What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
Unfortunately, I was born in the eighties.
Having been raised in a hyper-conservative fundamentalist Christian family during the height of the Satanic Panic era, I ended up being exposed to a lot of very bizarre propaganda. There was a whole sub-genre of material (not to mention a multi-million dollar market) focused almost exclusively on the dangers that Satan posed to the youth of America. Feeding into the fears and ignorance of churchgoers all over the country were books, movies, TV specials and music, all dedicated to exposing the various ways that Satan sneaks his evil into the lives of unwitting Christians. And I was smack-dab in the middle of it all, being spoon-fed conspiratorial religious paranoia before I even learned to walk. The rockin’ tunes of my youth were made up of such gems as Carman’s classic “Satan, Bite the Dust,” Larry Norman’s seminal “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” and of course, “Breakfast in Hell” by The Newsboys. While these songs were intended to make the impressionable pock-faced youthgroup kids aware of how dangerous the devil was, it had the opposite effect on me. I was drawn into the darkness rather than being scared away from it. And I consider those songs, and that era, to be the most foundational influence on who I am today, both as an artist and as a human being.
I’d like to reiterate that I consider this to be unfortunate.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
My most recent album is called Pharmakeia, and it was created during a miserable, confused period of drug addiction, mental illness and sleep deprivation.
I found an old electronic keyboard in a dumpster, took it home, splatter-painted it with a toothbrush dipped in spoonfuls on my own blood, tore apart all the furniture in my ramshackle Baltimore apartment and nailed the doors and walls shut. For the next six months, using only my crusty keyboard and a battery-powered cassette recorder, I produced Pharmakeia. That was many years ago (and I’m in a much better place now, thank you), but it was only recently that I managed to find someone crazy enough to put it out on his record label.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
I get a lot of inspiration by exploring abandoned buildings. I spent a good deal of my Maryland years alone, roaming around an abandoned mental hospital, an abandoned fairytale-themed amusement park, an abandoned Catholic church… these haunts inspired me to write the poems that would later become my first songs. You’ll notice that the coverart for all my albums are photographs from abandoned buildings. That’s my way of saying thank you to those places for planting the seeds that grew into songs.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
I’m not sure my music even has a genre, but I like to think of it as “lo-fi industrial apocalypse prog,” and I would describe the way it sounds as “like being locked inside an abandoned psychiatric hospital in the midst of a week-long amphetamine psychosis, where an army of demons will beat you to death with metal baseball bats during the apocalypse.”
As to why you should listen to it… I’ve not a clue. That’s not for me to answer.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
There’s a loophole here allowing me to bring six albums and three books.
First, I would bring the three albums I consider to have played the biggest role in shaping my (secular) artistic sensibilities (and there damn well better be a turntable on this island because I’m not bringing CDs):
1. Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill
2. Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals
3. Tool’s Ænima
And then I would bring the following three movies (on laserdisc, just to make things complicated):
4. David Bowie’s documentary/concert film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
5. The MTV Unplugged concert featuring Alice in Chains
6. The Original Stage Production of Pain of Salvation’s BE
For my books:
1. Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon
2. Into The Wild by John Krakauer
3. The Mahabharata
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
I’m definitely a studio guy. It takes me a month of intense methodical chaos to piece together a single song, and aside from drunk-crashing the occasional open mic night with an unwanted and largely improvised rendition of the Mr. Azakov / TBN collaboration Well to Hell, I rarely perform live.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
The song “Day Four” on my new album has a kind of funny story behind it.
That song is about a delusion I experienced after being awake for four days and deciding to take a ride on a random bus through Baltimore city. As it so happened, the bus I boarded was full of sick, wheelchair-bound folks on their way to the Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment, but I very quickly came to the horrifying conclusion that all of these people were actually part of a vast conspiracy of brainwashed actors and actresses pretending to be disabled specifically to make me question my sanity (which was already wearing extremely thin). This sadistic, deranged stageplay was being orchestrated by some kind of diabolical mastermind reptilian humanoid with an endless supply of money, whose sole purpose in life was to confuse and bewilder me. I became so terrified of this prospect that I jumped up from my seat and pulled the emergency brake that runs along the windows, causing the bus to come to a screeching halt. I ran like hell down the stairs leading out of that nightmarish bus and didn’t stop until I reached the Inner Harbor, where I collapsed breathless on the pavement, pulled my notebook from the back pocket of my well-worn black jeans and wrote a prophetic poem that would become the lyrics of “Day Four”.
That’s funny, right?
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
The thing about my new album is that I absolutely cannot stand to listen to it. It was created while I was in the process of losing my mind, and listening to it now makes me feel like I’m going to lose my mind again. In a way, releasing Pharmakeia to the general public is kind of a dirty trick, because I’m basically just taking that horrible, fearful period of my life and packaging it all together for other people to fall victim to. It’s kind of like I’m sharing my mental illness with anyone curious enough to partake. But if the tracks on Pharmakeia take the listener on a journey through the depths of delusion, addiction and despair, then the final track, “Cyanide River,” is the moment when the roller coaster starts to slow down to reveal the true nature of the ride.
This song is about acceptance, about giving yourself to the will of the wind and finally letting go of the desire to be sane. It might seem like the light at the end of a very dark tunnel, but I consider it to be the darkest, saddest song on the album. “Cyanide River” is that emotionless void at the end of a binge when you don’t have any more depravity to indulge in, you don’t have any more drugs, you don’t have any more anger, you don’t have any more tears. The trip is over, and the harsh, bleak consequences are waiting on the other side of sleep – this is the hardest song for me to listen to, because I don’t ever, ever want to be in that place again.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
I want to use this opportunity to point out that I am much, much healthier now compared to when I recorded Pharmakeia. I’m sober, I have a family, and I’m in a good place now. I believe that my upcoming music will reflect that. Right now I’m working on a three-piece concept album that deals with the ways that international travel can dramatically alter a person’s perspective. There will likely be a lot of black/doom metal influences. The song(s) is(are) written, but still in fragments. There’s a long way to go…
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Here’s the question: “Hey, did you really record your debut LP using only resale-shop toy instruments? And did you really record the drum track for that LP by beating on trash cans and buckets with human bones you bought off the internet?”
Here’s the answer: Yes. It’s called Used Toys, and you should go listen to it.
Oh, and listen to my new album Pharmakeia too. It’s a journey you might never return from.
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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