Jan 2013 06

With the release of NOIR’s debut EP My Dear proving a fitting opportunity, ReGen catches up with actor, vocalist, producer and industrial veteran Athan Maroulis, returning with a project entirely his own, ready to add another layer of mystery to the voice that we all know.

An InterView with Athan Maroulis of NOIR

By: Damian Glowinkowski (DamianG)

To many a listener, mthe ysterious timbre of Athan Maroulis’ voice will forever be a part of the now defunct seminal Spahn Ranch, a band that throughout the ’90s rocked the industrial scene with an audacious mix of glitch and electro coupled with menacing shades of gothic sensibility. Never one to rest, Maroulis continued to challenge his musical identity through the output of jazzing The Blue Dahlia, produced countless albums and founded his own Sepiatone Records label only to in his spare time comfortably settle into the role of the leading vocalist of Black Tape for a Blue Girl. Continuously drowning to the dangerous soundscapes of darkwave, he comes full circle with the My Dear EP, released under the moniker of NOIR by Metropolis Records. With the heritage of industrial and goth defining Maroulis’ past, ReGen tries to find out what to make of his today and what to look forward to tomorrow.

 

Would you be able to, no pun intended, shed some light on the reasons behind the name of your new project? Between the atmospheric textures of your music and expressionist imagery haunting the cover of the new EP, what should audiences expect from NOIR’s dark soul?

Maroulis: I wanted the name of the project to be something simple – a single word that communicates with ease and brings together a number of my interests while remaining somewhat vague. Hence, NOIR seemed to do just that. I was rather fond of a photo of the French silent film actress Musidora from a series of films she completed entitled Les Vampires circa 1915, so I decided to utilize one for the cover. Audiences familiar with my music should expect a merger of my past with a contemporary yet moody present.

You always seemed to take pleasure in making connections between your music and certain cinematic attitudes, like in the name of your project The Blue Dahlia. How deep is this relation? Do you take inspiration when writing your music from cinematic images that haunt your imagination?

Maroulis: I live for film. The truth is I often regret not spending more time pursuing a career as an actor; instead, I opted to be a vocalist. I was cast in plays and musicals in school, yet by the age of 19 or so, I had already started my first band, Fahrenheit 451, then decidedly went in that direction. I feel as if films are living paintings to some degree. They have always been a source of inspiration. So yes, I do cull much of my lyrical imagery from motion pictures while having surreal love affairs with a number of starlets that have graced the screen. Additionally, directors such as Fritz Lang, Orson Welles, Hitchcock, Polanski, and many others have had a deep impact on me. Since rock based music (whether it is electronic, metal, pop, punk, etc.) is rather simple, lacks depth, and does not require all that much skill, I have always tried to add other interests of mine to the mix such as various imagery from vintage film or even certain jazz age visuals as a faux way of alleviating the tedium; this even if they only serve symbolically or as an influence. That enabled me in the very least to drag other interests or hobbies of mine along for the ride in order to make it more interesting to me personally and, of course, to an audience as well. I am sure it might appear to be quite pretentious to an outsider, yet I personally don’t give a damn because it is entertainment and that territory comes with vast piles of pretence. It is part of what I despise so much about American indie rock, a scene that spends so much time attempting (as well as feigning) to ‘keep it real’ by trying far too hard to look like lumberjacks or automotive mechanics with unruly facial hair. Yet the supposed indie ‘anti-image’ is so well thought out and contrived that they seem to fool themselves into believing they are not an illusion while forgetting the simplest truth: this is entertainment! The job of the entertainer is to literally entertain; ultimately, I never forget that and am always aware that this is indeed an illusion just like film. Music, theatre, film all involve acting and are all close kin.

You are currently involved in so many different projects, often in a capacity different than that of a vocalist or a musician. A band that you manage, Ludovico Technique just released its first album. With so much going on, what exactly was the impulse behind the genesis of NOIR?

Maroulis: Los Angeles back to my native New York City. While I made some guest appearances with Razed in Black, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, and others, I largely in part ‘retired’ as a vocalist. I busied myself writing liner notes for a number of record companies in other classic styles of music that interest me such as Billie Holiday and the like. Utilizing my contacts as a vocalist, I also started a booking agency where I have secured U.S. tour dates for Voltaire, Icon of Coil, The Crüxshadows, Rasputina, and others over the years. Naturally, I take on new acts from time to time and Ludovico Technique came to my attention as an act with potential. Subsequently, I added them as a support act for Ego Likeness, followed by a tour with Ayria and they started to garner a nice following. I brought them to Metropolis Records who signed the band to a recording contract. Truthfully, I received virtually little or no help in my early career with Fahrenheit 451 circa 1985; most clubs and record labels offered only arrogance or disdain. So with that in mind, I have always tried to utilize my position to help bands that I feel deserve a chance. At Cleopatra, I put many unknown acts on compilations and to this day, I continue this practice by taking on new acts for booking. So whether as a vocalist with NOIR or Black Tape or as a booking agent, I have found over the years that the only way I can survive in the music industry is by being both entertainer and businessman. C’est la vie.

