Records has been steadily reinventing itself, expanding its horizons, and
reminding everyone that they are indeed the leading quality independent
dark music label in the field. The first of Projekt’s most recent
and high profile signing’s was this addictive Arizona act, AUDRA.
Having a nostalgic sound that recalls the moods of “Catastrophe Ballet”
era Christian Death, the twisted black menace of Bauhaus, and the seductive
smoothness of Bowie’s glamourous prime. All in all, Audra’s brand
of sedate and smoky Gothic rock is definitely a welcomed comfort to fans
of the early aesthetics. I spoke with vocalist Bret Helm about the
band, their influences, and what they have in store for us in the future.
If you have yet to submerge yourself in the shadowy wonderland of Audra,
here is your chance to catch up on all you missed…
Matthew: How was the band able to successfully avoid the current electronic saturation that is watering down modern Gothic music?
Bret: We drink plenty of water and don’t pay attention to what everybody else is doing. We do our own thing. We started out as a rock band and that’s what we still are. There is good and bad music in every genre. The key is to be a band that writes good music. I can’t offer you a definition for the word “good,” but deep down, we all know!
Matthew: Audra consists of only the two of you. Being that you are brothers, is it more of a strain or a blessing to be able to work with each other in a band?
Bret: Oh, it’s great. We get along really well with each other. As brothers, we have a sense of intuition that doesn’t happen with other people. Everyone always seems shocked that brothers can work together in a band. We shared the same room as kids, even had a bunk bed for a while. We were always close, so when we started working on music, we naturally wrote songs together.
Matthew: Any amusing stories of sibling rivalry that have in one way or another affected the band?
Bret: Hmmm… I don’t have any sibling rivalry stories. We’re not competitive with each other. But, I do have a room full of Bret and Bart stories. In April of 1994, Audra played a show way out in West Phoenix at a sports bar. Wewere opening for this butt rock, metal band that looked like a cross between Vixen, Stryper and Lita Ford. I have this show on videotape! Anyways, the “headlining” band asked if they could use our p.a. system for monitors after we were done with our set. So, being the cool guys that we are, we said yeah. Then we looked down at their set list and there were 35 songs on it!!!!!! We were there ALL night! Robert (additional Audra guitarist) got really really drunk and obnoxious. I spilt a whole glass of red wine on his shirt. Well, after the show, Bart, Robert and I were running around the parking lot and all that I remember was Bart chasing us around the parking lot, throwing dog poop at us!!!! Eeeeekkkk!!!!! Oh, man… I got the stories. We’re a silly bunch of people, so don’t get me started with the stories! J
Matthew: How has the work of Rozz Williams influenced the music of Audra, and in your opinion, what makes him so important of an artist?
Bret: Rozz Williams was a genius and a true artist. In my eyes, he was the underground, David Bowie, always changing and trying new ways to express his art. I just got back from Hollywood, visiting his grave and memorial. His death had a huge impact on me. It was such a dream of mine to sing a duet with Rozz on stage to “Rebel Rebel” or “Sweet Thing.” He left us with an incredible body of work.
Matthew: Did you have the opportunity to meet him before his death? If so, what can you say about him?
You know what, every time that I went to see Rozz there was always
something wrong. Mainly the shows got cancelled. One time,
we were even going to open for him, but the show got cancelled. In
early 1998, I pleaded with our friend Randall of the Atomic Cafe to get
Rozz out here for a show, but it was no use, because he wasn't reachable
and a few months later he was dead. I feel like Rozz was a really
good friend of mine, through his music and his close friends.
"...an opulent elegy to personal turmoil and psychosis, four rhythmic nightmares driven by Bret Helm's somber, rolling vocals and an exquisitely understated sense of the morbid." - Caitlin R Kiernan on "In a Dark Room" review in Carpe Noctem
Matthew: Will Audra be appearing on the forthcoming Rozz tribute CD? If so, what song will you be performing and why did you choose that particular song?
Bret: Absolutely! We recorded “This Glass House,” which is on the “Catastrophe Ballet” album from 1984. We performed it at every show of our “Basement Tour” last September. I chose it because it’s one of my favorite Rozz songs. I love the line, “How many times can I sit through the end of the world?” To relate it to my own experiences, you get sick of sitting around talking with people who constantly talk about their sadness and how miserable they are, when they are perfectly healthy. They are just lazy and feel sorry for themselves. I’ve dealt with a lot of people like that in my life and it has become very tedious to be around them. I mean, if you keep talking about your “problems” and never do anything to help yourself, then I don’t really want to hear about it anymore, because it’s just plain boring.
