Bret Helm - Audra

June 14, 2002

The band is made up of you and your brother and who else?

Currently we have another guitarist named Robert Stacy and he plays guitar and keyboards live but the band is pretty much just me and Bart. We just have other people play with us live. Live it's just me and Bart and Robert. We try to bring in different people every now and then.

You guys tend to shy away from being called a goth band.

It's not that we're not supportive of the goth thing because that's pretty much where our main crowd is based from. I like to consider ourselves a part of that but also a part of just other things. I get really tired of when you read reviews of bands and you read goth in the press and they get where if something's called goth, they assume that it's bad. It's already got a label on it that it's not taken seriously. I don't think that's right. It's almost like a musical stereotype. Almost like a musical racism just because something's goth that there's the assumption that it's not going to be good and it happens everyday when you read reviews in the more mainstream press. It's just kind of irritating. It's not a bad thing. All of our roots and most of the bands that I grew up listening to like Bauhaus and Joy Division, they're considered gothic bands. To be lumped in with bands like that is a good thing. I just don't like the way the media really looks down on it and doesn't take it seriously when it is a serious form of art.

That's kind of silly because I've interviewed different goth bands and something I've come to find is that each goth act has a different sound. There's different styles. You guys have a rock style, black tape for a blue girl has a classical style, Voltaire has a humorous style.

Everything is different and there's room for everyone to do anything they want. People don't even listen to it and so they have this perception that it all sounds the same. It's all about vampires. It's just ridiculous. It's just a lack of knowledge. It's just like you're saying. Inside of that big genre there's so many different styles of music. Ours is definitely more rock based. Like I said, there's room for everyone to do whatever they want.

You prefer to be called darkwave.

I think darkwave is more of an encompassing thing where it includes a lot of different subgenres of that. Darkwave has a nice sound to it. I guess no matter what, you're going to be called anything. It's a difficult question to answer. We just do what we do and it's just rock music to us I guess. If they'd do away with all genre names it would be good.

Who are some of your musical influences and why?

I guess earlier stuff. Me and Bart both grew up listening to Frank Sinatra so I guess that was my earliest one. Mainly what really got me into music was the early U2 records like Boy and Unforgettable Fire. After that was really The Velvet Underground. Especially the first album. Definitely early David Bowie, actually '70s David Bowie; Iggy Pop definitely; Nico from The Velvet Underground, her solo stuff. Just tons of stuff. A lot of stuff from the early '70s and then later on stuff like Bauhaus and Joy Division definitely and then Rozz of Christian Death. I guess as far as why, just because all that stuff to me when I listen to it, it all has a certain depth and emotion to it that I find lacking in most other music. There is something listening to the early U2 stuff that I can just feel. There's a certain energy and passion that really drew them to me and I guess a lot of the other bands that I like all have that in common. That's what I hope to achieve is that same flowing through my music. I guess that's why those are my main source of influence.

You wrote a song in memory of the frontman of Christian Death called "In Hollywood Tonight".

Yeah, that one was on our first album. Rozz was only 34 years old when he died and he had started putting out albums since he was about 16 or 17 and he put out just this incredible body of work throughout the '80s and '90s. He was virtually unknown to mainstream audiences. He was just a really big influence on me. It was just inspiring that someone so young could create something so important and passionate. It was just devastating when he committed suicide. One of the icons was now gone and so I just wrote a poem about it. Then me and Bart just put it to music really quickly and we wrote the song. It's a memorial to him.

You released your first full-length CD in 2000. This is your second release.

This is our second. We've been around since about 1991. We've been working on stuff and we played a scenic club scene for years. We had put out a few tapes and we put a couple of 4 song and 6 song CD EPs out. The second CD EP that we put out called Silver Music is what got us signed to Projekt so we had been recording all throughout the '90s and recording songs. We wanted to wait to record a full album just so it could be done on a label. It could be released so everyone could be able to hear it. The first one came out in 2000 and then the new one this year.

So both of your albums have been released on the Projekt label.

Yeah, the same label as black tape for a blue girl and Voltaire.

Tell us about Going To The Theatre.

Going To The Theatre is more of a storylike theme then the first album. The first album I really drew from personal stuff. More autobiographical versus Going To The Theatre I took to the perception of I wanted it to almost be like 10 acts of a play. It's not really where I feel like there's a full theme like I was going for a concept. If they all blend out that way, they kind of focus on different characters and how they're most affected when they're kids. Things that happen at a young age, things that people experience, and how they turn out as adults. How the things that happen when they're younger and experiences that they have, how the way they shape their lives. Just how some people deal with it and how some people don't deal with it. I think the songs all speak for themselves. I think this album went with a more straight ahead approach to the writing. There's more storylike songs. "Fearless 'Peaches'" deals with a man who likes to dress up in women's clothing and the struggles that he goes through. I know I've had friends that are like that and that song is based on a person so it goes through their hardships in life. Each song has its own story and I think they all speak for themselves. It's nice for people to listen to them and relate it to someone they know or their own lives. I think they really fit well together as a whole story. Separate glimpses in different people's lives.

