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By Tony Bonyata
Interview with a vampire
Livewire's exclusive interview with
The Horrors' frontman Faris Rotter
June 9, 2007
With stiletto-tight pants, massive explosions of hair and black-lined faces only Lon Chaney could love, The Horrors have invaded our shores after not only shocking their London hometown, but also taking it by storm.
As menacing as their look may be, their sound is even more bone-chilling and morose. Their debut record, Strange House, is an ungodly, yet magnetic amalgamation of '60s American garage rock, '70s glam and punk, along with a good dose of early '80s UK Goth rock.
Livewire's Tony Bonyata tracked down The Horrors' frontman Faris Rotter not in an asylum or mausoleum where he initially suspected he'd be lurking about, but instead shopping in a Manhattan antique shop just hours before an unannounced 'secret show' at Pianos in town. Here the singer openly discussed his band's influences, UFOs, getting beat up for looking like a girl and what recently just scared the shit out him.
Livewire: Do you feel The Horrors are the poster boys for the emerging Goth-garage scene in London?
Faris: The hardcore scene in England is really not substantial. You know I like a lot of hardcore music, but the lifestyle is centered more around the U.S, isn't it. And supposedly all of the Goth bands that are actually any good - wouldn't consider themselves Goth - like Bauhaus or Birthday Party wouldn't put themselves in the Goth bracket.
Livewire: But aren't the people coming to your shows Goth kids? - all clad in black and mascara.
Faris: More like hardcore punk kids rather than the Goths... I mean, there are a few Goths.
Livewire: Oddly enough when I listen to your new record Strange House those were the first two bands that came to mind - Bauhaus and Birthday Party. You certainly aren't running away from those comparisons are you?
Faris: I think Bauhaus is a brilliant band, but a year ago I never really heard them. I mean, I knew "Bela Lugosi's Dead" and I have a couple of their singles like "Kick in the Eye" but apart from that I really didn't know them.
Livewire: Wow, that's something - not really knowing Bauhaus in your own backyard.
Faris: I guess. I really didn't know that much about them, but Birthday Party - you know with Nick Cave - he's a great lyricist. You very rarely get someone that's able to keep reinventing himself like he does.
Livewire: What do you think of Nick's new Grinderman project?
Faris; Oh, I think it's great. We all really like it. We recently worked with Jim Sclavunos [from both Grinderman and The Bad Seeds]. We've had so many amazing experiences working with Teenage Jesus, Sonic Youth and The Cramps briefly. I think working with him has been a massive thing for us. Yeah, Grinderman is great!
Livewire: I just heard they're opening for The White Stripes next month in New York.
Faris: Are they really?
Livewire: It's the funniest bill - The White Stripes, Grinderman and 79 year-old Porter Wagoner... the old country guy. It's a sweet, fucked-up bill.
Faris: Wow, what venue are they at?
Livewire: Madison Square Garden on the 24th.
Faris: It's funny, we were actually offered that spot, but we couldn't do it.
Livewire: All the band members seemed to have come from small towns in England. Was your upbringing repressive or nurturing?
Faris: Yeah, really small and like very dead environments basically. When I was growing up I guess I was extreme - at least by other people's standards. No one really listened to The Beatles and stuff like that when they were really young. They just didn't get it. When you grow up you learn more because you have the desire to learn more about music. That's what made us different then other people around - we had the love of music to dig deeper.
Livewire: Your look and your sound both definitely have a dark vibe going on. Do you attribute that more to what happened growing up or more from outside influences like music, art and film?
Faris: I guess negative emotions were a lot more inspiring for me. (laughs) I do like disturbing art because it's more evocative.
Livewire: Tell me more about your days at the fashionable Junk Club.
Faris: The Junk Club is club that we started with a couple of friends before we got together as a band or even met. You know there was nothing going on in Southampton musically. So it was a place where we played "good" music essentially better than any of the clubs in London.
Livewire: Was the vibe in the club more of a darker Goth-thing?
Faris: No, actually the music that was played was the New York No-Wave, like the Theoretical Girls. There are so many obscure ones.
Livewire: Why did you cancel tonight's show at the Irving Plaza in New York (June 5th)?
Faris: It was fucked up on all accounts - we were originally scheduled to do the tour with Black Rebel [Motorcycle Club]. It would have cost us a 120 grand and we couldn't afford that. At the last minute we organized this show at the Irving Plaza and our entire advertising budget had been spent telling people in monthly magazines about the Black Rebel show and it didn't happen. No one knew about the new one and they were still seeing the ad for the old one. So the conditions just weren't right.
