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Interview: Christian Death

by François Zappa

In an association of ideas, surely the first thing you think of after hearing “Deathrock” is “Christian Death”. The Californian band has become synonymous with the genre while defining it. For this interview, we wanted to talk with Valor Kand, about all the Christian Death albums in which he has been involved, from the legendary Catastrophe Ballet to his latest work, Evil Becomes Rule. They are one of the most important bands that will play on Saturday at the DarkMad festival in Madrid that will take place between the 10th and the 11th of May.

Photo: Jeremy Saffer

—After almost three decades as leader of the band, do you think that it has been positive or negative for you to have to keep the Christian Death name after Rozz Williams left?

—As the Sun rises in New Zealand, the night falls upon Madrid, as the pendulum swings from Good to Bad, Christian Death has been both Blessed and Cursed. Through all this, since the first day, for every waking and sleeping moment, Christian Death has been my Life.

—How do you think that your career would have been different with Pompei 99?

—What might have been, or may never be, an alter -relevant reality.

—With Pompei 99 you played with the first incarnation of Christian Death, what were your impressions, back in the day, of the band?

—At the time, the vibrance of the Los Angeles Music scene was intoxicating and there were many inventive and creative artists and performers. This scene was very abstract, underground and quite removed from the garish metal and Hair Band-Metal bands that populated all the better performance venues.
On the other side was Punk or alternative and then there was the music of Christian Death, Pompeii 99 and other bands such as Psycom (which was, by the way, the first band of Perry Farrel – Jane’s Addiction). We were a small clique of misfit artist friends who played all the same smaller, less upscale venues, with the same audiences and frequently the same bands together, like a Brother/Sisterhood. Each band had their own unique characteristic. Christian Death and Pompeii 99 had the exception of having a few songs on Local Radio, mostly on College Radio stations like KXLU but also on the top commercial rock station in America at the time, KROQ  with Rodney Bingenh
Sorry, I just got lost in nostalgia. The simple answer to your question: Most of all I remember having a lot of fun.

—How was working on Ashes the last album with Rozz Williams? How did you work together?

—It was a dramatically different experience from our previous album Catastrophe Ballet which was recorded in a State of the Art, however, converted horse stables on a then current cow farm in the middle of nowhere in Wales, at the same Studio as Queen. There, we spent almost 2 weeks, for almost 24 hours a day, never leaving the studio but to sleep, in the same beds as many of our rockstar idols. It was passionate blissful suffering.
Now, Ashes was the diametric opposite, recorded in downtown Hollywood/Los Angeles. We went home every night. Rozz, whom I’d never seen drive a vehicle, had to be picked up and driven home everyday, most of the time by myself, to Pomona, a 3-hour journey there and back. People were always late in spite of curfew hours, drugs and alcohol would show up without my invitation. As the Producer, Songwriter and Band Leader, it was up to me to make it all work. So, other than my love for creating great music, most of what I remember on that album was STRESS!! Our lack of professionalism that time around cost us the time needed for at least the 2 songs that would have made the album, 9 or 10. But now as I reflect, it was all worth Rozz’s best ever vocal performance on “Of The Wound”.

—Behind the famous Ophelia of John Everett Millais we could find your first work without Rozz Williams, The Wind Kissed Pictures. How was the reaction of the public when you started being the front man/singer?

—When I accepted the sad reality that Rozz would not be joining us on the second Christian Death tour of Europe, with only weeks away, I had to spring into action.
I became the singer, the bass player became the guitar player, and the guitar technician became the bass player. Christian Death was virtually a new band in Europe, although the people really liked it, most people did not really know much about the band yet. Our first shows on the second tour were in Italy. There, it was funny to hear a few people calling me, Rozz and the new guitar player, Valor. Later as we continued to tour other countries in Europe and our popularity rapidly grew, soon there was little confusion and we began to establish a very strong and dedicated following.

—With that EP you tried to change the name of the band to For Sin and Sacrifice, right?

—I did not “try” to do that. As Rozz violated his obligations to our, then equal partnership, We, being David Glass, Gitane and myself, then became the lawful owners of the Brand. I did however, “consider” the possibility of changing the name because from the beginning, the band name Christian Death would be an unacceptable black sheep in many situations, preventing us from ever being a household name. However, actually it was our contractual obligations with the labels and between ourselves, which prevented us from changing the name. And here we remain.

Atrocities was a concept album about the aftereffects of World War II on the European psyche. You took a more political side in your lyrics when you took full control of the band. Did you consider Christian Death as a good vehicle to expose your ideas and attack religion and political corruption?

