MACABRE MUSIC: INTERVIEW WITH L.A. GOTH ROCKERS DOMMIN

Dommin's Billy, Cameron, Kris Dommin and Konstantine

Almost exactly one year ago, The Dark Lord Bunnykins was combing the online concert listings for Austin, Texas. That was my next vacation destination, and besides the BBQ and the Alamo Drafthouse, I wanted to check out the city’s allegedly lively music scene. (This is the site of SXSW, after all.) My first night listed a gig by horror rocker Wednesday 13 at some punk dive called Red 7. Opening for him was Dommin, an L.A. “goth” rock quartet newly signed to Roadrunner. Their MySpace prominently featured their song ‘My Heart, Your Hands’, a dark and anthemic ballad that could be goth or it could just be good. Either way, I got my contact at Roadrunner to get me on the guest list.

Frontman Kris Dommin

Wow. Dommin impressed the black-clad audience with emotive but hardly emo rock with a distinctly dour edge to it. They even covered Depeche Mode’s ‘People Are People’ without embarrassing themselves. In fact, you can watch that here:

A little over a month later, in March ’09, Dommin made their way up to the icy climes of Canada to play Canadian Music Week, Toronto’s annual music festival, and I arranged to speak with their namesake, singer/songwriter/guitarist Kris Dommin. At that time, Love Is Gone, their debut album, was about to come out and the band was excited. Since then, Love Is Gone was pushed back and the non-stop tours continued (including support slots with The Birthday Massacre, The 69 Eyes and, currently, Lacuna Coil). But the album is coming out next week, Feb. 2, and it’s rather brilliant. Unconvinced? Watch (and listen to) ‘My Heart, Your Hands’:

I know, right? So here is some of that raw Q&A (and video) from the DLB interview with Kris Dommin:

On the Goth tag: “That’s the box. I’ve never considered us goth rock. To me it’s always been rock & roll, and I just like the fact that we have keyboards because it’s like having an orchestra at your fingertips. So I can put pretty much any sound I want in there. But I’ve never felt like I was stuck creating dark music, or that it had to be spooky or something. It’s been the funniest experience with that label of being gothic because there were gothic clubs in LA that we wanted to play who said, ‘We won’t have you because you’re not gothic.’ And then we would play for normal audiences and they’d say, ‘Oh, you’re gothic.’ So we were always stuck in this middle-ground. The gothic people saying you’re not gothic and the rock or metal people saying, ‘Oh, you’re a gothic band.’ It’s like call us whatever you want. You can label it whatever you want so you can understand it better, but I just call it rock & roll.”

What he gets out of songwriting: “There’s definitely that element [of catharsis]. I still ask myself that question. What is it that I’m really getting out of this? Some people listen to music to change their mood. For me, when I’m angry, I like to listen to angry music. When I’m sad, I want to listen to sad music. It’s almost the same as telling a friend how you’re feeling so that you just have someone to talk to. It’s the kind of thing where I play the music that I would want to hear under those circumstances.”

On ‘My Heart, Your Hands’: “The root of it obviously came from a relationship that came after another one. Unsure about how much you can trust somebody because you’d been crushed before. Really feeling like your heart is in somebody hands, and their hands are just closing, closing, closing, and you’re just getting more and more scared; that being the stem of it. But ultimately what it’s about is my own fear of being vulnerable. That song is purposely made really epic because I wanted it to feel huge, I wanted it to feel overwhelming, I wanted it to feel like I’m small and afraid because that’s the emotion that’s behind it. So it’s really more about my own fear than it is about a relationship, but that relationship is what spawned [the song]… My fear was a reaction to that.”

Does he take notes on relationships?: “There’s been a couple of times where I’ve kind of just been feeling something and there was just something that just aligned, I was just kind of saying it to myself, more like you have an inner dialogue of ‘this is what I’m going to say to this person’. There’s probably been a couple of times when I’ve written stuff like that down, but for the most part I say it’s all in retrospect. It’s hard for you to see things clearly when you’re in it, and it’s only after the fact when you’re out of it that you can say, ‘Okay, that’s why that happened.’ You react non-emotionally and kind of see it for what it is. I think that’s when I do most of the songwriting.”

On the influence of Depeche Mode:

Love Is Gone comes out Feb. 2 on Roadrunner Records.

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