Interview with Lennon Midnight

Lennon Midnight came onto the scene in the very early half of 2015. Being one of very few industrial acts currently active in the Vegas scene they`ve shared the stage with well known artists such as Tim Skold, Psyclon Nine, God Module etc..

Having released a string of EP`s, retired from live shows and a new release in the making I got in touch with one half of the duo for what turned out to be quite a lengthy chat about industrial, occultism, graphic design and much more!

Start off by giving our readers a quick introduction. Who’s currently in the band, what are their roles and how long have you been around?

Hi all! Current band members are myself, Lennon Midnight, and Klebert Graves. We’ve always been a 2 piece since starting out. We’ve attempted to bring extra members onboard for live shows (mainly drummers), but that never panned out… so we opted to stay a permanent duo. I (Lennon) handle vocals, programming and production work. Klebert (Bert for short) handles guitars, bass and programming as well.

How long have we been around?

I believe we officially started in January of 2015. I walked into work one day (we both work together) and said “Bert, were doing the band thing! Come over this weekend and lets start messing with stuff!” and he did just that. Bert had been wanting to get back into playing guitar for another group and I’d never done the actual band thing, always just solo stuff. I had spent the previous few years really getting back into discovering music that made me happy again and that inspired me. I had met and hung out with tons of bands who passed thru Vegas (also took most of them out drinking) in those years prior and something went off in my head that I wanted to live out the dream of being in a band and performing that I’d had since high school! So, Bert and I started writing music together on a regular basis. I thought I had a good bead on writing and recording early on… how little did I know!!! There was a lot I struggled with initially, but that changed down the line when Nero Bellum and I became friends. He saw potential in what I was trying to put together and he started helping teach me about the production side of things. Not so much as in “Do this and do that to get this and that”, but more like “You might want to try doing this. Experiment with it and see where it takes you!”. Took about a year and a half to write and record the first album and it felt like such a huge accomplishment when it was all said and done! During that year and a half, we started playing live shows and really got comfortable with the live setting as well as with one another in the studio. Skip forward a number of years, another album and 2 EPs later aaaaaand here we are… almost done with the third album and tons of live shows under our belts. We’ve had nothing but a blast thus far!

Is there any particular meaning to the name “Lennon Midnight”?

Lennon Midnight was a persona name I picked for myself in 2014. It was a side of me that came out when I was going thru an odd time in life. I didn’t want a lot of people knowing who I was personally. I wanted to separate my personal life from my public persona, though in time… the Lennon Midnight side of myself has disappeared. I’m not the same person now that I was 5 years ago, and I think that’s a good thing!

Your music is a good mixture of industrial and metal, who are your main influences for your sound?

Industrial and electronic music have always been my top favorites ever since I was a teenager (some 20+ odd years back). I grew up listening to Marilyn Manson, The Prodigy, Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Crystal Method, Skinny Puppy, Sister Machine Gun, The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Thrill Kill Kult, Rammstein, Ministry, Stabbing Westward etc… But this was all back when these bands were in their prime in the 1990s, when Industrial and Electronica were the hot shit on the radio, in movies and on MTV. I also grew up listening to a lot of Black Metal and Goth Rock/Metal. I loved Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Old Mans Child, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Type O Negative, Placebo etc. Black Metal blew my mind since very few people in the US at the time (meaning during the day of Enthrone Darkness Triumphant and Dusk and Her Embrace days). Id never heard anything quite like Black Metal at the time. Goth Rock/Metal always stuck with me as well. In 2004, after coming out of the rave scene, I rediscovered Industrial, Goth and Black Metal again. Dimmu and Cradle were still putting out records, I happened upon HIM and Lacrimas Profundere (both of which I was nuts about) and Industrial was entering its 3rd wave with bands like Hanzel und Gretyl and Wumpscut, so to my surprise, things had evolved and progressed in the time that I wasn’t paying attention to those styles of music… It was a huge delight to find them again, new and refreshed in so many ways. But Industrial, Goth and Black Metal still remain huge influences of mine to this day. I spent a good part of my youth (and even still now) listening to tons of techno music too. Im still very much a huge House music fan, I was also a very well known local DJ in the rave/electronic scene in the early 2000s, so my love of House music will never go away. I also love a lot of old school and underground Hip Hop. I think what really gets me about Underground Hip Hop is just how raw and direct it is. Lyrical rappers just rhyming over a beat, sometimes telling a story, sometimes just playing with words really hits home. Bert grew up listening to more traditional styles of metal and stayed in the boundaries of the US in terms of bands. His attraction to the metal genre stems more from the technical end as his knowledge of music theory blows me away. He has this amazing ability of breaking down songs to their core and taking influence from some of the most minute details that I have no clue about. Its a lot of fun to watch him write actually because he will put something together and pull elements from like 9 different metal songs he adores from a variety of different bands! I still don’t know how he does it to this day! But when it comes down to writing our music, both Bert and I take influence from ALL types of music out there. We look to so many different genres for inspiration! Hell, on one of the tracks for the new album called ‘Resigned to Fail’, Bert’s guitars were inspired by an old Cranberries song from the 1990s! I added some effects to the guitars to make them sound like old Type O Negative and it turned into such a neat mash up of styles!

