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A Darker Figure #80: Hurricane Harvey Benefit

Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter.

I am throwing a benefit for Hurricane Harvey emergency relief. Most of you probably know that already, but it is something that is coming together very quickly and my biggest fear is that I will get all of these donations and then no one will show up - and then later people will claim not to have heard about the event at all, which would be my failure. But! We have great bands and vendors donating really cool items, so I think that it will go well. 

I don’t trust the Red Cross. I know that people have a lot of feelings about it and I know that they are the biggest and fastest response and that sometimes that is the best option - this time I don’t think that is true. It wasn’t true in Hurricane Katrina and it wasn’t true/still isn’t true in Haiti. So, I’ve chosen Heart to Heart International because I know that they are already on site in Houston and surrounding areas and doing the work. They are a big charity too, but not quite as mismanaged as Red Cross. Local charities and organizations are also very important because they will most likely outlast the big groups, who will eventually leave. The important thing to remember is that this is about helping people. So give to whatever charity you think is best. And don’t forget the animals. The estimated number of animals lost in Katrina was incredible. So, please donate to local shelters and groups that help with re-housing animals too. If you are in Portland, there is a great vegan bake sale happening on 9/9 at Food Fight! Grocery.

PDX Monthly has a running list of local Portland events and donation opportunities.  

Here are the event details:

Emergency Relief Benefit for Hurricane Harvey Flooding:
This event is still taking shape, but please mark your calendars for Wednesday 9/6/2017 at 8pm!

Sky Symbol Rituals
Collective Disparity
Lasers Of Love

Sound mixing and work being donated by Viktor Nova (thanks Viktor!)

We will be taking donations in cash, canned food, clothing (new packs of socks and underwear), and paper goods (toilet paper / feminine hygiene products). There will also be some items for sale that were donated by various business in town.

Donations provided by:
Wells & Verne
Projekt Records

100% of the funds that the event (non-bar items) makes will go to Heart to Heart International to directly benefit flood relief!

The Lovecraft Bar
21+ | 421 SE Grand Ave.
Pay What You Can - ($5 suggested donation)


We leave for France next Friday. I am very excited and very busy until then. I am not sure if/when/how I will be doing the newsletter for the next 3 weeks. I might skip it, to be honest. We’ll see!

newsletterMichael Kurt
A Darker Figure #79

Hello and welcome to A Darker Figure #79! 
Last week was pretty heavy all around, but I think that some really mild life changes are a good thing and that despite their heaviness, things will be better now. I think that for the most part, I am done with the gothic / industrial scene here in Portland. I find myself further and further away from the mess of people that make up the scene - in general, but here specifically. There are, of course, some great people around and those people I will stay in contact with - but for the most part I've been out of it for awhile. The main thing that will be a little difficult is to re-vamp the bands to fit into other local scenes - The Blood of Others will be fairly easy once I can make some connections because it is a pretty diverse sounding band, but Sky Symbol Rituals will change and [product] will mostly stop existing in any kind of future hopes. Who knows, I might be in the mood to dive into harsh EBM again. 

Sophie and I are on the very brink of our trip to France. There are still two more weeks (to the day) until we leave, but it feels like I want to just jump on a plane and get the fuck out of here every single day now - so I think that means we've planned enough. We made payments on our return travel to Paris to catch our flight back to the US last weekend, and that kind of solidified the whole thing. There is a big blank section in the middle of our trip where I didn't want to plan anything and just try to go out and explore the country. I am keeping a special journal for that trip - I am sure that some of it will make its way onto this newsletter. 

I get really sucked in to Vloggers on YouTube. It is mostly a product of my kind-of-boring job and my love of stories mixed with a the excitement of being a voyeur. I tend to cling to a Vlogger and then watch their entire history and then move on to a different one - some stick around and I get back into them once there is a bit more of a back catalog built up, but most kind of fall away and I get tired of them. Recently, I have been watching Tokidoki Traveller - an Australian woman who moved Tokyo - and it has made me really want to go to Japan at some point for a bit. Not live there, but visit for two weeks or so and just see what kind of weird stuff I can get into. She also took a trip to The Netherlands that looked super interesting and now I want to go there too. 

Coffee Corner:

Marigold Coffee - House Bland - Squirrel Rhapsody
Last night I picked up this bag of Marigold Squirrel Rhapsody and am currently filtering it through my Toddy Cold Brew System. I pick coffee mostly by smell these days. Cold Brewing requires a bold to medium roast to get me going with the flavors and intensity that I like and recently I have been experimenting with different brew-lengths. This one was a 12 hour brew, the last one was not as bold and it was a 24 hour brew. 

Marigold Coffee is a local roasting company whose founders have a background in farming and harvesting outside of coffee and they believe that this has a lot to do with the way that they farm and harvest coffee. I am excited to see if that true! 

The smell is great. It is a bold, but smooth smell through the bag. When I opened the bag later, at home, the beans were a nice dark brown - not black or oily - and when I ground them they were light and airy. The taste is smooth too, chocolate-y and light. On the bag it says that the flavor profile is: Walnut and Peanut Butter Candy - and I think that is pretty accurate! 
The cold brew concentrate is a little bit lighter than my last one - which you can see in this picture, my ratio was not quite on point - and the 12-hour brew has a little bit to do with that, but the flavors are definitely not missing! 

Now we are off to see some cats and walk a dog! 

My friend Brian Uhl (who designed our first The Blood of Others shirt) is having an art closing party tonight! 
and that is it! Not a busy week. 

Currently reading: Simone de Beauvoir's Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter

newsletterMichael Kurt
A Darker Figure #78: I've Decided To Cover Up My Burzum Tattoo

I have decided to cover up my Burzum tattoo. This decision has been a long time coming, but has been solidified by a number of recent events. While the events in Charlottesville, VA have been a big part of the immediacy of the decision, a difficult set of conversations are the real driving force.

Recently, I learned that a long time band member was wearing a patch on his vest (and had the same sticker on his car) identifying with the 3%ers group, which is an American “patriot” group that pledges resistance against the US government regarding infringement of the US Constitution. Basically they are an anti-government, pro-gun group that believes that the constitution should go back to its original status. Which also happens to mean they are often anti-gay, racist, and misogynistic - because the constitution was a terrible document and is constantly being improved upon. The founder of the 3%ers movement, who also founded the Oathkeepers (which is a collection of current and former police and military officers with a similar goal - to refuse to uphold laws they see as unconstitutional), is a racist and an all around piece of shit politically. 3%ers movement sounds alright on paper - wants to stand up for something they believe in, wants to protect people’s rights - but it isn't. It is a hate group. No question about it. It’s members want to pretend that it isn't, but their actions don't reflect what they say. Defending and supporting white supremacists and nazis in rallies, making communes on national reserves and claiming that your privileges are being infringed upon as a white farmer, or rushing to literally defend with weapons Kim Davis (who was being arrested for violating probation after being held in contempt of court for refusing (after a court order) to issue same-sex marriage licenses (this was the Oathkeepers, and Davis’ lawyers said no thank you to the armed security detail.) This is a hate group, not a human rights group.

So when I learned that my long time bandmate (who I had replaced recently for other reasons) was wearing the symbol of this group I was pretty concerned. Wes managed to talk to him about it in person this weekend and the first thing he said was “i’m not about the racist stuff.” This is troubling for a lot of reason - 1. He knows there are racist aspects of the group, 2. He choses to be a part of it anyway, and 3. He thinks that the public will separate the two and not just see him as part of a hate group. You can't ignore the racist part and just pick up what you want from a hate group. That isn't how it works. People aren't going to take the time to get to know which part of the racist, misogynistic, homophobic group you take part in.

But! This isn't just a shit-on-him parade. This made me think a lot about my own connections to groups that I thought it might be okay to explain my way through. Which brings me to the Burzum tattoo.

Burzum is an extreme black metal band (made up of one member) that I was really into as a teenager. Church burnings, pagan ideals, spooky sad music. It’s all there. There was a shirt from Burzum that I had for a long time - which was the “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” album shirt - and I really loved the image. It was black shirt with a grey picture of a forest. On the side of the forest road there was a body that was decomposing. It was great. The song is about a return to nature and death, and I really identified with it. So when I was 20 or so I got the tattoo of the words, “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” (If the Light Takes Us). The problem is the sole member of this band is a crazy white supremacist who is still alive and is still spreading his hate-filled, ignorant beliefs. And for a long time I thought that I could just say that that wasn't what it meant to me - that I had another meaning for it, or that I just liked the sentiment of the line “If the Light Takes Us.” But how is that any different than wearing a patch from a hate group and saying “oh, I don't do the racist stuff”? It isn't.

I don't know what i’m going to cover it up with yet, I need to do some more research into how to go about a cover up. But it will happen soon.

Now is not the time to make excuses for hate, even if you don't think it represents you in a larger group that you identify with. Hate groups and activist groups are not the same thing.

newsletterMichael Kurt
A Darker Figure #77: Thoughts on Sarahah and Movie Recommends

Welcome to A Darker Figure #77. I have short to-do about Sarahah and how I think it is dangerous to self-work and then some fun recommendations for movies and a podcast. So if you are just not in the zone today (which I fully understand), skip this first part and take a look at the movie recommendations because they are indeed fun!