Thus, the line “How many times can I sit through the end of the world?” Of course, that’s my interpretation of what Rozz intended, but it works for me. Bono from U2 once sang, “I can’t change the world, but I can change the world in me.” We’re quite a rambunctious group. You have to grow from what you write. If you write something that is sad, that was written at or about a sad point in your life, then you need to grow from it. There are plans for us to record another Rozz song also, but that’s top secret!
Matthew: Fair enough about that top-secret song! <grins> That kind of pitiful attitude you mention seems to permeate the Gothic social scene. Indeed, a lot of people throughout the world act that way, and I am not trying to be too judgmental, but the Gothic scene made it infashion to be this way. Would you agree?
Bret: Well, I would just say that it’s a laziness that people have. I think that a lot of people enjoy being depressed, and it gives them some sort of a status builder. Perhaps, it’s more easily embraced in the goth scene, but I really don’t know. I’ve known people who have nothing to be depressed about, and all they do is talk about what medication they are on, blah blah blah… Like I really want to sit around and listen to that. Talk about fixing the problem and how you’re going to start painting to get some of your emotions out. Tell me about how you’re going to take a dance class. I think that it gives people some sort of topic to discuss, because they feel it’s going to bring them some sort of sympathy. But, please DON’T get me wrong. There are plenty of people out there suffering from genuine sadness, and it’s okay to be sad and depressed, but the kind I’m talking about is the self-induced stuff. I want to see people grow. Everyone has problems. But, it’s what we do to help ourselves that needs attention.
Matthew: Well-said. Well, before I get you in trouble with my questions, lets get back to the music! Your vocals have been compared to Peter Murphy as well as David Bowie. Was there a conscious effort on your part to emulate these singers?
Bret: My voice happens to be in the same range as their voices. You can’t change nature… well, I guess you could with an operation and some hormones, but I don’t want to. Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Neil Diamond, Ian Curtis and tons of others pretty much share the same range. I understand why people make comparisons, but I guess as an artist you kind of grow weary of them. But to be perfectly honest, those are great people to be compared to. No matter what, everyone is going to be compared to someone else. It’s inevitable.
Matthew: In what ways are all of these artists significant to you? What do you think sets them apart and what qualities do they possess that make them legends in your opinions?
Bret: What sets all of these bands apart from everyone else, is that they have substance. There is a feeling that I can’t describe when I listen to their music. They are legends because they are brilliant artists who write incredible songs, it’s as simple as that: David Bowie, Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Rozz Williams, Gitane DeMone, Jane’s Addiction, Nico and Iggy Pop.
Matthew: Is there any new material in the works? When can we expect a new album?
Bret: Yes. We’re working on our second album for Projekt right now.It’s going fabulously! We have 10 songs recorded so far. It should be finished by the first of September, to be released right around Christmas 2001. We’ll be playing a lot of the new songs when we tour the West Coast again in July.
Matthew: Many fans relish the understated sensuality within some of your lyrics. What ideas or images inspire you pick up your pen? How would you describe the concepts or style of your lyrics? Would you say there is an overall theme to what Audra is doing?
Bret: I write about what I know, what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced and what I don’t want to experience. Inspiration comes from everything: Childhood memories, cats, my beautiful Layla, ghosts, to name a few. One of the major themes was to present a tribute to friends that passed on from this world. That was very important for me and a lot of emotion needed to get out. Sometimes I grab the pen with no idea of what I’m going to write until it touches the paper. Other times I start with a word or a line that I can’t get out of my mind. From there I just let each word and each line lead to the next.
Each song on the album captures various fragments in time for me. There is a lot of sadness in the lyrics, but I look at each one as a healing process. I am not a negative person by any means. But sometimes it’s the sad situations that cause for some of the strongest emotional outpouring to seep through.
But yeah, there is definitely a sexy, sassy approach to the songs. Some things just have to come out that way. As a writer, I explore all sides of myself. You have to be true to yourself and write what comes natural.
