Minnie d'Arc, I welcome you to the Gothic Embrace.
M.d'A. Thank you. It's a great pleasure to be here!
I'd like to start off by asking, when did you first realize that you wanted to create music and how long have you been composing, playing and recording?
M.d'A. Goodness... I first started getting seriously interested in music when I was about 14. I was listening to a really eclectic mixl; a lot of glam rock, and some more esoteric material. One of the first albums I owned was the first stage version of of The Who's "Tommy", which was released about half-way between the original 1969 concept album and the Ken Russell movie. I was awestruck by the orchestral arrangements on the album, and I dreamed of a time when it would be possible to record music like that. The logical progression was to learn to play an instrument, and when I was 16 I got my first guitar. By that time, punk had really started to happen in the UK and a lot of people were realising that you didn't have to be a technical genius to be able to get up and make music, so it was a great time to be learning how to play an instrument. I didn't start experimenting with recording until the end of the millenium, however - prior to that, the whole process was far too expensive to even contemplate.
Have you ever performed in a group setting, or have you always preferred being a solo artist?
M.d'A. When I started, working on your own as a solo artist was almost - and I stress "almost", because I'm aware there are some important exceptions - inconceivable. So, I worked with a number of different groups, but to be honest I didn't really fit well at that time into a group environment. By the end of the 1980s I'd pretty much had enough of playing, and consequently did nothing almost for another 10 years. Then, a friend of mine showed me what you could do with a computer and music editing software - and that was that; I realised I'd come pretty much full circle and could make the music I wanted to make, either by myself or with the help of friends if they were available. I didn't need to be a part of a fixed line-up any more.
Listening to to Eris Unbound, the music first transported me back to a scene from a Vincent Price movie called The Abominable Dr. Phibes, during which the mad doctor sits in a rather large room playing gloomy music on his organ. By the time I got to the album's title track, I was enjoying a piece that I can only define as Goth Rock or Dark Wave. This begs the question, how do you define and categorize your music?
M.d'A. (Laughs) I tend not to! I think that if you categorise your music you create a pigeonhole for yourself. Okay, I'll go as far as calling it "gothic", and certainly, I see myself as a goth musician. However, I think the gothic subculture thesedays is far too splintered - there are so many different sub-genres. Once, it wasn't like that - you could listen to Dead Can Dance,, Fields of the Nephilim, Alien Sex Fiend or Bauhaus and it was all "goth". For better or worse, I try to make my music a melting pot of a number of different genres; however, my main focus - certainly at this time - is to try and combine the beauty and introversion of neoclassical music with the passion and energy of gothic rock.
Can you describe your composing and recording process for us? Do you start out with a defined piece of music in mind, or does it come about as a result of experimentation?
M.d'A. Almost always, I'll start with a brief melodic phrase running through my head. In most circumstances, I'll keep that phrase in mind for anything up to four or five hours before I can get to an instrument - ususally a synthesizer - to start working it out; at that point, I'll start asking myself, what instrumental sound I should be using. Once I've figured it out, that idea usually becomes the main motif of the piece, and the rest then comes down to arrangement - adding in countermelodies, rhythm and percussion, and decorative phrases. By the time I start to record, the main motif is ususally quite well defined, but additional instrumentation will often be the result of some calculated experimentation - I may, say, want a particular reed sound for a particular line because I know the sound will work well with what I already have, but while I may have some idea of the exact line, it isn't usually until I've tried it against material I've already recorded that it starts to take on a definite shape. Then, once I've recorded the first minute or so's worth of music, I have more or less a complete picture of how I want the piece to develop, and what I want it to sound like, and I then work to that mental blueprint until the piece is finished.
I thought that I heard some bass and guitar on one of your songs. Do you perform with these instruments on your recordings or do you accomplish their effects with keyboards or some other medium?
M.d'A. No, you're absolutely right - when a piece calls for guitar, I'll use a real guitar. Bass... It depends whether I think a piece calls for a bass guitar or whether a synthesizer bass line is more appropriate. I admit, I love the warm, full sound of a bass guitar, but they're more difficult to record than a synthesized bass - they have a greater frequency range and they can take a lot of work to get to sound good. A synth bass doesn't tend to be as powerful in the overall sound, but they're a lot easier easier to deal with - often I hardly need to do much with them at the mixing stage, other than raise or lower the levels.
I understand that you've recently been collaborating with a video production by providing music to accompany Midieval Fantasy's poem, The Ghost of Emily Malone. Would you like to talk about that?
M.d'A. That's definitely a work in progress. I read the poem about a year ago, and I absolutely loved it. I'm in absolute awe of Midieval Fantasy's ability to write epic works which are nonetheless incredibly intimate. It was therefore a real shock, and a massive honour, when one day out of the blue she asked me if I wanted to set it to music. It's been slow going, and I've been distracted by the need to issue other material, but I'm still working on it and I hope that it will see the light of day before too much longer. Ideally, I'd like it to be the centrepiece of my first full-length album.Midi has made videos to accompany some of my other pieces, too. She made a beautiful video to accompany "October's Dance", my first public release, although chronologically speaking the first she made was for "Elizabeth", my second recording. She also made one of the video trailers for my first EP, Eris Unbound. It's an ongoing collaboration, and one which I hope will last for many years to come.
From which musicians, bands, vocalists, song writers, etc. do you derive your musical inspiration?
M.d'A. Although there are a lot of bands I really love, I actually try not to be overly influenced by anyone - at least, in musical terms. That said, if there has been any influence on me, it's come from Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows. I love the way Anna-Varney uses heavily classically-styled arrangements but manages to incorporate modern instrumentation. I also love her use of chromatic percussion - bells, chimes, etc - and her arrangements for woodwind and reeds. A good example is All Good Things are Eleven, from Dead Lover's Sarabande Face One.
What are your plans for the future?
M.d'A. I'm working on a second EP, which will carry on very much where the first left off so that anyone listening to both feels that it's actually an album in two parts. However, I also want to release a full-length album during the coming year.
How can a person buy or download Eris Unbound, and do you have any other musical offerings available to the public?
M.d'A. Eris Unbound is available exclusively from the website of my very good friends, the Angels of Liberty (http://www.angelsofliberty.
Minnie, I thank you very much for giving this interview and I wish you the best with your musical endeavors.
M.d'A. Thank you for inviting me! It's been a pleasure!
The following video contains Minnie d'Arc's rendition of XIII Stoleti's song entitled Elizabeth.
Top photo source: Darkmus.com. Author unknown.