Mar 2012 03

ZooG Von Rock preaches to the goth/industrial community during the Angelspit tour with Blood on the Dance Floor, encouraging diversity and embracing the freaks of a new generation.

An Interview with ZooG Von Rock of Angelspit

By Lüke Haughwout

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Australia’s Angelspit deserve a great deal of credit. In the eight years since the band’s inception, ZooG Von Rock and DestroyX (Amelia Arsenic) have assaulted audiences with their caustic brand of goth/industrial mayhem, wrought with acidic synthesizers that scrape and grate with all the fervor of a malfunctioning 8-bit video game console, injected with crunchy guitars that threaten to blow out one’s speaker system, and a venomous interplay of male and female vocals that often eschew melody in favor of all-out aggression. All the while, the band creates a visual complement to their wicked musical fantasies decked out in medical fetish attire and mechanized punk abrasion.

From humble beginnings self-releasing their music to signing with Metropolis Records as well as remixing and sharing the stage with the likes of KMFDM, Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy, and many other legends of the underground, playing such high profile festivals as Mera Luna and Wave Gothic Treffen, and appearing on ReGen Magazine’s Top 10 Albums of the year list three years in a row, Angelspit has gained a high degree of prominence in less than a decade. Ever the eccentric and polarizing entity, the band broke the mold in late 2011 touring in support of their fourth album, Hello My Name Is, with glam/electronica band Blood on the Dance Floor, to simultaneous appreciation and scorn; just the way Angelspit likes it. Front man ZooG Von Rock took some time during the tour to speak with ReGen Magazine on the band’s musical mission and fashion focus, preaching the word of diversity and community to the goth/industrial underground.

2011 was a busy year for you, with the release of Hello My Name Is and a ton of touring. How do you manage to stay energized and focused?

Von Rock: Yoga. I don’t know. You’re always looking like six or 12 months ahead, and even in the van right now, I’m working on a new album, new projects, and we’re already talking about new design and new ideas, everything from T-shirts to completely doing something different with technology. The thing about it is when you’re doing a project, there’s the really fun part in the beginning where everyone comes up with all these new ideas and it’s a lot of fun. Then comes the not so fun part were you’ve actually got to make it all come together, and you have all the elements there, and then you’ve got to do it, which is no fun whatsoever. But you’ve always got to remember that when you first came up with the idea, it was an awesome idea. With Hello My Name Is, that was about 18 months in the making. When the songs all first happened, they sound great and you just got to keep pushing them. When we first got the offer from Blood on the Dance Floor, it was really exciting. But booking flights, dealing with insurance and driving for eight hours is not exciting. You’ve just got to always remember that’s rock & roll, and there are really fun parts and there are not so fun parts.

You recently expanded Angelspit to a five-piece band. Who are the new members, and how has this impacted your live show?

Von Rock: We met Valerie at the Triton Festival last year, last October. She is a rock pig. She was with the Crüxshadows. And I think within two minutes of meeting, I offered her the job. I didn’t even know anything about her. She was a common friend through Jen of Aryia. She did two Crüxshadows tours. Anyone who can do two Crüxshadows tours can do anything. We got along really well, and now Val’s in Angelspit. She brings wild, frantic insanity to the band, or I should say more wild, frantic insanity. The thing with that is if you want guitars that are perfect, get a machine. That’s how I ‘philosoph’ on everything. I think ultimately with Angelspit, our roots are in punk music, and with Valerie it’s like the guitar parts are a suggestion. Basically, rip shit up; that’s what it’s all about. The chords are not you know E, G, E, A; it is ‘Fuck You, Motherfucker!’ That’s the chords. She’s got to get across the wildness of the music, which she does perfectly.

We met Matt James, our new drummer, after our original drummer Chris [Kling] couldn’t do it anymore. We just had a 10 minute conversation over a table. The guy’s amazing. Matt’s got a really heavy, funky feel. Our core element, our biggest influences are funk music like Stevie Wonder, Bootsie Collins, George Benson, Earl Klugh, all that stuff. Massive influence…and Matt’s got the funk, and he’s got a heavy slamming feel with the funk, so I really, really like that. When you mix all the elements, it’s this wild, crazy, chaotic beast. So that’s what Angelspit loves.

And of course, The Liar; with The Liar, I said, ‘I want you to build an instrument that is a video synthesizer that no one’s ever built before.’ So we’re going through heaps of trial and error. He breaks it every night and there are cameras in my face, and in Amelia’s face, and in everyone’s face. His job is to basically bring chaos and also to push that stuff online and to stream it to really push the concept of what cyberpunk is in this time. So it’s all about crazy punk rock.

How do you describe the sound of Angelspit to someone? Is it industrial? Cyberpunk?

Von Rock: Ballistic, electro, punk, fuck you.

What is your creative process like?

