I have noticed that the Germans are extremely efficient at consistently putting out great music in quick succession. Alexander Leonard Donat is one such German. I still have to bring you the review for his new album from Assassun, but his other project Vlimmer, just brought out a new single called “Fatalideal b/w Race For The Prize“, on the Blackjack Illuminist Records label.

There is an idealistic air of youthful golden delight in “Fatalideal“, with the ringing guitar work that is strikingly joyful. Even Donat’s vocals are light and wonderfully graceful in his native German tongue. The second track is far more electrotonic and slower than the original…yes, this is a cover. The vocals are tinged with a sense of morose as “Race For The Prize” wends its way.

Fatalideal” definitely holds about it, an taste of The Cure, and their more absurdly happy music. It is coated in a dreamy haze and is genuinely delightful, with the vocals absolutely in perfect form The b-side, “Race For The Prize” was originally released in 1999, as a single by US group, The Flaming Lips and in true Vlimmer style, the lyrics have been transcribed into German. I actually had never heard the original version before, and I have to say i prefer the Vlimmer cover… so there :P. Donat is proving himself more than a capable singer and a composer of enchanting darkwave.

Fatalideal b/w Race For The Prize | Vlimmer | Blackjack Illuminist Records (bandcamp.com)



Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/21/The_Cure_Live_in_Singapore_2-_1st_August_2007.jpg/800px-The_Cure_Live_in_Singapore_2-_1st_August_2007.jpg

Credit: Image by momento mori under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Very few acts can say they’ve impacted the music industry for nearly 50 years, but that’s precisely what The Cure has been doing throughout their extensive career. They first emerged onto the scene in the late 1970s and quickly skyrocketed into fame in the 1980s when they enjoyed the peak of their success. They’ve inspired many artists, including notable names like Smashing Pumpkins, Depeche Mode, and Radiohead. To this day, they’re still making music and playing shows and are even set to embark on their first North American tour in seven years. Despite the ups and downs in the reception of their music, one thing has kept them iconic all these years: their sound. No matter the genre, their music and tone have remained uniquely theirs.

The Cure’s Gothic era

Throughout The Cure’s long career, the band experimented with a wide range of genres. Their first album, Three Imaginary Boys, took on a post-punk sound, perfectly showcased in the single “Boys Don’t Cry,” which was released in the American version of the album with the same name. They touched on a darker and atmospheric gothic rock edge in their early works, beginning with their second album, Seventeen Seconds, and continued with their subsequent two releases, Faith and Pornography —which all became essential records for the gothic rock and solidified their status as icons of the genre. After experimenting with more post-punk and pop tones in succeeding albums, Disintegration brought them back to their gothic sound.

A psychedelic shift

After their brief split, the group thought a tonal change could catch the public unaware, gaining them more attention. They shifted to psychedelic, dream pop-inspired tones on records like The Head on the Door and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, boasting the hits “Close to Me” and “Just Like Heaven” respectively—the latter of which is one of Robert Smith’s favorite The Cure songs. Their most successful album Wish, featuring the iconic “Friday I’m in Love,” was their most pop-adjacent yet. These cheery, upbeat songs shocked old fans but gained a lot of love from new listeners. Around this time, the group achieved more success outside the UK.

Recreating the sound

Robert Smith’s role as The Cure’s guitarist shapes their sound. He used a lot of effects that are essential for achieving that atmospheric tone. Effects pedals are a simple way to enhance your guitar for a similar vibe. According to a 1996 rig diagram, Robert Smith favored pedals designed by Boss, a flexible choice across eras and genres. Flanger is crucial to The Cure sound, and the BF-3 Flanger is responsible for sweeping, jet plane-like guitar tones that lend well to the darker sound of gothic rock. Chorus is also a must-have for Robert Smith-type playing, giving the guitar a fuller, richer tone. He also uses a Boss pedal for that effect; the CH-1 Super Chorus is a prominent feature on his rig.

