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Interview: The Soft Moon

"Now I feel like I really do know who I am."

by Eero Holi

Haunting and hard-hitting, The Soft Moon grabs you by the throat in much the same way Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy, and Front Line Assembly did during the heyday of electro-industrial hybrid. Dig a bit deeper, and you will find an extraordinary story about music as a driving force in uncovering your past. During the current European leg of The Soft Moon Tour 2022, Luis Vasquez had a conversation with El Garaje de Frank on WhatsApp right before stepping on stage for a sound check at Santeria Social Club in Milan. Tough questions were fielded, and many left unanswered, as we traced his journey from a dysfunctional childhood in Victorville to artistic self-discovery in Berlin and back home to record The Exister in the Mojave Desert – where he found out something unsettling that would change his life.

–First, let’s set the scene. You were born in L.A. in 1989 and moved to Victorville in the Western Mojave Desert when you were 9. How was your experience?

–Oh wow, I’m surprised you know about the Victorville part! [laughs] Well, actually, when I first moved up to the desert I wasn’t very happy because I had to come out of school. As a kid, you make friends and when you’re separated from your friends to go to the middle of nowhere, I was pretty frustrated. But that’s what led me to be more creative, so it was kind of love-hate relationship.

–You’ve previously described your family as “poor and violent”. I hope you don’t mind me asking this, but how violent are we talking about?

–I had a stepfather. Around the age of five, I believe, that’s when he entered my life. And there was a lot a lot of fighting, like physical violence, police coming over quite often to arrest either my mother or my dad. Knives were taken out, I got thrown through a glass window, things like that. It was really bad, yeah. I was witnessing all this stuff as a kid.

–But regardless of that background, you got into music at an early age. How did it happen?

–Well, I remember when I first discovered MTV, I would watch it before going to school, and I was just so drawn to it. I guess it was around the end of the glam-rock phase. And I’d just see these guys with long hair playing crazy guitar solos, specifically Slash from Guns’n’Roses. And I was like: “I wanna be that. I wanna make those sounds with a guitar.”


–I really wanted a guitar and I eventually got one from my uncle from prison. And a funny story is, I didn’t know that it required an amplifier [laughs]. I was playing my electric guitar without an amplifier, I was like: “How do I make those sounds?”

 –I noticed your WhatsApp profile picture is from Thriller. Also, you have the word “Sad” tattooed in your arm in the same font as on the album Bad.


–What is it about Michael Jackson that’s so important to you?

–I guess it was again an MTV thing. He’s like otherworldly, especially to a child, witnessing him for the first time. I just really liked his music videos were epic all the time, specifically Thriller. He was a great performer. I think he’s had an impact on me in terms of wanting to be musician, not on the rock side, but on the pop side.

–That’s interesting. Right, let’s talk a little about Europe, now that you’re here. How come your ties to the Old World are so strong?

–All I knew is that at one point I wanted to write something abroad, and I just felt like I needed that kind of challenge to be away of my comfort zone and away from anything familiar, maybe inspire things that I’ve never felt or seen before. But then after writing Deeper I ended up staying in Europe for about six years and a half years.

–In Berlin?

–Yeah, I went from Italy to Berlin. Italy is where I wrote Deeper, and then I moved to Berlin and that’s where I wrote Criminal. I think I’m more connected to something that’s not familiar. I always tend to run away from my family. Going back to one of your previous questions, you can probably understand why.

 –Absolutely. They say Berlin is a city that can bring out the best or worst in you. Which end of the spectrum were you on?

–It did bring out both, I would say. It definitely brought out my worst, which is interesting because that sort of thing benefits my music and creativity. I seem to have this reoccurring thing where I borderline sabotage myself in order to feel something and bring something out. Berlin is definitely a place where you can sabotage yourself pretty easily. It’s maybe a little bit too much freedom for someone like me [laughs].

–Could be, yeah. You mentioned Criminal. There’s a lot of anger on the album, which culminates in Like A Father where you sing ‘you’re the ghost of my problem’. What did you mean by that?

–I’m speaking about my father who I never met and how I feel. Of course, not having a father will definitely affect a child later in life.


–In ways that I’m still trying to figure out.

–Sure. Is that where the anger comes from?

–How Berlin can bring out the worst and the best, well, I was at my peak of my worst when I was writing Criminal so I was very frustrated with myself, I felt ashamed, I felt guilty, I’m literally calling myself ‘a criminal’ on the record. That’s where all the anger comes. I was full of hate at that time.

 –Towards yourself?

