to drive the point home. Ryan’s vocals fluctuate between poetic narratives and stark growls, while Greer’s rhythms are delivered at a sluggish, lethargic pace—Doom Metal to put it simply, and of the current crop of newer Doom Metal projects and bands, Necare might be one of the most direct and easy to digest in the entire genre, next to My Dying Bride or November’s Doom. The band’s latest release, Ruin, is regarded by the band as their first ‘official’ release and is their first for the up and coming Firebox label (based in Finland). Necare has opted to take their contributions to the genre back to its early 90s ‘doom/death’ roots. As the years have gone by, new and more grandiose elements have become part of the Doom and Gothic Metal genre. Some of these elements have done wonders in adding to the emotional depths of the style. Other elements have become exhaustive and clichéd, after being overused and misinterpreted, so that the genre has now reached a point of dilution. Whatever emotive powers the genre had once been capable of, are now mostly absent. Necare has sought to preserve the more basic qualities of the ailing genre, and stripped away the experimentation, the progressive arrangements, and nixed what the metal community has as of late misconstrued to be ‘Gothic’ for something much more arcane and ultimately, effective.
Necare is a band that I have respected and appreciated for a number of years and I hope that the following Q & A session with Ryan will attract more like-minded fans to the band. Their music is honest and genuine in its inspiration, its effect, and its intention. It is simply dark art for the sake of it, and it is ultimately a cathartic expression for the musicians involved and serves as a beckon of musical solace for a vastly outnumbered pocket of dark metal fans. While there are currently a handful of groundbreaking and astonishingly dark bands active like Esoteric, Evoken, Mar De Grises, and The Funeral Orchestra that are pushing Doom into new and majestically oppressive pastures, Necare reminds us why we started listening to this music in the first place.
StarVox: Was there any conceptual goal or intention for Ruin?
Ryan: The only overarching concept, if you might call it such, is an exploration of faith and religion and their failure to provide comfort or answers in the face of mortality.
StarVox: Anything that you attempted to avoid in particular?
Ryan: We didn’t really set out to purposefully avoid anything, per se…if by that question you mean “stylistic” avoidance. On our demos, we used female singers. On Ruin, that was no longer appropriate. Not only is that “style” completely overdone, it does not suit the raw, unpolished, and ugly atmosphere we wanted to bring to prominence therein. I would like to say we successfully avoided some genre-specific clichés, but there are some in the metal press who might say otherwise.
StarVox: Why Doom/Death Metal? Why does this particular style appeal to you more than say, Gothic Metal or Funeral Doom?
Ryan: Well, that is a difficult question. Doom/Death just makes sense. It made sense to me in 1993 when it was at its “peak” and it makes sense to me now. The problem is that there are very few bands “doing it right”. We may or may not be a band that has captured a true Doom/Death feel, but we can admit that our motives are pure and our creation is one of nostalgia. The growing antipathy toward Doom/Death by many in the genre doesn’t bother me in the least. I play Doom the way I want to. You don’t have to listen, nor do you have to like it.
StarVox: I want to talk a bit about the lyrics, “Celia” in particular. Where did this idea come from? It’s a very unusual topic for a dark metal band to explore.
Ryan: It’s hard to explain, really. The protagonist, no more or less alive than a piece of statuary, is kept breathing and conscious when she should be allowed to die.
StarVox: The lyrics for “Gethsemane” are also very interesting. It’s not often that you come across lyrics that express sympathy toward Christ in the world of extreme music. Would it be fair to assume that you harbour more negative feelings for the Church as an institution as opposed to the teachings of Christ?
Ryan: There is no proof that those teachings were really his to begin with, as they are quite Aristotelian in nature and were penned in “Gospel” form years after he died. And, yes, I harbour a lot of negative feelings toward organized religion, especially in light of the Catholic Church’s unwillingness to deal with pedophiles in their clergy. The Church is about earthly power. If Jesus had intended any belief system to follow his death it would have been Gnosticism.
StarVox: The final dirge “Touching Eternity” seems to express a violent reaction to faith’s unfulfilled promises, if not an outright rejection of traditional religious faith (“Death is my religion”). Lyrically, if there is one theme that seems to underscore the entire album, I suspect it would be one of searching. And it seems that each track offers a different perspective or point of view, all culminating in “Touching Eternity.” The prior songs are examples, points of argument to support disdain for religion. How could one believe in a just god? Just ask Celia… Am I on the right track?
Ryan: Yes, you completely figured out the overall message of Ruin. Except add to searching “ending up lost, faithless, and empty-handed” and you’ve got it in a nutshell.
StarVox: Necare’s work has
always been influenced by literature to a degree.
What have you recently plucked from your bookshelf?
Ryan: I have been reading a lot of poetry from the First World War. Especially Wilfred Owen (whom Darren White often cited in the lyrics to “Serenades”). He was a British officer on the Western Front, and, for a time, was in Craiglockhart Mental Hospital behind the lines for shellshock. Returned to the ranks, Owen was mowed down by a German machine gun a week before the war ended. All of his poems were published posthumously. He saw horrible things and it is reflected bluntly in his poetry, whereas other so-called “death-poets” never really experienced hell or torment first-hand. The imagery of his work was an influence on “Ruin.”
(To read Wilfred Owen’s work, please follow this link: http://www.hcu.ox.ac.uk/jtap/ )
StarVox: How did the deal with Firebox come about? Have you been satisfied with the results of the signing?
Ryan: I talked to Kostas of Pantheist, who are signed to Firebox, and asked if the label might be receptive to our music. He encouraged me to send them samples. This put me in contact with the label owner, Rami, and after hearing our full length CD he offered us a one-release contract. We have definitely been satisfied with the support from Firebox. It is a professional label by all means.
StarVox: What is the status of Necare’s two previous releases (“Ophelia” and “Appasionatta”)? Are these available in any form for new fans?
Ryan: These are no longer available. There are mp3s of those tracks still floating around on the Internet, I’m sure.
StarVox: Is performing live still completely out of the question?
StarVox: That’s really a shame. I have to say its very disappointing that so many bands are confined to studio projects. Obviously there are many obstacles—the scene is still small and spread too thin, its tough to find like-minded or skilled musicians, etc. And of course, we are all supposedly maladjusted hermits that never want to leave our houses, but seriously, it really sucks that so few Doom bands ever play out or tour! Its personal music, yes, but I can only imagine how powerfully emotive it would be to hear a band like Necare perform live with a full-band.
Ryan: It would probably be more chaotic than anything resembling emotive. I am no entertainer.
StarVox: With playing live out of the question, what are some of your plans or goals for the future of Necare?
Ryan: It’s really too early to tell at this point, but we are already planning another recording.
StarVox: How is that shaping up? Any insight you would be willing to share?
Ryan: We haven’t started writing anything yet, but we were recently discussing an “EP” with one or two full-length songs and a cover song, perhaps Saturnus’ “I Love Thee”, if we can get the rights to do it.
Since this interview took place, Necare has sold nearly 700 copies of Ruin since April. Ryan has also recently contributed vocals for the forthcoming Draconian release. http://www.draconian.se
Additionally, Ryan has just finished work on a solo studio project of Funeral Doom metal under the moniker Reclusiam. The album can be downloaded here: http://www.necare.net/reclusiam/
Greer has also been busy
at work on his own progressive metal project, called Vanquish. Apparently,
the band will be playing live in the Virginia area in the near future.
Necare – Official Site: