When US band Sunshine Blind came to prominence in the gothic scene in the early 90s, it also heralded a new resurgence in bands and music of this style, making it an extremely exciting time. Caroline Blind was the front woman for Sunshine Blind and after a hiatus, returned to the scene as a solo act and also a member of the experimental project Voidant. We spoke to the gracious and lovely Caroline about life, friends and of course the music.
Caroline Blind, a warm welcome from the Onyx rabbit hole.
You first started out in the band, Sunshine Blind. What drew you to that style of music and how did the band form?
Hi. I was well into the style of music before I started the band, of course. I was looking to submerge myself into it more, by going ahead and playing it, and not just listening to it. Probably what made me really go for it was seeing actual people where I lived doing it. Listening to bands from some far off place is one thing, but actually going to a show and seeing friends, or friends of friends, in my neighborhood having a go at forming their own bands and writing their own music, was the thing that made me realize that I could do it, too.
I put an ad in a local music paper, looking for a guitarist, and I met with those that responded. I found CWHK, it turned out he literally lived around the corner from me, but I didn’t know him then. We started working on songs, and the mix was right. We formed Sunshine Blind, and played together for 13 years. A million tour dates, and 3 albums later – it took us all over the country and beyond.
I first remember hearing you sing on the compilation Masked Beauty In A Sea Of Sadness (1994) with the song Crescent And The Stars. That whole CD was full of some great bands. Sunshine Blind broke up as many bands do when they hit a certain point. You must look back of that time with some whimsy but do you feel being a performer under your own name suits you better now?
That was a good compilation…. I don’t look back with whimsy, doing the band was my life, my purpose, and was wrapped up with the personal relationship- CWHK and I were married, and we had kids.
We divorced in early 2000’s. Realizing after ten years that doing our music was really only my dream, and not his, or at least, not anymore, was a serious break that totally shook me- The band had been my identity. Our identity, I thought, but things changed. I really didn’t know where to go without his half, I didn’t know who I was anymore without being “Caroline of Sunshine Blind”.
I had been very dependent on him for music production, as well, so I knew I would have to learn that part of it if I wanted to continue to make music, so in 2016 I took some music production courses. The first time I recorded a song in Protools by myself, rough as it was, I cried. I was able to express myself again through music, and I felt I had years of anguish to process/ express!
Music has always been a collaboration for me, with someone I cared deeply about. I feel personally that the music is boring if I do it all myself, it’s better as a collaboration, I need someone to bounce ideas off of, to compliment and blend with,- music needs a ying and a yang, it’s a conversation. Doing music “by myself” is not something I even want to do. Just doesn’t appeal to me. So of course when people offered to help, I jumped at the chance.
I don’t know why it didn’t dawn on me that I could work with new or different people, probably because “why would I want to?”. But in the end I was forced to. When people offered, and I took them up on it. I found It was EXACTLY like going from being married, to ‘dating again’. Can be exciting, full of promise, and then, maybe transitory, and you can get your heart broken. You can work very superficially, or you can get into a very strong connection with a collaborator. Very hit and miss. I’m learning to rely on myself to be the constant thread through it all, since I guess I’m the one with my own vision, and I don’t wish to give that away ever again. Does it suit me? No idea. I just have to express myself, and follow where it leads, as I always have done. I know that some great music can come from when you are going through things and have real emotions to express, and I’ve been having some real emotions about my new working form/ collaborations (!) , so I feel my music will have that intensity that I’m drawn to, in music I listen to, and probably people will be able to relate/ connect to my music because of that, too.
As you said, you have been creating music again. With several singles released, you then dropped the album, The Spell Between in 2020. The list of people you have on the credits is fairly impressive, so do you think you have found some of your tribe, so to speak, who mirror your own need to make music?
That’s a good question. I am really driven to do music, to live a life in the music industry. I do not feel like some the people I have worked with in the past 6 years are so driven, no. People have moved on. There are a few who are always working on something, or doing as many shows as they can, or out there creating things, but some people maybe ‘used to do it full time’, and maybe stopped, or just do it sometimes, or on the weekends or something… you know, they have lives (lol!), maybe kids, big jobs, who knows, not me. Doesn’t really matter to me. I’m here to work on music. That’s my fun, it’s my therapy, how I self actualize, work out my karma, whatever. It’s the lens I see the world through. It feels like the point of my life, I guess, -and the thing that was neglected for a bit there, so feels AMAZING to be back at it, and IN it. The people I’ve found to work with, are just friends, old a new. I’m happy to be hanging out with them whether we do music or not, because we share a history and/ or a scene. I’ll travel across oceans to see a show as happily as I will to play one, I just like being a part of the industry and scene, and expressing my art in it, when I get the chance. It feels like home to me. So yes, I’m back with my ‘Tribe’. (Which is coincidentally the title of a song I released recently, that I had some of the greatest guitarists in this scene help me with!)
