Monday, January 29, 2024

Interview with Kelvin Scott Frazier by Dave Wolff

Interview with Kelvin Scott Frazier by Dave Wolff

From what I heard, you were inspired to study vampirology, vampire folklore and the Vampyre Subculture after reading “Piercing the Darkness: Undercover with Vampires in America Today” by Katherine Ramsland. You were particularly fascinated by the interviews.
At the age of ten, I read “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and read it again in 2012. I read the first three books of Anne Rice’s (RIP) “Vampire Chronicles”, “Interview With The Vampire”, “The Vampire Lestat” & “Queen of the Damned” as an adolescent along with the Novel version of “The Lost Boys” (I saw the Movie too). Most of my guilty pleasure films are about Vampires. Ironically, Rosemary Sahjaza saw my book review of “Piercing the Darkness” and decided to get me published. I am excited and nervous at the same time.
As for the Vampyre Subculture, I made some friends over the years (House Kheperu) and they gave me a home along with people in the Left Hand Path.

What kind of occult/LHP organization is House Kheperu and how deeply involved are you with them? Does this group have origins in New York, or are they more widespread?
House Kheperu is about “Finding your own truth”. I went to their seminars in the past for many years to explore who and what I am. I am NOT a member of House Kheperu. I consider myself a Ronin in the Occult Community.
I am a Solitary, Lone Wolf, independent individual who respects other people’s freedom and organizations who does my own research and reading.
House Kheperu comes from Cleveland, Ohio. I’ve NEVER been to New York, but Vampyre Subculture is Worldwide if you know where to look.

What would be the definitions of terms such as Ronin and Lone Wolf, if they can be defined?
Originally, a Ronin is a Samurai who has no master and chooses to walk alone. In the Vampyre Subculture, a Vampyre who doesn’t belong in any household, or any group in the Vampyre Community.

Can you tell me the advantages and disadvantages of being a Ronin and/or a Lone Wolf?
The advantages I have is that I have real & true friends who stand by my side. The disadvantages is that I am alone because the Left Hand Path is a lonely path. However, if you have friends & allies, you are not lonely. As a Ronin and Lone Wolf, I choose to be alone to think and work alone.

What about your review of “Piercing the Darkness” caught Rosemary Sahjaza’s attention? How long have you been corresponding with her?
Rosemary Sahjaza told me she loved my review on “Piercing the Darkness” and she wanted me to get interviewed by an Alternative Magazine and it is my very first interview. It might have been three to four days or more. I am not sure. However, she is a sweetheart and a great friend. What inspired you to read Bram Stoker's “Dracula” at such a young age? What images were evoked in your mind both times you perused it?
The images evoked in my mind as a kid were that I wanted to be Dracula in my own way because I considered him to be a Hero and Antihero to me.
It hasn’t changed much that the Vampire was an Antihero to me even though I never knew what an Antihero was. I found Dracula fascinating as an Antihero more than a Villain.

Can you describe what the term “Antihero” means to you? In your opinion, what makes Dracula an interesting antihero rather than villain?
To me, An Antihero is an individual or a character who lacks the ways of the traditional hero. The Antihero expands in all genres.
I find Dracula in some adaptations as a Byronic Hero. A Byronic Hero is mysterious, darkly inclined yet alluring, and sometimes moody.
As an antihero, he is an individual who does things the traditional hero doesn’t do, and does things on his terms, no matter how terrible the problem is.

In what ways did Anne Rice's novels speak to you, as well as to so many others, when they were first published?
Lestat is a character I can understand because of his rebellious nature, and more. Also, I read “Morbius the Living Vampire” (Spider-Man), a Pseudo Vampire created by Science. It has been years since they were published, but I was an adolescent in the 1980s (I was born in 1972). I saw ”The Lost Boys” (1987) and read the novel version during that time. I was a huge fan because of the Punk style Vampires and the Soundtrack too. “Vamp” (Grace Jones) was hilarious.

What interviews in “Piercing the Darkness” particularly inspired you to research vampires and Vampyre Subculture in greater detail?
I don’t remember too much about the interviews, but the chapter “The Tao of the Vampire” spoke to me because I wanted to learn the ways of the Living Vampyre. From the TOV (Temple of the Vampire) and more. I desire to learn about the Living Vampyre from a Left Hand Path perspective.

Did you hear of Temple of the Vampire as a result of reading “The Tao of the Vampire”? In your opinion, what’s the most interesting thing about this group?
I read about Temple of the Vampire in a book called “The Vampire Book” by J. Gordon Melton when I was researching Vampyre Occult Movements. “The Tao of the Vampire” was the best thing that ever happened to me. The most interesting thing of this concept, some people can be Vampyres if they know to control their natures and their hunger. The ones who found themselves are the most beautiful and powerful individuals in their own right. Their knowledge and philosophies have made them more valuable on their own terms.

Do you know if "The Vampire Book" is still available? When it comes to the history of Vampyre Occult Movements, how knowledgeable would you consider J. Gordon Melton?
I do have a copy of the third edition of the “Vampire Book” and it might be on He has done a lot of research to this book. I read a few articles in the encyclopedia that intrigues me and it is fascinating. I remember him on the documentary “Vampires: Thirst for the Truth (1996).” I might read it again and do a review on this book in the future.

When it comes to covering vampire culture and lifestyle without stereotyping or distortion, how thorough is “Vampires: Thirst for the Truth (1996)”?
It was spectacular and specific even though it was 1996. I enjoyed the documentary then and I enjoy it in the present.

Did you discover the Left Hand Path around the same time as vampire lore and cinema? Where are the obvious connections?
I discovered Vampire Folklore & Cinema at the age of ten, yet I discovered Satanism in 1987-1988 when Geraldo Rivera (I loathe him) made a mock documentary called “Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground.” This made me explore the Left Hand Path much more. I got on the Left Hand Path in 1995 since I read Anton Szandor LaVey’s “The Satanic Bible”. I adopted other Philosophies to understand myself more (Satanism, Luciferianism & Sinisterism).
From my perspective, The Left Hand Path and Vampyre Subculture have some similarities, it depends on the individual. In my experience, I find Vampyrism and Left Hand Path are Dark Philosophies to a certain degree, yet Darkness DOES NOT EQUATE EVIL. In other words, it is up the individual’s ambitions if they want to combine Both philosophies.

If darkness is not equate evil, what is darkness to you as opposed to mainstream perceptions?
Darkness is a part of us, no matter anybody says because some people choose to deny it.
From my perspective, Darkness is the other half of the balance factor (Yin/Yang). Darkness can’t exist without the Light, they are opposites to each other. Basically, Embracing the Darkness will help the individual find the beauty in the Night and much more.
The Mainstream rejects Darkness because of Society’s obsession to the Light. Monotheism had a strong hand to People from keeping them away from the Darkness mostly through fear, shame & guilt. Using the concept of Good vs. Evil, needing a Savior to keep Individuals away from the Darkness, which is Wrong on so many levels. I believe in “to each their own” and individuals have a right to know who & what they are as a human being or more. Denying the Darkness will not make the individual whole, but Embracing the Darkness will make you whole.

