TAKING THEIR CUE from bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, The Damned and Joy Division, Roadside Memorial offer New Dark Romance built on the bones of all three British Invasions. Alternately cinematic-moody and unwittingly upbeat, the resulting sound speaks to love, loss and revenge in synth-inflected, guitar-driven, sixteenth-beat, post-punk style. Daniel Knop (Vocals), Casey Castille (Keyboard), Kimba (Bass), Eric Haas (Guitar) and Jeff St. Pierre (Drums). We spoke with each member to get an in depth glance into their musical world…
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you each born and where do you dwell now?
Daniel: I was born in Redwood City, California, and now live in San Francisco.
Kimba: Born at St Lukes Hospital San Francisco, and Live in San Francisco.
Casey: I was born at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, but only lived there for six weeks, before we moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. My father’s military career kept us on the roam until I graduated high school in Honolulu. I’m happy to call San Francisco my adopted home.
Eric: I was born in Lodi, CA, moved to San Francisco in 1997, where I quickly immersed myself in the music scene. My first introduction to Daniel was in 1998 when I was light mixer for Daniel’s production of The Who’s rock opera Tommy.
Jeff: Born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and I Dwell in San Francisco, California.
Your combination of super talented players in this project work perfectly together. Tell our readers about the formulation of the group and how did it come to be?
Daniel: I was in a band called Pan Demon, it was more of a punk band. I started writing more post-punk music, with friends from the Goth scene, late at night after dancing at clubs like Death Guild and Bondage-a-Go-Go. As one band fell apart, a new one rose from the ashes.
Kimba: I have known Daniel for years and we have always been fans of each other as musicians and performers. He asked me to come to a Roadside Memorial show and I was blown away. I loved the music and the energy. After the show I just gushed about how much I loved the band. Daniel said, “Great! Our bass player is just filling in for us til’ we find the right fit!” I then expressed an interest that I would like to audition. He just kinda laughed and said, “You don’t need to audition. If you want in, you’re in.”
Casey: Daniel had left Pan Demon, and was forming Roadside Memorial at the tail end of his production run of his rock opera, Abigail and the Salem Witch Trials. He originally asked Eric to play lead guitar after seeing him perform in the Midnight Bombers. Daniel loved Eric’s post-punk guitar melodies and tones. At the time, Eric had to turn down the offer, as he was too busy with the Bombers project, as well as his schedule as a producer. However, when it came time to record, Daniel looked to Eric to produce Roadside’s debut album IX. Midway through the recording, Roadside’s former lead guitarist moved to Paris. With the record stuck in limbo, I joined the band as keyboardist and we started reconstructing the tracks, to reflect the new lineup.
Eric: I stripped the old guitars off, had Casey layer keys on it, and I started playing guitar melodies where needed. A few months later, I called Daniel after receiving an invite to the album release show. I asked him who he got to play the guitar melodies I played on the record. Daniel answered, “no one” and asked me to play the show with them. I was instantly hooked after the first rehearsal. Kimba was at that show and knew we were in search of a permanent bass player; he joined the following month. A year later, we started work on the new record. Constant differences in opinions were arising with our drummer so we decided to part ways. We enlisted the help of Jeff St. Pierre who Kimba had played with in Specimen years ago. Jeff began playing the songs in the fashion that we had originally imagined the band to sound like. We had finally found the formula that is Roadside Memorial.
Jeff: I joined the band recently; just a few months ago. Daniel asked me to audition for the band when their former drummer left. They auditioned a handful of drummers, then the group voted, and I was selected to join them. I was very excited when they told me I got the gig, because they are, in my opinion one of the best bands in the SF Bay Area. Plus, I always enjoyed the rhythm section Kimba and I became in Specimen. Not to mention, he’s an all around great friend.
You so exquisitely fall under DARK ROMANTIC POST PUNK which I personally find addicting. I always like to find out more from the artist when it comes to lyric content , can you go behind the meaning of your song ‘At The Bottom’?
Daniel: At the Bottom is written to a certain person who drove me to do dark things, on an occult, spiritual level. The message in the song is, “if I am pushed too far, I will use the Black Arts against you, to protect myself”.
Casey: I find it interesting that the message of the song is so dark, when the music is relatively upbeat. It’s insidious, that way.
Kimba: We are seasoned players. We we have been in many bands; we love to create and perform music — that is what we do and we will continue to do ‘til the end. Like the chorus says, At the bottom of my soul, there’s a fire yearning to finish what I start. I’m sure that it means something completely different to Daniel. I tend to interpret all the songs differently than maybe originally intended.
