Sunday, August 18, 2019

Fiction: CTHULHU SWEETHEART by Ben Fitts

Fiction by Ben Fitts

“It’s not just the drinking, or how you’re always busy with work,” admitted Katie.
Justin exhaled and strode over to the big living room window in his highrise apartment, his back to Katie. He couldn’t look at her right now, so instead he gazed down at the view of Manhattan sprawled below him. Or at least, what was left of Manhattan since The Old Ones had risen.
Terrors that Justin lacked the ability to describe slithered and flew and crawled and stalked and squirmed and skulked across the roads and rooftops and sidewalks and sides of buildings and the air. The city was swarming with claws and wings and tentacles and scales and eyeballs and fangs and appendages that Justin did not think there were words for in the English language.
“What is it then?” asked Justin through gritted teeth.
The world was ending. Creatures more terrible than anything Justin’s limited imagination could ever dream up ruled New York City–ruled the entire world, in fact–but somehow Katie still insisted on dumping him as if everything was normal. Sure their relationship had soured recently, but didn’t she understand that they could be swallowed alive by some dreadful thing at any moment? Didn’t she understand that to die having a stale, imperfect love is still better than to die having no love at all?
“There’s someone else,” Katie whispered.
Justin spun around on his heels to face her.
“What!” he shouted.
“There’s someone else,” she repeated, a bit more confident the second time.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Justin moaned, dropping his face into his sweaty hands.
Justin had never been particularly talented nor especially intelligent by any common metric, but he had worked hard to make something of himself in the world of humans. When he was growing up, Justin’s lack of any sort of interest or passion meant he had nothing better to do than devote himself to the thoroughly uninteresting classes at the expensive prep school his parents paid for and later at the even more expensive university they paid for.
While his peers in college were forming indie rock bands or printing chapbooks of their own poetry or conducting academic research on the evolutionary history of clams, Justin had devoted himself to the soulless world of finance and worked hard at it. His parents were wealthy enough to pay his entire tuition and board, so he graduated from his Ivy League school without a lick of student debt.
Within several months, his father had gotten him a job as a junior member as an investment firm that one of his old fraternity brothers now ran and Justin found himself as happy as someone with no personal purpose can ever be. He used globs of product to mold his overpriced haircuts and wore stylish dark suits to work. When Justin was in a fun mood we would wear dark suits with pinstripes, but that was not every day.
Without any sort of unfilled greater calling to distract or depress him, Justin would wake up every morning, put on his expensive clothes and drive his fast car to his job where he would be paid a big salary to simply move around the imaginary concept of money from one location to another, contributing absolutely nothing of mild importance to greater good of humanity and not minding it in the slightest. Justin thought that he had the world all figured out.
Or at least, he thought he did until a pantheon of malevolent cosmic deities returned to the surface world of Earth to declare it their domain and reinforced that claim with their hordes of monstrous underlings. Justin still may have still had his luxurious apartment for the time being, but his prestigious degree and corporate position and excellent stock portfolio did not mean anything at all in a world in which there was no longer such a thing as an economy, or even currency.
And now, he was even losing Katie. Justin lowered his hands from his face looked at his now ex-fiancé with watery eyes.
“Who could you possibly be leaving me for at a time like this? When almost everyone we know is dead and more are dying every day, who could you possibly have met?” said Justin in a slow, over-enunciated tone.
“And that’s another thing,” snipped Katie. “Stop always talking to me like I’m a child who you’re just sssoooo much smarter than. I know I was only a secretary, but that doesn’t make you better than me.”
“Katie, is now really the time to bring that up again? Just answer my question.”
“Cthulu,” said Katie. “His name is Cthulu.”
“What?” yelled Justin. “You’re leaving me to join the cult of Cthulu? Those nutjobs in robes who summoned that monster here in the first place? You know that they’re people responsible for the world fucking ending, right? Why the hell did you go join them? They’re the bad guys.”
“There you go being all condescending again,” said Katie. “Of course I know who the cult of Cthulu are and what they did. I’m not an idiot. But to answer your question, no. I am not leaving you to join the cult of Cthulu. I said I had found someone else, not something else.”
A silence hung over the pair as Justin scrunched up his face, thinking about what his now ex-fiancé had just said. His jaw fell and hung slack once he put it together.
“You don’t mean…” Justin began, but fell silent as he found himself at a loss for words. Katie was happy to supply them for him.
“Yes, my new boyfriend is the god Cthulu, formerly the ruler of the sunken city of R'lyeh and now of planet Earth, himself,” Katie spelled out.
“That makes no sense!” exclaimed Justin. “Katie, are you off your meds again? Cthulu is an ancient, alien being from outer space! How the hell could he be dating a human, Katie? Think about it!”
“Jesus Christ Justin, why don’t you mansplain my current relationship to me some more. I know who I’m dating better then you do.”
Justin rested a hand against his temple, his manicured nails digging into the sweaty flesh.
“Cthulu is over half a mile tall, with giant wings and tentacles sprouting from his face the size of highways. What part of you dating that makes any sense?” asked Justin.
“I know, he wasn’t physically my type at all at first. But sometimes when you get to know people, or in this case ancient cosmic gods, you get to see past their looks to the beautiful personality beneath,” explained Katie. “And Cthulu is great once you get to know him. He has so much ambition and drive. Just the Earth isn’t enough for him. Someday he wants to rule all intelligent life in the galaxy, maybe even the universe. Think about that Justin. The universe.”
Justin again turned away from Katie and buried his face in the elbow of his salmon-colored casual buttondown.
“This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. This is just too weird, this can’t be fucking happening,” he murmured to himself.
Katie put her hands on her shapely hips and glared at her now ex-fiancé.
“I know this must be hard for you Justin, but can’t you at least be a little happy for me?” she asked. “Cthulu himself, ruler of our planet, chose me to be his girlfriend, maybe someday his queen. Me! He could have chosen any living being on Earth or not on Earth, and he chose me! Don’t you get what a big deal this is?”
“This is completely insane,” stated Justin flatly. “You’re completely insane. There’s no way that any of this is real.”
Katie’s phone buzzed in her designer purse. Justin had bought the purse for her on day number three of her birthday week last year, and it now pained him to see her unzip the top and did out her pink smartphone.
“Oh, that’s my Cthulhu sweetheart now,” announced Katie. “He says that he’s coming over right now to pick me up for our date tonight. He’s going to fly me to Peru and we’re going to destroy Machu Picchu together. It’s going to be so much fun! I hope that this isn’t awkward for you.”
“Katie, you have to stop this nonsense now,” said Justin. “There’s no way in hell that the god Cthulu is coming over to pick you up for a date.”
A great shadow fell over Justin’s apartment as all the sunlight pouring in from the big living room window vanished. Justin turned to the window, but saw only a solid wall of dark green scales on the other side of the glass.
“That must be him!” giggled Katie.
There was a shrill crunching noise as the ceiling was torn off Justin’s apartment. Chunks of drywall and wooden splinters rained down as Justin looked up to see the deity Cthulu looming over him. Even at the elevation of his fifty-eighth floor apartment, the god still towered over Justin so much that he could barely see his giant, squidlike face.
Cthulu held the rubble of the several stories of the building above Justin’s apartment in both his claws. The deity absent mindedly toss them aside, where they rained onto the Manhattan street bellow and crushed a small brownstone. Justin spotted the limp bodies of several of his neighbors tumble down with the discarded wreckage.
“Hey, baby!” waved Katie. “Give me one moment.”
She dug a tube of electric red lipstick out her purse and globbed on a generous amount before smacking her lips.
“Alright, I’m all ready, my big strong octohunnypus,” Katie cooed.
Cthulu descended one long, serpentine tentacle. It wrapped itself around Katie’s waist and snatched her up into the air.
Katie yipped excitedly. Justin recognized it as the same noise she would always make when he tossed her naked body onto the bed they had shared before taking her, and felt a stab of bitterness like a thumbtack jammed into his gut.
Justin watched the woman who yesterday had been his fiancé be carried away by the tentacles of her new boyfriend and he flapped his bulbous bat wings and soared into the sky, taking her out of his life forever.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Interview with artist MARK TIZARD by Dave Wolff

