We Are the Compass Rose is the first solo album from Paul Devine: undoubtedly best-known as the frontman and driving force behind 1980s Sheffield UK post-punk / early goth outfit Siiiii. The band formed when Devine was just 19, and were initially active from 1983-1986. Equally notable, then, is the fact that Devine’s solo debut comes forty years this year since he first formed Siiiii.
For English speakers, Siiiii would be more correctly pronounced “See” (not “Sigh”), taking their name from a passage in William S. Burroughs’ The Soft Machine, in which a Spanish-speaking man enjoys being rogered in a public toilet so much that he exclaims, “Siiiii!”. The band themselves, however, have always happily gone along with either pronunciation, thus becoming better known as “Sigh”.
In their heyday, Siiiii shared stages with The Psychedelic Furs, The Chameleons, and Artery; shared members with Pulp (guitarist and drummer Wayne Furniss); and appeared on compilations alongside The Birthday Party and Public Image Ltd. After first quitting the band in ’86, Devine also played with The Niceville Tampa (later simply Niceville), and in 1989 moved to South Wales, where he played for a few years with DVO.
Siiiii reformed again from 2005-2014, even playing as far afield as New York in 2006, having been “rediscovered” by global audiences, who first heard about them through the diligent efforts of goth / post-punk historian Mick Mercer. But during both incarnations of Siiiii, Devine struggled more than most with the pressures of public attention and performing live, later learning with professional help in 2019 that he was experiencing ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Tourette’s Syndrome. More recently, Devine has instead been making a name for himself as an author, publishing four (count them) – four fucking novels since 2020.
We Are the Compass Rose is in many ways a far cry from the jagged and spiky post-punk of Siiiii, albeit peppered throughout with elements that will make perfect sense to fans of that era. Eclectic in nature, We Are the Compass Rose focuses more on the weird and wonderful aspects of dark and gloomy music, from pastoral Avant-folk, to spoken word set against minimalist sound collages, and indeed elements of those earlier post-punk roots. A sensible writer might recommend the best parts of this album to fans of early Bowie (c.1968-71), Current 93, Syd Barret-era Floyd, Coil, classic Bad Seeds or solo Mick Harvey, or The Legendary Pink Dots.
‘Come Unto Me’ is a sort of droning gothic plaintive chant set against sparse psychedelia; blurring the lines between sacred and secular ecstasies. ‘Hearse Song’ is an adaptation of a traditional song, also known as ‘The Worms Crawl In’, commencing with the cautionary line, “Don’t ever laugh as a hearse goes by”. Popular during the period of the First World War, fragments of the lyrics are found as far back as The Monk by Matthew Lewis from 1796, often hailed as the first gothic novel. Devine’s rendition is the rattling bones of an acoustic Bad Seeds outtake; a rickety horse-drawn undertaker’s carriage making a frenzied, spiralling descent into madness; the wooden wheels about to fly off at any moment, while layers of nefarious character voices assail the ears like a swarm of muttering, fluttering bats. ‘The Mill’ could be The Smiths at their most maudlin, and is among the most obvious and accessible conventional ‘song’ forms on display up to this point.
‘Seeing’, which contains the titular line “We are the Compass Rose”, is a striking highlight. Devine’s oratory style here is both masterful and hypnotic, a soothing rumble in one’s ear (albeit with suitably theatrical dynamic to remain engaging throughout), while the prose recited comes from the segue between books 1 and 2 of his most recent novel, Gerda’s Tower. The disquieting motifs of a muted, organ-like tone drift in and out of earshot, barely accompanied by a ride cymbal and incidental percussion. It may also serve, perhaps more by accident than by design, to remind some of us that we have been sleeping on Devine’s literary talent for a little too long.
‘One Skin for Another’ heads back into heavily Smiths-inspired territory, and feels perhaps a little superfluous in context, albeit fairly well done. ‘For the Love of ParkusMann’ is a tender ballad, with a sense of uplifting and transcendence from sadness, which suddenly turns all spacey, awash with flanger effects and sweeping filters, a-la Donovan. ‘Jherome’ is closer to the angular post-punk of Siiiii, whereas the recording and production sounds more like a band of performing flies in a shoebox, recorded by a solitary contact mic.
‘Your Spell’ is a short but satisfying love song: very pretty acoustic guitar arpeggios and tender vocals, accompanied by washes of synth-strings. It ends leaving you hanging on wistfully for more, but that’s also what makes it so perfectly complete. ‘Lassie’ uses the old standard ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ as its intro, blending seamlessly into a swampy-blues-meets-post-punk singalong-dirge, led by intertwining Howard & Harvey Birthday Party-style guitars and Fall-ish vocals. It suffers a little from some of the same recording and production issues common to most “band” (guitar, bass, and drums)-based songs on the album, but is otherwise quite enjoyable.
‘The Mermaid Song’ is another standout: a song describing an unknowable song. It calls you in to the idea of a mesmerising siren song that will lead you down into the deep, without you ever having actually heard that song, which ultimately led the protagonist to his own doom. Devine is in fine voice here, smooth and lulling, with intriguing acoustic guitars and lovely string arrangements behind him.
