Saturday, June 16, 2012

Interview with Sarah Folkman from Geko

Formed in 1983 by Sarah Folkman (bass+vocals) and Carrie McNinch (guitar+programming), L.A.'s Geko combined brooding, expressionistic vocals with "Garlands"-era Cocteau Twins guitar arabesques and driving industrial percussion. After releasing the "Probing the Gash in Her Head" 7 inch in 1991, the duo put out the compilation album "Join My Pretty World" the following year and disbanded soon after. Neither member went on to obscurity: Carrie is famous for her series of brutally-honest comic zines (check them out here), while Sarah has found renown as a visual artist in L.A. and beyond ( Sarah was kind enough to take some time off from preparing for an art opening to answer some questions about a band that, even in our information age, is still incredibly difficult to find out anything about. Fun fact for any "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fans out there: the post-Geko musical project T.H.C. that Sarah mentions in the interview was featured on two episodes of Season Four of "Buffy" as the fictional group Shy (that's Sarah's vocals you hear when Veruca sings during the "Beer Bad" and "Wild at Heart" episodes).

AKITD: When and how did Geko come together as a band? How did you settle on "Geko" as the name for your project?

SF: I think it was in 1983. Carrie and I were living together, going to school together, and had an intense attraction to the early death rock bands while also enjoying punk rock and the LA Rockabilly scene. We knew a few people that were in bands, and coming from the punk rock/DIY point of view, it seemed entirely possible that we could make a go of having a band ourselves.

We decided on “Geko” during an afternoon of throwing names at each other. I don’t remember what our other ideas were, but I was obsessed with the Creatures (they have a song “Gecko”) at that moment, so perhaps that’s the main reason it stuck...
AKITD: Can you talk a little bit about what the underground music scene in L.A. was like in the late '80s-early '90s? I know Screams for Tina, Christian Death and Red Temple Spirits were kicking around then. What were some of the clubs you frequented, and what were the bands everyone was listening to or talking about at that time?

SF: For me, the downtown version of “Scream” was the best-ever club. A warren of darkness, sound, film/video projections, and wonderfully decorated people combined to create an overwhelmingly sexy and exciting experience. Clubs such as Zombie Zoo, Lectisternium, and the other locations of Scream became favorites in large part because of the relationships we formed with the owners and the other local bands that played there. Carrie and I were both incredibly shy and not very good at socializing, and we didn’t become friends with many of the other “death rock" types, but we did like to support the bands that associated with Loyola Marymount’s radio station KXLU (such as Distorted Pony, Slug, Babyland, Savage Republic, Stereotaxic Device...). Carrie probably has a better memory for this question.
AKITD: What were the first recordings that Geko produced, and where were they recorded? There's an internet rumor of a six-song demo from the late '80s--were some of the songs on this demo the ones that would later appear on "Join My Pretty World" as '92 Remix versions?

SF: They were. Our first demo was recorded in our apartment on Formosa by our friend Bill Lay on a 4 track Tascam. I’ve looked for my own copies of that and cannot find them, but if they ever turn up and the tape isn’t warped beyond recognition, I’ll digitize the songs and send them to you.
AKITD: Geko has a very distinctive, haunting sound, with your vocals and Carrie's guitar work consistently standing out. Did the two of you consciously work out the sound you wanted the band to have beforehand, or did it just evolve naturally? What are some of the bands you would consider as influences on the two of you at that time?

SF: It was a very spontaneous... hmm, perhaps the word to use is ‘upwelling.’ We both felt a kinship with music and art that felt dark, lonely, or dangerous - and that’s what we wanted to create.

As far as influencing bands: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Sex Pistols, Blondie, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Cure, Bauhaus, Virgin Prunes, Cocteau Twins, Einsturzende Neubauten, Test Department, Skinny Puppy, Dead Can Dance, Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Pailhead...

AKITD: Something I've always loved about Geko is how the titles of your songs and albums could just as easily be the titles of paintings--they're very evocative and dark, and trigger the listener's imagination. Were the lyrical and musical duties handled fairly evenly by Carrie and yourself, or was one person more responsible for one of the areas more than the other?

SF: We had an even balance, both of us heavily freighted with confusion, pain, thwarted needs, desires and a compulsion to get it out. Even now, Carrie and I both like telling stories as a way to connect with others.

AKITD: What were Geko's live shows like? Did you play out often, and who were
some of the bands you got to perform with?

SF: We did play out a fair amount, but I am terrible at remembering the details of our old shows - too much stress and excitement. If I’d been smart, I would have kept a journal of details. As it is, it’s like a kaleidoscope of sound and images. Again, a question for Carrie?

AKITD: The "Probing the Gash in Her Head" 7" came out in 1991. Was
 the record well-received?

SF: The label (Open Records) was VERY small and limited in resources, but the publications we did manage to get it to for review were generally receptive and positive.

AKITD: I haven't been able to find out much information about Open Records, the label that released the 7" and "Join My Pretty World". It looks like they put out a handful of records in the early 90s and then just vanished. Who were the people behind Open Records, and how did Geko come to be on their roster?

