I had heard of The Singularity,and then when the name Julian Shah-Tayler was connected to this project… I believe my brain went into a series of loops of thinking, wait, isn’t he an actor? He is, if I recall correctly. Well, if you are not familiar, British born Shah-Tayler is The Singularity, now based in the US, and his latest album, Elysium, was released on the 24th of October, recorded between the Bird of Paradigm studio and the TARDIS studio….. but is it bigger on the inside?!
This album seems to have been about a year in the making due to the gradual release of singles, and this could be due to issues in the past two years, i.e., the plague but also from my perspective, a lot of effort and attention has gone into each track. And with fourteen tracks on offer, there is a lot to get into, so we thought we might draw your attention to some of the singles.
“Melt” is about being with the person that truly makes you weak at the knees and yet light as a feather. The general ambience reminds me a lot of Duran Duran in their period of 1993, with their self-titled album that had the amazing “Ordinary World” and “Melt” has that same flow. Chris JOlivas of Berlin fame supplies the drums.
David J. is a solo artist in his own right, but best known as a member of Bauhaus, and he also appears on the track, “The DevilKnows,” laying down the bass, in this rather funky song. The music video is also well worth checking out.
The track “Kintsugi” is breathtaking in both its conviction and sound. A whirlwind of guitar and drums, again percussion by Olivas, with Shah-Tayler singing these beautiful lyrics. For those unfamiliar with the concept of kintsugi, it is a Japanese tradition of not throwing away broken pottery, however, using gold to repair the vessel, which in turn makes it more unique and precious. A metaphor for a once broken heart.
Shah-Tayler doesn’t have to make music, as the acting gig makes far more money than being an alternative musician, but it is very evident he does it because that is where his heart is at. His passion for the avant-garde and darkwave artistry is very deeply ingrained. This then draws together the talents of David J. and Chris J Olivas, as well as MGT, Gene Micofsky,and others. Elysium is a bit synthwave, a bit post-punk, and most importantly, never boring.
In the City of Ekaterinburg, you will find gothic rockers, Raven Said, and October saw their new EP, Chants To Dissolve released by Moon Coil Media, plus they had the very talented Pete Burns (Kill Shelter) on mastering. Raven Said are Andrey Agapitov (vocals, guitar, bass, acoustic guitar) and Maria Agapitova (piano, synth, percussion).
The first track has a very interesting pulsating marrying of almost techno beats and gothic rock. There are sparkling synths with flourishing jangly guitar in “A Flowering And A Flattering“.”Transparent Sorrow” features the beautifully sensual vocals of Aeleth Kaven from La Scaltra, so very light and angelic in stark contrast to Agapitov’s deeper tones. This track reminded me of the bands coming out in the second goth wave of the early 90s.
Really amazing bass lines wander through “Except My Love For Her (Cold Desire Version)“. I dare you to forget the chorus as it pretty unique and a very sweet way to admit to being very much in love…..in a very goth way. There is such a violent life to “Srendi Vashtar“, from the guitar and the voracious electronics, to the urgently lowkey vocals spurred on by the smashing percussion. The last track is the shimmering “Immersive Waves” with the haunting guitars and vocals. The guitar work is simply delightful, tinkling like broken glass, over and over again.
Music brings us together like virtually nothing else on the planet. It can feed our souls and connect us on such a primal level. Raven Said are creating dark gothic rock that really is like broken glass, fragile and shinny but if you try to take them into your heart, you might slowly die from the way they cut you up…. or not. It is about depths you feel this style of music in your psyche. New and yet familiar to those of us that live our lives in black. Now there are Chants To Dissolve with, so the Raven Said.
Sweden has a rich history of electronic bands and Stockholm’s Hatif have joined these illustrious ranks. The duo released their debut full length album “Everything Is Repetition“, on September the 30th with the label Town And Towers Records.
From the start of the first track, “A Small Scratch“, your senses are wrapped in the gorgeous folds of the electronics, heightened by the Middle Eastern influence, pervading like the delicate smoke from a beautiful incense. “Pool” is imbued with the sights and sounds of a Moroccan bazaar with silken like darkwave and those are just the first two tracks
Even in the smooth electronics, there is an undercurrent of tension such as the sexuality in “Repetition“, the dispossessed in “City Beneath The City” or the entrancing “Close to None“, which is about loneliness, yet so utterly hypnotic and mesmerising… possibly one of my favourite tracks.
In some ways, Hatif remind me very much of the great Deine Lakaien. The vocals effortlessly creep under your skin, saturating the senses with sensual perfection. It is extraordinary electronica with the divine infusion of the exotic East, creating a glorious album where not “Everything Is Repetition” with the rather darkwave cool that is Hatif.
One of this year’s best post-punk releases, has to have been Kill Shelter’s Asylum, out on Metropolis Records (US) and Manic Depression Records (EUR). Edinburgh based Pete Burns has crafted an extraordinary album with beautiful guitar riffs, wonderful melodies and amazing guest artists featuring on many of the tracks. Asylum has given birth to two great singles with Agent Side Grinder and Stefan Netschio of Beborn Beton, as well as tracks with the likes of Ronny Moorings (Clan Of Xymox), William Faith (Faith And The Muse, Bellwether Syndicate, Shadow Project), Antipole, Ash Code and Valentina Veil (VV & The Void).