‘Every Day is One Day Closer to the Grave’ is both an obvious truism (which the album is littered with), and a better example of a “band” sound than any other on the album. The sound is bigger and fuller, while vocally, Devine shares some similarities here with the late Terry Hall. There is backing from at least one of many credited female backing vocalists, and the whole thing collapses into some kind of astral dispersion of its core elements, ultimately becoming stardust.
‘I Am What I Am’ is the old Broadway musical number: starting with atmospheric piano and intimate voice, before moving into a more vaudeville-meets-English music hall rendition. It quickly moves from there to a stupidly overblown cabaret showband arrangement, complete with elaborately nonsensical brass and strings, and works perfectly as a conclusion to the album, insomuch as the Sid Vicious rendition of ‘My Way’ serves as an entirely appropriate conclusion to the Sex Pistols.
All this from a man who would happily show you his arse and bollocks of a late evening, if only Facebook would allow it, while a long-suffering person named Linzi shakes their head in dismay. We Are the Compass Rose from Paul Devine is a very good album, from a very important artist. The album would probably be even better with less than a handful of songs omitted. Devine showcases here how diverse and eclectic his vocal talents are, ranging from droning choral gloom, to weird and wonderful character voices, through to brilliantly smooth lead baritones in a goth, new-wave, or post-punk style, and engagingly theatrical spoken-word oration. Finding his own voice in amongst all of this is occasionally a challenge, with some songs jumping back and forth stylistically between The Smiths and the Bad Seeds/Birthday Party. But the vast majority of the album, and certainly its strongest moments, don’t rely upon those tropes at all. Musically, conceptually, and creatively diverse, there is real art in what Devine is doing all these years since he first began with Siiiii, and one can only look forward to a second album with an identity entirely its own.
Californian foursome, The Writhers, are no dummies when it comes mosh pits. So the psychobilly, horror punks have written an ode to the church of the mosh pit and those that do not participate in the joyful flailing aptly called “Pit Dunce“. Now there maybe or maybe not wild accordion within, so hold onto your bobby socks, it could be a wild ride.
The soulful doo wop and harmonies take you back to 1950s America when bands such as the Del-Vikings were creating waves…. but somehow, you just know this isn’t going to last. Abandon all hope now, as we are flung into the abyss, as the band kicks in. Crashing guitar, rumbling bass, and thunderous drums are only rivalled by the enthusiastic vocals chastising the pit dunce, whom has flaunted moshing etiquette and not joined the motley dance by submitting their body to the tumultuous hordes.
This is just so much fun. The energy and passion is real, confirming the horror punk genre is very strong currently. There was a sneaky accordion in the intro…. we have been marked safe for now however. Don’t be the “Pit Dunce” and throw yourself into the fray with TheWrithers.
Always exciting to see a band releasing their debut single and hearing their style. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, is the darkwave duo Now After Nothing, with the single “Sick Fix“, out on the 27th of January. Vocalist Matt Spatial and drummer Michael Allen are Now After Nothing and they are joined by the guitar virtuoso, MarkGemini Thwaite (MGT). Just as impressively is the having the mixing done by Carl Glanville, who has worked with U2 and Joan Jett, and the mastering by John Davis, with names like Placebo, Jesus & Mary Chain and Suede under his belt.
A deluge of guitar and bass hits your ears, both raucous and refined at the same time. It is a punk like fevour that grips and further enforced with the vocals from Spatial, MGT’s guitar work and the synths moving together in a sinuous dance, fluid and whirling in a controlled tempest, while Allen gives us the drumbeats that keep this thunderous rhythm gracing our ears.
I was at one of the lowest points of my life and without a musical outlet. I was damaged, defeated, and deflated. One day in New York City, riding through Central Park with earbuds in place, I rediscovered a band that didn’t initially resonate with me. Hearing them this time was different though – I felt the spark. That emotionalconnection to a newly-discovered piece of music was the proverbial kick-in-the-ass I needed to ‘crawl out of cracks below.’ When I arrived home, I dusted of my studio gear and opened up files of previously unfinished song ideas, one of which was a rather bare recording of just a single bass line. It caught my ear and by the day’s end, Sick Fix was complete from start to finish. Listening back to it, I felt alive again. I felt the same spark I had felt that day in Central Park that inspired me and reminded me I had more music inside of me. I wasn’t going to let myself wither away. Though the band name came later, Now After Nothing was really born on that day, which is why Sick Fix undoubtedly needed to be our first single.”- Matt Spatial
So, there is great energy in this track and yes there is definitely a hat firmly tipped towards the old school post-punk such as Bauhaus, but I also hear strains of Alien Sex Fiend and Virgin Prunes in that maelstrom. Yes, originally I believed these guys were actually British going on sound alone, with their wonderful synergy and enthusiasm but don’t think you are getting some old rehash. “Sick Fix” is a wonderfully modern track and I am eager to see what Now After Nothing bring to the table next.
