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. Ted Tringo 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:

Kadaver, Choshech, Kchörtoo, Ketoret, Zimmer Witch Night, Winterhorde, Rain Dirty Valleys, Kluvim, Prey For Nothing, Sleep’s Sister, Agnivolok, Kip, Kashaiof, Subterranean Masquerade, Seven Morgues, Obsidian Tide, Svpremacist, Bormavet, Dukatalon and more.

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’.

I’m planning to remain busy..

Autumn Tears (bandcamp.com)

Widowing / Possessing | Autumn Tears / Zeresh | Zeresh (bandcamp.com)

Autumn Tears | Facebook

Zeresh | Facebook

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!

Thank you, Alexander, in joining us!


It was my pleasure. Stay hardcore guys and gals.

Perfect Dark | Facebook

GEE thAng Music | Facebook

With the release of the debut album, The Egg That Never Opened, on the 17th of June, with the record label Art As Catharsis, you may or may not have heard of High Castle Teleorkestra, but I can promise you, that once you have, you are very unlikely to forget. A core of six members, dotted around the world, whom have been associated with some big name musical acts, plus the ability to draw on other talented musicians to further enhance their sound. What is this sound you might ask? Constructive insanity comes to mind but it is more than that. These guys are the musicians that other musicians tend to get really excited about with their alternative, progressive, instrumental mixtures of tasty perfection. Crazy good at what they do and while there is an assault of all these different genres, they craft it into tracks that are seamless, occasionally haunting and more often than not, a lot of fun. There is a pervasive feeling of joy from this band that goes into bringing each piece to life and it translate into the music. Tim Smolens and Chris Bogen are the originators of the band, so who else better to talk to about this juggernaut that they have brought to life and how important castles really are in the alternative rock scene.

We at Onyx go to extreme lengths to interview creative people but storming the battlements is a first for us, so we bid thee welcome to our nightmare of siege weapons, cool pointy things and comfy pillows. Well met on the interviewing battlefield, Tim Smolens and Chris Bogen of High Castle Teleorkestra.

Professed as both recovering professional musicians…. I find this statement misleading, as I am sure that neither of you have ever been able to give up the music drug. How did you get sucked into this life of moody tunes and can you tell us about your former shady lives, as Tim you were in Estradasphere and I.S.S. to name a couple of bands and Chris in the snotty named Doc Booger.

Chris: The HCT bio tells lies! I have never been a full-time pro musician though Tim has a few inhabitants in his brain and he could technically be considered as two recovering professional musicians. I’ve mostly done a lot of extremely low profile, community and friend oriented music projects that are usually left unfinished. I’ve been persistently doing home recording stuff since the mid 1990s with a few scattered live band situations. Doc Booger was my first “commercial” release and this is my third. Every band needs a luckiest member sort of hobbit character and I guess that’s my gimmick.

Tim: Lies indeed! Given the fact that we are such small beans in this giant burrito game, it is necessary for us to embellish a bit just to help us feel like we have something to contribute to this world of interesting music, especially at our ripe old ages. Truth be told, I am not sure I ever fully made a living from music but I can tell you that I have made 1000s of dollars from music in the last 30 years!

We gather you became domesticated, settled down, had jobs and even spawned?

Tim: Living the life of a broke musician throughout my 20s, I was certain that I never wanted kids. “Somehow” my wife became pregnant and I just embraced it. It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me, saving me from the sad lifestyle that so many contemporary musicians must endure. There probably hasn’t been a worse era to be a professional musician given that most people don’t buy music anymore. I would venture to guess that a majority of the public doesn’t care much for music at all other than in the most superficial of ways. So I have been married for 15 years now, have 2 kids, and make my living as an ER nurse. Even though it is hard to work music into that busy schedule, and I certainly test my wife’s patience with how much time put into it, I am under no pressure whatsoever to make a living from music although it would be a nice goal to strive for.

Chris: I was a semi-pro/amateur domesticated human for years which is probably why it took me so long to finally release some music commercially. I became professionally domesticated over a decade ago. Now there are three other people in the house that look just like me. My wife and kids are very supportive of the music project and aren’t at all sick of hearing me play the same parts over and over and over again to perfection.  And yes, full-time jobs outside of music since 2004 in the Computer Science field. I have a Ph.D. in Comp. Sci. and it has afforded me a lot of great opportunities to do interesting work and live a balanced life.  I am currently a full-time family dude, a full-time cyber security architect, a part time instructor, and a part time music dude. See. Balance!

Obviously, at some point you thought stuff this normalcy and had the idea to create some monstrous amalgamation of musical talent, calling it High Castle Teleorkestra. WHHHHHYYYYY?

Chris: I think we both hit a point in time when we were itching to create something big and prove something to the world. We knew it was time when some dramatic montage music played in the background of one of our thousands of Facebook chats.

Tim: The fact that Chris and I have stable jobs and families afforded us the luxury of having a man-cave project that our spouses would be in favor of, at least initially until they realized the depths of our obsession. During the pandemic it dawned on me how many super talented musicians I knew around the world and I didn’t see anything stopping me from forming a novel “band” with some of them.

Did covid influence this decision and maybe wanting a castle as well?

Tim: Covid was a good excuse and false pretense for making the band. A group of international talent forced to collaborate remotely due to restrictive lockdowns makes for a great narrative but the truth is we would likely be working this way regardless of the current situation on the global chessboard.

Chris: I’m going to be that annoying music snob guy that says that I’ve always wanted a castle even before everyone else wanted a castle. COVID had nothing to do with it though because we were already working together remotely having never met one another face to face.

Also, why a High Castle? Why not just a normal level Castle with a regular moat?

Chris: A high castle offers the best defense in depth strategy and you have a pretty damned good view.  It’s like having a belt with suspenders. And who said we didn’t have a moat?!

Tim: It is good to have a lofty goal even if you only realize it partially. Plus with a higher castle you can see your enemy encroaching and give you ample time to prepare to fight or run for your life like a coward.

For those unfamiliar with the composition of the band, could you give us the lineup of the members and the associated acts?

Chris: Stian Carstensen is from Farmers Market and he is our resident virtuoso. Stian always raises the stakes on our songs and makes us want to quit trying to play musical instruments. Timba Harris is from Estradasphere, Duo Probosci, Ultraphuana, and a former Secret Chiefs 3 collaborator. Timba has a unique way of arranging and performing the perfect sort of provocative and rich string parts to our already dense tunes. Dave Murray (Estradasphere, Traun) is our resident metalhead and polyrhythmic guru, and he’s managed to get some amazing drum tones in his humble home studio setup. Bär McKinnon (Umlaut and Mr. Bungle)  is one of the most unique songwriters around and is a songwriting gemstone of our band,  and he also covers much of the woodwind work and vocals on his tunes. I play guitar and some other stuff sometimes (noise collages, synths) and do my imposter syndrome undistinguished member routine with expert precision. Tim (Estradasphere, ISS, former Secret Chiefs 3 collaborator) plays bass, piano, sings, is the chief producer, and he’s a pretty damned good cook (sorry, had to talk about food after so many words about music).

Tim: Yeah, what he said.

How the heck did you manage to gather this bunch into agreeing to being a part of this?

Tim: It is funny because when I first had this idea of forming a remote band and Chris and I set to work on a few songs, we had these guys on the roster in mind. We really took our time in asking them to officially join the “band” (courtship) because we wanted to have them play on some tunes first and be impressed and intrigued; sort of a proof of concept of the “business model.” We finally popped the question and they all said yes and we set out making more kids. This wedding night still goes on and on.

Chris: Tim and I prepared a demo of Klawpeels and Tim shopped it around to his well-established friends. I did my part by sitting back and pretending it was completely normal to be in a “band” with this roster of musicians. 

A lot of these guys have been in some pretty bizarre projects, even you Tim playing live with Mr Bungle (all hail Chris Patton, Lord of the Bungle). Did you guys’ ever think…’what the fuck have I got myself into’ or was it like a comfortable set of shorts where the arse is not completely worn out yet?

Chris: I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing with these guys in HCT so I am just gonna stick with that Hobbit thing I said earlier.

Tim: To clarify, I have not played with Bungle. I did program a majority of their complex multi-keyboard setup for their California tour and they did open for my band Estradasphere as a secret warm up show for that tour. I have played live as the bassist for Bungle side project The Secret Chiefs 3. I have definitely soiled my shorts before but at this point they are pristine untl the upper thigh chub rub stench sets in.

As the name suggests, Teleorkestra, the music, is a mash of electronic and modern instruments mixed with traditional instruments plus also incorporating a vast array of styles…. sometimes all in the same track, which is bloody impressive. How did this all come about?

Chris: Our influences and interests are all over the map and combining them under one banner doesn’t seem so unusual to us. I think we just focused on each song and did our best to serve each one sonically. Somehow the track sequencing (which was sort of decided by chance) works as a satisfying progression of moods and sounds.

Tim: By the prefix “tele” is meant “at a distance” which is how our band conducts its activities.

Be honest, is it easier having your band mates as far away as possible and do you sometimes ignore their text messages and emails?

Chris: It probably makes it easier being apart  because we would end up spending hours and hours together in person slaving over these mixes and parts. Tim and I did have a few days together in person like that midway through the project when I visited him in Colorado. I’m looking forward to some more days like that because there’s nothing quite like nerding out over some music you’re excited about with a good buddy. I never thought to ignore his messages though..

Tim: By keeping these egos at a distance we avoid the drama that close-quarters band activities inevitably brings forth. Although that was not the rationale for the genesis of our group it is a pleasant side-effect. In seriousness, bands usually do end up fostering interpersonal drama and our way of working remotely is a good way to filter a lot of that out.

Your debut album is “The Egg That Never Opened,” a title that implies the loss of something important or I could be completely wrong, and it is all about the Castle dragon. What inspired you to name the album after the epic first track (which is this quasi metal, confused French/German oompha band with a sea shanty singing barbershop quartet, on a Hawaiian holiday in space inspired piece)?

Chris: Dragons are cool though I did make one very angry once near Lonely Mountain. That’s another story though.

Tim: The album is indeed based on the Philp K. Dick Book “Radio free Albemuth.” The book is 30 chapters and we decided to take it linearly so it will be a trilogy and the 10 songs on this record represent the 1st 10 chapters. The phrase “The Egg That Never Opened,” is taken directly from chapter 1 and seems to imply a main character, Nick, whose life is in a rut, stagnating, with no obvious hope on the horizon for working his way out of it. But he has lots of positive qualities and interests that could have indeed led to a more colorful life; potential that was never realized.

Chris: Damn you, I was trying to be cagey and mysterious and you gave away the keys to the castle.

Is it true the album is an exploration of a Philip K Dick novel and have you recovered from this?

Tim: Yes, it is an adaptation of Philip K Dick’s discarded novel “Radio free albemuth,” which he ended up rewriting to become “Valis.” We have not yet recovered because we are still in the throes of it with the next two parts of the trilogy.

Chris: Yes and No.

Each track has a myriad of influences, that come together and just seem to work. With the members of the band being so far flung, how do you manage to write these grandiose pieces?

Chris: There’s typically a very strong vision for each song and a good template set forth before individual band members start tracking parts. There is some cross collaboration on the songs and arrangements early on though typically one member begins with a very firm idea and we work hard on firming up the foundational aspects of a demo – tempo map, mockups of essential parts, etc.

Tim: Most of the projects I have ever done have involved mixing and matching genres that usually are not found in the same song or even the same album. It is something I have gotten better at over the years and I feel is finally really clicking in a fluent way. You wouldn’t think that some of these mixtures would work well but on this record they feel natural and not contrived. European metal waltz. Romanian folk metal. Doo-Wop surf, and so on. 

Technology now allows musicians to remotely record and share. Which member has the job of sewing it all together?

Chris: Tim does. And then me and the rest of the peanut gallery bust the seams and Tim has to do more sewing. I tend to eat a lot and not get enough exercise, so bursting seams comes naturally to me.

Tim: In general it is me that hosts the master files and I do the majority of editing and production but I am in daily contact with Chris on all the specific details. I am someone who loves teamwork and collaboration so having him to bounce ideas off is huge for me. I may be doing a majority of the grunt production work but his influence on this record cannot be overstated. Him and I rarely disagree and if we do it is in a friendly manner. The other guys will chime in if they have a suggestion. Bar is pretty specific related to the songs he wrote, so dialing that in on his 2 songs was a bit of a challenge to suit his fancy, but I think it all worked out really well.

“Mutual Hazard” was released as a single and it is a whirling dervish, magnetic and alluring, will probably drunkenly stab you later with a goose sort of thing. Who was the mastermind behind this track and what inspired you, as it is brilliant?