SF: Carrie had become friends with Greg through the Zine scene. He was someone
who loved alternative music and wanted to do what he could to support it. I don’t know what’s become of him.
AKITD: Can you talk about the making of "Join My Pretty World"? Was the album always conceived as being a mix of new and previously-released material, or had there ever been some discussion about putting out a full-length of all new songs?

SF: The 7” release was a small run and we wanted the older songs to have the potential for a wider audience. These were the songs we were happiest with and wanted to document, and then move on to new material...

AKITD: You worked with Earle Mankey (producer for The Runaways, The Dickies, Sparks, Concrete Blonde and tons more) on four of the new tracks on
"Join My Pretty World"--what was that like?

SF: Earle was wonderful - gentle and encouraging. We were introduced to him by Jeff MacGregor and were very excited to have the opportunity to record with him. His studio was built next to his house and he had certain rooms in the house wired to the studio to take advantage of their sound. I have a strong memory of staring at my feet on his kitchen floor while playing bass. His board was my first experience of seeing automated faders - I liked to imagine it was a ghost mixing the songs. We also had a great time recording with Biff Sanders in his downtown studio. Oh, splicing those reel to reel tapes...

AKITD: After "Join My Pretty World" was released, did the band tour or do
any other kind of promotional work in support of it?

SF: No touring. If we’d been able to connect with a larger label (or perhaps not been such homebodies so connected to our cats) that might have been different. But as it was, setting up a tour and just heading out there never seemed financially possible.

AKITD: When and why did the band decide to break up?

SF: We broke up as a couple around 1990 and tried to keep the band going after
that, but we needed time off from each other.

AKITD: How did you transition from musician to visual artist? Did you perform or work with any other bands after Geko disbanded?

SF: I started painting and playing bass around the same time (18 years old), but the painting was something I did for myself and I wasn’t comfortable trying to push it out into the world. I stopped painting for several years because I was moving around, and then when I settled back in LA I didn’t have a space that was particularly conducive to creating. Fortunately, when I took it up again, within a year I had the opportunity to start showing the pieces and I felt ready for it.

I did work with others after Carrie - the one you’re most likely to know being George
Sarah in THC. That was a great experience.

AKITD: What are some of the fondest memories you have about your time with Geko? Are you proud of the work you + Carrie were able to create during your time together? Is there anything you regret?

SF: My regret is that we had no business or networking sense and were too low in self-confidence to find others to help us in those areas. But I loved writing songs and performing with Carrie. There’s a connection you can have with others in the creative process that is unlike any other type of friendship or love relationship. Time stops and you’re TOGETHER in this moment and this moment and this moment... I am proud of what we created. We jumped into it ignorant and naive and full of hope, and made something that was very much us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Interview with Escarlatina Obsessiva

Escarlatina Obsessiva is Karolina (bass and vocals) and Zaf (guitars, programming and keyboards). Based out of São Thomé das Letras in Brazil, they have released four albums--Chants of Lethe (2007), Blossomy Parks (2008), Pandemic(2009) and Endemic (2010)--with a fifth one on the way. They have also collaborated with Alien S Pagan (The Cemetary Girlz) on The Dead Jivaro, a project which brought forth the Tsantsa EP in 2011. Karolina and Zaf were kind enough to take a break from the recording sessions for their new album to answer some questions about their music, the Woodgothic Festival, and their uncompromising DIY attitude.

AKITD: Prior to the formation of Escarlatina Obsessiva, what sort of creative
or music-related work were the two of you involved in?

EO: Well..ever since we (Karolina and Zaf) met, a long time ago, we used
to play acoustic and instrumental stuff together, with bass and
acoustic guitar, and we also used to record some things on old tapes,
although, unfortunately, nothing from that time has survived.  I
remember some tunes, and they were part of the process of the rising
of our sonority. So, we weren't involved in any project different from
Escarlatina, because this elementary formation has remained the same 
since that beginning. There has only been an increase in the quantity of 
sonorous elements, plus the natural acquiring of musical experience in
practice, over the years.

AKITD: How did Escarlatina Obsessiva come together as a musical project, and
how did you decide on the name of the band?

EO: Because of those "experiences" we used to make at home, one day there
was an opportunity of a gig in our hometown. We played 7 songs, including 
some covers. Karolina didn't sing yet, but that was the beginning: that put in
practice what we were doing at home. At that time, we needed a name,
and a concept. The creation of the name was very spontaneous; we
started from the idea of the name of an illness, inspired by the band
Malaria! Then came the idea of the conjunction of the two essential
kinds of illness: the one of the body, and the one of the soul. And
this opened a large range to be explored in the symbolism we used
expressing our ideas. After the name had been established, we started
composing songs for Chants of Lethe, for the first time with the help of
electronic elements.

AKITD: One of the most distinguishing things about Escarlatina Obsessiva is
the power of Karolina's voice. Karolina, had you had any vocal
training prior to the band, and how comfortable were you with assuming
the role of vocalist? Was it difficult at first to play bass and sing
at the same time?

EO: No, I didn't have any vocal training. I felt very comfortable assuming
the vocals...In fact, I didn't know I could sing, but one day, in
2007, Zaf said I had a beautiful voice (speaking) and that I could try
to sing (we were without a real vocalist at this time), and I said: No
way, you're crazy! (haha), but one day I decided to give it a try...So I
closed all the windows and doors, and asked Zaf to go to the bathroom and
stay there for a while (heheh)...Then I put on Ziggy Stardust(Bauhaus
version) and started...It was a bit out of tune in the beginning, it was
maybe weird, but I worked hard and I can't imagine my life without
singing anymore...I became addicted to song...
It was a bit difficult, in the beginning, to play the bass and sing at
the same time, but despite this difficulty, I realized that I could do
the two things together.

AKITD: "Chants of Lethe" is an amazing debut work, immediately recognizable
as Gothic and dark, but without sounding derivative of any one band in
particular. I also like the title: Lethe being the river that the dead
had to drink from in Hades in order to forget their previous lives and
move on to a radically new one. Did the album serve that purpose for
you, in that you now had transitioned into a new life as musicians?
What was composing the album like?

EO: Surely this relationship happens! Really Chants of Lethe was a
remarkable spot in our lives, since it turned us into something
different from what we were before. And this impact is usually
stronger on the first album. But this was not the idea that gave shape
to the title. We explored the theme of oblivion in different
aspects, like a subtle line trespassing and "almost linking" the

AKITD: Do the two of you share lyric and music writing duties in the band, or
do each of you concentrate on separate areas?

EO: We share some ideas, but generally Zaf writes the lyrics. And we're
free in the musical aspect: both of us create melodies on any kind of
instrument. Only the drums are  designed solely by Zaf.

AKITD: How was "Chants of Lethe" received by the music community when it came
out? Did you tour or play out in support of it? What were these early
shows like?

EO: It was very well received and we played some great gigs on tour at the
time of Chants of Lethe! I remember 2 great gigs at Sao Paulo (Via
Underground) and with Dive from Belgium. It was our gloomiest album,
and we had great reception from the audience during those gigs.

AKITD: For me, "Blossomy Parks" is a a modern post-punk/Goth masterpiece.
Every song has an interesting twist or surprise to it. How was the
composing of this album different from "Chants of Lethe"?

EO: Some songs on Blossomy are songs from Chants of Lethe that didn't go
onto that album because they didn't get ready in time.  These songs
are: Suburban Dogs, The Lovelorn Halls, Appendix and Show Me Your
Flesh. I think it bestows a little nuance upon the album and makes it
more heterogeneous. On Blossomy Parks there's a visible transition in
the elements, and I would say, if  labels had any value, that it shows
a way from old school gothic to post-punk.
The composing of the other songs has a clear change of direction, which
can be seen comparing tracks such as Suburban Dogs and Appendix
with The Death of the Bishop or Blossomy Parks.  I like that album
because of its innocence in openly and shamelessly showing in its body
its natural process of development.

AKITD: There seems to be a tight and reciprocal relationship between the
albums "Pandemic" and "Endemic"--they seem to trace a journey from
outside to inside. Can you talk a little bit about the concept behind
these albums?

EO: There's also a link between Endemic and Pandemic, not only in the
theme, but in the aspect of composition of the songs. Initially,
Pandemic was going to be a double album, with an A side and a B side... 
We decided, after composing the songs on the A side, that we would
release it first, and only then we would start composing the B-Side,
gloomier, heavier and denser. But the B-Side's songs came in one week, and
with so cohesive an aspect that we noticed it had a different nature from
the A-Side, despite there being a clear link between the two albums:
they were made to be only one body, but spontaneously, they separated
themselves: they weren't Siamese, as we desired, but only twins. Each
of them had its own body and personality. And surely, if we had
titled the A-side as "Pandemic"--as a symbol of the totality, or a
"higher evil"-- it seemed obvious to us that its reverse needed 
to be smaller, and more subjective and egoistic. It would need
to be about the "smaller evil", the "local one", that one that feeds
and is the cause of the other, the bigger one, the "global one". And,
at the end, the son had finally justified the father's existence. So there
was a natural closing of a circle, and everything was done. As with the
name of the band, we had found another way to artistically express the 
totality in its elements, and the elements in their totality. So, in Chants 
of Lethe, there's a line, but this time, it changes its diameter, its thickness,
its colors, from one album to another. Both of them talk about the same things, 
but at different levels.

AKITD: These last two albums were both released on Zorch Factory records. How
did Escarlatina Obsessiva become involved with Zorch, and has that
label helped you to reach a larger audience?

EO: I really don't remember how we got involved, haha! It seems like we
knew about them since always, genetically! :) Perhaps it was our friend
Alien S Pagan who told us about Zorch... I don't know for sure.  But
it's great to work with Manu Zorch, and we really believe his effort in helping
to share the work of independent bands from several parts of the world is 
very important. Lots of people know us from his site, and have downloaded our 
albums, which would have been difficult to make happen without his efforts.  Surely our next album will soon also be on Zorch Factory!

AKITD: Both of you are heavily involved with the WOODGOTHIC Festival that's
held in Brazil. Can you explain what the festival is and how you came
to be involved with it? What would you like to see happen with
WOODGOTHIC in the future?