Interview with artist MARK TIZARD

Tell the readers about your Facebook group The Hidden Gallery and Redbubble pages Burning Ark and Black Planet.
I started my Redbubble pages twelve years ago, at first just to get some of my artwork onto shirts for my own use. I soon found out that other people liked what I was creating, and with a good online artist community Redbubble gave me the confidence to let people see more of my work. Around the same time the seeds of social media started to grow in the form of Myspace, so I started a Myspace page under the name Burningark with links to my Redbubble pages and started to sell my work for the first time. In time Myspace got swallowed up by the beast that is Facebook and after a few years of posting my artwork on other pages I decided to create one. The Hidden Gallery was born. I use the page to post a mix of old and new artwork and sell limited numbered prints and shirts of my work. My artwork is mainly of a dark nature so I coined the phrase “esoteric mythology” to describe it.

Is your Myspace profile still active since the upgrade to version 3.0? Do you think it was needed or not? How well was your profile doing before?
At one point I had maybe five Myspace profiles under different names to maximize my exposure to the world. It did serve its purpose for links to my artwork, but it could be frustrating getting links to work. My profiles had plenty of hits and with people from all over the world commenting on my art it was a good time. The reboot of Myspace was a dead duck right from the off in my eyes, Too little too late. I did seek out my Burningark profile a few years back, and it was strange looking in from the outside. It was a sort of out of body experience. I think it must still be out in the void somewhere.
How much has Redbubble helped you promote your work?
I found Redbubble after a long search to get my art printed onto black shirts at a decent price. Back then the Web wasn't flooded with printing sites like today. The resulting printing was and still is to this day the best quantity I've seen for t-shirts. The forums and groups on Redbubble in the early years were full of ideas and artistic collaborations, these things help me shape my style in many ways so I cannot underestimate its impact on me. Like most things that grow huge it’s easy to get lost in the crowds of the Redbubble community today. In a way it is a mirror of the battle between Myspace and Facebook only the new Redbubble hasn't arrived yet.

Did the feedback you received on Facebook encourage you to start a group there?
Facebook was the next level of exposure for me and my art. Before only a few of my friends knew I created art and even less saw any of it. So I started creating albums on my Facebook page opened up a personal level which is a frightening thing to do. It went much better than I expected with plenty of likes and positive comments, so after a couple of years the hidden gallery was created as an open group so anyone could see my work.

How many viewers have joined The Hidden Gallery so far? Is the feedback generally favorable? What other social media outlets are you promoting on?
I have 62 members. It's an open group so anyone on Facebook can take a look inside. The good feedback and sales of artwork I get makes it worth the effort to create new stuff or dig out older works. Other than Facebook I've got two pages on Instagram, Markdarkark and blackplanet666, which have the same things I post to the hidden gallery. But I don't really use the accounts much.

