Detroit deathgaze duo, VAZUM have their latest single, “Angel“, awaiting your pleasure. Dropped on June the 24th, it can be found on Bandcamp for name yourprice.
There is a harkening back to a 90s sound, but my goodness, those guitars sounds so incredibly good. I do like it when they have the dueling vocals through the chorus and the lyrics speak of a person who acts self righteous, however, lacks moral fibre and blames everyone but themselves when caught in a lie.
This might be my favourite song yet by VAZUM. Zach Pliska is the lead vocalist this time and Emily Sturm does a stirling job at backing vocals. There is a heavier accent on the deathrock influence here. It’s hard to describe but the feeling is that VAZUM are becoming ever more comfortable and confident. A cohesive ease so to speak. Beware of any “Angel” as they might beguile you with their light and betray you with a kiss.
Legends of the electronic scene. Germany’s X MARKS THE PEDWALK, released the official video of their latest single, “Yesterdays“, which is off their album, New / End, on the Meshwork Music label. The video is beautifully made, cine graphic and rich, complimenting the gorgeous vocals of ESTEFANÍA, a track about family and love that transverse time. It is a perfect synthpop tune and in some ways, reminds me of ABBA, especially with the very human sentiment.
Pennsylvania based, TheNumber H has dropped the EP, The Conditioning, on May the 27th, with Lost GlacierRecords. This is their second dark electronic EP release, which, in true industrial style, they are using recordings of everyday noises and fusing them into into these techno and bass influenced tracks.
Straight off the bat is “Nothing“, sexually charged industrial beats, that build up and breakdown, lulled by her vocals. Industrial bass is beautifully used to full effect in “Grief“, with science fiction overtones, the electronics in a juxtaposition of being smooth and abrasive at the same time. “Tell Me” is a techno whirlwind with glitching vocals, designed to build you higher with those rhythms and then you are plunged into the dark depths of “MissMe“, which gave me goosebumps.
“Hideous Dream” is in no way terrible to listen to and in fact delightfully works its way through your senses, the electronics implanting themselves into pleasure centres. Last track is “Undone“, ominous and foreboding as it builds to a whirling techno synth vortex, that collapses only to take you an unwinding journey.
Erotically charged, surreal and sublime. The low spoken vocals, not quite disinterested, drawling out, cutting into your skin. I think I could easily listen to The Number H all day, if I am being perfectly honest. She has an amazing flow that grabs you with the intensity of the music. Loss, intense sorrow and hopefully healing, now you have The Conditioning,.
Australia’s deathrockers, SeaLungs, have launched the new single, “Truffle Pig“, as of the 27th of June. Out on the Sydney label, Mantravision Productions, this sees vocalist and lyricist, Andi Lennon with composer Jarrad Robertson, mixing & mastering by Mantravision’s Ant Banister (Sounds Like Winter). These gentlemen are scholars of past empires and though this seems like a commentary on the child labourers, as young as five years old, in coal mines during the Victorian Era, aka, the Industrial Revolution, it is also looking towards our modern times and the erosion of worker’s rights and dismantling/banning of unions.
The thing that hits me the most to begin with is the rhythmic pattern that is like being in a boat, continuously bobbing up and down, pounded wave after wave but never swamped, as Lennon’s vocals call out over the top as the tether. The guitars crash down, condemning, onto those who don’t learn from the past, in wonderfully poetic prose.
“Truffle Pig” just proves that Sea Lungs are going from strength to strength, creating a diverse catalogue of tracks, with which they are honing their sound. It is deliciously dark, melodic and has a political beating heart, so you need your serving of “Truffle Pig“.
Autumn Tears is a name from the 90s, synonymous with gothic music inspired by classical/traditional styles and they have married a split album, Widowing/Possessing, with the newer dark folk project, Zeresh. TedTringo is the man who has continuously been at the helm of the US band, Autumn Tears since 1995, which has picked up steam in the creation of new music in the last few years. Zeresh is Israeli musician, Tamar Singer, who also sings for Autumn Tears, so it seems quite natural for these two projects to share a split album. Windowing is the Autumn Tears half and it has pulled together musicians who play traditional instruments and vocalists of such a high caliber, so the tracks are rich, ethereal and romantically dark. Possessing is of course Zeresh, and it weighs more in your heart, an overwhelming sadness and torment. The instruments are often far more modern in this production but just as eerie and beautiful as Widowing. You can hear the Singer’s homeland influencing the undercurrent of the songs and the sound of the music.
So, we bring to you an interview in two acts. We we very luck to interview Ted and Tamar about their respective bands, their influences and above all the split album. If you love Dead Can Dance or remember the 90s, when Arcana, Lycia and Autumn Tears were the medieval babes of the scene, you should indulge in this offering of Widowing/Possessing and read on!
ACT 1 – AUTUMN TEARS
Greetings to Onyx’s dark side of life and the winter garden, Ted Tringo of Autumn Tears.
Thank you so much! I really appreciate the opportunity 🙂
Autumn Tears has been around in different forms since 1995, with you as the permanent founding member. Did you think Autumn Tears would still be around, creating music and the and still this popular, more than quarter of a century later?
Honestly I had always planned on it as once I began Autumn Tears in 1995, I envisioned it being around for decades. What I had not anticipated was the long 11 year hiatus that I took from 2007 until 2018. Thankfully that is in the past and I don’t plan on ever stopping again.