Chris: Dave Murray is the mastermind behind the metal aspects of the song which also contain the unorthodox polyrhythms. He arranged the guitar parts and I performed them with very slight modifications. Timba wrote and recorded the stunning string parts. As said, Tim was the mastermind of fitting all these disparate pieces together and making them work – with a little help from me and others in the peanut gallery. Most of the rest of it is in letting the performers and the melody shine. 

Tim: I will add that the song is a traditional Romanian folk song and Stian is master of that style so he was very helpful and played some mean accordion parts as well as rhythm guitar (a nuanced rhythmic style that fall squarely outside of Chris’s wheelhouse). Stian brought in 2 guest players a Bulgarian violinist and a cimbalom player which really added to the authenticity of the folk aspect.

Interestingly, you are on the Art As Catharsis label, who are Australian, which leads us to ask why an Aussie label and how has that worked out for you?

Chris: We saw Crocodile Dundee and Young Einstein when we were kids and it inspired us to go buy boomerangs, big knives, and score an Australian label contract. When our music reaches the masses in Australia we are hoping to star in our own American-in-Australia wacky rom coms. I’m from Louisiana so I’ll be in Alligator Yankee. Who knows what Tim will do. But for real, we really dig Lachlan Dale (label manager) and his mission at Art as Catharsis. I’m proud to be a part of the AAC family.

Tim: Australia has been a great supporter of interesting music over the years. Mr. Bungle was very successful there and Estradasphere has many fans down under. It seemed like a natural fit to us. Art As Catharsis is a great label that has been a launching pad for many creative acts.

What bands and acts influenced your music insanity?

Chris: Chet Atkins, Arthur Lyman, Dick Dale, Martin Denny, Les Baxter, Esquivel, Perrey and Kingsley, The Three Suns, Luiz Bonfa’,Taraf de Haïdouks, The Shadows, Les Paul & Mary Ford, Santo and Johnny, Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, The Ventures, Brian Eno, My Bloody Valentine, Harold Budd, Beach Boys, Slayer, Metallica, Death, Meshuggah, Steely Dan, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Mancini,and on and on. 

Tim: to add to Chris’s nice list I would nominate Ennio Morricone and a variety of Italian film luminaries (Piero Picciono, Piero Umiliani, Bruno Nicolai, Nino Rota, and many more.), Joe Meek, The off kilter “world music” explorations of the label Sublime Frequencies, the harmonic mastery of Jacob Collier, Sam Cooke, a huge variety of Doo-Wop artists and so much more.

If you could have a guest musician or two, join you and it could be anyone, re-animated or living, whom would you dearly like?

Chris: If I had that kind of power then surely I could get more than one or two! Though there was one time where I had that wish while making the album:  I would have really liked to have brought in Jean Jacques Perrey to do some crazy tape splicing stuff on the title track of our album. I would also have loved to have had Arthur Lyman play vibes on Placentia.

Tim: I would love to have Jacob Collier,whom Stian has collaborated with,  guest on a track. I would bring back Joe Meek to produce surf songs for us, and a guest appearance from legendary studio drummer Bernard Purdie would be swell. (Chris: aw hell yeah!).

What is in the future for the eclectic High Castle Teleorkestra?

Chris: A short stack of filthy stinking $10 (USD) bills to divide amongst the band members so that we can take our families and significant others out to pick out their favorite pack of chewing gum or single serving hard candy piece!  

Tim: We can hopefully finish off these next 2 albums to complete the trilogy before our bodies become infirm, we are wearing depends, ambulating with a walker, and falling frequently in our low-income nursing homes before we finally break that hip and the trials rehab prove to be the final blow. We will keep plugging away as quickly as our busy family lives will allow.

We thank you kindly for your parley, Tim and Chris, and we also know this album is going to knock some boots off!

Chris: Thank you, it was a gas!

Tim: Yes indeed, we loved this unorthodox interview.

Music | High Castle Teleorkestra (bandcamp.com)

High Castle Teleorkestra | Facebook

art as catharsis – search results | Facebook

Be afraid, be very afraid for they are out there in you garden, under the stairs and in your saunas. We are talking GNOMES and they apparently are trying to ruin your day. For years, there have been voices in the wilderness, warning us of the peril. One such soothsayer is TFG, formally of the Finnish band TONTTU, whom is spreading the word via the medium of music but also in this interview. Before reading, find yourself a safe place, a soothing drink, a second set of underwear and snacks because you are in for an education about our ancient enemy —-> the pointy hat vermin. Flamethrowers and gnomes and kangaroos…..oh my!

Welcome to Onyx, Tonttufindergeneral Hanz-Baal (later on referred as TFG). You will be happy to know that the windows and doors will be bolted for the entirety of this discussion, so there are no pesky intruders. We even checked the biscuit jars for infiltrators.

Well thank you, nice of you to acknowledge that there is huge demand for my wisdom.
Bolted doors and windows let alone removed eye lids and tongue are a great start, my absolute approval for taking those necessary measures. I would burn that biscuit jar but that’s just me… Being known for nuking couple of backyards does miracles for one’s reputation!

So, how may I help you? Let me guess, you might have some enlightened questions about the gravest of issues: Gnomes and all around gnomishness destroying our way of life and the planet itself. I bet this is about those particular issues and I am more than happy to oblige, we might even talk about Anti-Gnome / Pro-Gnome Muzikk/zakk while we are at it and if I feel praised enough. To protect and to burn:

Let us start.

Soooo, TFG, when did you become aware that Finland has a severe gnome issue?

Gnomes are everywhere and Finland is part of that everywhere so there you go… Also that horrid enabler Santa lives in here so that also is a huge warning sign…

But gotta say the core crew of TONTTU lives in the most happy township of Finland and our country being often selected as the happiest country in the world… I must say that Anti-Gnomen can make the difference! But it was all different before we came to play: Everyone was drinking and sulking and committing murders and suicides and thingies like that, abominous. They praise us as national heroes nowadays and gotta say they just might be right at that.

But yeah, vigilance is always the key when noticing things other (lesser) people often miss.

How did you find out about the gnomes and what their mission is?

When stumbling on the first hardship in life: My milk was a bit too warm to my liking and the biscuit was a bit on the softer side… I realized instantly that there is no other reasonable explanation to that than gnomes! No way around it. And oh boy was I right, as usual I might add.

After careful studies I proved my theory right and now the majority of scientists approve my thesis as the ultimate truth… At least those scientists I approve of, but they are far better than those other ones I cannot stand so there is no comparison at this point.

The final truth is that gnomes cause our every hardship without a reason of a doubt, there is no denying the science behind that phenomenon.

Their mission? To liberate us from our existence, to gnomify us, to drive us into extinction or help us to do it ourselves… They are the pure evil unlike us people with our caring and helpful attitude. we could do nothing wrong even if we tried to, gnomes on the other hand praise greed and money and care nothing about other species let alone this planet, pthui…Oh how much I despise them and their vile ways!

Gotta say after telling my sophisticated ideas some might consider me as totalitarian Phantom, you know that lovely story about that heroic chap wearing blueish spandex outfit beating up bad guys? Ah, if that was the case I only got that Ring of Evil as I do not seek for good people to bash (only those doing the gnomes’ deeds or being one of em), even though I am intrigued to hit them with that Good Mark Ring so that I would remember them later on – I am sure my comrades would approve that idea. But flamethrower and gnomes are good enough for me. Yeah, some may see me a bit “totalitarian” but I myself see me as an extremely liberal nice fella, a hero if you will, who is up to nothing but good ideas, for example the final solution for those gnarly little pointy hatted critters – who on earth would oppose that?

You created the band TONTTU, which literally means gnome, in 1994. Did you think the war against gnomes would be going on for this long?

Not quite sure of the year but thinketh it was a bit later, but who cares anyways! Our first “Kabouter Dämmerung” was released early 1997 or late 96 or something in between but the first version of “Saunatonttu” came into existence somewhere between 94-95 so you are not that wrong.

The official TONTTU as a project came to fruition circa 95-96 with me and Petja and in the studio Toby was added into mixture. But who cares about exact years, gnomes invented time anyways and we must resist their schemes with all of our strength plus additional 27 percent – at the very least.
Next in line was our second ep “Gnomedrome” including remixes from the first one and our first martial ditty “Taisteluni.” That one is a beast made with excellent taste, for the most part politically correct…ish.

Then Petja got kidnapped by gnomes and we do not negotiate with them so…
Out with the old and in with the new: “Some” time passed and we continued with new crew including brilliant Großinquisitor Rudolf Von Deer and with some compositionary help from High Commander Hephzipah later on. Fun fact: Rudie was in da house when we came up with Saunatonttu way back when so this move made perfect sense. This crew came out to be the core for later TONTTU-endeavours. We released “Nekrognomekon” (with those 2 older eps and brand new ep “Der Zwergenhammer” in 2013) and then made our first full length / long ep “Anti-Gnomen Divisionen 4 (Mastering the fine art of gnome eradication)” 2014 – that was the first one through that lovely label Panicmachine. Brilliant album by the way, very hateful and lifts one’s spirit to the max and beyond!

Enough of this subject, I think.

TONTTU was meant to be just a nice little military special operation but it turned out to be total war. Gnomes did not surrender, submit or just die so they gave us no choice. We are just making this world a better place for everyone and in the process some MAGGA may occur. Not clear enough for you? Make Anti-Gnomen Great Again that means but I would even go as far as to say MAGGS meaning Make Anti-Gnomen Greater Still! Glorious, even if I say so myself.

If at some point all the nations decide to declare me as the most benevolent supreme leader, which I obviously already am at some level, I will humbly and most gracefully accept. If that is to happen I will make sure to make this world such a safe place that no one will even dare to think otherwise, you know I am begin to feel quite sentimental here, just thinking of all the torches and pitchforks we can carry in all of those joyful little hunting parades we will arrange and what not!

Everyone will have to make some minor sacrifices and naturally some will have to compensate for others but in the end everyone wins as some fortunate ones even will have the splendid opportunity to become martyrs for this sacred cause – no greater glory! Where is those darn fanfares when we need them? Execute those slackers responsible for this humiliation! Ummh… Sorry, just got a bit carried away but hey, everyone would agree with me in the future if not for now… As you were, ahem.

Be as it may: “Gnomes may come and gnomes may go but Anti-Gnomen lives forever.”
You all reading this might like to have a motivational painting in your wall saying that, if I may say so… And soon it will happen anyways…


What is your official designation in the band and other band members, who are obviously not gnomes?

If talking about late TONTTU core crew:
*Tonttufindergeneral Hanz-Baal: Vox, Lyrixx, all around bossing around – initiative so to speak. The propagandist.
*Großinquisitor Rudolf Von Deer: Muzikk, Mixx, Mastering.
*High Commander Hephzipah: Composing, (later on) Voxx.

You might like to check those involved in Gnostrogoth separately and naturally Freiherr was in our two latest albums, bless him and his suspicious beard!

In these newer projects with TFG (TONTTU) I do what I always do: Lure people in starting the project usually, make lyrixx and voxx and spam it around afterwards.
usually my name is to be found in the title featuring, but there is also projects with “proper” name like Wake Island Rail, Hollow Columns…

How did you and your comrades in arms come together against the marauding hoards?

With the core crew: Nothing like old comrades fighting side by side in this horrid but necessary war! So first we knew each other and then bought a shared second-hand flamethrower. Nothing like old friends singing kumbayah while covered in gnomes’ blood!
Comrades that joined later on are mostly the spoils of social media that I got lured into my boat (called “MeHtzGnomz 1.”) The blessed filter of Anti-Gnomen, yes.

Your sound has been most eloquently described as anti-gnomemartialindustrialneofolkmetal. Would you say this was fairly accurate?

Well as I invented it I do most certainly agree!My ideas more than often “rule” and are “hip.” Been talking to some wretched souls and quite many do in fact think that it really is the word to describe our muzikk. I do not encourage people to disagree, but still.
We do mix those musical elements with solid message, thus it depicts the sound and idea most definitively.



How does your music translate into fighting the gnome scourge?

Not quite sure what you mean but as usual that does not prevent me from giving my opinion! But if I got you right our music is highly militant and martial to raise the spirits of future martyrs! Also our lyrics give some nifty tricks how to get rid of those pesky little wankeroonies and/or tells tales about their schemes. If you ever have stumbled on our neverred “Tonttujen Kestit: Jälkiruoka” (from AGD4) that might just explain everything… It is quite graphic little ditty to say the least. I think it is one of our most praised endeavours to this day.

All our digital albums include line by line translations as do our videos, so I advice everyone to see what the lyrics are all about. Not for the faint of heart I might have to add.


TONTTU are on the UK label Panicmachine. They seem like a nice bunch. Do they believe in tricky gnomes, how do they help in the war and does the UK also have a gnome problem?

