Music Interview

Falling Janus

by Jett Black

The Winter ChapterBay area (San Jose) cerebral nightmares have spawned a square-peg quartet that defies music industry pigeon holes. In a pop market where genre specific fans clearly seek conformity, deviants like The Winter Chapter become the welcome oasis to pop-culture weary music enthusiasts. You are as likely to find Gothic bands opening for The Winter Chapter as you would Industrial bands. Beyond these evolving genres, The Winter Chapter continues to explore experimental electronic and darkwave styles and incorporates such creativity into recordings and live performances. Ranging from deep melancholic melodies to intense haunting tribal excursions into new electronic frontiers (Blinded) to meandering forays through gothic rock and darker wave roots of the 80s. Felix exhumes from hidden spiritual mysteries a strong and palatable voice of reasoning, masterfully harmonizing the talents of his fellow performers. Experimental vocals and digitized drum effects descend upon writhing audiences with cold, penetrating aural symmetry. Founder Steve Jennings works magic on a Fretless Bass, Stacy Latta & Jeff Croall contrast and harmonize on dancing keyboards and Felix fronts The Winter Chapter via potent and mature, haunting vocals. In anticipation of their upcoming Southern U.S. tour, four voices extend to you through static electrons the following words of invitation and intrigue.

Aged at just under four years, where is The Winter Chapter on the course of musical development?

Felix: The Winter Chapter is still growing but we've definitely established a style and sound which is ours and already getting recognition. As a songwriting team we click and now the music just happens.

Jeff: Some of that has to do with the reorg. of the band. The guys heading in the opposite direction from the direction of the band left and now we have a very strong direction and dedication.

Steve: But even now that dark and moody atmosphere takes on new forms as we continue to grow with songwriting and experimentation.

How has informative marketing of The Winter Chapter on the Internet at http://www.winterchapter.com helped to develop additional interest in your music?

Stacy: The Web has sent us around the world. Our music being in Italy, Germany, London and Brazil is due to that.

Steve: The Site has helped develop our fan base as well as our business. We've got it set up to really capture the feel of the music and we're working on more stuff even now to make it better. We want you to be able to go there and really know right away what we're about and where we're going.

Jeff: We really are trying to keep this site extra updated. We'll have the usual format for most stuff, but we'll keep adding and removing stuff every couple of weeks to a month. We won't let this become one of those 2 year old never been updated kind of things.

What musical gear does The Winter Chapter currently use for production?

Steve: For live production The Winter Chapter uses Roland Keys (JV80), Korg Trinity Keys, Fender Bass and Guitar, Peavy Amps, Shure Mics, Digitech Vocal effects and Alesis and Roland digital Drums.

Felix: We've really come to trust the gear we're using and we're still experimenting with new effects and equipment for additional sounds.

What will The Winter Chapter attempt to accomplish before the sands of this millennium completely run out?

Steve: Before 2K the Winter Chapter will have completed a tour through the South (Arizona, Texas and Louisiana) which will happen in August and September. We will also begin or be in the process of the follow up CD.

Felix: I hope to experiment more with mind control and religious zealotry.

What developments in recording have begun for the next release by The Winter Chapter?

Steve: We've already begun writing the material for the follow up. The first few of these have been played at our shows and they were really well received.

Jeff: We also resurrected one of the first songs we wrote as a band called "Inside."

Felix: The newest song, "Devil Takes Care of His Own," advances our style even further and continues my war against organized religion. It'll probably be our first single.

Steve: We've also been doing our version of "Lord's Prayer" by the Lords of The New Church live at our shows and this has brought on interest of other bands in the area. So we've begun work on a Lords of the New Church Tribute Compilation.

How will the next release by The Winter Chapter differ from tracks included on the Time Of Faith CD?

Steve: There is a bit more experimentation going on this time. We're drifting away a bit from the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus and we may have a few more instrumentally focused songs.

Which features in San Jose, California have been most favorable for The Winter Chapter?

Steve: San Jose has been important especially in the early stages of the Winter Chapter's existence. There are a lot of recording studios, rehearsal places, college radio, music stores and printing companies all within 10 minutes of each other. When we first started to do shows, the local scene was and still is very supportive.

Stacy: Beyond that there is San Francisco just 45 minutes away where the scene is thriving with clubs going on every night that are playing our music.

Felix: Definitely the Clubs. Rodericks Chamber and Backlash (when Backlash was open) are very supportive and helpful in our promotion.

How would you rate the merits of being independent vs. being signed to a label?

Felix: This is a tough question. We're a very independent band who in many ways are completely self sufficient. We've done all our own promotion and production. We've even kept the lights on stage rigged to foot switches for Jeff to control while he's playing keys. I think it was a control thing for us. But we're starting to realize that for touring and recording it would help to have the support of a label. We are interested in working with producers in the future and the distribution support that comes with a label. But I think we're going to be very picky. We aren't just going to sign for a quick bonus. If we hook up with a label it will be because they really want to stand behind us and help us go even farther.

Where has The Winter Chapter played most often during the past 12 months?

Steve: Mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area. We've done a number of shows supporting national acts and headlining some of our own gigs...(San Jose) Club Mosaic's opening night and SF's "Shrine of Lilith."

Which cities will The Winter Chapter be touring this summer?

Felix: Well the definite cities appear to be Lubbock, Texas; Austin, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; LA, California; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and New Orleans, Louisiana. But we're also looking into parts of Oregon, Seattle, Washington; and parts of Georgia. And if the trip is feasible, anywhere else we can get to.

