Album Preview: Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys’ Come Black Magic on WBUR

WBUR has an album preview of Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys’ new album: Come Black Magic

Walter Sickert and … Edrie … live in a charmingly ramshackle house in Dorchester that looks as if it was decorated with acquisitions from Tim Burton’s garage sale. On a recent Thursday evening, Edrie puttered around the kitchen while Sickert fed the couple’s 18-month-old daughter, Wednesday. The dog was safely packed away upstairs and the house was quiet, as though mentally preparing for what would soon descend: a rehearsal with the pair’s sprawling horror-rock band Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys.

The group was only a few weeks out from its album release show at the Sinclair in Cambridge on Sept. 9 and the anticipation was starting to build. Not long ago Edrie had posted a heartfelt message on Facebook imploring people to buy tickets. “You are our art family and we need you!” she wrote, signing it, as she does all messages from the band, “Love & Tentacles” — a playful reference to the squid-like appearance of Sickert’s long mess of dreadlocks. Though the Toys have built a vibrant local reputation, they still operate independently of any label. “It’s very rare to get the opportunity to play at a corporate thing like the Sinclair on a Friday night as a local band with an all-local bill,” Edrie said.

For Edrie, Sickert and the rest of the band, making art is as much a community effort as a personal one. Edrie in particular lives much of her creative life on social media, talking about her work on the board of the Boston Arts Council and promoting the band’s various endeavors — albums and shows as well as ambitious theater projects like 2015’s collaboration with Company One Theatre on a production of the 1998 musical Shockheaded Peter — but also writing openly about the challenges of making a living as artists and parents. “Will we miss a career opportunity because we post too many baby pix,” she wondered on Facebook, adding, parenthetically, “I’ve already had a theater company mention that being a parent might be too hard for them to work around.”

The result is a band that, though it started years ago as a duo and would certainly be more affordable that way, has swelled to include eight regular members. The group’s new album, Come Black Magic, features contributions from musicians with Berklee degrees along with performers who have no formal training at all, friends who were pulled into the Toys’ madcap milieu by the friendly-yet-sinister tentacles of Sickert’s outsize charisma. (The current lineup consists of Sickert on lead vocals, guitar and piano, Edrie on accordion and toys, Rachel Jayson on viola, Matt Zappa on drums, Mike Leggio on bass, jojo Lazar on ukulele and flute, Mary Widow on mandolin and vocals and Brother Bones on guitar.) “We’re really a family more than a band at this point,” Sickert says.

Widow was drafted back in 2015 to replace Edrie in Shockheaded Peter after Edrie and Sickert found out that Wednesday — also known as the Squid Kid — was due on opening night. The baby arrived the day before tech rehearsal and quickly became a common sight at concerts around town, a tiny and surprisingly serene presence in giant noise-protective earmuffs.

If literally having a baby while working on a musical that you spent about as much time gestating as your own offspring sounds crazy, such seemingly impossible projects have become something of a trademark for Edrie, Sickert and their musical army. “We, about four times a year, make lists of cool things we want to do, and tack it up on a board,” Edrie says.

Every February since 2007, the band has participated in the RPM Podcast’s “RPM Challenge” — an open call for artists to write and record an entire album in one month. The band has made ten albums this way, in addition to four in the studio and three others at home. Currently, they are planning to film a series of music videos, one for each song on Come Black Magic, all linked by a single narrative. Edrie says the project is typical in its daunting complexity. “So sure, make a video for every song,” she says. “But don’t just make a video for every song, make a video that’s interconnected, that requires crazy camera work, that we are renting a drone for.”

The push toward ever-greater artistic feats stems from Sickert’s particular — and peculiar — vision. He makes part of his living as an illustrator (he has designed all of the Toys’ album artwork), and his style is as much visual as musical. The members of Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys are fond of wigs and corsets and the color black. Their music sounds like a goth descendant of Led Zeppelin — pummeling, blues-inflected and theatrical, enamored of minor keys and stories involving child murder.

“The thought and the painting in my mind of what I want, ultimately, the music to sound like, and the arrangements to sound like, doesn’t ever mold itself, maybe, to being practical,” Sickert says. “And I have to kind of chase that dragon as much as I can to match the sound or the vision that’s in my head.”

Edrie puts it another way. “Walter is Falkor,” she says, referring to the giant flying dog-monster from the 1984 film The NeverEnding Story. “And the rest of the band rides on him and tries to steer him. Like, ‘OK, Falkor, now this way’ — and sometimes we can get him to go that way and sometimes it’s like, ‘Whoa, impossible, everything’s too big.’ So if you think what is onstage or what is in the CD is big and crazy, it’s like a tiny, tiny, tiny little bit of what Walter’s huge vision is.”

In trying to locate the source of his aesthetic, Sickert points to horror movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, along with an especially formative period in his youth when, after his family’s houseboat burned down, he enrolled in Catholic school in Massachusetts. The experience — Sickert’s first brush with organized religion after being homeschooled on a modified tugboat for part of his childhood — intensified a nascent fascination with the macabre. “Going to Catholic school and being taught about Hell and all those things that are naughty and wrong — that kind of painted a picture of what I saw as what evil actually was,” Sickert says. “And all that was mixed up with these horror movies that I would stay up too late and watch as a kid.”

Sickert says that Come Black Magic is the closest the band has ever come to realizing the music that he hears in his head. This achievement is thanks in no small way to Edrie’s producer-like role. “We work really well together when we make art,” Sickert says. “I can be like, ‘Here’s this crazy jungle of ideas,’ and she’s like, ‘I like this, but let me show you how you can actually make this happen.’ And without that balance I would just be alone in a barn in the middle of the woods, just making music and art for myself that would never be seen by or heard by anybody else.”

Instead, the life that Sickert and Edrie have created is one in which the artistic and domestic spheres co-mingle. Sickert takes care of Wednesday, writes music, scores films and makes art from home while Edrie works a day job and handles publicity for the band. Friends babysit the Squid Kid when her parents are onstage. On Thursdays, Edrie and Sickert host band practice at their house, but not before feeding everyone dinner.

This particular Thursday is no different. Seven o’clock rolls around and the pasta water that Edrie put on earlier begins to boil. People start trickling in. Soon, the house will be filled with exuberantly menacing music — for little Wednesday, and everyone else in her extended art family, probably the most comforting sound in the world.


Washington Times interview: Rasputina~

Washington Times interview: Rasputina~

Rasputina: ‘Corsets, Cellos and Rock ‘n’ Roll’

– – Monday, October 19, 2015

Led by steampunk goddess Melora Creager, the gothic cello rock trio Rasputina has been pushing the musical envelope since the early 1990s. Their work features a flurry of clever tunes about powerful female figures in ancient history played on classical instruments with the the fervor of rock. Think Jimmy Page with a horsehair bow. (Yeah, we know.) Away from the band Miss Creager also toured with Nirvana on their final tour.

In advance of Rasputina’s Baltimore show at Ottobar Tuesday, Miss Creager spoke about men in corsets, how to rock the cello, her days on tour with Nirvana and why their latest CD, “Unknown,” won’t be available online. Ever.

Question: How did Raputina come together in the early 1990s?

Answer: I put a “wanted” ad in the back of the Village Voice [in New York]. That was how everyone made a band back then.

Q: Did you have a full vision of the look and sound of the band beforehand?

A: Yes, even before I was able to sing very well. It was an artistic compulsion, something I just had to do, to force myself to do. Like me, a lot of performers are very shy, and performing is a controlled way to communicate with people. Just out of art school, I wrote a manifesto — the point being well-trained, well-brought-up young ladies playing rock music. On the cello, of course.

Q: Why gothic cello rock?

A: I don’t consider myself or the band gothic, except maybe in a literary sense. When I was younger, I was embarrassed to express positivity, because it wasn’t authentic to me.

Q: When did the idea come to you to combine history with music?

A: Since I was a little girl writing songs, it’s been the same: songs based on historical incident or an antique photograph.

Q: How many former members has Rasputina had?

A: How many members of Nine Inch Nails have there been? I don’t know.

Q: Is it hard to keep band members together?

A: Over 20 years and still kicking. Someone plays with me eight to 10 years, and that longevity isn’t commented on, but rather that they left. A touring band is an abnormally close relationship. Performers have large egos and dreams. I think it’s gone pretty well.

Q: Was there a shift creatively when you let male members in the band?

A: Each person brings their unique qualities, but it’s not about gender. Each male member has been rather androgynous anyway, whereas the females have always been exclusively feminine.

Q: Do the guys have to wear corsets as well?

A: They don’t have to, they want to. They always end up trying ours on and liking the feeling. Every guy is glad for an excuse to drag out.

Q: When not performing, do you dress down?

A: Yes, but my trademark style is truly mine and carries over. I never wear pants, only dresses and skirts. Feathers in the hair are good to shake up the everyday. Corsets for daywear? No thanks.

Q: Do you consider yourself a pioneer of the “steampunk” movement?

A: I do. There were few of us back in the day, in the early ‘90s in [New York’s] East Village — proponents of Victorian style. I’ve adopted a broader range of eras over the years. I don’t like “movements.” I follow my personal vision and am as thorough as I can be.

Q: Away from the band, you also toured with Nirvana, yes?

A: Yes, on their final tour, in Europe.

Q: Do you have any memories of that tour?

A: It was a strange situation, as I was very naive and inexperienced. Kurt [Cobain] was very special and very normal. His death said to me that fame kills, that fame is not healthy for a nice person. No one along for the ride with the biggest band in the land wanted to notice how bad off he was. Like “Emperor’s New Clothes,” look the other way.

Q: What was the last show of the tour like?

A: I don’t remember, but it was just before a little break in the tour [that] I spent in Prague — that was to be the next show. [Cobain] O.D.’d in Italy, and everything fell apart. Devastatingly sad.

Q: Why is your new CD “Unknown” only available as a CD and not online?

A: As a conceptual thing. Immediacy of music has made it throwaway, not valuable. If it’s exclusively physical, I bring back some value, some anticipation, some desire.

Q: Did it really take you only three weeks to make?

A: It really did. I was possessed by my subconscious, which felt like spirits at the time. I wasn’t concerned with releasing it, just making it. I was in my own world with superhuman focus.

Q: The theme of the CD is trauma. What does that mean?

A: I was damaged by some violations I didn’t — and still don’t — fully understand. My strong imagination took over. Anything was possible, and the Internet was the culprit. I didn’t know who I was talking to, but it turned out to be an unknown part of myself.

