Sunday, January 26, 2014

Confessions from an Angry Artist #1: My Journey Making a Music Video for Funeral Dust

It was an early morning back in the fall of 2006 where I sat in my parent's basement and put on Jaws.  After I watched the movie, I started to watch the special features on the making of Jaws.  This suddenly inspired me so much that I knew I had to film something that day.  I had been up the entire night, and when the birds began to chirp, I knew I wasn't going back to sleep. I was visiting PA, and had my little Samsung camera on me.  I gave my friend Wulv a call.

Wulv and I go back many years.  His parents lived across the street from my Grandmother.  As we got older we separated; he went to one school and I to another.  Years later, in an art class, his sister Jill told me about a metal band that Wulv started along with his best friend, Mictian.  This band was Permanent Midnight - PA's only Black/Death metal band (there would be others, but mainly consisting of myself and other friends).  Wulv and I reacquainted and we hit it off instantly.  Shortly there after I joined Permanent Midnight and the rest is history, or a story for an entirely different blog. 

Wulv, Mictian, and myself were always very creative people.  And during the bands initial four or five year run, we were like a fucking locomotive.  The three of us wrote songs constantly, and ended up writing a dozen or so more that would be thrown to the side until further inspirations stirred.  There may be a good 30 songs that we did; all in different stages of completion, including covers.

In 2005 Wulv started his side project, Funeral Dust.  Wulv's favorite movie of all time is Jaws, so after watching that and the special features, I decided to call him and asked if we could shoot a music video.  Wulv, always the opportunist and never shying away from being creative, immediately agreed and about two hours later we were shooting.  I had no idea what the fuck I was doing.  This was two years before I'd take film courses.  We were basically winging it.  The little knowledge I did have came from a DVD I bought at a record store.  The DVD was basically a how-to on making music videos with just a camera, a band and a computer.  So, with our meager knowledge we went to the trenches and started shooting the video.

Wulv was ready for war armed with his spikes, axes, inverted crucifixes, and corpse paint splattered on his face.  We headed out to an old friend's house to shoot on his land.  He had many acres of land, and was very selfless in letting us use his land for whatever we needed to do, although we did hear a gun shot echo throughout the woods after calling "cut" on one of the takes.  We were all over the place shooting.  I had Wulv stand 100 or so yards from me as I basically walked with the camera; bobbing and weaving it up and down.  This shot was inspired from a few scenes in Evil Dead when the camera flies through the air.   Later on in post I just sped up the video to give it a frenetic look.  The camera disappears into Wulv's mouth and exits in an entirely different location (PM's original practice room), when the music kicks in. The song we did the music video for was "Awakening the Ancient Evil", which was a homage to Evil Dead anyway.

All the stuff we shot in that practice room was basically me pointing the camera at Wulv and letting him work his magic.  Wulv is a hunter so there is no surprise that you see deer carcasses, and bones throughout.  Of course he loves fire too and there's a shot with him singing behind flames.  To get this shot we actually used fire and almost torched the practice room to the ground.  But you do what is needed to get the shot.  The music video process is tedious to say the least.  In this case, Funeral Dust is a one man band.  So we had shots with just Wulv singing and others where he's playing his Viper guitar.  We did numerous takes, with numerous angles, in three or four different locations in less than two days.  There was absolutely no bickering or fighting when we did this video.  I'm saying that because I feel like we've always worked rather well together.  Even though I directed it, it was a joint project and he was very vital in the behind the scenes stuff.  I wish we could've used one source light, but we had to use Wulv's rig, in which the lights constantly blinked on and off as though you're in a concert.  But at the end of the day we needed a light source and that's what we got.

The only difference creatively that I ever felt Wulv and I had was our pacing in projects.  I'm a perfectionist, whereas Wulv is kind of a one take guy.  On this project we did a few more takes than necessary, but when you're editing you need some room to breath with extra coverage.  Even though I had no clue what I was doing, I had edited a few things prior and knew this much as true. 

I'll give credit to Wulv for the locations.  The cemetery scenes were his ideas.  We just went there and walked around with the camera, giving it that feel of a lifeless, demonic force floating over the tombstones.  Even in the raw footage you can hear us catching up and shooting the shit as the camera rolls.  By this time I'd been in New York for almost two years.

It took a full day and half of another to complete this shoot.  This would be the last time Wulv and I worked and created something together.  The only fucking downfall was during a shot when I was on the ground filming Wulv walking through the woods.  Later, I would be brushing five or six ticks out of my head.  Luckily none of them embedded into my skull. 

