INTERVIEW: Melissa London (Project 12:01)

By Kim Mercil with an Introduction By Mike Ventarola

Chain Border

Project 12:01 was formed in the latter part of 1999. The musical goal was to create work that embraced darkwave, electro-pop, industrial, goth-ethereal and alternative without being pigeon holed into any particular category.

The band has been compared to Collide(*), Garbage, Nine Inch Nails(**), Bjork, Delerium(**), Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Mono, Portishead and Switchblade Symphony(+). Lead vocalist Melissa London mixes equal parts of etherealism, operatic ranges and sensual purr's and coo's. Noel Johannes is the keyboard mastermind who also lends vocals from time to time, helping to heighten the voyeuristic and highly charged sensuality of some of the tracks. Brendan Connolly supports on bass and Devin Connolly on guitars, rounding out the sound and thereby taking it from being merely a static synth-keyboard band to one with a full range of feeling and dynamics.

Reviewers of their live shows often marvel at the sonic seduction of this band. Clearly, each member symbiotically works off each other as well as the audience. Every show review thus far infers how the band literally takes the stage and owns it from the second they walk on to it, pulling the audience deeper into their lair and tenaciously holding each and every participant in rapt attention. In spite of the heavy doses of a libidinous quality, the lyrics often belie that something deeper is happening just underneath. The music is made to entertain, but also challenges the listener to insightful parameters.

The quality of mixing dark sensuality with an element of a song storyline has not been lost on many independent film directors who selected work from Project 12:01 for soundtrack inclusion. Recently the band finished their full length CD Time For A Taste(++) which they are hoping to take on the road outside of their hometown of Colorado.

Here, Melissa London shares her thoughts with Kim Mercil regarding music, dreams, the human mind and other factoids about the band.

KM: Melissa London and Noel Johannes are the founding members of Project 12:01. What were you doing prior to forming Project 12:01?

Time For a TasteMelissa London: I was involved in a blend of things. School, other bands, frequenting the club scene, traveling, hanging out with British bands and basically being a social butterfly. Now I'm practically a hermit, go figure. A sign of more focus?

Noel cut his hair and moved out of a po-dunk town in northern Colorado to the Denver-metro area. He started working at a music-instrumental store and buying lots of gear…and lots and lots and lots of gear. He had also been in some other bands that went a-bye-bye.

Then we met each other and our real lives began.

KM: Why do some people say Project 12:01 is an abandoned government conspiracy?

Melissa London: Good question. I've heard that everyone who says that has a small metal chip implanted in the back of their neck.

KM: Recently you did a video shoot which included participants from the local goth community of Denver, CO. What song was the shoot for? How were the results?

Melissa London: The video shoot was actually to catch teaser footage for an upcoming indie film. I really don't know too much about the project other than the film's themes are based around the "gothic" culture and community. We basically got up on stage, played our current live set and did our usual Project 12:01 thing in front of a "goth" crowd. Hopefully the next time we advertise a video shoot, it'll be solely for a Project 12:01-related reason. I can't wait to shoot our first music video!

KM: How did it come about that Project 12:01 contributed music to three independent films: Sleeping Pills, Reality of Life and Killing Me Softly?

Melissa London: Sleeping Pills was almost a given because I was in the film and really close with the crew. The other two films just randomly approached us, which was really cool. Our song Love seems to be an overall favorite as far as the directors are concerned. Film is such an awesome phenomena and some of the greatest films out there are the indie, underground, non-Hollywood films. I would love more soundtrack experiences. Something along the lines of Run Lola Run would rock my world.

KM: How do you feel about having your vocal style compared to that of kaRIN's from Collide?

Melissa London: I'm honestly not familiar enough with Collide's music to really comment. I've heard positive things about them, so I suppose it's a flattering comparison. I've also heard that both of our bands have a dark, electro, guy-girl duo thing going on. I definitely should look further into this. Could be a Darwin and Wallace situation maybe?

KM: What are the internal meanings of the lyrics to the following tracks: Bluish Jewel; Shut The Door; Beyond These Streets.

Melissa London: Okay, getting personal here. I'll give it my best though. Some of this is hard to explain and obviously in the end the internal meanings will and should be different for everyone.

Bluish Jewel has a Romeo & Juliet love-gone-fatal theme to it. Feeling at the end of it all - sanity, love, life.

