Tommy Creep is a modular artist who I feel I can relate to a bit more than most due to his darker take on the art of modular synth based music as well as introducing elements of the punk and metal culture into this world.
I stumbled upon his music by pure chance as I often do and discovered someone who seems to work in ways very similar to myself as well as holding on the DIY ideals of yesteryear that so many seem to have traded in for the conveniency of the digital era.
Tommy isn`t just a musican, he`s a true artist. Creator of the zine Black Panels Only and pioneering the patch blind panel I just had to talk to the guy and do what I can to spread the word as it were.
How did you discover modular synths and what attracted you to it?
I got into electronic music and synths through the Game Boy music/chiptune scene. Between bands, I was looking for a way to create and perform solo that didn’t involve an acoustic guitar and saw videos of people performing live with just a Game Boy through a PA and loved the simplicity and anti-music feel of it. Eventually I got into hardware synths and modular always seemed like the ultimate end-goal. Being able to choose whatever modules appeal to you and create a unique system that feels really personal was one of the main attractions, I don’t think you can really achieve that in the same way with other synths. I’ve since sold all my other synths to buy more modules, I still have my Game Boys though!
Your music is “inspired by horror and the occult” how exactly do these things influence your work, are you a practitioner of any spiritual path?
I spent years playing in horrorpunk bands, where lyrically everything was about horror but musically it wasn’t really different from any other punk. Since getting into electronic music, i’ve focussed on trying to make music that creates the images that the lyrics used to. I’m not a spiritual person at all, for me it’s more about trying to create an atmosphere in the music that evokes a sense of unease and curiosity. I enjoy listening to music by artists for whom their spirituality and ritual is a big part of the music they make but I also think immersive music can provide a similar response even if you don’t hold any particular beliefs yourself.
You create the zine “Black Panels Only” you`re about to release the second issue, what drove you to starting this?
I wanted to cover Eurorack but from a different perspective and show some appreciation for some of the darker-themed synth-makers and artists out there and i’d always wanted to make a zine, I love the creativity in working on page layouts and designing for print. Also some great A5 zines have come out over the past few years, like Becoming the Forest, Hellebore and Weird Walk that served as great inspiration.
Why do black panels look so superior?
I think it just creates a totally different feel overall. A completely silver-panelled system looks cool too, with a more scientific, evil lab vibe but I think the black panels make the graphics pop more and suit better suit some of the more out-there designs and noisier modules.
What do you think is the ideal setting to listen to your music? Paint us a picture.
I’m lucky to live in Bristol, where we’ve got access to some really cool old churches and less-typical venues that let us put on gigs. The medieval stonework looks amazing lit up and creates a great contrast with the electronic instruments. That’s the ideal setting for the music, it turns it into an immersive experience, the audience doesn’t have to work as hard to picture a dungeon or an old castle when you’re halfway there already. Listening at home- candles and incense help- the music at the moment is fairly minimal, so it really benefits from some other factors to accentuate the ritualistic atmosphere.
Are you fully modular based or do you include other hardware/software in your compositions?
I do everything in the modular, then just record the stereo output straight into a digital recorder. Something about doing everything in one-take, with no overdubs feels more authentic to me, but i’m not a perfectionist at all so I can live with little mistakes and imperfections that arise from doing it that way.
What inspires your song titles?
Usually after i’ve finished a release i’ll spend a day listening back to the tracks and researching the themes that inspired them, keeping an eye out for phrases that fit. The last two tapes, The Search for the Sulphurous Well and A Plane of Deprivation, explore concepts of death and hell in various cultures/spiritualities and literature.
You have a Black Panels Only patch which doubles as a blind panel, what gave you the idea to do this and how was the response?
I wanted to make a blind panel but don’t know anything about CAD software, so was trying to think of other materials you could make one out of- my first idea was a panel-sized sticker with corner holes, so it could be used as a blank or as a sticker, but I figured it’d probably be too flimsy. A patch seemed like a fun idea, if it would work, it fits with the black-metal/punk aesthetic of the zine and I wanted to bring some of that culture to the Eurorack scene. I think it works pretty well, it’s just a bit of a pain to screw in as they’re not at all rigid. Haven’t seen anyone actually sew one onto a vest jacket yet but I hope that happens at some point!
What`s next? Any plans for the future or are things just too dim to think there even is a future?
BPO Issue 2 is out within the next couple of weeks, along with a restock of Issue 1, then Issue 3 will be the Autumn/Samhain issue so i’ve got some really cool ideas for that. Outside of the zine, i’m just enjoying making noise on the modular for now and experimenting with improvising sets direct to tape and will get gigging again as soon that becomes possible.
The space below is for you to use however you wish, shout outs, leave a message, music recommendations or whatever else you want to say.
Check out Blood & Dust who featured in Issue 1 – they’re an awesome folk horror duo combining modular, cello and field recordings in an incredible way. They’ve got a few tracks online now and an album coming out very soon.
Shout out to Serpens Modular, Error Instruments and ERD for making some of my favourite modules and inspiring me to make the zine in the first place!
