The UK Occult Sound Revival

 

 

It is the morning of the drone magicians. The Sonic Age of Horus manifested itself on November 9th, 2013 at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle, UK through a magickal working entitled Unearthing Forgotten Horrors. A loose artistic/esoteric/experimental collective of musicians, travelers, and eccentrics convened to share their music, experiences and interest in the supernatural and transcending mundane reality.  Invoking the Exploding Plastic Inevitable if it was conducted by Kenneth Anger and Alex Sanders, the cinematic backdrop of Blood on Satan’s Claw and The Stone Tape channel the deep heritage of British horror, helping to set the atmosphere for the musical conjurings of artists such as Culver, The Psychogeograpical Commission, and The Tempel of Sekhmet, sounds that summon the anguished spirits of persecuted covens, Druid sacrifices on blood drenched stones, and lonely revenants in haunted abbeys. The creations of James, Machen, and Hodgson, the visuals of Hammer, Amicus, and Tigon, the philosophies of Crowley, Spare, and Grant, and the environs of The Seven Witches Stone Circle,  Borley Rectory , and Dunwich all are felt through the musical performances. Combining ritualistic noise, moody hums and whirls, resonant samples, and eerie field recordings, these artists are not just musicians or aesthetes; they are mages, researchers, wanderers, surveyors, and historians: psychogeographers welding sound, vision, and the uncanny to warp time, space, and consciousness.   Unearthing Forgotten Horrors was the apotheosis of a growing underground movement that shares some core interests but expresses them in diverse, highly creative, multi-media permutations. Over the last decade, this mystical network of musicians-artists-writers-filmmakers-scholars have collaborated, explored, and presented their uniquely powerful creations to those who tastes run to the night side. Four of the key participants in Unearthing Forgotten Horrors and leaders of the Occult Wave are English Heretic, Black Mountain Transmitter, The Dead End Street Band, and Joseph Curwen. These horror infused voyagers into weird electronic realms graciously granted HNN some time to enlighten weird music acolytes on this side of the pond.

 

English Heretic (Perdurabo)

 

Self-described as “a creative occult organisation dedicated to the reification of malefic energy spectres and the adumbration of a modern qliphoth,” English Heretic is a mind melting information overload of Man, Myth, and Magic meets Re/Search meets Apocalypse Culture.  Using music, lectures, performances, literary journalism, and field reports from the outer limits, the English Heretic agenda encompasses witchy electronics, folk skullduggery, absurdist wit, and preserving the weird currents of British supernatural history. And yet English Heretic is not only focused on the marvels of a distant age as more contemporary alchemists like Michael Reeves, J.G. Ballard, and Ian Sinclair are connected in the cosmic continuum that unites past, present, and future as overlapping, recursive realities.  The British soil is inseparable from the personalities and experiences of these magickal icons and so the energies stored in their blessed plot, their earth, their realm are unlocked through English Heretic’s multi-media projects. Site specific musical/literary/visual/spoken word workings as well as artifacts such as The Sacred Geography Of British Cinema : Scene One, Radar Angeology – A Drone For Joe Kennedy, Tales Of The New Isis Lodge, and Anti-Heroes are proof positive that English Heretic are the illuminated hierophants of this new day dawning for the hidden mysteries of UK occult music.

 

https://www.facebook.com/EnglishHereticOfficialOrgan

 

http://englishheretic.blogspot.com/

 

HNN: When did your interest in horror and the occult begin?

 

EH: My interest in horror began as a child in the late 70s in the UK,  during the Summer the BBC would show a horror double bill every saturday night. The shows consisted of a classic oldie and a modern  horror (“Satanic Rites of Dracula”, “Dracula AD 1972” etc.). After that when home video became available – around 81 – we’d hire out films every night. My interest in the occult started in my early teens – very much influenced by the countercultural movement constellated around industrial music. Crowley was the obvious entry point, but I soon became more interested in his protege Kenneth Grant. His work was so strange and otherworldly – quite early I figured these books weren’t about occult practice, but were in fact Necronomicons. There were also all the references to fiction and film – “Cults Of The Shadow” is dedicated to  Bela Lugosi – so there was the fascinating interplay with horror in his work. I argue that the blind atavisms of the preternatural world might not discriminate between a ‘genuine’ ritual and a suitably staged cinematic presentation – in fact they’d probably prefer a cinematic one because it’s more ornate!

 

HNN: Who are your musical influences?

 

EH: Certainly the whole underground music scene that was spawned from Industrial Records (Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV etc.) influence the content – but that I see as a cultural inheritance. I am interested in the idea that these folk were following a path of autodidactic learning – and it affected my development so I feel I am honouring that tradition. However, stylistically, in terms of music, there’s a lot influence from other probably less expected sources: I love the layering, epic sounds of folk like Mono for instance. Electric Wizard – for both sound and content. Nurse With Wound, Robert Ashley’s “Automatic Writing” in terms of the use of voice and  queasy  ambience. Again working in a different idiom, I was certainly inspired by DJ Shadow – his use of sampling.

 

HNN: How does English Heretic work? What are your goals?

 

EH: Well the goals were pretty much set out about 10 years ago. The general idea was to illustrate the fecundation of the imagination by a kind of revved up hyper association of fiction and historical fact using people and place. I hope to plant all this information I was connecting in the subconscious and see what happened to my imagination. There are three parts to the project – people (Black Plaques), places (Sites of Heresy) and Wyrd Tales (which I hoped would be the imaginative result – in other words fictions derived from the first two facets).

 

However what’s happened is the English Heretic has become this very broad project concentrating on the first two aspects, and rather less on the third. I think the reason is that in order for something to emerge from the subconscious you have to distance yourself from the conscious matter. I hope the fictions will develop more over the next few years.

