When US band Sunshine Blind came to prominence in the gothic scene in the early 90s, it also heralded a new resurgence in bands and music of this style, making it an extremely exciting time. Caroline Blind was the front woman for Sunshine Blind and after a hiatus, returned to the scene as a solo act and also a member of the experimental project Voidant. We spoke to the gracious and lovely Caroline about life, friends and of course the music.

Caroline Blind,  a warm welcome from the Onyx rabbit hole. 

You first started out in the band, Sunshine Blind. What drew you to that style of music and how did the band form?

Hi. I was well into the style of music before I started the band, of course. I was looking to submerge myself into it more, by going ahead and playing it, and not just listening to it. Probably what made me really go for it was seeing actual people where I lived doing it. Listening to bands from some far off place is one thing, but actually going to a show and seeing friends, or friends of friends, in my neighborhood having a go at forming their own bands and writing their own music, was the thing that made me realize that I could do it, too. 

I put an ad in a local music paper, looking for a guitarist, and I  met with those that responded. I found CWHK, it turned out he literally lived around the corner from me, but I didn’t know him then. We started working on songs, and the mix was right. We formed Sunshine Blind, and played together for 13 years. A million tour dates, and 3 albums later – it took us all over the country and beyond. 

I first remember hearing you sing on the compilation Masked Beauty In A Sea Of Sadness (1994) with the song Crescent And The Stars. That whole CD was full of some great bands. Sunshine Blind broke up as many bands do when they hit a certain point. You must look back of that time with some whimsy but do you feel being a performer under your own name suits you better now?

That was a good compilation…. I don’t look back with whimsy, doing the band was my life, my purpose,  and was wrapped up with the personal relationship- CWHK and I were married, and we had kids. 

We divorced in early 2000’s. Realizing after ten years that doing our music was really only my dream, and not his, or at least, not anymore, was a serious break that totally shook me- The band had been my identity. Our identity, I thought, but things changed. I really didn’t know where to go without his half, I didn’t know who I was anymore without being “Caroline of Sunshine Blind”.  

I had been very dependent on him for  music production, as well, so I knew I would have to learn that part of it if I wanted to continue to make music, so in 2016 I took some music production courses. The first time I recorded a song in Protools by myself, rough as it was, I cried.  I was able to express myself again through music, and I felt I had years of anguish to process/ express!

Music has always been a collaboration for me, with someone I cared deeply about. I feel personally that the music is boring if I do it all myself, it’s better as a collaboration, I need someone to bounce ideas off of, to compliment and blend with,- music needs a ying and a yang, it’s a conversation. Doing music “by myself” is not something I even want to do. Just doesn’t appeal to me. So of course when people offered to help, I jumped at the chance.

I don’t know why it didn’t dawn on me that I could work with new or different people, probably because “why would I want to?”. But in the end I was forced to. When people offered, and I took them up on it. I found It was EXACTLY like going from being married, to ‘dating again’.  Can be exciting, full of promise, and then, maybe transitory, and you can get your heart broken. You can work very superficially, or you can get into a very strong connection with a collaborator. Very hit and miss. I’m learning to rely on myself to be the constant thread through it all, since I guess I’m the one with my own vision, and I don’t wish to give that away ever again.  Does it suit me? No idea. I just have to express myself, and follow where it leads, as I always have done.  I know that some great music can come from when you are going through things and have real emotions to express, and I’ve been having some real emotions about my new working form/ collaborations (!) , so I feel my music will have that intensity that I’m drawn to, in music I listen to, and probably people will be able to relate/ connect to my music because of that, too.

As you said, you have been creating music again. With several singles released, you then dropped the album, The Spell Between in 2020. The list of people you have on the credits is fairly impressive, so do you think you have found some of your tribe, so to speak, who mirror your own need to make music?

That’s a good question. I am really driven to do music, to live a life in the music industry. I do not feel like some the people I have worked with in the past 6 years are so driven, no. People have moved on. There are a few who are always working on something, or doing as many shows as they can, or out there creating things, but some people maybe ‘used to do it full time’, and maybe stopped, or just do it sometimes, or on the weekends or something… you know, they have lives (lol!), maybe kids, big jobs, who knows, not me. Doesn’t really matter to me.  I’m here to work on music. That’s my fun, it’s my therapy, how I self actualize, work out my karma, whatever. It’s the lens I see the world through. It feels like the point of my life, I guess,  -and the thing that was neglected for a bit there, so feels AMAZING to be back at it, and IN it.   The people I’ve found to work with, are just friends, old a new. I’m happy to be hanging out with them whether we do music or not, because we share a history and/ or a scene. I’ll travel across oceans to see a show as happily as I will to play one, I just like being a part of the industry and scene, and expressing my art in it, when I get the chance. It feels like home to me. So yes, I’m back with my ‘Tribe’. (Which is coincidentally the title of a song I released recently, that I had some of the greatest guitarists in this scene help me with!)

I see you caught my drift. The song Tribe was re-recorded and as you said released as a single. How was it hearing this song refreshed and does it take on new meaning for you now?

Tribe was a song we wrote with Sunshine Blind, but never recorded in the studio. I always felt it was a quintessential Sunshine Blind track- a torrent of riffs and guitars, a soaring and powerful vocal, I wanted to get it done in the studio and put it out.   I was able to get the full Sunshine Blind lineup; CWHK on guitars, William Faith ( Bellwether syndicate, Faith and the Muse)  on Bass, and Geoff Bruce ( Sunshine Blind, Faith and the Muse) on Drums, to record their parts for it and send me the files. I had Gordon Young in Edinburgh mix it with my other solo album tracks, and we put it on my solo album “The Spell Between”.  

But my solo album was mostly grooves and acoustic guitar, after I released the album, I wanted to showcase “Tribe” on its own, where it’s power would stand out. Just rock/ electric guitar music.

My solo album had been very limited by “what I can do on guitar” , which is “not much”! lol!  Giving free license to someone whose language is guitar, was kind of what I had been looking for- making something that was more than the sum of it’s parts.  I was so thrilled.  I contacted Mark Gemini Thwaite directly, and he and Ashley Bad got busy on a remix which turned it into an extended club mix for the dancefloor, and that was epic! 

I started looking in to getting remixes done. This was during the pandemic, and lots of people who play guitar live for touring acts were grounded with no work. Many of them turned to doing studio work for hire, and it was perfect timing for me. I got connected to Andee Blacksugar of KMFDM though my PR company, and he did a remix.  To your question, yes, it’s very weird to hear someone change a song you agonized over and wrote and recorded to be “just so”.  But it’s also fascinating. You can get some “why didn’t I do that?” or “that’s a really interesting spin!” The remixes can make you hear the song in a whole new way, for sure. 

Finally, my friend Michael Clark had produced some work with Ben Christo (gutiarist of Sisters of Mercy), and since The Sisters were a big inspiration when we started Sunshine Blind, I thought who better to work a song that was pretty much made for the style? Ben knocked it waaaay out of the park- he added backing vocals and sped it up even more, it just rocks harder than anything I’ve done in a long time, and I am fully here for it, and ready to take that inspiration and run with it.  Warm up is over, no more acoustics…next album will be some serious riffy guitars, which was where I started in the first place. Looking forward to getting back to it. Gotta thank those guys all, for reminding me what is possible. I’m very inspired.

I saw Ben Christo last play with Andrew Eldritch and Mark Gemini Twaite with Peter Murphy and David J (Bauhaus 40th Anniversary of In The Flat Field). Both are amazing guitarists. The pandemic has not been kind to the music industry over the last two years but it has also forged some dynamic and strong friendships borne of the desire to create and connect. How has covid affected the way you approach music and did this inspire you to go ahead with Voidant? 

Covid hasn’t really affected my music too much.  Since I did whole “restart as solo artist” a few years ago, it’s been a lot of “working from home “. I started my solo thing  just by myself and a computer/ home studio, and then when I started working with my first collaborator, Rich W.- (guitarist from The Wake (US)), we were 2000 miles apart, and traded files back and forth. When I started working with other people, like Wolfie ( Guitarist from Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, who I also do that electronic music project called “Voidant” with), who is in Leeds, England, and Gordon Young, who mixed and mastered my album from Edinburgh, Scotland- it was the same, all online, trading files. I did eventually meet them all face to face at least once or twice, before the pandemic, but writing and recording is a bulk of the work I’ve done, so far, in my “comeback”, so no, covid hasn’t affected that part at all. Working with Rich, him introducing me to Wolfie and the relationships I have started and sustained through both of them, started and evolved just like they would have in real life, they just happened through talking and working online, thanks to the internet.

As for shows; I was just starting to play out live before the pandemic, just getting a live band together,  I was lucky to have Dave (from) The Dramedy play bass,  and George Earth ( from Switchblade Symphony) play guitar for me, for some live shows in 2019. 

We only did a few shows, but we traveled , but we had some ADVENTURES!  

Our working together was kind of a long distance thing, as well, -they were both in LA and I was in San Francisco ( 400 miles apart).  I would drive down to rehearse with them once or twice a month. 

Since the shut down, I’ve moved back to my original state, New Jersey, which is 3000 miles from LA, so it’ll be hard to keep working with them. My move wasn’t Covid related, I had been planning it since before the pandemic. I was sick of San Francisco, and I wanted to be home, and closer to the UK, too.  When I thought of moving, I figured I would find people out here on the East Coast to play with, but THAT has definitely been hindered by the Pandemic. I can’t get out to go to the clubs and see people and  who is still around New York and NJ that could play for me. 

I hadn’t originally planned on finding people in LA before my move, and playing shows with them, but the need arose and it just happened!  lol!  Sometimes you just have to go with things that happen organically, even if they aren’t what you planned or how you planned it, if it’s working for you, why not follow it?  And people loved meeting/ seeing George and Dave, it just worked, and we had lots of fun.  My band Sunshine Blind did a tour with Switchblade Symphony back in 1997, so George and I have memories and history that go back a while, it was great to reminisce and work together again, this time in the same band!

 I just booked my first post -pandemic show for this coming July- I’m headlining one of the nights of Goth City Leeds festival in the UK. I am worried about how Covid will affect it, but I went over to the UK this past Halloween for a music festival ( to attend, not play), so I’ve travelled in a pandemic time, I should be able to do it again. Fingers crossed. 

You mention the Leeds goth festival and I know that Wolfie Wolfenden will be looking forward to catching up with you.  Will he be getting on-stage with you and can you tell us about this friendship across the sea?

Yes, I met Wolfie though Rich (guitarist from The Wake (US)).  Rich and I started working on music together, he was my first collaborator as a solo artist. I was recording some cover songs, Swans “God Damn the Sun”, and such, and I wanted to cover “Heaven” by Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. I didn’t know at the time that Rich knew Wolfie. Rich and I worked out a version where Rich played a Baritone acoustic guitar, and I sang, and we made a decent demo. Then one morning I woke to a message from Rich saying he had sent the demo over to Wolfie.  I was horrified, because I’ve not had good experiences in meeting my idols up until then ( see: https://www.mtv.com/news/1434098/sisters-of-mercy-slag-bands-for-being-too-goth/  wherein Andrew Edlritch almost single handedly ruined our career back in 1997 by throwing us off an opening slot for The Sisters of Mercy show in Philadelphia, PA. The fallout made our record company fold, and left us stranded in California, on different coast from our usual recording studio.) 

Fortunately Wolfie is a very personable guy, and he loved the demo, and was flattered by it. He said it almost made him cry. I asked him why later, if it was a bad memory for him, and he said no, that it was a super happy memory, so maybe it was just bittersweet. In any event, Rich asked Wolfie to play on our cover of the song, and he did. So there are two cover songs on my CD where I have the original songwriter of the song playing on the song with me singing. ( The other is the cover of The Wake’s “First”, because Rich played guitar on that for me.)

So Wolfie is great, we got to chatting through the internet, and after a while, he asked if I would sing on an electronic project he was working on. I said, “Of course”, and he sent it over. It became the song “Death to Sleep” which is on my solo album, “The Spell Between”.  

Very different style and working style for me, but I love what we came up with. After this, he had more songs, so we started working on an EP/ Album. He would send me the files, I’d write and record my vocals and send them back. So we’re working partners now, as well as friends.