EO: Woodgothic is our personal madness and addiction. It was born from
the wish to play in a big venue in our town São Thomé das Letras,
associated with a cool movement of new underground bands starting to
play in Brazil. At that time, in 2008, at the first edition, we had
big support from a great old man, big friend of ours, who helped us in
everything to make it happen. Then, we had several Brazilian bands
from almost all regions of the country. After that, things started to
get constituted, and we planned the second edition. But, during its
production, that friend of ours--Juan da Montanha--passed away,
unfortunately. From that time on, we have kept this dream alive, as it
was his, and is also our desire.
We think the Festival is really important because of its ability to unite
and focus the Brazilian underground scene, and also as a vehicle
for divulging Brazilian bands. We had also some international
attractions at the last editions, such as our dearest  friend
Bettina Koster, and also Alien S Pagan, with whom we formed the band
The Dead Jivaro. We also had Martin Bowes with Attrition, Los
Carniceros del Norte, and also Espejos Muertos.
At the 4th edition, which we've just started to organize, we're receiving great
support from the Brazilian bands, helping us to make everything happen.
And this is also very cool, because it shows we're really all together
involved in the construction of the actual independent underground
scene of our country. And our wish is just that the Festival helps new
bands to get involved in all this, sharing the stages with older
bands, and that the occasion to play at the Festival can be useful
for all of them. And that new bands make new songs to play, because of
the occasion of a bigger gig: it's an incentive! It's important that
the bands have an environment where they can have an incentive to
produce, and produce more, and more...
And we also dream to bring TSOL (with Jack Grisham) and New Model Army

AKITD: In addition to yourselves, Brazil is home to many great contemporary
Goth/deathrock bands (Scarlet Leaves, Plastique Noir, The Knutz--just
to name a few). How big is the Goth community in Brazil? People
involved with the Brazilian goth scene seem to really support one
another's endeavors--do you feel that to be true? Who are some bands
you wish more people knew about?

EO: I think that, perhaps like in anywhere else, there are two scenes in
Brazil. There's a scene of dedicated artists who know what they're
doing, and an audience that really knows what they're listening to. And
there's that other blank mind scene, where the guys don't know what
they're doing there, and there's no difference if you say "Mainstream"
or "Underground", they won't understand anything anyway. This "second"
scene denigrates the image of the "first" one, and makes work harder for it.

We surely have lots of real contributors, dedicated promoters, a very
cool and interested audience that supports the really cool and true
events and bands. And we also have lots of cool bands, most of which
we already brought to play at Woodgothic Festival. So, the Woodgothic
Festival is also a cool vitrine for the underground Brazilian bands,
such as the ones you mentioned above.

AKITD: There are several music videos for Escarlatina Obsessiva songs that
the two of you have made. How do you decide on the visual concepts for
the videos--is it dictated by the lyrics, or the overall mood of the

EO: Generally, they're dictated by the theme and the mood of the song. We 
also explore a lot of cool locations that we have here in our hometown, and we 
think that the caves and grottoes, mountains and stones we have here speak to
some themes of ours with a very latent similitude of frequencies.

AKITD: How important is the DIY ethic to Escarlatina Obsessiva?

EO: This is the basis of all our production process. Since the beginning,
we always produced everything by ourselves. We can't imagine someone
else doing our jobs. We are totally aware of the limitations of this
way of acting, but, to be true, this is actually our only, and also
best, way to produce our work.

AKITD: Every compilation of Latin American or Brazilian "dark" music that
I've seen features an Escarlatina Obsessiva song, making the two of
you musical ambassadors from Latin America to the rest of the world.
Are you comfortable with that role?

EO: No, we don't think of ourselves in terms of that role. Perhaps this is a
consequence of the ideal which motivates us, and here we can talk about
a role. We believe that all strength lies in working together, and we just
make use of the logic that shows that it's better if you do something
with someone else, an equal, than if you do it only by yourself. If we wanted,
we could focus solely on promoting ourselves; but it's not only not fun, it's also 
not as strong as a shared act is. A gig with two bands is cooler and stronger
than a gig with only one. It's at least twice as fun! Our role is only to share
this ideal of the community strength, and the consequence may be an apparent embassy, but that is not our intention.

AKITD: What bands have influenced you the most? Are there any contemporary
acts that the two of you are particularly excited about?

EO: We have lots of influences, from classical to electronic. We go from
old school goth bands to post punk and punk legends, such as TSOL,
New Model Army, The Damned, Bad Brains, and lots of others... We like
good music, it doesn't matter the label on the bottle: we drink all of
them! And we also use to worship some gods, such as David Bowie, in
some particular ceremonies.

AKITD: A recent side-project for Escarlatina Obsessiva is a collaboration
with Alien S Pagan called The Dead Jivaro. The "Tsantsa" EP has a
dark-pop feel to it, like mid-era The Cure. What sort of experiments
do you get to do with this band that you can't with Escarlatina

EO: The changing of instruments is an example: Zaf also plays bass in The
Dead Jivaro, and this is something that, from the beginning, makes
sonorities different. Karolina plays bass only on the song Repeated Dream,
so, in live gigs, she is free to dance! The other difference is that we
(K and Z) don't compose in TDJ. We arrange and write lyrics to
melodies and ideas that Alien S Pagan sends to us; to start from zero
is very different than to arrange, so this sets TDJ apart from the
process of composition for EO. This is a really essential difference;
we're free to not compose, Alien is free to not arrange, and this
liberty and these changes alter the sonorities and bring something 
new to life.

