Interview: Midnight Calling

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Midnight Calling website

MC: How did Red Sun Revival form? How did you decide on the name of the band?

Rob: Red Sun Revival began as a collection of songs I’d been working on in my spare time, whilst gigging with a bunch of other bands. I knew Christina from various club nights in the alternative scene in London, and as the songs I’d been composing featured violin quite prominently, it seemed natural to ask her if she’d be interested. This happened ages ago when forming this band was just an idea, really. As the songs started to come together I began to think more about putting together a proper band and began asking around about guitarists. In the past, I’d always played guitar but I had my heart set on singing for this new project, so finding someone for guitar became quite an urgent priority. Tim from Pretentious, Moi? was good enough to put me in contact with Matt and before we knew it there were three of us muddling through the unfamiliar material in my living room. After what seemed like an eternity of trying to find a bassist amongst friends and associates, I ended up putting an ad on the net. Luckily enough, Panos responded and within a very short space of time we were a full band, rehearsing in a studio in London. Band names are always difficult. Let’s just say it was a long brainstorming session!

Matt: In my case I was introduced to Rob by Tim Chandler, the singer in my other band, Pretentious, Moi? Tim knew Rob was looking for a guitarist and he mentioned it to me at a rehearsal. He sent me the material and I loved it. I finally met Rob at Whitby in October 2010 and we started working together from then.

Panos: My story with Red Sun Revival starts with an ad that I found randomly on the net, saying “alternative/gothic band looking for bass player”. I replied and got a few tracks from Rob, and we arranged an audition. I had never met the guys before and my first meeting with Rob was at the actual audition. A good friendship kicked off that night. A week after I got the news that I am in the band, I met Matt and Christina and we started working on the material.

Christina: I knew Rob from various clubs in London, namely Slimelight and Reptile. Through getting to know each other, we found out about each other’s musical backgrounds and Rob bravely asked me if I would be interested in playing electric violin for Red Sun Revival without even hearing me play first! Our first practice session together with Matt went well and Panos came along later.

MC: What are the musical backgrounds of the band?

Rob: I started playing guitar when I was 14; singing came much later. I was one of the founding members of Voices of Masada, along with Eddie Crofton-Martin. Over several years we released a couple of albums, played numerous gigs and even toured the USA and Australia before breaking up a few years ago. More recently I was a member of Adoration before we disbanded earlier this year. I’ve also played session guitar for The Eden House and session bass/guitar for NOSFERATU.

Matt: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 15. My musical background is really rock, blues and soul, so Rob took a chance when he agreed to let me join Red Sun Revival! I also play rhythm guitar in Pretentious, Moi? so it’s great to be involved in two prominent bands in the current goth music scene. As well as guitar I play piano and drums, but neither of them well enough to perform live… yet!

Panos: My background with music starts from an early age, and apart from listening to all kinds of rock sounds and genres, I started playing bass when I was 16. I got involved with a few bands in Greece, and for the last few years I have been living and playing in London. Apart from Red Sun Revival, I also play with a hard rock band called Portrait.

Christina: I started learning the violin in school from the age of 6 until I passed Grade 7 RAM during sixth form college. Alongside lessons, I played in the school orchestra and in the local youth orchestra. I have a traditional classical background but I didn’t really play much after going to university. A couple of years ago, I was kindly given an electric violin which reignited my interest. It was a lot of fun to experiment with different sounds using a guitar effects board!

MC: In my review of your promo I made a comparison to Fields of the Nephilim. But I hear other more subtle influences too, such as British invasion. What are other musical elements that you try to incorporate?

Rob: It’s not a secret that I used to be, and still am, a big fan of Fields of the Nephilim, particularly in its original manifestation. Clearly, it’s impossible to escape all of your influences but I really didn’t want us to be yet another Nephilim clone. I also love Pink Floyd, The Chameleons, and Depeche Mode and I’m particularly interested in film soundtracks. I wanted to create an orchestral tapestry upon which to build the songs, without turning us into a progressive rock band!

MC: Do you ever find the band pigeonholed into a stereotypical musical category? How do you deal with that?

Rob: Yes, I see that happening all the time. Personally, I’m not going to lose sleep if that happens to us but it would certainly be nice to have some cross over and broad appeal. I think there are elements to our songs which defy a strictly trad goth genre, and others that openly embrace it! That’s probably because I like trad goth, as well as other stuff. Hopefully, people from a trad goth background will enjoy the occasional departures from the genre. I also hope people from other genres will find our songs accessible and become interested in this kind of music.

