Her video Anima Animus from the forthcoming Album Davidian Sex Club was filmed at Dark Energy’s Vampire Ball surrounded by a sexy crowd enchanted by this fetish event. The music of Illuminati Steele can be described as an intensely emotional and poetic mix of dark electronic samples as well as thunderous beats. Mixing synth pop, shoe gaze and hip-hop into a sound all her own. Dark Beauty asked some questions to find out more of her musical journey…
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you born and where are you now?
I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and also grew up in San Diego, CA. I currently reside in Minneapolis, MN.
Prince was from Minneapolis as well, is he one of your inspirations and is his energy still felt in that area?
I was actually exposed to Prince, The Revolution, and also The Time at a very young age due to growing up as a child around my aunts who were young adults at the time. I used to sneak into their rooms going through their makeup and Prince tapes. I remember sneaking and watching Prince’s “Kiss” video with my younger sister, as we were not allowed to watch it due to the raciness of it. Prince and The Revolution resonated deeply with my race identity as a child, I saw people whose skin color and nationality that could not be outright defined, like my own. It taught me at a young age that race has no genre boundaries if you are the one defining them. I know what it feels like to have people not know what to label or do with your music because it’s not “white enough, black enough, pop enough, goth enough, etc.” The energy of Prince can still be felt everywhere throughout the city, and his essence is everywhere and in everything. On murals, shirts, blaring through car stereos and in the papers. There is a big mural in downtown Minneapolis of Bob Dylan that says “The Times, They Are a Changing”, and I always honestly believed that the mural should have been one of Prince; not Bob Dylan, since Prince has done and contributed so much to this city.
‘A Darker Shade of Heaven’ was a definite visual masterpiece. What type of significance does that video hold for you?
I am still in utter awe of how beautifully everything came together, and I still get chills when I watch the video. I feel that it is my best video work to date, and it hurts me that I couldn’t find a distributor to get the video out to the masses in order for it to receive proper recognition. I wrote, produced and performed the song, which came off super hot and vicious with a Michael Myers beat type backdrop. I brainstormed the concept and scouted the shoot, and at times acted as lighting tech for my DOP (Scott Hoffman) while I was directing the video and acting as wardrobe assistant to Elektra Cute. Though I edited the video in its entirety myself, I had so many other people who worked tirelessly with me that day to make the video what it is today, so I felt it was only proper to recognize all who played a part in it. That’s why the intro of the video is so long. The intro came off very Twin Peaks/Blue Velvet David Lynch-y, which is exactly what I wanted. The outro with Elektra Cute came off so hauntingly beautiful, seductive and gorgeous, due to the experience of the DOP, and the utterly mind blowing beauty and meticulous showmanship of Elektra Cute. She is a burlesque hall of fame performer, and if she has not actually been inducted into it, it’s obvious that she needs to be. That type of natural and sensual projection on camera cannot be faked. She is a natural for sure, and I am honored that she was onboard to lend her beauty and talent to my artist vision.
Since we last had you featured with us what have you been working on?
I wrapped up shooting and editing for (4) other videos: Desire By Design/Darker Shade of Heaven/Want Me RmX [Featuring Eve.92], Generation Kill [Featuring Terrormasta], Eros of Cupid (Death Mind of Projections) and Innuendo (featuring Elektra Cute) [Obsession Mixxx]. All the videos will be “officially” released and promoted this year. I am also in the midst of finally wrapping up production for my album “Davidian Sex Club”.
Tell us about ’Davidian Sex Club’:
The first thing you notice about the album is the cover. The cover photo was taken by Deviltech Photography out of Portland (era ’08). It is candid dungeon shot of myself and a longtime friend at the now defunct monthly fetish event “Deacon X Fetish Night”. The photo is symbolic of the emergence and open acceptance of aspects of my personality and being that I had been either ashamed of, or kept hidden until around that time. At that time in my life, I was spinning as a DJ at various underground fetish events and clubs in the DC and Baltimore area. The name originally was meant to be a dark ode to the comradery of all that come together within the dark basements and dungeons of the fetish scene to indulge in their desires and sexual freedom without fear of biblical repercussions. If you’ve listened to the majority of my lyrics, you will notice that I naturally gravitate content wise to the darker more hidden aspects of life, because ultimately it is who I am. Very “scorpionic” to say the least. Overall, this album can be deemed as more of a confessional to the dark beauty of life, death, desire and existence itself. ‘
Anima Animus is a deep electronic sultry sexy dance track and you matched it well with the new video. Tell about the shoot location and why you choose to shoot there?
Thank you! I jumped at the chance to shoot the video at Dark Energy’s Vampire Ball for the simple fact that Minneapolis is not normally that dark and progressive. From my experience living and performing in big cities/places like DC, Toronto, NY and SoCal, the scene there is normally a lot more progressive than the Midwest. So when I caught word of it happening, I knew I had to jump at the chance to shoot at it. Basically, my DOP and I did a bunch of live scouting in the club, where we hand picked the most beautifully dark and eclectic people in the club that I thought would help define the video. I’ve learned at this point in my career that many times it all comes own to the editing job. It took me several months to sift through hard drives of footage and piece together everything. I’ve also realized how shooting in a dark club is going to cause A LOT of issues with color correction if you do not bring in a mobile lighting crew to follow you around.
What is the meaning behind the song?
“Anima Animus” is a dark, but poetic love letter exposing the depths of a subculture rarely seen or acknowledged in mainstream music. I believe it is an upfront and honest approach towards the admission and acceptance of not only life and death, but sexual identity and the universal acceptance of being true to ones self and desires.
How are you producing your music?
I have my own project studio where I make and write my music. I am such a sucker for an awesome bassline; I still utilize my E-MU SP1200 to this day. I also am a huge Quasimidi and Access Virus TI fan, and create most of my synth sequences with those pieces alone. When it comes to mastering, my go to guy is Greg Reierson at Rareform Mastering studio here in Minneapolis. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to work with Greg, as Greg is widely known for his mastering work with Prince. I love hearing about his Prince stories and receiving his honest critique of my final mixes. I also work with Terrarium Studios here quite a bit, and also enjoy listening to the audio engineers recollections of working with a perfectionist such as Prince during my studio downtime.
Who are you as an artist?
I am a “Jane of all trades”; a musician, poet, producer, video editor and director. I’m also a hopeless romantic searching for intensity and truth in all that I do. A lot of my drive and discipline come directly from my experience gained as a military veteran serving in the Marine Corps. I always told myself that if I made it out alive, I would devote my life to creating a piece of work that this world would always remember me by. I’ve been blessed by the universe for the chance to do that. Those closest to me have been taken either by violence, suicide or drug overdoses. Because of that fact, I feel that I have become a record keeper and mouthpiece for those who were not given a chance to speak their truth, no matter how dark, how brutal, how painful or beautiful. I realize that I have been put into a position to convey a truth that may be a bit dark, or make people uncomfortable, but I believe it is my responsibility to speak for those who I’ve lost that truly believed in me, and supported me in my artist endeavors. It’s the least I can do for myself and to honor their memory.
I plan on touring this summer and hopefully playing a few festivals out of state. I also plan on officially releasing a few more videos and finally dropping my album in May in its entirety. I am excited that Davidian Sex Club will be one of the first fully visual albums out there, being that every song on the album has a corresponding video. That is very important to me since I am also a visual artist. I plan on making the most out of any opportunities that the universe sees fit to send my way. You will never catch me taking anything for granted.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
Dark Beauty is a monumental staple in our subculture of goth, darkwave as well as everything that is dark and beautiful. It is the “creme de la creme” publication of defining and capturing an essence that mainstream society is unfamiliar with, or chooses not to understand. It is strange, unusual, progressive and defies the boundaries of the mainstream’s contemporary idea of beauty. I feel strongly that DBM embraces our subculture like no other publication can. I am honored for your time and consideration.
Photo Credit Lars Kommienezuspadt