EXCL Premiere, Q&A: BLEACH EVERYTHING / VORS Split Seven-inchBooks/Art/Culture,News Shawn Macomber
Waiting for that special record to come along and drive a dread-infused aural stake right dead center through your cold, black, horror-loving heart this Halloween month?
Well, today is your lucky day: FANGORIA has an exclusive stream of the upcoming BLEACH EVERYTHING/VORS split seven-inch—out October 14 on MAGIC BULLET —a chilling, schizophrenic maelstrom which in toto represents one hell of a terrifying earworm.
BLEACH EVERYTHING takes the first hatchet swing at our senses with the BLACK CHRISTMAS homage “The Moaner,” a track as gleefully demented as one might expect from current and former members of CORN ON MACABRE , JESUIT, IRON REAGAN, and SUPPRESSION.
On the flip side, VORS—AKA J. Bennett, guitarist of powerhouse ethereal doom trio IDES OF GEMINI—sets loose the aptly titled “Mood Swinger,” weaving ambient darkwave into an enshrouding sonic fog heavier than even John Carpenter ever imagined to create a disquieting little ditty that will continue to haunt listeners after the needle lifts.
FANGO recently spoke with Bennett and BLEACH EVERYTHING vocalist Brent Eyestone about universal themes, genre love, and the pair’s unholy alliance.
FANGORIA: Maybe you could each give me a thumbnail sketch of how/why your respective projects came together? Was there an itch you were looking to scratch here that your other projects don’t quite reach?
BRENT EYESTONE: Bleach Everything is one of three bands I play in with my friends Graham Scala and Ryan Parrish. From the moment I met both of those guys, it was like taking in kindred spirits for life. They spoke the same language as me because we grew up captivated by the same stuff: music, records, movies, zines, books, comics, skateboarding, writing, drawing, schlock, sleaze, highbrow, lowbrow…In short, we were all guys that invested heavily in our alone time back in school. So it made it very, very easy to pile into van after van with those two and play music and simply hang out with each other all over the world in the years to come.
Kelly Posadas, our bass player, is cut from the same cloth. I remember being a fan of his old band (JESUIT) and noticing all sorts of references to pop and non-pop culture permeating their lyrics and visuals. Even better, I used to get mistaken for him for years, during a time when a few people in hardcore wanted to beat him up. This was long before we met, so I had independently grown an affinity toward him through dodging his would-be assailants. When we met, it was very much a Tomax/Xamot dynamic. I felt him, he felt me, so we asked him to be in our band and it’s been a blast ever since.
BENNETT: VORS is a direct result of between-song interludes I was making for Ides Of Gemini’s live shows. The interludes we currently use are short, abstract musical pieces that Sera (bass/vocals) made and that Kelly (drums) triggers via iPod during our shows so Sera and I don’t have to tune our guitars in awkward silence. At some point before Ides Of Gemini went on tour with Ghost last year, I made some new interludes that had more of a synth-based, 80s horror feel, but was told that they sounded too much like songs to use as interludes. So I took a hint and made actual songs out of them.
FANGO: Clearly the two bands approach sound and form with wildly different aesthetics. Yet, despite this, the split exudes a real—and, yeah, maybe a bit strange!—coherence and flow. Any thoughts on what this synergizing factor might be?
EYESTONE: Before I formally met J, I always found some degree of kinship in his journalistic writing. Further, we traveled in a lot of the same circles and held dear a lot of the same people. Things didn’t get synergistic—and downright eerie—until we started hanging out, particularly at our first dinner together. I remember sitting directly across from J at a place called Red Medicine. The drinks were all listed as numbers and we both happened to order “#90.” The drinks came to the table and were set down at the same time, both of ours in mason jars that we were instructed to “shake vigorously” before consuming. In unison, J and I picked up the jars at the same moment, performed the same dramatic, erratic shaking pattern, as if in a mirror, and then instinctively held the jars in front of each other’s face when opening. Everyone at the table thought that we had worked out some routine, but we hadn’t.
That trend has continued on ever since. He told me about VORS and had me listen to “Mood Swinger.” I sent him “The Moaner” in reply and it was pretty obvious to both of us that we were both examining similar themes independently and with cool nuances that complemented each other’s visions for these new projects. A split seven-inch to launch both seemed only fitting.
BENNETT: It’s pure synchronicity that Brent and I happened to be working at the same time on material that shares a fairly specific spirit, but I can’t say I’m the least bit surprised. In addition to enjoying a lot of the same music, movies and cultural detritus, he and I share certain personality traits, unhealthy fixations and odd senses of humor. Another way to say it is that we have a lot of the same disorders.
FANGO: Brent, I love the section of Bleach Everything’s Magic Bullet bio page that talks about the band employing sort of an unorthodox approach to delving into “universal themes” by way of genre allusions or imagery—e.g. “Facehugger,” “I Killed a Werewolf Once (It’s on Film)” and, of course, on this split, “The Moaner.” This, of course, is a tack your late, great band CORN ON MACABRE took as well. What is it about all of this craziness that lends itself to greater truths?