Matt: I think we know that we are mainly a goth band. I think we accept that so there’s nothing to ‘deal with’ in that sense. However, we also hope that some of the other influences in our music might appeal to a broader range of people. We’ve got orchestral elements, some folky moments, some ambient, swirly passages. Rob is influenced by film soundtracks which gives his music some diversity. But we’re not going to lose sleep over whether we’ve been stereotyped or not. We’ve got some fantastic songs and we’ll play them for whoever likes them, whatever pigeonhole they fit in to.

Panos: As a band the only thing we can do is to write and perform the music we like in the way we like. The creative process cannot be pigeonholed and as musicians we try to keep our minds and ears wide open. The result though can be stereotyped in many ways, and there is nothing wrong with that and nothing we can do about it. Each listener can find different things in our music. My hope would be for people of different genres to embrace our music so that it can reach a broader audience.

Christina: I find it hard to describe our music when someone asks me what it is like. I tend to say that it is “trad goth with elements of folk.. sort of..”. There’s a long description on our Facebook page and website which fits the bill quite well. I think it will be interesting to see where we end up playing as we aren’t strictly goth so I can imagine us getting some quite varied audiences!

MC: I’ve found that people do this usually have a limited knowledge of the musical range of the Gothic subculture, and are the same people who like to declare that trad Goth is dead/stale/passé, or some other uncomplimentary term. But bands such as Red Sun Revival are proof that it is certainly is not dead. Do you ever think that some people simply ignore things that don; fit their perceptions? Have you seen other examples?

Rob: I think trad goth is going through something of a resurgence recently, albeit on a much smaller scale. I don’t think we’re ever going to return to the days of bands like The Mission getting into the Top 10, because music has diversified since then. Anyone can write music at home now, and every person that does so is free to take things in their own direction. I think the role music plays in people’s lives has changed, not that it’s less important, but rather that it’s easier to get involved in making it. Music is no longer the preserve of enormous stadium fillers like U2, it’s something that a lot of people can do themselves, quite well, if not fantastically well. I’d love to see goth bands topping the charts again, but at the same time, I love being able to write songs on a laptop on the train, and so does everyone else who’s writing now. I don’t think we have any control over musical trends now that the Pandora’s box of home recording has been opened!

Matt: There are as many different perspectives as there are people on the scene. We’re not here to ‘bring back trad goth’, if it ever went away. We don’t have a cultural agenda. From a personal point of view I think that culture rarely stays still and almost never goes backwards. So ‘trad goth’ today will never be the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. It will evolve and change just as every other culture and subculture does. Some people will like those changes, some people won’t, but no-one can stop them from happening. So we’re not trying to bring back an old style of trad goth, but we’re not trying to define a new one either. We have a music and a style that we like and that’s what we’re going to do.

Panos: The gothic scene as any other scene of music is a functioning society. In all scenes of music people always embrace and reject stuff with different criteria and different perceptions. There are lots of bands of different kinds that can appeal differently to people and that is healthy. Changes will always happen in music and people will adapt their own way. We can only give our best to play and produce the music we like. We are only here as part of a scene, trying to express ourselves with no further intention other than people to find something interesting in our music.

MC: When is your album due to be out? How will fans be able to get it?

Rob: We’re hoping to release the album in late September/early October. The album will be available digitally in all the usual places and as a good old-fashioned CD digipak. We’ll be releasing the album through distributors and we will also be selling it on our website and at gigs.

MC: Red Sun Revival has done some pretty extensive touring in the short time since your formation. How has that been for you? Where do you go from here?

Rob: We’re actually quite new to gigging. We did our first ever gig at Whitby Goth Weekend earlier this year which was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity for us. We have more gigs coming, both in the UK and abroad, and we hope to land several more when the album is released.

Christina: My only previous experience playing a gig was with FutureFrenetic when I played keyboards at 2 gigs so Whitby Goth Weekend was rather a new experience for me! We had such a warm reception from the crowd though that I am both looking forward to, and am rather petrified about, our first London gig on 3rd November at Electrowerkz supporting David J (Bauhaus), especially as there will be so many familiar faces.

MC: How do you compose your songs? Is there any sort of philosophical thread that runs through the music?

Rob: The songs usually start off as a vocal melody. I’ve always thought that strong vocal hooks are the key to any great song, and once you have these writing the rest of the music is quite straightforward. In the past, I’ve come up with lovely guitar lines and keyboard parts, only to find that the vocals have eluded me, and the whole thing ends up feeling like a bit of a waste of time. Once you have a strong vocal melody, you can hang stuff off it and build things up around it. Keyboards come next, to generate the right chords and harmonies, followed by drums. The guitars follow, adding decorative secondary melodies, and last the lyrics…always the hardest part! In terms of philosophical threads, the songs tend to reflect introspective ideas, and in my case often relate to aspects of my religious upbringing, and whilst this may not be the most original source of inspiration, it is certainly relevant to me. I think you have to look to your own experience to write good lyrics.