—In Pompeii 99, I occasionally only inferred political insinuation, although it was very punk to be political. Although both bands grew out of that climate we focused more on pure emotional art.
It was while we were being courted by our first German label “Normal Records” and while spending considerable time in Dusseldorf, that I came upon an article in “Der Spiegel” magazine about “Josef Mengele” the Nazi “Doctor Of Death”. What I read both, horrified and inspired me to research the topic which ultimately led to the details of each song. There was no political motivation, it was more about the Human syndrome of Good and Evil with the emphasis on Evil.

—There is a cover of Rezső Seres’ “Gloomy Sunday” in that album. Were you also influenced by more classical music in this album?

—We love “la música del corazón”, from a full symphony to a solo Spanish guitar. It is not what you play or how you play it but if it is from the Heart.
By the way, although the vocal melody and words are a cover, I wrote the music without ever hearing the original.

The Scriptures is your first album mainly about religion. When and how did you start having your current opinion on religion? 

—I always had issues with religious organizations. One day, before The Scriptures album, all of a sudden, like an epiphany, I realized that if Christian Death was truly my life, perhaps I should do some research into why the name Christian Death is so hated and controversial. Then I became hooked on religion, ALL religions, their origins, the psyche behind each and how all of them, at times,  have manipulated their populations in to submission by leading the pious flocks into the hands of deceitful hypocrite beasts. Politics is boring yet also deceitful where the same Beasts reside like a perpetual Black Plague. I speak not of Politics nor of Fallen Angels but of the Human condition and its pathetic weakness to resist these beasts, be they gods, aliens or men.

—The second part of the album is quite experimental with songs like “A Ringing in Their Ears”. Do you think that the goth scene is more open to this kind of thing? Have you ever been afraid of experimenting with your music?

—My apologies if I offend anyone, the scene now referred to as the Goth Scene, grew out of pure experimentation and innovation. What I frequently see these days is the pilfering of over used sounds and stagnant, poorly executed repetition. Everything we create is an experiment, which many love and many will hate. Either you like our spice or you dislike our Paella.

—The artwork of Sex And Drugs and Jesus Christ was quite polemic, being the model of a real heroin addict, right? Years later there was a problem with the German version too. What happened exactly?

—Well as mentioned before, many people are offended by the words Christian Death but when I included the image of a friend and fan, an Italian heroin addict known as “Bonano di Milano”, May he Rest In Peace, fashioned as Jesus shooting up with the title Sex and Drugs and J.C., then all Hell broke loose in the media. By this stage in my life, I was fully appalled  by the Christian Hierarchy presiding over the planet and it’s shocking history, I was deliberately attempting to provoke the whole thing. Then it backfired, the attack was ruthless, the German Label was threatened by the Christian Democrat party and the label refused to support the cover, however the English label had “mucho más grandes cojones” and released it without question, but, when it arrived in the USA, our shows began to get cancelled, which then led to many shows being cancelled in Germany by order of the then Bishop of Hildesheim. Oddly we never had a problem in the most Catholic countries, like Italy, Spain, Mexico or South or Central America.

—The album has a quite raw sound, the kind of sound that I always link to deathrock. Being Christian Death the first band that comes to your mind when you think of the genre, how do you think that death rock should sound? What does deathrock mean to you?

—Well, in my opinion, that album suffered from working with a poorly organized and badly funded record label, I was pushed to hurry up and spend no money, that is where the raw sound comes from, the same problem existed with earlier labels of deathRock. The so-called genre grew in Los Angeles, independent of the UK goth scene, although simultaneously, which by virtue of press became one. What does that mean to me? In the words of Rozz Williams, “it can mean anything you want it to mean.

All The Love All The Hate was divided into two albums, one more poppy (the love) and one harder. How did you get the concept for these albums?

—I have an obsession with juxtaposition, the attraction and repulsion of opposites, Yin/Yang, wrong/right, male/female, day/night etc. etc. etc.
I wanted to express Love with uplifting, compassionate music and I wanted to express Hate with aggression, anger and my pity for whom it afflicts.

All The Hate sounds a bit more heavy metal, something that has continued in most of your albums. Did you get interested in metal during this time of your life?

—Metal has long been demonstrated as good vehicle to display hate and anger, it has also been around longer than most people alive on the planet. Punk Rock which later influenced Deathrock/Goth Rock was itself influenced by Metal. In particular Black Sabbath was influential in the inspiration of Deathrock. I, like many, am influenced by my surroundings, as an artist, as I walk through the garden of man’s desires, I can not help but sample the fruit of the trees, sown by the seeds of those that came before. Metal is not my forte but one of many influences along the garden path.

—One of your most curious singles was “I Hate You”, a song sung by your 5-year son. How did you get the idea of composing such track? He is also into Goth Rock with The Sixth Chamber, are you happy that he is kind of following your steps?