Based in the US is the alt band High HorseCavalry, creating their own blend of post-punk madness. Their debut, self titled album features Kalvin Oudou (vocals), Ron Hayden (guitars), Christian Johnston (bass) and Mark Fleagle (drums).
The band is somewhat inspired by KillingJoke, and honestly KJ are a bench mark band for many in the alternative music industry, melding post-punk finesse with heavier industrial tones and Coleman’s vocals that can be like that of possessed, screaming madman in his pulpit. The track, “Cult OfCongregation” most certainly runs in this vein.
There are also more than just hints of punk influence, such as the tracks “Wounds Of Separation” and “Spy Song” or driving mid west heavy rock crossed with the Sex Pistols in “LastLullaby“.
The vocals are unapologetically guttural, while the guitars churn and grind, pushing ever forward. I can say I hear the darker side of grunge in High Horse Cavalry. A nod to such bands like The Melvins, whom consistently deliver bone bruising riffs with consistent enthusiasm, not to mention lack of regard for playing by the rules. The album came across, in a way, more punk, especially in attitude. So son, get off on your High Horse Cavalry.
So you went out drinking last night… what do you remember, where are you now and what is that smell? Brisbane’s Dream OfMachines, has delivered the debut single, “Nocturnal Omissions“, on the Viral Records label. The fact that you might be scratching your head and wondering if this is a dirty title, probably tickles the fancy of Zane Seymour, the man behind the machines that dream.
Your journey is first greeted with an excerpt from “The spiritual consequences of alcohol“, by Jason Christoff, the vocals floating in the aether but not for long as the guitars plunder your senses. What thefuck happened last night? is the question that haunts him. From silken singing, to enraged screams, because while he was entoxicated…. was his body taken over by an outside force intent on creating havoc?
There is the seven minute opus or the more radio friendly edit, but both are worthy of your listening, for there is never a dull moment. There is everything from simple piano playing, Seymour’s brilliant vocals, all the way to an explosive cacophony of sound and it is all quite glorious, helped along by the mixing & mastering of Roger Menso. Alcohol can really be evil (even influencing a human to eat liquid soap) yet is the drink the devil or is something even more sinister waiting in the shadows to take over…..? You will have to make your mind up when you listen to “Nocturnal Omissions” by Dream OfMachines.
Not going to deny it. I do love a bit of rockabilly/psychobilly and horror punk, so you can imagine how pleased I was to be introduced to the new album, Brains For Friends on the Russian label Bubblegum Attack Records. This is a split release between four bands, Romero’s Nation, The Dead Friends, Molly Fancher and the Chaneys, with each of them contributing three tracks.
Romero’s Nation will blow you away with the rollicking starting track “More Brains!“, the apocalyptic “Darkhangeisk After Midnight” and the beautiful horror love song “When Your Girlfriend Is Dead“, of course, completely punk style. The fabulous goth rocker styled tones of “Area 51” greet your ears, heralding in The Dead Friends, followed by the more punk ravaged “Endless Fear” and the frenzied guitars bursting out in “Sin City“.
You should brace yourselves for the rock stylings of Molly Francher, where we get a taste of the band singing in Russian for the first track. Ha! There is the brilliantly creepy “The Kid And His Story” which you know might not end so well, especially with the whole hearing voices thing and the wailing warning tale of the “Victim Of Psycho“. The psychobilly is strong with the Chaneys and they literally go hell for leather. They are going to make you feel like you are trapped in B grade 50’s horror movies, initially with “Invasion” and the green men are going to shrink ray everyone. I guess the victim was full of “Vim & Vigor” before they suddenly departed this mortal coil (suspected happy killer song), followed by the speeding “Harbingers Glow” with those absolutely amazing harmonising vocals. Fucking ace!
You need this music in your life. All four bands are bursting at the guts with talent and each track is superb. It is all fun and games until someone loses an eye or their head falls off while in the mosh pit, but if you are a horror punk fan then that is part of the appeal. Even if you are not into horror, most punk and psychobilly fans will get a real kick out of this. So remember to be kind to others and give Brains For Friends.
Down in the crypt, somewhere in the United Kingdom, someone cobbled together a monstrous label called We Are Horror Records, knitting and stapling punk, deathrock and psychobilly. Their first abomination is the compilation, Horror Punk’s Not Dead! Vol 1. with a whole 27 tracks to give you the heebie jeebies and this unholy of unholies was given life on Halloween.
“The reasons behind this compilation are clear! To pay homage to the “Punk-o-Rama” series, and to showcase the best modern Horror Punk, Death Rock, and Psychobilly bands in the world! To quote 5¢ Freakshow.. “We may be freaks, but we are not alone…” The Horror is here!” (Dan P., creator and host of the Horrorpunk’s Not Dead! podcast.)
