Interview: With Pete Burns of Kill Shelter

I’m very excited about this interview. Kill Shelter “Damage” was one of my top albums of 2018, a truly groundbreaking piece of artistic expression which harnessed the vocal talents of some of the darkest stars in the Post Punk/Darkwave genre. I tried to ask questions which would give a firmer grasp of his process and motivations in creating this monumental and personal offering. The album just became available on vinyl and is a must have for any serious collector who values this style. Link just below


https://hivmusic1.bandcamp.com/album/damage-upr094-gothic-rock-darkwave

https://soundsandshadows.com/2019/05/18/kill-shelter-review-of-damage/

Our review of the album 🙂

(Ken) Pete this latest album “Damage” touched on so many emotions for so many people. What did this title mean and what were you trying to capture in these songs that related to it?

(Pete) Firstly thanks so much for the kind words and for the opportunity to talk about it. “Damage” was written during an exceptionally difficult time for me and there were a lot of dark thoughts and emotions that influenced both my music and my song writing in the nine months that it took to produce the album. “Damage” not only reflected my state of mind but it became a thread that ran through all the tracks – whatever happened I wanted to try and create something with a sense of purpose. Music has become so disposable and ubiquitous that I just wanted to try and make something that had some form of substance, meaning and hopefully resonance.

(Ken) You did such a unique concept of writing these songs but bringing in a who’s who of incredible musicians and singers to bring your words and songs to life. That couldn’t have been easy. How did you come up with this concept and what was your biggest challenge to overcome? 

(Pete) I’ve always seen myself as a producer first so working with other artists, especially vocalists, is something that I love to do. I’d been doing a set of remixes and had just started writing material when Pedro from Unknown Pleasures Records approached me asking if I intended to do an album and if so he would be interested in considering it for his label. So that gave me something positive to work towards, of course there was no guarantee that a) it would be good and b) that anyone would like it. At that time UPR were going to only do 100 releases in their catalog so I knew if Damage was to be considered it needed to be special and I wanted to help mark the history of the label in some way. I had a “hit list” of artists that I wanted to work with so I began writing with those people in mind. The mistake I made was writing the song first then approaching the artist rather than gauging interest levels first then going down the writing process. It also takes a lot of time to slot into other people’s schedules too so it can easily become a logistical nightmare. I’m taking a different approach with the follow up…

(Ken)  I feel like post punk/darkwave music is going through an incredible Renaissance right now, as someone who has made music in this scene a long time what has changed for you the last few years? What excites you about the future?

(Pete) Yes, there is a lot of chat about renaissance and revival and I think that is a good thing – “a rising tide lifts all boats” as they say. The scene is definitely broader now and influences and genres tend to blur at the edges and that is really exciting. I read recently that we were in the 4th or even 5th wave of post-punk now but that doesn’t mean it’s all good. I tend to gravitate towards the timeless and the innovative and that’s what I look and hope for in music. I’m always excited to hear outstanding new music so I’m forever optimistic that something very special is just around the corner

(Ken)  I watched Damage shoot to the top of so many top albums on 2018 lists, including Sound and Shadows. Did that surprise you? What is the ideal future for Kill Shelter?

(Pete) To say I was surprised would definitely be an understatement – yeah, I’ve really been blown away by the response. For an album that was released so late in the year (November 26th) I never thought anyone would care let alone put it on their “best of” lists. I’m very grateful to everyone who has supported the album including Sounds and Shadows of course.

The ideal future for Kill Shelter would be continued interest and support and the chance to release another album (or two) that were equally as surprising as the first. That would be a good start. 

(Ken)  You worked with so many incredible artists I love on this album. Pedro Code, Ashe Ruppe, Nate Jespersen, Karl Morton Dahl, Hante, many more. If you could bring in any vocalist living or dead to do a song with who would it be?

Pedro Code of IAMTHESHADOW

(Pete) I’m hopeful that the next set of Kill Shelter releases partially answers that question for you. There are so many extremely talented vocalists in and out of the genre it would be difficult to name just one. David Sylvian is still one of may favorite vocalists of all time.

David Sylvian of Japan

(Ken) These songs have such a person feel, are they about your life? Or more of a narrative about what you are seeing in the human condition? If the first what did you draw on to create them?

(Pete) There are people who write from experience and there are people who write imagined experiences. On Damage the material I wrote draws directly from very personal experiences and emotions. I’ve always found writing music cathartic in that way – even when I was growing up I buried myself in writing as a way to deal with my feelings.

(Ken) It’s so hard for me to choose a favorite track on this record, but In Decay hit a special chord for me. Ashe has told me these are your words he sang. Tell me about the background of this song, what were you feeling in Decay?