AKITD: I know you are currently at work on a fifth album. What would you like to
see happen in the future for Escarlatina Obsessiva?

EO: Yes, indeed! We're recording our 5th album, and our plan is to keep
our music going, as long as we still breathe. We'll think about the
consequences when they come, if we're still alive then!

AKITD: Finally, do you have a message for your US fans?

EO: First, we'd like you to thank you for providing us a space to talk
about our jobs.
For the US fans:

SEE YOU SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                 Escarlatina Obsessiva's Facebook Page
                                              The Woodgothic Festival's Facebook Page
                                                  The Dead Jivaro's Facebook Page
                                                          Zorch Factory Records

Monday, January 9, 2012

Interview with Black Ice

If you've been sleeping on Black Ice, now would be a good time to wake up. Since the release of the Oakland, CA band's "Eve" EP in March 2003, Black Ice has consistently produced daring, innovative and smart Gothic/Post-Punk music, as evinced by albums like 2005's "Terrible Birds" (in a better world, the song "Elixir" off this would be a Goth party-starter standard alongside the Banshees' "Spellbound", the Cure's "A Forest", or the Sister of Mercy's "Temple of Love") and 2007's "Myopia". 2010 saw the release of the Ice's latest and most complex work to date, "Before the First Light".  Stevenson Sedgwick, Sköt B, and Miss Kel of Black Ice were kind enough to answer, via email, some questions I had for them about the new record. Enjoy!

AKITD: What was the general mood of the band after returning from tour in Europe in support of "Myopia"? Had Black Ice been well-received overseas?

Stevenson: The European tour was amazing! Definitely the best shows we have had anywhere, Paris probably being the highlight. We were amazed at the response and were very happy to get to meet so many fans and friends face to face and play with some great bands, like Tchiki Boum, Cercueil, Nastro ...

AKITD: "Before the First Light" had a slightly longer gestation period than Black Ice's previous releases. Were there any particular obstacles or problems the group encountered during its composition?

Stevenson: Mostly just time constraints during this period made it harder for us to get together, chief among them being the fact that 3/4 of us became parents in the last few years.

Skot: "Before the First Light" was the result of the band going full circle to our beginnings and becoming a studio project again. As Stevenson said, most of the band had become parents and we were one member short after the European tour. So, we went back into my studio instead of the practice space. We went back to the textural compositions we had first set out to achieve. In-between the 2 albums we had self-released a CD-R EP "Block Ice"

AKITD: Musically, the new album picks up where "Myopia" left off, with even more experimentation directed at song structure and length. "Before the First Light" rewards repeated headphone-listening as well, as there are so many interesting industrial-style percussive flourishes buried in the mix ("Farewell Prize" being a good example of that). Compared to the more straight-forward deathrock production on the earlier "Eve EP" and "Terrible Birds", this album sounds as if the band had decided to take full advantage of the studio. What was the song-writing process like for the new album, and has this sound been difficult to recreate live?

Stevenson: "First Light" is definitely and very consciously a "studio" album. We really thought about production and what instruments/arrangements would work for each track, rather than everyone just playing their instruments. The music was things we had come up with individually, as well as a lot of live jamming that Skot and I did, some of which made it all the way to the final tracks. Personally, it was probably the most enjoyable album to make. We have played a large amount of the album live and it has worked but it has been very challenging. Very long set up times, way too much equipment on stage and a lot of tweaking to get things to sound right, juggling instruments, etc. Plus we were doing it as a four piece instead of five. Definitely has been stressful.

Skot: Yes, there are lots of layers in the mix. Some sounds you may never even notice even with repeated listens. We weren't dedicated to guitar and bass as much, so there was a lot more freedom in coming up with these songs. Stevenson and I would constantly come up with ideas on my 4 track and we would sift through the tapes to find the "gems". Live shows turned out to be quite a challenge...especially in small clubs where sound quality was an issue. Stevenson and I were trying to have 4 arms to pull it off.

AKITD: What were the reasons behind the self-release of the "Block Ice" EP? Was the EP intended as a stand-alone piece or as a promotional device for the upcoming album? Are there any plans to reissue it?

Stevenson: Just for fun, really. The idea of having something very limited plus having the format of an EP, which allows you to put out more esoteric stuff, such as "Block Ice Machine" was appealing. Plus doing it ourselves meant a very quick turnaround, which is always gratifying.

Skot: Yes, pretty much for instantaneous gratification. Why not do it, right? We had some songs together, it had been a while since the release of Myopia and at that time were had started to play some live show again. We had another self-released CD-R, the "Signals" EP, which we released before Myopia. So these might see the blinding light of day again...