So much choice here. There is the soulful harmonics of Silent Horror with “Astrofiends“, the utterly oi oi stylings of Damage 66 and their ever so eloquent track “Fuck You (If You’re Not Bruce Campbell)” which is honestly a sentiment I can completely get down with. You can bounce around to the delightful rock’n’roll psychos, 5 Cent Freakshow with their self titled track, listen to the goth-a-billy sweet lads, Evelyn’s Casket and their ode to checking out of life, “Evelyn“, maybe suffer some electrifying goth rock at “The Asylum” from TheDeathtones or be mesmerised by the cover of The Dickies song, “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” by Ghosts On Tape.
Get your hatchet face on because this thing is bubbling with talent and oozing with tracks to murder for, as you party with your fiends in the nearest and dearest graveyard. There is also the delightful intro to the compilation which you really should have a listen to. Like most serial killer bad guys in the horror movies, I am going to have to stop, though luckily I didn’t need to be stabbed, incinerated or buried in a well. But I will be back, because as the title says, Horror Punk Is Not Dead! Vol 1, which means………you children of the night better be ready for some more juicy horror punk.
The name Mona Mur has been associated with the German industrial scene since the early 80s. September the 30th sees her new album, Snake Island released on the GIVE/TAKE label and Mur amping up the guitars with guest artists such as En Esch, former member of KMFDM and PIG. So, we asked a few questions about the new release.
Welcome to the dark heart of Onyx, Mona Mur, where we can commune with cups of hot beverage and ignore the lacy spiderwebs.
You are unleashing your new album, “Snake Island”. How long was this album in the making andwhat lead up to its creation?
I was interested in playing really heavy guitars and make this an album. My friend Goldkind supported this idea by sending me some exciting electronic textures he had created. They were just perfect to play guitars on. I added strings or synths where necessary to create harmony. Vocals were the last thing I did on the tracks. So, we were sending stuff back and forth. We are already a dream team, since our first mutual album, DELINQUENT from 2019. I know Goldkind since the 80s, he was one of the first punks in Hamburg, where we both are born. He was a frontman and trombone player in his own band, then quickly became an accomplished producer of some hits over here in Germany. We had lost track of each other, then got back together in 2017 to create DELINQUENT. He is a kindred spirit without any doubt.
Was covid something that instigated the making of the album or hindered it?
To be honest – I am spending a lot of time in my own recording studio KATANA which I built over many years, doing productions for myself, for other people and for films and games. Collaborating with other people certainly became more difficult. Yet, I am used to work online, in teams. So – I was able to adjust and not so much changed for me. Of course, almost all live concerts were cancelled – which is a drag. Still, I am happy as long as have my studio where I am in charge and can do what I want.
You have said that the title “Snake Island” was a tale you heard of. Could you please tell us a littlemore about this story and how it has influenced the creation of your latest work?
I came across a story about a small island off the Brazilian shores, where twenty-thousand snakes dwell— deadly poisonous vipers. They sleep nine months, then awaken only when a certain species of bird stops by to breed. So, the snakes eat them and survive. The snakes are everywhere.
They’ve killed two lighthouse keepers so that the lighthouse is abandoned now. I imagined myself living on that island, maybe even as one of the snakes. I found this a very strong and malicious metaphor , it helped shape the energy flow of the music I was about to create, or rather, the painting.
The masterful En Esch (ex KMFDM and Pigface) also features on the album. Can you tell usabout your friendship with En Esch and how he came to be on the album?
En Esch is one of the greatest and most unique artists I ever had the pleasure to meet. I actually know his former band KMFDM since October 1985, when they opened for the MONA MUR Band in Hamburg. You can find some footage of this live concert as well as some funny backstage stuff on Youtube. Much later, in 2007, I met En Esch when he came back from the States to Berlin. We then put out two albumstogether as MONA MUR & EN ESCH. His musical skills in many realms are universal and comprehensive, his dedication is limitless. Although SNAKE ISLAND is a MONA MUR solo album, it is always great to have him contribute something – as the icing on the cake. Like his fiercely and immaculately played guitar take on the song RAKE.
Gary Schmalzl plays electric guitar for you. What is it like collaborating with Schmalzl?
Schmalzl graced me with the wicked solo on Ace of Spades. He is another beloved friend and absolutely outstanding guitar player who has been working with many great bands and artists, like Thurston Moore, Jingo de Lunch, Bela B. and more – and he is always up for playing with me. His tone is one of a kind, his technique unparalleled. You cannot ask many people to play an adequate ACE OF SPADES solo.
How important was it for you to have that heavy guitar sound?
As I said, I wanted to play a lot of the guitar myself this time, and my style is kind of slow, raw, huge, heavy, doomy. It was the driving motor for the whole album. It seems my lave stream of expression has found another outlet.
There is the cover of the Motorhead track “Ace Of Spades”, so was Lemmy Killmeister a musician you looked up to?
Hm, I not particularly looked up. But, I admire him, as probably the most uncompromising Rock n Roller ever. Actually, I fell in love with MOTORHEAD only recently. But ACE OF SPADES for me is an exceptional song, the pure raw energy, the lyrics, the attitude. There are awesome live videos on Youtube with all kinds of line ups, I love to watch this loud at night, when I relax from a long day in the studio. “THE PLEASURE IS TO PLAY, MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHAT YOU SAY” is just a killer statement for me.