You released the albums “Colors Hidden Within The Gray” (2019), “The Air Below The Water” (2020) and “The Glow of Desperation” (2021) in very quick succession. Each of these were very highly involved albums as far as people contributing their talents and orchestration. What prompted this surge of creativity?
I think most of it stems from the bottled up creativity I had stored from the 11 years which I was not active. I had a lot of time to reflect and to study music, that in the event of a comeback, I would be more than prepared with ideas and the musical knowledge to give Autumn Tears all that I could.
It was the 2020 album, “The Air Below The Water”, that first saw you collaborating with Tamar Singer. How did you first come into contact Singer?
I first discovered Tamar and Zeresh when I was asked to take part in the ‘At Sea Compilations’ – “Snowflakes”. We both shared songs on the comp and as soon as I heard Zeresh, I knew Tamar had a very unique and special sound which I felt would be a wonderful addition to the Autumn Tears ever evolving sound.
Singer also performs under the name of Zeresh and this year, Autumn Tears and Zeresh released a split album together. What was the thinking behind this and who first suggested this joint operation?
I actually suggested this to Tamar a few years back. I was completely taken with Zeresh upon my first listen and have become a fan ever since. I felt a split release would be a great way to share our collective works with our respective fans and let them experience music from both of our projects. I’v always enjoyed split releases so this was a great experience to be able to be a part of one together with another music project that I love.
Autumn Tears is on the first half and it is called “Widowing” which is also the seventh track on the split, that features Singer. Why did you choose this as the title track and does it have any particular significance for you?
The significance of the title ‘Widowing” is about loss and acceptance, and I felt that having Tamar sing on the title track was important as It not only bridges the gap between the two releases, being the last song on the Autumn Tears EP, but also it flows right into the first Zeresh track having Tamar be the lead singer on both songs back to back.
You have access to all these gorgeous female and male vocals. How do you ever choose who sings what and how lucky do you feel having access to such talent?
Some of them I sought out and some I was already familiar with. Caroline and Darren Clarke from the acoustic opera duo Trovatori I discovered on Fiverr and they have been permanent members ever since, of which I am very grateful for. I also discovered Ffion Elisa on Fiverr as well. Dawn I have known for over 20 years having been the lead singer for Rain Fell Within who were signed to my label back then so my appreciation for her is a given. Of course Agnete from Madder Mortem and Ann-Mari from ex The Third and the Mortal were both long time favorites of mine so I am very thankful for their appearances.
Again, there has been many musicians you have collaborated with to create “Widowing”. I was wondering about how you ended up recording this album, as I can imagine Covid would have played havoc with your plans?
Well like many musicians nowadays, thankfully Autumn Tears has also benefited from the power of the internet and of remote recording. It of course makes everything possible with all of the different members living all over the world.
There are very heavy accents of middle eastern influence, like in “Of Sun, Sky and Rain”. Is this a style of music you particularly enjoy or find enhances the exotic flavour of your music?
It’’s actually both. I have always enjoyed Middle Eastern music, and having Soroush Abedi as a member of Autumn Tears, he is very skilled in many musical styles and able to authentically incorporate the Middle Eastern and instruments into the Autumn Tears style to create a very unique fusion which I think only helps to enhance our overall sound and diversity.
For me, “Bringer Of Balance” is just spine tingling with the entwined male and female vocals in an almost baroque style. Do you have a favourite track off this album?
Thank you so much! I am sure lead singer Darren will be very happy to read this. It is hard for me to pick a favorite as I enjoy them all very much, but I think I may still have a soft spot for the title track ‘Widowing’ as it encompasses the feel of the album as a whole. Of course if you ask me tomorrow, I may have a different favorite ;).
Even though bands like Dead Can Dance had started in the 80s, it was really in the 90s that medieval/classical gothic styled music really took off. You are still producing that style today, however to my ears, it is much more refined and cohesive. Do you feel this way about your music now as compared to the original albums?
That was always my goal with Autumn Tears. I will always appreciate the early sound we developed back in the 90s, however it was always my goal to mature Autumn Tears with real classical instruments and musical style to hopefully one day try and carve out our own sound. Hopefully we are aa little closer to doing so now 27 years later. 🙂
I am curious as to who were your inspirations in music when you first started and if there are any newer loves you have now?
Back in the 90s when I began, my influences ranged from DCD, to Stoa, Anchorage and Arcana, (Arcana’s – ‘The Song of Mourning’ actually helped to kick start my desire to write Autumn Tears music) and now I think I am more influenced by modern and traditional classical music as well as cinematic score and soundtracks. I think I will keep evolving the styles while still retaining our core sound.
If you could choose any musician to record with (alive or expired) for the next album, whom would you desire and why?
There are so many I admire that I would love to work with but if I had to choose one, I would have loved to collaborate with Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. I actually dedicated the 2019 album ‘Colors Hidden Within the Gray’ to him.
What is next for yourself and Autumn Tears?
We are currently working on our next full length album which hopefully will be ready by the end of the year.
Thank you for the enchanting and haunting music, as well as your time Ted.
My absolute pleasure, thank you!
ACT 2 – ZERESH
Zeresh is your project and I believe it came into being around 2017/18? Also what prompted you to create Zeresh?
The name “Zeresh” came to be around 2017 but the idea and many of the songs existed long before that and were waiting for me to be able to give them some kind of an output.
