darker shades of metal, hymns of goth and post-punk ...all for the worship of darkness
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Here Comes Dragon Con : Interview with Loss'John 'Ichabod' Anderson
Recently caught up with my friend John " Ichabod" Anderson the bass player for Loss, to talk about this year's Horror Track at Dragon-con, his band and the horror genre.
Wil: How did you become involved with Dragon Con?
Ichabod: My involvement with Dragon Con began when I met Derek Tatum, Director of Dragon Con’s Horror Track, at a concert many years ago. We realized that we not only knew a lot of the same bands in the U.S. scene, but that we also saw eye to eye on a lot of movies, books, shows, and especially music. It was to be his first year as director, so he recruited me for the staff -- mostly to cover music, at first, but I would later become Assistant Director. This will be our 10th year representing the dark side of the convention.
Wil: This is the second year of the Horror Track after splitting off from Dark Fantasy, what can we expect this year?
Ichabod: Yes, the track has gone through several names over the years, in an effort to describe the particular niche of dark culture and art that we like to cover. Ultimately, “dark fantasy,” much like the term “goth,” had started to mean too many things to too many people, making the scope of the track unwieldy. Thus, the track was split into Horror, which tends to be taken the right way, and a whole new track called Urban Fantasy. Having said that, the Horror Track still covers properties that would be considered ‘dark fantasy,’ as well as bands from the goth/industrial scene.
This year, we’re covering current shows like “Hannibal,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “American Horror Story,” and the final season of “True Blood,” which I’ll be discussing with some of the actors over the weekend. We’ll also be covering classic shows like “The Twilight Zone” and my all time favorite, “Twin Peaks,” to mark the anniversary of Laura Palmer’s famous “I’ll see you again in 25 years” scene. In the area of film, we’ll be talking with Tom Savini about his years of monster-making, Cary Elwes about the darker side of his career, and William Stout about his many screen creations. We’ve got a battery of excellent current authors, in addition to coverage of icons like Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and Anne Rice. Plus, we have panels with many of this year’s bands, experts on a range of dark subject matter, and much more. You can see the full schedule at http://horror.dragoncon.org/, but make sure to check this year’s Dragon Con App for the latest details, as things can shift.
Wil: The “State of the Goth Scene” panel is splitting into two parts this year, one for rock and another for edm, what is the reason for this?
Ichabod: Initially, we had planned for “The State of the Goth Scene” to be our only music panel this year, but as we approached the convention, more bands than we could fit into a single hour were booked. Rather than leave any bands out of what has become a signature panel for us, we decided to turn it into two hours and spread it out a bit. Dividing the bands between the more electronic and the more organic isn’t an exact science, since many bands take from both sides, but given how the overall goth/industrial scene seems to have split along a similar line recently, it made sense.
Wil: You are also very involved in the goth scene in your home town, how's the scene there, and how has your involvement progressed?
Ichabod: Nashville has seen a lot of growth recently – both in popularity and in population -- and that’s been great for the music scene in general. Things are happening here now that would not have been possible even a few years ago. We just passed the one year anniversary of my current club night, Fascination Street, and the response to what we’re doing has far surpassed what I thought we could accomplish with such a focused night. It’s primarily a guitar-driven post-punk, deathrock, darkwave, and traditional goth night, which is where my heart is, but those are styles that had been relegated to the background in the goth/industrial scene for more than 10 years. We’re also spinning a lot of the current bands, not just the icons or the obscurities, which is something that previously couldn’t find a steady club-audience here, so I’m very glad to see people getting into it now. I’ve wanted this for years. The future is looking good.
Wil: What do you feel caused the recent boom in horror television?
Ichabod: I believe that everything is cyclical, really, so it was time for horror to make a comeback on the small screen, but I wouldn’t limit the reasons to that. There have been some wildly popular horror shows in recent years, and the success of the few opens doors for the many. When a show like “The Walking Dead” is sweeping the ratings, the industry has to recognize that as a vote for what people want. Also, thanks to innovation and risk-taking over the past couple of decades (I’ll nod my cap to “Twin Peaks” again), coupled with a shift in technology and the way people absorb their entertainment (internet streaming, DVRs, binge-watching), television is no longer the lesser sibling of film. It is no longer a step down for a respected film actor to cross over into television. What we’re seeing now is some great talent telling stories that don’t have to end in two hours, and that appeals to today’s obsessive viewer.
