Life of Agony’s ALAN ROBERT On Coloring Books, Comics, and Life of Agony’s Triumphant Return

Posted in Metal Music Interviews and News on December 30, 2017 by coletteclaire

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Alan Robert b cropThose of us who were angry teenagers in the 1990’s probably fondly remember the band  and their influential albums River Runs Red and Ugly. What some may not know is that its bassist and one of its founding members Alan Robert is also an accomplished comic book artist.  In the past few years Robert has made quite a name for himself in the comic world by releasing several critically acclaimed series through IDW Publishing. Robert’s titles include Crawl to MeKillogy and Wire Hangers. Have no fear however,  is not a thing of the past. They are back and in top form working on a new album. Robert had plenty to say about both his latest artistic creation The Beauty of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book, as well as ’s return.

 The Beauty of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Bookwill be released by award-winning outfit IDW Publishing, who has also published all of his other comic work. It will be released in October, but it is available now for pre-order at a reduced price on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2caPncm and Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1UenMnf.

Robert explains that his inspiration to make his off color coloring book came from his wife and a sarcastic social media post: “I’ve been watching coloring books grow into this huge phenomenon and it’s always interested me because I’ve always been into art. Anytime I go into the store I’d always see these coloring books, but they were nature books or stuff like that. I wasn’t really into it, but my wife and my daughter started coloring in Johanna Basford books. My wife came up with the idea. She was like, ‘you should do your own book. What would you do?’ I started thinking about that seriously and the first thing that popped into my mind was it has to be rock n’ roll or punk rock. It was right around April Fool’s day and I was going to make a sarcastic social media post anyway so I figured what would be the most opposite of all the coloring books that are out there? Something totally disgusting, and the first thing that popped into my head was CBGB’s bathroom that is probably the ultimate. So I drew that up like a coloring book page and I posted it just before Aprils Fool’s day and people started coloring it and posting it back on my page and it was a lot of fun. And then I started thinking of what other rock n roll stuff I could start drawing and the books are like 80 pages and I thought that I would probably run out of ideas if I started the rock n roll theme. Then I decided I should do something more in my whee house and all of my books have been in the horror genre, so I started drawing some horror designs and that’s when I pitched it to IDW and they instantly said yes because it’s something they’ve wanted to do for a long time. The process happened quickly, I literally drew that CBGB’s bathroom on March 31st2016 and pitched IDW on April Fool’s day. There’s everything in there I didn’t want to just stick to a vampire book or werewolf book. There’s literally everything in there that I could possible think of.  80 pages worth of killer clowns and conjoined twins in jars and crazy skeletons and undead kinds creeping around with their undead pets. It’s out there.” There is a video teaser for the coloring book that is truly frightening, and it immediately went viral when posted to social media: “It’s been shared like over 1000 times in a week and over 30,000 people watched it during its 1st week on Facebook. I think tis definitely appealing to a different part of the coloring crowd that’s looking for this type of darker material.” The illustrations in the coloring book are definitely macabre, but they also are so well done one almost doesn’t want to ruin them by coloring them.

Robert is no stranger to success when it comes to his comic work. Not only are his graphic novels widely read, but Killogyis currently in the process of becoming an animated. Robert elaborates, “For Killogy we partnered with a Canadian 3D animation studio and along with my company they produced a six min teaser using the actual voices of Frank Vincent from Good Fellas, Marky Ramone from the Ramones, Doyle from the Misfits and Brea Grant from Heroes. We put together basically a proof of concept clip of what the show would be and we’re in the process of talking to studios and also the idea of possibly doing an animated video game that incorporates the story as well. It’s pretty wild there’s like flying zombies heads and it’s a lot of fun. It’s like a dark comedy.” The executive producers of the Boondocks are also involved according to the clip, which has a Metalocalypse meets Return of the Living Dead feel to it.

Another of his novels, Crawl to Me is going to become a live-action film: “We’re making into a live action feature film now. These things take so long, but we are actively working on it. In fact, I had a call last night with a potential director for it. We are definitely gearing up to shoot sometime in the winter to match the atmosphere of the book, which is set in an isolated winter forest. So that’s the goal, so yeah were making some big strides to start production around then.”

Given the material that Robert has released over the years, one would guess that he’s a big horror fan. He explains a bit about where his love of horror started: “I grew up with all the 80’s horror slasher movies and stuff like The Shining and that kind of molded me. I think the first experience I had with horror was begging my parents to see The Amityville Horrormovie when it came on HBO as a kid and I didn’t get past the opening credits with the music. I ran out of the room and went into my room and my room was situated next door to my parent’s room and they continued to watch the movie. I was just scared shitless all night listening to it through the wall. I think it either traumatized me so much that I became obsessed with horror films or it just piqued my interested and that was it. That was probably the starting point.”

One might wonder how Robert made the transition from music to art, but in truth it was the other way around. He started with art and then found music. He explains further: “When I was a kid I was really super shy and the one thing I was good at was drawing. I would draw funny cartoons and stuff and even in elementary school I would sit at lunch and just doodle. Kids would come around me and watch me draw and I would make a lot of friends that way. So I got more and more confident and came out of my shell as a kid and then I really wanted to pursue being a professional comic book artist. I got a scholarship for a school in New York. I had Walt Simonson, the artist that draws the Mighty Thor, as a teacher. Right when I graduated, around in 1993, I was already playing with Life of Agony, which was basically one of my first bands that started in 1989. I was going to start taking my portfolio around, but we got signed that year. We recorded River Runs Redand I had a choice to either go jump in a van and tour the record on a US tour, or start taking around my portfolio to comic book companies. I figured the music thing was happening, it was exciting, and the idea of getting a lot of rejection at comic book companies wasn’t that appealing. I figured this is probably a once in a life time opportunity to try and go for music and see where it would go and I figured art would be my backup plan at that point. And the music took off and we held our own for many, many years and built a really solid fan base.”

