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Interview: The Danse Society
The Danse Society were one of the great “What If’s” of the early goth scene. With a string of underground singles gaining essential dance floor status, and the top 40 album ‘Heaven Is Waiting’ under their belt, the band looked like they’d be the next break-out goth stars.
But it all went sour. Beaten down by the music industry and attempting to stay afloat under their own power, The Danse Society eventually slipped under the murky waters leaving only the music and memories.
Fast forward a quarter of a century and a campaign facebook called ‘The Danse Society Reformation Plot’ brings the band back in contact with each other. Before long there’s talk of a new album, with (shockingly to some) a new singer! Finally in 2011, the culmination of the plot has finally been realised with the release of ‘Change Of Skin‘, the band’s first album since 1986’s ‘Looking Through’. The album is not only a reaffirming of the band’s belief in themselves, but a proud first step on a new path.
Dominion caught up with Paul Gilmartin, Paul Nash and new vocalist Maethlyiah to talk about how they found their feet again.
Dominion: What led to you starting the ‘The Danse Society Reformation Plot‘?
Paul Gilmartin: “Well actually we did not start the reformation plot. It was started by a lady called Ali Howells, a life-long fan who really should get all the credit for getting the ball rolling. The thing is it did get us communicating again and to realise how much the music meant to fans and to ourselves therefore in a sense we were very fortunate to have this second chance, you know, gone but not forgotten.”
Dominion: What has the reaction to the news been like from your fan base?
Paul Gilmartin: “The reaction from the fans has been very positive tinged with a hint of apprehension…the thing is you can’t please everybody all of the time. There are purists who only like certain eras of the band for example and we can’t recapture certain periods in peoples life back for them. 30 years is a long time so we’re never going to recapture our indie days back: No Shame in Death, Clock, Woman’s Own etc. Those five Barnsley lads ‘against the world’ spirit only comes and belongs in the moment and at that period in our lives.”
Dominion: Has it been an easy process for you all?
Paul Gilmartin: “Has it been an easy process, yes and no. When you’re younger you’re driven and basically the band is your main focus in life. However, people have other commitments, moved to other parts of the country and countries so family, jobs, time etc has to be considered… then there’s the relevance aspect. Can we recapture something worthwhile again and not be a parody of what we once were. None of us wanted to be a pale imitation of ourselves and be a novelty, a token 80’s goth band reformed for one last go on stage before it’s too late. In saying that, it was now or never and looking at it from a cosmic angle it was meant to be and the time was right. I personally had always lived in hope of getting back together and Dave felt the same. It was just convincing Paul.”
Paul Nash: “It didn’t take much convincing to be honest, and as soon as we got together again in the studio something magical started happening, Gigi mentioned cosmic alignment and I think he might be right!”
Maethelyiah: “I simply call that MAGIC, and when I get asked how this happened I reply IT WAS SIMPLY MEANT TO BE.”
Dominion: What have you all been up to since the death of The Danse Society and its subsequent resurrection?
Paul Gilmartin: “Well in my best Michael Caine voice ‘not a lot of people know this.’ Dave (keys) is responsible for some of the country’s face music for TV and adverts, programmes like Emmerdale and Through The Key Hole. Paul works as a tutor in the music and arts dept at a college. Myself? lots of failed bands, covers bands and rehabs. There’s always one black sheep in a band, unfortunately for me – its usually the drummer who can’t let go of the lifestyle. Thing is, it’s kind of trendy now so it looks good on your rock and roll CV. “Interestingly, you should say ‘since the death of The Danse Society’ because looking back that’s how I took it. A sort of bereavement and I grieved for the music and the people, an untimely death. Cut off in our prime. Poisoned by the industry we worked so hard to get into. You know I had a chip on my shoulder for years, you put your trust in these people and they just bleed you dry and spit you out, all tied up nicely. We spent a fucking fortune on stationary. We could have opened a fucking shop. So unfair to see none of the money yet end up bankrupt. That was our trouble it was never about the money then and it isn’t now.”
Dominion: You’re working with a female vocalist [Maethelyiah] this time around. How has this changed the style of the band?
Paul Gilmartin: “We’re working with a female vocalist yes, Maethelyiah from Blooding Mask. It’s more than that, she’s in the band and part of The Danse Society now. I can’t see that changing. We’ve got something we’ve never had. With all due respect to Steve, the music does not have to do all the work now. She’s also pretty like Steve and makes a perfect front woman with a fantastic voice and vocal range, which again gives it something different to what we had before. You know we’ve been really blessed because we have found somebody who is totally in tune with us and it has brought something fresh and exciting to this project. So in a way it is like the old days because Steve had lost the passion and Maeth injected some of hers into us again. Has it changed the style of the band, yes, we’re a bit easier on the ear now for the mainstream, but retain all the dark and satanic aspects of old. I want to make it clear I’m not dissing Steve here and have the utmost respect for him and our time together I wouldn’t swap for the world. He gave us no choice. But we have moved on and are really excited by Maeth’s vocals.”
