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BLACK TAPE FOR
A BLUE GIRL
by Lorenzo Casaccia, 2002 ©
With a production getting close to a dozen of issues, Black
Tape For A Blue Girl have opened new horizons to gothic music, making it a tool
for philosophical meditations and avantgarde experimentations. The man behind
Black Tape For A Blue Girl is Sam Rosenthal, who also runs their label Projekt,
which issued records by Lycia, Love Spirals Downwards, Soul Whirling Somewhere,
and the like.
Over the years, Rosenthal's music has broadened to absorb influences as diverse as as Enya and Steve Roach from one side as well as European literature and philosophy from the other.
Black Tape's latest record, "The Scavenger Bride", pays homage to one of the greatest novelists of the past century, Frank Kafka.
"The Scavenger Bride" is full of European suggestions,
from Kafka, to Duchamp, to Kinski. I know that you have been interested in Duchamp
for a while, but in this record the European feeling is stronger. How did this
I wanted to create an album that was in a specific time and place, which is a different idea from my past work. I wanted this overall place to come from the words and the stories, as well as from the photographs.
I feel that my music isn't about living in the year 2002 in America.... so i needed a place where I could set my story. And Prague of Kafka's time holds great interest to me....
Are you familiar with the work of Franz Kafka? Do you
think it still relates to today's world?
Yes, I definitely am familiar with Kafka's work. I've been reading his books since the mid-80s, and have found them very comforting, even uplifting. I think it relates to our time today, because it's the story of the absurd being trapped within the bureacratic.
And that definitely still holds true today. For me, his stories are parables about trapping yourself within other people's distractions. Rather than tearing free, his characters allow themselves to be pulled back into the messy world that they could avoid....
Can you introduce me your collaborators in the record?
What was their previous experience, etc? How did you choose them? Did you initially
write these parts for these particular people, or did it all come together afterward?
A little bit of both. For example, I had the words that Martin (from Attrition) speaks in "the scavenger daugher" well before anything was written musically. I emailed him the words and asked him to record them and send them back to me on a CDr. Then they sat around for a while 'til I found the right song for them.
Michael from Unto Ashes came in when songs were well under way, and we made stuff up in the studio.... nothing was really planned. I would just say "try playing something here, and let's see what happens...." And he'd come up with something I enjoyed and then we'd lay it down.
With the vocals, I always write the melodies and words, and then send CDrs to the various singers to rehearse with. Sometimes they are VERY EXACT, such as most of what Elysabeth sings.... and sometimes they take liberties with it, such as "a livery of bachelors." My guide for that one was quite over-the-top. Very Bowie or Adrian Belew. Then Athan (formerly of Spahn Ranch) brought it back a bit, which is fine... because I knew what I sang was just a bit *too* wacky.... Though I knew he would make it work, when I was writing the guide melodies.
The more I think about it, and the less your music sounds
related to rock (this is actually meant to be a compliment). Have you ever thought
composing something longer, more in the tradition of classical music?
I don't think about that, because I am not classically trained. I feel it would come of extremely pompous, such as when Paul McCartney or Billy Joel prattle on about how they are 'classical musicians' now. I can see John Cale being a classical musician, as he actually studied composition in school. It would be quite a stretch for me to compose in that way.
I'm quite fine creating the sort of music I create, and bringing in talented musicians (with classical training) to help me flesh out my ideas.... It's just like when people say my music is "like Opera" because I tell grand stories. Sorry, but I don't know anything about Opera (laughs).
Your style which evokes feeling with vocals and layered
electronics is sometime similar to what Enya did in her early records. Comments?
I listened to the first two Enya albums when they came out. I liked the layering of her voice, but I generally couldn't figure out what the emotional content of her albums were suppose to be. They seemed to vague and too whispy.... So while I can see that the work could be comparable, I also can see many ways that it cannot.
Steve Roach has a brief appearance in the record. Is
his flavor of electronic music (or even Jon Hassell's) an influence?
Not really, no. While I have a massive collection of Steve's records, and I listen to them more than many other artists. I wouldn't say I have taken an influence for working that way. My songs are much more structured, while Steve's are more floating and quite a bit improvised, especially live. I enjoy Jon Hassell, too.
As other Black Tape CDs, "The Scavenger Bride" introduces
itself as a complete work of art, rather than a mere recording (because of the
text inside the booklet, the graphics). Did you ever consider exploring one
of these areas more systematically? For example poetry, or visual arts. (Or
perhaps you already did it and I don't know...)
Well, actually, you are right. I have a video named "fragments" that I made in college, with a selection of shorter videopieces I created; also I have my book, "the first pain to linger."
I don't really get into poetry for it's own sake, though. I don't like reading poetry, and I don't really consider that I am writing poetry, when I write my lyrics. I'd have to say i have this belief because, too often, I find that poems occupy a lot of space, without saying much at all. They seem to go on and on. I like lyrics, because you have to edit down something much longer and more unclear into a certain number of lines (based on the song structure). It causes the writer to be an editor, to work through the text and get rid of the stuff that's fluff. And get it down to a few very precise lines. That's why I like lyrics and not poems...
"Like A Dog / Letter To Brod" ranks among your best compositions.
How was it composed? What can you recall of the time when you composed it?
It was composed as a number of separate elements, actually. The first part was from a live show we did in '99, the last part was the end of a different song that didn't make it onto the album. In the process of putting the album together, I decided to try merging them all together into a song with movements.
Conceptually, you need to follow a thread between "For you will burn you wings upon the sun" (the part with the lyrics), "Tell me you've taken another" and "Like A Dog..." they are a trilogy of songs, each with male singers going "over the edge" in the context of the theme of the song. I've wanted to use the phrase "Like a Dog" in a song, for a while... as it's the last thing K says in the novel "the trial." It's the last thing the character sings in "Tell me you've taken another" ("do you know this joy of feeling betrayed and left, like a dog?") and here it comes back in so far as this character who hasn't developed fully emotionally and he cannot be sure of himself, so he prefers relationships where he is subjugated to a strong woman..... it is definitely an expression of honor to Kafka, that I have involved him in my album.
I felt that Kafka drifted through the album. Not the way you usually think of Kafka: the bureaucracy of Kafka. Rather the sad failed romance of Franz Kafka. He was a very unfulfilled man, romantically, because of the way he tied himself to certain mistaken ideas. I think this album deals a bit with his romantic influence.... if such a thing is imaginable!
I used to read Sartre and the existentialists but the fact of the matter is that I think Kafka is more important to my ideas. Once again, not the "normal" way that people think about his work, but rather the absurdist aspects of his work. In "The Trial" or "The Castle" the situation is absolutely absurd, and the character could so easily "unplug" from the reality, and take his own path, experience the life he chose, and be satisfied. However it is not within his capacity to see this other possibility. And that is part of "the scavenger bride:" the road we are headed down, which seems to be correct and natural, could easily be halted. We could return to our core to try a different path.... as far as what i can recall?
I like writing songs that are really overblown, to the point of just being insane. I'm not saying "hey, this is me!" or "hey, this is desirable behavoir!" i'm really taking Kafka's words, and painting a character with them so you say "whoa, keep that guy away from me!!!" I enjoy doing that.