INTERVIEW: The Last Dance

By Kim Mercil
Introduction by Mike Ventarola
Photography by Chad Michael Ward

Chain Border

The Last DanceSome evident aspects which make a band legendary would be their style, uniqueness, closeness to their fan base, tight kinship and respect for their band mates. In spite of The Last Dance having been beset with the typical road tour horrors, their anecdotes resonated with humor to find the light from the midst of their tragedy.

Their humor, musical spirit as well as their muse was pushed sorely over the edge with the unfortunate demise of their beloved drummer and founding member "Lucky" Ivan Dominguez. While the band was dealing with the grief from their loss, fans across the globe were reeling from the shock as well. A sudden hush seemed to linger over the underground and none dared to even wonder if this was indeed the end of this ever growing popular band.

However, like the lotus which springs forth from the murky waters, The Last Dance evolved by putting their grief to song. The final outcome was the latest release Whispers In Rage from Dancing Ferret Discs. This CD includes some of the last work that the band played with Dominguez, but more importantly, became a loving tribute to their friend by creating songs just the way Dominguez had wanted.

Whispers In Rage is not only a monument to a talented performer, but also a cathartic experience for the surviving band mates who have been trying to cope with their loss as best they knew how. Ultimately, this loving tribute earmarks a turning point for the band as they present the world with their best album to date. Somewhere in the heavens, one can almost surmise that Dominguez has heard this tribute and is quite pleased with the results as well.

KM: Why did you decide to name your project "The Last Dance?"

WordJeff: Anyone who has had to choose a band name knows that it’s not always the easiest thing to do.  Rick and I had a pretty good idea when we started what kind of music we would be making, and knew from the start that our songs would always try to reflect something real for people.  We wanted a name that would reflect the thoughts that were going into the music.  It reflected some kind of importance, and is just a damn fine name for a band.

KM: The drummer you have now, Tom Coyne; will he be a permanent fixture for The Last Dance or is he only assisting you for tour purposes?

Peter: I think Tom will always be a part of our extended family; he's been a friend for years and he's helped us out immensely throughout those years.  Who knows what the future holds?  Right now, he is still a "hired gun" to do tours and records and we have another fabulous drummer, Stevyn Grey, who has been fulfilling that role for us as well.  In a sense, he is our drummer already and to a certain degree so is Stevyn, because we feel very close to both of them.  He's more than earned his place with us.  He respected and was friends with Ivan and he knows us as people very well.   But right now, the current arrangement is also working very well; we'll just have to see.

Whispers in RageRick: I have known Tom for years. We first played together in the early 90's in a band called The Prophetess.  As Peter said he is a great person, drummer, and friend of ours.  Tom also played drums with us on most of Whispers in Rage, our current album out on Dancing Ferret Discs.  We are in a fortunate situation having both Tom and Stevyn available to us and really as part of our family…they are great!

KM: What role does Phil Van Overeem have as part of The Last Dance?

Peter: Similar to Tom, Phil is also a member of our extended family.  We have had him play with us, do some recording and on this latest tour he mainly acted as our driver, helped with loading and kept us all laughing and on our toes.  He is a lot of fun to be around and is an excellent musician and writer in his own right, and I imagine that at some point his own projects will become more of a priority for him.  But as long as he is available and wants to help out, he will probably be around in some capacity when we tour in the future.

Rick: Yes it is fun having DJ Doomie (as he is known in LA) with us.  He has a very positive spirit and in turn keeps our spirits up while on tour, as well as at home.  Aside from playing with us on occasion, driving us around the country, Phil also helped produce some of Whispers in Rage.  Phil is part of our family, whether he is using Jedi Mind Tricks on Mississippi Police Officers or blowing up things in the desert…one secret, next time you see Phil, if you take him to the most ghetto BBQ place you know of, the kind with the little trailer or shack where only locals go, then you will be his friend forever.

The Last DanceJeff: Tom and Phil are a laugh riot to have on the road.  I envy that they don’t have to be involved in the business of touring or running a band on the road.  But they add a vitality to the tour that can’t be beat.  Phil likes to tour so much we didn’t even have to pay him to go!

KM: The song Do You Believe In Angels gained The Last Dance notoriety amongst the underground scene. What do you feel is the reason people picked up on or connected with this song in particular?

Jeff: It was a great song that came out at just the right time.  It came out just before goth music became all electronic, and people still listened to music with guitars.  It has a good groove and I think it really spoke a simple yet clear message that people related to.  A few compilations picked it up (most notably the Goth Box), and even without any distribution in the US that song just got around.  During our set, it is the song people are likely to hear that sounds familiar to them.  We may have changed a bit over the years, but that song is still fun to perform every time.  People like it, and it will always be a part of where we’ve been.