Alan Robert poster cropRobert describes how he recently came back to his love of art and comics: “I always wanted to do my own comic book. I had an idea back in the early 90’s of a comic book character and finally in 2009 I got really curious and decided I’m going to bring this idea to life. I was all set to self- publish the book and that’s when I jumped on Twitter and Chris Ryall from IDW and I became friends. He’s a big metal head and we started trading comic books for music and things like that. Once he heard the idea for Wire Hangers, he offered me a publishing deal and basically since then, since 2009 -2010, I pitched IDW a new concept almost every year and published it. So I have several series out through them and that’s why this coloring book happened so quickly.” Apparently, IDW has been good to Robert: “IDW has been great. They basically gave me total creative control to write and draw anything I want based on these ideas that I’ve pitched them. It’s been awesome. I basically just lock myself down for like 3-6 months writing and drawing all day and then submit a finished book and they print it and promote it. It’s been amazing. IDW deals with big properties like Star Trek and Transformers and My Little Pony. If you deal with existing properties your dealing with a lot of input about who’s likeness should be drawn a certain way. With my books they really don’t have that type of pressure.  I’m coming up with everything on my own. They give me free reign to do what I want. You can’t really ask for anything more with a publisher.”

Clearly, Robert is a busy guy. One might wonder where Life of Agony fits into his busy schedule, but he is reassuring about the fact that the band is equally important in his life and the album is on its way to being completed. “We’re probably right smack in the middle of the recording. All the basic tracks are done. I finished my bass tracks last week or the week before and now Mina’s going to sing on it and we’re all super excited about the way it’s coming out.” Roberts goes onto to reveal that the sound is, “really heavy, very melodic, very dark lyrics. I think our fan base will be very happy with it. There’s some bands that put out the same record every year but we never wanted to be that type of band and we always wanted to evolve and grow.  I think our fans would agree that every album that we’ve made is a little bit different. I think that the mind set of writing this record was that we were very aware of where we came from lyrically and from a conceptual stand point, and the sounds that we captured on River Runs Red, and we understand who we are now also. I think there’s a mixture on the new album of that old way of thinking mixed in with who we are now and moving toward something that we’ve never done also on previous records, so I think it’s a nice combination.” One thing that is certain is that Life of Agony was on the same page as far as what they wanted to write: “I think we all knew the type of record that we wanted to write. I think we were all on the same page as far as what the next step for this band should be. So we were all on the same page even before we started writing as four people that have gone through this all these years and had a chance to step away and take a look at it from the outside view. I think we all knew the type of record that we needed to create and so we went into the writing session with that in mind and what the sound should be and the tuning should be the tempos should be.”

Alan Robert cropLife of Agony is coming back after a pretty big gap in time.  The last album that Life of Agony released was 2005’s Broken Valley. Record company issues and disillusionment with the music business is what led to such a long break. Robert explains, “We did a bunch of touring when that Broken Valleyrecord came out. We were on a major label with that and we had a lot of high hopes for it. However, that album was included with probably about a dozen other Sony records that year that Sony had released with illegal spyware on the CDs themselves. They were trying to basically prevent anyone from downloading music for free and basically putting a block on people’s computers so they couldn’t do that without the users knowing it. They got caught and they got sued and they ended up having to pull all those albums off the shelves including ours just months after it came out. So that really affected us and it really bummed us out. This was a record that we worked really hard to make and it never really got the chance that it deserved, so that really made us upset. We toured to support the record after that, but I think we were all pretty bummed out about it and no one was in a rush to write anything soon after that so it took us a long time to recover.” Roberts goes onto explain that the break was ultimately good for the band: “Every now and then I think you need to step away from something to get re-inspired. Sometimes you get into a grind, especially after the Broken Valley record and all the disappointment that we felt with what we experienced at the label. I think we all personally, emotionally just needed to step away and kind of reevaluate the whole situation and make it fun again because it wasn’t fun for a while. If were not having fun then there’s really no point. You never want to feel like you’re punching in or going through the motions. I’m glad we were able to step away and still come back stronger. I think that’s definitely what happened.”

In addition to the disappointment with the record company, Life of Agony singer Keith Caputo was dealing with his own gender identity issues. Ultimately, Keith Caputo transitioned to Mina Caputo and she is a much happier person for it. Robert describes it this way: “She’s never sounded better, I think, and she’s finally free and has no more hang ups in her own mind battling things.” As far as fan reaction goes, Robert explains that fans have completely embraced Mina: “She thought people wouldn’t accept her for who she is and they do. What she did is really courageous and as a friend I’m super proud of her for being so brave and I’m glad we have the opportunity to share the stage again and do the things that we do. The crowds have been amazing its better than ever I mean the footage over the last couple years since she came out you can see the response.  It’s just such a universal love for this band and everything that we’ve gone through and it’s never been more exciting than now. That’s why the new album is coming. I think we can really breathe a new life into what we’re doing.  Once Mina came out and made her announcement we got back together and started performing and the response has just so overwhelmingly positive that we’re having such a good time. It just came naturally that the next step would be to get back in the studio. I think the fans definitely want to hear new material it’s been a long time.”

Life Of Agony - River Runs RedRecently, Rolling Stone called Life of Agony’s new album one of the most anticipated of 2016. One might think that this puts a lot of pressure on the band. However, Robert says he doesn’t concern himself much with what people might expect from the band as far as their sound: “We don’t really listen to anybody. We don’t give a fuck what anybody says. Its funny when we came out with River Runs Red that’s who we were at that moment. Two years later we came out with Ugly and everyone at the time that loved River Runs Red was like ‘What is this Ugly record? It’s so different.’ We got a lot of shit over it because it was so different and now people all these years later look at Ugly as this ground breaking record when they gave us such a hard time when it came out. So we decided a long time ago never to listen to anybody but ourselves about what we wanted to do and what we wanted to write. Even before we were signed I think that we were doing something a little bit different than the other Brooklyn bands that we were playing with. We were mixing it up with a lot of melody with the vocals with the heavy music and we never really fit in back then either. Somehow or another we built up our own fan base where we came from and we got signed and got a chance to put out the record but if we had listened to everybody back then ‘oh you should sound like this’ we probably never would have got signed. So we’ve learned to ignore everybody and do our own thing. Its funny people ask us to play songs more and more from Ugly these days. In fact, we did a live album for River Runs Red. We did the whole album in its entirety and we recorded it and put it out in Belgium and people ask us to do the same thing with Ugly. It’s an interesting idea. We haven’t played some of those songs live probably ever, but right now we’re focused on the new album and were excited to start playing that stuff live.”

