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Shadow Image - Interview

Interview with: Harley Mace
Conducted by: T.V.

Shadow Image is a Detroit (USA) based duo that catches all those who say that Goth is dead on a lie. Their gloomy, romantic, vintage, 80s fashioned gothic rock style of music and image holds a lot of freshness and together with many new gothic rock bands that offered us a proper renaissance of the genre in last couple of years, they must have a special position within it. Harley Mace and his partner Mandy Monster have released so far, one self-titled EP in 2012 and the full-lenght album, Kiss The Ashes, this year through German label Danse Macabre Records. Many reviewers described their music as a perfect combination between The Sisters Of Mercy and Christian Death, but believe me that there is much more... Read the interview we did with mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Harley Mace below and discover some of the background of Shadow Image.

T.V.: Your debut album was released in May this year, how are you satisfied with the final result?
Harley: I'm a perfectionist and art/music has always been about the challenge of making what I see or hear in my head into a reality I can share with others. So, I always feel I can do better. There is something to be said though for capturing the moment and achieving a certain atmosphere which may be unreplicatable. Given the time and resources at my disposal however, I think it turned out well, but I want future projects to aim for a higher level.
T.V.: And what about the response from media and fans?
Harley: The response from fans has been amazing and I really appreciate hearing from them. Unfortunately, with the album being released through a German label, thousands of miles away, I don't see much of that response here in America and in day to day life. We are still very much an unknown quantity in our own homeland.
T.V.: So, how did you got in contact with Danse Macabre Records?
Harley: It was a complete surprise on our part. They contacted me out of the blue one day with an offer and things took off from there. I had given out some of our EPs around Wave Gotik so it's possible one landed in the right hands but the exact details are unknown to me.
T.V.: But, are you satisfied with them?
Harley: They are really great people and have been a huge help. They allowed me 100% total creative freedom with the album; we literally did everything ourselves short of actually physically handing the plant our files. That said, I would like in the future to possibly seek out a partnership which offers more active help in booking etc.
T.V.: Have you got a distribution also in North America?
Harley: No, we don't have any partnerships in North America currently. To my knowledge there are probably only a handful of distributors who carry dark music here and I'm not entirely sure how beneficial they really are to the bands they carry.
T.V.: Still I see that goth scene is growing in USA...
Harley: Goth music and culture has been here a long time, but most people don't know what it is. Most Americans are still under the impression that Goth is the shock-rock and emo/scene/metalcore stuff they have on MTV and in the malls. The actual goth scene in the USA is very underground, spread out and even clubs that claim to have "goth nights" rarely play a handful of actual goth music if any at all. There is also a big dark electro/EBM scene in the USA and unfortunately if often gets mistaken for goth and overshadows it.
T.V.: I see... I just had the impression that it must be very expanding. Ok, I saw that you produced, mixed and made everything necessary for the album. I believe that you must be experienced from before with things like that...
Harley: I've been writing and producing music for a long time, beginning in my teens, but haven't actually released much professionally. I've learned things from friends and other musicians but am completely self taught in that regard. This new millenium is truly wonderful in that it offers almost infinite resources for those interested in self educating such as myself.
T.V.: In a chat we had recently, you said that you were pretty much involved in metal music...