For me, the most noteworthy thing is the message behind the music, a reminder that many souls out there are looking for safety, searching for solace and finding sanctuary anyway they can from terrible circumstances. Human trafficking, political/war/famine refugees and those caught in domestic violence are just some of the examples. Music can move you, show you heaven and hell, speak of love and loss but most importantly tell us stories that need to be heard. This interview with Pete was started just before the release of the album, in a series of emails. He is both gracious and articulate, unfortunately catching the dreaded plague (covid), which has hit Pete heavily at the end. I am grateful for his time and forging ahead, so this interview is about his influences, friendships, music and the beating heart of Asylum.
Pete Burns, mastermind behind the dark, post-punk act, Kill Shelter, welcome to the mourning grounds of Onyx, where we enjoy a cup of tea with our maudlin.
Thanks so much for inviting me over. And thanks for the very kind intro. I feel at home already…
I must admit that I am flummoxed as to what a superb musician and composer, as yourself was doing before Kill Shelter, plus you have a name that if you google, you end up with a certain other Pete Burns. So, what were you involved with before this project?
I started playing guitar when I was nine and I always wanted to make music… it’s been a big part of my life. I’ve written music for TV, Radio and Film and have been signed to various independent labels over the years in various guises but Kill Shelter feels very different to me.
I had thought about adopting a stage name but I never settled on something that I liked or felt comfortable with. Ironically, Burns isn’t my birth name but that’s a long story so let’s not get into that! Changing my name now would feel a little bit pretentious and I’m okay with the associated anonymity as long as people get to hear my music.
You are based in Edinburgh and there seems to be a strong dark alternative scene there. Do you find the history of this ancient fortress lends itself to influencing your music?
I do love Edinburgh, I find it a very inspiring city. We have lots of green spaces and incredible gothic architecture. It’s quite a cosmopolitan city (especially during the festival) and I like the diversity and energy that brings. I often think that I should make more of my connection to the city through the work that I produce but it would need to be done in a contemporary, non-cliched way.
What led you to creating Kill Shelter?
I reached a point where, musically, I just wanted to be myself. Kill Shelter didn’t start with wanting to make a specific type of music or fit a specific genre… it’s a product of me being true to myself. There are sounds and chord voicings that I naturally gravitate to and that’s where I feel most comfortable.
I also felt I had things I wanted to say. Music has always been a form of self-expression for me and I started Kill Shelter at a very dark time in my life. It was, in some ways, a way to process things. You can really hear that come to the fore in the lyrics of “In Decay” or in the lyrical content of “A Haunted Place”.
For me, music, like art, should have purpose. The name Kill Shelter itself was designed to be provocative. My work challenges human behaviour, morally and ethically, and I think it’s important to highlight difficult subjects like injustice, domestic abuse and inequality alongside more existential themes, like mortality and the human condition. I believe that art should, in some way, make people reconsider their thoughts, actions and beliefs.
I gather you don’t think of yourself as a singer, as you have so many guest musicians on your tracks. Your 2019 album, “Damage”, has a plethora of talent on it. How did you end up connecting with all these people?
Yes, you are right. Although I wrote and sang all the lyrics on the Kill Shelter & Antipole album “A Haunted Place”, I don’t think of myself as a natural singer. Some people live for it and I’m always listening for those stand-out vocalists who move me in some way or other. You can’t beat the intensity of an amazing vocalist. With “Damage”, I wanted to work with emerging artists who’d already made an impact on me. Each one of those contributors had created at least one track which I would happily include in my “all-time favourite songs” or “wish I’d written that” list.
Whilst working on “Damage”, although I had a fair few connections and friends in the emerging scene, some people had, unsurprisingly, never heard of me. I always write demos with specific people in mind, which is a very different process from just having a demo and thinking “who could I get to sing on this?”. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some extremely talented people on the Kill Shelter releases and I really don’t take this for granted. I’ve also made some great friends along the way for which I’m eternally grateful.
I find it interesting that there has been such a resurgence in the post-punk scene, which is quite delightful for us that love this genre, that took flight from the late 70s/early 80s. Who or what, do you think is to thank for this breath of fresh air?
Well, they say if you keep a suit long enough it comes back into fashion (laughs). I also wonder whether the resurgence of so many genres and subgenres of music is linked to the accessibility of music and musicians. Community is so important when sustaining interest in what can quickly become a niche genre as people’s tastes and attitudes evolve. There have been waves of interest in post-punk over the years, with the last major underground wave starting to peak around 2018, following the 2011 revival when certain bands helped pave the way for others, notably The Soft Moon, She Past Away, Lebanon Hanover, Soft Kill, Drab Majesty, Trentemøller, Boy Harsher… the list goes on.
There was a lot of very good music being produced at that time and, I think, the diversity of influences helped broaden the sound and widen interest in the genre itself. I believe this, in turn, helped rekindle flames of interest in older listeners whilst providing something alternative for a younger Hip Hop-fuelled generation. Scenes can go stale very quickly so it’s important that new music feels fresh, inspiring and exciting, otherwise it just won’t sustain itself. There are mainstream and larger magazines that won’t touch post-punk bands anymore, regarding it as passé. However, some bands continue to have longevity, retaining a strong following through the peaks and troughs of the genre’s popularity and there will always be innovators who care about pushing boundaries despite listening numbers which may not seem significant in the grand scheme of things.