EYESTONE: When we were doing CORN ON MACABRE, it started out rather insular. We just wanted to make cool sounds with instruments to make us happy. Once we had done that, the lyrics for the vocals just followed suit. All we wanted to sing about was stuff we liked both in present and past tense, almost autobiographically. We loved horror and sci-fi from all eras. Once we released those records and started playing shows, what we found was that a lot of other people had similar affinities toward the same stuff and really got behind what we originally thought were lyrics that might miss the mark. Through playing in that band, I got the confidence needed to sing about some of the lower brow stuff that I spend more time investigating than what I “should” be singing about and investigating in a punk band. I always knew I wanted to do a “new franchise”—so to speak—and I’m glad that BLEACH EVERYTHING has provided the sonic canvas and trust from my bandmates to do just that.
Another wrinkle in the concept of “universal themes” finding their way into lyrical content is that you recognize more of it with age. When I go back to older films that I watched when I was younger, I see more than I did the first time around. I understand more and I notice more patterns than I consciously did before. I think it actually opens up the creative space even wider. It’s been fun getting into the “character” involved with each song, be it a horror film trailer narrator, Gary Busey, a WWF Intercontinental Champion, or a passenger on the back of Mothra in flight.
FANGO: J, how did your work with Ides help, if at all, to prep you for what you’re accomplishing via VORS?
BENNETT: By the time I started working on VORS, I had recorded a ton of guitar demo/arrangements for Ides, so that experience definitely helped in a technical sense. Musically, I had to let go of any methodology I might use with Ides because IDES OF GEMINI songs are written specifically for Sera to sing over. Luckily, most of the VORS material is synth-based rather than guitar-based, which makes it a lot easier to get into a different musical mindset.
FANGO: It will no doubt be interesting for fans of IDES OF GEMINI to hear you sing with such a haunting and beautiful voice. As someone who regularly works with one of the most exquisite vocalists in heavy music in your main gig, was it nerve-wracking at all for you to step up to the mic?
BENNETT: I’m convinced that one of the only things that has allowed me to make music at all is that I don’t waste my time comparing myself to others. I’m not saying I’m a snowflake or anything—anyone who thinks that about themselves is completely full of shit—it’s just a mental device to overcome hurdles like, “Is this good enough?” or “Am I in key?” It forces me to rely on instinct and avoid second-guessing. If I compared my singing to Sera’s, I’d never record anything because I’d be too intimidated.
FANGO: Did Sera have any advice for you?
BENNETT: Unfortunately, she wasn’t in a position to offer me much advice because I recorded all the VORS stuff in secret and only played it for her when it was almost finished.
FANGO: Tonally, the two songs here cover most of what I like about horror films—i.e. creepy, sinister atmosphere and balls out, unadulterated over-the-top confrontational nuttiness. In reverse, are there any particular genre touchstones the bleed over into the music you make?
EYESTONE: If we can make an album that is to music as RAMBO (2008) is to film, I will be able to proclaim Bleach Everything as a massive success by any and all our standards.
BENNETT: If “creepy” is the adjective that people end up using to describe VORS, I’ve accomplished my goals. But to answer your question, I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t mention John Carpenter—specifically the soundtracks to HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. There’s also a VORS song called “Return To Psychomania” that’s atmospherically inspired by—and includes a sample from—the classic British biker/zombie flick PSYCHOMANIA. More recently, the song “Nightcall” that Kavinsky did for the DRIVE soundtrack a few years ago. If you cut out the poppy female-sung chorus, that song’s atmosphere and feeling is almost everything VORS aspires to be.
FANGO: There is obviously huge crossover between extreme music and horror fans. Did your own interests in the two develop separately or on a parallel track?
BENNETT: Separately, I think. I got into horror movies way before I started listening to anything that might be considered “extreme.” When I first saw HALLOWEEN or FRIDAY THE 13TH I’m not sure I had even heard Metallica yet, never mind Carcass or Autopsy. One of the first times I even made the connection between rock music and movies was when I heard Dokken’s “Dream Warriors”—a song I still love—in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3. But I think the crossover appeal between horror movies and extreme music is obvious—they both tend to attract the same types of people: nerds, stoners, mental cases and general outcasts.
EYESTONE: People like to link punk rock and skateboarding together in the 80’s, but in my case, you’ve absolutely got to give comic books and horror/exploitation films equal billing. I got the same exact rush from an issue of THRASHER as I would the latest Pusmort/Deluxe/Fallout newsprint catalog, FANGORIA, or Tim Vigil’s FAUST. The same guys I skated with were the same guys that I went to see THE LOST BOYS with, who were the same guys that I drew comics, made zines, and tried to start bands with. It’s been cool getting older and seeing others that still haven’t been able to shake their experience and appreciation toward all these things. Books like Kirk Hammett’s TOO MUCH HORROR BUSINESS, where he essentially catalogs his entire horror collection, make me very happy because he’s an extreme example of the type of person that I understand the most in this world.