 In 2019 I went to England to see James- (bass player from The Wake) – he had a new band, ‘October Burns Black’ , and they went over to play a show at the Tomorrows Ghosts Festival in Whitby, England.  

While I was over there, I stopped in Leeds, and Wolfie let me stay at his place, and took me all around Leeds for the grand tour, which included stories of himself and all the bands that came out of Leeds, and where they played and lived back in the day, the Sisters, The Mission, The Lorries, March Violets, the Rose of Avalanche, etc. Great stories!

We worked on our electronic album, and it came out under the project name “Voidant” last year.  It’s pretty experimental, but there are some great tunes in there! It was a good exercise in songwriting for me, trying different styles, etc, and I’m pretty excited about it.

I went back to England, to the Whitby Festival again in 2021. The Wake were supposed to be playing  but the pandemic made it too hard to get Visas, so I was very sad not to see my friends playing there, but I had a hotel booked from the previous year, and decided to go anyway, because of pandemic fatigue! I went over, and I stayed with Wolfie again on my way there, we had a great time catching up and playing music then as well, before I headed over to Whitby.

I have asked Wolfie to join me for this show in July, we can do some Voidant songs and some Lorries Songs, people should get a kick out of that. The hometown of the Lorries and all…. I’m looking forward to it!

When I interviewed Wolfie, he had this to say about you. “She stayed with us and she’s a really big fan of Zakk Wylde and I can see he’s a terrific guitar player although his music isn’t something I would listen to but there is one Zakk Wylde song that we both agree on that we’d like to do a cover of in a 4AD kind of ideal and it’s this song called Spoke In The Wheel which I think is a fucking great song because you know it’s a really great song”. The burning question is, is this going ahead because I want to hear this?!

That is the plan, though we haven’t begun yet. When we were together in Leeds at Halloween, Wolfie and I started talking about what songs we’d do next, and that cover was one. When I got home, I was at a Black Label Society show about a month later, and I took a little video of Zakk playing ‘Spoke in the wheel’ live, and sent it to Wolfie to show him how Zakk changes up songs live, to show how we could change it up. So, we’ll see how it turns out. I am a huge Zakk fan, I’ve gone to tons of his shows, they are good fun, and he often has great bands on the road with him, that I also enjoy. I’ve been to so many shows, that Wylde’s road crew recognizes me, and they say hello when they see me!

Can’t wait to hear your version. Wolfie also mentioned that it might be on a new EP. EPs seem to be popular again. What music did you grow up on that would influence your getting into the industry?

I like music with actual emotional intensity, in pretty much any genre. I usually dislike pop songs, or music that is just for filling space or just for dancing. I’m attracted to darker themes and moods. My history of musical exposure goes like this: started with the Beatles, and music from the UK has always been a theme for me from there. Being from New Jersey I was exposed to a lot of Classic Rock, Heavy Metal and Southern rock, so I have all that, but even there, the classic rock from the UK stood out for me, like Pink Floyd, Judas Preist or Led Zeppelin, not US bands.  As a kid in the 80’s, I loved New Wave, but really New Wave, like New Romantics (UK), not like Madonna (US). My other recurring theme is guitars, guitarists, and guitar based music. I liked a lot of music that had synths, but bands with guitars is what I like. Grunge, Hardcore, Metal, indie bands and ‘120 minutes’ Alternative music in the 90’s, I liked. That’s where I first saw bands like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Swans, The Bolshoi and a bunch of the more trad goth bands, too: The Mission, Love and Rockets, Peter Murphy. I knew some people at university who were in Goth Bands, and by the time I started looking for a band, I knew that was the way I wanted to go. 

Currently there is a post-punk/coldwave/darkwave revival, with a lot of interesting acts like Twin Tribes, TRAITRS She Past Away to name a few. Are there any particular bands in the current era that you hear and think, yep I can get into that? 

No, not really. lol!  The new bands I’ve been most excited about in the past few years are/ were: Sometime the Wolf, October Burns Black, Bootblacks and Auger. Like I said, it fit doesn’t have enough guitars, it probably won’t be on my list. 

Sometime the Wolf broke up, but Drew (lead singer) has a new project called “All My Thorns”, and Drew is about to be the new Singer for Sweet Ermengarde, too, so looking forward to that. Also, October Burns Black is about to drop a new album, so that’s coming up… I think Auger are probably the youngest/ newest band on my list. Love ’em to bits. Saw the lead singer, Kyle, do a solo set last Halloween at the Marquis Masquerade party in Whitby, unbelievable, that guy.

Have to say I really like Tommy Olsen (ex-Theatre of Tragedy) from October Burns Black’s, other project, Long Night. He is such a polished guitar player. And Auger, we have reviewed before and they have so much talent going on there. In July, as you said, you have Goth City in Leeds, but what else does the future hold for Caroline Blind?

Oh yes, I love Long Night, and all the bands associated with October Burns Black. All the bands Simon Rippin ( Fields of the Nephilim) plays for : Grooving in Green, etc.  I was sad Tommy didn’t come over with OBB when they played Whitby, so I could meet him. Gordon Young ( Dream Disciples, Pretentious Moi, Children on Stun) filled in for him.  

As for the future, right now the only things in current works are getting ready for, and playing the shows this summer, I have a song due for a Compilation of covers next month, and Wolfie and I have a tentative plan to do more Voidant work. I have a couple songs that I need to cobble together for an EP for this year or next, but I’m brainstorming how to do them, who to do them with, etc. I like to have a rough idea to begin with, start putting things in place, and then something will happen and the last pieces will click, and I’ll know exactly what I need to do… it’s that “preparedness meets opportunity” thing… I’ll see it,  and then I know exactly what I’ve prepared for, and it works really well, though not always on a timeline I think it will, but the ends are usually worth it. 

Is there anything else you want to touch on or feel I have missed that we should cover? I have enjoyed reading everything immensely. Otherwise, I can say – Thank you ever so much for the talking to me and giving us some of your time. Can’t wait to hear what comes next! 

No, I think we covered everything, Thank you!

-Caroline

Music | Caroline Blind (bandcamp.com)

Music | Voidant (bandcamp.com)

Caroline Blind | Facebook

Voidant | Facebook

With the new j:dead EP, Visions of Time now out on Infacted Recordings, we thought we would have a talk with Jay Taylor about his project, the EP and whatever else tickled our fancy.

Jay Taylor, welcome to the descent into darkness that is Onyx.

Let the descent commence!! 

You released the brilliant new single, I’ll Wait and though it has a heavy dance beat, it seems a very full of longing in the lyrical content. What was the inspiration behind the song?


Thank you! The whole of the new EP was written whilst we were all in lockdown, and I think it is fair to say that we have all felt a sense of “longing” over this time period with restrictions. In terms of my own writing style, I do like a mixture between ambiguity and direct content as when I listen to music myself I enjoy having my own take on what I hear and what it means. That for me is half the fun in connecting with a song – you connect with it on your own level. So in this case the longing can be connected to anyone or anything you love or enjoy doing. In my specific case, my partner lives in a different country and it has been extremely hard realizing you are no longer in control of things that affect your emotions.

Gone were the days that I could simply “hop on a plane” and see her, and if you wanted to do that there was a very clinical process to follow. Not a normal process or feeling to have when you just want to see someone! The overarching theme in I’ll wait, is “if” we can all wait for things to change. Again this theme is throughout the whole EP and provides its title – Vision of time. Time can change everything for the better, worse, or for change’s sake – and we have no control over this.  

So, would you say that covid has had an impact on the new EP Vision Of Time, as well? A lot of the lyrical content is about time,  waiting and unable to move forward.  

In short yes – but for the better and or worse depending on how you look at it. Personally my life has changed a lot over the last few years, and then this was compounded with being stuck inside. Now, my mantra for j:dead was that i would always keep writing, i would take every opportunity if i could see benefit in doing it. So obviously I have had huge amounts of time indoors where I wanted to feel productive – creating music filled this gap for me, and is now part of my weekly life, and I really do enjoy it.

The overall “time” concept for the EP isn’t so much about being “unable to do things we want” – although that is one of the emotions encapsulated within it. But, I have come to realize that over time anything that you believe couldn’t happen in a million years – could happen! This break in normality I think has shocked our perception of time, and time can change things in our lives and we have no control over it. I myself like to be in control, but I have had to deal (like everyone else) with the punches and gifts that time provides. I’m trying my best not to pun a Forrest Gump quotation here, but you never know what is around the corner.    

In the dark of space,  no one can hear you scream, so puns are acceptable. In that vein,  was it also covid that drove you to make a video with a bunch of dummies?

Ah the pun gate has been opened!! Yeah covid did play a small part in having dummies in the last video. But I have a great partnership with Mark from Mondo-Cheapo who does all my video content. Mark has a great visual mind, and with the location we were using, covid restrictions alongside the images of “replicants” it seemed fitting to have these “unfinished replicants” in the video. Mark and I are currently working on ideas for the next single/video, as i want to ensure that each single release had visual content alongside it 

The Teknovore remix of I’ll Wait is stellar and the Lights Of Eurphoria version is beautiful. How did they become involved?

I was very pleased to have these talented artists contribute to the single release! So George (TeknoVore) and I had been working together on some collaborations for some time. Obviously, shortly before I’ll wait was released TeknoVore and j:dead released the collaboration track Tearing me apart. I really enjoy George’s production work so I just had to ask him about a remix for I’ll wait. Hopefully in time everyone can hear some of the other tracks we have been working on as well – as there is more to release. The Lights of Euphoria remix came via Torben from Infacted. Torben has been a big supporter of me since I signed with them and it was a real pleasure to have them take on my track as well. Lets hope you can hear j:dead return the favor to them in 2022! 

 

We would love to hear those remixes! You also have more guests contributing mixes to the EP, including the wonderful Rotersand and Nature Of Wires. Does it feel a little mind blowing to know these people and have them remixing your work?

Well, 2022 will be a very busy year for j:dead releases. I already have a further 8 songs which in some way feature j:dead fully complete and waiting release dates plus another 3 in the works or due to start. On top of this I am already in final production stages for my 3rd release which hosts 7 original j:dead tracks. I have been constantly working on music and working with other artists which I really do enjoy. I have been in this scene since I was 17 years old, and what really blows my mind at times is the diversity of people behind the artist name. I think gone are the days of “fan-boy-vibes” when it comes to working with most artists (as i either know/met them or know them by association), but it is an amazing feeling knowing that j:dead is being accepted amongst them.  Each remix on the EP is fantastic in its own right!

Talking about Torben Schmidt and Infacted Records,  what is it like signed to a label with someone at the helm who is so well respected in the electro-industrial scene? How has it affected you as an artist?


The biggest thing for me with Infacted/Torben is knowing that I have someone who has my back. Since the very beginning Torben has always been so supportive of my music, and from that moment has made sure I have a platform to continue making and releasing music. Without a doubt this has allowed me to open doors and reach a wider audience than I would have been able to on my own. There are many artists doing things on a DIY basis at the moment and for some it really works for them.

But for me, I want to use my time in the most creative way possible. Don’t get me wrong – I have to do a HUGE amount of my own “admin” work when it comes to releases with marketing and so on. But I am a big believer in having a great team around you who have experience. Everyone who I work with is better than me at doing what they do. This gives me more time to focus on writing as well as living my life (with a full time job, 2 young children, bills etc etc). I’m proud to be an Infacted artist – and I owe a lot to Torben for believing in me.  

Often artists don’t get the support from labels that they need to grow, which is possibly why Infacted are so respected.  Also that many fans don’t realise that most acts in the gothic/synth/industrial cannot make enough money from the music they create and it is a labour of love for them and a catharsis, would you agree?

I think it’s all about balance. Putting the sole responsibility to grow on one side of the business relationship will never work. Not unless someone has a HUGE amount of money to throw into marketing – and then the artist most probably ends up in debt to the label anyway and has to pay it back. Everyone has a responsibility to play their part, and if everyone is moving in the same direction with the same level of effort then you can achieve better “results”. This is how it is working for me at the moment and something that I strive to continue.