Recently, you released the brilliant single, “The Necklace”, with Agent Side Grinder, but this is not the first time you have recorded with the Swedes. Can you tell us about the track “The Necklace” but also your relationship with Agent Side Grinder?
Thank you. I’m really glad you liked it and thanks again for the review! I’m a big fan of ASG’s work and they’ve been brilliant to work with over the years. “Into the Wild” was my second remix and was a big deal for me. I love the original track. Similarly when they dropped “Doppelgänger” in 2018, I thought it was outstanding and was very keen to work with them more formally. I wrote the demo for them and chatted to Johan about a high level concept for the track aligning with the theme of Asylum (which remained undisclosed at that time). He wrote the lyrics then sent a draft with his guide vocal in place to give me a sense of it ahead of the studio recording. The vocals on the final track are a blend of Johan’s and Emanuel’s voices – which combine incredibly well. With the vocals in place, I restructured and re-arranged the track accordingly, checked they approved and, with everyone’s agreement, we had The Necklace.
Likewise, for the video, we discussed the approach and ASG enlisted the help of Jacob Frössén to shoot their scenes in Sweden. I filmed and edited the incidental footage, including shots of myself, here in Edinburgh and looked after editing and post-production. Again, we shared everything from the “work in progress” to the completed stage to incorporate everyone’s feedback. I know it’s a big ask to shoot footage for the video in addition to being involved on the track at a fundamental level, so it was massively appreciated and was a highly collaborative experience. They are an incredibly professional outfit to work with and I’m absolutely delighted with the result.
Pete, you mentioned that your latest album is based on the theme of ‘asylum’ which is indeed what it is also called. “The Necklace” is about domestic violence and finding an inner sanctuary. Can you elaborate more on this theme and why you chose it?
When working on full length releases with multiple collaborators, I like to work with a strong narrative idea to help glue the various elements together. With these releases, I always have the title and concept in place ahead of recording. The word Asylum itself can be interpreted in various ways and it perfectly encapsulated a lot of the thoughts I was having at the time of writing. Domestic abuse has risen over 30% in the past two years and I find human injustice hard to ignore. These thoughts permeate my work. People will always interpret lyrics differently but there are underlying themes of human trafficking, domestic violence, seeking refuge, disillusionment, sanctuary and personal mental health on the new album. I find the abuse of any type of power abhorrent and there is a further subtext that runs through the lyrics on the album too.
Do you feel music is a type of asylum, so to speak?
Absolutely. Music is an escape for many people. It can transcend the everyday and provides a sanctuary and a personal place for people. It allows you to dream and experience different things, to explore your feelings, reflect and connect – it’s an immensely powerful thing. Making music has always been a cathartic process for me. When I start to write it’s always a direct reflection of how I’m feeling at that moment but it can help me process deeper stuff too. I have lots of cyclical thoughts when I write but that can also cause me to go to very dark places which can be hard to pull out of sometimes. Making music is a very emotional journey for me and I always put my heart and soul into my work. It would feel meaningless to me otherwise.
You seem very prolific. What do you think drives you to create?
It’s complicated. Sublimation is a big part of what I do. I take a lot of really negative, destructive thoughts and feelings and try to make something more positive and life- affirming with them. And hopefully the output is something that some people will relate to. “Euphoric melancholy” is a phrase that I’ve used before but I think that it’s so much more than that. The word prolific scares me as I always associate it with a lack of quality or self control. I’m always busy and have a lot of creative projects on the go at once… that’s my idea of contentment and how I distract myself. If I’m not doing music then I might be designing or creating art in some form or finding some other outlet for self-expression. You might be quite shocked at just how many projects I’m working on, not including the numerous archived demos that I don’t think are very interesting. I also feel like I’m very rapidly running out of time and that’s a huge motivation for me to try and capture something or achieve some sort of unrecognised personal ambition before it’s too late.
The newest single is “In This Place” which features Stefan Netschio of Beborn Beton on vocals. It has this beautiful serpentine flow to it and Netschio’s vocals absolutely bring a dark quality to the track. Why did you choose this track as the next single?
Stefan has an incredible voice and he did a masterful job of capturing the essence and sentiment of the lyric for In This Place. The song deals with the inhumanity of human trafficking and we were keen to make sure that the subject matter was treated with respect and handled with dignity. I really love the track and, even though it’s not necessarily an obvious single, it does have a strong message and it’s indicative of the album as a whole. Stefan’s voice is incredible on it. It’s getting a lot of airplay at the moment and it is currently sitting at No 5 in the Deutsche Alternative Charts which is amazing. I think it’s fair to say that we were both shocked and delighted by that.
I had the pleasure of meeting Stefan recently. They say never meet your idols but in this case you won’t be disappointed. He’s a really smart, funny and talented person and we got on really well. We have plans to work together on a few things going forward so I’m really looking forward to that. He’s become a great friend.
William Faith is the featured vocalist on “Cover Me”. The track struck me as reminiscent of early Mission (UK) with wonderful flourishing guitar work and singing. What was it like working with Faith and was The Mission a band you were drawn to?