For whom do you have the most admiration and respect in the music industry over all?

Steve: NIN for going on their own with his own label and the Cure for their consistency and longevity without giving in on style and originality.

Felix: Bowie for never letting anyone get a solid enough fix on him before he surprised them again. And his music which still hits me right where it's supposed to.

Play the all-knowing oracle for a moment and make a prediction concerning changes that might occur in the music industry by the year 2001 AD.

Felix: I don't see any major changes in the industry as a whole. I know we've had labels merging and everyone is in a panic, but come on...my Wheaties still taste the same. Honestly, I think Goth will make a stronger push in the popular industry...really making music headlines. We've started to see film-makers showing a great deal of interest in this scene and that will probably help.

Tell us where you believe The Winter Chapter will be by that time and what developments will be reflected by the band's music.

Felix: Well, of course, I will be the deviant behind all the conspiracies and controversies of that time and...

Jeff: We're going to continue to do what we do. I think we'll have more of a base from which to create and distribute. It will be easier to get our stuff.

Steve: The music will continue to push our own boundaries and limits and will continue to be talked about.

Stacy: I see us really trying some new things that will either help continue our sound as well as create a few surprises.

How important is it to The Winter Chapter to get signed to a major label?

Felix: I think we are reaching a stage where we will need some label to support us in our push. Whether that is a major label or not isn't as important as how much that label is willing to push and promote and tour with us. We're keeping an open mind towards the who but not the how.

What seems to be the most frustrating aspect of rising to success in the music industry?

Felix: Probably distribution. I mean when it comes down to it I have very few choices for getting contacts and distributing in other states and countries short of going there. And even then, sooner or later you have to let someone else take over the details of it. It's a very confusing and stressful part of the job.

Who, or perhaps what, has been most inspirational during developments of The Winter Chapter?

Felix: Personally it's been a constant struggle with the ideas of mortality and the supernatural. I don't claim to have the answers, but I continue to see that organized religion doesn't either. It's been that coupled with some bad personal relationships and one good relationship that have really influenced the lyrical writing.

Steve: I overcame some financial issues that really made me double my dedication to the band and making everyone double their dedication with me.

Felix: Yeah, we sort of both went through that and realized that this is not only what we want to do for a living but, what we have to do for a living in order to stay sane.

Steve: So, in a way, our own accomplishments and each other's accomplishments have been an inspiration to each other and our accomplishments as a band.

The Decaying MatterSince the release of Time Of Faith last fall, what has The Winter Chapter focused on developing in terms of new, unreleased music?

Felix: I think we answered this, but we've written songs and tried them out at live shows with successful results.

Steve: Yeah…see question number 5.

Jeff: As far as focus though, we don't push for a particular type of song. We may have an idea or two and over the course of a practice or two it just sort of develops itself. This time around its happening even faster. Songs are just jumping out of us.

What effects have been incorporated into music featured on the 10 track CD, Time Of Faith?

Felix: Yeah, we've actually got a review where they describe a chorus as sounding like John Doe and Exine of X harmonizing. They thought it was Stacy and I, but it was just me harmonizing with myself on separate tracks.

Stacy: As far as total sound quality we used a lot of effects but the result is *very* similar to our live sound. We really knew we weren't going to go that far away from anything we do to where we wouldn't be able to reproduce it live.

What would you consider milestones in the development of the Winter Chapter?

Felix: The milestones have been the long time friendship of those in the band. When members left or were told to leave. The massive response we've had on the Internet and the release of our CD.

What are some of your more pro-active involvement in addition to creating music within The Winter Chapter?

Felix: If you're talking about charity, I don't have any.

Steve: Scene support. We do help out other bands and clubs in any way we can.

Stacy: We're also pretty immersed in the graphic design/web design world we live in. Two of us are designers and two do web design.

What do you believe was responsible for the transmutation of bands in the late '80s into the evolution of music available after the turn of the decade?

Felix: It's a backlash of sorts. Everything was really produced and refined and grunge was the response to that. Then the synth pop/techno was a reply to that. To a certain extent it's circular and that's why 80s bands and 80s covers are so popular now.

How would you rate marketability of, or interest for, Gothic Rock music today?

Felix: It's getting better. I know this will get some shudders in the gothic crowd as a whole, but the more the industry and popular music takes notice of goth the more these bands will be able to survive and create and keep it around. There were some times there where it seemed like this scene may actually die out. Clubs were at an all time low and so forth. I'm glad to see that it did a 180 and really picked up. Plus it's good to see the new blood out there.

What factors into your evaluation of that market interest?

Felix: The amount that the word "goth" keeps popping up in news, awards shows, movies and other pop culture is a pretty good meter for how its doing in the market.

You pick up a national newspaper tomorrow morning. What would you expect to find highlighted by bold letters on the front page?

Felix: Some damn story about bombing here or refugees there. I only read the comics. News is too depressing.

Jeff: It's sad the state of things right now, but we're not really trying to change the world yet.

Felix: It's a selfish time...sorry.

Any particular philosophies you would like to enchant us with today?

Felix: I'd like to say that whatever you believe is pretty much yours and yours alone and that trying to get everyone to see that same point of view and even to act on that "faith" is not only selfish and political, but also a nuisance. Stop knocking on my door!

How can readers communicate best with The Winter Chapter?

You can send us e-mail at Winterchapter@winterchapter.com. Or you can mail us at:

Winter Chapter
434 Boynton Ave., #138
San Jose, CA 95117, USA

The Winter Chapter
http://www.winterchapter.com