Thoughts on Sarahah and The Flaw of Anonymous Honesty

Sarahah is basically an open place where people can come and leave notes for you anonymously, even if they don’t make an account first. It was started by a programmer in Saudi Arabia who was designing a way from employees to leave anonymous suggestions digitally to their employers, but the programmer quickly realized it could have social media uses. It is the newest thing and I think a lot of people believe it is something that they will benefit from. I have seem some people say that it is something that they want to get into because they want to get better at receiving more honest feedback from their peers or people that know them pretty well. Some people, I think, just like the excitement of being anonymous and saying things to people - good or bad. My initial reaction to this is how is this any different than a comment section or Facebook. I mean, you have your name attached to something like Facebook, but that doesn’t make people any more or less emboldened to shit on everything you say.

For me, this feels like the opposite of where the internet should be heading. In an earlier newsletter, I talked about radical honesty being difficult, but the way that things are going to change for art, music, and the world. This, to me, is a bullshit version of radical honesty. If you are hiding behind anonymous posting, you are not being honest, even if the things that you say are what you feel is honest. I could be convinced otherwise, but for now it feels a lot like Sartre’s version of Bad Faith to me. For now it feels like a complaint aggregator and not a tool for positive reflection and self-work. As a caveat to this (because Sophie hates when I caveat things) I have to admit that I have not even been to the site. I have just seen its posts shared everywhere and the reactions to those posts - which have been kind of the pat-me-on-the-back posts that I don’t like because I feel like they stump personal reflection. But! I could be wrong, let me know your experience.

Some recommendations! 

Take me

The Duplas Brother produce a lot of great content: Creep, Togetherness, Safety Not Guaranteed - and I try to watch whatever they put out. The HBO animated show Animals has been the only one so far that I didn't enjoy, but that was on me not them. Take Me was one of those “oh! That sounds fun, let's check it out” late-night movies Sophie and I took a chance on. It was super good! The plot was interesting and creative. It had a good balance of tense and funny moments that were executed in a way that felt fresh but not obscure.

If you have Netflix, check it out!

The Little Hours

I went into this movie knowing that it was going to be a pretty raunchy/fun comedy, but it was way, way better than I thought! I mean, I would even go as far to say it was my generation's Monty Python’s Holy Grail (and I know people are going to scoff at that because their older and things like that are sacred, but you’re nostalgia is blinding you). It was a medieval comedy with modern language, it was a brilliant comedy with some of the best players in the game right now. I laughed harder and louder than I have all year.

Room 104 (HBO Show)

The new Duplas Brothers Horror Anthology for HBO is a simply brilliant premise. One seedy hotel room. That’s it. Characters and themes change with each episode. The first episode was only okay, but the second episode (which features James Van Der Beek, Clark Duke, and Davie-Blue) was much more my speed. The

Turnaround (Maximun Fun Podcast)

I highly suggest this podcast for anyone doing podcasts or interviews! It contains some great insight from some of the best interviewers in the game. Favorite episode so far: Ira Glass.

This Saturday: I will be DJing the opening night of PIG Fest 2 (maybe inside, maybe outside, I don't know)
This Sunday: The Blood of Others live in Portland at the Paris Theater for PIG Fest 2
Wednesday: Go check out iVardensphere opening for VNV Nation at the Hawthorne Theater in Portland
Next Saturday: Bella Morte show! 

newsletterMichael Kurt
A Darker Figure Newsletter #76: Post-Festival Blues

Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter!
I am fresh off the drive home from Terminus Festival that was immediately followed up by 3 hot and worthless days of work. After a festival like Terminus - which is an amazingly special place full of wonderful and special people that I will love until the day that I die - there is a fog of melancholy and a morose sense of missing out. This happens to a lot of artists and musicians after tours, or festivals, or recording an album, or basically any big event in which you feel like the most important person in the world for just a few moments and everyone pats you on the back and gives you that sweet, sweet validation. Then you go home. And you have bills. And you have a day job. And you have friends that talk to you all of the time and kind of... are the best... but see you a lot, so they aren't impressed by your little accomplishments. But! There are a lot of ways to get above the fog, and the craziness.

I usually dig in to creative stuff and just get back to work. I have a lot of creative fires going at once because the energy is strong and I want to stoke the fires back to life as quick as possible. There are plenty of hours each day, especially during the work week, where I can freely think and reflect on all the things that I love and hate about what I do - so when I get home, I like to spend some time with my partner and friends, and then get back to the good stuff. 

Saying all of this, I wanted to reach out to some of my musician and artist friends and get their tips and tricks for how to deal with the post-festival/tour bummers. Not all of them are sad people like me. I tried to get a bunch of different perspectives: 

Alicia Gaines from the band Ganser - We had the pleasure of interviewing Ganser for the Talking to Ghosts Podcast and I have been periodically bugging Alicia with random things in hopes that one day we will be real friends and that I can mooch off her amazing talent or pay her to design something amazing for one of my projects. She is an amazing musician and graphic design artist from the Chicago area and was kind enough to submit the following statement to my kind of personal question:

"I follow the sow/harvest model of sorting out creative energy. The idea being that tour (this also goes for recording an album, etc.) is a lot of harvesting plans that most likely took months to plant. It’s a lot of payoff and gratification shoved into a small time frame. It’s important to realize that after something like that, you’re at zero after a high. Go to a museum, watch films, read books, give yourself songwriting challenges with no set goal, anything that will refuel you after tapping your emotional resources dry. You have to make a safe creative sandbox again before creating the next castle."

Chase Dobson is a live crew member for some big, fancy bands  - I met Chase through our I Die: You Die / Talking to Ghosts Slack group and he has since released a great blackgaze album and was on the most recent The Blood of Others remix album

"My festival experience is likely going to be different from most as my “day job” involves touring with bands doing work in a technical capacity.  Specifically, I design and operate playback systems for backing tracks, in addition I do projection and/or LED wall mapping for the video component to the current show I am touring with (Tycho).  The “comedown” from a festival environment for me is relief (festivals are the worst).  

My typical festival schedule involves going on site the night before we perform to do visuals test, most often after the final band has played for the evening. So, for an international fest, its usually a long travel day and then going on site after midnight to set up our visuals computers and either projection map to a surface or map to an LED wall to ensure that all of the components are “talking to one another” and in focus.  After a nap, we (the crew) would load in our audio equipment and backline, setup and do a soundcheck early in the morning before the festival opens up for the day. If I am not completely wiped out, depending on who is playing I go check out some artists and wait for our turn to perform, the band plays and then we pack it all up and load it out. Festival days are typically exhausting, and the ultimate game of hurry up and wait. Ha, the music industry is pretty glamorous."

Wesley Mueller, co-host of the Talking to Ghost Podcast - Wes is many things - including one of my best friends - he's made all of my video projections for The Blood of Others, he's been a reliable and wonderful co-host of our podcast (often keeping things on topic and good while I drift off into mumbletown), but he is also a wonderful musician and artist in his own right. Check out his site for more details about all his projects. 

"In the past I've been very susceptible to the post-tour/post-festival blues. Every time we'd come back from even a one night show, the next day was an absolute slog of borderline depression. This is why, when I got back from Terminus this year, I was incredibly surprised to find that I felt...good? Maybe it was the proper hydration - I made sure to not only drink water, but to drink things that had electrolytes like sparkling mineral water. Maybe it was getting more sleep than I expected to get. Maybe, and I think this is probably the key, it's that I was coming back to a job that I actually enjoyed, and getting to do good work made coming back from the festival feel just a little less depressing."

Bruce Lord is one half of the wonderful folks at I Die You DIe - Bruce is one of those people that can school you on a lot of really fascinating subjects and I have a lot of respect for him. He's someone that I know I can reach out to and get a great response to on just about any subject. He's a scholar and the kind of nerd that I like to keep around. If you ever need a book recommendation, definitely go to him. 

"It's easy (and fun) to view festivals as the culmination of something: getting confirmation that yes, some romantically minded promoter's gonna take up the Sisyphean task of getting a fest together only to hopefully break even, the unveiling of the lineup, the assembling of a crew of friends from far and wide who maybe only get to see each other once a year. But I try not to view them as a "blow out" or the apotheosis of all the work and anticipation that's led to them. Rather, I get excited about new opportunities which might extend from them. If a relatively new or unknown band impresses, then I've got work cut out for me in checking out their back catalogue and keeping tabs on them from here on out. I couldn't begin to count the number of projects related to blogging or podcasting which have come out of chance meetings at festivals. If I learn that someone's as cool in meat-space as they are online, then hell, my circle of friends has gotten a little bit wider. If you're trying to beat the post-fest blues, make an effort to carry something back home to your day to day above and beyond merch which you can work at in the interim. Remember: Industrial Summer Camp isn't a place, it's a feeling inside your heart."

Terminus Festival highlights:
- Wulfband (of course): Everything You've heard about them is true. See them live if you have the chance. 
- Glass Apple Bonsai: Fun. Pure goofy fun on stage and good music to go along with it. 
- Seeing folks and meeting Slack people: It is super weird to me that anyone listens to my music or our podcast, so to meet some of the people who are fans, or friends from a distance, it is extremely rewarding. I was running around most of the festival trying to get interviews, or connect with people, but the time that I did spend talking to Slack people and friends was extremely worthwhile. 