You’ve played alongside bands like Psyclon Nine, Dismantled, Thrill Kill Kult, Tim Skold and God Module just to name a few. Do you have a preference between playing live and working in the studio ?

The bands we’ve shared the stage with thru our being together as a group is just mind blowing! We started Lennon Midnight as nothing more than an art project. We never thought we’d get to do what we’ve done in these (almost) 5 years! Sharing the stage with the bands you just mentioned was nothing more than a dream when we started out, and to me its still nuts that we garnered the attention from bands in our scene who are regarded as legends! Playing live initially started off as a lot of fun, but as time went on… it became a bit of a chore. Most of the local shows involving bigger names I wound up becoming personally involved in with either putting the show together and paying for it myself, or helping to plan the event with the promoter. So most of the time, I was running around making sure everything was going smoothly, that the bands were happy and that everything went off without a hitch. The few shows I wasn’t helping run were so much easier. At those particular shows, Bert and I would just enjoy our time there and chat with random people. Unfortunately, as its now 5 years later and both of our personal lives have changed in a lot of ways, were having to retire as a live act. We still plan on making music together as a studio effort… but the live show thing has to stop. Bert has 3 kiddos now and loves being a father. My small business I run on the side has been taking off like crazy and requires most of my attention when I’m not at the day job. Though, retiring as a live band kind of sucks in certain ways as we both enjoy the actual performance aspect of it very much. In the 5 years we’ve been making music and performing as Lennon Midnight, we’ve both had an absolute blast and we’ve done things we never thought we would! Neither of us would trade the world for it either!!!

Those bands I mentioned are all well known within the scene, how did it happen that you got to play with them and do you have any memorable moments from those shows?

Initially I think a lot of it boiled down to becoming close friends with Psyclon Nine. Nero knows a lot of people in the music world and being associated with Psyclon Nine definitely did help. Also I think some of it also came down to being the only active Industrial band in Vegas. It seems we built a fan base here and people really like us. We would get a lot of bookings from local promoters when any Industrial act would roll thru Vegas. I think another aspect to the attention we received had to do with how we function as an actual live band. We always get down in the audience and perform a good chunk of the show interacting with fans in the audience! If people know my lyrics, I usually let them sing parts of the songs. Bert always walks around and plays guitars in areas where people can watch. Hell, in LA when we played with Psyclon Nine in 2018, I had a good friend of mine get on stage and sing our cover of Marilyn Manson ‘Dogma’ with us just because he was at the show! A LOT of people really enjoy this aspect about the shows we play as crowd interaction is a must to us! One very memorable story for me was when we were up in Seattle with Psyclon Nine in 2017 playing at The Highline. Both Nero and I are huge fans of Street Fighter 2. We grew up playing the hell out of that game. We had been talking about Street Fighter on and off for a few months prior and when we walked into the venue during load in, off to the right near the end of the bar was a Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition machine! Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to play before the show… But roughly after everything was said and done around 2:30am, we finally got a chance to beat the hell out of one another! I think we got like 2-3 dollars in quarters and just had at it for about 15-20 minutes. It was an absolute blast. I remember someone on the other side of the room yelling at us, saying something about we needed to leave and we both just yelled “SHUT UP! WERE BUSY!”. It was damn good times! Were still due for a rematch as we were both pretty even skill wise in the game and a few buttons on both controllers weren’t working properly. Street Fighter is serious business!

