Kbatz: Vampires versus…Vampires?

Vampire versus…Vampire?

by Kristin Battestella

book3 200x300So often vampires and werewolves are pitted against each other in the battle of the genre beasties.  However, more often then not, these terror titans work in tandem in fiction and media, creating a broader, richer tug and pull sharing in the horror medium.  My 2008 Eternal Press novel The Vampire Family has a family of vampires that can shape shift and transform into wolves and scary weres- and scary werecats, too.  My follow up series Fate and Fangs: Tales from the Vampire Family serves up vampires who prefer their wolf shapes in Book 3 Struggle. 

While it is easy to have books and ebooks either have all the monster magic together or for readers to find literature specific to vampires and werewolves and all the mixes in the spectrum, films have also scored on the presumed animosity.  The Underworld franchise tells of ancient vampire and werewolf wars- but fans of either creature can get their fill in these features.  Likewise Twilight has made the Team Edward and Team Jacob themes top sellers.  Vampires versus werewolves ideologies are good for business, simply put.  Whether for or against, reluctantly working together or struggling to love or hate one or the other, in the end, vampires and werewolves are good for each other.

Unfortunately, the current subdivision of the vampire genre is getting too divergent for its own good.  The watered down, lovely dovey, youth and glitter love vampire movement spurred by the Twilight craze has helped the vampire literature and media culture just as much as it may have damaged the genre.  Book, television, and movie markets are now flooded with vampire material- all in the same youth, teen romance driven trends.  As knock off begat knock offs, the quality pool has dropped considerably.  People are tired of vampires.  They think horror has been played, and all the sudden the same editors, publishers, and powers that be are now turning on the massive overdrive they helped to create.  Backlash is inevitable.drac_1513745c1

Soon people even forget what came before the glitter vampire.  Readers are afraid to take on another vampire story because ‘they all suck now’.  (No pun intended) The quality vampiric horror gets lumped into the problematic downward glitter spiral.  And when you the writer submits your hard worked, scary horror, medieval furthest thing from contemporary teenage vampire vampire manuscript, what does the publisher tell you?  The worst thing a writer can possibly hear:

No.

And it isn’t just the ‘no’ that is the worst part.  It wasn’t that your story wasn’t well written or not just good enough.  It might be damn decent perfection and fit in just perfectly with what this publisher’s interests are.  But no, it is the fact that the marketing, timing, and overblown played mayhem of that other vampire type has just ruined your publication chances.  Well, doesn’t that just suck? (Pun intended)

So then, you see, the vampires versus werewolves theory is not what hurt your novel’s chances.  Rarely does a publisher say, ‘we already have a werewolf book, so we can’t take your vampire story.’ In fact it is quite the opposite, editors often look for both together to balance out  their catalogue and reader varieties.  They might even prefer books or series dealing with both monsters so they can cross reference all their categories.  How many times have you clicked on a publisher’s store links for both ‘vampire’ and ‘werewolves’ and seen the same books? Quite a bit I suspect.

Now, have you ever seen separate links for ‘vampire horror’ and ‘vampire romance’? The breakdown between the vampire medium is almost nonexistent in appearance, even if those readers and writers and vampires lovers in the know immediately know there is a difference.  How many times have you been in conversation with a fellow vampire lover and they say either ‘oh, that was too scary for me!’ or ‘This vamp was too lovey dovey for me.’  What’s sad is how many times has a reader passed on your book because they like one or the other and dismissed your book as being the wrong vampire type for them.

What then, must a vampire author do to remain relevant in a subgenre at war with itself?  Keep writing damn good copy!  Whichever side of vamps your on- either pure horror or paranormal romance- keep it good.  Keep your universe, characters, and tales true to what the manuscript needs to be its best.  Don’t give in to the mislabeling and trends.  Vampires rise and fall, go underground and subculture or rise up from the dead and reign supreme over media. Not too long ago, everyone wanted exclusively paranormal light and vampire romance, now call outs are returning to pure horror and uniqueness.  Make your creatures of the night stand out from the pack.  Keep them worthy of the hand in hand werewolf antagonism.  Good competition is healthy in fiction, writing, selling books, and reader’s choice.  Write crap copy and no creature wins!

To read more about Kbatz’ vampires, read her contribution to The Great Vampire Dispute.

Monster Mash with Versailles

For our Finale, we have the versatile vocal stylings of Versailles and her song “Queen Of The Sinister Freaks”. I wanted to save this one for last because it reminds me of our Hostess of Horror, Emz!

Versailles is the solo project of Dianna St. Hilaire. Though she does write and produce all of her music, she said “I do have musicians play live with me though. Usually just a guitar player at this point.  My amazing boyfriend Francis Gonzalez does my stage designs and is now helping me create the music video ‘Queen Of The Sinister Freaks’.”

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Her publicist, Giddle Partridge, describes her music as “intoxicating, dark synth, sexual-based gloomy yet erotic adventure into an orchestra”. Diana described her style as “dark and melodic.  I have very intense melodies.   Some is intense piano almost a classical feel and others is a more darkwave sort of sound with lots of synths.” She has also been referred to as the “Gothic Tori Amos”, which is saying something, as personally I would consider Tori Amos’ music to be dark and gothic. (Don’t judge me.)

She wrote the song “Queen Of The Sinister Freaks” with Kim Fowley. “It means a lot to me because I consider Kim to be a very good friend and I haven’t co-wrote many songs in my life.  Also because I am in the process of creating a new music video for the song and I want people to hear it.  ‘Queen of The Sinister Freaks’ is a representation of me and my life in the way that Kim Fowley sees it.”