This new album is described as Mona Mur going back to her industrial roots and you were linked with Einstürzende Neubauten. How has industrial music influenced you musically and especially “Snake Island”?
When I started out in 1981, I was obsessed with listening to THROBBING GRISTLE and LAIBACH. Also, my close friends were FM Einheit, Alex Hacke and Mark Chung of “EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN”. We hung out together, and one day I went with them to their rehearsal space in a tower in central Hamburg. I had been singing and playing instruments my entire life, since I was a small kid. I had a strong urge to create. I knew the time is right, to help shape this kind of music movement myself. The rest is history.
Jon Caffery does the wonderful mastering, known for his production work on music for suchprojects as Einstürzende Neubauten, Joy Division, Tubeway Army and Die Toten Hosen. What isyour history with Caffery?
Jon Caffery is a long lost and found again friend. We had met in the 80s when he was in the studio with Neubauten and Abwärts and other collegues I was hanging out with. I had back then, with the MONA MUR Band, worked with Raymond „Nainz“ Watts as sound engineer. (actually, these recordings also come out soon, on Vinyl, in December). But for SNAKLE ISLAND: I only found out now, that Jon always had wished to work with me . So, luckily , this happens just now.A gift.
Do you have any favourite tracks off the album and if so why?
No, really, I love that the album has a flow of its own and you can listen through it from A to Z being really absorbed. This is what I want to achieve.
Vocally, I can hear a maturing of a singer. Do you feel you have changed vocally over the years?
Everything goes more effortless than ever, I just precisely do what I like. Very often, I use first take recordings, sometimes I even do not write down the Lyrics before recording. I am totally uninhibited, much in contrast to my early years.
Mona, you are heavily linked to the early industrial days with bands such as Einstürzende Neubauten. What was the scene like back then for yourself in West Berlin?
Actually, I am from Hamburg. So, I was in Hamburg AND Berlin, moving back and forth, crossing the Iron Curtain many times. The scene was small, exciting, elitist, excessive, loud, raw, original, intense, life was fast, the world was bleak, the big cities our play ground, no risk, no fun. I immediately loved it and became a driving force in it, as a fish in water. So much space was there to create real new, original art.
What do you think of the modern German industrial scene?
I have no idea whether there is such a thing in Germany. I rather see something like this happening in the US, like the revival of the Chicago scene around WAXTRAX ! and the Cold Waves Festival for instance, and I had a great time touring in the US and Canada between 2010 and 2015, playng WAXTRAX! Retrospectacle in Metro Chicago in 2011 as a guest of En Esch, Raymond Watts and Günter Schulz. Hope I can follow up on that. So, Germany, no idea. Also,, I do not think so much in “scenes” anyway.
Who were your musical influences when you were young?
Black Sabbath, Patty Smith, Throbbing Gristle, Laibach, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lydia Lunch.
Are there any modern acts that you like to listen to or find inspiration in?
I love Fever Ray, Karin Dreijer being a stunning artist. I love IF I HAD A HEART which became title song in VIKINGS, so I had to watch 89 sequels of this. I always play guitar to „RED TRAILS“ – her most beautiful and heartbreakingly painful song. If she ever needs a guitarist on stage, I ll be there. What else ? DIE ANTWOORT has some cool tracks. And HAFTBEFEHL, A Kurdish/german gangster rapper and in the same time melancholic music poet from Offenbach am Main, with a killer sound production.
Will you be doing a tour for the album?
I look into touring the US in 2023.
If you could choose any musician (dead or alive) to record with, who would that be and why did you choose them?
Play guitar for Karin Dreijer.
Thank you so very much for gifting us with your time!
History Of Guns (HOG) has been around in different incarnations since the mid 90s. A gothic/future industrial group, they caught the ear of goth guru, Mick Mercer in the early 2000s, and he named them as an act to watch. We last heard from them in 2011, and then they went on a hiatus. Come 2022, HOG have a core three members plus the drive to create under the moniker again, which brings us to the latest album, Forever Dying In Your Eyes. DelAlien (vocals) and Max Rael (keyboards, programming) are the two original members joined by Jamu Knight (guitar) and the new release is full of future punk angst, loathing and screw the world attitude. Max, never go the full Marillion, I think Jamu deserves extra cake/beer and if you want to know why, then here is an interview…….
Welcome to the portals of light and darkness which are situated in the Onyx lounge room for convenience. Not sure what exactly they do, but they make a great lighting effect for parties.
HOG: Thank you for having us! We love a good portal. We’ll try not to get distracted by them.
History Of Guns has been around in one form or another since 1996. How did it all kick off for you guys?