This was the very first thing I'd done with filmmaking.  And I really appreciate it.  It's not perfect, but it's very black metal: bare bones, raw and intense.  No color correction or any other video altering tools were used in post.  What we filmed is what you see.  It was two friends, acting on the impulse to just create something cool.  And I think we succeeded.

Here it is, the official music video for Awakening the Ancient Evil by Funeral Dust.  Directed, shot and edited by R.K. Hook


Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview with Wind Hawk: "Playing songs I truly love to a capacity crowd of die-hard horror rockers. There's nothing like that and I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Wind Hawk is a busy man.  He's constantly staying creative and has his hand in numerous projects.  He's the former guitarist for Utah's horror punk band, DieMonsterDie and contributed his guitar work on their upcoming album, October 21st 1976.  Recently he's enrolled back into film school and is currently writing a screenplay. Wind Hawk worships horror and we here at Something's Lurking welcome him with dead, lifeless arms.  I hope you will do the same.  His new band, Shadow Wind Hawk and the Morticians can be found here: 

1.  At what age did you decide you wanted to be a musician?
You know, I don't think it was ever really a conscious decision on my part. I began to take playing guitar seriously (around age 12 or 13) and was introduced to Social Distortion, The Cramps, Dead Kennedy's and Agent Orange by a friend of mine in middle school, Sam Roberts. Sam showed me how to play a power chord for the first time and my 7th grade music teacher (Judson Armstrong) showed me how to play some open chords and a pentatonic minor scale. Suddenly the door to the world of rock n' roll was opened. It was instant love. I became completely obsessed with the electric guitar. Since that time I have never stopped playing and over the course of it all I eventually ended up where I'm at today. It was never a case of 'when I grow up, I'm gonna be a real musician'. It was simply my love of the guitar and of all things punk rock that pushed me into being a musician. I spent much of my teenage years daydreaming of being in a real working punk band. The fire that I had to do it one day lead me to where I am. I'm certainly no virtuoso and I'm not really striving to break new ground in music. I'm just being myself and doing what I love for the love of it.
2.  Have you always played guitar?
Hah, no. The first instrument I ever owned was a Mexican made Fender Stratocaster that my step-dad gave me for my 10th birthday. I also had a little Pignose travel amp. I remember being in awe of how fucking cool the Strat was and at the same time I had no idea what the fuck to do with it. I couldn't play anything at that point. But I knew right away that I had to figure it out somehow. So a couple years later when I started middle school, I started taking some lessons from the school music teacher, Judson. I also picked up whatever I could from my friends who were into punk rock. It just went from there and I never quit. I got to the point where I'd listen to songs and teach myself how to play them by ear. Long story short, I've been playing electric guitar for roughly 10 years now.

3.  Who were some of your earliest influences in music?
Oh man. There's a lot of them, but I'd have to say the main ones were Social Distortion, Agent Orange, Nirvana, Bad Religion, The Dead Kennedy's, The Ramones, NOFX, The Misfits, Type O, Danzig, Pearl Jam, Pantera and White Zombie, among others. When I was a kid my dad would blast "Nevermind" by Nirvana and "Vitalogy" by Pearl Jam through his old stereo while making dinner. I was a child of the 90's and inevitably grunge has remained the earliest influence on me as far as rock n' roll goes.

4.  Tell me about some of your earlier musical projects? 
When I was in high school I came up with the idea to start a punk band called 'The Gravedancers'. That never went anywhere though. We really had no direction or any clue of what the fuck to do to write a song. Throughout High School I remained without a musical project but kept on playing my guitar. Shortly after I graduated High School, I joined the long tenured Salt Lake City Horror Punk / Shock Rock outfit DieMonsterDie as their new Lead Guitarist. A couple months after joining DMD, I started as lead guitarist for another SLC horror punk band called Zombiance, but left after playing three shows with them to put all of my time into DieMonsterDie.