The name of her band has changed a little over time. “I love the name Versailles.  It came to me years ago.  At first I was Versailles’ Suicide.  Which is probably more suiting, but in 2003 I changed it to Versailles.  The reason behind the name was the history of King Louis.  First of all I have relatives that fought for the Palace of Versailles.  But my main interest was King Louis’ obsession with destroying the monarchy through social death.”

Diana has had the opportunity to tour and play her music at some gigs that stand out. “I’m based out of Los Angeles.  This is not my hometown.  I’m from Albuquerque, NM.  I moved out to Los Angeles about 10 years ago to pursue music.  I think living in LA has influenced my music a lot.  I think that before I came here I was a bit of a newbie and I didn’t realize how far I could really take my music.  LA has pushed me in so many ways to be a more competent artist.  I have played throughout most of the US.  Maryland, Savanna, NOLA, San Antonio, Houston, Lubbock, Austin, Albuquerque, Denver, Chicago Joplin and many others.  I would sadly say that I have not played NEW YORK yet.  I would love to play in New York!  I have had some very interesting fans.  I had a fan once drive from Mexico in the middle of the night to Hollywood just to see me play.  I have had people bury their relatives with my music.  Gigs that stand out to me would be my latest gig at Boardners bar in Hollywood.  It was a beautiful night and I had quite an amazing stage set up thanks to Francis.  People loved it.  There were at least 100 people there which was great for a Tuesday night in Hwood.”

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“Queen Of The Sinister Freaks” is one of the songs from her current album, Targets, produced by Kim Fowley. “I would say the opportunity to work with Kim Fowley was the inspiration on that one.  How often is it that someone gets to work with a man like that?  Also I just did a new music video for my song ‘Cold’.  This was written and produced by me.  This music video was inspired by my recent trip to Puerto Rico.  Very excited about this.  Beautiful place.  The hardest part of creating my albums has been the mixing part.  That part always drives me crazy.  The most fun part is always the composition.  I love creating new things.  Creating an album makes me feel that I have accomplished what some  people believe to be the impossible.  There are people I’ve met that have been working on their albums for years.  Right now I’m starting a new project and it is working with Dubstep.  This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while and finally have gotten the chance to do.  It’s quite challenging thus far because it is something I’ve never worked with before.”

Diana has been playing music since she was a little girl.  “I taught myself how to play piano and compose my own music at a very young age.  I believe I was around 6 years old.” Music is only one part of her life.  “I paint, I do acting.  Right now I am trying to put my head around creating an iPhone app.  Let’s just say I’ve finished the interface drawings.  I do web programming and graphic arts.  That would be about it.  Oh and I like hiking and running.” She does also listen to some podcasts.  “I have spent some time listening to the Darkest Hours and Stench Radio.  There is also one called BlackRose Radio.”

What advice do she have for new bands?  “Tour, tour tour.  It is fun and worth it.  More worth it than playing crappy dive bars in your home town.”

You can find her homepage at VersaillesBand.net, and find her music in all the usual haunts, like iTunesCDbaby, as well as on services like Spotify, YouTube, and Geezer. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Monster Mash with Valentine Wolfe

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Singer Sarah Black and bassist Braxton Ballew make up this episode’s featured band, Valentine Wolfe, a Victorian Chamber metal duo. That’s right, I said “Victorian Chamber Metal”. Their last album used the phrase “Steampunk Macabre” — I like that, too. Braxton said, “We also perform Dark Ambient Soundscapes. Usually, if this is too vague, we tell people if they like Emilie Autumn and Nightwish, we like to think they will like us.” Furthermore, we’re playing their song “Annabel Lee” from their new album, Once Upon a Midnight, which is themed around Edgar Allan Poe. Be still my little goth heart.

Braxton told me, “‘Annabel Lee’ is one of the songs off of our newest endeavor. It is a graphic novel plus full length album all about Edgar Allan Poe. The graphic novel tells a story and the music follows along with it. The story puts Poe in an alternate universe where all of his stories and poems are his reality and so we set his work to go with that. Also, we feel it’s a great first ‘single’ off the new album, one that has all of the elements that make a Valentine Wolfe song: beautiful vocals, brooding classical bass, and slamming drums and distortion. The visual artist who did the cover of our last album, Jacob Wenzka, agreed to take a larger role this time around. He has drawn a graphic novel for our story about Poe. The album is not strictly programmatic, but it does follow a story in a very similar way to Silverthorn by Kamelot. I suppose the idea started when we saw a sketch Jacob had drawn of Poe. It was amazing! We thought we would like to see more. We had also been setting Shakespeare to music and that prompted us to think about how much fun it would be to set some of Poe’s words to music. His poems are so lyrical anyway.”

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For the Horror Addicts who are Deathstalker fans, you may recognize the namesake of the band. Braxton confirmed that, “Valentine Wolfe is a character from the Deathstalker novels by Simon R. Green. He has somewhat of a depraved nature and we relate to that!”

More than just a duo, Sarah and Braxton are married and have been making music together since 2006. “We sometimes collaborate with other musicians and especially other artists, but we like to keep the main core as just a duo. We currently live in Greenville, SC. We moved here from Athens, GA. I would say that living in Greenville has certainly had a big impact on our music. Braxton works as the Education Director for the Greenville Symphony. That huge connection to the classical world has kept us from going in a fully metal direction. We have written music for three Shakespeare plays now: The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, and The Winter’s Tale. All of those were made possible by us living in a city that is so supportive of the arts. We have the Metropolitan Arts Council which really brings the whole community together through an impressive array of artistic endeavor.”