Life Of Agony - UglyThe band  is eager to head out on the road after a delay due to an injury suffered by their drummer Sal Abruscato. Roberts elaborates, “We have a bunch of dates coming up at the end of the year. We were supposed to be in Europe in July and we had to postpone a bunch of dates because Sal broke his collar bone. So we will be going out around November and December. While he is getting better and recovering the goal is to try and get him well enough so that not only can he perform the set like he used to, but maybe tackle a couple of new songs.”

While the world waits with baited breath for the new Life of Agony, they can keep themselves busy reading Robert’s myriad of graphic novels as well as work on finding their own creative spirit via his coloring book.

http://www.alanrobert.com

http://www.lifeofagony.com/

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BLOODY HAMMERS – From the Cold Dark Mountains of Transylvania, North Carolina

Posted in Metal Music Interviews and News on December 30, 2017 by coletteclaire

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Bloody Hammers cropAnders Manga, best known for his solo darkwave/gothic dance music, formed the gothic doom band Blood Hammers in 2012. Now releasing their fourth album entitled A Lovely Sort of Death, their second album with Napalm Records,  has clearly become more than just a side project for Manga. When he first created , Manga had no idea it would go as far as it has. He elaborates, “I put the  debut record on Bandcamp and I was like ‘whatever.’ It was literally the next day a label contacted me from Amsterdam called SoulSeller and wanted to release it. I had no idea where it would go.” One might wonder why he even decided to do an entirely separate project, when he was already a solo artist. Doesn’t being solo mean that he can do whatever he wants? Manga explains, “I wanted to do something more organic. My solo stuff is more electronic based. I missed playing guitar, and so I started playing guitar and I was like ‘ah this is probably too far out there for the fans who like the Anders Manga stuff.’”

Although Bloody Hammer’s music definitely still has an overall gothic feel to it, it is definitely more metal than Manga’s solo music. One might even say that  has a “European” sound in the vein of bands like Opeth or My Dying Bride. Despite this fact,  actually hails from Transylvania County, North Carolina in the United States. Though the name of the county where they reside still certainly lends to the band’s dark vibe. As Manga puts it, “If you live in Transylvania County you have to say you live in Transylvania County right?” Manga describes how Bloody Hammer’s departure from the Gothic-dance outpourings of his solo work was well supported by the metal community: “Not that were some massive band, but compared to the Goth scene there’s not a whole lot of press or websites dedicated to the music. The metal scene is much larger and journalists support all kinds of styles of rock music and that’s nice. The Goth scene sometimes seems like it’s more about the fashion and the dancing and the beats. I was kind of getting bored with it and wanted to do something else. I mean I still love that stuff, but it seemed like a lot of the clubs started to be more about bondage and S&M rather than the music.”

Bloody Hammers - Lovely Sort of DeathAs far as the definitively brutal band name, Manga explains that it comes from the Roky Erickson song Bloody Hammer released in 1981. One of Manga’s major influences, Erickson is a musician from Texas who was a pioneer of the psychedelic rock genre in the 1960’s who served a stint in a mental hospital.  As for other musical influences it is clear when Manga describes them how he ended up playing both Goth and metal music, “I was a weird child when I was in high school. It was different back then. There were metal kids, Goth kids, punk kids and these different groups of people. I never felt like I fit in. People would get in my car and see The Cure Disintegration and Slayer Rein in Blood. I liked Sisters of Mercy and stuff that wasn’t metal. I didn’t wear plastic pants I wasn’t super Goth, but I like all kind of stuff. The first record I owned was Gary Numan’s Pleasure Principle. I got into Black Sabbath and went through the whole thrash phase. I like music from the Beatles, to Pink Floyd, to Nick Cave, to Bauhaus, and Slayer.”

Manga explains that though  is different from his solo stuff, he still prefers to mainly work alone. Manga and keyboardist Devallia are the only permanent members of : “We have a touring lineup of guys that help us out, but as far as the music it’s all me and Devallia. Devallia helps out with keyboards, and mixing and stuff like that. I watched that Dave Grohl movie about Sound City and he’s like ‘music is about people getting together and making music together’ and I was like, ‘it’s not like that for me at all.’ I prefer working alone. I’m an introvert.  I like working at 3:00 in the morning. I’m not one of those guys that can get together with other people at a specific time and be creative. It’s better to work alone. When you’re working in a band atmosphere where everybody has equal say it’s like ‘what about my song? You don’t like my song?’ I’m more like Trent Reznor’s style where they work alone or Al Jourgensen.” Even when it came to making the videos for Bloodletting on the Kiss and The Reaper Comes for A Lovely Sort of Death Manga describes how they did everything themselves: “Devallia  and I did those. We had a director one time before, but we’re introverts doing everything ourselves. It’s easier. When you get too many cooks in the kitchen. It’s a pain in the ass. Everything is so much easier now with making videos and things like that. There’s kids making videos with iPhones now.”

Bloody Hammers crop 2Released on August 5th 2016 A Lovely Sort of Death has a dark doom-like quality, but also clearly shows Manga’s gothic darkwave influences with a splash of rock n’ roll.  When asked about the direction of the new album and what inspired it he had this to say: “I just didn’t want to put any boundaries on it. I kind of like not fitting in a box. This album was just the mood I was in at the time, the weather had something to do with it. We were snowed in for days and days. I’m at 3000 foot elevation [where I live] and it was that isolation not being able to go anywhere. I just felt that atmosphere. It’s hard to articulate the creative process. It’s whatever comes to you. I could tell that some of the stuff that was coming to me, this batch of songs, was different.” In this era of genre blending music with bands like Opeth and Ghost, Bloody Hammers actually seems to fit right in. Although Manga explains that he did worry about his blending of genres.  “There was a couple of moments there was I was like, ‘maybe I should make this a solo thing or give it another name’ because it was different from what I was doing before, but I just put it out and Napalm liked it. Well at first they thought it was a little different, like maybe it’s not metal enough, but it grew on them and they were like ‘yeah we like this. We can get behind it.’” Despite these worries, Manga admits that he did have a lot of creative freedom while making this record.  “That’s the cool thing about now. You don’t have record labels dictating what you sound like. Back in the day there was some A&R guy worried about the single, but Napalm is like ‘whatever you want to do.’ Napalm is very supportive of whatever I want to do. They’re a metal label and it’s a bit of a risk for them so I appreciate them getting behind it.”