In June 2017 I did my first solo concert and that’s when the need for a name became obvious.
My debut EP ‘Sigh For Sigh’ was already recorded at the time yet I struggled hard with mixing it since I had zero knowledge or experience of how to do it.. but once it was completed I embraced the name Zeresh for this project.
The name Zeresh seems highly symbolic. In Persian it means gold, in the old Testament Zeresh is a wife, as well as being linked to meaning strange or misery. Why did you choose this name?
First of all I liked how it sounds – yet it seemed a bit too “black metal” for my project.. It didn’t feel right for this purpose but I loved the name so much that I’ve decided to name my beautiful black cat ‘Zeresh’. After doing this, I got “jealous” and stole the name for my project too.
I also liked the fact that in the biblical story, even though she was a side character (Hamann’s wife) she was the smartest and most evil figure.
If you don’t mind me asking, what is the dark/gothic/metal scene like in Israel?
I’m glad you asked because I love the Israeli scene – we have a lot of wonderful bands and musicians over here. Some of them are very very special.
The local Gothic scene is tiny, almost nonexistent but the general dark scene here has some wonderful projects.
Also, our metal scene is pretty rich and ever changing. Israel has some bigger mainstream-ish metal bands and some very ‘strange fruits’ (which are usually my favorites);.
I’m probably forgetting many other great projects but here are some of the ones (which are still active) that I love the most from the local scene:
There is also the doom project Cruel Wonders. What drew you into the realms of neo-classical/neo-dark folk?
I’m into dark music of all different genres and kinds, both as a listener as well as a musician.
You have not only collaborated with Autumn Tears but also you did the split album with them. What was this like for you as an artist?
Amazing! Working on the split album has been an honor and also very special to me because I tried to take my songs to be’ more romantic’ while Ted took his songs to a darker place this time, so they would fit well together.
Also, Ted is really wonderful to work with, both artistically and personally.
Your half of the album is called Possessing. Could I please ask about the concept behind Possessing and how you feel it couples up with Widowing?
My half of the album is about obsession; holding on to a relationship that’s not there, not being able to get another person out of your head or to let go.
The way I see it ‘Widowing’ (the part by Autumn Tears) is about loss; but from a “healthier” perspective – sort of the other side of the same coin.
Which do you feel is your favourite track off this album and why?
I can’t really say too much about Possessing but even though it’s hard to choose – my favorite song from Widowing is “Unmaker of worlds”, simply because it’s absolutely perfect!
It’s dark, heavy and intense musically and lyrically. Plus, I just love Caroline Joy Clarke’s vocals there.
I actually admire all the other Autumn Tears singers and musicians and I still can’t believe I’m sharing music with those extremely talented professional musicians.
If given the opportunity to do another split album, would you do it again and are there any other artists you would like to collaborate with?
I’m actually working on a short split collaboration for a local label as we speak and I would love to do more in the future.
I would gladly collaborate again with everyone I’ve worked with before so far.
The list of musicians I’d be thrilled to work with for the first time is endless but I’ll try to sum it up somehow:
Rïcïnn, Kim Larsen (Of The Wand And The Moon), King Dude, Darkher, Darkwood, None, Les Days, Liturgy, Leya, Natural snow buildings, Ungfel, The Drows, The Devil’s Trade, A. A. Wiliams…
It really is a Never-ending list so I’ll randomly stop here.
What musicians/bands or type of music first dragged you into the scene and what ignites your soul now?
I’m not sure which scene I should refer to, but if we’re talking about ‘non-standard’ folk, the first ones I listened to as a teenager were: Current 93, Death In June and some other similar and related projects.
Nowadays I still listen to a lot of different types of neofolk, dark folk, industrial and also just plain beautiful folk.
I love it when folk music manages to somehow fit in nicely with industrial.
Anyhow, here are some examples of things I love in particular:
Of The Wand And The Moon, Sangre De Muerdago, Laura Marling, Rome, Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, Darkher, Aggaloch, Hasta LA Victoria, Nebelung, Darkwood and many more.
I also listen to other genres – from black metal to classical music, experimental, drone and lots of other things.
Taking possession completely off the tracks here but if you could be possessed by one deceased musician for a day, to let them record one more track, who would you let use your body?
The obvious answer would be Kurt Cobain or Elliott Smith, so I’ll go with that.
What is in the future for Zeresh?
The next Zeresh album is almost 100% written but I have to produce it. It is going to be darker than anything I’ve done so far.
Nowadays I’m actually working as Zeresh on a short split collaboration for a local label. It’s a project I’m doing with one of my favorite Israeli bands – ‘Ketoret’.
Besides that, I’ve already recorded a song for the next ‘Autumn Tears’ album and we shall start writing the third ‘Cruel Wonders’ album pretty soon.
I’m also involved in a new project with my husband who is the other half of ‘Necromishka’ (and mostly known as ‘Kadaver’) plus another of my favorite local musicians – Shay Mizrahi, of ‘Choshech’. I’m not sure if it’ll be a 3-way collaboration or whether it’ll have its own name.
And lastly – we’ve been producing a split album between ‘Necromishka & Agnivolok’.