Torben will always be respected because he is honest, hard-working and trusts his instincts – by far he is a person which you feel like you want the opportunity to work with. Yes it is very hard for any individual to make a living from music alone but i think it depends on a range of elements – but most importantly your own personal choices in regards to the life you want to lead. For me, I want to ensure that i don’t have to worry about money or question myself in regards to how i spend it. Therefore a “9-5” job works for me because i know how much money i get each month, i know how many hours i have to work, and I don’t have to be concerned in finding the “next contract/invoice etc”.

I believe (and there ARE good examples of this) that if anyone wanted to live off a life in music they could. But it would have a big impact on their lifestyle as well as having to diversify what they can offer to people. I see many artists offering their talents for mixing, sound production, mastering, video editing, artwork etc etc etc. And these people deserve huge credit for achieving their goals through hard work – but long gone are the days where you make your own music, it sells and provides you an income to live off. Also I do think that “audiences” are becoming more aware of this as well.

Social media and DIY artists have flooded the interwebs with their own personal stories and goals. This exposure goes beyond the artist/ band name – as the people themselves become the brand. And when people become the brand, audiences become more aware of the mechanics behind the band name. As for j:dead, I make music because it makes me happy. If it makes others happy along my journey then I couldn’t ask for much more than that.    

I have to ask,  you said you have two kids… do they like dad’s music?

Yes the kids love it! Music is a big part of their lives and they enjoy all types of music. They usually are the first set of ears to hear any song I write, as I play it on the car stereo on the way to school etc. It’s helpful to know you have a catchy chorus when a 6 and 4 year old can sing it back after hearing it once. My favorite part of the kids listening to my music is the “misheard” lyrics. J:dead songs in my house usually get referred to by their misheard name!

Honestly, who doesn’t like a misheard lyric or two to spice things up. You said earlier that you started your career in music quite young, at 17 and in this time includes working with Tactical Sekt and Tyske Ludder. How do you think being in these acts has helped you grow as a musician?

Well, in complete honesty I don’t think I would have the life I have today (let alone just music career wise) without those 2 acts and the amazing friends behind them. Anthony from TS took a wild punt on me playing drums for his band. I was young, inexperienced and didn’t even know the genre/scene. But it worked extremely well. Without this my life and the people in my life would be completely different.

The same goes with Tysker Ludder. Both of these acts have trusted and allowed me to grow as a live musician, and embraced my energy alongside it. I have never created any music for either of these acts so I cannot connect my own writing experience to theirs, but like I have said before. You can’t do everything on your own, and via these acts i have met some amazing and talented individuals i can now call my friends – and some of these friends are integral to the overall j:dead final product. And the same goes for my partner as well. We first met when we toured together with Tactical Sekt and Grendel (she played keys in Grendel). I owe a lot to the people who trusted me, as it has made me who I am.  

So what music was young Jay into before he joined an industrial band?

ALL THE METAL!!! I got into metal metal music when i was 14, and throughout my teenage years it evolved into “the heavier the better”. At first it was bands like Slipknot and Mudvayne. Then it was Meshuggah, the it was bands like Decapitated, Car Bomb and The Berzerker. I rarely listened to anything else up until the age of 17/18. I always appreciated dance music – but at the time it was a guilty pleasure. Joining Tactical Sekt helped me broaden and appreciate electronic music. It helped me discover that aggressive or emotional music isn’t just captured it all out guitar riffs and guttural vocals. Metal music is still a big part of my life, and I hope in a way this comes across in my writing style for j:dead.    

So once Captain Metalhead of the HMS Squealing Guitar Riff but since then what you listen to or find yourself drawn to? 

My normal “go to” genres now are a mixture! Pop, dance, Metal, 80’s, Industrial, synthpop, Synthwave, prog. Its safe to say that my musical taste moves within my two main focuses of “Electronic” music or “Guitar/Rock” music, but long gone are the days where I have a criteria of what it must be. In simple terms – if its a good track, then thats what it is. It doesn;t have to fit into many other boxes than that! 

I think you can see that in your song composition now, that your musical tastes have broadened. 
You said you have finished the next EP and already working on more songs.  What is in the future for Jay Taylor and J:dead?

I hope to have another EP out by the end of the year. This will host 7 original tracks as well as a host of remixes again for physical copies sold, plus alllll the collaboration work I have been doing with other acts. I understand this is VERY fast paced for releases and that comes with its benefits, but in all honesty I hope that this pace can slow slightly with the introduction of more live shows. The live element of j:dead is very important to me, and I want to invest more time in this as well as writing. For me as an individual I will continue with drumming for my other live acts as well as continuing to remind myself I need to keep doing things that make me happy – not what is just expected of me.  

https://jdeadband.bandcamp.com/album/vision-of-time-digital-and-physical-release

J:dead | Facebook

Infacted Recordings | Facebook

Not many musical acts can say they have continuously been creating and performing for 40 years. ATTRITION is one of those groups that have weathered the British music scene since their evolution in 1980, to become a force spoken in hushed tones, passing from an electro/industrial band to being something legendary within the scene. Martin Bowes had been at the helm consistently, throughout all the band changes. He was approached by Sleeper Records to release a special vinyl album to celebrate this milestone. They decided to pick music from the period 1986 to 2004, as this music has never been released on vinyl until now.

This compilation is named A Great Desire, containing ten tracks that can be found on a variety of albums which were all originally only released on Compact Disc, which was crushing the sales of vinyl by the end of the 80s. There are a selection that includes the wonderfully brass filled and brash “To The Devil“, the delicate and sinful “Acid Tongue“, the sexy “Sister Teresa” and the experimental and extraordinary title track, “A Great Desire“. To that end, Martin Bowes spoke to us about the new album and the past, present and future of ATTRITION.

Welcome to the rabbit hole that is Onyx, Martin Bowes.

Thank you for having me!

Did you ever foresee ATTRITION lasting more than 40 years and still making relevant music?

I don’t think I really thought that far ahead in 1980! And I still often get the feeling I have only just started in music… which propels me to make the next album or shows or videos or artwork…. I write music for myself… a cathartic thing… so the relevance I feel is only ultimately for me… but I know other people get something from my music and that makes me smile…

ATTRITION started in Coventry, your home city, which you have never really left and have your studio, The Cage there. Until the 90s, it has a been a city that bore the scars from the Second World War. Do you think in part this has been a catalyst for the sound and imagery of the band?

Well I arrived in Coventry as a 5 year old in the mid sixties, my parents moved here during the post war car manufacturing boom town era. I saw it falling apart in the eighties when the factories closed down (becoming a ghost town, as the song says) and after the first ATTRITION album in 1984 and first european tour (with the Legendary Pink Dots that same year) we all uprooted to London for a couple of years… after which I moved to Holland for another couple…. Coming back to Coventry in 1989. I think the industrial decay of my home town has definitely had an impact on the sound of ATTRITION, but it is also a very historic town…thankfully being restored these days… and that love of history has always been with me too.

Could you tell what influenced you into starting ATTRITION and how the band began?

I was blown away by punk rock in 1977…. It was there for me at just the right time…what an angry teenager needed… helped make sense of the nonsense I could see around me…. And it still does. I had absolutely no musical skill or knowledge but needed to get involved in this… so in 1979 I started my punk/post-punk fanzine “Alternative Sounds” , writing mostly about the scene in and around Coventry at the time, which was a wonderful scene… the Specials and Two Tone being a very famous part of it but there was so much more…. I did 18 issues and a special for the BBC TV Something Else program at the time. In 1980 I finally started to mess with recording sounds and instruments and a fledgling ATTRITION was born…. We played our first few shows in December 1980 as a kind of anarchist/post punk guitar, bass, drums and vocals line up…After those shows we soon started to trade in guitars and drums for synths and drum machines….

February see the release on vinyl of A Great Desire (1986 – 2004), which is a collection of songs from that time that that were released on CDs. It was around 1986 when the CD was coming into vogue and many said that vinyl was nigh. What inspired you to do this release and is it satifying to see these tracks going to the classic and dare might I say, beautiful vinyl?

We have started to have some new vinyl releases or reissues and we were asked by LA/Berlin based label Sleepers records to release this vinyl… they actually chose the track listing which I found interesting as I always do it myself and it was good to have a different opinion. Its wonderful to have music released in any format but of course vinyl is very special…. They have included 2 posters with this too which is something you can only do with vinyl!

You remastered all the tracks at The Cage Studio. Was it a good feeling to wander down those musical lanes of memory and was it a big task to do the remastering?

I have a large box full of all the old DAT tapes from that era and it didn’t take too long to track down the original mixes and master them specially for vinyl this time… I’m really pleased with how they turned out… well I master music here almost every day so I’ve had enough practice by now! Its always a strange but ultimately nice experience… like looking through old photographs or diaries…. I’m happy with the past….

Was there anything that you would have liked to change or did change?

It was more just getting the old recordings to sound as good as they can… and have recordings from different eras and studios sit together well…. I think it worked!

You also run the record company Two Gods which was originally created to release the ATTRITION albums. Since then you have opened up the label and put together some rather interesting compilations. What does running Two Gods mean to you personally?

Yes I started the Two Gods label (taken from the song of the same name) in 2006 when I was releasing music through a larger distributor … so it was all the old ATTRITION albums, and some live and compilations or remix albums at first…I then took it further and digitised/mastered a lot of old recordings from cassette etc for digital only release… it made sense for the recordings that didn’t warrant a physical release but I still wanted to get out there… I expanded this for side projects like ENGRAM and took on some other bands for digital only release… that part was an experiment and I didn’t have anywhere near enough time to market the other bands…I’d thought of it more as a collaboration using my networks… so after a few releases and label samplers I decided to take it back to ATTRITION only and give me more time for me…

Since you released Death House in 1982, how do you think the sound of ATTRITION has changed over the years?

The sound has always evolved and changed…and there has always been two sides to the sound… a more upbeat, rhythmic side to ATTRITION, and I have also been interested in sound tracks… as a visual artist origionally I still see music in terms of pcitures, of landscapes… so I relate to soundtracks… This Death House was the first soundtrack we ever did… in amongst all the “strange” experimental electronic songs we were mainly recording… It was reissued on vinyl too last year and we finally got to perform it live… I got the original line up together for that and we performed it as “Death House Variations” with a new take on it…

Just before ATTRITION came into being, there had been several waves. Glam rock, followed by punk which then morphed in the post-punk. Yet, under all that was this odd electric style being pioneered in Britain by the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Clock DVA etc. What bands or music inspired you in your youth?

So many… I first got heavily into the glam of Roxy Music, Marc Bolan, Cockney Rebel, and Bowie of course…then I got into rock n roll in that boring period for new music of the mid seventies… then Punk totally captivated me… politically at the very least…post punk of bands like Kraftwerk, The Cabs, Magazine, PIL and Joy Division influenced the early ATTRITION sound…and then over the years I have taken in more and more influences… as much from life itself as from art….

Do you remember the first live band you ever saw?

I remember it well…it was The Stranglers here in Coventry in June 1977. A good time to be alive.

What acts or bands do you listen to now or find enlightenment in?

So many from the past still…I still listen to lots of old punk records… love The Fall… and over the years I got into classical and neo-classical… and bands like The Prodigy and drum n bass and rap from bands like Public Enemy …I get to hear so much new and “new to me” music in my studio all the time…. It’s all good.

I noticed on social media that ATTRITION has been featured as a exhibit, with flyers, posters and such things in Coventry. How does it feel knowing you are now woven into the fabric of that city?

Coventry is the UK City of Culture 2021/22 and I have been a part of that… my fanzine was featured heavily as part of the Two Tone exhibition here and as part of a Coventry music mural in the town centre… was great to see a photo of me up there… I offer to take anyone to see it when they visit… ATTRITION has featured as part of a Coventry music scene of the early eighties photo exhibition (we played a show as part of that too) and I had some music commissioned as part of a City compilation of bands… Despite living here in Coventry I never had to much to do with the place musically (I had so much of the world to get to) so its been nice to have the recognition now.

You did the mastering for the Thanatos album Covered Country. I am still trying to think of payback to inflict on a certain Kiwi that tricked me into review it (country and I don’t mix). How did you find listening and mastering this genre?