5.  When did you begin playing horror punk?  And why?
From a very young age I was drawn to and enamored by the traditions of Halloween (Samhain) and subsequently horror films. When I was around the age of three, I would stay up late with my father watching old episodes of the 60's soap "Dark Shadows". I remember hiding under the coffee table and banging my head on it whenever Barnabas bared his fangs on camera. As I got a bit older, the Horror VHS section of Blockbuster became a paradise for me as a child. First I absorbed the Universal Monsters and Vincent Price drive-in movies over and over again, renting them constantly. I connected with the monsters; I felt for them. Then around the age of 10, on nights when my parents weren't home I began to sneak in viewings on tape of slasher flicks like John Carpenter's 1978 film "Halloween" and Tobe Hooper's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre pt. 2" from 1985. Because of this early fascination I developed, horror has always been pretty deeply ingrained in my psyche. When I had first started listening to punk rock in middle school, the infectious energy and raw power of the music spoke to me in a similar way as the horror films did. It was angry music for the outcasts, for the people who chose to remain outside of normal society, who wanted listen to something other than the typical boring pop bullshit. It was amazing to me. At that time I was young, angry and never very popular in school. I never felt like I fit in; from the time I was born I had a very rare birth defect which prevented my adult front teeth from coming in and by the age of 13 I still had no front teeth. I faced a lot of ridicule from other kids for that all the way until I underwent surgery to have the teeth pulled down in 8th grade. Because of my feelings of being an outsider punk was more than just music for me. I adopted it as part of my identity. I started sneaking out to all ages punk shows at Lo-Fi Cafe in Salt Lake where I saw bands like Throw Rag and Lower Class Brats. When I later discovered how both horror and punk rock blend so seamlessly…it was immediate fascination and love. I wasn't aware of horror punk actually being a genre / scene of its own until I saw a great (now dissolved) SLC horror punk band called Left For Dead. They played the parking lot of Rocky Point Haunted House in SLC when I was about 14 years old. I knew of and loved The Misfits, Samhain and Danzig, but had no idea there was a whole group of bands out there actively playing music that was specifically horror / b-movie themed. At that show my friend Parker won a copy of Horror of It All, Vol. 1 in a raffle that Dr. Cyclops Records was having. He let me burn a copy of it and that's how I heard Calabrese, DieMonsterDie, Lugosi's Morphine and The Rosedales (among others) for the first time. I became obsessed with the concept of blending horror film imagery with rock n' roll right away; I craved it and wanted more. So when I caught word that DieMonsterDie was actually local and were playing a big all ages gig opening for GWAR, I knew I had to see them live. I went to the show with Parker. It was bloody, gothic, romanticized horror / shock rock like I'd never seen in my life. I stood in the front and got sprayed with stage blood and after DMD came off stage, we immediately approached Zero Delorean who obliged to take a photo with us. It was during this time that I began dreaming of a day when I too could throw my hat in the ring and take the stage with a monster band of my own. I remained friends with DMD and followed them around the local circuit at their live shows, screaming along with them at all of their all ages gigs. Little did I know that my friendship with Zero and later with Shane Diablo (Meatwhistle), would later lead to my one day joining DieMonsterDie as the 3rd guitarist in their long history.

6.  Give me a list of horror punk/rock bands you've played with.
As an active member, I've played lead guitar and sung backing vox for DieMonsterDie, played lead guitar for Zombiance , played guitar and sung backing vox for Argyle Goolsby and I currently sing lead vox and play guitar for my new band, Shadow Windhawk and the Morticians. I've shared the stage at shows over the years with bands such as shock rock legend Lizzy Borden, The Independents, Darrow Chemical Company and Captured by Robots…over the summer at GNO (where I played guitar for Argyle Goolsby's debut solo gig) we shared the stage with Order of the Fly, The Cryptkeeper Five, Lurking Corpses, Serpenteens, Nim Vind, The Big Bad, Sardonica, VAGORA, Black Cat Attack, The Renfields, Kitty in a Casket and many others.

7.  Of all these projects which do you have the fondest memories?
That's hard to say, man. I've had a lot of good times with every band I've been a part of. I loved every minute of being in DieMonsterDie. We played some wild live shows together and made an angry, brutal album last Summer. Our gigs were unlike anything I've ever done with anyone else. It was always bloody, intense, raw and loud as shit…just insane. DMD was everything I love about horror punk. However I think the fondest memories of my career to this point were made at Ghouls Night Out Fest '13 last July. I met a lot of genuine, great people in the horror rock scene at that show and got to perform alongside a lot of truly amazing bands. Being there as a member of Goolsby's solo project at his debut solo performance is something I'll be proud of and remember for the rest of my life.