The duo, Johnathan/Christian have released the single, “Talkin’ About The Wolf“. It is a track inspired by the Ukrainian resistance against a much larger foe, trying to take by force, their county. Johnathan/Christian is joined by The Legion Of Whom, a mixture of talented humans, whom appear in the order of Matt Vowles: Black Angel (guitar), Lee Meadows: The Glass House Museum (bass), AthanMaroulis: NOIR, Steven Archer: Ego Likeness/Stoneburner, Claus Larsen: Leæther Strip, Martin Bowes: Attrition, Alla Miroshichenko: Attrition/Alia Synesthesia (cello), Jeff Diehm: The Last Dance and AniaTarnowska: I Ya Toyah
Verbose gothic melancholy, wrapped in this wonderfully rich guitar and complimented by the electroincs in a most symphonic manner. Sliding between vocalists is a truly interesting experience, it drags you in to listen to the the words and marvel at the mixture of styles, accents and timbre. They ask what we want to know, ‘how many Putin?’.
“Since the Donbas Invasion in 2014, Ukraine has been telling the world the wolf is coming, and what have we done to help? As the battle continues, now is not the time to move on. Ukraine needs everyone’s help now more than ever” – Johnathan
The title of the track refers to a Ukrainian saying, ‘talking about the wolf‘, which basically means ‘speak of thedevil‘. All proceeds, from the single will be donated to the Come Back Alive Foundation in Ukraine, which was created during the War in Donbas. In return, you get a darkwave track of immense proportions, catchy and chock full of some legends in the business.. Mmmmm, very tasty and remember, you think you are safe until they are at your door.
Am Tierpark is a project with the combined superpowers of Claus Larsen (vocals, lyrics) and John R Mirland (music, production). They dropped their latest album, Forevermore, May the 10th, on the Læbel record label. This is the duo’s synthpop project, amongst their other acts such as Larsen & Mirland plus a.o., Claus Larsen’s Leæther Strip, Klutæ, and John R Mirland’s Mirland, M73….that is only naming a few.
Oh yes the synthpop is strong in this album, as it starts with the “Shower Me With Freedom” and Larsen’s dulcet tones and those brilliant synths. It is followed by the lyrically mournful and poignant “I Let You Go“. There is a wonderful trance element to “Love Collide“, as the delightful synths dance around Larsen’s vocals, which changes pace with the more somber “Just Watch Me“, that has these beautiful whirls of electronics that make your senses fly.
Ooh yeah, the sassy and sexy boy toys in “Room 24“, has those heavy overtones of Bronski Beat with an Italo disco feel, which is continued in “Not Welcome“, though this is a tale of love, rejected by a ignorant portion of the population. Title track, “Forevermore” has a heavenly start with those synths, in a slow burn of hurt and those sighing synths meld into the smooth sounding “Mighty World“, while “Sacrifice Your Purity” has an amazing amount of movement, and threw me into 1983, with the dance rhythm.
This blips of a ghost submarine dive into “You’re not My Enemy” with its cool chic, and some keyboard lines that could have come from the sublime John Foxx. Larsen is cooing into your ear over a freight train of delicate electronics in “Bloom Together“, unlike the track “Leave In Peace” with it’s purposeful slower beats. There is a light feel to “Hold Our Heads High“, conveyed in the lyrics and bright music. “Cleanse Our Hearts” is pure joy in music form, while the last track, “Moving In“, is almost hypnotic in tone.
Okay, confession time. I have had this album for a while and unforeseen circumstances have slowed me down, but this is an album that I wanted to desperately tell people about. The late 70s and early 80s is where my musical influences lay, so listening to Forevermore, definitely stirs memories of Depeche Mode, Erasure, John Foxx and artists of that ilk, who were on the cutting edge of electronic music at that point in time. Though, that is not to say the Am Tierpark is some sort of copy, as they are most certainly not, taking the love of this style of music and adding their modern spin and incorporating the Euro/Italo style such as “Sacrifice Your Purity“, which is pure disco orientated joy. Larsen’s vocals are yet another facet to the distinct sound that is AmTierpark, making their music so enjoyable. You don’t have to be a child of the 80s to enjoy this album though but don’t take my word for it…please go check them out for yourselves.
The UK’s gothic rockers, Sirens Of Light, released on May the 24th, the single with video, “Revolver“. The band has shortened the title somewhat from the original, being “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver“, which was originally written by Clinton J Conley and recorded by Conley’s band, Mission OfBurma, in 1981. A classic, from a band that was typifying a new post-punk sound coming from the US, like their fellow Americans, The Call.
The rich swell of guitar issues forth and the vocal’s gravely texture, grazes your ears. There is a wondrous force of conviction, sonorous and perfect in its execution. Guitar driven goodness with a dark gothic core.
“Revolver”, for me in this particular moment, is a very angry and political song. After the global pandemic and the constant bombardment of media nonsense, we get the feeling everyone feels like reaching for their revolver. That’s why it resonated with me at this moment and was chosen”. – Andy (Sirens Of Light)
You cannot compare this latest version to the original. While the Mission Of Burma version is slower and very much bleaker, Sirens Of Light have put a rocket under “Revolver“, and blown it up into a gothic rock anthem, with all the sparkles.
2002, Alexander Azzi, released his first EP, Here I Stand under the moniker, Perfect Dark. It was a massive hit with the hardcore/gabber scene and twenty years later, he has dropped a new single, “I’m Still Standing“, with it’s huge booming, rapid fire beats, that are meant to get a sweaty, raucous dance crowd, bouncing on the balls of their feet like maniacs. Do you know what gabber means? I didn’t until this interview, so I suggest you dig in and get educated by the man who is pumping up the beats, Perfect Dark.
