The Art of Building an Empire:
An Interview with Myke Hideous of The Empire Hideous
(photos courtesy of Myke Hideous from the Empire Hideous website -- credited to Kerry Sniatkowski, Glynnis Jones and Kyle Cassidy;
the Bronx Casket Company website; and the SpySociety99 website)
I am always humbled by great musicians
in this scene that have been at their craft for years and years and haven't
given up. Lord knows that fame and fortune don't visit the underground
very often; and in knowing that I tend to respect these bands a great deal
more than others because what they do has to be driven by an inner desire
to create art and share their talent -- not because of material possessions
or wealth (although most of them sure as hell would take it if were offered
them - they're driven but they're not dumb). It is these unsung heroes
that I get the most excited about writing up for StarVox. It is people
like Myke Hideous who make doing a music magazine for no pay worth the
time and effort. I am even more enthusiastic to be writing this article
on the eve of the anticipated return of The Empire Hideous - a band that
cultivated its own dark underground for over a decade; in their first public
appearance with a new line up on January 19th, 2002 in New York at the
BatCave. Oh what a start to the new year!
The Birth of an Empire
"Appearing on stage like a ringleader of horror, Myke would and lay claim to the nightmare that would escape from the deep recesses of his collective unconscious. Powerful and passionately, Myke would paint a picture for the mind of torture and disillusionment, pain and bitterness, of a world gone terribly wrong. Behind him, his very own Army of Darkness relentlessly marching in step."1Myke Hideous formed the band The Empire Hideous 13 years ago in New York City. Inspired by great underground goth rock bands like Alien Sex Fiend, The Mission UK, The Cult, the classical aura of Bowie and a healthy does of hardcore/punk like the Misfits and TSOL; The Empire Hideous quickly became a local favorite and eventually, gained a cult-like following all its own propelled in part by the dramatic stage theatrics created by their charismatic front man. The stage would very often be decorated with skulls, cobwebs and torn white mesh curtains enveloped in thick smoke and throughout their set, complete with clothing changes, Myke would assume an eccentric assortment of characters to bring the songs they were performing to life.
They managed to aquire a great festival resume early on playing at events such as "...The Pilgrimage Tour ‘93 (the first American Goth Fest of its kind); Vampyre’s Ball (#’s I, III, IV & V); Mephisto Cathedra (#’s I & II); Dark Harvest (# II); A Night Of Misanthropy (#’s III & IV); a more notable special performance in ‘’96 for USA Network’s “Up All Night” Halloween special with hostess Rhonda Sheer, where several performance clips were featured throughout the airing of 2 Halloween movies and broadcast nationally; and their very own Time Tour ‘97, (a mini tour of Eastern/North America and the Midwest)."1
After nearly ten years of hard work and 8 marketable products (including some 12" EPs, LPs, cassettes, film/video and CDs), in December 1997 hampered by a lack of funding and label interest coupled with a desire to stretch and test his talents elsewhere; Myke ended the first incarnation of The Empire Hideous with one final gig playing to a sold out crowd of 750. A final recording effort by the band resulted in an amazing out put of new material -- two CDs: the live recording called I'm Dead, You're Dead, We're All Dead and the 13 track full length CD called Victim Destroys Assailant.
Shoes of a Misfit
While Myke was considering what to do next, Fate intervened with a phone call from Jerry Only of The Misfits who was in a bind. The story goes they had booked a European tour and then frontman Michael Graves didn't want to go. Myke was invited to an impromptu audition, made the cut, was told to get a passport and before anyone could bat an eye, he was off as the new singer for the Misfits playing for over 100,000 people. That position was no doubt daunting - in an interview conducted by TVCasualty.com, Myke commented, "I completely understood that when I stepped into the Misfits there were going to be people who either hated me or loved me and I accepted that." 2 Despite the fears, Myke was embraced by the fans as a whole and instantly became part of the band's legacy.