I understand there’s a storyline that runs through your music, could you give a quick rundown of what the plot is so to speak and where it came from?

So the story line revolves around my ex’s through the past 20 years and what had been going on in my life at the time of each (or after). Though I try to fictionalize the storyline as much as possible to make it more interesting and work as actual songs, some of the factual storyline is still in there. When starting the band thing, ‘Fallacies’ was only meant to be a one shot thing. To me, it had a good story to it. But as the album finished up, I felt the story wasn’t done and we immediately started on the second album ‘Post Trauma’. There were events and story elements I wanted to talk about which happened after ‘Fallacies’ (hence the title ‘Post Trauma’). I felt there was one more part of the story worth telling after we wrapped up ‘Post Trauma’ and that was the beginning and how all the events leading up to what I wrote about in ‘Fallacies’ started, so we began working on ‘Beginnings End’ roughly 4-6 months after ‘Post Trauma’. Some folks have asked about ‘One Weeks Time’ and if it ties in story wise. It doesn’t, it was a one off song I wrote about an old friend of mine who committed suicide and how social media has ruined our attention spans. ‘One Weeks Time’ as a song started out as an experiment when I was just playing with custom synth building in Reason. Initially it was never meant to be a song, but as I played with it more, it turned into something I wanted to finish… and so became ‘One Weeks Time’. Including a re-recorded version of ‘Russia’ on ‘One Weeks Time’ was a bonus of sorts. We started changing how ‘Russia’ was played live. Basically the song grew and evolved to the point of what became ‘Rossiya’. I always wanted the song be harder than what was done on ‘Fallcies’. To me ‘Rossiya’ was the way I always wanted the song to sound, so we opted to redo it as an extra for the ‘One Weeks Time’ EP. Though, a neat bit of trivia which ties ‘Beginnings End’ directly into ‘Fallacies’ is ‘The Woman in White’. Her character actually sings in the last song on our new album called ‘Bury the Ghost’. She finds ‘The Martyr’ after he has destroyed everything in his world and doesn’t want to rebuild. The ‘Woman in White’ appears as if out of no where and shows ‘The Martyr’ that its time leave his wasteland behind. I wanted her character to make an appearance on ‘Beginnings End’ because she was a very important aspect of my life in the time frame the album is being written about. She is also still one of my closest friends in the world to this day. I think the only song I’ve written that hasn’t been out of frustration, anger or being broken hearted is ‘Savior’. That song is about a good friend of mine who spent the vast majority of her 20’s doing horrible things to herself and those around her and she finally found faith in something at the end of it all. She wound up changing a lot about her life and became a much better person because of it. But the song is a take on her life before finding faith in herself again. Hell, I could spend the next hour or so explaining what all the songs are about, but I think it would ruin certain aspects for people. Its always a lot of fun hearing from fans about how they interpret not only the lyrics, but the storyline as well. Some folks have been spot on and some have been very far from the actual idea, though I really love when someone interprets things differently than what I wrote! To me its fascinating on how people can adapt songs and lyrics to their own lives simply due to relating from their own experiences! With all of that said, the new album ‘Beginnings End’ is the prequel to the storyline. It’s about my ex ‘The Queen of Heartworms’ and how all the events of my 20’s prior to meeting the ‘Woman in White’ happened in certain ways. Though, again, its all very fictionalized with truth sprinkled in there. If you’ve known me personally for the last 20 years, you would understand the storyline elements fairly well. The main theme of the new album is about the mandatory destruction of your world after tragedy and trying to rebuild it… or as Tyler Durden from Fight Club said ‘It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.’