Amplifiers are also crucial for developing a specific tone, and Robert Smith’s runs his fairly clean. They’re used mainly as a platform for his stompboxes to shine. He also featured a similar number of both solid-state and valve amplifiers. One of the solid-state amps used by The Cure is the Line 6 Spider V 120, which was used in their Sydney Opera House residency during the 2019 Vivid Festival. It’s an excellent choice for either instant plugging and playing or tweaking your tone to perfection.

If you’re looking for bands who’ve taken a page out of The Cure’s book on musical style, tune into In a Darkened Room. The Texan band’s music is reminiscent of The Cure’s atmospheric tone with a darker spin that lends itself to the southern gothic sound. You can check out our interview with the band on Onyx Music Reviews.

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Prepared by Alice Harvey

There was a stirring on the winds in New Jersey, and behold, the debut single “April” spang forth from goth rockers, The Antoine Poncelet Band. The band is made up of members, Antoine Poncelet (vocals), Peter Quilla (guitar), Mark McClemens (bass), Santos Menendez (keys), Greg Bullock (keys) and Justin Wright (drums).

There is the wailing and gnashing of teeth in “April“, for there does seem to be a questioning of why one has been left to fend for themselves, when the muses have fled. Is there meaning if you cannot see it? The music is boisterous, and the over all ambiance, reminds me a little of Andy Prieboy. There is also a b-side in the track, “Virginia Plain“, originally released by Roxy Music, back in 1972. They have retained that glam edge with the great keyboard work and lead singer Poncelet, pulls off a rather convincing modern take, of the sneering Bryan Ferry, though this version is more attacking.

Hearing a cover of Roxy Music was rather delightful and a good reminder of what a great songwriter Ferry has been. The single “April” is this interesting dichotomy of 90s goth, grunginess and even honky-tonk blues at times, which is surprisingly enjoyable. It might no longer be “April“, but you can still indulge in The Antoine Poncelet Band.

April | The Antoine Poncelet Band (bandcamp.com)



VAZUM have defined their gothic rock mixed with shoegaze style as Deathgaze, and the Detroit duo of Zach Pliska and Emily Sturm have kept themselves very busy. Between 2020 – 2022 they have released approximately four full albums, a multitude of singles and even a ghoulish Christmas EP just for good measure.

Now we have V- (V negative), the greatest hits of this period. All tracks have been re-recorded to reflect their live performances, so don’t expect the usual crystal clear sound but rather, you are listening to a band recreating the live experience.

Sure enough, it feels like we are privy to a VAZUM show as we revisit some of their tracks such as the Siouxsie and the Banshees like “Razor Smile V” with its swirling guitars or the wonderfully bass heavy “Thief V-” and enjoy the interchange of male and female vocals. If you like yourself some VAZUM, dig really interesting gothic rock or really love the warm style of live music, then V might be your glass of absinthe.

V- | VAZUM (bandcamp.com)



There are a few very highly anticipated post-punk album releases this year, and one of them is Lost Hymns by Brooklyn’s A Cloud Of Ravens. Out on the Nexilis label, on the 28th of April, Beth Narducci and Matthew McIntosh have written and recorded an album bound in gothic beauty and often with political and/or moral observations about this modern world. ACTORSJason Corbett, mastered the album at his Jacknife Sound studio, adding to the seamless flow and rich textures. I was so very fortunate that Beth and Matthew could talk to me about this second album and what has lead them to this point of time. Not only are they making important and gorgeous music, but they are divinely lovely dark hearts to boot!

Welcome to the bowery of Onyx, Beth Narducci, and Matthew McIntosh, where the blue black bower birds have stolen every shiny and blue object to please us.

I am sure a lot of people have asked why the name, A Cloud Of Ravens, but I want to ask what is your connection to ravens?

Matthew: Beth’s connection is probably more obvious, but if I’ve got a personal connection to ravens it’s in an admiration of their inherent qualities; enigmatic, majestic, singular. They’re an iconic animal totem.

Beth: Matt came up with the name. When I was in the goth/industrial scene in New Orleans, my nickname was Raven, which I knew could get a few laughs from people who knew me then.