Do you have an approach to paining to put your visions across to your viewers? Such as the hues you paint with and the pallets you paint on? What photography equipment do you work with? Is this something you would be interested in doing more of?
My artwork usually consists of multiple layers. I have a large amount of plywood-based backgrounds being created using acrylics, glue and ink. These are abstract in nature and are in earthy colours of reds, orange and blues. These are photographed for future use digitally. The next layer is comprised of either a photograph or a pen and ink drawn image/ symbol. I can sell these works as stand-alone pieces of handmade art or use them for the digital art. The digital art has multi layers of texture and images added in a cut and paste format. It's not unusual for me to have eight layers to a work. These are then "mixed" like you would mix music in a recording studio with the layers being tweaked in and out to create the end piece of art. I use Corel Paint Shop Pro Editing software for this. I use a Fiji Film Fine Pix s2500HD series 12 mpix camera. I have a large library of photographic images I've taken which is a major part of my artwork. I do like the photographic element and it's something I'm hoping to develop for stand-alone works for sale.

Explain what esoteric mythology is and what the term means to you.
The term Esoteric Mythology comes from my interests in ancient civilization and their beliefs, Mythology, folklore, magick, sigils and from nature itself and how we react to it. I soak up all this information to create my art. My art can work on multiple levels. Some people like it for its elements of nature. Trees feature in lots of my work and are popular. Abstract or mirror images designs have a similar effect on people's reactions. On a deeper level some people like the unknown symbolism within, even the title of the work can make people want to delve deeper and hopefully seek out the things that interest me which is a good thing. Knowledge is power as they say.

Which ancient civilizations are you influenced by? How do you reflect those civilizations through your work?
The civilization I study most is the Sumerians. They invented so many things that shape our world, like agriculture, mathematics, studies of the planets and the cosmos. They created the first form of language which is why we can read epic myths full of gods and cosmic battles with giants and chimeras. Poems like Gilgamesh are classic examples of this. The British Museum has a large collection of Sumerian artifacts and statues which I've had the pleasure of seeing a few times. Being close to and touching these things seems to let me absorb some of their power. In turn I can conjure up images in my mind of these gods, and the art just comes out of me with ease. I think most of the ancient civilizations around the world had links in a way we still don't understand.

Describe those Sumerian artifacts and statues you saw at the British Museum.
With a large area dedicated to the Sumerians the highlights for me are a huge winged lion statue from the entrance to the temple of Ishtar the goddess of war. Reconstruction of the Balawat Gates with massive bronze decoration which is breathtaking in its details. Lots of carved wall panels showing wars against enemies, ritual ceremonies with demons and gods. Plenty of other statues and carved panels so the gallery can take a couple of hours to look around its very impressive. The main thing is you can touch all of these objects which really makes a connection with the past.

What have you read to research Sumerian civilization? How much does Sumerian civilization influence modern society?
Most of my other research is looking through ancient history books, picking up and photocopying pages to build files with my notes and drawing on the subject. If I'm stuck for a theme I can go through these file to recharge my creative spark. I do have lots and lots of notebooks. Sumerian culture has on the surface been wiped away because Syria, Iraq and Kuwait are being decimated by war. This of course is nothing new, but in this modern age of oil hungry powers fighting wars in these lands it’s hard to see much apart from a few remaining ruined cities. The last books I got were “World Mythology” by Roy Willis, “Mysteries From Forgotten Worlds” by Charles Berlitz and “A Translation Of The Book Of Enoch” by R.H. Charles. Any secondhand books I see by Graham Hankock, Maurice M Cotterell or Zecharia Sitchin I get. A good website for information I use is Internet Sacred Text Archive. You can always find new theories which give a good overall picture and the old texts I fine fascinating to read.

What by Graham Hankock, Maurice M Cotterell or Zecharia Sitchin have you acquired recently? How much information is offered on Internet Sacred Text Archive?
I got “Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind” by Graham Hankock and “The Supergods: They Came on a Mission to Save Mankind” by Maurice Cotterell. Another good book is Jeremy Narby's The Cosmic Serpent. All my books and interests get soaked up by my unconscious mind as a background static noise. These things feed my desire to create art. A desire that slips into obsession, drifting on waves of images flooding my mind. Most of these images are lost, but the ones I manage to capture and turn into artwork only serve to feed the need to create more things. The fires of the burning Ark burn on and on devoid of time or space. Internet sites can be useful but I proceed with caution as facts are easily corrupted or changed by the Chinese whisper effect so I do prefer books.

Of which cultures do you study mythology and folklore, magick and sigils?
The folklore I'm interested in is mostly local, but it can extend to Europe. The creation of stone circles, lay lines, cave paintings and the spirits of the vast forests which once covered the lands around me. These things are in us all under the layers of modern life.
I create a lots of art that has trees, fire and stone within it. These are all elements of a magical nature. Sometimes it's hidden within my art, in multiple layers barely visible but this adds to the works depth and mysticism.
My use of symbols or sigils is another form of magick. Condensing a phrase or word into a single symbol has a power in itself for the user. It's a fascinating use of magick. Some creators of sigils spend hours focusing the mind on the sigil in a meditative trance to activate its power. It can be a ritual act creating art in this way.