I recall Geraldo Rivera’s documentary about so-called devil worshiping cults. It was an obvious attempt to increase ratings. Can you recall other details about the “satanic panic” generated by this show and others at the time?
Rivera and many others stereotyped Satanism based on what’s happening in the media, which are complete nonsense. They accuse us of Devil Worship, and other stuff I won’t repeat because it disgusts me. We don’t recruit others. This quote says it all:
“Satanists are born, not made.” ~Anton Szandor LaVey
It has been years since I watched this special and I respect the Left Hand Path philosophers rather than the so called experts because the “Experts” lie through their teeth to discredit Satanism, but Satanism is NOT going away. NEVER.

Furthermore, the media sensationalized murderers like Richard Ramirez and Ricky Kasso, who were painted as "typical Satanists". Is this another method of discrediting Satanism?
They are NOT Satanists because Ramirez, Kasso and many others like them are Criminals. They are a disgrace to Satanism.

How would you explain the differences between Satanism, Luciferianism and Sinisterism?
Satanism is a religion and philosophy founded by Anton Szandor LaVey (1930-1997) that is based on the teachings of Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand etc., with the use of Satan as an Archetype for the individual to express proudly from an Atheistic perspective. There is NO God, No Devil, etc., and Satanists are their own Gods.
Luciferianism is a religion that venerates Lucifer, but not in a Judeo-Christian sense because Lucifer is NOT the Devil. Lucifer is the Light Bringer that brings knowledge and true freedom to those who wanted it.
Some people think that Satan and Lucifer are the same being, but it is not. Mostly, through the propaganda of Monotheism, it has been going on for thousands of years. In Luciferianism, Some are atheists because of the Archetype aspect and some are theists because some believe is a real anthropological being or a God.
Sinisterism is a concept created by Thomas LeRoy of The Sect of the Horned God. Sinisterism is an Individual who walks the Left Hand Path on their own terms.

Can you provide additional information about Thomas LeRoy and The Sect of the Horned God; how long they’ve existed and their contributions to the occult world?
The Sect of the Horned God stared on November 1, 2011 as a Left Hand Path school of thought and knowledge. It is an educational system for the Left Hand Path that uses philosophy, mythology, psychology and occult research to teach and reach the goal of Self-Deification (Becoming our own God, Goddess, etc).

What was it about “The Satanic Bible” that appealed to you personally?
Anton Szandor LaVey’s “The Satanic Bible” was the most influential book and helped me to understand Satanism and the basics of the Left Hand Path. I read it in 1995, and embraced the philosophy along with other Left Hand Path philosophies. It has been 29 years since I’ve been on the Left Hand Path and I am proud of it.

What writings by Anton LaVey have you read altogether?
“The Satanic Bible” (1969), “The Satanic Witch” (1971), “The Satanic Rituals” (1972), “The Devil’s Notebook” (1992), “Satan Speaks” (1998).
I love the books by Anton Szandor LaVey because it is self-help for Satanists and people starting out of the Left Hand Path.

Since you’ve read all of Anton LaVey’s writings, aside from “The Satanic Bible”, which one did you find to be the most informative and why?
“The Devil’s Notebook”. The Reason why is that I enjoyed him telling his own truth in his own way. The topics range from Satanism and other subjects and doesn’t hold back.

My memory recalls that “The Devil's Notebook” covers a wide range of topics. Which of them struck you as the most personally relatable to you as a reader of left-hand path literature?
The Chapters in “The Devil’s Notebook called “By Any Other Name”; p. 33-34 “Nonconformity: Satanism’s Greatest Weapon”; p. 63-65. “How To Be God (Or The Devil)”; p. 66-67.

Certain genres have been targeted as being responsible for the negativity in the world. Do you think people who single them out are misinformed or intentionally spreading false information?
Most of the Great Works of Music has been accused of being the works of the Devil because of the jealousy of Mainstream Religions and So-Called Authoritarian Figures. The Tritone is considered the Devil’s Chord, which is used by many Classical Artists to Modern Rock and Metal Musicians. The atmosphere of the music is seductive and scary, depending on the individual. In other words, The Devil makes the best music.
The misinformed and the ignorant love to control the masses, but the individual finds their own way and judges for themselves.

Do you have any favorite bands you've been listening to a lot lately? How do they relate to you?
K.I.S.S., Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, Coven, Queen, Vixen, Winger, Evanescence, Cradle of Filth, Fastway (“Trick or Treat” Soundtrack 1986), Billy Idol, Lita Ford, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Warlock (Doro Pesch), INXS, Bauhaus, Bon Jovi, The Runaways, Fields of the Nephilim, Dark Funeral, Infected Rain, Within Temptation, Inkkubus Sukkubus, The Go-Gos, Faun, Butcher Babies, Gorgoroth, Celtic Frost, Tiamat, Nox Arcana, Anton Szandor LaVey, etc.
My list is extensive and most of my choices are Darkly Inclined, Gothic with Some Dark Classical. I do relate to them because I saw them within me when I Embraced the Darkness since I was nine and I did not realize it. I see myself in the music mostly understanding what the artist went through to a certain degree. In other words, my path was growing since this music came into my life and I never looked back.

There was a recent episode of “satanic panic” in Jackson, Tennessee when locals attempted to prevent a local metal festival from taking place (Tennessee Metal Devastation Music Fest 2023). Nevertheless, the organizers of the festival fought back and prevailed. They spread the word on social media and appeared on television, and the festival went ahead as planned. Why do you think some people are still afraid of metal and other genres of music today?
People are afraid of the unknown and the Devil makes the greatest music. They still accuse Metal and other music genres to be the work of the Devil. The Tritone or the Devil’s Note has been used for centuries since Classical music, Blues, Rock and Roll to Metal. Besides, the Devil will have his Due.

Give examples of songs of any genre that best utilized the Tritone, along with a brief description of the impact they had on you when you first heard them.
Primus’ “South Park” theme: I heard this theme so many times, but I never the tritone was in it until now. Great Theme.
“The Simpsons”: I watched the Simpsons until I stopped watching Television for over ten years in 2011. Very catchy.
“The Munsters”: I find the soundtrack great, but Season 2 was better.
“The Twilight Zone”: The theme was sublime to me over the years, but it was eerie as well. I enjoyed it.
Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People”: The Music was great and in your face.
The “Pink Panther” theme: Classical theme since my childhood throughout the years.
Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”: The music was everything, and it was a rocking masterpiece.
Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”: His Mastery on the Guitar is legendary and powerful when he used the tritone in his music.

Did you decide to become a vampire at a particular point, or does your research continue?
I never knew about the Vampyre Subculture until the early 1990s when “Vampire: The Masquerade” came out. However, I was fascinated with the terminology “Living Vampyre” when I was reading the Marvel Comic Series “Morbius: The Living Vampire” that was featured in Spider-Man in 1971. As an adolescent, I looked up the organization “Temple of the Vampire” but I never joined them; however, I kept researching Folkloric Vampires and the Vampire Subculture throughout the years. I read Michelle Belanger’s “The Psychic Vampire Codex” in the early 2000s, and I enjoyed it.
As a Vampyre, I prefer the terminology Living Vampyre because my studies are into the Left Hand Path philosophy and Sorcery. My research in the Vampire was since the age of nine, my Left Hand Path philosophies started in 1995, and it continues to the present into the future.