Both of you have your roots that are deep in this thing called music.

Beth, you are not only an alt rock/industrial musician, you are also a well respected A&R executive (a head hunter of new talent for record labels), a talent manager and importantly, the creative force behind You Plus Me Entertainment. What is it like being on both sides of industry, and has it coloured how you have approached dealing with A Cloud Of Ravens?

Beth: I appreciate the research and kind words. It’s come up from a few people, to be honest. It’s a bit wild to have always been on the other side. Having a long history in the industry is always helpful. I approach both sides with a lot of passion and excitement, but also with the knowledge of how to manage expectations, an ability to trust the process and work ethic that pushes an upward trajectory.

Has it been easy as a female making your mark in the music industry Beth?

Beth: I would say it’s been more of a marathon than a sprint. I’ve had run-ins with inequality. there’s always going to be an asshole in the room. I always try not to be one. I have always tried to lift up other women and I spend a lot of time proving myself over and over but it still remains my life long passion and career.

Matthew, you grew up in a house of music, where your mother was a professional opera singer. You then explored post-punk, deathrock and even hardcore. Did your mum ever despair at your choices or was she super supportive?

Matthew: My mom was and is supportive of what I do creatively. I’m sure there were times, especially when I was in my teens, getting in trouble and screwing up in school, where she was concerned about my future. Maybe she didn’t always understand my choices and motivations, but she never tried to discourage me from pursuing the things I was passionate about. She was musical and creative as a kid and I don’t think her parents encouraged that, coming from a depression-era upbringing— the arts were not seen as a viable life choice. So I give her a lot of credit for breaking that cycle. My mom is still very supportive, and I’m grateful for her.

Speaking as someone that grew up in a house full of classical music, I found post-punk/goth as a way to rebel but as I have gotten older, I really appreciate the exposure to an extensive palate of classic music. Would you say, Matthew, you have had a similar experience and that small bits creep into your composition?

Matthew: Definitely. Everything I love about music makes its way into our sound in some form or another. Whether it’s the aggression or primitivism of hardcore, the melody and rhythm of new wave, or any song from my early childhood that creeps out of my psyche when writing, it all influences the overall dynamic of how and what we write.

Have you both always lived in Brooklyn and how has it influenced A Cloud Of Ravens?

Beth: When I first got to NYC, I lived in Manhattan– both Hell’s Kitchen and the Lower East Side at one point, but I consider myself a Brooklynite since I’ve lived in so many neighborhoods and I own a car.

Matthew: I grew up in southwestern CT, which closely borders the Bronx, where my father was born and raised. On a clear day you can see the NYC skyline from a shore near the house I grew up in, so Manhattan was always just a short train ride for me, and a big part of my childhood. One of my earliest memories is driving around Brooklyn with my dad. It wasn’t the hipster oasis some parts are now. I remember packs of wild dogs stopping traffic, the garbage strikes, blocks of condemned buildings, etc. There’s an aura and energy to NYC that is kind of inexplicable— you can feel its history in the air. Beth and I were driving from her place in Brooklyn to the airport recently, and going around a bend on the BQE, which opens up to the downtown skyline. We’ve seen that view a thousand times but we were both just like “How is this not the best city in the world?” To have that kind of awe and reverence after so many years speaks to the weight and depth of the energy here, and it’s certainly reflected in our songs.

What is the dark alternative scene like in Brooklyn?

Beth: It’s been growing exponentially for the last 5 years. There are many more bands, live
music venues, bars and clubs. At this point, even some of the more mainstream venues are promoting goth/darkwave/’80s nights, which depending on your perspective could be good or bad, but either way it’s booming. The monthly parties are great. I really enjoy turning up at places and knowing so many interesting people in the scene.

The band started in 2018, with the first album “Another Kind Of Midnight” released in the midst of the Covid pandemic in 2021. What was it like bringing forth your debut into a strange new world at the time?