Rick: A few reasons really.  First of all it is a good song, written originally and then also in the various remix forms.  Cleopatra Records helped it become better known by placing it on a few of their compilations which were heavily circulated.  Some European companies also included it as part of their comps.  As for why people may have connected I would believe it is because the song can be about many things, perceived differently to different people…this allows them to relate and identify with it in their own personal way.  The song talks about questioning, doubt, and then reminding…something most people can identify with whether it is something within themselves or with another person.

KM: On August 3, 2002, The Last Dance encountered a very tragic circumstance; the sudden death of your drummer and founding member "Lucky" Ivan Dominguez. Do you feel that Whispers In Rage would have turned out differently than it did if he was here to have input on it during its creation process?

Jeff: Ivan was always pushing us to go in harder and more energetic directions.  We felt a desire, naturally, to make him proud on this record.  It is a tribute in many ways, from the themes of many of the songs to the overall performance of the whole record.  I remember that I always hated to record vocals with him around because we would have fights about how I should sing parts.  I had always taken a more comfortable approach to recording, and Ivan would always push me to try harder and sing with more energy.  I finally took his advice and sang this album with much more of the true feelings of the songs and closer to how the songs would be performed live.  It’s sad to say, but I think he got more input into this record because we were trying to honor the things he would want.  And it’s a direction we’re happy with.  The next record will probably have even more of that live energy captured on tape.

The Last DanceRick: WIR would have definitely turned out differently.  The album was planned, but only a few tracks were written when Ivan died.  As Jeff stated we stylistically did try to honor Ivan with the record.  But most of the songs were written after our tragedy, and therefore were inspired by it.  I know for myself personally I was consumed with writing and recording the best album and the best songs we had ever done, because I felt I owed it to my friend, who believed in us and believed in me.

Peter: I think it would have been different, but how different and in what ways is impossible to tell.  I think his approach to playing would have played a strong role no matter what.  He would have definitely had a hand in the direction the music went and in how the record was done.  He had been with us for a few months before we started recording Perfect and he was quite involved with that one, but had always expressed a desire to be even more involved with the writing and production.  He definitely inspired Whispers and his spirit is very much a part of the album.  The fact that it is a more aggressive sounding record has a lot to do with him, partly because his style of playing was very hard and we were already going in a harder direction and partly because of the emotions that came up within us as a result of his passing.  It's a well known fact that anger, pain and desperation usually make for great artistic statements and there was a lot of that present during the making of this record.

KM: The production quality on Whispers In Rage is much better than that of your previous releases. What was done differently on this disc from the others?

Peter: There was a conscious effort to capture more of the sound and feel of the live show for this recording.  We always felt something was a bit lacking and some of our more straightforward and blunt fans pointed out to us that they felt the same way.  Having Jeff record with his live vocal mic and allowing him to perform as if it were a concert was a way to address that. Also the way we recorded guitars was more direct sounding more like traditional rock records; and we didn't push ourselves as hard to come up with "perfect" takes, just ones that felt right.  When it came down to mixing, we listened to the mixes on several different speakers to get a mix that sounded good on all of them, and we listened to a lot of different albums by other artists that we felt were very well produced and engineered.   You'd be surprised and possibly freaked out by some of the stuff we used as reference material, but we have always appreciated quality music and quality recordings regardless of the genre.  If you use a record that was nominated for several grammies as a reference to try to make your record sound better, you can't help but learn something and improve your product as a result, without sacrificing your own style.

Rick: Yes we definitely went for a more "TLD Live" feel on the record and thus sacrificed perfection for that feel.  It was a gamble, but I believe it paid off…actually we used much lesser quality microphones, etc on this than any previous recording…it was more about our attitude and direction for the album that made it different.  As far as the mixing went, we brought in Marc Greco from Hate Dept to help produce it, which definitely helped to give it the edge we are known for live, but always seemed to lack on a recording.  As for the mastering we did this ourselves as well, but consulted Andy and Gopal of Bella Morte for their advice…which was really helpful as well.

The Last DanceKM: Whispers In Rage features Mera Roberts and Rachel Mc Donnell of "The Cruxshadows" as guest musicians. Has The Last Dance incorporated guest musicians on any other of your previous releases? If so, which albums and who are they?