Fate intervened again, and as it happens in alot of cases, events that seemed negative at the time were eventually a blessing in disguise. Back in the states after the Misfits tour, Myke was let go in favor of bringing Michael Graves (who had since changed his mind) back in as vocalist. Probably not handled in the best way and a hurtful dig at the time I'm sure, I'm inclined to think it was for the best. Two "leaders" can't normally exist within one group - I cannot imagine a creative and driven person like Myke playing second fiddle to Jerry Only for too long without huge directional conflicts. Myke proved that not only did he have the vocal talent and stage presence to front the Misfits, but as time passed, he proved to be a musician and artist capable of a great variety of work that could have been severely limited if he had stayed with the Misfits.
007 and The Undertaker
Since then Myke has pursued his varied musical muses and is fronting two other distinctly different bands. SpySociety99 is a psychobilly/jazz/punk melting pot with a highly stylized and developed theme. Everything from the bios, to the photos, to the concert events and actions on stage support and promote their highly enjoyable "spy" lifestyle. Sharp and quick witted, in a short amount of time SS99 has earned a following of its own. Deathrock.com comments:
With hordes of amateurs attempting a foothold in the "gothabilly"genre, SS99 has the personality, the versatility and the vision to master it without even associating itself with the same old clichés.In a completely different genre altogether, Myke was asked to front The Bronx Casket Company - a metal based rock band created by D.D. Verni from the legendary band Overkill. Comparisons to "Type O Negative gone metal" and inclusion in the ever increasing goth-metal category, TBCC has already won the respect of many people who would normally criticize this newer genre. HardRadio.com writes:
One gets drawn into D.D.'s cinematic New York underbelly, funereal keys bending a crick finger as you join the cult that knows too much. Ultimately what the band ends up creating is theatrical horror metal, except a little scarier than that, Spy's vampiric tenor being eerily non-rock, maybe non-human, or at least disturbingly nocturnal. And proving they've created a terrain, Bronx Casket Co. make Metallica's "Jump In The Fire" their own, barely distinguishable as Metallica, more of a jocular, relaxed preamble to a night of body snatching.Where does that leave us? With a very talented and hardworking man and the anticipation that comes with bringing his first love -- The Empire Hideous, back to life. Like some twisted version of a knight coming in to save the day; fans of the old guard like myself are hoping this is the beginning of a trend wherein the bands who knew best take over and start getting appreciated for what they do - entertaining us with their sweat, their hearts, their nightmares and dreams. Finding Myke to be an extremely open and friendly person when it comes to talking about his music, he talked with me via phone as I attempted to dig deeper into the versatile character behind it all...
StarVox: We know about the history of EMPIRE HIDEOUS, you said it was never dead, it was always a part of you, but the first attempt to bring it back kind of failed?
Myke: It failed miserably… three times. As the story goes, I was originally in Philadelphia, at a concert watching the Samhain revival show when I met up with my old drummer Rafael who approached me on the subject of regrouping HIDEOUS. He asked, ‘when are you going to do the band again?’
I explained to him, I didn’t have any musicians willing to do such an intricate project, so there’s really no way I could do it.
‘Well, if you need a drummer,’ he insisted, ‘I’ll be there for you.’
‘Well, if that’s the case and you’re willing to be the drummer it’s not really a problem,’ I replied, ‘I can get a bass player and two guitar players in a snap. But the only way I’ll do this is if you promise you’ll play drums for me and not screw me over. If you back out of this effort, it’s my reputation that will be put on the line. Not yours.’
So he promised me nothing would go wrong and from that point on it took about a year to actually make the arrangements. As fate would have it, we lost three guitarists, plus Rafael, who eventually quit on me after having vanished without and explanation to his whereabouts three months into our rehearsal schedule.
As it stands right now, everyone who is in SS99 is in HIDEOUS. In fact, my guitarist J-Sin Trioxin, (Mr. Monster), used to be a roadie for HIDEOUS right before the split up. He was one of the first people I asked to play.
