One of the great indicators of the Goth Rennaissance we are experiencing is the rise of more and more new festivals. The amount of talent currently in the darkscene added to the return of many legacy bands have led to great value for fans. These festivals have become goth summer camps to meet up with music scene friends often only interacted with online. In the last three years one that I always here praised by bands from around the world is Absolution Fest in Tampa Bay Florida from promotor/dj Mark Paradise from Communion After Dark and co promotor Pete Olen of Endoxa Booking. I think two things have lead to Absolution Fest’s success. 1) They place a focus on fresh up and coming bands rather than only having legacy headliners. 2) Positive people above name recognition. Everyone one I know who has played this festival raves about how every band there becomes friends and lifts each other up. This attitude and positive energy bleeds over into the crowd and gives everyone the sense of connection and community the scene has longed for.
The list of bands this year is staggering. I will go through some of the highlights along with links and information. Starting with the main even page below.
Kanga – Once again from the city of angels electronic glitter napalm pop Kanga is an experience not to be missed. Deeply respected in the genre this is glorious textural production you feel in your bones. New Album out October 6th.
Visceral Anatomy – The Alter ego of one of my favorite IL bands Wingtips. This incarnation of the duo place the lyric writing and singing on Hannah for a wonderfully different feel. I love the way their story is being told through a different lens.
Aeon Rings – Florida band I recently made song of the day and reminded myself I need to listen to more. Fierce EDM with Davey Partains piercing lightning quick vocals. They also have a new album out in Oct.
Last Grasp – Florida goth trio I had never heard before this review. First thing that grabbed me, what an amazing jazzy walking goth bassline. When you lay the foundation this well Epiphania it is easy to build on. Matthew DeFeis provides a nice rich Eldrichesque baritone vocal to round out a lovely trad goth feel. I’ll be looking for more.
Panic Priest – The magnificent Chicago darkwave crooner that makes every show feel like an intimate experience. violet beam guitar rifts, clarifying synths, and Jack’s top tier vocals are guaranteed to impress.
Double Eyelid – A dear friend Ian Revell coming from Toronto. They also understand how to embrace the camp of darkness. The songs all have razor hooks and interesting stores. This is a band that NEEDS more attention.
Black Rose Burning – One of the most underrated talents in our scene George Grant from Brookland. I’m so glad to see major festivals start to recognize their talent. They just dropped a new album “Ad Astra” Mastered by: Jason Corbett (Actors) and it is nothing short of breath taking. George is the musical genius of goth Peter Gabriel.
Empathy Test – The standout London band that has shot to worldwide notoriety with their dreamy emotive narrative style of songwriting. Another band I am yet to see live but that I can’t wait to. This is a band with headliner energy travelling across the ocean to delight American audiences.
WINGTIPS – The previously mentioned Illinois band also preforming Thursday as Visceral Anatomy. Perfect dream chaos synth music that somehow gets better every time I see them live. That is really saying something as I have seen them 7 times and each one my jaw drops and the connection and power of their performance. If you have never witnessed Vincent and Hannah do yourself a favor.
Helix – Amazing electronic team up of Tom Shear (Assemblage 23) & talented solo producer Mari Kattman. The married couple collaborate seamlessly to create steamy cascading electro art. I love the parts, I love the whole, I love getting lost in these songs.
BlakLight – LA darkpop darting between light and shadow. I always love the Peter Hook (Revenge) shadowsynth vibes I get from this band. I have never seen them live but I’m sure the floor will be pulsing.
NITE – The amazing Mendes brothers from Texas who flutter on the wind between post punk and synth pop. Always icy razor-sharp production and gorgeous glam vocals. A band I keep hearing the growth of with every release.
Additional shout out to Obscura Undead our dear friends in the scene and sponsor.
Obscura Undead is a collective of goth creators passionate about new and obscure goth, darkwave, post-punk, and other dark alternative music. Evolving and changing with the chaos is life and lead by Azy Bats, Obscura Undead celebrates five years of commitment to the members and bands of our dark scene, Tampa events, and inclusive goth-erie. We are a zine, a compilation, a mixtrack, a podcast, a promoter, a DJ group, and a supporter in love and darkness of all Goth has to offer.
There has always been an unspoken aspect of creating great music and finding a way to promote it to people. They are two completely different skill sets required to be successful often taken for granted. Just like playing guitar, singing, ect, connecting and promoting music is a skill. It can be learned. It also comes much easier for some people than others. In 2021, in a social media, boutique record label, streaming-platform world, this is more relevant than ever. I see my social media feed everyday full of people saying, “Why do I not get noticed?”. I am not a public relations expert. My band, Amaranth, is not a household name. I have been able to take my music review page Sounds and Shadows from nothing, to a webcasting Facebook group with global viewership in three years, which has drastically effected the bands popularity and impact. So I would like to share some of the things I think could help you and your project. In addition to me, Sounds and Shadows has put me in contact with some of the most successful bands in the dark-scene. True innovators who each have done something original to get noticed in the modern era. Some have graciously offered to share some of the secrets that helped them garner attention and propel them on the international stage. My hope is this article helps lift all ships and propels the scene I love to it’s greatest heights.
You have to make something great in this day and age to stand out
There is so much amazing music being made. As a reviewer it truly feels like a tidal wave of astonishing stuff all the time. The fact that everyone has access to decent recording equipment in their home at a price below $100 an hour means the doors are open to creative expression in a way they have never been. It also means you can get out there before you find yourself, or hone your craft to what you are capable of. Having something that truly stands out is REALLY hard. The good news is information on how to get to that level is readily available. Every sound is there for you to practice with and create the exact vision in your mind. There is even a niche to find in the world for the cutting edge you are imagining. You do need to have a realistic goal of what you want to achieve and how much you are willing to compromise to reach that size audience. If you want to do this as a lifestyle, be prepared to work really hard at it.
2. True fans, the ones you need, first need to believe in a concept, not just a song
If there was ever a time when writing a good song and being a great musician was enough, it isn’t now. The truth is people have never cared about the glorious hot licks you can play. They want to be associated with an idea, an image you portray on stage. It was true for the Beatles, The Stones, Bowie, and Joy Division. It is just as true today. I’m not saying you need to be pretty, aloof, or anything else. You need to know who you are, do an intense projection of that, and be willing to share it. What’s more, the days of the asshole, I’m above you Rockstar are done. There are too many talented people making music. Requiring you not to be an a hole is not a big ask. Appreciate your supporters, be something worth believing in, make your music and lyrics something real. if you don’t want to put in the effort, you likely won’t generate excitement.