There’s a certain duality to what you do on NOIR’s new release, as if you were balancing on a tightrope between melodic electronica and menacing lyrical artistry. What was your creative process when you set to bring the entity that is NOIR to life?

Maroulis: My talented musical collaborator (who prefers to remain anonymous) and I originally discussed working on a project together that would consist of dance friendly dark electronic material. With rare exception, after an eight- or nine-year absence from making music and performing, I cut the 10 Neurotics album with Black Tape for a Blue Girl in 2009 (I had made some limited recordings with the band in 2002 as well) followed by performances both here and in Europe. Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and had missed it all. Now that Black Tape is taking a break, I thought it would be an ideal time to do a project of my own and NOIR was born. All of the songwriting is done via email, which has its upside as well as a downside. Originally, the plan was to complete an EP and then walk away. Yet, once Metropolis signed NOIR, we are then planned to complete a full-length album. As for the sound, I think all we are trying to do is construct smart dark pop.

We’re obviously at the dawning of the year 2013 – at the time when people reflect upon the year’s worth of achievements and music aficionados recount their favorite discoveries. With that in mind, how do you personally reflect on the year that brought My Dear to fruition?

Maroulis: I try and keep up with what is going on in the arts, especially in the goth and industrial scene where it is my business to surf around and see what people are doing. Labels are kind enough to send me samples, yet I would not be able to come up with a 2012 list of favorites. That said, it was an interesting year. I watched my city deeply damaged by a storm, upheaval in Greece – the home of my ancestors, and a world in economic and political turmoil. While my choice of candidates won the Presidency, he is far from perfect. I fear for the future, although I am proud to say that I purchased a house this year with my wife. I am thankful for what I have in my little corner of the planet, yet I am always aware that others are suffering around the world.

So far, My Dear served merely as an introduction to the world of NOIR. What are your plans? Where do you want to take your newest creation and what should listeners expect from the full-length album?

Maroulis: I have a conceptual vision for the album that I am currently working on so I’d rather not say too much yet. The city and surreal sensuality will both play a big role. The EP will give most listeners an idea of the direction we are headed and I hope some people will support it by downloading it legally. Between you and I, that would be nice for a change.

There’s some continuing concern that the industrial scene perpetuates musical clichés and wishes not to evolve beyond several well established tropes. As an artist that goes a long way back with this genre and returns now after a few years since Black Tape for a Blue Girl’s 10 Neurotics, what are your feelings about the shape of the industrial aesthetic? Does the fact that you also deal with the ‘other side’ of the scene as a producer and a manager give you a different angle on this situation?

Maroulis: It’s rather ironic that the longevity of industrial and gothic music is based in part on the fact that it seldom changes or does so in such slow, minor ways that it doesn’t appear to grow. That familiarity and routine is part of its charm, yet I understand why some would have problems with its lack of growth (and I know many people that complain about it). I learned a long time ago that this scene (for better or worse) is where my bread is buttered so I try to look at it in the most positive way possible. I would imagine an enthusiast of metal or ska for instance would have to take a similar stance. I do wish that the fans that support only the top three or four bands in the scene, yet are often absent for anything else, would diversify on occasion; although, that is something that has always been a part of both industrial and goth. In fact, I have always believed that it is ironically the same in pop culture – most people will only go see blockbuster films, watch popular TV shitcoms, and will keep buying Adele albums. Most people go with what is safe and readily available, yet it is a sad hypocrisy when it is applied to supposed underground culture. Yes, from the ‘other side of the desk,’ I have also had to look at it closely; not exactly a fantastic business model when one invests in a niche market that with rare exception has remained a near 30 year exclusive underground movement. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ as they say. I am so accustomed to working within the confines and limitations that I ceased questioning them years ago.

On My Dear, you covered The Cure’s ‘A Forest’ and had your own track remixed by futurepop act Assemblage23 and gothic/industrial rockers Ego Likeness. What is your view on original music shifting styles and reinterpreting itself through the work of other artists? What was the logic behind the choice of musicians that ended up on NOIR’s EP?

Maroulis: The strange thing is that during my time in Spahn Ranch, I grew so tired of the remix cliché that we ceased releasing remix albums because the market seemed so damn flooded with them. I was surprised by how long the trend has continued and if you can beat ’em, I guess you must ‘rejoin’ them and here I am with remixes again. I have been working with Ego Likeness for a decade; they are one of the hardest working bands I know. I serve them in a number of capacities, so it seemed like a natural choice for remixing because we work so closely together. As for A23, this was the idea of my collaborator, although I admire Tom Shear’s knack for synth hooks and grooves.

Do you have any final thoughts that you’d like to share with our readers?

Maroulis: I just want to thank you for your kind words and for taking the time, while extending my thanks to the supporters of NOIR. You have all made my return feel quite natural and welcomed.

 

2 Comments

  1. Sylver says:

    A great read and having heard the Soundcloud preview NOIR’s debut is likely to be the highlight of the year.

Leave a Comment

*

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!