My first choice of guitarists I asked was Jeff from the last lineup, but he turned me down. After the recent loss of the guitarist Tom Hatez who left to join forces with Michale Graves and Chud from the Misfits, I went back to Jeff and said, ‘Look. We need you. There’s no person who can replace the sound you gave EMPIRE HIDEOUS with your guitar. We want you to join the band.’ He thought about it for a couple days, called me up, and said, ‘Yeah, I really want to do this.’
So Jeff is back and we’re all real excited about his return because he’s a fantastic guitarist. Then there’s Daniel Esser (bassist from SS99) and Byron Barbieri (drummer from SS99).
StarVox: So there wasn’t a specific event or catalyst that brought it back, it was just the process of finding the right people?
Myke: Two years ago, fans from the Misfits scene (knowing I had sang for them), wanted to see EMPIRE HIDEOUS. And I wanted to do it. It’s my love. The performance of EMPIRE HIDEOUS is my passionate love – its something I live to do. I love the performance end of it - the creepy entourage; it’s dark and the events come together like a creepy silent movie for me. So to have someone say to me, ‘lets do it, I’ll play drums,’ or whatever, was great. Yeah, lets do it’ because there are all these fans saying, “We’d love to see you.” and I had nothing…I only had SpySociety99, which is a great band, but it isn’t EMPIRE HIDEOUS. SS99 is a completely different concept.
The idea to get HIDEOUS back was always there but there was always a matter of finances and decent musicians and all that crap that goes along with dealing with a five-piece band. But now, living here on the east coast and having seen the devastation that took place on September 11th – (pauses)… Primarily all of what EMPIRE HIDEOUS stands for and is about is the destruction of mankind, the end of the world, war, the apocalypse.
Just recently someone brought to my attention that there’s no better time to bring back HIDEOUS than now and I thought about it and that person was right. I read through my lyrics, listened to my music and I said, ‘This is it. If it’s not now or it’s never.’ To do a show now, in light of what has happened on the east coast would be …well, it would be a reflection of the times we have now entered.
SV: So you have a new gig coming up?
Myke: Yes, January 19th, in NYC, at the Batcave. It’ll be the first sonic performance of HIDEOUS in almost four years.
SV: Awesome! Is anyone opening or is it just you guys?
Myke: There is a local band - a friend of mine – a band called Infidel - kind of like Fields of Nephilim/Sisters of Mercy type band.
SV: It’s a ways off still but there’s got to be a buzz going on already right?
Myke: Oddly enough, the first week I had
confirmed the date with the promoter I got a surge of e-mails and phone
calls, “I heard you’re playing! I heard you’re playing!” We had done some
acoustic gigs last year from December to March, but it’s not the same as
doing the real thing. This is the first REAL performance; this is the real
Myke: Well, the club we’re playing is a lot smaller than what I’m used to performing at. So, I’m not quite sure yet on what we will be capable of producing.
SV: You mentioned earlier that SpySociety99 is still around. What’s the difference between the two, what the kind of band is SpySociety99 ?
Myke: After having been in the Misfits listening to the quality of their song writing - the material, ect., I said to myself, ‘If these guys can do these three chord songs, have a world of people love what they’re doing and get away with it, I know I can do it better.’
After my demise with the Misfits, I came home and thought for weeks about what I could do. Eventually I decided I wanted to dabble in rockabilly, jazz, swing, deathrock, psychobilly and punk.
Then I came up with an idea of meshing it all into a Spy concept band – a double agent kind of thing, while creating the foundation of a new society…
Soon, I hooked up with an old friend of mine, Joe Pla, and for a couple months we got together in his room and laid down some tracks and started coming up with the songs we now have and play in SpySociety. Eventually the idea and vision came through more so and we did our first gig as SpySociety99 in late April of ‘99. That was the first conceptual gig with the suits, ties and sunglasses. The whole spy image came to be and SS99 was born. SS99’s sound, as far as description goes, would be rock n roll, meets swing, meets jazz, meets deathrock, meets psychobilly, meets rebellious, pissed off 007-types.
SV: …a fun alter ego… Then you have a third project, as if you don’t have enough to work on?