Bloody Hammers crop 3While Napalm records may have been fully supportive, one has to wonder what the fans might think of this departure from the band’s previous material. Manga explains that the new material is “a little more atmospheric [than previous albums]. It’s varied.” Manga goes on to discuss how he can’t worry too much about what fans think:  “A lot of people want you to do the first record over and over again and if you grow and do other things they’re like ‘you assholes do the first record again.’ And then some people are like ‘ah it sounds like the last record you’re rehashing your old stuff.’ But if you change they’re like ‘oh you changed too much.’ It’s like you can’t win. But I don’t care. I do what I like to do. If people want to hear it they want to hear it. You lose people, but gain people who like the new direction. I’m definitely not in it for the money. I don’t want to get caught up in a trap of like, ‘oh I need to figure out how to appeal to the fans.’ When I’m writing it’s good to keep your mind out of how to appeal to people. I’ve seen some of the fans of the older stuff say they really like the new direction and other ones are like ‘I don’t know.’ You just do what you do. You can’t get caught up in all that.”

It’s not that Manga doesn’t want to share his music, it’s just that he can’t get caught up in the hype while he’s trying to be creative.  Manga is looking forward to taking the new material out on the road: “We would love to go out and play some of these songs. We’re looking at fall and winter. I prefer touring in fall. It’s fun to go out and play. We had a good time playing festivals in Europe and we got to play with a lot of bands I grew up listening to, like Alice Cooper, and people who were heroes of mine. It’s cool to run into people we’re fans of.”

You can learn more about Bloody Hammers at

http://www.facebook.com/BloodyHammers

http://www.bloodyhammers.com

VAMPIRES EVERYWHERE – The Rebirth

Posted in Metal Music Interviews and News on December 30, 2017 by coletteclaire

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Vampires Everywhere 2016 400pxLos Angeles rock act  have started a new era. Vocalist Michael Vampire has taken over. The band has recently made some major lineup changes and Vampire had this to say about it: “The band is just me. I got tired of arrogant, ungrateful, insane musicians using me up! I think you would have to be a lead singer of a band to understand what I’m talking about. All my friends in the same position understand this situation. It’s like being a piece of meat amongst hungry wolves. However, the wolves pretend to be your friend at first! It’s fucked up! But, my current lineup is amazing! I got musicians in this band with true talent, especially my lead guitar player, who in my opinion is the best around, Matti Hoffman.” This is a bold statement, but ’s new album Ritual certainly packs a punch that helps back it up.

Ritualthe band’s third album, features production by Matt Good, who has worked with From First To Last, and DRUGS, and mixing by David Bendeth, who has worked with Bring Me The Horizon and Paramore. Ritual is an interesting blend of styles from Metalcore to Goth/industrial. The first single Black Betty, has a distinctly industrial metal feel, while the second single, a cover of Hozier’s breakout hit Take Me To Church that features guest vocals by Alex Koehler of Chelsea Grin, is entirely different and features a medley of styles. The cover is a unique take on the famous song, and begins with a slow, creepy, Marilyn Manson feel, and then jumps into a pop-punk version of the famous chorus “take me to church/I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies.” Then, when you least expect it, they throw in a dash of Cradle of Filth toward the end with some epic growls. Since people typically cover older songs, Vampire explains the choice to do the cover: “The lyrics are amazing. At first, I hated the song. I was like ‘what the fuck is this’, but then I saw the lyrics and it all made sense. Plus, ‘Take me to church,’ come on, it’s all me! Also, Alex has been my friend since 2012 Warped Tour. He was an obvious choice and it was very organic. I’m beyond happy we got to collaborate.” On March 18, 2016,  premiered another song off of RitualGhost Inside My Head on the Alternative Press website. The song begins with nothing but a slow, epic piano and Michael Vampire’s voice, and then launches into a distinctly catchy, metalcore tune.

The first video from Ritual is for the song Perfect Lie, which has a crunchy Nine Inch Nails feel to it. The video is simple, gritty, and in black and white. It features Michael Vampire singing intercut with shots of pretty half naked ladies with tape on their nipples like the women one would typically see at a goth/industrial club. Vampire had this to say about the video, which is available on YouTube: “We have a video out for Perfect Lie, which I’m in love with. It’s simple and straight to the point. It’s kind of my debut as Michael Vampire. I didn’t have to cater to ungrateful band members fighting for the limelight. It’s so taxing. But this video is me. It has industrial & hip hop elements. The next video will push the envelope even further & show fans another side of me.”

Serving as the follow up to 2012’s Hellbound and Heartless, one may wonder how Ritual compares, especially with all the lineup changes. Michael Vampire’s words, the album has some influences of “…Nine Inch Nails and Rob Zombie with minor touches of EDM.” However, don’t forget that …it’s unique & not a copy of anything.” Vampire had a distinct musical direction he wanted to go in upon making it: “I wanted to sing clean again. I wanted melody. I wanted a diverse transition album to showcase who I am currently. I knew I wanted an album I would listen to as well.” Michael Vampire elaborates on how it differs from the previous album in “…melody and quality. I finally parted ways with the anchors in the band. I was always at the mercy of others thoughts about what I should write. However, now it’s all me. It’s my choice & my band. It feels amazing. I mean Matt Good & David Bendeth, it can’t get better.” Vampire is confident that fans are appreciating this new album as much as he does. He asserts, “The response has been amazing! I’m always nervous every time I put out an album, and hearing my voice over the loudspeakers always freaks me out. But fans are stoked, and magazines have been giving it great reviews.”