Great work on your music video Baphomet, it’s very creative and dark which we love here at Dark Beauty. The snake at the end is awesome, how did that come about? What was the experience like having Kimba direct?
Casey: Working with Kimba as a director was a great experience; he had a specific vision, which he executed it very successfully. He inhabits this world of twisted, carnival-colored art; if you poured equal measures Sid and Marty Krofft and Kenneth Anger into a cocktail shaker, and then spiked it with Henry Selick, you’d approximate the movie that rolls in Kimba’s mind. We’re fortunate that we get to see even a fraction of that vision.
Daniel: Kimba is an amazing filmmaker; it was a pleasure having him work on this. The set was created by ScareCo; a production company who specialize in haunted houses. They had taken over the old West Oakland Train Depot, and allowed us to film as they were striking the set, as Kimba was an artist on the project. Thanks to Joshua Overturf and Tabitha Barron from ScareCo Haunted Attractions for allowing us to use their production as a location.
Kimba: As Daniel mentioned, I was one of the artists and set builders working on this haunted attraction called Platform 13, which took place at that condemned, one-hundred-year-old train station. During the two-and-a-half months I was building sets, I easily imagined all the stories that could happen there; the place was just oozing with inspiration. The folks at ScareCo were nice enough to let us shoot for an afternoon.
Daniel, you have such a deep rich history of music here in the Bay Area and beyond, we’d need a whole new interview just to cover it. How would you say you’ve grown as an artist?
Daniel: Well, I used to just sing to other people’s music, and I got sick of that. Relying on other songwriters is not always easy. It can be a frustrating experience for a singer, so I picked up the guitar myself, and started practicing writing songs of my own. I started arranging early on. My first attempt at writing was in a band called Funeral Party – gothic punk/metal stuff, and then I moved onto the Bad Apples, straight-up punk. I then collaborated with and wrote songs for Abigail, The Salem Witch Trials Rock Opera, which opened me up to Pan Demon. I now write all the songs, but trust my bandmates to contribute their parts; I know they’ll provide what I want, or surprise me with something I wouldn’t have thought of, but works. Most of the time, it works very well; we’re the Rock and Roll psychic friends network.
Kimba, I know you have a history with Goth band SPECIMEN from London’s Bat Cave, playing bass at the age of 20! What was that experience like for you? We would also love to hear a story from that time:
Kimba: I was just kicked out of The Bastard Sons Of God (That’s a band.) and I was feeling a little down. I didn’t have to mope for very long before I heard the gossip about Specimen moving to San Francisco. (It is amazing how fast news would travel in the club scene before the age of the internet.) Along with that fun bit of gossip was the rumor that they were looking for a bassist and that they were actually looking for me. I thought it was a joke, but before I knew it I was at Ollie Wisdom’s Apartment. He invited me in, offered me a cup of tea, walked a circle around me and said “Well, if you can play, you are exactly what we are looking for.” At my Specimen audition, everyone was smoking a spliff. I did not smoke weed at the time but I took a puff just to be social and I forgot my name. I mean it was one of those times when you are so baked that you are completely disconnected. Time is non-concept and you seem to be trapped between frames of your own movie and you are not quite sure of the plot but the movie reel seems to be stuck. The most exciting moment of my life had just turned into… anxiety. The drummer clicked his sticks to count in the first song. We all hit the first note and the power went out, the whole studio, pitch black and silent. (Well besides the yelling from the various bands.) I ran up stairs to the coffee shop and tried to sober up. The power went back on and I explained to the band how high I was. We all had a good laugh and the audition went fine, as soon as I could relax. I played with Specimen for two and a half years and recorded a full album that was never released (I know… it’s a sad shame). In 2006, I played and recorded with Jon Klein on Electric Ballroom. Ollie and Jon have always been my heroes and it was certainly a pleasure to work with them.
Casey, it’s great to have you return to the live band format, you’re also an amazing artist as well as musician. How does it feel to be performing in a band again? Also where can we find your artwork?
Casey: Thank you! It’s wonderful to be back in a band again; after I left my old outfit, The Mimsies, I went through a period of wanting nothing to do with music or performing, but I’m afraid it’s in my blood; I had been singing and performing onstage since the age of six, and had been in bands from the age of fourteen. I wasn’t going to be able to stay away for long.