Ritual Aesthetic is one of the better things to come from the industrial scene in recent years. Originally a solo project by Sean Ragan started up to give rise to his own voice after being the drummer and thus taking the back seat for a number of years RA eventually grew into a fully fledged band.
I got in touch with Sean to investiage (or interrogate?) the results of which is on display below where we discuss the possible divine origins of inspiraton, working with Chris Vrenna for their upcoming album and much much more!
Start off with giving us a quick summary of the band. How long have you been around and who`s involved?
Ritual Aesthetic has been around for 6 years as an entity but only 3 years as a true band so I truly only consider us to be 3 years old. Originally it was just something I did just to vent creative energy while spending time in other bands and I didn’t do anything with it beyond releasing songs.
I truly view the band as being 3 years old with its real birth being marked from the point of finding members to create a full band and performing our first live shows. Currently it is myself, Vance Valenzuela of the incredible Blackened Death Metal band Vale Of Pnath, Mack Barrow and Nicholas Klinger. Ritual Aesthetic has had somewhat of a set of revolving doors concerning live members and I have accepted that this format is what suits it best. I prefer to collaborate in the moment with other artists who have projects of their own who can bring their unique talents to the table with whatever their primary instrument is. Vance and I had known each other for years and years and the timing of life put us on the same path together and it made sense to forge something together through the lens of Ritual Aesthetic.
You`ve got two albums out so far , Decollect (2014) and Wound Garden (2018). While sonically different you can still tell that it`s Ritual Aesthetic. To what do you attribute your, for lack of a better term, genre shifting, and where do you think you`ll go with the next release?
The genre shifting present in our two releases is just a direct reflection of being a big fan of different genres that share certain parallels and becoming easily bored with the same reoccurring sound. Metal and all offshoots of Industrial are my absolute favorite two genres and as I grew up listening to the two I would always find myself somewhat disappointed with wishing I could find more bands marrying the two together. I think they compliment each other beautifully and can bring out qualities in each other that only exist when they’re together.
With our next album, it was an intention of mine early on to take both the Metal elements and Industrial elements and push them farther in intensity than I have done on an album ever before. Early on I knew I wanted the album to have much more labor intensive guitar work and much moreabrasive and present electronic elements. I knew I wanted both to lead equally as intense at differing times rather than using either as layering pieces that cast an overall vibe. The perfect way to describe our next album without being able to hear it is that the intensity and violenceof the differing genre sounds have been strongly increased. I want the core fans of both worlds to be able to enjoy it equally and find they’ve come to appreciate something new in a genre they maybe haven’t explored before and for them to see that the other side isn’t all one boring way.
Speaking of the next release, any idea when we might hear that?
We were originally planning for Fall 2020 but because of the crushing blow that Covid-19 has dealt to the industry and the ability to tour we are now looking at Spring 2021. Although I do see this as devastating I also see it as a silver lining because this grants ALL artists an extra passage of time to refine their works and continue writing beyond any preconceived deadlines. I am a very firm, firm believer in last minute miracles when it comes to the writing process. Some of the moments within songs that I am the most proud of came to me in the final few weeks.
Your music was recently featured on the Boulet Brothers Dragula, how did this come about and do you follow drag culture?
I got a call from our A&R rep in the winter of last year that the Boulet Brother’s wanted to use our song “Dread” and that it would be another solid 7-8 months before it would see the light of day and that I wasn’t allowed to speak about it until the month prior to air date. The story was that they had burned through a list of songs to use for the Halloween episode and kept passing through choices looking for something more brutal to break from the tradition of using less sonically abusive songs for the lip-sync challenge.
How they landed on us I’d love to know as I am a HUGE fan myself. I do follow drag culture and I quite enjoy observing it. Christeene is my #1 followed by Dollya Black and Sharon Needles. I saw Christeene perform in my town and it was one of the funniest and most depraved performances I have ever seen. Imagine a mid-size bar packed well over capacity. It’s hot as fuck to where you can almost taste the condensation in the air and Christeene is crowd surfing across the patrons flashing her balls while covered in mysterious brown and red liquid that we probably shouldn’t disclose. She finally gets back to the stage where she’s bending over and pulling her buttocks apart while screaming to the point of clipping the microphone about how many people it takes to fix her dick. There was an energy in the room I had never felt and never did quite feel again since that night.
It was somewhat of a cross between Christmas morning, a bloody car wreck and being in a brothel that exists in the parking lot just outside of Hell itself. I LOVE her. Dollya I discovered on the show and I was moved almost to tears seeing her perform to our music with such a dark aura of grace. I thought she always had hands down the best and most original looks and to this day I see countless people rocking the double eye look. She is most definitely a trend setter with her aesthetic.
Lyrically, Decollect was made up of what to my understanding is mostly imagined scenarios rather than your own life experiences. Looking back, why do you think you made that choice?