You’ve got two releases out and one demo. What are you currently working on and when do you think we’ll see it released?

As I’ve mentioned in previous questions, I’ve still got that pesky new album ‘Beginnings End’ floating around that is due to be released. I was hoping to have it done by Oct 31st of this year, but unfortunately that didn’t come to fruition. I have one last song to write lyrics and record vocals on, but I’ve kind of hit writers block over the last 6 months! I’ve been spending a lot of time working with the production side of the album lately. I happened on a new mastering suite that works really well, though I have to level things differently for it versus my old mastering suite. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on how the songs “sound” in their final form over the past 2-3 months and I’ve learned a lot more about mixing that I didn’t know before. There are so many technical aspects to making music AND mixing music that with every song AND every album we put together, I always learn new methods and techniques I didn’t know about before. Its one huge aspect of making music I love, constantly learning new ways of doing things! But, ‘Beginnings End’ WILL be the FINAL album in the storyline. I have ONE more song planned that will wrap up the entire storyline that happens after ‘Post Trauma’ already in demo form. That will be the last song I release about an ‘ex’ simply as I’m tired of writing about that subject. Currently with ‘Beginnings End’, everything is written and pretty much in its final form. The entire album can be listened to from start to finish and I am very proud of what Bert and I put together for everyone this time around. Its an evolution of our sound, it really shows we have grown in our song writing and composition and its a really heavy album! Very metal sounding for sure! I feel as this being our last full album, it will really go out with a bang! Lots of different influences in this one for sure and lots of things we haven’t tried before (hell, there’s even a Metalcore inspired song on the album I think you guys will love). I am hoping to have the new album done and out by the years end. Again, just hit writers block and life has been super busy so music has taken a back seat unfortunately.

As well being a musician you also do some graphic work. You did the art for Psyclon Nine’s “Icon Of The Adversary” What else have you done and how long have you done this type of work?

I’ve been an artist all my life. I’ve been drawing since I could pick up a crayon, though I don’t draw much anymore. I’ll doodle from time to time, but nothing like I did when I was younger. When I was in the waste of time that was College, I majored in Multimedia Design and I had a full minor in Traditional Art. I miss those old college art courses as they were a lot of fun and I got to draw constantly! When I was 15 and going into my Sophomore year of High School, I took ‘Commercial Design’ which was a digital design class. I was introduced to Photoshop and Illustrator (mind you this was back in 1996 when both programs were in their infancy) and I was immediately hooked! There was a guy in my class who had been working in Photoshop since he was much younger and the stuff he was able to design was amazing. It really showed me what could be done in those programs! Since then, there’s literally not a day that goes by where I don’t use either Photoshop or Illustrator in some way or another! My entire professional life has been based in design. I’ve worked in design or graphics departments since my first job when I was 16. In 2007, I was hired to run a design department for a vehicle wrap shop here in Las Vegas and I’ve been doing that as a job ever since. I’ve changed employers a few times, but I’ve always been hired on as department manager or director. Outside of the day job thing, I’ve run my own business since 2007 called DorkiDori AutoCouture. I started it as an apparel line and since then it has grown into body kits, suspension and apparel. Im not going to go too far into the details, but if you’re into the Nissan 240sx and drifting, you might want to check out what I make. Speaking of album covers, I was the person who designed the artwork and cover for the re-release of Psyclon Nine ‘Divine Infekt’ and the Psyclon Nines current pentahazard icon that went with ‘Icon of the Adversary’. I designed all of the tour materials for the Divine Infekt and Icon of the Adversary tours as we. I made up a few spectrum analyzer videos for Nero as well. Mainly his modular synthesis videos and the 2 videos for Icon of the Adversary. Almost all of Psyclon Nine’s apparel for the past 5-6 years has been designed by myself as well. Designing for Psyclon Nine has always been fun because I get to go nuts with the darker side of what I make. Nero really enjoys the stuff I put together for him and I really love seeing Psyclon fans wearing the shirts I’ve designed at shows! A secret nerdy artsy fact about me, I’ve been painting Warhammer 40,000 miniatures since I was 10… though I haven’t painted in almost 8 years, one of my miniatures was featured on Games Workshops blog in 2009 and I’ve taken home numerous first place positions for the competitions I’ve entered. Art is my life in any way, shape or form. I live AND love to create! It’s why I was put on this planet and I fully embrace that fact

All of your releases have great artwork, how important are the visuals to you?