Matthew: Audra is a relatively 'new' band, with one self-financed release entitled "Silver Music" and the debut CD on Projekt. A lot of artists wish to leave their past releases behind them. Do you guys feel that way about "Silver Music?" What merits does that release have for fans of the band? What can they learn about Audra's progression from seeking that EP out and would you recommend the investigation?
Actually Audra has been around since 1991, so we’re really not a new
band. Newly signed, but not new! In fact, it was 10 years ago
that Bart, Robert and I played our first show together. I’ll give
you a little bit of a history on our past releases. In 1993 we put
out our first cassette called, “Art Sex Religion.” In 1996, “Unhappy
Till the End.” 1997 – the “2 Girls
in 1 Dress” single. 1998 – “In a Dark Room…” 1999 – “Silver Music” Each one was an e.p. with no more than 6 songs on a particular release. We never believed in releasing a full-length album when you are an unsigned band. It’s giving too much away at once. So the debut album on Projekt is our very first full-length album. I’m proud of each of those releases. You can’t regret things from your past, you always have to move forward. Someday maybe Projekt will release an anthology of all of those early recordings. “Silver Music” is what got us signed to Projekt, so I think that it’s an interesting look at the recording that caused Sam to contact us and offer a contract. I haven’t listened to it in a while. Six of the songs on our Projekt debut are on there. They were either remixed or re-recorded for the Projekt release.
Matthew: Cool! Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer all these questions. You guys definitely are at the center of a lot of interest right now and I hope it only improves for you! :)
Thanks, Matthew. I appreciate you doing the interview.
It was fun…
Bret Helm - vocals, bass guitar, keyboards
Bart Helm - guitar, drum programming
Robert Stacy - guitar, keyboards
– Official Page:
– Mp3 Page:
AUDRA UPCOMING CONCERTS **
Thu, July 26th – Seattle, WA – at The Vogue
Sat, July 28th – San Francisco, CA – ALL AGES show
Sun, July 29th – Long Beach, CA – at The Eternal (18 & over)
More TBA soon…
For more info: http://www.audramusic.com/shows2.htm
DYING BRIDE's: Aaron Stainthorpe
(All Photos: Copyright http://www.mydyingbride.org)
“Murder” by Aaron Stainthorpe
As a rabid fan of My Dying Bride, this was the ‘dream’ interview of a lifetime for me. Though I wasn’t able to speak with Aaron in person, he was kind enough to answer some questions via email. We discussed the release of the band’s second compilation, which is due out later this summer and their forthcoming follow up to the hugely successful “Light At The End Of The World” CD. Aaron also opened up about his talents as not only a superb lyricist, but as a visual artist as well. Below is my exchange with one of dark music’s most intriguing and talented individuals, and the passionate voice behind a band that changed and touched the lives of many a hopeless Romantic.
~*~ MUSIC ~*~
STARVOX: The band is currently writing and recording material for the seventh full-length album. What has been the band’s mindset in the studio?
AARON: We have been surprisingly relaxed. Normally we get quite tense and nervous when recording is on the horizon, but not this time around. It happened before, when we were writing “The Light…” We just decided not to try and prove how good we were, or try and convince everyone that we were the gods of originality and weirdness. We just wrote anything we liked and thought ‘to hell with what anyone thinks.’ And it worked. We now find writing much more pleasurable.
STARVOX: Were there any particular lyrical themes or images that have been haunting you throughout the writing process?
AARON: I did quite like the idea of a vampiric theme but only very subtly, not over the top like Cradle Of Filth, but I’m not really sure we’re heading that way. Which is better really, because if you have a theme then it means restrictions and that’s not how I operate. I just write and write and see what happens.
STARVOX: How would you describe the musical direction of the next album? Will you still volley between death growls and clean vocals?
AARON: Yes! We loved the final feel of “The Light…” and that is still what is in our blood at the moment. If you liked the last LP, you will love the new one.
STARVOX: Will the band return to the U.S. for a more extensive tour next year?
AARON: Christ knows. We have wanted to play so many different places around the world but there have always been odd complications that have made it impossible. We had a great time last time we were there and we would love to come back, but it’s in the hands of the gods I’m afraid.
STARVOX: Europe always has so many concert festivals, with line-ups that make most American music fans extremely jealous. What are the logistics of My Dying Bride pairing up with other similar European artists and organizing a large-scale festival in America? Sort of like a dark metal Woodstock?