Decollect happened at a time where I was barely into my 20’s and hadn’t really been knocked down by life yet. Although I was writing from early personal experiences, I was enhancing those scenarios in a more theatre inspired way as a means to cope with those said experiences at the time. I am a very big Horror fan and that album is littered with samples from such films & games and a lot of the lyrical aspects reflected that. I would take simple statements or recaps from things I had experienced and then re-write them while each time injecting more metaphor and word arrangements that seemed to supplement the images I was seeing in my mind.
If I was writing about a hardship within a past relationship, I would then morph that into a stalker / prey scenario. If I was writing about any grievances I had with the scene at that time, I then morphed that into a more snuff oriented narrative. “Through The Lust Of Flies” was an audio tribute to my favorite Giallo film images. “Tender Petal” was heavily inspired by the narrative of Suzy Banyon’s journey through Suspiria being a vulnerable loner in an evil place willing to subjugate herself to fit in. “Orchid Incestus” was the most personal of the lot. I sampled the sound of Melos crushing his brother’s head from A Srpski Film to supplement any feelings of anger I had at the time. “Fleshing Wheel” was an audio conglomeration of every slimy, perverted exploitation film I had seen at the time composed to a projected backdropof disgusting places in rural America at night. I view Decollect as a diary of first entering the arena of writing music by yourself and exploring what matches you the best while stopping to admire a nice pile of smut along the journey.
Wound Garden on the other hand is more personal, was it just that you wanted to express yourself in what may be called a more genuine way, opening yourself up more or did it just happen to come out that way?
Yes, it is much more personal. I had been writing the songs before I had concrete lyrics as it’s common practice for me to keep a large conglomeration of lyrical snippets as I progress through life. My plan was to complete the songs and start fitting the lyrics I found most fitting to the music. In the middle of this, my best friend of many years drove himself out to a beach in Seattle and shot himself. I had been working on scoring a production for the Urbanite Theatre in Florida at the same time and I got the call minutes before a Skype meeting with production. I had never lost anyone that close to me before besides my Grandparents and so it took me completely by violent storm.
I immediately became engulfed in a near fatal battle with alcohol to cope with the rage, sadness and the dozens of other grey emotions that come with living through the suicide of a loved one. Production on the score became a ball and chain, I separated from my partner of years and as some sort of twisted grand finale, our mutual friend, another person I had a very long history with, succumbed to a heroin overdose. Just like that in the span of a few months I had plunged into a new definition of pain by losing multiple people extremely close to me and seeing the foundations of my life begin to execute a death rattle. I threw out every piece of lyrical content I had thus far and began instead writing directly of my feelings that were related to this chapter. I trimmed it down to something more like an EP format as I wanted a simple and strong onset of rage for the listener in the same manner as I had experienced these events.
Everything that went into the sound and process of Wound Garden was the most authentic experience I had ever had in life up until that point. It was truly a moment of experiencingones art in a 3 dimensional format. That album’s entire genesis and timeline was the true calling card moment for me where I decided I no longer wanted an outlet but a full on, full time project to bring into the world where I abandon collaboration with other bands and focus solely on turning it into as real of a being as it can be. I dedicated the album to my best friend’s memory which one can find in the booklet of the CD or the jacket of the LP to be forever out there in the world and the hands of whomever may hold it. The hellish process of getting the band on its feet and getting that album out into the world is what ultimately got me clean and sober for multiple years strong so when I look back on it I view it as a sacrifice or offering made to exit total destruction and find harmony in this world. I think every artist experiences this in some shape or another and I think every artist must experience this kind of processof self sacrifice and holding on until results present themselves. I believe that everyone traveling full circle is the only thing that will bring true balance to this earth.
Correct me if I`m wrong but RA began as your solo project? To what capacity does your current members influence the writing and recording process?
Yes, it began as a solo project and remained that way for a while. I will always be the core underlying member as this is my lovechild that I am stuck with but I do collaborate with others. Currently, Vance Valenzuela is my primary writing partner. We have known each otherfor years and he has sewn impressive success with his project Vale Of Pnath and I heavily contributed to their last album “Accursed” so it seemed prophetic at the time that we would wind up working on Ritual Aesthetic together.
We have written half of the new album together while I have ventured into the other half alone to keep that balance and to bring aid to preserving the spirit that some have become familiar with. Our writing process with this album has been starting songs from the ground up at the same time. It usually begins with me putting together a core landscape of electronics and melodies and then he starts adding guitar parts to them and I re-adjust accordingly until we have a song. It’s a really exciting process to me because I became used to bearing the weight of the whole load while writing by myself and it’s fantastic to see someone else’s vision meet up with your own. I worked with others on parts of Wound Garden but never anything this intensive. I think it’s good for artists to break out of their comfort zone and see how their energy shifts when another person is brought into the situation. Although having zero interruption can be a great thing, you also run the risk of never having someone tell you no or check you on over indulgence.
Balance seems to be the crucial component that can be easy to lose in all things.
Your music falls into the industrial genre yet it doesn’t just sound like a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. Which era of industrial music do you yourself gravitate most towards and why?
Thank you! That is definitely a tough question because my taste ranges so broadly from era to era. I can tell you that I gravitate towards whatever has a heavy dose of sonic brutality and a good essence of beauty found in the middle of that filthy exterior.
