Follow the rabbit into the weird: an interview with Mr. Strange

Mr. Strange

Fans of UK musical mutants The Shanklin Freak Show have already been touched, inspired, and seduced by the creativity and psyche teasing craft of the band’s former frontman Mr. Strange whilst his solo work has equally gripped the imagination of a great many but now the songwriter/producer/vocalist/musician has taken it all to a new level with the release of this exceptional new album The Wonderful World Of Weird. A release walking the reams of insanity and artistic rapaciousness, it is a diverse and riveting exploration of sounds, invention, and dice into the weird persona that is Mr. Strange. Greedily wanting to find out more we had the joy and adventure to talk to the man himself with the adding pleasure of his artistic cohort Stench on top also sharing thoughts and time with us. Investigating The Wonderful World Of Weird, we talked origins, The Shanklin Freak Show, Marilyn Manson, the bright lights and much more…

Greetings Mr. Strange and thank you for taking time out to let us delve into your world of weird.

Mr. Strange: Greetings! Thank you, sir, I’m glad to be here. Smells funny though!

You are well known amongst fans for your founding and leading of The Shanklin Freak Show (TSFS) until recently but maybe less know about your solo exploits before and running alongside the band; could you give some background to those?

Mr. Strange: Before I started The Shanklin Freak Show in March 2003, I began learning my craft as a programmer / producer way back in 1998. I bought a basic music creation game for the original PlayStation simply called ‘Music’ and became completely obsessed with it! As laughable as it sounds, it was actually quite a competent music tool, and a great introduction to music programming. Before I made the upgrade to professional (real) music software, I made a whole album using just this game and my PlayStation. This album was completed in February 2003, although I did add some vocals and guitars to the final version of the album using my current studio set-up. The final version of the album was eventually released in late 2011 as Sounds From The Asylum, which is an apt title methinks! Anyway, back to 2003. As soon as Sounds From The Asylum was finished I went full-throttle into The Shanklin Freak Show project, greatly helped by the fact I could finally record guitars and vocals with my swanky new production software – which I could not do before 2003. The Shanklin Freak Show project pretty much had my full attention until late 2011. The only exceptions to this were my collaborations with Global Citizen acting as co-producer on two albums – those being Master Stroke and Nil By Mouth – as well as the Mr. Strange album The Fall which I made in late 2007.. But for the most part, my solo exploits only resumed once I stepped down from the forefront of The Shanklin Freak Show in November 2011. Now my Mr. Strange projects are my primary focus… and my cats.

From all the music and projects you have been involved with it is clear to see that your sounds and tastes are rather eclectic, what are some of the major inspirations which have spiced your own ideas over the years?

Mr. Strange: Well, being a rather flamboyant chap, nearly all of my musical influences fall in to the “theatrical” category. Bands and artists who present themselves in a very theatrical way tend to make more outlandish music, and that’s definitely what floats my boat, as it were! I’ll try to keep it snappy, so here’s a shortlist of some of my most influential artists: Danny Elfman, David Bowie, Mushroomhead, Dr. Steel, The Sisters Of Mercy,  Alice Cooper, Mortiis (only the ‘Smell Of Rain’ album), Krizz Kaliko, The Duke Of Stratosphere, Twiztid, Marilyn Manson, The Prodigy, ICP, Mr. Bungle (or almost anything from the mind of Mike Patton), Gary Numan, Tech N9ne, White Zombie / Rob Zombie, and Babylon Zoo. That last one’s not a joke by the way! Stop laughing.

Tell us about creating TSFS and its own unique and dark world?TSFS with Mr. Strange

Mr. Strange: I started The Shanklin Freak Show in early 2003, the first ever Freak Show song was written and recorded in March I believe, a little random fact for those who may be interested. The whole concept was meant as a home, a form of escapism, for those who felt rejected by the world. Basically the kind of outlandish, Tim Burton-esque world I wanted to escape to myself at that time. My failure at finding a place to belong in the world led me to try and make my own, both for myself and others who felt the same. The basic concept is articulated best in the song ‘Twisted Family,’ check it out if you want to get your noggin around what the whole Freak Show thang is about. Musically, it was born out of my love of some of the earlier Insane Clown Posse records and my disappointment with (the then newly released) Marilyn Manson album The Golden Age Of Grotesque – I was expecting a deeply engrossing, dark, twisted, circus-style cabaret show of an album, my dream record, but what arrived was an album of fairly standard industrial pop songs. I imagined it to sound far more intriguing and I found the idea behind the record a lot better than the end product, so I went about trying to create the album I imagined. That’s it really. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Before we concentrate on your new album, you are still involved with TSFS but just not as the vocalist now? Why the decision to step down from that role?

Mr. Strange: Indeed, I’m still involved with the band, but just on the side-lines at the moment. I have to admit that my input has been very minimal since my departure, although that was not a conscious decision, that’s just how it’s played out up until this point. I may play a more active role in the band next year, songwriting and maybe doing the odd live shows here and there, but that’s all dependant on working it around what I’ll be doing with my own projects. There were many different factors contributing to me stepping down as the vocalist and retreating from the forefront of the Shanklin Freak Show, although the main factor was simply that I find performing live extremely nerve-wracking and didn’t want to do it anymore, at least not for a few years. I suppose the other main factor was that I was feeling burnt out with the project and my heart wasn’t really in it, at least not enough to knuckle down, overcome my nerves and keep playing live shows. I started the Freak Show in 2003, so I spent a full 8 years solely focused on that one project and to be honest, I think I just wanted to try new things, things that might not have worked within the context of The Shanklin Freak Show, if that makes sense?