With such an interesting style of music, the venues they have played are rather diverse. “We’ve played venues ranging from dive bars to art galleries. We really love playing fan conventions…it seems that’s the best overall fit in terms of finding people who are interested in our music. I think it helps we’re pretty geeky ourselves. We have played at several different conventions including Raven Con, AnachroCon, Upstate Steampunk, ConCarolinas, and DragonCon. We would love to play at Wave Gothic Treffen or Whitby Gothic Weekend or even Wacken Open Air some day! Our fans are so amazing! They are willing to travel to see us perform in different cities and we really appreciate that. One thing we’ve seen it that at conventions, especially one where we’re new, the crowd always seems to get bigger and bigger while we play. Just about every show is special-cliche, maybe, but true. I think my favorite odd story was a show where I (Braxton) was doing solo bass soundscapes with looping. A gentleman asked me what instrument i was playing, and rejected my answer of electric upright bass to tell me it was, if fact, a cello (Hint-no, it isn’t). I was still playing and looping the entire conversation, which made it even weirder.”

Their favorite bands and musicians are as varied as one might expect: “Bach, Verdi, Handel, Mozart, Debussy, Ives, Copland, Beatles, Iron Maiden, Insomnium, Opeth, Nightwish, Kamelot, Amon Amarth, Dragonforce, Ronnie James Dio. Braxton’s favorite bass player is an amazing player named Renaud Garcia-Fons. He’s also really into Francois Rabbath.”

Braxton summed up his musical tastes with a quote by Duke Ellington: “There’s only two kinds of music: good and bad, and I like both.” Braxton really only gets turned off to music that “seems to prioritize mass consumption to the exclusion of any other interesting features. But he thinks you can learn anything from anything (He listened to a Justin Bieber album for a group of kids, and was astounded at how the meaning of the song could be conveyed in only 3-5 seconds). We both think it’s better not to spend too much time concerning yourself with what turns you off, and just focus on music that really excites you.”

Is there a style of music that they’d like to try? “One style that we would like to explore more of is film scoring! We have written scores for plays so far and have done short movies for the internet, but we would love to do more! Braxton especially is a huge fan of what Philip Glass did for Dracula and we would love to do a film score for a feature length silent movie. We’d love to do an old one or a completely new one that is just in the style of an old one!”

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Both have been making music for quite a while. “Sarah started on piano in elementary school and kept up with that up through college. She got a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Composition from UGA. She has been taking voice lessons with Lisa Barksdale most recently. Braxton is a late bloomer-bass guitar at age 14, double bass at age 18, composition at 20 (apart from a few aborted attempts in high school). However, he’s kind of old-he’s been at this for about 20 years as a pro.”

What has it been like to produce their latest work? “It’s always exhilarating and terrifying. You get an idea that sets your passion on fire, and it becomes an obsession. At the same time, you hope and want your peers and your audience to get into what you’re doing. The hardest part is waiting. Works of quality take time. Sometimes, you want to just work and work and work, and the hardest part is knowing when you pass the point of diminished returns. The most fun part has been playing the new songs live, and seeing the savage joy they trigger.”

How has producing their latest album been different than their previous work? “There are two basic differences: we blended the composition/performance approach. Generally, in the classical world, you write a piece, sending it out into the world more or less fully formed, and then you learn and interpret the piece through rehearsals and performances. Sometimes you get to revise in a rehearsal, but not often. This time, we played everything we wrote either live or in the rehearsal studio several times through. It enabled us to add small and significant touches to everything. On our first two albums, we wanted to explore EBM and electronica. As such, there’s synth basses and other electronica textures we play with. For Once Upon A Midnight, we fully embraced our inner metalhead. There’s still electronica, but almost all limited to double bass (there’s a bit of piano here and there). So while we’re still very much a band who loves electronica, I’d say this album is definitely gothic metal.”

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Music is so much a part of their life, working together as a couple and a band, there’s little time for diversions. Sarah said, “Not working with the band? We didn’t even realize that was an option! We are a married couple and we spend just about every waking second involved with some aspect of music making. It is nice for us because we both have the same passion and drive to immerse ourselves in a non-stop musical adventure. We do also enjoy reading and movies. That is where much of our inspiration comes from. Braxton says pretty much just music, books, and movies. I’m into video games, too. I really have ambitions to make a silent movie one of these days.”

They do occasionally listen to podcasts, but only “sporadically, and we listen to those done by people we know. Jim Ryan is a good friend of ours who has several podcasts he is involved with. Here’s a link to his podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/every-world-news/id328217881  I think the only ‘celebrity’ ones we subscribe to are Mr.Deity and when they were active, DGM’s Hot Tickles. We’re much more likely to check out the individual episode here and there; most of the time, we’re listening to demos, sketches, or inspiration. We really want to make time to listen to more podcasts because Neil Degrasse Tyson also does podcasts and he is so interesting to listen to!”

So, what is next on their radar? “We need to finish up the recording and mixing on this current project but after that, we’d love to travel around for more shows. We played at several conventions last year, but we want to try to get to twice as many this year! So we have some great new music that we are finishing up and the next step will be sharing that new music with as many people as we can reach.”

They have some great, practical advice for new bands. “Watch the Ira Glass video on the gap between taste and execution as much as you can. If you want to make this your main source of income, limit your debt as much as practical. Follow your own instincts as a fan-in other words, what kinds of shows do you like going to? What kinds of sounds, experiences, etc, do you value; that is, more importantly than even money: where do you invest your time? If you can get a clear answer to those type of questions, you can get a pretty accurate road map of your trajectory. Oddly, don’t obsess too much about being ‘good’. Everyone defines that differently. As long as the best show you play is your next one, that’s a pretty good way to think about it.”

Listeners can find out more about Valentine Wolfe on their home page, ValentineWolfe.com, and listen to their wonderful music on BandcampiTunes, Amazon, Google Play, last.fm, and YouTube. You can also stalk them on Facebook, but beware, they might just stalk you back.