I am a huge fan of Skinny Puppy’s “Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse” era, Goflesh’s masterful “Streetcleaner”, Cyberaktif’s “Tenebrae Vision”, Test Dept’s “The Unacceptable Face Of Freedom”, KMFDM’s “Symbols” and “UAIOE” eras, the totally violent wave of
European & American Industrial bands that came up in the early to mid 2000’s, Velvet Acid Christ’s “Lust For Blood” era, Ministry’s “Land Of Rape & Honey”, anything Coil has touched, NIN’s “Broken” era which is a hill I will die on with all my guts out.
Last but certainly not least, Wumpscut’s “Bone Peeler” is my all time favorite Industrial album. I could go on all day really but you’d be asleep by then. If it has that spirit that excites your primal instincts in a way that might get you arrested or fired then I probably enjoy it.
When it comes to current day Industrial happening right now, I jam to Youth Code, Statiqbloom & Cyanotic quite a bit.
Sticking with the genre theme, what would you say is the best and worst aspects of industrial?
The BEST aspect of Industrial no doubt is its ability to transcend and defy the rules of music as many know it. It can take you places mentally that I think absolutely no other genre can. Its influence has bled into SO many corners of music and in my opinion,many people don’t even realize or know that today in 2020. It injected new life into so many genres of music or outright created them with their origins now remaining unknown. That is fucking AMAZING. Industrial can take you on an otherwise familiar path and make way for a totally different and previously unimaginable journey. I think that there is no experience quite like connecting with an Industrial record. When you can start making sense & beauty out of a voidscape of mechanical babel and synthetic pollution, it completely changes the way you experience music and I don’t even think Chopin can do that.
The WORST aspect of Industrial no doubt is the closed minds and elitism within the culture. It is such a fucking bummer. Metal comes pretty close but after spending my share of time in both worlds I really think Industrial holds the throne here. The scene is still plagued with too many gatekeeping genre purists who hate to see change and act like it’s their duty to protect whatever assets they see being threatened by evolution of the scene. The irony in that fact is that I STRONGLY believe this is what dragged the genre down lower than it needed to go in terms of popularity. It doesn’t take much time on the ground to frequently encounter people loathing the lack of successful events and progress within the scene as a whole and yet they perpetuate that very thing. Here you have so many brilliant minds who were breaking rules and changing music just to be pushed into obscurity because the fans themselves don’t want to see those very same rules broken . It’s a toxic self fulfilling prophecy. Those who have taken the most risks in this scene have made the biggest impressions and usually carry the largest burden of criticism and that will continue to be true in this genre and many others until the day we are dead. Of course what I am saying is not true of every person.
Do you rely more on hardware, software or a mix of both when writing?
With Decollect I was going with all software because I was just getting my feet wet. Wound Garden was my entry point into hardware as a means of experiment and I fell in love with it. With this new album I would say it is about 90% hardware and 10% software. With that being said though, I am not a Hardware VS. Software purist. I prefer hardware now because I love the physical process of achieving results through labor and the element of chaos and risk / reward that work around it. I think hardware forces the artist to commit to the piece under the notion of knowing they might not ever get that sound back. It can be completely maddening to stare down the barrel of 30,000 software choices and never arrive at a final choice. When everything is said and done, I do believe hardware sounds better but I also know that most listeners aren’t going to give a fuck what it is because they will be searching for that connection rather than the gratification of knowing what kind of gear you used. I know there are those out there who do show great interest in that element and my hat is off to them for possessing that pool of knowledge and dedication to the craft.
These days the music industry undergoes constant change, people’s attention span seems to shorten by the second and as a result many might not have the patience to sit through a full-length album or even an EP. What makes you make albums then rather than for example releasing a single every month or so?
I agree with you 100% and I can tell you right now that I choose to go through with albums for a simple reason. It is to prove to myself that I can survive that journey and to tell a complete story. If the listeners want to cherry pick those few songs and not stay for the rest of it – that’s fine. I get it. I am sometimes guilty of the same thing. But, for those who want to stay and hear the whole story and experience all there is to experience with us, after everyone else has left – THAT is what I live for. I live for the satisfaction of knowing that these personal journeys should be told in complete tales. I believe firmly that you cannot travel to the places you can go with a full front to back experience with just a little single. In the end when it’s all done and people have extracted what they need to extract from it and I can look back at it knowing what a difficult journey it was actualizing that entire project….there’s no other feeling like it. With that being said, once this record is complete and I feel we have finally done that in the way we see fit, I would be open to exploring that drip feed method of release so long as the end result landed on a conglomeration of music to be enjoyed as one.
You`re originally a drummer having played in and toured with bands of different genres. Was it a big change when you took on the role of frontman rather than being in the background?
Yes. It was fucking intense. As a drummer you’re used to being hidden in the back and not being watched every moment while bearing the pressure of knowing that if anyone can fuck the whole thing up first it’s YOU. As a frontman all eyes are on you and that can be quite the pressure at times. The rush is much more extreme than that of a drummer and quite unlike many drugs you can do. Being a frontman also awards you less punishments for error in that if you make a mistake the whole band isn’t gonna implode because of you.
