Black Tape for a Blue Girl

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Interviews

This very interview was performed and included here because there were many « demands » coming from you, my readers; therefore, here it is a material with legendary Sam Rosenthal. From various reasons I decided the first part of the interview to be made by an acquaintance of mine, Matei Alexandru Mocanu, while the second one was conducted by me.

Part I


   The 2002 'Scavenger Bride' is Black Tape for a Blue Girl's most recent attempt at concept albums. It is a multicultural sound experience, mixing trance-like Middle Eastern sound textures, dark, twisted and scorching synths, neoclassical influences and last, but not least, the fading influences of Brian Eno. Given 'The Scavenger Bride' is my favorite Black Tape for a Blue Girl album; I just tried to unveil this diaphanous bride and reveal its secrets to the fans. Without being sacrilegious, my deed aims to break down the multi-layered wall of mysteries surrounding the fleeting creature. Once my interview would have brought down the bride from its ivory tower, all the fans could admire it in its entire naked splendor.

   More conceptual and less ambient. This is the first impression I had after listening to your album. Is Black Tape... going to take on this path on its future albums?

   "I do think that the next CD will be less ambient then CDs in the past, though I can't say that it will be more conceptual. I think that the scavenger bride is about as far as one can go, with a concept album. I have only now begun work on the next CD, and I feel - though of course I never know for sure what will happen - that it will be less conceptual and more song-oriented. This said, I have been working on a new novel. It's about 70 pages long, so far. In there is where a concept will be completely weaved. Some of the lyrics for the album might take themes and short passages from the book, to be revealed in musical form."

   Why concept albums? Does a story complement the music better than would have done it random songs by themselves? Does music need a leading narrative thread to get it out of a labyrinth-like creative universe? How would you compare your album with other concept albums like, say, Pink Floyd's, Chaostar's and Elend's?

   "I think that a concept album is a nice way to tell a long story in musical form. I only know Pink Floyd's concept albums, so I cannot really give many good thoughts on the question. I wanted each song to be viable on its own, and not just part of the whole, so people could enjoy them with or without the interconnecting story."

   The Scavenger Bride also had a number of guests musicians including Bret Helm of Audra and Athan Maroulis of Spahn Ranch on vocals, and Michael Laird of Unto Ashes on dulcimer, mandolin & percussion. Are you going to bring an increasing number of guest artists on your future projects? Does this help your music gain in diversity?

   "I don't foresee an increasing amount of guests. I like having a band with a set group of people who create the sound, so there is coherence for the listener. The musicians on the next album will be Vicki, Lisa, Elysabeth, Michael, Athan and myself... but there will probably be a guest on a song here or there.... I do think that each musician brings diversity to the band, which is why I would never want to be a solo project. They all bring their specialty to the sound, which makes it a lot more interesting for me as the creator."

   At times, your ethereal music seems closer to the music score area than the gloomy fields of Darkwave. Do you find this statement true? What do you think of music score composer Philip Glass?

   "I think Glass has created some amazing albums, but also many that fall flat because they are too similar to others he has written. Some of my favorites are Koyannisqatsi, Glass Works and The Photographer, all of which are from the late 70s. So I think that maybe when he did less work, he put more energy into each one and they were better. I think that my music lands somewhere between Glass and Darkwave, don't you?"

   Ever listened to peer-band - in my opinion, that is - Amber Asylum? What do you think of "Songs of sex and death"? Do you consider sex and death to be paramount issues in every artist's life?

   "I have never actually listened to Amber Asylum's album... But yes, I think that a lot of artistic creation deals with sex and death. For me, I also deal a great deal with honesty, purity, and commitment.... But those are still somewhere in there."

   I saw a change for the better in the fact you started using mainly natural instruments on your tracks: violins, cellos and flutes. Thus, your search for natural sounds could make one compare you with Dead Can Dance sound archaeologists. Does this flatter you? Does this upset you?

   "Well, first I would disagree since my first album in 1986 included cello, and I have always had a lot of natural instruments in my sound. While I love many of Dead Can Dance's albums, I don't really feel my work is like what they create, because I see a lot of cultural plundering (you say 'sound archaeologists') in what they do. They pick up a new culture, and their music goes in that direction... I feel that my work comes much more from the heart. Maybe it has a taste of a culture, but it doesn't get overwhelmed in it, to lose site of what is BLACK TAPE."

   How are things going with your work on a Dead Can Dance 'Fortune presents gifts not according to the book' cover?

   "The song is all recorded, and I have only to mix it. It is going to be out in the spring, on a Greek label which is releasing a compilation of Dead Can Dance covers.... The song sounds very nice, I had Athan singing harmonies. I had Lisa playing the intro part - that was on the dulcimer, on the original - on the flute. You will like it."

   What do you know about Swedish label Cold Meat Industry? What about the bands under it? Do you like Arcana?

   "I know a lot about CMI, since I have been in touch with Roger for over a decade. I like the more ethereal / textural releases (Morthond, Arcanta, Raison D) but not the Death Metal / spooky stuff. I think Arcana are amazing. I saw them live at the WGT this year. The show was stunning, very spiritual."

   Raison D'Etre have released a new album right now? What do you think of it and his music? Do you find it too politically-oriented? Why hasn't Black... take on this more social-oriented approach?

   "I actually haven't listened to Raison D in many... many years, so I don't know anything about the political content of their new music. I take a political stance in the email lists I send out from Projekt, but I don't really deal with that in my art because I'm more about love than social conditions. I leave that to others..."