Monster Mash with Jenn Vix

Jenn Vix is becoming a regular here on Horror Addicts, as this is her third time on the podcast. I decided to catch up with her and play her new song, “Burn”. Jenn is a solo artist but does live shows with bass player, Paul LaFleur, and also just started working with a new guitarist. She describes her music as “dark, dancy at times, and a little quirky I suppose.”

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I really enjoyed listening to “Burn” as it has some pretty heavy and deep imagery that one needs to be pulled out from under. So I asked what it was about and what it meant to her. “It means a lot to me, as I am a domestic violence survivor. The song is about that, and my experience with PTSD; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (I was diagnosed with it in 2004.) I’m still not as mentally strong as I was before it happened. I hope that one day I will be.”

Of the places she has played live, she said, “I’ve received a great response so far; no complaints here. I recently played a show where people were dancing in front of the stage. I love that! I’ve played in NYC, Providence, New Haven, and Chicago. I would like to go to London, Brussels, Edinburgh, and Berlin.”

Among her own works, she has a few favorites. “The first one is a track that I recorded with Reeves Gabrels, guitarist of The Cure; and formerly of David Bowie. It is titled ‘Speed of Light’. It’s mostly instrumental, and in 9/8 tempo. The other ones are ‘Burn,’ featuring Dirk Ivens, of Absolute Body Control, and Dive, and the third is a new track called ‘The Woman With No Fear,’ which is going to be on my upcoming EP, this autumn. It is based on a true story of a woman who has a rare, congenital brain disorder that began to destroy her amygdala in childhood.”

About her favorite bands, she said, “I like a lot of bands, but I’d have to say that The Cure, Wire, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Massive Attack, UNKLE, Tricky, New Order, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, The Velvet Underground, Marc Almond, Lee and Nancy, Associates, John Foxx, Alan Vega, and Absolute Body Control, have inspired the Hell out of me.”

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When she isn’t writing music for her solo projects, she also enjoys writing and recording soundtrack music for films.

Her current plans are “to release a new EP in the coming months, and then I’d like to go out and support it by doing more shows.”

What is her advice to new bands? “Don’t be afraid to send your music to big magazines and radio shows. I sent my first album in to Rolling Stone magazine, just for shits and giggles, and they ended up reviewing it.”

Horror Addicts can find Jenn’s music at jennvix.bandcamp.com, her back catalog on MySpace, as well as on Amazon, and iTunes. You can also follow her on Facebook.

Monster Mash with Alkemic Generator

Episode 92 brings us music from Italian EBM trio Alkemic Generator and their dark, dance-inducing song, “Scream“. This song in particular puts me in the mind of Lacuna Coil, another Italian band as it happens. The other tracks from their new album, The Oniric Geometry, inspires similar comparison with their high energy electronic rock. I enjoyed the whole album, with “Illusion” being another standout favorite as it highlights the operatic voice of lead singer Sanja Aveic. It also has some quotes by Nikola Tesla. How can you not love that?

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When I asked about their song, “Scream”, Sanja described it like this: “Have you ever found yourself in situations when you were in one place only because you had to be there, because your duty obliged your feet to stand at one place rather then another? Well, this song was created in a moment like that, when I felt too tight in my own skin, and when only thing I desired was to liberate my spirit free. This song was my escape from what I had to do, into the direction of what I wanted to.”

Alkemic Generator combines the talents of engineer Leo, lyricist and singer Sanja, and guitarist Kinki. They described their work together telling me that “Leo acts as an engineer; using his keyboard, and programming skills he outlines the structure based on the words written by Sanja. Then Kinki, with his guitar and programming ideas, adds the finesse to complete a look of this structure, and at the end, a female voice reunites all the components together, building up a stable assembly of oniric inspirations. Our music is a mirror of our deeper feelings, the part of our inner world which is very rich (not from material point of view) and curious. The music we do is a constant play of fantasy, creativity, and exploration, all placed in one, and wrapped in a resistant envelope which assures its strength.”

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The Oniric Geometry is their first album, but they told me they have “already fired up the engine for production of the second one. We would like to keep our primary stamp, which can be found on our first album, but also consider the innovations which could make the new product even more (musically) valuable.”

For this talented trio, nothing is better then a live performance, but they are still finding their audience. “We love to play our music live, sharing our emotions and experience with people that are listening us. But, we confronted huge difficulties while organizing our eventual play here in Italy. Partially, this is because people prefer to listen to DJ sets rather than a live show. On the other side, Alkemic Generator is a novelty here, so we are about to show who we are, and what is the music that we are actually doing. We still have to build our reputation. Yet, we have played a bunch of shows in the last year, all in Italy, but we hope that our new CD will open more possibilities to play in those places where the public would like to hear us, wherever they might be in the world.”

Sanja then also added, “I must say that we are still breaking the barrier between us and public. I believe this is because we are bringing something a little bit different in EBM music. The arrangements have particularities which have to be discovered and listened with attention. At least I hope this is the reason why people that we have in front of us are so static, while we try to fill the place with energy during our performances. It seems like they still don’t trust us enough, and the only way we can earn their trust is to give our best on stage, which is the thing we are constantly doing, no matter if we play for 10 or 100 or 1000 people.”

Of course I had to ask, what’s the origin of “Alkemic Generator”? “Well, we expected this one. At the beginning, we were inspired to create a name with scientific connections. And why, you might ask!? It’s simple. When we are not Alkemic Generator, we are scientists. Well, most of us are. That’s why we selected the name NAG (which is a component of a bacterial wall) initially, but even if we liked it, the sound of that word was too simple. So, while we were trying to transform this simple NAG-word into something more complicated, we ended up with the acronym Noise Alkemic Generator. Within this name, we tried to combine some of the principles of our work occupations as researchers-biologists (Alchemist) and physician (Generator) together with the sound (Noise). Later on, our dear collaborators from Nilaihah Records revealed to us that NAG had a meaning, which was everything but appropriate, and so we have changed it, and since then we are officially Alkemic Generator.”

