The year is drawing to a close. I’ll start working on the year end wrap ups from another stellar year in Darkscene music. Including a compilation of the Sounds and Shadows Darkscene Singles Chart. First, I want to do one last standard review of what I have been listening to lately. Every time I think I have emersed myself in this scene so deeply I cannot be surprised anymore, I find something that blows my mind once again. Something that says the world and art that goes with it are always going someplace bigger and bolder. No matter how much you open yourself, there is always something new to learn. Happy Holidays my friends.
Midwest Gothic – Awesome new compilation I came across of darkscene bands, some I knew, some I found from Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky to cast a spotlight on the amazing things happening in my area. I always love a good regional compilation and this one is stacked with talent. It features a wide breath of the modern darkscene as well. Josh Kreuzman is the mastermind behind this offering, and I look forward to their future releases.
ANGEL-MAKER – Chris Nelson Freeze Etch – Adam Duckworth BlaK SundaY – Juan Blak, Jennifer Maupin, Jacob Cagen, Ron Anderson, Eric Brown Pillar – Jermaine Artis Juan Blak – Juan Blak Sad and Pretentious – Joseph Mayfield Hypnagogia – Elijah Durnell Square Hollow – Mark Mehlbauer Soma and Seraphim – Preston Krafft, Mako Chernobyl Twice Dark – Josh Kreuzman Broken Nails – Kim Bell 9th Circle Symphony – Jason Bambery, Dru Cadaver, Kurt Fester, Maria Cadaver, Chris Grady
Blak Sunday – The always napalm shadow punk energy of Juan Black. Old school chaos explosion always on the attack with relentless midwest blue color aggression.
HYPNAGOGIA – Tantalizing ritual gothic chant with a spider shuffle tempo and summoner circle cadence. A wonderful new discovery I will be watching for.
Broken Nails – The darting tempo cold wave with robust soulful vocals from Kim Bell. One of those tracks that energizes a dance floor while filling your head with reflection.
Plague Garden – Blue Captain – 10,000 leagues beneath the sea in this pressure pulse old school gothic submarine. The guitars are a darting school of silver movement on the edge of your vision. This project is a Denver CO collaboration of Fernando Altonaga and Angelo Atencio of eHpH. I love the atmospheric reckless darkness and Sisters Of Mercy “First Last and Always” hopeless thrum of the ever-sinking vessel.
Favorite Track: Tonight – A bit of an outlier on the album but the dynamic shifts really encapsulated the treacherous sea. The pulsing bassline full of danger and movement. The hunting teeth of the palm mute guitar. The haunting croon of the vocals. Something about this track put everything together in perfect balance.
Null Device – The Emerald Age – Wisconsin based dark synth band with a new driving political statement full of spiraling hooks and razor edge tapestry. The perfect mix of this album is so economical it makes the motion and pace feel like a UFO that darts and accelerates in a way modern technology has not produced. The vocal duties bouncing between Eric and Jill feels like a conversation of perfect syncopation. This album came out in Nov 2022 and every time I hear it holds a familiarity and nostalgia that defies logic.
For You – This was a darkscene singles chart winner. A boot stomp tempo club banger with Jill belting with Irish funeral dirge sorrowful beauty against sparkling explosion synth lines. A captivating modern classic.
Misspent Youth – A haunting piano ballad with Eric’s clean and emotive voice ringing with captivating expression. Each note on the piano streams forth like ripples in a still underground pool.
Eric Oehler – Vocals, Synths, Violin, Guitars Jill Sheridan – Vocals, Lyrics, Synths Eric Goedken – Lyrics, Additional Production Kendra Kreutz – Cello
G.W. Childs IV – Tarrant County – Lately I have known an obsession, that is yee haw goth. G.W. Childs is legit cowboy who fell in love with Yaz “Upstairs At Eric’s” and created a synthesis of southern family devotion and scorching disco inferno. I love old school country western. Hank Sr. Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline had a blue collar emotional delivery which would one day become punk rock. Legendary producer John Fryer (NIN, Depeche Mode, Love & Rockets, This Mortal Coil) reached out and encouraged his friend to lean into his country roots and make this EP of classics with a glossy hyper color synth wave sizzle. I’ve always felt the key to a good cover is when an artist excites a new generation that never heard the original song, but leads them back to it after. This is what the soulful delivery of every track on Tarrant County accomplishes. Watch out for an upcoming interview I did with G.W.