AKITD: Lyrically and musically, the new album is very dark and seems to capture the exhausted mood of a world on the verge of economical and ecological collapse. At the same time, the complexity of the musical material adds adds elements of hope and inventiveness to the mix. Was that a concept the band was consciously grappling with?

Stevenson: Well, the semi-title track “Before the Dawn” to me is definitely about exhaustion and specifically waking up at 4 A.M., exhausted and not able to go back asleep. Those of us whom became parents in the last few years are very familiar with this state.

Skot: I wouldn't say an "exhausted" mood but this album should create a means for escape and creating a feeling of otherworldlyness. Musically, I feel, that we weren't thinking so much about the live performance and the energy that goes into a live performance. We were more in our comfort zone...which is apparently a dark place.

AKITD: What were some sources of inspiration for the lyrics and for the stylish packaging of the CD?

Miss Kel: My lyrics are a codex. they come from many different places, experiences, observations of the world and people around me, and my imagination. This album, as well as about half of the songs on Myopia, were not meticulously planned out like they were when we were a newer band (I.e. Eve-EP or Terrible Birds). The idea that I always have behind my words is that they evoke something in you - that is not to say that they should always make you feel comfortable or that you precisely understand what is being said - but that a story emerges that creates images for those listening to the music.

As far as the photography and packaging goes - I wanted to run with a more "filmatic" feel and look, rather than creating drawings and mixed media pieces like I did for Myopia. When creating the concepts for the imagery (as I did not do all of the photography myself) were intended to hint at ideas of the past and leaving on a journey.

AKITD: What are the band's plans for 2012?

Stevenson: We are working on a few releases that we hope to have out this year. The first is simply making EVE EP available digitally along with a few bonus tracks - there is a whole generation - sadly - that doesn't know what vinyl is. The second is a collection of rarities - compilation tracks, EP stuff, unreleased material, maybe something live. We have TONS of stuff, so we are very excited about this and this will be a quality release, not just a bunch of leftovers. Its going to take forever to go through all of it, but we hope to have this out by the fall.
Skot and I are also hoping to at long last release a compilation (Volume I) of Strawberry Trip Monster, the deformed sister band of Black Ice, featuring a number of guest musicians.

To learn more about Black Ice, click on the following links:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Interview with Madame B

                              MADAME B

AKITD: How did Madame B emerge as a musical project in 2006?

MB: I always wanted to do music but never did it because of a lack of confidence and experience, but I always wrote a lot, poems and thoughts in French, then in English (I lived in london for 3 years). I don't know what happened in my head but one day I decided that I needed to do something with all this writing and just started to do music at home with nothing, really, it was strange noises and sounds that I was recording at home and slowly I started to get instruments and do more music. From that day on I couldn't stop, as if I was trying to catch up on all the lost time.

AKITD: It is impossible to miss the pleasure you take in language and wordplay, both in your lyrics and in the titles of albums like "Noisi(h)er Silence" and "Insid(h)er", where you employ typographical puns to make words overflow and exceed their usual meanings. How would you describe your writing process, and who are some of the writers who inspire you the most?

MB: I love many writers but when I write it is really spontaneous--I don't think, I just scratch the paper with what's in my mind straight away. 

AKITD: How important is instinct for you when it comes to creating art(musical or otherwise)?

MB: Again, I do things with no thinking beforehand, it's instinctive, spontaneous, some call it improvisation, I can't explain that, I just do things cause they probably just need to come out.

AKITD: What was behind your decision to limit yourself to just one instrument (a synthesizer) for Topsy Turvy World, your other solo project?

MB: Well I never had much musical equipment, only a few things, most of the time broken and cheap so I guess it was an additional restriction, trying to do something with even less stuff, like a little challenge. I think that the urgency of the creation is not afraid of constraints, rather it is nourished and multiplied by it.

AKITD: While recognizably "dark", your music defies easy categorization by the usual forms of genre. What musical acts do you consider as influences on--and inspirations for--your restless, passionate style of music?

MB: I'm not a big fan of definitions and genres...I'm bad when I'm trying to define or explain what I do. Usually I like something when it touches me, simple as that.

AKITD: The flipside to your two solo projects are the numerous collaborations you've done with other musicians. How do these collaborations tend to come about, and what are the pros and cons of doing them in comparison with your solo work?

MB: Most of the collaborations come from virtual and musical meetings. I'm always open to collaborations as long as the people and their music touch me. I don't like people telling me what to do, hopefully they don't, so it's good, simple and usually quick collaborations, that's why I have so many. I like sharing my passion with different people from around the world, it's exciting.

AKITD: You seem to have a great relationship with Zorch Factory Records. How did you initially become involved with the label?

MB: Manu Zorch contacted me years ago to tell me he liked my music. At this time I wasn't doing albums, just songs that I was posting on Myspace. I had a lot of songs so I decided to do demos/albums and Manu kindly put some of my albums on his label. We also did an album together with hs band Camp Z. I like this label and what Manu is doing with it, I'm glad to be a part of it.

AKITD: Your most recent album is Psalm 37:29. Can you talk a little bit about the use of Biblical imagery and themes on this album?