William was fantastic to work with and I feel really honoured and grateful that he gave his time to the project. His vocals really soar on “Cover Me” – it’s a very compelling performance and he interpreted the lyrics beautifully. I couldn’t believe it when I got the vocal tracks back. He’s another legend that I’ve been lucky enough to work with and it was another great experience for me.
Musically, there was no conscious decision to create pieces that sound like other bands but the early Mission (UK) is not a bad comparison! I think Wayne (Hussey) has done some great stuff over the years from his work with Dead or Alive and the Sisters and then onto the Mission (UK). He’s responsible for some very iconic pieces of music. I read his autobiography relatively recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think there was a decade between 1979 and 1989 that had some incredible music. I’m still exploring it and I’m enjoying rediscovering things that I’d forgotten about.
Pete, what was your childhood like? Was music ingrained into your DNA or were you the black sheep of the family?
I was probably a bit of both. I don’t think I was an easy child and I was definitely what you’d call an outsider. Growing up, all I wanted to do was play music – I wasn’t interested in being academic and I literally spent every hour I could either playing guitar or pursuing other creative outlets. My brother was a huge influence on me musically, he bought me my first guitar when I was nine and through him, I grew up listening to and being influenced by a lot of innovative and cutting edge music. My world was guitars, effects, drums machines, vinyl and cassettes. I’m not naturally musical, I don’t have perfect pitch and I’m not a great guitar player either but I love creating music. I’d say my passion and drive overcome my proficiency deficiencies.
It seems like the post-punk/industrial/goth scene is where musicians have a connection to everyone. Do you think of them as community and family in a way, especially with you having these amazing artists, you can call on?
The dawn of the internet changed so many things and even though it threw the music “industry” into a state of flux it has also brought a lot of people together and has allowed like-minded people to connect and for communities to form and flourish. I definitely feel connected to the scene for sure. There’s a lot of people who share that love and interest for dark alternative music and culture and there’s a lot of mutual respect and support which is great to see. There are some very toxic musical genres and associated cultures and clearly we’re not without our flaws, but overall I’d say there’s a lot of camaraderie which is very positive.
I’m really lucky to have made so many great friends in the scene and I don’t use that word lightly. I’m eternally grateful to have had the chance to meet and work with so many incredibly talented people that I genuinely admire and respect. I think that speaks volumes about the scene itself.
For the music nerds out there, do you have a favourite style/brand of guitar and synths you really love the sound of, and you use often?
I’m fortunate to have a lot of guitars, basses, drum machines and synths. I’ve collected them over the years and use a lot of them during the writing process. My go to instrument is my cherry red Parker Fly Classic which is a beautifully built studio guitar. They are unlike anything that was produced before or after. They’re not made anymore which is a great shame but I love the tone and feel of it. Definitely my guitar of choice.
I’ve also recently acquired a Yamaha SG (a classic post-punk guitar) and have started collecting vintage drum machines… as if I need another obsession. I use a lot of “in the box” equipment but I love the Model D, it’s an immediate and great sounding synth. I’ve got a virtual version of that which I’ve modded that I use a lot too. I’m also an effects junkie but that’s a whole other story…
What bands and musicians drew you into the post-punk/alt scene?
The late seventies especially were full of innovation and I think you can map my interest in post-punk and the art rock/alt scene by a series of albums from the seventies and eighties. In no particular order…
Systems of Romance – Ultravox Fiction Tales – Modern Eon Quiet Life / Gentlemen Take Polaroids – Japan First and Last and Always – The Sisters of Mercy JuJu / Peek-a-boo – Siouxsie and the Banshees Music for the Masses/ Violator – Depeche Mode
I’d also call out Are Friends Electric by Gary Numan. This seemed like a monumental sea change single at the time and definitely fuelled my passion for electronica.
Of course there were other early stand out singles like A Forest by The Cure and Alice by the Sisters followed later by Spiritwalker and She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult that I still have a fondness for and that remind me of that time.
Japan was my favourite band at the time and I was lucky enough to see them live a few times. They were fundamental in shaping the way I thought about music, sounds and songwriting.
You have been asked to pick your favourite songs to do a cover album of ten songs. What do you choose?
That is a very hard question and I’m not sure I could ever really do justice to someone else’s song, especially ten songs that I love. Instead, this is a list of “songs that I’d wish I’d written” but this is clearly just the tip of the iceberg…
I’m Undone – Nitzer Ebb Ghosts – Japan Fall in love with me – Japan I dream of wires – Gary Numan (+ Robert Palmer version) Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie Waterfront – David Sylvian Whirl – Soft Kill Pharmacy – Ascetic Better Learn How to Swim – Ultrviolence Europe After the Rain – John Foxx
These are all songs that have moved me in one way or another and that I never tire of listening to.
What is in the future for Pete Burns and Kill Shelter?
I’ll finish the third part of the multi-collaboration trilogy that I set out to do in 2018. That album will complete the set along with “Damage” and “Asylum”.
I’m working with Antipole on a follow up to “A Haunted Place”. We have no hard deadline on that release and we plan to take our time. I have the title and working concept and we have a couple of rough demos already. I’m keen that we don’t do “A Haunted Place II” just because we can – I’m keen that it is a progression and something different from what we’ve done before.