G.W. Childs IV (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Star Wars: Battlefront) • Legendary producer John Fryer (NIN, Depeche Mode, Love & Rockets, This Mortal Coil) • Famed game composer Peter McConnell (Psychonauts 2, Sly Cooper, Monkey Island) • Matt Carter (Guitar) • Ed Love (Drums)
Crune – Necromantik – Recently I covered the Skull Festival in Detroit. I saw a lot of amazing bands. One really struck me. When you see something special for a reason you can’t put a finger on, you know. When the sassy yee haw goth playing a theremin telling stinging tales about severed heads on the bedpost took the stage, I knew I was seeing something special. I made it my mission to make sure the world was aware of the glory of Crune. I remember standing in front of the stage behind the members of Adult who I could see were also struck and feeling that theatrical chest wrenching darkness the first time I heard Danny Blu. This is the beginning of a talented young artist on a rocket ship destiny you won’t want to be the last to know about.
Favorite Track: May Your Wounds Turn Gold – Slithering sensual napalm of exposed truth spewed forth with careless expression. When I saw this song played live, I dropped my jaw. It is raw poetic cabaret unleashed behind an electronic construction of syncopated dynamics. This is the future.
The Joy Thieves – 6 To 3 – Chicago super band led by Dan Milligan have a timely new release while the rights of women to control medical decisions about their own bodies is called into question. Joy Thieves will be donating 100% of the money raised from the sale of the ‘6 To 3’ EP, and its accompanying line of exclusive t-shirts and hoodies to the National Network of Abortion Funds. We are always quick to point out when someone falls short, so I was happy to give credit when artists stand on the right side of history. I love The Joy Thieves iconic blend of hard rock and industrial mayhem. Blending voices and furious flame wall liquid guitar. In addition to the 2 tracks is an industrial high court of scene mainstays not in The Joy Thieves offering remixeslike Jim Marcus (GoFight), Walter Flakus (Stabbing Westward), Steven Archer (Stoneburner), Gaby Gustavson (Eva X). A fiery anthem to capture the tension and anger of these dark times.
Minuit Machine – 24 – This release combining the amazing talents of Hélène de Thoury and Amandine Stioui is staggering for its quality as well as tragic because it might be the last pairing the two. Helene has suffered some health issues which have caused her to step back from the project for the time being. This EP is nothing short of breathtaking in it’s seamless pulsing sophistication. Every track harnesses an effortless magnetic vouge you can’t help but want to be close to. Amandine’s vocal’s ring through the air with every phrase like a struck chime. A haunting electronic overture that paints a perfect moment while promising what could have been.
Favorite Track:So Hard – Sledgehammer drum beats, lightning bug transitions, and a club build that set the stage for a gorgeous golden melody. Tendrils of glitter smoke catching beams of light. This song can hold my heart forever.
Spike Hellis – Spike Hellis – After seeing them at the Skull Festival in Detroit this year, I haven’t been able to put this away. LA based electronic flamethrowers who answered the question if Alec Empire hadn’t pulled a 180 and became a cryptobro what would a cleaner crisper refinement of the magma fury become? Hearing Spike Hellis really helps me understand what is meant by “Electronic Body Music”. It is felt in the tissue as much as heard in the ears. The range of feeling on this chaotic labyrinth darts through every hidden crack of the human experience. It really must be heard live to fully comprehend, but having a map of the recorded experience can go a long way towards grasping the subtilty of what is happening. I really need to line up an interview with this band in 2023.
COLD TRANSMISSION MUSIC – ZEITGEIST+ – There is no secret about my feelings on Suzy and Andy Herrman of Cold Transmission Music. They run a family style label that highlights the best in European Cold and Dark wave. As well as searching the world for underappreciated talent to shine a beam of their amazing energy on. This is the 15th of these compilations they have released to bring both their own signings as well artists they love. In the end CT are fans of great music first and then a great label. This compilation truly has the soul of those old Cleopatra compilations that want to tell the world about the best new music hidden under the crust. I need to do a review of this compilation on it’s own but wanted to at least shout it out in 2022.