I see you caught my drift. The song Tribe was re-recorded and as you said released as a single. How was it hearing this song refreshed and does it take on new meaning for you now?
Tribe was a song we wrote with Sunshine Blind, but never recorded in the studio. I always felt it was a quintessential Sunshine Blind track- a torrent of riffs and guitars, a soaring and powerful vocal, I wanted to get it done in the studio and put it out. I was able to get the full Sunshine Blind lineup; CWHK on guitars, William Faith ( Bellwether syndicate, Faith and the Muse) on Bass, and Geoff Bruce ( Sunshine Blind, Faith and the Muse) on Drums, to record their parts for it and send me the files. I had Gordon Young in Edinburgh mix it with my other solo album tracks, and we put it on my solo album “The Spell Between”.
But my solo album was mostly grooves and acoustic guitar, after I released the album, I wanted to showcase “Tribe” on its own, where it’s power would stand out. Just rock/ electric guitar music.
My solo album had been very limited by “what I can do on guitar” , which is “not much”! lol! Giving free license to someone whose language is guitar, was kind of what I had been looking for- making something that was more than the sum of it’s parts. I was so thrilled. I contacted Mark Gemini Thwaite directly, and he and Ashley Bad got busy on a remix which turned it into an extended club mix for the dancefloor, and that was epic!
I started looking in to getting remixes done. This was during the pandemic, and lots of people who play guitar live for touring acts were grounded with no work. Many of them turned to doing studio work for hire, and it was perfect timing for me. I got connected to Andee Blacksugar of KMFDM though my PR company, and he did a remix. To your question, yes, it’s very weird to hear someone change a song you agonized over and wrote and recorded to be “just so”. But it’s also fascinating. You can get some “why didn’t I do that?” or “that’s a really interesting spin!” The remixes can make you hear the song in a whole new way, for sure.
Finally, my friend Michael Clark had produced some work with Ben Christo (gutiarist of Sisters of Mercy), and since The Sisters were a big inspiration when we started Sunshine Blind, I thought who better to work a song that was pretty much made for the style? Ben knocked it waaaay out of the park- he added backing vocals and sped it up even more, it just rocks harder than anything I’ve done in a long time, and I am fully here for it, and ready to take that inspiration and run with it. Warm up is over, no more acoustics…next album will be some serious riffy guitars, which was where I started in the first place. Looking forward to getting back to it. Gotta thank those guys all, for reminding me what is possible. I’m very inspired.
I saw Ben Christo last play with Andrew Eldritch and Mark Gemini Twaite with Peter Murphy and David J (Bauhaus 40th Anniversary of In The Flat Field). Both are amazing guitarists. The pandemic has not been kind to the music industry over the last two years but it has also forged some dynamic and strong friendships borne of the desire to create and connect. How has covid affected the way you approach music and did this inspire you to go ahead with Voidant?
Covid hasn’t really affected my music too much. Since I did whole “restart as solo artist” a few years ago, it’s been a lot of “working from home “. I started my solo thing just by myself and a computer/ home studio, and then when I started working with my first collaborator, Rich W.- (guitarist from The Wake (US)), we were 2000 miles apart, and traded files back and forth. When I started working with other people, like Wolfie ( Guitarist from Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, who I also do that electronic music project called “Voidant” with), who is in Leeds, England, and Gordon Young, who mixed and mastered my album from Edinburgh, Scotland- it was the same, all online, trading files. I did eventually meet them all face to face at least once or twice, before the pandemic, but writing and recording is a bulk of the work I’ve done, so far, in my “comeback”, so no, covid hasn’t affected that part at all. Working with Rich, him introducing me to Wolfie and the relationships I have started and sustained through both of them, started and evolved just like they would have in real life, they just happened through talking and working online, thanks to the internet.
As for shows; I was just starting to play out live before the pandemic, just getting a live band together, I was lucky to have Dave (from) The Dramedy play bass, and George Earth ( from Switchblade Symphony) play guitar for me, for some live shows in 2019.
We only did a few shows, but we traveled , but we had some ADVENTURES!
Our working together was kind of a long distance thing, as well, -they were both in LA and I was in San Francisco ( 400 miles apart). I would drive down to rehearse with them once or twice a month.