3. You need to act like you don’t need this shit, then you get the shit for free
if you are doing this for fame, you are in the wrong game. Every time I see a post that says, “why is no one paying attention to me,” you are really saying everyone pay attention to the fact that what I am doing isn’t catching on. Instead you need to focus attention on why people should. We all experience moments of doubt. If you make that your focus, it looks thirsty. Instead ask yourself: Am I reaching out to the right people? Am I sharing myself in the right way? Is this ready to blow people away?
4. If you want others to be invested in you, be invested in them.
I can say definitively that doing a music review page/Webcast/Facebook group has made our band Amaranth 10 times bigger than we have a right to be. Lifting up others in the scene, commenting and sharing DJs/reviewers/bands forms a connection. People know you and when you lift others up it makes a statement about you. If you really believe in the music you are making, invest in yourself by reaching out to bands who have more time in and are more successful than you. Get a remix done; sometimes that costs money. Contribute to a compilation. Share and review other bands. Go into Dj shows (join the Twitch chat, say hello). This gets you involved with the people who drive the scene. When you have something come out, they know your name. Reach out to Djs/review pages personally. Don’t send a form letter to 300 people. Get to know the show/page. Reach out to ones that fit your sound. Send them a personal message that shows you follow and know them. Tell them you have a Bandcamp code for them because you know they have great taste and would like this. Same with bands. Take a moment to tell someone they matter to you. You would be surprised how much it matters. They may do a solid for you some day.
5) Tell a story, don’t just beanother link spam.
Social media is part of the job now. There are a lot of platforms and ways to do it. Ignoring it is not an option in 2021. Investing some money in advertising something important like a video/album/single/tour is a solid idea. The most bang for your buck is a well thought out google add with the right tags and marketing. Not everyone has cash for that, it’s not the only way. It does help though. Facebook groups/Reddit/Twitter are another way to beat the algorithm and get reach. Again it is about genuine connection. There is no shortcut. You need to be involved in groups. Not just show up only to post links to your band. Also when you post, give people something to engage with. Tell the story of why this song matters, ask a question to engage with, spill a little poetry that gets people excited. No one wants to feel like a faceless number. If your post feels like that, you don’t have anyone’s attention.
6. Be a subject matter expert
I don’t remember who said the quote to me, “If you want to be a great writer, read great writers”. It is the truest thing in the world. The same is true of music. If you want to make the best music possible, listen to who is doing it well. I don’t just mean the classics (Although that never hurts). I mean who is leading the charge today. Even when you don’t know you are learning, you are learning. Watch Interviews, hear what successful artists have to say, try new techniques, if you don’t know them, watch a youtube video. This goes for production, playing and instrument, or doing promotion. We have a wealth of information like never before. Drink it in.
7. Run up and say hello.
GO TO SHOWS! (Or Livestreams in a pandemic). If you want to be seen, you have to go see. Say hello to touring bands, Local Djs, be useful to them. Tell them why you enjoyed the show, get some merch. Then, tell them what you do and are about. Word gets around, bands talk. If you establish yourself as someone invested in growing the scene, who knows, you may just find yourself getting some opening slots for touring bands. You still need to be the one to bring it and turn heads once you get the slot. Being known as a positive energy person in a local scene goes a long way. Join Facebook groups like Sounds and Shadows, just don’t be the one to treat people like you just stopped by to promote and leave. Be involved. Get the lay of the land and comment on other peoples posts. Start a list of DJs and review pages. Bandcamp allows you to print a spreadsheet of codes. Sending a personal message with a code to these influencers is worth their weight in gold. Again the key is having a personal message, not a form letter spammed to hundreds of Djs.
8) Be nice, throw the doors open and let people connect.
This takes effort. It takes spoons. Sharing a part of yourself. Leaving a Bday message. Saying hello when you see someone on your feed is high or low. Basically make sure people know they mean something to you. If you treat them like consumers, then expect them to share, comment, give a shit about your band. You may find yourself in a lonely place. The same goes for shows (does everyone remember those). Both your own, and other peoples. A moment of your time and energy can increase exponentially when you let someone know you appreciate their support.
These are all tips I genuinely believe in. Who the fuk am I though? 🙂 So I have reached out to some artists who have all done something unique and special in the modern era and ask about how they stood out using techniques available to you now. Listen and learn, these are all people who managed to turn heads by doing something creative.
Jason Corbett – Actors – Vancouver based post punk stars have sold a lot of albums and toured extensively. Rising to the top and redefining the genre. The are also Canadian and REALLY friendly. Forming a connection with fans around the world.
Ken: You have toured extensively around the world, forged connections which led to fans and opportunities. How has this been effective for you, and what have you done to make each show so memorable for fans?
Jason:We played over 150 shows in support of our debut album. It was exciting and exhausting. We made sure to make each show count and never lost sight of why we were out on the road. When the chemistry is right you run with it. We wouldn’t dream of someone spending their time and money to come see us and us not giving our all.
Ken: Your Facebook fan group The Academy has really become a beacon for what fan interaction can be. Like the recent memes on the album cover. How have you built a fan experience here and on other social media that makes a lasting impression globally?
Jason: Wherever we toured fans would comment to us that we were friendly and outgoing. I realized that we didn’t have to conform to any preconceived notion of what it meant to be a band. We could just be ourselves. The bonds with fans just started to happen naturally and that carried through to our online presence as well. Of course Kym Pop who started The Academy on Facebook does an amazing job of keeping the conversation happening. I’ve been a musician for a long time. I’m genuinely grateful for all the support we’ve had and I don’t take it for granted.
Ken: What do you hold as the greatest factors in you making the transition from Vancouver to global recognition?
Fans who listen to music like ACTORS are typically close knit and supportive. Our self-released singles slowly garnered enough attention online that Artoffact Records approached us with a record deal. That record deal brought us to the attention of wider audiences and we continue to grow month after month. I believe there’s an honesty in our music. People connect to artists that are coming from their truth.
Isaac Howlett – Empathy Test – British based electronic songsmiths who have shot to amazing heights in the past 5 years through amazing songs, extensive touring, and a non stop effort to DIY determination and fan connection.