Max: Del and I were both recruited by a madman called Stagger Lee into a band called Pre-Hate Machine and History Of Guns kind of evolved out of that…
Del: History Of Guns was something I had been looking for, for years. It all started in a pub over a chat to a stranger about his painted Sisters of Mercy jacket. We got talking and a few weeks later he introduced me to Max in another pub. We then spent every weekend in the studio, often all day, and often all night. We have boxes and boxes of tapes from those days that would take years to get through.
What was it like for in those heady days of youth (and excess as the 90s seemed full of that), playing to large crowds and pulling the attention of one Mick Mercer?
Del: We had some amazing times, and you don’t just walk away from that… When we started gigging, that was bloody great for me, the adrenalin buzz, WOW, I was being me for the first time and have never remembered a gig, not because I was pissed or anything like that but because that moment in time seemed to separate itself from reality.
Max: It all seemed so limitless. Jamming, partying, clubbing. Looking back, we could’ve maybe tried to things a bit more seriously earlier on, but we were having such a great time just playing and staying up all night talking. Playing Whitby Gothic Weekend was a highlight and the Futurepunk events in Camden in London. We have a lot of love for Mick Mercer, he’s supported us right from the beginning.
Do you think there has been a change in the goth/industrial scene since then?
Max: That’s a tricky one, as there’ve been times when we’ve been more involved in the scene in the UK than others. It’s sad there’s less clubs around, but then we’re not as young as we were… being out late-night clubbing isn’t compatible with having a family. We used to go to every Whitby Gothic Weekend, and keep meaning to get back there, but it’s been a while. It’s great that Joel’s running the Goth City festival in Leeds. I’d love to go back to Wave Gotik Treffen again in Leipzig. I guess thinking globally, we’re even more out of touch than we are here in the UK so not best placed to comment.
Del and Max, you are founding members. What is it like for you both to have been involved in this project for this amount of time?
Max: We’ve been through so much together over the years, both in the band and in our personal lives. When we don’t see each other for a while, I have to remember that Del’s internet persona on Facebook is very different to the Del I know in real life. Like many long-running double-acts we love each other, but we argue and fall out a lot. Things can escalate really quickly. We’ve both made many mistakes over the years, and at some level blame each other for History Of Guns not having been more successful or making any money. Basically, I do all the work, and then Del criticizes it, and I don’t take criticism very well and get upset, and then Del calls me a snowflake, and I say he lacks empathy, and it goes from there… But then these days we make up pretty quickly. I think Jamu wondered what he’d gotten into when he first joined.
Newest member is guitarist Jamu. How was he lured…into the fold so to speak?
Jamu: Del knew I was a guitarist and by hook or by crook, we ended up trying to start a project called “Mystery of Graves”. After hearing the sort of stuff I could do he called Max, and he popped over with his ivories, and it kicked off from there really, but I was very, very drunk after that…
Del: It always happens in pubs and clubs, people find out you’re in a band and they tell you they can play. Well, I have often given people a chance and met some bloody laughable characters that probably in their mind could play, and Max and I have paid studio time and just looked at one another, no words needed! Jamu is a strong character, he’s likeable so I gave him a go and he blew my mind, so I rang Max and said you have to hear this, and so that was that sorted! I think if we get to spend more time in the studio he will let rip more. I think he holds back (don’t tell him I said that… Oh damn! Odds are he may read this interview!)
Daniel Vincent is a member of Decommissioned Forests with Max but also appears on the new album. Can you tell us about the these shadowy fellows in the background?
Max: Daniel Vincent is best known for The Resonance Association (which I’d heartily recommend to anyone who likes instrumental music that pushes genre boundaries). I’m lucky enough to have been friends with him for many years. He’s been into the guns world and jammed and collaborated with us before and just about survived, we’ve remixed each other, and Del guested on vocals on a TRA track some years back.
Also, we have Jason Knight who used to play guitar in Deathboy and was our live drummer for a bit, and then our long-term collaborator and my oldest friend, Gary Hughes, who has, I think, made an appearance on every album we’ve done. We’re very lucky to have Bob Barker back for the artwork. Bob, alongside the stunning photographer Scott Wylie, was responsible for the artwork for our third album, “Acedia” that I’m naked in, so we know we can trust him.
The new album is “Forever Dying In Your Eyes” and it has been 11 years since your last full release. How exciting was it to get the new album out and what prompted you to do so?
Jamu: The album “Forever” was, I thought, supposed to be an EP, but we just kept writing more stuff, it grew into what we have released. I personally am very proud of how it turned out.
Max: When I came back to music after taking a break to do a horribly demanding college course, I was going through phases of enjoying playing and writing but kept found myself questioning everything, and doubt is poison for trying to mix or finish anything. I kept questioning what was our motivation for releasing new music. There had to be a valid reason and I wasn’t sure what it was. It’s not like we’re doing it for the money, and posterity is just as vulgar as money. And if it’s for validation or hoping for good reviews to prop up a struggling ego or hoping for a little self-esteem boost then that’s all wrong. History Of Guns has always been a universe co-created by Del and I that we invite other musicians to join and then we create a world together. Sometimes that’s just for an afternoon jam session that never gets heard after the session, but sometimes we create a world and feel some kind of urge to communicate it outwards to see if it connects and lands with any listeners out there. It’s been a while, but, “Forever Dying in Your Eyes”, is our latest communication to the outside world.