Which folklore tales most resonate with you? Provide examples of local UK legends and where people can read them.
The folklore from the UK is all around me. I live in an area in England with a rich history of tales of witches, sacred places and stone circles. I visit lots of these places collecting local stories and taking lots of photographs. “Witchcraft in Yorkshire” by Patricia Crowther has stories of Mother Shipton and other famous witches. Stanton Moor in Derbyshire is a local place I like to visit. It has other smaller stone circles and rock formations. One is the Eagle Stone. It has links to the Arbor Low Stone Circle close by in Monyash. A good book on this subject is Julian Cope's The Modern Antiquarian. Walking around these places always fires the imagination.

Who was Mother Shipton, and how well known is her legend in the UK?
Mother Shipton was only really known locally. She did make and use natural remedies and could see future events in visions. Lots of her prophecies are said to have come true. It's strange that she wasn't killed for being a witch; that's probably why we know about her today.

I heard of Julian Cope's music but didn’t know he was an author. How much has he written?
Julian Cope has written a couple books on the subject of ancient places and a couple of books on music history. He is a classic British eccentric in many respects but for this new age. He is slightly mad but that's what comes with a creative mind.

Do you own Cope’s musical releases? If so, what sort of impressions do you get from them and how does it inspire your art?
I own Cope's album Jehovahkill, a space rock meets early Pink Floyd sonic soundtrack to his own voyage into the ancient past. I do have a wide musical taste, from ambient through industrial to punk and on into goth but the first music I really got into which influences my art was NWOBHM. The new wave of British heavy metal was the first tribe of outcasts I belonged too. The music was loud and the album covers artwork did it for me. I started drawing the covers and eventually making up my own artwork to go with the music. From that point on I was drawing most days. Graphic design was and still is a big part of my work.

I’m listening to Jehovahkill as I write this, and am starting to get a sense of its “epic” scope. The only album of his I heard beforehand was Autogeddon. Are you familiar with that one?
I lost touch with Cope after Jehovahkill. I did see him live on that tour and that's how I found out about his book. This was all pre-internet and streaming so buying albums had to be limited in many ways. It seems strange in this day and age not to be able to have access to a band’s whole catalogue of work.

Do your studies include Stonehenge? How about sacred spaces in Celtic and Norse countries?
I've not really studied Stonehenge in any detail. I do know that the landscape around the stones is currently being surveyed and it's turning up a vast area of ceremonial activity over thousands of years. This kind of pagan worship which predated even the Celts must have been widespread. The small stone circles I've visited in Derbyshire all have links. This network must have stretched right across the UK at one point in time. I find the stories of forest spirits that shape shift into animal/human forms are part of my DNA. The times past when we all knew what plants could heal or harm and the fact that nature was no separate it was the cycle of our Life/death and rebirth. The forest was the church and the stones played some otherworldly part in this. A part that we have long forgotten.

How many legends of shape shifting forest spirits have you read? Do any specific pieces by you represent those tales or your studies of ancient ceremonial activity?
I’m not familiar with specific stories but I do know that many tribes that use the forests have stories of their shaman shape shifting into animal or bird forms. The knowledge of plant use is gained in this way. In Jeremy Narby’s book The Cosmic Serpent he talks of this practice. It's a very informative book. Jeremy Narby is an anthropologist and has lived with and studied Peruvian tribes. He has come to the conclusion that these people have a unique relationship with the natural world.

On Redbubble you also sell shirts, stickers and prints. How much of those items have you sold?
My Redbubble pages have a steady trickle of sales. As with lots of artists’ shop websites nowadays, so many people are trying to sell their work it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. I do use other printers like Awesome Merchandise for my prints. These are mostly sold in small numbers through my Hidden Gallery page. I would recommend Awesome Merchandise to anyone in the UK with a fast print and delivery its ideal for small runs of prints. In my work is a common theme I come back to time and again. I do try to capture the mystic elements. In a way creating what could be a modern day digital pagan cult. The piece of artwork Steven Michael Pape used for the cover of his book Inner Voices: 3 AM Poems is titled "The Old Ways" and was created with tree spirits in mind. Online sites for artwork are popping up all over the place so it's hard to know what's good or what's not. Recommendations are always welcome.

Are there other social media sites you are considering promoting your work on, such as Youtube, Instagram etc?
I would like to use Youtube in the future. I've done a few slide shows of my art set to music more of a test really but I think it's an area I would definitely like to work in.

-Dave Wolff

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Full Length Review: BEASTIAL PIGLORD "Sunder" (Slorebs Castle Records) by Dave Wolff

Location: Kinston, North Carolina
Country: USA
Genre: Extreme metal
Full Length: Sunder
Label: Slorebs Castle Records
Format: CD, digital, streaming
Release date: July 9, 2019
This North Carolina solo project just released Sunder to follow the June EP release of Holocene Epoch. This is Beastial Piglord’s fifth full length since 2016, and be forewarned it’s a ceremony celebrating everything related to irrationality and derangement. The genre Beastial Piglord is classified under sounds rigid enough, not much different from bands who take similar directions. You might expect straight goregrind with many samples, but this isn’t the case. The term “extreme metal” as applied here is defined as a fusion of black, death, doom and sludge metal with ambient and atmospheric elements. Doubtless you’ve heard the same classifications but Beastial Piglord go beyond them if you like heavy and experimental music. When I pried for information about this project, what I got included the stage name of the man behind it. For anonymity’s sake he prefers to be known only as Hudson. It worked for the late Quorthon (Bathory); how could one not be curious. You have to listen to this to understand his anonymity and the presentation of the material are equal parts of the big picture. You encounter something unfamiliar and distinct in each of the songs, and their arrangement and presentation plays with your sanity the farther you travel their desolate territory. Concerning the name of the project I keep thinking of “Lord of the Flies” since something about the bottomless production could carry you to a primal state of mind not unlike that described in the novel. Another writer compared it to the writings of Lovecraft and I can likewise see those similarities. I’m most strongly reminded of an experimental noise band from Long Island, New York known as Controlled Bleeding. In some ways this album sounds like what Controlled Bleeding would be if they came back as an extreme metal band. The intro track “sceimble” suggests malevolence lurking over the horizon, a great beast bellowing welcome from a distance. You can’t see it; you just get an impression of something massive. I take this as being deliberately vague; you’re not meant to see it as much as meant to feel it in your bones. This accounts for production depicting disjointed images under miles of murky water as the album continues. Albums that are memorable often come from the stark imagination of a lone musician, and Beastial Piglord creates eerie, unnerving soundscapes that leave imprints on you conscious and subconscious mind whether or not you’re prepared for them. To appreciate all the overt and subtle nuances of this album you have to have a receptive mind that is as broad as the universe; you may find the reward a surprise. -Dave Wolff