Harley: Yes, I had several symphonic black and death metal bands I was involved with years ago and probably will be again in the future when time allows. If people are a spectrum of colors, I might say that was a different shade of my life and I feel like for the last few years it has had another hue.
T.V.: Can you give us some names of bands or projects that you were involved?
Harley: Most of them never got as far as to be anything someone could look up. The most significant was Vintenar, which we released an EP album for. There were several others I went under different monikers with, but nothing really worth mentioning.
T.V.: And what can you reveal about your "partner in crime", Mandy?
Harley: She's a wonderful person who has helped me grow and explore a lot of avenues in life I wasn't able to before. Besides doing the majority of our styling and wardrobe etc, she had a big role in producing the music also. Everything I record and write I'm constantly sharing with her, bouncing ideas or getting a feel for things. It's no coincidence that before meeting her I hadn't been able to produce much music successfully.
T.V.: But, beside music what's the relation between you two?
Harley: We are a couple and have lived together for years now.
T.V.: I presumed that! The image and outlook of yours seems to be quite important for you two...
Harley: Yes of course, to me music isn't just an audible experience. When you listen to it, you visualize in your head, every single note has a color and connection to a memory, time and place. So we decided early on that Shadow Image would be about that whole experience, being visually interesting as well as with the music. It's a further expression of who we are, what we enjoy and find beautiful and meaningful.
T.V.: Is Shadow Image also a live band?
Harley: With only the two of us, what we could bring to a stage would be more limited than I would like. However we are currently rehearsing with a couple very talented friends of mine to soon be able to bring a full live experience to life.
T.V.: That's good to hear and I hope to see you in Europe someday. Your lyrics are dealing with some really dark life-themed thematics,... can you say some more words about this matter?
Harley: I've never liked the generic, ambiguous lyrics present in much music. Instead our lyrics deal directly with personal experiences, feeling and events in life. I feel my words should be... powerful, beautiful, and without regret.
T.V.: When it comes to composition of songs, do you write before lyrics or music?
Harley: The music almost always comes first, in order to set a particular tone and atmosphere. I'll have in mind a particular theme or idea for the lyrics but the exact words often change even when I'm singing them on the final recording. There are often last minute cuts and changes with the lyrics, some of them accidental or spontaneous if something jumps out at me from the music suddenly.
T.V.: The music of yours is a vintage style of gothic rock, but there are quite some fresh ideas in it. Where do you think is the catch?
Harley: It's difficult to achieve a balance. There are of course many bands out there seeking to emulate exactly the Sisters or Nephilim, to the point where they could even be mistaken. But that doesn't make much sense to me. As I said, I envision a scene in my mind, an atmosphere and a sound, like a waken dream, and then do my best to bring it into reality through the instruments. Sometimes I get sounds or melodies in my head from nowhere, like a faded memory. There isn't really any planning to try and make something fresh or change a scene.
T.V.: There's an interesting piano version of track "Lost But Not Forgotten". What can you tell me about it and can we expect more songs like that in the future?
Harley: The piano was my first instrument and I've always been in love with classical music, especially chamber music. Many of the songs begin with a piano arrangement, but it often gets hidden behind all the drums and guitars. I feel though that I fall back on the piano too much sometimes, so in future releases I want to incorporate a much more diverse assortment of instruments and sounds.
T.V.: Which song on Kiss The Ashes is your favourite?
Harley: Probably "The Shadows Linger On" because it was one of the most challenging and diverse songs. "Lost But Not Forgotten" is a favorite as well though as I wrote it many years ago but only recently was able to finish and bring it to life.