Self promo: 
- New episode of Talking to Ghosts with PIG & Julien-K went up on Tuesday! 
- The nice fellas over at I Die You Die said some nice things about our show at Terminus in this podcast episode
- Spill Magazine did a wrap up of Terminus Festival as well and you can find it HERE

New podcasts to check out: 
If you are a podcasting nerd like me, you will probably like these podcasts about podcasting/radio: 
How Sound (which is basically a tour of the backstage stuff that goes on in radio and then eventually podcasting.) 
The Turnaround (Interviewing interviewers, it's great!)  

8/7: Meetup @ Lucky Lab in Portland
8/12-8/13: Portland Industrial Goth (PIG) Festival @ Paris Theater - we play on Sunday
8/16: VNV Nation @ Hawthorne Theatre
8/19: KBOO Book fair! @ Cider Riot
8/19: Bella Morte @ The Analog Cafe
9/8: Sophie and I leave for France. 

A Darker Figure #75 live from BANFF Bus!

Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter! I am not sure what number it is right now because we are on a bus headed up to BANFF to see some goddamn mountains!

The Blood of Others went on first - opening up the Terminus Festival - here in Calgary, AB. I was a little bummed that we were going on first, but there were a bunch of people there! It was a packed room for the first band of the first night of a 3 day festival and that is exactly why Terminus is my favorite. It is the best. We did really well. Sophie was nervous but we assured her that the energy from a bigger audience would push her through and bring that pure inner heat that is required for fucking killing it on stage. And she killed it with the rest of us. We sold out of CDs, Patches, and Stickers, which is awesome.

There are a bunch of people from our Talking to Ghosts/I Die : You Die Slack here at the festival and it is pretty cool to touch base in person.

Someone on this bus just told me Cool Runnings was filmed here… so… it is a great place.

Festivals are weird atmospheres. Not only do I tend to shelter myself in a corner and not talk to people, but I also manage to meet so many people. People have downtime and want to reach out. Two years ago, I came to Terminus by myself to do interviews and see Vallhall play. I just kind of posted up in the hotel lobby and followed people to coffee, lunch, and ultimately soundcheck bugging them for interviews and sometimes friendship. It was uncomfortable, but also the best time.  I highly suggest going to Terminus Festival. There’s something special about the way that people group together from all around the world in one 400-capacity venue. All the artists are in the crowd, enjoying the other bands and the atmosphere.

I have a book checked out from the library that I’m supposed to be reading, but I've been sucked into a bunch of comic books lately, so I have been neglecting it. It's a bummer, but i’ll get back to it. 

This week's newsletter is kind of short and gushy over the festival, so here is a couple of recommendations from people on this bus:

  • Avi - Rope Sect’s new record is super good: 

  • Wes - Reply All podcast from Gimlet:

  • Warren - NITE’s new album Reborn:

  • Monica - “How Not to Die” Michael Greger:

  • Sophie - “Revival” comic: 

We are traveling back to Portland alllllll day Monday and back to work on Tuesday. What a bummer.
New Talking to Ghosts episode is up on Tuesday!

A Darker Figure #74: Terminus Festival Prep, Marrow Island, The Big Sick, Pharmakon

Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter! We are moments away from Terminus Festival! It is really a week away, but it sure feels like moments when I think about all of the things that I still need to do and the amount of driving that will be taking place. 

Speaking of Terminus Festival, here are all of the Talking to Ghost podcast episodes that we/I have done at Terminus in the past:

And here are a list of this year’s bands that we have already interviewed: 

We are definitely planning to do some interviews while we are there! Everyone at Terminus is always awesome and I love it there. This will be my third time and Sophie’s first time, which is very exciting.

Reading Corner: Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

I finished the audiobook version of Marrow Island this week - which is a book set in the Pacific Northwest that deals with a reporter returning to the island off the Washington Coast that she grew up on, but that also had a large earthquake-related accident that caused not only her father to die, but the environment to be really fucked up. She returns to touch base with an old friend/childhood lover, but finds that the religious cult-like commune that she lives in on the island has a lot more problems than they are letting on. It gets pretty crazy. At the end of the book I was pretty confused for a minute because with the audiobook it seems like it kind of ends inappropriately early, but a trip to Powell’s this morning confirms that this is how the book ends. After thinking about it for awhile, I like it. It was a good book.

Movie Corner: The Big Sick

There is probably a good chance that I have talked to you about this already, whether it is through Facebook, or Slack, or some other method - I have definitely been praising it to as many people as I can because, not only do I love it, I feel a little bit like my distant friends made a movie about their lives and that they did such a good job. I want to make it clear that I, in no way, know Kumail or Emily at all, but I consume a lot of their collective media (Stand up, podcasts, books, etc) and I believe that they are good people. If you aren’t familiar: The Big Sick is the real story about how Kumail and Emily met, started dating, and then she went into a coma for like 10 days. It is really funny, really sad, and really well done. It was clearly not only a labor of love, but one of experience and honesty.

Go see it in theaters. Go see it tomorrow. It was great.

A Show: Pharmakon

Sophie and I went to the Pharmakon last week and it was super good! We were not sure what to expect from the live show because noise shows very pretty wildly in performance style, but usually I know it is going to be something either weird, or impactful. Caustic Touch opened the show and did a more rhythm-driven set than I thought she was going to, which is definitely what I prefer in noise shows. Pharmakon was a little late coming up from California, but she came right in and set up and then proceeded to kill it completely. It was intense, and interesting to watch, and super angry. It was awesome to see this kind of unassuming blonde woman - who looks fairly normal by Portland standards - just brutally beat people down with sound and physical intensity. She would run through the crowd and crawl on the ground and trip people up with the mic cord. If she is coming to your town and you like noise music, I would definitely suggest it. Very inspiriting.

I also read in an interview that she is a big nerd for books, so I gave her a copy of Shelter in Place (you know why.) I didn’t get the chance to talk to her about it because she left right off the stage, but the merch guy seems stoked about it. 









A Darker Figure #73: Sophie's first show with The Blood of Others

Yes, I'm taking over the newsletter this week. Last Friday I played my first show with The Blood of Others. I was on bass keys. I had been practicing regularly with the guys and on my own for a while because I had never done anything like that before and I anticipated that I would be super scared to be on stage and I wanted to get as many things as possible under control beforehand, because everybody knows that there are many unknown factors once you’re on stage and it could all go to shit so fast and so if at least I knew my parts very well, that meant I could keep that in mind to reassure myself that it was going to work out. Well damn, that was a crazy sentence.

I also wanted to be able to just enjoy myself and rock out and have fun, and watch Michael be his sexy self on stage, and I was able to do all of those things. We all had a great time! This is what we look like when we’re having fun:

Photo by Nate Bennett

Photo by Nate Bennett

It was an awesome and kind of surreal experience. Surreal because I am so used to watching the show from the other side and being so excited to just be there and see it happen. It occurred to me in the midst of it that this time I was helping it happen and it felt exhilarating, incongruous, and a bit ridiculous. On top of that, Wes made me laugh in the middle of it and now there is a picture of me with a big smile while everybody else looks super serious because they know The Blood of Others is no laughing matter. Take a look:

Photo by Cybermind Photography

Photo by Cybermind Photography

Now everybody is going to think I find the extinction of nature hilarious. Look at that noob over there giggling over the death of our forests. She must think it’s too dark and no one can see her. I for sure always know how to make a good impression. But to my defense, it didn’t help to look at one of the backing videos of a deer sassily walking around like he owns the block. I guess that’s part of the point Michael is trying to make with his lyrics:  well, that deer does in fact own the place and you’d better get the fuck out of his way. That deer is not joking. That deer will sass you out of the room in no time with his dope neck moves.

The rest of the show was awesome! Marck from UNCRSD was great; it was my first time seeing him live after seeing him around for a while. And James from Jihad put on a really good show too. He is also a really nice guy and I ended up doing merch for him as well (I usually do merch for The Blood of Others). There was a guy who kept coming back to the merch table and was very excited about all the bands and asked a lot of questions and bought a lot of stuff, so that was cool.

I was wondering if I would have any pictures of the show and it turns out there are plenty, so thanks to all the people who took those! I was talking to Wes before the show about how I’d like to have pictures to show my family (nerd!), and he had this idea of getting a disposable camera and giving it to someone in the audience. I think one of the Missing Witness guys took care of that, and we are looking forward to seeing what the photos look like. Wes said he got some of his favorite pictures of his own show a while ago when he used a disposable camera. Wes knows what’s up.

The feedback for our show was really good, and I am happy about that. A few people told me that I did well and that was nice. I didn’t talk to many people because I am just awkward and I’m not sure what to say. If you feel like I’m weird, you’re onto something, but it’s not that I don’t want to talk to you, it’s mostly social awkwardness, which I’m sure many people relate to. In a weird way it’s easier on stage because I know what I’m doing and I don’t have to come up with stuff to say. I used to drink a little bit in social settings (mostly because I used to hang around alcoholics and wasn’t sure yet of what I wanted to do with myself) and of course that helped, but I decided a few years ago that it really wasn’t what I wanted for myself and that I would rather be honest with myself and others even if that meant it was going to be - sometimes - painfully awkward.