Welcome to Onyx, Alexander Azzi, also known as Perfect Dark.
Thank you very much for inviting me onto your page for a bit of digital chin-wagging.
Gabber first started in the 90s, in the Netherlands, especially in Rotterdam. When did you first experience this style?
It all started around 1999 for me. This was during a time when I was already getting my name out as a multi genre DJ, but at the same time I was trying to figure out what type of specific genre was the best fit for me and what I wanted to be known for. The only stipulation I had was that it had to be hard and aggressive because that’s the type of music I generally enjoy in my everyday life, such as Hardcore Metal, Punk, and Oi!.
During this time period the best place to go to get vinyl records in my area, specifically for rave type DJs, was a place called Satellite Records in Boston Massachusetts which was about an hour from me where I live in New Hampshire. There was not a genre that didn’t exist in that store. The place was legendary. Everything from the most chill Downtempo, to the hardest fastest 300BPM+ Terrorcore. What made this place even more awesome was there was about 10 Technics 1200 turntables available to be able to listen to the tracks first to make sure it was what you wanted before you bought it. Sadly, it’s no longer in business along with most other DJ record stores in the world. Thanks a lot Spotify.
The day I went down there I was browsing through various styles of music and that’s when I came upon a bin of records simply titled “Hardcore” (which is another name used when referring to Gabber). I already knew this was what I was looking for just based on the genre name and some of the album cover art that was staring me in the face; skulls, fire and brimstone, demons, and wizards shooting fireballs out of their hands. These are visuals aren’t ones you normally see on record covers for records sold at a DJ record stores. After listening to the first record, I knew that Hardcore/Gabber what is the sound that fit me the best. Hard skull-crushing kick drums, sinister synth melodies cutting through as if they were conceived from two serrated knives slashing their razor-sharp edges onto one another, and vocals that could easily have summoned a demon from hell or fit nicely onto a Hardcore Metal song. All of this dropped into a tempo that is equal parts dance and mosh pit worthy.
I found artists like Neophyte, Rob GEE, Evil Activities, Bass-D & King Matthew, Art of Fighters, and Rotterdam Terror Corps. The list can go on and on. I bought a whole stack of various Hardcore/Gabber records and that’s how it all started.
Back in 2002 you released the EP, “Here I Stand” as Perfect Dark, which introduced you to the hardcore/gabber scene. What had brought you to that point in the scene?
About a year into working hard to make a name for myself as a Hardcore/Gabber DJ, a friend of mine, John Manning, known as DJ Midas was having a conversation with me and I clearly remember him telling me that if you want to go further out beyond just being a DJ then you have to start making your own music. I listened to every word he said and that’s when I started to learn how to produce Hardcore/Gabber music almost immediately.
When I say immediately I don’t mean I just woke up one day and I knew what to do with a software based audio workstation and understand MIDI controllers etc. but I knew immediately that I needed to learn more than just mixing records and that’s when I started gathering the tools required to figure out how to make this stuff myself.
I did my research, applied what I was learning and eventually after about a year or so I was in the process of producing complete Hardcore/Gabber tracks.
As I was diving deeper into producing music another friend of mine got me in contact with Rob GEE. If you recall, I mentioned his name in one of the records I purchased the day I discovered this genre of music. I found out that he lived in New Jersey which technically is local if you consider living in the Northeast of the USA the local area amongst states up here. Him and I started to talk, and we became friends. He even gave me a shout out on his mixed CD “Vitamin GEE” that was being released during that time. That small gesture meant a lot to me considering I was still an unknown little dirtbag from New Hampshire and here was one of pioneers of American Hardcore/Gabber adding my DJ name to his thank you/shoutout section on his CD cover insert.
In 2001 me and Rob made plans to finally meet in person at a big event he was DJing at where the Dutch Hardcore/Gabber production team Neophyte was headlining. This place was at the legendary Limelight in New York City.
He already heard some of my productions prior to that night but it was important for us to finally meet up because he was interested in helping me with my first music release and I wanted to show him that I was serious in this commitment and appreciated his intentions.
A couple months later I signed a Sony/ATV publishing contract, and my first 6 song EP was in motion to be released with the title track “Here I Stand“ through Rob’s record label at the time known as ADAM Recordings (ADAM stands for Aggressive Dance And Music) which has now become GEE thAng Music in the present day. I believe it was April of 2002 when it hit the record store shelves worldwide.
The EP did very well. What was it like for you, Alexander, to see all those people dancing to your music?
I felt like I was part of ‘the club’. It was a great feeling to know my record was sharing the same space as all those other records I discovered years back at Satellite Records in Boston. What made things even more satisfying was I was able to go and physically purchase that record myself out of that very same bin.
Because of that feeling, to this day no matter if it’s a vinyl release, one of my songs featured on someone else’s compilation mixed CD, a CD that I had a part in producing, or even a digital download, I still purchase a copy myself and put it away in a personal security safe that also holds the masters and project data to every song I ever made. Even digital downloads get put on a small flash drive and then put back in the safe.
The best feeling, however, is to watch or know that people are enjoying my music enough that they are willing to get up on the dance floor and sacrifice a few minutes out of their life to enjoy something I created.
