On May 22, The Birthday Massacre made a stop on their Under Your Spell tour in St. Louis, Missouri. I had the honor and pleasure of sitting down with Rainbow and Chibi from the band. What follows is my conversation with them. It is a transcript of the audio/video recording I made. We were unable to use the video for a number of reasons, one being the level of noise in adjacent rooms. As such, the transcription might have only extremely minor inaccuracies; maybe 1-2%.
It’s no secret that The Birthday Massacre has weathered their fair share of challenges during the Under Your Spell tour. Yet, they continue to persevere not only for themselves but for their legion of fans who have continuously displayed devotion of unparalleled degrees.
Lead vocalist Chibi and guitarist Rainbow have been the heartbeat of The Birthday Massacre since the inception. However, the band dynamic wouldn’t be the same without M. Falcore, Owen, Nathan and Rhim. Yet it doesn’t take long to realize the bond that Chibi and Rainbow have, whether it was admitting that if one would quit so would the other or even when finishing each other’s sentences.
I want to send a very special thanks to tour manager Michael who so kindly replied to my emails in record time and fit me in for the interview despite a very tight schedule. This interview is for the fans of The Birthday Massacre and especially those members of The Violet Prison Forum. As I noted earlier, I have never in my life seen the level of faith and devotion for one band. Enjoy!
But EXTRA special thanks to Rainbow and Chibi for your time and to the band for once again making a stop in St. Louis. Please return soon!
Oh and thanks to Chibi for the bottle of water when I had that cough.
At the time of this interview, The Birthday Massacre is on tour. Check their official website for dates. They are NOT to be missed.
TNBtS: The new record, Under Your Spell as well as the last one, Superstition were done completely through Pledgemusic. Having that level of support especially when it comes to three times what you are asking in 24 hours, that had to have created a sense of gratitude but maybe a little bit of being humble and did that sort of play into some of the words or was the material already written before that?
Rainbow: The material wasn’t written prior, but I think obviously gratitude is an understatement but it was really encouraging and honestly, the last couple of albums, doing them though Pledge has been a really really positive experience for us. And we sort of take that attitude with us into the recording. But it’s not like we sort of write a song about being grateful for it, you know what I mean? But definitely the energy and support puts us in a good headspace to be creative but I don’t think it affected the lyrics necessarily but it affects us personally and just in terms of being able to do what we need to do to put together an album that we’re really excited about and we hope everyone else is too.
TNBtS: I read that there’s talk about what’s called a “flash campaign” for the 10th anniversary for Walking with Strangers. Is this the case and what can you tell us about that?
Rainbow: It’s pretty early days but I think we just wanted to do something special for the anniversary of Walking with Strangers. So we’ll probably do sort of different artwork. I mean actually it’s so early days, I’m going to see if there is any unreleased material from that era and see if we can combine that maybe as bonus tracks but right now it’s kind of all up in the air. This is just something we just decided on.
Chibi: I can’t believe it’s been almost…
Rainbow: I know. Time flies. It’s crazy.
TNBtS: That was actually another question that somebody from the forum was interested in… In a typical recording session, how many tracks do you usually record like for a retail album release and then what happens to the extra tracks? Are there plans to do (release) little by little on EPs or maybe a box set?
Rainbow: It depends. Every album is different. Sometimes we have more songs that we need. Other times, every song that we write gets included on the record.
Chibi: And then when it’s sort of time to begin the next writing cycle, we start fresh with new material. So there ends up being alternates left and right. A Good example would be the Imagica release. We were able to go back to that time and find some songs that were complete and include those.
Rainbow: I think we try and write, we demo a lot of ideas first and then sort of pick and choose and trim the fat so to speak early on in the writing process. And then we usually pick about nine to twelve songs that we’re really excited about and then we finish those up and then it’s a complete album. So most of the things that aren’t included on the album, they’re not full songs. They’re sort of ideas that we might revisit later.