Thomas Truax talks with the Islington Gazette

Thomas Truax talks with the Islington Gazette~

“DIY steampunk star Thomas Truax builds momentum”

Thomas Truax. Picture: Markus Jansen

Thomas Truax. Picture: Markus Jansen

Madcap American musician Thomas Truax tells Alex Bellotti about building his own instruments, Terry Pratchett and his new record, Jetstream Sunset.

He may be a New York native, but there’s no doubting Thomas Truax’s British sensibilities. As the man himself says, the “land of Wallace and Gromit and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” feels a natural home for his madcap style, and were it not for dastardly VISA issues, he would have prolonged his residence here beyond the two years he once spent living in London.

Thankfully, the musician is returning to the UK with a show at the Lexington this Wednesday to promote his new album, Jetstream Sunset.

A self-styled one man band, Truax (pronounced ‘troo aks’) is often associated with the cult genre ‘steampunk’ and is renowned for his unforgettable live shows which see him play a range of stunningly original instruments created with his own two hands.

“From my mind it’s not that eccentric and I’m not that much of an oddball, I’m just myself,” says Truax. “Maybe eventually other people will see it that way as well, but I’ve always been kind of surprised at how much people talk about me as though I’m from outer space.”

There is certainly an other-worldly charm to the gothic tones of his past work, but Truax’s latest album is equally one of his most accessible. While making use of signature instruments (including ‘The Hornicator’, made out of an old gramophone horn, and Mother Superior, a motorised drum machine which looks like an old spinning wheel), he also enlisted Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione for the recordings.

The result is a compelling collision of sounds harking back to Lou Reed and Syd Barrett; songs including I Was A Teenage Post-Punk and Shine As Brightly As You Can are strange but familiar, with simple, infectious melodies. Was this a deliberate approach?

“Music is on a lot of levels wanting to communicate – it’s a communicative thing, you want to touch people’s hearts and minds and find common ground no matter how off your rocker you are.

“So in a way intentionally yeah, I’m not trying to do something that’s mainstream but I’m definitely trying to connect with people and it’s not my goal to do something just for the purpose of weirding people out.”

Having begun his musical journey as part of the early ‘90s anti-folk scene alongside contemporaries such as Beck, Truax is keen to not associate himself too closely with steampunk “because it isn’t really what I do”.

Over the course of eight albums, he has picked up fans including Jarvis Cocker, Terry Pratchet and David Lynch – whose film music he once made an album of covers with.

He describes Lynch as “a funny guy… kind of an all American boyscout”, while the recent death of Pratchett naturally came as sad news.

“Ironically I met him at one of those Steampunk things. I talked to him for a bit but we never broached the subject (of music), it was later another author who said to me, ‘You know Terry, he’s a huge fan of your music. He wants to redo his Desert Island Discs and take your (Full Moon Over) Wow Town record with him.’”

Truax partly began combining his love of building and love of music because he was sick of watching musicians just spinning records and playing songs off a laptop. “If you’re going to see a live performer and pay money for it, you want to see someone making the sound live,” he says, and this is why he has taken his live shows to such energetic heights.

“I definitely come off the road with back problems and knee problems. I’ve occasionally fallen off a table and been in hospital a couple of times for injuries which seemed like a good idea at the time but later I wonder what I was thinking. But that’s rock n roll I guess.”

Ellen Fondiler interviews Zoe Boekbinder~

Ellen Fondiler interviews Zoe Boekbinder~

Ellen Fondiler, on her Unlocked blog, interviews one of our favorite performers: Zoe Boekbinder.

Read the interview here:

Zoe Boekbinder: Musician and Social Activist


Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Zoe Boekbinder

To do the work you love, you’ve got to unlock a few doors. UNLOCKED Stories are honest conversations with people who chose a path + made it happen.

A note from Ellen: I’m thrilled to spotlight Zoe Boekbinder — a musician, social activist, and founder of The Prison Music Project.

I almost don’t have the words to describe how deeply Zoe’s story has affected me. So, I’ll skip my usual preamble. Instead, I invite you to simply… read on.

What do you do?

[Zoe]: I make music.

I’ve been making music for a living for nearly 9 years — since I was 20 years old.

I’ve done a number of different projects in that time — including forming a band with my sister called Vermillion Lies, releasing some solo records, and at one point, writing and recording 100 songs in 100 days.

Getting to make music and touring the world is definitely a thrill.

But four years ago, I began a project that changed the course of my life.

I started working with poets and songwriters at a maximum-security men’s prison called New Folsom.

It all started with collaboration between myself and a rapper I met at the prison. He goes by the name of “Shell Dog,” and he was incarcerated when he 18 years old.

Shell Dog gave me permission to use his rap lyrics for a song.

Word got around, and soon, other writers at the prison were approaching me with their raps, lyrics and ideas. That single song evolved into a full-length album that includes about ten incarcerated songwriters.

Its working title is The Prison Music Project.

Why prison? Seems like the last place on earth that anyone would want to go, let alone write music!

[Zoe]: Some of the most important stories come from people currently behind bars. The fact that people that are suffering that much can still make art is beyond inspiring to me. I want to amplify their voices.

I don’t want their work — and their stories — to go unheard.

I have other motivations for doing this work, too.

For starters: there are studies that show that art and music programs in prisons lower the incidence of violence within the prison as well as significantly lower the recidivism rates for those involved in such programs. This benefits everyone: the prison, the incarcerated people, and the society that these people will eventually re-enter.

Music can provide an outlet, it is humanizing.

I believe that music can help to stop the cycle of incarceration.

In every career, there are a few “locked door moments” — moments where it seems like all hope is lost, or the project is blocked.

What has been your biggest “locked door moment,” so far?

[Zoe]: With the work that I’m doing, there are… literal locked doors.

One of the biggest challenges has been finding a way to collaborate with the writers inside the prison, without violating prison protocol.

I am allowed into the prison, but I’m not allowed to carry anything out that I didn’t bring it with me. I can’t accept anything from any of the people incarcerated there. If I correspond with them through the mail or phone, I won’t be allowed in anymore.

Recordings of any kind must be approved, as New Folsom is a maximum-security facility, and that is a long process. We did get approval to record inside, but only in one isolated section of the prison, and now need to go through another lengthy process to get approval to use these recordings.

I am not hopeful about this last step but prepared to move forward either way. If we cannot use these recordings, the songs will be performed entirely by a broadcast of artists who are not incarcerated. If we do get permission to use them we are excited to add production and secondary instrumentation to these existing recordings.

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Zoe Boekbinder

At this time, The Prison Music Project is still… a work in progress. You’re seeking funding to complete the project and bring this music to the world. What’s the next step?

[Zoe]: The record is a non-profit project. We are looking for grants and private donations to help cover the overhead costs so that the profits from sales can go immediately to supporting re-entry programs for people getting out of prison. There are currently a lot of challenges facing people re-entering society, like the denial of government assistance with food and housing.

The success of this project matters so much more to me than anything else I’ve ever done.

I feel responsible for the writers I’ve been working with, to make their stories heard, because they have been made incapable to do it for themselves.

Their stories must be heard, because they illustrate the injustices that so many people face. Poor people, people of color, addicts, transgendered people, and people with abnormal mental abilities/disabilities are not given a fair chance in this country.

One statistic to illustrate my point: people of color (non-white) make up 32% of the US population but 66% of the incarcerated population. This is a problem. Take for instance the facts that have been coming to the surface recently about police brutality that is disproportionately aimed at minorities.

But getting back to your question: you asked about “next steps.”

One thing I did recently — that I’ve never done before — was to approach a hero that I have always wanted to work with.

I asked Ani DiFranco if she would produce the record… and she said yes.

Our first recording dates are set to take place before the end of this year.

What’s the next door that you need to unlock? (And what’s the plan?)

[Zoe]: I know that while The Prison Music Project is captivating, it is also complicated.

I don’t know if everyone will feel comfortable with the idea of these stories being shared, because of whom they belong to.

I don’t know what any of these people did to end up incarcerated. I don’t have access to that information and I don’t want to. It isn’t the point, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m not saying every action is forgivable. I’m just saying that we need to look at how to restructure a society that has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

On the other side of things, some people may take issue with my role in this project. I think it would be understandable to question whether my use of words and songs written by these incarcerated people is appropriate or appropriative.

I have confidence in my convictions and am trying to be respectful, delicate, radical, and responsible with this project. I don’t want it to be about me, or any of the artists who will end up performing these songs in place of the people who wrote them.

I simply want to be a microphone and I hope that message is clear throughout this process.

The next door that I need to unlock is approaching people to get involved in the project either as guest performers or as funders.

I’m prepared to reach out to my dream collaborators and wealthy philanthropists, even if I hear a lot of “no’s.” I know not everyone shares my views and I have to be ready for some rejection and criticism. I do hope, though, that they feel as inspired by this project as I am. We’ll see what happens.

Last but not least: What’s your biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants to stay motivated, do amazing work and unlock major doors?

[Zoe]: Find the thing that inspires and drives you the most, and you won’t need my advice.

Ellen Fondiler | Unlocked Stories: Zoe Boekbinder

UNLOCK yourself

Three questions to think about, write about — or talk about with a friend.

1. Zoe started her music career as many musicians do — writing songs, playing in a band, and touring the country. She enjoyed it, but something was missing. She was searching for a mission that was “bigger” than just… her. She found that cause with The Prison Music Project.

: Is there a facet of society — the prison system, the education system, the healthcare system, or something else — that bothers you, deeply? What’s one way you could work to do something about it?

2. Zoe took a big risk by approaching one of her personal heroes, Ani DiFranco, and asking her to produce the album for The Prison Music Project. Happily, Ani said “yes.”

: Is there someone — a writer, a leader, a hero — that you would love to collaborate with, someday? Who? And why?

3. Zoe knows that not everybody will be happy about The Prison Music Project. She may even receive some harsh criticism. But she’s ready to face it, because she believes in the project so strongly.

: How do you handle criticism and rejection? What could you say to yourself the next time you’re facing an unpleasant rejection, to stay strong… and keep going?

A great article about the Art’s program in the prison and Zoe’s project can be found here.

To learn more about this project and to see how you can support it- visit Zoe’s website here

For more UNLOCKED interviews, click over here.

Know somebody that ought to be spotlighted? Write to me here.

See you next time for another inspiring conversation!