(Pete) I’m really glad you called that particular track out although it’s an incredibly personal track to me. Without being too maudlin about it, “In Decay” was written about the death of my mother. I didn’t tell Ashe originally what the real meaning was as I thought it was unfair to put him under that amount of pressure. He sang it just the way I’d imagined it though so I’ll be forever grateful to him for that. The line “at the end of forever – I come undone” just about sums it up.

(Ken) This was a complete album and concept, but music is changing. Is there still a place in the modern scene for 10+ song concepts or is the future, singles and internet hits? 

(Pete) Listening behavior has changed dramatically. Anonymous single tracks appearing on semi-curated playlists and individual tracks being recommended by algorithms based on listener preference has definitely changed the way we consume music. “Damage” was written as an album and you can hear that when you listen to it – it’s supposed to be a journey. But the individual nature of the contributing artists makes each track unique and therefore able to stand on its own too. Is there a place for a 10+ song concept album? Probably not, but who wants to be the same as everyone else. I really hope that people will discover the album and put the time aside to listen to it as a whole.


Hélène de Thoury of Hante who sings “Kiss me Goodbye”

(Ken) If you could go on tour opening for any band currently in the scene who would it be and why? 

(Pete) There’s a question. How close to the scene are Depeche Mode these days? I’m sure that would have a positive impact on how many people had heard of Kill Shelter. Gary Numan, She Past Away, The Sisters, The Soft Moon… you get the idea… 

(Ken) If you could get in a Delorean and travel back in time to talk to 21 year old you, what would you tell that young man? Would he listen?

(Pete) He’d definitely listen to the advice it’s whether he’d have the self belief to act on it. I’d probably say “you are right to be uncompromising in your music. Enjoy listening to other people’s music and continue to be open minded but the best stuff isn’t about trying too hard, it’s about being natural whether it’s in-vogue or not. This journey is yours so stop thinking about what other people think. Above all else – don’t fuck up the only chance you have. And try to stop hating yourself if you can.”

Kill Shelter review of : Damage

Band: Kill Shelter

Album: Damage

Lable: Unknown Pleasures records

Members: Peter Burns

All tracks mastered by Eric Van Wonterghem (Prodam studio/Berlin)

https://hivmusic1.bandcamp.com/album/damage-upr094-gothic-rock-darkwave

https://www.facebook.com/killshelterofficial/

This is an album I can’t stop playing. Edinburgh based Pete Burns has found such a fresh take in a saturated post punk world. He has created an eclectic mixture of styles both old and new. His beats and production are crisp and haunted. It has a drive and motion that changes drastically from one track to the next which gives the listener such a feeling of taking a journey. It twists and winds through the emotional turmoil of our modern psyche. Part of the effect is achieved by the all star list of guest musicians and singers that he has convinced to come together for this epic undertaking. Some of my favorites are here so hold onto your hat while I do a bit of fan boying at this lineup: Edwin Van der Velde of (Zwart Pozie) , Nathan Jespersen of (Ultra Violence) Karl Morton Dahl of (Antipole) Ashe Ruppe of (Delphine Coma), Helene de Thoury (Hante) , Vadim Kristopher of (The Shyness of Strangers) , Mariusz /\VOID/\ Łuniewski of (UnderTheSkin) , Marc Dwyer (Buzz Kull) , Pedro Code (IAMTHESHADOW) Alice Sheridan (New Haunts) , Dillion Dominguez (KillJoi). The amount of talent and diversity here is a bit staggering. I think it really speaks to Burns abilities not just as an amazing song writer but as a manager to know exactly where to use all this talent to it’s best effect

Lets talk music a bit. These songs have a driving ferocity that is led on by Peter Hook-esque baselines relentlessly driving forward in every song pushing blood through every concept. The guitar work is so varied and precise. In Decay in particular has that signature Karl Antipole sound which is blended seamlessly into a song uniquely it’s own. However the other tracks feature buzzing walls of sonic rapture, prickling fingers on your spine, and lush landscape ballads. The range of sounds and emotion feels like such a dramatic undertaking. The drum beats are unique and give a spice and flavor to all these moving parts that makes each jump off the page in it’s time.

Discussing the lyrics and vocals are so difficult because each artist deserves their own review page just to discuss. However I will say that Burns has chosen masterfully accomplished artists with peak performances which bring everything from Pedro Code’s rich passionate crooning in Hollow, to Helene De Thoury’s dark smokey seduction in Kiss Me Goodbye. Buying this album is like getting 10 records for the price of one.