“Oniric” means “relating to dreams”, so with an album titled The Oniric Geometry, it is obvious that the band would find inspiration in dreams. “Our dreams lay behind all of what we do. We can say they are our general inspiration. But then, there are some more specific events or personalities which could trigger an idea inside of us. That is the case for the video for which we are writing a storyboard in the moment. This video clip is inspired by the novel The Wizard of Oz, by Baum, and we are very excited to finalize it.”

Kinki told me that his favorite song of theirs is “Voices Of Devotion” because “in this song we have mixed some ethereal moments with powerful beats.” Sanja added, “I feel extreme power when I sing ‘Illusion’, since it carries a story so strong and particular as the man that created it was.” This, I believe, is in reference to Nikola Tesla.

Of their favorite music and bands, Kinki said, “I love Feindflug, Combichrist, Freakangel, and many other EBM artists; but the most important artist from the electronic scene, in my opinion, is Wumpscut. I’m so proud that our remix of his song ‘Gabi Grausam’ was choosen by Wumpscut for the tracklist of DjDwarf 13.” Sanja added, “I am particularly devoted to the Rock music from 60-70’s. I must be honest and say that my vocal orientation was led preferentially by Tarja Turunen and Anneke (The Gathering). I also admire Vibeke’s way of interpretation. Thanks to them, the bands they sing in influenced my musical orientation in part. I must not forget Lacuna Coil, too. Considering EBM scene, I am impressed by the work of Diorama, and then there are also Diary of Dreams, and Assemblage 23.”

For Leo, music has always been a part of his life. “I started to play piano when I was 9. By the age of 15, I started to compose my first music, and by the time I played with my first band. Now I’m 40, but I still have the same desire to make the music come out from my brain.” For Sanja, playing music came later. “A courage to enter into music more seriously arrived quite late. I have already overcome my teens when I started with classical music, then arrived Rock, and finally, with Alkemic Generator, I reached a completion I have always dreamed of; at last I have started to write it as well.”

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When the band isn’t together making music, they each enjoy some eclectic distractions. Leo said, “my job as a project manager is quite creative itself, every single day. It takes a lot of time and energy, making me very busy. But doing some sports in my free time is always appreciated.” Kinki said, “I always have my hands full of things to do. When I don’t hold my guitar, I have my hands busy with laboratory staffs, ‘playing’ with my microbes. Then, concerts are my hobbies; I like so much to hear my favourite bands on their live shows.” As for Sanja, she said, “when I am not writing, or reading, well, then I am around fixing the things in the house, or outside in the garden, planting. Another thing that I really like to do is biking, or simply walking for miles during a city touring. It’s important to be in the open air.”

They do also listen to podcasts and online radio. “We listen mostly to podcasts of Italian webradios which promote local music. Then, we are wandering, in search of EBM/Goth web stations, since there are not that many of them in Italy, but none is more frequent than another.”

What’s next for the band? “At the moment, we’re searching for a booking agency which can assure us live shows, and which can promote us in the best way. We are working for the first videoclip realization, and we have started the studio sessions for the second album. We believe our music deserves to be heard. Also, considering that we are a new band, we need feedback so we can meliorate what is not good enough.”

I normally ask band members if they have any advice, but they told me that since they are a new band, they are waiting for some advice. To them I say, please visit HorrorAddicts.net and read the other interviews and seek out the wisdom of those we’ve featured before. I have no doubt that this band has a bright future ahead of them.

Follow Alkemic Generator online at SoundCloud, ReverbNationFacebookMySpace, and Twitter.
Listen to their Bandcamp digital music downloads, as well as on StorenvyiTunes, and Amazon.

Monster Mash with UNVEIL

For episode 91 we are happy to bring back one of our favorite bands, Unveil. The goth-punk metal band from Sherbrooke, Quebec, was formed by songwriter and guitarist Alain Robitaille, a drummer named Pom, bassist Mr. Lee, and now includes lead vocalist Jow. Alain explained, “Unveil is a rock band with a dark edge. One could say, we are metal heads playing gothic rock songs with prog influenced arrangements. The band was officially born in 2004 out of the desire of good friends to play music together. This gave me an outlet to use songs I had stashed in my ‘secret garden’ for the past 20 years.”

The song we are featuring for this episode is “Empty”, from their album CODEX NOCTEM, which was just released in June 2013. Alain sent us “Empty” because of its theme which is near and dear to my heart: vampires. As he put it, “vampires [are] my favourite horror character. But you won’t find bats, fangs or red lined caps here. You have to listen carefully to ‘unveil‘ the truth. This is our first official album and it was entirely self-produced. The only outside help we got was for the mastering. We are now working on material for a second album.”

Unveil CD

The band thrives on playing gigs. “Playing concert halls is always fun because you get the chance to bring the full stage show. But what we really enjoy is playing the odd gig in town. Record stores, radio stations, you name it. Last year, we played at a Zombie Walk. Now that was a totally different experience. One song that stands out at every show is ‘Hide’. It’s the kind of song that makes you jump around. On Halloween 2010, we presented a very special event called ‘The Story of Sarah‘; a multimedia production combining a short film within a rock concert. More than a year of work went into that show and we got a fantastic reaction. We are looking at the possibilities of creating an acoustic version.”

Dust-to-Dust

Alain’s many musical influences have shaped the band, including the name. “I am a big fan of the 70’s prog movements with bands like Genesis and Pink Floyd being major influences.  From day one, we knew that we wanted to combine elements of storytelling into our show. Stories shrouded in mystery in which you unveil clues to uncover the truth.”