You have just released the brilliant album The Wonderful World Of Weird, our favourite and one of the best if not THE best album this year, how long has it been in the making?

Mr. Strange: Firstly, thank you very much! Secondly, too damn long! I started the album in October 2011 and finished it in October 2013. The reason for this overly long development process was due to uncertainty as to where I wanted to go after the Shanklin Freak Show. I had loads of ideas, but for my first release after TSFS I wanted to make a record that would be fresh and also slightly familiar, that’s a very specific sound to try and go for, and one that was tricky to find balance for. I’d write a few songs, then over analyse them and come to the conclusion that I wasn’t heading in the right direction, so they’d gather dust for a few months while I procrastinate, then I’d become enthused with the Wonderful World of Weird project again and get a couple of more songs done, then doubt myself again. This process happened a few times, probably half of the two year development cycle was either spent doing nothing or writing material separate from the WWoW project! I’m currently working on developing and finishing those other ideas for my next record, needless to say it already sounds incredibly different to the Wonderful World of Weird and is even more of a departure from The Shanklin Freak Show sound.

StenchYou co-wrote many of the tracks and recorded it with TSFS’s guitarist Stench (Gary Mason to his mum); how easy was it to fit this in as I know the band is recording their own album too; are you to blame for the delay in the finishing of their album??? ;)

Mr. Strange: Having Stench work on the album with me has had no bearing on the speed of The Shanklin Freak Show’s musical output, don’t blame me! Haha.

STENCH:  I don’t think Mr Strange is to blame in the slightest. The delay has been down to a few factors. The Last Show mixing process has been troublesome and we were never completely happy with it and didn’t want to release something that would make us cringe, knowing that we could’ve done better. Obviously, we had the addition of Kronik on Bass, rehearsals, gigs, festivals and the continual cycle of writing and recording. Plus, we’ve had the steep learning curve of being responsible for our own production. We have lots of songs that we’re working on and which are at various states of creation/completion. Plus, very recently, Mr Foul became a Daddy again. All in all, I think we’ve done pretty well, considering.

Mr. Strange: Thanks for backing me up there, Master Stench! I’ll slip you a fiver later.

How did the song writing work for the album and at what point did Stench get to add his explorations to your ideas?

Mr. Strange: We began working together full-time in late 2012 (we’d done bits and bobs together for the album before then, but it was an intermittent thing) almost exactly a year after I began work on the record. At that time I probably had roughly half the album that you can hear today, albeit in a very rough state and with very little guitar work on it. I think ‘White Rabbit’ is the only song that I play all of the guitars on, the rest of the album is pure Stench! With regards to songwriting, it kind of varies as to the approach we took. A lot of the songs were already half written, so Stench worked his magic over what was already there, but a few songs were written in a much more free-form manner. The songs Psycho Surfing A Go-Go‘ and Metropolis 2984 were the result of me and Stench just jamming and coming up with crazy stuff, which I’d never done before, so that was a great experience! Sadly a lot of our random jam songs didn’t make the cut for the album, but they’ll appear eventually. A lot of the tracks we wrote were simply too damn off the wall for the Wonderful World of Weird!

How much did Stench evolve and twist your ideas into new sparks within songs or did you go all dictator on him in this area? ;) (We at The RR know he likes to be dominated…)

Mr. Strange: While there was indeed a fair bit of dictating going on, Stench’s guitar wizardry certainly evolved a lot of songs in many ways. Even songs which were mostly finished by my lonesome have changed in tone and texture considerably since Stench shot his load over them! Songs which may have been dead ends from my point of view (as in not worth finishing) were saved by Stench taking the tune in a new direction with his magical, distorted, electrically-powered stringed instrument. The addition of guitar solos to a few songs has also altered the structure of some of the arrangements, giving the whole album a more free-flowing and natural feel, a definite departure to the more rigid electro-industrial pounding of some of my earlier songs with TSFS.

The guitar work provides a bait of hooks and grooves across the release which seems to breed from the other exotic or should that be erotic melodies and lures at large; did these come after the heart of the songs were exposed or in their initial breeding?

Mr. Strange: Wow, that’s one very eloquently worded question! I want some of what you’re smoking, sir! Haha. Methinks I’ll pass this one over to Stench.

STENCH:  I have to say, Mr Strange is always a pleasure to work with and we seem to be able to communicate very easily musically. So, I suppose that both cases are true as regards to the creation of the tunes. Sometimes, Mr Strange will have an idea of what he wants beforehand and I’ll just add my guitar parts under his strict instruction. Thankfully, I no longer have to wear the gimp mask. Other times, we start completely from scratch. Either way, it’s always fun and inspiring.

The Wonderful World Of Weird is a roller coaster of styles and flavours including industrial, steampunk, surf rock, 555928_584429381594861_1695733989_npsychedelic and gothic rock and much more all merged into the narrative of the album. This is a true reflection of both your musical tastes and the way your creative imaginations works, or predominantly Mr S’s (Saul); the album truly a landscape of your ideas and musical psyche?