Del: Bloody life gets in the way. What are we doing? Why have we stopped turning out music like we used to? Depression? Work? Relationships? Society in general? Who knows but they are all my enemy that stops me doing what I want to do.
Your last release was “Whatever You Do, Don’t Turn Up At Twelve” which came out in 2011. How do you think your sound has progressed between these two albums?
Max: The wheels were coming off after the collapse of the “Acedia” tour and the rest of the band quit. Looking back, we should have stopped and taken some time out, then maybe split the album 4 material into two separate EPs as we were very much disintegrating and falling apart as I was trying to finish it. I pushed on past breaking point to get the album done and decided to include our own collapse as a key theme of the album. At some level I knew it was destructive, there’s a lyric that goes, “these songs aren’t making you better, these songs are making you worse.” I couldn’t get sober vocal takes, so after many exasperated tries I decided to include the drunken takes as part of the disintegration, which in retrospect I don’t think I’d do again.
Our two most successful albums have been the first and third, “Flashes of Light” and “Acedia”, and although one is electronic, and the other is full 5-piece band, they’re both focused in one coherent style of music and self-contained, whereas albums two and four genre-hop and are pretty chaotic to listen to. For the new album, it was clear we should try and focus again. Ground ourselves with a solid foundation which could either be a final album, or a starting point for a new chapter. This was made a lot easier by having Jamu on board, it helped us form a solid sound and style which I was able to take into the sound design stage for the album. In keeping with the theme of communication, the vocals and lyrics are quite prominent in the sound design, to get that sense that the whole piece is intended as a communication.
“You Wanted To Live” was the first single off the album, which is a very heavy and dark affair. Tell us why you chose this as the kick off track for the world?
Max: “You Wanted to Live” seems to be doing really well out in the world and we’re proud of it. The origins of the song were created by Daniel Vincent for an idea he had for a possible The Resonance Association / History Of Guns collaboration eight or nine years ago, but Del and I were in a bad place (again!) and it took a long time for us to actually do any work on our side of it. Before Jamu joined, we had a session just the two of us in Bishops Stortford with a bottle of vodka and this was the only thing we had to work on, and that’s when Del improvised the main lyric, then we wrote the verses together.
There’s a nod to Wendy O. Williams’ suicide note in there. After the session we went back to Del’s house, and I remember the night ended in a very bleak and dark place, and we didn’t see each other for a while after that. The track became very important to us as we both went on to suffer through some very difficult times, and we’d play rough versions of this track to each other when we were particularly struggling, so the track became an anthem for us, a reason for carrying on. It had to be the first single we released if we ever managed to get back to releasing anything again.
Who came up with the video for “You Wanted to Live”?
Max: That would be our fabulous video director Video Rich from Round Window Media. He also did the follow-up video for “Running in Circles”.
Your second single, “Running In Circles”, has pretty raw vocals. There seems to be a lot of angst in the album?
Del: The reason for the vocal was it was taken from a live jam that was borne at that moment. It was not a good time for me and I wanted the vocals to reflect that man’s pain. Sometimes I listen to it and cringe and wish I re-did them in tune, but would that pain come across? Who knows?
I know Max is very influenced by Coil, but who, musically, have you found influenced you into creating History Of Guns in the first place?
Max: I only got into Coil after we’d already been doing History Of Guns for eight years or so! I think Del and I originally bonded over Killing Joke, Pistols, PIL etc. Stagger Lee was very into Nine Inch Nails and Pop Will Eat Itself and looking back now I can hear all these things in our sound. Going back to Del’s flat after those early rehearsals was the first time I’d properly heard Sisters of Mercy, Alien Sex Fiend, Bauhaus etc. There were also plenty of bands we didn’t agree on and would argue about.
Will HOG be playing live any time soon?
Jamu: I do love the live experience with the guys, and hope we get out there again on the back of this release.
Max: It’s a tricky one. As Jamu says, we’d like to. Ideally, we’d take out a full 5-piece band on tour but that’s a lot of rehearsal time when we don’t live that close and have to juggle jobs, families etc. I guess if the right offer comes along, we could hopefully look at getting a band together and doing a couple of dates.
Who is the motivational force in the band and is there the mopey goth type?
Max: I do everything, and Del complains about it… Jamu tries to keep the peace between us!
Do you guys enjoy the recording experience?
Jamu: The recording process was quite a challenge as bit were recorded all over the place, along with lockdowns, bankruptcy of various studios we went to, it was hard to get a lot done in one hit, but next effort I’m sure we’ll lock ourselves into a studio for a week, with more beer and cigarettes than would be deemed healthy and smash out another kick-ass sonic battering ram.
How do you go about writing these tracks for the album and is it easy or a labour of love?
