“Satan is Real; and he is Black”
This is the title I received in a recent press release for the Underground BlkVampires and I was instantly intrigued. I love a band that isn’t afraid of inciting attention. I have been known to show up and support shows that in all actuality I would have never examined based simply on their persona. You see, to me and a lot of music lovers going to a live show is a part of the ‘show’. I don’t want to see music videos, I want an experience and this band seems to embrace that with a vengeance.
From their Press Statement: “BlkVampires is a ‘Must See’ band who have literally torn down houses in multiple venues leaving sprinkler systems and lighting fixtures hanging from the ceilings, while audiences stand in pitch black rooms. These monsters continue to excite and move crowds. Meanwhile, club owners drop lawsuits, while still asking for the band’s return, solely based upon their live shows. These 6 members combine Hard Alternative Gothic Soul music in a way that resembles what Queen did to rock & opera. In a moment you are listening to sweet tenor vocals, then suddenly your ears are jolted into sounds of sheer terror to slick cool rhythm guitar licks into pure metal. All this, while in full regalia a la Marilyn Manson and Slipknot.”
BlkVampires hails from New York, its band members come from boroughs in and around the city and between them have a more than decent resume. Forrest Thinner, the singer has been in Knights, 24-7 Spyz, & The Fluid Foundation.
Bass player, Raymond Anderson has played for Black Rebel Indians (Funk/ Rock&Roll/ Reggae)
Rhythm Guitarist Chan Booth Played with Prowler, Troy Brown’s Style, Remi Leku and other groups of musicians assembled by Forrest along the road to forming BlkVampires.
Ramsey Jones, the drummer and background vocals for the BlkVampires! His first band experience was with Abstract; he has also backed up Rha Goddess, Akebulan, Funk face, Alexis High tower, Vernon Reid. He recorded an album with Vernon Reid in 2001, which never came out. He also appeared on various Wu Tang Albums with his cousin is RZA. His youngest brother was Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He just recorded a track with Corrine Bailey Rae which will be on her next album.
Lead Guitarist Kute Tonge has played Karma, Fire and Brimstone, Lionheart, Boom Bits, Dayme and the Kicks, and Gingee and the Gun.
Most of the BlkVampires are well versed and experienced in genre bending music and BlkVampires is just that providing Heavy Metal stage sound with unexpected funk tracks laid down right when you wouldn’t expect them and yet it feels just right. I had to know more about these Vamps so here they are in their words:
G.R. – Who or what inspires you musically?
Ramsey – I started playing drums at the age of 5. Banging on various Tupperware. Pots and pans included. My first musical epiphany occurred at that age. My father summoned me into the living room to watch Jimi Hendrix obituary on television. I became enthralled by his appearance and at that time, you rarely saw black people on television. My father purchased the first Beatles album and Jimi’s “Are you Experienced”. Blew me away and informed what my life would be from that point on.
I started to seriously learn drums and guitar and piano. Any instrument to express myself and learn to write music. I also began to listen to every genre of music because I am a sponge for any kind of music.
ChanD– (My)Influences include Jimi Hendrix, Neal Schon (Santana/Journey), Prince, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads/Ozzy Osbourne, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jimmy Page/ Led Zeppelin, David Gilmour/Pink Floyd and Perry Mason. My first band was Abstract and it started in 1989 with a group of friends I grew up with. My talent had made others who witnessed my band at various venues like CBGB’s, Space at Chase, Limelight, Brownies, and Wetlands. Those were the days playing that scene in New York circa 1989-2001
G.R. – I am aware that Forrest Thinner was previously in 24-7 spyz, I found an interview with him on the website for the City Gardens Film project- Riot on the Dance Floor, would Forrest like to talk about playing there. I ask because the press release highlights the band’s propensity for tearing down the house and City Gardens pretty much exemplifies the house being torn down. Is this the feel that BlkVampires want to bring to its shows?
Forrest– In regards to bringing down the house, the idea comes from and actual show where I hung from and light fixture, and it came down. The band continued to play to a pitch black room, while workers tried to get the lights back up. We don’t want club owners to think that they will always tear up their venues; otherwise they will never let them play.
G.R. – In your press release you state “Satan is real and he is Black”. Are you referring to the Christian ideal of Satan or the hedonistic aspects as represented by the Satanic Church? Or are you giving Satan an all new spin. If so, explain a bit.
Forrest– Satan? We are using Satan as an alternative to things, like the opposite of things. Good/Evil, Yin/Yang, Day/Night etc…To blame the Devil for everything that goes wrong in this world is crazy, when God allows it!
G.R. – Who are your fans? What demographic are you attracting? Are your fans the ones you intended or did it just turn out that way organically? When I watch your videos I see mostly a white college age audience, do you think they “get” the funk and soul musical references? Also I don’t see a lot of the Vampire social scene present at the concerts, but this may just be circumstantial. How does the Vampire culture receive you?
Forrest– Our fans are new and developing. Since we are from the Northeast, our fan base is also here, and it’s turning out this way organically. We play multi bills with different acts so this brings us a wide audience and yes, whites understand soul and funk very well and appreciate it. The vampire scene has not made a presence at our shows, yet we play with everyone they only go to their “kind” of events.
G.R. – I have to ask about the cross burning, I am intrigued because you are a Black band, how is that received? I think it is provocative to say the least, but what is your intention with it, shock &awe? Or a statement or both?
