Steven is a Renaissance man who is has been involved in several important music projects in Goth/Industrial in the last 2 decades. Ego Likeness, Stoneburner, ect. Also a writer and visual artist. I speak to him fairly frequently online , however I think this was the longest verbal conversation we ever had. I think it was a wonderful glimpse into the details of his artistic process and his journey though music and art. Links below for some of his work.
A call to arms for artists…and everyone else
We are at war…
Hopefully not with each other yet but with a virus. Our medical professionals, remaining retail outlets, national guard, truckers are all on the front lines.
The rest of us.
We are their support structure.
What does that mean for us the artists?
We do our jobs.
We work in the entertainment industry. Show biz.
We are all in the USO now (or wherever you are, insert country as appropriate.)
After Katrina one of the first and most important things rebuilt was the Superdome. For which the city got a ton of flack. But during times like this, identity and moral matter.
Because we, artists, this thing we do?
While generally from a societal standpoint it’s important, but from a “surviving the apocalypse” (this isn’t but it’s a good dry rub) what we make are luxury items. In the wasteland, the main use for my art will be making walls for your shack.
We are at the bottom of the pyramid of need as far as real world horror goes from a practical stand point.
We are krill. We are ubiquitous.
But krill drive the entire food chain.
Not as individuals but as a group.
*Before someone gets needlessly pedantic this metaphors only works so far, unlike krill we hopefully won’t end up being eaten.
Many of us are setting up methods for streaming which is awesome.
But a GLUT of this will be coming down the pipe. You think there’s competition now with bands in the same genre? Just wait until everyone with a guitar or a laptop starts consuming bandwidth to try to make a buck.
But I digress.
The point I’m trying to make is this. We, krill, down here at the bottom keep doing what we have to do, because it’s what we are built to do. We have to send that energy (not in a woo woo spiritual sense, but it’s a convenient word) up.
To quote a magnificent bastard “you’ve got to reach down and pick the crowd up.”
Well… the crowd is now the entire world.
We need to do what we can to keep people stuck at home At home. So that they don’t go out, pick up the disease and bring it home to others. So that EMTS, nurses, doctors, truckers etc all have music to get lost in. Stories to read when they are home.
All of us will need escapism more than ever before.
And that’s our job.
All of us.
And as the Internet clogs with “competition,” try to remember that those people need money just as much as you do. And more to the point, we are all working towards the goal of keeping the wheels moving.
You need to say humble, artists.
You aren’t owed an audience.
You can’t sit back and put music out, expect someone else to promote it, and then go out on tour expecting an audience to be waiting for you.
Those days are on hold.
You’re going to have to work your ass off if you want to make money doing the thing. You’re going to have to sing for your supper.
I’m not saying sell out. Because there’s an audience for whatever brand of single note drone death metal folk trap you write. But you’re going to have to bust ass to find em, and once you do, you’re going to have to bust ass to keep em around.
Use this time. Because if you can create things that matter to others in the darkest times, they will remember what got them through. And when shit gets rolling again that audience will still be there.
It’s not a zero sum game. Look around, help your fellow artists out. Give what you can to the world in whatever way makes sense. Teach. Get online and bullshit and talk to people. Do whatever you can do.
That’s cool too.
Because that makes just a bit more room for those of us who bleed for the things we create. For those of us who have spent our lives learning to do what we do.
And for you non artists, the “we’re all in this together,” thing applies to you also. Do what you can to help feed us krill.
And if you see someone giving an artist shit because the are “begging for money,” shut them down. Because without the krill the entire food chain withers.
You guys got this.
Mike Johnson has been a familiar face in so many important bands in the goth Industrial scene over the last few decades. For his big 60 I thought it would be nice to talk about his career and what he has meant to music for so many people. Drummers are such a rare and glorious treasure but even more so those who can play along to electronic music. Mike has used that to get snatched up by anyone with a synthesizer and a tour to travel the world bringing energy and precision to music fans everywhere. The list of bands he has been a part of is long and storied. Today lets celebrate his amazing contributions.
Ego Likeness – I got to see Mike tour with the Industrial Passion Rock band Ego Likeness a few years back. The husband and wife duo of Steven and Donna Archer play an intense and immersive stage show. This requires A lot of moving parts and a focused rhythm section.
Rick Furr added “As an artist and a person He’s a good cuddler in the bed”
Donna ““In addition to being an excellent drummer, Mike is the only one who will talk to me when I’m on my 17th straight hour of driving, just to make sure I’m not delirious. We should all thank him for that.”
Spider Lilies– The beautiful phantasmal electronic dream weavers off Jim Semonik’s distortion productions. I love the swirling cyclone blend of hard hitting industrial beats and Stacey Campbell’s ethereal lilting vocals. They have a sound that puts me in mind of Sunshine Blind and Switchblade Symphony in the 90’s. Lots of layers and complexity held together with Stacey’s clear ringing vocal melodies. If I ever find myself in a magical garden full of dangerous plants this is the soundtrack I hope to hear. They have a new track out on the Electronic Saviors compilation called “Witness” that is a must hear.