Favorite Track (So Far) – S Y Z Y G Y X – Maniac – Luna has done an exclusive single for this comp and it is fairy light magic in a frozen palace of winter. The percussion of vibrating copper timpani sounds rippling the water from bleeps and bloops. Vocals equal measure smooth and smoke filling the room with vapor. This is a true talent that needs to be lifted up to a brighter light.
Compiled by Andreas Herrmann Additional Mastering by Pete Burns at THE SHELTER Illustrations by Jared K. Nickerson (Jthree Concepts) Artwork by Yvonne Kiel (www.onlyvonne.de)
Klack – Believe – I am always down to Klack. I will Klack in the morning, Klack late at night, I will Klack everytime because it always feels right. This cover is a perfect blend of two great artists Eric and Matt who loved the same song in different ways. They meet in the middle and the homage is perfect. Ok not quite perfect. They could have sung “Do you Bill Leeb in life after love. Maybe Cher would have missed the reference. I wouldn’t have. This choir hits like a glorious angel smashing into a gold brick wall.
Aurelio Voltaire – The Black Labyrinth ~ A Requiem for the Goblin King – Has it really been 13 studio albums for Aurelio Voltaire? This review is special to me. As someone who writes “Goth music with a heavy dose of humor” it is hard not to give credit to the OG that inspired me all those years ago. Here he taps into his own inspiration from an artist and film that burned a codpiece shaped scar into every 90’s goths soul. It appears we also share a passion for collecting every talented guest star he could cram into this shadow glass menagerie. Let’s have a look at this list.
15 members of David Bowie’s band spanning nearly every era of the Starman’s career from the pianist on 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars to the saxophone player on Black Star, Bowie’s last album. The Black Labyrinth was co-produced by Mark Plati who produced the 1997 Bowie album, Earthling as well as the post humus release, Toy.
Other guest musicians included members of My Chemical Romance, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Vision Video, The Cog is Dead, Frenchy and the Punk, violinist extraordinaire Mia Asano, Ally the Piper, D and D songstress Ginny D and an international cadre of musicians making up the orchestra and choir.
The 20 song release is clean like twilight in a fantasy world briming with the mystery of a firefly forest and the pageantry of a catholic funeral. Voltaire’s iconic is the ringleader that ties together the spectacle. If you don’t know Voltaire, you have missed one of the most gloriously self aware experiences in the dark scene. If you do you are in for a 20 track journey with one of the great bards of our time. Let goth music be fun. Let it be the giant melting black candle musical theater it was always meant to be. I both teared up and laughed out loud listening to it. You need this album.
Tomorrow April Bandcamp Day embraces us. I returned from a desperately needed weekend getaway to see Actors at Smalls. Out at a bar, seeing one of my favorite bands playing live. With my friends around me, dancing, smiling, drinking. Ok the drinking got to be a bit over the top and I got sloppy gushing to Jason after the show. I think you take my point, it felt like fun was in the world again. Feeling locked away for so long. Work, isolation, trying to finish an album, seeing so much music come sailing over my head at the speed of light. Wanting to share but not finding the spoons to write reviews. Kicking the can down the road until tomorrow. Seeing that show though, it reminded me why I started. This new album was a progressive step forward for Actors, the excitement of a new member, music into energy, into joy, into energy returned. I came home reminded I needed to stop. Stop pushing myself to write because I had so many bands to share, so many friends to send my love to, and just stop. Stop and listen to music. Write about it after. It would be done when it was done. I might not finish for Bandcamp Day. When I do finish, I will tell you about the songs I stopped to listen to, alone in the silence.