Myke: Yeah…The Bronx Casket Company - that would be a project originated by bass player DD Verni – of the band Overkill. Actually, the guitar player Jack Frost contacted me right after HIDEOUS broke up. I had put an ad in a local music paper looking for musicians to start another band and mentioned myself being a member of HIDEOUS. I got a call from Jack who said, ‘My friend DD is doing a project. I’ve seen you perform before in clubs down in South Jersey and we’d really like to have you sing for us.’
So DD and I spoke and he told me his idea. Basically he recorded a simple demo on a four-track and had musicians he would bring to record in the studio. And that’s what happened. Essentially, I’m a hired hand… but never the less still a steady member of the of The BCC.
SV: It’s a metal based kind of band, right? A third separate sound for you as a musician?
Myke: Yeah. It’s something I had never done before. As you bring that up, I must say, I have a lot of different tastes in music... everything from soundtracks, ethereal, swing, big band, old crooners, ambient stuff. I love it all. I like the heavy stuff too, like Tool, Jane’s Addition, old school stuff like Lords of the New Church, and old punk rock. I was really into hardcore punk when I was growing up like Minor Threat, 7 Seconds, Suicidal Tendencies and the Misfits. As I got older I formed a wide range of tastes in music. There are a few things I can’t stand in music like rap and those fucking cross-over bands that are being signed to the labels now… I see some of these videos on TV and I’m like, “What the fuck is this shit?” I don’t mean to come across as sounding egotistical, or angry that perhaps I haven’t gotten my piece of the pie yet, but you know something? I feel I have so much more to offer in the sense of putting out GOOD music that doesn’t suck. I’ll never sell out. I’ll never conform to the bullshit they try to force down my throat everyday. The record industries idea of talent, sucks.
SV: That brings up another question I was
going to ask… I know a lot of the music you’ve been putting out over the
years has been hampered by finances – as are a lot of bands in the scene
we deal with…because the labels support has just not been there…
SV: Back in the 80s’ they were signing some deathrock and batcave bands, but unfortunately it took a huge dip and they’ve gone on this nasty little pop binge where its all about getting a quick buck and they don’t even care to develop bands anymore…they shoot ‘em out there for five minutes at a time and keep rolling them over…
Myke: Exactly…Its really sad the way American record labels and executives invest their money in shit bands with pretty faces. They have no respect, no regard for art. They have no idea what art is. I really question who’s working in these corporations. Fat, bald, idiots?
SV: In light of that, do you still have any goals or aspirations as far as labels go? Are you done with that altogether?
Myke: No…(big laughter)…
SV: …cause most bands I meet are done with it. They’re not even attempting to get big label attention anymore…
Myke: No, I don’t give a fuck…and you can print that. (more laughter). I don’t give a fuck about labels anymore. I’m so sick of dealing with people who are full of shit.
SV: …I think if you hang onto what you love and keep playing from your heart, in the end something will come around or if not, you’ll have the satisfaction that you were true to yourself…
Myke: Yeah. One thing I’m proud to say is if I die tomorrow, at least I’ll know I did what I had to do and I did it my way…as the song goes.
SV: Getting back to your musical tastes, you said that you’ve had such a wide variety -- where you always musically inclined like as a kid?
Myke: No, as a kid and even up into my early 20’s I was pretty much just hardcore, punk rock, horror rock – Misfits, TSOL, Alien Sex Fiend…
SV: Did you play instruments then at all?