Ken: What are some of the DIY techniques you used to gain momentum when starting out?
Isaac: Okay, well, when Empathy Test began, we were complete unknowns in the music world. We needed to build an audience fast, to get noticed. The main tools at our disposal were SoundCloud, Facebook and Twitter. Obviously, the best platforms for an artist to use to promote themselves change regularly, and the rules that govern how you use those platforms, the algorithms etc. change even more regularly, so it’s all about keeping ahead of the curve. Back into 2014, I came up with a system that really worked. It involved a lot of leg work, but I’ll tell you one thing for sure, if you want success there are no shortcuts. Perseverance and hard graft are always at the heart of most people’s success. So…step one, assuming you’ve got a quality, radio playable or streaming product, otherwise known as music. That’s the real step one. And press shots. And a good bio. Then you need to ascertain your target audience. The easiest way to do this is to basically think, what other similar acts to us are there whose fans we can most easily steal? I chose Chvrches because they were doing well at the time, using 80s synth sounds, and making intelligent pop with emotional depth. So, I downloaded a free app which allowed me to easily follow hundreds of fans in a matter of hours. I plugged in Chvrches’ Twitter handle, up popped their followers and – tap, tap, tap. Follow, follow, follow. Then, I used a feature that allowed you to send an automated message to anyone who followed back. Something cheesy like, hey do you like synthpop? Check out our tunes on SoundCloud [link] and follow us on Facebook [link]. After that, it was just a numbers game. Out of every 100 accounts I followed, 20 would follow back and maybe 10 would follow the links, and 1 or 2 actually engage with you. Anyone who didn’t follow back, after a week you’d unfollow them and follow 100 more people. Of course, you’d get a few angry people along the way, but I just had to ignore the rage and keep going. At the same time, I began targeting small labels and blogs. I kid you not, within a month we had interest from a small independent label in NYC. A month later, we’d recorded a second EP and signed a deal with that label to release it. In terms of the promo technique, Twitter soon put a stop to that kind of thing and we rounded off at over 10,000 followers before I then unfollowed thousands of them to see how many would stay. It dropped to around 8,000 before it began rising organically again. But obviously now, Twitter is old news and you want to be looking at Instagram and Ticktock to pull similar kind of stunts in different and new ways. But the key is identifying your audience and taking the product to them, and social media is the best tool to do that yourself, for free.
Ken: How has touring helped you gain connection and loyal fans?
Issac: Touring was really the next step. I quickly realized that no one was just going to pop up and book us a tour without management and a label (I learnt a lot from the label but after six months we reached an agreement to leave and take our music and rights with us). So I came to one of the most important realizations of my music career so far. If you build it, they will come. Essentially, if you sit on your arse and wait for people to turn up and do shit for you, it’s never going to happen. Do it yourself. Because as soon as people see you working your ass off and having any kind of success, they want a piece of it. The trick is then to only work with the ones you trust. So I booked a few local gigs of our own, met a like-minded band making similar music and we booked and crowd funded our own co-headline national tour. We didn’t even use promoters, we hired the venues ourselves. It doesn’t matter that we only just broke even and barely anyone showed up, because we were making a statement and learning the ropes of touring. And lo and behold, the next year, we were on a European tour with Mesh and Aesthetic Perfection courtesy of our new booking agent, Jan Winterfeld of Pluswelt Promotions in Germany. And on day two, Daniel from Aesthetic Perfection offered to bring us to America. We made a batch of 100 CDs originally, just copied ones with a design printed and a card sleeve. We sold them and reinvested the money into buying more. For the first four years, we took no money from the band, we just reinvested everything while working day jobs. Then we branched out into t-shirts and eventually 7″ vinyl. We performed with older, more established bands, anyone that would have us basically, and then stole the hearts of their fans, and sold them our CDs. Every night, as soon as we’d broken down our kit, we’d be at the merch table meeting fans and signing whatever they wanted signing. For as long as we were wanted. We owe so much to Mesh, DE/VISION, Covenant, VNV Nation and many more amazing bands. But it was our polished music, professional and hardworking attitude that meant suddenly everyone wanted us as a support. We started having to turn down support tours after a while, to focus on doing our own.
Ken: What have you done to stay true to the art in your heart while branching into a wider spectrum as an artist?
Issac: I think as a DIY musician you have to wear many hats, and feel comfortable wearing them. The toughest part is remembering to keep putting as much time and effort into the music, because it’s easy to forget about it while you are busy selling it, and yourself. One thing that works for us is just separating the art and the business. I have to write songs because I want and need to write them, not because I need another product to sell. If I try and write an “Empathy Test” song, and it doesn’t work. Adam, the invisible producer member of the band, takes no part in the business or performance side of Empathy Test at all. That allows him to think outside of what will sell, what the fans want, or are expecting or asking for, what other bands in the scene are doing, and always deliver a sound which is a surprise and a challenge to our listeners. Also, by having one person writing the songs on an acoustic guitar (me) in any style they want, then a second person (Adam) translating that into a completely different style with different instruments, usually initially both in isolation, you’re always going to keep things different and fresh. When I heard Adam’s demo of our new track, Moths (release TBC), I was blown away. It was so completely unexpected, while simultaneously so exactly what we should do next. I felt exactly how I’ve felt with pretty much everything we’ve done to date. Bringing in fresh influences, for example, Oliver Marson on keyboards, also helps keep things fresh.
Steven Archer – Ego Likeness/Stoneburner – Steven has been a true DIY master creating some of the most progressive industrial sounds propelling the genre into a new era. He has incorporated a stunning visual and stage element to remain on the cutting edge of the modern scene. In addition he is an artist through social media that actively engages and shares his process with videos and discussions how he creates both sound and image. A true master of pulling back the curtain and letting the fans inside.
Ken: How has the use of a multimedia experience been effective in creating an artistic experience fans are drawn to ?
Steven: I don’t know. I do believe that the more realized any given piece of art is, the more the audience will get out of it. And because of my fine arts back ground nothing I do is one dimensional. Songs have imagery that goes with them, paintings tell stories which influence the music etc. It’s very rare that I create any piece of work that is a stand alone thing. My goal whenever time permits is to get over realize an artistic vision as fully as possible and make all of those components available to the audience in hope that they get as much out of it as I do.