 

 

 

HNN: How do your occult interests and musical influences come together in your work?

 

 

 

 

EH: I’ve always been interested in making creative sigils – and many years ago, particularly when working with Kenneth Grant’s books – “Nightside of Eden” for example – I was creating sound pieces very much as mean of exploring occult subject matter. That work has really carried on into English Heretic: It’s why there are a lot of repetitive voice samples. That said I’ve also wanted to explore ceremonial narratives in terms of sound – a very good example of this being GRS Mead’s interpretation of a Gnostic liturgy, which has sonic elements: popping hissing, thunder crashes etc. Grant himself interprets Mead’s analysis in a Lovecraftian light – saying that the proximity of the Old Ones is accompanied by a hissing sound. So naturally I am interested in the extrapolation of the occult significance of such sounds to create a symbolic but also a theatrical and hopefully dramatic point of access to alien realms!

 

 

 

 

HNN: English Heretic is an incredibly multi-modal band. Is music the most important medium you create in?

 

EH: Music is slightly less intense to do than writing but writing was very important. Also I do a lot of the work for EH in the evening after a full day’s work and I find it more relaxing to do music in the evening rather than writing – so it’s only more important for pragmatic reasons.

 

HNN: Place plays an enormous role in your work. How does your environment affect your artistic process?

 

EH: It’s very important. Almost every location that I portray in music or writing I visit. I always take recordings, whether it be ambience or some heuristic interplay with the place. I’ve also recorded music on location but that process has changed from essentially improvising to a more recent concept in which reality becomes the recording studio. So now I take a laptop out and will compose the bare bones of a piece on site. I did this recently at the Kennedy memorial at Runnymede. The process of concentrating as if in a studio, but on site creates the quite intensive feedback loop. I first noticed the effect when taking a lot of photographs on site and scanning through the picture on the LCD display of the camera while on site. I seemed to get in this hyperreal state of mind and thought what would happen if I used other digital technologies in the same way.  I noticed the same affect years ago when using radio to do sound experiments, there is a quite powerful feedback loop as you use a technology in an obsessive and iterative way – that is akin to the kind of state of mind that I feel EVP experimenters like Raymond Cass were experiencing. A kind of over connectedness with the cosmos which becomes exhilarating and frightening – two of my favourite states of mind 😉

 

HNN: Why is packaging and ancillary releases (Wyrd Tales, English Heretic Dossiers, Visitor Guides, English Black Plaque Presentations) so intrinsic to the English Heretic project?

 

EH: The packaging is an important way of creating a cohesive and well defined aesthetic. English Heretic began very much as a subversion of the government quango English Heritage which is so heavily branded  – tea towels, jams, jigsaw puzzles you name it and English Heritage has branded it. So I wanted to create this otherworld where the rampant consumerism of history is subverted. Packaging and serialised products ranges are a natural way to present this subverted surrealised attack on historical sanity.

 

HNN: Mondo Paranoia devolves into the arcane synchronicities between the assassination of JFK, James Shelby Downard’s “Preface to King-Kill/ 33,” and the counterculture dementia of the 60’s. What are your thoughts on the connections between occult phenomenon and conspiracy theories?

 

EH: My argument in Mondo Paranoia is that conspiracy theory is a form creative therapy stemming from paranoia. The incredulous nature of the Warren Commission Report seemed to create a great suspicion with authoritarian reality. That suspicion mixed with the mass shock and mass grief generated by the Kennedy assassination created this powerful and deranged way of rationalising reality. But occultism and magic is by nature paranoid. To practice magic you have to accept a paranoid stance. Indeed the occultist Kenneth Grant views the paranoiac-critical method of Salvador Dali as magical formula, rather than say a Freudian method. My particular interest is in how you can use paranoid narratives as an aesthetic and poetic means of creating a powerful myth; similar in a way that say Robert Graves’ weaves a poetic truth in his “White Goddess”; or indeed as does Shelby Downard in “King Kill”. The truths of conspiracy and magic may not be literal truths but they are poetic truths.

 

HNN: How crucial is performing live to English Heretic?

 

EH: Important, but I feel it’s a part of the project that needs a lot of work to be effective. The performances have varied wildly from earlier exercise in Ritual electronics to more conventional band set ups. Mixed in with that there have been more conceptual performances – for example we did a performance along with The Blue Tree based on Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy. Our performance attempted to re-imagine the soundtrack to Polanski’s “The Tenant” as some kind of psychiatric documentary – with readings from scientific papers on schizophrenia overlaying the music. It’s what I call ‘the inner cinema’ – a kind of personalised rendering of a film. I am very interested in developing this idea.

 

HNN: What is the future of English Heretic?

 

EH: More releases and research. That’s the real strength I feel; it was always designed to be woven into the fabric of my life – my travels and learning. In terms of releases, there are two projects well under way: “Wish You Were Heretic” – which follows on a lot from both “Anti-Heroes” and “Tales Of The New Isis Lodge.” It looks at cinematic connections with place – what I call the sacred geography of British cinema. Secondly, I am working on “Mondo Paranoia 2” which uses Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy to explore the mid to end 1960s in much the same paranoiac vein as Mondo Paranoia. I’ll also be talking about Mondo Paranoia in Gettysburg in March at a conference called “Exploring The Extraordinary.”