Gasoline Invertebrate – Cracked Wax Battery – Brian Gaupner (The Gothscicles, Space Couch, TigerSquak Records) holds a special place in my heart. I feel a bit of twin spirit in how he approaches music. That feeling that music is an experience better shared. The visual of a Cracked Wax Battery is such a striking image. That bleeding yellow goop pouring out of an old battery carcass. Bringing in great artistic names that are also friends of a mutual vision like: Gopal Metro , Ed Cripps, Zoog Von Rock, and MORIS BLAK. A plasma whip of electronic dance beats cracking the air with aerobic intensity. Brian takes some of the jovial madness of Gothscicles off his voice and replaces it with hissing menace. The NES throwback energy of these synth lines are a nerdcore street cred of belonging. Gasoline Invertebrate always makes you feel inside the curtain.
Fav Track: Please Rate Your Pain – This song is everything the album is striving for, distilled down into a concentrated idea. The samples which raise a gallows humor poke at society. The rippling checkered cloth of constant motion. Brian’s continuous chant against the monetized concept of pain Olympics in modern society.
silver walks – tear me down – Dan McCullough the recent New York resident has continued to blow me away with every thread he slowly unravels for this album. This latest single out 4/8/22 is a super band level support cast to bring the shimmering sand swept race through grains of time to life. Coral Scere delivers a breathy elegant leaping vocal performance. In fact this single features an all star cast.
music written and arranged by Daniel Mccullough vocals and lyrics by Coral Scere backing vocals by Tim Heireth additional noise loops – Steven Archer
all tracks mastered by Eric Oehler at submersible studios, Wisconsin artwork by Steven Archer silver walks logo by Jim Marcus
I really feel this in my bones. Dan has been taking his time to hone each song to perfection. The attention to detail and craft show. This is special.
Panic Priest – Second Seduction – So this is a 2020 release from Chicago synth crooner Jack Armondo, one of the best baritone voices in the modern darkscene with an amazing ear for melody and construction. This album released on Negative Gain was a forceful step forward for the artist. It has a cavernous echo of isolation which was so relatable and present for many in 2020. The guitar work was an ever twisting glass staircase of builds and contact. Adam Black of Midnight Mannequin Records took on the mission of bringing this powerful album into vinyl format with this re release. The expansive warmth really deserves this hand held delivery. Looks like I need to buy this record again.
Black Angel – The Black Rose – Dark rock deity Matt Vowles has released another new album, honestly I don’t know where he finds the depths and time to keep churning out this much material at a high level. Where 2021 Prince of Darkness had a very LA hard rock 90s flavor, The Black Rose goes back even further with a modern gothic slant on early devil rock like Black Sabbath. It creeps in like a dream with slow stinging drums, deep lacerating guitar riffs, and a staggering vocal melody somewhere between Ozzy and Lane Staley. Someday soon a wise label is going to snatch up Black Angel and push them to the moon.
All tracks written, recorded and produced by Matt Vowles on behalf of Solid Recordings Publishing 2022 Vocals by Corey Landis and Maneesha Jones Album cover by Eshmoon DM
Vaselyne – Here To Begin – New 2 track EP out from Amsterdam based new members of the COP International family Yvette Winkler and Frank Weyzig (ex Clan of Xymox). I love the forceful proclamation of a title “Here To Begin”. All sales from this EP will be donated to support The Ukrainian People in their struggle for freedom. I’m always an enormous fan of bands that step up for their beliefs. The music has a travelers sung story around a crackling fire feel. Faces wreathed in shadows with distant pounding toms and blended finger pick acoustic and slushy growling wolf guitars. It builds like a spell into a gorgeous blown glass solo. I love the warmth and organic construction. This begins an intriguing new sound for the diverse COP roster.
Latenite Automatic – Statues – So I am standing near the merch booth at the Actors show in Detroit, and Jason introduces me to this handsome young rake and says “Ken, this is Scott, you need to check out his band”. Well I am always going to take that recommendation. Thus I was led to Canada based Latenite Automatic. I was struck first by the dangerous blend of club beats and rock and roll attitude. The vocals are a dark growling vibration sitting under the surface of the mix. Breaking the water in parts to create tension and intensity. The solo of this track sets the fretboard on fire. You have my attention gentlemen, time to dig through the back catalog.