I’ve been working on a non Kill Shelter project with Cliff Hewitt (Modern Eon, Apollo 440, Jean-Michel Jarre etc) which is starting to take shape. He’s amazing and I’m really excited about it but more on that next year!
I have a few EPs and tribute’s planned for various labels and I’m busy mixing and mastering other people’s work at my studio, The Shelter.
I’ve also started planning for playing live in 2023/24 and plans are afoot for that.
I caught Covid really badly recently so it’s thrown out my schedule by a couple of months but I hope to get back in the driving seat soon. As well as the various works in progress that I’ve outlined, hopefully there will be some surprises coming down the line too…
Thank you for being a wonderful participant on this ghost plain of human existence ❤️
When the clock hits the witching hour, do you ever wonder if the spectres are having breakfast at the dinner table or the creaking walls and floors are in heavy conversation, ever-while the bats squeaking outside are just vampires waiting to be asked in? If so, then Daniel Ouellette might make perfect accompany music to your thoughts. His latest album El salón (A Happy Home Is A Haunted Home!) summons your everyday and makes it a little more ghoulish. Of course the salon is a rather old fashioned and wonderful parlour, to have tea and simply talk. This is an interview with Daniel and what struck me the most is his love of conversation with those around him. To that end, the album has songs in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French, extending that idea of not limiting your ability to converse. With this in mind, please imbibe and sup the wondrous words of this conversation and don’t let the Mothra bite.
Welcome to the retro 80s room Daniel, where we use Japan’s David Sylvian’s vocals to clean the crystal, Duran Duran is life and the ghosts of yesterday haunt us with gay abandon.
Thank you so very much for having me! How nice to be around Japan, Duran2, and gay abandon!
You are a resident of Chesapeake Beach. Have you always been in this area and how do you think it has influenced you as a musician?
I am new to this area as of May 2021. I have lived in several places, but I am originally from Massachusetts. Honestly, I cannot say Chesapeake Beach has influenced me as a musician, however much of the oddness of growing up in New England has and there is that type of feel here in Maryland… The outdoors are vast and spooky and full of bats and birds and other winged creatures.
What is the post-punk scene like in Chesapeake Beach and surrounding areas?
Hmm… I am not sure if there is one here in Chesapeake Beach as I have been here for only a year. However, I am very excited to be playing my first performance of the year here at the grand opening of Dusk and Willow Designs in North Beach, MD which is a metaphysical boutique. It is quite beautiful and Jenny , who is the proprietor of the shop, is a very kind and wonderful soul to work with on this event which will be the weekend of the most wonderful Halloween. It will be October 29th. One can check for the details. However, perhaps we will bring a post-punk scene to the Chesapeake/North Beach area. Maryland has a lovely scene in Baltimore and around with so many grand promoters, musicians, DJs. I often feel like an outlier to most scenes which is not bad because I have been blessed by the wings of Mothra to have been part of everything and nothing. Heh. Very philosophical.
Your solo project has been around since, about, 2018. What was Messer Ouellette doing previously musically and what is Shobijin (do not release the Mothra as the curtains could not take it)?
Before there was, Daniel Ouellette and the Shobijin, there was simply me solo and most of the time even when I performed with that name, I performed solo. The Shobijin was my backing band of singers and players who joined me on various performances and tours from 2010 to 2017. After that, I did a short project with a dear friend Deirdre McLaren called The Countess Zaleska, but unfortunately it was just a temporary project, but now I am mostly completely alone, but I work with a wonderful group of cohorts and conspirators like Jenny Rae Mettee of Fun Never Starts, Jason Mendelson, Elizabeth Lorrey, Don Zientara, Peter Linnane. Incidentally, the Shobijin are characters from Godzilla/Mothra films… which I see you’ve caught the wing of that reference.
Going to creep out on a limb here and say that you like to write music that you can have a jolly good giggle over…..
Why thank you for noticing! So very thoughtful and true. I love the idea of humor, horror, storytelling… making songs that can mean what I want them to, but can adapt meaning to anything for the listener… I like making songs that have a hint of wondering what is happening, but letting go and loving the experience. Some people don’t always get it and that’s ok with me. It wasn’t for them. Sometimes I am laughing the whole time inside whilst I perform or write… it is good. One should always laugh during the volcano explosion.
You released the album “El salón” at the end of July, so how long did it take for you to complete the writing and recording?
I am not quite sure of the amount of for the writing part. It was very quick. I think it took 2 or 3 weeks of non-consecutive recording and writing. I tend to write the skeleton of the songs quite quickly. I had recorded it in September of 2021, but then some life issues happened. I was very close to leaving the planet, not by my choice, and had everything to set to be released for a posthumous release. Is there anything like an album from beyond the other side?
But I made the videos from January to March. I wrote the songs by writing the drum patterns and then recording vocals with no other instrumentation. Then I, Jenny, and Jason played the synths. I went back to touch up anything I felt like, but not much. Everything was done quickly. One song was re-record from my 2012 album The Enchantment, I made English lyrics unrelated to the original version in Spanish for the song “The Kitchen Witch…” I don’t like to translate, but I loved the sound of that song and felt like it needed a new version.