 

 

 

Black Mountain Transmitter (De Profundis Ad Lucem)

 

Belfast-based musician and artist James R. Moore is a true multi-tasker. When not creating abstract videos, drawings, paintings, or taking photos, Moore composes music under various names, the most evil sounding coming out under the Black Mountain Transmitter moniker. A throbbing beacon calling supplicants to the Sabbath, Black Mountain Transmitter’s releases Theory & Practice, Black Goat of The Woods and Playing with Dead Things buzz like the Mi-Go in Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in the Darkness,” summoning Shub Niggurath and her thousand young. Moore likens his music to “the soundtrack from some lost low budget horror movie, rediscovered on an old and faded VHS cassette found mouldering in a deserted house in the depths of the woods,” which should quicken the pulse of any true epicurean of eldritch sounds. Black Mountain Transmitter’s aesthetic goes deeper than horror’s typical histrionics into an EVP trance where past lives, Elder Gods, and other spiritual entities are channeled and break through into the earthly sphere. Moore’s own Lysergic Earwax distributes his recordings but a few other lucky labels have been able to spread the terrifying gospel of Black Mountain Transmitter as well. Black Mountain Transmitter rends the veil of the mundane, opening terrifying vistas of a new sonic dark age.

 

www.lysergicearwax.bandcamp.com

 

http://jamesrobertmoore.tumblr.com/

 

HNN: When did your interest in horror and the occult begin?

 

BMT: It began at a very young age. I grew up during the late 1970’s and early 80’s, a time when there seemed to be a lot of references to the paranormal and general strangeness in mainstream culture. It was a delightful treat (though one of mixed blessings as sleepless nights often followed) to be allowed to stay up past bedtime for double bill screenings of Universal and Hammer horror films. “Scream” comic delivered a weekly dose of gruesome delights for its unfortunately short existence during March to June 1984. The local library had a well-stocked “Paranormal” section groaning with ghosts, haunted houses and screaming skulls. I can’t underestimate the influence of seeing the lurid covers of the VHS Nasties displayed in video shops and deliriously imagining the contents of the films, even though finally seeing many of them often ended in disappointment. Regardless, I was drawn to it all; something about the strangeness which stood in stark contrast to daily life, all that material suggested alternatives, other possibilities opening up, plus the good old unpretentious thrill of a tingling spine. The fact that adults were always trying to discourage any interest in those sort of things made it even more of a magnet.

 

HNN: Who are your musical influences?

 

BMT: There is just too much of a range to draw on to boil down to a representative list, though it’s mostly music which is textural rather than melodic or ‘verse-chorus-verse’ in structure. I think my all-time favorite albums is Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and currently I’m listening to a lot of Morton Feldman. Join the dots. Much of the music that has influenced me has been an impetus to wanting to make music, without having had a direct effect on the sound of my own work.

 

HNN: How does Black Mountain Transmitter work? What are your goals?

 

BMT: The process always starts with a feeling or particular atmosphere and some sort of conceptual or narrative element. Recording is experimentation and exploration combined with happy accidents; layered, distressed, manipulated, mixed. I still use analog tape as a recording medium which I feel encourages one to live with and build on mistakes which often take a piece in an unexpected direction. I’ve never got to grips with the infinite editing possibilities of software, which to me becomes a prison of indecision. Likewise most of my equipment is physical, from analog synthesizers to bass guitar, fx pedals, contact mics and other bits and pieces of junk. Most of the gear is cheap and nasty and often used in ways they weren’t designed to.

I’ve never have any serious goals with Black Mountain Transmitter, at least not in respect to something as mundane as making money or gaining critical attention. It’s simply something I enjoy doing. Entertainment. The fact that other people derive pleasure from what I do is often enough reason to do it.

 

HNN: How do your occult interests and musical influences come together in your work?

 

BMT: The Occult, and by that I mean stuff like Crowley, Magick, etc., is something I’ve lost so much interest in over the years, something I have no use for personally and to be honest now find rather tedious. I am still interested, though with a more sceptical approach, in the paranormal world of ghosts, UFO’s and other high strangeness. I’ve always made the distinction that Black Mountain Transmitter is predominately influenced by a world of atmospheric horror films, weird fiction and a particular strain of grotesque black humor.

 

HNN: Black Mountain Transmitter has composed soundtracks for “photographic diaporamas.” Is soundtrack work an area that you want to explore more? Who are your favorite soundtrack composers?

 

BMT: I’d be delighted to be offered an opportunity to do some soundtrack or sound design work. Film has had such a huge influence on what I do musically, and here I’m not just speaking about horror films. Like my musical influences there is so much to draw on which falls outside that sphere. Rather than making a list of favorite soundtrack composers (as I’m sure a lot of what I would mention would be blindingly obvious) I will simply say my favorite soundtrack, an abstract almost proto-Industrial clanking and groaning soundscape filled with terror, was created by Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell for the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, which in my humble opinion is the most perfect of horror films. Seeing it for the first time in my early teens made such a huge impact.  I doubt it will ever be bettered.

 

HNN: Your work references weird fiction writers like Lovecraft, Ligotti, and James.  Is the written word an important influence on your musical compositions and artwork?

 

BMT: Very much so, though any influence would be mostly felt in any music I make rather than visual work. I’ve been a heavy reader since childhood and have always taken much inspiration in the written word, whether it’s a concept, a phrase or a general atmosphere and the three writers you mention are adept purveyors of potent atmospheric landscapes; Lovecraft and James’ haunted and eerie rural locations, Ligotti’s entropic nocturnal townscapes. I live at the northerly tip of Strangford Lough in County Down, Northern Ireland and the surrounding countryside is rife with woods, old farms, crumbling abbeys, lonely coastal walks and depressed seaside towns which over the years have gradually intermingled in my mind with the locations described by those writers in question. Innsmouth is only a short drive down the coast for me…

 

As a side note, horror or weird fiction only makes up a small percentage of what I read these days.