Matt: The pandemic had a huge impact on the writing. There was so much political unrest going on at the same time, so you’ve got this dour sense of isolation, and essentially watching society implode everyday on TV. We tried to channel that anxiety into a creative energy, as I think a lot of bands were doing at the time. Working on that album was cathartic, gave us something positive to focus on, and really helped us come through those dark times intact. We knew other bands releasing records around the same time, and there was this whole new learning curve with how to approach the album cycle, since no one was touring. It was definitely trial by fire, and learning as you proceed.

You released the stand alone single “The Call Up”, a cover of the anti war anthem of The Clash, at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Who chose this particular track?

Matthew and Beth: We honestly don’t remember who chose it. We’re both huge fans of The Clash, and The Call Up seemed like the perfect song. There wasn’t ever any deliberation of how to approach it, it just worked. It didn’t solve Ukraine’s problems, but we were glad we could contribute in some small way, even if it’s just raising awareness.

Music has been used for years to protest against injustices and a lot of music you write, has a big core of political or humanitarian truth. What would you say to people who say goth should not be political?

Matthew: I’d say they’re not looking at the history. The gothic subculture has always been
socially aware; anti-fascist, pro animal rights, etc. While that’s not directly political, it ties into a political bent as it relates to social conscience. I think there’s an element within the scene that flies hard to the right as well. While we’re not overtly political as a band, it’s likely pretty easy to see we align left of center. As I’ve gotten older I tend to not look at things as necessarily being left or right, but how we treat each other. There’s a universal truth that doesn’t care whose flag you wave, but how you’re treating people in your everyday life. Things are very polarized and tribal right now, and it’ll likely get worse before it gets better, but If you’re being good to people regardless of where they stand politically, and they’re doing the same, it’s a good start.

2023 sees the release of the new album, “Lost Hymns” after four wonderful singles. How hard was it to write the new album to follow up a great debut or did you find the experience a little easier?

Matthew: We started writing Lost Hymns a few weeks before the previous album was even released. Maybe it was a reaction to the doldrums and anxiety of covid lockdown, but we had tons of ideas. I was hearing new things in my head and Beth and I were throwing ideas back and forth every day. That’s the most exciting part for me. We wrote and recorded it all within about six months. It’s actually been finished since the fall of 2021. Seems crazy now that it’s been that long.

Jason Corbett of ACTORS has been doing a fabulous job with mastering and was involved in the original remix EP, so how did you end up with Corbett in the mastering seat?

Beth: We LOVED his remix of our song “The Earthen Call” and we respect his production quality so much that when we heard he was also mastering, we asked him to lend his skills yet again.

Talking of remixes, is there a remix for “Lost Hymns” in the works?

Beth: We have a few conversations happening but nothing has been created yet!

I know songs can be like children, but is there a favourite track off the new album?

Matthew: Yeah, that’s a hard one. When I got the preliminary demo fleshed out for “Requiem for the Sun” I was kind of geeking on it. It was what I heard us sounding like when it was just me recording the earliest ‘Ravens’ demos in my bedroom in 2018, before Beth and I had even met. I felt like “Requiem” finally brought it to that place sonically. That being said, “Parable” also came out pretty nifty, and it’s fun to play live.

Beth: I can agree with Matt’s sentiments on those songs. Other personal favorites for me are “The Blackest Mantra” and “Nature of Artifice”, which are also really fun to play live. But the stand-out favorite of mine has been “Fear Not”. To me it’s one of the darkest and most impactful.

As A Cloud Of Ravens, you are doing your own recording, so is it empowering to have that much control over your project?

Matthew: Yes. As Beth can tell you, likely to her aggravation— when we’re not playing shows, I can be a bit of a hermit. At this point in my life the idea of spending weeks or months in and out of someone’s studio seems untenable. It took me a while to get to a point where I could record something at the quality of “Lost Hymns”, but with Beth’s help we got there. It is liberating to be able to walk into a room any minute of any day and record an idea you’ve got for a song. That said, I don’t place a ton of importance on production. The quality of the song comes first. If the song itself is middling, the slickest production in the world won’t make it great.