Dominion: Have you run through older songs together at all and does having a female vocalist given them a new slant?
Paul Gilmartin: “We’ve actually not ran through any old numbers and that’s the truth. We could not remember how to play them. Seriously we’ve been so involved with the new that we’ve not bothered. However when we go live we will have to and I’m so looking forward to hearing Maeth’s interpretation of them. Plus I get to look at her ass a lot sitting behind the drum kit, instead of Steve’s or shouldn’t I say that in this day and age? [Laughs]”
Maethelyiah: “Gigi, Behave! [Laughs]”
Dominion: Was there any temptation to leave the The Danse Society name alone and strike out under a different moniker?
Paul Gilmartin: “We did consider going under a new name and to be truthful it did cause some debate. We did realise some people obviously would say you can’t be The Danse Society without Steve. Then where does it stop Tim, Lyndon. For a while we did have a compromise, ‘The Danse’, but I was never comfortable with it and in the end I thought fuck it, I thought up the name who has the right to dictate what name we should use after all these years. If the thought of it destroys it for you sorry if it’s so important to you but get over it. It’s an established name a fantastic name and why shoot ourselves in the foot before we start. Yet having said that I do kinda understand, like The [March] Violets without Si. A hard one, but Tom’s there so yeah. All is fair in love and war. You know if a bands got the original drummer who gives a fuck who else is in the band. Oops, am I not supposed to say that as well? Only kidding folks.”
Dominion: How has the writing process/dynamic changed since your early years?
Paul Gilmartin: “Not much really, we’re still as intrigued about atmosphere and that dark feel as before in that respect nothing has changed. We realised we’re still very comfortable with each other working together and when you put all our different influences together they still combine into a typical Danse Society track. We just can’t help it, it comes so natural we don’t even have to think about it much. We just feed each other bouncing ideas around. We’ve been lucky, every track’s been a winner, in fact they just get better. We’ve started some new stuff not on the album and there’s plenty more petrol in the tank. The thing is, we never dried up as a band and musically intended a longer shelf life, it was just outside influences and circumstance that cut us short. The only thing that’s changed is Maeth and I write most of the lyrics now, along with Maeth and Paul, where as before it was Steve and Lyndon.”
Dominion: How has new technologies impacted on the way the band writes and records compared to the early years?
Paul Gilmartin: “Technology. Never used it. No, we’ve always liked it and in the old days we were always messing so yeah we use it why not. Why make life difficult for ourselves. What’s available at your finger tips now is hard to resist and everybody else uses it, so I think you’re selling yourself short if you don’t, to some degree. Gone are the days when you had to sit in a room all day getting a drum or guitar sound. Obviously you don’t have to redo the entire track again when you decided to get clever towards the end and lose it. I mean we kept the drum mistake in ‘No Shame In Death‘ and it still bugs me to this day. A big factor is you can send the files, and the vocals can be done in Maeth’s studio and she doesn’t have to be coming up to Yorkshire all the time. Plus it’s easier to say ‘don’t like that’ via email. [Laughs] We’ve never had to do that. All in all, it’s made this project work otherwise it could have been a bit of a pain and slowed things down a lot more.”
Maethelyiah: “I started my own recording studio when music was recorded on huge 24-track reel tapes and still think in those terms. Technology hasn’t changed that much if not in terms of space and time, but still the care, the meticulous care that turns every tracks true energy into matter is the same. I noticed that Paul, Dave and Gigi have kept exactly the same balance that made TDS sound unique from the start. I enjoy the fact that it’s never been ‘about the singer’ like most bands, but pure balance between the four heads and yet this remains unchanged.”
Dominion: What have been the main influences for you in writing the new album ‘Change Of Skin’?
Paul Gilmartin: “The influences for this album where do they come from? Our imagination I would say is the main ingredient and having thirty odd years of absorbed music stored up in your memory banks. It was all just ready to come out. The songs are all about thought provoking subjects and reflect the music. There’s no love songs on there but if you like panic attacks having a nervous breakdown or hiding away in a darkened room this is an ideal companion. All the usual ingredients. You do not know whether to dance or kill yourself. Maeth’s voice has brought a haunting quality to the music. Power and versatility with a girlie charm so this album differs from the old straight away. “
Dominion: How do you feel this album compares to the rest of your back catalogue?
Paul Gilmartin: “It’s more polished but in a good way. It’s the album we always should have made. ‘Heaven is Waiting’, in my humble opinion, was a bit of a classic in our own way and genre. This is too, but even better.”
Maethelyiah: “I had the audio files ready made and most of the lyrics were written, so I just went with the flow. Putting melodies on such great tracks was as easy as enjoying a glass of the finest red wine. Pure blessing.”
Paul Nash: “It’s The Danse Society 2011 with all that entails but it is still ‘The Danse Society’ our original power, energy and atmosphere are all still present with a dark twist and added the added beauty of Maeth’s vocals.”
Dominion: Will you be releasing the album through Society Records or have you been looking at other labels?