Ken: Your live show is a massive and memorable production even in a smaller venue, how do you achieve this effect without a $50,000 stage show ? Why does that matter?
Steven: Thanks! The key is spending my entire life poor, and deciding that was not going to stop me. Which ultimately means that I have to put the time in and do all of the work on my own. I am my infrastructure. Fortunately we live in the future so it’s totally feasible to have your own projection equipment, or run your entire sound setup from an iPad on stage, do your own editing, make your own stage clothes etc. It just takes time and the will to do it. I don’t write anything close to pop music. Not even within our tiny genre. Most of what I do isn’t made to dance to. None of my bands have ever been HUGE. But we write songs that matter to the people they make sense to. And they matter to us. So, even though both bands are in great labels, there is a very limited reach as far as promotion goes. Getting the word out, building an audience, it’s all on our shoulders. And if I’m going to go out on stage. I’m going to use as many tricks as I can think of to keep the audience engaged. To tell a story, to make it an experience. Someday, what I would really like to do is surround the audience with projections. Put them in the show to a degree. As to how I do it inexpensively? Lots of planning and research. Lots of problem solving and visualizing around corners. Whatever goes on stage has to fit in our minivan along with the gear, personal shit, merch and people. So that’s one hard limit. The other is that it needs to be able to be set up and torn down quickly by one or two people. To that end I spend a ton of time figuring out how to wire things up so they are easy to connect and disconnect quickly.
Ken: You give an interactive fan experience with your social media, sharing technique, videos, equipment, how does letting your fans behind the curtain add to connection with your art?
Steven: Historically many bands have been able to keep that wall up between their fans and themselves. We can’t afford to that. We do a ton of different thing from music to art and writing. And down here on this level with independent publishers and record labels, you have to be able to sell your product. You have to be able to make people excited about what you do. And the best way to do that is to show your own excitement. We figured out real early on that our product isn’t X band or book or whatever, it’s us. Steven and Donna. The idea being that if you come across us as musicians than that will hopefully lead you to the art or writing or whatever. So there’s that aspect of it. Also, D and I are both natural teachers. We love what we do and love talking to other people about it. I’ve taught art privately for 30 years, so it’s only natural that would become part of our social media presence. And the longer we were on social media the more we saw that there was a need for an ongoing dialog about mental illnesses, so over the years we’ve spent a decent amount of time talking to our fans about that as well. The nice thing about it for me, is that I am not a social animal, so talking to people online when I’m in that sort of place is great. Because it’s just accepted that people pop on and off when they are available. So it doesn’t interfere with the rest of my work. It’s also a great way to make sales directly to your audience. And post pictures of your weird ass cat.
Karl “Zoog” Learmont – Angelspit – LA Electronic Industrial Punk star has really been a touring star with an ability to really connect with fans. He does a weekly Twitch stream/group where he discusses recording and music techniques with other musicians. Instead of hoarding his knowledge, he truly lives the punk rock socialist ideas of lifting up everyone around.
Ken: 1) You have really used your community through remixes, artist workshops, and community hype to grow your name. What is the importance of this? How did you make these connections work to lift all ships?
I’m blessed to be in a position where I can build a community to teach and encourage each other. I’m fortunate enough to have a degree in music, so I can freely share knowledge with people who are not in a position to study music….but I am always the one learning from the workshops (!!).This is not a marketing device – it’s a way for me to give back and make an investment into the future of our community. I’m hoping these workshops will lift the bands involved. The ultimate aim is to help them produce and release a track, get it to their audience and get their video onto
Ken: You have a genuine connection with your fans, how has social media allowed you to let fans behind the curtain and be a part of your art?
Many fans have become friends. I have produced some of their releases. Sunday’s Art Of Rock has become a group of friends. They encourage me and keep me going. I talk to many online, and have spent many hours meeting and drinking with them at clubs and gigs. We are all in this wonderful tribe and we are all equal. People get to see the songs-in-progress via Angelspit’s Patreon, plus the free Art Of Rock meet-ups.
Ken: You create music that has a true punk rock ethos of political intensity in a time when the world seems more divided than ever. How do you use this genuine perspective to motivate fans and expand your ideas?
Karl: It’s hard…partly because I’m a bastard. I won’t tolerate anti-LGBQT, sexist, racist, radical-right-religious views….fuck those guys. Within our bubble there are many things that could divide. Some of these are important, some are trivial. It’s important to listen to others and grow. You’re only right half the time – but you never know which half that is. Lyrics are a great way to truly shoot your mouth off. I quote a lot of people I respect, and some I don’t. I’m currently getting a lot of feedback about the album – some ideas are agreed, some are not. I listen with an open mind some ideas I adopt, some I respect, some I reject. I encourage people to put their thoughts into lyrics, music, poetry, art – make something beautiful with your passion. The world needs to hear your thoughts. Someone, somewhere is going through the same thing you are – your art might be the things that makes them feel like they are not alone. ROCK!
Matt Fanale – Caustic / Klack / Daddybear –
Ken: The merch you make is very distinctive and creates a buzz around all the music you release, what connection does this make to your music and how do you make it relevant ?
Matt: I keep a really simple aesthetic with most all of my merch to keep it recognizable. I used KMFDM as a model for utilitarian branding. I wanted people identify a Caustic shirt within seconds in a club or at a show. It’s served me well. I got booked for a festival a long time back because the booker saw my shirts all over the fest the year before. I also try and give my merch the personality of my music. Caustic started out as this snotty, punky powernoise project. I tried to be funny as a way to both entertain and distract people from the quality of the music (not kidding:)). I’ll say what other people won’t say sometimes, which is never meant in a mean way, but the STOP SAMPLING FULL METAL JACKET shirts got me on everyone’s maps. The SURE, LIKE NINE INCH NAILS shirts were a big hit, too. I just know that if I’m having fun my audience will, too. With all that said, sometimes I think I’ll be remembered more for the shirts than the music, but I guess anything works.
Ken: You have a close connection to your fanbase, offer multiple projects and twitch streams to interact with fans, how do you use this to create a buzz around your songs?