I envy people who speak more than one language and you sir speak French, Spanish and Portuguese on top of English. From what I understand, you have family members that speak Spanish but how did you end up learning the other two?
Oh no no, no one spoke Spanish in my family. I learned Spanish on my own from school, making loved ones, and living/studying in Spain. We spoke English in the house.
However, my mother’s side of the family is of Azorean Portuguese background and there were some relatives who spoke it from the extended part of our family. My father’s side is French Canadian and the same with his family.There were members along the extended part who spoke French. I learned Spanish after English, because I thought I would rebel against Portuguese and French, seeing Spain is in between France and Portugal. Heh!
I studied in Madrid for my MA. I have an M.A. in Spanish with concentration on…Drama. However, I learned French and Portuguese at school and through loved ones and travel like I did with Spanish. Sometimes, I feel shaky with all four languages, but it is like riding a unicorn when you get back to speaking a language that you do not speak all the time, it comes back, plus there is technology to help us. But many words are buried in my head.
You represent all these languages in the album and I was wondering if you see these as different parts of you, this being one reason to include them?
Yes, definitely! Language is for communicating and when we start to use any language it becomes part of us if we may have the chance to let it happen. It is gradual and takes time. When I write in a particular language it is because that song’s message and feeling requires the words, cadence, and nuance that the language contains. I have learned that after teaching, writing, and singing in multiple languages, that all language is personalized to who we are and how we express ourselves. There are grammar rules for formal writing, but for communication, especially in friendship, love, poetry, music, there should not be such rigid rules, I think. Language is constantly in flux for new expressions. We all sound how we sound because we are our sparkly selves with a need to be deliciously heard.
What I like about singing and writing in multiple languages is that it is a beautiful way to share with more listeners something that they may enjoy. It is a delightful form of connection. I am sure I sound funny in every language that I have learned to speak to someone else including in English.
As I had mentioned, I have never done any direct translations, however “Kitchen Witch” on the “El salón” does have a Spanish version called “Te odio” which is on the album “The Enchantment”. The lyrics are unrelated in theme… the recent English version is more about escape from some place and the Spanish version is about telling an ex-partner that you now hate them, and you hope they are some place crying.
Again, thank you for asking about the inspiration and artistic desire to write and sing in multiple languages. So often I have been scolded for “showing off” when I speak to someone in a language other than English and have even been criticized for the use of a language other than English in my music because the reviewer feels that it is a bit chichi if you will. It is sort of odd and a disappointing point of view to me that that is how one would look at being multi-lingual. I want to create a wonderful, supernaturally artistic, and divine ambiance of performing and singing to others about all the things one might need like vampires, ghosts, and jewelry.
The album has your tongue set firmly in cheek, as you describe everyday life but from the perspective of ghouls and legendary horror creatures of the night. How ever did you come up with this concept?
Like language, such things are what I feel a grand affinity for, the other worldly world of what may not necessarily have a definition. I like what I feel is an artistic freedom that imagination and storytelling of supernatural and other offbeat subjects that may be beyond what we only see with our eyes gives to performing and writing music. Ever since I have been writing songs, the idea of monsters, the Netherworld, cryptozoology, the spirit world, have been placed as signs and themes in my songs. So for this album I wanted to make the whole album and each song flutter around these ideas whilst making references to a haunted house in both positive, neutral, and negative manners.
Do you have have a favourite monster child off the album?
Not really. I feel like each monster needs each other. The English songs contain titles about the house and the Non-English songs contain the monsters. Hmm…But if I went on a program, I would sing “Duérmete (una noche lupina”, “O Lindo Sonâmbulo (Um Fantasma Na Minha Casa)”, and “Velvet Divan (Why Do You Always Have to Punch the Furniture?)… This is hard.. maybe I would just sing any of them.
Could you tell us about some of the people you collaborated with such as Pam Ant?
Oh Pam Ant!!! My heart dances just seeing her name! We are siblings from cosmic mothers! She is an amazing playwright, actress, and musician. She was a singer with the pop-punk band “The Toes” from Burlington, Vermont. She is a divine artist in the truest sense of the definition. We met when I was on tour in Vermont.
Jenny Rae Mettee is another supernatural sibling from another mother. She is an amazingly talent artist from Baltimore. She is a singer, songwriter, and video editor among other grand things. She heads the fabulous industrial synth band Fun Never Starts and plays bass with the equally smashing Nahja Mora. She has the same penchant for the macabre and monsters. We met through the internet by mutual friends. Check out her band Fun Never Starts.
Jason Mendelson is sweet, talented, superbly stupendous musician. He can play any instrument like the heavenly being he is. Talking and working with him is like a gift. We met whilst I was on tour in DC. He created an amazingly creative project a few years back called “MetroSongs” and as he says it was “a goal to increase awareness, appreciation, and support for public transit by writing, recording, and performing a collection of songs all about Washington’s Metro station locations, beginning in 2010 and completed in 2017.” It’s such a great project! Go check this and all his work out.
The 4th collaborator on this project was Bob Murphy who plays the synth on “The Kitchen Witch Who Stayed in the Living Room to Fold Laundry (Take me with you, Mothra!)” and he is a darling friend that I met through playing music with one of my previous cowriters and longest standing cosmic friend who is a great talent and support, Scott Harrison. Bob is a wonderfully delicious grand wit too. When he is able to come to performances, he always sweetly whispers in my ear…”Don’t f*** up!” and then he walks away. Those are the guest players on this project!
