In lieu of cold statistics, nationwide bamboozlement and the usual mind numbing malaise, Sean Yseult (White Zombie), vocalist Von Hesseling, guitarist Dava She Wolf (Cycle Sluts From Hell) offer up Star & Dagger: A subwoofer’s cauldron forged by functional alcoholism, pharmaceutical voyage and junk drawer hallucinogens, all under a heavy contraband haze that hangs low enough to embrace the Almighty Downtrodden so they can revel in it… Here we chat to the band themselves for a bit more information about the origins and future plans of this all-star line-up..
Having a line-up that is sure to draw some attention from the media and fans alike, with members of White Zombie and Cycle Sluts from Hell, how would you describe the reaction to the band music when it was made public and was there any expectations you thought may be expected from fans of the aforementioned bands?
Sean: For me, this is the first band I’ve been in that might meet those expectations – since then I’ve played in a garage/surf band a punk band, so I am finally back to my roots and writing what comes naturally. We have had great response from fans, and especially White Zombie fans are glad to see me riffing and headbanging again.
Dava: Overall, the reaction seems pretty good. Star & Dagger is a big departure from Cycle Sluts in many ways also I didn’t play guitar in that band.
Having been compared in the media to bands like Black Sabbath to Motorhead; How would you best describe the band to someone who hadn’t heard the music before?
Dava: I think it’s always best off leaving the labeling to others but if I was hard pressed to describe I’d say it’s blues rock or a variation thereof.
Let’s go back to when this group began? Can you give us some history to how the band formed and got its name ‘Star & Dagger’?
Dava: Sean and I ran into Lenny Kaye in a bar one night , he came over to us and said “You two have to start a band. I see it!”. We’ve both been friends with Lenny since back in day. We didn’t give it much thought but many months later Sean wrote some riffs, so we jammed when she was back in NYC, then she brought in Von to sing on a few songs when she got back to NOLA. So in a matter of speaking Lenny Kaye divined the band.
Walk us through the songwriting procedure for Star & Dagger, what comes first lyrics and concept, or music etc? And do you have a set rehearsal time and place on a regular basis?
Dava: No set formula really. Sean and Von live in NOLA and I’m in NYC. For the most part we demo out songs over the internet by sending mp3s back and forth. Then when we have a few songs roughed out we’ll arrange it in person, then we fine-line it in further the studio.
When we began, Sean would write a riff, flip it to me I’d put guitar on send it back to Sean, then Von would sing over it, then I’d put more guitar on, or sometimes I’ll send Sean a riff or sometimes one of us will write a song in it’s entirety and send it around til it’s hashed out via mp3s.
We’ve also written stuff together in person whenever we have the opportunity. In fact the three of us just spent New Years Eve in Clarksdale Mississippi and came up with a new song out while we were there.
What would you say the lyrical content is mainly about and who writes them?
Dava: Lyrics are pretty much about anything we feel at the time. In my case: overwhelming discontent, inevitable futility and other excuses to drink more. I have to admit, pessimism is a driving force behind most of what I write. Von wrote “In My Blood”, Sean wrote “Your Mama Was A Grifter”, both were made into videos. I wrote a lot of the other lyrics on the Tomorrowland Blues album, but we sometimes do contribute to each other’s lyrical content even in the eleventh hour of recording.
The bands first release was the limited coloured 12″LP “in My Blood’ released on Last Hurrah Records. Was this a release to ‘test the waters’ so-to-speak or was this an idea from the record label to get your music heard?
Dava: We were approached early on by the boutique label Last Hurrah Records based in New Orleans and they really did a beautiful job on the vinyl release. The art director for the label and our project was Lindsey Kuhn,who has done so many spectacular posters for a ton of bands. It was the first thing of ours ever put out and J. Yuenger produced 2 of the 3 songs , recorded exclusively for this release at Graveyard Studio, he even plays a solo on one of the songs. Meantime we had Tomorrowland Blues LP in the works but were not sure who was going to release it at the time or when and in what format.
Who owns the black cat on the front cover of Tomorrowland Blues? And what’s it’s name?
Dava: That is my cat, Mr. Crowley. He was abandoned as a kitten in a bodega on the Lower East Side, which is where I found him. He definitely lives up to his name. He is a bad-ass and we are remiss in not giving him an album credit.
As stated Jay (ex White Zombie guitarist) helped produce the band first release on Last Hurrah. A lot of people have been wondering what it is he is doing musically as he was a terrific songwriter. Has Sean and the band been in contact with him throughout all these years? And without being potentially invasive, Is there any bitterness felt over the years since White Zombie split, between the members?
