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The Danse Society – Interview

Interview with: Maethelyiah (vocals) and Paul Nash (guitars)
Conducted by: T.V.

Not only that we are facing a proper revival of music from the 80s, in the recent years many bands who were active in the early/mid 80s and then split-up reformed, and one of them are UK based gothic/post-punk legends The Danse Society. The band was formed in 1980 and were active until 1987, in that time they released three studio albums, Seduction (1982), Heaven Is Waiting (1983) and Looking Through (1986), had many singles that entered the UK indie charts and certainly left the mark on the UK's and European dark rock/alternative scene. After a long hiatus that lasted for almost 24 years the band reformed in 2011 and since then released three new albums, Change Of Skin (2011), Scarey Tales (2013) and VI (2015). The Danse Society certainly doesn't follow any trends and they show that with every new album or song that they release. They also faced a lot of line-up changes, one quite painful which then ended on the court. The band is now working on a new album with the line-up that includes vocalist Maethelyiah, guitarist Paul Nash, keyboardist Sam Bollands, bassist Jack Cooper and drummer Joss Rylance. I had a very interesting chat with both, Maethelyiah (vocals), who joined the band as the female vocalist after the reformation and one of the founders, Paul Nash (guitars). The two explained many things behind the scenes, about the reformation, inspiratios and influences, about their latest album VI, the problems with line-up changes and have revealed some things about their upcoming album.

T.V.: Hi! It's a honour that you'll take some time to answer my questions! The Danse Society released the last album, simply titled VI, in 2015. It's a great piece of gothic/alternative rock music and I wonder how are you satisfied with it two years after its release?
: Thank you, it's a great pleasure! You're doing a great job with Terra Relicta! I'm delighted about VI. It obtained the best reviews and response since reformation, especially because along with existing supporters it has achieved the support of younger generations that didn't know the band at all. It has been a learning curve since 2011 and we are reinventing ourselves which is what creative bands do. I think that the fact that it was recorded and written all together almost completely live made the difference from Change Of Skin and Scarey Tales. The live sound is more powerful. Before VI we used to bounce files between each other due to distance/lack of time. It was good but not as good because it's only when you assemble the band together that you can have full blast chemistry. We wrote VI in Scarborough between our Studio and a rehearsal place we had kindly been offered by a friend. I cherish the memories of writing and recording each song. I still listen to it and it fills me with joy. I am very proud of it.
Paul: Thank you – personally I still enjoy listening to it still and although I am not entirely sure its gothic rock, it is definitely very dark! I think it's an evolution of sound from Change Of Skin and Scarey Tales, a part of the sonic journey we are on. I've been very pleased with the response not only from the critics but from our fans as well.
T.V.: Yes, I agree it's not typical gothic rock, actually far away from being the traditional kind. From what I heard you are already working on your next album. Can you already give us some details about it. Did you take the same approach like on the previous one?
Maeth: Yes. Basically either I pop one of my basic demos to studio and we all work on it, or Paul or Jack starts with a riff or a demo and we all work around it. Mind you, my demos are often the subject of jokes because my basic drums sound all the same and they are very rudimental versions of what the song will become. Usually the input comes from the three of us. Then once we are all happy we go to studio and first record drums and bass and guitar live and a guide vocals, then additional guitar keys and vocals are recorded. At the moment we have three songs we are working on and one of them will be the next single.
Paul: We have a lot of very interesting ideas and I'm very excited about getting these ideas out – the writing process will be the same but I believe the songs will be a further evolution of our sound and I am anticipating them to be quite different from anything we have done before – I'm very excited by what we have done so far.
T.V.: But can you give me some more details? Have you already chosen the title for your next creation? When can we expect to hear the first new song?
Paul: I have a few titles in mind, but nothing fixed yet, and two strong ideas for a sort of concept album or at least a theme. I can tell you I want it to be radically different from what we have done so far – so expect a few shocks in terms of the forthcoming album – the plan is to release the two almost completed songs as singles while we work on the album – these may be backed by cover songs – we've been toying with a few of interest that we can do in an interesting way like we did with "White Rabbit" and "Sound Of Silence" – I am tentatively looking at the end of August for the first release – anything else will have to remain a surprise for now.