Panicmachine – I love em, they have been nothing less than supportive to the max and I think our synergy is more than great. It is symbiotic relationship, I would say. Of course they do believe in those bearded mothergnomers and they have seen the benefits of Anti-Gnome Muzikk in practice protecting their HQ by listening our musikk 25/8
.
UK has a huge gnome problem! Pip-pip cheerio for the past glory of that land, sad to say…
Maybe they will wake up at some point and notice, that being a wanker or a tosser is not the way to keep the country great, but we will see. Gnomishness is what gnomishness does and it can be conquered if there is will to do so… But there are ways to convince common people to bite their own legs so gnomes do not have to bother… Media and social media can do wonders when people are eager to believe the gnarly whispering voices of em turtoidian gnomes.

Must say they have got great bands though, I find Midnight Configuration and Chaos Bleak as very Anti-Gnomen, for example… Not to mention Fear Incorporated (will mention them every gnomin’ time I will get the chance and most probably even if not).


Your first ‘proper’ album came out in 2013 called Nekrognomekon, so how do you feel your sound has changed since this album and did you get any feedback from the gnomes?

Well hard to say as it contains 3 of our first eps but when we reached the martial sound of “Taisteluni” and continued that idea with the 2013 ep “Der Zwergenhammer” with the new crew I think we found our way. Basically the same recklessness is there all the way but maybe we focused on certain style of perfecting it.
Adding High Commander into the mix in the next release brought some more classical take into it and there we were… Thinking afterwards “Riimuja ja Tonttuja”-album kinda was the ultimate showdown for that style and shows what polished Ant…metal might be like.Rudie really took that to extreme s and we got some great feedback. Freiherr von Gargamel joined us on that album and looky looky his specialities: Violin, Viola, Recorders, Tin whistle, Mouth harp, Baglama saz, Mandolin. Highly folkish and finely tuned!

Our last album Gnostrogoth was done quite differently and it sure involved same elements but the approach was quite different, we were more like doing a jukebox than solid, integral release.

Feedback? Hahhahahah, you gnomin bet! Finnish gnomesian media hated it and that is one of the main reasons I decided to go on! First positive reviews came from that questionable character Mr. Gullotta / Brutal Resonance and from respectable P. Emerson Williams / Intravenous Magazine – yes, the very same Williams I learned to know after this review… Anti-Gnomen goes a long way.

Also heard couple of gnomes commenting it and it went like this:
“EEEÄÄÄÄÄÄRRGGGGGHHHHYYYYYYYY…..GHRLGURG!” Not quite sure if I got it totally right, but found em dead afterwards and that made me realize the potential of our muzikk.


Most recently members of TONTTU have been involved in collaborations with other artists. Can you tell us how you came to recording with Australia’s Captain Kangaroo?

GENERAL Kangaroo SGS, ahem!
What a lovely little hippity-hoppity that unsung hero is! I think I have got Mister Rowland from Disjecta Membra to thank for it if my memory serves me right, thinketh he mentioned about a nice kangaroo he ran across while on tour. That nice kangaroo also happened to be fierce and relentless roaming around the wastelands of Aussieland… Also that blessed creature was hating gnomes like no kangaroo before, it appeared we got along just fine him praising my… Ummmhh… he must have praised something I am sure… And me admiring his slick moves and blistering hatred towards gnomes, not to mention his balalaika skills!
Blaa and blaa and we ended up doing couple of collaborational dittys first as music videos and in the end released as an… drums… EP!!!!! You would not have ever guessed that, huh? It came through No Devotion Records and includes couple of smashing remixes, you must check that out.


You also have collaborated with many of the acts signed with Panicmachine, most recently, EPs with Phobos Reactor. I must ask, what was going on to make these EP?!

Phobos Reactor is not signed to Panicmachine, I kinda dragged them there with these collaborations, you can find their magnificent original stuff from here: https://phobosreactor.bandcamp.com/
They are from Germany by the way and I love to work with them, always a pleasure. We have done 4 eps so far and so proud of them all. The most notable thing is that only one of them is “openly” Anti-Gnome Muzikk, our latest classic #FOLITWIBG. Heheheh, you were brave enough to review it, my highest regards for that! Utter coolness. That was the only one with me only and PB – others also showcased my dear collaborator HCH.

“Enneuni”-ep was Finnish spoken word with short stories, fables if you will. “The Daily Torture of the Commonplace” and our our earliest collab “A Dream Within A Dream” are in English viewing this world through slightly sardonic lense. Ah, goode olde world views in there, gnomes not mentioned but more than present in these ones.

By the way we did a little project within a project in Gnostrogoth album as Phobos Reactor was inside TONTTU and damn did they provide or not! Spoiler: They did.

As for collaborating with actual Panicmachine artists must mention Veil of Thorns and P. Emerson Williams (he also makes all the groovy cover art for us, kudos!) We have made one ep “012333” and that was surprisingly for No Devotion Records-label. Other collabs include for example project Gnomenblut single also with Dean from Bleeding Raven / Gnostic Gorilla. There will be more different collaborations in the future rest assured,

We have released numerous projects featuring myself under the name TFG (TONTTU) in Panicmachine and the story is always the same: Panicmachine seems more than happy to release my collaborational endeavours and I drag more and more willing victims in there. Bless their dark hearts.
Gotta salute especially my Norwegian comrade Ron of Simplefixty, skål!


The gnomen seem to bring people together, even if they are a blight on the world, don’t you think?

How can anyone sleep while gnomes are not burning? Need is must and people with any brains see the necessity of joining the cause or perish in flames of the all devouring gnomishness.
Anti-Gnomen is really the greatest filter for human character, hands down.
I very rarely get disappointed with people engaging with The Cause, naturally some gnome sympathizers try to sneak in from time to time but that just improves our defence systems.
Praised be!

Did you quote Midnight Oil when you referred to burning gnomes while people sleep and are they part of the underground fight?


They stole that from me and without a trace of shame adapted that for their own evil deeds! Should have gotten paid because of that but being the generous person I am I let them get away with it… For now… That is just because they are talking about burning and I just cannot be that angry with them because of that. Soft spot and all that.

One of my favourite movies in the Swedish vampire movie, Frostbitten, where one of the teenagers stabs a vampire with a garden gnome (death by gnome). Are vampires and gnomes natural enemies?

Vampires are in fact nothing more than mosquitoes that has been possessed by gnomes so that incident must be just some perversed vision of some horrible Swede! It is a gnome eat gnome world after all so everything is possible in the end and I know cases where gnomes and their collaborators are just having obscurious fun by playing dead / killing each other. We must remember that dying enhances their red magikk so they can have fun and reap the benefits at the same time. Damn them and their weird ways! Vampire movies and literature are very popular, yet another example of how gnomes redwash media and try to gain the status where people see them as a desirable form of being, like accepting someone pulling your teeth one by one… Damn humans being so gullible, we will remember THAT kinda sympathisers when the tide turns…


What bands or artists got you into music BFG (Before The Gnomes)?

Oh Lordy, that is a tough one… Those leading straight to Anti-Gnomemartialindustrialneofolkmetal as follows: Laibach and Skinny Puppy (always!), NON, Keuhkot (Finnish avant-garde), Two Witches, Blood Axis, King Diamond / Mercyful Fate…Add folklorian truths, some political insights and some tasteful humour + what ever sounds good at the moment = You are set!

Been listening to music all my life and got sweet spot for hippie/heavy time: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath etc… Then again early metal like Judas Priest. Black Metal like Emperor and Thorns, Isengard and Storm… Not to forget Urfaust. Hahahahha and must not also forget Venom, Celtic Frost and the almighty Triptykon! At some point really liked neo-folk, even though it is a chess game for some highly gnomesian things. Same goes with martial industrial that I music wise enjoy immensely, acts like Puissance with extremely sardonic lyrics, ooooh…

Naturally darker electro/industrial like Ministry, Leaether Strip (ooooh, Science for the satanic citizen sure is close to my heart), Front 242, all those greats. From the goth side of things Sisters Of Mercy and Christian Death with Rozz…

Cannot remember all of them neither have I enough space to name them all but my opinions sure trump all the questionable scientific facts or what not alternative truths! If someone disagrees may that scoundrel negotiate with the business end of my flamethrower, enough said.


What musical acts do you enjoy now?

Laibach! Hahahahhahah… I think in the later spectrum I would have to mention Fear Incorporated and everything else Sir William makes like Dark Sinfonia, Gnostic Gorilla (especially their fantastic album “St. basil’s Asylum), Korpituli & Iku-Turso (Finnish black metal)…

I am not too keen to find new music, but sometimes comrades really bring some seriously neat stuff to my attention. I also often find myself listening to comrades’ bands like Choronzon, Sounds Like Winter, Harmony Garden etc… Couple of newer acts I really do enjoy: Wargasm (UK) and Bloodywood – heheheh, new school Nu Metal! Got soft spot also for Linkin Park, Mushroomhead etc. so nothing new there.

But all the old ones usually stay there and add couple of bands to the list there and then. No matter of the genre as long as it is good. Talking about hard to define everyone should listen to Rummelsnuff, that man is a hero in my eyes (and ears)!



How may others join you in the war against the pointy hatted little beasties?

Hmm, respectable question indeed but all this makes me wonder whether your intentions are pure? Maybe you are collecting classified information for your little friends? Let us believe you for now, but consider yourself warned…

Kill a gnome, heck, kill two while at it! Resist all gnomishness, burn your sauna down and/or make/listen glorious Anti-Gnome Muzikk and force other people to do the same. There are many ways and you will find yours if you want – the main thing is to stay alert and be suspicious about everything and/or everyone. Loose lips cost human spleens so be sneaky whatever you choose to do.


Do you think they will ever join forces with the Norwegian trolls, and could there be a black metal/industrial album on horizon to combat them?

Some forms of gnomes have (d)evolved from gnomes like we inform for example in our song “Peikosta tontuksi.” So answer is probably so. We have in fact made couple of red metal dittys found from our album “Gnostrogoth.” W.V. Obscenvs Tomtenkopfff kindly provided us with couple of splendid tunes while joining us with the last TONTTU-album. Maybe we will visit those glorious moments with my feat-stuff later on, let us see. Something may be in the works.


What are you going to get up to in the future and will gnomes be involved?

To extinction and hell if people are not repenting and making the change needed! SHTF and TEOTWAWKI is upon us and we can hear gnomes laughing escorting us there! Behold: We are all doomed!
Oh… You meant future projects… Ummmh… But I won’t take my words back as they are the truth and the wisdom.

As TONTTU is done and dusted in the most glorious way I will continue my path with smaller projects with other musishuns, a ditty here & ditty there featuring TFG (TONTTU)– basically having a good time and getting more time for eradicating actual gnomes, you dig? Some projects are hibernating as gnomes seem to bother those trying to collaborate with me – wise of them but very annoying for me not knowing if we ever get there with all the projects… Well, I can only do my part if others provide what they have promised too.
Dunno whether this or my next Finnish EBM-collab (about chilies and stuff) is out first, but it will be a blast – like the joyous last project with Exemia, what a brain melter that was!

Yes, fighting gnomes is essential and I will never abandon that – needless to say of course.
Do remember: Everything is always about gnomes, one must only stay vigilant enough to spot that. The golden rule states: “If you have got the slightest of suspicion: Eradicate!”

Must not forget that The Book is coming! It may take some time, but “Gnomeus Gnomeficarum” will explain everything and then some, with my trusted comrade TJB Morrison as the main author and P. Emerson Williams illustrating it nothing can go wrong when telling about my glorious tale! Huzzah!

Thank you TFG for your time and good luck in fighting the good fight!

Thank you to you too, may gnomes never slurp your spleen or worse (if that is even possible). T’was a pleasure indeed and keep up the good work.

PS: If you ever want to feel the joys of martyrdom just give me a nudge!

TFG out. Fanfares?! DAMMIT!!!!


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Music | PANICMACHINE

General Kangaroo SGS feat. TFG (TONTTU) | General Kangaroo SGS feat. TFG (TONTTU) | No Devotion Records (bandcamp.com)

TFG (TONTTU) Presents: Der Kompilazion​-​e Magnifique, Perkele! | TFG (TONTTU) | No Devotion Records (bandcamp.com)

In the wilds of New Zealand where the spirits of the trees still whisper secrets and the rocks hold their tales, you will find Amy Tucker West, also known as Parabola West. For those unfamiliar, Parabola West is a project stirred in a Celtic cauldron, mixing synths, folk music and a liberal sprinkling of magic, kind of a mix between Dead Can Dance, Lycia and Clannad so to speak. On the 29th of April, the album Stars Will Light The Way, was dropped, with dreamy ballads about the world and love, to heartfelt pleas for sanctuary and understanding, but always with an undercurrent of modern instruments blended with the traditional. So join us on our Celtic dreaming, speaking to the delightful Amy about the new album and.. well …everything to do around it. Beware of the imps!