TNBtS: So a couple of the tracks that have been leaked or released so far, “One” and then “Counterpane”..What’s the story behind these tracks and what made you go for the “love and heartbreak” sort of theme?
Chibi: I think that vibe sort of coasts throughout every song on this album, the sort of loss and heartbreak vibe. I don’t think we chose to do that. It was just sort of the page we all found ourselves were leaning to. I’ve said this before…just listening back probably most every song follows that sort of theme, wouldn’t you say?
Rainbow: Yeah. There’s definitely common threads throughout the albums in terms of theme and lyrics. It wasn’t something that we sat down and preemptively decided on. It was something that…
Chibi: Just happened.
Rainbow: Came organically. A lot of times the lyric writing process..I think it’s just something that came out of the music. A lot of the times when we’re writing the lyrics, a lot of the themes came out of what we get from listening to the music as we’re writing…like the progressions and melodies and stuff like that.
TNBtS: So do you think that most of the ideas come from inward personal experiences or external observations?
Rainbow: It’s a combination of things.
Rainbow: It’s a bit of both. But we try and write in an open-ended way. It’s a little bit sort of fragmented so people can I guess put themselves inside it. It’s more like an audio sort of movie in your own head. A lot of it is imagery.
Chibi: And see I would say what sets this album out, it was different I think that it is a little more sort of straightforward emotion. You know what I mean? I haven’t really noticed that with our albums before.
TNBtS: So…the two of you went to art school..
Rainbow: Yes, yes we did.
TNBtS: There is this idea where artists tell a story through visuals and not necessarily through words. So has there ever been a case where you are doing the music first and that it created such a vibe that you went, “That’s what the song is going to be about?”
Chibi: I mean..we always write the music first. We’ll have lyric ideas written down that we’ll work on separately but the music comes out first. Like what you are saying you’ll listen to the music…In terms of what feelings does the music inspire in such a case. Then you can look into lyrics that were already written and we come up with new ideas.
Rainbow: It usually starts with the music and then we sort of build off of that and then explore different mediums.
TNBtS: Ok. You’re doing a show. At the end of the first song, she walks out and quits. Three singers walk in the door of the club and they happen to know every single work of every Birthday Massacre song…Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons, Sarah Brightman and Miki from Lush.
Chibi: You better go with Sarah Brightman.
TNBtS: Who do you pick to finish the show and why?
Chibi: They’re all good.
Rainbow: I’ll go Sarah Brightman I guess.
Chibi: See I hoped you would cuz when I was in high school I used to listen… she did Phantom (of the Opera) and a lot of that cool musical stuff. You better!
Rainbow: But in all honesty, we would all quit. But I don’t think that would be something that would ever happen.
TNBtS: Ok let’s say he quits. Three guitarists walk in the door; Paul Reynolds of A Flock of Seagulls, Porl Thompson of The Cure or Marco Pirroni from Adam and the Ants…
Chibi: That guy from The Cure, I think just because I love The Cure so much. But I’m going to have to say that if Rainbow quit, I would quit too. Isn’t that the answer you were ultimately looking for?
Rainbow: I’m touched by that
TNBtS: I thought it would be kind of a cool idea to go to the (Violet Prison) forum and address some of the stuff because there’s a lot of really intelligent insight on there. One person said: “the song “One” might have been intended to act as somewhat like the first and the last song on the album, the song “Endless” was meant to be kind of a link between the beginning and the end of the album. It’s got a very final sound to it. Then there’s also, on the artwork the ouroboros symbol, the snake. So there’s this theme of “endlessness” and “the end is just the beginning.” Comments on that?
Chibi: That’s interesting. That’s very interesting.
Rainbow: I think a lot of what we do and the song order on the album is just out of gut, you know…out of feel. I think once we put everything into place and you almost sort of stand back and then think of maybe why you did it. But most of the stuff…the creative decisions we make on every level are pretty impulsive.