How helpful was “The Psychic Vampire Codex” to your studies?
It taught me about ethics, embracing who and what you are as a Vampyre, and honor yourself when it comes to your individual nature.

Are you familiar with The Satanic Temple or the documentary released in 2019 about them, “Hail Satan”? What do you think that they’re taking on fundamentalist Christian groups and the United States government?
I NEVER saw the documentary personally. The Satanic Temple is a different story all together. I am NOT a part of that group because my philosophy comes from Anton Szandor LaVey ( and it has been here longer than TST. If they wish to shake up the Religious Right, I don’t care. However, I wish they would do it differently.

Did “The Book of Secrets” by Temple House Sahjaza contribute to your understanding of vampire and Vampyre culture?
“The Book of Secrets” is a book I don’t have a copy of. However, House Sahjaza is unique in their own way, and their contributions are marvelous to describe. Vampire Folklore & Vampyre Subculture hold their own definitions and descriptions on what the Vampyre expresses about themselves and more.

With your years of study of Vampyres and the Left Hand Path, do you believe you’ve gained enough knowledge to write your own book or series of books? Would you be interested in writing about vampire lore or vampire cinema?
I wish. However, I still have a lot to learn before I write a book about my experiences. It is a maybe. The other topic is a maybe. The reason that everything I wanted to write has been done, and I want to be original with my writings.

Would you like to contribute in any other ways to occult communities locally, nationally and internationally?
I am not sure where to begin. I write book reviews on my Facebook page. I read, study, research and apply everything I learned to see what I can do.

-Dave Wolff

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Full Length Review: Die Entweihung "Hypnotic Dreams (Remastered Reissue 2023)" (Inverted Chalice Productions, Bál Records) by Dave Wolff

Project: Die Entweihung
Location: Haifa
Country: Israel
Genre: Blackened heavy metal
Format: Digital album, CD, cassette
Label: Inverted Chalice Productions (USA) (CD release, limited to 300 copies), Bál Records (Hungary) (cassette release, limited to 100 copies)
Release date: November 18, 2022
I noted in my review of "Strict Regime Country" last July that Denis Tereshenko has always composed music for Die Entweihung eclectically. From raw black metal with horror soundtrack overtones to experimental black/doom metal with elements of classic metal and progressive rock, Denis Tereshenko made slow but noticeable efforts to redefine his project and add more eccentricity to each of his recordings, resulting in a balance between accessibility and peculiarity.
Moving from raw to prog to crossing over several genres with an anarcho punk attitude on "Strict Regime Country", he follows up by revisiting the meticulous process by which he grew as a musician and songwriter. By adding glossiness to its coarse musicianship, the remastering of "Hypnotic Dreams" refines the original’s obscene crass quality. It may have appeared that the variations in temperament and atmosphere were disjointed, but with this version it becomes more apparent that the variations were intentionally disjointed in order to convey the state of mind Tereshenko intended to impart.
The remastered "Hypnotic Dreams" maintains that balance between accessibility and peculiarity. Refined professionalism combined with an uncultivated, primitive sound reminiscent of early 90s black metal. The orchestration and arrangement of the different parts, as well as the rawness and atmosphere counterpointing each other, give the latter influence new perspectives without rehashing them or making them sound stale. In some ways, it’s similar to albums recorded by Abruptum in the 1990s; hour-long ambient compositions with inconstant vibrations and violent overtones conveying unpredictability.
For one example, the electronic ambient sounds of "Hypnotic Dream", set the mood for Tereshenko's depiction of a search through the labyrinth of his soul. For something lost or yet to be discovered? While the answer is uncertain, the search grows colder and darker as the vocals hint the speaker's soul is already dead. The song transitions from raw and unforgiving to cold and atmospheric to raw and hypnotically repetitive while the ending suggests he is actually inside another's perception of his soul.
The song "Closer To..." and the instrumental "...The Madness" may portray pessimistic disillusionment, while "In Astral Sleep" might give the impression that the album depicts an unhopeful journey toward the only reward left for someone who lived a bleak, fatalistic life (death). By outward appearances, this would appear true. Under the surface, however, it can be viewed as an aphotic journey of self-discovery to confront negative conditions like self-delusion, mistakes, regrets, and uncertainty about one's own identity. This can be considered a darker interpretation of Trent Reznor's work for Nine Inch Nails.
Perhaps it is because of this that the polished bite, constant mood changes, and underlying flares of life are so poignant here. It's said that if you don't acknowledge something negative, you can’t resolve it. A key album in this project’s evolution, it is one of the first that presents the songs as a narrative, where the arrangements are equally important to the lyrics. Again, I’d recommend listening to as much of this project's entire discography as possible in order to understand the entire picture. –Dave Wolff

Denis Tereschenko: Vocals, all instruments

Track list:
1. Hypnotic Dream
2. Closer To...
3. ...The Madness
4. In Astral Sleep

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Interview with Chuck W. Chapman by Dave Wolff

Interview with Chuck W. Chapman by Dave Wolff

What are the members of your band, how long have you been working together, and what aspects of heavy rock do you draw from on stage and in your recordings?
Chuck W. Chapman: Lead vocals and guitar, Clark Bender: lead guitar and background vocals, Todd Duncan: bass guitar and background vocals, Joseph Tanay: drums.
This project was started in 2020. Joe and I had played in a couple of different bands together from 2005-2014 or so and Todd and I had been trying to start something before the pandemic shut the world down. I released a “solo” EP during 2020 and it picked up some traction, so decided to put a real band together. Clark joined us mid 2023.
We are all big Kiss fans and grew up in the 80’s, so the big rock shows of the 70s-80s really influenced us. I believe live music should be visual as well as audial. As far as recording, I like big and full sounding. That’s the hardest thing really, is to duplicate that live feel and energy on the recordings.

When you first took up the guitar as an instrument, which guitarists influenced you the most? Did you study with professional musicians or instructors or are you completely self-taught?
I’m completely self-taught. I locked myself in my room for a couple of weeks with The Ramones “Subterranean Jungle” and Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” albums and didn’t come out until I could play every song on both records. Pretty much everything I’ve done since then is a variation of those two records, lol. My favorite guitarists are Ace Frehley, Gary Moore and maybe CC Deville. Since I’m primarily a singer and just a rhythm guitarist, I’m a big fan of Paul Stanley and Robin Zander’s guitar work as well.

Other than heavy rock music, are there other genres that inspire you when composing?
I’ll always have that punk influence as the first songs I learned to play were that genre. I also like the rawness, attitude, and the no frills style of punk music. My father was a big country music fan, so that was always in my house growing up. It probably had more effect on me than I realized or would like it to admit

How much do your punk and country influences reveal themselves when you compose songs?
It varies song to song. The punk influence I think shows a lot more often. I primarily play power chords because I not only learned that way, but I like the heaviness and the energy that comes from them. It also allows me to be more energetic onstage. Live is where the punk influence really shows. The country comes across more in my slow ballads, although I’d say they’re more southern rock than country.