Beth: This whole project is empowering to me in that we are the beginning and the end of the creative process. With both albums that I’ve been involved in, we shopped a fully mastered album to first Cleopatra and then the second to Nexilis. As an A&R person by trade I typically help people through that creative process and in this case I’m both the artist and the A&R person. It’s really meaningful to have that kind of relationship with someone as creative as Matt.

So, how do you go about the song creation process and, who is the more headstrong one and stickler for getting stuff done?

Matthew: We’re both equally headstrong as far as standing behind our opinions and
perspectives. We’ve had, let’s say, ‘passionate exchanges’ as it relates to the creative process, but we always find a middle ground. Beth has such an innate musical instinct, at the end of the day, her perspective is generally the correct one. As far as writing, I’ll usually start with a chord progression I’ve come up with on guitar or piano. I’ll flesh out a rough verse and chorus, work out some phrasing, and a vocal melody. Sometimes
I’ll have a very definite idea of a specific drum pattern I want to use or a rough aesthetic concept. Lyrics are always last, usually built around a phrase I’ll find coming up with the vocal melody. When I get a preliminary demo fleshed out I’ll play it for Beth, and she invariably has ideas that bring it to another level. Whether it’s her experience in the music industry, just an inherent appreciation for sonics and song craft, or both, I ultimately trust Beth’s ear more than my own.

What bands got you into the dark alt scene?

Beth: Depeche Mode, The Cure, Sister of Mercy, Tones On Tail, Ministry, New Order, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, The The, Clan of Xymox.

Matthew: Misfits, Samhain, The Damned, Siouxsie, TSOL, the Batcave scene. Those bands were the impetus for me as a kid of like 14, 15.

What new musicians light your fire now?

Beth and Matthew: We tend to listen to bands we know and have played with; Creux Lies, Bootblacks, Black Rose Burning, The Mystic Underground, Vosh, Jason Priest, Then Comes Silence, The Bellwether Syndicate, Pilgrims of Yearning. There are so many great bands out there right now.

The band is about to go on tour. Is the live thing something you really enjoy?

Matthew: It’s a two-way street for me. Yes, I absolutely love to play live. It’s what drew me into playing music as a teenager, and it’s still my go-to emotional outlet. On the other hand I’m an introvert by nature, always have been. So reconciling those two immutable truths is an ongoing and daily process.

Beth: For me it’s fairly new so it feels like a rollercoaster. I enjoy the connection with people, but the flipside is that I have a lot of emotional attachment to my home, my son, and my pets.

A Cloud Of Ravens is headlining a 3 day extravaganza, and you get to choose the other acts. Who do you choose? We are willing to rob graves and perform necromancy to get you what you

Beth: ELO, INXS, Duran Duran, The Smiths, Camouflage, OMD, The Fixx.

Matthew: The Clash, Public Enemy, Fugazi, Laughing Hyenas, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and ELO.

Get out the divination ball, and can you tell us what is in the future for Beth, Matthew, and A Cloud Of Ravens?

Beth: I’ve got a lot of plates spinning; a business, a son, and personal goals. I’m finding little pockets of time for joy and recharging.

Matt: More travel, exploring creativity, and trying to be present in the moment.

Birds of a feather flock together, and your new album is dark post-punk classic. Thank you so much for talking to us today.

Matthew: Thank you, Adele!

Beth: Much appreciated Adele x

‘LOST HYMNS’ | A Cloud of Ravens (bandcamp.com)



What is a parable? I suppose it is a story retold in order to teach a vital lesson, and it is also the latest single from US band, A Cloud Of Ravens. “Parable” is the next single off the highly anticipated new album, Lost Hymns, which is to be released on Nexilis Records, as of the 28th of April.

Ominous, brooding and dark are definitely words that come to mind. This is the most electronic song yet by the duo, almost alive and drawing heavy breaths. The vocals guide you down like velvet and build you up for the amazing chorus that pushes you sky high.