Haha! That’s my old friend Pat Ogl! He used to work for our old US label Projekt back in the nineties and we always stay in touch…. I love his songs! I’m also a Johnny Cash fan so give it a few more plays, it will grow on you!

I know you do a lot of mixing and mastering for others. Has covid affected how you go about playing and promoting with ATTRITION?

Well between Covid and Brexit we haven’t been able to play abroad since we went to Tokyo in December 2019… have been playing some more low key UK shows recently so I’m hoping things get better again soon…I am used to touring all over the place (we have played on 4 continents so far) so I’m missing all of it… I know its been the same for so many bands… promoting isn’t too bad, I can still do that in other ways… and for my studio, I’ve actually had more music sent to me to mix/master than ever, as more bands concentrated on recording.

What plans lay ahead for Martin Bowes in the future and what shall we hear next with ATTRITION?

My long delayed new album, The Black Maria… will be finished soon and out later this year (planning vinyl of course) and I am also planning to release a lot of the older CD only albums we did in special limited runs…. And then I’ll be onto the next album and hoping to get out to play near you sometime soon!

Thank you for so kindly for talking to us.

Thank you for the interview…. Martin Bowes, Coventry, England. February 2022

           www.attrition.co.uk

           www.facebook.com/ATTRITIONMUSIC

           http://attritionuk.bandcamp.com/

           https://twitter.com/attritionuk

           www.thecagestudios.co.uk

           https://sptfy.com/attrition

Washington DC is the town where you find gothic rock duo, Amulet. They released their debut album, The House Of Black And White in 2021 and it has a whopping sixteen tracks on it. Talk about getting more bang for your buck. Stephanie Stryker and MJ Phoenix have created an album full of quintessential inky gloom and a southern gothic feel that will warm the cockles of many a darkling’s black little heart. They remind me a lot of the wonderful Concrete Blonde with that heavy bass and ringing guitar, along with the laconic and unhurried drawl of the vocals, giving it the feel of a night out with Anne Rice’s vampires, in New Orleans, with the heady aroma of wisteria in the air. They have started to also collaborate with other acts and as a result we also have the amazing electronic remix of “Falling Down” by unitcode:machine which should be on high rotation on dance floors and sound systems. So we decided to open up a vein and ask Amulet a few questions which they kindly did between gigs.

Welcome Amulet to the darkside of Onyx.

Amulet is a fairly new project. How did it all come together?

MJ Phoenix: In October 2019, we wrapped a rehearsal with our old band that played a repertoire cover songs. I said I wanted to write a concept album of original music. So three of us from that group began to write songs. As we went through the writing and producing process, Stephanie and I felt it would be better to form our own group, independent of our third member, due to diverging musical styles. He agreed and Amulet was formed!

Stephanie Stryker: Most people say things and don’t do it, but a few months later during lockdown, tracks started appearing in my email from MJ. We spent over a year writing while he lived in Washington, DC and I lived Dallas, TX. Now I’ve returned to the DC area and we have formed a live band!

Are you both from a goth rock background with other previous bands?

SS: Nope, our previous band was a classic rock cover band, and MJ’s bands before that were a diverse mix between funk and rock jam bands. I am a goth/industrial head though, so it makes me very happy to make music that I like to listen to also!

Your debut album House of Black + White has a Southern blues style to it at times, that musically reminds me a lot of Concrete Blonde while at other times there is a post-punk vibe with the bass and percussion. What was the process in creating the album?

MJ: Almost all the tracks started with bass parts. When I write, I let the instrument feel its way to where it wants to go for that song. I also almost always start with bass lines written in minor keys. Once the bass line reveals itself, I play around with guitar parts to compliment. From there, I pass to Steph for vocals, sometimes with melodies and sometimes not. While I wrote most of the guitar parts on the album, many of the final guitar recordings were played by Stephanie’s brother John Taylor, a professional guitarist from Nashville, TN. Keys were added later by both John and I to round out the sound.

SS: This is the first recorded music I’ve done so the learning curve was steep! As MJ mentioned, he would mostly send me close-to-finished drafts and I would record demos for vocals in Logic. I would often write or contribute to the vocal melodies. Two of the songs on the album are written by me, Last Ditch and Witchfinder. With Last Ditch, I sang the whole thing a cappella and handed to MJ for music. With Witchfinder, I produced a musical skeleton along with lyrics and vocals which we both developed the final track from there. After our drafts were done, we hit the studio for many hours of vocal recording, mixing, and mastering!

Did it feel a little ambitious releasing a 16 track album as your debut?

MJ: We actually had trouble stopping. We have many more tracks that could have been made but we had to stop somewhere. Clear Blue Sky was the last track. I wrote it quickly and it made itself very clear it needed to live on this album.

SS: As someone who was a teen in the 1990s, I fully expect albums to have at least 12 tracks (usually closer to 15) in order for me to consider it a full album. My favorite album of all time is Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, which is a double album. So, I really wanted to give people their money’s worth. These days, an album on Bandcamp is only $7 USD, so for 16 tracks, that’s a damn good deal I’d say! We actually have more tracks that could have made it on there, but we just needed to put a cap on it at some point.

Your music seems to touch some very personal subjects, so are you writing from experience or as an observer?

SS: MJ’s been dumped a lot of times, ha! I wrote my songs on this album from an observer’s perspective. This was my first foray into writing, so I didn’t dive as deep into my personal issues. Writing more and working with MJ has taught me a lot about using music to express that side of my life, as well. Expect more sad, emotional tracks from me in the future!

MJ: While there is plenty of my own life in the album topics, it is also an expression of general dissatisfaction and a comment on those experiences that most people go through. Though mainly about relationships, there are also a few tracks about dissatisfaction with the modern political climate, which again, I think most people can relate to.

You had other musicians play on the album with you and Amulet has been playing live shows, so do you play with backing tapes or do you have a live band to play with you?

SS: We have a six-person live band now! They are not the same folks who played session work on our album, but local musicians from the Washington, DC area. We have MJ on bass, myself on lead vocal, Damian Himeros on lead guitar, Bob Carr on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Alison Freyja on keyboard and backing vocals, and Thomas Grothe on drums.

How did you find trying to release an album during the pandemic and how has it changed the way you do business?

MJ: Not much to compare it to since this is our first album. Since so many people were stuck at home, there is probably more competition than there was. We’ve also had to take a little more time to go live due to the pandemic, but we’ve used that time to build the live band. The real challenge is breaking through the mass of music and other information on the internet and just getting the album into people’s ears.

Our formative music choices often colour our tastes, so in that vein, what acts did you listen to when you were younger?

MJ: I grew up in Liverpool, UK in the 1970s and 80s so I was greatly influenced of the counterculture music of the time. Sex Pistols, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Blondie, Led Zepplin, Gary Numan, punk, new wave, reggae, and funk (even played in a funk band).

SS: I was a suburban 90s mall goth, so I loved the dark alternative giants of the time: Nine Inch Nails, Manson, Skinny Puppy, Stabbing Westward, etc. Graduating high school, I fell in love with David Bowie, Sisters of Mercy, and The Cure, as well as EBM and industrial dance acts like VNV Nation, Apop, Icon of Coil, Covenant, etc.

Whom do you listen to now?

MJ: Amulet! I’m usually writing in my head.

SS: I still do have my old favorites on rotation. When I’m not listening to our music, it’s usually some harsh EBM or aggrotech acts like Alien Vampires, Suicide Commando, Nachtmar, etc. I am really obsessed with Faderhead’s new release Years of the Serpent right now.

What is in the future for Amulet?

MJ: A lot in store! We are building out our live show and beginning to gig regionally in our area. We are also working on two new album concepts: A sequencer and synth-based electronic direction for one (this may turn into a side project) and a more Amulet-style rock album. And who knows, we might write another dark lounge track (yes we did that! Secrets + Lies on Bandcamp). We are also currently working on a remix album for House of Black + White with other collaborators (so far, we are working with unitcode:machine, Red This Ever, and Grendel).

SS: All that, but we are also visual artists! We have several music videos coming up and we will be filming more soon. We also have a catalog of art photography that we’d like to showcase and make available to our fans. I am a graphic designer by day and have a degree in fashion design, so there are a lot of ways I can see expanding Amulet into a wide-reaching artistic endeavor beyond just music.

Check us out on Instagram and Facebook (@amulettheband), we are constantly posting our photography and often I will write poetry as well. Our website is amuletheband.com, we’d love to have you join our mailing list and follow us for updates! Thanks so much for reaching out to us.

Thank you for the music and we hope to hear more music from you soon!

https://amulettheband.bandcamp.com/

Amulet | Facebook

VAZUM came onto the American music scene in 2018. The heart of the band is made up of Zach Pliska, who planted the dark seed of VAZUM, and later in 2019 joined by Emily Sturm, together creating their own style of gothic rock called deathgaze. In those three years they have put out albums and singles, even dropping a Christmas EP, Vazumnacht. We spoke to these two creatures of the night to find out what lies in the crypt of VAZUM.

Welcome to Onyx.


VAZUM have been releasing music in the current line up, since 2019. How did this project and the band come together?

Zach: Emily and I met in the Summer of 2019 at a local goth club and we bonded over bands like Bauhaus and Smashing Pumpkins. I had a few VAZUM shows planned for the Fall and Emily stepped in on bass. One of the shows we opened for The Genitorturers. When the pandemic hit we got more serious about recording and releasing music. With Emily’s help I finished the album I had been working on, Vampyre Villa. We then set to work on our Halloween inspired album Rated V which was a collaboration where we wrote and produced together. We released both albums in 2020. We realized how well we worked together and became inspired to create music videos, upgrade our recording equipment and continue writing more songs. 

A lot of your music seems to be based around mythical creatures as well as dark forgotten places. Would you agree and if so, what draws you to these subjects?

Emily :I’ve pretty much been obsessed with fairy tales since I was a kid. There was a pretty big chunk of my childhood that we did not own TV in my family. So I was given lots of books to read instead. One of my favorites was a collection of Hans Christian Anderson stories. When I was a little older I got this big thick book called 1000 page book of stories for Christmas. It had Mary Shelley, Poe, Wilde, etc. and that was the beginning of the end. Totally hooked. As a result, those are the themes that still inspire me the most today.

I think in some cases you have empathy for these characters but i also hear that you paint them in the light they were originally painted in… such as vampires being cold blooded hunters of men. Do you think is the case?

Emily: Of course there are many nuanced interpretations throughout literature and legend about the exact nature of a vampire. In our lyrics for the song – vampire – we approach it as a creature that is completely self aware. At once feeling supremely powerful on one hand and yet weakened and brought low by immortality on the other. I was inspired mostly by Anne Rice’s interpretation of vampires (may she rest in peace). The fact that only the very strong willed can even deal with the actual reality of immortality and that most humans that are transformed into vampires are slowly driven insane. Once everyone they knew when they were mortal dies, society changes, that feeling of being out of touch and alone in the world, they then end their vampiric life by throwing themselves in a fire. Most of them never make it past 200 to 300 years old. We wanted to convey that feeling in the song. Being so ancient, tired, yet still lusting for blood.


So Emily, I gather you are the architect of a lot of the visuals in the lyrics?


Emily: We run our ideas off each other. A lot of the times we’ll work on a song together and build on what the other has already started. I gravitate more towards horror and fairy tales and try to tell a story.  I love the visual aspect of the band, whether that’s through videos, photos, artwork or jewelry. 

You have progressed to a more electronic sound while also producing more traditional goth/darkwave. Was this a natural progression and does the material also lend itself to the change in tone?

Zach: We’ve always liked re-working songs. Sometimes we’ll re-work a song and it will turn into a completely different song. With the electronic versions it’s more of a remix where we’re using elements from the original version. It’s fun because we are both fans of electronic music although Emily listens to more electronic than I do. It challenges us to think about things differently and changes our approach. I’ve been more involved with the technical side of producing and engineering and doing the remixes has definitely sharpened my skills. There’s a lot of freedom involved with the remixes, it’s our time to experiment and try new things. And people seem to appreciate the different aspects of the electronic vs rock. 

Some purists say that electronics and the industrial aesthetic don’t belong in the gothic/darkwave genre. How do you feel about that kind of attitude especially seeing as most older ‘post-punk’ bands have used tape loops, synths and drum machines etc?