When you started out, how long did it take you to find a full band, and what was your criteria for selecting musicians? Who were the musicians who influenced the other members of the band?
Originally, way back. I was just a singer. I picked up the guitar when I started writing songs because it was difficult to get my ideas across, so I learned to play myself primarily as a writing tool. Now, it’s become an extension of me and I feel awkward on stage without a guitar. Todd, like me, is a big Kiss, Ramones, Cheap Trick and Hanoi Rocks fan. When we met, it was like we had the exact same CD Collection. He’s a big fan of Pete Way and Bob Daisley. Joe lists The Beatles (who I also love), Eagles, ELO, and Styx among his favorite artists and influences, particularly Ringo Starr and Phil Ehart. Clark is a big Kiss and Ace fan as well.

Kiss was initially an underground band that achieved success on its own terms. Is that attitude still evident in heavy rock today?
I think it is, it’s just way harder to make it happen today. People don’t go out and support live music like they used to. People tend to find new music online instead of looking for it in a record store or a live venue. Half the time, people will add a song they like to their playlist and have no idea who the artist even is. It’s very hard to build a following that way. It’s also very impersonal. There’s lots of great things about the online availability of music, but there’s just as many bad things about it that hurt an artist as much as it helps them. We’re all tiny fish in a huge pond. Really hard to find new listeners and to stand out in the crowd.

As a result of social media and streaming sites, bands can increase their audience from country to country. However, in many cases, going to a show is more helpful to a band. What are some ways streaming negatively impacts local scenes? Would you be able to say the same for the scene you’re a part of?
I think the biggest thing is the anonymity of it. People hear songs they like and the download or add them to their playlist but they don't even know who the artist is. There's no real connection there. We've had great success being heard all over the world but no one really knows who we are or are invested in the band.
Would you be able to say the same for the scene you’re a part of? 100%. It's hard to get people out when they don't know who you are. Back when radio actually played new music and regional artists, they would promote who the artist was when they played a song and you'd develop a following thru that radio and sometimes TV connection. It's just not there anymore for independent artists.

I was wondering what your thoughts are on Kiss marketing avatar versions of themselves now that their "farewell tour" has ended. Many people think this shouldn't replace the live experience. How do you personally feel about this issue?
I’m a huge fan. I was in New York for the final shows. This is the connection that I was talking about that seems so hard for artists to have today. The feeling of being a fan of a band making you a part of something bigger than yourself and being a part of a tribe. That's what the Kiss Army is and what people who aren't part of that can't understand. I feel technology is making us lose that connection. I'm not sure how I feel about the avatars. Obviously, I want Kiss to continue in some form and their legacy will never die, but I'm not feeling the avatars right now. I'm trying to have an open mind and take a wait and see approach. I guess I need to see what the plans are for them. There's no way they could ever replace the live concert experience. Rock n roll is about that human element and those raw emotions we all feel. If technology replaces that, it'll never be the same. I hope we never lose the true power of rock n roll and live humans playing music on real instruments expressing real emotions.

At a time when artificial intelligence is at an all-time high, are human elements still a part of the band's music and lyrics? What are some of the feelings you convey through your music?
Without raw emotion and human feelings, music is pointless. Music, like all art, should touch you and make you feel something. I can't connect with a loop running over and over. To me, that takes the creative energy and element away and makes it a cold, soulless thing. I write real situations that I've been in or someone close to me has experienced. That human element of expressing the emotions that everyone feels brings the true connection of why you have "your song." That song speaks to you.

I once watched a video claiming most of the songs recorded by pop icons were written by the same producer. That video and another one I watched discussed how these songs sound very similar if not the same. In order to maintain originality and creativity, what can struggling artists and bands do?
I think you just have to be true to yourself. You don't do this to make money. That's a nice reward if you can make it happen, but art should feed the soul. If it can feed your stomach as well, that's a bonus.

As far as supporting live music in local scenes and at major rock and metal festivals, what can be done to improve the situation? Especially with outrageously high ticket prices for national and international acts. Would most people prefer to pay for a local band than pay three to five figures for a major concert?
I don't know. That's the dilemma. Nobody wants to let or help a band develop anymore. It's a catch 22. If you can't bring people, you can't get gigs but how will you ever be able to bring people if they never get to hear and see you? I would hope that promoters will realize at some point that they need to be including some new, unknown bands in these events to help build more audience for them.
I think that's the big ticket prices actually hurt smaller bands and hold us back from being able to advance up that ladder. People would rather pay $300 to be in the rafters to see the Eagles than pay $5 or $10 to see a great indie band from the front row. I remember searching out new music, whether it be going to clubs or sifting thru the record stores. That seems to be a lost passion. It's very frustrating. I know there is a lot of great indie music out here but very few people ever hear it. I always hear people saying there's no good new music but there is. You just have to look for it.

In every country there are fan run metal festivals as well as larger festivals like Wacken, Hellfest, Milwaukee Metal Fest and Decibel Metal & Beer Fest that give underground and unsigned bands a chance to be heard. How important do you feel these festivals are today? Has your band gotten a chance to play at one of these?
We haven’t gotten to play any of the big ones but are definitely up for it. I think these are really important as it’s one of the few ways for an original independent artist to reach large numbers of indie rock fans. Hopefully we’ll be doing a bunch of these soon.

Do you know of any festivals taking place locally or nationally where you might want to perform next year? How would appearing there be an improvement for the band after your local shows?
We’ve submitted for several, hopefully some of them will come thru. I want to put our music in front of as many people as possible. We've charted in the UK. That's one of the positive things the internet brings. It allows people that you may never get to play live for, the ability to hear and connect with your music. Nothing beats a live show experience, however. I hope that the live concert experience never goes away. I am concerned that it might. Hard to get younger fans out to see new original music. Festivals help do that.

Besides the factors we discussed, what are some other reasons you are concerned about the fading of the live experience?
It’s still the easiest way to connect with fans. People who only watch shows online or on YouTube or whatever just don't get the full experience. I still go to shows as often as I can. Again, just the real connection between the artist and the fan can only be found live. It's real easy to disconnect if everything is just virtual. Same reason I still prefer physical media. I've downloaded a few albums and I haven't noticed idea where they are. I can pull a CD or vinyl off the shelf any time and have more of a connection than pressing a button on a mouse.

I personally think there are far too many festivals of various sizes, with much more affordable tickets for the live experience to be replaced. It is also helping that social media and streaming sites show these festivals. Is your band streaming live shows on YouTube and other platforms?
I've streamed a few solo acoustic shows. I hope to do some full band shows this coming year.

As a result of playing out, how much new music have you discovered up until now? Any of it you deem worth mentioning here?
There are so many talented bands playing the underground club circuit. It’s a shame people don’t get out more and look for new music because there’s a ton of it out here.
We’ve become good friends with a band called Trailer Park Orchestra from Greensboro. We’ve played a lot of shows with them. Great band and cool guys. We opened a show for the Soap Girls, Pretty Ladies and an absolute trip to hang out with. Really too many to mention. Most of the bands are very cool. We’re all trying to accomplish the same things and most understand that.

In what venues has the band been performing lately? What has been the general response of fans who wish to hear live music?
Your normal bar and nightclub scene mostly. So far, we've hit South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. There are plans to add a few more states this year. The response has been phenomenal. We've made new fans everywhere we've been.