Hudson: All vocals and instruments

Track list:
1. sceimhle
2. silq
3. ethos
4. grisim domum
5. squamous
6. eldritch
7. ento fetor
8. seance

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Interview with Tibbie Skye West of MADAME ST. BEATRICE by Dave Wolff

Interview with Tibbie Skye West of MADAME ST. BEATRICE

Before getting into how you joined your current band (fronted by vocalist Madame St. Beatrice), explain why your previous band GASH parted ways. 
When I started that band I wanted to bring new energy to the world by charging a new force into the punk/hardcore scene. My intent was to GASH the separation between band and audience with an interactive, sexually charged, spontaneous BDSM-themed offering - of myself - while performing. Also to destroy the separation between “grrrrrlll” rock, macho tough guy hardcore and specific LGBT events and make it a show for everybody. I purposefully booked us with old school DC hardcore bands mixed with artsy Trans new wave bands to get everyone in the same space all together; as I called it the legion of the streets!! Because that’s what nightlife really is. In rock-n-roll we are all part of the rebellion no matter what our sexual preference and there’s more power in numbers so it was my intent to give myself to the night to unify all these different tribes.
It became a lot to blindfold myself or ask audience members to cuff me so I started bringing in performers. Domme Stephxecutioner and Leather Pup Chris Wiz became regulars. For a while things were glorious; we were doing something new. Nothing was planned or rehearsed performance-wise. We fed off the energy of the crowd and were led by our interactions with whoever showed up.
The guys in the band always seemed to resent the presence of the extra performers, and just weren’t on the same page with the spiritual messages that were so important to me. Mainly I was trying to communicate through every means possible; mind, body, and spirit; that we all have the right to exist in freedom as our real selves, with truth and with solid consent there should be no judgement in love, but Absolute Liberation for All.

What were the positives and negative points of being GASH’s frontwoman?
On the positive side I met literally hundreds of people. I believe, in a non-narcissistic way, that we succeeded in creating a wave that changed the former misogyny and dullness of a nearly stagnant scene. On the negative, I was judged by those who were closed to change as being “slutty” or using sex for attention. My former husband was our manager and a trans-woman at the time. As our relationship became problematic and we separated, I needed time off from everything to focus on organizing the most important part of my life: my home with my son, and my physical and mental health. It was a lot to take on as I suddenly needed to support us both, find a safe place to live and figure out how to move forward on my own.
In times of turmoil it becomes apparent who real friends are and those who were along for the ride as long as they are getting one. The guys, without speaking with me, fired me from my own band and attempted to continue it without me. They publicly bashed me online, blocked me from the website and deleted our show videos. I really don’t understand it as I only supported them, especially my one guitarist who I brought into my other band Reagan Youth and wanted to tour Europe with us. My ex-husband bought him a new guitar and, despite what happened, I still believe he is an instinctively naturally talented musician who could have a lifetime career should he choose to pursue it.

What do you think are the reasons for the ire you received for the efforts you made with GASH?
I think maybe it’s a generational thing. I wasn’t fitting into the stereotypical “punk” format and they were getting a lot of shit from their friends. In the bigger picture we were headlining gay pride events in other countries, on the verge of a record deal and touring Europe. In the smaller picture, locally, their friends hated me and were writing horrible things about me online, childish, but concerning how I should kill myself, I deserve a boot to the head, plus a lot of slack about “pussy pandering”, lies about how I’ve never worked, etc.
Paul, my guitarist in Reagan Youth, in an attempt to stand up for me online, went full on nuclear assault and basically threatened to kill the entire Philadelphia punk scene. It didn’t help matters but I love him for standing up for me. He has always been the family I never had, and continues to support and challenge me as a musician and real friend. I’ve known him closely for years now and he is far from being racist, homophobic, and violent. But when he’s mad his words are like a tornado of doom. There was no coming back from that. I just wanted everyone to chill the fuck out and stop fighting. Soooooo I just left it. I left it alone and refocused my life on a new career, my artwork, obviously my son who is #1, and I continued in Reagan Youth.
I do wish to repair the relationship with the former band members, specifically Domme Stephxecutioner as there was a lot of mistranslated issues that are not true and could be easily resolved. I don’t think it benefits anyone, especially during this politically conservative era to hold onto petty resentments that divide us. But anyway that’s the past... on to now.