Coming from a drumming background has benefited me in staying locked in on time and has sometimes been a curse in it causing me to over scrutinize candidates for that position. Our drummer now, Mack Barrow is one of the best musicians I’ve had the pleasure of playing shows with so he eases that pain quite well. I have come to enjoy fronting a band so much that I’m not sure if I will ever return to playing drums but there are definitely times where I sorely miss doing so.
What do you think inspiration is, where do you think it comes from? Other artists have described inspiration coming from this elusive realm where if you just tune in to it you`re presented with melodies, words etc. If that is the case, would you consider the possibility of inspiration itself having more divine, loftier origins?
Absolutely I do, on all fronts. I believe that in all people this realm that you speak of not only exists but is actively affecting that person in ways beyond just art. I think that when one thinks they’re experiencing writer’s block they’re just experiencing a form of “clogged pipes” and it’s a matter of shutting down that Above part of the mind to dig deeper into the Below by any means necessary whether that be by chaos, transcendence or ritual of any kind.
Alex Cresconi mixed your first album, what about him and his way of working made you go back for the second one?
Alex is a longtime friend of mine and we have a lot in common in our musical tastes. I’ve always felt like he understood what I was going after sonically and life seems to have a way of magically putting us back together as the years go on. At the time that I met him I was a college student and he was a fresh graduate of the Musicians Institute and we were some of each other’s first clients. I am a very sporadic sort of spilled paint type artist and he is a very calculated and detail oriented artist so working with him a second time made the most sense for organizing the chaos of that time. Alex has been kind of a shadow entity of this band in that regard. He has done a lot for us behind the scenes on the business side of things and he played guitar on our song “Dread” which was featured in Dragula so in a spiritual way we came together for our first time on TV after years of exploring different sides of the industry from different places. He was my only friend from back in my college days who ran the distance with his career and didn’t succumb to Hollyweird insanity.
You announced recently that you`re working with Chris Vrenna for the new album. How did this all come about and how do you think it`s been going so far?
Chris has always been a “most wanted” on my list of artists to work with. I am an avid fan of his production / remix work and his soundtracks. He was my favorite member of classic NIN as he’s a drummer and he was involved with what I think are the finest hours of NIN. Any true Nails fan out there immediately thinks of him and the rest of the golden lineup and what they were doing in the 90’s.
We both have some mutual friends and once Ritual Aesthetic got its wings off the ground a little bit after Wound Garden, I started considering the possibility of finally attempting to contact him to just sniff out the possibility of having him on board for a project. Once we finally got in touch we immediately hit it off and spent hours talking about this life and things seemed to just work out.
Chris is one of the kindest and most sincere humans I have ever met anywhere in this life and not just the music industry. He has an aura to his personality that is unlike anyone I have ever met when it comes to his ability to pass on wisdom and inspiration. He is a true teacher by nature and a true example of someone who’s seen it all and been jaded by none. Unfortunately as you and I speak now, we are just now stepping into the infantile stages of this project as the pandemic had us all held hostage to our living rooms and rendered unable to do much besides eat canned food and wonder which day we’ll die and decompose into the couch. This is something that I will be looking forward to sharing with the world in the coming weeks as we get farther away from this mess and closer to normality.
Asking if Nine Inch Nails has served as any inspiration for you seems pointless and obvious so we won`t go there. However, Vrenna was part of the line-up during the Downward Spiral era which included a good amount of experimental methods in sound design, did working with him bring about any less conventional ways of working?
Chris has such an understanding of the unconventional that when discussing it in a forward fashion you’d think it’s basic conventionality you’re speaking of. Something I learned right away in our initial production talks is that nothing is “wrong” or really “right” when it comes to that world. I realized very quickly that the times I spent in the past worrying if I was doing something wrong didn’t matter. I think any and all musicians should take that thought into consideration. Who gives a fuck how you get there – what does it sound like? A less conventional way that we have been working since bringing him into the mix is reaching farther back for older equipment and outdated sounds to bring a new shine to them in a new vessel. I’m a big fan of sampling sounds I find outside of the studio and converting those into purposeful use somehow.
As most of kids with black hair, makeup, torn up clothes etc we all grew up listening to bands like Manson and NIN both of which Vrenna was involved in at some point. Have you at any point had a moment where you realize that you`re now in the position to work with the people who made the music you surely listened to on endless repeat growing up? What`s it feel like?
I suppose I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I contemplated this a few times. It doesn’t mean that I or anyone else is special. It means that life is cyclical and things are far more connected and attainable than one might think in the loneliest hours of their artistic or personal journey.
It means that anything can be done with a refusal to quit and understanding that most of the hurdles put before us in this life are as intrinsically temporary as we are. To me, this thought feels more like a reassurance than any victory. It feels like I know now marrow deepthat the most important thing any of us can do while pursuing goals and wants is to listen closely to our intuition, reject negative and suppressive people who dampen down our self worth, that perseverance is more important than many other things and lastly to never underany circumstances wear blue jeans.