Where did you perform at the solo acoustic shows you are streaming? Would these be acoustic versions of your band's songs or songs you composed for playing on your own?
Just from my rehearsal room on Facebook Live and Youtube Live. There are acoustic versions of band songs, some of my older material and some of my favorite covers.

With regard to your available material, has the band built a loyal fanbase and an equally strong reputation by releasing and distributing your work independently?
We have people that buy everything we release. Music, merch, my books, you name it. Getting large numbers out to live shows is more challenging. People don't seem to go out as much as they used to. We have people that are at every show in their area, so it's building. Our streaming numbers have been really strong, so the music is getting heard. The first EP sold several hundred physical copies and been streamed 50,000 times or so. The last LP is already over half a million, so it's getting out there.

So the internet and social media are helping the band establish a name for themselves? Considering this, how important is it to you to still release your material in physical form?
Just the real connection. I can't sign a download, haha. The internet gets stuff out there, but too many times, people will download a song and not even bother to look who the artist is. You get lots of streams and downloads that way, but not as many fans. I like reading the liner notes, looking at the artwork, the music becomes a real, solid, tangible thing, not just something that exists in the nothingness of cyberspace.

What is the total amount of material that the band has released to date? If it all has been released on all formats, which format has received the biggest response?
This band has released a four song EP, “Girls and Cars and Things That Matter”, and a ten song LP, “Burn It Down”. The EP was on CD and digital and the LP was on vinyl, CD, and digital. Obviously the streaming numbers have been the largest cause that's the most readily available format, but the CDs have done really well at shows and the vinyl has done ok too. Vinyl is still kind of a niche thing but cool to have.

Where was recording, mixing and mastering done for the EP and full length done? Do you prefer working with professionals or is the band professional mixers and masterers in their own right?
The EP was actually recorded as demos about twelve years ago. During Covid, I came across the files and just tweaked a little in GarageBand and put it out there. It came out amazingly well, all things considered. “Burn It Down” was recorded at Studio 101 I. SC and then mixed in California by John Webster of Red Ryder, then mastered by Mike Schau, former guitarist for Thor. I was hooked up with John and Mike by my co-producer, and also Thor guitarist, Kevin Stuart Swain. Kevin is a great friend and has done so much to help me in my music career, I can’t think him enough.
I like to write and perform. I leave the mixing and mastering to the pros. Those guys are another level.

Among the songs on your EP and full-length, which best represents the band's evolution as musicians? When you perform live, which of them are most well received by your listeners?
I don’t know about evolution, but a few that I’m really proud of are “Everybody’s Broken” and “Fighting for My Life” from the “Girls and Cars” EP and “After The Fall”, “Words Get In The Way” and “We Got Mona Lisa” from “Burn It Down”. I think all those show my maturation as a songwriter, especially lyrically. I couldn’t have written any of those when o first started writing. When you perform live, which of them are most well received by your listeners? All those are live staples. “Fighting, Words”, “Everybody’s Broken”, and “Mona Lisa” all seem to strike chords with people.

In addition to the emotions you convey, do your lyrics reflect your experience as a band and your experience with the music industry that we’ve discussed?
I generally try to stick to human elements that most everyone can relate to and understand. The music, and entertainment industry in general, are their own beasts that people that haven’t been inside those bellies, really can’t understand. I do have a few references on the forthcoming record, but they’re not the main thrust of the song.

Regarding artwork, does the band design their own cover art or does it hire artists to do so? Who designed the artwork for both of your releases? In general, are you satisfied with the results?
I did the “Girls and Cars” cover. I used another artist’s photo and then modified it to work for the album. The second one, I did a really rough sketch and then had my friend, Patrick Rasmussen, who is a professional artist, do a painting of my concept. The third one, at this point I have designed and done the artwork but am still deciding if I will use my art or have someone like Patrick do their interpretation of it.
I’m very happy with both, I am never truly happy with anything creative I do, but I’ve learned to draw a line at picking stuff apart too much. As a whole, I’m pleased. Patrick’s work is amazing and if there’s anything that I’m unhappy with, it would definitely be in my communication, not in his rendering.

In 2024, do you plan to expand on the fan base you gained by singing with an independent label to further distribute your releases? Are there any other plans you have for this coming year?
This will be our first release with Self Made Records, so we’re really stoked about the potential for a wider audience. We hit four states last tour and we’re looking to at least double that this time.
We plan to play out as much as possible. Expand the brand and our fan base. I love playing new places and meeting new music lovers. I also have a short story being included in an anthology from my publisher, Black Bedsheet Books, and also should have a new book out by year’s end. I like staying busy.

-Dave Wolff

Monday, January 22, 2024

Full Length Review: Mahavatar "Rise From Betrayal" (Rebel Sound Records) by Dave Wolff

Band: Mahavatar
Location: Manhattan, New York
Country: USA
Genre: Groove metal
Full length: Rise From Betrayal
Format: Digital
Label: Rebel Sound Records (USA)
Release date: May 8, 2020
Mahavatar was a band that I followed consistently in the 2000s, starting with a promotional CD for a song they had written called “The Time Has Come”. I came across the promo through an email from their old guitarist who was plugging it. Black metal, death metal, and underground metal in general was well on its way growing beyond its origins, and my musical tastes were also expanding at the same pace, so I was more than willing to give it a try.
The song's lyrics were somewhat prophetic in their own right since Mahavatar was one of the first bands to fuse metal, alternative, Middle Eastern rhythms, heaviness, atmosphere, and exotic flavorings. Before cultural folk metal became as widespread, diverse, and prominent as it is today in the underground, they had a vision. I therefore kept up with them through their next two demos and their full-length releases “Go With The No!” (2005) and “From the Sun, the Rain, the Wind, the Soil” (2006).
They were on a roll and gaining momentum when they stopped releasing albums for an extended period. It was a few years ago when they decided to make their presence known again with a revamped lineup and a third studio album. “Rise From Betrayal” reminds me why I was enraptured by their conceptualization of metal's capacity for expansion, and it is indicative of the same burning desire to conceptualize something new and innovative. As before, the band presents memorable arrangements and hard musicianship, delivered as if they truly believe in what they are writing.
As before, there is a fusion of post-thrash metal, alternative, groove, crunch, unconventional songwriting, a strong vocal presence, and themes that sound as though they originate from far away. They are able to evoke emotions that are as diverse as the material they use in their compositions, resulting in a much larger whole than its parts. As a result of the cleaner production, the sound is heavier and more convincing than their previous releases, as if they are unleashing all the energy they have been accumulating during their silence at once.
Lizza Hayson's vocals give new meaning to Helen Reddy's “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar”. She embodies the spirit behind the band's creation, regardless of whether her voice is melodic or brutal. Her range often personifies the band’s exotic qualities, especially in “Epicore” and “Warrior of Light”. There is so much difference between the themes of every song that it would be difficult to place them into a single category. The following songs may be of interest to you: “Resist”, “Light Comes Out the Dark”, “Broken Wing”, “A Prayer For the Insane”, and “Fallen”.
Those of you who have never heard of Mahavatar would be well advised to give them a listen if you are looking for music that breaks the mold in a variety of ways. –Dave Wolff