Stoneburner – Contracting Iris – I know, Ken, you are always talking about Stoneburner. Well, have you heard Stoneburner? There is a reason. A new 2 track EP based on the science fiction story by Peter Watts. I love the ambitious artistry of this concept, where music is inspired by the written word, they find each other and build a stronger broader idea. The story now has an audiobook version with Steven’s score and Donna reading. I hope Steven has pioneered another idea that catches on in the scene. The music conjures images of Lynch “Dune” with it’s post apocalyptical chaos and danger, set against a background of high leather fashion. I kept picturing Sting doing a knife dance in a pit of unworthy opponents.
Sever The Servants – Nowhere – Second single from the powerhouse team up of Hide Tepes and Mike Nolen. A mechanized iron lung terror track. A shambling chant of desperation and quest for meaning. I love hearing two artist I am a fan of individually finding ways to smooth each others edges and improve the effect of both. Now on Produkt 42 a new label getting big steam in the scene.
PSY’AVIAH – Bittersweet – Massive new 42 track release from Yves Schelpe led project Psy’Aviah. This is bursting with guest talent like Claus Larssen (Leætherstrip), Mari Kattman (Helix) , Cat Hall (Dissonance), Kimberly (Bow Down Ever) and so many more. I don’t have time on bandcamp day to give the true deep dive of justice this release deserves. It is glorious higher thinking trip hop electronica with a poets soul. A robust and soulful stew of Portishead, Suzanne Vega, with modern spice and production. I’m honestly floored by the world building ground covered in this single release. It feels like 3 albums of contrasting and quality material. We should all pick this up and explore it deeper together.
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.
We are all excited for shows to start back up. I personally have been working towards my upcoming tours for a year and a half. As have many bands. We all want to get out there and blow your faces off. All of that said I wanted to throw something out there. Our scene is not young. Most of the “back bone” acts, all those bands you take for granted that play at all the festivals or come through on tour all the time, have been doing this shit for a long ass time. And all of us are aging rapidly. There’s a meme going around that says “guest list is canceled” because bands and venues need your support. I’m all for that and hopefully all of you will understand how much everyone on this side of the ticket counter needs you. Last night I did my first DJ gig in two years. It was a wonderful experience to see old friends and do the thing. But let me tell you, over the past couple of years the arthritis in my hip has gotten much worse (don’t try to stop a car with your hip, kids.) And a casual survey of my fellow compatriots tells me I’m not alone in that. My point being that, our scene for as amazingly accepting of the whole range of humans can occasionally be kinda snarky (I know, right?!?) with the things it takes for granted. Support isn’t just a financial thing. Support is accepting that everyone is two years older than they were when you last saw them. Bodies change, people slow down, artists go in different musical directions and on and on. Maybe try not to lock into the idea of “getting back to the way things were.” That big black pirate ship has sailed. You know people complain from time to time that the scene is ,”stuck in the past?” Well, now is the time to embrace the new world! Instead of expecting shit to pick back up the way it was, consider this whole thing an experiment in Tabula Rosa. A chance for all of us in the “wear a lot of black, dislike the sun, like sounds that go boom and collect dead shit” community to look at the big picture and appreciate what is happening now. It’s easy to take our scene, the venues, DJs, bands, publications, record labels and the rest of the infrastructure that keeps it moving (out of love, because ain’t nobody getting rich doing this shit) for granted when it’s a constant thing. But now all of us know what it’s like when all of it comes to a rapid crashing end. We all know what it’s like to miss the life we just accepted was always going to be there. It’s the new normal, the new model world… If you aren’t vaccinated. Get it done. Go out to club nights! Tip bartenders. Tip DJs. Buy band Merch! Tell promoters how much you appreciate them. Maybe ignore the fact that some artists are shaped slightly different or a bit slower than they were last time you saw them. And appreciate the fact that they are still up there in spite of the new pains in their bodies or the fact that the covid depression caused them to gain weight or maybe their shows aren’t as tight as they could be, because it’s difficult to get together and practice. Because believe me, all of us are painfully aware that our bodies have changed. And as much as we want to get on stage and be the pure vision and vehicle for the music that we see in our heads. The reality is what we see in the mirror or experience trying to walk up stairs reminds us every day that time moves on. But we are still going to get up on those stages or in those booths and venues and do what we do. So, if you have any petty observations about shit like that, how about keeping them to yourselves. Celebrate the fact that we are finally able to get together and do horrible things to each other in darkened clubs and not take the whole thing for granted. –