Matt: I mean when it all comes down to it it’s connecting with people on a simple level. I don’t do everything for “Branding” (trademarkcopyright), but it’s pretty great just knowing you have something in common with other people, and it’s even cooler if it’s because of something creative you’re doing. The Twitch streams started with the pandemic as a means to get out of my head for a few hours, but I’ve really enjoyed diving into genres I didn’t ever DJ in the clubs, like my old school hip hop night. I think all the nights just give people an excuse to hang out online, chat, and enjoy the music. A lot of (significantly more successful) Twitch DJs talk a bunch more than I do on their streams, but I’m literally just using Twitch as an excuse to chill with folks and practice the craft. The pandemic sucked, but I’m a better DJ than I’ve ever been, and I’ve been doing this 20 plus years.
Ken: You have been very successful on the festival scene, what helped lead you to this success and how does it help your music gain recognition?
Matt: Before I did music I did improv comedy for a decade. When I get on stage I’m there to entertain, and festivals are perfect for Caustic as you get a certain subset of people that are ideally fans and know what I do, and then plenty of people who have no idea about me or maybe don’t care. Something I think I do that a lot of other artists don’t is really trying to make Caustic sets memorable in that setting. There could be a few dozen other bands on the bill, and I’m rarely the headliner, so from day one at the first festivals I performed I made sure people wouldn’t forget it. Sometimes that would be me reading real life stories of people dealing with psychotic exes during a song to having people smuggle ugly underwear into the show and getting pelted with a hundred pairs during a track. I also like bringing people on stage as guest stars. At Mechanismus in Seattle a few years ago Dan from Continues/Babyland joined me to sing my cover of Babyland’s Worst Case Scenario, which I think was the first time he performed it since they broke up (I played that show with them, too). That meant the world to me, as did later on in the set when we did a Stromkern track with Ned on vocals. In terms of the sets themselves I plan them for maximum impact. I try to build the energy as high as possible so when we leave the stage I want the next band to be nervous to go up. Whether this happens or not I have no idea, but my job is to entertain the hell out of everyone and afterwards have people hear about it and wish they were there. That’s the only way to do it in my mind.
Dusty Gannon – Vision Video –
Ken: You more than anyone have been so effective connecting with fans on tik tok with the Goth Dad character to shine a light on Vision Video. How did you make this transition and what has it done for your band?
Dusty: The character of Goth dad is ultimately a composite of my goofy personality and my penchant for poking fun at the sometimes ridiculous level of seriousness that’s espoused within the goth subculture. I never expected it to blow up in the way that it did, but I now understand why people enjoy and find value in that character so much. While it does bring attention to Vision Video as a band, it has taken on a life of its own in a different way. Occasionally I will draw attention from that character to the fact that I’m in a band, but it’s a lot of work and you can’t constantly badger people about listening to your music because it becomes patronizing. TikTok like any other social media platform is a tool that can be used effectively to tell your story and to get the word out about your art. At the end of the day, I think that’s the most important aspect of social media, is connection and commiseration through your story and what makes the core of your art meaningful and worth recognition.
Ken: You are so effective at combining your aesthetic and personality with the music you make. How important is this in the modern era and what tips would you give to bands trying to find their look?
Dusty: I think the goth scene for me has always been a confluence of music and fashion. I grew up as a teenager finding my truest self in that scene and was able to express myself as thoroughly with music as I could with fashion and makeup. That being said, I draw a lot of influence from a variety of places that are near and dear to me: much of my aesthetic is rooted in my experience in the military, where I like to use things like ammunition, casings and torn, rough, nearly post-apocalyptic clothing. I also take a lot of influence from the legendary performers of the past like Lux Interior or Johnny Slut. An insane amount of trashy B movie and horror film influence goes into my aesthetic (A goth who loves horror, geez no one has heard of that before ) In the makeup realm, I grew up wanting to be a special effects makeup artist for movies, but ended up joining the army instead. And that’s why I’m able to do what I do: I’m completely self-taught, and to be quite honest if I’m capable of teaching myself all of the stuff I do with makeup, quite literally anyone can do it because I feel like a complete moron most days. As far as finding your style or aesthetic, my only real recommendation is spending a lot of time finding the clothing and makeup or accessories that truly speak to who you are. It’s very easy to defer to fast fashion, especially in the goth world, but I think there is a lot more value and DIY and creating your own accessories and apparel.
Ken: Your sound has a distinctive retro nostalgia vibe with a modern flare. How do you cross over what you grew up loving with what you want to present to younger fans?
Dusty: Our music is a really accurate representation of the varied tastes of the members of our band. Everyone brings a different piece that is not always necessarily under the purview of Goth or postpunk. One thing that I think is really important for musicians in general, but particular to a those playing within a specific genre, is to try to push the envelope, take risks, and do things that aren’t just a replication of the past. We get a lot of comparisons to bands like The Cure or the Chameleons, and I absolutely adore both of those bands. While I think we pay a lot of homage to them, I’m not trying to make a direct facsimile version of them because it’s already been done and it wouldn’t be in our own tone of voice to speak the message of our music. We certainly never set out to try to make music that’s more accessible to a younger audience, but I think that has occurred to a degree because we’re making music that WE enjoy and not trying to sound like anything in particular. I like accessible music that has darker and rougher edges. I think one thing that has lent well to our sound is that it’s not something that has to grow on you, it’s something that you can jump right into. Accessibility or “poppiness” can be construed as a bad thing by some (especially in the aforementioned oh so serious goth and postpunk world), But it doesn’t take away from the meaningfulness of what we are singing about. Our songs are often about my experiences in war or seeing people die horrifically as a paramedic or firefighter. I think that juxtaposition only amplifies the value of our music. In my opinion, the most important aspect of creating art through the vehicle of music is authentically speaking from the heart in order to connect with people.
Daniel Graves – Aesthetic Perfection –
Ken: How have you been successful in the world stage using the one single a month technique? How has spotify lead to your success? How does the work you put in to making sure your music is top tier and interesting to both niche industrial fans and wider audiences?
Daniel: I’m a big advocate of reading the room. That is, understanding the zeitgeist, from both a cultural and technological point of view. Once you understand that, you can figure out where your voice fits into all of that. For the 12 in 12 project, it seemed like a very natural solution to the problem of the pandemic. How can I keep people interested and engaged in a world where touring is no longer possible? How long does it take for the timeline to refresh and for audiences to crave something new? The answer to that is 3-4 weeks. It seemed quite obvious that I should be putting out new material every month in order to keep my audience, and the algorithm happy.