MC: Over about the past ten years or so, I have noticed a definite shift in gothic music towards a more “classic” sound than the electronic dance music that seemed to dominate the mid to late ’90s. This is not really a step backward because it does differ from trad-goth, and it has certainly proved to be more than a so-called “revival”. It’s also proved to be deeper than a generational issue, since many pf the new bands were too young to have seen the 1st generation of goth bands. Why do you think this shift has occurred?

Rob: I think this shift is reflected in the wider music scene. Dance music was huge in the ’90s and still important in the ’00s. We saw the effect of this within the alternative scene also, with music departing from guitar-driven compositions to more upbeat electro styles like EBM. I’ve never taken issue with this, although it is not really what I’d choose to listen to at home. In the last few years we’ve seen guitars returning in popular music. I guess the whole long rave had to come to an end some day! Guitar-based bands have dominated music since the ’50s and were still popular even when they were briefly eclipsed. I personally welcome the return of guitars in music of all genres.

Matt: Just as culture shifts and evolves, so does music. There has definitely been a shift back towards goth rock and away from the electro. I think that’s natural. Electro dominated so much of the late ’90s and ’00s that it’s inevitable people would want a change. There are more guitar-based bands on the scene than there have been for years. I think it might be a generational thing. If you look at the bands around at the moment, many of their members are the right age to have been teenagers in the early ’90s, when goth rock was still influential. They’re now taking those influences and putting them into their own music. In 10 years time I expect electro will have a similar revival. That’s the way these things work.

Christina: There are so many sub-genres of goth music.. trad goth, post punk, EBM, industrial, noise, 80s, electro, synth pop, neo-folk, medieval..You’ll find all of these and more being played in clubs nowadays. Most people tend to like a mixture of music and aren’t selective to just one genre. This has also led to a merge of sub-genres and I think that this widens the audience so that when they come across a style which is new to them, they’ll naturally do some digging and listen to the older bands to see where it all came from. The “younger generation” nowadays won’t have grown up in the ’80s so they will discover these older bands and with that comes a possible resurgence.

MC: It seems like “scene” politics overshadow the music in some areas. It’s really too bad that stuff like this takes the focus away from the bands and music. Do you think that social media has contributed to this? What are your thoughts?

Rob: It’s a shame, isn’t it? I think the scene is like society in miniature and many of those in it want to have their own special role. I suppose as musicians, we’re not really any different in this respect! I think these things are somewhat inevitable given the size of the scene and the fact that there are so many connections between the people in it. It’s amazing how difficult it is to avoid getting caught up in stuff despite efforts to the contrary. I think we’ll have to live with it.

Matt: Politics is just another term for human interaction. Any group of people interacting together will have politics. Some of them will get on with each other, others won’t. It’s not specific to goths. Any creative scene will have it. Wishing for a scene without politics is like wishing for a fire without heat. It’s not going to happen.

Social media has made it easier for people to interact, but I think that’s a good thing. It’s easier to feel part of the scene now, even if you’re not in the same physical place as everyone else. You can still keep up with what people are saying and doing, even if you can’t be there in person. And as a band it’s much easier to get your music and news out to people. So overall I think social media has been very positive for music.

Panos: Politics were and will always be part of music as they are part of any other extent of our life. We just have to live and cope with it. Sometimes it is hard but it is completely normal and bands need to be able to get through everything related to the business. However, as far as social media is concerned, I truly believe that it is a positive thing that has happened to music in recent years. It is easier to promote your music and be part of a broader network that, before social media, was not reachable. All in all this micro-society of music business has all the aspects of social interaction that we meet in any other sector; we have to cope with it and use it wisely.

Christina: Fortunately I haven’t come across any “scene” politics but I can imagine that it exists no matter what type of music you play. Social media has so far been only a positive thing for Red Sun Revival, making it easier for us to keep in touch with those interested in hearing the latest news.

MC: Is there anything else you would like to add? Thanks so much for the interview!

Rob: I’d like to thank all those who’ve worked so hard to help us make what I believe is a fantastic album. We’re looking forward to releasing it and I hope that your readers will enjoy hearing it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Matt: We’re just getting started so we really hope people will give us a chance, listen to our album when it comes out and come to see some of our shows. We’ll try to get across to all of you the joy we feel when playing our music. Thanks.

Panos: Thanks a lot to those who helped with the creation of our album. I hope that you will all love this album, and I can’t wait meeting some of you in our future gigs!

Christina: I’d be interested in any feedback that anyone would like to give us! When I first listened to the rough mixes of what Rob wanted to do, I had my favourite songs. Over time, these have changed. Now when listening to the finished album, they have changed again! I like it when songs seem to evolve the more you listen to them; it makes the album interesting and it has quite a few layers – I hope that you enjoy the music too. Thank you for taking the time to interview us.

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