Thank you for the compliment! Sometimes I feel the artwork I design for our albums, EPs and silly little videos is kind of boring compared to what others do, but one thing I’ve found in life is sometimes, its very difficult to design for ones self. I’m just glad you and others approve! Visuals for the album art are a very important aspect in my mind. Unfortunately young people now very rarely know what its like to physically hold a CD or 12″ Vinyl release in their hands! There’s something very special about touching your music. While I was a rave DJ (mentioned earlier), touching my vinyl was a very magical and special feeling. Removing the vinyl from its sleeve, placing it on the spinning platter, dropping the needle on the vinyl, moving it back and forth for cuing, scratching with it and dragging your finger along the platter to help slow the record down (or twisting the platter pintle to speed it up) for beat matching is just a very special feeling… This must be why I still have 300 odd pieces of wax sitting around my house. I bought an all in one Pioneer setup a few years back that uses MP3s and CDs so I could mess around with DJing when I feel like it, but honestly its just not the same feeling as 2 Technic 1200s that use wax! But back to the original subject… with physical media always came album art! Album art to me defined the mood of the music you were listening to. One of my favorite album covers and CD booklets to this day is Stabbing Westward ‘Darkest Days’. The imagery that was designed for that album always gave me an amazing mental picture for what the album was talking about, what the music painted in my head and how everything felt in my imagination. It was a very dark, cold and pain filled album… and I think without the albums booklet, the imagery in my head would’ve been a lot different. Also, the booklet art for that album was created using a very very early version of Photoshop and the art is nothing short of spectacular with how limited the software was back then! I believe Chris Hall actually contracted the artist who did work for the Sandman comics back in the early 90s to do the art for ‘Darkest Days’.

The art for “Post Trauma” looks like something you could find in some old alchemical or astrological book. Do you have any interest in occultism? If so, how does that influence you and how deep does that interest run?

Ah yes, the cover for ‘Post Trauma’… There is a story behind that, but only a few people know it. The cover sigil was kicked off by something someone said to me at our record release show for ‘Fallacies’ and I’m going to leave it at that. I prefer leaving that particular piece of art open to interpretation, keeps it fun and interesting! However, the cover to ‘Beginnings End’ does have actual symbolism to it. The cover features a stylized Ouroboros which I felt played directly into the albums title and lyrical themes. It took me a little while to come up with the title ‘Beginnings End’, but once I thought of it, I felt it was perfect as its our final album as well as the prequel to the first 2 albums story wise. Neat little snippet while its on my mind, all 3 of our albums actually go in chronological order story wise based on alphabetical arrangement. I didn’t plan this, it just happened! As far as occultism, I find it interesting but its not something I really incorporate into my life or believe in. I do find some of the imagery, history and symbolism fascinating, but that’s about as far as it goes. So people have listened to our music and found it be anti-religious in some ways… which kind of baffles me as none of our music is anti-religious, nor our imagery. The inverted double slash cross on our first cover was actually a deconstruction for the leviathan sigil which was originally the symbol for sulfur, but means equality eternal. The top part of the sigil is where equality comes from and it represents equality of the sexes. That was the portion I wanted to use. While I don’t agree with Judeo Christian beliefs in a lot of ways, I don’t hate them or shun them. Faith is faith. If your faith brings you happiness and helps you be a better person, then I’m personally all for it. One of my best friends is a hardcore Christian and we banter back and forth quite often about our view points (I’m a Buddhist), but we do so to learn things from one another.

You’ve used the Russian language in some of your songs, why did you choose that of all languages and who’s the girl singing it?