Who had the idea for the album cover? I think it's cute.

Thank you. That was my idea. It was a family picture. It's not me and Bart. Some people asked if that was us. I don't think we were born in the '20s and we're not female.

It's rather obvious you two are not girls.

That was my idea to use that and we put it together from there. I'm extremely happy the way it turned out. I think it really fits the whole feeling of the album. It's just a nice glimpse into the past. How people dressed. People's entertainment was a lot different back then. They would go out and see plays. You wouldn't sit at home and watch TV. Kind of nice.

Your audience is mainly goth or do you have a wider range of people who come see you?

I think we have a wider range. I know when we play out in Phoenix we get a lot of different kinds of people. I think our music definitely appeals to more people besides only the goth crowd. I think people that listen to the album would really appreciate it. I know that we've had people at our shows that weren't into the goth scene at all that come up and that really, really like it. That's always nice but I guess our main base is in the goth scene which is cool because we have a good supportive audience. I think anyone that gave it a listen would appreciate it.

I love it and I'm a heavy metal chick.

I listen to a lot of heavy metal too.

The subject matter of your songs seem usually grim and dark.

I guess I don't see it that way. The main thing for me is I don't like to write stuff that's just dark. I always think that things need hope. That they just can't be laid out there as just this really dark heavy thing and that it's just like that. It's just like a suffocating blanket on you. The way I write, I always write with the hope that things will get better. That's why songs on the first album like "Don't Whisper My Name In The Dark", they're real dark depressing songs and the reason you write those songs as a writer is so that it can help you out of that situation. It can help cure that. When you sing it or when you listen to it, you want to grow musically and grow in your own life, that you're going to grow and learn from those situations and make things better. That's why I don't see our stuff as being dark in that it's dark and it's a tunnel with no light at the end. That's why there's probably at least two or three songs that use the word "hope" in them because I feel that even in a song like "Fearless 'Peaches'", where it's just a depressing look at a character, how he lives his life, that he still has hope that things are going to change for the better. I think that's important that just in general people live that way who are in bad situations. If that answers the question.

You sing lead vocals on the new black tape for a blue girl album called The Scavenger Bride. How did you get involved with that?

It's cool because I guess years ago I would have never thought I would have been on Projekt Records and singing on a black tape for a blue girl album. I just had gotten an email. Me and Sam keep in really good contact with each other. I get an email one day saying "Brett, how would you like to sing a couple of songs on the new black tape album?" I was like sure! So he just sent them over with the lyrics and the melody to the music. I just learned them and then I had a plane ticket waiting to me to New York and went out there in November of last year and spent the weekend. We just recorded the songs. I'm really happy the way they turned out. We just did the Projekt festival in Philadelphia in May and then I got to perform a couple of songs on lead vocals with black tape there and played some guitar with them. It was a great experience.

You've also been featured multiple times on MTV's Real World. How did you get hooked up with that?

That's something Sam also hooked up over at Projekt. I didn't really do anything. I guess Sam has a contact over there he sent our CD to and the guy really, really liked it. He just started using it. We got emails saying "oh Bret, your songs are going to be on this date, this episode." So we just watched it and there they were. Then they did a 10th anniversary special, The Real World, and they did a countdown of the top 10 best moments of Real World and they used about seven clips of our songs and then they used the song "In Hollywood Tonight" for their number one moment in Real World history. It was cool. It's kind of nice rather than having a video played after Britny Spears. You can have it real subtle so millions of people can hear it without really knowing.

I see Sam is also negotiating placing your CDs in listening stations at Borders Books & Music stores.

I don't know what's going on with Borders yet. I haven't really heard back on that. I know right now through the month of June there's a program called the Isis program and that is doing about 40 stores on the west coast and different states like Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. It's in a listening station at certain stores so people can hear it before they buy it. I'm not sure what's going on with Borders yet but that would be nice.

Are there any plans to tour right now?

Right now we're just rehearsing for a show here next Saturday where we're going to work with a few other musicians for this show and see how it goes. I'm in the preliminary stages of planning a mid-west, east coast tour. Our Projekt festival show went so well that we want to get back out on the road quick so I'm really working on maybe doing from Chicago all the way to New York and some east coast cities. Places like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland on the way. Then I'm also working on getting out to Germany hopefully by the end of the year, maybe October, to do some shows there. Definitely live performances are such a great experience. Kind of what you live for is to get up there and play on stage so I can't wait to get out and do that some more.

What does your live stage show consist of?

What we did for the Projektfest, it was just me, Bart, and Robert. We used a drum machine live. For this coming show we have next Saturday, we're actually going to do our first show with live drums in about five years so it should be interesting. That'll be a five piece lineup for this coming show so we're seeing how it goes and seeing if we want to go back to that method. We just like to keep trying new things. Keep everything fresh. We're real minimalistic as far as stage show. We don't have any dancing naked midgets running across the stage.

Oh damn.

We keep it real simple. I guess the intensity is in the music and just the delivery of it.

Audra