Myke: No, no.. When I first started the
band, (laughter) I bought a Casio keyboard and I fiddled on it…that’s how
I wrote all the songs on my first record -- on a Casio keyboard. Then I
got a guitar player and we converted the keyboard music from the crappy
Casio to guitar. My intention of what I thought HIDEOUS would turn out
to be was that of an Alien Sex Fiend type band, but it didn’t turn out
that way. It turned out to be this completely heavy, dark rock band. The
musicians in this band all had different influences like Red Hot Chili
Peppers, Bauhaus, Metallica and bands of that nature. Then there was me
and my guitar player Don who were into Sisters of Mercy, Mission UK, the
Cult, and were going for that goth thing. Then we had this guitar player
who was doing fucking solos in all the songs and we were like, “Can you
SV: So, a lot of natural talent coming out there…
Myke: Well you know, I guess after years and years of being in a band I suppose I eventually picked up on something instead of just being a lousy singer…
SV: But I mean, you have those little kids who play guitar at the age of five and you know that they’re going to be a guitar player, but for you to pick something up later on in such a short time and to pick it up so well is still very impressive and hints at a natural talent…
Myke: Thank you…
SV: I was going to ask you about the writing process…
Myke: Sometimes it’s lyrics, some times it’s music. When I write a song now, I just go to my studio and I put down whatever comes to mind…
SV: Speaking of which I wanted to ask in particular about a song whose lyrics are not on your website -- “Mr Barnum”…
Myke: All the lyrics that are not on the website are on the original releases. In any case, a lot of people used to think “Mr. Barnum” was about a drug trip I had, but essentially it’s about the other side of mankind -- the dark side. The influence of the song comes from the character Mr. Barnaby from Babes in Toyland (March of the Wooden Soldiers)…
SV: Speaking of merchandise, I checked out the Middle Pillar site and you have ten items on there…some are t-shirts, but there are cassettes, CDs and a video…a lot of good stuff if people want to know where to go to buy Empire Hideous merchandise…
Myke: Middle Pillar is the only place I’ve trusted to directly handle my merchandise. They are the only loyal distributors I’ve known that started from the ground up to where they are now that I’ve trusted. They’re dedicated, hardworking and loyal.
SV: Mike from Hidden Sanctuary told me I had to ask about yodel’s vs hoho’s…
Myke: (laughter) Ok…you should really ask KD, but I’ll give you the outlook on yodel’s vs hoho’s. I don’t like either one of them anymore because now I eat Little Debbie’s Swiss Rolls. Originally in the video “To Build and Empire,” (a mock-umentary filmed by good friend Mark Steiner. It’s also for sale at MiddlePillar.com), one scene in particular involved both HIDEOUS and members of Loretta’s Doll, in a ceremonial card reading. We walked in as KD was explaining his dream he had to Kevin, and out of no where I asked if they wanted do to have a taste test of yodel’s vs. hoho’s. We cut the yodel’s and hoho’s in half with the “ceremonial knife” and they tried each one. They then gave their description of them, the difference between the two. I’ll leave the rest to be seen.
SV: So maybe in the future, this calls for another ceremonial taste test – you’ll have to drag Loretta’s Doll out of the dark they’ve been hiding in…
Myke: That’s gotta be the funniest question anyone’s asked…and you know, there’s so many people who know about this thing. I did a show a couple years ago in Connecticut where the promoter came up to me and handed me two boxes of Swiss rolls.
SV: Right on…so in my efforts to dig and find stuff out about you, I did go and talk to KD and he said that ‘yeah, Myke and I go way back’ and he said, and here’s some dirt, ‘did you know that he used to be a female dominatrix names Susie?’…
Myke: (laughter) Susie?
Myke: He got the name wrong, it was Beatrice…(more laughter)
SV: Beatrice? Hmm.. well, he followed it up by saying it was a false rumor that never happened…and then went on to talk about how he and Bryin and James dressed up as the Misfits and called you lots of names.
Myke: Yeah, in October ‘98 came the simultaneous release of the EMPIRE HIDEOUS’ CDs – Victim Destroys Assailant and I’m Dead, You’re Dead, We’re all Dead LIVE. For those CDs I had a release party, but it wasn’t the standard listening party, instead it was a roast. My good friend Mark Steiner and Paul Morden (Brickbats) hosted the event and gathered all my friends, including people like the Brickbats, Voltaire, Loretta’s Doll, Joe Pla from Erotomechanics, and a bunch of people who didn’t show up…
Everyone came up on stage at the Pyramid club and busted my chops. It was hilarious and I had a great time. The highlight of my night, (in addition to Loretta’s Doll dressing up as the Misfits, pumping weights and calling me a fag on stage), was myself, Mark and Paul drinking two liters of Jim Beam on stage within an hour. By the end of night, all three of us were annihilated and I went down into the dressing room only to pass out. It was weird… people have pictures of me lying on the table in the dressing room unconscious.