Rick: Having Mera and Rachel on WIR was awesome really.  It was an idea going into it, but the outcome was more amazing than any of us imagined.  The other guest musicians on WIR were fantastic as well. Doing this album with only the 3 of us, definitely feeling that something was missing as a result of Ivan's death, it was amazing how each guest musician gladly added their own uniqueness to our album.  As for previous recordings, CDs, etc…we have used other musicians as well, but never to the degree that we did on WIR.  For example, Carl Lemmel, who also toured with us for a short time and performed briefly on WIR, was also part of Perfect and Staring at the Sky.  My wife Michele also has been on previous recordings, including Perfect and Fairytales.

KM: When DJ Patrick and I first heard the song Nightmares we knew it was going to be a huge success for you. It also happens to be the most synthpopish sounding track on the new disc. What influenced you to emphasize on the electronics for the recording of this track?

Rick: Nightmares was the first song I wrote after Ivan died.  To be honest I had no influence other than that I was screaming inside, I could not sleep at night and I felt I was going crazy…I had never felt such ways before.  As afraid as I was to go back to TLD and music after what happened, I did and Nightmares is what came out.  It is more synthpop, definitely, I do notice that as well after listening to the entire album.  During mixing we listened to each song for the CD and decided what instrumentation should be emphasized, for example Wonderlust is very guitars in front, electronics in the back.  But for Nightmares it really just felt right to put the electronica stuff out in front, as it seemed to dictate the song better…that and the violins of course.

KM: The last track 51051 off of Whispers In Rage is dedicated to "Lucky." What is the meaning behind the title of this song?

WordPeter: Actually, the track is really called 51501; unfortunately there was a typo on the back cover that no one caught until it was too late.  The meaning behind the actual title is a reference to the date when the song was first conceived.  It was an idea that we recorded in the middle of rehearsal on the 15th of May of 2001.  We basically were jamming around, came up with something we thought was interesting and recorded it.  It was just drums, bass and guitar.  We got back to rehearsing for several upcoming shows and tours that were planned and the idea was basically thrown into a pile of tapes and forgotten.  When we started work on Whispers in Rage, someone just happened to find it and Jeff was inspired to come up with lyrics for it.  We added some keyboards, courtesy of Carl Lemmel, and we cleaned it up as best we could, and there you have it.  It is a very pure expression of music by the whole band.  There was no forethought or effort to make something special out of this idea previous to this CD.  It just happened to reappear in our lives and it seemed to convey everything Ivan and this band are about, which is ultimately about making heartfelt music for ourselves and whoever else might want to hear it.

KM: Whose choice was it to do a cover of Oingo Boingo's Dead Man's Party? (As fate would have it this was the last song The Last Dance recorded with Ivan.)

Peter: We all chose to do it. One of us, it might have even been me, suggested it as one of several choices of covers to do for a Halloween compilation put out by our European label Apollyon.  If memory serves correctly, Ivan really jumped on the idea first, because he was a really big fan of Boingo, more so than the rest of us.  But we all like the band and the song and we decided to go for it.  It is ironic of course, that it is the last song he recorded with us, as well as the fact that he was so into doing it and really influenced how it was arranged.  It's weird when I think about it.  Maybe there really are no coincidences…

Rick: Yes as Peter said decisions like that are all decided upon by all of us. When choosing a direction as to how to write TLD's version of Dead Man's Party, Ivan and I worked and actually argued a bit about how to do it….he won by the way…and I am happy he did.  This song has become a very special song to us, being the last song Ivan ever recorded, a week before he died, and also the last song he ever played live with us, in Leipzig Germany.  For these reasons we added it to the album, and also we end each show we play live with it…because we do dance to remember.

WordKM: Previous to signing with Dancing Ferret Discs was The Last Dance shopping around for a label to release Whispers In Rage? How did you end up landing on Dancing Ferret?

Rick: The whole process of how we ending up with DFD started months before we even wrote WIR, when we asked Rachel from Cruxshadows to play on it.  When we were recording, Rachel was not able to join us in our studio (CXS are in Florida, we are in California) so we sent tracks to her/them and Rogue recorded her tracks for us, then sent them back to us.  Afterwards Rogue called me and commented how much he liked the new material we were doing, we discussed a few other things and he suggested we submit the new album when finished to DFD.  He also told me he had already told them about it and encouraged them…basically.  When WIR was finished, we sent it off to DFD, they liked it, came to Convergence 9 to meet us and see our live show…and the rest is history. But honestly we do appreciate Patrick at DFD for believing in us and Rogue from CXS for standing behind us…

KM: Do you feel you have grown in popularity since joining the Dancing Ferret roster? How's it going for you since?