Von Rock: It comes down to an idea; for example, somebody that loves somebody so much that they want to turn them into a jacket. There’s actually a song on Hello My Name Is called ‘Violence’ that is actually about loving someone so much that you need to burn them and cover yourself with their ash. It’s just very fucked up. So, that all started with a visual idea. It actually started with the idea of when Pegasus runs through the clouds, his hooves part the clouds, and that’s an important lyric in the song. It’s this visual concept of something beautiful but horrific, and a lot of it starts with images and from there expands.

Hello My Name Is is really inspired by watching people walk to work. There’s a cafe on the corner of St. Marks and 2nd avenue in New York City that I used to sit in between 7:30 a.m. (I’m a morning person) and 10:00 a.m., drink coffee, and watch these people go to work. They were soulless and lifeless, and that was a big influence to see these people having their lives just ebbed away from them. They take the same way to work, they grab the same Starbucks, they get on the same train, sit next to or stand next to the same people and wouldn’t say anything, get off at the same stop, walk to the same place, go up the same set of elevators, they go to the same desk, they sit down; it was all the same. They had given up asking, ‘What the fuck am I doing with my life?’ They were just in this zombie-like loss, and that image of people marching to their doom – and I have been there – is the driving thing behind Hello My Name Is. So yeah, that’s the terrifying grey that we’re trying to pump color into.

With the five of you out there every night exposing yourselves to new audiences, does it feel like you are part of a gang?

Von Rock: Yeah! It’s us against them! It’s really funny. When it was just me and Amelia, our motto was ‘Outnumbered but never outgunned,’ which is I think a Prodigy album as well (great album). That was the really cool thing with me and Amelia; we would just hammer it down and go hardcore. But when there are five of us out there, it’s like you walk into a battle that you can’t lose. You just beat them and pound them and beat them and pound them and all of us just go ballistic. It’s punk rock. It’s punk rock with synthesizers and video machines and guitars and shit fucking up. That’s part of the fun of it. You’ll see on the video that we took tonight, shit fucked up, and I was during songs madly fixing stuff and trying to get stuff to happen. I don’t want a perfect show. I want a car crash. I want to walk onstage knowing not only what is going to fuck up tonight but how are we going to fix it, how are we going to come through at the end of it like covered in sweat, fuck yeah, breathless at the end of it feeling like we’ve been beaten to death by a fucking club. I love that feeling. I love that feeling of absolute all out war! It’s us versus the audience and all of us together are fighting apathy. I fucking love it!

It’s actually funny; when we played in England, we played in Manchester the night of the riots, and it was not fun. It was terrifying, because we had two or three thousand kids outside the venue who were rioting. In buildings on either side of us, there were spot fires in them, kids were looting them, and I think two buildings or three buildings or something on that street were on fire. There was helicopter coverage. The guy – Nick, who I fucking love – who does our security in England is a part of the Danish guard; he’s spent time in Afghanistan, he’s a NATO dude. And on that night, he said ‘You’re going to do what I tell you, that is, you’re going to stay calm and chilled out, and when I say run, you’re going to run.’ We had to cut the set early. And I remember when we got out of there, we’d load stuff into the van, then we’d have to stop loading stuff into the van because 30 or 40 kids with hoods and ski masks would run down the street. And it was a miracle our van didn’t get trashed. And by the end of it, all we had to do was put our hoods up, and put shit in the van, and they thought we were one of them. And when we drove out of there we had to drive through a street full of three, four, five hundred kids, I don’t know. The street was full of kids, and these kids were 12; it was terrifying. And I remember these kids had Nike sneakers in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other. They were drinking the vodka and they were going to set that shit on fire. And I remember when I was singing in the room, and we were rocking to that room full of kids, about 150 or 200 kids, I remember that we were scared. We were fucking scared! But it was like, it meant something that we were together and we were sharing this experience together. And I remember the lyrics. I was so proud because the lyrics that we worked on, they meant something. They were anti-corporation, they were anti-capitalist, they were anti-greed. I remember fucking shouting them out, and they meant something. I’m so proud of that moment. At that moment there was unity with our tribe, our band, our audience, our friends. It was a humbling experience.

How did the tour with Blood on the Dance Floor happen? It seemed liked an odd combination. Did you get any negative feedback from the rest of your fans?