STENCH:  I think we both have very eclectic musical influences and appreciate each other’s tastes. This makes it much easier to work together and helps with communicating ideas. But, yes, the album is predominantly Saul’s genius and I add either the cherry on top or the fly in the ointment, whichever is required at the time.

It is fair Mr. Strange to say the album is very different from your earlier songs as on The Fall and those written across all your projects as collated in the Freakshow album, both of 2011. I will admit this was a little bit of a surprise considering your major input and dramatic style within TSFS, so has this been a natural progression or have you had to consciously veer away from anything sounding like the band?

Mr. Strange: Yes, it was definitely a conscious decision to try and move away from the sound of the Shanklin Freak Show. The more complex song arrangements, featuring less prominent/heavy guitars, changing the tone and pitch of my vocals somewhat, being more daring with mixing varying genres on one album, all of it was done with the sole intention of trying to not sound like a new Freak Show album. I’d done 8 years of the Freak Show; I wanted to see if I could create something a little different. With all that said, I also tried to not move too far away from the Freak Show sound as to completely alienate people who may be following me after hearing the Freak Show. You can hear echoes of TSFS on songs like ‘Fire’, ‘White Rabbit’ and on ‘Exile’.

As the album is lyrically and musically a journey through the mind of Mr. Strange did you have a definite step by step guide to the order of songs and their effect on the album in mind before everything was recorded etc.?

Mr. Strange: I did indeed! However, what I planned out and what ended up being the Wonderful World of Weird album are two very different things. The narrative you hear on the finished record was re-written to fit the finished songs only a few months before the album’s release. I originally planned something far grander and more complex, but it was sounding so overblown, silly and pretentious that the scope for the record was scaled back considerably. It’s far more personal now; I think that works in its favour.

We described the opening title track to The Wonderful World Of Weird as Dr. Jekyll meets ICP as early Marilyn Mansion helps Victor Frankenstein create aural life for them to toy with upon a set designed by Willy Wonka, a description which in varying ways applies to the whole album; how would you describe the album to newcomers?

Mr. Strange: Tim Burton and Danny Elfman taking an absinth-fuelled journey through a variety of pop and rock’s more outlandish genres.

I imagine this album might appeal to people who like quirky / alternative pop. I was inspired by lots of the 80′s goth bands and loads of steampunk artists while making this record, so perhaps folks with similar tastes would enjoy it, too.

Tell us about our favourite track out of a great many on the album, Psycho Surfing-A-Go-Go.

STENCH:  Now this song is an example of how suddenly things happen organically. I think this was the fastest tune that we’ve ever written together. The major bones came together in an evening and the riffs were written on an old 1960’s Burns bass. Suddenly, it began writing itself. It was great fun to play as it has a tongue in cheek feel to the guitar lines. Also, it was nice to get outside of the box and let rip on some retro sounds. Mr. Strange knew from the off what he wanted to do vocal-wise and before we knew it, job done.

Mr. Strange 4Can we get a brief glimpse of the man behind Mr. Strange, we get the impression he is a shy retiring type… a tea drinker ;)

Mr. Strange: Of course I like tea, and no, you can’t get a glimpse! Aha! Although your impression could be considered strangely accurate…

You both hail from The Isle Of Wight which seems like a small hotbed of talent right now, covering numerous styles?

STENCH:  Absolutely, the music scene here is great and vast. It would take up another couple of pages to name every great musician or band based here. Of course, we have our favourites and it would be rude not to give them a shout. *Deep breath* Pleasurade, Hentai Babies, When Prophecy Fails, Becoming The Leviathan, Born Ina Barn, Silencing The Voiceless, Puritan Slain, Kingz Of Vocals, Counsil Estate Supermodels, The Ohmz, Hollowdrone and Nately’s Whore to name but a few. So you have your Alt-Pop, Progressive Metal, Hip-Hop, Reggae, Grunge and Punk. But, as with any music scene, anywhere, it needs support.

You have not been tempted by the bright lights of the mainland for musical reasons?

Mr. Strange: Career wise? Yes, but many factors prevented that from happening. I haven’t thought about it for years. I’m happy where I am right now, so I have no plans to move closer to the action, there’s more than enough in my trousers to keep me entertained, although the career opportunities are limited.

What is next for Mr. Strange, you do not seem like an artist to sit back and take a rest.

Mr. Strange: Indeed, you know me too well, sir! Were we lovers at some point? I have two projects / albums planned for next year. The first album (which I’m writing at this very moment) is progressing extremely fast, possibly dropping in April 2014. I’d wager no one will see this one coming; it’s so completely different to anything I’ve done before. Once that album is out and people adjust to the new strangeness, I’ll begin work on the next album, the one that will usher in my return to live music and my inevitable conquest of planet Earth! I hope to have that second record ready by the end of 2014, possibly with live touring to follow in 2015. Don’t hold me to those dates though, I’m just speculating at this point. Both albums will have completely different musical styles and theatrical imagery to match, but I shall say no more.

Where can people treat themselves to all things Mr. Strange and especially The Wonderful World Of Weird?