AARON: Sounds like a winning idea and one I will put to our booking agent Nick Peel. That would probably be the best way many European bands could get over there.
STARVOX: Peaceville will be releasing the second volume of “Meisterwerks” in August. Like the first volume, the track list was chosen by fans. Was the band pleased with their choices? Are there any songs you wish were or were not included on the albums?
AARON: The fans voted for their favourite top ten tracks which we have used on both compilation records as well as some other material that we felt the fans deserved to hear. Songs that went to Japan as exports, demo stuff, and covers.
STARVOX: The covers of “Some Velvet Morning” by Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra and Portishead’s “Roads” will be appearing on the next compilation release. What inspired you to cover these two songs in particular?
AARON: I picked the Sinatra song because I just love it. It has a weird feeling to it and it is sung in an unusual manner, which appealed to me. I think our guitarist, Andrew, picked “Roads” because he is a big Portishead fan. Well, we all are really so it wasn’t difficult for us to agree on. I have no idea why we picked that particular track. I guess it just sounds good.
STARVOX: Have you ever heard Slowdive’s version of “Some Velvet Morning?”
AARON: No. I was unaware of any other covers of that track. It would be nice to hear it though.
STARVOX: How did you discover bands like the Swans, Nick Cave, Dead Can Dance and why did these particular bands appeal to you so much?
AARON: Swans were introduced to me by our old violinist Martin, some years ago. He just played “White Light…” in the car one day and I was blown away. I’m a relatively new fan of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, being introduced to them by his duet with Kylie Minogue some years ago now. Their early material is a bit rough but the newer stuff is incredible. And Dead Can Dance were introduced to me by an old Greek friend about eight years ago. He sent me a tape with a whole bunch of bands on that he liked and they stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
STARVOX: You have said you never understood why My Dying Bride has been referred to as a ‘Gothic’ band. You rather think of yourselves as a metal band. The term ‘Gothic’ is used unjustly to describe many things, but due to the mood, the imagery and lyrical content, I don’t think any band fits the literary description of the word as perfectly as MDB. Your music is the very essence of dark Victorian poetry and Romantic and Gothic literatures.
So I ask, is it due to the clichéd images associated with the Gothic music subculture that make you wish to differentiate between what My Dying Bride does and what other typical Gothic bands do?
AARON: In early interviews, we did dismiss gothic links to MDB because we all have knowledge of gothic music over here in Europe which is mainly electronic weirdness and we just couldn’t understand the comparisons. As we have matured, we have accepted the gothic tag with open arms as we now understand it to mean a variety of things rather than just the actual sound we make.
~*~ LYRICS ~*~
STARVOX: As a lyricist, I think perhaps you are one of the most brilliant song writers to have worked in centuries! (I'm very serious) At times your style seems akin to Shakespeare, but more so to Blake, Keats, and some of the Victorian poets like Tennyson and Browning. But who are your main poetic influences and did you study literature extensively in college?
AARON: I didn’t study anyone at all but simply read a lot in my own time. I left school at fifteen because I hated it and learnt nothing there. Everything I know I have learned off my own back. I like to think that I am self-taught with a lot of help from my father.
STARVOX: In the song “Turn Loose The Swans,” there is a verse that reads:
“So I return to this nightingale/
her hair all fiery red/
deep it is and wild/
my weakness will be fed.”
Do you then, like most Romantics, harbour a weakness for red haired women? <laughing>
AARON: Not especially. Beauty is only skin deep, so for me, it’s the presence and atmosphere of a woman which I find attractive.
STARVOX: Would you be willing to divulge a bit of background info on the writing process of “The Thrash Of Naked Limbs” and “The Sexuality Of Bereavement?” What were some of the images and thoughts you had that inspired such starkly erotic songs?
AARON: Lets face facts here; I am a young man with rushing red blood and the thoughts I get regarding erotica are not too different from most other men on this little planet. I am able to commit my thoughts to paper and spread my ideas around using the band. I adore sex and comfort and the company of a sensual woman as much as the next man.
STARVOX: Where was your heart and mind when you penned the lyrics to “The Light At The End Of The World?” The song is so epic and gorgeous.