You didn’t stick to the hardcore/gabber sound, instead, creating metal inspired dub step under the moniker, Drop Goblin. What drew you into this genre?
Well to get to Drop Goblin one needs to understand what happened before that. After some years in Hardcore/Gabber I decided to walk away from it because I wasn’t feeling as creative as I was in the beginning of my career, and I didn’t want to produce music at a lower self-standard. So, I quit. I took some time off in the mid-2000’s and then one day I heard Dubstep. I don’t remember what song it was, and I don’t remember if it was aggressive Brostep or more traditional Dubstep, I just knew that the bass was heavy, it had a cool wobble to it, and I really enjoyed listening to it.
That re-ignited musical interest and creativity to start producing again but I wasn’t going to bring the “Perfect Dark” name back and confuse people with such a different sound. I did know that if I was going to make this type of music then it was going to be on the aggressive side of things just like the way I did with my Hardcore/Gabber songs but I also realized there wasn’t much Hardcore Metal ‘riffy’ Dubstep stuff out there, so I had to figure out how to incorporate the metal style sound with Dubstep and make it work myself through trial and error.
One attribute that was an advantage for me was that most dubstep is 140 bpm which in a Hardcore/Gabber sense is slow, but the good thing about that tempo is that a lot of Hardcore Metal breakdowns are slow and heavy and work very well at that BPM, so I started making typical Dubstep patterns but also mixing in heavy low-end baritone guitar riffs into them and double bass kick patterns in most of my Dubstep productions. Not all, but most.
While I don’t promote the Drop Goblin name anymore, if anybody would like a good example in how I incorporated the metal riffs into those tracks I would suggest going on YouTube and doing a search for “Drop Goblin – One Jaded Asshole“ in order to get a feel for what I was doing at that time.
I guess the money question is, which style of music do you enjoy more?
Hardcore/Gabber. Hands down. That is where I feel at home. The Dubstep phase was simply me jumping on the genre bandwagon since I had nothing better to do at that time. Even the name Drop Goblin was a last second decision that doesn’t even make sense to me. It’s just two words put together and I only had a weekend to figure out a name to give to Reid Speed of Play Me Records who was releasing my breakout track “Dubstep Believe It” at the time and it was down to the wire and figured “Drop” like a Dubstep bass drop, and “Goblin” because why not?
I could have just started producing Hardcore/Gabber again. It’s not like anything was stopping me, but I wasn’t mentally ready to come out of retirement as Perfect Dark, nor did I even consider it. As far as I was concerned Perfect Dark was my history with no plans to return. But hey, Dubstep took me by the hand and said, “Hey Alexander, I see your not doing much lately, how about we take a trip down sell-out lane and make some music together on the Dubstep hype train… everyone else is doing it”. The truth is though, I never felt fully comfortable or felt like it was “me” in that genre. It wasn’t all bad though, I made it into the Beatport top 100 Dubstep charts with a few that made it into the top 10 at the time, but I am glad I am done with it. Nothing beats the intensity of the driving pace of Hardcore/Gabber and I am happy to be part of that family again.
In 2021, you decided to resurrect Perfect Dark and to mark the 20 years difference in releases, your return single in “Still Standing”.How much does the title alone mean to you?
It means everything to me. More than most people realize at this moment. To the majority it will be just a new song released after many years of me being in retirement. I reckon to my fans of the past (and any new ones in the present) it is exciting and hopefully “Sill Standing” gives the impact I feel in my heart that it does. The deeper the rabbit hole goes, however, the more the story gets interesting. Let me lay it all out for you guys and gals:
In 2002, my debut vinyl EP “Here I Stand” came out on ADAM Recordings owned by Rob GEE. The photo for the album cover was taken at a specific location in New Jersey and the graphic artwork was done by a graphic designer named Sergio.
Fast forward to the release of “Still Standing” and it comes with a huge fun fact:
The release is the sequel to the title track of 2002’s “Here I Stand”. The photo taken of me for the release cover was taken at the same spot in New Jersey as the 2002’s photo shoot of “Here I Stand”. The graphic designer who for all I know could have been long disappeared, dead, or fully retired from graphic design by now was still around, and he was able to resurrect the original “Here I Stand” project file from 20 years ago off of a old school Zip/Jaz Drive, and he was able to layer the same original graphic design effects on “Still Standing” with just some color changes to give it its one unique identity. And to top it all off, Rob GEE and his label (now known as GEE thAng Music instead of ADAM Recordings) released it.
Let that sink in for a moment. Two Decades of non-communicative space in between, and somehow all the same artistic, human, and business logistics from “Here I Stand” were incorporated into the release “Still Standing” without even one technical hiccup. This could only happen once in my lifetime.
There is a remastered version of “Here I Stand”, coming out. What was the thinking behind this and is it an incredible feeling to know a whole new generation are going to hear your music?
Right now there is a process going on to not only remaster the entire 2002 “Here I Stand” 6 song EP, but it will be re“mixed down”. Not to be confused with ‘remixed’ where new productions are made from other people based off the original songs. What I mean is all the separate elements of the original project files are being re-analyzed and brought back to life using newly updated know-how and processing tools to bring the best out of what was originally produced. And then they will be remastered. It’s not every day that you can strip down project files that were produced over 20 years ago and revisit the production process to give them new life.
I figured that putting in all this work would be a thank you to anyone out there that is still around and remembers me and that release. And of course, there will be many new ears that will hear this music for the first time.
