Note: This interview originally appeared at the No Doves Fly Here website.
New PDX band Dead Cult have never used the word “deathrock” to describe their sound, preferring instead the term “anarcho darkwave.” Reminiscent at times of Hysteria, Rubella Ballet, or maybe even Skeletal Family, the music — whatever label you choose to apply to it — is exceptionally good, especially for a band this young. Guitar-driven postpunk rock from the dark side.
It’s hard to believe that Dead Cult has existed for just over half a year. When listening to their tracks, many of which are available freely on Youtube, and some of which are below, I was surprised to find out how young the band were. The musicianship, confidence in the vocals, etc., is far beyond the band’s years. Dead Cult have a Facebook page here; most pictures below are from that.
Interviewed by Oliver in April, 2012.
OLIVER: First of all, who’s in the band and what instruments do they play?
JAMES: I play bass and write lyrics.
TAWNI: I write lyrics and sing.
BEN: I play guitar. James and I write the music .
LAUREN: I play drums.
OLIVER: When did Dead Cult start, and what city are you all from?
JAMES: November 2011, Portland, Oregon.
TAWNI: I grew up between Portland, Oregon, and La Grande, Oregon (Northeast Oregon, small town).
BEN: Grew up in Maine, but have lived in Portland since 2002.
LAUREN: I grew up in Central California. I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2008.
OLIVER: Who came up with the name Dead Cult and what was the meaning behind it?
JAMES: I did. I proposed it because being at the end of over two decades of punk, goth and all sorts of “-wave” bands, it had not been used.
TAWNI: I approved it because for a name that reminds me of ….some others I’ve heard *cough*…. It makes a lot of sense in regards to our music, and how we are in a sense trying to revive something that some may assume is, well, dead.
OLIVER: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it? What are the influences on the style you all play?
JAMES: Anarcho Goth Rock. The Veil, Wax Heroes, D.I.R.T., Dancing Golem, Hysteria, Taste of Decay, Violators, Black Solstice.
TAWNI: For me, it’s Anarcho that influences me beyond anything else, but I would call it Anarcho/Darkwave. James has the ideas for the more Goth-influenced songs, and I’m thrilled with how they’ve turned out. For me personally, I’d have to say bands that have influenced me the most are The Mob, Omega Tribe, Icon A.D., Alternative, Anarka and Poppy, A-heads, Zounds, and Poly Styrene will always be the first woman in punk to BLOW my mind. Always an influence.
BEN: Some of the bands that influence my playing in this band are Twisted Nerve, The Ancestry, Omega Tribe.
LAUREN: I love the drumming (and drum machines) in bands like Bauhaus, Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure and Siouxie and the Banshees.
OLIVER: What are your favorite bands? I’m assuming The Mob is one of them, given the very cool cover you all do of The Mob’s “Witch Hunt,” on your demo and now on Youtube. What are some other bands?
JAMES: Asylum Party, Escarlatina Obsessiva, Marquee Moon, Bunker Strasse, Deafear, Thérèse Racket, Sounds of Disaster, A Social, Tožibabe, Weimar Gesang, Soror Dolorosa.
TAWNI: The Astronauts, Icon AD, Crass, Zounds, Rubella Ballet, Poison Girls.
BEN: Toxik Ephex, Omega Tribe, Warsaw, The Adverts, Zounds, Wire, Twisted Nerve.
LAUREN: I listen to a lot of stuff like Amebix, Anti Cimex, Bathory, Boris, Bolt Thrower, Coffins, Confuse, Death, Encoffination, Inquisition, Kaaos, Portal, Lycus, Neurosis, Saturnalia Temple, Slayer, Sleep, Sun O))) and some softer stuff like Mazzy Star and Slowdive.
OLIVER: As a casual listener, the type of music you all play seems very much in the vein of Rubella Ballet, and someone has mentioned the more obscure band Hysteria. But as far as lyrics go, are there any political or social thoughts that drive the songwriting process? For example, a lot of the old anarcho-punk bands like Amebix and Rudimentary Peni wrote (and still do write) about social issues. Is this going on at all in Dead Cult, and what are some of the pressing issues your lyrics deal with?
JAMES: Well, I wrote “We Bow to No One,” “Last Dawn,” “Surviving” and “Colder Than Death.” Tawni adds choruses or changes words for the song to work better musically. As for content, I’m inspired by events like the Warsaw ghetto uprising and write about being resilient in the reality of overwhelming defeat. Except for “Colder” — that song is about how love is for sociopaths.
TAWNI: Social and political issues are my driving force, as well as my familiarity with the difficulties coping with the constant mess that our society/world encounters. The lack of care being taken of native peoples, plants and animals was my influence for the song “People of Lies” and that is a topic I plan to continue to touch on in future songs… I’m constantly saddened by world issues, which is what brings people like us together. I’m all about being active and music helps me channel that mentality, and of course anything regaurding political power, war, famine etc., pisses me off, as it should!