Elizabeth Lorrey and Peter Linnane deserve mention as they did the engineering, mastering, and mixing with me. Elizabeth always makes me feel confident and justified to do what it is I like to do, and Peter takes such care in making it feel the best quality it can be.
From time to time, my dear husband, Ron, guest stars on the accordion in recordings and he needs a big thank you and a vampire bite sized kiss! Hehe…
I hear not only the music, but I believe I can hear a lot of love for the written word. What genre of books or writers have grabbed your imagination?
I like that you have heard that love. I would like to think it a surprise, but Edgar Allan Poe and Washington Irving are two who speak to me. I love reading books of Buddhist philosophy, autobiographies of musicians, and variety of writers, poets, and playwrights like Miguel Cervantes, Maya Angelou, Federico García Lorca, Pío Baroja, Pedro Calderón de la Barca… I sometimes write songs that contain inspiration from a poem or novel, never am I as good, but like the way Kate Bush would do such things. There is no one genre that intrigues me to read orwrite from whence inspiration grows.
Why do you think you are so attracted to the old fashioned horror legends and stalwarts?
The sense of the other world, the supernatural that is or may be. I think of making music as expression of an escape. I find it far more interesting and natural to sing about a specter under the couch than to sing a love song or one of those “I did every thing right and you did everything wrong” break up songs.
Who would you say influenced you musically, early on in life?
It’s a rather eclectic and maybe surprising collection of artists. In no order of one being better than the other:
Very early on: Donna Summer, ABBA, Blondie
Early on: Eurythmics, The Pointer Sisters, Siouxsie and the Banshees/The Creatures, Grace Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Sade, Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush, Tina Turner, The Human League, B52s, Yoko Ono, Peter Gabriel, Thompson Twins, Whitney Houston, Bjork, Eartha Kitt, Marlene Dietrich, Duran Duran Not as early on: Alaska + Dinarama/Los Pegamoides, Celine Dion, Big Country, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Miguel Bose, Isabel Pantoja, Ofra Haza, Desireless, Jacques Brel, Françoise Hardy, Mecano
Are there bands or solo artists that catch your ear now?
I have love Ida Maria, HK119 and Dua Lipa. I love to find music new and old that I may not have heard before too. As of recent, I have been enjoying playing classical music around the house. A grand treat of touring and being in the music business is that in the past 20 years I have been exposed to so much music in the colleagues and contemporaries that I have done performances with: Fun Never Starts, Prima Primo, Winkie, C8bal, The Spearmint Sea, The Osyx, Kelly Spyglass, Nahja Mora, The Pilgrims of Yearning, Jason Medelson, Elizabeth Lorrey… There are so many more, but these are some recent acts that I know who end up in my mixtapes.
If you had a Ouija board, would you want predictive text on it and whom would you use it to talk to?
I think I would skip the predictive text! It likes to make up what it wishes! Wouldn’t that be a great little movie short? An impish ghost that takes over someone’s predictive text in their phone and causes funny little traumas and relationship woes for the phone user. I am sure this has happened in film.
Now, “IF” I had a Ouija board? Hehe… it’s right over there! Hehe. I would love to talk to Ofra Haza and Juana la Loca.
Ofra Haza always seemed like a dear and would be nice to have a discussion about singing. Juana because I think her name needs to be cleared of “loca”. I don’t believe she was crazy, but a victim of men wanting to take her power for themselves.
So, when using a seers ball, what is next in the future of Daniel Ouellette?
There is a performance for October 29, 2022 in North Beach, MD for the grand opening of the Dusk + Willow Designs metaphysical shop. I am excited work with Jenny Jimenez. I will release a limited-edition compilation at the show of the songs from my last two digital releases, “Avemetatarsalia” and “El salón” as a physical printed work. It will be titled “A Corvid in the Living Room (Come on, Louise! I’ll Buy You a Drink”)”.
For 2023, I am planning to release a single in February or March and then, I think I will begin the recording of the full length follow up to “El salón”… It is already written and tentatively titled “Otherworld (When the Wolfbane Blooms)”…
A tour would be nice. I would like to play places new and familiar. I once heard Siouxsie talk about how they like touring to places where the Banshees have never been and I like that. The unknown with a drum machines, a microphone, and a jingle bell.
Thank you for hanging in the Onyx lair!
The pleasure has been all mine and thank you for having me. May something grand and perhaps supernaturally wonderful happen to you!
US five piece, Candy Coffins, have released the second single off their forthcoming album, Once Do It With Feeling. The single is called “Seaside Girls” …… not the regular place to find night creatures but then these days, who can tell.
Those beach babes with their long legs is a rock classic however in this song, it seems that only horror can be found with these pin-ups, as they drown you in their world. There is a taste of the vocal punk styling of ElvisCostello in the beginning and seemingly always the jangling whirlwind of guitars sweeping you up, and bearing you off, while the piano dutifully lights the way.
The vocals are great but the guitar work really seals the deal, layered, giving a rich texture to “Seaside Girls“. Maybe they are the human equivalent to the Greek mythos Sirens but you are safe listening to the dark attraction via the Candy Coffins.
