If the gothic scene has a jack-of-all-trades, it’s New York City’s own Voltaire. From stop-motion animation projects to comic books to darkly inspired children’s toys, if there’s a pie, Voltaire probably has a finger in it somewhere (literally and figuratively). Somehow he’s also managed to find time to put out four albums of deceptively pretty, violin-laced songs that range in topic from semi-serious pieces like “Out of Reach” to laugh-out-loud funny songs like “The Headless Waltz” or fan favorite “When You’re Evil.” Grave Concerns recently got the chance to get the latest Voltaire news from the man himself:
Grave Concerns: Hi, how are you?
Voltaire: Super super busy and kind of crazed, which is of course a good thing. Thanks for asking.
GC: Tell us about your new EP, Then and Again.
V: Well, for starters I should probably tell you that it’s not an EP. It was originally planned to be one, with only six or so songs on it, but eventually I decided to make it longer. It has about ten songs, which may be a couple of tracks shorter than my usual releases, but it’s still a lot closer to an LP than it is to an EP. Stylistically, this CD is something of a departure for me. If you listen to my CDs you will find that there is usually a mix of serious material and dark humor, although people usually know me for the more tongue-in-cheek, evil spooky stuff. But this is my first CD of strictly serious material. Truth be told, I was gearing up for my next full length CD, Ookie Spookie, which is going to be an over-the-top exercise in dark humor and morbid revelry, and I really didn’t want to slow down the pace of that CD with these serious songs. Yet I felt that they deserved to be recorded and heard, so I gave them a release of their own. And that’s how Then And Again came to be. I guess you can call this the calm before the storm.
GC: You wrote the song “Goodnight Demon Slayer” on the new disk for your son. How has being a parent affected your view of gothic culture, and for that matter, how do you think goth culture has affected your outlook on fatherhood?
V: It’s tough. Up until recently I have never thought of censoring much of what I say around my son, but in recent history I’ve been getting called to his school more and more often with complaints that he is “terrorizing the other students.” Seriously! His teachers tell me that in the playground he innocently discusses topics such as vivisection, cannibalism, beheadings, etc., and in the process makes a lot of the other seven-year-olds cry. Now, while that warms the cockles of my bat-winged heart, I understand that he is quickly becoming something of an outsider simply because the other kids think he’s weird as hell. I have no doubt that when he’s thirteen they will all think he’s the coolest kid in town, but for the time being we’ve had to kind of curb the sorts of things he’s allowed to talk about at school. In other words, we will be sitting watching Alien 3, which is chock fuckin’ full of the “F word,” and every few minutes I will turn to him and say, “Okay, you DO know that those words and that crazy-ass monster that just shot out of that dude’s chest are NOT okay to talk about tomorrow in the cafeteria, right?” And like any good New York City seven-year-old, he rolls his eyes. It’s a challenge.
GC: I saw you live for the first time when you did an in-store at Ipso Facto earlier this year, and one of the things that really struck me is that your between-song banter is as entertaining as your actual performance. Ever thought of putting out a spoken word album, or an autobiography, or something like that? I think people who haven’t seen you live would get a kick out of your stories, like the one about being on the PTA with Dave Gahan.
V: I look at the storytelling that I do at shows as a really good way to set up a song, to create a mood, to converse with the audience. But I’m not sure that I’m ready to do stand-up just yet. I’ve thought about putting out a live CD with the intra-song banter on it, but there’s just so much going on right now that it’s way down on a very long list of stuff to do. As far as autobiographies go, I don’t think I’m ready for that either. I can’t help but to feel that the best is yet to come in my life, at least I hope so. But if you really want to just hear me rattle on and on I would recommend you pick up my book, What is Goth? It’s sort of the written equivalent of my monologues and people seem to think it’s pretty funny.
GC: I love the gypsy violin stuff on your albums. Any plans to tour with a full string section? Conversely, any plans to do an album of stripped-down acoustic stuff like your live performances?
V: I do hope to go on the road with the whole band. Right now it’s just a financial issue. It’s very expensive for a club to fly out five guys, pay everyone, feed everyone and put everyone up. It’s much easier for a club to commit to a solo acoustic show. The expenses are much lower. So I’ve been on a solo acoustic tour for the last three years. Frankly, I really love it. It’s really intimate; I really get to talk with the audience. When I play with the whole band, I can’t talk as much. I get bored looks from my band mates. But yes, I am really hoping to get out with them more once Ookie Spookie comes out. It is very much a band CD.
CG: You also have a new coffee table book out, right? Tell us about that. How has the response been?
V: Yup. That’s What is Goth? The response has been incredible! They have it at Borders, Barnes and Noble, Urban Outfitters, Hot Topic! It’s pretty much everywhere books are sold. I get a lot of email about that book; people seem to really be enjoying it. It’s a humorous but compassionate look at the scene. It has a gothic dance section where I break down goth dances like “Grab The Bat” and “Punch The Hobbit!” There’s a gothic name generator to help you come up with a goth name. It’s really a lot of fun but at the same time, I think it really explains what goth is, especially for those nervous parents who are wondering if their children have suddenly joined some kind of demonic cult. I’m working on the follow-up now. It’s called Paint It Black. It’s a sinister guide to gothic homemaking.
CG: How about comic books? I know the Deady graphic novel has been doing well and getting rave reviews. Any other comic-related projects you’re working on at the moment? Maybe a Chi-Chian trade paperback?
V: I can’t believe you just said that! I just today got a call from my comic book publisher asking me if I wanted to release the Chi-Chian graphic novel in the fall! It’s funny, there seems to suddenly be a renewed interest in Chi-Chian; the comic book mini-series came out in 1997! I created a fourteen episode animated web series for SciFi.com in 2000, but truth be told, back them everyone had slow as hell 56k dial up connections. It would take twenty minutes for each episode to load! It was hell. But now, most people can watch it instantly. People are starting to rediscover it. You can still watch it at www.scifi.com/chichian. After a long option agreement that just expired, the rights are finally back in my hands and I am just now starting to pitch it as a feature film and video game on my own. But as for comics, I am really focusing my efforts on Deady right now. I feel like it’s just starting to take off. There is a line of toys – Tower just started carrying an eight-inch Deady figure (http://www.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?pfid=3128593) – and there is a plush toy and lunchbox in the works. For the first time ever I have invited guest artists to contribute to the books. Some of the amazing guest artists that contributed to the first two books are Clive Barker, James O’Barr and Junko Mizuno. The third book comes out in April and has a guest art story by Neil Gaiman and a Deady Meets Lenore story by Roman Dirge as well as work by Gris Grimly and Crab Scrambly. Hot Topic just started carrying the books as well (http://www.hottopic.com/store/searchSKU.asp?LS=0&DOIT=YES&SSTR=deady), so it will be very interesting to see what the future will hold for Deady!
GC: From making a lot of appearances at science fiction conventions to putting out an album of songs about Star Trek, you’ve really blurred the line between goth and geek. Where do you think that line exists these days, or do the two intersect to such an extent that it’s pointless to even ask?
V: Heh, yeah, it’s totally pointless to even bring it up! I play about five cities a month, mostly at goth clubs, and it never ceases to amaze me that I can make Star Trek and Star Wars jokes and EVERYONE gets what I’m talking about. I think it’s probably safe to say that we are all geeks before we discover goth. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just one of the many things that makes this scene so cool!
GC: You’ve also done a lot of work in animation, from the cool stop-motion MTV promos back when it was a music station to doing a song for The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (which my girlfriend and I are totally addicted to, by the way). Any current animation and/or film projects in the works right now?
V: There’s a new horror channel in the works called Fangoria TV (yup, they bought the magazine). I have signed on with them as an executive producer. I am working closely with them on developing shows and creating station IDs. We have already started work on their first station ID, a very eerie stop-motion piece featuring a chainsaw-wielding psycho in a bunny suit! (You can see it at http://fangoriatv.com/.) We’ve even started talking about me developing my own show, kind if a gothic talk show, I guess. But it’s still really fetal. It’s all pretty exciting.
GC: Anything else you’d like to say to Grave Concerns readers?
V: I would really like to say THANK YOU to those of you who have over the years shown interest in my work, come out to the shows and bought my comics and CDs. While it seems that I have a lot going on, it’s important to realize that I have been at this for about twenty years! And I’ve only come this far because of two factors:
1) Working my ass off for little to no money for many many years and refusing to give up and get a real job and
2) Because of the steadfast support of people who believed in what I was doing and supported my endeavors along the way, whether that was by buying one of my comics or CDs or even just by sending me an encouraging email.
You guys have kept me from breaking down and getting a job at Walmart and for that I will always be eternally grateful!
Visit www.voltaire.net for more information!
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