It used to be way worse, to where just being in a room with other people would make me nervous and self-conscious, so for me to be able to be on a stage now is huge. It also helps to be surrounded by really good people, some of whom have this crazy ability to make conversation effortlessly. I was talking with Michael about this the other day, about how it surprises me that he still defines himself as somewhat socially awkward, while I feel like he is so good at talking to people now (even if he says he wasn’t in the past). I think it’s interesting how we are sometimes stuck in seeing ourselves the way we used to be while people around us can see a completely different thing because they notice the change more than we do.

Now for the special “Silly Sophie” minute of the week: a few days ago, I was outside the Lovecraft Bar here in Portland and people were having a conversation about the movie Robocop (which I’ve never seen). When I heard, “you know, Robocop, that movie where a cop becomes a robot…,” my mind was totally blown because I never realized that Robocop actually meant “Robot-cop” so I had one of those dumb moments when I was like “Oooooh, that’s why he’s called Robocop…It makes so much sense!” I didn’t say anything then because I didn’t feel like it but I just wrote here that I wanted to be honest, so here goes. This was my dumb moment of the week. But to be fair, the movie was part of an era when I was in France and didn’t speak English, so I didn’t know what “cop” meant, and they didn’t translate the title in France (sometimes they do, and it’s either terrible or somewhat cooler, like “The Teeth of the Sea” for “Jaws”). So to me, Robocop was just a random name, really he could have been called anything, and that’s how it remained in my psyche even though I now know what a cop is. That made me wonder how many French people who actually saw the movie in French and don’t speak English still don’t know that the name is super intentional. Now I feel extra smart and I’m patting myself on the back.
You should comment on this newsletter and share your dumb moment of the week with us. I know you’ve had one. Then we can all feel super smart together.

To stay on the topic of honesty, I'll leave you with what Jonathan Safran Foer said yesterday at the reading I went to (this is the gist of it): "Sometimes people tell me, 'I liked your book a lot but I wish there was less [insert whatever here] in it,' and I tell them, 'Sure, there could be, for instance, less swearing in my book, and I don't think the book would be any less of a good book without it; I don't think the book wouldn't be as good if it were, say, more charming, but I do think it would be less honest, and that's why these things needed to be in there."

Next week Michael should be back to writing his own newsletter, so you can look forward to that. Thanks for having me!



Tonight: Pharmakon at High Water Mark. Should be interesting!

7.18.17: Screening of Phantasmagoria at the Lovecraft

7.28.17 to 7.30.17: Terminus Festival!! The Blood of Others is opening the festival so you'd better show up early.

A Darker Figure #72: Writing Inspiration and Style

Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter!

This week I met up with a close friend that I only see about every 6 months. Our relationship is strange, but also very strong. We see each other about twice a year - three times a few years ago - and every time we meet up for coffee we pick up right where the last time left off. The familiarity and the easiness of conversation is something that I don’t really have with a lot of people and it is the best every time. We quickly catch up on life events and random things that happened to us and then get to the good philosophical/social/cultural stuff. She is writing a piece of long fiction and for some reason I always give her my best writing advice (despite being slightly younger and slightly more inexperienced). While talking about writing and the craft of composing a piece I realized that I have read a lot of books recently that changed the way that I look at writing - really inspiring works. All but one of these books I’ve talked about in this newsletter before, but I thought I would outline them again anyway.

Shelter In Place by Alexander Maksik (fiction)

Shelter in Place is such a unique and charismatic piece of writing. It’s voice and narration is short and simple, but honest and thrilling all at the same time. The way that the Maksik deals with mental disorder and depression are clear and (again) honest, characterizing it sometimes as a bird that looms over him, and other times a black tar that sinks into his mind and takes over. It is hard to explain why the writing is good other than just to say that it is compelling and heartfelt. I tried to read A Marker to Measure Drift, which was the book that was released before Shelter in Place but found that the style wasn’t at all the same and that it didn’t have the same appeal to me - this might have been because I finished Shelter In Place and then immediately went to the library to find A Marker to Measure Drift and that maybe I was too invested in the style to appreciate it fully. I might go back to it later when some time has passed and I have calmed the fuck down about how great that book was.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong (poetry)

I picked this book up this week after many, many visits to the Powell’s Books Poetry section. Nancy Showers posted a short excerpt from one of the poems after Brant picked it up for her while he was in Portland a few months ago and I was super intrigued. Poetry is not a format that I usually gravitate towards, but there is something special about Vuong’s style of imagery - it is so vivid and full of violence, much like his life was/is. The entire book has a through line and personal history that is just fascinating. I finished it in one sitting and plan to go back through a few more times, if anything just to gleam the style for little hints and the way that certain rhythms are constructed by the layout. If you have been sleeping on good modern poetry - like me - and think of it as the old school rhyming algorithm, I definitely suggest picking up this book. 

Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti (autobiography)

I wrote about this last week, so I’ll keep it brief. The non-fiction style of this book is the kind that is most appealing to me. A mixture of personal stories, including the ups and downs of the in-between-times when art isn’t exactly making things work, personal successes, and the really bad times behind the scenes. There is something that is deeply personal - and I know that you are thinking that it is an autobiography, and the answer should be no shit, but it isn’t always the whole picture with some authors and I feel like they leave out their insights into what is happening around them during the different periods of their lives - and diary-esque about the way the book is written.   

It’s Only The End of The World (Juste la fin du monde) written and directed by Xavier Dolan (movie)

I also wanted to include this movie because the dialogue and the tone of the movie was so perfect. It was awkward and troubling, familiar (literally and figuratively) and distant. It managed to convey the nervousness that comes with re-connection and the kind of weird separation that happens when you leave the family home to start your adult life. I still live very close to both my parents and my only brother, but it still conveyed to me a certain message. Leaving is hard. Perception is even harder. And that sometimes you think that you are doing something for yourself, but you also need to (in a sense) give permission to yourself and others to feel a certain way about it. There was a point in the movie where the main character - who has left home and made a very successful life for himself pursuing his passion in the city, basically he is the one who left and despite still sending postcards and letters, has created a great distance - is talking to his mother alone and she asks him to give his younger sister (who he didn’t really grow up with because she was much younger while he was living at home) permission to visit him in the city - permission to leave home - permission to explore despite herself. I thought that was interesting, and really well portrayed with long, uncomfortable shots of both characters during their conversation.



We have a show tonight! In Seattle! With Jihad and UNCRSD

7-10-17: Jonathan Safron Foer at Powell’s

7-11-17: <PIG> at Star Theater

7-14-17: Pharmakon at High Water Mark

7-18-17: I am helping to screen the new Mater Suspiria Vision film Phantasmagoria

7-28-17: Terminus Fest

7-29-17: Terminus Fest

7-30-17: Terminus Fest

8-13-17: Portland Industrial Goth (P.I.G.) Festival at the Paris Theater (The Blood of Others will be playing)

A Darker Figure #71: Art and Perception (Cynicism), Art Sex Music, and upcoming events

Welcome to A Darker Figure #71!

I have been thinking a lot about originality and making something unique, which is something that I think has become pretty difficult lately. I am a little worried that we have been sucked into an age of immediate gratification to the point that we are missing what is honest and sometimes failing to appreciate the work that goes into an art form. Here is a good example of something that I am bad at:

This week DKA Records (home to a lot of great EBM/throwback bands) put up the second album from Sally Dige for pre-order. In the album description it points out that “Stunningly, Sally used only her voice and a single synth to create this album. Even with so little gear, the songs are anything but minimal. Each song has a minimum of 100 tracks and, for some songs, 100 tracks for just the drum section alone. Every audible sound has 20 other sounds swimming beneath it.” Which I immediately when Noooopppeeeee, because if there were 100 tracks of drums it would get to the point where the frequencies would be full enough to cancel out the other drum sounds - meaning that you can layer as many kick drums as you want, but eventually it will become muddled and you’ll have to turn some of them down to the point where you cannot hear them at all, or even feel their impact. The idea that “every audible sound has 20 other sounds swimming beneath it” is a really strange thing to claim, especially when you listen to the track because it is pretty standard for not only the label, but for the current trend of mixed genre post-punk/throwback synth. Going in, having read the description first, I was expecting something a lot more experimental and noise-driven.

But! That is not the point and clearly a sign that I have lost my faith in artists and the cynicism has taken over. My immediate rejection of something that I am skeptical about is a problem - even if a lot of people who make music that I have talked to about it share a similar view - because that kind of misses the purpose of the art form. As an artist, Sally Dige has made a decision that she wants to explore the concept of making music with just one synth and her voice through a method that is highly unorthodox, and for that I should be very excited. The idea that people are still pushing the boundaries of music creation and exploring whatever crazy idea they might have about production - breaking the mold, bucking the system, etc - should be extremely exciting. But for me it wasn’t. For me, it was a rejection and an immediate skepticism, which I think has a lot to do my perception of the genre and the presentation of the album and not to do with the ideas behind the project.

For example - and this makes me uncomfortable a little bit because I am aligning a set of male artists over a solo female artist but when I tried to compare two female artists I also felt weird about it, so I’ll give both! - If Chrysalide (who are one of my favorite bands) put this in the album description I would be stoked as hell, spending hours trying to find the subtle shifts and differences in the sounds. Or if Pharmakon had the same description for the latest album, Contact, I wouldn’t even think twice about it because my perception of the music is that it is experimental and very oddly exploring emotion and comfort through sound. But my perception of the music, which I find to be only-okay, has tainted the statement and I find it harder and harder to believe the more I think about it, when I should instead think of it like absurdist art practices - doing something to just see how it works and finding a style that is honest and worthwhile to the artist, even/especially if it is unorthodox.