—The lyrics for that song, which he conceived, was the result of a bad experience he had with some very rough street boys in London, very profound.
He is a good kid and I approve of all his choices.

Sexy Death God was the first album with Maitri. How would you resume her contribution to the band during all these years?

—Working with Maitri is like Yin versus Yang, when searching for the tune, though our frequencies may clash, the end result is perfect harmony.

—Music-wise Prophesies is again quite different from the previous album. This time, it’s a bit more industrial. When you start an album, do you try to do something different from the previous?

—Our simple method is: First arises a message or a meaning or an inspiration, we then translate that message, meaning or inspiration into music that invokes the emotion intended by the message, meaning and inspiration. This method leads un into a world of never-ending variety.

—What can you please tell us of Pornographic Messiah? I think it’s an album that takes time to get in, less immediate that some of your material.

—At the time Maitri and I were in Mexico doing shows around the country. We began to notice a considerable amount of news about paedophilia in the Mexican churches which we also noticed to be more prevalent worldwide from the Vatican to London. It affected us deeply, as it does today. Also at the time, as now, people were talking a lot about end of the world scenarios. The album was an artistic representation, an ostentatiously vulgar portrayal of society looking for an excuse to execute its own demise.”

Born Again Anti Christian was released in 2000, 24 years ago. How do you see that album now? In the past you have said that you did not manage to publish all your records as you would have liked. Is there any that you think should have been done differently?

—Yes, I have a long list of changes that I would love to make to many albums and feel cheated in some ways for being obliged to release them as they were.
Obvious is the nature of that album. At the time we had been getting pretty close to “Dani Filth” and his Cradle Of Filth. Dani, Maitri and I got on very well as we do today and found we had many common interests and distastes, organized religion among them. Collaborating with Dani and crew on that album was a natural progression and a whole lot of fun.

American Inquisition, from 2007, was, according to you, a reaction to 9/11. Being an American band, you are quite critic with your society. Do you think that the rest of American society is like this? We, being European can have a quite a distorted vision of this. Do you think that your lyrics can make American people think about some of the issues of the country?

—We do have hopes of enlightening as many people as possible in America and the World as to the real Evil that hides behind veils and in the shadows of the halls of parliaments, congresses, temples of worship, corporate boardrooms and fraudulent Humanitarian Non-Government Organizations that have the opposite intentions . This evil is creeping up on Humanity silently like a cancer and too few of us have any idea.

—There are a lot of references to conspiracy theories in The Root Of All Evolution. How do you think it’s possible to know nowadays what’s true or what’s false? You have also talked about the techniques of control of the masses by the people at the top. Any writer that you could recommend that has written about this?

—I recommend a book entitled: “The Beast From Jekyll Island”, by G. Edward Griffin, and “The Real Anthony Fauci” by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
The word Conspiracy was first intentionally popularized by the CIA in an attempt to distract the population from the truth about the Kennedy assassinations as they do to this day, even though, by USA law, there was a 50 year limit on the government withholding that information from the public, that time limit expired 12 years ago and they are still covering it up because, as once said in a movie “you can’t handle the truth” when in fact the truth will still hurt the wicked still alive. I once said, on The Scriptures, “I believe everything and nothing” but there appears to be more truth than the allegations of conspiracy.

—And the last album so far is called Evil becomes Rule and it’s a kind of second part of the previous one. This time, it represents the present and the future of evil. How do you see this album inside your discography? How do you see the evolution of the band till 2022 Evil Becomes Rule?

—As artists, we feel very satisfied with our results in making that album everything we dreamed it would be.

—Being such a polemic band, I guess that you have a lot of problems. What’s the story about the bomb threats? I think that in an interview you said something about that. I also read that you had a few problems in Germany.

—Most of the problems we had were in Germany, USA and the UK and were the result of religious organizations attempting to silence us through the power of their influence on those governments or religious zealot protestors. For a time, it seemed to be very popular for lunatics to call in Bomb threats, very annoying if you ask me. the first time we played in Leipzig Germany about 40 people went to hospital with injuries after neo nazi skinheads attacked our followers, instigated by related factions of course.

—What can you please tell us of the side project Lover of Sin? At the beginning you, Valor, were you also involved or was it Maitri’s solo band?

—I was available as much as needed to assist Maitri in those productions.

—This 2024 you are doing the Armageddon tour but what are the plans of  the band for the future? A new album?

—We have several singles and videos planned for this year with many surprises along the way and at the end of our release schedule we will compile them into an album.

Meanwhile, we will be touring the world to promote the music  we are really happy with, the music we created on Evil Becomes Rule and we want to encourage everyone to give that album a listen and know what we are talking about – Thank you.

—What can we expect of the band at DarkMad?
—What you should always expect from Christian Death: The Unexpected!


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