Since the shut down, I’ve moved back to my original state, New Jersey, which is 3000 miles from LA, so it’ll be hard to keep working with them. My move wasn’t Covid related, I had been planning it since before the pandemic. I was sick of San Francisco, and I wanted to be home, and closer to the UK, too. When I thought of moving, I figured I would find people out here on the East Coast to play with, but THAT has definitely been hindered by the Pandemic. I can’t get out to go to the clubs and see people and who is still around New York and NJ that could play for me.
I hadn’t originally planned on finding people in LA before my move, and playing shows with them, but the need arose and it just happened! lol! Sometimes you just have to go with things that happen organically, even if they aren’t what you planned or how you planned it, if it’s working for you, why not follow it? And people loved meeting/ seeing George and Dave, it just worked, and we had lots of fun. My band Sunshine Blind did a tour with Switchblade Symphony back in 1997, so George and I have memories and history that go back a while, it was great to reminisce and work together again, this time in the same band!
I just booked my first post -pandemic show for this coming July- I’m headlining one of the nights of Goth City Leeds festival in the UK. I am worried about how Covid will affect it, but I went over to the UK this past Halloween for a music festival ( to attend, not play), so I’ve travelled in a pandemic time, I should be able to do it again. Fingers crossed.
You mention the Leeds goth festival and I know that Wolfie Wolfenden will be looking forward to catching up with you. Will he be getting on-stage with you and can you tell us about this friendship across the sea?
Yes, I met Wolfie though Rich (guitarist from The Wake (US)). Rich and I started working on music together, he was my first collaborator as a solo artist. I was recording some cover songs, Swans “God Damn the Sun”, and such, and I wanted to cover “Heaven” by Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. I didn’t know at the time that Rich knew Wolfie. Rich and I worked out a version where Rich played a Baritone acoustic guitar, and I sang, and we made a decent demo. Then one morning I woke to a message from Rich saying he had sent the demo over to Wolfie. I was horrified, because I’ve not had good experiences in meeting my idols up until then ( see: https://www.mtv.com/news/1434098/sisters-of-mercy-slag-bands-for-being-too-goth/ wherein Andrew Edlritch almost single handedly ruined our career back in 1997 by throwing us off an opening slot for The Sisters of Mercy show in Philadelphia, PA. The fallout made our record company fold, and left us stranded in California, on different coast from our usual recording studio.)
Fortunately Wolfie is a very personable guy, and he loved the demo, and was flattered by it. He said it almost made him cry. I asked him why later, if it was a bad memory for him, and he said no, that it was a super happy memory, so maybe it was just bittersweet. In any event, Rich asked Wolfie to play on our cover of the song, and he did. So there are two cover songs on my CD where I have the original songwriter of the song playing on the song with me singing. ( The other is the cover of The Wake’s “First”, because Rich played guitar on that for me.)
So Wolfie is great, we got to chatting through the internet, and after a while, he asked if I would sing on an electronic project he was working on. I said, “Of course”, and he sent it over. It became the song “Death to Sleep” which is on my solo album, “The Spell Between”.
Very different style and working style for me, but I love what we came up with. After this, he had more songs, so we started working on an EP/ Album. He would send me the files, I’d write and record my vocals and send them back. So we’re working partners now, as well as friends.
In 2019 I went to England to see James- (bass player from The Wake) – he had a new band, ‘October Burns Black’ , and they went over to play a show at the Tomorrows Ghosts Festival in Whitby, England.
While I was over there, I stopped in Leeds, and Wolfie let me stay at his place, and took me all around Leeds for the grand tour, which included stories of himself and all the bands that came out of Leeds, and where they played and lived back in the day, the Sisters, The Mission, The Lorries, March Violets, the Rose of Avalanche, etc. Great stories!
We worked on our electronic album, and it came out under the project name “Voidant” last year. It’s pretty experimental, but there are some great tunes in there! It was a good exercise in songwriting for me, trying different styles, etc, and I’m pretty excited about it.
I went back to England, to the Whitby Festival again in 2021. The Wake were supposed to be playing but the pandemic made it too hard to get Visas, so I was very sad not to see my friends playing there, but I had a hotel booked from the previous year, and decided to go anyway, because of pandemic fatigue! I went over, and I stayed with Wolfie again on my way there, we had a great time catching up and playing music then as well, before I headed over to Whitby.
I have asked Wolfie to join me for this show in July, we can do some Voidant songs and some Lorries Songs, people should get a kick out of that. The hometown of the Lorries and all…. I’m looking forward to it!