Sarah Egress is Geekadelphia’s Geek of the Week~

Sarah of This Way to the Egress is Geekadelphia’s Geek of the Week~

Check out their interview with her here:

This week we spoke with Sarah Egress, the soulful leading lady of the Punk Rock Cabaret band This Way to the Egress. I first saw Sarah and the band perform at The First Banana during the Glamazon tour, and fell in love with their high energy swingy Balkan melodies. Even though their knee-deep in recording their 3rd album, Sarah took the time to speak with Geekadelphia about the band and more!

You play the piano and violin and sing. When did you start playing music?

I started playing piano when I was 7 and over time just picked up other instruments. The entire band pretty much as been playing instruments and music since we were adolescents.

When did This Way To The Egress form? How did you decide on this style of music?

Taylor formed This Way to the Egress in 2008 and shortly after, him and I met. All of the other members we’ve known from other projects we have all played in, except for Zach our drummer we found him through friends and he is such an amazing addition. The style of music really just comes from the fact that we all have different musical backgrounds and interests we fuze them together and aren’t afraid to try different combinations.

egress 1

What do you geek out to ?

Personally I geek out over, good music and people. As a band we geek out over, Instruments, Food, Spirits, The Beatles, The Jerky Boys, Coffee, Beer and converted school buses and vans.

What are your favorite places in Philly ?

Maoz, Mutter Museum, Jim’s Cheesesteaks, Connie’s Ric Rac, The Franklin Institute, The First Banana, World Cafe Live, Rittenhouse Square and of course driving past the “Always Sunny” Houses.

egress 3

What’s coming up for This Way to the Egress?

We were just in the studio in November recording our third full length album with Independent producer Roger Greenawalt. We will be releasing it this coming spring and touring in support of it. We are super excited about the momentum the band has gathered and can’t wait to see how it is received we’ve pumped every inch of our hearts, souls, pockets, and sweat into this record. There will be some new music videos and super exciting announcements to follow the release!

This Way to the Egress on Facebook
This Way to the Egress on Twitter

Interview: Lyssa from Steamposium

Interview: Lyssa from Steamposium

A new steampunk event has been announced for September 2014 in Seattle WA: Steamposium

Lyssa, one of the event’s leads, was kind enough to answer our questions…

Sepiachord: The announcement of Steamposium took most people by surprise. How long have you been working on an event of such a scope? 

Lyssa from Steamposium: We were saddened to hear the news of the demise of the previous convention and as vendors we could feel the pain of such a void. We pretty much jumped on securing a space within a week to see if it was a possibility, things just took off and here we are. 

SC: You’re billing the event as “The World’s Largest Steampunk Show”. How will you compare in size to other steampunk events around the globe.

LS: We are comparing it to the size of the indoor space of 100,000 square feet plus we can expand to the outside area if the need arises. 

SC: The event will be held in the 100,000 square foot Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle. Why did you choose this venue?
LS: Besides the amazing waterfront view from it sitting on the pier…we wanted it in Seattle. Seattle has an wonderful history and unique beauty from being a port born city. Plus Bell Harbor has lots and lots of big windows for natural lighting and a private balcony that looks out over the water all around the back, plus it has an open roof top to enjoy the splendid panoramic view.  

SC: Were you concerned about selecting a venue that is part of a hotel complex?

LS: This venue has an neighboring hotel accommodations and one across the street. We thought it best to move it from a hotel and put those funds towards events and space. 

SC: Will Steamposium stay in Seattle or will it be a traveling con?
LS: No. We plan on stay right here in lovely Seattle

SC: 100,000 square feet is a lot of space, what are you going to fill all of the footage with?

LS: Not sure where to begin… We have bands such as Steam Powered Giraffe and local bands. Vendors of course.  We’re working on a vaudeville dinner act, a Burlesque show, a Birthday themed Ball complete with a birthday cake.  An art center and games — lots of games.  Think cosplay chess for example, and of course a costume contest with prizes. Also, Panels and workshops…we have had a lot great and fabulous people come forward with ideas and such. 

SC: How many attendees are you expecting?
LS: Thousands

SC: What do you estimate as a charge for attendance?
LS: No higher than $65.00 for the weekend pass there will be early birds specials online. 
$25/30/25 for daily passes
Plus there will be VIP options and some special events pricing. 

SC: You’ve already announced one special guest, Steam Powered Giraffe. How soon will you be announcing the others?
LS: We are solidify contracts now…so when that is completed…those of course take a wee bit a time – must make everyone happy!

SC: Steamposium is a for-profit con, how will your event differ from non-profit cons?

LS: Not really different we just pay taxes. Operating without the rules of a non-profit has certain benefits, especially in these early day.  However, we are working with a local charity to give back to our community – Treehouse: we will be accepting gifts at the ball for foster kids, there will be a list posted. I would also like to add that every dollar spent on a pass/ticket is being turned around back into the event – no one is receiving a “pay check” this is a labour of love. 

SC: Will staff be volunteers or will they be compensated?

LS: Yes, we will have something for the volunteers. I like to call them volunteer quids – they will receive gift certificate of sorts to use anywhere within the convention or they can cash them out in the end.  

SC: Cons are expensive propositions, and adding live music only makes them more so. What happens if you don’t turn a profit the first year?

LS: We sort of expect to wind up in the red the first year.  We’re doing our best to ensure that this is an amazing, memorable experience that everyone walks away from and comes back the next year with their friends.  This is really a different kind of show than those put on before, and we know that our attendees will come back.

SC: Why is Seattle a good city for steampunk?

LS: We went with Seattle because the city has a real pulse.  The area is filled with things to do and see.  We wanted to give attendees from far and wide the option of getting out of a dreary hotel and be in a great area with a great vibe — while providing them a full schedule of events and entertainment to keep them at the show.  Seattle is a great city with the right balance of aesthetics and history — filled with creative, intelligent people who will only add to the experience.
For details and updates check the Steamposium website~

Interview: The Voodoo Organist~

Interview: The Voodoo Organist~

I love the gonzo-gospel-lunatic-one-man-band work of The Voodoo Organist, Sepiachord was lucky to catch up the busy fella he broke under our emotional pressure an deigned to answer a few questions…


Sepaichord: When did you take up the organ as your primary instrument?

The Voodoo Organist: My parents bought an organ when i was 10. I was attending Holy
Innocents Catholic School (named after the bible story of the Slaughter
of the Innocents); i was an altar boy, and took lessons from the church
organist. I couldn’t make up a better back story lol.

Let me tell you – in the early 80s, organ was about as uncool as you
could get. Then one day i discovered my dad’s 8-track tape by ELP:
“Brain Salad Surgery” and realized the organ could be pretty kick ass.

In my teens, i started getting into synths. I worked my first job
around the age of 15 or so, and my dad loaned me the money to buy my
first synth, a Korg Poly 800, and then a sampler, an Ensoniq Mirage. I
got way into synthesizing and sampling, and was heavy into the
goth/industrial scene. I was in a couple of Detroit bands who warmed up
acts like NIN, Marilyn Manson, and one of my faves, Alien Sex Fiend.

In 1995 i was asked to join the noise alt-metal band Today is the Day.
I did a record and some tours w them; that didn’t work out, so i moved
California. I discovered Barry Adamson, who uses cool organ in a lot of
his music. Sonically speaking, Barry is a bit similar to Foetus – a
favorite of mine since i was a teenager. Foetus and Barry both have a
dirty blues industrial jazz sound on a lot of their tunes. Also in the
late 90s, i started discovering organists from the 50s like Lenny Dee
and Sir Julian. So it was around then that i came around full circle,
and started using organ as my main instrument again. I started playing
shows as the VO in 2001.

SC: Any good Alien Sex Fiend stories?

VO: They played Detroit 2 years in a row – first in 1990, then in ’91. When
i saw them in ’90, i managed to get backstage for an impromptu meet at
greet w/ Nik and Mrs Fiend. Nik was sitting in a chair, and had people
come up to him and sit on his lap, like a deranged gothic Santa Claws.
I got my pic w him. I was SO happy; i’ll never forget the day i bought
my first ASF lp, when i was 16. It changed my life. So it was a dream
to meet my hero at the age of 19. I’ll never forget my Mom’s reaction
when she saw the pic – she said “how old is that guy?” That comment
still strikes me, because he is a bit older – he was probably close to
my age now, yet still crazy as ever.

The following year, the band i was in at the time – Nemesis – got to
open for them. I was thrilled beyond words. We were waiting outside St
Andrews Hall, and a minivan drives up, and out walk the Fiends. Nik was
wearing a black cowboy hat. After the show, i got Nik to sign the pic
of us the year prior; to this day, that autographed photo still hangs
on my fridge. I wish i could’ve talked to Nik more, but conversing was
extremely difficult. He had such a thick cockney accent, that it was
almost like talking to someone speaking Greek lol.

I often think and wonder about the Fiends – i mean, they’re certainly
not Rock Stars. Are they getting by ok? Do they work jobs? etc etc. I
wish i could hang w Nik, pick his brain, and thank him for the profound
influence he had on me.

SC: How many albums do you have under your belt now?

VO: 8. 9 if you include my Voodoo Synthesist album.

SC: Your newest release, Vampire Empire, seems a bit more focused a
distinctly more angry then your past releases. Did you have a different
writing approach to this album?

VO: No, not really. Every few years, i switch up my rig. Different organs
and synths give me different sounds, which help inspire new ideas.
Focused?—i think i’m just getting better. Thats the goal at least,
right?–to constantly improve and evolve. Angry?—i’ve always been a
pissed off working class person lol. But things are getting
increasingly difficult, and its harder and harder to get by. Not just
for me, but for many, it seems. Of course there’s exceptions to the
rule; there always is.

SC: There’s a clear political vibe on this set of songs, what pisses
you off most about the world right now?

VO: This is my “political” record for sure! Look, i’m pissed at the
Corporate takeover of America. Vampire Empire = the Corporatocracy.
Corporate profits are at all time highs; the Stock Market is at all
time highs; income disparity is also at all time highs. Wages and
wealth for the vast majority have declined drastically, but huge gains
have gone to a small percentage at the top. In addition, you have all
the Corporate mergers, including the media; all the Corporate subsidies
and bailouts – which are not only costly, but rig the market; Citizens
United – giving Corporations unlimited spending power in our political
campaigns; and now it looks like the TPP is going to pass. It seems to
me our democracy has been bought out, and that the Middle Class is

SC: Is this the first time you didn’t design the album cover? I
love the work of Andrew Goldfarb, why did you decide to go with him?