Emily: I think people that nitpick and try to over analyze styles just don’t have anything better to do.

Zach: I see a lot of arguments online about what’s goth, what’s post-punk, etc. I guess some people enjoy arguing and trying to prove their point. That’s one of the reasons we started calling ourselves a Deathgaze band. We want to differentiate ourselves from all of that.   

As you said, you describe your style as Deathgaze. What for you creates Deathgaze?


Zach: Deathgaze is a combination of deathrock and shoegaze. It’s a way of combining our influences into our own sound. And it’s a production style which we are honing. I like to keep deathgaze in mind as we’re working on new songs and recordings. It helps  us stay inspired and challenged.  The best part about deathgaze is it has yet to be defined. Deathgaze is a new genre which we are shaping as we evolve.  Goth, post-punk, industrial – those have already been defined and established by other bands years ago. Deathgaze is something we can call our own. 

I always like to ask what music influenced you when you were younger? What do you listen to now and find inspirational/pleasing?

Zach: Smashing Pumpkins were my biggest influence as a teenager. I was a product of the 90’s so a lot of the grunge bands and some nu-metal is what got me going as I began playing in bands. Lately I’ve been listening to classical and jazz which I’m gaining more appreciation for. Emily’s early influences were new wave artists like Gary Numan, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Love and Rockets. Lately she’s been listening to Death Grips. 

Covid has changed the music scene in the last two years, with acts unable to perform live, putting out music on Bandcamp, the rise of the EP becoming far more acceptable and online concerts.  How has it affected VAZUM?


Zach: The pandemic set the course for the trajectory we are on now. Beforehand I was distracted with playing drums for other bands. Covid has given us the time needed to focus on VAZUM and what we want to accomplish. We’ve been able to meet our goals of releasing music and videos. We just need to start playing live again and touring. 

You have released quite a few albums in a short amount of time such as Vampyre Villa, Rated V, VAZUM and so on.  Why so many albums in quick succession?


Zach: We enjoy the process from start to end and are honing it in more so we can be productive. We do all the recording and production ourselves so we don’t have to wait around for engineers or other people. I’ve always been obsessive with music whether it’s practicing an instrument or listening to a favorite band. My current focus is on releasing music and keeping a steady stream of content going. I like working on songs in the moment and having a deadline to release them. That’s exciting and adds a level of pressure which we feed off of.

What is in-store for VAZUM and their fans in the future?

Zach: We feel like we’re just getting started and have a lot more to offer in terms of singles, albums, videos and content in general. And when people are ready for live shows and want to see us play, we’ll be right there waiting. I’ve spent a lot of time in previous bands playing live as a drummer and I do miss playing live. I hope for VAZUM to spend a significant amount of time touring. 

https://vazum.bandcamp.com/music

VAZUM | Facebook

John R Mirland has become one of the staple masters of driving, power noise, rhythmic noise mixed with serious techno savvy. We are grateful he took time out to talk to us about the latest Mirland album and all his creative outlets.

Welcome to the weird of Onyx, John R Mirland.

Thank you so very much for showing an interest in my music

Congratulations on Compromise Is Defeat (CID). It is truly a very attention grabbing album. How naturally does it come to you to mix such genres as techno, power noise and harsh noise?

It does come pretty natural the moment I start working on the beat I can immediately hear if this is going in the Mirland-direction or if it’s the groundwork for another project or artist.

I try to be in the studio as much as I can and just work. I’m very focused so I sit down with the keyboard or guitar and just start composing and usually I almost immediately know what the track is suited for:

The hybrid of rhythmic noise and techno/dark trance is a reflection of my own tastes and I wanted to compose evolving yet pounding music. So I’m very conscious about the variations and small details in the mix. The process is very much my own and I’m not particularly dogmatic with regards to what goes where to satisfy genre specific demands.

John, you wrote the album over a period of time and even some of the tracks have been played live. Why did it take nearly four years for CID to come into fruition?

I started working on the album just after the release of the “Antagonist” ep where I felt I’d really hit a spot with my sound. But you know plans sometimes don’t work out.

The gigs I played both around that time and later gave me an opportunity for testing very early demos of some of the new tracks. But at the same time I was composing and producing for Am Tierpark, Emergency Sequence, M73, Negant, Eisenwolf, Bitter Distrust, Mirland/Larsen and later also Gusten and Udpint while producing and remixing other artists too.

I do like to keep busy and have composed around 200 tracks the last 10-15 years of which I believe around 150 or so have been released.

But time went on and I kept working on the side with the sound design for what was to be “Compromise Is Defeat”. I guess at some point I had 30 or 40 demo tracks.

I prefer getting stuff done so I really needed to get this album done. I felt the demo recordings had something but I’d been deep in the process for far too long. So in the late summer of 2021 I finally sat down and dug into the selection and production of what would be “Compromise Is Defeat”. I recorded and mixed the final album over two months and then my dear friend Claus Larsen (Leæther Strip) did the mastering as he’s done for a lot of my releases.

For many, creating music comes from their current situation/politics/beliefs. When you compose music, especially for Mirland, what inspires you to create?

I don’t consciously search for inspiration. My mind is always racing and thinking about new ideas so I keep a lot of notes and record a lot of ideas. When I watch a movie I often make a note of certain interesting quotes or phrases. I believe some of my titles might suggest what lies behind the track but Iike to keep things open for interpretation. I think that’s one of the great things about instrumental music. It’s very much like abstract painting in that regard.

But a small key to the different projects might be: Mirland is often related to space, transhumanism and futurism. In Am Tierpark, Mirland/Larsen and Gusten Claus Larsen writes the lyrics so he defines the content and we never interfere with each other’s ideas. But very often Am Tierpark is about love/the loss of love. In Udpint I write almost entirely about war and in M73 it’s a lot about cold futures and dark erotica. My own lyrics are often written with the intent to create images.

One of your other projects is Eisenwolf… a mix of blackmetal and industrial. Do you think your love of black metal feeds into this use of harsh noise?

Eisenwolf was a side project of the now defunct Negant which also spawned the electro punk band Bitter Distrust with Michael Hillerup of Birmingham 6. I left all three bands a year ago actually.

But yes, I believe my interest in extreme metal in general blends into a lot of my darker stuff. I actually recorded a black metal mini album last year as Udpint and Claus and I released a punk rock album as Gusten.

But my use of noise and experimental sounds also stems from a very early band I was part of called VHS which was a pretty noisy and weird construction. And I’m a sucker for brutal energy whether it’s industrial or metal. But even Eisenwolf had melodic themes as opposed to just a wall of noise.

Mirland is very much a solo thing for you but you do collaborate with many other artists, especially other Danes in the scene for other projects? How do you approach your solo work compared to your collabrotative with say Negant or Eisenwolf?

I try to uncover the potential in any proposed collaboration and then present a few demo recordings for the others involved with the project. When I can’t see any more potential I put the collaboration on hiatus or leave. I don’t like to waste my own or others’ time.

When I work on my own it’s somewhat the same and I’m a firm believer that nothing is supposed to last forever and some projects only last an ep or album. And that’s absolutely fine. I have no problem with leaving a dysfunctional project.

You released on Claus Larsen’s label, Læbel and you have worked with him as Mirland/Larsen as well as producing and mixing each others music. Leæther Strip/Larsen is spoken in near reverance by many in the industrial scene, though those that know him say he is the biggest sweetheart. Did you find it nerve wracking to work with Claus in the beginning and have you found that friendship has grown exponentially, forging something a bit special?

Claus is a very close and dear friend and I consider him family.

When we work together it’s like we have a direct brain-to-brain connection and we’ve never argued even if we may not agree on everything. I’ve learned a ton from Claus. And we’re equally productive and creatively restless.

Which aspect of music making do you think you enjoy the most? As the performer, the producer or the mix master? Or is it a bit of everything that keeps the flame alive?

I love composing and producing and I’m not particularly interested in being a face or a character. I enjoy the stage not for the sake of being the center of attention but for presenting and interpreting my music in a different, loud setting and watching people’s response.

Who were the early musical inspirations that set your pulse running and made you think ‘I want to do that!’?

A: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’d like to say something cool and leftfield but actually I grew up with a very broad range of music from Pink Floyd to southern blues to classical, constantly playing at my parents apartment. So I’ve always been surrounded by music and I can’t remember a time not wanting to work with music but for many years my main focus was on painting and illustration.

What acts do you listen to now or find their innovation sucks you into their music?

Currently I’m working my way through a big stack of obscure metal releases on vinyl. But I’m also listening to a lot of newer electronic releases. I like the distanced coldness of Julia Bondar and Rue Oberkampf and the energetic techno of Anastacia Kristensen. I enjoy listening to my friend Kri Samadhi who’s a great psytrance producer. Italo Connection’s “Metropolis” album is an extremely well executed album and possibly one of the best synth pop albums in years. And the funky neo disco of Alexander Robotnick always put a smile on my face.

And then I keep coming back to an old release by a short lived doom/black outfit called Woods of Belial. It has this dark, gritty lo-fi sound that I’d never be able to do myself.

What is in store for John Mirland and all his many, many projects?

A: First of I’ll be playing in Copenhagen on March 5th as a double bill with Leæther Strip. It’s been so long! And then I’m currently working on the follow up to “Compromise Is Defeat” which I hope will be out this year. Working title is “Bastard”. There’s a new album from Am Tierpark out this spring which I believe to be the best we’ve done so far and an Italo disco single I wrote for a Danish singer. I’m also working on a new and so far secret space disco project. And maybe something from Gusten too.

Thank you ever so much for taking the time to talk to us!

Thank you!!

Last year saw the release of the post-punk/goth EP, Beautiful Hell by Orcus Nullify. Kindly, Bruce Nullify answered some questions for us about the EP, his views on the last few years and his connection to Australia.

Bruce Nullify, welcome to the darkside of Onyx. Congratulations on the new EP, Beautiful Hell.

Thank you, interviews are always a pleasure to do. I very much appreciate this opportunity.

Beautiful Hell was released in 2021 which included the singles Night Dance and Pandemonic, which were both released in 2020. How has American politics and a world pandemic shaped this EP?

It’s been very clear that citizen’s health and safety has taken a back seat to the Economy here in the US. Early on during 2020 there was severe negligence in doing what was necessary for safety. Initially it was a failure of the government to move all the chess pieces and do it quickly. And it was heavily political too. But even still, the pandemic has not ended and yet so many carry on as if it has. We are currently approaching one million deaths here in the US. It’s shameful and unnecessary.

There were a few months that I was at home quarantining during 2020. Most of the country was too, for even longer. The solution, or at least a mitigation to pollution became apparent. Cars were off the roads, and folks were working from home. It became clear in cities around the world this created a reduction in air pollution. The atmosphere had a break and it helped. But what happened by the hand of the Orange Beast? Reversal of environmental policies like ending the US’s participation in the Paris Climate Accord, and termination of the Clean Water Act. I didn’t realize exactly how poorly educated and ill advised so many people of this country had become. Then the Orange beast happened. Now I know.

Previously, you have independently released your work but recently have released with Australian label, Mantravision Productions, which is run by Ant Bannister of Sounds Like Winter and many other acts. How did you find yourself involved with Mantravision and release the last two EPs with them?

A few years back Ant did some radio shows on Mixcloud. I believe I reached out to him and we starting talking. We had similar tastes in music. He was also spinning some messed up stuff that caught my attention. We started exchanging music. I confess, at the time my sound wasn’t the best. I did my own production, which was beginner level. Ant, on the other hand has a lot of experience. He’s a kind person. He lets me do what I can and then takes it from there. It’s always exciting for me to get my songs back after he’s worked his magic. It typically goes to the next level or better. After, years of online friendship, I consider Ant to be my Brother from another Mother. And I do very much love Sounds Like Winter. I consider them an inspiration.

Bannister also lent his talent to programming the drums on Beautiful Hell which he also did on Death Hag plus you had help on production of one track by Pete Burns. How do you find these friendships/collaborations lend themselves to your music?