8.  This past summer you were on the east coast playing with Argyle Goolsby.  Tell me about the overall experience.
It was a blast. Goolsby is a fun guy to be around and play music with. He's a very talented performer and musician. Being asked to participate in his first solo show was quite an honor. It was a lot of work preparing for it, but I was happy to give it my all and it was worth every minute. It helps too that the material I learned for the gig is stuff I absolutely love listening to in my free time. Just all around it was one of the best experiences I've ever had, as a guitarist or otherwise.  Playing songs I truly love to a capacity crowd of die-hard horror rockers - walking on stage to their screams - there's nothing like that and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.
9.  What are your thoughts on the current horror punk scene?
It seems to be getting larger all the time, which is cool. At the core of it there are some truly great, unique and gifted people. Some of the nicest people I've met are involved in the scene in one way or another. I am thankful that a niche exists for those of us who like their horror imagery infused into rock n' roll. As I've said, it is a great marriage of imagery, music and the raw energy of punk rock. I hope it continues on forever.

10.  Favorite band in the current scene?
Hard to say. If you place Danzig and Doyle in the scene, I'd say that still remains the end all. The Misfits set they played on the recent 25th anniversary tour was one of the best horror punk sets I've ever experienced. It doesn't get anymore classic than that, I mean for fucks sake those guys invented the scene. Fast, brutal, energetic, catchy. Glorious. Outside of that I'd say the best bands in horror punk today are The Other, Nim Vind, Goolsby and Darrow Chemical Company.

11.  You share some of my love for all things horror.  What are some of your favorite horror films?
Ah, this is a tough one…I love so many horror films. All kinds of sub genres. Among my favorites of all time are Dracula (1931), Phantom of the Opera (1925), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Last Man on Earth (1964), Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), House of Dark Shadows (1970), Horror of Dracula (1958), Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dellamorte Dellamore (1994), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Halloween (1978), Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), Return of the Living Dead (1985), Friday the 13th pt. 6: Jason Lives (1986), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Shawn of the Dead (2004) and The Invisible Man (1933). An honorable mention that isn't truly a 'horror' film (more a comedy) would be Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988).

