Aurelio Voltaire is so much more than an entertaining performer -- he's hilarious, an incredible storyteller, a prolific and accomplished musician, a formidable video presence, an animator, an author of many books -- and he is so well loved by his fans that a grand interview is absolutely in order.
On his Twitter page, Voltaire describes himself as a "maker of music, mirth, mayhem, macabre and things that don't start with the letter M like films, comics, books and toys." If you can take that description and pepper it with snark, sarcasm, wit, self-mockery and a heart of gold, then you're coming close to getting a glimpse of this truly talented man -- and damn, he is one fine-looking honey of a vampire-y, steampunk-ish Goth kinda pirate guy.
After I wrote my article, "You Can't Keep a Good Goth Dead," you chimed in with a humorous comment. Being that you're an icon of comic relief in this darkly imaged community, how do you feel about some of these dead serious Goths who can't crack a smile?
Ironically, I feel sad for them. Ha! There I go bopping along like a happy, perky Goth, then some doom-and-gloomer comes along and is so annoying they make me sad, too! It's like a bloody virus, I tell you! Back in 2000, I hosted a big Goth convention in Seattle called Convergence. Naturally, my onstage banter was bawdy and full of death, booze and sex. When I returned home I received a very angry letter from an attendee. He said that I "ruined Convergence" for him with my "joking around and stupid dick jokes." Ha! I laughed so hard! But I was also really shocked. I didn't think guys like him really existed. I apparently destroyed his chance to go to a mopefest and be utterly alone (with a couple thousand other sulkers). I wrote him back and told him that next time he should save his money and just sit in his closet and cry.
So, on the immediate horizon we can look forward to a European tour. Can we assume that means the Transylvanian/Carpathian Mountain circuit -- or something a tad more conventional?
I'm afraid this time around, I will not be perched atop Dracula's castle on Khyber Pass, listening to the children of the night. Instead, I'll be in London caterwauling to a bunch of black-clad drunks and then stumbling to a kabob stand where I will undoubtedly get white sauce on my black velvet frock. Ha! Other stops on the tour include Bristol and Leeds in England, Vienna-Austria and Hamburg, Cologne and Berlin in Germany. I'm very excited to finally be venturing beyond the UK and deeper into Europe. Baby steps, my dear... baby bat steps...
Have you played Europe before and if so, are the audiences any different there than say, America or Australia?
I've played for years in England and no, I don't think the audiences there are much different than in the US, but then, I don't play to just anyone, I play to us! My constituents have come to understand that being around me is going to involve heavy drinking, sardonic poking at the world around us and filthy humor. So I think my audiences come prepared for that. They come to have fun.
Tell me about your new album, Raised by Bats.
I've been called a Gothic musician for almost two decades but I've never made a Goth album. I'm not a Gothic musician, I'm a Goth who makes music. Musically, I probably fall somewhere closer to folk or anti-folk or cabaret. I'm far more likely to pen a song about crashing the Enterprise into Mordor while having sex with a taun taun than I am to write a song about slitting my wrist (and meaning it).
The lineup on this album is nothing short of a Gothic supergroup! Honestly, there is so much talent and such an incredible musical legacy on this disc that I've become the weakest link in the chain! I'm the least impressive person on my own disc! Ha!
Raised by Bats, cover art by Michael Komarck
Would you say that you are compulsively creative? I know I am.
I am. I can't honestly remember a time when I wasn't on a project. My brain never stops creating new worlds and if I was going to self analyze, I'd say it's probably borne of a dissatisfaction with the world we live in, a desire to escape from it. I've been building myself a space ship in the way of doodles and songs, animated films and toys for as long as I can remember. But it's a compulsion. I can't stop. And I know that if I did, my life would be over. I would die. I mean that.
The villagers say that you're evil, possibly even rotten to the core with a side of dastardly thrown into the mix. Is this true?
I am sure you're far too intelligent to have fallen for that old act! I'm not evil, I just dress this way. I've always said that I'm a Jedi in Sith clothing. Evil is intimidating and powerful. But I don't have what it takes for the job, not on the inside. But I pretend I do, because what I really want in my heart is to live in a world full of peace and love where people respect each other and treat each other with kindness. But we don't live in that world, do we? And you know what? It's too much to take. So I wear armor. I wear a suit of black and war paint that says, hey, you better not fuck with me because I might be even more evil than you! Back off! I'm a scary vampire! And it actually sort of works.
Your fan base is not only loyal, they seem to be rabidly involved in every aspect of your life, which you make very accessible through your many channels of communication. Tell me about your fans.
I've always felt a responsibility to my fans. I am completely aware that I only get to live this life of an artist, a life I have been absolutely blessed to live, because of their support. And I feel it's my duty to show that appreciation. I don't know what backstage looks like. At my shows, I'm front and center from the time doors open until the last person has been hugged and kissed and sent home. I run my own merch booth because I want to see and meet and shake hands with these amazing people who bought tickets to come to my show and in doing so, helped me to live and to fight another day and more importantly... keep me from having to get a real job.
You've been doing some intense emotional cleansing these days. Fasting for days, bathing for hours -- what's up with those three-hour baths?
People ask me all of the time if I have a hobby. I thought I didn't, but I was wrong. I do have one and it's... bathing. That's my hobby. I will get in the tub with a bottle of port, sake, wine or rum and something to smoke, usually cigars or cloves. I've realized over time that I get my best ideas in there. So you see, I've just found another and possibly better way to daydream. And since I'm a professional daydreamer, this is practically like being on the job.
Can we assume you wear black underwear?
Naturally. Though I've been considering just tattooing my entire groin black so that I can stop having to buy and wash underwear. I miss being young and slim enough to sport the little, black, standard-Cuban-issue banana hammocks I wore as a youth. These days I wear those long, boxer briefs that come down to mid-thigh. A man of my age and girth should clearly not own a thong. But I do. I have only one. It's called the Thong of Doom and I only wear it when my pants are so tight that my old-man underwear would show. Truth be told though, almost no one ever sees me in my underwear.
After reading my article on Goth, you described yourself as an "Elder Goth," like myself. Any advice for the geriatric set who simply won't disengage from all that is dark and despairing and of course, too much fun to ever part with?
Much cooler than a flamboyant young person is an eccentric old person! Seriously! There are millions of kids who wear funny clothes, but the great majority of people just give up as they start to age. It's always so amazingly heartwarming when you see an 80-year-old woman all dolled up like it's 1920 or an older gentleman with great style. I say, if you're over 40 and you're still rocking the Goth look, that's pretty cool, but you're going to be even cooler when you're rocking it at 90!
Any chance of you and I having our own Mad Monster party together someday?
Definitely not! I was thinking more along the lines of a Clive Barker's Hellraiser sex-dungeon experience. I have such sights to show you! Ha! Oh, I suppose if Mad Monsterpartying with you means getting hammered on '50s-era cocktails while listening to exotica and watching classic monster films, I guess I could give it a whirl. But if I start jerking around like some bad Rankin and Bass stop-motion puppet, promise you'll slap me!
Ah, there you have it. Straight from the Lair.
Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a puzzle box full of dirty martinis downstairs in the sex-dungeon that's just SCREAMING for attention. Let the meat hooks clang.