Describe your experiences touring with Reagan Youth as their bassist. Did you still see unity in punk during this time? I noticed Spike Polite of Sewage was involved in the band for this tour.
Having the chance to join Reagan Youth was an opportunity to step back into the punk world that had become my family, as when I was in my old band X-Possibles. I worked my ass off writing music, recording, performing, traveling and supporting other bands, and was genuinely dedicated to a scene I felt had the power to exist as an alternative reality full of creative people supporting each other in an oppressive society. Living on your own terms, happily, with freedom to be genuine is not easy. I felt grateful that I was in NYC. Even though I struggled to live there I was surrounded by inspirational people and places. Then our drummer died, things got messed up and I was back in the 9 to 5, pay rent, take yoga classes, go to bed early, try to be “healthy” reality. I was on antidepressants and getting fat and stagnant, and people would say “you’re doing so well now”.
I couldn’t take it! I tried to get X-Possibles back together, but it was difficult line up wise to travel to the past in a city that had changed. Then I got pregnant with my son Severin and moved to Philadelphia. With my son, that was the first time I had ever experienced true love. I really felt I had a purpose and place in the world. It was a great time when I heard Reagan Youth needed a bassist. I could be a part of something real, not only for myself but for my son. To show him you can follow your dreams and have them manifest into reality if you work for it. Paul had me audition on bass with the two songs “The Whipping Post” and “Green Grass and High Tides”. Since then we’ve had our adventures all over the country and Europe. Spike is one of the many band members that came and went, but because the songs are meaningful to so many people we just continue on.

I’ve noticed how people “slut shame” punks and goths for putting on sexually themed performances, while praising mainstream rockers and pop divas for it. How much of a contradiction do you see in this? Does it have to do with the general public’s definition of beauty?
I don’t know; I think mainstream rockers and pop divas get a full on negative attack about everything since they’re part of the system. It’s a big advertisement, all products are marketed by making people feel shitty about themselves so they “need” whatever’s being sold to fix whatever problem is being dictated. Then the media uses famous people to prove a product works while running stories about how crappy that person is so people who are not famous can judge them as a way to feel better, and hate at just the right level where they are still envious and motivated to buy products to be more like that person. I think in punk and goth things have gotten a lot better in terms of “slut shaming”. Ignoring Facebook in real life I don’t think it’s really even much of an issue. What’s amazing is the activist work within the scene geared toward legalizing sex work. Check out Dominatrixes Against Donald Trump.

The media sets up public figures to simultaneously envy and want to emulate, to keep the economy going and continue the cycle of greed and consumerism. Is this another form of herd conformity? What solutions do you believe exist?
For me, I have to have my freedom on all fronts. With intelligence, I believe it’s possible to exist in a healthy way without sacrificing inner truth for someone else’s reality. It’s not the easy route. I’m not anti-work or even anti consumerist; I’m talking about not soul sacrificing personal truth to be in good with the majority. If that’s someone else’s truth, they should have the freedom to do what I perceive as drudgery. I teach preschool. In a small way, being a part of a child’s first experience with education and respecting their individuality in a creative and caring environment is a hopeful solution to the inevitable soul-annihilation bombardment of the system. Maybe some kids will grow up with self-confidence and awareness to continue to a future they chose for themselves, without mindlessly falling into the preset pattern of GMO-poisoned fast food, blank consumerism, work drudgery and inane loveless life slavery. My parents were artists and I watched their lives change during the Reagan era. They became obsessed with money, having a nice lawn and a car, and they switched to business. This once happy couple now fought endlessly over petty nonsense. My beautiful mother got a weird perm and suit jackets. She developed a host of stress related diseases. My dad hit the prescriptions hard in some attempt to cope and grew fat, ugly and mean. They worked, bought frozen dinners and watched TV. Before that we had a free life, love and genuine happiness. They were unaware they were indoctrinated into a system that inevitably leads to sickness and death. As far as herd mentality, it’s not easy living outside of the cage. People are happy within the confines of their dictated reality, and threats to their comfort are usually met with retaliation.

Do you feel the situation is worse today, where Independent thought is not only discouraged but ridiculed? Where it’s hard to tell real news from “fake news”? Do you see a backlash growing?
I don’t think it’s any worse today than it’s ever been. Throughout history, as far as we know, it’s been a struggle to be an individual and to separate from the herd that chases the monster out of town with pitchforks. I focus on those close to me and am trying to exist in a genuine way. My son Severin is emotionally aware as we discuss things a LOT. I don’t lie to him to hide anything. Obviously I’m protective about exposing him to things he doesn’t need to infiltrate his innocent mind at his age. We don’t watch Disney movies, haha. They kill the moms left and right in those films; what’s up with that? He hasn’t grown up watching a ton of TV since I don’t have one. I notice a difference in his personality when he’s exposed to what’s supposed to be “funny” violence for kids. My kid is not desensitized or controlled. I present options for him to make up his own mind about how he feels about things. There is no sports/religious indoctrination or political agenda. I don’t mean to sound pretentious; it’s just not easy to strive for a different reality than what the mainstream offers. I was trying to define the concept of anarchy recently, explaining that I don’t believe in it as a chaotic, free for all or communist camp. I think freedom of choice and non-judgmental acceptance are important, with options in a classless society, and it’s something to work towards even if it seems impossible. Why not believe in yourself and strive for your dreams?

Are there any artists you are recommending to your son, to encourage him to choose his own path?
He knows he has the freedom to be honest with me, and I always have his back, so he has the security to exist as his genuine self. From listening to my stuff he loves the Dead Boys, specifically “Sonic Reducer”, and of course the Ramones. A lot of the punk classics but his favorite song right now is “Imagine Dragons” by Believer. He says he relates to the lyrics.