How many times does mankind have to play out the same futile scenarios without learning from them? This is the premise behind “Parable“, which has never been so obvious in this day and age where we are meant to be civilised, yet nations still act with barbaric intent. This is A Cloud Of Ravens’s last single release and like the Oracle of Delphi, they bring a warning that no good can come from this stupidity, wrapped in a gorgeous track called “Parable“.




Colorado goth band, Plague Garden formed just over three years ago, with members Fernando Altonaga and Angelo Atencio, and in that time, rather impressively, have released an album a year. The latest was unleashed on Halloween of 2022, named Blue Captain on the label Bleeding Light Music.

The bass conjures thoughts of The Damned or The Cure, as the album starts off with “Tonight” and breaks into a cool barrage of post-punk jangling guitar. The vocals echoing in the beautiful shadows of nightfall with a drum machine punctuating the thick air. The serpentine winding of “Land Of The Free” is a commentary that not everyone is so free in a land where money and privilege can buy you everything. The single “Blue Captain” has the tendrils of The Cure’s Pornography curling all over it from the curt beats to the wandering guitar that graces your ears, and it almost seems you can hear the waves of all hope lost, washing up onto shore. So we descend into the depths, with tones of early 80s Sisters Of Mercy in the intro, to be “Bathed In Fire“, a holy baptism by flame. The rhythm pickups in the mood ridden “We Will Be Forgotten” with it’s fusion of gothic roc\k with electronics, which is perfect to set up the last track “Cry” in its sorrowful lament, though you cannot truly be so sad when you hear that twisting guitar.

You can’t deny hearing the musical influences for these two gentlemen but at the same time they are not trying to be those bands, rather paying homage and building their own music from what they love. Plague Garden have gone for creating beauty from simple good writing and that always gives the music more heart. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue…. this is Blue Captain.



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.

Chants to Dissolve | Raven Said (bandcamp.com)

Raven Said | Yekaterinburg | Facebook

Raven Said (@ravensaidband) • Instagram photos and videos

What better way to celebrate Halloween, than to release a vampiric cover song, so that is exactly what Beauty In Chaos have done with the Concrete Blonde track, “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)“, which was from the 1990 album of the same name, Bloodletting.

Video still by Vicente Cordero

Is that buzzing sound a blood sucking mosquito in the room? Not exactly as it resolves into revealing itself to be the sax of Mars Williams (Psychedelic Furs), to accompany the flourishing guitars. There is a drawn out sassiness that only increases with the introduction of the vocals from Michael Ciravolo, the man behind the creation of Beauty In Chaos, inducing the feel of New Orleans, because as a native, he has that Southern drawl. The progression becomes almost like a drug fuelled dream, as everything wavers, intoxication settling in and we become part of the undead parade march, into the nightmare that is the lair of the vampire, with the lovey ladies, Whitney Tai, Kat Leon and Tish Ciravolo joining in on vocal duties.

For me, there are two female singers that I hold in very high esteem. The first is the iconic Siouxsie Sioux and the other is the amazing Johnette Napolitano, so Concrete Blonde is very close to my heart. Her vocals alone were a good reason to love the band. I am going to say I am glad that it is different but kept to the essence and core of the “Bloodletting“. A new spin to a classic and you can see the love not only for the song but the inspiration, New Orleans and Anne Rice’s vampire’s who often called it home, conjuring visions of warm nights, strong brews, voodoo and the smell of wisteria and death. The video is also a treat so you should also check it out as well, full of shadowy characters, sexy vamps, obligatory vampire hunter and the secrets a mask can hide.

BLOODLETTING (The Vampire Song) | BEAUTY IN CHAOS (bandcamp.com)

Beauty In Chaos | Facebook

Beauty in Chaos (beautyinchaosmusic.com)

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.

Kill Shelter & Agent Side Grinder

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.

Pete Burns & Stefan Netschio

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 ❤️

Asylum [European Version] | Kill Shelter (bandcamp.com)

Asylum [US Version] | Kill Shelter (bandcamp.com)

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