Ant is a member of the band now a days. He has contributed way too much to just be a collaborator. I feel very fortunate to have such great friends. Collaborations have been extremely beneficial to myself and I hope to both Ant and Pete. Collaborating, in my experience, should give you an extra perspective – whether it be a drum beat where you didn’t expect it, or stressing a particular frequency in the mix. It’s important in music to think about what it is you’re trying to make or say. I think adding an extra set of ears aids in refining that process. I would recommend collaboration to anyone trying to make music or art.

You have also been recording with Ant and keyboard player Colin Gallagher as Sequential Zero, another post-punk/goth band. How did this come about?

I believe Ant sent me a track, that he and Colin had been working on, and asked me what I thought about it. He added that he “saw a place for my guitar sound in it”. I was very excited to join. All three of us are putting our hearts into this. Ant said to me a while back that we have a strong synergy. I think that really sums it up well. I hope to join them on stage in Australia or here in the US some day.

Do you think living in South Carolina colours how you write your music ie folk lore etc?

Lol, I doubt it. At least not in that way. That’s an interesting perspective though. I need to pay closer attention to local folk lore. It’s a beautiful part of the country. I love nature. I moved here mostly, to get away from a more urban life. It can be truly energizing and lovely to live isolated in a forest. Without people in ear shot it’s been very easy to crank up the guitar or belt out some vocals late at night. People here do remind me almost daily that I’m that I’m different. Just today I had a guy ask me where I am from. I was born in New England. I do have a Yankee accent and I have no problem telling people what I think.

What music did you listen to when you were young and do you think your tastes have changed? Who do you enjoy listening to now?

My tastes have expanded some, but I still primarily listen to Alternative music. Today you’d find me listening to Sounds Like Winter, Burnt Souls, Kill Shelter, IAMTHESHADOW, October Burns Black, Kentucky Vampires, SENEX IV… There’s so much great music out there.

What is in store in the future of Bruce Nullify and Orcus Nullify….or maybe more colaborations?

I’m working on a few new Orcus Nullify tunes. I plan on keeping up with that. Might be adding another person to the mix. I consider Sequential Zero a full time gig. I’ve got ongoing work with them. So my schedule is pretty well full.

Thanks so much for talking to us today!

It’s my pleasure. Thank you for the invitation!

https://orcusnullify.bandcamp.com/album/beautiful-hell

ORCUS NULLIFY | Facebook

https://sequentialzero.bandcamp.com/

Sequential Zero | Facebook

The artist, Dave McAnally, is better known for his Ministry/Rob Zombie inspired act, The Derision Cult but this Chicago based musician also has a far more synth based project called .SYS Machine. .SYS Machine is the darker, quieter sibling, with a far more reflective soul. December saw the release of Graceful Isolation, which features five tracks and eight remixes, all created in a collaborative manner. We spoke to Dave about these collaborations, inspirations and how life is changing.

Welcome down the hole of weirdness that is Onyx, Dave McAnally of .SYS Machine.

December 2021 saw the release of Graceful Isolation and this title came out of the fact none of your collaborators ever met up in the same room. How did you pull it all together?
With everyone having to work remotely- whether its music or in other work life- it’s probably easier now than its ever been to work remotely.  For me, it was just a matter of making a list of people I’d like to work with and then with Kim and Gabe from Microwaved (who does a remix on here) we added to that list and I started reaching out!  I’d say 80% of the people who I reached out to where into it and wanted to get involved.  The other 20% was either just schedules were too tough to work or they were tied up with other things.  So it was actually a pretty easy process to line up.  

You brought some heavy talent on the album in the form of Kimberly Kornmeier of Bow Ever Down doing the vocals on three of the tracks as well as getting the likes of Assemblage 23, Spankthenun, The Joy Thieves, Miss Suicide et al to do some rather wicked remixes. How did you lure them all onto the project?  
Kim came about because she’d done vocals on my buddy Gabe’s track Save Me earlier this year and I was really impressed and it just so happened I had some instrumental tracks I’d been tinkering on that I thought her style and approach would be really interesting for.  She was immediately on board and she’s really great to work with (she collaborates with a ton of artists so she knows how to deliver and mold what she does to the tracks). 

 I knew I wanted to do remixes, but one thing led to another talking with Kim and Gabe, and we thought of people who would bring some cool flavors to the tracks and then I just started hitting folks up.  Sys Machine isn’t a big name or anything on the scene so I wasn’t really sure what would happen as far as interest.  Nevertheless, Assemblage 23 and The Joy Thieves jumped on straight away which was awesome.   Once that happened the ball just kept rolling.  Not a whole lot of luring was involved!   I suspect with people unable to play shows last year, bandwidth was freed up which helped.  

DAVE MCANALLY – .SYS MACHINE

The Derision Cult is your original project that you have been releasing music under since 2014 and 2021 saw you drop the album Charlatans Inc. in September before Graceful Isolation. Was it your intention to stay busy or did it all evolve naturally?
It was a total natural thing for me!   For a long time, I’ve always had a few projects going at once, and these two are my big ones.  I work a lot slower than it probably seems on the surface.  I’m one of those people that’ll start an idea, leave it alone for a month or two, and come back to it and maybe it’ll get finished.  The Derision Cult tracks were marinating over the course of a year and a half and while I was working on that I was also doing things that ultimately became Graceful Isolation.  By last summer, I was really excited about both and didn’t want to just sit on them for the sake of spacing out releases so I just kept on moving along. 

 I think my output will slow down going forward as I really found myself enjoying working with people vs. being a lone wolf.  I’m happy to slow my roll and make time for other people to get involved and put more work into each release.   But there’s always various things I’ve got cooking.  I’ve got about 30 blues and acoustic jams I’ve amassed over the past 6 months that I would typically release as Jefferson Dust that are in various stages of completion that I’m always working on.  Someday maybe 10 of those will be worth sharing with the public!  Same is true for other projects. 

.SYS Machine is very different to the far more guitar driven The Derision Cult. What prompted you to pursue this more electronic sound?
Sys Machine has sort of been where all my science experiments go.  I started putting things out under that moniker that were essentially toying with new synths, drum loops or whatever.   All instrumental and not really songs in as much as they were soundscapes.  In a way, it’s really just me exploring getting better with programming and all things electronic.  Once Kim got involved, for me at least, Sys Machine stopped being a bunch of science experiments and started to congeal into something that felt a little more meaningful.  So that’s where it stands now. 

Derision Cult was and is an entirely different thing.  I’m a thrash guitar guy deep down.  Those riffs are part of my DNA going back 30+ years.  So when I started that project, I had a very deliberate idea of what I wanted it to be and sound like and I’ve been evolving on that theme ever since. 

You have spoken about how you were a heavy drinker for 25 years, then decided to give the habit up. Has that been hard to do and how has this changed your perspective on life, the music you create and the music scene?
ya know it really wasn’t!  And that kind of surprised me at how easy it was to just walk away from the booze.  I just took stock of my life and health and what path I was on and made a decision.  I think the key is actually TELLING people you’re going to stop.  Like once I told my wife and friends then it was real.   I’m really happy I did it.  I feel better, I find myself less stressed out and I have more energy  and time for things I care about– including music.  It was really just the right time for me to leave that behind.  I saw an interview with Billy Connolly where he was saying you can be wild and crazy in your 20’s and 30’s and it’s a lot of fun.  But once you get into your 40’s it starts to be a little pathetic carrying on like you’re in a frat house.  I believe that to be true. the other thing was pandemic.   

I run my own businesses and I work out of my house so it’s not like I have a job to go to or anything.  Boredom sets in and you’ll be sitting there like “fuck it, I’m not hurtin’ anybody!” and next thing you know, you’ve gone through a fifth of whiskey just watching TV or whatever.  Once that started happening, I could feel my health starting to slide.  I have had friends over the years who’ve died from things like liver failure and heart attacks and all that so I knew where this path would lead.   I read that Alan Karr book about quitting drinking and that was pretty much that.  Quitting drinking has definitely helped me live more in the moment.  I find myself with a lot more time since my weekend mornings are free, I’m motivated to go hard all day long cos that “it’s 5 o’clock somwhere!” mindset is gone. 

As far as music and art, I think it’s a lot easier to be realistic and objective.  When you’re drinking or stoned or whatever, you can think everything you’ve done is the greatest thing ever.  Not so much when you’re stone sober.  As far as the scene, the thing that really surprised me is how little drinking really is part of people’s lives. I never really noticed that before.  It might just be more evidence of how hard living I was compared to everyone else ha.   That isn’t to say they don’t drink, but especially with artists I collaborate with, it just doesn’t seem like it’s as big of a deal to them as it might have been for me.   By the way, I don’t mean any of this to come off as a “Drinking and Drugs don’t work kids!” type of rant – cos they do!  It’s fun getting hammered and wasted.  I had a great time living that life and don’t regret  that period for what it was.   But I’m definitely happier and more productive with where I’m at. 

What bands were the gateway drug into industrial music for you?
Heh, well I’m kind of weird like that.  Psalm 69 came out around the same time Megadeth’s Countdown to Extinction, Metallica’s Black Album, White Zombie La Sexorcisto and Anthrax Sound of White Noise were coming out so it just fit right in with what I was into at the time.  I didn’t really think of it as a new genre or door to open.  Of all things, I happened to be a big David Bowie fan back then too and I thought Tin Machine- or more specifically their guitar player Reeves Gabrels was a badass. 

I knew of Bowie’s other gunslingers.  I’d read that Adrian Belew was doing things with Trent Reznor and NIN so that got me curious– like “hey maybe these synth people can rock too!”.  That was sort of my moment of truth.  This was maybe 93 or so right before Downward Spiral came out – then later on Bowie and NIN went on tour together and it was like the universe all made sense!   I was living in Iowa at the time and Chicago isnt’ too far so I got wind of what was all going on with Wax Trax and I’ve been into it ever since.  So I guess you could say Tin Machine-Era David Bowie was my gateway drug haha. 

Whose music do you enjoy now or blows your mind into thinking ‘I wish I had written that!’?
I listen to a ton of things across a lot of genres.  When I’m just hanging around, especially this time of year, I’m more blues and Americana.  I think the new James McMurtry album is amazing– his turn of phrase and how he crafts stories in his lyrics always blows my mind.  I don’t necessarily endeavor to write like him, but those storyteller songwriters are a master class in how to take a listener on a journey.  The Reverend Peyton’s new album Dance Songs For Hard Times is absolutely excellent.  My daughter really likes the Rev so we’re playing that around the house a lot. 

Closer to home genre-wise, this probably sounds cliche, but I really like the fusion of blues and industrial on the new Rob Zombie.  The Joy Thieves Album American Parasite is great- lot of energy on there and I have that on quite a bit.  I’m digging the new Ministry album too!  Love Jello showing up on tracks and I’m not sure if this is a popular opinion, but I think Al’s take on Search and Destroy was awesome.  There’s some “Boy I wish I thought of that” riffs on there. 

What is in store for you in the future with .SYS Machine and The Derision Cult, plus will there be more collaborations?
Yeah man!  I’m actually working on the next Derision Cult now.  Sean Payne from Cyanotic and Conformco is producing and already I feel like it’s a giant leap forward just working with him and handing the reigns over.  I really love the sci-fi/robotic feel to what he does and I’d love to fuse that with what I do.  Very early stages but I’ve got some guests in mind for tracks.  I can’t say who yet, but there’s one that if it comes together, it’ll be a total full-circle thing cos it’s such a blast from the past and a huge influence on me personally.  So that’ll be my focus for awhile bringing that to life.   

On the Sys Machine front I literally have nothing in the tank at the moment.  I’d definitely like to work with Kim again and she’s up for it.  She’s got her own album and projects and maybe in the next year we’ll be able to share music.  But I’m really happy with how Graceful Isolation came together so I’d definitely like to continue down that path!   

Thank you so much for your time!

David Lawrie is The Royal Ritual, an Englishman living in the U.S., taught music from a young age, now involved in the goth/industrial scenes as a composer and producer. He kindly spoke to us about his project, the new album, film making and what inspires him.

Welcome David Lawrie to the darkside of the rabbit hole that is Onyx. The Royal Ritual is a new project for you. What inspired you to go on this solo journey?
The last time I had performed in an industrial outfit was with my friend Chris Coreline in 2008-2009 – when we played a string of shows, starting with the inFest Festival of 2008. It was so much fun. Since that point I have been mainly writing for documentaries, doing audio post production for film, and producing EPs/albums for various independent artists under my birth name. 

