see also our CD review of The Sins
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.
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.”