Peter: Definitely.  Obviously Dancing Ferret has a lot to do with that because they are really promoting and pushing us harder than any previous label has.  And people are hearing it that never did before.  Also the constant touring and the shows we have done with Cruxshadows have played a great role in our continuing success.  They were instrumental in getting us signed to DFD, and they have continued to help us out and have become very good friends of ours.

WordRick: Just having a label helps that.  It gives you a bit more credibility, etc.  We have had a label in Europe since 1995, which is partially why we have always done better there than here.  But now we have DFD this year and since our deal, our popularity has definitely increased.  As Peter said, as far as touring goes and also touring with CXS, we have seen more people and better responses than ever for the US.  Even here in Hollywood/LA, our home town if you will, this year we are definitely more "the band to like and know, etc…" than ever before.  Also, Dancing Ferret has a great reputation.  So just being affiliated with them helps us.  Our last tour in Europe, many people both fans and press, were complimenting both us and DFD and our deal with them, saying many great things about them.  On the way home, I spent our lay-over in a bar in the Philadelphia airport with a Warner Brothers rep, and when I told him we were with Dancing Ferret he even had nice things to say about them. So yes…it is going great. We are definitely happy with DFD, CXS, and the future TLD is moving towards.

KM: How did it come about The Last Dance is sponsoring the Bleeding Edge Goth line of merchandise?

Rick: Actually Bleeding Edge is sponsoring us, but I suppose you could say it goes both ways. We sell and promote their merchandise, they promote us, help us out, maybe even make dolls of us….our arrangement with them came about really because they asked us to play their release party, back in August when they first released their toys and dolls.  We played the party and had a wonderful time, met everyone in the organization and really they are wonderful people.  We continued our relationship and here we are…watch for their new line in early 2004. I have seen a few of the dolls already and they are quite amazing!  It is really cool to have a company basically believe and like you enough to sponsor you, we appreciate them lots, but also we both have a mutual respect and liking for what the other is doing, and both want to support the scene overall as well.

KM: (This question is for Jeff.) I was very pleased to see you perform here in NY on Nov 1st, 2003. Afterwards members Peter, Rick and Tom were socializing upstairs with the audience. But Jeff was no where to be found, why were you hiding on us?

Jeff: I was smoking crack in the stairwell with my new friends.  Actually, I was watching the Cruxshadows with Patrick… and smoking in the stairwell.  And there were plenty of people there too, thanks.

KM: What would each of you consider to be the highlight of your tour thus far? Have you encountered any mishaps along the way?

WordPeter: There was no one specific highlight for me for this tour.  All of the shows were fun; there were shows that really stood out for me such as New York and Atlanta, and there were some really fun moments such as hanging out with the Cruxshadows, bowling in South Carolina, setting off fireworks in Knoxville Tennessee and hanging out with a whole cast of characters throughout the country, eating BBQ in the wrong part of town whenever we got the chance and overall just having a lot of fun and being silly.  Touring can be a lot of fun or a miserable experience depending on how you approach it.  I tried to have as much fun as possible this tour without getting too concerned about the more tiresome and uncomfortable aspects of it, like trying to fit all our gear and 6 people into a van and make it comfortable for everyone.  Not easy. As far as mishaps go, well, crashing the van in Houston would definitely qualify as a mishap and a costly one at that.  But even that was an adventure and makes for a great story after the fact.  It will be even funnier one day than it is now.

Jeff : The van crash was a definite mishap.  It sucks, but I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often with the amount of traveling we do and the crazy and demanding drives that touring requires.  It’s just one of those things.  We made it through the snowstorm that was Wyoming and crashed in a little bit of rain.  At least we weren’t hurt, and didn’t hurt anyone else.  Best time on tour was going with Rick, Tom and Keri (our merch girl) to a strip club to watch the Laker game because the club didn’t have a TV.  It was like “miss, could you move your leg a little bit, you’re blocking the screen.”

WordRick: Okay the big mishap has definitely been covered, bad van, but TLD and TLD's equipment are all okay.  To add to that story, which will be even funnier later, that night when we arrived in San Antonio we had to use a sledge hammer to get the back doors open so that we could unload and do sound check….can't wait to see the pictures of that. Okay second mishap; In Atlanta, due to unfortunate circumstances, I arrived at sound check after the band already basically set everything up, turned on my guitar amps and wow one of them no longer worked.  Rogue and I tried for about 2 hours to fix it, but we had no success so the rest of the tour I was only half a guitarist, meaning using only one of my ampsI t was a disappointment, but I made it through.  Now that we are home I will get it fixed. More money to spend of course, but all is cool.  Okay on to highlights. Going back to Atlanta, one of my favorite shows on the tour, one definite highlight was having Rachel from CXS join us on stage playing violin on Nightmares.  It was definitely an awesome moment.  The night concluded with Rogue bringing all of TLD on-stage for Marilyn and overall it was just a really memorable and fun night.  New York was awesome as well. Honestly I was not looking forward to returning to NY as our first experience there was a bit strange for me back in 1997, but I was completely overwhelmed by how cool and supportive everyone was. I think I met and hung out with the most fun people there.  And finally, just being on tour with CXS was great. They are really cool people, an awesome band and good friends to us. We really did have lots of silly fun.

