Watch in wonder as this ethereal-goth (as close as you can really get to describing their unique and enchanting sound) duo stomps a mud-hole in the ass of corperate punk music on their new CD, only to shift and balance it with some of the most beautiful experiments in their sound ever since,well, their last CD of beautiful experiments! Always engaging, and always their own; this is an in depth interview with a group who’s sound expands and implodes on a constant basis, thus why they are one of the biggest goth-based bands out there. Not to mention Monica is one of the best vocalists and William’s riffs could even hang with the best of trash bands. Enjoy!
Chain D.L.K.: It’s been a little while since we last heard from you guys. How have you been since the last CD and tour?
Faith And The Muse: Monica: Great! We’ve been very busy!
William: We’ve been well, and as Monica said, quite busy; I wound-up doing a lot of production work for other bands in the interim, which allowed me to clear my head a little in preparation for “The Burning Season”.
Chain D.L.K.: This CD tends to reflect a little bit of what’s been happening to the punk scene over the last few years (presumably with the market takeover of it). Were you ever involved in the punk scene at all?
Faith And The Muse: William: Heh, heh…yeah, I think you could say we were…However, as far as reflecting on the punk scene, that observation would be limited to “Relic Song” – that’s the only one that touches on said subject.
Monica: Old School all the way. I started singing for my first punk band in 1981 back in Washington D. C. , and there should be no secret as to how artists like us feel about the current corporate “NuPunk” bands that are coming out of the woodwork! We have all these styles that we used to really embrace over the past twenty years still very much in our blood, and I’m still very much a punk. I notice this when I sit with a table full of business people, I have a great feeling of freedom, strangeness, and that I really have nothing to do with their world.
Chain D.L.K.: What happened to all the Celtic and Medieval influences in the music? It seems to be kind of sparse on this release.
Faith And The Muse: Monica: These influences are part of us, but have never been a mainstay, I think people also connect us to the orchestral sounds of “Cantus” as well as the harder songs we’ve always been known for – “Sredni” is no less or more hard than “Plague Dance” from Evidence, or “Rise and Forget” on Annwyn. The Celtic/Renaissance styles had more to do with the subject matter – mythology, bringing other times to life. The new album has all sorts of these same concerns and longings, but our approach has changed as we change.
William: And the notion that this aspect is somehow a staple part of our sound is all the more reason to tear it down and do something else. We may revisit it someday — and we may not…
Chain D.L.K.: Also I notice that the look of the group changed a little bit. William got rid of the trademark hair and Monica got a kind of Tori Amos look going now. Is this to coincide with “The Burning Season” and is it kind of a departure from the Goth rock norm?
Faith And The Muse: William: We wanted to dismantle all the institutions and expectations surrounding us and our work. As for the hair, yes, this too was in furtherance of change — change is always welcome in our world; it’s the only constant, thus it is wise to make an ally of change. Artists or people who do not embrace change become relics in their own time; the road to self-parody being a short one.
Monica: Tori???Gee, whiz, I just took off my horns and head-dresses and let my red hair show! Every redhead will assure you that she is like no other redhead!
Chain D.L.K.: What exactly does “Sredni Vashtar” and “Boudiccea” mean?
Faith And The Muse: Monica: “Sredni Vashtar” comes from a story by Saki, and it was a symbol for the young boy in that story – a silent, mythological way for him to have hope against his circumstances. It mirrored for me what’s been happening all over the world right now. I think there has been a swelling of superficial lifestyle expectation that has kind of imploded on us all. And now, there’s a constant state of panic and fear in the air, but it is a sort or surreal “what if” idea, and we still have choice, we still have lives to lead. “Boudiccea” is a comparison of the strength and endurance of a woman’s heart to the Celtic queen/warrior that fought against the Romans. I want to remind what expectations of what ‘Woman’ really entails, and what women have of themselves has nothing to do with looks, with a woman’s hair or makeup, her weight, her age, it is all in her heart – her strength, her character, who she is.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us about some of your musical training and background.
Faith And The Muse: William: I have no musical training to speak of; everything I’ve learned has been by ear. I grew up playing in a number of glam, punk and goth bands throughout the ’80es around L. A. before finding my way into Mephisto Walz, which was the first “name” band I was associated with.
Monica: I was exposed to all sorts of music while growing up – my mother was a trained soprano, my father a baritone, and opera, folk, blues and indigenous musics ruled supreme in my house. For my part, I simply started singing for bands – until 1986, when my shouting, growling and other assorted vocal “stylings” caused me to lose my voice completely. I had giant nodes on my vocal cords, which forced me to not speak for two months, and then go into voice therapy and voice training for about a year. From that, my own voice emerged.
Chain D.L.K.: What got you started into the field of ethereal and gothic, as well as the new elements of “The Burning Season” (such as trance, jazz, punk, etc). .
Faith And The Muse: Monica: It’s part of our very own universe. By having no boundaries to the music we create, we write music to express the mood of the song, and this changes from one piece to the next. We aren’t trapped by expectations or genre-specific music, we have always done what we pleased, but this time, we went all out in our interests to experiment. It opens us to anything. If I choose to do an album of classic Jazz songs, or spoken word poetry or Classical, I will!
William: We do not think of ourselves as a “goth” band — this view is way too nearsighted, and always has been. In the earlier days, I used to say that while goth was an element of our sound, we actually did much more than just that; now, referencing our latest disc, I think it’s even broader than our previous efforts, and thus a lot harder to pigeon-hole. I think labels are incredibly restrictive when used as an identity rather than an initial description used only to garner interest. Yes, we do some “dark” music — but black is only one colour in our palette.
Chain D.L.K.: With all the different elements of the CD, did you have trouble combining all those elements together or did it just blend into one another?