I recently finished Cosey Fanni Tutti’s book Art Sex Music, which is entirely about creating art and trying to live in the world as a unique and strange person. Cosey spent most of her life trying to do something that was counter to what people thought was generally accepted as art, and a lot of times didn’t get a lot of recognition for it from the art world until 30 years after it was premiered. Which is crazy. It would be crazy and difficult to do something - like a release a new album that you are very proud of - and then have a pretty good, but overall not very impactful reaction from a larger audience, and then 30 years later the largest gallery in the country is asking for an exclusive show of archived materials based around that album. The Throbbing Gristle parts of the book weren’t the most interesting parts of her career, when I read it, and I find that super fascinating. Especially because she was kind of screwed over constantly with Throbbing Gristle.

What I found more interesting is that she went out and did the art that she had to do, because it was where her heart was, and even if it was not what people wanted, it was honest and original. This book is an inspiring and honest/brutal look at what it took to become an artist. Even with success. If you are any type of artist or musician I would highly recommend checking this book out. It was full of great experience and knowledge, but mostly it was filled to the brim with a genuine look at struggle that I really appreciated. It definitely made me look at the art that I do and wish that I was doing something more, which is always a good reminder.


Currently Reading: Sin City volume 1 by Frank Miller (because Wes lent it to me legitimately 2 years ago and I am terrible.)

Currently Listening To On Audiobook: Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

Up on the list to read (haven’t decided which to dive into yet, but Sophie is putting the pressure on for her book):


Things coming up that I am involved in:

07/07/17 - Seattle - The Blood of Others opening for Jihad at The Highline Bar

07/18/17 - Portland - I am helping to promoter the Portland premier of the film Phantasmagoria by Cosmotropia de Xam at The Lovecraft for the Mood Ring 2 Year Anniversary Party.

07/28/17 - Calgary, AB - The Blood of Others opens up Terminus Festival

08/12/17 - Portland - The Blood of Others plays P.I.G. Fest 2 at the Paris Theater

A Darker Figure #70: Sociopolitical Corner and 13 Reasons Why

Welcome to A Darker Figure #70. It's going to be hot as fuck this weekend folks. I am not looking forward to it, but maybe that will give me a chance to plow through the rest of Cosey's book Art Sex Music (which continues to be very good.)

I am in the early stages of Operation Get Good and limiting my food portions, jogging at least twice a week (should be three times, but it has been a long and weird week,) and skipping most deserts. It is not great, but definitely required. I am deathly afraid of sleep apnea and have been showing some signs. But! According to Sophie I am snoring a whole lot less and I am starting to feel a big more rested when I sleep - which is kind of too early to tell, but a good sign. 

Some things coming up: 
- There is a new episode of Talking to Ghosts up with the Washington, D.C. band Technophobia that was super fun
- We have a The Blood of Others open practice this Monday at The Lovecraft Bar from 8-10pm
The Blood of Others in Seattle 7/7/717 at The Highline Bar
Pharmakon is coming to town next month and I am super excited for it! 

Sociopolitical corner:
My friend Wes said something recently in a political discussion about atheism that really stuck with me:

"I want to convince them that allowing a power structure to shit on the marginalized doesn't serve their idea of a post-religious world." 

There are a lot of hot takes out there when it comes to politics and religion. There was a scene in the final episode of the first season of The Handmaid's Tale that, unsurprisingly, was a good example of what I fear happens in a closed off room full of men, deciding fate. A member of their political party was adulterous and went beyond the normal government approved version of rape with his handmaid, so he had to stand up in front of a group of peers and tell his version of the story, admitting to god that he was a sinner. They decided that his sins were different from their sins and couldn't let him go unpunished. But the whole thing reeked of religious language and bias-blindness. It made me wonder how many times in the recent months, when discussing something extremely important to people's livelihood (like abortion, or planned parenthood funding), the discussion centered around a religious point of view. Religion is a frustrating part of people's doctrines and moral codes that I think should be left out of a political discussion as much as possible because it tends to ignore the real life impacts of the people in marginalized classes. I think that Wes hit it exactly in his quote above because a lot of atheists fall into a similar, scary trap. Putting anti-religion above the heart of the issues. Basically doing things just to be opposed to religion and not taking into account that they are completely othering people. 

It is a little heartening to see that people are taking action against this healthcare vote. Oregon's senators are pretty solid and have said that they will do everything they can to delay and oppose the vote, which is great, but it has honestly made me a little complacent - which I know is bad and I hate it too. Jeff Merkley's office sent out an online form that allowed you to share your healthcare story and have it included like a phone call in the stats, which I thought was a really good idea. I have only called a government office twice - both this year - and I find is stressful. I also feel that everyone around is like "yeah dude, we think that too," about most of the things that I care about politically. I think that is the problem though, everyone thinks that and they are only half right. Not everyone knows about some of the issues, or how it will really impact those around them. It is super easy to say: well, I have a decent job and decent healthcare, and might be able to afford it even if the system is fucked up and I have to get private healthcare outside of the government system. But it's not about you (or me) right now. It's about those who can't afford it and will be extremely impacted. Scary stuff. 

13 Reasons Why hot take corner: 
I thought the show was great! I understand the controversy surrounding the plot, but I think that a lot of those people didn't finish the show and watch the Beyond The Reason episode after the show ended season 1. It was an extremely sad show that had a lot of good points in it. I was talking with my friend Esme about it and we went down a lot of weird personal stories about high school and bullying. In the Beyond The Reason episode child psychologist Rhonda Hu made a good point about cyber bullying that I liked. Parents now have a hard time understanding cyber bullying because it is so different from when they were bullied in school. Before social media became a staple of everyday living, bullying would stay where it happened (at school, or at the bus stop, or in the local part, etc) and then you would go home and have a haven to protect you from it and you would be able to escape it. But cyber bullying, because social media is so prevalent and such a big part of modern communication, bullying follows you everywhere. At school, at home, in the bathroom. The internet is instant and forever. 

People are super worried that their kids will kill themselves now "because of the show," but I think the opposite is true. I think that kids were always going to kill themselves and now you just know about it. Pay attention to your kids, if you have them. Get them help whether they want it or not. I went to mandatory therapy in high school (after some writing about suicide and death was found by a teacher) and it was the best. I had a really good therapist. Really good. She eventually left and I stopped going to therapy because the two therapists afterwards were terrible at their jobs. But that first year or so of therapy was deeply impactful in the way that I see the world now. It was mandatory and I didn't always want to be there, but it did help at the time.

I am pretty anti-modern-therapy because I think people depend too heavily on it and I don't trust that people have the right intentions when assigning medication, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it wasn't impactful in my life. So if you need therapy and have been putting it off, I would suggest seeing a psychologist not a psychiatrist. But definitely see someone. There are also independent companies in Portland like Wise Counsel and Comfort that will work with you on a sliding payment scale, and have a lot of good resources on their website for self help

Personally, I suggest getting super into Sociology and Philosophy instead. Be wary of course, especially of dated philosophies, but make them your own instead! Or go see the band Pleasure Curses play live. If that doesn't make you bounce around and happy, then you definitely need some help. Those dudes are fun as hell to watch perform. 

A Darker Figure #69: Podcasts, dark ambient, and TBOO Open Practice

Welcome to a Darker Figure #69! 
There is a joke to be made, but I am not the kind of person who makes it, but if you are you can fill it in. It is 630 in the morning and it is way too early to be up on a day off, but I had a weird dream about fighting off an attacker who was shooting up a school and that has me a little shaken up - not like panic, but more slow burn terror. Which seems to be the course of things these days. It feels like a lot more has happened in the last 6 months than any year that I remember, but maybe now I am just paying attention? 

I had a conversation yesterday for a special project where the person said that every song that they have written was an incantation to take them to a higher place, and that it has worked every time. I asked them if it they meant that creating it was the ritual, or was the completed product, going out into the world, being taken in by others more important and he said yes to both. I don't practice occult/witchy/religious things myself, but I do find them interesting. The key for me in this was the intent. This person intended to put something out into the world that they believed lifted them up in a way and wanted to share with others. Sounds pretty simple, right? I feel like every few months we, collectively as society, have this conversation of "well, they're just playing a character (as a musician) on stage, and they're actually a pretty cool guy," and it always ends the same way. People apologizing for fascism and hate they think is just part of the show. Old news now, but all music is political and a message is important to someone whether you want it to be or not. As an artist, and a person, you have responsibility and beliefs that you are communicating. If you think this isn't true you are acting blindly or in bad faith, which is worse. Go with intent, even if it just to create something ridiculous that people will laugh at - because we need to laugh too! 

The show that I produced last Sunday was super fun! There were a lot of people that I had not seen out before and that was really awesome. The bands were all great people and they all put on a great show. Really happy about it. Neybuu was very fun to watch, she has a way of making weird beats and tribal stuff that seems to connect with people. I was telling someone that I think she would do well opening for iVardensphere, for obvious reasons, but also because they both play in many genres at once. Pleasure Curses is just a fun band. Period. Their show is high energy and gets you moving. It is very funky, and catchy, but when you see it live you just get sucked in. I would see them again any time. Technophobia were awesome as well, the show as interesting to watch and good quality!  We interviewed them in my car after the show. That episode will be out Monday on the Talking to Ghosts website and iTunes/Stitcher/etc. 

On Saturday, I did a live dark ambient thing for Volt Divers. It was my first time doing something like that live - something completely from scratch, without a real rhythm section to hide behind, and something with live looping. It went well! I was pretty uncomfortable with it, to be honest, but I think that is a good thing. People said they liked it. You can check it out here: 

Still reading Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti, it is still very good! I also picked up Bitch Planet, which I have been sleeping on, from a co-worker who didn't like it. I have been meaning to get into it, but didn't have the space in my comic buying schedule. So many good things! 

We have a The Blood of Others Open Practice for the next two Mondays at The Lovecraft from 8pm-10pm. Stop buy! The bar is open like normal, we will just be fucking around trying to get Sophie ready for the Seattle show on 7/7/17. It is free. Just stop by :) 
After that we are on the road to Terminus Festival in Calgary! I finalized some of the details last night and am starting to get really excited. 

Thanks for reading! 

A Darker Figure #68: "Nothingness carries being in its heart"

Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter #68! 

Some quick business up front: 
This Saturday! I will be doing a Sky Symbol Rituals set in Portland at The Lovecraft Bar as part of the always amazing Volt Divers night. I am either second from the start or second from the last, I can never tell with these events. 
This Sunday! I will be at the Lovecraft hosting some really great bands: Technophobia, Pleasure Curses, and Neybuu with live video work by Cari Gummer. It is going to be super fun and I am looking forward to it. If you are in Portland it is $5 and will be over by 1030... so... you should definitely come out. 
- We will be having two The Blood of Others "open practices" at The Lovecraft Bar on Monday 6/19 and Monday 6/26 from 8ish to 10ish. We will be running through the new 40 minute set with Sophie on bass keys! It is free, and open like normal, we'll just be going through the songs a few times. So come out and enjoy! 
Mr. Kitty and The Rain Within are coming on the same night as Adult. and Sextile... I am not sure which one I will make it to (probably the Adult. show only because I saw both Mr. Kitty and The Rain Within fairly recently, and will be seeing them again at Terminus in July.) Both shows have had some great feedback from the internet so far, so you should try to make it out! 


I am trudging my way through Being and Nothingness. It is a very complicated book that I am pretty invested in because a lot of it has to do with the philosophy that I tend to agree with the most. Here are some thoughts from page 1-56: 

(Talking about destruction and existence:)
"In the absence of this witness, there is being before as after the storm - that is all. If a cyclone can bring about the death of certain living beings, this death will be destruction only if it is experienced as such." (p. 38) 

It is equally important and difficult for me to remember that just because you don't perceive something as being a destruction - like the palm oil industry, which is pretty quietly destroying a shit ton of the environment and enslaving people, but still ends up in a lot of commercial vegan products that are sold on the premise (at least to me) that this is the least-shitty version of this chocolate bar that will also taste like you remember it tasting and not like barkdust (here is a good one with no palm oil) - and just because you don't know what destruction looks like because it is hidden on the outskirts of all the terrible things that effect a certain kind of politics - i.e. it is hard to keep track of all of the otherworldly agonies that are occurring in places like Syria when something like The Comey Testimony is Grade A drama television in real life and will directly (or almost directly) impact the country that I live in. It is hard to keep track. I talked the other week about how our neighborhood was on lockdown because someone had a gun and was waving it around, which was literally close to home, and about how I had to quickly unfollow the Portland Police Twitter account because it was a scary, scary reminder of how often things go wrong all around you and how easy it is to just stay inside and watch Netflix. 

I have remind myself, too, that listening is the best form of learning and that it is important to listen/read a lot of different perspectives on an issue. And that destruction at a distance exists before and after it occurs, but not while it is occurring because I am not there to witness it with my own inputs (emotional, physical, psychological, etc.) 

Sartre, in the next section, goes on to lay out Heidegger's understand of reality which is fairly complicated but basically ends with "humans create being and reality." We collectively create reality. We each have our own realities that are consistently overlapping in an outward spiral to create an understanding of the greater "world." It is people that create law, and government, and conflict, and weapons, and racial tension, and sexual discrimination, and wages, and living, etc, etc, forever. So when someone posits, usually innocently, that something is just the way it is or that boys will be boys or that that is just how men talk in the locker room to each other they are knowingly (but maybe not consciously) excusing themselves from the responsibility of personal action and reality. 

Just be cool to each other and know that everything you do and say is not only directly your responsibility, but also may be a destruction to someone else - no matter your intention. 


I also started reading Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti this week during some long days at work and it is just as delightfully written as you would expect. She had a weird life and is pretty straightforward about it in this book. I am still on early childhood-teen-post school times, but you already get the feeling that thing are going to get pretty nuts for her, in a good way (and sometimes a bad way.) I definitely suggest picking it up if you are into Throbbing Gristle, or performance art in general. 

That is all! Have a good weekend. Read more. :) 

A Darker Figure #67: Self-Destructing Technologies

Hello and welcome to A Darker Figure #67 where I have had a short week (due to the holiday) that has seemed much, much longer. I am not allowed to really talk about it, but when you work for a corporation you have to explain a lot of really simple things to a lot of people who try to think at a level that is way above where they need to be about a problem. Engineers, am I right? I actually don't have problems usually because the engineer that we work with for Fire Protection is great and a personable guy. This had more to do with my direct company. Oh well! I was supposed to work tomorrow (Saturday), but now I don't have to, so things are good again. 

I have been thinking a lot about self-destructing technologies - specifically something that I could incorporate into a music release - and have been really on the fence about them. On one hand you have a piece of art, in this case a small EP, of one-time listen music. Exclusive. Not digitally offered. One time and then it is done. Forever. You can choose to listen to it or save it for another time. Or never listen to it at all and just stand in wonder forever. On the other hand though you have a whole lot of wasted plastics (in this case I would be considering a Cassette), time, paper, and other materials for something that is a single serving. While I think that art is made to be expressive, even if the expression is an exclusive wondering that may ultimately turn out to be not-for-me musically, I think that we are living in a time where creating mounds of waste - even small ones - is pretty selfish and that maybe it can be done another way. 
I need to look into this more. There is something there, but I don't know what. At any rate it needs to be responsible and appealing at the same time. Also there needs to be an audience first, haha. 

I'll be going back in the studio sometime in the middle of this month to re-record some vocal sections for the new The Blood of Others split. Some of the re-worked tracks didn't fit in the timing of the vocals anymore. Should be fun. I'll be working with Patrick Champaign again, which is exciting. 

Last weekend the neighborhood two streets from ours was on lockdown by the police because a man was spotted carrying a gun around at 630 in the morning. Full ordeal: helicopters, swat vans, communication RVs that block entire roadways, the news, people just casually walking by one street over not knowing that there is a large operation going on. I was on my way to the cat shelter to volunteer and was stopped in a weird we-are-blocking-this-road-but-not-really-so-you-can-go-I-guess. So Sophie and I stayed inside until the stand down at 4pm. 
The day before we went to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, so the weekend wasn't without romance! 

Sophie wants me to tell you that we are getting matching tattoos tomorrow. We are getting matching tattoos tomorrow. 

Things that you should check out! 
- Movie (French/Netflix): The News From Planet Mars  (trigger warning: pet death) 
- Live show: Planning for Burial (noise/doom/metal/synth) - saw Planning for Burial on Sunday here in Portland and it was pretty great! 
- Music: New Hante. record came out! "Between Hope & Danger" is up on bandcamp and it is damn good
- Newsletter: Sean Bonner's Newsletter is my favorite. Warren Ellis is who got me hooked on newsletters, though. 

Things that I have coming up! 
6/10: I will be doing a Sky Symbol Rituals set at Volt Divers here in Portland at The Lovecraft
6/11: Technophobia, Pleasure Curses, and Neybuu with live video stuff from Carri Gummer here in Portland at The Lovecraft. (please bring your friends, it is an early show!) 8pm | $5 | 21+ 
7/7: The Blood of Others (feat. Sophie! on bass keys) in Seattle, WA at The Highline opening for Jihad

Listen to my podcast: Talking to Ghosts
Listen to my music: The Blood of Others / [product] / Sky Symbol Rituals
Go to my website: I See Bad Spirits

A Darker Figure Newsletter #66: Shows, Review of "Shelter in Place," and Being Someone's Something

Hello and welcome to the A Darker Figure Newsletter. Did you know that I have a website where all of my different projects get posted with fun little blurbs and listenable links? Talking to Ghosts episodes, new music releases, upcoming projects, shows I am playing or producing, everything. 

We played a show last night with LA band HAEX and it was awesome. They don't have an album out yet, but it is closed, so keep an ear out for it! If you are in Everett, WA or Vancouver, BC you can go see them this weekend! Everett I believe is tonight at Obscurus. 

Review of Alexander Maksik's Shelter in Place 
(if you are going to read this already, skip this review and save yourself because it is a great book) 

This week I finished Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik. This was an extremely enjoyable read on a morose topic. I saw a review of one of his earlier books that said that his writing was almost philosophical and I believe that this applies to Shelter in Place as well. The book is centered around the question of "is violence the answer to violence?" There is much, much more than that in the book, but I believe that it all boils down to this in the end. From the very beginning of the book we are confronted with murder. It is not a crime thriller or a detective story, it is just there as fact. Here are the opening chapter of the novel: 

     In the summer of 1991 my mother beat a man to death with a twenty-two ounce Estwing framing hammer and I fell in love with Tess Wolff. 
    Now, many years later, they have both disappeared and I am alone here on this pretty clearing in the woods. 
    Alone, save for the tar and the bird and the other things, for which I have no name. 

The entire novel is constructed in short chapters. Sometimes this is a device used to connect a series of short stories into one larger picture, but for Shelter in Place it is more a construction of memory. The timeline jumps, but it is intimately connected as if someone where just free-writing the story from a memory they were recalling to someone. This, to me, is interesting because this 2011 article from Jezebel found that Maksik's debut novel, You Deserve Nothing, was based on the real story of how he was quietly let go from a school in Paris after an affair with a student. The student has come out to say that that is literally her story written down in places and that some of the things that are included in the book were told in confidence. Some things were made up to fill the story in and make it more readable, but a lot of the students have said that it is pretty much exactly their experience with Maksik. This makes me wonder if some of the scenes in Shelter in Place are real experiences because they feel honest and heartbreaking in places. There is a through line of depression that takes form as bi-polar disorder - the tar and the bird from the first chapter above - that is real. It is crippling and it is a void that anyone with a tendency for depressive states will recognize. 

All in all, it has been my favorite book this year. It was compelling and really well written. The short chapters make it a thrill to read because you know that you could probably fit in a few more pages every time you go to stop reading. 

photo by: lain

photo by: lain

Our Everett show last weekend was great! It is always fun to play some of those [product] songs, especially the older ones because they are full of energy. The Blood of Others is an emotional experience to play live and I love the feeling of it because it communicates the way that I feel a lot of the time and the things that I want to say. But [product] is just plain fun. The message is brutal and immature compared to The Blood of Others, but jumping around and screaming is a nice release sometimes.
There was a younger person at the show, who is also in a band that is very good called Chrome Corpes, that told me that my demo ...and the connection fails was a really important album to him. And that is crazy. I know exactly what he means because I have a few albums that came into my life at the right time and changed some things around for me. It is hard to hear this sort of thing about something that you have created though because it brings out the imposter syndrome. I wrote that demo before I was 21. Before I was straight edge or vegan or even being honest with myself. So it feels to me now like a frustrated younger self trying to say the things that I believe now, but not quite knowing what was going on. He asked me what the album was about and I wish that I had given him a better answer. I was flustered by the statement and the question, and his own nervous energy, and said that it was about nolongerhuman and the breakup that Clint and I had, which were the first stepping stones of me being straight edge. Which is true, mostly, but it is more about me being confused about what I wanted and trying to find it. Either way it was very strange for me and I really appreciated it. 

Last week was kind of a long one so I will leave this here for you. 

The next The Blood of Others show that I have coming up isn't until 7/7/17 in Seattle, but if you are into electronic music and want to come out to a show that I am producing here in Portland, please come see Technophobia, Pleasure Curses, and Neybuu at The Lovecraft on 6/11. I am also doing a Sky Symbol Rituals set at Volt Divers on 6/10. 

A Darker Figure #65: A personal [product] music history

Welcome to A Darker Figure #65! Before I get into the personal history self-satisfaction bullshit, I have a few things going on: 

[product] and Sky Symbol Rituals in Everett, WA tomorrow! 
- Next Thursday The Blood of Others is opening for HAEX here in Portland at The Lovecraft, if you live in town please come out! They are a newer band and one that I enjoy, so I think you will too! 
- June 10th, I will be doing a Sky Symbol Rituals set for Volt Divers. I am working on some new stuff for this one that will connect to the original 30 minute set, which was released here
- I am about half way through Alexander Maksik's Shelter In Place and I highly recommend checking it out. It is written almost directly to my taste. Really well done. 

Okay! Here is a personal [product] history, from my extremely biased point of view, of the music projects that I have been in / produced solo. Why you ask? Because I was going through a lot of the tracks this week trying to find fun songs to play live in Everett tomorrow and I realized that I am still a fan of a lot of the stuff that I made! And sometimes it is good to just go back and see what happened. P.S. No one asked for this. :)

"Ensemble of Sirens" from the demo placement

Heavily influenced by bands like Tactical Sekt and Psyclon Nine I started to make aggrotech music under the name [product]. The goal was to be screamy and fast and dance-able. Some of the things that I took from the bands that I loved were the high and fast synth lines that were just layered until it became kind of a mess of melodies. The earliest demo, placement, and the first songs that I wrote solo - after spending a few years developing a band called [injekted] in high school - are some that I still go back to with fond memories. The only thing that I kind of cringe at are the lyrics, which were/are shallow and dishonest in a way that I can tell is just trying to fit the things in the places where I thought words should go. It is funny going back and reading the lyrics now because they fit pretty well in the music - cadence-wise - but the themes are all over the place. "Ensemble of Sirens," which is the first song for [product] and one that I still really enjoy playing, is some jumbled mess of a murder story? I am not sure.

"The Principal" from the demo reassignment

I was under the impression at the time, and I still am in a way, that you had to hit it hard right away. Whether you were playing live or putting out a demo, you have to go in from track 1 and put your best stuff first. "The Principal"like "Ensemble of Sirens," is the first track on the second demo. I believe at this time I was sneaking in to a club night in town called Hive, which had an outside area that I could just blow passed the bar and hang out in. I remember giving a physical copy of this demo to one of the DJs, who played "Mechanical Fear" in mono and it completely fell apart. That was way before I knew how to mix anything and I am surprised that they still sound this... together? I found a server online that had a shit ton of Twilight Zone samples for free download and would pretty much go through those for days and find super sad or weird ones. It was awesome. I still haven't seen all of the show. It was less about the moments in the show and more about the words they were saying. I think that Clint from nolongerhuman helped me with some of these tracks. Just tips and tricks talk. We used to hang out a lot and I was trying to remember when that fell apart but then saw that the next thing in line was the Drown The Horses EP, which is a song entirely about how things broke between us and has the first strands of the straight edge themes that would come later. 

"Fuck The Club" from the EP Drown The Horses

This is an interesting EP because it has one of the first tracks that reflected the first signs of oh, I hate this bar scene thing and the track "Fuck the Club," which is about just wanted to get drunk and dance to forget your problems... Which I would love to claim is a satirical look at the themes above, but they were not. I had just turned 21 and was very confused about what I wanted to do with myself. After a long time of standing outside, waiting to be 21, and smoking cigarettes with all of the adults, I was finally in! I was finally part of the scene for real. It was kind of a disappointment. I think this track both reflects the time and headspace that I was in, and sends a dumb message. It is a track that some bandmates bring up when they want to let me know that I wasn't as sound in mind/lyric when I was younger. This is also the first time Wes remixed my stuff as reakt[ion], which I think he recently started after changing from the name Necessary Noise. 

"Faded Youth"  from the demo ...and the connection fails

This was the first track where I was super influenced by a documentary that I saw and immediately wrote something. Like the second it was done. I was so upset and sad at the world. The documentary was about children on medication and how it was causing them to kill themselves. This hit home super hard because a lot of the people that I knew in middle school where in the first wave of the ADHD/anti-depressant drug push and it just wiped them. It completely fucked them up in really bad ways. This was also the first track that I sent to COP International Records and eventually led to releasing with them. We had a release party for this demo at The Fez ballroom, which is no longer around, and it was just... shitty. The opening band was one of my favorites at the time and he just got super drunk and fought with his girlfriend, who later turned off and then tried to take one of the power strips we were using on stage. I also had a pita pit... pita... before we went on and an energy drink and thought that I was going to die. I was so sick. 

"Lungs Full of Water (Distorted Memory Remix)" from the digital only EP I Hope You Choke (COP int.)

Distorted Memory was/is one of my favorite bands and this was really the first time that I reached out to someone who I thought was much, much better than me. I remember he wrote back and asked if it was okay that it was going to be a slow and more atmospheric remix, instead of the upbeat dance stuff he had been doing at the time. Little did I know it would be the best fucking song. This was right before the Temple of the Black Star release. So good. 

"The Last Battle" from the debut album I, Omega (COP Int.) 

Right before I was signed to COP International, I remember Clint sending me a message saying that I would never get signed and that I was a piece of shit... or something like that. So, as a little bit of spite and a little bit to prove that I could, I submitted to, and was signed to, the label that he was (and is still) on. Little did I know that it would be a kind of lacklusted experience in which I would do all of the promotion and not really understand what the responsibilities of the artist and the responsibilities of the label were. I still don't know really. It taught me a lot though. It taught me how to go out and just promote myself regardless of what someone said they were going to do. Nevertheless! It was an exciting time. I finished something. Had it mastered and released on a label. This album was mastered by Jan from X-Fusion, who I admired and would master everything from here until The Blood of Others album. 

"Awaken The Alchemist" from the self-released single Awaken The Alchemist

So many things happened right here! I discovered Witch House and my whole world changed musically. It was crazy. This is the first track that I "sang" on instead of screamed with a lot of effects. It was the first slower track that I had done. This single had remixes from two of my favorite artists. I was able to convince Vendetta Music to sign me after saying that the next album would be like this, but heavier and louder. This is the music that I really wanted to make and what would eventually become The Blood of Others. 