Welcome into the fens of the Onyx Garden, Amy Tucker West of Parabola West. We occasionally drop in ritualistic items in the dark waters, just to keep the impish spirits happy.

Thank you! I have a dash of moon water prepared just for this sort of occasion!

In your bio, you say you discovered piano as a young adult. Was music a big thing in your life before this?

Music was a massive part of our household growing up. It would be very common for my mother, sister, and me to sing together as one of them played guitar. Lessons were something that we couldn’t really afford, but that limitation didn’t deter my mother. She was a painter, and so she decorated the walls of the music school with her artwork in exchange for us to have lessons. From that, I internalized from a young age that music was a valuable and important part of life.

Photography – Trinity Navar

You live in New Zealand, land of the long white cloud but you are not originally a Kiwi. How did you end up there?

I’m originally from the east coast of America, and I ended up joining a UK-based band in my early 20s and moving to England to perform with them. When I was over there, I met someone from New Zealand and ended up coming here with him in 2003. That relationship didn’t work out, but I loved it here and decided to stay. Fast forward many years, and I’m now an official citizen of NZ! Woohoo!

Was it a bit of a culture shock going from America to New Zealand?

It’s a unique experience to feel equally at home and equally an outsider in two countries.

I think the biggest culture shock is actually going back to America for a visit after so much time living here in New Zealand. The scale of things in America is overwhelming for the first few days. On my last trip, I remember visiting the grocery store and getting decision fatigue whilst standing in a massive aisle devoted entirely to hummus options. So. Much. Hummus. By the time I got to the toothbrush section, I was deranged with wonder.

Did you feel a difference in the music scene in NZ as opposed to the US and do you think this has influenced your style?

I wasn’t really active in the US music scene before I went to England, but I can now tell you that performing for a NZ audience versus an American audience is a totally different experience! In New Zealand, the audience will clap politely at the end of a song and probably say something nice to you privately after your show. In America, the audience is significantly more expressive throughout a show and will let you know what they think. The Kiwis are much more reserved, and the Americans are more likely to wear their hearts on their sleeves or ‘woohoo’ mid-song.

You launched your new album “Stars Will Light The Way” in April. Your last album was released in 2017 called “Purity of Weakness”. Can I ask why there was a 5 year break?

I released “Purity of Weakness” as an EP back in 2017 because I wasn’t quite ready to release a full-length album yet. My thinking was that you only get one shot at a debut album, so I wanted to make sure I had nurtured my audience enough and built my brand to the point where I could roll out a debut the way I wanted to. But, I certainly didn’t intend for “Stars Will Light the Way” to take five years to come alive! The schedule got a bit blown out by some family hardships and then a dash of pandemic. Life got a bit lifey in-between.

The sound of the album is this beautiful mixture of Celtic dreaming folk, with pop savvy. What drew you to create this style?

Thank you! I’ve always been drawn to a bit of darkness mixed in with the dreamy, and I found that the old folk instruments used in Celtic, Slavic, and Scandinavian folk really have an emotional / melancholy depth that appealed to my ear. But, I also love synth and electronic influences as well as ethereal / otherworldly sounds, so my music ends up being a blend of a few genres. I try not to think about the style or genre when I’m writing, and instead I just focus on getting the produced version to sound the way it does in my head.

What is the premise behind “Stars Will Light the Way”?

It didn’t start out with a premise or a theme in mind, but everything changed as the production got underway. I started getting these character ideas for each song, and they were very specific and in full color in my head. I decided to follow that thread, and alongside the album recording I began working on a book of visuals to go with the music. It culminated in a 48 page fantasy photography lyric book (which includes a CD). I decided on the title “Stars Will Light the Way” because each song explores a different way of finding a path through the darkness.

Photography – Trinity Navar

With Covid causing mayhem around the world for 2 years, how did this affect your creating and recording the album?

It was definitely a contributing factor for why it took 5 years to release this album! I worked with two producers (Scott Newth and Andrew Newth), and I can’t think of a single time that we were all in the same room together since the start of Covid. We worked remotely, sending files and ideas back and forth. In some ways, it was really cool to have that extra space for ideas to grow in isolation. There were some silver linings within the sh*t sandwich.

New Zealand is a rather magical place with its green rolling hills, snowy peaks and native inhabitants, the Maori, with their rich history and tales. How do you feel this has an effect on your music?

New Zealand is, indeed, a deeply magical place! For me, the landscape feels like it holds a spiritual energy. The past 7 years of living off-grid up a misty mountain has really heightened my appreciation for existing in harmony with the seasons and the elements. Lyrically, the themes of nature pop up a lot in “Stars Will Light the Way”.

Who or what were your early musical influences?

Depeche Mode, Tori Amos, Enya, Loreena McKennitt, Dead Can Dance, Information Society, Kate Bush, and fantasy film soundtracks. I also thrashed a mixtape full of artists from Projekt Records (standouts on that cassette were Love Spirals Downwards, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, and Lycia).

Is there anyone that you listen to now that brings you great joy?

I curated a playlist on Spotify called Beautiful Darkness which has a lot of examples of music I’m enjoying at the moment. There are a few Scandinavian artists (Aurora, Agnes Obel, Eivør, and Kite) that get a heavy rotation, but there are also artists like PJ Harvey and Coco Rosie on there as well.

If ever I am in a desperate funk, however, I turn to the Sesame Street Disco album. Specifically, ‘Me Lost Me Cookie at the Disco’ performed by Cookie Monster.

We have heard that you love French bull dogs. What is it about them that makes you giddy with joy?

Oh Frenchies! Yes, they are the perfect blend of cuddly and adventurous. They snore and fart hilariously through the night, and every Frenchie I’ve met has a friendly nature and a heart of gold. My husband and I had the privilege of raising two, and they brought us immense joy.

What do see in the future for Parabola West?

The immediate future is planning and executing an epic summer tour in the southern and northern hemispheres. After that, I’m interested in exploring the realm of writing for film and television.

Thank you for communing with us!

I appreciate the opportunity, thank you!

Stars Will Light the Way | Parabola West (bandcamp.com)

Parabola West official website

Parabola West (facebook.com)

Parabola West’s (@parabolawest) profile on Instagram • 892 posts

The project, Beauty In Chaos came to fruition in 2018 with the first album, Finding Beauty In Chaos, which was an amalgamation of friends around the core instigator, Michael Ciravolo. Having been in the music business for a while, lends itself to having friends such as Wayne Hussey, Al Jourgensen and Michael Aston, to name a few, help you out in recording. Now in 2022, the latest adventure, Behind The Veil, is a full female fronted affair, with voices that that are beautiful, bold and bring a new dynamic to the project. In essence, Beauty In Chaos (BIC), has become a family of musicians which includes Ciravolo’s friend Michael Rozon, as well as his wife, Tish Ciravolo, both whom have been involved with the project since the first album. The latest single off the new album, “Afterlife“, is sung by Tish, who also wrote the lyrics, so we decided to have an interview in two parts. The first part is with the lovely Tish, while the second half is with the man behind the guitar, Michael. Excitingly, we get to find out about the up coming documentary and personally, I love that history of the scene they candidly talk about in the 80s and 90s. So, what are you waiting for?!

PART 1 – THE BEAUTY – Tish Ciravolo, welcome to the beating heart of Onyx.

Tish, you also started your musical career in the 80s as a bass player at the tender age of 16 playing in bands, though you also did a degree in journalism. Hearing stories, such as the way Joan Jett was treated, as female musician, how was were you received due to your gender in the scene back then?

Of course, horrible!  The first music store I went into in LA, I was asked if I was picking something up for my boyfriend and that was the nicest comment I got.  Girls didn’t work at music stores and most female musicians were treated like they sucked, whether they did or not.  And this was almost 10 years after The Runaways started kicking open doors.  The guys at sound check basically just had the girl bands plug in, play a note and unplug.  That was the normal reaction from men in the business but I have to say, there were guys out there who helped and understood the struggle.

Lypstik was a big hair metal band you were in Tish…. how much fun was that and is this about the time you contributed vocals to a Human Drama track?.

LYPSTIK was a blast until it wasn’t.  We were playing Battle of the Bitches type events all the time, pitting the girls against each other for a show.  The Sunset Strip was a sight to behold.  You never know what the memory is when you are living in it and you don’t think it won’t be the same in the future.  But the entire scene did change.  At the time, we had a billboard on the side of The Roxy facing The Rainbow so we really felt like we brought the “girl” side to a very dominated metal scene, along with some very cool other girl bands at that time.

Having a band like Human Drama ask for a simple vocal was a dream come true!  But my name gets misspelled during interpretations… its not Trish, but Tish 🙂

Many people might not be aware that you, Tish created the company Daisy Rock, which makes bass/acoustic/electric guitars for girls and it has been really successful. What prompted you to create guitars for girls and what makes a guitar more for girls?

Daisy Rock Guitars came about organically.  After my experience as a female musician with all the discrimination I experienced, I happened on a way to change that for my daughters and all female musicians. Our daughter, Nicole did a drawing when she was 1 1/2 years old and I turned that daisy drawing into a guitar drawing and showed it to my husband explaining that if we made guitars that girls would want to play, that maybe, just maybe, we could get more girls to play guitar.  With Michael’s expertise, we created a “girl guitar” –  lighter in weight, slimmer neck profile, in super fun designs and colors.  Daisy Rock Guitars were born.  Fast forward ten years and I’m training 600 men on how to treat women in music stores….

Tish, you play the guitar with a plectrum (pick). Why does this weird people out and who are your guitar heroes? (mine admittedly are John Taylor of Duran Duran and the late Mick Karn of Japan, both fretless players)

I love Simon Gallup of The Cure and Tim Butler of The Psychedelic Furs.  I absolutely love Mick Karn and adore what Japan did way before Duran Duran, but fretless is not my forte 🙂

What is in the works for Beauty In Chaos as well as Tish and Michael Ciravolo, for the future?

I believe my husband already touched on the 5 year retrospective album he’s started putting together.  Also, I filmed my segment for the “Unveiled” documentary that should come out later this summer.  We have some live shows coming up with Gene Loves Jezebel where I will dust off the old bass guitar and get back on stage.  And there are some rumblings of trying to put BIC on stage playing live.  The future is so bright, I gotta wear shades!

Beauty can be found in the darkest of places, so what is your beauty in chaos?

One person’s chaos is another person’s beauty.  My beauty comes from a place of being a mother, being a wife and being a creative artist.  All those things comes with its own chaos no matter what stage you are in.  Toddlers to teenagers has its own chaos and beauty.  Loving my best friend, my husband for over 30 years now carries its own beauty and chaos.  Continuing in life to create, to bring my dreams to life, to continue to dream, to not give up.  That is my Beauty.  That is my Chaos.

PART 2 – OUT OF CHAOSWelcome Michael Ciravolo to the darkness within the heart of Onyx.

Michael, your career spans back to 1980, in New Orleans, with The Models. When the band moved to Los Angeles, in 1985, there was a name change to Human Drama. What was it like playing goth rock, in those cities, in the 80s for you and especially at the (in)famous Scream Club in LA?

Looking back, the mid to late ‘80s scene in Los Angles was truly magical. There was certainly the Hollywood’s ‘hair-meta’ scene happening in a big way. GnR, Van Halen, Motley Crue and the dozens of 2nd and third tier replicas ran rampant on the Sunset Strip. Many getting massive record deals. But there was also a cool darkwave scene, with its focal point being Scream. So many great nights playing and hanging there; especial when it was at the Park Plaza location. Not to be outdone by the strip scene, A&R types flocked there, as well as a few other clubs… not only signing Human Drama, but also Kommunity FK, Caterwaul, Jane’s Addiction to name a few. Another cool thing was there was sort of a comradery between bands… even with the goths and big hair metal kids. It was not uncommon for us to be hanging flyers on the strip besides guys from Poison and Faster Pussy Cat.

At that time, America was in the grips of hair metal. What made you take to the gothic rock style?

As a kid in New Orleans, I gravitated to glam and punk when I picked up the electric guitar. Marc Bolan, Mick Ronson and Johnny Thunders were my heroes. When we formed The Models, we were a bit more power-pop, but got heavier and darker as Johnny’s writing matured. Before we made the move to LA, we were listening to The Mission, The Cure, Joy Division and The Sister. I guess we sort of ‘absorbed’ that into our look and sound.

You are also a member of Michael Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel. What is it like for you to be a part of this iconic band?