When I interviewed Wolfie, he had this to say about you. “She stayed with us and she’s a really big fan of Zakk Wylde and I can see he’s a terrific guitar player although his music isn’t something I would listen to but there is one Zakk Wylde song that we both agree on that we’d like to do a cover of in a 4AD kind of ideal and it’s this song called Spoke In The Wheel which I think is a fucking great song because you know it’s a really great song”. The burning question is, is this going ahead because I want to hear this?!
That is the plan, though we haven’t begun yet. When we were together in Leeds at Halloween, Wolfie and I started talking about what songs we’d do next, and that cover was one. When I got home, I was at a Black Label Society show about a month later, and I took a little video of Zakk playing ‘Spoke in the wheel’ live, and sent it to Wolfie to show him how Zakk changes up songs live, to show how we could change it up. So, we’ll see how it turns out. I am a huge Zakk fan, I’ve gone to tons of his shows, they are good fun, and he often has great bands on the road with him, that I also enjoy. I’ve been to so many shows, that Wylde’s road crew recognizes me, and they say hello when they see me!
Can’t wait to hear your version. Wolfie also mentioned that it might be on a new EP. EPs seem to be popular again. What music did you grow up on that would influence your getting into the industry?
I like music with actual emotional intensity, in pretty much any genre. I usually dislike pop songs, or music that is just for filling space or just for dancing. I’m attracted to darker themes and moods. My history of musical exposure goes like this: started with the Beatles, and music from the UK has always been a theme for me from there. Being from New Jersey I was exposed to a lot of Classic Rock, Heavy Metal and Southern rock, so I have all that, but even there, the classic rock from the UK stood out for me, like Pink Floyd, Judas Preist or Led Zeppelin, not US bands. As a kid in the 80’s, I loved New Wave, but really New Wave, like New Romantics (UK), not like Madonna (US). My other recurring theme is guitars, guitarists, and guitar based music. I liked a lot of music that had synths, but bands with guitars is what I like. Grunge, Hardcore, Metal, indie bands and ‘120 minutes’ Alternative music in the 90’s, I liked. That’s where I first saw bands like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Swans, The Bolshoi and a bunch of the more trad goth bands, too: The Mission, Love and Rockets, Peter Murphy. I knew some people at university who were in Goth Bands, and by the time I started looking for a band, I knew that was the way I wanted to go.
Currently there is a post-punk/coldwave/darkwave revival, with a lot of interesting acts like Twin Tribes, TRAITRS She Past Away to name a few. Are there any particular bands in the current era that you hear and think, yep I can get into that?
No, not really. lol! The new bands I’ve been most excited about in the past few years are/ were: Sometime the Wolf, October Burns Black, Bootblacks and Auger. Like I said, it fit doesn’t have enough guitars, it probably won’t be on my list.
Sometime the Wolf broke up, but Drew (lead singer) has a new project called “All My Thorns”, and Drew is about to be the new Singer for Sweet Ermengarde, too, so looking forward to that. Also, October Burns Black is about to drop a new album, so that’s coming up… I think Auger are probably the youngest/ newest band on my list. Love ’em to bits. Saw the lead singer, Kyle, do a solo set last Halloween at the Marquis Masquerade party in Whitby, unbelievable, that guy.
Have to say I really like Tommy Olsen (ex-Theatre of Tragedy) from October Burns Black’s, other project, Long Night. He is such a polished guitar player. And Auger, we have reviewed before and they have so much talent going on there. In July, as you said, you have Goth City in Leeds, but what else does the future hold for Caroline Blind?
Oh yes, I love Long Night, and all the bands associated with October Burns Black. All the bands Simon Rippin ( Fields of the Nephilim) plays for : Grooving in Green, etc. I was sad Tommy didn’t come over with OBB when they played Whitby, so I could meet him. Gordon Young ( Dream Disciples, Pretentious Moi, Children on Stun) filled in for him.
As for the future, right now the only things in current works are getting ready for, and playing the shows this summer, I have a song due for a Compilation of covers next month, and Wolfie and I have a tentative plan to do more Voidant work. I have a couple songs that I need to cobble together for an EP for this year or next, but I’m brainstorming how to do them, who to do them with, etc. I like to have a rough idea to begin with, start putting things in place, and then something will happen and the last pieces will click, and I’ll know exactly what I need to do… it’s that “preparedness meets opportunity” thing… I’ll see it, and then I know exactly what I’ve prepared for, and it works really well, though not always on a timeline I think it will, but the ends are usually worth it.
Is there anything else you want to touch on or feel I have missed that we should cover? I have enjoyed reading everything immensely. Otherwise, I can say – Thank you ever so much for the talking to me and giving us some of your time. Can’t wait to hear what comes next!
No, I think we covered everything, Thank you!