As for the album’s title, he added, “A codex is the first incarnation of the modern book. So CODEX NOCTEM is a fitting name for a first album built around a collection of songs about the night. Producing an album is a lot more work than I first envisioned. The hardest part is the same as with any artistic creation: letting go. You can always improve your creation, but you have to let it go to let the magic begins. Only then can listeners get an emotion out of your work. I am involved at every creative level with this band. Anything related to Unveil has passed through my hands. That includes recording, video editing, web design and a whole lot more. For the “Story of Sarah” project, I actually wrote two short stories. Who knows, maybe one day they will become audio books.”

What music does he like to listen to? “I listen to a lot of music and my favourite artists continually change. I would say Black Sabbath, Katatonia and The Mission are major influences of my song writing style. Alice Cooper and Rammstein are my reference in stage productions. I’m also a big fan of the Finnish Rock scene (Charon, PoisonBlack, etc.) I like many styles of music. But if you want to grab my attention, any type of music with a little dark side will do the job. Emilie Autumn, Birthday Massacre, Peccatum, etc. I personally think that there is good stuff in every music style, but you sometimes have to dig a little deeper to find it. We are currently working with a local DJ to create a dance floor version of one of our songs. Now that is really far from our comfort zone. A dark ambient track would also be a fun thing to make.”

He also listens to podcasts, including some familiar to us. “I listen to very few podcasts asides HorrorAddicts. I really enjoyed the Night’s Knight series and I’m looking forward to sink my teeth into Lilith’s Love. I am also a big fan of The MetalCast.”

Unveil live 2

So what’s next for Alain and Unveil? “Now that the album has been released, we can start working on our new stage production. We are working with a set designer to create a show where storytelling is woven into a rock show. I am reading various fairy tales to get the creative juice flowing.”

Finally, what advice does he have for new bands? “Don’t be afraid of who you are. Create music that you like, not music to be liked.”

Unveil’s new album CODEX NOCTEM is available now for download from their Bandcamp page. CDs will be available at Musique Cité in Sherbrooke: the last independent music store in town, and also from CDBaby. You can follow the band on Facebook and MySpace.

Monster Mash with The Jesus Cleaver

Welcome back from our mini-hiatus, Addicts! For Episode 88 we are featuring the song “Europa” by Australian dark alternative band The Jesus Cleaver. Singer/songwriter John P. Shea is the core member though he collaborates often with other artists. As he puts it, “I handle all of the writing and production duties, and most of the instrumentation. We were briefly a 2-piece around 2002, with [3] on bass, when we did our first live show. Now, we’re focusing primarily on recording. [3] did some bass parts on the debut album, A Private Encyclopaedia, and I also recorded backing vocals for the track ‘Rend’, which featured Brisbane singers Angie Draper and Tanya Quinlan. For the current album, Life In Clouds, we also got a guitar part for ‘Empty’ recorded by Brisbane alt-rock outfit, Blu Blak Truk. So overall, I’m trying to balance my need for total control with actually getting things done in a reasonable time frame. But I’m also cognizant of creating artistic dependencies. I guess a loose collective of special guests is a better description, depending on the requirements of individual songs. That being said, I think that the possibility of collaborating with other artists is getting more and more intriguing. But I also like the built-in sense of isolation that seems to permeate our work.”

The Jesus Cleaver

“Europa” is his latest single from the current album, Life In Clouds. “It’s hard to describe how important this particular track is. It represents a culmination of a lot of things musically, but more importantly, I think that the lyrics present a pretty vivid picture. It’s quite up-tempo too, which is a bit of a first for us. The song is about how far apart things can get, and also how close things can come together. It’s about raw desire, about being completely infatuated, irrespective of how long things have been going on for. It draws a bit from David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, in that a long journey is implied. The song title is reflective of that as well, and the artwork hints at two bodies in mutual orbit. Whenever I buy a new album, the first thing I do is read all of the lyrics. For this sort of audience, hopefully there’s something really strong on offer. Our lyrics underpin all of our songs, and everything begins with the lyrics in the first instance. That being said, the track could equally get skipped as soon as my vocals come on!”

The Jesus Cleaver is based in Brisbane, Australia, which is where John grew up. “Brisbane has a very diverse music scene, and has been home to acts ranging from the Bee Gees, The Saints, The Go-Betweens, and Savage Garden to name a few. In the late 80’s, Brisbane indie artists faced the height of a pretty oppressive cultural environment. A lot of indie acts were around at the time, and the city’s community radio station, 4ZzZ FM, was (and still is) a big part of the pulse of things.  This was when I first started writing, and getting more deeply exposed to the local sub-culture. In terms of influences, it’s difficult not to have textures from acts like those of the line up of the first Livid Festival somewhat engrained. There are quite a few videos from Brisbane acts around at that time on the ‘That Striped Sunlight Sound’ blog as well. Andrew Stafford’s book, Pig City is a great read for anyone interested in this aspect of Brisbane’s cultural development, and more broadly, Clinton Walker’s Stranded: The Secret History of Australian Independent Music is also an important reference. But more broadly in terms of influences, 4ZzZ shared a lot of the indie ethos that BBC presenter John Peel espoused, and UK labels such as 4AD, Beggars Banquet, Rough Trade and Mute were very well represented in playlists of the the day. In fact, Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ (Factory Records), was still doing well in the station’s 1988 Hot 100. US labels such as Alternative Tentacles were also in the mix, so hopefully that paints a bit of a picture. Our main influences are dark alternative acts such as Joy Division, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, as well as people like David Bowie, Kate Bush and bands such as Depeche Mode.”