Mr. Strange: I think it would be very spiritually rewarding for people to go to my website and gasp in ecstasy at pictures of my devilishly handsome face! Links to all of my music and whatnot are located there, but my sexy pictures are where it’s at.

www.mrstrangemedia.comMr. Strange 3

If folks are into the social media thang, I’m on most of the popular sites, too:

www.facebook.com/Official.Mr.Strange

www.youtube.com/user/MrStrangeMedia

www.twitter.com/MrStrangeMedia

Once more thank you and of course to Stench for leaving your bedlam to talk with us, any thoughts to leave us with?

Mr. Strange: Expect the unexpected!

…and lastly please give us five records which shaped Mr. Strange.

1. Marilyn Manson – Portrait Of An American Family

2. Dukes Of Stratosphere – Chips From The Chocolate Fireball

3. Insane Clown Posse – The Great Milenko

4. Dr. Steel – Read-Along Album

5. Danny Elfman – Nightmare Before Christmas OST

Read The Wonderful World Of Weird review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/mr-strange-the-wonderful-world-of-weird/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 23/12/2013

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Dark corners and caustic intent: an interview with Varicella

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A maelstrom of ravenous intensity and demonic caustic caresses, the debut EP from US industrial band Varicella has brought an uncompromising destructive start to the year. Released through the impressive emerging underground label Bluntface Records, We Belong Dead was a predator of old school eighties style industrial which experimented with and pushed brawling sonic boundaries. Taking the opportunity to find out more about the project through founder Chris Bollinger and guitarist Chris Pasquarelli, we looked at the release, the origins of the band and horror movies…

Welcome to The RingMaster Review and thanks for talking with us.

Varicella – Thank you! And thanks for giving us the chance to talk with you! We appreciate the opportunity.

For the uninitiated, tell us about Varicella, its beginnings, and the inspiration for the project.

Chris Bollinger – Well this is going to be a “really” long story, and I will try to shorten it as best I can, LOL. Varicella is at the moment, a two person industrial/metal/electronic dance music/experimental band. And when I say at the moment, I mean, that we did have a bassist who also did some synth work. He was responsible for a decent amount of what the band sounds like now. But sadly, we had to let him go from the band, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. We do hope to add a live bassist and drummer at some point, but it is hard finding the right people who fit and so forth.

As for the beginnings of the band, well as it states in our BIO on Facebook or Reverbnation, I started the project back in 2008. I’ve always wanted to do an industrial type of band, even when I was in high school back in 2000/2001. I just never found anyone that was on the same page as me or liked what I liked. But anyway, I started this in 2008 and did a few things wrote a few songs, some are on our We Belong Dead EP actually. We just updated them. Then I had to put it on hold because of to many people coming and going. I mean, I think I went through 4 or 5 guitarists until I found Chris Pasquarelli. I posted several ads online and for about 2 years, I never got an answer or I did but their style didn’t fit my style, or they wanted to do the more aggrotech / terror EBM style of industrial and I don’t want to do that. So it was a super long time between people. And during that our old bassist answered one of my ads. We talked and began to work together over the internet with a site called Soundcloud. At the time he was working a job that was 3rd shift overnight and I work a standard 9 to 5 type of job. So our schedules were completely opposite. But I’m determined to do this so things got done! LOL. Then as I mentioned above I found Chris Pasquarelli, through Facebook no less, LOL. We both were clicking like on each other’s posts or comments, and then somehow he saw I did music and said we should jam. I was really impressed with him. That was last April and he’s been in the band ever since that first jam. Yes, he’s that good!

As for the inspiration, I’d have to say just my love of the old 80’s and early 90s industrial, bands such as Ministry, KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, and Frontline Assembly. And then on top of that I love White Zombie and Nine Inch Nails, and thrash metal type of bands like Slayer, Testament, Megadeth, Pantera and other hard rock or punk bands like Alice in Chains, Danzig, Tool, Filter, Misfits and The Ramones. So, I just wanted to do something that was in the vein of those bands/artists but not a direct rip off. I wanted to make heavy dance music. Songs that have a heavy dance beat that’ll make the girls shake their asses to it, but at the same time it has a thrash metal guitar part or groove to the guitars that’ll make the dudes head bang to it. Hopefully that makes sense to anyone out there. LOL.

What was it about music which you felt was missing and leaving you cold as a listener as well as a musician, when starting Varicella?

Chris B. – Pretty much as I said above, everyone was making the all synth based aggrotech / terror EBM type of industrial, and I didn’t want to do that. I have nothing against it and I like most of it. I listen to Combichrist, Psyclon Nine, Imperative Reaction, Wumpscut and other various bands that have that sound. It’s just not the type of music that I wanted to do personally. And I think that made it harder to find a guitarist too, because that style is really popular right now. The style we do is not popular. Which does make things harder but at the same time, we can transcend a few genres of music and play with different types of bands. Which I find pretty cool! LOL.

Chris Pasquarelli – When I joined Varicella last April I liked the music, but I wanted to make it heavier and more edgy. Most of the songs had basic plug-in computer guitars which the typical computer programs use and I liked it but I didn’t like how noticeable it was that it was not recorded by real guitars as opposed to computer guitars. Within the last 9 months I’ve been in the band I can say that I am really happy with the overall sound our music has with my added guitar and bass tracks.