Livewire: If it's any consolation most of the kids aren't looking at the monthlies - they're online and checking out the news as it happens. Speaking of... the leak is out on your supposed secret show at Piano's tonight.
Faris: Yeah, I heard...they're never a secret very long. (laughs) Yeah. that kind of stuff I really enjoy doing. Like it's a really good club where you can move up and down and not sit there with your arms folded.
Livewire: Which I understand you guys don't do a whole lot of...standing around with your arms folded.
Faris: Yes it would be quite difficult for Rhys [Webb - also known as Spider Webb] to play the keyboard with his arms folded.
Livewire: You guys have a unique style of dress. Weren't you beat up on the streets of London for "looking like a girl?"
Faris: Yeah. If it really bothered us, though, we'd change it, wouldn't we.
Livewire: And what about the drunken heckler who beat you up onstage during the last CMJ Music Marathon in NYC?
Faris: The photos on the web looked really bad - a lot worse then what really happened to him. Yeah, we like our music and we're not going to compromise what we look like.
Livewire: Speaking of photos, when I first saw your new record cover it immediately struck me as being very similar to the cover of The New York Dolls' first record.
Faris: I can see the similarities somewhat...but no there was no conscious intention, but then again (laughs)- yeah, we just really loved the photo. We feel it encapsulated the band and was very striking and it wasn't in any way gimmicky.
Livewire: Some of your detractors say that you're more style than substance. What do you say to them?
Faris: Well, often these detractors have read someone else's article and a lot of people get fed that shit down their throats everyday. No wonder they're spitting out the same shit. Stuff like that doesn't bother us. We've never wanted to appeal to everyone and we never want massive waves of adulation from people that don't understand us. We make it for the people that like it and if you don't like it were not making it for you.
Livewire: It seems like the press, especially the UK press, are all over you guys. Has this been a shock?
Faris: Yes, very much. It's one thing I've never really understood. But I do understand that people want something new and exciting to latch onto. In the context of what's happening today, I think that's what we are. I mean it's a double-edged sword really, isn't it. We had to grow up under scrutiny.
Livewire: Do you know how many magazine covers you've adorned so far?
Livewire: You don't? Do you even care?
Faris: I care that people want to see us. They see us a band that, you know, will make other people want to read about us or read their magazine or whatever.
Livewire: How was it working with Yeah Yeah Yeahs' guitarist Nick Zinner on your record?
Faris: Nick is very particular and knows what he wants, and being a guitarist as well is certainly very interesting for Josh [Third - The Horrors' guitarist]. They have a lot in common. Also, he likes a lot of the same music that we do. As we would listen to it we were able to pick out the bit of Nick's Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs.
Livewire: What's this about the band seeing UFOs at 3:00 am near London after a show?
Faris: We did see this weird thing above a sort of stadium. I don't know, though. I'm very skeptical... I think Rhys was a lot more taken by it then I was.
Livewire: Is there any music that you're really into from any your contemporaries?
Faris: There are a few actually. They are few really mainstream bands that are really good at what they do, like the White Stripes I respect, and Interpol is good... even Kings of Leon's second record I thought was very good. Bands that I actually admire like The Black Lips from Atlanta... we actually wanted them to come on tour with us, but they're in Israel unfortunately. There's a really great, new young band in London called Ulterior - sounds like noisier Spacemen 3 or Suicide.
Livewire: Tell me the most dangerous thing that you've ever done?
Faris: Probably diving twenty feet onto my head. (laughs) It was one of our early shows and we played with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Livewire: What's the creepiest thing that you've ever seen?
Faris: Well, there was a pretty good one the other night in New York. This girl with roller blades got up on stage after the band had finished and people were just dancing around and the stage was still open. She got up on stage and started pulling out these amazing dance moves and by amazing I mean really embarrassing dance moves, and then started miming slitting her wrists and shooting herself. I was DJing at the time and she saw me laughing - I don't think she liked it. (laughs) Yeah, that was pretty weird.
Livewire: Besides the creepy girl dancing - what do The States have to offer that the U.K. doesn't?
Faris: Umm...I think the homeless people here are on another level. I mean the stuff they cart around in their trolleys [shopping carts] is completely unbelievable. You don't really see that in the U.K.
Livewire: Since your recent rise - are the caliber of girls getting better?
Faris: No, I pretty much hate anyone who attempts to come near me (laughs). Especially those kind of girls.
Strange House - Album Review