Sean: Jay has kept busy producing a lot of bands of the years; his real love is working in the studio. Recently he has been remastering classic horror movie soundtracks released on limited vinyl and it is a really big thing! There is some bitterness, because Rob chose to break up the band and go solo and never talk to any of us again. It’s unfortunate; it makes all memories of White Zombie a bummer. We wish it wasn’t so, because we all worked so hard and had such a fun and rewarding time in the band.
What are the chances of ever seeing a White Zombie re-union show or another Cycle Sluts From Hell re-union show? Or is this something better left in the past so-to-speak?
Sean: Again, you would have to ask Rob – he has said countless times “never” so I believe you have your answer. I think his last answer was the funniest, saying how old we all are! We’re no older than Soundgarden or Chili Peppers or any of our peers that still tour, and I don’t know about Rob but I see Jay and Johnny all of the time and we all look exactly the same. That’s what I’m told also. Jay actually looks younger somehow!
Dava: Cycle Sluts had two reunions several years ago. They were fun but that seemed to be enough.
Let’s talk about the Housecore Horror Film Festival that the band performed last year.. How long has the band known co-founders Corey Mitchell and Phil Anselmo, and when was it decided that you would be invited to play the HHFF?
Sean: I have known Phil since the first time we played with Pantera, back in the early 90′s. He and Darrell always treated me like a kid sister and called me Junior. He still acts like a big brother, and he invited us on the festival. Corey and everyone there were amazing – it was as though they had been doing the festival for years; everything went so smooth!
What was the Housecore Horror Festival like to play in comparison with other shows you have performed? Did you meet some people that you thought you may never get the chance to etc?
Sean: Yes! We got to meet Goblin, who are legendary to me and I never thought that would happen! really great guys and amazing how they pull off the soundtrack stuff live – they scored Suspiria live – that will probably never happen again! The festival was really unique in that you had so many like-minded people there that all loved heavy music and horror, it was really fun! You’d see people out late doing shots watching Down and Eyehategod, or the Melvins, and then surprisingly these misfits would get up in the morning and be at the horror screenings, as it they were at church! Very cool!
When it comes to Horror, what style and perhaps period of horror does the band like? Are there any specific directors/actors and/or films that stick out as your all-time favourites or inspirations?
Sean: I love the old black and white classics, also Hammer films, Argento, Bava – moody atmospheric shit with very fake blood! Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff are definite favorites of mine.
Does Star & Dagger currently have good distribution?
Yes. Tomorrowland Blues is distributed by Megaforce/MRI and easily available through many outlets on the web. The translucent blue vinyl version is a limited edition with an adult parody gameboard on back. Play at your own risk.
I also noticed that the first release ‘In My Blood’ has many references to the all-seeing-eye and Illuminati. This can be a ‘touchy’ subject to some, but I myself read a lot about this topic from Skull and Bones through to Bilderberg Group etc.. Does the band actually have a firm interest in this subject or would you say it’s more of a coincidence?
Dava: That word implies many things to many people causing all sorts of repercussions – but it’s not a stretch to acknowledge oligarchs exist, and it’s naive to think they wouldn’t exercise power using technocratic privileges that the rest of us plebs only dream about. Countries are corporations, banks determine who lives or dies, and we are bombarded by a mainstream media entirely lacking in integrity, embedded as the messenger in an age of disinformation. So no matter what you want to call it, there seems to be a gross imbalance of power running the show. Is that the self fulfilling prophecy of a few aristocrats? I don’t know, but it’s fascinating. So is the imagery and symbolism involved.
Regarding the In My Blood album, Lindsey Kuhn did the cover artwork for that and coincidentally when we did promo for the first few songs we posted online we used printed our own funny money to hand out. So idea-wise, we were all on the same page at that time.
What was the last CD/VINYL you purchased and what would be one of your most prized possessions in your music collection?
Dava: The last vinyl I got was The Guilt Of, a project by Mike IX Williams and Ryan McKern which was also put out by Last Hurrah Records. One unique album I’ve been playing a lot lately is by Link Wray (titled Link Wray). The cover is a die cut side portrait of his face and he’s all hippied out, I think it’s from 1971. I also have a few of his old 45s.
Knowing that Sean has travelled to Australia before with the band White Zombie; has anyone else in the band been to Australia before? And do you hope to bring Start & Dagger here to perform some shows?
Dava: I have never been to Australia but would love to go someday.
I really hope we get to play there.
Many Thanks for your time to do this interview! I wish you all the best and success with the record! Please feel free to leave any last comments here or anything I may have missed! Thanks! ; )
Thank you so much, Blair!
STAR & DAGGER – TOMORROWLOAND BLUES – OUT NOW!