Vampires Everywhere 2016 BWhen it comes to writing this album Michael Vampire had no shortage of inspiration. The lyrical themes, for example, on this album are very personal for him. He reveals, “The lyrics are so real it often brings me to tears singing them. No lie. It’s been a fucked up two years. My ex-fiancé did me dirty and my father died all in the same month, so needless to say lyrical content was no issue. This is a revenge album.” Specifically, the song Ghost Inside My Head discusses this painful time in his life: “It was the first song I laid vocals to. I recorded the vocals the day after my fiancé went bat shit crazy and left me for her friends. She literally fucked the dude from the Lana Del Rey videos the next day, so I was all fucked up mentally. It was a hard day. I’m hoping the song helps people like it helped me. I was at a very low spot.” Writing the music was also a very organic process. Vampire elaborates, “It was just me, Matt Good, and Stetson. Writing in a garage is not my thing, too many cooks in the kitchen. I went into writing a song with basic ideas. I would rattle them off to Matt, who would then email ideas back and forth. It was a very easy process. At the time I was only thinking melody. But it didn’t become Ritual until the vocal production with Stetson in SLC, so it was very organic and natural. We honestly didn’t force anything. I’ve been working hard vocally and I believe it paid off.”

The band’s headlining tour, “The Ritual Tour” is currently underway. Vampire explains that so far, “…It’s been a roller coaster. We’ve been dormant for the last two years, so this tour is a ‘hey we’re back,’ and also getting our new songs tight for the upcoming Filter tour. The best thing about this run is playing cities we’ve never heard of! It’s definitely a great experience!” Clearly,  is looking forward to the upcoming “Make America Hate Again” tour alongside Filter and Orgy. Vampires exclaims, “Yes! I mean it’s Filter! It’s a check off my bucket list. I’m a 90’s kid, so this is a dream come true. I always wanted to be on The Family Values Tour and this is pretty damn close.” You can catch them on the “Make America Hate Again” tour starting this April, which starts in San Francisco and then goes all over the United States.

https://www.facebook.com/vampireseverywhere/

The Retro Futurism of the Edwardian Ball

Posted in Metal Music Interviews and News on December 30, 2017 by coletteclaire

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Colette Claire at the Edwardian Ball 

It is difficult to describe the  to someone who has never been to it. It is something similar to a meeting of the novels The Great Gatsby and Interview with the Vampire inside of Tim Burton’s nightmares. It is a conglomeration of music, theatrical performance, circus acts, and drunken dancing that is part dinner theatre and part goth/industrial dance club. It is also part Cosplay/Comicon as many of the guests show up in costumes that add as much to the event as the performers do; outfits that are more old time drama troupe than fetish and bondage wear, the stuff one typically sees at a goth club. The music also differs from a typical goth club in that it isn’t the techno-drum machine driven stuff they usually play; Much of the music at the was played on real instruments by real people rather than piped in from an iPod, and had a cabaret feel to it. Even the DJ spinning music on the upstairs patio played music that was a mash-up of old jazz with a techno beat. This refreshingly different yet distinctly classic style permeated the entire evening that Saturday February 27th 2016 at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood. Main stage emcee Vegas E. Trip accurately described it as “retro futurism” as he was introducing one of the acts that night.

CROP 2016 Edwardian Ball -41Rosin Coven, which is a music group that performs what they describe as “Pagan Lounge Music,” founded the  in 1999 in San Francisco. Each year the theme of the  changes slightly, but it is always based on the stories, art, and general aesthetic of writer and artist Edward Gorey. For those who might not be familiar, Gorey lived from 1925 – 2000 and is known for his illustrated books that feature his characteristic pen-and-ink drawings. His books often depict a somewhat unsettling narrative set in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

One of the great things about the Edwardian Ball is that it is a result of collective effort made by a myriad of different artists, performers, musicians, promoters, etc. Essentially, everyone is there for the same reason: a celebration of art and an artistic aesthetic, and the collective force of this celebration creates a feeling that is infectious throughout the venue as one walks around admiring everyone’s various efforts. The Edwardian Ball made its 7th annual stop in Los Angeles on this particular evening. The Los Angeles version is a bit scaled down as it is only a one night event, while in San Francisco it is a two night event. Have no fear however, the Edwardian Ball’s version of scaled down is still very over-the-top.

crop 2016 Edwardian Ball -248The Fonda Theatre was a fitting setting for the ball as it has a retro flavor being that it was opened in 1926 under the name of “The Music Box” by old Hollywood types like John Barrymore. The Fonda is two floors with a main stage, and an upstairs patio. Throughout the evening, there was something going in every crack and corner of the Fonda. Aside from the main stage performances, and dancing on the patio, one could not turn a corner without being in the midst of some sort of living art project. For instance, anyone who got caught in the hallway between the bathrooms and the outdoor patio area ended up being engaged by the “Mystic Midway” troop. According to mysticmidway.com, they are “a community of artists, technologists, game designers, performers and cultural visionaries dedicated to creating deeply engaging, entertaining and meaningful social spaces…” On this particular evening, the Mystic Midway provided a woman with an authentic Irish accent who sauntered up to you and invited you to do something “whimsical” in order to earn “Mystic Midway” money. The money could be used to redeem any number of little charms and trinkets, like tiny pendants shaped like old keys. Apparently, dancing in a circle with a couple of people painted like old French clowns wins you one Mystic Midway dollar. Another example of this living art museum that encompassed every part of the building was the portraiture area. On the path between the main ballroom and the stairs sat Layil Umbralux of Studio Umbralux doing pencil sketches of any guests willing to sit for her. The drinks served even fit with the night’s theme as there was plenty of absinthe to go around as well as specialty drinks made with authentic ginger beer.

The upstairs outdoor patio, which had the DJ spinning throughout the night, also had several side acts, like the “E is for Edward” puppet theatre, which featured a live band playing while puppets danced around. The puppets had an aesthetic that was reminiscent of the Nightmare Before Christmas, and the song was a silly old time ditty that spelled out Edward Gorey’s name letter by letter with each letter representing something spooky. The venue was packed to capacity that night as the event sold out, so one had to stand on tiptoe to see the patio stage.