KM: Rick, you are the only member of The Last Dance that has a family at home (I saw pictures of your adorable son CJ on the web site How do you handle your life on the road and at home?

Rick: well honestly it is like living two lives at the same time.  On the road, I am TLD's guitarist Rick, taking care of band business person, being silly and crazy sometimes person, loving that I can do what I love and share it with my best friends and people all over the word. The only thing I miss at home is my family.  The occasional phone call at 11 am after I went to sleep at 10 am from my 3 year old son saying, "Daddy I love you," is irreplaceable.  At home I am daddy, husband, take care of everything person, then band business person, TLD guitarist, etc. To be honest the only way I really handle living this life is because my wife Michele is amazing and incredibly supportive.  She believes in us and me sometimes more than I even do.  To quote her, "You better go do it, the band, tour, whatever…if you don't I don't want to be with you because you will be miserable."

KM: Rick, has CJ been able to see his dad in action on stage? Do you feel he may follow in your footsteps?

The Last DanceRick: CJ has seen us play a few times when we had parties at our home and played there as well.  He has also seen us practice when we are writing as we have done some of these practices here in our home.  Being 3, he already loves to play the drums, guitar, and piano.  He loves to sing as well. During the recording of Whispers in Rage, when he was visiting us he wanted to sing as well, often stealing Jeff's wireless microphone and running away with it.  I eventually set up a separate microphone just for him so he could "sing along" as well.  He loved it.  He is definitely aware and proud of what we do. Two months ago my cousin married the manager of Lit and at the wedding CJ heard the members of Lit talking about their band so he went up to them and said, "You have a band?  Well we have a band too….." It was really cute.  I do not know if he will follow in my footsteps as you said, if he chooses to then great, but honestly I will support him in whatever decisions he makes. Whether I end up at his high school sporting event or his rock band concert, I will be there and support him.

Jeff: He’s going to be a drummer.

Rick: The artist behind my hair is a girl here in Southern California named Talia.  She is awesome, very creative and a good friend to me.  I have had my hair in braids for over 4 years, but the colors change about ever 2 or 3 months.  Before this all started she would ask me again and again, “Can I put braids in your hair, you will love it promise,” but I always said no. Eventually I said fine go for it and then I was instantly addicted and love it still.  I was and still am her "experiment / creation" as far as hair goes. As for the fiber optic blinky light hair, that part is my own creation.

KM: With the new year imminently approaching what's on the agenda for The Last Dance?

Rick: I have been working on a few things for 2004.  Lots of touring…definitely.  Touring is what we both love to do and helps promote our music.  We are planning a few tours to Europe including some major festivals, another more extensive US tour, perhaps with The Cruxshadows again and a tour to Australia and South Africa.  We are also going to be releasing our next album and perhaps a remix album as well.  A DVD is the works too, which will include some video from this last US Tour.

KM: If possible, would The Last Dance collaborate with Bella Morte and put out a track or two? Have either of you thought of ever doing this before? I think it would be interesting to see what the out come would be.

Jeff: Andy is one of the best performers in the scene today and it would be an honor to share the stage with him again or to put a song down together.  Having him on stage with us at Convergence was too much fun for words (when we covered their version of The Metro).  I’d be all for it.

Peter: Anything is possible and anything with those crazies would be a lot of fun as well.  We love those guys and we really have some laughs with them.  They are weird, funny, wacky, yet also very down to earth like we are, and they are also damn talented.  I think it would be very interesting and also might be something really cool to try.  We played Berlin's The Metro in Las Vegas recently which BM fans know is a song that they have been covering for quite some time now.  We knew Andy was going to be there and we decided to play the song with that in mind and have him join us on stage.  It was cool; it sounded good and it went over well with the crowd and we had a lot of fun with it, so you never know what we might do in the future.

Rick: Definitely not.  We hate those guys….just a bunch of redneck Virginia farmers who think they are death rock. By the way this is how we show how much we love them and if you know them then I am sure you understand.  Bella Morte are like family to us, awesome friends, an awesome band. Every time we are together we are all crazy and have a blast.  I would love to do a collaboration…just let me know when!

The Last Dance

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