The last word goes to you. Feel free to promote whatever you wish, shout outs etc.
Shout out to you for these wonderfully constructed questions!
To anyone still reading this going through this fucking dark and uncertain time,
There are people in this world who need you and you need you. This climate is RIPE for creativity and art is one of the things that can soothe us all while we go through this. Create or Die. Look out for your friends and take it one day at a time.
We hope to be on tour with a new record and fully back in action by late Spring 2021 and we hope to see you and hear you in any capacity.
Nothing Valentine is the latest project by Darrin Lewis who during the latter part of 2019 released the first single “#GothGirl“. Where the first single leaned towards a blend of industrial and pop Civil Unrest takes a que from Lewis`previous band Beside The Silence with more of a metal edge to it while still retatining its identity as its own seperate being.
The single begins with samples of the cheeto man himself, President Trump talking about employing the national guard in order to control the protests which have been going on for about a month now after the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other people of colour.
With the slithering tounge of a an angered Serpent Lewis`sings of the injustice of recent events and while there are surely an ocean of songs with similar topics it all hits a little differently when you know that this is happening right now and your friends being affected by it or even killed for standing up for their right to live and be free.
I hope to see more artists use their platform to bring attention to these issues, to use their chance to immortalize facts within their art, facts which will surely be twisted into something the ruling elite will be more comfortable with including in future historical books.
The single is available on all major streaming platforms and proceeds will be donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
For more information about Nothing Valentine check out the Sounds & Shadows interview from last year here:
The Cult Sounds is a band I dscovered somewhat recently and immediatly fell in love with. They make the most wonderfully dark yet dreamy rock music which leaves no question abou their influences and yet manage to carve out their own sound in the process.
Having one self-titled EP along with a string of singles and covers of some classic songs they`ve been off to a great start and is currently working on a full-lenght album taking their sound a few steps further.
I got in touch with Jordan Hagerman, the bands rythm guitarist and inquired as to wether or no they`d be up for a quick chat. Needless to say they most definetly were so read on and learn about this gem of a band.
Who is The Cult Sounds and where did it all start?
The Cult Sounds is a Dark Rock band based out St. Louis, Missouri consisting of Bennett Huntley on Lead Vocals, Ryan McBride on Lead Guitar, Jordan Hageman on Rhythm Guitar/Synths & Programming, Wyatt Eagen on Bass, and Justin Riley on Drums & Percussion
Jordan, Bennett, and Ryan met in 2012 during their freshman year of college at Webster University. We had wanted to do music together before since we all actively listen to vinyl together and go to shows or discover new bands together. The right circumstances and the write demos created the opportunity for The Cult Sounds to exist past just our original inclination of a studio project.
You`ve released a few covers by Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie and Bauhaus, why did you choose those artists in particular?
Our cover choices usually come from us being interested in seeing what we could do with that song either adding elements, stripping it down, or adopting our style entirely to it. With these 3 – Bela Lugosi’s Dead is usually considered the first Goth song so it seemed like a good place to start for our first release, Rhiannon cams from our love of Fleetwood Mac and the arrangement is a fun take on that classic, and I’m Afraid of Americans came originally as a tongue-in-cheek jab at Americans for the coronavirus handling but ultimately morphed into something else with the murder of George Floyd.
Is there any symbolism behind the artwork for your self-titled release? it goes really well with the music and adds to the atmosphere.
Not particularly, the cover is more of an art piece Bennett created using a skull Ryan found and gave to him. It inspired all of us when we saw it and it seemed to just make sense with the tone and atmosphere of the music.
My favourite of yours thus far as to be “Anatomy Of A Car Crash” How did this song come about?
Originally the song came from a car accident Jordan was in coming home from an Alkaline Trio show. There was a desire to capture that anxiety and fear in a song. The main riff fell into place with the structure and the ghostly vocal inflections with the guitar solo section was just too perfect of a way to end it. What really makes that song feel so powerful is Ryan’s solo just cutting through and hanging over like the grim reaper. Ironically enough, not long after the song was finished, our old keyboardist and Bennett were also in a pretty awful crash on their way to rehearsal just before our second show. Lyrically it’s of course a bit of a double-entendre; a literal car crash and a wreck of a human being. The “white lines the dashboard” lyric was inspired by a time Bennett watched a friend snort coke off the dashboard of his car- THAT is the anatomy of a car crash.
What`s your take on current events? Do you think we will learn something from all this and perhaps be witness to the beginning of the end of the corrupted systems of the world or do you think we will simply forget and move on ending up treating this like just another trend?
That’s a pretty tough question. You hope things will change, and I think every time something like this comes around we all think “this is it, this is the moment.” And maybe it is. Hopefully it is. I think we’re heading in the right direction, and I think if we continue to fight we can bring change. But I think that all depends on how much we all commit ourselves to the cause and how long our country’s often incredibly short attention span can hold all this in view.