When I rejoined Human Drama to record the live album at The Troubadour, Michael Aston had just released his solo album on Triple-X. With that being our label too, he was opening the show. After our set, a mutual friend, who ironically booked Human Drama’s first LA show, introduced us. He told me that he and Jay (Aston) were going to reform to do a reunion tour and would I be interested in being the guitarist. I had a few of the early post House Of Dolls Gene Loves Jezebel albums, which I though were quite good. I learned a few of the songs and I hit if off well with the twins. This lead to a 20+ date USA tour. I got to witness firsthand the old wounds Michael and Jay had, had burst open… which lead to us doing the last few dates with them not speaking to each other! The attempted to record an album with some of the ‘original’ line-up… but Michael left or got booted, depending on who’s version you believe. It is truly a cluster fuck, sort of like Oasis without the fame and money!! Michael again approached me about writing an album … which lead to two. “Love Lies Bleeding” and “Exploding Girls”. I have probably played over 100 shows with Michael’s ‘version’ of GLJ and there is talk of both Tish and I joining for some shows in support of The Mission. I guess we will see. I am proud of those two albums … but it is a shame as it could and should have been so much more.

Your latest project is Beauty In Chaos, where the debut album, “Finding Beauty In Chaos” was released in 2018. When did you originally decide this was a project you wanted to take on?

After Human Drama’s ‘final show’ in October 2015, Johnny had released a few solo albums … sadly with little notice, except to hard core Human Drama fans. I guess I am credited to talking him into doing another Human Drama album, which began to take shape in early 2017. In my head, I had hoped we would return more to the darker, edgier sound of the band; but it was really not what Johnny was into. In the recording process of what became “Broken Songs For Broken People”, I grew frustrated and probably tried to force a more aggressive guitar approach than really fit these songs. Looking back, I am happy with the album and what I added on guitar. I was never a big David Gilmore / Pink Floyd fan … and that is what Johnny continually referenced for the guitar parts he envisioned. In the end, it made me delve a bit into it … and now I truly appreciate how great Gilmore is. Michael Rozon, was recording my guitar parts for the album, and certainly could sense my growing frustration … which lead to him turning to me and saying “why don’t you just do your own album?”. I quickly blurted our ‘YES’! Then the stark realization crept in that now I had to do it. Not being a real singer, I decided that I could ask some friends to sing. Luckily two few friends … Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and Al Jourgensen (Ministry) jumped in quickly .. and thus Beauty In Chaos was born. Thankfully, what for a few moments was my ‘solo’ record (which I find most solo records by guitarists to be quite boring) quickly morphed into this revolving / evolving entity we call Beauty In Chaos.

Did you ever envision that you would create your first album with such people as Wayne Hussey (The Mission, ex-Sisters Of Mercy), Simon Gallup (The Cure) and Aston Nyte (The Awakening)….in essence an amalgamated super group?

While I never set out for this to be a ‘supergroup’, as I hate that term, as to me, it sounds a bit pompous. I am certainly blessed to have a lot of friends that also happen to makeup a big part of my record collection. I never take any of the artists that contribute to BIC for granted. Whether well-known or lesser known, each of these artists put their heart and soul into the song(s) we created together.

But the ‘kid’ in me sometimes must pinch himself when I look at who has been part of our BIC family. Even the artists that are ‘platinum’, iconic or even in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame treat the entire concept of what BIC is with complete respect, and myself as a contemporary. Yes, still all more than a bit surreal.

Michael Rozon has been there, recording, mixing, and producing, not to mention playing instruments as well. Could you please tell us about this relationship/friendship?

Michael is one of my best friends in this world. I could not and would not do BIC without him. Far more than just suggesting I make my own album … he allows me to play my guitar while he focuses on the tech side of recording. He is also amazingly talented. Like our records or not … they do sound great and that is due to him. He has a talent to push and encourage me at the same time. He sure as hell has made me a better musician. And we have a fucking blast being in the studio together!

We met back in the mid ‘90s. I was in a post Human Drama (pre GLJ) band that was getting label attention, but our singer had a drinking issue. I could see that we had hit a dead-end. My then girlfriend and now wife, Tish, saw a ad on a telephone pole of a band, Drain The Doves, looking for a guitarist. She actually called Michael and invited him to a show, which ironically ended with me smashing my guitar against the wall on the stage out of frustration. I walked off stage, out to Sunder Blvd. and Michael walked up to me as I was probably screaming ‘fuck this I quit’ and said you are our guy. We have been great friends ever since.

Since that release, there has been the release of the album “The Storm Before The Calm” and two remix albums, which brings us to the 2022 unleashing of “Behind The Veil”. This release is a little more special as it features only female vocalists. What was the inspiration behind going in this direction for the album?

When we were finishing up ‘The Storm Before The Calm’, I was having an internal debate with myself if we should include “Stranger” (featuring Holy War’s Kat Leon) on this album or if we should write an additional gloom-rock track. While I absolutely love “Stranger”, I knew it was a bit of a departure from the rest of the album. In the end, I went with my original thought and ended the vinyl with it.

After hearing the album in its entirety, I thought it “Stranger” would be a cool lead-in to what came next for us. I do love all three female featured songs on ‘FBIC’, and what Kat and Cinthya had done with us … there is the genesis of ‘Behind The Veil’.

The latest single is the slow burning and dreamy “Afterlife” sung by your incredibly talented wife, Tish. What has it been like for both of you working together on this track for Beauty In Darkness as best friends and lovers?

“Afterlife” is a great song and a perfect opening song for this record. I could not be prouder of what my wife did. I love what she did on “Lookup” on our first record, but this tops it and is easily one of my top 5 BIC songs. When Michael and I wrote the music, I knew her voice would work well on it, but it is a bit of a different, linear song … there’s not the big obvious chorus section. She took the music and made it into a great song. Honestly, I am probably a bit more demanding on her because she is my wife and best friend … and I am sure she feels the pressure to prove she is on this because of her talent, not because she is my wife. I defy anyone to doubt her talent after what she delivered on this song … lyrically and melody , and the video. I think her ending line ‘love is all there is’ will live alongside Ashton Nyte’s ‘there is always a light (from ‘Storm’) as seminal BIC lyrics.

Having Elena Alice Fossi of the legendary Kirlian Camera sing “Kiss Of The World” must have been a bit of a coup. How did you end up getting the beautiful Italian singer to become involved?

I tried to remember how I became aware of Elena while doing press for “The Kiss Of The World” video. I think my press agent, Shauna (from Shameless Promo) was promoting something Elena was part of. No denying her beauty, but it was an interview I saw with her. Far more than a pretty face, she is extremely intelligent and I loved her courage to stand up for some social issues that plague the world. Plus she has an amazing voice. I got her email, and just introduced myself. I tuned out we had a mutual acquaintance in John Fryer, who had has done several BIC remixes and I am of Italian decent! I just straight out asked if she would be interested in working together at some point. Thankfully, she said yes and then fast-forward at least a year and we sent her a music track that she turned into “The Kiss Of The World”. I also love the video we did for this song, which she shot all her parts on a green screen in Italy. Industrialism Films, who have done most of our videos, did an amazing job of melding her into the dystopian sets we created. I must add that her Kirlian Camera fans have been so gracious towards Beauty In Chaos.

There are three more extremely talented women on the album, so were they acquaintances or professionals you felt you needed to have sing on the album?

Yes, Cinthya Hussey, Betsy Matin, along with my wife, Tish, are BIC alumi … appearing on songs on previous albums. Besides Elena, Whitney Tai and Pinky are new to our BIC Family. I knew Pinky Turzo from the early days of Human Drama; and loved what she had done vocally in Silver Ghost Shimmer. “Not Your Fault” is a different song for us … but I love everything about it. She channeled the ‘chaos in her beaut’ in the song’s lyrics, but in a way that most of us can interject something from our life into. To me, that makes a great song.

Whitney Tai was introduced to me by our mutual friend and BIC alum, Kat Leon of Holy Wars. Whitney and I immediately hit it off musically and she has become a really good friend of Tish and I. I heard some of what she had done on her albums and could hear the Bjork influence. I told her I wanted to do a song with her that fell between Bjork and Bauhaus. Wide net I know … but it rolled off the tongue nicely! What became “Orion” evolved so easily … almost effortlessly. To me, it encompasses all of the elements of BIC. Lots of ethereal guitars, but with blasts of chaos and sonic interference. Love the video too!

Remixes were a huge thing in the 80’s (hence all those wonderful 12-inch singles), though they seem to fall out of favour with the era of CDs and now there seems to be a renaissance. Half the album is remixes, so what was the reason behind this decision plus tell us about the newest remix album as well?

I was certainly a fan of the great extended 12” singles, however I never cared much for a remixer just replacing the drums with a ‘dance beat’. In BIC world, the remix concept happened really by accident … but I am a believer that things happened for a reason. When we were making our debut album, ‘finding beauty in chaos’, I had imposed a ‘no synth’ rule. Meaning every sound on that album came from manipulating my electric guitar. Wayne (Hussey, The Mission) introduced me to Tim Palmer.. who has always been one of my absolute favorite producers.

I was in Austin with he and Wayne, as Tim was mixing The Mission’s ‘Another Fall From Grace’ album. We were out having a few libations so I said what the fuck and asked Tim if he would mix a BIC song that Wayne was featured on. Amazingly Tim said yes. I sent him both “Man Of Faith” and “The Long Goodbye” to mix. In my excitement that he was doing this, I failed to tell him about the ‘no synth’ rule. See where this is going? So I get back “Man Of Faith” and is brilliant … but Tim added so cool keyboards and some nice guitar bits. So how do you tell your favorite producer “Great mix mate, but can you take those keyboards and guitars out!!!” . The answer is you don’t! Thus the idea of ‘Beauty Re-Envisioned’ was born. Thankfully, I am blessed with a lot of very talented friends that were eager to jump in and do some amazing reinterpretations of songs from ‘FBIC’. Since this worked well, at least in my opinion, we again followed up ‘The Storm Before The Calm’ was ‘Out Of Chaos Comes…’.

I really enjoyed turning the keys over and hearing how other treated these songs. When it came to ‘Behind The Veil’, I was adamant about releasing it before the end of 2021. My BIC cohort, Michael Rozon, was working on a Ministry album at the same time, so our studio time was a bit limited. We created these six songs, which worked in the confines of vinyl, both left a lot of ‘time’ remaining with the 75-minutes+ available on a compact disc. I thought it would be cool to change what we had done previously, and include remixes on the CD version of ‘Behind The Veil’. In typical BIC fashion … the idea expanded, and we had so many creative and diverse remixes that it lead to 25 tracks, and ‘Further Behind The Veil’ !!!

Who or what music inspired you to become a musician?

Watching those great late-night music shows… The Midnight Special and Don Kirscher’s Rock Concert. Seeing T. Rex and David Bowie was a life changer for me. Until then, I wanted to play pro football. I quickly realized that girls, especially cute ones liked guys in bands more that jocks! Watching Marc Bolan pout and prance and seeing Johnny Thunders with has big mane of hair and low-slung buzz saw sounding guitar sealed the deal for me. One of those surreal moments in BIC, and there have been a few, was getting to record and do a video of T, Rex’s classic, “20th Century Boy” with Marc Bolan’s son, Rolan. Yeah, doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Do you find yourself listening to new acts now and what gets your creative juices flowing?

Sadly, I don’t find a lot new or very ‘inspiring’ in new music. Maybe it’s showing my age …. but I am looking far more forward to the next Cure record than anything I have heart of late. I am sure I am missing something, but I got more inspiration from sounds, and new musical ‘toys’ as opposed new acts. I just don’t see much longevity in what I hear.

Beauty can be found in the darkest of places, so what is your beauty in chaos?

Life is indeed filled with both beauty AND chaos. Sadly our world has fallen more into the latter as of late. For me personally, my beauty is my family. My wife and two beautiful, healthy, strong-willed daughters. I am beyond blessed for them.

Now, if you were given the chance to record a track with any goth rocker from the past or present, dead or alive, who would you pick and more importantly, why?

To me, and something I carry into Beauty In Chaos is lyrics. I want our singers to write from the heart, songs that have a deeper meaning, even and especially not overly obvious. To be clear, all of the singers in our BIC write their own lyrics and melody. Michael and I don’t give any verbal-guidance, but I think the music we send them sends them down a path to turn it into a song. As for your question, I think in the goth/darkwave world … most of the great singers do write wonderful lyrics. I would love to work with Robert Smith and Peter Murphy. I do know both and have approached them both. Each was kind and did consider, but at the time, each was very deep into writing for The Cure and Bauhaus. Maybe one day! Siouxsie would certainly be someone I would love to work with. I know you question was ‘goth’ specific, but there are other amazing, influential singers I would to have had, or have the opportunity to have as part of our BIC Family.

Having the chance to work with David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Michael Hutchence would have been amazing. Shirley Manson, Bjork, along with several of fantastic ladies of shoegaze … Elizabeth Fraser, Rachell Goswell, Lisa Gerrard and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons would be on my ‘want list’. Can’t end this hypothetical list without adding The Furs Richard Butler, who has always been one of my favorite vocalists.