Fast forward to Coldwaves 2018, where I was in the audience with Dustin Schultz who, the night before, had performed with ohGr. It made me remember how much I wanted to get back into the fold. I mentioned this to Dustin, and we started working together in 2019. With the pandemic looming, it became more of a solo project in early 2020. Ultimately Dustin contributed significantly to two songs on the debut album, but without the initial collaboration with him, I don’t think I would have pushed forwards with the project.

As the lockdown clamped down harder on us all, I continued to work on the album. The name “The Royal Ritual” came to me on a cross country road-trip, in December 2020.

I would like to talk about the two singles you have so far released. “Pews In a Pandemic” is an observation of how commercial religion can be both controlling and coersive of their flocks, then married with the music that is harsher in sound.  Can you say what roused you to write this and influenced the choice in sound?
Firstly I don’t want to be insulting with anything I write. Whilst it is probably very obvious that I am fundamentally anti religion, I do not hold hostility towards the majority of religious people. It is no secret that I am atheist (and as close to “a-deist” as can be), but I also understand that a belief in a higher power brings comfort to a great many people, and I wouldn’t want to take the comfort of belief away from so many. 

Where this breaks down, at least for me, is in the boldness of a select “holy” few who not only claim that they have a direct communication with a deity, but they can disseminate a deistic message to a congregation – a move that, to me, is a parallel with divine dictatorship.

In the decade I have spent in America, I have really seen how bizarre things can become when religion makes good business, and the social fallout from that is a topic of great inspiration in my writing.
As for the overall sound, this was not the first song I wrote for the album, and as such, it was arranged to fit in with the already fairly solid palette of the other songs that had been written.

“Empires” is the second single and a comment that many English hark back to the ‘good old days’ when the British had a huge colonial empire which was at it’s peak during the Victorian era, with the British Raj in India, the jewel in the crown. Your song writing takes on a more classical quality and evocative of something exotic, maybe even forbidden, referring to the the line ‘when I was a little girl and you were a little boy’. How did this piece come about?
I do hope that the irony and sarcasm in this song is obvious. I also hope that my exclusion of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in the proclamation of “England” and not “Britain” is not dismissed as ignorance on my part.

I wouldn’t want it to be said that I am not proud to be English, because I do love the country. Whilst its history is turbulent, it is a history from which there are many lessons to be learned. I genuinely hope that as we move forward, these lessons will inform positive change.

Me being the “little girl” in this scenario harks back to mockery in the playground, where physical weakness and displays of emotion were “girlish” traits, whereas physical strength and the “stiff  upper lip” were “boyish” traits. I’m very glad we are gradually evolving past this nonsense.

The video for “Empires” is simple and yet beautifully directed by HARUKO. How was the experience making this video?
I try to separate out my different creative outlets, and HARUKO is my visual artwork pseudonym. I have been fascinated by filmmaking for many years, and in 2013, purely out of necessity, I made my first videos with just me, a camera, and some lights for the music released under my birth name. I learned a great deal very quickly, and since then I have continued to add to my equipment and skillset. That enabled me to do the first two videos for The Royal Ritual completely isolated from other people (I had some help carrying lights deep into the forest for my cover of Phildel’s “Glide Dog”).

For “Empires” I wanted to work with actors to tell a story, and I knew that I needed to put the cinematography in the hands of my good friend, and long-standing filmmaker colleague, David Diley of Scarlet View Media. He and I have worked on films for many years, with me taking care of audio post production in many of his projects. His expertise, along with his knowledge of my general vision, meant that I could focus on the direction and project management of the “Empires” video – trusting that it was being captured to a very high standard.
I have directed videos for other artists in the past, but this was the first time using actors. A full production, if you will. I am very proud of the outcome!

As an Englishman in the U.S., do you think being away from the U.K. gives you more perspective and also a different view while in the States? Kind of a stranger in two worlds so to speak.
I have always felt like an outsider, so I am used to that feeling of being a “stranger” – I think most people who work in the arts probably feel it too!

What I have found about splitting my time between the two countries is that it has opened my eyes to layers of odd logic on both sides of the pond, and it has also left me much more humble and less opinionated about subjects on which I am not well versed, as well as being more interested in learning.

Whilst I know that my transatlantic travel leaves a large carbon footprint (which I try to offset with the food I eat, minimising the waste I create etc.), I do feel that travel is key to us all understanding each other. Until you see the “other side” for yourself, you never really know how it compares to your own situation – and I think that being able to compare makes you not only more grateful for what you do have, but also more compassionate towards other people in worse positions. Experience, not hearsay, is key to progress.

You are a sound engineer and  you do musical scores for documentaries etc. Could you tell us about these and how it has influenced how you have approached creating music with Royal Ritual?
Working in audio post production/sound design for film came about almost accidentally, even though in hindsight it makes perfect sense. Using found sounds as percussive (and even melodic) elements of my music has been something I have done since studying my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Field recording is one of my favourite pastimes.

When David Diley asked me to work on the audio for his film “Of Shark And Man” in 2012 (the film was released a few years later), it was a really exciting challenge. He told me that the main character of the film was not the sharks, nor the interviewees, but rather the water itself. Creating an almost musical sound for the water was a very rewarding exploration – almost the reverse of what I had been doing to create elements of my own music.

David Diley also asked me to compose the opening theme for the film, which helped me to develop my own way of mapping out a piece of music to visual cues.
With regards to The Royal Ritual, every single song was written with a very strong visual in mind, using techniques I have developed in both my musical and audio post production worlds. 

What can we expect from the full length album MARTYRS?
“Pews In A Pandemic” and “Empires” paint the musical extremes for the album. There is a lot of darkness, but also (I hope) a lot of light in there. As much as I focused on creating sound design elements for the musical side of things, I also spent a long time working on the lyrics – something I hope translates and resonates well with people. Words have always been important to me, so I made sure to take my time with the words on the album.

As I mentioned before, the album has something of a sonic “palette,” so whilst the songs have a lot of variety in their songwriting, I think their arrangements are tied together by a general “sound” (for want of a better term).

I am so glad that the singles seem to have been well received so far, but I feel like they make more sense in context with the rest of the album. I pieced it together with two sides of a record in mind, and I am very much looking forward to holding and spinning the vinyl myself!

What music first set your soul on fire when you were young and who do you enjoy or still fans that fire?
That question is always going to open Pandora’s Box, as far as I’m concerned, so I will try to keep it short.

The influences that jump to mind right now are Erik Satie, Pink Floyd, Arvo Pärt, Tool, Henryk Gorecki, Aphex Twin, Philip Glass, Björk, David Sylvian, Nine Inch Nails, Tears For Fears, Nitin Sawhney (and I could go on and on…)

The most perfect piece of music to me, however, is “High Hopes” by Pink Floyd. There is a long story behind that choice, but I am certain that it was that song which served as the catalyst for me truly wondering about how modern music was put together.

Thank you for your time and we can’t wait for the album MARTYRS.
It has been a pleasure – thank you!

https://theroyalritual.bandcamp.com/

The Royal Ritual | Facebook

If you are of the gothic ilk, you will more than likely have heard of Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry and if you haven’t then may I suggest you have been spending some time under a rock,,,,not the post-punk type. Guitarist and later lead singer, Chris Reed, along with others, formed the band in 1981 in Leeds, after the explosion of punk had filtered into the post-punk scene. Not long after, Reed invited Dave ‘Wolfie’ Wolfenden to join the band as another guitarist and together they would form the core writers of the music for The Lorries. I was fortunate enough to get to talk to Wolfie about the 80s, current plans/bands, friendships and the release of the wonderful live album GENERATE.

Thanks for talking to us today Wolfie. We often glamorize the late 70s and early 80s but was it easy being in a band like the Lorries? Um…that’s a good question. Erm, the Lorries kind of started around about 1981 but we’d all kind of been in bands. We saw the Sex Pistols in the Anarchy In The UK tour and that’s when it was all kicking off you know. Out of the whole tour there were only two dates that survived which were Leeds Poly Tech and Lincoln Derby and we had gotten tickets to see The Pistols at Leeds and that show went ahead. And it’s kind of like one of those things, everyone says they were there but in actual fact there were 250 people there and the line up was The Clash, The Damned, Johnny Thunders and The Pistols and that was £1.25 which I guess is like about a $1 and there was about 250 people there and a lot of people, sort of student kind of things, and probably, i don’t know, about 12 punks or 12 people wearing safety pins or 12 people who had paint splattered on their shirts and it got covered by the local press and they absolutely savaged it. And more than musically, more culturally, it was a significant event, although you knew that you were seeing something you’d never ever seen before.

The Pistols were good but the things that kind of really blew our socks off were The Clash and The Damned and all this kind of myth that punk rockers couldn’t play was absolute bullshit because you know the The Damned were, you know, a ferocious force in those days and The Clash were ferocious and they could clearly play, they could clearly play. They had put their time into learning their instruments and it was just amazing to witness, that was like watching something like a bomb go off and we just kind of could sorta play guitars but ah not to a good standard but we could do bad Thin Lizzy versions or Kiss but when we saw the Pistols and The Clash we thought this is what we must do and that’s what we did.

We formed a silly punk band and then it kind of went on from there. I think that was very true for most of the punk rock contingency in Leeds and across the UK that The Pistols were a kind of catalyst not just for music but for ideas and particularly for bands like The Slits who didn’t play in an orthodox way but because they didn’t it made them even more interesting and you never would have heard ideas brought to so many people if punk rock had not started and those ideas challenged most ideas about music, particularly with bands around like Emerson Lake and Palmer and Yes if you know what I mean…. It really challenged people’s ideals, I think that was the significant thing about it was that it empowered people who thought they didn’t have a voice or the ability to believe that they could create something worthy and perhaps something lasting or fun.

It’s amazing that The Damned are still going and that they still sound so amazing on stage. Well yeah, they are a terrific rock’n’roll band. A testament to them. You see them live and they don’t have any backing tapes going, so there is no standard for them to play, they just play.. Yeah absolutely, it’s old school and that is how it should be you know, that’s how they learnt their trade.

How did you first become associated with Chris Reed? Well I’d been playing in a band in Leeds called Expelaires and we were signed to the same label as the Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes and we did a single and some records and we kind of did okay and we played with A Gang Of Four and the Mekons and, you know, we did okay and eventually it kind of burnt itself out and we weren’t going nowhere or there were no deal. And then we kind of drifted apart and I had a year off. Chris came to the last gig and said, you know I’ve got this band, would you like to play? I really like your guitar playing and I said, not at the moment, I’m pissed off with this and don’t want to do it anymore. I spent 4 years on this and got nowhere, so I spent a year getting drunk and then he asked me again and I met him and I think they had done their second single and a Peel session and he played me the recording of and I thought wow that is fucking great. That is what I want to do and so I lined up pretty well really.

It really has been very mush a friendship for you two really hasn’t it?
Yes, yes, yes, he’s had a tough time recently but you know the knowledge that he passed on, you know I owe him a debt but we have shared a long friendship, so I guess it has been fairly reciprocal that we learnt off of each other. He was the first person I ever met that was a real songwriter and we all kind of thought that writing songs was kind of jamming and out of luck maybe 10 ideas and maybe 2 were worthy of being called a song but we weren’t song writers. Chris, you know, was the first person I ever met that could sit down with an acoustic guitar and play like a four chord song from beginning to end with all the words and with all the melodies and I thought, this guy, who the fuck is this guy? Is he Bob Dylan or something you know?! And he has a god given talent, he really really has and he can do it without thinking and he’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. I just wish that he realise that.

RED LORRY, YELLOW LORRY in the 80s

So he (Chris Reed) is a very reserved person?
He’s incredibly reserved, you know. He came to see us play a while ago, he’s not in a particularly good place at the moment, you know but people are pretty pleased to see him when he socialises, he seems to have this massive self doubt which I think a lot of truly talented people do but the joy and enjoyment that has been given to lots of people through his music and The Lorries, took us around the world and changed our lives. He’s turned a lot of good jobs down really…really a lot down but hopefully he’ll get in a better place and hopefully we can resurrect the band, but when he’s good he’s very good but when he’s bad he’s very naughty.