12.  You said recently that you're going back to film school.  What is your favorite aspect of the filmmaking process?
Yes, I am going back to film school to finish my degree at the University of Utah. Filmmaking is a magic I've admired and adored since I first saw all of the Universal monster movies on VHS as a kid. I also have very fond memories of going to see the Star Wars Special Editions on the big screen with my dad and I remember walking out of the theater thinking how I wanted to make movies of my own one day. There was nothing like that. I loved it. I have an interest in just about every aspect of the process of it and would love to one day have a career in basically anything to do with it, outside of producing. To this point, I've studied makeup, acting, film history and theory at the University and I am returning now to study directing, screenwriting, cinematography and production. However it isn't clear to me as of now which I would want to do most. Directing is what most people acclimate towards in film school, however, that is a hell of a job. Not saying that I wouldn't one day try my hand at it. But it would take a great deal of planning and funding to get a picture off the ground. A massive undertaking. In a perfect world, I would like to be a screenwriter but again, everyone thinks they can be a screenwriter. It's another extremely rough job. Usually it takes a lot of failures to get a screenplay bought by a studio and getting options on properties for adapting into a screenplay is very difficult and expensive. To be an actor that makes enough bread to live on, you pretty much have to be in the Screen Actors Guild and that is extremely expensive and tough to break into as well. So honestly, to make it in film you gotta have equal parts luck, talent and motivation…and ultimately a lot of it does come down to who you know. So it's going to be interesting man. I definitely feel I have it in me to break into cinema with a fully original picture of my own, but damn…writing / directing is a hard game to play. It's gonna take a lot of work to get there and I'm still plugging away at college, but ya gotta start somewhere and that's what I'm doing, damn it!
13.  I know it's early but can you tell me a little about your upcoming solo project:  Shadow Wind Hawk and the Morticians?
Absolutely. We are a three piece horror punk band, all of us are locals here in Salt Lake City. The band is: Rich Misery (Burn Your World, Curseworship) on Bass, Trip MD (Seventking) on Drums and yours truly on Guitars and Vocals. I attempted to start the band up for the first time in June 2013, after I was told that DieMonsterDie would be on hiatus. Initially it was conceived as a 5 piece, balls out experimental project with death metal incorporated into it. However with 5 guys involved it kind of became a situation of too many cooks in the kitchen. When I got back from GNO we tried to get ready for a couple shows I had booked, one opening for Darrow Chemical Company in August and one opening for Calabrese in September. But things just felt a bit forced initially and I had to bow out of both gigs. I think it was just a bit too soon for me coming out of DMD and to be honest I was feeling burned out from having just recorded with DMD and with traveling for the Goolsby gig. Stikki, who had stuck with me through everything with DMD wanted to stay in the Morticians as bassist but had to bow out to finish his degree, which was definitely a mature decision on his part. Stikki is an absolutely fantastic bassist, I have loved every minute of being in DMD with him and it was fun trying to get Morticians going with him, but he has a growing family with two adorable (very young) kids and his bigger goals for them had to come first. So I shelved the project for a few months to take a break from music. In October, I began to write a new EP which was to be my first all electric solo release, following up my acoustic live solo album, "Tales From the Black Lodge". I wrote a bunch of brand new material and decided to call the new EP "Casket Spray" (referring to an arrangement of funeral flowers which sit atop caskets and coffins). Before I knew it, Halloween passed by and I decided to call up Rich and Trip to see if they would be interested in being my rhythm section for the new release. They both were very enthusiastic and said fuck yeah, so we met up at the rehearsal room (where October 21st, 1976 had been primarily written in), which Rich's band Burn Your World and I had continued to keep after DMD moved out in June. I showed them the new songs I'd written on my acoustic and they took right to them like fish to water. Before I knew it we were blasting out wicked, full on electric versions of these tunes that were born on my acoustic guitar. After the first rehearsal we agreed that this would be the final lineup of Shadow Windhawk and the Morticians and that Casket Spray, rather than being a solo release, would instead be released as our debut EP. We have been making huge leaps of progress in the short time we've been a fully functioning band, I can't even describe how awesome it is to have bandmates who not only support my vision but encourage me to go all out with what I'm writing and who want to work on the same timetable. These guys genuinely enjoy playing music with me and we have a great time working together, which has made a world of difference from a creative standpoint. We have fun. Casket Spray is a heavy, dark, doom metal tinged horror punk EP. It's going to be a big surprise for most of my listeners, hopefully a good one. I've never done anything like it before. When we're in the room working on it, the music just flows out without being forced at all. It's great. Rich and Trip add a lot to the songs and create a good dynamic that needs to be present for a three piece to function well. They're also both around my age and are just as hungry as I am to make a mark on the horror punk scene with this band. I look forward to doing a full length with them one day that is much more a collaboration than a solo record, although just because much of Casket Spray was written initially by me doesn't take away at all from their contributions to the songs. The songs all began as one thing and have since evolved into something even better. A lot of that is thanks to Rich and Trip working on them with me. And now that we have a solid lineup that has that drive and motivation I've been looking for, we're already booked to go into Boho Digitalia in SLC for the weekend of February 1st and 2nd to record our new EP. I've never been more excited to go to the studio, I can say with certainty that this record is gonna be a total blast. I've had a ton of fun already just rehearsing it with the guys. "Casket Spray" will be available digitally in March 2014 via Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, eMusic and Spotify. You can expect it to see a physical release of it shortly after that via my indie label Black Flame Records, on small batches of CD and possibly 10" mixed color vinyl, with our debut live gig to be announced in the relative future as well. Oh yeah…we also have t-shirts that are available now through the merch section of my bandcamp page:

14.  If you could bring back any horror icon from the dead and get the chance to work with them, who would it be?

Vincent Price, without question.  That man was an actor of the highest caliber.  All class.  Inimitable.  I would do anything to bring him back and work with him, in any capacity.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Prowler (1981)

***(out of 4 stars)

The Prowler is a movie that works strictly with mood and suspense.  Many of the slasher films from the 80's relied heavily on gore and high body counts alone.  Although The Prowler doesn't lack in it's fair share of blood and guts, this film is deeper than most of the slasher films to come out of the eighties. It is also a film that many horror fans - particularly slasher fans - adore.  Of course I don't have stats to prove this, just recollections of the many podcasts, blogs and websites I've read and listened to through the years.

The script is co-written by Glenn Leopold and Neal F. Barbera.  The duo take the time to actually develop the characters, something not common in slasher films.  We get to know the central characters, because we linger with them for most of the film, while they're trying to figure out the mystery of just who is killing the teenagers around them.  A World War 1 veteran receives a Dear John Letter from his love, Rosemary.  It seems that she's move along swiftly, while our killer is still fighting the battle.  Very early on in the film we get to see exactly what we're in for.  After some stock footage of soldiers returning from the war, we cut to a graduation party where Rosemary (Joy Glaccum) and her lover end up out on the Gazebo.  A killer stalks in the shadows as he watches the two lovers make out under the stars.  He disposes of them rather quickly with a pitch fork - an instrument of death used constantly in this movie.