I need to take a break from writing this just to collect my thoughts enough to pick some favorite tracks, because any of them could be my favorite. This is a complete work without a weak track. I’ll try though. Ok, I think I figured it out, although both are incredible tracks and some of my favorites I will skip over Decay and Hollow because I have written reviews of both Karl and Pedro and my love for them is well known. I know cheating, but I do what I can.

Black String – This song features the amazingly talented Nate Jespersen on this beautiful and subtle track which allows him to show vocal range. The music is creep dance magic. This feeling that gets you nowhere. Its so different from the standard post punk goth vibe but with such pop sensibility in the way that melody latches onto your mind and plays itself over and over. Puts me a bit in the mind of The Cult. Pure gold.

Get Down – This song features one of those bass lines that has a crisp clarity that it makes itself the focus of the track. Vadim Kristopher does this gentle spoken chanting vocals. The guitar riff if a fingertip dance that feels like flickering fire through the whole track. It feels so effortless but hits so hard.

Sever – This song is such a creeping dread. The keyboards have this splashing edge and Alice Sherridan has this Jonette Napolitano grinding edge in an off kilter tempo which adds such emotion to the track. I pictured the part in a terrifying ghost story when the monsteress is crawling towards her unsuspecting victim.


Overall this album absolutely blew me away. I’m truly in awe of how all these parts came together with such form and precision. It’s gritty, it’s tender, it’s dark, and it’s dancible all rolled up into one beautiful package that leaves me yearning for the next release. I have found so many albums I loved this year but this is right near the top of the list. Breathtaking.

Delphine Coma: Leaving the Scene

Band: Delphine Coma

Album: Leaving the Scene

Label: Swiss Dark Nights Records

Edited and Mixed: Ashe Ruppe

Recorded: Aetemum Studios

Members: Ashe Ruppe – Music and Vocals , Guest Musicians: Amendoa Lizzbeth Tamburri – ambient guitar on “Touch” Domokos Benczedi – Bass guitar on “Comatose”

https://delphinecoma.bandcamp.com/releases

https://www.facebook.com/Delphine.Coma/

Review of Austin TX minimalist dark wave Delphine Coma’s album “Leaving the Scene”. I love the fitting tittle of this album because if I had only one word I was allowed to write about this release it would be unapologetic. This is a release that tune smith Ashe Ruppe has called forth from the sonic ether with a fresh minimalist vibe that is a dangerous break from the modern Darkwave norm. I first caught wind of them from Ashe’s vocals on previously reviewed Kill Shelter’s track “In Decay” one of my favorites from a great album. I found this CD and have immersed myself in it ‘s tortured textures and soul striking soundscapes. This album is full of desolation and loneliness. It has distant dirge drums and twisting guitars that put me in mind of the Chameleons UK. A true throwback sound which hearkens the muddy bleakness of early goth music. The feel is not dynamic, instead the emotions portrayed are weighty and intense. This is not an album aiming for beauty but instead one that opens a maw to show the listener the bottomless pit of an abyss. Rhythmic bass lines, and vibrating keyboards that aim for tension not for comfort.

Ashe’s vocals are a sinister baritone that never break stride as he lulls and beckons the listener into dangerous and forgotten aspects. Every time I thought this will be the change of pace song. The one that will release this immense pressure of dark seething weight, I was piled on with another share of the crushing power. If you came looking for a pop album or a toe tapping dance groove you arrived at the wrong place. These are thinking songs for a spiritual journey towards the self reflective aspects of the human soul.

Standout tracks:

Touch – This twisting winding guitar riff and vocal cadence is what really put me in mind of the Chameleons. It’s sinister, its challenging. “I feel your touch, I feel the coldness of your skin” This song lets Ashe’s vocal’s shine in there effortless cold clarity.

We Never Sleep – Crawling synths like grinding gears. With countering delayed guitar lines. Echoed vocals that seem to crawl towards you from a hundred miles away. This song creates an enormous gravity in it’s effect. “And when the substance breaks, we walk into the sea and never look back. Terrifying, beautiful, desolate.

Moth Meets Flame – A strange out of place change for the album but one I found myself drawn to. I am reminded a bit of the dance hall drone of Good Bye Horses. The vocals are a spooky spoken word chant. The synths continue to build from the bottom up creating an offsetting feeling. “Desire is calling, desire Is falling, desire is bleeding”

Overall this album is not an easy journey, yet one I found I couldn’t turn away from. A complete concept, a forbidden tale. Abandon all hope ye who enter. These songs are nightmares given flesh. Walk in darkness with it. Feel the danger of despair and live to tell the tale. Buckle in for this thinking persons album.