This article was originally published in the March 2015 issue of Ascension Magazine which is entirely in Italian. I wanted to share the English version in case that is easier for some people to read. Enjoy!
🙂 ~ Candy
Keeping America’s traditional Goth alive
– an Interview by Candy Rosenbaum
California, USA. If you haven’t been there, you should know that it’s quite different from the rest of the United States. The people there are different. The attitude is different. California has started so many great things in entertainment. And, one thing is for certain; California has been one of the starting points for the American gothic rock scene. Christian Death, 45 Grave, Screams For Tina, Switchblade Symphony, London After Midnight, and the list goes on.
Former Humans, are one of the current California bands that I would say are helping to keep the scene alive here in America. They blend traditional gothic rock and deathrock sounds of the past with the robust songwriting knowledge that comes with their years of experience. It’s worth mentioning that the band have gotten some attention lately, being featured on some radio shows and in some compilations. More recently, guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite (The Mission/Peter Murphy/Theatre of Hate) did a remix of their track, “Heaven’s Gate.”
I had the chance to talk with lead vocalist Brandon Anderson and guitarist Mark Allen from Former Humans and discuss their music a little further, and of course we discussed the scene currently in California.
ASCENSION: Thanks for chatting with us, guys. First off, tell us a little bit about your band members and how you gottogether:
Mark: During a downtime with my other band, Hyena Motorcade, I had been writing some new material that seemed to be a bit too traditionally gothic inspired to really fit well into the Hyena set so I started thinking about forming a new side project. I knew Brandon from playing with him in a band called The Widowed, and have always been impressed with his vocals, so I reached out to him. He was open to working on a new project, I sent him some guitar and drum machine structures that I had come up with, and he started writing the lyrics and working the phrasings and that was it. We clicked right from the start. I found original bassist Rick Greeno through a Craigslist ad (Online advert) that I had posted and shortly after that drummer Alberto Campos responded to the same ad and we had the initial lineup in place and started writing, rehearsing, and playing shows fairly quickly. Brandon and I first got together to work on songs in June 2012 and by the end of August 2012 we were playing live shows, so it was a pretty quick process, and by November we were already playing larger Festivals, such as the Eternal Death Wake Festival in San Francisco, as well as opening for bands such as 45 Grave, ABC, Midge Ure (Ultravox), Bow Wow Wow, Kommunity FK, Kid Congo Powers (Cramps/Gun Club/Nick Cave). Things were happening really fast and it was all going really good from the very start…
Brandon: Mark is a fantastic guitar player. Alberto is a amazing drummer. Joe, Steven, James, and Rick have all been fantastic bass players. Like Mark said, we used to play together in other bands, so when we got together it just clicked! I do write all the lyrics and Mark handles the music, but it feels like the songs write themselves.
ASCENSION: Your single, “Heaven’s Gate” is one of my favorites, the guitar really rocks, and the vocals are so delightfully wicked. Can you tell me something about thelyrics? “39 faces riding on goat tails?” what does that mean?
Brandon: “Heavens Gate” is about a cult that committed suicide in San Diego back in 1997. 39 people poisoned themselves in hopes of being taken with a comet into space.
Mark: I absolutely love the lyrics that he wrote for that piece….amazing….I am Brandon’s biggest fan I think!! I am lucky that I get to write with him…In regards to the guitar, I wrote that in about five minutes…isn’t that they way so many musicians say that some of their best stuff happens? It’s true! At least in this case.
Ascension: Wow! I have heard of that, it’s amazing when it happens. Did you have a direction you wanted to go, or some influences in mind?
Mark: I did.. Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, and Interpol…all of them played a part in my mind during the writing. Now that I have said that, if you listen to it again, you’d probably know what I was referring to. But, I always have those bands rolling around in the back of my brain somewhere when writing. Guitarists Hussey, Marx and Gunn from the Sisters are probably my biggest guitar influences followed closely by John Ashton and Roger Morris of the Psychedelic Furs who were early guitar influences and ones that basically changed the way I wrote completely. My guitar playing came from a classic rock background before I heard the Furs.