On the main stage, which was downstairs, there were performances by Le Cancan Bijou, an award-winning, specialty-themed dance troupe, who offered a “playful spirit to the traditional, high-kicking French Cancan” that combines classic French, Old West, and Modern styles, according to their website. This basically amounts to beautiful women is very fluffy skirts, and a few men in suits, expertly prancing around the stage.

crop 2016 Edwardian Ball -145Performances by Vau de Vire also took place three different times throughout the evening on the main stage. With the Edwardian ball since 2005, they describe themselves as an avant-cabaret community consisting of classically trained dancers, acclaimed acrobats, aerial artists, contortionists, circus sideshow acts, thespians, and go-go dancers. Their final set of the evening actually took place after the main event, which was an especially effective way to entertain people who were winding down and sobering up before they headed home. Vau de Vire provided a dazzling visual display throughout the evening that included a traditional burlesque act, contortionists, an aerial pole dancer, an aerial hoop acrobat, and contortionists. It was mesmerizing even to the shortest and most inebriated attention spans.

crop 2016 Edwardian Ball -177In between Vau de Vire performances, there were musical performances by the likes of The John Brothers Piano Company, whose curious blend of old west saloon piano music and dissonant jazz was well received by the audience. Rosin Coven performed their signature blend of theatrical cabaret that features voices, cellos, contrabass, accordion, violin, guitar, trombone, trumpet, vibraphone, drums, and percussion.

At midnight a short skit written by Edward Gorey called “The Stupid Joke” was performed in grand fashion. For anyone who has seen the film or read the Anne Rice book “Interview with the Vampire,” it was distinctly reminiscent of the performances by the fictional “Théâtre des Vampires,” with a very dark yet campy and cartoonish vibe. The skit was presented by Rosin Coven, Dark Garden corsetry and couture, who provided the excellent costumes, and Kinetic Steam Works, makers of steampunk contraptions, who were responsible for the amazing stage prop bed used in the performance.

It literally would have been impossible for one person to participate in every single thing that went on that night. Not having an opportunity to get bored is certainly a rarity at a night club in Hollywood these days. Another difference is the all-inclusive vibe that the Edwardian Ball represents. Yes, it has a certain aesthetic, but the definition is broad and it welcomes any manner of freak from theatre nerd to vampire enthusiast to metal head to anime fan of any age, race or gender identity. One does not have to be under 25 and related to a Kardashian to feel like one of the crowd. This was definitely a refreshing experience that anyone who is up for something different will enjoy. Certainly people are already working on their costumes and counting the days until the next one.

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AL JOURGENSEN – Never A Dull Moment

Posted in Metal Music Interviews and News on December 30, 2017 by coletteclaire

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The always insane, never dull  is back with a new project called . The album, which goes by same name, was released on April 15, 2016. Some may remember when we last checked in with Jourgensen, Ministry had just released From Beer to Eternity, as well as his autobiography The Lost Gospels According to , in 2013. He was also still recovering from the sudden, tragic death of longtime friend and guitarist Mike Scaccia. At that time Jorgensen claimed he had no upcoming plans for any musical projects, just more books and a spoken word gig. Well, as anyone who has read Jourgensen’s autobiography knows, he is a man who cannot sit still and it always creating something, so inevitably more music was going to come. As he puts it, “the only other things I’m only qualified to be are a Walmart greeter or breakfast line cook at Denny’s. I heard Walmart can’t discriminate against piercings, so I know I always have a future.”

Surgical Meth Machine - Al smallThe  album is half industrial speed metal and half groovy dance music, a weird combination than definitely requires some explanation. It was recorded over several months in Jourgensen’s new Burbank, California studio, a departure from his longtime home in Texas. The record was recorded with longtime engineer Sam D’Ambruoso with Mike Scaccia in mind. According to Jorgensen, he and D’Ambruoso “Wanted to do a really fast record, which we’d discussed with Mikey as well. He was one of the fastest guitar players who ever lived. This music was definitely originally concocted to be extra super-fast, faster than ridiculous.” The first half of the record is very fast and heavy industrial metal which features songs like I’m Sensitive, a declaration of war against empty criticism that sets the tone for the first half of the album, along with tracks like Tragic Alert and Rich People Problems which blast with an industrial punch to the chest.

Surgical Meth Machine - AlbumThat was the first half of the record, anyway.  In stark contrast, groovy songs like Just Go HomeJust Keep Going and I’m Invisible are among Jourgensen’s more eclectic work.  “Going through this album is a really long, strange journey,” Jourgensen explains. “The album starts out beating you over the head with some of the fastest stuff that’s probably ever been recorded, at least that’s cohesive. Then it ends sounding damn near like a lounge act, with me crooning like Wayne Newton or some shit.” Apparently, upon moving to California Jourgensen applied for his medical marijuana card, and he claims it is the fault of the medical marijuana that the second half of the record differs so much from the first half. Jourgensen elaborates: “At first they wouldn’t let me get it with only a Ralphs club card as an ID, so the day we got our California licenses we went to the medical marijuana doctor. That’s where I’m invisible came from. I went to the doctor and he asked me what was wrong and I said ‘when I’m not high I’m invisible and so are others it’s this void.’ I think he wrote the prescription just to get me out of his office. Then we found a place in Burbank that delivers weed in 20 mins or less or it’s free, so we kept doing it trying to get a free one because we figured they are potheads so they won’t be on time. One night we did Domino’s and weed and we got two free pizzas and no free weed.  So we learned stoners are way more on it than Domino’s. I was high the first two months after getting my license. Then we noticed the songs on the record just got suspiciously slower.”