What is in the works for Beauty In Chaos and Michael Ciravolo, for the future?

We are working on a behind-the-scenes look at ‘Behind The Veil’, cleverly untitled ‘Unveiled’. This is being done by the great people at JammerDirect. This documentary will include some great insight from the six amazingly talented ladies that make up this album, along with some thoughts from a few of the remixers involved. This should be premiered before the end of summer.

We are also planning a video from “Open Would Heart”, which features the lovely Cinthya Hussey. I really love this song, and her lyrics are beautiful. With her in Brazil, it has some challenges, but we managed with Elena, so I am confident that we will create something special that fits this song.

With Michael Rozon currently on tour with Jerry Cantrell, our studio time is a bit hard to come by, but I think it gives me a writing break that I probably would not have! That said, we are looking at releasing sort of an anthology CD…. BIC 2017-2022 type of thing. I am going thru all of our tracks, including the remixes and trying to pick the 13 or 14 songs that give the best sonic overview of what we have done to date. I have both a title and a photo in mind … so that’s half the battle. I am thinking of adding one new song to this…. Which may indeed by a cover song that stuck in my head during my recent visit to my hometown of New Orleans. We will see.

Thank for indulging us Michael and Tish, and we can’t wait to hear what you do next.

Behind The Veil | BEAUTY IN CHAOS (bandcamp.com)

Beauty In Chaos | Facebook

X-MARKS THE PEDWALK for some of us was the music on the dance floor in the early 90s, that was so very attention grabbing. The band has come a long way since then, with their sound changing and maturing, going through future pop, becoming the synthpop power house we have today and with that talent and touch for electronic music, has culminated in the album, New / End. This husband and wife team of SEVREN NI-ARB and the lovely ESTEFANIA, so very graciously gave us a chance to talk to them about family, the music industry and of course the latest album.

Welcome to the dark side of our world, here at Onyx, dear ESTEFANIA and SEVREN NI-ARB of X-MARKS THE PEDWALK.

Estefanía: Hello Adele, thank you for inviting us to Onyx.

The band has in essence been around since around 1987 and seen changes in personnel, style and even been on hiatus. Did you ever think you would still be so well received and still going well over 30 years later?

Sevren Ni-Arb: Until the longer hiatus we had released 5 albums with XMTP. Since the comeback in 2009, 6 more have been added to date. I released another album of my side project (SN-A) and created the soundtrack series “MUSIC.FOR.BOOKS”. I also founded my own label meshwork music and in addition to a few remixes I also produced the two albums of my son Luis Maximilian (LMX). Another one is in preparation. To be honest, no – I didn’t think it would be that extensive. But what we are overwhelmed that we still have such a great fan base and that so many new fans have joined XMTP over the last few years. This is a huge motivating factor.

Your last album, “Transformation”, was released in 2020 and now you have followed it up with the fabulous “New / End”. What has it been like creating and releasing albums during a pandemic?

Estefanía: Especially in the times of lockdown, music was of course a wonderful energy booster and a welcome “refuge”.

Sevren Ni-Arb: Otherwise the production processes have remained the same. With “NEW / END” I was extremely disciplined and efficient with my resources this time.

What is behind the title “New / End”?

Sevren Ni-Arb: “NEW / END” closes the conceptual framework of our last three albums. While “Secrets” is primarily a look inside, something closed and reserved, “Transformation” deals with barriers, people and behaviors that constrict us emotionally. It´s about recognizing one’s own weaknesses in order to convert them into new energy. In “NEW / END” this energy is the core. It´s about determination and personal strength, to make conscious decisions, to shape your life differently. “NEW / END” marks the end of a process of change, to take new directions.

It has been stated that the themes are determination and strength through hardship and loss but would you say, that the common theme throughout this latest album is having faith, whether that is in one’s self or in others?

Sevren Ni-Arb: Yes, above all trust in yourself and your own feelings. Expressing and acknowledging these feelings clearly. This allows you to realign yourself emotionally. Accordingly, there are also melancholic moments of pain and loss on the album.

“Firestorm” is definitely a standout track but I also really like “Sacred Ground” for its sweetness and a slightly magical quality. Are there any standout tracks that you particularly love?

Estefanía: I’m glad you like “SACRED GROUND”. Next to “Yesterdays” and “I’m on your side” it’s a song that’s very personal and touches me deeply. It’s about the death of my father, who passed away last year. When Sevren finished the composition and lyrics, I was surprised. I didn’t expect him to confront my feelings in this way. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to freely sing the song in the studio. But in a way, it’s also part of my grief.

What would be the major influence in writing this album?

Sevren Ni-Arb: I’ve been making music for so long now, I don’t have much time to listen extensively to other artists. So I always go my own way. But sure, we are unconsciously influenced by many things that touch us, move us or leave a mark in some way that is also reflected in the music.

On Facebook, I was reading a thread, where they were talking about how people are still saying that they are surprised your sound is now electro synthpop. Why do you think this is?

Sevren Ni-Arb: We were very successful as an EBM industrial band. We were one of the first bands with this style on Zoth Ommog, the then still young, but later extremely groundbreaking label in Germany. “Abattoir” from 1992 is still extremely popular in clubs. And it’s not the only hit from the past that’s still being played a lot today. We also did provocative live shows that fit the image of a “hard” and “aggressive” band. But I’ve always changed the sound of XMTP. Change is part of XMTP’s DNA. I implemented that in my music sometimes more radically, sometimes more nuanced. If you look at our discography, you will see that from album no. 4 (“Meshwork”) onwards the sound was already extremely different from the Industrial/EBM of the early days. With the releases “Facer” and “Meshwork” I’m considered the founder of so-called future pop – that was back in 1994/1995. That was almost 30 years ago. At that time there were already different reactions. Some were excited, others disappointed. And so the disappointed fans “wake up” every time we release a new album. And that’s fine with me. Luckily, taste in music vary and are allowed to change. I understand that fans would rather hear the early works and wish we would come back to that style again. We’ve definitely lost some fans that way. But on the other hand, we gained a lot of new fans and there are so many that have stayed with us over the years. So many have also gotten carried away by all these changes, by the always new and surprising changes in the sound. It’s the very unique spirit of X MARKS THE PEDWALK.

X-MARKS THE PEDWALK is on Meshwork Music, which is your own label, catering to electronic musicians. Before Meshwork Music, you were also signed to some huge labels such as the now defunct Zoth Ommog, Cleopatra, Metropolis and Infacted Recordings that rose from the ashes of Zoth Ommog. What did you learn along the way that inspired you to create a record label?

Sevren Ni-Arb: When founding Meshwork Music, the main motivation was to work completely independently – not only musically – also to make your own organizational and financial decisions, when and how to invest in production and marketing. It is now my personal money that is used. But I am still in regular contact with Torben from Infacted Recordings in particular. He still has our back catalogue in the program. The time with him was really great! He’s one of those people in the music business that’s really on the artist side. Just a great guy!

Do you do much live touring now and would this be something you would like to do with the new album?

Sevren Ni-Arb: We played our last concert at the Wave Gothic Treffen in Leipzig – 2009. We invested a lot back then and produced very complex stage projections for this show, because we produced a live DVD. Since then there have always been thoughts about a tour or individual shows. We are often asked when we’ll be back on stage. But it is an enormous challenge for us – especially in terms of time. We’re not full-time musicians. I am the managing partner of a digital communications agency, and I have also founded another company in which Estefania is the managing director. I also have my label meshwork music. We have to plan the remaining time very carefully.

Estefanía: There’s our family, our dog, friends… Sometimes we just have to recharge our batteries and we want to spend and enjoy our time as a couple. Not to mention my fear of flying…

Sevren Ni-Arb: … so, there are no plans yet. But there are thoughts again…

I am in awe of your relationship. You are a couple whom have created music together, had a family, chosen to put music on the back-burner to raise that family and then come back to it. What is it like having that other person in your life and not just music plus are you each other’s best friend?

Estefanía: We both known each other for so long – we’ve been together for nearly 35 years now. Before we got together, Sevren was already making music and it quickly became his profession. So I took part in and accompanied all these developments, we made decisions together on how we would like to shape our lives. My involvement in XMTP has grown over time. After so many years we are lovers and best friends at the same time. We have so much in common and are still making new plans for our future together. It’s great and a wonderful feeling that the music has now also become a common part. Even if Sevren can be quite strict in the studio sometimes 😉

Sevren Ni-Arb: But only a little 😉 We have a lot of fun in the studio and when a song is finished and we hear the result together, it’s a great feeling to share this moment with the most important person in life.

I always like to ask about people’s influences, so what do you guys into the industrial/electronic scene?

Sevren Ni-Arb: In the beginning, before I finally launched my first own EBM project (“Scarecrow”) in 1988, there were a few bands and artists who absolutely moved me and played a major role in my wish to make electronic music myself. For example: FAD GADGET – especially “Back to Nature”, KRAFTWERK – especially “Computerwelt”, DEPECHE MODE – “Some Great Reward” – still my absolute favorite album by DM, THE KLINIK (“Memories”), FRONT 242 (“Geography”) , CLICK CLICK (“She´s chewing them”), TWICE A MAN, GARY NUMAN, ALIEN SEX FIEND (“Ignore the Machine”) and of course SKINNY PUPPY.

What or whom do you enjoy listening to these days?

Estefanía: Today we mostly listen to music on the side, while cooking (Sevren’s passion), at dinner, with family and friends… We listen to so many different kinds of music: pop, jazz, classical, swing, electro, dance, soundtracks…

Sevren Ni-Arb: Yes, the soundtrack to “Interstellar” by Hans Zimmer is outstanding! In general, we like to discover music in films.

If you both had to write a lyric or two, for a love song, dedicated to the other, what would be in those lyrics? (It can be anything from you make my day, to you keep my feet warm in bed)

Sevren Ni-Arb: Oh there are love songs on our new album – not that obvious. But “Yesterdays” is dedicated to my sons and my wife. When you listen to the second verse you have the lyrics 😉

Estefanía: … and these could also have come from me. That’s why I was touched from two perspectives when I heard the song and lyrics for the first time.

What is coming up next for X-MARKS THE PEDWALK?

Sevren Ni-Arb: “NEW / END” is on the market for a short time now. The reviews are great. We’re really glad. I’ll think about how to proceed with XMTP later. Now it’s time for my son’s third album. We’re soon in my studio to produce it. But I can tell you this: It’s going to be a great album!

Thank you for giving us your time and the new album is exquisite!

Estefanía: Thank you for the interview.

New / End | X Marks The Pedwalk (bandcamp.com)

X-Marks The Pedwalk | Facebook

Esoterik released their latest album, Alchemy, in March. Dubbed as pagan-synth, this US duo of Allison Eckfeldt and Brady Bledsoe, have created an album which has mystical folk tendrils, spliced together with electronic synths and rhythms. It is beautiful and danceable with a spiritual centre, calling back to a time when our ancestors were more in-tune to the world they walked in and the earth was far more listened to. So we decided that it was time to ask the band themselves about the new album and Esoterik.

Welcome Esoterik to the druidic grove in which Onyx thinks deep and perplexing thoughts.

The project, Esoterik, came into being in 2013, so how did it all happen?

Allison: I’ve felt a strong pull to create music, perform live and tour since high school but never had things line up to where it could happen… I ended up asking Brady if he would like to join together in a project after I had tried out as bassist for a different band he was in.

Brady: My musical tastes have always been all over the place and love creating soundscapes in different genres. Allison and I were sharing some of our favorite artists so I decided to take some of the elements I love most about those and just push it through my normal songwriting process to see what happens. I showed her a couple of demos and before we knew it, we had enough material to call it an album.

What were you both doing musically before Esoterik?

Allison: I was mostly playing on my bass guitar on my lunch breaks from work… and singing/recording covers of artists I was inspired by.

Brady: Directly before, I was playing in a project with some friends that I guess you would call Power Pop and also doing a lot of solo gigs with my acoustic, a synth and a looper pedal. I’ve dabbled and participated in projects across a wide array of genres over the years and I think that’s something I’ll always do to scratch the creative itch.

People might not know that the band is comprised of a husband/wife team. So, do you find it easier or harder being married to your bandmate?

Allison: I’ve only really known this formula so I can’t comment on if it is easier or harder… It isn’t hard though; It’s a lot of fun. It’s work too just like anything else you would like to improve upon. Lots of practice, listening, learning and growing. I’ve taken part in a lot of team-oriented projects so I approach this band the same from the same professional standpoint

Brady: I don’t know who told you that, but it’s a secret that was not to be revealed. In all seriousness though, I find it much easier and it’s pretty magical to be able to share the experiences of life on the road. You often hear about musicians having trouble being able to maintain relationships due to a lifestyle that requires a lot of traveling so problem solved there. In my opinion touring is one of the most gratifying and difficult things you can do as a musician and it can wear on you after a while. However, there’s a bond that forms out there in very little time and strangers become family. That experience with my partner is only amplified each time we get out there. I also always know where to find her when it’s time for rehearsals.