AARON: I have always wanted to write a lyric like that, and did so before the music was composed, which is quite unusual for us. Strange as it may sound, when I started writing that song I had no idea where it would go. I was not particularly inspired by any single thing but more of a feel. I could sense what was required and was very pleased with the finished product despite going at it blind.
STARVOX: The various musical incarnations of “Sear Me” form a trilogy. I was curious, however, if another trilogy was in the works between “A Kiss To Remember” and “The Night He Died.” The songs seem to be telling a story involving a pair of vampire lovers…
AARON: It’s always nice to hear what other people see in my lyrics even if my original idea was totally different. I had never considered a link between those two songs but I can now that you have mentioned it. I don’t see myself writing another trilogy in the near future but you never can tell with this band. If I feel like it one day, I might just give it a go.
STARVOX: I have heard that there were plans to reapproach songs from the earlier albums, such as “The Return Of The Beautiful.” Is an EP of reworked songs still a possibility for the future?
AARON: We would love to rework “The Return…” but we just never seem to have time. It would be a difficult thing for the record label to market too as I don’t think they would consider releasing any more EP’s, especially of re-worked material. It might sit nicely on a new LP but we wouldn’t want everyone saying that it’s just a ‘filler’ track because we had space to fill. Mind you, we have never listened to anyone before so why bother now? I shall talk with the boys.
STARVOX: How has your outlook on the world changed over the years? Does the world seem any less dismal to you now with the success of the band and the ability to bring life to your passions and visions?
AARON: The world is a dismal now as it was when I first began writing about it 10 years ago, it’s just that now I find it more and more difficult to come up with new idea’s for lyrics as I seem to have written about every misery that has befallen us all. This planet is doomed and I fear for it’s safety but I won’t lose sleep over it because I have taken little from earth and will one day give myself back. I will be done before the earth so I sleep well at night.
STARVOX: You have said in the past that your three main topics for writing are Love/Sex, Death, and Religion. In your words, what is true love?
AARON: For me, it is a feeling, a weird sensation of warmth and comfort. A moment of immense joy mixed with a little sickness. No one who is truly in love is truly happy.
STARVOX: Do you feel that death is something to fear or do you see it as a release and comfort? Why?
AARON: Death means very little to me and I hardly ever think about it unless I am writing a new song. It’s just an inevitable thing we can do nothing to stop. I have no clue as to what, if anything, there is after death. I don’t believe in anything, not even myself, so Heaven is out. So is Hell for that matter. No matter how miserable our lives may become, I can’t see death as being a release if there is nothing after death. I could well be the opposite. A nasty, black trap for us all to squeeze into and suffer even more misery.
STARVOX: What about religion makes it so interesting a topic to you? At times it seems you loathe the hypocrisy associated with Christianity, but then there are times where you seem to embrace it for its potential mystical power or the very least it’s visual dogma.
AARON: I have no beliefs and no one will catch me when I stumble. I use and abuse religion for my own pleasure as it has done to mankind for thousands of years. I feel nothing for the church or any religious ‘corporations’ or entities. Not even hatred, although I loathe those who force their beliefs onto the weak and slow willed. When I use certain references to religion in our songs, I am generally ‘becoming’ the character in the lyric and it will be that character, not myself, seeking divine intervention. Religion holds nothing of value for me except the chance to rip it off for my own benefit.
~*~ ART ~*~
STARVOX: Besides being a songwriter, you are skilled in photography and art as well. What techniques and materials do you use to create your visual art?
AARON: Art is a very disgusting thing to get into. It is all in your own eyes and no one can tell you what is right and wrong. There is no method if you don’t want one. When I begin an image it could be oil on canvas, charcoal, pencil, pen, chalk, mud, shit, piss or blood or anyfuckingthingIcangetmyhandson! It really doesn’t matter what you use or how you use it so long as you are pleased with the final thing. Before I used my computer, I mainly took lots of photographs of what ever took my fancy, and then mixed them up with natural things like leaves, twigs, rocks etc. then lay them all on the floor and just pour acid or some other corrosive substance on the whole lot until I liked the look of it. Then I’d photograph the scene and be happy. Now though I mainly use the computer and camera because it is so versatile. I still take hundreds of photographs, but I generally use digital means to get what I’m after now. Although it could well be a phase and I may return to earlier ways in the future.