 

I would genuinely love to have some ability or small talent as a writer as, for me, there is no other media that provides such a personal and immersive experience.

 

HNN: You have released works in multiple media. Do you have a preference for a certain medium? Do you consider yourself more of a musician or a visual artist?

 

BMT: Engaging in any creative activity is an essential and necessary part of my life, regardless of its basis. I studied Fine Art at university in the 1990’s and have wanted to be a painter since my early teens (that’s longer than I’ve had any serious interest in making music). I consider myself simply an artist but even though I enjoy a wide range of creative activities I find it difficult to work across different disciplines at the same time. For the first time in many years I’ve been producing more visual art and because of that music making has currently slipped into the background. .

 

HNN: Your artwork suggests a minimalist abstract expressionism and your music can also be categorized in a similar way. Does your visual/video work feed into your music or are they separate entities?

 

BMT: Abstract certainly though always starting out with a seed of something concrete; a landscape, a phrase in a book, a sound. I wouldn’t engage with the idea that my work is “expressionist” in a sense that conjures up images of personal angst; the clichéd idea of the tortured or tormented artist, which I’m most definitely not (I’m lucky enough to live a relatively untroubled existence). The work, both visual and music, is always about the conjuring and transmission, or you could say expression of an atmosphere.

 

As I noted in response to the previous question I don’t usually work across different disciplines at the same time, so to say there was much, if any, cross-fertilization between the different media would be misleading. I see the visual work as completely distinct from, and drawing on very different sources from the music. Though I do have at least one project brewing in the back of my mind which would hopefully attempt to unite in some way my various interests in visual art, sound and film…

 

HNN: How important is performing live to Black Mountain Transmitter?

 

BMT: When I began releasing music back in 2008 I had no interest in or ever envisioned the project becoming a live act. It took a few years of being repeatedly asked before I first performed in 2012 and since then I’ve only played four additional live sets. I’ve been honored that three of those were as part of lineups at the consistently excellent Outer Church (in Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh) and the Unearthing Forgotten Horrors event in Newcastle was also an absolute pleasure to perform at.

 

 

 

There isn’t much scope for playing live, or even much of an audience for what I do at home here in Northern Ireland. I also find any travel involving airports to be an almost unbearable chore, especially when carrying music equipment, which limits my enthusiasm for playing at some of the more distant gigs I’ve been offered. I don’t go out of my way to seek live performance opportunities, but if I’m offered a gig at a particularly interesting event I’ll always consider it if only for the reason that through performing live I’ve had the chance to meet and socialise with some absolutely lovely people, which still beats faceless internet based communication hands down.

 

HNN: What is the future of Black Mountain Transmitter? Will we hear the third installment of the Trilogy of Terror?

 

BMT: The “Trilogy of Terror” will certainly see completion, possibly later this year. No guarantees. I have a concept and a body of material which needs editing and refining. It’s just finding the time to bring it all together in a satisfying manner. When it is completed I’ll likely self-release it as I’ve missed the aspect of designing and creating a physical package for a recording. After that I’m not sure what the future holds for the project. It may have run its course so one needs to move on and explore other ideas. I have released music under different aliases in the past (some of which should have stayed unreleased to be brutally honest) and I’m sure I will do again regardless of the status of Black Mountain Transmitter.

 

 

 

The Dead End Street Band (Demon est Deus inversus)

 

Imagine an alternative world where Doctor Who is a series of drugged out, sexed up  grotty, 70’s Euro-sleaze sci-fi/occult epics starring Howard Vernon as a Crowley-esque Doctor and Lina Romay and Brigitte Lahaie as his foxy sex magick empowered companions combatting sadistic alien dominatrices and lustfully insatiable Satanists from the 69th dimension. The soundtrack to these futuristic erotic witchcult films would have been provided by the Dead End Street Band, psych damaged noise and synth torture that manages to crash ancient pagan ecstasies into dystopian metal machine nightmares.  Emerging from the scratched up, jump cut, washed out exploitation movie aesthetic, the Dead End Street Band’s releases are micro limited dispatches from porno scuzz hell unleashed by three hauntologists (the trash cinema personas of Victor Janos , A.M. Frank, and Joseph Curwen) ritually abusing their equipment. Releases like Songs of Aiwass and Microscopic Liquid Subway to Oblivion sound like Hawkwind lead by Krug and Company transmogrified by William Bennett, Fabio Frizzi, and Alan Splet. Their music smears evil dissonance all over drug induced, violently sexual cannibalistic freak-outs. Experience the bloody exorcism of the Dead End Street Band and keep telling yourself it’s only an album, it’s only an album, it’s only an album …

 

www.facebook.com/scumelectronics

 

Victor Janos’s responses

 

HNN: When did your interest in horror and the occult begin?

 

VJ:  My cousin had an impressive collection of horror film related books, mostly by Alan Frank when I was a kid. When I visited, I spent hours soaking up every word of ‘Monsters and Vampires’, ‘Horror Movies’, Dennis Gifford’s ‘A Pictorial History of Horror’ etc. and developed an obsession with the macabre at an early age. Back in the 1970s, when these books were published, you could only dream beyond the imagery the illustrations in these books hinted at.

 

Within a few years, the home video industry boomed and in those magical, unregulated early days, every effort was made to track down every horror film I could lay my hands on, and the transition from reading about Hammer and Amicus films, to spending weekends in front of Cannibal Ferox, Unhinged, Nightmares In a Damaged Brain, Death Bed, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein etc. was complete. From there on, old habits die hard…

 

HNN: Who are your musical influences?