Not only will the EP be completely re-engineered but will also be available for free. I will not be selling this release. The main outlet to get this release when it’s out (no date set yet) will be the #1 source for all Hardcore/Gabber music: Hardtunes.com.
But wait, that’s not all. There will also be a bonus track included in this release which will be a completely new and reimagined version of the original “Here I Stand” single with a more modern updated sound. When the original producer makes a new version of an existing song they made, this is typically known as a VIP (Variation in Production) but “reimagined” sounds cooler.
DJ Rob GEE was involved with “Here I Stand” and you have signed with GEE thAng Music, which was originally ADAM Recordings, whom you first released that EP. What is it like to be back?
The way him and I converse now after all these years with nearly no communication is a special thing. We talk nowadays as if there wasn’t a minute that has passed us by. In 2002, he gave me my opportunity to show the Gabbers of the world who I am. And while I realize that this genre is a bit smaller than Mainstream EDM, the term “Gabber” which is Dutch for “Friend”, is bigger than any other sound out there, and that also relates to humans as well. Rob and I are and forever will be Gabbers. Having such a large gap of time and reconnecting the way we have has proven that. He believed in me back then and took me under his wing. He didn’t have to. In fact, he originally created ADAM Recordings as a vessel to release his own music and had no plans to sign anyone else on until we met up. I feel blessed that I was his first artist other than him on his label and here we are now in 2022, a bit older, a bit wiser, still crazy idiots, and still refuse to grow up but he opened the doors for me once more to help me come back out of retirement.
This single is just the warning salvo, as the rumblings are that you are gearing up for a bigger release. What are we in for?
Another fun fact: For the past year and a half I have been making quite a few tracks. In fact “Still Standing“ was not my first production I started and finished when I decided to make my return. I produced that song sometime after I already had about two or three other songs already finished. They just haven’t been released yet
The reason why these other songs have yet to be released is because I was not going to put out any other original song before “Still Standing“. Like anything in the music business nothing happens overnight so there was a bit of a waiting period to get this track out. I could’ve had other songs released first but having good self-discipline and being patient paid off considering the story of the “Here I Stand” and “Still Standing” connection.
Of course, if you look up any recent releases you will notice there are two remixes that I did prior to “Still Standing”. Since those were remixes of other people’s music, I don’t really count those as my official kick-off return but more of just testing the waters of how the way things get released and how things are approached in this new day and age.
At the time of this interview other original tracks that are in line for a release are titled: “Knuckledust“ (with remixes by Masters Of Noise/Dedicator and TerrorClown) and “Edge of Madness“ (with a remix by VOLAK). I also have a remix of “Riot in NY” I did for Rob GEE which is going to be the next release with my name attached to it coming up.
You are correct about a VERY big release coming down the pike. This is something very special to me. Another big production I’m looking forward to having the Gabbers of the world hear is my official remix of the mega-hit Hardcore/Gabber song “Schizophrenic“ by the legendary production team Rotterdam Terror Corps. This was one of their biggest hits in 2002. It was an honor for me to be the official remixer of this song of which has never been remixed before (not even unofficially). This remix will be coming out on their highly anticipated new album I believe later this year.
Alexander, you have dabbled in different styles with several projects in that 20 year period. Do you think in a way, these other styles have enhanced your ability to write as Perfect Dark and do you think it has changed your composing style?
Yes, absolutely it has helped. Music production isn’t necessarily like riding a bike though; once you learn doesn’t mean you will always be able to ride smoothly. Sometimes the terrain you are riding on changes. Technology has changed over time. It can be intimidating to make changes in the way you produce, the tools that the productions are made on, and the overall change and evolution of the music industry. If you want to have any chance at all in making a success of yourself, then you must push forward and accept all those changes and make them work to your advantage.
I started producing when computer-based programming was just breaking through. The effects and instrument plugins were still trying to prove themselves to the sceptics, and hardware synth keyboards were still the tried-and-true method of pattern and melody making via MIDI into the computer.
And then came the Drop Goblin era. While I wasn’t making Hardcore/Gabber, I was presented a whole new world of production methods and new software’s that allowed me to do things I wanted to do back then but didn’t have the know-how or the capability do via hardware at the time. While I admit Dubstep was just a phase and I never was truly comfortable in that genre, had I not pushed through it at the time, learned new techniques and explored new plugins that helped inspire me to make the sounds in my head become sounds in real life, I may not have had the self-disciplinary path laid out for me to come back as Perfect Dark and start producing the music I am doing now.
As far as composing style, sometimes you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. I have methods that work for me, and I have stayed with these methods since the beginning. I don’t necessarily think I am saying anything too extravagant or noteworthy but, the name always comes first. I have an iPhone full of future track names. The names inspire me in how the song will sound which also includes the lyrical content if there is any. I always start with a small kick and percussion sequence in the beginning to give me a groove and I continue building as I go from there with a big blank space ahead of me. I never lay out a generic full kick sequence from beginning to end first and fill in the gaps and build on top of it. I start to get lost if I do it that way for some reason. Another thing is that I allow my mind to be creative during the time of the morning where I am still partially awake and asleep at the same time. Most of my melodies are derived from those moments. Naturally if I go back to sleep, I risk forgetting what was being conjured in my mind so I normally grab my iPhone and “hum” the idea into my voice notes so I can circle back to it later when I am looking for a melody to work off from. 9 times out of 10 though if I am feeling the momentum of a track, I will come up with something on the spot and completely forget about my rolodex of pitchy out of tune “hum” recordings sitting in my voice notes. There are many. Maybe someday I will release them as a fun bit of audio for people to enjoy at my expense.
