Music Interview

MeridieM

by Marcus Pan

MeridieMRock 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 story?

Cornering MeridieM members Lucas and Kat over the wondrous Internet, I pick their brains and try to find out the answer to that very question.

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 lyrics.

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 done?

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 can't decide.

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?

MeridieMLucas: 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 out.

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 (g).

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 songs…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 (Joseph, Tommy..etc.)

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 in?

MeridieMLucas: 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 music was.

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…maybe 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 it…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 herself?

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 wants.

14) To close, remind everyone how they can reach MeridieM for their own devices.

http://www.meridiem.com

Or you can pick it up in New Orleans at Kat's shop Chatte's Ruelle
http://www.chattes-ruelle.com <---- plug (g)