SV: The perfect way to end the evening…
Myke: Ahh man. What a head ache it became.
Myke: Yes it is…
SV: Awesome. So have you done any art lately?
Myke: Its really hard for me to get artwork done nowadays. The last pieces I’ve done that are hanging on my walls right now are these collages I did of these nostalgic artifacts I have had. I have a lot of crap that people have given me over the years. Tons of shit: skulls, bones, teeth, medallions, certain things that have value and meaning to my life. So I made these composites of these artifacts that consist of mass cards, dissection pins, human teeth and bones, feathers and stuff like that…I’ve also made what I call nostalgic tables. I take old tables and I attach things to them such as records, concert tickets, photos, drivers licenses, whatever I feel is nostalgic. I’ve done three of these tables for myself.
SV: Are you ever going to put any of those things out there for the public?
Myke: I just talked to a friend of mine the other day that has a digital camera about coming in here on the weekend to photograph what I consider to be my masterpieces. Drawings and paintings. I want to get them out there. I’ve never had an art exhibit in my life, but I’ve been trying to for the last three years. The thing is, I don’t want to sell my artwork. I may just do it here in my own studio, its big enough.
SV: Would you do commission pieces if someone sees what you do and likes it and wants to hire you to create something?
Myke: Sure. Mind you, some of the pieces that I’ve done have taken me over 6 months to complete. I have one painting in particular called “My Summer Vacation ’96,” which took me about 4 months to complete. Around the frame are jaw bones, human ribs, finger bones, foot bones, hand bones. I have a very, very good friend in Boston who hooks me up with human bones.
SV: Another kind of personal question… I’ve noticed your tattoos and some of them are insects?
Myke: Ah… yeah, they’re all insects.
SV: What’s the story behind that? That’s kind of different.
Myke: My first insect was a Brazilian burrowing spider which I had seen in a book and I thought it would make a beautiful piece to be forever carved on my shoulder. I was so taken with just the idea of the insect and how great it looked on my skin, from that point on it just snow balled into an entire insect theme. I just started getting bugs. Each one has a significant roll to me. Each insect has a certain quality or characteristic that I compare to that of human characteristics. It’s kind of deep. On an artistic level they all have the appearance of actually being on my skin.
SV: Right, so they’re actually shaded with shadows ?
Myke…Yeah. They’re sort of three dimensional. I’m at the point now where I can’t stop. I’m supposed to go in a week to get my next one which is the South American Kissing Bug. One of the most deadliest bugs in the world. When it bites you (like a mosquito), it sucks blood in areas around the mouth, the nose and the eyes. If you get any of the bacteria from its intestines into your system from either it’s saliva or feces it leaves on your skin, the bacteria travels from the bite mark to the heart where, in a period of time of up to a year or more it builds an encasing around the heart and eventually kills you. No known cure once the procedure has begun.
(Blu makes many sounds of disgust and awe throughout the commentary)
SV: Where are you going to get it?
Myke: I was thinking about getting it on my neck, but I’ve got to go to court soon, so I don’t know if I want to go with a bug on my neck… (laughter)…it might be the wrong thing to do…we’ll see.
SV: Quick run down of favorites…. Favorite Drink?
SV: Tang? They still make that?
Myke: Oh yeah! In very large containers I might add.
SV: Favorite Food?
Myke: Favorite food… (thinking)…there’s
so many of them. If it had to be a gourmet food, I’d have to say lobster.
Or I’d eat my mother’s turkey pot pie every single day if I had to. It’s
the best. Or any kind of Italian food.
Myke: Italian, German and Swiss.
SV: Nice. Favorite movie?
Myke: Of all time?