Obviously Red Lorry Yellow Lorry have a very loyal fan base and maybe Chris is a bit reticent to say so, would you say yourself and he are proud of the music that has stood the test of time?
I think he’s slightly fragile right now. We’re amazed that people still like it really. When you are doing this, looking into the eye of the storm it could be cooking or painting or writing, you aren’t really aware of how good it is. It’s only with hindsight and time that you can perhaps look back with affection or some kind of pride but people still seem to like it and I think that is a testament to his song writing. In the same way a Johnny Cash song stilll sound great. We always said that it is always about the song and he always put the song first and he always tried to play to the song. I mean in essence we kind of wanted to be like the MC5 but play like songs that were as good as Motown. They were the two main influences really, I mean really we liked the energy of the MC5 but we couldn’t play like that but we also loved the songwriting skills of Motown, so we both had a love of that. So that was kind of our attempt to marry the two, putting them together and it came out sounding like The Lorries.

Leeds and a lot of the northern cities were veritable hot beds for the post punk/gothic scene. Do you think the politics at the time, such as Thatcherism, Falkland war, general lack of jobs and the bleak out look of possible nuclear annihilation had anything to do with the new movement and did it shape your music? I think it definitely did. In the same way all the things that we liked came from Detroit, you know it’s a pretty rough city to live in and it definitely shaped the music in Detroit unconsciously and I think the times that we lived in Leeds no one had any money. People were signing on and getting benefits from the government and trying to get by and the only real way out of it was either, other than get a real job, was to become a footballer or try and be half decent in a band. And I don’t know, you kind of messing about in your bedroom and say wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could take this music around the world and we actually, you know we kept with it and we kept going and we kept hopefully getting better and better. Made an album and that did pretty well, got a chance to go to America and these things started falling into place but it were never planned like that, we just though let’s just play the music and whatever follows at least we kept true to that ethos really and it almost worked, (laughing) it almost worked.
For some of us it did work. It still resonates with a lot of us today, the music.
Yeah the tunes still sound good.

GENERATE was released recently, which is mostly a live album with a few rare studio recordings that were on a limited CD release at a couple of gigs. Why did you decide in 2021 to release GENERATE? Well on The Lorries fan-club page on Facebook, quite a lot of people had been saying, you know, has anyone got any live recordings, has anyone got any live recordings and I think like a lot of bands, there is a lot of really bad recordings but you kind convince yourself that they are half decent probably because you were there and probably because you were in an altered state but that don’t mean it was good. Someone sent me that gig in Frankfurt, is the best recording of the band that we had ever heard and you know it just seemed kind of fortuitous and good timing and then you think sod it, it’s no good stuck in a cupboard or a wardrobe, might as well get it out there. And hopefully people will like it and we are quite proud of it and we managed to play okay that night!

It’s actually a really amazing recording because it is so clear. You get some live recordings and the quality is quite horrendous.
Yeah, I know. We were just very lucky. It was a venue that we had played a few times in Germany and Germany was very good to The Lorries and we always loved playing the Batschkapp in Frankfurt and the sound engineer had the good sense to put a cassette in the machine and have two ambient mics on. He gave us a cassette at the end of the show, we played it and we thought well that’s not too shabby and then nothing happened with it and it had been in someone’s cupboard for years and then I got a copy then I had it mastered and chopped into individual songs. It seemed good timing to put it out, not a full stock but a kind of reminder of tours, that we can sound okay.

It did sound wonderful. Would you ever consider releasing another album under The Lorries name?
Well there is another album. It’s finished. Completely finished and two of the tracks on the EP are from that album but the mixes are all pretty good but never finalized but they are monitor mixes but they are good monitor mixes. The two tracks that are from that EP are from the album and there are twelve songs all together, so there are another ten that have never been released that are of that standard to be released. But without Chris’ consent no one feels comfortable about doing it, as it should as it is his band and if he gets in a better place, hopefully it will come out, it’s a pretty basic rock’n’roll album, there isn’t much technology on the album, it’s just us playing. And I think it sounds good for that and it’s a very dry recording and you can hear everything so hopefully it will come out.


Hopefully it will because that would be brilliant. That takes me on to something else. In the 80s, you and Chris did an interview where you talked about the drum machine you used as well as having a drummer and saying you were more into analogue music and that you controlled the drum machine and the drum machine didn’t control you.
I don’t know.. I could see me saying it but I don’t think it’s true. You know the drum machine was a pain in the arse to be honest. You know, say we were going to the studio for two weeks, we’d spend ten days doing the drums and like the rest of the time doing the vocals and guitars. The drum programming took up 75% of The Lorries time in the studio but it was something Chris really really wanted to do and it was a pain in the arse! It really really was. We should have gotten a great drummer and we did have a great drummer (laughing) and sadly he joined The Mission and we were stuck using this hybrid of using the drum machine and real drummer, which live was okay but when we wanted to do it in the studio, we’d end up resampling and triggering and recording…and it took fucking ages and it was really boring. And then when we had done that we could have some fun and get the guitars out but it really was a labour of love. It really was.

Do you find that today’s technology makes it so much more accessible to using electronics?
Yeah, absolutely. There was no real easy way to do it then. We used the drum machine, sometimes we used a multi track tape machine and a drum kit, so you’d end up with like 20 channels of drums and then you have to sound check all this shit, the drums were taking the bulk of the time. But when it sounded good, it sounded good, you know the GENERATE live album is purely a drummer and that’s why I like it. We just went out on that tour and said fuck this, we’re just going to play it live and I think that what was nice to hear to prove that we could play like a band without a life support machine because that’s what it felt like it had become. Like a life support machine that we were afraid to ditch.

Recently you teamed up with Caroline Blind, ex-lead singer of Sunshine Blind to create the project Voidant. The self titled album is not the gothic/post-punk fare that we are used to from either of you. Could you please explain the premise behind it?
Well Caroline asked me to do some guitar for her on a Lorries song. She did a version of Heaven and I had been working with the guys from The Wake as well and I had started doing kind of trip hop stuff at home, stuff I could do by myself you know, just on the computer with some basic synths and I kind of make a basic tune and I said would you be interested in doing this? It’s not goth, it not..I don’t know what it is. I guess it’s kind of trip hop. And she said yeah I’ve done similar kind of things with Sunshine Blind. So the first one we did was called Death To Sleep and that turned out good and I carried on working and most of it at during Covid, both of us were at home for a year. I’d kind of be doing all the electronic backing tracks and sending them to her and then she would come up with a rough idea of the melody and the lyrics and then I took them away to a studio in Manchester where it was all edited and stuck together by a trusted friend who threw all the shit bits and kept the good bits and I trust his judgement and I think he got it right. Yeah I think it is what it is, you know, we are pretty pleased with it. It’s not what I’ve done before but that was good because we didn’t know. It’s like baking a cake but not knowing what it tastes like at the end. I think we are pretty pleased with it.

You should be pleased with it. It was a really interesting record and it also kind of points to some of your influences in regards to the covers, the tastes in music when you were young. So who did influence you when you were young?
When I was a kid, my brother was a teddy boy! Like I was born in ’56 so I’m pretty old and my brother was a teddy boy. He was into rock’n’roll, we had a mono record player there in the corner and I grew up listening to Little Richard and Chuck Berry. So that’s where I got the love of rock’n’roll was from my brother and it was a good time for pop music and the first records that I bought was You Really Got Me by The Kinks, Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones and Spirit In The Sky. And I just thought what the fuck is this noise, what the fuck is going on with this.. this noise is amazing! And it’s only later I found out that they were using a thing called a fuzz-box which made everything sound amazing so I thought this would be quite good fun to do this but I don’t know how to play the guitar (laughing). So eventually I learned, you know I had quite a good grounding in music with my brother and there was a lot of good pop music around at the time with The Small Faces and The Kinks and The Stones, you know a pretty exciting time for everyone with things like The Yard Birds all sort of like this sonic architecture that has always fascinated me the same way the Voidant thing fascinates me. You know the sonic architecture. The Lorries to a certain extent, we never really wanted the guitars to sound like a rock’n’roll band. Chris always described the songs as being like ballads and I kind of think in a sense he’s right. They are kind of torch songs, you know love songs and then (laughing) we fuck it up. So there is a lovely song underneath it and then we fuck it up with a load of noise and that’s how we did it.


Who now do you find inspiration from or enjoy listening to? I’ve always been a fan of bands like The Young Gods, really really lovely young blokes from Switzerland, Ministry I’ve always been a fan of, Killing Joke, I’ve always been a Hendrix fan, Bowie particularly the Mick Ronson era and before that The Kinks and The Yard Birds. It’s kind of cool anything that sounds interesting sonically. I band I loved from the 70s was a band called The Ground Hogs, a band with really amazing guitar playing. Things that really make your ears pop and you think that’s really interesting and how did they do that?! Someone like Radiohead is still really interesting sonically, they have that ability to make you think that’s cool, how did they do that? Things that kind of challenge your idea of what music is I think. I’ve always been a fan of blues I think.

So you like the mixture of guitar being sonic but also the mixture of the electronic industrialized sound as well?
Yeah that seems to be something easier to do at home so it’s kind of where I’m at now. You know you don’t need a bunch of other people to do that, you can do it at home so.. Synths and things can create sounds that a guitar can’t and a guitar player can do things that a synth can’t. As long as you have got a slot, you can fuck it up as much as you like which is where the fun is really, as in splashing the colours around and hopefully there is a song in there somewhere.

It seems to be Covid has brought a lot more of this style of music out in bands. I’ve seen a lot more acts in lockdown where there is a lot more industrial or synth related music coming out now and it’s actually a very exciting time. Is this where Voidant is coming from and where do you see Voidant going in the future?
Well I think we do have a plan for another EP. We did want to do it before Christmas but I don’t know whether we will. My music room I’m just decorating so I don’t have any equipment set up but we have got some ideas for songs. Interestingly enough Caroline came over when she played Whitby. She stayed with us and she’s a really big fan of Zakk Wylde and I can see he’s a terrific guitar player although his music isn’t something I would listen to but there is one Zakk Wylde song that we both agree on that we’d like to do a cover of in a 4AD kind of ideal and it’s this song called Spoke In The Wheel which I think is a fucking great song because you know it’s a really great song. I think we are going to have a bash at that and there is a song I want her to sing but we’ll come up with something else. It’s not done yet and promised another EP, Shooting Stars Only I want her to sing but it will be different to The Lorries version. So that is to be done. I think hopefully to get better at it and you know carry on, you know cause it’s what we do and it’s what makes us feel alive I think.

So the EP is coming up, might not make it by Christmas but it’s definitely coming and if Chris Reed gets back on track, then maybe a Lorries album coming out, which would be very exciting.
It would be great and we have spoken to him about it, but he’s not in a situation to commit but then again he isn’t saying no, which we can kind of take as encouraging because he’s not saying no, he’s just saying I can’t do it at the moment. So we’ll just have to see really but I think when someone isn’t too well, the worst thing you can do is to pressure someone, we try to stay in touch and encourage him. I think he is coming out to see the glam rock show at Christmas and he’s pretty supportive of that and you know it’s just good to talk to him really. He definitely needs supporting through a difficult time.

If that’s the case, what else do you see for one David Wolfie Wolfenden going in to the future?
Ah, well to finish decorating my studio and get all the boxes plugged in. I’m working on some music with my partner Fiona, who is a great singer. So there will be that, the Expelairs, the Voidant thing, hopefully The Lorries and this band our little glam rock’n’roll project which at the moment is covers but it would be fun to write some new glam rock songs. It would certainly would be fun trying and it’s fun dressing up anyway. You know it’s good fun really. I think anything that lifts people really, you know in the middle of Covid can only be good and music can do that and we all need the shared experience and we all need a connection and we all need to feel we are all working towards a common goal, all these things we are talking about like Chris and Caroline, they are connections that are worth maintaining and persevering with even though times are difficult.

https://redlorryyellowlorry.bandcamp.com/album/generate-live-batschkapp-frankfurt-23011992

https://voidantmusic.bandcamp.com/