What acts/projects heavily influenced you into getting into music?
For Hardcore/Gabber, I would say that Neophyte was my biggest influence. They are the legends in Rotterdam Holland that helped bring this genre to the ears of the world. The crew isn’t so much a crew anymore and in the present day it’s just a single entity known as DJ Neophyte, but the music, regardless of if it’s the classics or the new stuff, the sound is very inspiring. The production style is more of a bouncy triplet signature style pattern and has this ‘follow the bouncing ball’ type of rhythm to it. If I could recommend song to capture the interest of someone not familiar with this style, search on YouTube for the track “Skullfuck” (also producer credited as “Masters of Ceremony”). It’s and oldie but still my top number one favorite of all Hardcore/Gabber music.
I can’t ignore the Hardcore Metal influences though. Without the following bands I would never have had a love for aggressive music: Sheer Terror, Blood for Blood, Madball, Hatebreed to name a few. In fact, the gang vocal and metal style breakdown in “Still Standing” is completely inspired by the styles of Sheer Terror and Blood for Blood who are two of my most favorite Hardcore Metal bands of all time.
And while I wouldn’t say the following list directly inspired me as a producer, I still want to give some honorable mentions because they were a big part of my overall love for aggressive music and helped me get where I am today: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, GWAR, King Diamond, Anti-Heros, Dropkick Murphys, Rancid, and a lot of other various Street Punk and Oi! bands.
Are there musicians or DJs that you love to listen to these days?
You know, I don’t really listen to many DJ’s or Producers of electronic music much on my own time. I think if you eat bologna every day in the morning, afternoon, and night it will eventually drive you nuts. I feel that when I listen to any kind of Electronic Dance Music it’s when I am within that environment, and I can appreciate it more that way. Think of it like this: I used to eat Chinese food almost daily because I love it. However, after a while it loses its treat’ness. It’s no longer a special taste to look forward to on certain days after not having any because I was eating it all the damn time. So now I eat it once a week. Sometimes even once within two weeks. I have learned to appreciate it again and no longer take that food craving for granted anymore. Same with music. Just because I produce electronic music doesn’t mean I have to listen to it constantly. Which means when I am at an event that’s playing EDM, I can appreciate the sound more since it’s not being drilled into me daily. Some people think EDM producers only listen to what they are involved in. Not me.
What I have been listening to lately is Ghost, The O’Reilly’s and the Paddyhats, Volbeat, a lot of various Skacore, one of my favorite bands Nightwish is always in my playlist, and John Denver. Yes, John Denver. John is one of my favorite solo recording artists.
If you could go back to the 90s for a day to visit a musical icon, anywhere in the world, who would you go see and where would they be?
John Denver died in October of 1997, so if this is a question of anyone living, I would say John Denver before he died. It doesn’t even have to be a one-on-one interaction. Just sitting in a crowd of people witnessing greatness would be an honor enough for me. I just never got the chance, and it sucks. Ted Vigil was cool to see as a VERY convincing John Denver impersonator and he put on a hell of a show, but that still doesn’t count.
Now if we flip the script and speak of any music icon that is no longer with us anymore, I will again say John Denver. For more reasons than just wanting to be able to see him live, but in addition I would want to know how or if he would have continued his music career. And if so, would he have stayed true to the old way of sound recording? Or would he have embraced the newer technology that is available today to really bring out his sound to an industry standard level. I might sound crazy, but I sometimes sit and stew over these thoughts wondering how he would sound today if he was still alive.
What else is in store for Perfect Dark?
I am just going to keep on keepin’ on with the resurrection of the Perfect Dark name and see where it takes me. I have a lot of work to do though. The old schoolers remember me, but I have a whole new generation of new schoolers to introduce myself to. I feel the “Still Standing” track is a good start, and it has a cool backstory, but that track is just me slightly opening the door to peek into what’s happening on the other side. Once it’s wide open I would like to think that the momentum will really start to take effect and I will be playing more events and being able to interact more personably with my current and future fans. Time will tell!
Lisa Gerrard & Marcello De Francisci are on the verge of releasing their new album EXAUDIA, on the label Atlantic Curve Records, but before that happens, there is the offering of a new single, “Until We Meet Again“, out on the 17th of June. Gerrard is the vocalist, best known as one half of Dead Can Dance, whilst De Francisci is renowned as a soundtrack composer, with both artists previously working together on soundtracks and their first album, Departum.
Lightness. There is the overwhelming feeling of a supreme weightlessness, in a sea that is Gerrard’s vocals. Sweet and delightful, as they lead to the rush of music, which invades your senses, longingly and wistfully dreaming of days filled with sun and love. A mixture of the exotic and the innocence of a bygone era.
It is sublime when a singer can create art with their vocals, and Lisa Gerrard is no exception. Years of honing her craft, has lead to ability to evoke even the most dormant of memories and stir emotions. Marcello De Francisci has build a musical score around what Gerrard has given him, complimenting and caressing her singing style. No matter the distance, lover’s always find their way back, “Until We Meet Again“.