Fast forward thirty-five years later.  Another annual graduation dance is in the works.  Naturally, some have reservations since that fateful night back in 1945 when Rosemary and her lover were killed.  The killer has never been apprehended.  Vicky Dawson plays Pam MacDonald, the survivor girl.  Although Pam isn't as tough, this character reminds me of Ginny from Friday Part 2.  There is just something about they way they handled themselves in these films.  Both very strong personalities and ready for a fight when confronted with one.  For most of the film she pals around with Mark London (Christopher Goutman).  The two are working together, while simultaneously being stalked by the killer.

And that brings me to the main character of the film:  The Killer.  He's pretty basic.  Dressed in World War 11 fatigues, his face is covered and most of the time he's obscured by the shadows.  His weapons of choice are mainly the pitchfork and Bayonet.  For the majority of the film this character was played by the assistant director, Peter Guiliano.

Tom Savini handled the special FX work on the film.  Slasher fans, myself included, love gore and great, inventive kills when it comes to our horror films.  Savini delivers and delivers some more in this one.  One of the victims gets a bayonet through the top of his head, which protrudes out of the bottom of his chin.  While convulsing, the victims eyes turn upward into his skull and bulged out.  This kill is so effective and one that gets me every time.  Another effective sequence is when Lisa (Cindy Weintraub) decides to take a swim because she's angry that her boyfriend is drunk back at the party.  After she finishes her nightly swim she tries to exit the pool but is kicked in the face by the killer.  It is said that this take alone took 18 times to master.  Lisa is in a state of confusion and is grabbed from behind as the killer slices her throat.  Much like an earlier kill in the very first Friday film, this throat slice doesn't look as sloppy and really makes you cringe as the bayonet slices back and forth like a violin bow.  Is this Savini's best work?  I'd say it ranks up there with his other films, Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter, The Burning and Maniac.

Director, Joseph Zito, does a great job with the pacing.  As I've said before the suspense and tension build to a boil.  There are long, quiet, brooding moments.  And in these moments there are little snippets of the killer, a frame or two, while other action is taking place.  In another scene Pam tries to escape through a door but the latch won't open.  The camera holds as we see the killer stalk in the background.  This is very effective.  Zito holds the shot at just the right length - not too long or short - that builds that tension until Pam can finally escape into the night.

Richard Einhorn's score does exactly what it's supposed to do.  It isn't jarring and obnoxious; taking away from the scene, but creates the mood that helps build the suspense.  Key moments in the music happen when you least expect them.  Those sharp chords ring out; causing the viewer's emotion to be dictated momentarily.  During the chase scenes the score really comes to life; that underlying sound scape of mood and atmosphere.

The Prowler resonates to this day because of the talent behind the film.  Filmmaking with a small budget sometimes forces artist to go beyond their normal capacity.  I'm sure Zito and company had no idea in 1981 that his little film would be so adored years later.  But that is why film is so powerful.  Some are forgettable while others last the test of time. 

Starring:  Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Lawrence Tierney

Directed by:  Joseph Zito

Written by:  Glen Leopold and Neal F. Barbera

89 mins


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Interview with Mictian: "We wanted something unpredictable, yet still rather thoughtful, brutal, and above all uncompromising."

Photo by:  Jacqueline Hook

Mictian is one of the original members of Pennsylvania's black/death metal band, Permanent Midnight  Mictian has been playing guitar since he was 15 and along with a few friends wanted to dispose of some anger to the masses.  Together with Wulv and Barbarian (myself), we stuck together as many line-up changes and some bad blood infected the group, music and personal friendships.  In 2006 we recorded Under a Blood Moon and after a long period of limbo and uncertainty, the album was finally released in April 2013.  Below Mictian talks about the struggles of the album, some heated animosity, and the triumph of seeing his work finally given some life.  This interview was conducted in June 2013.
1.  Under a Blood Moon has finally arrived.  How has this journey been for the band?

Long and strange, with many hearty laughs and good memories alongside some bitter blood at some points.  This album was a very long time coming, and it’s great to feel that we’ve collectively buried whatever axes we may have wielded and hopefully have made a viable contribution to the metal world.

2. Did you have a hand in layout of the album?  If not, who did?

I did not; might have to ask Wulv that one. I’m not sure if it was him or Mike at Paragon Records who handled that.