You`ve been working on a new album recently as well as music videos to accompany it, how far are we from getting to hear some new stuff and does it have a title yet?
The album is called “Death of a Star” and hopefully we can release it in the fall and actually play shows here and on the road to promote it. It’s very near and dear to us. As far as singles go, there should be one coming within the next month or two, hopefully. COVID has somewhat marred a lot of our plans. But we do have a music video in pre-production for one of the singles being handled by the creative/conceptual team behind the short film “Follow Me.”
How does the new album differ from your current discography?
The album contains 11 songs that each explore our sound. It’s our most dynamic material thus far – containing our heaviest music, our softest music, our fastest, and our slowest. We really let our Dark Rock sound permeate our outside influences of everything from Punk to old Country to Metal to Industrial to Space Rock to everything in between. We felt more comfortable as a band this time around and really explored ideas and ended up with around 35-40 different songs and ideas we optioned for the record. The songs you hear on the record are the ones that inspired us the most as well as fit the concept we were going with for “Death of a Star” and reflected the themes or ideas therewith-in.
“Death of a Star” represents a lot of different ideas on the record – some being celebrity worship, fame-chasing, literal death and how unprepared we are for it no matter what we do, death of relationships and connections, and the idea of the death of a dream that was never attainable to begin with. So, clearly it’s a happy record.
I caught a few of those classic Davey Havok “Oh`”`s in some of your songs so I take it AFI is an influence but who else would you say influences your sound and style?
AFI is absolutely a massive influence on us as a band, particularly Bennett and Jordan but as far as our biggest influences and inspirations musically (that are mutual across the board) we’d have to say David Bowie is in the fabric of everything we do, The Cure, Type O Negative, Bauhaus, Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper, Joy Division, Tribulation, My Chemical Romance, King Diamond, Sisters of Mercy, Ghost, Queens of the Stone Age, Black Sabbath, Alice In Chains, Danzig/Samhain, Nine Inch Nails, The Beatles, The Doors, and Depeche Mode. We listen to so much different music all the time, that we really pull from every decade of music from the 50’s to now.
Style comes a lot of from the idea of the “rock show” of the 70’s which doesn’t really exist as much anymore. People love music with substance and people love a spectacle and a show – why not give them both? It’s fun for us to dress up, wear makeup, have fog onstage, candles, lights, incense, etc. It gives the audience something to remember and tell others about. This idea is nothing new, obviously, we’re pulling from the masters – Alice Cooper, Ghost, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, David Bowie, and KISS. Regionally, no one in St. Louis does that live show aspect with outfits and makeup so naturally we wanted to do that in a way that would compliment our Gothic aesthetic.
Why did you name yourself The Cult Sounds?
We’re actually named after a record released by a very small previously-defunct-now-active Australian label called Aberrant. It’s a compilation of recordings from some, let’s say “spiritualists,” such as Anton La Vey, David Koresh, and Heaven’s Gate. You can’t really find the album anywhere and it’s banned from sale on some sites, so if you find an actual copy please let us know.
You`re based in St.Louis right? How`ve you been handling the protests there and how are things right now?
St. Louis is unfortunately fairly segregated and there are hard economic divides within the city, so to see people of all skin colors and walks of life coming together is beautiful. The world needs more love and unification, but, we cannot have any of that while people of color are not truly equal. It’s been 157 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and being white people, we have to be better. There’s no excuse. Racism, political corruption, and police brutality is a disease that must be dealt with.
As we all know by now live shows have become pretty much extinct for the time being so how are you guys dealing with that? I
Not well – we love seeing bands live and we love playing shows, without that group catharsis and outlet it feels like there’s a huge void in our lives. It’s a scary and sad time. We just hope we can play a show again soon.
I tend to leave space after each interview for the artists to use for whatever they would like, The Cult Sounds chose to leave the following music reccomendation:
Polterguts, Abraxas, Time and Pressure, Direct Measure, Bellhead, Gary Robert & Community, Reaver, Luxora, Summoning the Lich, and David Bowie.
Keep up with The Cult Sounds via the following links:
The world of modular synthesis is a world of infinite possibilities.
To build your own personalized instrument with the ability to switch out each and every part as you go along you can truly craft your own sound which others will be hard-pressed to replicate.
While modular synthesis might summon either images of what looks like a telephone operator board or endless loops of ambient bleep bloops there is more to the art, something darker and more aggressive.
One of the first such modular artist I came across was TL3SS.
With black and white videos accompanied by the doom and gloom of a voltage controlled apocalypse TL3SS is the antithesis to everything people seem to imagine when they hear the term “Modular”.
I`ve been in touch with him sporadically over the past few months and as I await a cassette version of his debut EP to arrive from the U.S I approached him for an interview.
Let the ritual commence:
Who are you and what do you do?
-I’m TL3SS, and I make dark electronic music with mostly modular synthesizers.
What is TL3SS and how are we meant to pronounce it?