   If you were to preach to a group of teenagers new comers to the area of 'unholy un-pop' (a bad pun for 'Goth') what would you direct them towards? Marylin Manson or Black Tape for a Blue Girl?

   "Well, they already know Marilyn Manson, so why don't they give Black Tape a listen?"

   Even if I know you like to leave open the question as to what the band's name stands for, I think I know the correct answer: Dark music for a sad girl. When you came up with the name, back in the '80's, were you thinking that, someday, one band would come up with a name like My Dying Bride?

   "I don't agree or disagree with your interpretation. I never really thought about other bands with similar names."

   'The Matrix' or 'The Lord of the Rings'?

   "Not The lord of the rings!! However, the first Matrix was the best!"

Part II


   You started Projekt label almost 20 years ago.... What is the secret that you keep it still alive ?

   "Secret? Being nimble, I guess. You need to always be ready to make changes and stop doing things you thought were right... Otherwise you get trapped because you are still doing old concepts that no longer work.... Survival is really all about money, unfortunately. I hate having to be a capitalist."

   Could you be so kind to offer me some opinions regarding Projekt' bands: Voltaire, Mira, Audra, Soul Whirling Somewhere, Chandeen, Steve Roach...

   "Chandeen aren't on Projekt. The rest are excellent musicians creating amazing sounds..."

   What albums are best-sellers from the whole Projekt history?

   "Compilations have always been the best sellers. Recently, The New Face of Goth and Projekt: Gothic have done quite well! For non-comps, Blacktape: Remnants of a Deeper Purity, Steve Roach: Midnight Moon, Voltaire: The Devil's Bris."

   What is the main goal with Projekt? Could we discuss about profit, money? You released lots of compilations CD in the last period... What does marketing represent for you? Could I say: Ok, till there is the art, the rest is business... What are the borders?

   "I think that in the beginning, any label thinks about it purely as art, and naively says 'I don't need to think about business or profit.' Little labels think that if they release a quality artist, the listeners will be smart enough to seek it out and buy enough records to make it a success. Sadly, that is not the case at all. It takes a lot of business work to make a band successful. And if you look at what *is* successful, most of it is crap -- so it disproves the theory that quality will succeed. Or that people are searching for good artistic music. So after doing this for 20 years, I have to keep in mind that I have a family who like to eat dinner, and like to have a roof over their heads (and in Sasha's case, Puppet shows to attend). So of course decisions need to be made that involve NOT LOOSING MONEY!"

   You also released the double CD of Black tape, "With a Milion tear-stained memoirs" this year. Why?

   "Alex at Trisol wanted to put out a best of, and it was a good way to get out of my contract with him as he was not any good to work with. I decided to release it on Projekt in America, because the fans over here deserve to be able to get a hold of it... We're nearly sold out on the U.S. Edition. It was a limited edition."

   Do you have any idea how many copies of Black tape albums you sold in total till now?

   "Yes, I know down to the unit, actually. Aside from Steve Roach, who has many... many more albums released, Black Tape is the best selling artist on Projekt."

   I saw you preferred to keep contact by Internet. Do you still have nostalgia for the letters' smell, maybe? The postman who came day by day with the press, envelopes....

   "No, not really. Because these days, if I have to write half a page by hand, I get cramps in my fingers... I am so used to typing. The mail created a lot of stuff that we had to store somewhere, or feel guilty about throwing it away. The internet is a lot easier, because you don't feel bad hitting the delete button. That wasn't a very romantic answer, was it? (Laughs)" (I'm afraid no-ed)

   Who is Sam Rosenthal in the private life?

   "Somebody quiet and private."

   It seems Sasha started the work on the laptop on a fragile age, he, he...

   "Sasha is a he. And like all 18 month old boys, he plays with trucks too. But he always wants to do whatever it is that mama and papa are doing, and he sees us at the computer a lot... So he wants to type too. There are five computer keyboards in our house, so he always wants to tap at one. This morning, he sort of said the words 'otter' and 'duck' and imitated me putting lip balm on... He's a great kid!"

   You were very excited for your European concert you did in Germany... Some impressions now? The public is the same as the American one? What about Projekt fest?

   "There are so many more supporters in Europe for this kind of music. America is our home base, but the European audience has so much more potential. There's so much more chance to reach a wider audience, which is the point of making art: to have people discover and enjoy it."

   Bush, war, attacks of terrorists, America, Iraq, Israel, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan... this is a bloody world.

   "I think Bush is an idiot, who used 9-11 to forward his conservative agenda. His fascist desire to over-throw governments and create a new sense of colonialism... He's obviously failing miserably. Everyone hates America now, because of this idiot who used the Supreme Court to get into office. I'm a supporter of the democrat, Howard Dean: ".

   Are you interested in religion?

   "I think I missed out by not having a proper Jewish upbringing..."

   What is your opinion regarding Darkwave scene? Is there a big difference between Europe and America?

   "Yes. The European scene seems much stronger to me. In America, a 'big' multi-day Goth fest gets perhaps 600 attendees. It's pretty sad. But the country is a lot bigger than Germany or such, so it's harder to get around."

   I noticed you distributed lots of old albums, not only the newest ones and the prices are very attractive. How is possible?

   "Because I care!"

   OK, Sam. Thanks for the interview. I found out a new album would be released in 2004.

   "I just started to work on it, now. I plan to have a maxi-CD out in February of some of the recent songs I am creating, even though they may / may not be on the full-length later in the year... Check the website in a few months for info: Thanks for the interview...."

December 2003.