Lizza Hayson: Vocals
Shahar Mintz: Guitars, vocals
Richard Almady: Guitars
Maria Rapacz: Bass
Glenn Grossman: Drums

Track list:
1. Resist
2. Hate Factory
3. Epicore
4. Light Comes Out the Dark
5. Broken Wing
6. Rise from Betrayal
7. Warrior of Light
8. A Prayer for the Insane
9. Cold Steel Welded
10. Fallen
11. Broken Wing (acoustic)

Friday, January 19, 2024

Interview with Prophet of St. Madness by Dave Wolff

Interview with Prophet of St. Madness by Dave Wolff

Over the years, the band has had one name change and several members. Explain why you changed the name of the band, how many new members you hired and what impact they had on the band's sound and direction.
We began as a band in 1993 under the name Crown Of Thorns and right away we noticed like five other bands in different countries who had that name. Then in 1997 we found out that a Christian rock group had actually trademarked the name Crown Of Thorns in 1991, two years before we even started using the name, so we knew we would have to change our name. The album we had out at the time was our second and it was called “The Spiritual Visions Of St. Madness” by Crown Of Thorns. Margie (our manager) and I got with an entertainment attorney and did a worldwide search to see if anyone owned the name St. Madness. When we found out no one owned it we trademarked it right on the spot and we have owned the name ever since.
Over the years we have probably had about twenty great artists/musicians in the band. Every single time we have had to replace someone. Even though it was kind of a pain to have to do that, it has always worked out for the betterment of the band by bringing in fresh blood so to speak. I am truly grateful to have gotten to work with so many great musicians. It's kind of like Megadeth and all of the band members that they have had over the years. No matter who is in the band, all of the songs and albums sound like Megadeth. Dave Mustaine knows what he wants his band to sound like and I know what a St. Madness song and album should sound like.

Were all those lineup changes an effort to find musicians who share a similar musical and artistic vision?
It is inevitable that not all members are going to stay around for thirty years. I love and respect every single current and former member of St. Madness and I am honored to be able or to have been able to work with so many talented people.

When people hear the name St. Madness, what should they expect from the band?
That we are first and foremost entertainers, not people trying to be rock stars. Our biggest goal and concern when we play concerts is that the crowd has a good time and gets more than their money's worth. We are part of show business, we are professionals and we know that our job is to do our best we can to send the audience home happy at the end of the night. We care deeply about our music and the show we put on. People can choose to go to any show that they want so if they come to our show it means the world to us. I personally am very proud to be an entertainer and I consider the stage to be a sacred place. Onstage we let the music do the talking and we understand that without fans there is no life in music, so the fans always come first.

Prophet is the name you record and perform by. What is its meaning and how does it relate to your songs and stage presence?
“Prophet” is a character I perform as. Because we are a theatrical/face painted band we all agreed that taking on stage personas was the right thing to do. When a person paints their face or wears a mask onstage it changes their personality a bit and allows an alter ego to come forth and in our band it has suited us well. I chose the name “Prophet”, believe it or not, because my aunt married a guy way back in the 1970s whose last name was “Prophet”. When she got a personalized license plate for her vehicle it said “Prophet” and I thought that it was really cool. Plus the name “Prophet” for me goes very well in the context of being the front man for a band called St. Madness or Crown Of Thorns.

What makes your stage presence different from those of Alice Cooper, (old) Kiss, Misfits, King Diamond, Gwar, etc.? In formulating your concept, did you draw on any outside sources or did you create it entirely from your own ideas?
I was the one who went to the band one rehearsal and told them that at the next show which was in November 1995 that I was going to wear face paint or war paint. I told the guys in the band that I didn't care if they wore it or not but that I needed a change. The reason for this was that in the early 1990's record companies had started to sign lots of so called “grunge” band (which to me were just rock n roll bands) and had started to drop many metal bands from their labels or not put much money behind them anymore. Did grunge music kill metal in the 1990's? In my opinion only partially, because what I believe really hurt Metal music was that in the 1980's it seemed like every metal had to have a guitar god and many of the bands started to look and sound alike, which bored even me at the time. We started wearing face paint and decidedly began to make or music heavier and heavier was our response to the record labels and radio stations abandoning metal. This was our way of making our band stand out like a sore thumb. Oddly enough my whole band started to wear face paint from 1995 on and we still do to this day. It really had nothing whatsoever to do with any of the bands that you mention though I am a fan of all of them.

Over the course of your career, you have opened for a variety of bands, from Van Halen to Lynch Mob to Misfits and Mercyful Fate. Are you aware of the appeal that St. Madness has for fans of those bands as well as those with whom you have played?
I have never really thought about it, I/we just do what I/we feel comfortable doing. We also play many cover songs of artists or bands that have influenced us as musicians over the years. We try to put one or two cover songs on each of our albums and CD's. This is our way of showing respect and love to them.

Of all the covers the band has included on their releases, which came closest to the original? Or have you always made a point of adding your personal touch to your cover artwork?
We always have and always will put our own St. Madness flavor or spin on any cover that we play however it is important to us to maintain a certain respect to the original version of any song that we cover. This is out of respect for that particular artist and for their fans. We really aren't interested in changing any cover song that we do to the point that it's hard to know what song we are covering. All of the covers that we have done have the St. Madness touch to them but not so much that you can't recognize the song when you hear it.

How did you come up with the dark humor that appears in some of the songs on your album “God Bless America”?
“God Bless America” was our third full length album and it came out on Nasty Prick Records in 1998. Remember that as a band our original name was Crown Of Thorns from 1993 till 1997 and by the time that we changed our band's name to St. Madness in September 1997. We had already released two albums under the name Crown Of Thorns. We released “Loneliness Is Black” in 1994 and “The Spiritual Visions Of St. Madness” in early 1997. As far as our humorous side goes, I have always had a bit of a twisted sense of humor. Remember we are entertainers who work in show business so it's important that our fans have a good time and this includes the “God Bless America” album. Everything we do is primarily for entertainment purposes only. We want our fans and the audience who has never seen or heard us before to have a good time. Our music is about the human experience and humans are capable of either doing great good or great evil; it's all up to each person. Our songs sometimes are very serious while other times they are funny or sad. Music is the language of the soul and our music is designed to bring out different emotions in the listeners.

Is it safe to assume that the subject matter of your lyric writing, whether humorous or serious, is influenced by your frame of mind at the time?
I get inspiration but everything around me or things going on in the world. When I wrote the lyrics to our song “Sexual Abuse”. I was purposely trying to offend as many people as possible. Metal music has always been a little dangerous and I wanted to hold fast to that tradition. Our songs go from realism and truth to humor or fantasy. I/we enjoy putting a lot of variety on our albums because it makes the creative process so much more fun for us and for the fans.

