Metropolis Records recording artists NOIR...A new project featuring Athan Maroulis of Spahn Ranch and Black Tape For A Blue Girl. NOIR’s mature yet strikingly refreshing Darkly Near album will be supported with a select series of exclusive live dates.
Phill - Thank you for giving Grave Concerns Ezine this interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Noir – Thank you for taking the time to speak to me. More about me? We shall get into that in the questions ahead.
Phill - Athan, after Spahn Ranch disbanded you took a while away from performing and produced re-issues of 1930’s & 1940’s jazz and blues music whilst working behind the scenes advising on a number of goth and industrial projects. Why did you decide to work on jazz and blues music instead of what you were more well known for?
Noir – After we disbanded Spahn Ranch in 2000 I didn’t completely walk away from making goth and industrial friendly music. In the early ‘00s I did some vocals on a Razed In Black album while also cutting some tracks with Black Tape For A Blue Girl (I later joined the band in ’09) along with a few other sessions. Either way, after Spahn Ranch’s aptly titled final album Closure, it seems many things in life were coming to an end, some of which that I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to end? I was a bachelor for the first time in many years and leaving my beloved Hollywood to move back home to NYC. So it was an intentional choice to initiate change in my life, cease touring and try a more anonymous lifestyle. As much as I adore goth, industrial and experimental music and agree that my reputation is built around that world, the truth is it only represents a portion of my personal record collection that primarily consists of jazz, vocalists, blues, R&B and so on. I have a fair amount of knowledge of music from the 1920s through the ‘50s and even as far back as the ‘90s I was writing liner notes and compiling CDs for a variety of labels from that era. In the near decade long absence I took from performing I worked on 150 + re-issue vintage CD or LP titles. In fact, I continue to do this to this day and currently have titles by Memphis Slim, Lightnin’ Hopkins as well as a set of songs from Mamie Van Doren in the works. So it wasn’t so much a decision as it was just a continuation of my other interests.
Phill - What were the projects on which you advised Athan?
Noir: When I moved back to New York I worked for Metropolis Records for a few years, followed by starting my own booking agency where I booked Voltaire, The Cruxshadows, Rasputina, London After Midnight, Icon of Coil and many others. As the music industry changed, so too did my booking agency and I began getting involved in other facets of the careers of bands. While I never liked managers (most are simply assholes) and refuse to think of myself as one, instead I think of myself as an advisor of sorts. So with some of my current roster I secure recording contracts with labels, “advise” and continue to book tours. Ludovico Technique might be the best example of this because I started working with them rather early in their careers yet I also work with veteran acts like Ego Likeness and Die Sector as well as some of the aforementioned bands.
Phill - You were influenced by black and white images of New York for Darkly Near, how did these images manifest themselves in Darkly Near?
Noir: Like many artists I believe the visual and the audio are deeply intertwined and New York City has always been a deep influence on me. The NOIR album is the first album since the ‘80s that I have written whilst living in New York. It seemed rather fitting that my fondness for Film Noir combined with the fact that much of the imagery from it directly or indirectly emanate from NYC, hence the title of this project and how it fits into things. There once was a photographer from New York named Weegee, who took some riveting photos of crime in the city along with innumerable esoteric and lighthearted shots in the 1940s and 50s. I often thought of those photos in addition to films that used New York as the backdrop such as The Sweet Smell of Success, The Killers, The Godfather and even The Hunger. Additionally, I also like the late 1950s surreal television perception of New York City such as in the Twilight Zone yet ironically those stark B&W images were shot in Hollywood! Living here in NYC I don’t really see the city as it is now but more often how it once was.
Lyrically, I tried to make Darkly Near a collage that brings together NYC, sensuality, tragic film stars, interludes, relationships, death and endings into one album of my recollections and memories. Combining Bergman’s film Through A Glass Darkly along with the Latin saying “memento mori” and you have Darkly Near.
Phill - Did your work producing the jazz and blues re-issues bear any influence to Darkly Near?
Noir -Yes, I think so. It might not be present musically speaking but many of the crooners from the 1930s and ‘40s have influenced the way I sing and I believe it is readily apparent. Other bygone periods of the 20th Century are so much a part of me that I believe I have no choice but to drag them along for the ride. For example, the tragic 1930s actress Lupe Velez is the cover girl on Darkly Near.
Phill - You will be touring to promote Darkly Near, any venues you are allowed to mention?
Noir – We are performing a select trio of shows in New York City, Boston and Pittsburgh. After that….who knows? I would love to perform with NOIR in Europe!
Phill - Due your new albums influence, where would you say would be the perfect setting to hear Darkly Near. Maybe an old jazz club with a difference?
Noir - That would be nice but I think Darkly Near might be the ideal album to play after you have come home from the club, this especially if you have a person near that you hope to get close to.
Phill - There are a lot of wonderful 30’s & 40’s black and white movies that would fit in with the images of New York that formed some of the influence to Darkly Near. Can you think of a film that would fit in with the theme for Darkly Near?
Noir – I mentioned a few influential films earlier that have New York backdrops but two Hitchcock films come to mind both Strangers on a Train and Vertigo (although the latter was filmed in San Francisco). I have always been very drawn to Hitchcock’s deeply sensual portrayal of women under the simple veneer. Oddly enough, one of my favorite films and a constant influence on me is the film The Third Man which was filmed in Vienna.
Phill - What era of history holds the most magic for you and if you could live in a certain time period when in time would you like to go?
Noir - Ohh, quite a question. I have many periods I like starting with the height of Rome circa 50 A.D., the England of Bronte and Dickens, the Lincoln Years along with my admiration of America from 1920s through the late 1940s. Also, the brief years from the late 1950s through 1963 that I now call the Mad Men era.
Phill - They say romance is dead, do you believe this?
Noir - Sadly and simply put it is indeed like most things quite dead. But dead can still be a good thing.
Phill - Manners is something that I believe is dying in this day and age, there are those who are arrogant to the people around them. What do you believe is the importance of manner?
Noir -I must agree with you. Lack of manners are indeed running rampant in the world, people seem more interested in texting and shitty reality TV. Lately, if I hold a door open for a woman, I find that younger women look at me completely confused as if they don’t understand or as if they think I want something from them? They don’t seem to understand that it is simply a courtesy.
Phill - Thank you so much for giving Grave Concerns this interview, is there anything you would like to add?
Noir- Thanks for the continued support
Take a listen on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/tripswitch/noir-time-phase-nick-brennan
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