BEN: I leave the lyric writing to Tawni, but political and socially aware lyrics are definately something that I like to hear coming from the band.
LAUREN: I think we all have very similar views. I like being in a project with other conscious people that are sensitive to social issues.
OLIVER: How do you all feel about issues like the Occupy Wall Street movement, wealth and income disparity, the recent debates about contraception, etc., or are these issues not on the radar?
JAMES: I think the only real revolution needed is a conscience one, and without it humanity will continue to pull the world down around them, still passing blame wherever. So living my life to its fullest is my idea of the biggest “fuck you” I can give to the human garbage bags that conspire at the top of the pyramid.
TAWNI: Human rights are very important to me, so, the Occupy movement has brought a lot of different people with a common goal together, and I appreciate that… But, the mentality is still putting politicians and corporations on a pedestal, which is the biggest mistake we can make. I am a Mom, a punk, I’m broke, and enjoy my freedom to choose. I grew up knowing poverty, but the main issue is our high standard of living… Lower the bar, live closer to the ground and we’ll gain the power we need to accept that they aren’t on control. It’s all a distraction!!!
BEN: Occupy is interesting because it has drawn in a lot of formerly politically inactive people and got a lot of people talking. Unfortunately, a lot of this new swell in activism is based on government reform, which is only a patch on a cancer that must be destroyed. I like to think that it could move in that direction, and if not, maybe a different movement will rise to the challenge it further down the road. As for presidential debates, it’s all just a distraction, reminds me of a reality show or something.
LAUREN: I’ve attended quite a view Occupy demonstrations with Ben and Tawni. It’s important to have your voice be heard and support others that are trying to improve conditions for those that cannot speak up.
OLIVER: What bands are out there nowadays that you feel are some of the better punk, hardcore, or deathrock bands going?
JAMES: Costanza, Anasazi, Crimson Scarlet, Dream Affair, Tuberculosis, Moral Hex, Belgrado, and I really want to hear more from Sect (BCN).
TAWNI: Bellicose Minds, Shadowhouse, Confessions (from Portland).
BEN: Bellicose Minds and Moral Hex from portland are great and I liked the Slow Motions, and Deskonocidos from Austin when they toured here.
LAUREN: In the Portland scene I’ve been pretty impressed by Lebenden Toten, Peroxide, Bi Marks, Vicious Pleasures, Bellicose Minds, Ripper and Funeral Parade.
OLIVER: The Pacific Northwest, with bands like The Spectres, Prids, Estranged, Deathcharge, Bellicose Minds, etc., seems especially fertile for the type of music that I would posit you all play — a newer sort of dark take on postpunk that harkens back to the side of the peace punk scene in the early 80s that included Blood and Roses and Southern Death Cult or Part 1 and The Mob. Why do you think it’s the Pacific Northwest that is seeing this activity — or is it happening elsewhere to this degree, and we’re just not noticing?
JAMES: Maybe it’s the rain.
TAWNI: Portland throughout time has been one of the cliche go-to place for “radical” thinkers, which I think has a lot to do with the constant flow of art and music, and punks just fit the feel of this city. I don’t know what it is, but when a punk travels through Portland, they either want to stay, or spend years talking about their experience here. I think being in between Seattle and San Fran helps. We are smaller and slower-paced, but have a great punk scene! We’re lucky to be a band here. I think we have a unique concentration of amazing punk bands.
BEN: I think it’s happening elsewhere, just portland has a pretty high concentration of bands in general.
OLIVER: Where can folks go to get your demo, or to listen to you all? Web pages?
JAMES: I’m being lazy about posting some free songs on our facebook and we are assembling our tapes now, which will be available on our facebook as well. I’ve also posted all our songs on my youtube channel (jamesbarkerjr1).
OLIVER: Any plans to play out across the US, or maybe do a West Coast tour some time soon? Play festivals like the Varning fest, or anything?
JAMES: Tawni, Ben and I are bouncing around farms in Europe through a help exchange program. We’ll be traveling from mid-April ’til October, so when we get back I want to tour with another band and with our LP, most likley.
TAWNI: Good things to come this Fall! Getting out of the country for awhile seems like a good idea.
BEN: Like James said, we will be travelling for the summer. Wish we could take Lauren and play shows while we are there, but we will be back at it this Fall, hopefully with new songs.
LAUREN: I’ll be playing with Shroud of the Heretic, a death metal band, at Goregon Massacre Fest III at the Branx on June 22nd 2012.
OLIVER: Anything else you’d like to say? Thank you so much!
JAMES: I’m finishing up Dead Cult t-shirts and putting out a pdx tape comp with previously unreleased tracks/bands.
TAWNI: Thanks duuude.
BEN: Thanks for the interest!
Check out: https://www.facebook.com/deadcult