How do you both contribute to the creative process of writing songs?

Allison: I usually will write lyrics and pass them to Brady… I have my most fun sprinkling in ‘off the script’ takes during vocal recording however. The song starts to form its’ shape and I get really excited to add in flare where it feels right.

Brady: Our songwriting process varies depending on how inspiration strikes but it usually starts on an acoustic guitar with me working out chords or a melody that pops into my head. Once I have a general arrangement that seems solid, I’ll then go into the studio and start transposing and building out the skeleton. For lyrics or vocal melodies, we usually bounce ideas off each other or Allison may have lyrics already and we clean them up to fit the phrasing with the music.

Your latest album is “Alchemy” and alchemy was the precursor to modern science but still very much in the pseudo science realm, mixed with ideals of magic, and this reflects the album for me. Magical with its roots deep in the earth. What does the album mean for you?

Allison: It’s a journey to reconnect with myself. Take back all the pieces of who I am that I had let get away from me… The songs are introspective, empowering and full of affirmations. This album to me is basically a diary of my past three years doing shadow work. Un-learning and re-learning to live again.

Brady: The concept of Alchemy has transformed and evolved over time but regardless of the focus, the fascination to me from a physical perspective would be how the elements from the earth interplay with our bodies, which are also composed of some of those elements. The practice also plays well into the realm of spirituality and the power of intention. The process of making music to me feels very alchemical with taking ingredients that have a very defined character or texture alone but when combined created something unexpected and seemingly new. The individual songs on the new album have been crafted with purpose and intention to represent the element or compound titled.

Each of the singles on the album were also released as remix EPs, with guests doing each mix. Could you please explain why you decided to go this way and who you invited to do your mixes?

Allison: We invited a lot of our friends and acquaintances to join in on the single releases. We thought it would be a really fun way to send the songs off into the world. I’m really happy with every track and it was so beyond amazing to be able to listen to everyone’s own take for which direction they wanted to take the soundscape into.

Brady: The way people listen to music is constantly evolving and regardless whether or not as an artist you have a preference on how your music should be consumed, I feel like you have to give your music the opportunity the most airtime you can and spreading those releases out with additional content is sometimes the only way to reach who really wants to hear what you’re creating. In terms of the artist selection, we’ve been lucky to cross paths with a lot of talented musicians over the years and it’s a very tight knit community where you start to lean on people you trust and respect.

Some are very big names, so was that both exciting and nerve wracking?

Allison: Everyone who agreed to take part in our project we have met on tours and through mutual friends. Fortunately, nothing was nerve wracking because everyone who took part, I feel very calm around. I’ve never felt judgment from these individuals and have only had good conversations with them. When you can fully be yourself around creative partners, really beautiful magic can flourish.

Brady: It’s always a bit nerve wracking for me no matter the artist, but also super gratifying to hear your music re-imagined and often elevated to another level. There are a few remixes on the EPs where I seriously contemplate whether their interpretation is actually a better fit than the studio track, which is a great predicament to come across. We are really grateful and honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with such amazing artists and even better to call some of them good friends.

The latest single is “Tria Prima”, which in alchemy is represented by a three sided triangle and is the bringing together of three elements. Can you tell us about this concept and about the music video?

Allison and Brady: Tria Prima takes listeners through the underbelly of the mind and highlights the importance of self-awareness and the balance necessary between mind, body and consciousness. Our minds can be a very ugly space to explore and will run wild if left to their own devices. The mind is flawed by design but with focus and intention, freedom from our self-imposed shackles is possible and always waiting.

If you had to pick a track off the album that would be your favourite to play live, which would it be?

Allison: Salt; I really look forward to performing this one live… The vocals are so fun; and there’s such a variety of moods I get to tap into. The whole song really paints such a nice atmosphere for me to vibe with.

Brady: I would have to say Tria Prima, it’s very high energy and I love the dual vocals.

The cover art for the album is really quite exquisite! Who created it?

Allison and Brady: We had a photo session with some very talented artists Neisha T. Ford and Eugnell, who specialize in what I’d call modern Renaissance style shoots. We didn’t really have any direction on cover art at the time, but after seeing the proofs we knew that one in particular just had a feel that was striking and timeless. We collaborated with another amazing artist, Vlad McNeally (Kallisti Design), who has designed for pretty much everyone in the business and he knocked it out of the park with bringing the vision to life.

For 2 years, Covid has created havoc with the music industry, especially with touring. How did it affect the recording of the album and also your ability to play live?

Allison: It benefited the recording process; as we were stuck home the entire time. We had all that extra time to record and just be creative in general. Performing live was nonexistent during the pandemic…so we had no live shows for quite some time except performing for friends. I’m really looking forward to hitting the road once more. Being able to do live shows is such a huge part of the lifestyle that it feels really uncomfortable when I can’t make those in person connections with listeners.

Brady: It was absolutely wonderful from a creative perspective; we were able to finish up the last half of the album without any distractions. We’ve actually only played a couple of shows in almost three years now so we’re really jonesing to 1) be able to perform for an audience and feel that energy exchange and 2) play a new set with the tracks from Alchemy.

Your style was described by a fan as dark pagan, I feel due to your earthy tones rooted in a darker past, would you agree with that interpretation?

Allison: We were coined ‘Pagan-Synth’ by a fan on YouTube after ‘Spirits light the way’ was released and I instantly fell in love with the term. Blending spiritual, spell rooted songs with synth. In the future, as we grow with our sound; I would like to blend more Folk pagan into synth heavy beats. I would like to find a way to blend in some progressive guitars as well.

Brady: We definitely resonate with a pagan path and for me, it’s really about our connection with the earth. When we take time in nature, we feel more connected to everything and that goes a long way for anything that ails you. Some of that inevitably bleeds into the music we create from a lyrical standpoint. However, there’s nothing ancient sonically in what we’re doing at the moment so it may just be a marriage of the two.

What music/bands, first got you into the alternative scene?

Allison: That’s pretty hard for me to pinpoint… I grew up on ‘alternative’ 70’s music and then around 2002 (I was 12.) One of my older brothers, Kyle, burned me a mix CD with Static-X, Fear Factory, Drain STH, Black Sabbath, Gravity Kills and others. The two songs I would put on repeat off of the CD were ’Sold my Soul’ by Zakk Wylde and Drain STH ‘I Wish’. The Zac Wylde song brought me a lot of peace and comfort when I was no longer able to see my older brothers until I was around 16. Just that opening guitar of the track hit me right in the solar plexus. Some of the lyrics I really felt deeply but the melody itself was so healing to me. The Drain STH song felt like the anthem to my existence during my early teens… The lyrics really spoke things I couldn’t vocalize. I found myself going back to that track when I was in a really low spot.

Brady: My first taste of the scene was in the early 90’s and was mesmerized by the melodies and catchy hooks of New Wave and Synth Pop artists like Depeche Mode and New Order. Although when I started actually composing music I was on a steady diet of grunge and industrial, I knew I’d always come back around.

Are there any acts or albums that you are into now?

Allison: I absolutely love Eivor, I’ve seen her twice live and I am in absolute awe of her creativity, vocal range and overall musical portfolio. I own all her CDs and feel such a deep connection with what she writes. I’m also in awe of iamamiwhoami; I can listen to their albums front and back without getting tired of a track… I usually listen to them while I’m drawing or painting. Each track hits me right in the heart.

Brady: There’s so much great music right now thanks to the downtime everyone had with the pandemic. A couple that come to mind though are Haex and Pixel Grip. They both have such a unique spin on the ground that others have walked before. One’s heavier and one is more on the dancey side but I highly suggest checking those two bands out!

If you had the gift of creation with alchemy, what would you want to create with this power?

Allison: Alchemists created such a wide variety of things chemists still use to this day… When really thinking about the question I suppose I wouldn’t be concerned with creating anything in particular. I would instead be more interested in learning and experimenting through trial and error… and from that point pinpointing exactly what path I would want to explore. I would like to spend more time learning from knowledgeable sources about Prima Materia as I think a lot of ideas could be answered there. Carl Jung had some interesting takes on alchemy actually if anyone else is interested in learning more.

Brady: In the literal sense, I’ve always been intrigued by mortality and ways that we try to avoid the inevitable so the Elixir of Life would be my creation. Like much of history though, I think there’s more metaphors in ancient practices than literal so we could very well have that gift and already created that with this album.

Dark pools of still water were considered sacred places where gifts were given to receive both luck and information. What do the dark waters tell you about the future of Esoterik?

Allison: when reading your question, I actually had a memory pop into my head… My kindred spirit Christian and I were doing a ritual by a natural waterfall at night. The waterfall is in Oklahoma at ‘The Sacred Valley of the Gnomes’ (Runestone park.). The waters at the base of the waterfall were pitch black and the forest surrounding had very little light… I offered an expensive Labradorite ring I loved and Christian offered a prize procession of his own into the dark waters to the old Gods. We sat in the darkness together under the starlight. After a bit of time had passed in silence, we both at the same time locked eyes in the sky above something otherworldly I’ve sworn with Christian to never elaborate on. The gift the dark waters gave me that night told me that the Gods will keep me and protect me, guide me and direct me. They told me magic is real and that all I need to be is open in order to receive it. I’ve held this close as my guiding light.

Brady: Much like the dark waters that present an opportunity for reflection, I believe the knowledge and intuition we seek is already within us if we’re able to focus and listen. It’s still hard for me to get too carried away with planning far out in the future. As we have come to realize through an event like the pandemic, those plans can change at the drop of a hat. My focus these days is on the one thing I can control and that’s to continually create music and art that excites me. I feel like if I can keep that going, everything else will fall into place with much less effort.

Thank you for both your time and the music!

Pagan-Synth. – ESOTERIK (esoterikmusic.com)

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There is something quite alluring about a national identity, steeped in memory, myth and lore, which naturally bleeds into their music. Lia Hide could be mistaken for a Greek goddess, however she is a very talented producer, musician and singer, who has been creating music since 2013. With her style of dark pop/post-punk mixed with ancient wisdom, she has released her fourth album, The Missing Fourth Guest and we could help not help but to jump at the chance to talk to the charming Lia about this album and what has lead up to it.

Greetings to you Lia Hide. Please join us in the Onyx boudoir.  

Lia Hide is a woman with many public faces. You are a dancer and a performing artist. Was this inspired by family through your childhood or something you were drawn to at an older age? 


I’d love it if I were a dancer, but dancing is one of my weakest points.. Unless if I drink an extra or two, that might do the trick! I was drawn to acting from a younger age, though, and did take acting lessons when I was just 10 years old, and performed often back then, but once I got to my teenager years, I was utterly fixated with music. And yes, music was always a thing in the family: my dad played the guitar, my grandpa played the bouzouki, although he was a blacksmith and fisherman (!) and my mom would always sing traditional weeping Greek songs while cooking, she missed her home village and mom, badly. So, it felt natural, in all ways!

Was music always a big part of this artistic expression? 

Yes, I was always bold and fierce in a social group, but I would never, and still don’t, express my fears or sadness, to anyone.. So I wrote them down into music and songs!

What is your role as a music educator? 

I am a popular music vocals teacher, I am a London College of Music collaborator, and have been teaching also, Musical Theatre, Pop and Rock Ensembles, Modern Music History, and piano! I simply adore my students, they my fountain of youth!

Recently, I have spoken to a few Greek artists, and it is interesting to get their perspective on the music scene, especially in the capital, Athens. Do you think the dark alt scene is flourishing and has it changed since you first started your professional musical career? 

Actually, I don’t know of any other dark alternative artists, but us, although there is a substantially growing darkwave and post punk and synthpop scene, and of course, lots of metal and hip hop. I think alternative music was a bit stronger a few decades back, newer and more minimalistic genres seem to flourish at the moment.

Lia, you are releasing your 4th full album, called “The Missing Fourth Guest” and this is based on a story by Greek playwright, Plato, where philosopher Socrates is a main character. Can you tell us more about this concept and how it relates to the album? 

Timaeaus dialogue (by Plato) seems to be happening in an evening of wine and philosophy, where three people joining the conversation are eagerly trying to explain and discuss the person in the society, the man in the cosmos, war and defeat and the origin of the universe. So all these were ideas that were puzzling us, while we were stuck in these two horrible quarantines of Covid19. Socrates as a figure is a very strong influence for us and so is Plato’s Republic’s teachings!

You released the single “Dinner” in March with a beautifully made video, shot in a movie noir style with rich reds and sepia tones. How was it making the video and what is the premise behind “Dinner”? 

