The multi-media/multi-talented New York based artist VOLTAIRE performs in Jacksonville
this Saturday, November 20th, at The Nightmare Before Thanksgiving event at
the Radisson Riverwalk Hotel on the Southbank of Downtown Jacksonville.
He took time out of his extremely hectic schedule to answer some
questions by Max Michaels for MOVEMENT magazine...
Have you had any desire to return to Cuba (Voltaire's birthplace) since your family emigrated here? Or have you been back since, if so how was it?
I have never returned. For better or worse I suffer from a typical case of Cuban Exhile-itis. That is, I grew up being told how horrible Castro is and how I should never go there and give him a single dollar so as not to help him and his cause. I still largely buy into that philosophy. One thing’s for sure though, when the old man dies, I WILL go back. I’m ready for Cuba. The question is….. is Cuba ready for Goth? heh heh.
When did you first become interested in and performing music, and how did you go about bringing that desire to reality?
Well, growing up in the MTV generation, naturally I had illusions of being a rock star at an early age. But I didn’t take them that seriously. Besides, I was making stop-motion animated films in my basement at 10, so it seemed animation was the more reasonable career path to take. And I did. I moved to Manhattan at 17 and started pretty much right away working as a stop-motion animator
on TV commercials. It wasn’t until 10 years later in 1995 that I would play my first show. A friend of mine was promoting a Goth night at a bar on Houston street in Manhattan called Den of Thieves. He invited me to see an act he had booked which he billed as “a solo acoustic Goth performer”. I laughed! “Solo acoustic Goth??? is that even possible? Where are the electric guitars? Where is the drum machine? Will he at least be dressed like a vampire?” Well, anyway, I went. After the show my friend asked me what I thought. I told him, “I thought that sucked! I have been here for an hour and I don’t remember a single lyric he sang, I am not humming any of his melodies!” and then I pompously added, “ I put on a better show every night in my living room!” He called me on it. “Okay,” he said, “you will do your show HERE next Sunday night!” And the rest is history. The 10 year anniversary of that show will be in March 2005!
What was your first stage show, and what was it like for you?
Well, after my friend booked me to play that show I instantly got a case of the worst diarrhea I‘ve ever had! Heh heh.. I was so nervous, I was literally shitting in my pants! Lol! But as I prepared for the show, one thing was clear in my mind; I did not want to be the typical Goth performer whining about how terribly sad he is. So Instead I played songs like When You’re Evil and Ex Lovers’ Lover that, while dark, had a humorous edge to them. My intra-song banter was filled with ridiculous stories about the pope and god knows what else… and mid set I stopped and played Goth Bingo with the audience! (of course the winning number was 666!) Needless to say the audience was pretty stunned. For the first half of the set they stood there trying not to smile!!! But eventually they caved and by the end the whole room was laughing and playing along! You have to understand that HAVING A GOOD TIME at a Goth club in 1995 was down right ILLEGAL! So this was a pretty novel experience for all of us. Word traveled fast about the FUNNY goth show and I got booked more and more. And nearly 10 years later, I’m still doing it… and thankfully, it’s still FUN! ; )
Your bio leans heavily toward your work as an animator, what branch of your artistic endeavors -- music, film, illustration -- do you enjoy the most?
At the risk of sounding cliché… that’s like asking a mother which of her children is her favorite. Honestly, they are all different manifestations of the same thing, that being creativity. There are subtle differences between the 3 but at the end of the day, I would have to say that I love them equally.
What is your favorite Ray Harryhausen film and why?
I would have to say Jason and the Argonauts because it’s the least goofy. Seriously, anyone who watches his movies will tell you that they are watching to see the monsters! Because let me tell you that the scripts and the acting tend to be pretty horrible in some of those films. Jason and the Argonauts is the only one that I think could fly without the animation. In other words, the acting doesn’t make me cringe! Besides, I think the skeleton scene in that film is his absolute finest work!
Have you had any gallery shows of any of your art? (if so give me details)
A friend and colleague of mine (Steve Archer) has a gallery in Baltimore called Angelfall. He invited me last year to do a show there of my animation models. So we transported them to Baltimore for the show. The tricky thing is that they are not for sale. I don’t see them as “art” as much as I see them as artifacts from projects I worked on. I don’t think I could ever part with them! ( I mean really, the tentacled M from the MTV Bosch station ID???? I ain't EVER givin' that away!) I had a similar show years ago in Frankfurt, Germany at the opera house. Other than those two shows. My animation models are on permanent display at The School of Visual Arts in the animation building. I have thought about creating work that would be for sale and doing a show somewhere, but truthfully, between touring, teaching animation, writing and drawing a comic book series, designing a line of toys, working on the coffee table books, working on my line of T-shirts, etc… who has the time?
Do you perform at/attend many Cons per year?