How do your fans react to your music? “There are two aspects to this. In the first, I have a close group of friends and artists that I play new releases to. One of the biggest buzzes I get is in seeing them quite perplexed (for example, “Girl With No Name”), or pointing out what the song means to them, or other tracks or styles that it relates to, some of which I might not have heard of previously. All of these different tangents that the song is provoking. Secondly, for our broader fan base (an attribute which we can barely lay claim to), occasionally, we’ll get some positive tweets on particular tracks. That’s something I really thrive on. But overall, I think that music listening has become a very passive experience these days, despite the abundance of social media. Hopefully, some of our work will be good enough to prompt a conversation here and there, otherwise, we’re just another unnoticed tree falling in the forest, so to speak. We’re so far removed from the mainstream, but that in many respects is a very good thing. As an underground act, we’re not beholden to anyone or any corporation. We’re completely in control of our means of production and our artistic destiny, and we run our own small-scale promotion within a small but loyal sub-genre. If people view that as interesting, and take the time to discover and explore our art, then, fan by fan, I think that we might eventually achieve something resembling a following. In the mean time, we’re concentrating on getting better and better at our craft, and entertaining ourselves and close friends along the way.”

Europa

Of your music, do you have any favorite songs? “I guess each time I finish a new song, it’s the new favorite du jour. So at the moment, it’s ‘Europa’, and before that it was ‘Empty’. ‘Empty’ was a pretty important achievement, and a lot of production went into its rather murky, menacing mid-bass sound, and overall sense of power and intimidation. That track is a combination of some interesting musical loops and crescendo, and the guitar part from Blu Blak Truk is pretty decimating at an appropriate playback volume. ‘Luscious, which was our first single from the debut album, A Private Encyclopaedia, also has a special place, especially considering how long that song existed in a very abstract, avant-garde form. During production, the bass and guitar parts were added on top of the droning strings and free-form percussion. Before this, the song was very sparse.”

How would you describe your music? “That’s the hardest thing I find about being involved in music production and promotion – writing about your own work. I really appreciate the gift that some music journalists have of naturally being able to go on at length and in such descriptive language. For me, a song is a song. You either play it once and forget it, or you turn it up because it fills you up with something, it makes your existence that much better for that moment, or even the whole day. At least that’s my experience with my favorite songs.

I find it especially hard because we don’t clearly fit into a particular genre, and even song to song, there’s a great deal of variety in our work. There are hints here and there, and at times some of our influences make themselves more clearly known, but maybe its a process of joining the dots, from what has come before us, and the various directions we’re heading toward.”

What was the inspiration for Life In Clouds? “Life In Clouds is about existing in a particular state of bliss, and perhaps in denial, too. It’s otherworldly in a sense, in that it can’t necessarily be attained, or transitioned to. The tracks on the album loosely explore various facets of this, particularly in an inter-personal sense. Hopefully they fit together, and the title track is certainly deeply aligned, or central to this theme. The video for ‘Mercy’, which was the first single from the album, tries to portrait some of this as well in its imagery.”

Who are your favorite bands, and who has influenced your music? “I’m a huge fan of SWANS and Michael Jira. I recently saw them perform in Sydney, doing ‘The Seer’ live. Michael is a remarkable writer, and, for example, songs from the period “‘White Light from the Mouth of Infinity’ (1991) / ‘Love of Life’ (1992) / ‘The Great Annihilator’ (1995) are immensely inspiring. His recent work is very powerful, in that musically, he’s stripped things down to very simple phrases or passages of energy, yet these are being orchestrated continuously in a purposeful way. I’m still trying to rationalize the live show. I get the sense that he has a very personal vision of destruction that he’s trying to convey. For a writer of his experience and accomplishments, to realize that this is a truth that he has arrived at, and that this is what is literally being pounded into you, it’s pretty close to a spiritually cleansing. I came away from the show more as a survivor, questioning everything I’ve ever done artistically. It was much more a sense of emptiness than of being elated. It’s pretty hard to describe, but the fact that his work is so strong and powerful, and yet so out of phase with the rest of the universe, that’s pretty compelling in terms of a measure of his dissatisfaction with the status quo. Peter Hook did his ‘Unknown Pleasures’ show in Brisbane a little while ago, and that was very close to a transcendental atmosphere being formed in the venue – the energy of the songs, and their raw emotional charge, not to mention the Northern accent. I’d love to see him again with ‘Closer’. In fact, we’ve had a pretty good run lately. Blixa just came back and did a great Einstürzende Neubauten show, and Peter Murphy was pretty sublime as well – he added a good helping of Bauhaus tracks, including ‘She’s In Parties’, which is one of my favorites. Ninth, his current album, is definitely one of his best yet.”

Are there any other styles of music that you like? “I’m reasonably omnivorous, and my music collection has albums from artists such as the Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash, Billie Holiday, Shostakovich. It’s pretty eclectic. Not expansive, because in my youth I was constantly saving money for synths and drum machines, and I tend to be interested in complete bodies of work, which at the time precluded some of the more peripheral interests.”

What type of music turns you off? “I still have scars from The B52’s being played at our high school formal.”

Is there a style that you haven’t worked in that you would like to? “In terms of new styles, it wouldn’t be impossible for something more orchestral to turn up, or perhaps something harsher, maybe some more guitars and percussion samples, but not necessarily agro-tech. I think we’re way too humanist to get into that sort of territory.”

How long have you been writing, composing, or playing? “I’ve been writing since I was a teenager, but most of that early stuff hasn’t seen the light of day. The debut album, A Private Encyclopaedia, was in many respects a ‘best of’ for a lot of that earlier work. In terms of composing and playing, I’ve been into the music technology side of things for a long time, and started out with hardware sequencers running MIDI synths, and then a drum machine. When I was in high school, I read Paul White’s Home & Studio Recording magazine religiously every month. I’ve slowly accumulated all of the studio gear one tends to accumulate, but there are still a few things on the eBay saved search list!”