Ken: How has spotify lead to your success?
Daniel: A lot of people misinterpret my pro-streaming stance as a pro-Spotify stance. The truth is, I’m pro-zeitgeist. I’musing the current moment to maximize my reach and amplify my voice. As soon as streaming stops being a part of that, I will happily pivot.
Ken: How does the work you put in to making sure your music is top tier and interesting to both niche industrial fans and wider audiences?
Daniel: Again… just read the room. What is popular? What do you like about what’s popular? More importantly, what do you dislike about it? How can you use that to your benefit? How can that hurt you? How far do you push the world in the direction you want to go? How do you yield to it? A lot of people tend to read this approach as selling out, when the reality is that you’re just learning how to say what you want to say in the language that the world currently speaks. Doesn’t matter if you have the most interesting or profound idea mankind has ever seen, if you’re speaking Spanish and the audience speaks Mandarin, your words will be meaningless. The job of the artist is to bridge this gap
Collin Cameron- Slighter – LA electronic abstract texture artist who has broken through using empathy based emotional noise to get into the film/tv scene. This is one of the most difficult and effective ways to do financially effective promotion in the modern age. Combining media and music is the modern expectation to form a lasting connection in music.
Ken: You have been able to transition into TV/film soundtracks. How did you get involved and how has that brought a wider audience to your music?
Colin: My involvement started in LA, I don’t think it would have happened to me if I wasn’t there. And with luck you have to make your own. During the 2010s when I was there working with bands and making tunes I made connections with music supervisors and learned about music publishing and how to do it myself. And at the time it was a great way for indie artists to get on TV soundtracks if you took control of your music in that capacity. Exposure on national television is great, but people still have to go and find you after watching! So there’s no guarantee of built in fans from it. But always nice to have someone come around and say “I loved that song from FOX’s Bones!” and the paychecks that brings to allow me to make more weird music.
Ken: You have been able to generate interest while playing in some fringe genres. What are you doing to connect with fans while staying true to your vision?
Colin: I’m a perpetual outsider really, and growing up moving around small towns I pretty much just kept to myself. I wasn’t exposed to many scenes and genres locally as I did self discovering electronic music, industrial music, IDM, etc. via the those first chat rooms and message boards in the early days of the internet. Without the sort of ‘peer pressure’ of local scenes and whatnot, my taste just became very eclectic. My vision has always been to make music that subverts standard genre, and the struggle with the world today of ‘branding’ and neat and tidy boxes to fit music in does make it a challenge. I think having a ‘signature approach’ to writing music makes my stuff sound like Slighter, but I’m sure I’ve alienated a few with the journey I’m on! I think if you’re making art for self expression, that it will resonate with certain people over time. Just make eclectic your brand!
Ken: How do you connect with new fans on social media?
Colin: Word of mouth really, my background coupled with doing a bunch of high profile remixes helps to give me clout. I like everyone struggle with social media reach and I’m not very fond of the idea of being perpetually engaged with social media as it’s not mentally healthy for creative work. I schedule time to make the social media rounds and keep up with my newsletter and Bandcamp followers directly. Definitely think it’s important for artists to understand how detrimental social media is to authentic creativity, too much of it and you’re pulling punches in your work to appease what Twitter will say about it. So I think it’s important to take that into consideration while trying to grow your social media presence, don’t let it in to your studio/creative space!
My genuine hope is that people are able to use these tips and advice from successful artists to project new art to the next level. This is a skill you can learn and improve from. Give any tips you have in the comments below. Share this wide and far, it is good advice for everyone.
Friday 11/5 marks another Bandcamp day and I get to pour through a slew of amazing releases. Remember tomorrow all proceeds from sales on Bandcamp go directly to the artists who are in desperate need. We all need songs to fill our hearts in these days. Here are the ones filling mine.
MAN1K1N – Don’t Let Me Try – Brand new single from Boston shadowcrawl duo Man1K1n. Two ones to represent each of them. We have an upcoming webcast post with the act. This is a powerful song about personal loss Johnny E. Veil turned sonic and it really stirs the tendrils of emotion that suicide and mental health conjures for all of our lives. The percussion laid down by Cristian Carver is driving and precise, washing over in hurky jerky horror film atmosphere. Johnny’s vocals growl like a demon voice from within. I love the concept and how much genuine blood was poured into every word. This was an independent release but we have heard promise of an upcoming album ready to throw a match on this pooling shimmering gasoline.
Stabbing Westward – I Am Nothing – Brand new single from rockdustrial legends Stabbing Westward. I just saw them at Cold Waves in Chicago, not only have they not lost a step. This new material seems to add a layer of complexity and depth to everything they have been doing for decades. Chris Halls voice grows more powerful and bristling with clarity and violet laser focus. Add in production from the legendary John Fryer and a remix from Jim Marcus. I love the flurry of katana guitar slashes and cyborg samurai cadence. Stabbing Westward still finds a way to transport me back to my 16 year old bedroom and awash with emotions and glorious vampiric dark tones. COP continues to release the cutting edge of the growing Industrial Rock genre. SW is their flagship.
Carrion – Revenant – If you didn’t know S & S contributor Hide Tepes was a huge LA hard rock Motley Crue fan in addition to making experimental textural noise you will after this track. The hard and high energy strikes of the drums, the crunching metal intensity of the guitar riffs have a very Psalm 69 recklessness. The lyrics are delivered with a harsh chaos demon venom. There is something so powerful about hearing an artist get lost in the moment. This is not a performance, it is a summoning. Further energized with a remix by Texas band Dread Risks who add a further layer of tribal intensity. I will be deep diving this entire album as it unfolds. Hide lays out a track by track explanation below of this decent into ego destruction.
The whole album is going to be available to pre-order tomorrow for both CD and digital + doing a limited edition bundle where you get the CD of the new album, the cassette of the previous one as well as two patches.
Lyrics: Maggots crawl to kiss the feet of a new God Used and abused, to be disposed in the dark Sucked dry by the hordes of the revenants Another body in the grave of their shallow praise Die the death just to come back hollow Feral angels rise, ripe with decay. Pray to me, what you sow I will reap, Pray to me.