-TL3SS is kind of an accident. I returned to making music after a long hiatus, and a friend suggested I set up a SoundCloud account so he could listen to a track I was talking about. When I went to set up the account, all the names I tried to pick were taken, so I picked this as kind of a joke. At the time I had no idea that people would end up wanting to hear more of my music. Now I’m kind of stuck with it. There really isn’t a right way to pronounce it, but I personally pronounce it like the letter “T” and then the word “Less”.
How long have you been working with modular synths and what about the modular initially caught your interest?
-I’ve been working with Modular synths for a little over 3 years now. I started making music again about 4 years ago, and a Moog Sub-37 was the first synth I picked up. When I stopped making music years ago, everything was software based, and there were hardly any hardware based synths that I found compelling. I’m not a huge fan of sitting in front of a computer screen with a mouse trying to make music, so that was part of the reason I quit. For the next few years I completely ignored anything music production or synthesizer related, and honestly hardly listened to music at all – as I felt the majority of music that I had been hearing before I quit was uninspired and mostly sounded the same – probably due to the prevalence of VST instruments and endless amounts of presets. There were some gems here and there, but I was mostly disillusioned with the state of music styles that I usually listened to. Imagine my delight when I started feeling the urge again, and realized that there was a literal golden age of synthesis happening. There were so many options, and advancements, and they were more accessible than ever before. I have always been fascinated by modular synths, but back when I was looking at them they were completely unobtainable for me. As I got back into synthesis, I naturally explored what was available with eurorack and immediately fell deeply in love and fell down the rabbit hole. I think I watched at least a thousand hours of tutorials for various semi-modular synths and different modules before I made my first purchase.
Your sound is quite different from the usual ambient leaning bleeps and bloops most modular artists produce. Who are your influences and how did you begin to develop this sound?
-I like all kinds of music, but I’ve always been drawn to dark, sad or angry music. When I first started music a long time ago, I was really heavily into all kinds of Industrial music, as well as some IDM here and there. For specific artists I’d probably say Leæther Strip, Pain Station, Nine Inch Nails, Front Line Assembly, Scorn, Cabaret Voltaire, Dead Voices on Air, Numb, Gridlock, Dive, Ministry, Klinik, Nurse With Wound, Coil, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Autechre. I also really enjoy listening to post-punk and goth music as well. I think my sound naturally developed as an extension of wanting to make what I wanted to hear.
You`ve done some demos for Noise Engineering in the past, what`s your relationship with the NE team and what about their modules specifically do you find so attractive?
-I haven’t actually done any official demos for Noise Engineering – I did do a guest post for their blog, however. It was about how much I love various types of distortion and some of the techniques I use. It’s just a friendly relationship – I really love the instruments they make, and they seem to appreciate the nasty sounds I make with them. I’ve gotten to know them a little bit and they’re really great people, and I want them to continue to be successful and keep making awesome modules for me to use. I was initially attracted to their modules for a variety of reasons – basically everything. I loved the company name immediately, and as I dug deeper into what they had to offer I found that I loved the sound of their oscillator modules, and their approach to utility modules. I also really connected to the visual aesthetic they use, and really enjoyed the naming conventions they use as well.
Modular synthesis allows for quite a vast amount of experimentation, improvisation and just stumbling across greatness on the road to who knows where. Would you say you have a technique for approaching the instrument or do you just kinda go with the flow and let it carry you away?
-It depends, sometimes I set out with a specific goal in mind (which usually ends up sounding NOTHING like I had in mind), and other times I’ll be away from my modular and realize “you know, I haven’t ever tried plugging X into Y – I need to try that when I get home”. Other times I get a craving to hear a particular module and so will just start patching with it and see where things end up.
I believe I saw you say somewhere you wouldn’t be too comfortable with the idea of live performances due to shyness. How does this affect you now as you`re starting to gain some traction and people in the community know your work?
-It’s a question I get asked more and more frequently. Part of it is that I am a perfectionist when it comes to performance, and I feel that modular by default is not a perfect performance tool. Trying to recreate something you have patched up at home is difficult to do at home, let alone performing. We will see what the future holds, I’m not ruling it out – but for now I’m content to focus on recording as opposed to preparing for live performances.
What would you recommend to someone looking to get started in modular as far as gear and just general advice?
-Use the resources that are available to you. There is a wealth of knowledge out there on various forums and youtube channels. Educate yourself before you jump in and spend tons of money. The way I approached it was learning about the various semi-modular synths that were available and picking one based on what I felt sounded the best to me. From there you’ll experiment and some of the concepts will begin to click, and you’ll hit a point where you feel limited with just the semi-modular and you’ll want to expand to do something that’s impossible currently.
You`ve released three EP`s thus far. Are we gonna be seeing a fourth one anytime soon or perhaps a full album?
-I have a single with some remixes releasing later this month on Errorgrid Records. I plan to release another EP later this year. I’ve thought about doing a full album, but for the moment I’m enjoying the EP approach.
The space below is yours to use for whatever you desire, promote anything or anyone you can think of or just leave a quote for the readers to ponder on. I’m really thrilled to be a part of the Errorgrid roster. I think there’s going to be some amazing music coming out in the next few months. It’s very exciting.