Chibi: But you remember when we were first putting together the track list on this album, we had a different order at first and it did not feel right. So we made adjustments to what was going to be the last song on the album. Because yeah… it didn’t feel right at first. It’s weird how it works that way and then it ends up sort of making sense.
Rainbow: Yeah this album I think more than other albums it took us a while to get the song order that way that we were happy with.
TNBtS: Someone else made a really interesting observation. They said that they thought some of the earlier albums mention the number 2 a lot, “two of them are sisters,” “every face in two,” “two hearts.” Then the number 3, “three poison hearts,” “faith will divide in three,” “trinity” and now you have a song called “One.” So, not sure if that means anything but ….3, 2, 1….
Rainbow: Honestly, I think we have what we call Birthday Massacre-isms. And then after compiling the albums we’ve done, the body of work we have, you start noticing I guess subconscious themes and things that we tend to sort of gravitate towards…certain numbers, certain phrases. It’s almost like we kind of make fun of ourselves for it. But there’s no sort of grand master plan.
Chibi. Or is there?
Rainbow: Or maybe there is and we’re just not going to tell you.
Chibi: We don’t know.
Rainbow: We don’t know.
Chibi: We don’t know.
Rainbow: I hope we know.
Rainbow: We’ll pretend to know.
TNBtS: There was another one where somebody said, “I heard that this album was more mature. Older albums seem to focus on childhood, growing up themes even with children on the album cover. Now we have an older figure on the new album. So maybe the themes of youth won’t be covered in this or it has to do with the next stage of life, becoming an adult. Was that conscious as well?
Rainbow: I think a little bit. I think on all of our songs there’s always elements of nostalgia, looking back. There’s always still going to be those themes within it. But I do think it was something that came naturally as time goes by…as we’ve sort of matured and grown as people and artists. That hasn’t been something that has gone unnoticed by us either. But it’s something that has naturally come about.
Chibi: I think this album was super-unique for me anyway…just sort of writing, recording and watching it all come together. We didn’t really even have a discussion about “Oh should we use some of the more familiar elements for the artwork for the album. Everything just sort of ended up making sense and then Rainbow, you had the idea for the cover and it just all really came together. I think that this album stands apart from the other ones for all the reasons that we mentioned.
Rainbow: It was a really natural, organic process.
Chibi: It was. I actually really enjoyed the process this time.
TNBtS: There was another interesting thing someone (one the forum) pointed out. On Discogs.com, if you look up Imagica, there’s a quote that says, “briefly changed their name to Nothing and Nowhere in 2002.” True or False?
Rainbow: You know what…that might… I think we did.
Chibi: Yeah we did but it was literally for like a day and then we didn’t like it. And I can’t believe anyone would remember that. Because I did not remember that.
Rainbow: I probably forgot that we did it like the day after we did it and that’s so long ago.
Chibi: It was literally like a span of hours that the name change happened.
Rainbow: So kudos to whoever did the research.
Chibi: Yeah you know more than we do.
TNBtS: You did an interview one time where you said, “There’s times during one whole performance where I’ve cried while playing songs then laughed my ass off the next minute.” Has there ever been a song you’ve written that, at the time might have been therapeutic, cathartic but when it came to performing it live, you said… “No way. It’s too painful.”
Chibi: Wow. No… To me anyways, any song to me was that important on an album, I would want to explore it more. And I think that the way you get to know songs the best is by performing them repeatedly. I mean…any song that we’ve had a strong reaction to I think would prove to be something that we’d want to play live because we would be attached to it…for me, you know. There are songs that we don’t play anymore that I’m kind of relieved that we don’t. Because in a way it was like.. There’s memories and stuff and it can be difficult over and over. Then there’s songs that still bring out emotions in me that I’m so relieved when we all agree to do them.
TNBtS: Such as?
Chibi: Hey that’s my business! Let me think…. for example, “Looking Glass” is one of those. I have a really strong emotional connection to some of those lyrics. And also “Leaving Tonight” is one that I always love to see on the setlist. I just love performing that song. I remember what we were writing in there and what the lyrics are about and the places it takes me. And I like going to those places every night on tour.