I Ya Toyah – Pray ( Stabbing Westward Remix ) – Chicago’s one woman army is back with a new remix from the previously discussed Stabbing Westward and their is nothing I don’t love about this song. The rises and falls of this high speed car chase give space and pacing for Ania to shine through city streets. her energy is a beacon that draws you in and fills you up every time you are near. Walter Flakus is a proven master of taking great vocal talent to it’s height. This remix makes me long for an Ania/Chris Hall duet. Make it happen.
WHITE NOISE TV – GENERATOR – Berlin band I have never reviewed before featuring: Oliver Staats, Bernd Abromeit, Lars Goehring. I really like the expansive opening salvo of high energy electronic sound. As the vocals come in they have a daring Peter Hook Revenge flavor. Melodic with a lashing edge. Production is top rate which is essential when blending the post punk vocal style and cascading EDM music. Great breakdown at the 2 minute mark to let the bottom drop out and stand on the hill in defiance. In general an impressive job of taking familiar ideas and stitching them into a fresh concept. I think the most ringing endorsement I can give this is I was three minutes into the first track and they had already won me over as a fan. Get ready to hear more about White Noise TV.
Bedless Bones – The Iron Bough – We already have a review posted of this album on Sounds and Shadows. My favorite band from Estonia on Cold Transmission. Set to release 11/25/21. Every time I take a moment to listen to BB I am always surprised I don’t think of them more. They have such a powerful and spiritual infused sound or organic soul with a lost age feeling. Kadri Sammel has one of those truly unique voices that stands out in a sea of similar postpunk/darkwave vocalists for their cadence and range. If you held a live wire up to Dead Can Dance or This Mortal Coil and shocked them with electric intensity, that would be the majesty of Bedless Bones. Cool green leaves dripping with rolling drops of water.
The Cult Sounds – Now i can say I was officially surprised by this cover. I think of St Louis The Cult Sounds of an edgy dangerous take on the post punk concept. The Moody Blues are a definite guilty pleasure of mine. This holds so true to the psychedelia beauty and romantic nature of the original. It also really shows off the talent and chops of the band in such a different vein than their amazing progressive album “Death Of A Star”
kid.saint.nothing – Disgust – Ok I know this is a friend from Kalamazoo, but I am always astounded by the truth and delivery of Reggie. An exceptional talent in the scene returning once again with a passionate fury of raw veined exposure. It’s music that has that fearless, nothing to lose realness that can’t be faked. Pounding low fi metal edge with poetic soulful lyrics that ring clear beyond the crunching chaotic distortion of the music. I love the drum transition from a backbeat hip hop into throbbing metal. Reggie’s ability to flow seamlessly between styles while exposing their truth of being always reveals a new aspect with every album. More people need to know about this. The Pixies cover sounds more like the original plot of the Pixies than the Pixies do .
The Wake – Emily Closer (Kill Shelter Remix) – New remix of legendary Ohio goth band The Wake by our dear friend Pete Burns (Kill Shelter). This song is such a driving dark jam, and Pete drives the car right into a crystal palace of reflections and crashes a dark fairytale ball. Splashes of keyboard color shine light on a dark canvas of surrealism. This track is welcome at my goth prom anytime.
Aesthetic Perfection Feat: Isaac Howlett – Save Myself – Here we have two of the top vocal talents in the modern scene teaming up to create something of staggering beauty. Empathy Test and Aesthetic Perfection share a lot of mutual space, both blending the lovely and pleasing with intense emotion to create a full pallet of human experience in song writing. They also couldn’t be more different stylistically in how they achieve this effect. This song really told a story to me, not just in the music and lyrics present. In the delivery, tone, and cadence that they volleyed then harmonized. Almost as though the perspective of what they were singing was shown through a alternate refraction. Plus it is so earth shattering pretty it made me warm inside. Musically I felt it swung more to the AP perfection side of the spectrum, but the vocal performance highlighted the contrast of two top level artists. I hope this is just the start of possible collaborations. I fully expect this will rocket to the top of the dark scene.
Our podcasts have been really improving. Having interviews that are a real conversation with some of the artists I love and give all their fans a feeling of knowing them on a personal level. I wanted to compile them all in one place that give you the opportunity to find and enjoy them.
2/25/21 Grabyourface – Talented French artists Marie Dragontown on Negative Gain. Talking about their breakthrough album Sea, France, and their favorite pizza.
2/19/21Tear Down The Wall discussion with Russ Robinson (Infectious Groves Podcast) and Dan Milligan (The Joy Thieves). Here we discuss the charity compilation of Industrial artists put out by Riveting Records in Colorado that has a cover version of every song on Pink Floyd‘s iconic album “The Wall”
12/22/2020 Rodney Orpheus from The Cassandra Complex – Amazing interview with one of the godfathers of goth. Telling stories of meeting Andrew Eldrich, their new album, predicting the attack on our Capital, and the past and present of Goth.
6/25/20 Interview with Dogtablet Martin King (Test Dept) and Jared Louche (Chemlab) – Where they discuss history on the road, their song writing, snowball fights with Trent Reznor, Jared’s Shoes, and rescuing dogs.
Part 3 of this series might have been the toughest to write. There was such a wealth of great new albums in this genre I found myself at a loss to pick and choose my favorites. However tough choices need to get made. These are all records released in 2020 and not singles. I feel like everyone on this list did something very profound.
Black Rose Burning – Open the Gates – George Grant is doing amazing things using stripped down elements of dark post punk concepts. His voice has this scintillating David Bryne expressive lilt. It harnesses such energy with an acoustic guitar and a percussive gate. It’s romantic, not like a relationship, but the way Star Trek is romantic about the love of stars and exploration. I find myself constantly lost in the beauty of it.
Scenius – Enough Fears – I found this album at the very end of the year but I have a feeling this will be on my heavy rotation the next few months. The Leeds band is a bending maze of emotion and turns that I found myself deeply immersed in. The vocals from Fab Nau were so original and cutting. Perfect dark trance resonance and endless builds. This is a band I will be paying close attention to in 2021. I feel the beginning of something beautiful starting.
Vlimmer – XIIIIIIII – This series of albums reaches it’s conclusion in glorious and staggering fashion. Alexander Donat has an amazing gift to take emotion and transfer it into sound seamlessly. Taking a tiny burning ember of idea and gentle blowing on that fire until it swells into a blaze. Truly a criminally underrated talent in modern artistic expression through sound.