Was this music in general or more the industrial/electro genre you did not find a connection with?IMG_0014

Chris B. – I’d say yes, mostly in the industrial/electronic genre, but I’ve been a little bored with the rock and metal genre too. Not much is catching my attention in the rock and metal genre. There are a few “really” good bands in the all of those genres, but you have to weed through thousands of copies or clone bands to find the 4 or 5 good ones. It’s tough.

How do you feel about the scene and music now we stand in 2013?

Chris B. – Pretty much the same. Some things have gotten better. Like, it’s easier to spot the better bands versus what I call the “bedroom” bands. These are people that just sit in their homes, make and release music, but never play a live show. Ever! There were a massive amount of them back in 2007 to 2009. Maybe even before that. I’m not 100% sure. But now, it’s about 99% easier to weed through and see those types of bands. And I’m not knocking those people. Some make very good music. I probably own some, LOL. But it’s just not what I want to do. I want to actually see the fans and talk to them and so forth, not sit in my bedroom and stare at a computer monitor.

What are the biggest influences which inspires your sound?

Chris B. – Ministry, mostly the early stuff, Twitch, The Land of Rape and Honey, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and Psalm 69. Those 4 albums blew my mind and still amaze me. I can’t believe Al and Paul did what they did at that time. It’s amazing! KMFDM, almost anything they do is great! Same goes for Skinny Puppy. Got to love Ohgr too! And then White Zombie, La Sex and Astro Creep are two great albums that shaped my teenage years!

Chris P. -  Behemoth, Deicide, At The Gates, Cannibal Corpse, Cradle Of Filth, Children Of Bodom, Burzum, Darkthrone, Death, The Black Dahlia Murder, Cryptopsy, Anorexia Nervosa, Nine Inch Nails, Orgy, Deadsy, Psyclon Nine, Dimmu Borgir, Marilyn Manson, Static x, Old Mans Child, SOAD and many more!  As far as my sound goes I’m influenced by many bands, I just try to make the heaviest guitar and bass lines too fit our songs.

The early days were unsettled for the band I believe, through line-up problems? Was this the reason for Varicella going on hiatus or actually at the time was it the end of the band? 

Chris B. – They were. And I think I quit about 4 or 5 times. Gave up and stopped all together type of quitting. I was just really frustrated, and things were going nowhere. As I said, it was about 2 years before I found Chris Pasquarelli on guitar

Varicella reformed/re-emerged in 2011, what was the spark that made that the time to bring the project back to active life?

Chris B. – Skinny Puppy. Skinny Puppy came out with a new album called “HanDover” back in late 2011. Also Ohgr released another one of his solo albums early in 2011, called “undeveloped”. And I just said, fuck it, these are super good, I need to get my shit together, and get this project going! Especially “HanDover”! It’s over a year later and that album is still constantly on my iPod.

Chris P. – I was still in high school when I joined and I was in several other projects at the time when I joined Varicella. I’ve been serious about music for most of my life And I felt frustrated with a lot of the people I jammed with at the time because no one else was as into the band thing as I was until I joined Varicella, so I was really excited to be a part of a band which was serious about their music.

 Back to influences/inspirations, which predominantly spark and shape your songs and lyrics, the areas which ignite your ideas?

Chris B. – Movies, mostly horror and sci-fi movies. TV shows, comics and/or graphic novels. You wouldn’t think it, but Doctor Who is another spark that started two songs lyric wise. And one song music and lyrics, called “The Sound of Four”. And then there are some ideas that come from real life experiences. Like the song “Obsessed with flesh”.  The lyrics in that song can be applied to anything where a person feels they are being used and/or abused. But the major theme of that song comes from a person I wanted to date, but she didn’t want a steady boyfriend or a relationship. So we were just friends with benefits. After a few months of that she all the sudden stops talking to me. I can’t get a hold of her. She doesn’t want to hang out let alone do other stuff. Then a few weeks go by, and I find out she’s in a relationship and that’s why she just dropped me. I was fairly pissed off, and felt a little used. Same goes for the song “All Hail”, that’s sort of my views on brutal honesty with a little jab a religion. I’m a brutally honest person and a straight shooter. I just think we all spend too much time putting up a front or wearing a mask for certain people. It’s ridiculous.

Chris P. – As far as our music goes guitar and bass wise, I kind of do a Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Static X guitar and bass meets extreme metal vibe. For example in our song Mind Fucked I wrote a melodic guitar rhythm that a stripper could dance to, and metal heads could throw down too and fuck each other up in the mosh pits too as well. This has been a huge influence in writing for me, and I’m not exaggerating at all. Every time I right new material For Varicella I always keep Strippers and mosh pits in mind.

TrayCard_OutsideYou have just released your We Belong Dead EP via Bluntface Records; does this contain all new tracks or material with seeds and feet from the earlier presence of the band as well?

Chris B. – A little bit of both actually. The songs Obsessed with Flesh, All Hail were written back around 2008. Of course they were updated to match the other songs that were new, specifically the song Obsessed with Flesh. There’s this sort of machine type sound going on with the guitars. That’s from the way Chris Pasquarelli plays the song. He bends the strings a certain way at a certain time to get that specific sound. That’s all him! So if we had a different guitarist that didn’t play it that way, it wouldn’t sound that way.

How long did the EP take to create and how far did it or songs evolve from the initial ideas?