Faith And The Muse: Monica: No trouble at all, it was as easy as falling out of our chairs. Some songs were written by us separately, some were put together from riffs, the approach changed with every song. If you know our earlier albums, our spectrum of music has always been all over the place, this time we just expanded all the more.
William: Like any F&TM album, the diversity is the life of the collected work; in this case, we just let ourselves go a bit more than our last couple of albums, and we’re very pleased with the results.
Chain D.L.K.: Why the name “The Burning Season” for the new CD?
Faith And The Muse: William: It stemmed from a desire to burn down all pre-conceived notions of who we were; to destroy all definitions – even our own – and start over. We reached the end of a cycle with Evidence of Heaven, and “Vera Causa” was very much a closing of the book on that era. “The Burning Season” is the end of something old; the birth of something new.
Monica: The Burning Season is also something real that we live through in our area of the world – in Los Angeles the dry Summers cause full fires to come and burn down forests and houses nearby. Eventually with rain, new growth. It means that much to us: the need to make way for new growth.
Chain D.L.K.: Before I forget to ask, is Tess Records (your old label, run by This Ascension) still around? What happened to This Ascension by the way?
Faith And The Muse: William: No, Tess is long gone, as is This Ascension, unfortunately.
Chain D.L.K.: How did you meet and how did you decide to start making music together?
Faith And The Muse: Monica: We met in 1992 when my earlier band, Strange Boutique, was opening for William’s band, Shadow Project, and something just clicked in a very surreal way. We began talking that very night about music and what we could do together.
Chain D.L.K.: William, as we know, was a member of Christian Death and several Rozz Williams projects, including Shadow Project. Have you joined in on any of the tributes to him that have been coming out recently?
Faith And The Muse: William: No, I haven’t. We paid tribute in our own way, and our version of “Romeo’s Distress” is included on “Vera Causa”. We did not take part in any of the compilations due to the involvement of a particular party that I found questionable — I’ve no interest in exploiting the name of a deceased friend just to make a buck, unlike certain other people.
Chain D.L.K.: Explain some of the story behind “The Relic Song”.
Faith And The Muse: Monica: This is a big favorite of ours, and I think will speak for other punks from our generation. To be a punk in the early ’80es – it was a new experience that cannot be relived, only those who were there know. It was a strange new time then, and we looked like nothing anyone had seen before, and we were free to express ourselves however we wanted. I will let you know some of the lyrics at the end: “Black hair, blue hair, pink hair, white hair and boots! ”
William: “Relic Song” is nothing if not cathartic for us; we’ve been biting our lips and playing nice about this phenomenon for far too long, and we finally just burst – we grew up as punks, and seeing this so-called “punk rock” on MTV and on the cover of Rolling Stone has sickened us to no end. 90% of the bands sound identical to each other, and they’ve just missed out on the whole point entirely. “Relic Song” is the product of our rather marked disdain for this corporate crap posing as something we loved.
Chain D.L.K.: With each of your releases we see a definite theatrical element (in the non-corny sense of the word). Could we ever see you go into actual theater or do scores for plays?
Faith And The Muse: Monica: Absolutely! I wrote a little book called “The Garden Booke of Ghosts” which is a light-hearted tour of a haunted garden park and cemetery, and each ghost has their own tale to tell. I’d love to put something like that together on stage, in a very Edward Gorey way.
William: I’ve been looking to get into scoring for film for quite some time now; this is something I feel I will be placing a great deal of emphasis on in the somewhat distant future.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us about Monica’s track of spoken poetry. Do you have a background of having your poetry published at all?
Faith And The Muse: Monica: I’ve put out my own self-released books, which we sell directly from our website, but my work has been published and quoted in all sorts of underground zines and books. Properly publishing my work is something I’d like to do in the years to come. The lyrics for “Boudiccea” are actually from my personal poetry.
Chain D.L.K.: Would you consider any works of particular poets in your sound and who’d you recommend?
Faith And The Muse: Monica: Even back in my Strange Boutique days, I was using the words of John Donne, T. S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson in my songs. Walt Whitman is a current favorite right now.
Chain D.L.K.: OK, pretend you are in ancient Rome under the height of the Coliseum and Gladiators (since you both are major ancient history buffs from what I hear). You both are forced to fight a very cranky Russell Crowe to the death, armed only with a Hershey Bar, an olive fork, a stapler and a copy of your least favorite CD. How would you win?
Faith And The Muse: Monica: My least favorite CD, from a really, really terrible band? I would play the CD for him (the stapler was a CD player shaped like a stapler) and watch his ears bleed while I ate the chocolate.
William:… and I would fork him!
Chain D.L.K.: If you could be any Roman or ancient European emperor/empress, who would you be?
Faith And The Muse: Monica: That’s a very big responsibility. I’d have to go for Hatchepsut, the amazing woman who dressed like a man to be Pharoah.
William: There is a family rumour that I may indeed be descended from William the Fair…
Chain D.L.K.: If you had up to three reasons why we should buy the new Faith And The Muse, what would they be? What other groups do you recommend alongside it?
Faith And The Muse: William:
1) Because it’s passionate and real — unlike 90% of the other uninspired media-manufactured crap out there;
2) Because everyone can and will find something in it that they can connect or relate to, and…
3) Because underground artists like ourselves need your support if we’re to continue. I can’t think of any other artists to connect this work to — it’s too personal.
Chain D.L.K.: Thanks very much for your time and for the great new CD! Take care and good luck on the tour.
Faith And The Muse: Monica: Thank you for the great interview!
William: Thanks and all the best!
[interviewed by Shaun Hamilton] [proofreading by Marc Urselli]