MB: I grew up in a very strict and religious family, praying and reading the Bible everyday, it was my life. When I was 17 I left home and I didn't want to hear about it anymore.  I just closed the door and never looked back. But it's coming back to me and I'm thinking about spirituality and faith but in a different way I guess. I'm asking myself questions, wondering what's going on in this world, this sky, this mind...

AKITD: For someone who is just discovering your music from one of the many compilations your songs have appeared on, which album of yours would you recommend they start with, and why?

MB: I would simply say: start with the first album cause it's the beginning! But it's not always easy to listen to, so maybe just try with Noisi(h)er Silence which is the third or fourth.

AKITD: What do you have planned for the upcoming year?

MB:  More music, videos and paintings... I want to dig more.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Interview with BY ANY MEANϟ NECEϟϟARY


BY ANY MEANϟ NECEϟϟARY is a one-man EBM unit currently based out of Asheville, North Carolina. The brainchild of Sam Witherspoon, BAMN  released its first album (available here: By Any Means Necessary) in the Fall of 2011. From the menacing, ambient pulse of the opening track "I [segue]" to the relentless synth-stomp of closer "Sinew", BAMN's eponymous debut is the work of someone who has mastered the musical vocabulary of the 80s EBM/Industrial scene and wrought their own dark and very distinct dialect from it. A Kiss in the Dreamhouse (AKITD) interviewed Sam Witherspoon (SM) about his project via email in December 2011.

AKITD: How long has BAMN been around? Has it always been a solo project, or were there other people involved at some point?

SW: By Any Means Necessary started around the fall of 2008... It started as just a live performance exploration (funny enough), figuring out what I wanted to do. It's pretty much always been a solo project, though I like to work with my friends from other bands/projects from time to time.

AKITD: What’s your musical background? Were you in any other bands prior to BAMN?

SW: Music and art have always been extremely important in my life, I think I would have gone completely crazy if I didn't have a way to express myself. Prior to BAMN, I'd been in various other bands in the Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Asheville area.

AKITD: How did you decide on the name of the band?

SW: I don't really remember how I picked "By Any Means Necessary" as a band name. Aesthetically for some reason it stuck, though I've come to learn there's some metal band that goes by the same name. Of course, it also can be connected with Malcom X or Jean Paul Sartre, although I'm not really a politically motivated type. It has some sort of urgency or importance implied, I guess. I haven't really bothered thinking about changing it to anything else.

AKITD: You’ve repeatedly identified BAMN as an Electronic Body Music (EBM) project. For the sake of those unfamiliar with the term, how would you define it, and what attracts you to this particular genre of music?

SW: Defining "EBM" depends on who you ask... I guess that a common thing that most people would agree with is that it's a industrial-spawned style of electronic music, and the name comes from Front 242 on No Comment. When people say EBM, a lot of the time the calculated/driving stuff comes to mind, like Nitzer Ebb, Front Line Assembly, Portion Control, 242, and groups like that. There's also a kind of "horror" camp that bands like the Klinik, Skinny Puppy, yelworC/AmGod really seem to define. Of course, I'm over simplifying this/not naming everything because I might just start ranting about it. I think the qualifiers for what "EBM" is have changed or morphed, and there are a lot of different moods going on within the genre.

What attracted EBM or Industrial to me was the notion that "electronic music" need not be safe. Nor does it need to lack all semblance of structure in order for it to be experimental. I think that a lot of hardcore EBM fans would make an uproar if you classified what they listened to as "techno" or "dance" music. Also, there's the culture behind it, a really interesting network of connected scenes and supportive fans.

AKITD: Because of the word “electronic” in Electronic Body Music, some people might be under the erroneous impression that EBM is yet another type of laptop-created computer music that doesn’t require any kind of special equipment OR musical skill. Can you describe the type of equipment you use to achieve your sound, and the sort of difficulties and expenses you’ve encountered using old-school synths?

SW: I've been a synth-geek for a while now. I always appreciate knowing when bands/musicians are going to use hardware over software, but I'm starting to get tired of the "analog vs. digital" debate. In my opinion, it shouldn't matter what you use, as long as it sounds good (which is subjective anyway), though I'm a little biased against software. On the album, I used a lot of hardware synths and electronic instruments, primarily the Roland HS-60, Roland D-550, Roland JX-8P, Korg MS2000B, Korg EMX-1, Korg DDD-1, Korg MicroX, Casio FZ-10M, Novation KS4, Novation K-Station, and Yamaha PSS-680... It's an expensive/stupid obsession, I've amassed a lot of gear and I've had to figure out how to make BAMN work in a live setting again.

AKITD: Despite having clubs like the Orange Peel and boasting musical events like Moogfest, Asheville is not particularly well-known for possessing any kind of an EBM (or Goth or Industrial) “scene”. Has that kind of isolation helped or hindered your creative work? And now that BAMN has started to play out live in support of an album, how receptive has the Asheville community been to your sound?