Do you have an opinion about internet programs like What Would Jello Do? (Jello Biafra) and cable programs like The Henry Rollins Show, or other programs you may have recently seen?
Oh man, I haven’t even heard of them. I barely use my computer, and whenever I have to it’s like a dysfunctional catastrophe. My friend Chris put me on his Netflix, so I’ve watched stranger things on my phone. But finishing a college course recently to get certified as a preschool teacher and trying to print out papers is beyond stressful.

How long were you acquainted with Madame St. Beatrice, and what inspired you to play guitar for her?
I really just wanted to play rhythm guitar as I’m not even a singer. I kinda had to be a punk storyteller to get what I wanted manifested into the world. I’ve known Madame St Beatrice since I joined Reagan Youth eight years ago. We briefly had a band with Paul called Dust Angel that toured with them. Paul really pushed for us to play together. What a gift. It’s really beyond anything else. He stands up for me as a friend and musician. I’ve heard him shouting about me not sucking up to guys who are like questioning why I’m in the band. He calls me on it when I suck and it has helped me improve tremendously. I think we are on the same energetic grid, and share the same passions and beliefs. It just makes sense for us to play music together.

Aside from your old band, how would you further explain the term “punk storyteller” and how else can you express the idea besides being a musician?
Having survived hardships alive and still maintaining my freedom to exist authentically has been an ongoing thing. I love talking to people, connecting and sharing life experiences. Working in a preschool has been a dramatic reality shift. All of a sudden I’m in this safe, structured environment with a whole new group of people I never really interacted with. It’s an honor to be a part of a child’s first school experience and to be given a chance to be creative and helpful in these families’ lives. It’s an ongoing story...

How would you define “feminist fronted rock”? As a member of St. Beatrice’s band, are you meeting other female fronted bands with similar world views?
That’s a very fluid term. I just looked up “feminist” and the definition was “a person who supports feminism”. I’d love to see what Roxy Epoxy gets together. I was going to play bass for her but it was difficult living in separate states. I’ve been playing music with Paul and Beatrice for years and now it’s musically instinctual. I would love for music to be music, and a band to be a band without separation. It’s weird that a female fronted band is a special oddity that needs defining in the first place. I love booking shows without caring about genre classification or gender. Which is tricky because people generally like their identities validated.
It’s strange to me to seek art and music to continue a singular belief system. I think the purpose beyond personal expression, and fun, is expansionist and at best influential for changing and challenging stagnation. The music I’m playing with Madame St Beatrice fluctuates between heavy soulful bluesy rock and roll, punk influenced thrash and melodic seventies songs. I think we might use “soul punk” as a label.

I imagine “soul punk” works as a label since we had something similar with Death (Chicago), Bad Brains and 24-7 Spyz. Do you think Madame St. Beatrice has anything in common with those bands, or can progress into a band with a different sound altogether?
I love that band Death. I used to listen to them a lot with Severin. I saw the reincarnated band at a really small space in Philly years ago. I’d love to play with them. The bands aren’t similar sound wise really but are spiritually similar in terms of originality and personal lifestyles.

Did you see the documentary about Death that came out recently? It’s called “A Band Called Death” and it recounts their history including the making of their unreleased demo.
I saw it years ago. The guitarist was right to refuse to commercialize and water down his own band. It’s sad that alcoholism took him away from this world. I really hate thinking about all the people I knew that aren’t around anymore just from trying to feel alright. Yesterday I was looking online for photos of a friend who died, Derek. He had a bunch of bands but Plastic Letters from Los Angeles was his last. We had matching Pac-Man tattoos and used to refer to each other as “twin” like our hearts were always connected. Then one day, he’s just gone. I want eternity. I don’t want to be disconnected from the people I love ever, no matter how painful it is to continue through this life.
One of the many amazing quotes from Reagan Youth’s Paul is “you can put the drugs in, but you can’t take them out. So be careful.” I wish that replaced the unrealistic “just say no” brainwashing campaign.

Is Madame St. Beatrice as theatrical as GASH as far as their stage show goes, or do you present an entirely different concept?
In GASH I was crossed-over into subspace publicly while performing. It was a whole different thing. I was purposefully trying to alter a small part of reality energetically physically and musically, in myself and for anyone in hopes that it would radiate out and change the world. It’s hard to explain, but in Beatrice’s band I’m playing rhythm guitar and I’m not crawling through the audience and stuff.

Have you gotten to write any songs with Madame St. Beatrice? How many shows have you played since you joined?
Madame St Beatrice wrote all the songs with Paul Cripple. I feel synchronized with the lyrics and drive of the music. I feel connected to it as if it’s perfect to me. It inspires me to want to spread it around get it out in the universe. I really want to make videos; I see so many visuals. The bandmates are great. It’s been so many years and it’s a gift to be included in something new again. We’ve only played two shows in Brooklyn. I want to practice more and there are more songs being added to the set. Right now I’m looking for unique bands to play out with and it feels good to have the drive to seek out new music. I never want to be complacent or detached from the night/street/dimension of musical passion.