Steven (Ego Likeness, Stoneburner, and a dude who needs to get his hip replaced at some point)
Shit man… you old…I started this whole music thing way back in 90, when I started DJIng at clubs before I could legally be in them at 19. I stated my first band in my early 20s and didn’t start Ego Likeness until I was 28? or so. At the time I thought I was too old to really have much of a career doing this. In August I will turn 50. And the record I will be dropping this year is the most fully realized thing I’ve ever done. I remember reading that Michael Gira didn’t start The Swans until he was 30. And there are plenty of new and old scene artists, some in this group that are 40+.“Ok, so, what’s your point? This music is for old people?” No, don’t be an asshole. The point is that it’s never to late to do the thing you love. And if anything, starting later in life gives you a bit of an advantage in that you have a much more mature (hopefully) outlook on life. Which goes a long way when it comes to writing lyrics and how you deal with the professional aspects of the whole thing. There’s an old saying ,”youth is wasted on the young.” I’ve never been fond of it, because I feel like I did a lot of great shit when I was younger and used the time to develop skills I still use. But there really is a lot to be said for the sense of self and… “I don’t give a fuckness,” that comes with time and perspective. I am in no way saying one is better than the other. Each side of the coin has a lot going for it. But for those of us rapidly aging it’s easy to dismiss the desire to do X thing as childish. And it’s easy for young people to look at older musicians and assume that they aren’t able to bring new elements to music, or that it won’t speak to them. Which is a shame on all accounts. Personally when I was a kid, I never listened to music aimed at young people. And as an artist I couldn’t write for kids if you put a gun to my head. Make what you make, keep it honest, put it out into the world, repeat, and eventually it will find an audience it resonates with.
This is less of a rant and more of an observation. A while back I was on a thread with a musician and they were complaining about people asking what gear they use. And someone piped up “don’t tell them, it’s trade secrets.Which to me, and hopefully to you, is just silly. Because as we all know, it’s not the gear, it’s what you do with it. Garbage in/garbage out and all that. Each of us probably has a couple of tricks, or pieces of kit that they use that others might not, and it may solve a specific problem for them. Which is fantastic. But in the end it all comes down to the ideas. I started thinking about this because I just saw a thread here asking how music reviewers do their thing, if they have a system for it. And I’ve seen a few others asking how to do X or Y thing and the people who know about that are more than happy to jump in and get into an otaku level of detail about how it works.I’ve been also thinking about the small but aggressive backlash I’ve gotten on some of these posts, and I think I figured out something that those people might not get. I do it for the same reason so many people here are willing to help and be transparent with their shit. *Sure you don’t like the way I word things, too bad, be the change you want to see and write your own column.*It comes down to love. The people who want to share their information with you, myself included, LOVE what they do. They have poured themselves into learning how to do it. And they want others to get just as much out of it as they do. In the end, that’s the entire motivation. Also, there a couple of simple facts that everyone should keep in mind.1. Ain’t none of us big enough to worry about trade secrets. We are in a tiny corner of a genre that the mainstream world doesn’t even market to anymore.2. When you raise the water level for one person it raises it for everyone. Let’s say someone you help becomes the next Nine inch nails. And suddenly the spotlight is back on this style of music. Well, that’s fucking great for all of us. Because that means the available audience is much bigger. TL;DR: help others when you can. Trade secrets are bullshit.
Steven Rants: you’re a superhero get your shit together….Superpowers. All of you are superhero’s you just don’t know it yet. (Some of you may, but then you won’t need this.) My hope is by the end of this you will see and understand what I mean. And this is a big ass hall of justice. Here’s what I mean. We are all different superhero’s with different powers. Some are Superman, some are the green lantern, some the wonder twins, and there are a few, but not many Batman’s… batmen? Battsmen? Batmens? Now, your superpowers… they ain’t all that compared to being able to fly. (If you can fly drop me a line, we should talk.)So the first thing you have to figure out is what your super power is. Here, let me give you some examples.*im picking people that I feel comfortable making statements about. I’m not picking favorites.