Jourgensen reminds us though that songs like I’m invisible, where he actually sings and does not just shout into a microphone, are not new for him. “I did it before in 1983. You may remember I did that terrible album for Arista but this time I was like ‘fuck you’ I’m going to do it on my terms. Now it’s my call and I can have fun with it. I’m a middle aged delinquent having fun getting stoned.”  Jourgensen is referring to the album With Sympathy, which was the debut album by Ministry. The album was released in 1983 through Arista Records, with Ministry’s members at the time being Alain Jourgensen and Stephen George. Jourgensen has maintained that he was pressured by Arista management into producing the album in the then-popular “synthpop” style. The song I’m Invisible actually has a really awesome video with Jourgensen dressed in various colorful suits strutting around Las Vegas like a crazy, tattooed, pierced lounge singer. Jourgensen explains “the director of I’m invisible is quite the headcase himself. He grows his own pot and he came up with the idea for the video.” As far as if they’ll make another video: “he might call me up. I’m just going with the flow it”

Apparently the name of the band came about one night when Dead Kennedys singer and longtime friend of Jourgensen Jello Biafra stopped by to sing on one of the songs on the album. They were trying to think of a name for the project and Jourgensen explains, “ We did one song with Jello one crazy weekend and we were thinking of names and we came up with . ‘Surgical’ because we did it in a studio way so it’s very surgical and clinical. ‘Meth’ because we wanted it to be really fast, and ‘Machine’ because we were using drum machines –it’s not some inspirational title.”

When it comes to taking Surgical Meth Machine on the road he had this to say “We don’t plan to play shows as Surgical Meth Machine. We don’t want to play one album’s worth of material, it would end up being like just playing the album from beginning to end. For now you can hear it on headphones, smoke a bowl and see your own images. Getting up there and basically lip-synching doesn’t appeal to me. If I make more stuff who knows.  Maybe after like three SMM albums it would be fun for us to play because then we’re not recreating one album. We’re picking the best live songs out of a few albums.”
As far as the future of either Ministry or Surgical Meth Machine Jourgensen had this to say: “I just always go into the studio for four months every year with no preconceived notions. Whatever comes naturally is what comes out. I don’t think of Ministry or not, if it happens it happens. Yes, a couple of years ago the future of Ministry was unsure. It was right after Mickey died, and everyone kept asking me about it and it was like ’leave me the fuck alone I just lost my best friend.’ Then people started to say ‘oh Ministry’s dead.’ But that’s not certain. If in that four month period when I’m in the studio, it if happens it happens. No guarantees unless I die, then they’ll release everything I have stashed, but for now it can sit on the shelf.”

https://www.facebook.com/surgicalmethmachine/

Fear Factory-Genexus : The Story of Everyone of Us

Posted in Metal Music Interviews and News on December 30, 2017 by coletteclaire

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CROP FearFactory2015hSince 1989, industrial metal icons  have been changing the face of metal with their signature blend of hard driving guitar riffs, triplet laden drums, and melodic vocal hooks. Despite some tumultuous lineup changes throughout the 2000’s, founding members  on vocals and  on guitar are continuing to make  a force to be reckoned with. On August 7th 2015 they will release their third album since  returned to the fold in 2009 entitled  on Nuclear Blast Records. The album was co-produced by the band and longtime collaborator Rhys Fulber of Front Line Assembly, and mixed by Andy Sneap who has worked with the likes of Testament, Killswitch Engage, and Trivium. Touring drummer Mike Heller makes his recorded debut on the album, and the band has updated its rhythm section with former Static-X bassist Tony Campos.When asked about the new record Bell was extremely excited and open about discussing its concept, musical direction, as well as his other projects.

Formed in Los Angeles, California the band was signed by A & R rep Monte Conner to Roadrunner Records in the early 1990’s. Conner is now at Nuclear Blast Records and decided to bring  on board for this new album. The result was ample time to finish Genexus, and Bell describes how this is evident when one listens to it: “It took almost two years, but when you take time on it you have the ability to really think about it and work on it properly. The album shows the quality and the craftsmanship that we put into it.” Burton goes on to explain that the band’s relationship with Conner and Nuclear Blast has been fantastic: “Being part of the Nuclear Blast family is great. They’re very supportive and Monte Conner was the one who signed us to Roadrunner originally. Monte went to Nuclear Blast and brought us there, so it’s been like a re-connection of family. It’s been a re-connection of work and Monte believes in us and he believes that with the right label he can propel Fear Factory back into the status it should be.” And Genexus certainly seems like it’s going to be worth the wait.

FEAR FACTORY CD ART 6-19-15Fear Factory has always been a band the put time into its concepts and imagery and this album is no exception. Bell explains why lyrics and concepts are so important to the band: “For me the lyrics come from personal experience, and then with these personal experiences, or views, or observations the lyrics are created. These lyrics are what we truly believe. We put that into the concept and we put that into the songs, so I sing about things that are truly real and that I truly believe and I want to say them as eloquently and thoroughly as possible.”

When it comes to the concept behind the title Genexus Burton elaborates: “It’s two words connected, ‘genesis,’ which is the act of creation, and ‘nexus,’ which is the term for the next step of change. The concept that we created is that ‘nexus’ is the name for the next generation of humanity. Because humanity continues to evolve, this is the next step in the evolution of humanity where technology and humanity become one.  This is part of Ray Kurzweil’s theory of the singularity where he predicts that by 2045 technology and humanity will become one, so this is the name of that generation of humanity.” Kurzweil wrote the non-fiction book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology in 2005 that discusses some of the concepts that Bell mentioned.  Bell goes onto to say that, “The concept of our album discusses this generation and how it will be experiencing certain aspects. Will they be oppressed by humanity? Will pure humans look upon the next generation as inferior or superior? Will they be slaves? Will they be oppressed? How will they view humanity? Will they see humanity as a virus? The weakness of the ideology of religion the constant warring, will this generation feel superior to humanity because it has not experienced these things?  So that is what this record about.” A synopsis Bell wrote regarding the concept of the album reads as follows: “This album is a record of thought patterns, psychology and struggles of the nexus generation. The cognitive machine has arrived, and it wants autonomy from the industry that created it. This machine struggles, like every other human has throughout the course of history. This is the story of every one of us.”