 

VJ: Richard Einhorn’s superb (and criminally unreleased) scores to the films Shock Waves and Don’t Go in The House, Hive Mind, Demons/Wolf Eyes, Burial Hex, Haare, Atrax Morgue, Sewer Goddess, and in no particular order… Failing Lights, Popol Vuh, Klaus Schulze, Coil, Redrot, Neuntoter der Plage, Hair Police, Luasa Raelon/Envenomist, Dead Body Love, Prurient, Maurizio Bianchi, Emeralds, Demonologists, Culver, Aun, The Rita, The Cherry Point, Deathpile, Gnaw Their Tongues/Aderlating, Astro, Merzbow, T.O.M.B. Crimson, Cadaver in Drag, Wold, Sylvester Anfang, Disclose, Discard, Mob 47, Atrocious Madness, No Fucker, Skitsystem, Antisect, SWANS, Eyehategod, Tackhead, Sunburned Hand of the Man, Birchville Cat Motel, Suicide, Porter Ricks, Thomas Koner, Experimental Audio Research, GAS, Pole, Circle, Glenn Branca, Howard Shore, countless electronic scores to 1970s and 80s horror cinema.

 

HNN: How does grindhouse cinema and euro-horror inspire the Dead End Street Band? Do you feel a kinship to such outsiders like Roger Watkins, Jess Franco, and Jean Rollin?

 

VJ: Absolutely. The band was named after Last House on Dead End Street and apart from our mutual love of Demons (especially their ‘Frozen Fog’ album), and a couple of other musical nods, our primary influences are the dank, morbid atmospheres created by bleaker, realistic horror films. Atmosphere is paramount in genre films and the mood/tone of Don’t Go In The House was one of my key points of reference when exploring the concept for this band. There are a small number of films, which while gory, to me, are not about the gore – they are about the mood of the pieces and are particularly downbeat, dark works: The previously mentioned Don’t Go In The House, Last House on Dead End Street, Combat Shock, Deadbeat at Dawn, Shock Waves, Don’t Answer The Phone, Walerian Borowczyk’s Doctor Jekyll et les Femmes.

 

Outsiders 100% – we aren’t gonna be playing anywhere big soon…

 

It’s funny how directors such as the ones you mention were blasted by critics in their day, however enjoyed a renaissance as their work was seen with a fresh set of eyes and reappraised as genius. Their influence cannot be underestimated.

 

HNN: How does the Dead End Street Band work? What are your goals?

 

VJ: With a laid back approach. We develop some concepts during lengthy discussions before trying sounds. Once we’ve agreed the parts each of us will play, we layer and layer sounds until they build to a crescendo. There is a pattern, and we plan each stage before letting rip in the rehearsal studio or at a gig. From my perspective, any goals would be about trying to create the kind of music I would want to listen to myself. If anyone else likes it – great!  As long as I enjoy doing it, I will continue to do so.

 

HNN: How do your occult interests and musical influences come together in your work?

 

VJ: It is one and the same. A lifelong passion for horror films, books and generally outsider interests, combined with an increasingly specific musical taste over the years overlap to the point of being neck-deep in pitch blackness.

 

HNN: Does your environment affect your artistic process?

 

VJ: Once playing with the band, the environment is in my head and I drift off into intense concentration/relaxation. Otherwise, there is little environmental influence, except in the artwork which employs a lot of local photography. The sleeve design for our ‘Murder’ CDr was drawn from its title scraped into the plaster of the bathroom wall at our rehearsal studio. Right down the side of the toilet. I have no idea why…

 

HNN: Do you have a preference for disseminating your music? Why such limited editions?

 

VJ: I prefer physical formats. The effort which goes into many DIY released editions cannot be recreated by downloads – hand assembled artwork, painted CDr and cassette releases are items which really connect you with the artists who create these items. For many years I collected theatrical posters for the films I love. These artifacts are primary source materials from the days when such films were actually playing in cinemas, and as such are first hand evidence of the amazing films of yesteryear. There is something very appealing to me in actually holding a release which has been lovingly created by the artists themselves, rather than accumulating mp3 after mp3 of tracks that may be flicked through on a laptop. Ideally, the wider audience any artist can reach, the better, therefore attracting many listens on Bandcamp may increase the exposure of a band, however my personal preference is for the hand assembled edition – just look at the amazing releases on Crucial Blaze – limited CDr runs in DVD sized cases with chapbooks, stickers, badges etc. Fabulous!

 

The Dead End Street Band’s limited runs are not because we try to be ‘excusive’, which would be pretentious in the extreme. The quantities are based on economics. To date, most of our releases have been funded out of our own pockets, rather than from any other source of finance.

 

HNN: How important is performing live to the Dead End Street Band?

 

VJ: Its always interesting – we get together for a three hour jam every two weeks, where we devise concepts for tracks, then have time to build and build upon them. In the live environment, you do not have that luxury, so have to hit the ground running, and this can lead to performances being somewhat more ‘abrasive’ than our CDr releases. We had fun at Unearthing Forgotten Horrors – an event in November where we played with Black Mountain Transmitter, The Psychogeographical Commission, Culver, a solo Joseph Curwen set and The Temple of Sekhmet. It would be very cool to host this again in 2014.

 

There are many positive things to say about Newcastle – there are loads of gigs. The Dead End Street Band are a bit of a ‘niche’ though, so we play to a live audience pretty rarely. The city does boast some amazing acts though: Culver, Charles Dexter Ward, Bong, Foot Hair, Transylvanian Sex Pest, I Torquemada, Depletion, Dressed in Wires to name a few. You just have to scratch the surface…

 

HNN: What is the future of the Dead End Street Band?