–Towards myself, mainly. The lack of discipline that I have, not being able to say ‘no’, not having any boundaries, all the shit that I discovered about myself. That’s what the record represents.

 Well, all those feelings are there, absolutely. Ok, moving on to The Exister. You’ve said that it’s your child self that you hear all over the record. The album was also recorded in Joshua Tree – also in Mojave Desert – where you moved during the pandemic. What prompted you to return back home physically and musically?

–I had felt like making amends with my mother while I was still in Berlin, and I had this illusion that things will be better, so I wanted to come back and heal this relationship that I’d had with her my entire life. That was one of my main intentions. I needed a complete contrast to Berlin, something way different on the opposite side of the spectrum. I needed peace. I needed to at least try to search for peace.

–Hmm… I see.

–And I knew that I wanted to write a record where I could just go full blast, and I can sing the way I’ve always wanted to sing, I can play the actual drums and not bother anyone cause I’d written everything in apartments up until The Exister.

–I’ve understood you already had a very clear idea of the album until you went back to Victorville. First you had a run-in with your mum, and then your uncle got out of prison. What happened?

–Well, first of all, he was the first one who believed in me since I was a child. He always knew I’d be doing something in music. He was the only one who supported me. So then, you know, all this time goes by, he gets released, and then I bring him to Joshua Tree. We spend a few days together, and he filled me in on all the shit about family that I had no idea. So I was really shattered.

–Could you elaborate a bit more on that?

 –Finding out about family members I never met because they were kept away from me. And finding out about the reason why I didn’t have a father was never my father’s fault in the end, and things like that.


–I was about 70% done with the record, and then the concept of the record basically just changed. It was all about emotions and experiencing different things, and my relationship with my mother. Like, those tracks I started writing later. The album became more about the relationship with a mother and a child when my uncle came out of prison, so it definitely shifted a lot of things.

–I have a question about the single Monster. Have you seen Lost Highway by David Lynch?

–Oh yeah, for sure.

–You know the metamorphosis from Fred Madison to Pete Dayton, that’s the first thing that came to me mind when I heard Monster. And when I saw the video, I went: “That’s Fred Madison on death row.”

–Wow… You saw that in your mind even just with the song itself, and then the video afterwards, that’s funny. I can see that.

–Yeah. It’s similar to the common dream of meeting someone who looks exactly like your spouse but is in fact someone else, which is really creepy.

–Yeah… Ooh… I wanna get into that.

–I was just wondering about the whole metamorphosis thing. How did the song come about?

–Well, I’m currently in a relationship and living with a person in Joshua Tree. As I mentioned before, I tend to sabotage myself to the breaking point for writing stuff but then the other person is experiencing all this on the other side, so it was almost like an apology, this song. But it’s also at the same time understanding who I am and being self-aware that I do change into this fucked up person.

–For me the most poignant moment of your album is Answers, and especially the line, “Mum, will you ever let me in?” If you asked your mum that question, what do you think her reply would be?

–She would think I was crazy. And she would be like: “What are you talking about?” She’s just in complete denial and has zero self-awareness. And that’s what I dealt with when I returned to the States thinking that we’re gonna make the relationship better, and then be an actual family. I tried right off the bat basically asking her that question, pretty much the second I got back to the States. The first thing I said to my mum: “Stop the lies, can you please tell me, give me some knowledge.” And it’s just basically I’m the crazy one, so…

–You were talking to a wall.

–Yes. Exactly.

–But regardless of that you still managed to arrive to some sort of conclusion?

–Yeah, the conclusion I arrived to was that my mum won’t change and I’m never gonna get these answers, and that’s the closure I have, actually. It’s just an understanding, and I talked about this with two of my siblings, and it’s the same: she’s just the way she is. She’s somehow blacked out everything, I guess in a way to kind of keep herself safe, you know, mentally.

That wouldn’t surprise me, having listened to you just now talking about flying through windows and knives being taken out. It would be quite understandable to just erase all that from your memory.

–Yes, yes. That’s what I did too. And that’s how The Soft Moon was birthed, actually. With that first record, it was: “Ok, now let’s put the pieces together… Why did I black things out? Why don’t I remember most of my childhood?” That’s basically the starting point of The Soft Moon, and now I’m at The Exister and feeling like I’ve made it till the end.

–So you did find peace in the end, I take it?

–Yeah, I’m definitely feeling more at peace. All that guilt and all that wondering who I am and why I am this and that, I think I’ve resolved all that. And now I feel like I really do know who I am, going forward.

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