How offensive are the lyrics of “Sexual Abuse” and what sort of feelings did you intend to capture when you penned the song? In what ways does it reflect metal’s tendency toward being dangerous?
This one is kind of a funny story because the music was written first by the band and I had promised them that I would have lyrics for it by our next rehearsal. A few days later, I was getting ready to go to rehearsal when I remembered that I had completely forgotten to write and lyrics for our new song. I had about five minutes before I had to leave, so I quickly just wrote down every offensive thing that I would think of and that was that. The guys were shocked by the lyrics but they also loved them because we didn't care about who we offended with them, and to us that is a very METAL thing to do and attitude to have. It is still a lot of fun for me to sing that song onstage and to watch all of the shocked faces on those who are hearing it for the first time. Many ladies who are married will let me sing it to them from the stage while they smile, but they would never let their own husbands speak to them like that. It's really funny at times.

Was “Sexual Abuse” the most offensive song you’ve written for the band, or have you written lyrics even more extreme than that?
I would say “Sexual Abuse” is our most offensive song for sure, but it's also one of our most popular songs as well. In 2000 we found out that a modern punk band named Guttermouth had recorded a cover of “Sexual Abuse” and put it on an album called “Punk Goes Metal” that was put out by Fearless Records. We ended up making just over ten thousand dollars in royalties off of it, but later when Fearless Records sold out to another label, that other label has ignored our request to get the rest of our royalties.

When "Punk Goes Metal" was released, did Guttermouth's inclusion of "Sexual Abuse" increase St. Madness' popularity as well as royalties? In order to obtain additional royalties for the cover, how often did you contact the new label after Fearless Records?
I don't really want to talk about how many times we have contacted a label about royalties because that is a private band matter but what I will say is that Guttermouth covering our songs did increase our bands profile because they sold about one hundred thousand copies of the record. I know that one hundred thousand in sales isn't a huge number but it is one hundred thousand more people who may not have heard of St. Madness before that might make then curious enough to check us out. It is always a good thing when people admire your work enough that they want to cover it and put it out on the market for sale.

Can you tell the readers of other instances when bands recorded cover versions of your songs, and how those helped the band?
There have been a few bands or artists that covered a song or two of ours and to me it's always a good thing. Imitation is one of the greatest forms of flattery. I love hear how other bands or artists interpret our music. Back when we were still called Crown Of Thorns there was a punk band here in Arizona called Clowns With Horns who played our music but turned it all punk. The band was all friends of ours and it was awesome!!!

What is some of the gallows humor you write based upon? What songs with this subject matter have been a steady part of your live shows?
The song that we play the most is our composition entitled “Arizona” which was written in tribute to the beautiful state that we live in, as well as a tribute to all of the Native American peoples here. Another song that we perform all of the time is called “Metal To The Death and Beyond” or “MDB”. We also play “Sexual Abuse” and “The Anti-Superhero” a lot. As far as newer songs that we play all of the time now, “My Music Manifesto”, “A Time For Reflection” and “Biologic Manipulation” are also on the list. It's also good to write humorous songs because the fans at the shows seem to really enjoy them. Our concerts can take people through many different emotions, all in one show.

What about Native American culture partly inspired “Arizona”? Does it capture the essence of said culture as a tribute? How long has this song been part of your set?
The song “Arizona” was written in 2005 and it was released on the “Vampires In The Church” that came out in 2006 on Nasty Prick Records. St. Madness has always had many Native American fans and we have always shared the stage or played shows with lots of Native American Metal bands and we love it. “Arizona” lyrically is my way of saying ‘thank you’ and giving back to all of the love that the state of Arizona and the Native American community have shown me for many years. Dying Tribe, I Don't Konform, Rez Of War, Hell Defined, Native Blood and Guardians, these are some of the bands we have played many shows with for many years and they all kick ass!!!

I had heard of a few Native American metal bands, but I had no idea there were more than I knew. As someone who listens to a great deal of this genre, why is it having such a significant impact on local metal scenes, and where do you think it will go in the future?
I'm not sure where it will go. I just know that here in Arizona we have many awesome Native American bands and we always have great shows with them. If you look up Revolver Magazine/I Don't Konform on YouTube the magazine put out an amazing documentary about the band; it's one of those that you want to watch more than once. The truth is that all kinds of people around the world love metal music and because of that we have so many different flavors of metal and I personally love it. I believe that there is room for everyone.

Were there any moments when someone thought the more serious side of your writing was too much for them, or do people generally relate to what you have to say?
I have never had anyone say to me or to any of us in the band (that I know of) that we have written songs that were too serious. By now our fans know us and what to expect from us and this is why we have so much variety in our music so the fans don't get bored hearing the same old thing from us.

Describe a typical St. Madness performance to readers from other states and countries who have not seen you perform.
First of all we don't go onstage to play rock stars. We find it incredibly important that we always do our best to put the fans and the audience first and foremost in our minds. Our shows are about taking the audience into a metal journey of emotions and feelings while having a good time. We are what I call “metal theater” and what we play is “Carnimetal” music. We have had many different actors performing with us onstage over the years and also many attractive ladies dancing onstage with us while we are performing. It's all about heavy music, shock and fun!!!

Describe in more detail the stage gear worn by the band while they are performing, as well as any other props or accoutrements that are part of your show. In what ways has your live show been discussed in the press, and how would you define “Carnimetal”?
First of all I came up with the term Carnimetal, and what it means is that we are basically carnies who play metal instead of putting up rides and booths to play games. People have asked me in interviews if I fancy myself as a real Prophet because of my lyrics and stage name. I tell them that “Prophet” is a character that I perform and record as, but I don't see myself as a real Prophet whatsoever. I'm an entertainer and nothing more and that's good enough for me. I love being an entertainer and performing for people who love metal music and making people happy with our music and show. Onstage we all basically wear whatever we want and depending on the weather (because it's pretty hot here in Arizona) we could be wearing more leather or less. We all basically wear a lot of black clothing with some old school spikes and such.

When it comes to hiring actors and extras for your performances, how do you go about doing so? Are they mostly friends of the band, or do you search for them through agencies?
During “Arizona” we have an actor named Loki Toki who comes out on stage waving the Arizona flag. In past shows we have had Devils, evil monks, sexy ladies dancing, The Grim Reaper, The Jesus Clone, (check out our song “Jesus Clone 2000”) and we have also had my son “Josh” who performs as the character, Happy Evil and we have had angels, zombies, and Howard Presley who unfortunately passed away on December 15th 2021. Howard was one of our crew members and one day he and I were talking about Elvis Presley. As we were talking I was looking at him and it occurred to me that Howard would look great in an Elvis jumpsuit. I asked him if he would ever wear one and perform onstage with us by doing Karate kicks and such. He said “I could do that” and Howard Presley was born. He performed with us since the mid 1990's and when he passed away it has left a big empty space in all of our hearts. All of our actors are usually friends of our own crew members who we turn into characters and before you know it, we have them performing onstage with us.

Has the band released any live recordings on DVD, Blu Ray or digital/streaming? Or uploaded any of your live shows on YouTube, so people can see what your performances are like?
There are all kinds of live videos of us on Youtube. And we released a live record in 2017 called “Live 55” because a friend of mine recorded our show on my birthday that year and gave it to me as a birthday present. What we love about that record is that none of us in the band had any idea that we were being recorded whatsoever. We never went back and fixed anything sound wise on that album so basically what you hear is what you get. It's a very true to life performance. What do you remember about the show that was recorded for “Live 55”? Can you hear any audience participation in the recording, and how is the sound quality in general? There were no mic's in or close to the audience, so you can't hear them as well as if we had had mics out there. But it's a truly LIVE recording and that's what I love about it. None of us in the band knew we were being recorded so the whole thing was very natural. We didn't fix one thing on that recording other than mixing and mastering.