How many more songs are being added to the live show? If material is available from Madame St. Beatrice, tell the readers where it’s posted and which songs you suggest in particular?
All our songs are my favorites but I particularly relate to the lyrics of “I’ll Do Me” and “My World is Falling Apart”. I think they are beautiful, real and visual. I did a drawing/painting of Beatrice titled “My Insanity is My Lullaby” based on “I’ll Do Me”. We have a full set; it’s just a matter of getting everyone together. I haven’t played guitar in a long time and my guitar is literally taped together. Before I had two broken amps, and Paul brought one over for me. It’s a huge relief that I can practice. Blake the lead guitarist is super talented; Kenny and Mark are the rhythm section. I live in Philadelphia and travel to NYC when I can to practice, so I have to make sure I don’t slack at home. Otherwise it fucks things up for everyone else, and I don’t want to suck live or not know my parts.

How often do you have to travel to New York from Philly to practice with the band? Would it be easier if you were able to relocate to New York? Do you see Madame St. Beatrice playing shows in Pennsylvania in the near future?
I can’t relocate back to NYC for a lot of reasons but I miss NYC from the past. I miss the 90’s in general. I guess it’s like that for every generation when an era passes.
I lived in the East Village for eighteen years before I lived in Philadelphia. I sometimes lived in Brooklyn during that time. Sometimes I didn’t have a place and just suffered it out couch surfing or crashing in cafes and stores to save up money to get a place. At the time I felt it was where I needed to be, to be connected to music, inspiration, the underground and the sacrifice of stability and safety of having a place to live. It wasn’t really that important as long as I could be a part of the nightlife/art world there. I miraculously stayed alive, I have my son and we need to have our apartment. I found a job that doesn’t drain my soul. Like I care about the work I do, the people there and where Severin and I live is our home.
Haley Alyssa is a tattoo artist from Baltimore. She drives to NYC and back sometimes. If I can I’ll catch a ride with her which is the best. We have a blast. Or I’ll take the bus back and forth which takes forever, but I’ll always sacrifice for music. It’s like feeding a soul to a monster only it gives you more soul back as payment for your suffering. No matter what it has to happen.

Is St. Beatrice’s band planning to release any material in 2019? If so, how many songs do you expect will be on it?
St. Beatrice has a bunch of songs recorded with Paul which they are remixing and releasing. Paul doesn’t use tuners and the songs are in Paul’s tuning, so it’s really hard for me to learn the parts on my own. When we tune it’s all different from what I’ve been playing along with. I don’t know how many songs there are but I know Paul has many amazing songs; at least two albums’ worth. It’s kind of been torture not getting the new Reagan Youth album out, and some of those songs are being done in St Beatrice’s band.

How soon is Reagan Youth planning to release the new album? Are they releasing it independently or on a label?
Cleopatra records is putting out two holiday songs we recorded this year. We plan on recording the new album hopefully this year probably in Texas. I really hope to get that done; again there is a ton of really amazing songs that are long overdue. I’m guessing Cleopatra would be putting out the new album but we have to set up recording and teach our bandmates the new songs.

Through what other forms of expression do you want to indulge your passion for creativity and NYC culture? I remember in our last interview you mentioned having gotten into ballet, for example.
I did ballet when I was a kid. I’m super excited to get back to hot yoga and sweat out this past year of eating crappy and not exercising enough. I’ve always been really healthy and strong and I got sidetracked with getting certifications for work going to college and setting up our home here, trying to have any savings because I’m fearful of the future, fearful of being 75 and homeless with major medical issues. I really want to be around for a long time, for me and my kid. I started painting last year and I want to do that a lot more.

Is painting a new interest for you, or is it something you’ve wanted to do for a long time? Do you have any of your paintings on the net where people can view them?
I post my work on my Facebook under Tibbie Skye West. I let people email me and name a price that works for them if they want to buy something. Having sold stuff to old friends makes me incredibly happy. I feel like connected to them having something I made in their home. Painting isn’t new to me but I didn’t have a plan or preconceived idea of what I was going to paint. It kinda turned out to be a lot of occult imagery and psychedelic demonic vampire women based off the Qlipoth. I love them. When I’m working on them it’s a kind of interaction. I’m probably very lonely but if art comes out of it it’s ok.

Where does the inspiration for your demonic and occult imagery come from lately? What is the appeal you see in female vampires?
I love reading about occult religious practices especially the role women played in mythology and offshoot magical cults and witchcraft. Quimbanda is this Brazilian Lust cult that is ruled over by the concept Goddess “Pomba Gira” the Devils Mistress. She is legion as in there’s hundreds of manifestations of her throughout history. It’s basically an uncensored celebration of the divine feminine without biblical moral judgement. Qliphoth demonology is also influential to me. It’s too much to explain but basically it’s the dark side of the tree of life like the underground. These characters just make sense to me and I love them- they started coming out in my artwork. I’m a kinda ghost vampire having survived dying twice so I personalize the mythology and relate to being an outcast. I love Jean Rollin movies where the monsters are always these beautiful tragically misunderstood creatures and it’s the Vanilla peasant minded society townsfolk who are truly evil. 

How much of your work is posted on Facebook for people to view? Are you receiving feedback from people who have seen it online?
I’ve posted all my work on my Facebook and sold almost all of it. I’m currently working on an online store I will link to my Facebook so I can sell t-shirts and prints of my work. I really hope people want them. I’d love to be connected visually with people who like my work like that. 

In what ways do you intend to develop as a painter if you decide to pursue it further? What statements would you want to make?
I started painting again because I went to an art therapy group awhile ago and also some teachers I worked with were inspirational to me. I realized I could just paint at home and wouldn’t have to deal with the therapy people and that I would probably always be part depressed because I’m not stupid so I gave up on therapy. Painting is a part of me that I’m glad came back. I think if I just keep doing it my work will evolve and more and more hidden subconscious ideas will emerge.

-Dave Wolff