Poster art by Casey Castille
I’ve survived some rather traumatic experiences in my time playing in bands, but I’m stubborn; I wouldn’t let a little thing like post-traumatic stress keep me from pursuing something I love, although I have to thank Daniel and my bandmates for being patient with me. It’s been a very different experience playing in a band as a musician, as opposed to being a frontman; I think I like both equally, at this point — they’re just different. Thanks for mentioning the artwork; I enjoy a secondary career illustrating posters for events — the past few years have been such a flurry of production, that I’m a bit surprised to have now amassed a significant body of work. Many posters feature our friends and acquaintances from around the Bay Area, all performers, artists, musicians and DJs themselves; it’s grown into a series of its own. You can see my work at caseycastille.com, and at La Fiambrera gallery in Madrid.
Poster art by Casey Castille
Daniel, you have theatrical expertise on many stage productions of well-known musicals, directing and starring in Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy, The Rocky Horror Show and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I’ve seen one of your productions and was extremely impressed. Does your experience in theatre come across in your live Roadside Memorial performances?
Daniel: Not yet, but I have big plans for this band! We are definitely all characters, and my onstage persona is my dark alter ego. I’m the dead version of myself onstage.
Casey: The dead version, with lipstick!
I’d like to ask each of you what David Bowie meant to you and what was your favorite album of his?
Daniel: David Bowie meant the world to me, and I still think about him every day. I would have to say it’s a toss-up between Low and The Man Who Sold the World; each record takes you to a different level, one of hard glam-punk to ethereal, ambient, meditative mantra. I have to admit, I love most of his records.
Casey: I was going to say Low! Actually, I’ll follow suit on bending the rules and say it’s a toss-up between Low and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. The latter is obvious, but it’s a record that really did change my life when I heard it; it is such a completely realized artistic concept — a perfect union of visual art and pop music — high concept with lowbrow tendencies. It functions on two levels: immediately accessible, melodic rock and roll that you can dance to, and cerebral thought experiment; what would happen if an alien came to earth and became a messianic pop star? It hits you in the hips and in the pre-frontal cortex, in this mad mixture of glitter and slang; it was brilliant in 1972, and it’s brilliant in 2016. Bowie was the epitome of a completely integrated artist who lived by his own rules, created his own world, and appeared to be ultimately confident, dignified and somehow unpretentious about it all. That is something to be emulated. He was, and will continue to be, most inspiring and enormously influential. We should all be so well-adapted, as artists, that we spend the last known eighteen months of our lives producing masterworks about the experience of dying. Breathtaking.
Eric: He inspired me to push boundaries and play with passion and desire; to make love to your music every time you perform. Everything he wrote oozed from the depths of his soul and you can feel it when you listen to those songs. I was lucky enough to see him perform in a smaller venue and it was like hanging out with an old friend the way he flashed his alien smile; his spaceman charm. He completed his perfect circle with his last record BlackStar, hitting on modern and classic Bowie and taking us on one last journey with him.
Kimba: The short answer: In the Eighties, I used to Joke that David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and T-Rex were like The Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The truth is that Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust are like hymns to me, and some of the lyrics hit me like scripture. To say that David Bowie was an influence on my music and image would be an understatement.
Jeff: David Bowie is in my heart and soul. I feel his music is the soundtrack of my life from my teen years, and all through my adult life. When I hear one of his songs, it brings me back to memory lane, I can remember exactly what, and where I was when I first heard it. David Bowie was, and is, the most brilliant artist in the entertainment world. He broke ground in every medium, songwriting, singing, acting, image, in addition to being a sharp businessman, and visionary. I can’t pick my favorite album, because they were all great in very different ways, but I would say my favorite song is Ziggy Stardust.
I always ask SF bands, what would you like to see more of in the music scene here. On behalf of the magazine I could definitely say we need more Roadside Memorial!
Daniel: I love bands that are theatrical; I’d like more theatrics in our band, but it’s difficult to be theatrical when you’re chained to a guitar. I want a performance and a show; I want to see props, lights, lasers, art, fog machines, fashion — I have no interest in seeing a band who look like they just walked onstage from a bus stop. We’re actually looking forward to working with Brian Friend from Laser Voodoo again; he produces the best light show in town. I always like having sexy go-go dancers, but we haven’t had much room on stages lately. There’s nothing like looking at a half-naked girl, while you’re listening to your favorite song.
Casey: I just want to see more bands, and more people going out to see and hear live music! I love the little community we have here; there are so many talented people working in the Bay Area, and working together, producing great art and music; we are fortunate to consider many our friends. I’d like to see more avenues of discovery for people who haven’t, historically, ventured out to see live music and events. A debt of gratitude is owed to publications like Dark Beauty, for giving such communities and artists a voice.
Jeff: Unfortunately because of the tech industry boom, both past, and present in San Francisco, a lot of the great small music venues are being scooped up by developers, and turned into office spaces, and condos. This seems to be happening all around the world. My good friend Meg Lee Chin, formerly from the band Pigface, tells me it’s happening in London too. There needs to be places where a new band can experiment, and build their fan base, to freely create, and to express their art. Those places seem to be fading fast, in exchange for the mighty dollar. What people seem to forget is that culture is, and always has been, defined by the art that is created. When that is gone, where will we be as a society?
What would you like to see changed in the world to make it a better place?
Daniel: One night, I had a vision about twenty-five commandments to make the world a better place. Here they are:
1. Work hard. 2. Love peace. 3. Respect the living and the dead. 4. Do not ignore injustice. 5. Recognize false leaders and expose them. 6. Honor truth. 7. Learn the facts. 8. Practice empathy 9. Maintain control of your emotions. 10. Defend yourself, when under attack. 11. Respect Science. 12. Respect the Occult. 13. Believe in whatever you want, so long as you hurt no one. 14. Respect other people’s faiths, so long as they harm no one. 15. Let Love conquer Hatred. 16. Teach wisdom, by example. 17. Learn from your mistakes; they can be helpful to your successes. 18. Be aware of your impact on the environment. 19. Be aware of your surroundings. 20. Live your true will. 21. Know the psychology of the people you’re dealing with. 22. Help ease suffering whenever possible. 23. Take responsibility for your actions. 24. Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose. 25. Respect your animal nature, but be guided by your ability to reason.
Casey: I would like to see more people start living at their full capacities, and making decisions for their lives based on confidence and capability, not fear and inadequacy. The experience of being human seems, often, to be a protracted journey through personal insecurity. We seek so much validation outside ourselves, and base the most personal of decisions on things that have no basis in reality; it just seems like a lot of lamentably wasted time. I want to see everyone in the world own who they are, and feel the full extent of their personal power and capacity to live creatively productive lives.
Kimba: Greed needs to go; And all of this energy spent on fear, prejudice, judgment and pointing the finger could be spent making a connection.
Jeff: Less war, hate and bigotry, more peace, love and compassion. I would like to leave a better world for my daughter, than what I’ve experienced in my generation.
Tell our readers all your musical future plans:
Daniel: My goal is to finish our second record, produce videos for every song, small tours with major acts, score a distribution deal, and keep doing records, videos, touring. Down the road, I’d love to be involved in a full-length movie; of course, engage with whatever other opportunities come our way, until I die — which I hope is a long, long time from now.
Casey: I’d eventually like to produce my own solo record, but not before I’ve made plenty of music with Roadside, and have popped out a few videos, as well.
Eric: Further exploration of our version of dark romantic post punk. We will be releasing a new album this summer and plan to tour in support of it. We are actively working on new videos and are always writing.
Jeff: I would like to be a part of making Roadside Memorial a household name. We are currently going into the studio to cut the next album, and I think our fans will be pleasantly surprised with the results when it hits the shelves, online stores etc… More music videos are in the works, and touring both locally, and abroad is also on the horizon. I’m looking forward to hitting the stage with this phenomenal group of artists.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
Daniel: Dark Beauty… most things in darkness are beautiful to me, so the scariest, most horrific monster that is terrifying to someone else would be beautiful to me, because it’s a creature of the universe. That’s why I’m a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, and all his various monsters and ancient ones. I’m a great fan of demons, as there is much to be learned from their wisdom. Also there’s something very sexy and beautiful about a Satanic witch or warlock. Generally, the people I find appealing and interesting are creatures of the night, who hang out in the Gothic/Industrial scene.
Casey: Conceptually, I’ve always been attracted to the idea of “dark beauty”, or the idea that there is beauty to be found in dark things. I like to think of “darkness” being anything that presents an alternative, or an adversarial (though not combative) viewpoint to that which is widely accepted as standard. Literally, the magazine Dark Beauty impresses me, as a digest of all things truly alternative to the mainstream, presented in a deliciously stylish way.
Jeff: Mysterious, Hot and Sexy!