The New Jacobin Club are a six-piece band who originally started off as a trio of musicians in Western Canada just over 20 years ago. Ahead of their whistle-stop UK tour, the members of NJC have taken the time to talk to SJ about their music, the band , their history and how a fire isn’t always part of the act.
Seeing a band together after such a long time shows how these mainstream groups who need sabbaticals and hiatus’ after a few years together either can’t take the pressure or simply don’t take it seriously enough. While New Jacobin Club are serious about their music, fans and gigs – always giving some free music away with their albums – they have also proven to be insightful, wise, extremely interesting and funny. Recently I had the chance to fire some questions over to them before they descend on Britain for a short tour including the “A Splendid Day Out” steampunk event in Morecambe on June 4th 2016. The full listing of their tour can be found at the bottom of the interview as well as links to their new fifth album Soldiers of the Mark.
Tell us a bit about your history
HORDE I started the band with a drummer I was introduced to as “someone you’d get along with musically” by a mutual friend. The band formed in the fall of 1995 and played its first show a year later, it was a trio until about 2001. We were a very typically deathrock sort of band, but we’ve always had a flair for dressy clothing, capes, robes…. a sinister masquerade of sorts. It was not very popular in the 90’s haha! By the mid 2000’s newer members of the band steered it towards a metal sort of vibe, and a couple of our albums from that period could easily be identified as metal. When we partnered up with the Angry Teeth Freakshow in 2008 our concept and live show took on a more turn-of-the-century carnival theme.
RatKing, Luminous, Candi and myself have been the core of the group for 7 or 8 years, and we all at one time worked at the same musical instrument store. 8 years is a long time – longer than any other core songwriting group this band has had over the years.
CANDI I’m not an original member, I worked with Horde at a music store many years ago and perhaps it was destiny because dragged me into the world of music and we have been working together artistically ever since!
NAGINI I met the NJC at a show we both performed in; I danced with my Cornsnake Lady, and Xerxes invited me to bring my snake act to an NJC show. Strangely enough, I chose a stage outfit that fit right in with the NJC style that night. It looked like it was planned!
RUIN RatKing, The Luminous, and I knew each other years before any of us were a part of NJC; the others, I met after joining. We do have a lot of commonalities though; we often bond over everything from science fiction to comic books to a pretty general love of all things horror.
You’re not a typically steampunk band, what brings you over to the world of corsets and goggles?
RATKING Mostly the corsets and goggles. 😉
HORDE Actually, I think the world of corsets and goggles found us, haha! Our Victorian horror show/carnival aesthetic and themes work well in the steampunk realm, as well as our antique-futuristic instrumentation – electric cello, theremin, and all. I rather like the more recent term “Dreadpunk” to describe the darker side of steampunk that crosses over into tales of horror and the occult – I think we fit into that category quite nicely.
RUIN A lot of past and present members of NJC have incorporated elements of steampunk into their outfits, as well as the live show. We incorporate a lot of different ideas and aesthetics into what we do and that’s definitely a part of it.
CANDI We have always had a penchant for a good corset! I like to think of us as more Dreadpunk, a close relative to steampunk. We are a band of rogues in our own right and steampunk offers a splendid and unorthodox escape from the drudgery of modern life! We like those. 🙂
LUMINOUS I’ve always loved corsets, and Victorian style in general, so this is just an outlet for that aspect of my personality.
NAGINI I admire the steampunk aesthetic! I can see elements in common with the NJC and the corseted, goggled elegance of Steampunk. We also seek beauty within the mechanical beast!
Your videos and stage performances are reminiscent of carnivals and freakshows. Do any of you have experience in that industry?
HORDE Nagini and some past members have, yes. We were partners with the Angry Teeth Freakshow from 2008 to around 2012, members of that group had previously performed in other ensembles and one of them did go on to travel with a unique Western Canada based circus. We also shared the stage with the Guinea Pig stars – a reality show on Discovery Channel.
NAGINI Honestly, no training can cover doing theatrics as part of a live band. The timing! The flow! The unforeseen circumstances! Many of the theatrical pieces I learned from Rima the Bird Girl, a member of the group that performed past NJC stage shows. I blended in my own experience from fire dance and belly dance to the mix.
RUIN Mistress Nagini has experience in those industries, yeah. The rest of us, I think our focus has always been a bit more on music and less on theatrics, except where NJC is concerned.
What was your inspiration for you to invent personas?
HORDE It sets the stage for storytelling – and separates us from our offstage selves. Someone once told me our appearance justified our music, that we wouldn’t get away with what we play if we didn’t walk on stage in character and in costume.
RATKING My usual self is very boring. He would never do what I do.