I ask Stacey what it was like to work with Mike:
“I feel very lucky to have Mike as a part of Spider Lilies, but he’s also a great friend. As a band mate, his positive outlook and dependable work ethic helps everything go so smoothly. You have to admit, he looks really cool wearing his sunglasses on stage! When touring, you can be sure he’s always got an emergency jar of peanut butter, just in case, which is smart. When things get tough, he’s someone you can talk to openly and he’s never one to judge. He’s a great hugger and shoulder to cry on, if needed, and then he can usually summon up some quality dad jokes to lift the mood.” -Stacey-
Stoneburner – One of the most frequently reviewed bands here at Sounds and Shadows, but for good reason. Steven Archer is creating some of the most dynamic and exciting new music in the Industrial genre. This band pushes the boundaries of artistic expression using electronic elements and percussion which often includes a need for a extra drummer.
Red Lokust – Pittsburgh Industrial mainstays Red Lokust have had Mike tour with them for live performances. This is high energy smash the war drums and stomp the concrete until the foundations shatters old school industrial. Often socially political and consciously aware. This band shatters rooms with it’s intensity and needs a fierce intensity from it’s percussion. It’s led by Jim Semonik who also does the Electronic Savior’s compilation
FIRES – Mike has also done live drums for the electronic sonic explosion that is FIRES. Aedra is a fiery force of nature unleashing stabbing intensity and lifting beauty. Organic guitar riffs and pounding snare snaps drive her energy in her expressive live show. I have a complete review of the album on Sounds and Shadows.
We all look forward to hearing new recordings from LINDA his new rock band in the near future. Watch for them here:
A lot of focus and credit goes to the singers, guitar players, bass players, of the world. I think anyone who has been in a band can tell you, having the right drummer is truly the glue and the heart of making music happen. Mike has had a career that has crossed so many paths in this scene and made a difference. Happy Birthday to a vampire I honestly cannot believe is 60. He makes 38 year old me look like shit.
Some other quotes from important musicians in the scene:
Neska Lapicki : “you are super epic awesome, i was gonna make joke about you farting in the van, but then i thought it was probably rick. happy birthday!!!”
Erik Gustafson (Adoration Destroyed/Grendel) :
“I’ve been on three national tours, that Mike was playing drums for the headliner.
Mike is just so full of positive energy, and is always smiling and happy to be there.
As you know, touring life isn’t for everyone, and it’s not all fun and games. It can be very stressful. Mike is just the picture of calm and content,
and was a pleasure to travel with. The only thing I don’t like about him…is that he doesn’t share with the rest of us, his magic youth potion!”
Laura Bienz (Lorelei Dreaming) :
Every time our paths cross when touring and playing cons, it is immediately a dance party. We became instant friends and the dance party continues
Here’s to many more years!”
Look, shit looks kinda bleak at the moment.
It’s really not, things are changing and shits going to get hard for everyone, but it’s not the beginning of the apocalypse or anything.
Right now, the entire planet is going through shock. And they are grieving for the life that they took for granted and now feel is gone.
And as you well know, everyone grieves in different ways. Some use dark humor, so get online and complain, and some crawl into corners and make their own permanent choices to temporary situations.
And I get it, when you feel like everything is out of control, you look to the one thing that’s yours that you *can* do something about. And the action, in theory adds resolution to the whole thing. “Don’t know how it’s gonna end? Well if I kill myself then I have my very own timeline and do it on my own terms.”
But the thing is you’ve never known how this is gonna end. This whole life thing. Sure you’ve got plans, but obviously as has been demonstrated, it doesn’t take that much to rip us into pieces as it were.
So in the end, you’re looking at offing yourself because your plans got canceled.
Plans get canceled all the time though.
You’ve probably canceled someone else’s plans more than a few times. And they, like you, will pick themselves up, dust themselves off and make new plans.
Is all of this really inconvenient?
Sure as hell is.
Will we have to deal with a hurricane of bullshit?
Oh yes, including shit that you won’t see coming.
But, my dudes, this is nothing compared to living through WWII, or any of a thousand other things that humans have dealt with.
And never the less we persisted.
Because in the end, for as self destructive as we are, for all of the bullshit we have inflicted on each other, we are still here. And every day we learn new things about the universe or discover new animals or have kids or make art or whatever it is that makes life worth living for you.
It’s ok to feel sad.
You will get through this.
Because anything else.
It’s just boring.
And is likely to make things worse for the people you leave behind.
And to be clear, my dudes, this is not written just for people thinking about offing themselves.
All of us are dealing with this grieving.
Keep that in mind.
Try to be tolerant and patient.
I can’t sugar coat this. The world is frightening and hard right now. People are scared for their financial future, their health and safety. Usually in times like these I turn to music more than ever. Even that has not been enough to inspire me. Tonight is the first time I am taking a stab at writing in a few weeks. Looking at the enormous wealth of material piled up in my inbox seems a daunting task. Tonight though, I felt that glimmer again. That need to share with you what is making me shine and feel connected in these dark times. Artists need to feel our love more than ever. Reach out and tell them you are listening. Show them you support them by buying their merchandise. Let them know culture still matters and the beauty of the world is still alive. Here is what touched me lately.
