Gothic Rock

All posts tagged Gothic Rock

Dennis Sanders of Spirit In the Room. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

LA’s Spirit In the Room have spent nearly the last decade making noise, pushing boundaries and finding new extremes within familiar territory. Featuring an innovative and inspired sound, the project has taken proverbial Rock and Roll ideas, and dragged them through barbed wire, leaving the listener dazed, confused and begging for more!

In an era of polished and processed music, where the idea of pushing sonic boundaries seems a far cry to some young artists, where marketing and timing are everything, and in order to keep the attention of  a fan base one must Snapchat every mundane daily moment for a culture of short-term attention spans, Spirit In the Room pisses in the face of such notions.

Led by multi-instrumentalist and frontman Dennis Sanders, Spirit In the Room have been making a name and chipping away at the scene since 2009.

“I can’t lie, that sounds pretty crazy when I think about it. It feels like we’ve just begun,” said Sanders.

Sanders, a NOLA native, has spent time in numerous projects in and around his home town before briefly joining the Wes Borland-led Black Light Burns as a touring member from roughly 2008-13. However, with Spirit In the Room, he finds the optimal creative output.

“I fronted a few different types of bands when I was younger but never anything that I felt extremely passionate about. I’d always loved the weirder bands, the more extreme and experimental sounding bands. Whether it be something like The Jesus Lizard, Throbbing Gristle, Fantomas, or Portishead, etc. It’s pretty much all about chasing the sounds in my head. And so I started to toss around the idea of putting something together based around that kind of stuff,” explained Sanders.

Although the project has had several lineups throughout the years, one constant is Sanders’ drive and ambition to push forward.

“I’ve worked with numerous lineups and musicians for the project and finding people that are willing to play what you write and trust your vision is also another very challenging and tedious process. I write and record a lot, so to work with me often means that you’re gonna be getting a new batch of songs and ideas every couple of weeks. So I can imagine it may be hard to keep up. But it’s not impossible. Drive, dedication and inspiration is all it takes,” Sanders said.

Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

Spirit In the Room have managed to maintain a unique and ever-evolving sound, especially evident in recent years. While singles like “Jumping the Gun” sound close to Electriclarryland-era Butthole Surfers, cuts like “Demon 6” present the project’s more experimental tendencies, with a brooding, claustrophobic Swans-like production. However, cuts like the infectiously upbeat and NIN-esque “Robot” and the snarling “We Hate” show a slightly more user-friendly approach. Overall, the band’s sound successfully encompasses Goth, Noise Rock, Hardcore and Industrial, while not favoring one over the other.

“These days I’m still just as interested in the stuff I was interested in as a kid. My taste has definitely developed more as I got older but I still love the bands I listened to then. Once I moved to California I basically rediscovered the record store!” said Sanders.

He said that the availability of record stores on the West Coast has opened him up to more of the music that moves him.

“There were only three where I’m from and once those went away, all we had left was Best Buy. Which is horse shit. I really enjoy old Italian film scores. I collect a lot of soundtracks on Vinyl. A lot of horror. A lot of the Waxwork and Death Waltz reissues, DagoRed is a great label for that stuff as well. I’m a huge fan of composers like Stelvio Cipriani, Ennio Morricone, Riz Ortolani, Bruno Nicolai, Claudio Simonetti to guys like Clint Mansell, Henry Mancini, John Carpenter etc. I’m also a huge fan of Ween, The Cure, Led Zeppelin, Pantera, etc. This list could go on and on, music is everything to me. I get anxiety when I think of all the great bands and music that I haven’t heard yet. There’s just so many great records in existence. It’s insane. There’s a lot of great local music in LA as well. Some of my favorites are The Great Sadness, Qui, LA Drones, Annie Hardy, Cat Scan, Bob Villain, Egrets on Ergot,” explained Sanders.

Although Spirit In the Room have released a wide array of singles over the past few years, Sanders said that the full-length album format is still his preferred method of experiencing recorded music.

“I like albums. Full length records. I get bored with EPs. But it can be a little expensive to release full lengths to the appropriate places like Spotify, iTunes, etc. And if you’re releasing it on your own then chances are your reach may be a bit limited. I also made the conscious decision to pull back on releasing so much music. I have a lot of it in the can that definitely separates itself from my previous releases and I want to make sure the timing is right and that these songs get their proper platform and promotion instead of just putting something out on Bandcamp or SoundCloud at my own leisure. I’d like to find a label that feels just as passionate about it as I do,” said Sanders.

Sanders also weighed in on the current state of music distribution via streaming platforms and how he has utilized them.

“I think it’s great. Obviously the monetary compensation aspect of it is garbage but as far as discovering new music and the convenience of it all, I love it. I’ll take music any way I can get it. And the more the merrier. I make a new playlist every week. I love it. And it’s all in my back pocket. I can tune in and drop out at anytime and I truly appreciate that part. Bandcamp is great for direct support. Spotify, etc, is great for the long haul. Streaming is where it’s at. Even though there is nothing like holding a vinyl, CD or cassette in your hand and reading the credits, staring at the artwork, but when you’re on the go and you need some theme music, nothing beats streaming services or downloading music on iTunes,” explained Sanders.

As for the local LA music scene, Sanders said although he’s not very plugged in to it, he is well aware of a lot of great music happening all along the West Coast.

“There’s some great bands out here. I love it. The Bay Area has some really great aggressive and experimental music happening as well. Death Metal and extreme metal, etc. But they’ve probably always had that going on. I don’t know. California is a really eclectic place for art and personality. I love it. But I also like peace and quiet. Which is why I can always see myself living in the woods in the future,” laughed Sanders.

As for the future of Spirit In the Room, Sanders said more live shows are in the cannon, but he’s also cautious of maintaining the right image for the world abroad.

“Current plans include playing more shows. We’d love to get back on the road at some point but it’s so damn expensive that it really takes a minute to get it together. I’d like to get this new record out sooner than later as well. There’s a lot piling up. Probably gonna need to do a music video or two at some point which gives me anxiety. Those things have a tendency to be really tedious and cheesy. It will have to be done right. I’m not interested in putting shit out just to be seen,” finished Sanders.

In the meantime, Spirit In the Room will be performing a slew of live dates over the grater LA area including a date opening for Phil Anselmo’s Black Metal outfit, Scour, at the Whiskey a Go-Go on Dec. 15! For more on Spirit In the Room visit spiritintheroom.com.

 

Upcoming Live Dates:

August 17th at Little Joy (Echo Park Rising)

August 18th at Bar Sinister

October 12th at Lucky Strike

November 16th (special event)

December 15th at The Whisky (w/ Scour)

 

Ian Curtis of Joy Division.

Ian Curtis of Joy Division.

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

The often misunderstood (or mystified) Goth genre has roots in the darker and/or unexplored Glam Rock and of the course early modern European historical definition. While many rock journalists have cited Jim Morrison the first Gothic Rock singer with his low, intriguing baritone vocals and previously unexplored lyrical themes which were often disturbing both psychologically and artistically in the 60’s, The Velvet Underground achieved the complete backdrop instrumentally and via arrangement including stylistic contributions.

Lou Reed, singer/songwriter, along with Sterling Morrison, the explorative guitarist and velvet-voiced songstress, Nico probably had more in common with darker art rock of their day but this is in fact why they were astounding as an ensemble to the genre’s infancy.

Into the 70’s, Nick Cave and The Birthday Party continued to travel the uncharted territories with his own brand of improv and perceived madness. And while Ian Curtis of Joy Division did much of the same, he examined personal and rugged emotion, no matter the sort. The depressed Goth myth can begin here unfortunately.

Obvious Jim Morrison influences in lower vocal register were apparent, staggered lyric-focused melodies (like Reed’s) were also highlighted. But instrumentally, The Birthday Party and Joy Division embodied not only the “sound” but also arrangement which as again revamped but with a focus on bottom register as a whole (i.e. bass guitar and other instruments which include a lasher/velvety bottom end or even guitars with deeper timbre). These elements were explored and solidified. The style and name of the genre was being defined.

In September of 1979, Tony Wilson, journalist and host of the British show, So It Goes, used the term Gothic to define Joy Division’s stark and eerie style.

“Dancing music with Gothic overtones.” he explained.

By the time contemporaries such as the longstanding Sisters of Mercy which spanned, and spawned many other subgenres such as Goth-Industrial and Goth Metal. Eventually, contemporaries such as Souxsie and the Banshees and The Cure added their elements and developed their more otherworldly, ethereal take on the genre lyrically and instrumentally. Often sporting an odd mash up of the darker corners of the Glam Rock movement and a sort of Post-Punk irony, the aforementioned acts delivered and stamped Goth Rock into the psyches of any sub or sub sub-genre.

While some sub-genres are often thought of when many people nowadays think of “Goth,” there is no substitute for the root and its purposes; examining universal dark themes (not evil, but dark).

Dark is defined in the Free Dictionary as “Lacking or having very little light: a dark corner. b. Lacking brightness: a dark day. 2. Reflecting only a small fraction of incident light.” Such is the very definition of Goth in ANY medium dating back to Medieval and Renaissance visual art and architecture.

While acts such as Bauhaus are often praised and many worthy modern Goth acts (especially Industrial acts) such as ThouShaltNot are overlooked, modern dark ambient and ethereal examples especially from the Projekt Records label are strongest overall “GOTHS.” Acts such as Black Tape for a Blue Girl, This Ascension and Unto Ashes, as well as the solo projects from Mortiis from the Black Metal band, Emperor, own this era of the genre and have kept it strong and genuine since the 90’s via label owner and musician, Sam Rosenthal.

In addition to my “Picks of the Week” which spanned a proto- Goth to 80’s Goth timeline, I also offer for your consideration the aforementioned classic acts and the following modern often overlooked examples of the best of the genre. Enjoy! And do try and pick up or legally download these independent artists’ records.

Black Tape for a Blue Girl – Across a Thousand Blades

This Ascension – Mysterium

ThouShaltNot – Without Faith