White Mansion – Human – Arkansas brings us this strong front to back traditional post punk. I love the bold transitions here and open air vocals. I think the name Human was perfect for this record because it is all about relationships. You can really follow the story. It’s organic, full of heart, and makes a connection.
The Secret French Post Cards – Colors – More glorious post punk darkness this time mixed and mastered by Pedro Code (Iamtheshadow). This record is so understated and comes at you in subtle ways. Olli Ohlander has a ringing and smoky delivery that chews up scenery like a master actor. Blended reverb and echo makes the guitar build tension that pulls you into the moment. Paint a picture in your mind with this record. Another Cold Transmission band.
Danny Blu – The Pale Horse – Crackling energy and neck grabbing hooks from NYC. Personal soul threaded into club kid sleek trance. This record is everything cool I want to give off. The smoky saxophone trills add a beautiful contrast note. The cadence they lyrics are delivered with are an extra percussion and rhythm. It leaves me longing for more.
Elz and the Cult – Bloodlines – Elz is one of those beautiful and unique humans that takes their internal light and bleeds it into every track they make. It has such a genuine and soulful flavor which modern darkpop is so hungry for. It is a record of personal intensity that stands out in the landscape. A true gamechanger record that everyone should experience. On Cold Transmission Music.
Korine – The Night We Raise – Philly based band that is taking the scene by storm for good reason. They have such a glamourous beauty. While the lyrics are full of edge and venom. They truly have mastered the idea of taking two things you wouldn’t think would make sense together and then synthesizing it perfectly. It’s elegant, profound, and makes you feel like you are on the inside of secret. Also it has that glorious shake that ass factor. You will dance to this record all night long. On Born Loser Records now.
Panic Priest – Second Seduction – Chicago based Jack Armondo finds himself once again on my albums of the year. This sophomore album uses his rich and powerful baritone to great effect but softens the edges of the guitars in the first album. Putting the synths forward really captures the neon industrial aspects of his city. I love the way he captured the concept of isolation in the middle of a populated concrete jungle that became so relevant to us all in 2020. An impressive offering both in connection and execution on Negative Gain Records.
Soft Kill – Dead Kids R.I.P. City – Portland postwave glory with gorgeous and rich vocals and rainy flowing waves of synth sound. This record is so efficient and full of intention. This is one of those records it’s never a bad time for. It has that voice of a generation The Smiths sound but with a speed and energy of the modern era.
Idles – Ultra Mono – I love this album for the punk side of post punk. It’s intelligent, political, smash your fucking teeth in complex blasting rock. It has the true core of Fugazi. I wasn’t quite sure where to put this under but it belongs on some list.
Kiss of the Whip – We’re Not Here – Baltimore is doing some amazing things in the current scene and KOTW are near the top of that list. There is an amazing feeling when someone has such a wizardry of an instrument that it transcends and lefts everything in the song around it. That’s how I feel when Tristan Victor plays keyboards. The wide open textures and landscapes that flow through your mind at razor speed. His melodic whisper growl vocals really draw you in and let those complex synth changes do their work. I continue to be impressed with every new growth.
Spectres – Nostalgia – Sometimes I want a record that really pushes the edges of a genre. Sometimes I take comfort in bands that do a familiar sound with perfect execution. This album is so full of feelings that transport me back. Each song is original and new but the pallet of colors is brilliant with New Order, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen. The heartfelt homage to the music I grew up on cleaned and washed and sent straight to my heartstrings.
Loveblind – Sleeping Visions – What happens when a traditionally shoegaze label like Saint Marie Records puts together a superband of Shoegaze talent to make a darkpop album. In this case what happens is one of the most textural beautiful records of the year. Dorian Electique has a stunning and haunting vocal quality that floats on the waves of slushy wave crash guitars and striking drum beats. Every time I play this record I picture silk scarves flowing in my wake. it just makes life a little more beautiful.
Black Nail Caberet – God’s Verging On Sanity – This band from Hungary has been on my constant playlist. They had an album in my top list of 2019 as well. I love that they don’t sit idle and instead explore a new aspect of darkpop. Emese has a remarkable strength and depth to her voice that reminds me of Annie Lennox. The dance beats are a force to be reckoned with and are like a shot of energy in the arm. When I need to find a little something extra within myself this is the record I reach for.
Algiers – There is No Year– If you have never witnessed Algiers live, once the world reopens that should be the top of your to do list. They are the best live show I have seen in the past 20 years. It’s breathtaking to behold. They are another band hard to put in a box in the most amazing away. Notes of Motown/Gospel/Post Punk/Electronica. It’s all thrown in the blender and spun to a smooth creamy glory. The lyrics are poignant, fresh, and delivered with a voice sorely lacking in this scene. This record is such an up and down journey through culture, injustice, and personal revelation. I really can’t stress the importance of this band enough.
Then Comes Silence – Machine – Swedish based dark rockers put out this album in March and I listened to it many times in it’s entirety. The single We Lose the Night is such a perfect jam it has to be my most earworm song of the year. Just walking through the world I found it constantly popping into my head. This record has what I think of as true Post Punk vibes. The bass is thunderous and driving. Vocals are enchanting and full of warm and captivating feeling. Also the track Ritual feat: Karolina Engdahl is a perfect duet to blend beauty and razor cuts. I was an instant fan for life.
Bootblacks – Thin Skies – NYC post punk stars took a giant leap forward in their evolution for this album. It truly takes it’s own life and direction. Adding on Jason Corbett (Actors) to chisel and magnify a sound that already had such a unique and dangerous flavor. It is sleek, mysterious, and is my number one soundtrack if I ever pull an elaborate jewel heist and car chase in the heart of New York City. I think the most magnificent part of this album is that it really took “Post Punk” someplace new. It’s easy to get hung up on nostalgia, and there is some of that here. There is also a sound so sensual and fresh. I can just smell the musk of this album. You need to feel it on your skin.
Empathy Test – Monsters – This album was my most played on bandcamp this year. I just couldn’t stop coming back to it. It holds a beauty and quality that touches on so many genres. It’s personal and full of imagery that transports you into a movie. Isaac has one of those once in a generation voices that speaks right to your heart. This record just struck a chord inside me like the first time I heard RadioheadThe Bends. That feeling of dramatic intensity that makes me think of youth while the refined craftsmanship spoke to my changed perspective. This is a young band, and their potential to grow and make art on another level seems limitless.