Maeth: At the moment I can tell it's three songs growing. Two are from my demos and one is from Paul's. I have got a rudimental lyric I am working on and we are building the structure all together. The provisional titles are "Promises" and "One Thought In Heaven". So far we are all happy with the three songs and most likely one of them will be the next single depending on votes. I am happy with all of them, yet still more are popping out so in the end anything can happen until the last minute and that's the great thing of working with a very creative bunch of people. Forecasts are harder because we don't like working under pressure, especially when we are going through a time where we had to stop gigs until October because our drummer is waiting for a baby (awwwwwww) so we are taking things easy in the mean time and arranging writing in a way his family is comfortable with.
T.V.: So, from what I understand, you Maeth, are also pretty much involved into the compositional process, and not being only the singer and lyricist. Tell me how do you coordinate all this ideas that must pop up in the rehearsal room?
Maeth: My phone is packed with melodies and lyrics. Everytime I get new ideas I record or write them down in a very rudimental way (that only I can understand) in it then I get the ideas developed in my studio because I am rubbish at explaining. So I lay down a metronome, a basic bass and keys then a guide vocal. Then when it makes a little sense I bring it over. We all have a laugh and then if everybody likes it, we go ahead and work on it. I have always been co-writing the songs, co-produced and contributed to the artworks for them as well since the Change Of Skin album. To be honest regardless the inaccuracies I have read in some interviews, it was the same about Steve Rawlings. He wrote lyrics, most melodies and designed the hand made artworks with Paul Nash.

T.V.: In 2009 The Danse Society reformed after a very long hiatus that lasted for more than 20 years. What brought you back together and where are the main differencies for you between The Danse Society like we knew in the 80s and The Danse Society of today?
Paul: It was actually 2011 when the reformed line up was finalised with myself, Maethelyiah, Dave Whitaker and Gigi. A Facebook campaign was the spark that made the idea of the reformation a reality, but it took sometime to realise that Steve was not going to take part and we needed a new singer. So that is really the main difference – in the studio we found the writing and the ethos of the sound was not that different from where we left off after the third album, and although technology had moved on in that it allowed us to work in a slightly more relaxed way and less expensive way, the magic was still present. When we get the occasional comment "you don't sound like you did in the 80s", I always ask well what did you consider to be our sound in the 80s, was it "Somewhere", "Heaven Is Waiting" or "Say It Again"? All very different I think you will agree – as is the songs from the recent albums Change Of Skin, Scarey Tales and VI. I expect our seventh album to be just as different. I've never been interested in rehashing the same stuff, same sound over and over again as some bands do, for The Danse Society this is not an option.
T.V.: Were in you in this time of inactivity of The Danse Society involved in any other bands or projects? Can you also tell me a bit more about the musical background of all of the members?
Paul: After Steve left The Danse Society to go seek fame and fortune in London with Society we got Mark Copson (the old Music For Pleasure singer) to fill in – eventually this became permanent and we changed the name of the band to Jonny In The Clouds. We recorded almost an album worth of demos but never got a record deal. At that point the band pretty much feel apart, Gilmartin got sacked and not long after that we all decided to go our seperate ways. I joined a local band Party Day after producing a single for them and then went and recorded their final album Porktastic! as part of the band – after that project broke down I lost interest in music for quite a while and busied myself with other things. I started teaching I.T. back in 1998 and in 2005 got the job I really wanted teaching modern music. In 2010 The Danse Society began the reformation process and the magic fully returned. As for the other members (briefly) – Maethelyiah has been in many bands and projects including Blooding Mask, Il Segno Del Comando, Lovecraft's Dunwich and more, Joss was previously in a band called North Of The Wall, Jack was in Jack's Idea and has done many many short term projects and Sam is also in a great band called Devious Dogs as well as doing many other shorter projects. All the current members were recruited for their skills and creativity and diversity – getting the right melting pot to make music is essential in a band like The Danse Society.
T.V.: Maethelyiah joined as a new female singer when you reformed. What was the reason that you decided to continue with a female vocalist?
Paul: As I said above it was not about repeating what we had done before, it was always going to be new, even if Steve had joined in I believe it would still have been different from anything in the 80s, so getting Maethelyiah in was no big deal to us – she fitted right in with her vocal skills and writing talents along similar lines to ours, her influences added to the melting pot of ideas was a great addition to the sound. We were all very happy with her contribution and as with all previous members became a part of The Danse Society democracy.
