by Marcus Pan
Rock style operas have never been hugely
popular - but we all have seen or at least knew of a few of them. There's
always the (ludicrous) work of Frank Zappa. Then there was Pink Floyd of course
- and they sort of did two. There was always The Wall, but beyond that
was the way The Dark Side of the Moon can be played to fully complement
the movie The Wizard of Oz. A few friends of mine tried it this past
weekend and swear by it - so I lump it among rock operas. There was also The
Wiz and Jesus Christ Superstar. Then there are those that walk
somewhere between indie film and rock opera, like the heralded Rocky Horror
Picture Show. Concept albums are similar beasts too, and these proliferated
in the mid-80's with groups like Iron Maiden (Seventh Son of a Seventh
Son). All of these have their own cult-like following. But there's a new
entry into the rock opera category now - out of New Orleans, MeridieM step up
with a "goth opera" - Distant Thunder. Could this, finally, be our
Cornering MeridieM members Lucas and Kat over the wondrous
Internet, I pick their brains and try to find out the answer to that very
1) First, standard fare band questions. What is the
lineup now of MeridieM and what are each of their responsibilities?
Lucas: Kat and I make up MeridieM solely. Virtually
everything you hear is me either playing or singing.
Kat: Then i give my opinion, then we argue, then he
sees I'm right, and changes it (g). He calls it producing. I do help with the
2) Have there been any line-up changes or has MeridieM
always had these members since inception? And when was inception, now that I
think about it?
Kat: Friday, June 13, '97 was the actual start, but
it was talked about a bit before; a 'goth opera' idea.
3) Your latest CD, In Lies the Humor, is claimed to be a
"straight forward rock album." How different is it from other word you've
Lucas: It was mostly recorded digitally for one
thing. As far as the music, the songs are more about me I think. Or me years
ago. That CD can be summed up by saying it's simply the next 13 songs we wrote
after DT. Also, we discovered that Kat can write and sing. She wrote and sang
what I think is the best song on that CD - God Inside.
Kat: Well, you yourself described the 'cheese factor'
of thunder (g). Humor was just songs, no theme.
4) Do you have plans for any other upcoming releases or
projects that are currently in the works or will be soon?
Lucas: The DAT allows us to stockpile songs until we
want to cut another CD. Kat does have a shop here in the Quarter we are trying
to get off the ground first.
Right now we are enjoying recording at our leisure and
having access to a studio whenever the mood strikes us. I'm going to record
pretty much every day whether we have a CD pending or not. The CDs will come.
But, yes, I would be surprised if we don't have the next CD
out by Christmas.
Kat: We do have a 3rd (and 4th - we tend to have more
songs then fits on a CD ) in the works, but we're at a point where we can take
our time, get the songs a little closer to 'finished' before they get released.
Of course, they're never 'finished'....but we have to.
5) This one I ask in nearly all my interviews. Since the
late '80's, differentiation in "underground" music have resulted in
distinctions such as "gothic," "industrial," "electronica," "darkwave" and
others not as trend-setting. Where do you believe these distinctions in darker
music are headed?
Lucas: Oh boy, this sounds like one I can pull out my
soapbox for, ... ahem.
Obviously the more 'distinctions' the better. Radio stations
and video channels are like evil pied pipers of our generation. Musicians need
the underground not only to avoid the big record companies, but to be able to
finally find music to believe in again.
Musicians are scrambling to the farthest, darkest corners of
their minds to be creative. But there's not, was not, much to draw from. How do
you get the Eagles and Foreigner and the BackStreet Boys out of your head? Lock
yourself in a hole? (hmm...not a bad idea). Don't dare turn on MTV or the radio
or you will be 'altered' by it, ever so slightly. It adds up.
But, assuming that each generation draws its more powerful
influences from bands either of their own generation or the previous one, the
bands of the millennium will be able to draw from these 'distinctions in darker
music' of the 90's. The underground will surface, it always does in one form or
another, and maybe this time it will be in the form of
goth/dark/industrial/voodoo freaking weirdness. Diversity and 'distinctions' of
new ideas is what drives every great revo...oops, don't get me started.