Max: Most things come out of jamming, so writing is easy. Writing and playing are the fun parts that I absolutely love and the reason why I do music. Recording, mixing, releasing an album and doing all the promo involves a lot of work that I like a lot less, which is part of why it’s taken so long. We’re very fortunate to have Michel from UTM Music Group onboard this time around running the promo. We talk about maybe getting someone else to record and mix so I can just focus on the playing and writing, but then I’m a bit of a control freak and probably need to work a bit harder on letting go of some of the responsibility as it can get a bit overwhelming sometimes. It’s why being in Decommissioned Forests is such a joy for me, because Daniel (Vincent) is the producer, and I don’t have to stress over it.
How much of your own life experiences and moods inhabit these songs?
Del: For me personally, all of the songs I have written, are bits of my life. I try to play with words so it’s not too painfully obvious what the song is about. That’s for the listener to decide. We did a song called “Conspiracy Theory” that sadly did not make it to the album just before the PLANDEMIC started. I’m sure you can see why! The music to it is bloody good, so I’m re-writing the lyric to make it a lot broader because let’s face it, you can’t keep up with this shit show musically, so I think its best just to point at the obvious and let the listener decide.
Max: We’ve always been interested in exploring the human psyche and the human condition, starting with ourselves, and then seeing what’s relevant to others. For me, and Del would disagree with this, but I think in many ways the last track on the new album, “Eyelash”, is a culmination of everything we’ve tried to do up to this point. Part of Del’s genius is to open up and access a completely subconscious layer of his own psyche whilst we’re jamming and improvising, and sometimes quite extraordinary things come out. So again, I’ve kept the original vocal from the original jam because it’s completely open and honest and raw. When he sings, “I hate me” it feels to me like we’ve cut through all the nonsense and construction of self and personality and reached a very core, often hidden part of the self, which I think everyone has to a greater or lesser degree, that part that hates themselves… and finding that, and shining a light on it, for us, for everyone, is one of the reasons why I’m in this band and have released this album.
There’s a lot of talk in the press and society currently about these alleged “culture wars” we find ourselves in, and people questioning the toxicity of things and then seeking to censor or “cancel” things that might be difficult or don’t hold up to a new standard of ethics. But, and this is just my personal opinion, to me that’s going about it all backwards, and censorship is never the answer. The only way to get to a world with less hate and more kindness, empathy, and respect, is to understand that hate, and to stop running from it or trying to just shut it down; we need to allow ourselves to feel it, and only then can we start to heal it. Ultimately, a lot of hate for others stems from an initial hatred of the self.
If History Of Guns were to record an album of cover versions, what would you choose?!
Max: We always used to say in a snooty, pompous voice, “History Of Guns are not a covers band!” But then we did some covers so can’t really say that anymore. I’d like to anything bleak in a minor key perhaps that doesn’t come from the goth/industrial world… maybe “Chelsea Monday” by Marillion.
Jamu: I know Del doesn’t like covering other artists, and I’m not overly keen on covers myself, mainly because I can’t be arsed to work out how the songs go.
What is in the future for HoGs and you good gentlemen?
Max: We have an electronic album which is done musically but just needs a couple of vocal takes to finish called, “Half Light” which is kind of a sequel to our first album “Flashes of Light”. Then I think, if we continue, we’ll build on the writing relationship we’ve started with Jamu and really push things and see where that takes us next. We’ll improvise and jam and experiment and it’ll form into some kind of shape without us trying to consciously make anything preconceived. We’ll keep pushing ourselves to keep evolving and keep trying new things and go in new directions. We sometimes talk about doing a follow-up to our most successful album ‘Acedia’ to be called ‘Anhedonia’ but I’m not sure we, or anyone else, is ready for us to go back there just yet.
Thank you for joining us in our existential crisis, which we never rush because, honestly, how can you enjoy a crisis in a rush!
HOG: We are one big existential crisis, but if there’s one thing that anyone can say about us, it is that we are History Of Guns. Thank you very much for having us, it’s appreciated.
Der Prosector is a project from Florida, that seems to have come to life around 2020. Made up of four members, Ged Denton, Andy Kenealy, Jules Seifert and Digby Denton, found themselves at a loss over the state of affairs in the US during the Trump administration, as the country turned inwards with internal fighting and backwards looking. So was born the single, “Standing In The Embers“, which came out on April 15th, on the label, Armalyte Industries.
There is definitely a punk aesthetic to “Standing In The Embers“, mixed with a mid 90s industrial guitar sound, topped with more modern synths. The beats are fast and furious while the vocals are sincere and imploring you to wake up because – ‘The problem is some people want to watch the world burn And it’s on fire‘. There are also two remixes included. The UCNX mix is understated and like a creeping doom, while the Gordon Young version, named The Pyroclastic mix is stripped back with a feel of anxiety and burgeoning insanity.
They sing of Covid, violence and extreme ideology which has touched everyone’s worlds in the last few years. Ironically, we now watch another power hungry despot, happily destroying countries for his own purpose. The world burns and if we do nothing, we will burn with it. A powerful statement in a time of great upheaval from Der Prosector.