SW: It's true. Asheville seems a little isolated from anything in the EBM/Industrial range, but there are a few people/groups around here that are sort of interested in the same kind of things that I am. I'm not really great at promoting/selling myself regardless, so it's hard to say if it's really hindered BAMN in that respect, but creatively I think the mountains have helped me. BAMN hasn't played that many shows in general, and hardly any since I started getting more serious about the project. In 2010 we played at the local response to the focus-group-orientated "Moogfest", "Foogmess", and it was a pretty great turnout. People seemed excited, really receptive. More recently, we played again at Foogmess this year and downtown in November. I think a lot of people aren't sure what to expect, and when they see what the show is all about that they are generally surprised. Now that I'm trying to lug a lot of the "studio" onstage, it's not as much of a physically active show as it is a stage covered with tiers of synths. On the whole, I think that Asheville has a pretty receptive underground scene, though attendance and variety seem to have dwindled as of late. I can't make a good observation, I haven't been to that many shows recently.

AKITD: Your self-titled album came out this Halloween. How long did it take to put the tracks together, and what kind of considerations dictated which tracks were included and which were left off, or when a particular version of a song (like “Waiting”, for example) was ready for the full-length?

SW: A lot of the songs had been written in the late Spring and early Summer, and some even before that. I kept messing around and working with them, sort of taking my time. Eventually I had to just push myself to get it all together and finished, and that's what really decided what was going to be on the album. I recorded Waiting again, with my new setup, just because it's one of the first BAMN songs, and one that I still play live, and I wanted to give it a better treatment than the version that was on the demo.

AKITD: The album sounds and looks AMAZING. Was it all self-recorded, or did you work in conjunction with a studio at some point? What was the process of recording the tracks like, and what sort of aesthetic considerations shaped the packaging of the CD?

SW: Thank you. Yes, it was all self-recorded. In my dreams, I'd have access to a studio and true, up-to-date professional recording equipment, haha. This CD was the first time I moved to using a software DAW (Logic) to record tracks, and I'm pleased. Before this, I was always going to my Tascam digital recorder, and finding convoluted ways to get the audio mixed down. The cover of the album is a digital collage that I created, and I set up the lettering and design of the sleeve as well. I'm a "designer of sorts", and I tried to capture a bit of the style of that underground tape culture in how I set up the sleeve.

AKITD: There is a skilled use of samples on some of the songs that recall Skinny Puppy at their peak. How do you go about figuring out which samples to use, and how to match them up with certain songs?

SW: I try to grab small snippets from films/shows that I like, that have something to do with what's being conveyed. When I'm doing it on my own, I'm using the Casio FZ-10M, a giant rackmount sampler/digital synthesizer... A lot of the sampler tracks on the album were done/collected by Josh Reed, who has also been playing live along with me for the new BAMN shows. He's somewhat of a sound archivist, and a great musician in his own right, and does stuff under the name Kangarot.

AKITD: The distorted, menacing vocals on some of the tracks really contributes to the overall dark and dehumanized mood of the album. Was that an effect you deliberately sought to achieve? What inspired the lyrics for the songs that do have vocals, and what sort of factors determined which songs would have words and which would be left as instrumentals?

SW: I'm an unintentional frontman/vocalist. Lyrics are usually the last thing that I figure out for a song, and the songs on the album are a mixture of free-association, aesthetic themes, and just feelings that I had when I was working on these songs. Modulated "goblin" vocals appeal to me, obviously an homage to the SP/early Portion Control vocal style... I use a lot of stuttering delay, which I get from a Digitech RDS1000, a digital rackmount delay that is really fun to mess around with.

AKITD: What bands would you cite as influences? Are there any contemporary acts that you are enthusiastic about?

SW: I have lots of influences! I'm pretty aware that I look up to the classic Skinny Puppy vibe a lot. The complexity and density of Mentallo & the Fixer (especially the albums No Rest for the Wicked and Revelations 23) has left an impact on me as well, and I'm always trying to hunt down EBM records/tapes/CDs from the late 80s/early 90s that aren't mentioned a lot. Actually, it's pretty strange how many records and CDs I've found in record stores here in Asheville. I just recently picked up FLA's Total Terror part II and Doubting Thomas' The Infidel.

As for contemporary acts, it seems like in the past 3 years, there has been a revival of the industrial/ebm sound, and I think there are some bands that really do it well. //Tense// is really great, and I really like the sound White Car was going for on No Better, and wish that they went on to do more stuff like they did on the Loom 11 side project. I think that the "EBM" fad is sort of dying though, it seems like the aesthetic is morphing into wannabe rave culture.. which I'm okay with. There was a time where I knew a lot of people with an "ironic" or self-aware interest in the stuff that I thrive off of, and it seemed kind of shallow, like there was this scene that was appropriating aesthetics, images and sounds without realizing where they were taking it from. That's popular now, and I think that it's overdone. I'm looking for honesty in what listen to, and that's what I think is missing from a lot of music today.

AKITD: I know you are currently at work on a follow-up EP to the full-length. What kind of things would you like to see happen in the future for BAMN?

SW: Hm, I don't know. Create more solid ideas, explore new territory... I want to see a return to honest industrial/EBM music, not just "clubby" tracks, but experimental, uncompromising, not something trendy. I'm always noodling around, but I would be happy to know that other people are enjoying it too.

For more information on BAMN, check out the following links: