BLEEDING RAVEN is the aggrotech/dark tek project from Dean Mason of Gnostic Gorilla. Recently he released its debut album via Cleopatra Records. We had the pleasure to chat with Dean about the album, his latest project, a career and life changing set back and much more…
Hello and thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
The pleasure is all mine man.
Can you first introduce the ‘project’ and give us some background to how it all started?
In a land…far far away…hahahahaha…Ok, but seriously… I first got the ‘itch’ to record music when I was a teen-ager in high school. Some buddies and I went into a little studio and recorded two songs for a single release. (Dark Hallway/Golgotha) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p05YqqTOS_M https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=047Pk2GhPnY
Thanks to my lovely parents I released a vinyl 45 rpm as just “Dean Mason” with “Lonely Ghost Productions” as the name of the makeshift indie label. I got ‘itchy’ again in 2001 and began looking at music again, but did very little. In 2012, I got right into recording electronic music of a dark bent and scent and thus was born “Gnostic Gorilla” eventually. (I released stuff as The Lonely Ghost Project initially but changed the name to “Gnostic Gorilla”) In 2018, Cleopatra Records released “St. Basil’s Asylum”. (Gnostic Gorilla) In May of this past year, after releasing quite a few albums on different labels (KL Dark Records, Nowhere Now Records, Throne of Bael Records and LGP-ONE) I wanted to pursue something more ‘aggrotech’ in style. That’s when I initiated the “Bleeding Raven” project. Cleopatra released “Darkness Consumed” in October of this year.
How have those earlier impacted on what you are doing now, in maybe inspiring a change of style or direction?
As I mentioned earlier, I started off as just “Dean Mason” as a lad. In 2012, the Lonely Ghost Project was launched (so to speak) and then “Gnostic Gorilla” and from that evolved what we are talking about today…that is…the Bleeding Raven Project. My early music in these other projects was a mix of ‘Goth/Dark Wave/Dark Tek/Industrial’. I really wanted to do something more bizarre and almost literally more noisy and that’s when I initiated “Bleeding Raven”. It’s more aggrotech, but I also call it… “dungeon trash”…hahahahahahahahahaha I even have a shirt with that on it. https://www.dizzyjam.com/products/157830/
The image or character of the ‘raven’ is common in First Nations lore and even spirituality. The raven can either be a trickster or mischievous little critter or it can be sort of a symbol of the soul preparing for death of being taken back to the Great Creator. Different nations/tribes have different ideas and stories about the raven. The ‘bleeding’ part more or less speaks of suffering, of hurt etc. So, like my lyrics however, even with the image, I allow people to have their own interpretations. That said, I think always…DAILY…of my many sisters and brothers in the First Nations communities who suffer immensely because of a racist attitude towards them. There are many…MANY young Native women/girls who have gone missing and the effort to find them hasn’t always been fervent. As well, the suicide rate among First Nation teens is extremely high.
Was there any specific idea behind the forming of Bleeding Raven and also in what you wanted it and your sound to offer?
Well, in the Spring of 2019, I had to be on the road a bit and for some long drives, I acquired on my iTunes a few albums of a more industrial bent. That includes a couple of compilations of various bands. I discovered acts like Die Sektor and Psyclon Nine and I felt very inspired to go in this direction. I sort of started to go in that direction as “Gnostic Gorilla” but I wanted a new project that was mostly aggrotech in style. I came up with the ‘dungeon trash’ (LOL) I released in October and I am very proud of it!
Do the same things still drive you when it was fresh-faced or have they evolved over time?
Definitely evolved over time. So, when I first started off, I was more into a Gothic sound or industrial. And I still love a lot of that stuff. Always will. St. Basil’s Asylum is a classic and I’m just so sad that it’s still not discovered by many yet. But anyway, yeah…things do evolve. That said, I don’t like the idea of being in a ‘genre house arrest’ and being narrow minded in your approach to music. But either way, it’s all over for me in music anyway so…I’ve done what I could.
Since your early days, how would you say your sound has evolved?
Well, from the really early days, that is from the days of the Dark Hallway release, things really evolved dramatically. First of all, that 45 was like a mish mash of metal/punk pre-grunge I guess. I was heavily influenced by Gary Numan and yet, try as I did my vocal style was markedly different than his. It’s later that I appreciated that. But, see…I love ALL sorts of music. I mean, sometimes I’m just knee deep into The Doors and more psychedelic shit and other days I’m into Dio and Sabbath and Type O Negative and Ministry and Rammstein. Other days it’s The Cure or Smashing Pumpkins or of course, classic Numan and Japan or Bauhaus. So, a lot of what I do depends on where I’m at and I guess when it comes to music, I’m moody as hell. hahahahahaha
Do you find the changes have been more of an organic movement of sound or you deliberately wanting to try new things?
I’d say the latter, yeah.
Presumably , and you have touched on them already, there is a wide range of inspirations; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on your music but your personal approach and ideas to creating and playing music?
So, I make a distinction between that which has inspired and that which has influenced more directly my own style. The artists/bands that have been inspirations are many. Gary Numan, KISS, Type O Negative, Black Sabbath, Rammstein, Japan (David Sylvian) Ozzy, Manson, Korn, Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure, Bauhaus, Zardonic, Fear Incorporated, Frost Like Ashes, CRIX IIX and the list is endless. As for those who have been influences, while they include some of the names listed already, I’d say Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Psyclon Nine, Die Sektor. As I always do in any interview, the band that will forever be my absolute favourite is The Doors. The Doors and Gary Numan are both at the top of my own personal ‘chart’.
I also want to give a shout out to Tim Muddiman and NOT because of his connection to Gary Numan. Tim has ventured into more graphic arts in recent years and he is doing some amazing work. THAT very much inspires me…or better yet…I honour the man as an artist in every sense of the word…as a true artist.
Is there a process to your songwriting which generally guides the birth of songs?
Yeah, mostly I start off with a vague idea of want kind of song I want to do, Then I begin with beats and drum patterns and bass lines or even synth lines. (it depends) I get a general idea of the direction I want to go in before going far into the track. So, I begin to choose the different sounds and samples/loops that I want as well to give it a mood. More often than not, I manipulate these and distort or whatever to make them unique. Then as the song evolves, there’s the question of whether or not I want a traditional chorus (often not because that’s too pop) and I allow the track to sort of dictate to me where it’s going. Sort of like a First Nations wood carver who allows the ‘wood’ to speak to them as they say. Then when I have a rough demo, I begin writing lyrics and then record vocals. That’s the tough part for many reasons. Lots of hit and miss with that process. I’ve written an entire set of lyrics for a song only to discover that something else would work better and I have to (at times) chop out some of the lyrics. Hard to explain. Also, sometimes I record the vocals and it sounds like shit. I mean, there is a need for a different ‘style’ all together. After all the vocals are recorded, I go back and add more …sometimes a sample here or an FX noise there or whatever. I’m quite ADD so if there are any sort of ‘blank stare’ moments in a song…that’s unacceptable. It has to be busy. I’m told my music is VERY busy. Then there is the final mix which is a real pain in the ass. Sometimes even at that stage you decide… “nah…this is total shit”! It’s a bit of a drag when that happens though man because you’ve come all the way to a full song and you realize it isn’t happening.
Where do you, more often than not, draw the inspirations to the lyrical side of your songs?
First off, good for you for asking that because lyrics are important for me… I realize it’s not what the listener first becomes aware of…but for me, the lyrics are important. Anyway, so…I don’t write any lyrics with any sort of ‘agenda’. In other words, I don’t preach or dictate anything. I like a very poetic approach to the lyrics with lots of imagery. Now, that said, there are certain subjects that inspire me. I often write about religious themes or philosophical themes and often touch upon injustice and hypocrisy and hate and injustice for example. But I do so in veiled/poetic language. I want the listener to decide for themselves what it could mean.
Give us some background to your latest release.
“Darkness Consumed” touches upon a few subjects…again in veiled language. One of the tracks is called “Pontiff’s Nightmare” which is actually about St. Francis. He more or less spooked the Pope at the time with his authentically radical life style and that Pope had a dream about Francis. Francis challenged the corruption of the time by the way he lived. “Salem Vigil” is sort of… but not completely about the Salem witch trials. The song actually addresses the unfortunate phenomenon of ‘religious people’ oppressing and persecuting people who don’t fit their narrow definition of what it means to be ‘good’ or ‘decent’ and ‘righteous’. In the end, these arrogant and often ignorant people of so called ‘faith’ are the ones who are truly evil because of the harm they inflict on many borne out of their hatred and unenlightened worldview.
Give us some insight to the themes and premise behind it and its songs.
So, “Darkness Consumed”…that very title isn’t a nod to evil or the promotion of ‘darkness’. It’s actually about the fact that somehow, ‘TRUTH’ (light) will ‘consume the darkness’ and overcome it. That’s sort of the idea in brief. As I said, I want people to decide for themselves however what something can mean for them.
Do you go into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?
Going back to the very first single “Dark Hallway”…I had everything figured out (with lyrics) when I presented the tracks to the band. I wrote the lyrics in English class (Dark Hallway) while under the influence of benzodiazepines. Hahahahahahaha We were reading “Death of a Salesman” in that class and it was, to say the least, a rather dark story. hahahahahaha
Tell us about the live side to Bleeding Raven.
I have lost the hearing in the left ear completely and totally. It happened in October…Very traumatic actually. I have to protect the little hearing I have left in the right ear which is at half capacity. I want to be able to hear the voices of the ones I love and the more natural sounds in life. For all intents and purposes…I’m deaf. Music is no longer an option. Especially live music, even if I wanted to do something live with a band. Music has been such an important part of my life obviously…but that’s over. That’s the future.
It is not easy for any new artist/band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it your neck of the woods? Are there the opportunities to make a mark if the drive is there for new bands?
You’re correct. It’s very difficult to ‘break through’ in this day and age. There’s just too much out there. I mean, everyone and their cat is putting stuff out. There are so many genres today and so many…MANY indie folks (like me) who have stuff out there and are competing with the ‘big boys and gals’. You have to be creative to get known because sadly, younger people are not interested in new music aside from what they become aware of through video games or TV/Movies. I mean, I’m seriously over generalizing perhaps but it is true that, young people today don’t appreciate music the way people did in the past. They don’t grasp the concept of music as ‘art’ anymore. That’s not their fault. But because of the technology that we have today and with social media platforms…there is too much out there and for younger people, music is just “there for the taking” the way fruit on trees is there to pluck. So, you have to be creative in how you get people to notice you today. It’s not easy.
How has the internet and social media impacted on the band to date? Do you see it as something destined to become a negative from a positive as the band grows and hopefully gets increasing success or is it more that bands struggling with it are lacking the knowledge and desire to keep it working to their advantage?
So, this is sort of a continuation of the previous question. Here’s the thing, the internet and social media and digital music etc. is here and it’s here to stay. We are still trying to adapt to this I suppose. Now, you could lament and dream of the “good old days” but that’s all it will ever be…a ‘dream’. Musicians/artists have to adapt. In many ways, it has been a blessing. Many artists would have never been able to put their stuff out there so to speak were it not for the kind of technology we have today. See, I picked up music again in 2012 but only as a hobby. I then, almost jokingly put some of my stuff out there as an indie/unsigned act and I eventually got a label deal with Cleopatra Records, which for me is phenomenal. I will have three releases with Cleopatra Records by end of 2020. (the last one is another Gnostic Gorilla album) I also have releases with three other labels. So, none of that would have happened were it not for the technology we have at our disposal. I guess it’s sort of what you make of it, like anything else.
Once again a big thanks for sharing time with us; anything you would like to add or reveal for the readers?
Thanks again to you for the great (and extensive) interview. Reveal?
Ok…I’m B A T M A N. Hahahahahahaha No but, seriously, I thank the many people who have been supportive of me in one way or another…be it family or friends and certainly Benny at Cleopatra Records. As I said earlier, because of the extreme hearing loss (actually deaf completely in one ear and the other is severely compromised) …I have to pack it in with regards to music. I will promote what I have and will have out soon (already recorded obviously) and perhaps a book of lyrics and that’s it. Cheers.
Pete RingMaster 17/01/2020
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