Von Rock: When we first got offered the gig, we didn’t know who the hell Blood on the Dance Floor were. I remember we played a gig in Phoenix and this very skinny, beautiful young guy came up to me. It was actually Jay, and he said, ‘I really like your band, and I want you to tour with us.’ He was such a humble guy. We researched these guys, and they are huge, and Angelspit’s one of their big influences. They were asking us because they liked us as a band, which is a real honor. Right now, they’re playing to a room packed full of kids. Every single time we do this gig, there are lines around the block. And they asked us, and it was such a humble experience. Blood on the Dance Floor are basically two kids who love fashion with a laptop, who want to offend people and scream obscenities. Angelspit are two kids with a laptop who love fashion who scream at people and love obscenities too, so it’s a match made in heaven. And now, they’ve expanded to a five piece; we’ve expanded to a five piece. We have received so much flack from the darkwave community, people going, ‘Why the fuck are you doing this?’ and we are getting snubbed so often at our gigs. People are not coming because they either hate us now or hate Blood on the Dance Floor. But one thing I throw to every single person is, ‘How old were you when you discovered Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Tool?’ And they go, ‘I was 12 or 14.’ And I go, ‘Cool, we are playing to a room full of 12 to 14-year-olds every night.’ When we walk into these clubs, 90 percent of the kids have not heard of us before, do not know what goth is. If we were playing with Front Line Assembly or whoever, Combichrist or VNV or whatever, 90 percent of those people have heard of us and all of them know what gothic/industrial is. These kids have no idea, so we are converting every night. We are exposing hundreds of kids to the darkwave community. Then the darkwave community has a problem in which there’s not enough young blood coming through. We have done this tour because we want to do something about this for our band, but also for our community at large. If you like us, you’re going to like Baal from Tokyo, Japan. You’ve got to check out Skinny Puppy. You know, we get promoters coming to our gigs, and we are getting them to fly here because these kids don’t know what it is all about. And I keep saying to the promoters, ‘How often do you have a club?’ And the promoter goes, ‘Oh, we have a goth club every two weeks.’ ‘How many kids do you pull?’ And they go, ‘About a hundred.’ And I go, ‘Well OK, if you can pull 10 percent of the kids here tonight, you’ve almost halved again your numbers because there are 300, 400, 500 kids coming to these shows, and they see us walking around like hardcore fucking freaks. They want to know more. It’s not just about Angelspit; it’s about the darkwave audience. These kids want to know more.’

Touring with Blood on the Dance Floor is a fucking pleasure; they are the most wonderful bunch of people. Their crew and their management are so humble and helpful. We’re also playing with a band called New Year’s Day, who if you like I:Scintilla or The Birthday Massacre, you’ll love New Year’s Day. It’s the funnest tour we’ve ever done. The first gig we did was in San Diego, and we were at basically an afternoon center with like 300 kids between 12 and 14 there. We’re dressed like this, and I was going, ‘I think we want to hold back,’ because normally, we go in front of these hardcore crowds and fucking goths and we declare war on them. So we held back a little bit and the kids were going, ‘Eh, don’t know.’ So then the next night in L.A., we went even harder; we did a 100 percent, full on Angelspit assault, and the kids go ‘Yeah! OK, we’re into this.’ Then the next night in Hollywood, we tried 110 percent, and the kids were going, ‘Yeah! Yeah, we want more, we want more!’ And what is crazy about this audience is that we can not beat their fucking heads in enough. You know, we are going all out as hard as we can possibly can go, and they’re going, ‘More, more!’ I find that so exciting because this audience, if this is the generation that are about to hit our fucking clubs, fuck yeah! Viva la fucking revolution, man! I am excited, this is awesome. This is so fucking awesome. So, I say to my wonderful, dark-winged bad motherfucker brothers and sisters: be open and welcoming to the new generation that are coming, because they don’t give a shit about rules or dark eye makeup. They don’t know who The Cure are or Sisters of Mercy are; they don’t give a fuck. They just want to rock! And that’s exciting, because this whole thing is about no rules, no regulations. And we have covered ourselves, in this genre, in rules. I think that its time that we drop that shit and just focus on rocking; dark, morbid, fucked up rocking. I had to preach.

So you’re basically like a missionary?

Von Rock: Yeah, I’m on a fucking mission! I’ve been doing the ‘goth outreach’ thing forever. I used to run a website in Sydney called Sydney Gothic from the late ‘90s, and then it became Australian Gothic, and it’s all about the community, because that’s something that our community shares. This is the strong thing about our community…is that it is a community. And you know, if you’re a band and no one’s heard of you and you get a club gig, you can go anywhere in the world and you can play to 50 to a hundred people like that, because you’re a goth, or industrial, or whatever we’re calling it these days. And it is extremely important that we always remember that our community is the oldest community that is still alive and strong. That’s why we’ve got to invite the young kids in, and we’ve got to stay strong and supportive. If you like the band, buy their merch, buy their fucking CD, don’t download it for free. If you like the club, go to the club. We’ve got to keep supporting, we’ve got to stay strong. So that’s what it’s all about. Donate to ReGen Magazine, keep it fucking on the road. That’s the mission, and all of us share it, you know. We’re not doing this for the money; we’re doing this because increasingly we’re becoming leaders of a generation, and we have to replenish the generation and we’ve got to keep it tight. You ask any of the club runners, they’re not doing the club for money; they’re doing it for the community. That’s how it is, and you’ve got to always remember that. That’s it.

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