T.V.: One of the founding members was Paul Gimartin who then left in 2014 and then formed another band. If it's not difficult for you can you explain me what was the reason for his departure?
Maeth: To be honest I have no idea, until the 29th January 2014 he was a friend, we co-wrote together two albums and exchanged mutual praises in interviews over a period of three years, then he turned into an unknown person full of hatred and denial. It's all out there still on line: basically he quit the band while we were touring causing gig cancellations, then he started an expensive legal fight on the band name (which ended in our favour because he voluntarily quit), then he threatened legal action if venues and promoters booked us claiming he owned the band name; after he lost the court case he claimed we didn't own the band name so that promoters would still use our name and we had to take action; of course we were blamed for defending our rights. Sadly this was accompanied by a huge amount of contradictory version of the facts and slander and bullying of the lowest type that neither at primary school (still going on), helped by a small number of trolls and nothing to do with the dispute he started against the band. The lingering drama includes persistent body shaming attacks, insults addressed to my foreign nationality an harassing comments on the band posts on social media on a regular basis and messages on my mobile. A coffee and a chat prior the booking of the tour would have sorted things nicely, with or without a change of line up, that's what all democratic bands do. The Danse Society didn't reform to be stuck in a loop of the past full of delusion or resentment: six years ago I subscribed to a bunch of creative musicians that want to make new music and reinvent themselves which is what we still do: whether ex band members and their friends agree or not, it's no longer their business. The show goes on.
Paul: It's a sad tale and like Maeth I have no real idea why it happened, why he quit the band, I only know what happened afterwards with some very strange and deluded ideas about the band and his part in it. His actions have been nothing short of contemptable, I am extremely disappointed in the actions of someone I once considered a close friend, the insults and lies were quite hurtful – but the truth is out there now, although it has taken over two years of stress and quite a bit of money going through the courts, justice has prevailed - now I'm putting it behind me, and the band and I are concentrating on the music not his drama.
T.V.: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that you went through such a painful process. I hope that the things now are pretty much settled up, aren't they? But again, why do you think that people start bullying around without knowing the proper facts?
Paul: Some people sadly have nothing much better to do – a lot of them live their lives on the keyboard jumping on some drama without knowing the facts. It's quite sad really. They get told one thing and believe it unconditionally without checking facts or understanding that there is always two sides to any story. When you are trying to reason with such people who have been brainwashed by someone's delusions it is very wearing and frustrating. Not only that when you see out and out lies being spread without any factual basis or evidence it has a very negative effect no matter how much you try and remove yourself from it. Trolls like drama and feed off negative reactions (they have no real interest in truth or evidence, just reaction) so we learnt very quickly not to feed the trolls by reacting – recognise them for what they are and ignore and block. Gilmartin projects a very affable character and plays the victim very well, which he uses to his advantage but his lies are based on his delusions (as has been proved in court) that does not stop him from continuing them though – we can only counter with the truth (unfortunately for some that does not count as they refuse to see it). As we said before though it's the music that counts and that is what we are concentrating on.
Maeth: Yes, thankfully the case is resolved in our favour because the evidences were clear. Finally the fairy tale of "the other band here and there" has now ended. Regarding the bullying sadly some people are too lazy to do some leg work and just need to flap their gums behind a keyboard instead of doing something about their lives. I am very passionate about animal and human rights but first I go and read all about the causes then express my opinion. If there is a dispute I go and check the parties involved before taking sides but in any case there's a place to solve the disputes and bullying is never justified. It shows what losers bullies are if they need to run hate campaigns seeking each other's approval this says how insecure they are because they need to run in packs. I have read some really nasty comments about myself from people I never even met saying they were my friends and suddenly a question dawned on me: if only these people had talent what great stories they could create with all that time and energy instead of choosing to sound pathetic. Life is a matter of choices. You can use your time to defend genuine causes, to support the vulnerable, to create new songs or support the artists you like, or you can waste it on the people you want to believe you hate until you look back and realise you could have done something good for yourself and your community instead. By the way, on a scientific point of view, it's called truth illusory effect when you repeat a lie until you believe it. It works in mentally weak people and sociopaths, maybe for boredom? Who knows? Sometimes it ends up in stalking. I really don't have time for that. Got new songs to write and my family and friends to enjoy.