 

VJ: Pitch black electronics and doomy scores to the never-made sleaze and horror flicks of the 1970s which could have been… perhaps mood music for Edward Lee novels.

 

A.M Frank’s responses

 

HNN: When did your interest in horror and the occult begin?

 

A.M.F: I have been a fan of horror for as long as I can remember, watching Hammer classics on TV as a youngster and reading anthologies of short stories by the likes of  Roald Dahl, M.R. James, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce were the interests of my childhood. At the end of the 1970s there was a massive shift and suddenly my interest was piqued by a whole new world of literature. The likes of Stephen King, James Herbert and Ramsey Campbell had begun to appear on the shelves of the local Sainsbury’s, and along with the movie tie-in novels such as The Omen and The Brood they had begun to show me a darker, more realistic side to the horror story.

 

My interest in the Occult developed during my teenager years. As a young teenager I was introduced to the writing of Aleister Crowley by a school friend, Crowley’s writings opened up a whole new world to me and were the catalyst for me to leap headlong into the study of the Occult. I read everything I could lay my hands on Eliphas Levi, Kenneth Grant, Israel Regardie, John Dee, Carlos Castaneda, Gerald Gardner and dozens of other mystics.

 

HNN: Who are your musical influences?

 

A.M.F: There are so many different and varied musical influences for me. Black Sabbath, Trouble, Candlemass, Metallica, Slayer, St Vitus, Mercyful Fate, Slayer, Celtic Frost and Witchfinder General, Electric Wizard, Sleep, Sunn O))), Neurosis, Yob, The Pixies, Swans, Hawkwind, Gong, Can. Ash Ra Tempel, The Cure, Sly Stone, Burial Hex, Fairport Convention, Coven, Black Widow, Dead Kennedys, Misfits, Black Flag, Adrenalin OD, Circle Jerks, Dag Nasty, Electro Hippies, The Stupids, Dr and the Crippens, Goblin, Kate Bush, Ennio Morricone, Fabio Frizzi, Expo 70, Acid Mothers Temple, Mellow Candle, Forest, The Dark, Atomic Rooster, Sergius Golowin, Tudor Lodge, Loop, Mudhoney, Tad, Green River, Joy Division, Soft Cell, Kraftwerk to name just a few.

 

HNN: How does grindhouse cinema and euro-horror inspire the Dead End Street Band? Do you feel a kinship to such outsiders like Roger Watkins, Jess Franco, and Jean Rollin?

 

A.M.F: Grindhouse cinema is a huge influence on the Dead End Street Band. Everything from those wonderful old VHS covers and cinema posters, to the cheap electronic soundtracks, splashy gore effects and the creepy atmosphere that oozed from the nth generation video cassettes that almost looked like someone’s home movie. This has all become infused into what we do.

 

I sincerely feel that we share a kinship with people like Franco, Rollin and Watkins. We all believe in doing things our own way and we’ve all become adept at doing things on infinitesimal budgets. We like to work that way and I think they did too. It allows for greater freedom of expression.

 

HNN: How does the Dead End Street Band work? What are your goals?

 

A.M.F: Our goals are to enjoy what we do and make music for like-minded individuals. If it stops being fun then we’ll stop doing it. It’s really quite free; we don’t have any set way of doing things, and tend to just go with the flow. We will usually start with an idea or concept that is central to the piece we’re working on, and go from there.

 

HNN: How do your occult interests and musical influences come together in your work?

 

A.M.F: Sometimes the occult interests inform what we do. Our Songs of Aiwass CD which we recorded for Altar of Waste was heavily influenced by Aleister Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice. In fact it was so infused with Magick that when we sent the finished recordings to Cory Strand he immediately understood where we were coming from and his artwork featured Crowley.

 

Musically I think there is a big kosmiche influence in almost everything we do – long drawn out psychedelic jams make up a large proportion of our music, bands like Can, Popol Vuh and Amon Duul are great influences on each of us, and I think they can always be heard in our recordings. Other major influences range from 90s techno to doom metal and crust punk.

 

HNN: Does your environment affect your artistic process?

 

A.M.F: Yes, there are any number of variables that affect the artistic process not just the environment. Wherever and whenever you record, everything from the weather outside, to the day you’ve had, to what you had for tea has an effect on your mental state. The same can be said for what you’re reading, what you’ve been watching and the music you’re listening to at any given time. These factors always have an impact on the creative process. Sometimes we can sit down in the rehearsal studio with an idea and by the time we leave we’ve veered in a completely different direction

 

HNN: Do you have a preference for disseminating your music? Why such limited editions?

 

A.M.F: We release our product in limited editions as our music has a very niche market. As we generally fund our own CD-R releases we are unable to afford to gamble on larger print runs, so we stick to safe numbers.

 

HNN: How important is performing live to the Dead End Street Band?

 

A.M.F: It’s imperative to us. The sound of the Dead End Street Band really comes into its own in a live setting. Our music is not just to be listened to; it’s meant to be felt. Our aim has always been to create an unsettling atmosphere and we do that best in a live setting.

 

HNN: What is the future of the Dead End Street Band?

 

A.M.F: Dark horror drones and sinister kosmiche jams, all played out on a Jean Rollin movie set.

 

Joseph Curwen’s responses

 

HNN: When did your interest in horror and the occult begin?

 

JC: I’ve been a horror movie fan since I was a child, I remember watching Hammer Horror Movies, which could be described as eerie rather than scary, with my Gran. My parents had an extensive bookcase, and I was able to read up on everything from true crime anthologies to Edgar Allen Poe collections at a very young age. My Mam had a voluminous record collection, including a lot of late 60s, early 70s psychedelic rock stuff. I remember one record in particular featuring the infamous “Come to the Sabbat” by Black Widow, and putting that on repeat whenever I could.