VO: I did my first 2 covers; my good friend Aimee Watters did 3 – 7. Andrew
has been a good friend for some time now, and i’ve always loved his art
(as well as his music). I thought he would nail the theme of the album
– and he did! I gave him a brief synopsis of the album, and the first
draft he showed me killed it!– Home run – no revisions necessary!!

SC: It seem a lot of performers are having a harder and harder time
funding tours and finding places to play. Is touring becoming more of a
challenge for a one man band, such as yourself?

VO: Its getting harder and harder to fund anything, unless you’re backed by
Wall Street and/or the Government. And most musicians who decide to
tour – really tour – gotta jump in head first. How many jobs will let
you take off a couple weeks here, a month there?….not in America at
least. You’re lucky to get a week or 2 off a year. So if you’re going
to tour, you either float between any crap job you can get, or become
self-employed; or both in my case.

And certainly the cost of touring – gas, food, lodging – all has
tripled in the last dozen years since i’ve been touring as VO. Because
of the cost and the time involved in touring, being a one-man act is
certainly the most efficient. One mouth to feed, one head to rest, one
schedule to worry about. But of course, i’m doing all the work –
driving, selling, managing, writing, playing, loading – and organs
ain’t light lol.

Personally speaking, since i’ve booked and played almost 800 shows in
the last 12 years, i’ve made lots of friends and connections. So for
me, booking a tour hasn’t been much of an issue in the last few years.
More of an issue to me is time – i have my own business and work a few
side jobs – so getting time is more difficult for me than getting shows.

As far as pay is concerned – i think it mirrors everything else going
on; a small percentage at the top are Rock Stars. You have maybe 10% of
the bands filling the 300 – 500 capacity venues and making pretty good
money; then the rest of us – 90% – struggling to fill the dive bars.

SC: You’re now a small business owner, what lead you to opening Hoodoo?

VO: Many things. In a nutshell, the continual fight to be self-sufficient.

In 2001, at the age of 30, i had a near-death experience. I was
bleeding internally, and lost over 1/3 of my blood in one day. I had
been working in the print industry for years and hated it. Hated my
life. So while i was recovering in the hospital, i realized i almost
died a working stiff, and vowed to get outta the rat race, and live
life on my own terms. Thats when i wrote my first VO album, self-booked
2 tours consecutively; i quit my job and off i went…

I haven’t gotten to the point where VO pays all my bills – i cover tour
expenses and make a little extra, but not enough to fully live on – so
i work jobs in between tours. Side jobs were getting harder and harder
to find. Then i moved to the desert. Then i got diagnosed w Crohns
disease. Hospitalized for over a week again. I’m getting older, and
realized i need to be a little more stable and home. I took a job
driving a taxi, but was working crazy hours and barely pulling in any
money. Since i couldn’t find decent work, i decided to try to make my
own. Having a store was something i had been thinking about for years,
so i gave it a go. Since i’m my own boss, i won’t get fired for going
on tour.

SC: How would you describe the store to folks who’ve never set foot

VO: Hoodoo’s in Oldtown Yucca Valley, right outside Joshua Tree. We sell
t-shirts, books, art, housewares and accessories in themes of lowbrow,
tiki, Day of the Dead, b-movie, rock n roll and comics. New and used
everything. And there’s a couple of organs in the house.

Since its a hybrid store, we wanted a catchy name with multiple
meanings; Hoodoo refers to folk magic, natural rock formations that
occur in the desert, and its a fun play on words, like “Hoodoo (who do)
you love”….

SC: Is music taking a back seat to the shop?

VO: I will continue making and playing music until the day i die. Its in my
blood. And i fully enjoy having a store. I like the interaction w
people; i like looking for and finding cool things to buy and sell; and
i like being an active part of my community. I try as many things as
possible, and like to keep multiple pots on the stove, so to speak.
Prior to starting the store, i started a non-profit called Keep Our
Desert Clean. Our mission was to eliminate some of the dumped garbage
in the desert. Thru the 3 clean-ups we sponsored, we collected over 12
tons of trash, and i personally even got the County to collect
Household Hazardous Wastes for one event. And in between everything, i
still work side jobs to help make ends meet. Its a juggling act. My
main goal is to be able to ditch the side jobs – to be completely

As far as releasing music is concerned, i write music as it comes to
me. I make no forced effort to release stuff i’m not proud of. I might
release 3 albums next year; though maybe it might take me 3 years until
i feel ready to release my next, you know?

SC: What’s the next step for The Voodoo Organist?

VO: I am recording my “exotica/space age lounge” album as we speak. One of
the coolest labels around – Dionysus Records – has agreed to release it
on vinyl. Shooting for a Fall release, which is when i’m planning my
next tour.

I also feel another Voodoo Synthesist album percolating too. Some
analog synth and circuit bent madness…

Since the exotica album, and probably the VS album, will be mostly
instrumental, i’d also like to release at least a single or 2 of new VO
lyric-driven tunes this year. Maybe put it on a 45.

SC: Any words of advice for young people?

VO: Good luck!

The Voodoo Organist~


MundoSteampunk interviews: Victor Sierra, BB Blackdog & Poison Garden

MundoSteampunk interviews: Victor Sierra, BB Blackdog & Poison Garden

check it out here:

Steampunk Hands Around The World VIII. Music



   It’s time to listen to some Steampunk music. Let’s talk about it with three groups from around Europe: Victor Sierra, BB Black Dog and Poison Garden.
   First of all, let me introduce them:
   BB Black Dog:
– Axel Bolt, 6’9” (over 2 metres) German Drummer,
– Molly May Hooper, Dancer Backing Vocalist and 5 string Bass player
– Sven Breuel, 5 String Bass Player, Producer Backing Vocals
And Myself,
– Dale Rowles, 4 string Bass and Vocals
   BB Back Dog started completely by accident, I was doing session work, and the Trade shows, showing off instruments, and Met Stefan (the original 5 string bass player) through a friend in Germany, he came over to the UK to sell some of his guitars (his day job was a guitar builder), we had a jam with 2 bass’s for a laugh, next thing I knew, Early in 2007 I was Invited over to Germany to write and record a few songs, we used the studio session drummer, did 6 songs in 3 Days and I thought that would be the end of it, but they were very well liked on a German web site, so we decided to get a regular drummer (Enter Axel) and do a full Album, so by June 2007, we Had an Album, and our first Gigs, Stefan left in 2010 touring and the work load too much for him, being a single farther, and 2 replacements Later we now have Sven and Molly.
   Poison Garden:
   We are 4 Italian musicians and steampunk lovers:
– Madame Anais Noir @ vocals/bass
– Sir Damian White @ guitar
– Professor Psi @ guitar
– The Pilot @ drums
   The project started in 2012 when I and Damian, my husband (the guitar player) attended a show of Emily Autumn in Florence. We remained really impressed by the expressive potentiality of the Victorian world that she recreated on stage and we started to conceive this project.
   Inspired by the passion that we have always had for steampunk settings, we decided to create a Steampunk band: we started to write new songs and we involved two well-experienced musicians we already knew (the drummer and the other guitarist) that remained fascinated by the tracks and by the plot that connects them.
   That’s how Poison Garden was born!
   Commander Bob, Big Machine and The Legendary Converted Princess (Anouk) are the crew members of The Hydrogen Queen, well known as the airship and the HQ of Victor Sierra.
   Commander Bob: I’m the Hydrogen Queen’s Commander. I like Bourbon and conversations where questions are the answers to questions. As Victor Sierra’s leader I convert improbable ideas into impossible visions. As far as I can remember, music has always been central in my life. I was composing in my head before having even touched an instrument. I have been through several musical trends and I formed several bands. It has been a drag until I met Anouk and we formed Victor Sierra.
   Victor Sierra is a universe. People who’ve been following us know about that. Our music is fuelled by a lot of substances of various geographical historical and artistic origins. Several languages are used and our songs are made of everything available either physical or digital or anything that comes in useful. West East North and South are meeting in our world. Our compass varies now and then and the magnetic north is not always what it used to be. And last but not least we are a DIY band.
The Legendary Converted Princess: I love poetry of the living past, rum, distorted guitar sounds and oceans of every hue. Creator of fabric from the breathe of steam engines. I’m renowned for my disagreements with the commander — enjoys challenging him with my intelligent arguments. Actually I’m not a princess!!! But perhaps I’m one in the end! I was an actress, and I became a vocalist when I met Bob. Since then I’ve had a child and I became a fashion designer… In Victor Sierra I’m all of these at the same time. I could say I put myself together… So I must be a Princess after all.
   I would like to mention Victor Sierra‘s lyrics. They are not only sounds but ideas. Stories to listen to. A journey everyone can make. You should have a look to “La carte des mondes perdus” (the map of lost worlds) in our last video (Yesterday’s Tomorrow).
   Big Machine: I’m a self-made cyborg constructed from parts of unknown origin and a long time trans-humanist member of the Difference Engine League. The master of interpreting future and past in existing time anomalies. I enjoy analogical lullabies, coffee black as night.
   I love new wave, cold wave, no wave, 60’s garage punk, blues, electro, ambient, dark ambient and Krautrock. Victor Sierra was created before I came in but their sound pleased me…
   Victor Sierra is when future comes knockin’at your door…
   What are your influences? How is your sound?
   BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): As I write the songs, I suppose it my influences coming out, Grew up with Glam, T rex Bowie etc, and moved into Rock, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Cream etc, but quite diverse in My tastes after that, so Shades of many things get into the Mix, but always my rock Psychedelic roots come out, we just make music we like, so its quite diverse in style and genre, but always our sound thanks to the 2 bass line-up.
   Poison Garden: We are obviously influenced by the Music we like when composing. We are all rock/metal fans 😉
   Victor Sierra:
   Commander Bob: Very difficult to answer. I won’t say that nobody influenced me. I can tell you what artists I love in the steampunk community but whether it is out of friendship or out of a real artistic influence I could not say… Vernian Process, Clockwork Dolls, Escape the Clouds… As I already mentioned I would rather speak of retro-futurism. That includes steampunk, dieselpunk. About the industrial aspect we not only love machine sounds but industrial archaeology as well.
   The Legendary Converted Princess: Let me briefly explain where I come from, musically speaking. My musical culture dates back to my childhood: “La Chanson Française”. I have a true tenderness for the realistic song “à la Piaf”. Perhaps a bit cliché but totally sincere. Then I experienced the big blow of the new wave, along with Eastern tunes and central Europe songs that have a highly emotional impact on me.
   Big Machine: Gary Numan’s my hero! And also Bowie, Bauhaus, Eno, Virgin Prunes, Tuxedo moon, Thomas Dolby and all the Krautrock movement.
   Your mission is to mix modern rock/metal with Steampunk elements. Do you really think that is possible to do it in your sound, in your music?
   Well, we always keep in mind, when composing, that our music should sound like the music that a gramophone would have played if rock was born in an “alternative” 19th century where future had arrived earlier…
   We translate this in music by mixing the most modern tendencies in rock (scream vocals, downtuned instruments for example) with classical instruments and soundscapes that auditorily recreate specific settings.
   Why Steampunk? Why is it important for you?
   We are under the spell of steampunk aesthetic since years ago. Our interest started years ago when we started to notice steampunk hints in mainstream movies as for example Back to the future 3, Wild Wild West, Steamboy or Hellboy.
   We then deepened our interest in the following years and this lead us to found a steampunk band.
   Talking about Steam/Diesel, is it important for your music? How do you feel it as a group?
   Never set out to be a Steampunk Band, just kind of got adopted, I used to wear a tuxedo a lot on stage, and when Stefan left, John who took over wears tweeds, and often a leather Cap, with Axel in Pink cowboy Hat, people started calling us Steampunks, I’m mad on Sci-Fi, and we knew Steampunks but didn’t realize it at the time, just thought they were Goths into Victorian outfits, but once we learned more, we really found a place that we belong , so added to the outfits etc, embraced it fully, and never looked back, doing all we can to promote steampunk, we don’t really play Songs about steampunk a lot though, plenty of Bands doing that, just play songs about life, love and always with a Joke and a smile, so I suppose we’re Steampunks playing music rather than people playing steampunk music, whatever that is.
   The most important part of Victor Sierra, I think, is that you’re very interested on multicultural. You sing in Spanish, English, German, Yiddish… why is it so important for you?
   We have been using multilingual lyrics way before finding out about steampunk. Each language has its own particular way to express things. Now, about aiming at the international market it’s definitely deliberate. France is not a country with big musical traditions. Meaning, there is obviously musical creation but you can’t bump into a bar round every corner with a band mounting its gear at 5 pm. Our albums get a lot more reviews in the UK, the US, Canada and South America. Victor Sierra is more famous abroad than here.
   Trying to define Steampunk music is complicated. Some people even say that there’s no Steampunk music. Some people say that it’s just aesthetic. What do you think about it?
   BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): There’s purists that go on about only Victorian instruments, and those that say the lyrics must be about steampunk, but the beauty of Steampunk is there are very few rules really, so If Steampunks play music, and Steampunks Like it, then its steampunk music
   Poison Garden: We believe that wearing a top-hat or a brown corset cannot be the only way of expressing steampunk for a Band.
Of course aesthetic is important but a Band aiming to be considered as Steampunk should also try to find its personal way of translating it into something you can also “hear” not only “see”.
   Victor Sierra:
   Commander Bob: Well… when Big Machine joined the band two years ago, he told us about Steampunk. We had never heard of it before. So we goggled it and all of a sudden we found out that we were not alone, at last… Everything seemed so familiar to us… The dystopia, the “uchronical” visions, the outfits ands contraptions, the mix of genres… The encounter of romance and technology. Victor Sierra has been a steampunk band from the beginning without us being actually aware. But you already mentioned that Dieselpunk does attract me, as well. That’s how we came to create the Airship Hydrogen Queen -of which I’m the Commander! I would rather speak of retro-futurism. It’s yesterday’s tomorrow.
   The Legendary Converted Princess: Let me talk about the beginning… All at once was there, clothes, music, jewellery, the universe… At one point we were suggested we were steampunk, a click on Google to understand what it was about and we realized we were at the right place, home…
   Big Machine: We had been playing for a while when I realized: Victor Sierra is a retro-futuristic band. We are Steamers but we don’t know it yet! It really changed my life… I’ve known Steampunk culture for 25 years… I was kinda cyberpunk in the early 90’s. Very much into technology and computers but Steam culture definitely brought a little bit of aesthetic into it!
   In what way(s) do you participate in the Steampunk Genre/fandom?
   We’ve played at or helped out at about every steampunk event there is in Europe at some point, helped to get a lot of them going, as well as running 3 events a year (4 this year with the Steampunk Experience) at Alt Fest, made a lot of friends and go out on Fun days as often as we can when we’re not playing, it’s a great community and very supportive of each other on the whole, people at our “Normal “ Gigs often think the Steampunks there are just dressing like us, as Fans, but nowadays there’s a lot more coverage so people get it more, can’t count how many converts we’ve made like that, once people see us the fun we have and the outfits people come in, there’s always a fairly good splattering of people in full dress at out gigs now, playing the Mainstream festivals, has spread the word a lot, Always getting asked how people can get involved/join groups, and for more information.
   You’re from Italy; so, how is the Steampunk community there?
   Steampunk community in Italy is growing these days. We have many small groups of steampunk lovers spread all over our country; they are especially focused on role-playing games and they meet in occasion of live games or comics fairs.
   We really hope that the opportunities of meeting each other will increase in the following years.
   Do you think community is important? What does it means for you?
   BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): The DIY make it yourself, and recycling element, is defiantly a positive thing, as is the Be Nice to people ethos that surrounds steampunk,, it provides a release and fantasy for some people and a creative vehicle for others, I suppose for me it’s a little of all those, plus an accepting Community for our Music, that doesn’t fit into the normal Box’s.
   Poison Garden: In our view community is really important. The closer we are the bigger we grow and the more attention we catch. That’s why we decided to take part to Steampunk Hands Around The Word.
   We have always supported steampunk in every form of expression because we think it’s time to inform the word about our passion and to spread it.
   Becoming a community it’s the best way to do it.
   Let’s bring steampunk on the streets!!!
   Victor Sierra: Steampunk has an aesthetic function and a philosophical one. Steampunk – and above it retro-futurism – should remain clear of these bad habits of such superficiality. I have attended events – as myself or as Commander Bob performing with Victor Sierra – and I regularly notice that people are keener to photograph one another than discover the richness of what we’re talking about. We all know that Steampunkers are meticulous about costume and appearance but particularly in Europe, appearance can sometimes be of more import than the philosophy behind it. Speaking more specifically of community I would say that the sense of it and the behaviour attached to it isn’t that frequent in Europe. It’s more of a clannish, clique-like way of living here.  In the UK it seems that having an important community spirit is as it can be seen in the US. It is rather ironic that Steampunk’s imaginative roots are European but it blooms mostly on the other side of the pond.
   What do you think about your time spent in the group… what do you love most of it? What was your best moment?
   BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): Ups and Downs, Stefan leaving was a big Downer for me, as we started the journey together, also had all our equipment stolen just before Xmas 2012, really knocked us back, but carried on, thanks to fans and friends donations, with over 600 gigs in the 7 years, there’s been a lot of great times too, the 2 US tours, and the Big Festivals are some of the best moments, but I love it all.
   Poison Garden: We lived a lot of different important moments together. It’s not easy to pick one!
   In this first year of activity we participated to festivals, we have been asked for autographs, we received drawings representing ourselves, we heard foreign radio channels playing our songs, we composed and rehearsed for hours and hours and we saw people head-banging during our live shows but, maybe, the best moment remains Steampact – First Italian Steampunk Festival – where we met the first people that believed in our project and that later also became friends of ours.
   Victor Sierra: Without any doubt Steampunk World’s Fair in the US. We did it in less time that it takes to say it. In a big week end. Taking off from Paris, landing in JFK, New-York, speeding by night on an American highway, performing there several gigs and back here wanting nothing more than go back and start it all over… Such a dream man!

BB Black
Poison Garden:
Victor Sierra:We want to announce that we will open a new website soon. In the meantime, you can “like us” on Facebook:

Next day: Jewellery

* *
   Ha llegado el momento de escuchar un poco de música Steampunk. Hablemos con una representación de la música que suena en Europa a través de tres conocidas bandas: Victor SierraBB Black Dog y Poison Garden.
   Antes de nada, dejemos que se presenten:
   BB Black Dog:
   Formada por Axel Bolt, Molly May Hooper, Sven Breuel, y Dale Rowles, quien responde la entrevista.
   BB Back Dog surgió por accidente, cuando conocí a Stefan (el anterior bajo) a través de un amigo en Alemania. Stefan se dedicaba a hacer guitarras, así que vino a Inglaterra para vender unas cuantas y así nos hicimos buenos amigos. En poco tiempo ya estaba en Alemania, en 2007, para escribir y grabar seis canciones en tres días. Pensaba que aquello sería todo, pero funcionaron tan bien en una web alemana que decidimos hacernos con un batería (Enter Axel) y grabar un álbum completo. Así que para Junio ya teníamos listo un álbum y los primeros bolos. Stefan dejó el grupo en 2010 pero, tras dos sustitutos, dimos con Sven y Molly.
   Poison Garden:
   Somos cuatro músicos y Steampunks de Italia: sir Damian White y el profesor Psi, guitarristas; el piloto, batería; y yo, madame Anais Noir, soy la voz y el bajo.
   El proyecto comenzó en 2012 cuando Damian y yo, mi pareja, fuimos a ver a Emily Autumn a Florence. Nos impresionó tanto la expresividad del mundo victoriano que ella recreaba en el escenario que empezamos a trazar el proyecto.
   Inspirados por la pasión que siempre tuvimos por el Steampunk, decidimos crear una banda con esta estética: empezamos escribiendo canciones nuevas y luego involucramos a dos músicos de experiencia que ya conocíamos (un batería y otro guitarrista) y que se quedaron fascinados por los nuevos temas y las historias que los conectaban.
   ¡Así nació Poison Garden!
   Por último, el comandante Bob, Big Machine y The Legendary Converted Princess (Anouk) son la tripulación de The Hydrogen Queen, más conocido por ser la aeronave y el Cuartel General de Victor Sierra.
   Comandante Bob: Soy el comandante. Me gusta el bourbon y las conversaciones en las que las preguntas son las respuestas a las preguntas. Como líder de Victor Sierra convierto ideas improbables en visiones imposibles. Hasta donde puedo recordar, la música siempre ha sido importante en mi vida. Componía en mi cabeza antes incluso de aprender a tocar. He pasado por muchas tendencias y he formado muchas bandas, lo que me llevó a conocer a Anouk y formar Victor Sierra.
   Victor Sierra es un universo. La gente que nos sigue lo sabe. El combustible de nuestra música proviene de diferentes orígenes artísticos, históricos o geográficos. En nuestras canciones usamos muchos idiomas y están hechas de cualquier cosa disponible, sea física digital o lo que resulte útil. Oeste, Este, Norte y Sur se encuentran en nuestro mundo. Nuestra brújula baile y en norte magnético no siempre está donde debería. Y por último pero no menos importante: somos una banda DIY.
The Legendary Converted Princess: Me gusta la poesía de revivir el pasado, el ron, el sonido de las guitarras distorsionadas y los océanos de todos los tonos. Mis desacuerdos con el comandante son célebres: me encanta retarlo con argumentos ingeniosos. ¡Realmente, no soy una princesa! ¡Quizá si lo sea! Fui actriz y empecé a cantar al conocer a Bob. Desde entonces he tenido un niño y empecé como diseñadora de moda… En Victor Sierra soy todo eso a la vez. Podría decir que me hice a mí misma… así que quizá sea una princesa, después de todo.
   Me gustaría hacer una mención especial a nuestras letras. Son ideas, no solo sonidos. Historias para escuchar. Un viaje que cualquiera puede hacer. Deberías echar un vistazo a “La carte des mondes perdus” (el mapa de los mundos perdidos), en nuestro último vídeo: Yesterday’s Tomorrow.
   Big Machine: Soy un cíborg que se hizo a sí mismo con partes de origen desconocido y, desde hace mucho, miembro transhumanista de la Liga de la Máquina Diferencial. El amo de la interpretación del futuro y del pasado en anomalías temporales. Me gustan las canciones de cuna analógicas y el café negro como la noche.
   Me encanta la new wave, el garage punk de los 60, el blues, electro, ambient, dark ambient y Krautrock. Victor Sierra fue creado ante de que yo entrase pero me encantó su sonido…
   Victor Sierra es cuando el futuro llama a tu puerta…
   —¿Cuáles son vuestras influencias? ¿Cómo es vuestro sonido?
   BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): Como soy quien compone, supongo que mis influencias vienen de Glam, T rex, Bowie… y pasan por rock, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Cream… Son muchas influencias, pero siempre salen mis raíces del rock psicodélico. Hacemos la música que nos gusta, así que hago música muy diversa en estilo y género, pero siempre gracias a la formación de dos bajos.
   Poison Garden: Estamos claramente influenciados por la música que nos gusta. Somos todos fans del rock y el metal. 😉
   Victor Sierra:
   Comandante Bob: Difícil de responder. No puedo decir que nadie me influencia. Puedo decirte quiénes me gustan en la comunidad Steampunk pero no sabría decir… Vernian Process, The Clockwork Dolls, Escape the Clouds… Como ya dije, me gustaría mencionar el retrofuturismo, lo que incluye Steampunk, Dieselpunk… Sobre el aspecto industrial no solo nos encantan los sonidos metálicos sino también la arqueología industrial.
   The Legendary Converted Princess: Brevemente, déjame explicarte primero de dónde vengo, musicalmente hablando. Mi cultura musical viene de mi infancia: “La Chanson Française”. Siento profunda ternura por las canciones “à la Piaf” (Edith Piaf). Un poco topicazo, pero totalmente sincero. Luego, experimenté la llegada de la New Wave, con sonidos del este y canciones centroeuropeas que me causaron un impacto emocional muy grande.
   Big Machine: ¡Gary Numan es mi héroe! Y además Bowie, Bauhaus, Eno, Virgin Prunes, Tuxedo moon, Thomas Dolby y Krautrock.
   —Vuestra misión consiste en mezclar rock/metal moderno con elementos Steampunk. ¿De verdad lo creéis posible?
   Bueno, siempre tenemos en mente, al componer, que nuestra música debería sonar como la música de gramófono que sonaría si el rock hubiese nacido en un XIX alternativo. Traducimos esta idea en música mezclando las más modernas tendencias en rock con instrumentos clásicos y sonidos que recrea escenas específicas al oído.
   Why Steampunk? Why is it important for you?
   Hace años que estamos bajo el hechizo de su estética. Nuestro interés comenzó hace muchos años, cuando empezamos a oír sobre el tema en películas como Regreso al Futuro III, Wild Wild West, Steamboy o Hellboy. Nuestro interés creció con los años y esto nos llevó a crear la banda.
   —Hablando sobre Steam/Diesel, ¿para vosotros también es importante? ¿Cómo lo sentís como grupo?
   Nunca nos lanzamos como banda Steampunk, simplemente fue algo adoptado. Yo salía mucho con un esmoquin al escenario y cuando Stefan se marchó John empezó a llevar tweeds o y a veces una gorra de piel y Axel un sombrero de vaquero. Entonces la gente empezó a llamarnos Steampunks. Yo soy un loco de la ciencia ficción, así que cuando conocía el Steampunk pero todavía no me había dado cuenta de lo que era. Creía que eran góticos en ropajes victorianos, pero una vez aprendí sobre el tema, encontré mi hogar. Así que añadimos la ropa, nos envolvimos en ellos y nunca miramos atrás, haciendo lo posible por promover el Steampunk. Realmente, nunca tocamos sobre Steampunk, y muchas bandas haciéndolo. Solo tocamos sobre la vida, el amor y siempre con bromas y sonrisas. Así que supongo que somos Steampunk tocando música más que gente tocando Steampunk, sea lo que sea eso.
   —Lo más importante de Victor Sierra, según creo, es que le da mucha importancia a lo multicultural. Cantáis en español, inglés, alemán, yiddish… ¿por qué es tan importante para vosotros?
   Hemos estado usando letras en varios idiomas desde antes de saber sobre Steampunk. Cada idioma tiene su particular forma de expresar las cosas. Ahora, pensando en el mercado internacional, es totalmente deliberado. Francia no es un país con una gran tradición musical. Hay creación musical, por supuesto, pero no puedes toparte con bandas tocando en cada esquina a las cinco de la tarde. Nuestros álbumes tienen muchas reseñas en Reino Unido, Estados Unidos, Canadá, Sudamérica. Victor Sierra es más famoso fuera que allí.
   —Tratar de hacer esta definición es difícil. Alguna gente dice que no existe. Otros dicen que es solo cuestión de estética. ¿Qué opináis vosotros?
   BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): Hay puristas que solo tocan instrumentos de época, y aquellos que dicen que en la letra debe haber Steampunk… pero la belleza del Steampunk es que hay muy pocas reglas que seguir. Así que si un Steampunk toca música y le gusta el Steampunk. Entonces, hace música Steampunk.
   Poison Garden: Nosotros creemos que llevar una chistera o un corsé marrón no son las únicas formas de expresión para una banda. Por supuesto, la estética es importante, pero una banda que quiera ser conocida como Steampunk también debería tratar de encontrar su forma de “traducirlo” en algo que pueda ser “escuchado” y no solo “visto”.
   Victor Sierra:
   Comandante Bob: Bueno, cuando Big Machine se nos unió hace un par de años, nos habló sobre Steampunk. Nunca lo habíamos oído antes. Así que buscamos del tema y pronto descubrimos que no estábamos solos, al menos… Todo nos parecía tan familiar… La distopía, las visiones ucrónicas, las vestimentas y los artefactos, la mezcla de géneros… El cruce entre romance y tecnología. Victor Sierra había sido una banda Steampunk desde sus inicios sin saberlo. Tú has mencionado que el Dieselpunk también me atrae. Así fue como creé la aeronave Hydrogen Queen —¡de la que soy comandante! Estamos hablando de retrofuturismo. Es el mañana del ayer.
   The Legendary Converted Princess: Déjame hablar de nuestros inicios… Al principio todo estaba ahí: ropa, música, joyería, el universo… En un momento dado nos sugirieron que éramos Steampunk, un clic en Google bastó para entender qué era y darnos cuenta de que estábamos en el lugar correcto, en casa…
   Big Machine: Llevábamos ya un tiempo tocando cuando me di cuenta: Victor Sierra es una banda retrofuturista. ¡Somos Steampunks pero no lo sabíamos! Cambió mi vida… Yo sabía de la cultura Steampunk desde hacía 25 años… Yo estaba metido en el cyberpunk en los 90. Muy metido en tecnología y ordenadores. ¡Pero la cultura Steampunk definitivamente trajo un poco de estética al tema!
   —¿Cómo participáis en el género/fandom Steampunk?
   Lo hemos estado tocando o promoviendo en cada evento al que vamos en toda Europa, ayudando a llevar a cabo muchos de ellos, y organizar tres eventos al año (cuatro, este años, con la Steampunk Experience) en el Alt Fest, haciendo un montón de amigos.
   Es una gran comunidad y muy hospitalaria. La gente, en nuestros bolos “normales” solía pensar que los Steampunk son solo gente vestida como nosotros, como fans, pero ahora que es mucho más conocido, no puedo contar cuánta gente hemos convertido. Se ha difundido mucho y ahora siempre hay quien nos pregunta cómo puede unirse a grupos o mezclarse más en el Steampunk y nos pide más información.
   —Vosotros sois de Italia. ¿Cómo es allí la comunidad?
   La comunidad Steampunk en Italia está creciendo. Tenemos muchos grupos pequeños extendiéndose por todo el país, centrados especialmente en juegos de rol y, en ocasiones, hacen quedadas para juegos en vivo o ferias del cómic.
   Tenemos la esperanza de que las oportunidades de conocernos aumenten en los próximos años.
   —¿Y creéis que la comunidad es importante ¿Qué significa para vosotros?
   BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): El DIY y el reciclaje son cosas buenas, así como los valores que caracterizan al Steampunk. Aporta libertad y escapismo para unos y es vehículo creativo para otros. Supongo que para mí es un poco de ambos, además de una comunidad aceptable para nuestra música. No suele ser lo común.
   Poison Garden: Desde nuestro punto de vista es muy importante. Cuanto más nos unimos más crecemos y más atención atraemos. Por eso hemos decidido unirnos a Steampunk Hands Around The Word.
   Siempre hemos ayudado al Steampunk en todas sus formas de expresión porque creemos que es hora de dar a conocer al mundo nuestra pasión y difundirla; y convertirnos en una gran comunidad es la mejor forma de lograrlo…
   ¡Llevemos el Steampunk a la calle!
   Victor Sierra: El Steampunk tiene una función estética y una filosófica. El Steampunk (y sobre todo, el retrofuturismo) deberían deshacerse de los malos hábitos de lo superficial. He ido a evento (como yo mismo o como comandante con el grupo) y suelo ver que la gente está más dispuesta a hacerse fotos que a descubrir la riqueza de la que hablamos. Todos sabemos que los Steampunks son meticulosos en el vestir y en su apariencia pero, particularmente en Europa, a veces la apariencia es considerada más importante que la filosofía que hay detrás. Hablando más específicamente de la comunidad debería decir que su importancia y el comportamiento adjunto no son tan frecuentes en Europa. Aquí está más basada en grupitos. En Reino Unido parece que tienen un espíritu de comunidad más como se ve en Estados Unidos. Es bastante irónico que las raíces imaginarias del Steampunk sean europeas pero florezcan sobre todo en el otro lado del charco.
   —Cuando pensáis en el tiempo vivido con vuestros respectivos grupos, ¿qué es lo que más os gusta? ¿Cuál fue vuestro mejor momento?
   BB Black Dog (Dale Rowles): Hay altos y bajos. Cuando Stefan dejó el grupo fue un momento malo para mí, ya que había empezado el viaje juntos; cuando no robaron todo el equipamiento justo antes de las Navidades de 2012 fue un golpe duro, pero salimos adelante gracias a los fans y a donaciones de amigos.
   Más de 600 bolos en siete años, las dos giras por los Estados Unidos y los Big Festival han sido de los buenos momentos.
   Poison Garden: Vivimos muchos momentos importantes juntos. ¡No es fácil escoger uno solo!
   Este primer año de actividad participamos en festivales, nos pidieron autógrafos, nos regalaron dibujos de nosotros, escuchamos radios extranjeras tocando nuestra música, compusimos y ensayamos durante horas y horas y vimos a la gente bailando durante nuestras actuaciones pero el mejor momento, quizá, sea el Steampact Fest: el First Italian Steampunk Festival, donde conocimos a las primeras personas que creyeron en nosotros y terminaron por convertirse en buenos amigos.
   Victor Sierra: Sin duda fue el Steampunk World’s Fair en Estados Unidos. Lo logramos en menos tiempo del que lleva decirlo. En un grandioso fin de semana. Salimos de París, aterrizamos en JFK (Nueva York), pasamos la noche en la autopista, tocamos en varios bolos y volvimos sin querer otra cosa que volver y empezar de nuevo… ¡Todo un sueño, tío!