Chris B. – It didn’t take too long actually. Most of the blue print was laid out in 2008. We just updated some things here and there as I said. We started working on these songs in late 2011 and finished in the fall of 2012. Obsessed and All Hail didn’t change much. Chris Pasquarelli just added his own style to them. The Sound of Four came together very quickly! Music and the lyrics. I think it was done in only a few months. We Belong Dead went through a few changes. LOL. The original idea came from our old bassist Tim. I just sort of took the synth sound, and remixed it adding in other elements. I went through about 4 versions of that song until we hit on a verse / chorus / verse pattern. But it didn’t become what it is now until Chris Pasquarelli joined, and added the guitar riff that grooves over top the synth part in the verses.

There is a cinematic feels to your tracks on We Belong Dead, a visual ambience beyond the lovely corruption of sound and breath. Obviously it has seeds in the influences to songs you mentioned earlier but has it been a natural result of your personal interests or something you have crafted intentionally?

Chris B. – Thank you very much. I would say this is not intentional, at least on a conscious level. I mean, I try to create songs that have multiple meanings on multiple levels to them. This is why I like to add in certain Movie or TV show samples. They help me to tell the story of the song better. Or they reference things in my lyrics.

What are your hopes for the EP in relation to opening up future opportunities for the band and is there a particular moment or track on the release which is Varicella at its purest, where its heart is most open?

Chris B. – Well first and foremost this EP is a stepping stone to our full length release that’ll be out something later this year, probably fall or winter of 2013. We also hope this EP will help us get any attention to tour or play more shows. We’d love to do a tour! Even if it is just a small 2 or 4 week local tour. Of course a bigger 2 month or more tour would be great too!

Varicella at its purest? Not sure. Obsessed with flesh is pretty personal. As I mention above, that one involves a bad relationship with a girl. The Sound of Four is about feeling like you don’t exist in this world, so maybe those two songs. They might not sound like it, but most of my lyrics are real and from the heart.

Chris P. – I’m hoping this EP will open more doors for Varicella by getting us more fans and shows etc. I agree with Chris I think Obsessed with flesh is pretty out there in terms of being us at our purest.

How did you and Bluntface link up and what have been the benefits already from their support and presence?

Chris B. – Johnny from Virus Cycle had an open call for bands on his compilation last summer. From there, I saw that Otto was doing another compilation through the Bluntface site. Otto remembered our song and dug our sound, and a few months ago he sent me an email. He said the label was expanding, and asked if we wanted to join up with him. It seemed like a really good offer that we didn’t want to pass up. So we agreed.

There have been a huge amount of benefits! We’ve had internet radio air play. The review of our EP from you guys, and a few other interviews, and we did a “live” on air interview on 13SRadio.com. We also have another one that we’re doing at the end of this month. Everything Otto said he would do for us, he’s doing! So we’re extremely happy.

How are you managing to promote the EP and are there live shows happening or planned?

Chris B. – We’ve been promoting it on the various social media networks, Reverbnation, Facebook, Twitter, and a few other sites. We’ve been playing shows since last October when we opened for My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Left Spine Down, and Panzer Division. Left Spine Down said we were loud and they liked our cover of Ministry’s Burning Inside. Since then, we’ve had a show every month, except for December, we played two that month. We’re taking February off to write and record some songs for the full length album. And we’re playing a show on March 23rd in Philadelphia at Motel Hell. Details are on our Facebook page

There are plenty of opinions from artists within industrial and its plethora of varied corners which say there is a current curse of IMG_0023_1backbiting and disrespect within the genre between musicians and those involved, how have you found the situation personally?

Chris B. – There are a few bands and people, not exclusively in the industrial/electronic music genre, that have been disrespectful to us. It does bother me at times, because it’s usually from bands/artists that think they’re bigger than they are, but they’re not. They have this ego trip and they act like you’re beneath them. It’s sad actually. And we try to not be like that. If you’re cool with me, then I’m cool with you, simple as that. But that’s just how it is, and it’s the same with the movie business. Everyone’s two faced. It doesn’t matter if you’re a local band or a huge touring band. You will run into a few that are like that.

Is there anything, band or releases, which have captured your imaginations recently and added extra flavour to your thoughts and ideas for your next compositions?

Chris B. – Wow, good question. Not too many “newer” bands. There are some bands that have been around for a little bit that are releasing newer albums. Dawn of Ashes, KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Alice in Chains, Megadeth and Filter. I’m a pretty big Filter fan. Their last album “The Trouble with Angels” was really great! Still listening to that. Testament just released a very good album. Frontline Assembly and Tweaker also just put out newer albums. Even though FLA is more of a soundtrack, it’s still very good. Been listening to the “Tron Legacy” score by Daft Punk off and on for a few weeks. All of those keep my imagination going. Especially the “Tron Legacy” score. That CD just amazes me! It’s really good!

What is next creatively for Varicella?

Chris B. – We are currently working on our full length album. It will be all the songs from the EP plus about 5 or 7 more originals and maybe 2 or 3 remix songs.

Many thanks for sparing time to chat with us, any last thoughts you would like to share?

Chris B. – Thank you for giving us this opportunity. We appreciate it very much! Last thoughts…just check us out on Facebook or Reverbnation. Go to the Bluntface Records site and check out all the great bands there! If you haven’t already, please download our “We Belong Dead” EP. And thanks to everyone who’s helped and supported us along the way!