TNBtS: So, you’ve toured the States, you’ve toured Europe..where else?
Chibi: We’ve been to Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Russia..
TNBtS: I know a lot of people had to have written you saying “Hey, you know this song meant a lot to me…you affected my life in this fashion…. Do you think that as far as spanning those cultures, have you noticed a different effect it’s had on people of certain countries or cultures or has it all been pretty universal?
Rainbow: I think it’s been pretty universal. I mean, any time we’re in another country, there’s obviously different language, different culture but anyone that is familiar with our music, the know the lyrics and they know what the songs are about. They take the time… At least the people who are nice enough to come and talk to us about it all have an understanding of what the writing was… what we meant, what the songs are about.
Chibi: I think also, just the way crowds respond live is the best way to sort of gauge, and that can vary from city to city. You can play a show to a crowd of people who are really into the ballady stuff then when you play the heavy stuff, you know…. I think that can vary from country to country. Some cities or towns or countries really like the big rock show. They love the heavy stuff. And some crowds just really like to dance and that can vary from a couple hundred miles.
TNBtS: Somebody (on the forum) wanted to know as far as software synths, do you use a lot of those or do you prefer mainly hardware.
Rainbow: It depends. When we started, we used a lot more hardware but now, the soft-synths, they’ve gotten so good and there’s such a wide range of different softsynths and different textures you can get. I really like the Argyria softsynths. They do a lot of retro synths that I really like. But when we were first starting out and even now, I never had this mind to run around getting all these great old vintage synths. So we basically just used what was in our basements…like a crappy Casio and run it through a distortion pedal. We just made do with what we had. But now in the last few years obviously just with the evolution of softsynths, we’ve been able to use that.
When we used to record, we used to use a 4-track. That’s what all the old Imagica demos were recorded on. We’ve definitely had a long road of evolution in terms of our equipment and the way we record.
TNBtS: Is there anywhere that people can suggest merchandise ideas and have you ever thought of doing anything really unique like coloring books?
Chibi: Oh that’s actually a cool idea!
Rainbow: That’d be a cool idea. We enjoy that side of the band and we do spend a lot of time creating designs whether it is for the website or for merchandise. We’ve opened it up to the fans to design shirts for when we did Australia. Everything on the Pledge campaign is pretty unique and we usually don’t bring along as merch.
Chibi: No, it should be exclusive.
TNBtS: Ok, last one. Let’s say 40, 50, 60 years down the road…a distant relative of one of you two or any of the band members for that matter, goes into an old house and finds an ornate box in the attic. In that box they find the Birthday Massacre discography and something to play it on. What do you want them to know? What do you want them to get out of it, about the stuff you’ve created.
Rainbow: You know… I think with music and once you create something and you share it, I think it’s kind of out of your hands at that point. I feel like I wouldn’t have a right to say what I’d want someone to get out of our music. You know… I think they are going to take from it whatever connects with them. So much of how that person reacts to our music comes from who they are and what they connect with. I mean even certain songs that come from a certain place within us, they might have a different meaning to someone else or they might see it a different way or take a different meaning from it. But that’s just as important. The last thing you want to have to do is explain exactly why someone should like it or what it should meant to them.
Chibi: And see, I’m going to go ahead and say the exact opposite. I would hope that they would, not even just about the music…but just take a vibe of appreciating things, paying attention to their emotions and maybe do something themselves. And just sort of not be afraid to explore feeling sad or explore feeling happy and just really valuing existence and all of its emotions and moments. If anything, listening to our music has been sort of a time capsule for me that I really value in that way and I think it’s really cool when people create that type of thing themselves… which totally went against what you (Rainbow) said. (laughs)
Rainbow: …the yin and yang..that’s what it’s all about, right?
Chibi: Yeah… The yin and yang of The Birthday Massacre
TNBtS: That’s all I got..
TNBtS: Thanks for your time.