We had the opportunity to film in an amazing location, the Bagkeion Hotel (and Foundation) that is a very historical building in downtown Athens, designed by the architect Ernest Chiller and built between 1980-1894, that once was a glorious luxurious hotel, that later served as a hospital for WWII. We shot from 12 in the morning till 6 at dawn the following day, and we created it with Kiss the Frog, a group of gorgeous film-makers, with their team of 14 people all together !

You also released the first single, “Proposal” which again has a very lush video and seems that “Dinner” is a continuation of a theme. The music feels so full of regret and longing, so do these two tracks and videos tie in together?  

Yes, of course! Proposal and Dinner, together with Cloud (tracks 5,6,7 of the Missing Fourth Guest) put together ‘the Timeaus Sonata’ a major work, in 3 parts, in the Classical Sonata form, so Proposal is exposition and Dinner is recapitulation of that opening theme. They all discuss our questions and investigating of Plato’s dialogue.

How do you feel you have changed as a musician since, when you first released “Home” and now with “The Missing Fourth Guest”? 

It seem like ages ago! I was but an inexperienced producer, and “Home” was such a huge and long album, and I wanted to make sure I fit everything in there. Now, I am more competent in producing our music, and I know when to stop and when to leave a song behind. I am also bolder and I am not afraid to state my mind, soundwise, even if people around me might suggest other ideas or suggestions, a thing I would never do in the past. I sing less, or less loud, I don’t feel the need to show-off that I am a good singer, or piano player, also.

It has been something I have noticed about Greek musicians, that they incorporate in their music and take very seriously, the tales, mythos and history of the past of your country, which is very extensive. Do you think that it is very ingrained into the Greek psyche or is it literally part of the DNA? 

It is part of our education process I think. We are taught of these tales since we are very young, and we live in a country filled with Antiquities, so you can’t really …escape them, if you’re Greek!

Apart from your own musical endeavors, I last saw you on a compilation by Mechanimal celebrating their 10 years together with your version of “The Den” which was a lovely stripped-down reimagining. Can you tell us about your friendship with the guys from Mechanimal and what it means to you being on that compilation “Living With Animal Ghosts”? 

I have great respect for both Mechanimal and ION and it was a great honor to be included in this compilation, and especially, with the song that we were assigned with! I tried to redress our version with lots of dark pianos and recreated a duet out of his amazing song, ‘The Den’, whose words and narrative spoke directly to my heart!

Will you be touring again soon as Covid messed up a lot of band’s schedules over the last 2 years? 

We really can’t wait to hit the road again, I’ve missed it so badly! The people, the scenery, the travelling, everything!

If you could be the fourth guest at Socrates table, what burning question would you wish to talk to him about? 

Actually, I wish I was but a spectator in the banquet, so I could ask, WHO this missing and so important guest, was! What if it were a she? Why is him/her so important? What did she/he know?

Sadly, we are bereft of divination but what do you see in the future for Lia Hide? 

I am already in the process (deep in my head) of writing some new songs for the next album! Reality does not seize to inspire me and so many severe issues are storming around us, so I am already trying to figure out our new sound-vocabulary, while the words are already forming stories!

Thank you for being a perfect guest, Lia and we wish you all the best with this new album! 

Thank you so much for this wonderful talk!

Music | Lia HIde (bandcamp.com)

Lia Hide

LIA HIDE | Facebook

There is a lot of deathrock out there and not all of it is good, but LA band, Black Heroin Gallery does great gothic/deathrock and they wish to weave a tale out of the darkness for you. This year saw the unleashing of their album, Feast Of Bats, which is also a feast for the ears, Eyajo December Joseph is the founding member, main songwriter, keyboard player and lead singer, so we were very lucky to be able to talk to Eyajo about the band, the album and all good spidery things. Also a confession on my part…I too have a great love of the New Romantic music of Duran Duran and if you want to know why, then you better read on!

Welcome to the enveloping darkness that is Onyx, dear Eyajo December Joseph of Black Heroin Gallery. Join us as we have a tea party, in the moonlight of a graveyard, dusted in motes of mist.

You’ve been playing in Los Angeles glam/punk, deathrock, blackmetal and underground bands since the late 1980s. You and drummer Tony F. Corpse were both members of the brilliant Astrovamps, as well as gothic blackmetal band Willow Wisp. What was it like playing with those bands, and what was the Los Angeles scene like back then?

EYAJO: The scene was thriving and crazy for better or worse back then. Astrovamps were fun and we definitely left a mark on the deathrock scene. We played with a lot of notable bands, including opening up for Rozz’s original Christian Death for their last live album before he died. We were there for direct support. An awesome band called Praise of Folly also played and they went on before us. This was in 1993 at the Patriotic Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Tony started recording with us in 1993. And played drums for us on and off in the beginning, but soon became a more frequent/basically permanent member. Willow Wisp was his main band, so he played with us when he could. Yes, I joined Willow Wisp as keyboardist, many years later, for a short while and it was fun and crazy, but I found it hard to concentrate on both bands and besides, I think Willow Wisp needed a more classically train keyboardists and my minimalist technique with synth/keyboards probably wasn’t the best fit for them.

Does the LA scene still have the same vibe in some ways, and in what ways do you find it has changed?

EYAJO: Some of the vibe has remained, but there have been changes. Not as many goth clubs playing live bands as there use to be, but there is hope, 2022 has brought a lot of the underground out and there seems to be promoters popping up all over LA and Mexico, booking Goth, Deathrock, Metal and Post Punk bands. It’s very exciting, so we’re looking forward to playing more venues this year to support Feast of Bats.

What do you think being in Astrovamps taught you about the music industry that you have taken with you into your other musical projects?

EYAJO: Astrovamps taught me how to be a good live musician and live band, it also inspired me to write music and not just lyrics. That’s why I founded Black Heroin Gallery.

Black Heroin Gallery was originally created by you in 2007 with Tony following you soon after. What drove you to start up this project?

EYAJO: Well, Astrovamps wasn’t going as dark as I wanted it to, so I knew I had to start some kind of side project for that dark deathrock music I wanted to write and release. That manifested as Black Heroin Gallery. Even though I loved what the Astrovamps were doing and I loved co-writing some of the songs as a lyricist. I knew I had to have my own thing where I was Chief songwriter, musically and lyrically. Then Astrovamps broke up and were no more. So I had complete focus for the new project. Not as easy as I thought, many false starts, a number of member changes and a singer that didn’t work out. I knew I had to learn guitar to write the songs that I wanted to write and take over vocal duties or we might end up spending wasted years looking for a singer. Tony and my old bassist Kevin kept telling me to take over vocal duties, I’m glad I finally took their advice.

How would you describe your musical partnership with Tony?

EYAJO: Good and enduring. Tony is a very creative drum composer and I’ve been lucky to have him stay the test of time and stick it out with me. Tony is the metal influence in the band, so sometimes we butt heads, because I’m a minimalist with music and songwriting and Tony likes more detailed Drum compositions. So over the years, we’ve come to a creative compromise on the drums. I let him go off the rails sometimes and for me, he pulls back sometimes. Perfect. My favorite drum styles are the classic deathrock tribal sound. And this style will always be part of our sound in one variation or another. Not every song, but still a favorite color of mine on the palette.

You have three other band members, so can you introduce them to us please?

EYAJO: Krystal Fantom is our guitarist and he also co-wrote two songs on the album with me. Dracul Grotesque is our Bass player and he joined a few months ago, just in time to record on Feast of Bats with us. Lastly, we have Sky Lee Vague, our new live keyboardist.

In Astrovamps, Eyajo, you were the keyboard player and now with Black Heroin Gallery you are not only the keyboardist but also the lead singer. How much of a change was this for you, and do you find vocals easier or harder?

EYAJO: The change was needed, I’m glad I never looked back. I played a little keyboard live on stage, but mostly focused on the vocal performance, but we are grateful now to have Sky take over and play keyboards live, now for the first time in years, we’re gonna be able to perform with our full sound. I will still always write and record the synth parts, but Sky brings it to life for the band on stage and from time to time he adds a little of his own fills. I’m ok with a little improv from the guys on the songs live, as long as the main sound and chords that make the song are there.

Your new album has the unusual title, ‘Feast of Bats’, can you tell us the story behind that name?

EYAJO: It’s actually the name of a short dark fairytale that I wrote and was illustrating. I loved the title, so I thought it would work well for the album. And the cover art I drew is from the illustrated story as well.

Many of the song titles, while obviously inspired by gothic horror themes, also have a quirky playfulness about them, reminiscent of Tim Burton in some ways. Is Burton a source of inspiration, and is there an element of tongue-in-cheek dark humor, having fun with tropes of the goth genre?

EYAJO: Yes, I would say that there were some of those influences in my writing. My main influences are fairytales and poetry. I like dark and tragic romantic themes. Dark things in general, Dark humor or satire does also play a part in some of my writing and lastly myths, witchcraft and philosophy I find very inspiring too.

There are a lot of references to death and her darkness in the lyrics. Do you find comfort in the beauty of the macabre and grotesque?

EYAJO: Yes, I most certainly do, it’s a recurring theme in all my arts. Poetry, Music, filmmaking and illustration. Death is my loudest muse.

There are also multiple mentions about God and demons. Is this for lyrical effect or something deeper?

EYAJO: Oh, it’s definitely not for any effect. I would say, deeper is probably a better description. Most of those references are from parts of the bible that the church removed or banned from the public. These stories inspire some of my work and the others are just my own mythos that I create.

As the lyricist and composer for the band, is that an added pressure and do you find writing music easy or a heartache?

EYAJO: Yes it can be both, but it’s very rewarding as well. Especially when you’ve reached that moment where the song is done. Krystal co-wrote two songs with me on this album and Tony added his drums and Dracul the bass. Then I added keyboards and Synth after the song had the basic instrumentation recorded. I usually write with guitar, then show it to the band and they learn it and then we work out all the little arrangement issues that may or may not come about. I’m lucky to have such talented and creative musicians working with me. Of course, I have to mention that this album would not have come out as great as it did, if it were not for the producing/mixing/recording and engineer artistry of Roman Marisak.

The band has been around since 2007 but this is your third album. I also noticed that some tracks have been around for a few years, often found in live videos. Do you like to try and test songs before you commit them to an album?

EYAJO: Yes, there were some formative years to say the least. Actually, Feast of Bats is our second album. My Rotting Flower was an EP. I have learned that it does help us out if we play the song live for a few shows. But that’s not always the case. I can say with almost certainty that our future albums are gonna be closer together in release times, probably every 2 years. For as long as it makes sense to me. I’m already working on the art and music for those future releases.

Do you find the acts of writing music and live performance a catharsis of sorts?

EYAJO: Yes, most definitely.

I do adore your version of “Hush, Hush, Hush, Here Comes The Bogeyman”. Do you have a favorite track off the album at all?

EYAJO: Thank you, that little gem was arranged and brought to us as a potential cover song by our guitarist Krystal Fantom. I loved his guitar arrangement on the song, so it made the album cut. For my favorite? Well It’s hard to choose, because I definitely put my heart and soul into all of the songs in one capacity or another. So if I have to pick, I would say, “I cover her horns.” There are many reasons why I like that song, but the main one from me is the story it’s telling and the very haunting musical arrangement.

When the young Eyajo was getting into darker music, what or who were your gateway drugs?

EYAJO: Well it was Duran Duran, who inspired me to make music and get into a band, but the dark path with me started after I heard Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours” for the first time. I fell in love with the song and then the band. Then I continued to find more dark gems, like Skinny Puppy, Gene loves Jezebel, Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Sisters of Mercy and Virgin Prunes to name a few.

Are there new acts you’re really getting into now?

EYAJO: Not really, but it’s not because I don’t like them, it’s more like, I just haven’t paid too much attention to new bands this year. Because I was working on Feast of Bats. Ask me that question a year from now and I’m sure I will be listening to some then.

If you could have a lovely tea party in a cemetery and the option to bury someone there and bring them back, Pet Cemetery style, would you do it and do you know who that would be? 🙂

EYAJO: The tea party sounds like fun, but I would probably pass on burying someone to bring them back. Because it more than likely wouldn’t end well.

Onyx symbolizes renewal, change and more than likely, my little black heart. What do you feel in your little dark heart, is next for Black Heroin Gallery?

EYAJO: Oh Hell, where do I start…Let me see, oh yes… We’ll be headlining a World Goth Day festival, May 14th in Mexico City, Mexico. Then we will concentrate on some music videos by June and continue to play as many live shows as we can. Also, remix and master the first album. Record 2-3 new songs for Feast of Bats vinyl release. Write and prepare songs for the third album. So needless to say, we’re going to keep busy.

Thank you Eyajo for joining us and chatting as we dance between the graves, like there is no tomorrow.

EYAJO: Thank you very much, it has been an honor to talk with you.

BLACK HEROIN GALLERY (bandcamp.com)

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