"So Lost" from the 2nd Full Length album Shallow Graves (Vendetta Music)

After going from Witch House to being extremely obsessed with Chrysalide, Shallow Graves came back to being super mad and heavy. The hardcore influence was never more strong. So many breakdowns and different screaming styles came out in this first track. A lot of the reviews for this album said that it sounded like Combichrist and I remember being so mad about that. I think that it was the lower scream... but still... Not good. This song is 100% a straight edge song. I was full in it at this point. "So Lost" is straight edge, "Giving Water, Taking Ash" is anti-animal testing, "Voluntary Extinction" is child free by choice... so many views. I still hold all of these views, but it is just kind of funny to hear them in these songs. We are performing a mostly Shallow Graves set when we play now. Also, the iVardensphere remix on this album is crazy good. I remember getting it back and being a little upset that it was so fucking good. There was also a W.A.S.T.E remix that was given away with the pre-order that I like a lot. 

"To The Wind" from the self-released EP Her Ghost

Back to Witch House! "To The Wind" is still the best track that I have ever produced, in my opinion. It was so much about the time and place and capturing the atmosphere that I had in my head when this EP came together. The idea materialized pretty quickly and then the whole thing was done. I was working for a little bit on the lyrics for the fist two tracks and then boom! At the time I was having this recurring dream - and I still do sometimes - that was completely out of a gothic romance that I fabricated from so, so many Cradle of Filth albums. This is what really made The Blood of Others a thing that I was set to do. I was done with the dance-heavy stuff and was pretty board with the style. I definitely needed a change in a lot of ways. We were performing this stuff as [product], which is crazy to think about now because it was so much of a departure. I would still be producing under [product] if Audiotrauma hadn't asked to change the project and separate from the previous releases. This though, marks the first time that I felt that I was making the music that I truly wanted to make. I didn't know how to do it before. Or I was scared that I wouldn't know how or something. It was weird. 

Then The Blood of Others happened. I've talked about that a lot in this newsletter. It is still happening. I am still loving it. 

Thanks for reading. It will be back to the normal thoughts and current event stuff next week. This wasn't edited or re-read because I spent too much time on it and got lost in the memories.

A Darker Figure Newsletter #64: Jeff VanderMeer reading, Terminus Set Times, and upcoming shows

Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter #64! This week I went to a reading at Powell's, have an interview lined up for tonight, and am excited about some shows that we will be playing this month! For more detailed posts about events or podcast episodes, please check out my new website:

Jeff VanderMeer is an author, but also an environmentalist with a strong leaning towards dystopian futurism, philosophy, and portraying characters as changing beings. The Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance) was a great set of books that I highly recommend you read! I have reviewed most, if not all, these books in this newsletter before, and am guilty of pushing my own copies of the books on to anyone who has the slightest interest in any of those subjects. I think that it is a mistake to call his books science fiction because it is only slightly accurate. Some of the characters are weird, and alien, and some of the environments are strange, but the topics and the philosophies and the questions are human. When asked last night, by an audience member, if he thought his books were about the future: VanderMeer and co-speaker Lydia Yuknavitch had a conversation about science fiction being closer to current reality than we think - mentioning that even The Handmaid's Tale, whose technology is now outdated, has concepts that are still ahead of their time, and feel present now - after a few more related questions, the conversation ended with VanderMeer stating: "Memory, for some people, is all they have of the future because it is all they have left of the past." 

He also said during the conversations that he likes to give his characters unreliable memories because that seems closer to what life is actually like for most of us now. That authors usually use memory as a device to describe the past in a narrative and that he likes to use it as a tool to make a character seem real, but also flawed. I'm elaborating a little bit because I don't remember the exact words, but I think that this is an interesting way to write, and interesting way to think about memory in general. I recently wrote a very short story as a stream of consciousness/journalling exercise in which there were a lot of real, hurtful, and sad memories that came up when I let my consciousness take something that happened and just run with it until I was done writing. I am still working on it. Sophie is, of course, helping. She is a master editor, she just doesn't know it yet. 


If you haven't listened to last Monday's Talking to Ghosts interview with Andy McMillan, I highly recommend it. It was very inspiring. It made me want to quit my job and do something creative. Maybe next year, who knows! (Sophie is scared about this, rightfully so. I keep mentioning it.) 


If you are planning to go to Terminus Festival in July, you should definitely get there for the first band on the first day of the festival! (because that is us.) 

Daily schedule:

Friday, July 28 (Doors 5 PM/ First band 6 PM)


Saturday, July 29 (Doors 5 PM/ First band 6 PM)


Sunday, July 30 (Doors 5 PM/ First band 6 PM)


Weekend passes are on sale NOW for $180 on our website at Limited single day passes will be on sale shortly for $70.


I also have a show that I am producing next month with Technophobia from Washington, DC. I am very excited about this one. You can check out more details on my website: 


I just started reading Alexander Maksik's Shelter In Place, after reading the first page in Powell's the other day. This book also has a recommendation from Lauren Groff, who wrote the book Fates and Furies that I enjoyed quite a bit. But it doesn't need it. The writing style is unique and charismatic. The narrator is extremely flawed, but honest to the reader about it. I can't say much more because the last book that I recommended to Sophie, I spoiled accidentally. But you should check out this book. It is very good so far. 


Tonight: Boy Harsher, Koban, Soft Kill, and Vacant Stares at Analog Cafe in Portland, OR
5/20: Sky Symbol Rituals and [product] perform at Obscurus in Everett, WA
5/25: The Blood of Others opens for HAEX at The Lovecraft in Portland, OR
6/10: Sky Symbol Rituals set for Volt Divers at The Lovecraft in Portland, OR
6/11: Technophobia, Pleasure Curses, Neybuu and Carrie Gummer on Visuals at The Lovecraft in Portland

As always, thank you for reading this newsletter. Stay safe out there. Read more books. It'll help. 
If you need a recommendation for something to read or if you want me to send you a random book from my shelf, feel free to reach out! I'm down. 

A Darker Figure Newsletter #63:

If you want to subscribe to this newsletter, and receive it in your email every Friday, please click here! 

Welcome to A Darker Figure Newsletter! I have started a website to collect all of my different projects. There were a few places recently that asked for a EPK - which is an Electronic Press Kit for bands - and I think they are outdated and kind of dumb in today's social media climate, so I started a website instead. It is not quite the same, but if I can capture all of the info that is normally in a EPK on there, for each of my projects, then I will be happy with it. Right now it is all bare-bones info and a little bit of design. I am still working on it. It has been awhile since I've had a for-real website that was something that I made. Wes did all the legwork for the Talking to Ghosts' site and design. 

This week we talked with Andy McMillan of the XOXO Festival, The Manual, and Build Conference in my studio apartment. Andy was a great guest and that episode will be out on Monday, so I won't go too much into what we specifically talked about other than to say that it is all very inspiring. Andy is a do-er. He is a producer and events coordinator, but first and foremost he is a do-er. He gets high level shit done and that is inspiring to me. Something that Andy is very outwardly good at is presenting only what he knows is a high level, good project. I am curious to know, but failed to ask him when he was here, how many projects he has worked on that just fell apart somewhere along the way. Projects that no one knows about. 

Today is Cinco De Mayo, which was the day that the Mexican forces defeated the filthy French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, but in America it represents a date to celebrate Mexican-American culture, but somewhere in the 00s it became a day to celebrate partying and drinking too much, just like 4th of July or New Years Eve but closer to Mardi Gras (this is a gross simplification, but that is how I feel.) The bar across the street from my house is having a free tequila tasting all night which means that I am going to do everything in my power to leave town tonight. Sophie is looking for a romantic evening, so I need to do some digging into where I can go. It is pleasantly warm in Portland and we had a really great lightning storm on the way home last night. 

I lost the filling on my front tooth this week, on Wednesday, and was briefly a hillbilly with a cracked front tooth. It is fixed now and feels super weird. I wrote a piece about it, but it is more of a free-association journal entry that went to some pretty crazy places. Maybe when I finish that piece I will share it. We'll see! 


Comics to recommend: 
Injection Warren Ellis, Jordie Bellaire, and Declan Shalvey
Saga (of course!) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Revival by Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, and Mark Englert
(also, you should by them from your local comic book shop, not Amazon - I was just lazy and wanted to get you to the right books... but don't be lazy. Go to the shop and support the people.) 

I also started reading Someone Else by Tonino Benacquista, which is a book that Sophie bought for me a long, long time ago. It is pretty good so far! The book starts with the idea: What if you could be someone else entirely. The main characters meet at a bar after a tennis match as strangers and agree to meet up 3 years later at the same bar as completely different people: the people that they have always wanted to be, or fantasized about being. 


Also, new Saltillo! It is super good. I wrote about the first Saltillo releases on the original A Dark Figure blog way back when, and this comes quite a few years later, but is still really, really up my alley. If you don't know, it is the artist Menton3 who does all kinds of great work. I heard the music, loved it, looked up the art, and have supported all of his kickstarters and projects since. 


Upcoming shows: 
Tomorrow! (5/6): Horror Vacui, Vice Device, Bellicose Minds, Fleshh, Vacant Stares at Black Water
5/12: Strangeweather, Barrowlands, Satanarchist, Nick Superchi at Tonic Lounge
5/13: Volt Divers (feat. the best of the best, really. Paul Barker and Terror Apart and Eat My Shit. So good.) at The Lovecraft