SV: Or current…
Myke: I’m thinking…There’s just so many…
Myke: I can’t stand reading fantasy really. Most of what I read is non-fiction – I’m fascinated by serial killers…
And with that we'll end this for now, but
please stay tuned for a followup interview in our Feb. issue when we'll
check in with Myke to see how the show went and bring you some exclusive
The Empire Hideous
Victim Destroys Assailant | I'm Dead, You're Dead, We're All Dead (LIVE)
This Evil on Earth | Act IV: It's Just a Matter of Time
~reviewed* by Blu
So in conjunction with doing the Feature/interview with Myke from The Empire Hideous, he was nice enough to send me some of their releases which was more than generous and much appreciated (Merry Christmas early to me). There are two cassettes from early on: This Evil on Earth (1992) and Act IV: It's Just a Matter of Time (1997) and two CDs: Victim Destroys Assailant (1998) and I'm Dead, You're Dead, We're all Dead (LIVE) (1998). It's very interesting to do this kind of review because you get to witness the growth of a band over time. All of these items and more are available to order online via Middle Pillar.
This Evil on Earth contains three songs opening with "Mr. Barnum" which you'll also find remasterd and re-recorded on their latest CD. Menacing bass lines back up a melodic guitar with driving percussion as you get the first taste of Myke's powerfully masculine but liquid smooth vocals; original sounding and yet not so unlike a heavenly mixture of Sisters of Mercy and Rozz Williams. There's just enough verbratto on the higher notes to tease you and the lower notes are deep and resonating. The nightmare like "Find My Way Out" starts with a sparkling guitar and something that sounds like chimes before a moody bass plows in and at the chorus heavy percussion wails; the vocals going from laid back grooves to anguished exasperations. Side two contains the semi-exotic sounding, ominous song called "Rhino (the Evil on Earth)" which interestingly enough (and ironically considering the present state of worldly affairs) contains news exerts taken the Middle East War in 1991 and even contains quotes from then president, George Bush. At the time Myke noted that the song was not directly about the War in the Middle East but now more than ever, lyrics like these strike very close to home:
RHINO stands in a sky of dustSide One of the cassette Act IV: It's Just a Matter of Time contains only one track - "Thou Shalt Be Done" clocking in at an impressive 9:07 minutes (Myke likes to joke that its his epic Jethro Tull song). This song also appears in its entirety on the Victim Destroys Assailant CD for you DJ types like me who want it for spinning purposes. There are two distinct tones to this song, the first marked by a slower, Christian Death-like plodding bass line and a melodic, bouncy guitar (almost reminiscent of early-Cure stuff). Myke croons seductively about dying ... "Breath in deep and wander in your senses. Inhale the fragrance of dried withering flowers. Banish your morals and hide away your religions. The stage is set for dying actors. If silence comes, will it be done? The silence comes, its just begun. " The second theme comes in with a fast, sudden four-count on drum sticks and the guitar blares with metal-styled distortion as you feel the intensity build. Dreams change to bitter nightmares as Myke sings, "Chased through bones of Fallen heroes. Breath in deep and taste your vengeance. I've seen the masses. They've kicked in faces. Insanity leaves a trail of hopeless bloody dreams." It doesn't stop there, the tempo and aggression continues and the next time you hear him sing, "It's just begun! The silence comes. It's just begun" is less like a dreamy invitation into the afterlife and more like a threat of impending doom. And for whatever quirky reason I have, I am obsessive about the vocals when he sings "It takes me by the chest and rips my fucking soul apart." Whether its the emotional intensity with which that line is sung -- desperate and anguished, or something subliminal that I don't have a handle on yet, it really pushes my buttons. And finally after a dramatic climax, the song settles back down into the first, slower rhythm and it seems the journey may begin again. Side Two contains the very danceable track "Hereafter" and the very Christian-Death sounding song "Open Window" -- something about the heavy drum beats and bass lines that make me think a great deal of dear old Rozz.