STARVOX: Not that I would be paying you an original or unique comment, but a great deal of the work you do is quite surreal, nightmarish and somewhat claustrophobic. (“Twins” would be the best example) It is more detached and sinister when compared to your lyrics I think. With verse and music being more structured mediums, do you think then that Art enables you to better explore the more fantastic aspects of your creativity?
AARON: Much more so, yes. The visuals are limitless and are often responsible for some unimaginable things. With words, you are limited simply by what you know; with art, you can do anything you can imagine and many things you thought unimaginable. When you finish a lyric, you can be very pleased with the end product, but with visuals, you could be ecstatic about what you have just done. There are no limits.
STARVOX: You recently launched a website to display your artwork. Have you had any of your work displayed or exhibited publicly in England?
AARON: Actually, the web site is not officially ‘open’ yet. I put all the pictures together and a good friend (MEGA) put it all on the web, but I just wanted to show a few people what I have done and was not expecting it to generate so much interest. It’s not complete as far as I am concerned and I am due to update it in a month or so, with a new name, then, if I am happy I think I might just ‘officially’ open it to the public.
STARVOX: I had a few questions/comments about some of your pieces in particular. “Murder” is one of my favourites. The first thing I thought of was “The Night He Died,” the image of the man swooping down to avenge his lover’s death. Am I warm with my interpretation or did you have something else in mind when you painted this?
AARON: My vision is slightly more sinister regarding this image. In the 1960’s a couple called Myra Hindley & Ian Brady murdered several young children not far from where I live then buried their tiny bodies on Saddleworth Moor, which has held onto them, as Brady and Hindley never revealed their whereabouts despite being locked up since. They also recorded the screams of the butchered children on tape, which has now been stored in a vault by the British Government and will never be heard again. Bizarrely, Ian Brady has had several marriage proposals while serving life in jail, from, what can only be described as, unhinged women. One of them is infatuated with him and called him an Angel in Black. I found this interesting and disturbing but inspiring. “Murder” is my vision of one of the terrible scenes on the Moors all those years ago.
STARVOX: Do you ever think that you will illustrate more ‘scenes’ from your lyrics? You have a wealth of potent material to work with…
AARON: I rarely ‘try’ to re-create an image from another source although “Murder” and the cover for “The Light…” are exceptions. I don’t like being directed or confined by an outer body, which is what would happen if I tried to create an image of something specifically relating to another topic. I just like to attack a blank canvas with whatever my imagination can throw at it. Some bands have asked me to do some art for them, and I have done a few (which will be on the updated site) but it’s very rare. I would much prefer it if a band were to just say ‘we like “Twins,” can we buy it off you to use for our next LP’ which has also happened.
STARVOX: Women seem to possess a very admonishing and sublime air in your works. “My Only Crime,” “Shadows,” and “Dance Macabre” in particular. This is a very Romantic and Gothic motif in your art. Do you see women to be that mysterious and intimidating in life?
AARON: Some are and some are not. It’s impossible to put every woman in one category when the variety is so vast. Some women I have met have been so shallow and transparent that I could almost predict what their next sentence would be, and others can be multi-layered and ultra complex, which can be a challenge if the mood is right. I actually think women feature very little in the visual things I do, but appear in almost every song we have created. I may just add a little more femininity to my artwork in future.
STARVOX: Images of spider webs and spiders seem to crop up a bit. I can’t help but wonder if that has anything to do with the black widow spider and her means of procreation? I sense a bitter metaphor… <grins>
AARON: A good angle but slightly off my mark. I hate spiders so in a weird way of combating my anxiety, I use them in my artwork from time to time. They are very interesting little creatures but they are not for me.
STARVOX: This is just a random comment, but with your tendency to blend sexual and religious imagery, I think you would really enjoy the music and the artwork in some of Valor’s Christian Death releases. Albums like “Sexy Death God” especially.
AARON: I know nothing about Christian Death but I shall have a look at them on your recommendation.
STARVOX: Thank you Aaron, I was very anxious to hear from you and again, I hope you didn’t find my questions too demanding or personal. I realize there was A LOT here for you to answer, and I was just praying to whatever gods listening that you were in a good mood and had the patience and the time to answer them!