BB Black
Poison Garden:
Victor Sierra:Aprovechamos para anunciar que tendremos un nuevo sitio en Internet dentro de poco. Mientras tanto, vayan a darle al “Me Gusta” en Facebook:

La próxima entrevista será con… joyeros


Blackbird Raum interviewed in New Noise~

Blackbird Raum interviewed in New Noise~

Check it out here:

and check out these video by the band:

Interview: Blackbird Raum Explain “Shot Coplifting”

Interview by Gerard Dia

Remember when you first heard the term ‘folk-punk’ and you imagined what that would be like in your head, and when you finally heard it it wasn’t like that at all? This is the band that you were imagining.

Blackbird Raum’s fast tempos, epic chord progressions, and oddly poetic lyrics have won them a dedicated following worldwide, but not much attention from the music press- maybe because people aren’t exactly sure where to put them. They’re all- acoustic, and play their instruments with the ease of people who know folk traditions, but they’re sketchy anarcho- punks that would look more at home at an Amebix concert than a bluegrass festival. This year Blackbird Raum exploded back onto the scene with a new album, False Weavers, and a five- month tour after a semi-hiatus for a few years. I spoke to them last week after a free show at the Albany Bulb squatter community where they played in the pitch black to a wild crowd of hip Oakland punks awkwardly rubbing shoulders with deadheads, crust lords, and old folkies. Even though none of them probably felt like they fit in, they all did, perfectly.

It seemed like nothing was happening with you guys for a couple of years, then False Weavers comes out and you’re touring for five months all over the planet. Where did this new energy come from?

Mars: I think our new energy came from anger, darkness, and hate- but in more of a “darkness of the womb” kind of way. Our lives were pretty difficult, our band dynamics were difficult, and we put a lot of work into keeping it all together. Our shadows needed space to exist on their own, and that’s a pretty fertile place for creative endeavors. The music and energy just rose up out of that. When we made that record, we fought like crazy. We tried weird new things, we argued, we yelled, we cried, and then when it was time to mix it all, we got along great. It’s really powerful to take something dark and instead of denying it or hiding it, giving it space and embracing it.

I’ve always felt that you guys were doing something truly unique, but how is that reflected in your audience? When you go out on tour who do you play with and who comes to your shows?

CPN: Last year I tie-dyed some shirts for us, and I realized that we’re probably the only band that would sell tie- dyes to Olympia punks as this ironic thing and also to actual hippies, who you know, wear tie-dye on purpose. It made me really happy. It’s always been important for me to do things that weren’t just for über-hip clued in people, but that were respected by people who are into art as such. It doesn’t really always work out… I have people come up to me and complain about the audience, like there are too many “hipsters” or “oogles” or “hippies” or some other type of person here, as if I sent out personal invitations! As far as other bands are concerned, we try not to play with other bands too much. I think it just confuses the audience. We played with Sangre de Muerdago in Leipzig, though. They’re incredible.

Zack: When punks bring their parents or their children (or both!), or their piano teachers, we are feeling cool. We play with punk bands, and folk bands (or more often, folk dudes). We always try to play with Lynched, from Ireland. They are the best band to be around.

So are you guys hippies or what?

CPN: Like other derogatory terms, hippie is fine when we use it on ourselves, but it’s not ok for others outside of our community to call us that. I can spend all day eating salads, smoking weed and then kissing girls with armpit hair, but don’t call ME a hippie.

Mars: We’re not not hippies.

Zack: Hippy has become synonymous with vapid new-age positive-vibes-merchant. In this respect we are not hippies, because of the purely negative nature of our message. In the past, hippies were just confused but disaffected youth who dressed weird, hated capitalism, shot guns, listened to rock and roll, did drugs and believed in dolphins. I don’t think we believe in dolphin power.

False Weavers almost has a psychedelic feel at times. How are the fans liking the new sound?

CPN: it seems sort of galvanizing. So far there have been only two responses, this is great and what the fuck are you doing. It’s such a weird thing to write music that people already have a built up expectation about. People talking about new directions and all that crap, there is no new direction, other than this is what we thought was cool the week we were in the studio and this is the level we were able to pull that off at that time.

What’s the most pretentious way you could describe your music?

CPN: All- acoustic pseudo-medieval anarcho- punk, a Max Ernst collage that juxtaposes post-modern absurdist horror with re-constituted images from the past, albeit stripped of their sentimentality. Almost as if nothing musical happened in the west between Memphis in 1925 and London in 1982.

Zack: I play accordion.

What’s the least?

Zack: I play accordion.

CPN: Folk punk…folk punk band.

Punk music today has a really different feel than it did during the Fugazi- era. What is the shape of politics in underground music? Is sincerity dead?

CPN:I always think of punk has having these two faces. You’ve got this Ramones gum chewing leather jacket wearing sarcastic trip. It’s all about this kind of ironical fuck you cult of youth thing, and then you have this sort of Crass- derived all black pissed off about the state of the world paranoid trip. There’s sort of a trap built into each of those things. Are you going to be this zippy little shit that only cares about yourself, or are you going to be some self- righteous lunatic with lentils in your beard? It seems things have swung back towards the Ramones side of the pendulum, and even crust bands aren’t singing about politics anymore. I miss politics in music, because I’m still pissed and I’ve read enough to know what I’m pissed about…but I don’t really miss going to shows where everyone is scowling and handing out badly photocopied pamphlets. I also don’t miss the soup.

Zack: No, it’s just moved on. I got into anarchism through punk rock, and there are still bands out there doing that, which is great, but there’s a ton of people who are interested in expanding musically, so you also have politically radical cumbia, hip-hop, zydeco, pop-music, etc, and of course people continuing the older tradition of radical politics in folk music. When musicians take their own music and imbue a radical message into it, that is beautiful and inspiring, but when political people try to take up instruments to make their message more palatable, it usually fails.

CPN: Which one are we again?

Zack: Right?

Do people think political music is boring now?

Mars: It’s pretty hard to take something heavy and complex like politics and mix it with music without being preachy or boring. Add to that the fact that probably 90% of most genres suck in general. I don’t know what people think is boring, some people like shit that I think is hella boring, like sitting on Facebook all day and eating Cheetos. I think a lot of people feel like something is wrong in the world, even if it doesn’t directly affect them.  It’s not a secret that our band is disgusted by things like people locked up in prisons, and the destruction of the planet for profit. Some people relate to that. And if anyone thinks it’s boring, there’s always Taylor Swift.

CPN: It’s a trip going to Europe, because political punk is a major thing over there still. In the states sometimes we goof it up a little, we don’t want to come off as converts right? But a lot of places in Europe it was like “you better take this shit seriously; it’s war man!” In Germany people call the cops to report fake accidents and then just beat the living daylights out of them when they show up. So you know, different context.

Zack: Yes.

You guys recently toured Poland. Can you tell me a little about your gigs there?

Zack: At two different shows we met people who claimed to be ‘our biggest fan in Poland.’ In Warsaw I stayed up with three totally wasted punks who just sang polish folk songs as long as they could sit upright, and in Lublin our hosts took a couple of us on a tour of abandoned buildings in the historic area, including one with a piano. Nothing quite like trying to stay awake as the sun is coming up in some fucking ruins while Dorothy from Gembrokers plays a waltz on an out-of-tune piano and some songbirds join in; it’s like crimethinc.

Needless to say, I completely slept through Krakow the next day.

CPN: We played at this squat in downtown Lublin, like right in the historic district, and It’s got these huge banners, really nicely printed, with pictures of the mayor, the local bishop, the chief of police and the quotes under say “This guy embezzled money from a children’s program” or “The chief of police has such and such connections with Neo Nazis.” It was awesome. You know those guys have to walk under those banners on their way to work! When the shows are over everyone gets drunk and starts singing these old polish songs and there is always some asshole who’s like “shut up! I’ve heard that one a thousand times!” and then he turns around and cranks up the ska.

What music is on heavy rotation in the tour van?

Zack: Pallbearer, Arctic Flowers, Chumbawamba, Planxty, Gucci Mane.

CPN: Zounds, Lee Perry and other old reggae sides, The Smiths, and when we’re in a bad mood we listen to Imogen Heap.

Zack: …Or if it’s raining.

Mars: For reals though, I don’t have that many cd’s or ipods. It sucks. Oh, Tuvan throat singing.

Zack and CPN: Ulver.