....either all that, or
...this dark underground electronica so forth is just
another way of putting 'lazy wannabe musicians that can't play, and think that
death is a new subject to the world and can push buttons and feel artistic.' I
Kat: Since I read newsgroups a lot, I'm pretty damn
tired of hearing this...sorry. 1- I'm an oldcrankyfartweirdo, and we didn't
have nothing but soft rock, rock, and heavy rock and everything I liked fell
somewhere on the last two...usually combined. 2- I really don't believe in
'dark rock.' I think there's rock with dark lyrics, usually to get the spooky
kids (tm) attention, but I really don't feel that electronica, etc., is anymore
dark that say, Aerosmith (g). And 3- as far as where 'alternative,' i.e. not
the BS boys, music is headed
probably 'round in a circle, where its
always going (Lot of answer for a question I hate, huh?)
6) How has the proliferation of the Internet helped
MeridieM reach new audiences? Do you feel it's been as helpful as you'd hoped,
or do you still do most promotional work on paper?
Lucas: Actually, the only promotional work we
have done is send out a handful of free copies of Distant Thunder and
link to other goth sites on the web. At the risk of really pissing off all the
bands that work and travel and sweat to get the right kinds of exposure, we
have shied away from it. Mainly due to the CD's not representative of what we
have in mind for the future. This CD was made from 10% sweat and 90% fun. That
fun was due mostly to the fact that we never expected/intended for our first CD
to take off.
Our plan was to put out a few CDs to work out the kinks
involved with recording at home. Then, hopefully, put out a CD we want to spend
the money on promoting. That's when we will speak up a little louder. The main
reason why we chose to do this interview with you was simply that you mentioned
us in the same article as Pink Floyd...and the others. The Wall...I could only
aspire. Ha, in all my life I never thought I would be lumped in with Zappa
either, in any context. Yeah, me and Frankie! But, I suppose we'll get a taste
of the power of the Internet through Legends. We don't expect a huge jump in
sales, but we will be watching how many hits we get after this issue comes
Kat: Oh, I think so, we have fans in Sweden, we
certainly wouldn't have done that yet, even if we opted for the
play-clubs-till-we-get-some-local-airplay route I think so far, anyway, its
been as helpful as we've let it, we're not really pushing either CD, and we get
hits and sales.
7) Does MeridieM play live very often, or do you prefer
to remain primarily a studio outfit?
Lucas: We have no interest in playing out right now.
Standing up playing a goth opera is not a great idea. It was written much more
in a play format. I can see performing arts schools allowing their students to
put on the opera with maybe a live band in the orchestra pit :). When we put
out a CD that would be worthy of touring and right for us, then finding players
is never a problem. I do think that bands that don't ever play out deprive
their fans. We don't have a huge fan base to speak of yet, so finding a
motivation to allow that turmoil into our lives is tough right now.
Kat: Well, we'd have to get others involved for that,
or use DAT machines live, ick. I think right now the freedom to record at will
is not worth giving up. And I, for one, don't work and play well with others
8) Now that we exhausted the standard band questions,
let's move on to what I really want to talk about. Now obviously A Distant
Thunder takes influences from many of the rock operas out there. But are there
any in particular from which you took more influence and if so what made that
particular one (or more) important?
Lucas: I spent the better part of my teen years
raising my tolerance for bourbon listening to The Wall several hundred times in
my parent's basement.
Kat can recite every line to Rocky Horror. It's
really impressive to watch her :).
Do these things count?
Pan: You bet they do!
Kat: Everything you listen to influences you, even
the bad stuff (g) - but we didn't really set out for a 'rock opera' in any
particular style, just wrote an overview of the story and started writing
the songs evolved, story changed, lyrics changed, it just morphed
until it was done enough. It really all just came from an idea, we didn't
present it as the be all and end all of the goth experience, but then, a small
percentage of musicals portray a group (Hair), the others are just stories
9) There is a wide variety of musical styles throughout
the album. From the piano of Theme to the garage punk of We're
Disrespectful, the ballads of The Way Poppy Did to the love-centric
Walk With Me. Was it difficult to produce so many styles yourself? Did
you enlist help for any musical scores you weren't as familiar with working
Lucas: Thanks. But no, it wasn't difficult
because it was unintentional. But, just Kat and I worked on the CD. Again, we
started out this project mostly for kicks and to learn the CD process. I know
the CD back mentions David Farrell at UltraSonic Studios. We carried in an
analog 8-track cassette recorder full of finished songs. He helped us take it
to the CD stage. He did us a huge favor by giving us a good price for his time.