No problem at all, Matthew. It made a nice difference to answer these types
of questions. If there is anything else you think you have missed, let
Dying Bride is:
Aaron Stainthorpe – vocals
Ade Jackson – bass
Andrew Craighan – guitars
Hamish Glencross – guitar
Shaun Steels – drums
Yasmin Ahmid – keyboards
Machine in the Garden
~by Michael Otley
I'd been hearing about some guy who made music under the name The Machine in the Garden since I'd first heard some of the bands really emerging from the gothic underground in the mid to late 90's. I would even come to recognize the image from the first EP, Veils and Shadows, almost as a symbol of underground artistry. Here was a guy writing his own music through his own means, and people listened. I can't say I'd heard it at the time, though it intrigued me. I had an idea of what it might sound like, and have just been riding on that since.
Around this time, Summer Bowman's taste in music was changing. She had nothing to do with The Machine in the Garden yet, in fact she hadn't even met Roger Frace, the one-man-band. For Summer, the 90's male industrial was giving way to more female gothic darkwave that she could relate to, being a female vocalist herself. Hyperium released their Heavenly Voices compilations; Tess Records put out beautiful darkwave releases from Faith and the Muse and This Ascension. For Summer, even Die Form were picking up where Siouxsie and the Cocteau Twins had brought the female vocals in the genre.
1997 would see the release of the first full length from Roger Frace with the help and influence of new member Summer Bowman. Underworld, with a more ethereal edge, would bring more attention to The Machine in the Garden from the gothic underground, as well as some attention from the independent press and radio shows. The release contained solid gothic songs with guitar, drum patterns, keyboards etc. More importantly Roger and Summer shared vocal duties, including a stand-out performance by Roger on "Cold" and Summer's fresh voice on several other tracks. During the recording process, Roger taught Summer how to use the recording equipment and sequencing program used, which would be important later on, as they began to write music together. Even "Twenty Shadows", which was on this release, was written by Summer on her own, with only production assistance from Roger.
1999 was a huge year for The Machine in the Garden with the release of the highly acclaimed, but more importantly incredibly strong, One Winter's Night... on the fresh Middle Pillar Presents label. This was also a year for numerous compilation appearances as well as offers for upcomingcompilations, which is almost a must for attention in the gothic underground. One Winter's Night... delves further into ethereal territory for the now solidified pair, which was also a much more collaborative effort. The album as a whole showcases Summer's voice and Roger's keyboard skills, as on "Fear No More" and "Ex Oblivione" paired mid-album. While Underworld's music was primarily written by Roger, Summer had a much more important role in the music for One Winter's Night.... And it works well; many refer to the album as a whole piece. The release found the band many new fans with it's ever broadening appeal.
Most recently, The Machine in the Garden's out of the mists has become available. This new release delves further into darkwave experimentation with sound, sequencing, and samples. Again on Middle Pillar Presents, and again in Middle Pillar's cardboard packaging similar to a digipak, the CD is quite presentable. It should be noted that the strongest track on the album is one of Summer Bowman's compositions "Wasted Time" with her gentle sequence, powerful flute lines, and emotional vocals. The piece breathes with space and a heavy heart. Most of the tracks feature Summer's voice, which she has strengthened and honed with each release. out of the mists also contains a video for view on your computer, as well as some recent photos of Roger and Summer. There are some behind-the-scenes sort of photos included from the whole video process. A couple other features are included as well, but nothing else you can't find on their website.
While the press and public often see The Machine in the Garden as Roger Frace with vocalist Summer Bowman, those who read the CD credits know she's writing songs also. Summer identifies herself as an improvisational writer, "what I mean by that is that I like to just hitrecord and play or sing and see what comes out." She refers to "Wasted Time" when talking about keeping her first take during recording sessions, and writing those parts on the spot. "It is a very real and honest way to write and I really feel like the emotions are more evident in the recording that way." I couldn't agree more.
The Machine in the Garden appears to be getting more and more attention, as they should. Middle Pillar Presents (also the home of The Unquiet Void) seems to be a solid home for them, as they release additional material on compilations from the likes of Cleo and Black Magazine and post past tracks on their mp3.com page. Summer even has her own mp3 'station' where she features darkwave bands with female vocals (http://stations.mp3s.com/stations/36/wail.html), almost in the tradition of the Heavenly Voices compilations she fell in love with. Other goth/ethereal bands with female voices may be found here, for instance Virginia's up and coming Heaven Falls Hard as well as Middle Pillar's own The Mirror Reveals.