3.  Where can we find this CD?

If you live in northeastern Pennsylvania, you can stop by any location of Joe Nardone’s Gallery of Sound and pick one up. Otherwise, you can order a copy from, and they do ship overseas. Elsewhere internationally, you can find it at out of Poland, ,, and many others.

2.  This album is almost seven years in the making.  Can you take us through the initial recording process?

To the best of my recollection, which is to say not very good, we started laying down the drums in July of 2006 at Wulv’s old house, with the remainder of the instrumentation completed at our engineer’s studio. The process of tracking was a rather gradual one, ultimately ending in February of 2007.

3.  Your duties on the album are guitar and bass.  It seems as though you've had a rough time finding a full time bass player.

Finding a bass player was a self-perpetuating nightmare. We had tried to find someone to hold down the low-end within our songs, but we’ve gone through quite a few until we figured enough was enough, and that we would go without. I already tune my guitars down to B, giving our sound a pretty menacing rumble, and having Wulv on the keys, he too was able to handle some of the low-end not unlike the way Ray Manzarek of the Doors did when they performed live.  We didn’t really hear a whole lot of complaints about lacking bass when we performed, and so I figure that was another reason why we didn’t continue our pursuit of one. I suppose that my performing bass on the album was more of an experiment more than anything, really.

4.  The guitars have been described as the driving force of this album.  The sound is so heavy and soul crushing.  Did you experiment with different tunings to find your style or have you always been set on B?

I used to tune to standard tuning, but it just wasn’t doing it for me as far as the tone and feel went. I kept tuning down, as far as down to A, and felt that it was just a little too low and sloppy-sounding. B just felt right, and had just the right aggression and mood to it.

5.  Take me through your writing process.  How did Wulv and Barbarian contribute to the overall making of the record?

My writing process was little more than trying to write something that sounded decent and somewhat original. Wulv had, and still has, some of the sickest guttural vocals around, yet is still able to shriek incredibly well, thus giving us a solid vocalist for the style of metal we were going for. Barbarian was a fucking beast when it came to rolls on the toms, yet was able to blast like a fucking maniac when needed. He was versatile as well and creative behind the kit, especially near the end of our active days. As far as lyrical content, it pretty much ranges from a love of things lycanthropic to feelings of pure hatred.

4.  I think Wulv's vocal performance on this album is bar none.  Who would you compare his style too?

I’ve heard his high-register shrieks compared to Ihsahn, and I’d have to say that’s very accurate, while his guttural vocals could compete quite ably with those of George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, another observation I’ve heard from the fans that I’d have to agree with. Wulv is a truly accomplished musician and his performances reflect as much.
6.  This album sounds very diverse.  Songs like Wolf and Sex and Gore are very much like death metal, while other songs like Fallen from Grace and Carnivorous Lunar Activities have a black metal sound to them.  Moreover, Set in an Apocalyptic Sunrise, They Feed in the Night and Evil in the Forest are heavy but much more melodic.  It seems as though each member is their own driving force and coming from different levels as far as creativity and inspiration is concerned.
That is very true; each member brought their own influences into this band and together we created something that is rather unique, something that doesn’t borrow a whole lot from existing and established bands. In addition, we never really set out to be a full-on black or death metal band, and instead wanted to overlap the two and explore that intersection. We wanted something unpredictable, yet still rather thoughtful, brutal, and above all uncompromising. To that length, I think we succeeded.

7.  What songs are you the most satisfied with?  Any least favorites?

Wolf and Evil in the Forest were songs I am very satisfied with overall, primarily because of their atmosphere. The song I’m less than crazy about is Carnivorous Lunar Activities, which I affectionately refer to as Cacophonous Lunar Activities; however, its feel and pace are definitely a worthy bullet in our arsenal.

8.  Permanent Midnight has stated that this is their first and last album.  What kind of feedback are you receiving?

So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, with the biggest compliment being that we were the very few who are still carrying the torch for this type of metal, and that this release is an instant classic. The fact that our album has been getting out to those who regard it so well has been extremely cathartic.

9.  How has this journey helped mold you into the producer and musician you are today?

From a producer’s perspective, it kind of pushed me to want to capture the band I’m working with as accurately as possible. I never really cared for the lo-fi recordings that black metal is known for, if only because I believe that’s all that they could really afford. I mean, can you imagine Dissection’s Reinkaos with a shitty production? I can’t imagine that album gaining anything from it; meanwhile, what if Bathory had fantastic production, especially for the Nordland albums? I think that would have set a standard that a band like Amon Amarth would always be chasing but never come close to approaching.
As for as my musicianship goes, it gave me a reason to practice and rehearse with my brothers, and from there I think helped me become a fairly decent songwriter.