Finally, you said horror movies are big elements in your personal loves, so give us three films which are engrained in your passions to the extent you know lines off by heart.

Chris B. – 1) The Evil Dead films and Army of Darkness. Classics in my book and Army of Darkness just has so many great quotable line! 2) Almost all of the John Carpenter films, even the movies that are not horror movies. The Thing, Halloween, Prince of Darkness, Escape from NY, Big Trouble in Little China, In the Mouth of Madness, and Christine are some of my favourites of his. 3) Hellraiser 1 and 2. Those movies together feel like one really long awesome movie.

Chris P. – I’m right on board with Chris Bollinger’s horror movie tastes especially with the Hellraiser and Evil Dead Series. Some of my favourite horror movie quotes are Evil Dead 2’s “groovy” right after Bruce Campbell put a chainsaw where his possessed hand used to be, The priest’s quote “I kick ass for the lord” right before he fights zombies in the grave yard with his bare hands in Dead Alive and Lastly Chop tops “Oww my plate! My brain is burning nom flashback NOM FLASHBACK!!!!!!” from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Read the review of We Belong Dead EP @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/varicella-we-belong-dead/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Varicella/310239362321042?fref=ts

http://www.bluntfacerecords.com

The RingMaster Review 26/02/2013

RingMaster 26/02/2013

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Interview with Johnny Virum of Virus Cycle

Though our introduction to Boston electro/industrial metallers Virus Cycle started with the remix album Return to Zombieland and moved backwards to their debut Alice In Zombieland it was immediate that the band was one which was bold in its exploration and pushing of the ever evolving boundaries within what we will loosely call industrial music and equally imaginative. Drawing post-apocalyptic soundscapes ruled by the soulless carcasses of the living dead Virus Cycle create inventive and intrusive experiences to ignite and consume the senses. Needing to find out more about the band and their sounds we had the pleasure to fire questions at band founder and multi instrumentalist/vocalist Johnny Virum.

Hello and welcome to The Ringmaster Review

How are things in the world of Johnny Virum?

In one word: BUSY!  We have so much going on in the world of Virus Cycle.  We’re working on the post-production of our new album, playing dates on our …The Dead Are Among Us! Tour 2012, and working on bringing Bluntface Records to the forefront of the industrial music scene.

Tell us about you the man.

Not much to tell really, just a guy who loves horror movies and writes music about it.  My music runs the gamut from industrial all the way to classical music. I also like to think of myself as a history buff – I like it so much I got a bachelors degree in it (which has absolutely nothing to do with the music business, lol).

What are the origins of the band?

Virus Cycle started in 2011 after the dissolution of my previous project back in 2009.

What was the inspiration or stimulus which brought Virus Cycle into reality?

I had been out of the music scene for around two years and wanted to start a project that was pure in its originality, but at the same time, something that would be able to stand toe-to-toe with the sound that has evolved into what is now the norm of the industrial scene today.  I created what could be considered a branch off that sound: Post-Apocalyptic Industrial Zombie Tech. It falls somewhere between industrial, aggrotech and metal.

You have been creating music long before Virus Cycle, has it always been in the same general genre as now?

Virus Cycle is much more experimental and more industrial than my past projects.  Before Virus Cycle, my projects had a lot of programming but were more towards the genre of goth-metal.  I feel I can take more chances in this new project and not be as worried about something not “fitting” into the genre norm.

What are the major influences which have had an influence on your music and invention?

There are many influences when it comes to Virus Cycle’s sound.  When it comes to guitar, it’s very similar to bands like Orgy, The Birthday Massacre and White Zombie.  I use a nasty fuzz pedal with a ring modulator in it from the 90’s.  I love the sound of the ring modulation.  When it comes to vocals, I have many influences but I try to make it my own as much as I can because today everyone sounds the same when it comes to industrial music.  On the new album Skinny Puppy, The Smashing Pumpkins and Cradle of Filth were influences.  When it comes to programming synths and drums, I go for my own sound all the way around. However a big influence for programming is John Ruszin from Carfax Abbey, Collinwood 13 and Sys2matik 0vrl0ad.  In every project he does he is consistent to his own sound.  I love that.

The band name comes from the movie 28 Days Later and you use many samples and film influences to shape and flavour your songs and overall themes. Does one come before the other when creating a song, i.e. do you bring the film imagery and sounds into already composed music?

Yes, that’s what we do. I write all the music first and when I’m done with that, then it’s time to relax for a week or two and watch horror movies while picking out sound clips and writing lyrics.

What is your way of working when writing music?

First I start with the programming.  It usually goes drums, synths, guitar, vocals, then sound clips.  After that, I usually go back and forth changing and tweaking things until it works for me.

Last year saw the release of firstly Alice in Zombieland and in the latter part of 2011 Return to Zombieland. Tell us first about Alice in Zombieland and its overall premise.

The premise of the album revolves around Alice, who is lost in a post-apocalyptic land overrun with flesh-eaters.  The album is really a journey of human survival in a world of the undead.

How long was the album in the making?

The album was in the making for about a year, which was great because I could go back and nitpick as much as I wanted.

We felt the songs within it had some eighties to early nineties flavouring, would you agree with that?

