This year, I welcomed Graeme into the band on drum kit and electronics, and we have been writing together for a month or so. We expect to have another release together by the end of the year. The sound is changing, the live drums and increased volume pull the music closer to a “rock band”, but we’re still very interested in retaining the dark ambience and atmosphere of earlier work in this new set up.
2.Recently you have released a new album, musically how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?
Solanaceae is heavier and sadder, but still very melodic. The songs are more succinct, too. I’m interested in song structures which aren’t overwrought and complex, but which move away from a typical verse/chorus/middle 8 template in interesting and subtle ways. The next releases will be different again, but I’m proud of the work I put into this album.
3.You refer to your music as 'blackened darkwave crawl', can you tell us a little bit more about this term?
PS was initially going to be a more traditional goth band. I was listening to a lot of Cocteau Twins, Cranes and especially Lycia. I was seeing a similarity in the melodies used by these bands, and those heard in black metal bands like Xasthur or Mutiilation or Velvet Cacoon. I’m very interested in black metal, and those records are some of my favourite music too, but I approach it as an outsider, and I don’t feel like PS is trying to be a metal band necessarily. So I think “blackened darkwave” is an apt term. I also want to differentiate our music from the “Blackgaze” genre, we don’t listen to those bands or take any influence from them, they seem to approach their music from a very different perspective.
4.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects you explore on the new album and also how would you describe your progress as a songwriter over the years?
I tend to write about my experiences of trauma, abuse, illness, regret, nostalgia, memory etc. It usually comes out in metaphors and symbols, but I try to be fairly direct in terms of mood. This album uses a lot of botanical themes, for instance. I like to leave things for people to look into themselves if they’re curious. What things mean to me are only part of it. At the start of Penance Stare, my confidence was very low, and so I think the songwriting wasn’t as strong as it could have been. I feel as though I’ve improved, each release feels closer to what I want to communicate, but I’m not satisfied yet, and I think that’s a good thing.
5.On the fb page you quoted Peter Carroll and have covered some occult themes on previous releases, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in Occultism?
I study and dabble but I’m not that experienced. I am interested in chaos magick as the quote suggests. It’s not a devotional practice or a religion or anything like that, it’s more of a study that I take at my own, slow pace. It’s a solitary, personal thing for me, and I go through periods where I can barely engage with it at all, but I always return eventually.
6.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Penance Stare'?
Some people might be aware that it’s a term from the comic book Ghost Rider. The Penance Stare is the ability to peer into a person’s soul and make them feel all the pain that they have ever inflicted upon others. It was also influenced by the character Penance from the comic Generation X, who is kept prisoner and mute with untouchable skin as a form of penance. These images reflect similar ideas found in my lyrics. I also used comic books as a reference to the nostalgic quality of the music.
7.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
The art and design were done by Andy from Crow Versus Crow, but it was a collaborative process. I sent Andy the photograph of a purple petunia, which I took near to my house. Petunias are one of the more harmless members of the Solanaceae family. We also used some floral net curtain, among other things. It’s really great to work with him on this, The tape is beautiful, it suits the music perfectly, and I’m really happy to be a part of creating things like that.
8.On the recordings you record everything by yourself, are you open to working with other musicians or do you prefer to work solo?
PS was never intended to be a “solo project”, which is a term I think is cursed with negative connotations. I enjoyed the freedom, but found it increasingly difficult, it created a lot more work for me and my energy was spread thinner. Now I can really focus on my lyrics, my guitar and my singing, and those areas improve because I don’t have to think about everything else so much.
9.You have also done some live shows with this solo project, can you tell us a little bit more about your stage performance?
I spent a year playing shows with my laptop and guitar. A lot of the time, something would go wrong and it would sound really weird and off and be quite difficult, other times it would work and sound great. It was a gamble. I did a summer tour on the Megabus before the album came out, and lots of one-offs in Leeds & Newcastle. The more frustrating shows were definitely a factor in wanting to expand to a duo.
10.Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?
We’re taking a short break, probably until summer, to write new material, but we will be playing shows later this year.
11.The cassette version of the album was released on 'Crow Versus Crow', can you tell us a little bit more about this label?
Crow Versus Crow is an art project, radio show, record label, and a friend. Andy brings enthusiasm and empathy, as well as an attention to detail from his art background, to everything he puts out. The label release limited editions of underground, experimental musics, with a strong focus on the visual element too. His radio show and podcast is also a crucial listen, if you take an interest in unusual sounds and the soothing voice of a kind Yorkshire man. I urge anyone with an interest in the UK underground to investigate his output.
12.On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your newer music by fans of black metal and darkwave?
The vast majority of what I have seen has been surprisingly positive. I wasn’t sure if people would like it, but so far only one person has made the effort to tell me they think it’s awful. But it’s not for everyone. Honestly the metal folks seem to have embraced it much more than the goth scene have, which I wasn't expecting at all.
13.Where do you see yourself heading into as a musician in the future?
Ideally we sustain ourselves making releases and playing live as much as we can. That’s all we’re really in this for. Hopefully I’ll get a passport and we can play in Europe, possibly. But sustainability is the goal. If we could put our records out on vinyl and do small tours, that would be enough, I think.
14.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
I’m really into Avellie, a lo-fi blackened shoegaze band, their music really inspires me. I also absolutely love Lingua Ignota’s work. Velvet Cacoon’s Atropine is an influence on the new material too. Our new songs remind me of Clair Cassis at times as well. The new stuff will be rawer, heavier and darker, the electronics will provide droning textures rather than melodies, the vocals will be harsher. I’ve said it before, but most bands mellow out over time, and I want do the exact opposite.
15.What are some of your non musical interests?
I like cats a lot.
16.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
I appreciate your thoughtful questions and the opportunity to speak with you.
I’d just like to mention our projects outside of PS - Graeme also records and performs as Chlorine, and I have a noise project called 1727.