The three of us spent a few nights mixing down and playing ping-pong. That's
all the help we cared to enlist.
Kat: Not difficult. Actually I think it's more
difficult to stick to a narrow style. Like I said, we're both influenced by a
wide range of classic and 80's rock (from Black Sabbath to Billy Joel) and it
just naturally comes out in our tastes, I think. Humor is representative of
these varied tastes as well. No, the only help we had (and thank you thank you
to David Farrell of UltraSonic Studios) was in engineering. He was
enthusiastic, patient, and taught us all the steps we didn't know. We did In
Lies the Humor ourselves, only going to the studio to consolidate the DATs
and for final cleaning.
10) One of the stranger things about Distant
Thunder is the lack of the story. There's a summary on the jacket and the
first chapter or so on your website, but the story is, for the most part,
uncreated. Wasn't it difficult to come up with the musical score before having
anything solid to base it on?
Lucas: Actually, there is a completed story. It
wasn't completed when we started, but was certainly finished some time before
the end of that summer. The holdup on releasing the story in its entirety is
that we are not sure what we want to do with the opera just now. We also
wouldn't mind an actual writer to take a look at it and help us in any way. So
far, one prominent 'no thanxs' and several young writers that want to use the
opera as a springboard to yet another vampire story. This is not a vampire
story. It's a story about young people who happen to be goth. What is on the
website and what was in our heads and on countless legal pads was plenty to
complete the project. But the story was solid and completed long before the
Kat: We had a couple people offer to write it, but we
backed out. We are not story writers, although, we do agree on the base
story. We just jumped into the 2nd CD so fast, we didn't write it all out in
book-perfect form. But we did have something to write for, at the time...there
are things we left open to change with the second printing of the CD...which is
coming up soon
like, we've had more time to think about it
changing the punk vs the goths to the jocks vs the goths. At the time it was
the situation, but it has changed.
11) Have you ever considered taking your goth opera to
the next level? Taking it to a stage, or maybe a screenplay?
Lucas: Yes, so many people that have heard it suggest
to us that we could make lots of money if we sold it as a screenplay or put it
on stage. Mostly relatives.
I absolutely think this is a great thing to be done at a
high school, etc., we will make it available if anyone would like to use
we've had several questions along this, already.
12) Most story writers will imbue a character in their
creative work that, if not directly representative of them, at least shows more
character quirks or personality that may reflect themselves. With this in mind,
tell us where Kat and Lucas can be found in Distant Thunder. There is,
after all, Lukas
that of course would be the obvious guess for at least
one of you.
Lucas: I can be found probably more in Jason's
character. The name Lukas was just a bad idea. Again, expecting almost nothing
to come of this CD we took some liberties that seem silly now. I was against
calling the character Lukas. There is no more of me in him than there is Frank
Zappa in me.
Now that's not to say that Kat didn't inspire me when
writing a couple of the more romantic, fluffy songs.
Kat: Well, the Lukas thing was a first draft, and we
kept it, although now we wish we'd change it (and still might). I really don't
see 'us' in the characters. at all...maybe people we've met, though (g).
13) Ok, an obvious question you were probably expected.
Who exactly is "The Committee" before which Jessica had to prove
Lucas: The Committee is something that we probably
all have confronted at one time or another in our lives. We had to work it into
the story somehow. Why not make them a vampire council?
Kat: Well, The Committee is, well, the overseers. The
elders that decide
like the vamp god council. Lukas puts her there and
abandons her, not willing to claim responsibility. And she decides that he's
not really her savior from her life, her dad
that she can decide what she
14) To close, remind everyone how they can reach MeridieM
for their own devices.
Or you can pick it up in New Orleans at Kat's shop Chatte's
http://www.chattes-ruelle.com <---- plug (g)