Shut the Door: imagine reincarnation gone wrong. Egyptian goddess being punished by Egyptian God. Thrown into a harsh life of humanity - memories, confusion, bodies, violation, etc.

Beyond These Streets: relationship struggles. Infidelity. Separation. Loneliness. Trying to make it right again. Trying to forgive.

KM: In what ways does the human mind inspire you?

Melissa London: The human mind is complex, misunderstood, beautiful and in so many ways still unexplored and under-developed. The human mind is what allows us to live beyond primal instinct. I find myself inspired by my own mind when it runs away with itself. When I dream, when I write, when I obsess, when I love, when I laugh, when my moods fly off the handle. For the most part, YOU are YOUR mind. You are not your finger or your leg. You are your mind. That's inspirational.

KM: Reading through your dream journal, I noticed you have some rather vivid dreams. Have you ever had any of them professionally analyzed? If so, how did you react to their actual meaning?

Melissa London: Professionally analyzed? No. But maybe I should. Sometimes I wonder if there's something wrong with me. I literally dream every time I sleep. I can't remember a time otherwise. I can wake up from a ten-hour slumber totally exhausted from the characters, scenarios, places, adventures and twisted themes experienced in my dreams. I go through spurts (like right now) in which I neglect to update my dream journal…sometimes it's all too complex to put into words.

KM: Melissa, what is the meaning behind your quote "I'm not a girl, not yet a vampire?"

Melissa London: Between the fans and the press, somehow I was nicknamed "Gothic Britney" last summer - could have been the short skirt and ponytails, I don't know. I was a bit mortified at first, but then decided to have some fun with it. So, instead of Britney's, "I'm not a girl, not yet a woman" song line, I thought I'd run with, "I'm not a girl, not yet a vampire." Hiss!

KM: If you weren't in the music field, what other outlets would you utilize to express yourself?

Melissa London: I don't want to think about my life without music right now. I'd probably become a crazy animal rights activist or something, sneaking into labs, starting fires and setting the kitty-bunny-rodent communities free.

KM: What are some of the ways you cope with the male chauvinistic attitudes that you come across on the business end of things?

Melissa London: I've heard I'm capable of becoming an uber-bitch. If becoming an uber-bitch translates into holding people accountable for their words and actions and expressing my opinions, then so be it.

KM: What are some of the experiences you walked away with after performing at the Denver Dark Arts Festival(+++) in May?

Melissa London: Lots of great new friends and fans! Not to mention a sense of pride as a dark Denver collective. The entire event was very impressive. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect and ended up being blown away. The friendships we made with the other bands are invaluable. It's about working together - not against each other.

KM: I noticed you have played many shows in your home town of Denver, Co. Have you ever played any shows outside of Denver that I may not be aware of? Do you plan on touring the US in support of your latest release Time For A Taste?

Melissa London: We are definitely looking forward to touring! I think that one of our main obstacles right now is the green evil of money. So, if anyone out there wants to invest in us…! You know, I rip up so many pairs of stockings on stage (purposefully), maybe I should look into a pantyhose endorsement deal. What do you think? Either that, or Devin should contact his Jamba Juice people. Jamba Juice corporate headquarters. We're actually planning on touring in the summer of 2003. At this point, we're thinking a west coast tour. Please stay tuned and check our website for updates! We really want to make it happen.

KM: Lastly, this question is directed to Devin. What is Jamba Juice?

Melissa London: I called Devin on the phone and he said something to the effect of, "Jamba Juice is a smoothie and juice company. They mix carrots and strawberries and bananas and stuff." I opted to nickname Devin "Jamba" because he always has a large Jamba Juice with him at band practice. He just flipped me off and that was the end of that conversation.

(*) Legends has reviewed Collide's Beneath the Skin (#99), Chasing the Ghost (#110), Deep Violet's Dance (#89) and Distort (#99) as well as interviewed them way back in Legends #89. In the future look for the upcoming review of their most recent release Some Kind of Strange as well as a new interview revisiting the band for the first time in four years.
(**) Both Fragile (#94) and Things Falling Apart (#110) from Nine Inch Nails were reviewed in Legends.
(***) Delerium's Poem was reviewed in Legends #110. Also, Rhys Fulber, the brains behind Delerium, was interviewed in Legends #129.
(+) SS's Sinister Nostalgia was reviewed in Legends #121.
(++) Project 12:01's Time For a Taste was reviewed in Legends #125.
(+++) The compilation CD that came of this event was reviewed in Legends #132.

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