 

In my teenage years I remember me and my friends going through an extended period of acquiring various video nasty VHS tapes off older brothers and friends in the loop, and devouring them at a great pace. This coincided with an interest in black metal, which resulted in me getting copies of “The Satanic Bible” by Anton Lavey and “Moonchild” by Aleister Crowley. I remember these having a big impact on my impressionable mind, and made me start to appreciate the good and evil forces in everyone.

 

HNN: Who are your musical influences?

 

JC: Aphex Twin, Autechre, Early 90s rave and jungle, Gabba, John Carpenter, Slayer, Meshuggah, King Crimson, Brian Eno, Yes, Tad, Sunn O)), Goatsnake, Burning Witch, Bong, Mr. Bungle, Roxy Music, Black Sabbath, 80s horror soundtracks.

 

HNN: How does grindhouse cinema and euro-horror inspire the Dead End Street Band? Do you feel a kinship to such outsiders like Roger Watkins, Jess Franco, and Jean Rollin?

 

JC: It influences us a lot. If I’m ever asked to describe The Dead End Street Band to any friends who aren’t necessarily into abstract music or noise, I say “we’re improvised 70s horror soundtracks”. It quite often gets a bemused look but it’s certainly the atmosphere we go for when we make the music. I guess we have a kinship with any creative people that are considered to be making outsider art.

 

HNN: How does the Dead End Street Band work? What are your goals?

 

JC: We usually decide on a basic premise, be it a particular horror film, or about weird noises from space. For my parts I make a basic template on my laptop that gives me space to improvise around the material on the night. My role in The Dead End Street Band is a lot more intuitive than my solo work as Joseph Curwen, which allows me to elaborate and manipulate ideas on the fly to suit the vibe in the room when we’re playing together.

 

HNN: How do your occult interests and musical influences come together in your work?

 

JC: Because The Dead End Street Band is purely improvised, I would say it’s a good distillation of all of our collective and individual influences. The first music I got into without parental influence was dance music, so this will always be a massive influence on any music I make. I played bass in various heavy metal bands a few years back, which taught me how to appreciate crippling volume. One band, BERK, was a doom metal power trio that subscribed to the “more amps equals better music” idea, and I learnt how to utilise low frequencies for maximum results. That knowledge has certainly served me well in my electronic adventures. I’m into the idea of deconstructing the music of my youth and pushing it into new and more abstract directions.

 

HNN: Does your environment affect your artistic process?

 

JC: I grew up in the wilds of County Durham. Next to my house was a giant forest that stretches for miles. I would spend countless hours exploring my surroundings as a child. County Durham is an ancient place, with a lot of spiritual and psychogeographical history. I have spent a lot of time wandering through the woods surrounding various old ruins dotted around near me. There is a sense of the genuine unknown around such archaic spaces, and I guess that rubbed off on me in my formative years. That ethereal feeling you get when you’re miles away from anyone is certainly something I try to bring to my music.

 

HNN: Do you have a preference for disseminating your music? Why such limited editions?

 

JC: I think the internet is a powerful tool for exposure to a lot of new music, which has both positive and negative connotations. I like the immediacy of services such as Bandcamp. You can upload an album and instantly share it with the world, and offering Joseph Curwen albums digitally has been one of my most rewarding and successful musical ventures. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are extremely useful for disseminating music to a wide audience, and a lot of my contact with fellow weird noise makers is via the internet. A couple of times now, musical heroes of mine have got in touch to say they appreciate my music, which has meant the world to me.

 

That being said, there is nothing finer than seeing a physical release of your own “in the flesh”. I have released various cassettes and CDRs now, and always enjoy interacting with folks at gigs interested in music I have in physical formats, that they can enjoy in their own time later. For me, people wanting to have my own my music in physical form gives me a greater sense of musical validation than just watching the download numbers on Bandcamp. Limited editions are cool.

 

HNN: How important is performing live to the Dead End Street Band?

 

JC: I always enjoy playing live with The Dead End Street Band. Our particular brand of oppressive noise seems to go down really well with live audiences, especially when we have the luxury of a good sound system. Our live performances tend to evolve a lot more quickly than when we’re practising. I guess the tension of performing in public pushes us further and further. We don’t tend to gig that often, which I am perfectly happy about. It makes gigs feel special, which allows us to go hell for leather when we do play.

 

HNN: What is the future of the Dead End Street Band?

 

JC: I am happy just seeing how things pan out. We’ll always be a very niche market sort of band, so I don’t expect us to get famous any time soon. We’re always coming up with new concepts and ideas, which results in more and more music. I think we’re in the fortunate position of all being quite laid back about it, so our sound will evolve naturally as we play with each other more. Our roles within the band evolve and grow with each new performance, which means the creative process is always fresh and exciting. We all regularly comment that we’re getting better and better as a band, and my knowledge of DSP and sound design is increasing at an exponential rate, so I don’t see us stopping any time soon. I am happy for it to continue for as long as we enjoy it.