You often have a sort of criminal air about your music, what is “shot coplifting” all about?

Mars: We were squatters. We scammed the bus. We stole most of the things we needed, or found them in the trash. It was easy to go days without using money. We had a game and you lost if you paid for something. Our band came out of a scene of people like that. In retrospect, I think I was doing a kinda normal thing, which is trying something to an extreme to figure out where the balance was. As an anarchist, I had to learn for myself how to relate to money and the law in a way that honors my values and isn’t reactionary, disrespectful to people around me, or just plain risky and labor intensive.

Zack: I’m just mad I got busted waahhh…

CPN: When we started, almost everything we had was ripped off, found laying around or whatever. This includes accordions. The CDs our demos were on, whatever. Sometimes we would dress up nice to go out and steal stuff; it was called “khakiflouge.” It’s fun to talk about crime like it’s all in the past.

Zack: We’re really into spoonerisms, and sometimes when we’re about to play that song, I try to spoonerize the name. Never works.

CPN: I’m just mad I got busted waahhh..

I’ve heard that you guys play music for squaredances sometimes? What’s that like?

Mars: It’s great. Talk about different than a Blackbird Raum show. You play super fast for like 3 hours. One time I got tendonitis from playing a dance right before a tour, and I could hardly move my hand. I had to play the first couple of shows with a pick taped to my fingers. It was sick.

Zack: Actually, we have thrown squaredances AT Blackbird Raum shows, which is always fun and always a mess, and we also have had them outside of that completely. When we have played (or called, which is actually what I do) at more traditional square-or-contra-dances, there is notably less chaos. I don’t want to say there is less fun at a more traditional-style dance, but it’s hard to beat a bunch of filthy punks do-si-doing their partners all around the hall.

CPN: I really encourage people not to squaredance anymore.

Purchase False Weavers here:  |

Blackbird Raum Tour Dates:
2/13/2014 Santa Cruz, CA @ Crepe Place
4/1/2014 Las Vegas, NV @ Hellpop Comics
4/3/2014 Denver, CO @ Seventh Circle
4/8/2014 New Orleans, LA @ Siberia w/ Lynched
4/11/2014 Austin, TX @ Spiderhouse
4/15/2014 Flagstaff, AZ @ Taala Hooghan
4/18/2014 Pomona, CA @ VLHS
4/19/2014 Los Angeles, CA @ CHURCH OF F.U.N
8/18/2014 Machais. ME @ Blackfly Ball
8/29/2014 Cookeville TN @ Muddy Roots Music Fest

The Tiger Lillies in the Guardian~

The Tiger Lillies in the Guardian~

The Tiger Lillies meet Lulu: the ultimate fallen woman

The trio’s cabaret is the stuff of nightmares – so it was only a matter of time before they brought their squeezebox and falsetto to Wedekind’s femme fatale, in their new show for Opera North


tiger lillies lulu murder ballad martyn jacques

‘I’ve avoided Lulu for fear of what she might unleash in me’ … the Tiger Lillies’ Martyn Jacques with Laura Caldow in Lulu: A Murder Ballad. Photograph: Tom Arber


Martyn Jacques could easily be mistaken for a Victorian pickpocket, right down to his scruffy tails and raffish bowler hat. Given the macabre, vaudevillian flavour of the Tiger Lillies, the cult cabaret trio he founded and fronts, this isn’t too inappropriate. But rehearsals for the band’s latest project, Lulu: A Murder Ballad, haven’t actually started yet. We’re sitting in a cafe opposite Leeds bus station – and Jacques’s funereal demeanour is receiving some very curious looks.

“I’m not that well known,” he says. “But I do tend to attract famous people.” Celebrity fans of the Tiger Lillies include comedy legend Mel Brooks, the Simpsons creator Matt Groening and revered classical players the Kronos Quartet, with whom the Tiger Lillies collaborated on an album of dark Americana dedicated to the gothic humorist Edward Gorey. “Marilyn Manson played it at his wedding,” Jacques cackles. “It was reported in Vogue.”

The Tiger Lillies’ closest flirtation with popular success came when Jacques created the music for the 1998 “junk opera” Shockheaded Peter, based on Heinrich Hoffmann’s book. Jacques won an Olivier for his performance in the mock-cautionary tale for children. But otherwise, the band has generally been content to operate beneath the radar, issuing over 30 albums dealing with every conceivable form of necrosis and neurosis, including 1997’s notorious Farmyard Filth, a suite of songs about bestiality. “I can’t remember how many records we’ve made,” Jacques says. “But I do know we’ve sold them all – one at a time at our gigs.”

Now Jacques has turned to Lulu, the self-destructive sex symbol who first emerged in the dark expressionist dramas of Germany’s Frank Wedekind at the end of the 19th century and has since infiltrated any number of genres. The character reappeared as the titular lead in Alban Berg’s incomplete operatic masterpiece of 1935; and in GW Pabst’s 1929 silent melodrama Pandora’s Box. More recently, she featured as the subject of Lou Reed’s final studio recording, a concept album created with Metallica; and you can even manipulate your own virtual Lulu as part of the video game Final Fantasy. Yet the character – whose amorous exploits lead her from a life of squalor to the heights of the European bel monde, and eventually to her murder in London’s East End – offers such a potent distillation of Jacques’s favourite themes, it’s surprising he hasn’t flirted with the character before.

“I think I’ve always been aware of Lulu,” he says. “But I have almost avoided her for fear of what she might unleash in me.” Jacques says. He may have had a point: “When Opera North approached me with the idea of creating a production, I went away and wrote 120 songs in a month. I then had to throw 100 away.”

Initially conceived as a single play, Wedekind ended up dividing his ever-expanding material between two dramas, Earth Spirit and Pandora’s Box, obsessively written and rewritten between 1895 and 1904. Jacques’s first task was to find a way to condense this sprawling, expressionist epic into a concise, 90-minute song cycle. He found the key in a poem Wedekind appended to an early version of the plays, which summarises Lulu’s adventures in ballad form.

“It’s not a very nice poem,” says Jacques. “But it made it clear to me that Wedekind was ultimately writing about child abuse. There is a verse describing Lulu’s first wealthy patron who ‘at about the age of six or seven, washed her, dressed her and placed her in a classy school’. It’s probably the first explicit literary reference to the practice of grooming.”

Accompanying himself on accordion, piano and ukulele, Jacques combines extracts from Wedekind’s ballad with his own grisly inventions, including a morbid dialogue with Jack the Ripper, Lulu’s murderer, delivered in a mix of unearthly falsetto and a growling form of sprechstimme (or speech-singing) derived from the works of Berg and Kurt Weill.

Although the piece is not an opera as such, it will be presented on an operatic scale. In addition to his fellow Tiger Lillies, bass player Adrian Stout and percussionist Mike Pickering, there will be a dancer who will embody the role of the heroine, as well as visuals by video artist Mark Holthusen, who devised and directed the Tiger Lillies’ acclaimed dramatisation of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner at the Southbank Centre in London last year.

Holthusen created a magical, melancholic ocean setting for Coleridge’s nautical nightmare, in which the band appeared as doomed sailors trapped in a giant, 3D cartoon. For Lulu, he has created a spectral, gaslit world using imaging technology to replicate the ropes and pulleys of Victorian music hall. Combined with Jacques’s eerie, timeless music, this approach solidifies the impression that, although Lulu inhabits a late-19th century epoch, she is still very much present today.

“There are Lulus everywhere,” Jacques says. “Go to any lap-dancing bar and you’ll find them. Ever since the plays were first produced, people have argued over whether Lulu springs from the warped imagination of a rampant misogynist, or can be held up as an example of sexually liberated early feminism. I don’t think she’s either. I think she’s just the representation of every woman who has ever had to deal with the world’s bullshit and hypocrisy.”

Lulu: A Murder Ballad is at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry (024 7652 4524), 7-8 February, then touring



Lulu: A Murder Ballad – review

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
This Opera North production, inspired by Wedekind’s Lulu plays and featuring the Tiger Lillies, makes for disturbing and compulsive viewing

Read an interview with the Tiger Lillies’ Martyn Jacques here

3 out of 5
Lulu: A Murder Ballad

Expressionistic nightmare … Lulu: A Murder Ballad. Photograph: Tom Arber

With their vaudeville style, twisted humour and distinctive hurdy-gurdy sound, the deliciously maverick Tiger Lillies have always been a band with a theatrical bent. But since their involvement with the glorious Shockheaded Peter more than a decade ago, they have never quite found a way to present their work successfully within a fully fledged theatrical context.

  1. Lulu: A Murder Ballad
  2. Warwick Arts Centre,
  3. Coventry
  4. CV4 7AL
  1. Tiger Lillies/Opera North
  2. Starts 7 February
  3. Until 8 February, then touring
  4. Box office:
    024 7652 4524
  5. Venue website

This song cycle inspired by Frank Wedekind’s Lulu plays comes somewhat closer, unfolding like an expressionistic black and white nightmare as it tells the story of the abused Lulu from her early childhood to death at the hands of Jack the Ripper. Wedekind and the Tiger Lillies is a pretty nifty pairing in this Opera North production, designed with flair by Mark Holthusen to create a world that is always just out of kilter, with its bent lamp-posts and sinister, skewed windows.

This story and its telling – whether Wedekind’s original two-part play, Berg’s opera or Pabst’s silent movie with Louise Brooks – is, as always, highly problematic. It is made more problematic here by an all-male creative team that thrusts the lead singer, Martyn Jacques, and his melancholic falsetto, centre stage, while leaving Lulu – the dancer Laura Caldow – to float behind him like a gauzy wraith or vulnerable butterfly.

But then, Wedekind’s creation has always defied attempts to pin her down. She is a bewitching illusion. Lulu is what men want, and yet is also what they fear; she destroys men, yet is destroyed by them; she is a free spirit who is bought and sold. The ambiguities are pointed up by the way Jacques says Lulu’s name. Sometimes like sugar melting on his tongue; sometimes like a snarl.

Wedekind was inspired – in part – to write his Lulu plays by seeing a dancer in a circus, and that’s the motif in a piece that gives the male band a voice while denying one to Lulu. She is a mute, whirling, doll-like dancer endlessly caught within a series of frames and black-and-white projections from which there is no escape. She is a fetishised spectacle, trapped in our gaze. The repetitive window imagery reminds us that we are all peeping toms, paying to look. It makes you as uncomfortable as hell, but you never turn your fascinated gaze away.

Read an interview with the Tiger Lillies’ Martyn Jacques here