T.V.: Is the line-up of The Danse Society a stable one now? What are your relations with past members?
Maeth: It's pretty stable since 2014. Martin (bass) left in February 2014 to play keys with System Of Hate. He has left them too last year. He is still a very good friend and we still exchange tracks and ideas from time to time which might turn into some songs soon. He has always been a true gentleman and we love hearing from him as often as we can. He's a very creative and versatile musician and a loyal friend. Dave (keys) left in September 2014 because he is full immersion in his (fabulous) studio in Leeds. We still hear from him too from time to time. He carried on with Expelaires for a while playing the bass just in Leeds but since he has three beautiful girls and his studio he was struggling too much and left them as well. He was unable to commit with the travelling and rehearsals and especially gigs with The Danse Society. At some point he felt he was holding us back and suggested us to look into a replacement which is when we invited Sam to join. Like Martin, Dave is a great guy and it's always a pleasure to chat with him every now and then. We miss his wicked sense of humour. In 2014 we had Iain, Jack and Sam joining respectively at drums, bass and keys and with the exception of Iain who was replaced by Joss three years later, the band is happily stable. Iain left us for family reasons but he's still a very good friend of ours and we bump into him every now and then (in fact he's actually become our neighbour as he moved a few doors ahead!). As far as we know, Tim and Steve definitely retired and Lyndon has a band called The Black Lamps where he plays guitars. Sadly we have lost communication with them.
T.V.: Can you tell me what are your main inspirations when it comes to music, compositions and also lyrics?
Maeth: VI reflects many social aspects of modern society. The songs talk about love, domestic violence, survival, homelessness, karma, harassment, old fashioned movies, friendship, alcohol, you name it. We all have different influences and they blend beautifully.
Paul: Thats the beauty of being in a band everyone can chuck in the ideas to the pot and you never know what will come out, we are of course aware of what is happening in our country and globally so that obviously comes out in the lyrics, musically we all listen to a diverse eclectic range of music – from every decade, Pink Floyd to Queens Of The Stone Age and everything inbetween – personally I like things with a dark edge, but I'm open to all sorts – recently I have been listening to some great radio shows which is fantastic for pointing you in some interesting new musical directions!

T.V.: But still, even if your lyrics are very meaningful, your latest album was titled simply VI. Is maybe there something hidden behind this title, or is it just to say that this is your sixth album? 
Maeth: When we were close to complete the album we were thinking about a title that could group all the concepts together. I kept having the image of a big black V in my mind before going to sleep and I told Paul one night. So while I was guessing in the following evenings what word we could associate to it like Visionary, Vision, V... what? He came out saying VI. It means 6 and it's the 6th album. Why not? Bingo! So VI sort of boomed with the solution and then VI the bomb came out. We went to visit the Eden Camp war museum. We recalled stories from the veterans. We thought how history repeats in some ways still today. It all unfolded. So we started to spread cards saying "you've been bombed" every time an album reached our supporters. Sadly the threat of new wars dropped this tradition as we are in no shape or form pro-wars. Even the lyric of VI clearly expresses anti war messages. "What if they dropped flowers instead?" that's what we should really do. As Sting once said "there's not such thing as a winnable war" and Morrissey added "if it's not love then it's the bomb that will bring us together", I add "Peace is always the answer".
Paul: One of the first songs we wrote for the new album was titled "First Day" which eventually developed into the song "Doodlebug" the nick-name for the VI rocket (an unmanned flying bomb that was used by Germany in WW2 to fly across the channel and bomb London). When Maeth mentioned the vision of the V on the cover, it all began to tie together VI (six) and V1 bomb. I dont think it's a particularly hidden message just a slight play on the title.
T.V.: You played quite some gigs lately and I wonder how the audience accepts the new The Danse Society and your new songs. Do you still play live any of your older songs?
Paul: The recent gigs have been fantastic, two sold out and the London one was well attended too, all went down exceptionally well! The set is always a mix of old and new, we do at least one song off each album plus a few of what you might term our most well known from both eras – we have a huge repertoire to pick from in excess of over 80 published songs so the sets are never quite the same – come and see us and find out for yourselves!
T.V.: How would you describe your live show? What can people expect to see and hear on your live show?