CANDI Poison Candi is actually a persona I discovered in art school doing performance. She a much bolder version of myself, but she is also very much based on me as a person. Having a persona allows us to leave inhibition at the door and experiment but still keep our day jobs.
LUMINOUS Despite being a performer from a young age (4 or 5), I’ve never been comfortable in front of people. So for me, having a persona is a defense mechanism, as well as being a creative outlet for alternate aspects of my personality.
RUIN Some of us have taken ideas that we like the pure aesthetic of, others express parts of themselves that they might not get to express on a day to day basis, or a combination of the two. Really though, it varies from person to person.
Are you geared up for the British tour?
HORDE So geared up. Like 6 months ago geared up when we first dropped hints to our fan club. All I want is to meet some of these fans that have been so supportive of us over the years…and say thank you. In person.
CANDI I’ve never been more geared up for anything in my LIFE!
Yes this will be my first time in the homeland of goth and I couldn’t be more excited.
LUMINOUS I’m looking forward to interacting with fans who have been following the evolution of our band!
Is this your first trip to the UK?
RUIN As a band, yes. A few of us have spent various amounts of time there, but this is the first time we’re all headed over together.
LUMINOUS My first visit was in August when I presented a paper on the role of women in cyberpunk fiction at Mansfield College in Oxford.
Are you familiar with British cuisine? (You have to try some good British fish & chips while in Morecambe)
HORDE I’m no stranger to Fish Chips – there was a decades old family owned restaurant I grew up very close to that is known for it (Gibson’s Fish & Chips, Saskatoon – go check them out!!!). But I look forward to sampling British cuisine everywhere we go. Because I love food.
CANDI I love food, I cant wait to sample all the fish and chips I can!
What’s the craziest thing to happen while performing?
HORDE The fire at Funky’s in Vancouver – we thought something in the PA system blew and filled the room with smoke until we saw masked firefighters with axes storm past the stage to knock down part of the back wall of the building. News of it traveled so fast the next day people were posting things about it online… I can think of one or two other things that have happened over the years, but not anything I’d want repeated…haha
LUMINOUS Our set having to be cut short because the club we were playing at had started on fire. (This was of course the show on tour that we were not allowed to do fire acts. The fire gods must be appeased.)
RUIN Funky’s in Vancouver, British Columbia; there was a fire in the back alley and the venue caught fire.
Tell us about your character:
I am a supernatural being that has been watching the triumphs and tragedies of humanity since the dawn of time, entertaining the masses with cautionary tales inspired by history. In the late 1800’s I assembled the Order of The Mark – a Hellfire Club whose depraved activities were meant to usher in the final days of all humankind as described in the Book of Revelations. We survive to this day, watching events unfold. And like all proper demons, we are many – I am the Horde.
You started the band nearly 20 years ago, how does that make you feel?
Unaccomplished. Haha just kidding. Actually it makes me feel like a lone survivor of sorts – during all these years I’ve seen friends and contemporaries start bands, succeed, fail, break up, reform, rename…. very few people I know from those early days are still involved in the music industry, and practically none of the bands they were in at the time still exist today.
What was your motivation to start a metal horror band in Western Canada (aside from living there)?
Well, I never set out to start a metal horror band, I think the metal crept into the picture a decade later because of certain members. Starting out we had this sort of Edward Gorey aesthetic and early 80’s deathrock/punk sound. It was stuff we really liked but had no one to share it with. I guess you might say we were trying to kick start a scene that didn’t yet exist in our home province. Everything else in Western Canada at the time was so “safe” and ultra cool…alternative/grunge and aspiring pop punk bands, and very elitist funk and ska groups.
You play Cello, are you classically trained?
Yes, I started Suzuki lessons when I was 4 or 5, although my parents originally wanted me to play piano. The cello, however, won me over.
Your image/persona suggests a twisted porcelain doll, is that right?
That was the original concept, yes! Now …… some sort of demon Victorian courtesan? I don’t know, I’ve never tried to label it before haha.
What was the thought behind adding Cello over, say, violins or some kind of wind instrument?
Well, I didn’t play those other instruments haha. But seriously, the cello has an amazing range and I love that I have the option to either make the sound heavier and darker with the low end (aided by octave pedals) or it can become another melody of sorts in the upper register.
Could you explain to the uninitiated what a Theremin is?
It was originally called an Etherphone, the Theremin is arguably the first electric instrument. Invented by Leon Theremin in 1920, it was mastered by his dearest friend Clara Rockmore and mesmerized audiences for years to come. It’s known by many as the “spooky UFO or ghost sound” in old sci-fi and horror movies. One uses their hands to interfere with frequency and volume and you don’t really touch it at all making it fairly difficult to learn because there is no physical reference for notes or keys.