I play about 5 cities a month, usually at Goth clubs. This month it’s Osaka-Japan, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver-Canada and Jacksonville, Florida. As for Cons, I play at DragonCon in Atlanta every year as well as Icon in NY. From time to time I “play” at San Diego Comicon. But they don’t have bands there so it means that I am basically just whipping out the guitar at my booth and clogging the isle! When will they learn that they should give me a stage? Heh heh! Every year it seems I add a con. This year I played at Opus in Denver and I have been getting more and more offers to play at other Cons.
What's been the best advantage for you making appearances at Cons? - i.e., do you think it has helped expose you more as a musician than as an animator or illustrator, or vice versa, or does it gain all your exploits equal attention?
By far the best advantage is that I tend to find myself playing to an audience that wouldn’t have heard of me otherwise. These tend to be people who would have never stepped into a Goth club. But we all share a common interest because we are all geeks and dorks who are into Sci Fi and horror! The concept of the “captured audience” doesn’t hurt either! People don’t tend to leave the convention for 3 days! So chances are you are going to hear me play or hear ABOUT me from someone who did. And then there’s the merch booth! I can sell my Cds (like I would at a show) along with my comic books, toys, T-shirts, etc, and thus appeal to different people who are looking for different things.
And lastly, I LOVE conventions because I am exactly the kind of person who attends them! So basically I get to BE at the convention as my job! You can’t beat that!
What annoys you the most about Cons? (if anything)
Waking up next to a Klingon with a spent tribble in my pants. I hate that!
What can the audience at The Nightmare Before Thanksgiving expect to see this time around from your show? New props, sets, etc.?
I don’t know! I usually don’t figure that out until I’m on stage! It’s just as surprising and fresh for me as it might be for the audience!
Who would you most like to open for on a world tour? + Who would you most like to have open for you?
I would happily open for Bowie! I’d say Bjork.. but I think that touring with her would be very unhealthy for me! Lol!
Hell, I can think of a bunch of people I would open for. I grew up with lots of heroes! And they are all presently on 80s revival tours! Heh heh… As for who I would like to open for me? I have no idea. I’ve never given it that much thought. I’m still very much in the ,”someday I want to be a rockstar” frame of mind! Heh heh.. God forbid I should think I already AM ONE and spend a whole lot of time thinking about who should open for ME! I don’t know, the thought makes me uncomfortable. It’s like saying, “who would you love to have as your waitress?” Besides, anyone who’s been in this business long enough will tell you that the headlining band NEVER watches the opening band!!!! It’s not an ego thing mind you, it’s a scheduling thing. While the opening band is playing, the headliner is either freaking out somewhere or having dinner, chillin out backstage, etc.. you just DON’T want to be in the audience just before you go on. It’s too much on the nerves. I know I am usually in a hotel room either practicing or sitting in the tub until 15 minutes before showtime if I can help it! I opened for Nina Hagen a few months ago and sure enough, somewhere around my second to last song, Nina and her band strolled in the front door, passed the stage and slipped into the backstage area. You can’t take offense. It’s just the way it is.
What was that made you decide to take a more serious tone on "Then and Again"?
Everything and nothing. Life.
I wrote half of those songs 10 years ago. I have always written material of a serious nature. Hell, it’s interspersed throughout my Cds. Anniversary on The Devil’s Bris, Anastasia on Almost Human, Where’s the Girl, I’m Sorry, Number One Fan on Boo Hoo… It’s just that I felt it was time to separate the serious from the funny so that the next LP could be ALL funny!
I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the next LP with some slow, heartfelt songs, but at the same time, I write material like that all of the time and I felt it deserved to be recorded and heard. So I gave those songs their own record.
What is the current project that is filling your days?
Heh heh, that’s a good one! Are you ready?
DEADY The Terrible Teddy (volume 2) graphic novel just went to the printer after 4 months of working on it.
Work on DEADY The Evil Teddy (Volume 3) starts NOW!
DEADY toys are just now going to market after months of design work on them.
I start recording the next LP this month!
I start on the follow up to What is Goth this month!
I just signed a new T-shirt deal so I am working on new designs this month!
I teach stop-motion at the School of Visual arts 2 days a week.
I am playing about 5 cities a month…
I just got heavily involved with the new Fangoria TV…
I am hosting a show they are producing, creating station IDS for them and developing another show or two with them…
So uh, yeah.
Tell us what, if anything, Voltaire fans can look forward to next in all your projects:
Uh, see all that crap I mentioned above! Lol!
I would have to say that DEADY is the one to watch!
This book is going to take off, I really believe that.
It’s got GREAT guest artists!
Just to name a few:
The list goes on and on!
There are toys coming out, and all sorts of other merchandise…
I just feel there’s a lot of excitement about DEADY…
I am VERY excited to see where it might go next year!
Were you one of the millions who hit the Canadian immigration web site after the election was called?
Well, I sure as hell didn’t look into moving to Cuba! ; )
See you at The Nightmare Before Thanksgiving!
For more information on Voltaire visit his official web site www.voltaire.net