10.  Is there a possibility that PM will come back from their abyss and create havoc for the masses?

Never say never. Right now though, it doesn’t seem to be possible at all if only because of our collective work schedules and life events. However, should circumstances come to pass that enable us to rehearse and write new material, I’m not at all opposed to the idea. From my own perspective, there are a lot of things in today’s world that have me fucking furious, and if I were to write new material for Permanent Midnight, that rage would undoubtedly be utilized.

11.  You've produced Neldoreth's Latest album, Saints of Blasphemy - 1:  Baptized in Blasphemy.  Oz Bloodcurse's vocals on this album are his best to date.  What was the process and working with him like?

I’ve known Oz for many years now, so it was overall a very relaxed environment. I had a lot of fun working with him and bouncing ideas off of him as far as his vocal takes are concerned.

12.  Aside from Hope is Dead, do you have any side projects lined up?  Any possible producing in the future?

I really enjoy producing and engineering metal, with those being two of the very few things I really excel at. I’d like to someday be on the level of Peter Tägtgren or Dan Swanö as far as that goes. I don’t currently have any side-projects lined up.
13. Lets get back to the album.  The drums are basic and straight forward.  The sound is so full and bombastic.  That snare is so heavy.

That’s all a credit to the Barbarian on the skins. His contributions were quite meticulous and deliberate as far as his arrangements are concerned, yet beat on those drums with an unbridled aggression. His role in the album couldn’t have been more perfect.

14.  What was the atmosphere like in the studio when recording Under the Blood Moon?

Sometimes rushed, sometimes slow, but overall rather natural. When we would rehearse, we were just three members of a band working on creating something unique, while in the studio we were able to sort of play with things a little more, and add some things that we can’t do live. We had a shot at getting a little more creative with our songs.

15.  Like many metal bands, you've done your fair share of boozing and wild parties.  What was the overall atmosphere like when hanging with Wulv and Barbarian?

Extreme. (laughs) After just about every rehearsal, we had very long shelves that would be completely lined with several kinds of wines and spirits, so much so that we really had no reason to ever go to bars; we had a much better selection than they did, and a much better jukebox to boot. With our parties, I passed out on the hood of my car once, one of our members had a good deal of his own blood spill, which subsequently would be used as paint for pentagrams and inverted crosses on the walls and ceiling of our rehearsal space, we’d have friends over who we would ridicule and tease if they started pussing out on us. Speaking of our rehearsal space, horror movies would be on constant rotation, a haze of cigarette smoke consistently in the air, mostly empty pizza boxes strewn about, animal bones hanging from the walls, a jar containing a preserved squirrel, who we named Amon, was always nearby, a dead tree wrapped in barbed wire and adorned with rather morbid decorations sitting across from the entrance, all in a facility that was absolutely frigid in the winter and outright smoldering in the summer. Our space was not at all for the faint of heart and has definitely scared away a few girls we tried to bring in, but it was like a home for the three of us nonetheless. As for as actually being with Wulv and Barbarian, you never really knew what was going to happen, but it was just about guaranteed to be memorable.

16.  The live shows are rare.  How would you describe a Permanent Midnight live show?

Unrelenting, hostile, and blasphemous. At that time, it was extremely difficult for an extreme metal band to book a show in our area. Venues required demos from the bands that wanted to perform, and our demos were very rough but not irregular for our style of music, yet were often a deterrent for venues to host us.  Another reason, it seems, that we weren’t able to perform live very often was that there were many venues that seemingly wanted bands to play lighter, more commercial songs so as to not potentially scare away its patrons.  There were even bands who considered themselves extreme, yet had newer Machine Head tracks in their set list. In comparison, we weren’t exactly looking to compromise who we were or what we were about, which is pure fucking metal, and I can happily say that we never compromised; those shows that we did play, we played exactly what we wanted and did exactly what we wanted to do. We unleashed hell as best as we were able, and any songs that we did cover, we made them our own.

When we actually did perform, it was not far off from how it was when Mayhem would perform very early in their career, where if you didn’t see it, you were pretty much shit out of luck. You were fortunate if you were to see us play.

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