St. Madness’ new release, the first part of “Last Rites: The Final Blessing”, which came out in 2022, seems to have replaced gallows humor with a more serious theme. Could you explain this concept and what inspired you to take such a lyrical approach?
“Last Rites: The Final Blessing” is only halfway done. We started to release songs from it in 2022 but we have only released the first six songs as singles so far. We have two new songs written and have started a third plus we may be recording our cover of “Wasted Years” by Iron Maiden for the album. We are on our own label so we are just taking our time to finish it. We are really in no rush.

Which of the songs from “The Final Blessing” do you consider to be the most personal to you? In writing the lyrics, did you need to engage in any introspection, or did they simply flow like other songs you've written?
I would have to say that the song called “They're All Gone” is the most personal to me of any of our songs. It's about losing so many loved ones and beloved pets in my life. I'm sure that everyone who hears the song can relate to it in some way or another.

Between “Wasted Years” and “Wild Child” by W.A.S.P., were these songs selected as covers so you and your listeners could remain connected to when you and they discovered metal?
We just pick cover tunes that we want to play at random. If you go to our Bandcamp page you can stream all of our albums for free and check out all of the cover songs that we have put on our albums. We just pick songs from bands and artists that have influenced us in some way in our musical lives. There is really nothing more to it.

The first six tracks of “The Final Blessing” are available for streaming at Bandcamp. Have your listeners been responding to them since they were uploaded there?
They have, and we are being featured in many metal magazines all over the world lately because of those first six songs from the upcoming new album. I love all six songs very much and I know the rest of the guys in the band feel the same way. We really put our hearts and souls into the music.

Would you consider the original songs you have yet to record for “The Final Blessing” of the same personal nature as the ones you've released?
I do; we have two new songs already finished. One is titled “We Make Evil Fun”, then there is the title track called “Last Rites: The Final Blessing”. We are working on a third new song called “It's Always Hard To Say Goodbye”. Along with “Wasted Years”, those are the next ones we will be recording.

How aggressively has the band promoted their upcoming full-length album prior to its official release? Do you plan to release physical copies of the new album in addition to streaming it?
We have been promoting “Last Rites: The Final Blessing” pretty aggressively since about 2022. This album has taken long simply because we are on our own label and we went through some tough financial times with the pandemic etc. So the album will be completed and put out as a finished product whenever the time is right.

Who designed the artwork for the new album's cover? Has a promotional video been produced or is one in the works for additional promotion? What are the visual representations of your songs or how will they be represented?
If anyone goes to Youtube and types our name they will see there are tons of videos out there on or by us. The main promotional video so far for the new upcoming album would be the lyric video for “My Music Manifesto”. This song is my way of saying goodbye to our fans when I and we finally do retire. We have already been at this for over thirty years but it's not over yet. I just wanted to have a song and cool video that tells my musical story and I think it came out amazing. Again, what we do is metal theater; it's much more than just playing music. I get bored easy so we have lots of variety on all our records, and we bury samples and statements in the background of songs to make the whole thing more interesting to the true listeners.

Are you planning to perform at bigger venues and reach more listeners in 2024 due to the momentum you're gaining from past releases and promoting your new album?
We pretty much play it all by ear because we have no idea what's coming up the path that we have taken. The largest crowd we have ever performed for was just over eight thousand people, although we did also play the side-stage for Van Halen and Monster Magnet here in Phoenix back on July 1st of 1998; there were about ten thousand at that show. We never know what’s going to happen, we just stay on our path and keep moving forward. We are not in the least concerned about becoming rock stars; that is the last thing that we would ever want to be. We love being entertainers and we see it like this. When you are a rock star the fans serve, you but when you are an entertainer the entertainer serves the fans. We will put on the same show for ten people or ten thousand.

When people look back on St. Madness's career in the future, what kind of impact would you like the band to have had on metal in general? Are you aware of any changes the band has made in the present?
I just hope that when people look back on St. Madness, that our music and shows have given them some good and great memories. It is our great pleasure to entertain metal fans and as long as we have done or continue to do that, then we have done our job. Things happen as they should so we just keep doing our thing for our fans and that's it.
I would like to say thank you to you Dave for sharing this interview with your readers and letting them know more about St. Madness!!!
Prophet, St. Madness

-Dave Wolff

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

EP Review: Sewage "Punk Not DeAd" (Solid Bass Records) by Dave Wolff

Band: Sewage
Location: Manhattan, New York
Country: USA
Genre: Punk
EP: Punk Not DeAd
Format: Vinyl
Release date: January 15, 2024
I've said that one benefit of social media is it has helped punk become more socially and politically aware since people can share information that you usually wouldn’t be able to watch. While this is still so, there are still people who are concerned with social media interaction replacing physical contact between people. As Sewage has always been outspoken about what they see around them, they address this ongoing issue with a vengeance on their new EP “Punk Not DeAd”.
Anyone who knows the band since their inception knows they don’t lash out at society for the sake of lashing out at society. The issues they address are real concerns: the homeless problem, police corruption, corporate greed, complacency in the local punk scene and so forth. So when setting their sights on social media it’s no case of crackpot conspiracy theory or a knee jerk “I hate technology”. It’s the misuse of technology and its possible repercussions on people, going by facts and research.
Of course what I’m referring to is the track “The Social Media Suite” which expresses their sentiments on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch and TikTok. I gather it’s an expression directed at social media because the attack is sudden and thorough, and put across in the context of someone who still goes out to see a local show rather than filming and uploading it. A similar sentiment about selfie obsessed web surfers, as I remember, was made by Sick Of It All with “Self Important Shithead” from “Wake The Sleeping Dragon!”, a song that made you laugh and think at the same time.
This is Sewage's first release featuring electro club remixes, such as what you would hear at clubs like Pyramid on the lower east side and Alphabet City. I am starting to become nostalgic, probably because I can see how closely the band, while widening their range and touring several US cities, has remained in touch with where they came from and remained relevant to their environment. Michelle Shocked, esteemed musician and political protestor, also joins the band on bass and backing vocals.
As much outrage as social satire, Sewage has demonstrated remarkable staying power by putting what is going on in their community on record for you to consider or ignore, with as much wry humor and classic punk aggression. Despite the passing of time, they have maintained that spirit and play the songs on this EP as if they were channeling public protests regarding the issues mentioned above through their musicianship, with such intensity that you can feel their passion. Keeping longtime supporters around and attracting new ones is a result of their honesty in doing so. –Dave Wolff

Spike Polite: Vocals, guitar
Michelle Shocked: Bass, vocals
Tony Romero: Guitar
John Pannikar: (Beast) Drums

Track list:
1. What Happened To The Punk Rock (Rock version)
2. Florida (Rock version)
3. The Social Media Suite
4. Punk Not Dead (Electronic Club Remix by XnormL & Les Techno Radio Edit)
5. Punk Not Dead (The Full Edit)
6. Florida (Electronic Club Remix by XnormL & Les Techno)