Wil: Is Classic Universal Horror being represented this year?
Ichabod: Not in particular, but I’m sure the topic will come up in panels like “Dracula Rises from the Grave... Again,” which will chronicle the perennial popularity of the most widely-recognized vampire in western culture. I’m sure Bela and company will not be left out of such a discussion.
Wil: You also play bass in the doom metal band Loss, when is your follow up to your last album "Despond" coming out? And will we ever see metal having more of a presence at Dragon-con?
Ichabod: We (Loss) are currently in the writing stages for the follow-up to “Despond.” It’s too early to set a release date, but we already have several songs in the works, and we’ve been hammering out details like the album’s title, concepts for the artwork, how /where it will be recorded, and all of the arrangements with Profound Lore, who will be releasing the new album, of course. For anyone who hasn’t heard it, we released a split with Hooded Menace this summer on Doomentia, entitled “A View from the Rope. “ It contains our first new song since “Despond,” which we hope will tide people over until the new album is finished.
We’re all metal fans at the Horror Track, naturally, so the presence of metal at Dragon Con has certainly been a topic of conversation for us. We’d like to do more with metal, but as with everything we cover, it all depends on the guests and speakers that are available to us. Dragon Con did book a ‘symphonic metal’ band, Anaria, this year, so that could be an indication of things to come, but I’m not holding out for someone like (our dream metal guest) King Diamond to appear – although GWAR has played in the past, and we’ve had the distinct honor of getting Alice Cooper as a speaker, so who knows?
I should note that most people don’t realize how bands get booked for Dragon Con. Basically, all bands have to apply to perform or they’re not considered, and they generally don’t get paid a guarantee. That rules out bands of a lot of genres and sizes. On top of that, performers also have to fit the culture and the vibe of the convention -- which, incidentally, is why Loss wouldn’t fit at DC (since many have asked). I should also note that the track directors don’t have any say over what bands get booked. The convention has their own department for that.
Wil: What's your favorite horror movie so far this year?
Ichabod: For 2014, it’s hard to say. There are so many promising films that I haven’t been able to take in yet. “Only Lovers Left Alive” looks like it should be amazing, so I hope that it will live up to the hype. Looking back on last year’s crop, though, I absolutely loved “Byzantium.” I thought it was a great return-to-form for Neil Jordan. Also, while not a perfect film, “Kiss of the Damned” stuck with me as well, with an atmosphere reminiscent of “Daughters of Darkness” or “The Hunger.”
Wil: Hollywood seems to be overly dependent on vampires, zombies and were-wolves. What other monsters do you feel need more screen time?
Ichabod: It’s funny you should say that, as I just praised two vampire films, but I actually agree about the dependence. The reason I loved those two films is because they captured what I love about a good vampire film, either by ignoring current trends, or working against them. Overall, Hollywood loves to take whatever is popular and absolutely run it into the ground, but I always leave room for a well-done piece of work from any sub-genre. The success of “The Walking Dead” really pushed the zombie trend over the shark, but that hasn’t ruined zombie stories for me. I just have to wade through a larger crop to find the good ones. There’s always somebody out there with enough passion for a genre to make it work again. As for monsters that need more screen time? Original monsters, I would say. It’s great to play with the archetypes, but I’d love to see more people trying to create their own iconic creatures and characters.
Wil: Any pre-con rituals the week of?
Ichabod: So many rituals, so little time. After a decade of doing Dragon Con, I’ve built up several traditions – some official, some unofficial. On the official side, I spend a good bit of time doing research on the guests I’ll be working with and writing out far more questions than I will need. I like to be prepared for whatever might happen. It just makes for a better show.
On the unofficial side of the fence, I’m known for handing out a free compilation CD of current dark music, and this year is no exception. The 2014 “Out ov the Coffin: Compilation for the Dead” is in production as we speak, featuring a long list of great post-punk, goth, deathrock, industrial, darkwave, and related bands. It’s my way of giving something back to the scene, and also a taste of what my podcast (“Out ov the Coffin”) is like. Speaking of which, I’ll be recording the “Road to Dragon Con” bonus edition of that podcast tonight, which spotlights the year’s convention line-up from the goth-nerd perspective. You can find more info on that at outovthecoffin.blogspot.com.