So the song ‘Russia’ and ‘Rossiya’ are a fictionalized version of the first date I went on with the ‘Lady in Black’ back in 2009. She and her entire family are Russian. They immigrated over here in the 80s during the mass exodus of the Jews from Russia. We were together for almost 2 years and I LOVED the Russian language. I thought it sounded amazing and its so different from Latin based languages. I started ‘Russia’ back in 2012 when I wanted to get back into music again, the song was MUCH different back then (it was very dark wave/post punk sounding). When Bert and I got together and started making music, I wanted to finish that song. So as it went along, I wanted a female singing in the intro and I found a song called ‘Love is War’ sung by a vocaloid. The lyrics for the ‘Love is War’ intro worked perfectly for the theme of the album so I sampled them and here we are now! The original song is very VERY different once it kicks in versus what I used the sample for. The vocaloid version is more of a rock ballad of sorts… definitely not an industrial metal song.

When choosing spoken samples to put in your music, do you try to make them fit in with the context of the song or do you pick them a bit more freely?

Spoken samples I always try to keep within the theme of the songs, you know things that fit the mood or subject matter I’m referring to lyrically. As silly as it sounds, on one of the new songs on ‘Beginnings End’ called ‘Resigned to Fail’, I used two samples from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Its Q and Picard reciting Shakespeare I believe… The samples just fit so well with what I was writing about, and I finally get to say I made Star Trek Industrial! But joking aside, picking samples to use is sometimes daunting and very time consuming. The spoken samples I used in ‘One Weeks Time’ took about an hour of searching to find. The guy talking about suicide was some Christian help hotline guy. The video was roughly 2 hours long and FORTUNATELY, the samples I wanted were within the first 20 minutes of the video. The spoken sample in one of the new tracks ‘Unto The End’ took a little bit of editing to make work the way I wanted, but so perfectly fits the theme of the song! Musically, I love to use ‘Found Samples’, meaning things that are recorded from real life. Like rocks hitting bricks, creaking doors being opened, broken machinery etc. ‘Found Samples’ really do neat things when you stretch them or filter them out. They can set an amazing mood and feel to a track, even if just background ambient noises. I used a lot of ‘Found Samples’ for the song on ‘Beginnings End’ that bring very strange and uncomfortable atmospheres. Though, one of my favorite things I created for the album was the broken piano in ‘Bury the Ghost’. Its like 15 different racks in one instrument which created the piano. Took me a while to figure out how build the rack and how to get the damn thing to work with so many different things going on… but once it started working correctly, I was instantly in love! And its the first time I’ve used a piano in any of our tracks

I’ll leave the last word to you. Go ahead and promote any shows, releases or anything else you may have coming up .

Last words… Thank you to everyone who’s supported us through the years. While we are no longer playing live shows anymore due to both of us moving on in life, we still plan to make music together as writing and creating music was always the primary goal in our little art project as a band. We hope you all enjoy the new album when its finally released and I’m glad that so many of stuck by us! It was awesome to meet those of you we did in person at our shows out of state and it meant worlds to see you all of you in the audience doing your thing to our music. Thank you to Nero Bellum, Psyclon Nine and the P9 family for the amazing times we all spent together… Also thank you to every single band that brought us on to your shows. It was always such an honor to share the stage with such amazing talent. The last 5 years have been such an awesome ride and all of you, bands and fans alike, helped us live out a dream we never thought would come from this! I also want to leave a small bit of advice to everyone reading this… NEVER give up on your dreams. Always go for the big picture! Those that tell you something can’t be done and your ideas are silly or stupid, fuck em! Do what makes you happy! Don’t give up your drive for doing amazing things with you life. If we would’ve listened to some of the folks that discouraged us or said what we were doing was a waste of time, neither one of us would’ve lived out this insanely mind blowing time of our lives! So to anyone and everyone reading this, go forward and create! Go forward and kick ass! Go forward and live your dreams, its worth all of the pain, sacrifice and time spent doing something that makes you happy!!!

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