 

 

Joseph Curwen (Resurgam)

 

In 1771, Joseph Curwen was killed during a raid on his Pawtucket, Rhode Island farmhouse. Curwen was a merchant, a member of the Providence elite, and a necromancer.  It was whispered that he had conquered the aging process and had the ability to resurrect the dead, brutalizing them for their secrets. Worst of all were the rumors of his worshipping the Great Old Ones, invoking Yog-Sothoth to acquire the power to step outside of time. Newcastle-upon-Tyne‘s Alexander Roberts’s project Joseph Curwen  is the avatar for the wizard’s second resurrection, this time manifested through the essential drones of ambient dust inspired by the works of the prophet H.P. Lovecraft.  Joseph Curwen’s ominous soundscapes reflect what the earth will sound like when it is cleared off; it is the key, the gate, and the guardian of the spaces between. Discordant and yet oddly soothing, Joseph Curwen’s prolific releases are some of the most sinister and stunning dark ambient pieces to emerge from the UK occult wave movement. His newest release is The Cold Room, a powerfully dreary amalgam of Tangerine Dream, Wendy Carlos, and Alan Howarth, all transmogrified through JC’s sonic alchemy.  A warning to the curious though: Joseph Curwen’s sounds call up things that can’t always be put down.

 

https://www.facebook.com/JosephCurwenDrone

 

http://josephcurwen.bandcamp.com/

 

http://josephcurwendrone.tumblr.com/

 

HNN: Obviously the first question has to be about your project’s name. Why H.P.  Lovecraft? How has his works and thought informed your music? Have you ever taken a pilgrimage to Providence or Arkham country?

 

JC: I have been a fan of HP Lovecraft for a long time. His work instantly captivated me; I don’t think I’ve ever read anyone else that describes the genuine weird better than him. The aspect of his tales that seems to resonate most with me is that of seemingly normal people being thrown into truly berserk situations. I feel like Lovecraft had a genuine fear of the unknown, and I attempt to recreate that atmosphere in my music.

 

I have never been to Providence or Arkham country; it is certainly a pilgrimage I would like to take. When I read Lovecraft stories, I imagine them to be set in landscapes similar to those found in my native County Durham.

 

HNN: How does Joseph Curwen work? What are your goals?

 

JC: Joseph Curwen initially started as an experiment in electronic bass weight. I love heavy music of any genre, and I’m very much an audio technology geek, so I thought combining the two would be perfect foil for my creativity. I take tiny samples of sound; stretch, manipulate and reprocess them to the point of insanity, then layer them on top of each other to create something new. A lot of it is based on mathematics, and working out how frequencies react to each other using calculations. Joseph Curwen is my attempt at making ethereal and weird music to soundtrack ethereal and weird situations.

 

HNN: How do your occult interests and musical influences come together in your work?

 

JC: I have been told on a number of occasions that using my music as accompaniment to reading HP Lovecraft stories is a very rewarding experience, which means a lot to me. I try to channel a genuine sense of unease and dread into my music, which was something HP Lovecraft was excellent at evoking.

 

The first music I got into without parental influence was dance music, so this will always be a massive influence on any music I make. I played bass in various heavy metal bands a few years back, which taught me how to appreciate crippling volume. One band, BERK, was a doom metal power trio that subscribed to the “more amps equals better music” idea, and I learnt how to utilise low frequencies for maximum results. That knowledge has certainly served me well in my electronic adventures. I’m into the idea of deconstructing the music of my youth and pushing it into new and more abstract directions.

 

HNN: There seems to be a difference between your earlier darker Lovecraft inspired pieces (Essential Salts of Human Dust, The Thing on the Doorstep) and your current more environmental and cosmic works (Antediluvian Forest, Reflections In The Lake, your live performances).  How has Joseph Curwen evolved?

 

JC: Joseph Curwen is constantly evolving as I learn more and more about modern music technology. I am constantly experimenting with sound design and production methodology. My earliest works were purely about digital oppression and saturated waveforms. As time has gone on, I’ve tried to incorporate more textures and musicality into my music.

 

For my Unearthing Forgotten Horrors set I deliberately set out to create a piece that celebrated the feeling I get when I’m in the forests of County Durham. I really enjoyed the experience of going back to Cocken Woods and Finchale Priory to film footage and take field recordings, and this inspired me to research into the history of the area, including the choir of St Godric. I hope I recreated the atmosphere of the forest on the day of the performance.

 

I had some time away from my solo stuff to concentrate on The Dead End Street Band over the winter. A good friend of mine, artist Robin Megannity, recently asked me to soundtrack an exhibition he is planning. After some time away, I relished the opportunity to experiment with the idea of soundtracking a film that never got made. I’ve tried to emulate authentic horror synth tones and atmospheres, using cutting edge audio technology. I’m proud of the results, and genuinely think it is above and beyond what I have created before. I am looking forward to sharing it with the world soon.

 

HNN: How important is performing live to Joseph Curwen?

 

JC: I like keeping live appearances as a rare treat. There is an almost ritual aspect to live gigs, sitting behind a laptop and slowly doing digital filter sweeps etc, and it’s cool to share the hypnotic quality of the music with others at sometimes oppressive volumes.

 

HNN: What is the future of Joseph Curwen?

 

JC: Post-Rave Hauntology Rituals and Radiophonic Occult Synth Horror Soundtracks.

 

 

 

To get a taste of the UK Occult Wave, tune in to the Unearthing Forgotten Horrors radio show Wednesdays at 22:00 (10:00pm) GMT at http://www.basic.fm/unearthing-forgotten-horrors/.

 

“Presenting performances by outsider artists who operate on the occult fringes of the musical underground, Unearthing Forgotten Horrors, draws together a very special bill of eerie drones and psychedelic noise.”

 

Darren Charles’s radio show will turn your mind into a haunted grindhouse possessed by Angel Blake.

 

William Burns
Staff Writer at Horror News Network

Bill Burns joined the Horror News Network staff in 2014. Bill Burns grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, the second Golden Age of Horror. His mind was warped by John Carpenter, H.P. Lovecraft, In Search Of…, and the Man, Myth, and Magic series of books.


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