Attrition – The Great Derailer , This EP single from Martin Bowes Feat: Emese Árvai-Illés of Black Nail Cabernet is nothing short of breathtaking. I’m an enormous fan of her voice and style. This razor wire blend of Martin’s sandpaper and her silk to Industrial post modern jazz sounds is so fresh and so nostalgic. I have played this so many times in the last two weeks. Also the video is a must see piece of art on it’s own.
I Ya Toyah – Released Code Blue Reloaded: The one woman sonic army has uncorked this series of remixes from industry leaders like Skold, Joy Thieves, Adoration Destroyed, and Xentrifuge to bring re imaginings of 2018 emotional explosion Code Blue. Ania is currently shooting like a rocket to the top of the EDM /Electroclash world with her fearless emotional style. If you don’t know about I Ya Toyah know that your world could be brighter.
Joy Thieves – A Blue Girl : New release from the Chicago Industrial superband The Joy Thieves. Led by Dan Milligan and featuring industrial titans like Chris Connelly, John Fryer, Ania Tarnowska, Gordon Young, and many more. This album is that seamless place where 90’s electronic industrial meets hard rock and organic excitement to find a blistering percussion express train to shake that assville.
ELZ and the Cult – Horrified: The Turkish electronic heartthrob is back with this creeping storm of broken glass and velvet vocals. This song oozes sex appeal and sinister intention. Dance hard and scrawl ancient runes upon thine wall.
Caroline Blind – The Spell Between : The first new album from Caroline Blind of Sunshine Blind is about to drop and although too long a wait is well worth it. She has assembled a who’s who of the goth scene from The Wake, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Switchblade Symphony, Pretentious Moi, Bellwether Syndicate, Muse. Do I have your attention yet. The record has covers and several new songs so full of passion and emotion I got misty several times listening. This is one of the all time powerhouse voices in goth spewing forth decades of ideas in one offering. It runs the range of dance hall burner, to soul baring acoustic Stevie Nicks tear jerker. If you never spent your formative years listening to Liquid, drinking black coffee and smoking cloves you need to embrace this release of all that made goth great. This record stands on the shoulders of it’s own giants.
Sopor Aeternus – Island of the Dead : Honestly this is one of those bands I am embarrassed I didn’t already know about. I heard this on the Pat 626 show and I fell instantly in love. It’s dark, quirky, and utterly unique. It has a mystical and theatrical quality full of poetry and intensity. Brooding and whip crack sharp with hammer dulcimers and vocal deliver as sharp as a dagger. Music like this is my dark secret passion.
Antipole – Perspectives II : Another album of steller remixes from Karl and Antipole. This one featuring Actors, Crying Vessel, SYZYGYX, ect. You may think, how does Karl manage to continue getting such incredible artists to remix his songs? Because they are so fracking good. I am hard pressed to think of anyone who has more of a scholars approach to taking the concepts of the past like Joy Division/New Order/Cure then holding that concept and breathing it forth as a new idea. So when you have that dedication to sonic texture, the line of people willing to take those building blocks and mix them into something that inspires them is endless. Prepare for another amazing offering. Starting with the first single by Actors.
Black Angel – The Widow: LA is doing a very bringing rock back to dark music thing at the moment. I hear a very psychedelic lizard king vibe happening here in this giant 16 song offering. Lots of steady movement and venom dripping from reverb laced retro amplifiers. I like the concept of a modern goth rock, but going back before Sisters of Mercy or Mission to a 60’s/70’s vide in dark music.
Panic Priest – Nighthunter: A very different feel for Chicago darkwave Panic Priest on Negative Gain. Jack has a deep resonant voice dripping with sex appeal and introspective energy. This new single evokes a very 80’s Depeche Mode stack and build feel. I can’t wait to see what turns this new direction takes.
Ash Code – 1981 – Ash Code has released a new video and it is aesthetic and sonic glory. I always feel when i listen to them this ultra sleek coolness full of retro advent guard beauty and slithering excess that transports me and gives you a glimpse into an ultra hip life just beyond my pedestrian fingers. Just listening to this song makes me feel like a part of something more awesome than i am.
Klack – Distancing : Klack is back with a twist on their single to remind you to give everyone a little space in these dangerous times. Love it.
Goth Covered – Oskar Terramortis the goth father of Europe has put together this stunning compilation of modern goth rock bands doing old school goth covers. My favorite is Sonsombre doing Nosferatu Dark Angel . The whole thing is magnificent as always. I’m just bummed it didn’t include our Peter Murphy cover
I have no shame, I’ll include it now. This is Amaranth‘s cover of Peter Murphy‘s I’ll Fall With Your Knife Feat: Lorelei Dreaming. DON’T YOU FUKING JUDGE ME
Listen Darklings, the world is cruel and promises get broken. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Band together, look out for each other, and keep sharing music that inspires you. We will get through this together.