Paul: Well, we try and make our live shows powerful as well as atmospheric, we use projections where we can to add to the atmosphere and obviously use the energy of the live situation to ramp up the raw power and the strength of the songs. We select the songs quite carefully to produce a coherent hour (ish) of great The Danse Society music past and present.
T.V.: Can we expect to see The Danse Society on a tour or on some festivals around Europe in the near future?
Paul: That would be lovely – unfortunately finding promotors and festivals to put you on is never easy, but we keep trying hopefully the more our fans request us to play and put pressure on the promotors the more gigs we can do (hint hint).
Maeth: we are having many requests from the public from abroad as well, it's the balancing of the costs that need to be met as well as finding the right promoters which are not easy to find. We were extremely happy with the Marquish Masquerade in Whitby in May for example. Fantastic atmosphere, perfectly organised, great attendance. Wish there were more promoters like that!
T.V.: Your albums after the reformation are all released by Society Records, which is your own label on which you were releasing also your first records? Have you tried to search for any other record label out there or are you satisfied by keeping it this way?
Paul: We have full control with Society Records which is good but I'm not averse to having another record label – it would for example relieve some of the work and pressure – let's see I always keep an open mind on these things and if someone comes along with a good deal I am more than prepared to look at it.
T.V.: I find the front cover artwork of VI pretty strange, nothing alike that could point at gothic or dark music. I guess that there must be kind of a deeper meaning of it and who created it?
Maeth: The thing is we don't label ourselves by genre. Many still associate us with goth but even 'goth' has changed with time. When I was a teenager goth was a completely different thing from now and things will still keep changing. About the cover of VI it shocked me at first probably for the same reasons as you. The cover I had in mind was very dark red with this massive black V in the middle. Then when Callum Nash gave us the image I thought 'whaaaaaaat?' at first. Then I started looking into all the details of it (it's a rather large hand paint on a wooden board), then I spotted well the VI bomb in it about to strike. Then the clouds, then the vivid colours... I thought nothing could have created a better contrast, it really rips your pupils like wearing yellow at a funeral. Takes balls and a tad of insanity to do that but certainly not for 'pack people' thriving for approval. That is what a bomb does, it doesn't blend into a dark picture, it rips it apart brutally. That artwork is brutal and gosh it strikes. The more I look at it the more I can hear a sound of the explosion with it, and I swear I'm sober!
Paul: I love the image – I do hope it shocks, or at least causes interest, personally I am bored with the same old black background with logo cover – I think it works brilliantly with the whole artwork package especially on the vinyl – I love that package – very proud of it.
T.V.: Tell me what kind of music/bands/albums is spinning mostly on your music players right now?
Maeth: Because of the recent sad events and anniversary, Joy Division and Soundgarden mainly at the moment.
Paul: What Maeth says plus still listening to David Bowie's Blackstar of course... I am also playing Pearl Jam, In The Court of the Crimson King (re-release in 5.1) and I had Black Sabbath (1st album) on my ipod while I was cooking yesterday. I love to hear new stuff too and check out lots of stuff my students recommend (the brand new Chase and Status single wasn't bad and I liked the last Ghost album) – my tastes are very eclectic.
T.V.: A lot of things have changed in the music business since 80s, it's almost turned upside down. How do you feel all these differencies?
Paul: It's a massive and extremely interesting topic – I could do a whole interview on this subject alone! In a nutshell though the music business hasn't changed that much in that it is still a 'business' and it is there purely to make money. They just have to do it in slightly different ways these days. As for the artists, well with the rise of technology and the internet you now have many many more artists trying to get your attention so you can get lost in a sea of music on the other hand you have access to the world market on your laptop so your market is now global and not just local. For the artist however the worst thing is now people are not buying music much anymore – people download music for free generally and therefore it is very difficult to sustain a band financially and to be able to put money into a product. I am glad we managed to do VI on red vinyl – it's a beautiful thing!
T.V.: Thank you for your time and devotion. Is there anything that would you like to add at the end of this interview?
Maeth and Paul: Our pleasure we hope you have enjoyed this – more info of course can be found online on our website or feel free to drop us a message on Facebook or twitter! Thanks for the questions and thanks for reading – play it proud and loud! Peace and Love!

The Danse Society links: Official website, Facebook, Twitter