CROP FearFactory2015fAs far as the musical direction of the album Bell explains it this way: “When you first hear it there is no doubt that it is a Fear Factory record. We did experiment. We did bring in new elements to this album with production, with sound, with arranging, and with mixing. The key is to bring these elements into your band and blend them in without losing your identity, so everything we brought in just enhances Fear Factory without losing our identity. It’s clearly everything Fear Factory’s always been but it sounds better.”  The band is in the process of making a video for the song Dielectric from Genexus with director Ramon Boutviseth. Bell discusses the concept behind the video: “The director’s plan is to have us playing between tesla coils based on the idea of dielectric strength, which is how much power you can withstand while it’s generating through you as an insulator. So we’re the insulator between two tesla coils powering up this machine and you’ll be seeing images of this machine powering up. The director is going to be creating his own CGI for this video. By the way he described it it’s going to look sick.”

Although Fear Factory has been Bell’s main focus he has worked on other projects throughout the years, most notably the Dark Ambient/Post Industrial group Ascension of the Watchers. When asked about his other projects he explains, “I’m still doing the Watchers of course with John Bechdel and Edu Mussijohn. We have like 9 new songs and I want to find a home for them. I’m also currently about to release a graphic novel based on the last record The Industrialist because there was a novelette within that album.  There was a story that I actually wrote that goes through it and I hired an artist out of London named Noel Guard to create the imagery and graphics for this novel.  He created this fantastic work, and we’ve colored it, we’ve laid it out. I have a pending copyright for it, so I can release it independently exclusively on my website burtoncbell.com. It’s going to be a limited release and I hope people check it out because it’s pretty fucking cool.”

The band will be touring Europe and the United States through mid-September in support of Genexus. As far as what the set list will consist of Bell says, “We’re going to play two new tracks, and when the record comes out during the tour we’ll maybe play three. Then the rest is like fan favorites and things that go well live and that have a good flow.” He went on to discuss the album Archetype, one that Cazares did not play on, but is popular among fans none the less. “We do play the song Archetype as it was a really good album so we actually introduced that song into the set list.”

https://www.facebook.com/fearfactory

https://www.youtube.com/user/fearfactorymusic

http://fearfactory.com/

http://www.burtoncbell.com/

http://www.nuclearblast.de/label/music/band/about/3340625.fear-factory.html

 

Sixx:A.M., Apocalyptica & Vamps at Club Nokia, L.A

Posted in Metal Music Interviews and News on December 30, 2017 by coletteclaire

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vamps1, Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx’s side project has really come into its own as more than just a second thought to Mötley Crüe. The band features guitarist DJ Ashba who is also in Guns N’ Roses, along with vocalist James Michael, who has worked as a record producer and songwriter for recording artists including Kelly Clarkson, Alanis Morissette, Meat Loaf, Mötley Crüe, Scorpions, and Hilary Duff. Sixx: A.M has just released their third studio album Modern Vintage and set out on their first ever U.S. headline tour with Finnish cellists  and Japanese rock band . The tour began in early April and arrived at Los Angeles’ Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday April 11, 2015. Since  has never toured before, there were people who came all the way from France to see this show as there is no European tour planned as of now.

vamps2After many fans stood in quite a long line, doors opened at 8PM, and the show began at 9 PM.  took the stage for a 30 minutes set. After epic intro music was piped in for a few minutes the band launched into Ghost from their latest album Bloodsuckers. They played a high energy, fast paced set with songs like Lips and Revolution II. A real highlight was their cover of Mötley Crüe’s Live Wire, which succeeded in winning over the  fans who were not already convinced of the band’s ability to rock. They gave the song a bit of a new flavor while keeping its original spirit.

After  was the immensely talented gentlemen known as . They played a 40-minute set that seemed far too short. They formed more than 20 years ago as a group of four cellists covering Metallica songs, but eventually added drums and created their own sound.  They have recently released their eighth studio album Shadowmaker via Eleven Seven Music/Better Noise Records. They have used different vocalists in the past on some songs, and they recruited Franky Perez who has also performed with a number of all-star cover bands over the years including Camp Freddy and Slash’s band. Perez not only sang on some songs on the new album but is touring with apocalypticathem as well.  His delivery of the band’s 2007 hit I Don’t Care off of the Worlds Collide album, which was originally sang by Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace, was especially riveting as he added a real edge to the already angry sentiment of the song.  also played some of their classic instrumental cello metal in the form of tunes like Grace, and Inquisition Symphony, which are both fantastic songs.  They did some of their staple covers including Hall Of The Mountain King, and Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters. The entire audience was singing the words to Nothing Else Matters even though there was no vocalist singing, and it was a truly moving moment.

Dj-ashbaLastly at 11 PM, Sixx:A.M. finally hit the stage with a nice long 90 minute set of music that came across just as good live as it sounded on the albums. One had to wonder if this would be the case since they obviously had the budget for a nice production and they have never toured before. It’s easier to sound good in the studio than it is on stage and Sixx:A.M. started as a studio-based project inspired by Nikki’s Sixx’s book The Heroine Diaries. When they first formed many assumed that it was just a vanity project based on the book and probably would not do anything else. However, when they released their second album it became clear that Sixx:A.M. was going to be much more than that. Guitarist Dj Ashba, who was extremely humble and friendly to meet in person showed off his extensive guitar chops during songs like This Is Gonna Hurt and Miracle. Vocalist James Michel nailed every note as clearly as he did on the albums and definitely proved that they really are a real band. Nikki Sixx, Dj Ashba, and James Michel all seemed to have an infectious comradery on stage as they took turns rocking out together. The band opened with X-Mas In Hell from themikki-1 Heroine Diaries album and then launched into an electrifying version of Let’s Go from their latest album Modern Vintage. Though the set was 90 minutes, it seemed to go by too fast. As the closer they played the songs Stars and shot a whole bunch of black confetti stars all over the crowd. The effect was truly epic. They then did an encore of Skin and Life Is Beautiful. They played an equal mix of songs from all three albums, rather than just focusing on new material, which was a nice change from the average band’s set list.

There was never a dull moment throughout the show. Each band was talented, energized and played kick ass songs. Though all three bands are very different in certain ways, they all blended seamlessly throughout the evening.