Alice in Zombieland was sort of an experimental album.  For many years I have been a fan of old industrial bands like Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, White Zombie, Throbbing Gristle and old NIN so I felt compelled to record an album that sounded like it was done in 1990.  I wanted to get a realistic feel so I recorded it on a four-track Tascam tape recorder and didn’t over-master it.

Return to Zombieland was a collection of re-mixes from notable artists as well as two new Virus Cycle tracks. Let us first talk about that pair of songs Bring You Down (Forever) and City Of The Dead which with no disrespect to the other people and tracks involved were the highlight of the album. Are the songs representatives of what we will find on the new album you are currently working on?

Yes and no.  The recording of those two songs was a learning experience for me and Otto Kinzel.  This was the first time we worked together in a studio setting, so we got to know how the other worked as well as what worked for us both in the collaboration process.   We came up with many cool tricks in those sessions that will become Virus Cycle staples such as the guitar texture and layering process. The drum programming is going to be totally different on the new album. Instead of just using a simple 4-4 type drum machine sound, I am using both electronic and acoustic drum kits and more “technically complicated patterns” (as Otto describes them) that are going to be nice and layered.

How would you say the songs have evolved from those on your first album?

The songs are a lot more organized, the sound quality is much better, and I feel that it’s a much more cohesive product.

As many of your tracks they both create a thick and enveloping atmosphere, is that aspect carefully crafted or something which organically evolves as your bring your songs to life?

The songs for the most part evolve into a shape all their own.  I like to layer and incorporate many different sounds that contrast one another.  Before the song is ready, it’s pulled apart and changed so many times before the final product is complete.

The rest of the album as mentioned is cover versions of songs from your debut. What inspired the album in the first place?

I have met a lot of awesome musicians while doing this new project, and I really love their sounds.  I thought that if I could do a remix album, I could introduce some of these bands that I have grown to love to my fan base and show them how much more these artists could contribute to my work. In many cases, some of the remixes on Return to Zombieland I enjoyed just as much as the originals.

Did you go to people or they come to you about re-mixing your music?

It was a combination of both, actually.

Our favourites were a couple from Lykquydyzer, friends of the site Ghost In The Static, and Otto Kinzel, who as you mentioned has since become a full contributor to Virus Cycle. We know him from his great work with Chemical Distance, how did you two meet and what led to the full creative union?

Otto had played in many bands throughout the New England area for many years. I never actually met him, but I knew of him from being in the same scene and having mutual acquaintances. I was working on the remix album and he ended up doing a remix of White Zombie that blew me away.  So when I recorded the two new songs for Return to Zombieland, I asked him if he wanted to produce them.  He did and ended up adding some programming and played bass as well.  On the new album, he is producing and playing bass.  He has been working just as hard on this new album as I have. He is a pro and it works out so well because it’s such a relaxed atmosphere between the both of us since we both understand what needs to be done and we don’t get too hung up on timeframes so we can get the best product we can, which takes time.

The band has also joined Bluntface Records, what difference if any has that made to the new album you are working on?

I am so ecstatic to be a member of Bluntface Records. The label works very hard to promote their musicians and projects all over the world.  It’s truly an international label with some artists not even based in the US.  The main difference with working with a label versus being independent is that before, you only had yourself to rely on; now it’s more of a team effort which is a lot of help because it expands your reach. It’s also cool to be able to believe in the label that you are on. So the easy answer is musically it didn’t change the album but it is going to change how it is marketed.

Could you give as any idea about the new album and is it a continuation of your Post-Apocalyptic /Zombie theme?

It definitely is. There are a few songs that deal with topics such as human emotion and witchcraft, which is a little different from the past two albums.  However, the new album lyrically as a whole is what you would come to expect from a Virus Cycle album: a very catchy chorus and verses that tell a story.

Do you have a date in mind for its release?

The new album will probably be released this fall on Bluntface Records (shameless label plug). Right now, the album doesn’t have a title as of yet.

The past months have also seen the band sharing stages with The Ludovico Technique and Mindless Self Indulgence. Both must have been great opportunities to spread ‘the virus’, haha sorry couldn’t resist.

It was haha. I was so happy to share the stage with both bands. The Ludovico Technique is a very hard-working band.  One of their major attributes is that they have a very unique sound and don’t try to conform to every other aggrotech schtick out there. And what can I say about MSI – they are legends!  We were so ecstatic to get the news that we would be sharing the main stage with them.  They have one of the most devoted fan bases in music today. There was about 400- 600 people at that show!

How does the live aspect differ to the studio for you in creating your atmospheric soundscapes?

Whenever I start writing, I make at a major point to only create stuff that will transfer over well in a live environment.  I hate to say it, but sometimes the more simpler something is, the better it sounds live.

We both have a mutual love of zombies themes and zombie movies I feel, so before we go what is your feeling about the TV show The Walking Dead, is it dark enough for you?

I have only seen the first season of the show, but it’s really cool so far. It reminds me a lot of Romero’s movies.

Thank you for sparing time to talk with us, very much appreciated.

Would you like to leave with some final words and maybe your favourite movie or line from a movie, or even one of your songs?

I’m not going to tell you what movie it’s from since everyone should know. I have seen this move a million times since the age of 5, and I still get chills when Ken Foree says, “When there is no more room in hell the dead will walk the earth.”

Read the Return to Zombieland review https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/virus-cycle-return-to-zombieland/

The Ringmaster Review 26/06/2012

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