T.V.: Those two are great songs! I couldn't find the information when Shadow Image was actually formed?
Harley: I started writing several of the songs in earnest around 2010 and released the first recordings in may of 2012, so it's hard to say which would be a better benchmark. The summer of 2011 was really when we started working on music and decided to make it into a project.
T.V.: In 2012 you released a self-titled EP where Alex Baskel played percussions. Why didn't he played those also on the album?
Harley: Alex has been a close friend of mine for many years and actually got me started in writing music but unfortunately our paths in life often go in different directions. I had already written most of the drums for our 2012 EP when he came over and had some amazing ideas which we put into the songs and improved them tremendously. I would like to work with him in the future but we are both rather nomadic people and it's hard to say when we'll be able to make that happen.
T.V.: I see. I've heard some interesting things about the presence of the cat on the back cover of your album. Can you share this with our readers?
Harley: That's Nephila, a stray cat I rescued from a building under construction nearby. Evidently she thinks she is part of the band because when we were reviewing the photos from the shoot we were surprised to discover she had snuck into many of them, so we just decided to keep it that way.
T.V.: Haha, nice! Tell me where do you see the future of gothic rock?
Harley: I would like to see something cohesive bring together the goth community of North America like a decent festival or event. In general, the internet has done wonders for allowing exposure for more new bands which otherwise would have been unknown 10 years ago. Now is really the time for subcultures, unlike any time in history, to reach out and spread their wings. So, I hope to see more active bands, events and tours... it's up to all of us to make that happen by supporting each other.
T.V.: And which bands in your opinion (of course beside Shadow Image) are the most important acts on the scene right now?
Harley: Besides older favorites, there are amazing newer groups right now like Eat Your Make-up, The Cemetary Girlz, Christ vs Warhol and many more I hope to hear great things from in the future.
T.V.: And who are the artists that inspired you mostly?
Harley: Johann Sebastian Bach, Roger Waters and David Gilmore, Carl McCoy, Peter Steele, Anna-Varney Cantodea just off the top of my head though I draw from a long list of influences.
T.V.: Beside music, what are your other interests in life?
Harley: I've always been interested in art, primarily illustration and originally wanted to pursue it as a career but haven't done so for a multitude of reasons. At some point I would really like to create a graphic novel and am interested in writing, comics and manga. I love theatre and studied it in London for some time but haven't had much place in life for it lately. Besides that I enjoy ancient history, costuming, table top RPGs/strategy games and spending time with my friends and cats.
T.V.: How do you see the world of today?
Harley: That's something I struggle with. I follow the news and current events. While I love the people close to me and value humanity in general I do not see our current existence as healthy or positive. I don't trust my country, when it's locking up people like Chelsea Manning and hunting down other truth seekers. While some people see the unstable events of our world leading to some sort of explosive event, I don't have that kind of optimism... no, I'm more afraid to see things stay the same. I'll try to make things positive for myself and my family, but I see the world today as a growing, unsustainable, unbalanced force built on a dark and unfortunate past.
T.V.: As you are an American citizen I must ask you what do you think about president Obama?
Harley: Democrats and Republicans are cut from the same cloth in my opinion. Obama says the right things but does another and while he claims to look out for the interest of the people, like all politicians, he is really looking out for the interest of the wealthy and powerful. While he pulls out troops in Afghanistan, he increases drone strikes which kill innocent people. Detroit recently declared bankruptcy despite the large automotive companies being bailed out by Obama in effort to save it.
T.V.: As you mentioned that Detroit, one of the most industrial cities in USA, declared bankrupcy, what changed there in lives of citizens of the city?
Harley: The citizens have been feeling it for a long time. The economic downturn of 2008 has already been happening in Detroit, Flint and Saginaw for decades now so it's not anything new. The people of these cities though are realizing that change isn't going to come from some federal savior, but through themselves on the ground level. And of course many people have been leaving. Michigan is the only US state which has actually declined in popular during the last 10 years.
T.V.: Nothing new. Like each one of the politicians! So Harley, what are the things that you would like to achieve with Shadow Image?
Harley: I've wanted to break a lot of trends in the Midwest and Great Lakes region of the USA. To get away from the 'two guys and a laptop' type of concerts that permeate the dark alternative scene here and also to create something visually striking and have aesthetic authenticity. So right now we are planning to focus on live music in 2014.
T.V.: When can we expect new music from Shadow Image?
Harley: I would like to aim for another full length in 2015, but I would also like to release a live CD before that if things go well. In any event I plan to start writing music again by the later half of next year.
T.V.: Do you plan to release a video clip? I think that your sense for aesthetics could do great things...
Harley: I would love to and have been dabbling a little bit in video production at home recently. Like our music, it's probably something we would do ourselves and be very creative with.
T.V.: Your album is on Terra Relicta chart Top 20 of 2013! Any thoughts?
Harley: I was really excited and surprised to see this, along with some great other bands and albums. It's great to see such a wide range of amazing music collected together.
T.V.: Thanks! Also thank you for taking your time for this interview. Is there something I've forgotten to ask you or something that you would like to say at the end?
Harley: Thank you for taking the time for the interview and for generally putting together such a great source for music as your website is. I also want to thank our fans which have really made making music worthwhile. Being able to connect with so many new and interesting people from all around the world is something I love to do and hopefully will be able to do in the future in person. It's also worth noting that we are in the voting to play Mera Luna Festival and if you can vote for us HERE.

Shadow Image links: Official website, Facebook, YouTube