Forrest-The burning cross is like a fiery preacher that’s speaking the word of God, the Klan used it to put fear in black people, we use it to put light in ALL people. Our intention is to free your mind. Imagine a Jewish band with a swastika…wild huh??
G.R. – How much do you interact on a daily basis with your fans? Do you utilize Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. on a regular basis to allow your fans to feel they know you, thereby generating excitement or do you keep a distance and cultivate mystery?
Forrest– Fan interaction, yes we do it on a daily basis. On Facebook there are people that actually come to our shows or support us. I want them to feel us personally and the ones that don’t we’re a cool mystery too. We are also still on MySpace. One of the band members has a twitter account. I (Forrest) also hand out flyers/stickers on a regular basis, which is another great way to meet and interact with people.
G.R. – I see Genre’s themselves as passing away. More and more there is so much blending, punk and cabaret, metal and soul, ukulele and …well that damn instrument is popping up everywhere. However when you go to search and buy and post music you still have to announce a genre. How do you deal with this as your music definitely is genre bending.
Forrest-Our music genre if you will, could be called “Alternative Gothic Soul”. That’s what we tell people. It’s like Al Green vs. Pantera or Maxwell vs Marilyn Manson. Soul music is worldwide. What Queen did to Rock and Opera we are to Alternative Gothic Soul. There is no equal.
G.R. – Listening to and reading through the lyrics which it looks like mostly Forrest wrote, they are mostly fun and saucy with a sense of taunting in some cases, except for War which was a bit more political. Right now do you see this group as a vehicle for drama or social commentary or both?
Forrest– Both!! The lyrics typically reflect the songs’ titles and since we’re a multifaceted band our songs should also reflect that. Like the Beatles, their names sounds like bugs, but of course don’t sing about insects. The band Vampire Weekend also doesn’t sing about vampires. We aren’t necessarily trying to be anything in particular (social, political, etc) we are just trying to do things organically. Whatever hits us in our chest, that’s what we sing about.
G.R. – I did see via Twitter that ChanD is a runner. What else do you all do on your own time? P.S. ChanD also tweeted “Curling is the greatest sport ever created by men.” Which cracked me up and while yes it is a great sport I have to disagree, I think Running the Ba is the greatest sport. Just thought I’d put that out there. Violence and a history of head stealing who can beat that?
Forrest– My time is promoting this band, which is why we’re communicating now. I’m like a machine with this….I like it. I feel we’ve got the uncanny thing out here and your article can help take us through the roof!!
ChanD– I spend my free time at the gym, on the golf course, and, of course, traveling to follow the international curling tour circuit.
Ramsey– What I do in my spare time is collect records and Cd’s. Yes I still buy Cd’s and records because I hate downloads! I also love to read and research music history and history on various topics concerning towns and countries. Art also inspires me and nature. I love to collect music from the 60’s. Rare psych, soul mod jazz, anything odd and unusual from the era. I love all eras of music. The 60’s and 70’s were the best.
Kute Tonge– I like to boogie board
G.R. –What I always want to know about everyone I meet is: what book is currently being read or what was the last book read, who is in regular rotation on your daily soundtrack and as it is the right time of year what is your favorite Horror story/movie?
Forrest– Frankenstein by Dean Koontz was the last book. In daily music rotation are: Rammstein, Sade, and The Game. My Favorite Horror movies: The Exorcist/The Thing! /Horror Hotel
Raymond – Current Book Being Read: I Want To Take You HIgher The Life and Times Of Sly and the Family Stone by Jeff Kaliss. Last Book Read: Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiological Approach by Dipiro et al. Favorite Horror Movie(s): The Exorcist, The Sixth Sense.
ChanD– Currently reading two books: “Dreams from My Father” by Barack Obama and the Keith Richards autobiography “Life”. As for horror films, since we’re in October, this is a very timely question. The first “Halloween” always made me jump. Very basic story. Creepy and suspenseful music. Low budget production. No frills yet very compelling all around. Very influential to many horror movies to follow. It’s always the simple stuff that ends up being the most effective. Classic.
Ramsey – Books I have read lately were “The Chitlin’ Circuit” by Preston Lauterbach, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz and Little Willie John’s Bio. All excellent books. My favorite Horror films, too many to mention but I love “The Exorcist” and “Halloween”. I listen to a lot of music from the 60’s. Today’s music is lifeless and boring. The only good music from this era is music you don’t hear on mainstream radio. Mainstream radio is garbage to me. So I go out to find music on College radio and small radio stations. Digital streams and checking out interesting music in record stores, Independent, that is.
Kute Tonge– I am currently reading a book called Self Realization. Mercyful Fate is in regular rotation on my daily soundtrack. One of my favorite horror movies is the Wolfman with Lon Chaney.
BlkVampires are the type of band that is embodying the ideal of doing what you like and enjoy, cutting out the middle man and bringing the music directly to the fans. This trend that began out of necessity is lately becoming the “It” thing to do” with well established musicians leaving their labels and taking advantage of the global networking and technology. While this is all well and good for the guys late to the party, underground bands like BlkVampires understand the best selling point is the music and the show and bringing it to the people whenever, where ever and giving it everything.
Most of all having fun and Bringing Down the House-Light Fixtures and all.
To See BlkVampires and get upcoming concert information, go to Subversify Viral where you will find videos chosen for you by the Band.