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Interview with Voltaire

I guess the fans that came to my show spent enough money on the ticket that they couldn’t afford to spend more, and hey, I understand that. The economy has been tough all over. But, there is good news. The last trip that I made down to Mexico, I actually sold a lot of merch, actually, everything that I had. So, apparently, people are working, and the economy is doing a bit better. Next time I go down, I’m carrying a lot more CDs. Oh, and I won’t eat burritos from the street vendors again. Trust me; you do not want to do that.

Well, at last night’s show, every person was singing along, and it was great. It let me know that I was among “my people”, but it left me curious: When was the last time that you sang to an audience who didn’t know the words to your songs?
Hmmmmm….Maybe twice in….like, ever. Maybe that’s a problem (laughs). I may have once or twice played a show where people were less familiar with me.

How did those people react?
You know I wish could remember a specific example, but I know that I’ve done a show or two…I got one. The New York Horror Film Festival is a good example. There were not a lot of people there who had heard of me, and, of course, not a lot of people who had heard my songs. It was humbling, because I realized just how accustomed I had become to preaching to the choir, so to speak. A Dark Choir, mind you, but preaching to the choir, none the less. People didn’t laugh as readily to the jokes, they weren’t singing along—not to say that they weren’t being won over, but they weren’t already fans and I wasn’t connecting in the same way…at least, not at first. It was a bit unsettling, but, in a way, it was nice to be reminded of what it was like in the beginning, and it made me appreciate, even more, what it’s like now. It’s like having a child who’s a teenager, which I do, and running into a friend with a two-year-old, or a three-year-old, or a four-year-old, and being able to go “Oh yeah, that’s what it was like back then”. It’s nice to be reminded that it could all go away at any moment.

You are working on a country album, and last night’s crowd seemed to really get into the three country songs you performed. While it’s hard to imagine Johnny Cash or Earnest Tubbs singing songs with the exact same content, you really captured the feel and sensibility of “old-school country”. What prompted this new direction, and how have you been enjoying it?
I should start out by saying that, stylistically speaking, making country music is not new to me. Vampire Club is a straight-up Rockabilly song, and Cantina is a country song. You just don’t think about it being a country song because Luke is getting anally raped with a lightsaber. It doesn’t bring to mind images of the South, the West, or country music in general.

Well, we have anal rape in the South, too, just-
Not with lightsabers. (laughs) You got a purty mouth boy.
But, stylistically, making country-style music isn’t new to me. Making country-style songs that aren’t about zombies and spaceships has been such a fun exercise. I am having such a good time, because I realized something while working on these country songs that has been so exciting for me. There are certain conventions to country music. If I sing about a certain subject matter that brings to mind “country”, that’s okay. If I sing in a certain key, or with a certain chord-structure that brings to mind country music, that’s okay. And it’s so liberating to be making a song that doesn’t have to fit my usual practice of writing a song that is as original and different as it can be and not remind the listener of another song. For example, “Cannibal Buffet”, was a concept song, and writing it was a unique process for me, particularly with all of the body part puns. Writing a song about a zombie prostitute, like, say “Zombie Prostitute” for example, and all that sex with a zombie would entail, that’s a concept unto itself, and, for me, is a lot of work. I realize that I work really, really hard, maybe I end up working too hard, trying to write something that is original, and something that doesn’t sound like or remind me of some other work. Writing the country album has been so liberating, because it is okay if it sounds like Johnny Cash, it is okay if it sounds and feels familiar. It’s been just so much fun. Country music, as a concept, is very accepting and inclusive.

But your country songs, despite the “real country” feel, still are unmistakably Voltaire. I could almost imagine Roy Acuff singing “Nobody Will Miss You When Your Dead”. I’ll bet very few members of last night’s crowd had Merle Haggard CDs in their cars, but your new songs went over great with them.
I think it’s the subject matter. The dark, twisted, laughing, way that I look at things come across in everything that I do, and I think that’s a big part of what the crowd liked about those songs.

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1 comment

1 Redstone Science Fiction #3, August 2010 | Redstone Science Fiction { 08.13.10 at 9:09 pm }

[…] An Interview with Voltaire, musician, video artist, and popular convention performer by Paul […]