Painted Romans are Mats Davidsen (vocals, guitar, programming) and Jan Ottar Nystad (synth, guitar) from Trondheim, Norway. They have revisited the single “Formation“, released on the 19th of August, with fellow Norwegian, Karl Morten Dahl of Antipole, remixing the track and Pedro Code of IAMTHESHADOW, producing and mastering
There is that underlying swell of menacing synths below the delicate guitar, with Davidsen’s vocals in hushed reverence. There are more electronics in this version where the rhythm has been brought to a greater prominence. As always, the guitars are dreamy post-punk candy.
It was a nice post-punk/darkwave track before the remix, after the remix it has become super shiny and opalescence. It feels bigger, if that makes sense, like going from a nice flat screen to 3D. This just pops and adds extra beauty to this heart felt track, “Formation (Antipole Remix)” by Painted Romans.
There is some “Silent Love” coming at you from Montreal, in the form of a single by The Ember Glows. Richard Bunze (guitar), Kevin Hills (bass), Martin Saint (voice, guitar) and Dan Stefik (drums), make up this indie/new wave band, that came into being in 2019.
It is definitely a guitar driven sound, strong bass, rhythm and lead, jangling in a heady fusion, while the vocals sits above them, never lost in the string’s pealing notes and chords.
I can definitely hear why this group is compared to Echo And The Bunnymen, with similar guitar arrangements and the vocals having that soaring quality, though not the same timbre as Ian McCulloch. It is a track full of sweet sentiment, of being there in another’s darkest moments, even if it just to help hold back the invasive dreams by holding their hand through the night.
Am Tierpark is a project with the combined superpowers of Claus Larsen (vocals, lyrics) and John R Mirland (music, production). They dropped their latest album, Forevermore, May the 10th, on the Læbel record label. This is the duo’s synthpop project, amongst their other acts such as Larsen & Mirland plus a.o., Claus Larsen’s Leæther Strip, Klutæ, and John R Mirland’s Mirland, M73….that is only naming a few.
Oh yes the synthpop is strong in this album, as it starts with the “Shower Me With Freedom” and Larsen’s dulcet tones and those brilliant synths. It is followed by the lyrically mournful and poignant “I Let You Go“. There is a wonderful trance element to “Love Collide“, as the delightful synths dance around Larsen’s vocals, which changes pace with the more somber “Just Watch Me“, that has these beautiful whirls of electronics that make your senses fly.
Ooh yeah, the sassy and sexy boy toys in “Room 24“, has those heavy overtones of Bronski Beat with an Italo disco feel, which is continued in “Not Welcome“, though this is a tale of love, rejected by a ignorant portion of the population. Title track, “Forevermore” has a heavenly start with those synths, in a slow burn of hurt and those sighing synths meld into the smooth sounding “Mighty World“, while “Sacrifice Your Purity” has an amazing amount of movement, and threw me into 1983, with the dance rhythm.
This blips of a ghost submarine dive into “You’re not My Enemy” with its cool chic, and some keyboard lines that could have come from the sublime John Foxx. Larsen is cooing into your ear over a freight train of delicate electronics in “Bloom Together“, unlike the track “Leave In Peace” with it’s purposeful slower beats. There is a light feel to “Hold Our Heads High“, conveyed in the lyrics and bright music. “Cleanse Our Hearts” is pure joy in music form, while the last track, “Moving In“, is almost hypnotic in tone.
Okay, confession time. I have had this album for a while and unforeseen circumstances have slowed me down, but this is an album that I wanted to desperately tell people about. The late 70s and early 80s is where my musical influences lay, so listening to Forevermore, definitely stirs memories of Depeche Mode, Erasure, John Foxx and artists of that ilk, who were on the cutting edge of electronic music at that point in time. Though, that is not to say the Am Tierpark is some sort of copy, as they are most certainly not, taking the love of this style of music and adding their modern spin and incorporating the Euro/Italo style such as “Sacrifice Your Purity“, which is pure disco orientated joy. Larsen’s vocals are yet another facet to the distinct sound that is AmTierpark, making their music so enjoyable. You don’t have to be a child of the 80s to enjoy this album though but don’t take my word for it…please go check them out for yourselves.
New Zealand’s post-punk purveyors, Vietnam, have released their third single off the album, This Quiet Room, accompanied by a video. Many of the members have, since the 80s, moved across the Tasman, to the shores of Australia, so with that in mind, some of “In Another Desert” is filmed in Sydney and other pieces, in their home town of Wellington.
There is the high paced jangle of guitars, matched by the drums. The vocals remind you, you have been to places you never thought you would be, left for greener pasture and ended up in another desert. The lead guitar gives us these most beautiful flourishes, whilst the adjoining guitars build and drop the tension so deliciously with the aid of the synths.
It is such a good single off the album, as it fare flies from the instruments with those gorgeous hues of tone. Shadows from the past, mixing with the reality of the present, incorporating a live sample of a stick countdown, by original drummer, Leon Reedijk, who sadly is no-longer with us. Every time I hear this track, it just gets better and Vietnam are kindred spirits to bands such as The Church and The Chills, and as such, masters of evoking sentiment and memories.