Your vocals have an 80s gothic rock style, where do you get your inspiration?
I have always loved the ladies of the 80’s. As a child my favourite was Cyndi Lauper, but in High School I was into Pat Benetar, Blondie and Joan Jett….. Later when I discovered goth subculture I fell in love with Souxsie and bands like the Shroud and of course the Misfits. Currently I’m really into Agnete Kjolsrud from Djerve and Animal Alpha. I also listen to a lot of Emilie Autumn and Chelsea Wolfe.
Where do you come up with ideas for your stage performances and outfits?
That’s a great question! I was always a bit of an art school drama geek. Theatrics and escapism have always been dear to my heart. I love the styles of old art movements like the pre-Raphaelites and the romantic women of Alphonse Mucha. The first time I saw Goth fashion I was swept away. Everyone was so beautiful. A super huge influence on me has to be Japanese visual kei music and bands like Malice Mizer. One member in particular who made a huge impact on me was Mana, who has been dubbed the creator of gothic lolita fashion. The high fantasy look of visual kei is one of my all time favourites.
You’re by far the…. most flamboyant of the group. Where does your persona come from?
Why, thank you! My name is inspired by my love of snakes. I have Cornsnakes as pets, and I wanted to incorporate snakes into my stage persona. They also feature in my tattoos, and I enjoy exploring their symbolism.
Where do your ideas come from for your theatrics?
My theatrical ideas are a combination of classic freakshow acts, fire dance and ritual dance. Some from my training, some from the band’s imagination. I’m fortunate to be part of a crew that’ll accommodate me darting past in some contraption while trying to play.
In one of your videos, you look like you’re drinking someone’s blood, what really is happening there?
Hard to say, hard to say, could be the blood of vampires, could be motor oil, heh. I get excited when people question if what they saw on stage was really happening. If I can be part of creating a performance space where cool and spooky things happen for the audience, I feel like I’ve done a good job!
Your outfit seems pretty straightforward but then for the bandages, was that your idea?
I Can’t quite recall anymore. My band members may disagree but I think it was. Haha. For the sake of general safety (mostly for myself) and a usual lack of space, I’m often stuck behind the drums. I like to try to take advantage of my more stationary position by trying to think of things that are visually interesting but impossible for someone who has to move around on stage.
You regularly play blindfolded, is it just so you can show off?
Haha! Unintentionally, if it does happen. There has always been a general idea of depravity with my outfit choices haha. When I joined the band it was a leather hood with the eyes sewn shut. So it was hard to see, but also hard to hear, breath, etc, etc. As time went on and our concept evolved (as it does) I chose to lessen that depravity with just a blindfold.
I knew a drummer that was top notch in the studio but fell to pieces live. Do you prefer studio or live performing?
That’s a hard question. Live is fun because of the crowd interaction and how you only play everything once so you can give it all you have… but I think I like playing in the studio more. I love writing new music and hearing it all come together as each layer is added.
From what I’ve seen you’re the quietest of the group, would you say that’s accurate?
Overall, yeah; I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I’m definitely that guy.
Where does your name come from?
“Ruination” was a character concept I was working on for a short horror story. Horde and I were bouncing names off of each other one night shortly after I joined and I mentioned that one; he suggested shortening it to The Ruin, which I loved the sound of.
Have you always played bass?
Not always, nope. I started with guitar nearly twenty years ago and after a year or so, branched out into bass. Over the years, I developed a real love for it and I’m always looking at new ways to improve and change my playing.
What brought you to the New Jacobin Club?
After NJC and their former bassist parted ways, Rat King asked me if I’d be interested in stepping in to fill the spot. I’d been a fan of the band for years before that and to me, saying no wasn’t even in the cards.
You can download the new fifth album Soldier of the Marks from the New Jacobin webstore here: New Jacobin Club online store
Please note that according to the NJC Facebook page, the Leicester date has changed from originally Friday 3rd June to Thursday 2nd June.
New Jacobin Club – UK TOUR
Thurs June 2 – Leicester, UK @ Firebug w/ the Glass House Museum
Sat June 4 – Morecambe, UK @ Headway Hotel w/ Victor & the Bully
Tue June 7 – Reading, UK @ Castle Tap
Wed June 8 – London, UK @ the Black Heart w/ Orpheum
Fri June 10 – Exeter, UK @ the Barnfield Theatre – Clifford RM w/ the WattingerS
Sat June 11 – Newcastle-u-Lyme, UK @ the Rigger, Stoke w/ the Glass House Museum
Mon June 13 – Brighton, UK @ the Greendoor Store w/ the Dark Design, Fable