Paul Gilmartin: “It will be released on our own label Society Records first and on digital download. Whether it gets taken up by a larger company remains to be seen, but the terms we were offered were ridiculous when we’ve done everything ourselves. So in the end we have done it all. We’re all wiser now anyway and not naïve or green behind the ears so we can dictate the terms and sit behind a PC where it’s all done from now due to the net.”
Maethelyiah: “We went through Society Records because we weren’t happy with the lack of competence most labels were displaying. We felt it was the best thing to do, especially in view of the fact that this means the whole CD is exactly what WE want. None of us four seems to be prone to get told what to do. Of course things can change, if we will find a label in the future that does what it says on the tin… so far we found what in Italy is called ‘plenty of smoke but very little meat on the barbecue’.”
Dominion: You’ve recently shot a music video as well. What can you tell us about that and are you satisfied with the end results?
Paul Gilmartin: “Yeah we’ve just done a video for a track off the album called ‘Revelation‘ and it’s great, we’re pleased with it. We’re not getting any younger so seeing yourself as you really are is a bit of a shock or was rather because you think oh were too old, (I’m talking about us now the boys) because you still see things as young men and the belief always used to be that it’s a young mans game. But once you get over that we are not competing with younger bands. You know fine. So after counselling and Maeth talking us through it we’re over it. However we’re not in the next video much, just Maeth and a Scarecrow and some children that suits us ha-ha!”
Maethelyiah: “I am absolutely delighted about our new video ‘Revelation’ because it reminds me of the B.M. atmospheres and graphic (Before Maethelyiah), as if time didn’t change. It felt almost as if I have been travelling on a time machine. I find it simply brilliant. I am somehow still stuck in the eighties, I don’t listen to radio or TV shows if not by accident, and I felt hope watching our video.
“Differently I can say about the ‘Scarecrow’ video, which will be again quite a known territory for me, because it’s about a sexy horror atmosphere… which is exactly where I come from. Of course I don’t want to spoil the surprise, you will soon see.”
Dominion: You’ve also released a collection of demos from the ‘Heaven Is Waiting’ album, what led to this decision?
Paul Gilmartin: “Why release the demos album? Why not? They’re completely different to the ‘Heaven Is Waiting’ album, although the same songs. Feel energy raw, Amphetamine-induced, done in a day the whole lot, they have been digitally remastered but nothing added or taken off. It’s more or less a live album, so worth having.”
Maethelyiah: “There has been recent interest and requests that brought us to think it was a brilliant idea. I myself couldn’t wait to hear the demos. I remember the second time I was in Dave’s studio I saw this box containing lots of tapes and felt like a child in a sweetshop. Been struggling to resist the temptation to steal them all!
I have been a long time fan of the band for ages, since I was a kid, and when I have heard this compilation was going to be released I felt blessed. It’s so interesting to see how the tracks have grown in time and what they used to sound at the beginning. I still feel as excited like when I used to listen to TDS music at the time and I find the demo compilation as essential as reading a book from chapter one rather than from chapter two.”
Dominion: Have the demo recordings been cleaned up at all for the release or are they still raw?
Paul Nash: “They are essentially as we recorded them, they have been mastered to get the best out of the old tapes, but they still have all the power and rawness that I remember listening to them back in May 1983 in Greenhouse studios.”
Paul Gilmartin: “There’s more to come if there is a demand, ‘demos 2’; Heaven Again and Johnny In The Clouds stuff, which is great and features Mark Copson from Music For Pleasure on vocals and Yazz (All The Way Is Up fame on backing vocals).”
Dominion: Are there any plans for live shows in the near future?
Paul Gilmartin: “Live gigs. We did have plans but had to shelve them due to line up change etc. but yeah, hope to be up and running for next years festivals line up but who knows, if this album takes off it could be sooner than we think. It all depends on venues etc. It’s got to be planned, thought about and done well. Small time we would look stupid and I don’t fancy sitting on a beer crate in a storeroom with five other bands for the sake of it. Keep some mystery and cool.”
Maethelyiah: “There will be indeed. We are concentrating on our new album and videos, at the moment, plus we feel so happy and inspired to be working on new unedited tracks as well. We like to take our time, but certainly we will be looking into gigs as soon as the right time (and the right event) comes. There’s nothing comparable to the feedback only live gigs can give us. I can’t wait!”
Dominion: What will be the next step for The Danse Society?
Paul Gilmartin: “An EP is in the pipeline with two new tracks, ‘The Scarecrow’ and ‘The Wolf’, a sort of dark adult fairy tail theme. Possibly with a 12-inch dance mix of ‘Ice Swan‘, proper 80’s style. Some live rehearsals, just in case. A follow up album to start and world domination of the goth scene we’re after the title back!”
“Hey, we really hope you like it as much as we do thanks Paul Gilmartin, Maethelyiah, Paul Nash / The Danse Society.”
‘Change Of Skin’ is available now through Society Records. Please visit the official Danse Society website HERE for more.