ASCENSION: The California gothic rock/deathrock scene is legendary and its historyis well known even with the Italian dark music fans. Some say that scenehas all but died off – what do you think? Is it still alive and kicking?
Mark: It’s definitely still alive and kicking, however in somewhat of a different way. There are still elements here that hearken back to circa 1987 but the gothic music scene has splintered off in so many sub-genres since that time that it’s become a bit muddled in regards to the sonic aspect…I mean you have sub-genres such as Steampunk that are considered part of the gothic culture but they really have very little to do with the roots or even the visual and in a lot of cases the musical aesthetic of what many think of as “traditional gothic rock” ala Bauhaus, Specimen, Sisters, etc…but hey, even back then there were multiple factions with Sisters trying so hard to distance themselves from the Batcave scene and/or goth in general combined with the whole post-Zeppelin, neo-hippy thing going on within the “gothic” culture back then with The Cult, Sisters, Mission, Balaam & the Angel, etc…so it’s really no different in theory I suppose…just in the players….
Brandon: I hope the scene dies. Then music could be resurrected. All too often bands are graded on image rather than the actual sound coming from a record. People should be more into art than a can of hairspray. Express yourself as a individual and have fun. I dress the way I do because I have a sense of fashion…it has nothing to do with the music i listen to.
ASCENSION: This one’s for Brandon. I’d love to know what some of your vocal influences are. Do you have a favorite singer you look up to?
Brandon: I have always enjoyed the old crooners from the big band era. Roy Orbison is one of my top favorites. Jim Morrison…the list goes on and on!
ASCENSION: Mark, you mentioned your other band Hyena Motorcade earlier, I am a big fan of this music too! Want to tell us a bit about it?
Mark: Hyena Motorcade was a side project of another band I helped to start called BloodPenny. The BloodPenny vocalist Ric Kaley departed that band fairly early on in the band’s trajectory and he and I remained in close contact even after he left. I told him the idea of a new project that would be a bit more like The Psychedelic Furs, New Order, Cure, etc and he liked the idea so I sent him some song ideas that I had, which ended up being “Shadows” and “Into The Static,” and that is how Hyena Motorcade started. We were fortunate to get “Shadows” into a the soundtrack of a weekly cable television series through my job, and the reaction to it gave us a reason to keep going. Since then, we have done some really great things and I am very proud of the music. I brought in Alberto Campos who is also the Former Humans drummer. Alberto appears on the Hyena Motorcade debut EP, which is getting some rotation in Japan and the UK. John Ashton of The Psychedelic Furs will be producing Hyena Motorcade’s full length album sometime in 2015. We are still working out details and logistics. We hope to tour if we could find promoter funding. There are some opportunities to support our friends, Modern English, on their tour, once they finish recording their new album. Also, John Ashton’s new project Satellite Paradiso may tour the US in 2015 as well and we have been told we will get the opportunity to open for them, so we are looking forward to that.
ASCENSION: And, what are your future plans for Former Humans?
Mark: We’ll be trying to get the EP out in actual hard copy CD form and market that to radio programs and dance clubs, etc. Probably playing some local shows… I am always hunting around for the big shows of course and sometimes promoters will contact me, and sometimes I will see a show listed and I will go after it.
Brandon: I just want to continue making music with a talented group of guys!
ASCENSION: I’m guessing there are some gothic rock fans in Italy who might enjoy a copy of your EP. How canItalians get their hands on some of your music?
Mark: The Former Humans downloads and CDs will be made available some time after the holiday season, so hopefully by the time your issue is printed. Hyena Motorcade has an actual CD as well as downloads and other merchandise available currently. [links below]
ASCENSION: On behalf of my friends in Italy who read Ascension Magazine, I want to thank you for the chance to talk with you.
Mark: Cheers to all the readers in Italy from us here in Southern California, and thank you for allowing us the opportunity to be included in your great magazine!!