1. Ken, Super-Kens power is that he’s really good at social dynamics. He can get along with most people, and he can get people from all over the place to support his ideas, join a group like this, and out of respect for him and each other, not act like dicks.
2. My buddy Ian who just joined this group, one of his super powers is he knows synths inside and out, literally, he tears em apart, puts em together and brings them back to life.
3. My wife Donna, if you need to know anything logistically about touring in a van, she can tell you how to deal with any situation that comes up. She can do a 12 hour drive, set up, play a show, be nice to people, sell Merch, crash for four hours and do it again day after day, all while not letting her fibromyalgia keep her down. When we take big bad industrial bands out as our opening acts I sit then down and say ,”look I get that you’re tough as shit and all that, but you need to understand that D has bigger balls than all of you put together, and if you forget that, or don’t jump when she says jump, you’re going to be in for a bad time. Because if she tells you to jump, there’s a real good reason that you probably just don’t see.
4. Myself (I get to be in this list because it’s my damn list and I came up with the idea. Bite me.) I’m ridiculously tenacious, and I have total faith that the things I make are good and matter. Once I have an idea I will do anything I can think of to bring it to life, learning new skills, putting the time in to make it happen, because I have always been poor and have never been able to afford to pay people to do them for me. Also, possibly my best superpower, and one anyone can learn to do… I have no shame. None at all. I will pull every available string, and use every available connection to push my agenda. Because I believe that strongly in the quality of my ideas and work. “You think you’re that great huh?” No, but I’ve busted my ass, I’m good at what I do and I think it’s interesting. There are tons of people better than me, which is one of the reasons I’m willing to be so shameless trying to get my shit out there. Because doing this is *all I know how to do* I have no fall back plan. I get that attitude puts some people off. But fortunately not having any shame, I don’t really care much. “Ok, cool Steven, so what?” Chill. I’m getting there, relax, put your feet up, and most importantly, stop interrupting me. So, let’s step back and look at the big picture. You make this shit that you love, art, music, whatever and you want to disperse it to the widest possible audience, because otherwise what’s the fuckin point, right?This is where knowing what your powers are comes in. Purely from a marketing standpoint point, look what Ken has done in, what, two years? He’s put together a great blog, he’s made this group come together from all over the world. And consequently, because he’s a good guy and is putting all this work in, his market share, his “Ken” brand is skyrocketing. And because of all of that, when he wants to put his band on the road or get some remixes, or even just ask for help he’s already got his foot in a shit ton of doors. Just by doing what comes naturally to him. Because NETWORKING, BRAND RECOGNITION and your brands REPUTATION matter as much if not more than actually being good at what you do. (Kens good, natch)I mean shit, how many people do we know that are really good, but no one knows them, and how many horrific acts are out there playing garbage music for people? Once you figure out your superpowers you can use them to jumpstart your career, or at least keep it moving. For instance put out just a stupid amount of material over the last year and a half, along with 19? 20? Videos, a book, and however many paintings. And each of those helps get my projects in front of more people. It also helps showing people further up the ladder that I’m active and keeps people aware of my shit. I was speaking to someone recently who said ,”when I got back into doing X thing, you were one of the first people I ran across because you can’t *not* run across you.” So, for good or ill, my whole brand or trip is here for all to see. And if people don’t like it, so be it, it’s me, and I accept that result. The point is this. There’s a good chance that you have one or two things that you are really good at. In some cases you might just have a great personality, some of you might be batman and have just a shit ton of money, use that shit to buy promotion, or whatever. Know how to fix synths? Make sure everyone knows, maybe you can help an artist you like in exchange for an opening slot on a tour or a remix or some shit. Because one thing about super powers. No matter what you can do, there’s always someone who can do some shit you can’t. Figure out how to leverage that to your advantage, make yourself available. Because to the person who *can’t* do what you can… you really are a fuckin superhero. And that shit fuckin matters.