Life In Clouds

What has it been like creating your albums? “In many respects, creating an album is an act of pure vanity – at the end of the process, you’ve got something unique that you can play instead of everyone else’s work. It’s a very demanding process, and yet it’s something that I’m completely comfortable with. It’s taken a long time to get there, and you have to learn a lot about your own limitations, but ultimately, you’re imposing your own sense of style throughout the decision making. With today’s tools, the possibilities are practically infinite, so having a clear sense of purpose for each track is critical. Sustaining this through the entire recording process is important, because I’m trying to convey, in musical terms, the emotional state of the lyrics. The music is really there just as a support mechanism, and at times, it can be quite strange indeed, compared to most conventional songs which probably emerge the other way around. The work so far on the second album has been a lot smoother than the first, apart from the small matter of being hospitalized for abdominal surgery after recording vocals for the track ‘Empty’. On the production side of things, I’ve got a clearer perspective now on what works and what doesn’t work. Because each song is different from the next, the actual path to completing a song might go down different roads, but aesthetically, things seem to be ending up in the right place. There are still a few songs to go though, so I still have a little apprehension around how they’ll turn out.”

Do you listen to podcasts? “In the very early days, I used to be a regular listener to quite a few podcasts. It’s so refreshing to be able to listen to shows that are actually entertaining. Some shows have come and gone (including my own, ‘Afterglow‘), but podcasting is still a critical outlet for independent media. I try and keep up with some of the dark alternative DJ’s, such as DJ Bronxelf, and now I’ll have to check out the HorrorAddicts archive too! Lately, I’m listening a lot to Radio National on the ABC. When cars have built-in mobile internet and podcast receivers, I’ll definitely be getting back into this medium. I think it needs this sort of convenience to really take off. Well, for me at least, mainly because I can’t stand ear buds or listening ‘on the go’.”

John P Shea - self portrait

When you aren’t working on music, do you have any other creative outlets? “Lately, I’ve been doing some vintage synth restorations. I don’t have a lot of free time, so that turns into a very slow process, especially if parts aren’t available. For one part, a 30mm travel slide potentiometer, I only found one supplier, and they had a minimum quantity of 1,000 units for orders. It took about 3 years for the part to turn up on eBay, and the seller would only ship to the US. By a remarkable coincidence, I was in Florida at the time, and got them sent to the hotel, so that was a bit of a win. I’ve actually re-manufactured some slide switches, where the aluminum-wrapped baton had been snapped off. I found a similar NOS (New Old Stock) part on eBay, as there wasn’t a modern equivalent, but its plastic mechanism (inside the switch housing) was slightly over-sized, so that required a lot of careful work to size it down (and not damage the baton, nor the housing). It’s amazing the level of mechanical engineering contained within the humble slide switch. There are notches on the sides of the housing, and a tiny spring with ball bearings at each end is located perpendicularly through a hole in the base of the baton, which is actually an inverted “T” shape. The ball bearings sit into the notches, which gives you that *click* feel as the baton moves back and forth. There are a set of very delicate contacts on the underside of the inverted “T”-shaped, and these mate with the switch terminals, which are molded through the plastic base, around which the housing is folded. I had to keep the original underside of the “T”, as this was molded to suit the contacts, so this meant that the top half of the original base had to be cut off, and the sized-down replacement “T” glued on top. The actual electrical switching is done as the mechanical movement of the baton drags the contacts over the terminals. You don’t really get any sense of appreciation for the design until you take one apart and try and re-build it. Everything has to fit within pretty fine tolerances. A labor of love, but you’ve got to be able to switch LFO waveforms, right? Not exactly Rock’n’Roll, but you wouldn’t have Rock without a soldering iron!”

Anything not so synth-geeky? “I also started some research for a long-form writing project, but that’s on hold for now. It was great to step back into some of the local University libraries again. I’m the kind of person that gets a buzz out of research and analysis, particularly if you’re doing it the old fashioned way. It’s important to have distractions from music though, and things like studio maintenance (and continual upgrades), as well as things like the graphic design side of things, they’re all something I enjoy.”

What’s next for you and the band? “The remaining tracks for the album Life In Clouds are what’s on the immediate agenda. All the lyrics are ready to go, but I haven’t started any pre-production yet. I mentioned the collaboration thing previously, that might also be an option. I’m pretty much always writing, but I haven’t got anything clearly formulated yet for the next body of work.”

Do you have any advice for new bands? “Just to be very, very clear about what your motives are for being involved in music. Many of the traditional aspirations are not compatible with the current reality, so you have to frame things within your own reality. If that’s something that other people can get into, then all the better. Many music projects don’t necessarily consider an end date either, so if you’re not achieving certain things within a certain time frame, then don’t be afraid to pull the pin. Making music is a deep, deep pit that you can pour yourself into. At times, it seems like you can never do enough. I’m fortunate in that The Jesus Cleaver is a project that seems to function best when deprived of nearly all of its oxygen. You also need pretty thick skin if you’re doing underground promotion, as you’ll be ignored almost all of the time. People’s attention is such a rare commodity these days, but music has that ability, like nothing else, to make a deep connection with the listener, and that’s my main interest.”

All of The Jesus Cleaver’s songs can be streamed in full, for free at any time at music.thejesuscleaver.com, and downloads of the albums and singles are also available in various formats. To find out more about John and his music, visit his official site at thejesuscleaver.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. To keep up-to-date, you can also subscribe to the band’s mailing list.