The CD Victim Destroys Assailant was recorded live in a rehearsal studio in one day with only some slight tweaking later in production. Myke comments, "Needless to say EVERYONE was pissy after we got done doing the set about 5 times. If you listen there are some songs that blend right into each other: 'Amazing Murder and Logic', 'Mr. Barnum' and 'Power The Empire'...Like the old days before computers." All 13 tracks are great but for the sake of brevity I'll touch on the stand outs. It opens up with the very biting "Talk is Cheap" inspired by the clubbing scene, followed by the smoldering and beautifully sad "Stealing from the Crow" which is one of Myke's personal favorites. "God and I' is a lusty song about what the moral implications in an S&M relationship might be when one partner becomes a sort of "god" to the other: "Shinny skin glistens from submission, breaking your will. To hold you firm in confinement, a leash keeps you tame. Appearance was the key role, my satisfaction's declined. Falling backward, submitting only lonely facts.Your weakness, you're speechless. Your weakness is mine." And finally, I think my personal favorite (not including "Mr. Barnum" and "Thou Shalt Be Done" because I covered those on the cassettes) has to be "This Dead Season" with its exquisite acoustic guitar and overwhelmingly emotional lyrics about friendship and loss. Stripped down and raw, the minimal music really lets Myke's beautiful voice - softer and gentler in this setting, shine through.
And finally we have I'm Dead, You're Dead, We're All Dead - a title that's become a sort of slogan for the band. I've seen pictures of Myke's jacket with it blazing on the back and there's a picture of Myke with it written on (carved into?) his chest in Mick Mercer's Hex Files book. Musically speaking its a numbered, live concert recording done at The Bank in New York City on February 15th, 1998 and might be an interesting preview for those of you who are lucky enough to attend their next show on January 19th at the Batcave in NY. You get a good sense of the intense way these songs are carried out live - Mykes voice booming powerfully as he covers tracks like "God & I," "Talk is Cheap" and "Mr Barnum." Interestingly, track two is "You Follow" which Myke says is one of the more psychically demanding songs he performs live -- fast-paced and almost operatic at times. "Stealing from the Crow" is a treat in this live version with its creepy guitar almost reminiscent of Bauhaus from the Bella days. And historically speaking, after they do "Mr. Barnum" when you hear Myke say, "this is it, this is the end Ladies and Gentlemen," he wasn't just talking about the show. They recorded this show knowing it was the last Empire Hideous show - at least that incarnation of it and because of that it makes this recording that much more meaningful, if not for the bonus tracks alone. Track 9 is their "My Way" cover of Sinatra by way of the Misfits. Then you can hear the crowd carry on afterwards and demand more so the band treats them to one of Mykes favorites - an Alien Sex Fiend cover of "Girl at the End of My Gun" and finally an *amazing* cover of The Cure's "All I Want."
By this time you might think I would have had my fill of The Empire Hideous, but no, I'm a greedy thing and I've been bugging Myke for more. I'm quite anxious to see how their comeback concert on the 19th goes and you'd better believe if finances weren't a burden, I'd be there myself as a witness. I'm ready to see them lead the way for a more old-school flavored music trend. I'm done with simplistic electronic bands. I want something with substance and heart made by real drummers and real guitar players and real bass players. I want more vocalists like Myke who sing from their gut and don't hold back. I want more of these dark, mysterious songs and moody lyrics. If you were daft like me and missed them in the early 90's, here's your second chance at absolution. They say good things come to those who wait and its been some mighty dry years since The Empire Hideous last took the stage... January 19th you might want to bring an umbrella.
*writer's note: this is the first review I've ever written while
simultaneously talking to the artist in order to more fully understand
the subject matter at hand - was sort of like writing it while having someone
look over my shoulder...but in a nice way.
This Evil on Earth (cassette)
1. Mr. Barnum
2. Find My Way Out
3. Opera March of the EMpire/RHINO
Act IV: It's Just a Matter of Time
Victim Destroys Assailant
I'm Dead, You're Dead, We're All Dead
Empire Hideous: www.empirehideous.com
Bronx Casket Company
Other Links Of Interest:
2From an Interview with Myke on TVCasualty.com