Raven Black Are Keeping The American Shock Rock Dream Alive
‘DIY shock rock’ isn’t a familiar concept to most listeners, but Raven Black are proving that it can be done. The Michigan quartet bring the whole package, from their stylized onstage characters and elaborate comic-book backstories to their excitable live antics and grinding horror-metal. That the band have risen to the metal world’s surface so quickly speaks to the fact that theatrical rock can be done without a big machine behind it, and that diehard perseverance and belief in one’s art – even if it includes undead dolls, voodoo witch doctors, and other bizarre things that might haunt Roman Dirge’s nightmares – pays off in the end.
Hear Me Cry, the new video from the band’s upcoming third album The Key, also displays how Raven Black’s theatricality allows them to be versatile. The track and video are much grimmer and more akin to traditional goth metal than the band’s usually bounding, circus-influenced atmosphere. Vocalist Raven has also traded her usually demonic ballerina look for something straight out of Edgar Allan Poe, and the snowy surroundings lend a stark undercurrent to the storyline unfolding in this shadowy lakeside cabin.
“That is such a big, integral part of who I was,” says Raven. “I was really big into goth rock and death rock and all of that, and that was a really big part of me. But looking back, for the last two years I was really pushing the doll look. My props were all doll-related, my make-up was just doll, doll, doll – but my character is about duality, half-doll and half-human, and no one was getting to see the human side of me, the emo or gothic or depression side of me.
“Hear Me Cry is actually a song about surviving suicide, which is something I went through at a very young age. So it’s my story from my past experience – writing in my diary, writing a suicide note, trying to kill myself. And at the end of the video, we have the number for the National Suicide Prevention hotline. This is our dark, black album – there’s a lot of serious content behind some of the lyrics.”
Before watching Hear Me Cry, we spoke to Raven herself – at the time of the interview gearing up for the band’s now-postponed tour with In This Moment and Black Veil Brides…
For a band whose stage show is so important, what does getting ready for tour mean?
“We’re a DIY band by choice – that’s a thing that people don’t know. Everyone asks why we haven’t been picked up by any labels, but they’ve made offers, and we just don’t feel there’s anything that we couldn’t do on our own that’d be worth us signing over our masters. We’re DIY with everything down to designing merch to managing the online store to accounting – all the artwork, our website, our Facebook groups.”
That sounds gruelling – does the amount of work ever become daunting? Do you ever want to scale back?
“There’s so much more of our production that we want to do, but because we’re in the process of building our fanbase by being out there and doing support tours, we’re limited on the amount of production we can bring with us, as an opening act. And that’s okay. As a band with a carefully designed creative world – we have a comic book with a big concept, all of our albums are concept albums – everything is preconceived five albums out. So when we write, we’re very sensitive to keeping the storyline of the vision we have.”
What’s something that, when you see fans react to it, you think, ‘That was so hard to put together, but it was worth it’?
“Everything we do for the show, down to the sticker design. Every thing that I create surrounding our image and our music, connecting all the dots – when I see that fan reaction, it makes everything worthwhile. That’s always been our primary focus. We’ve always been winging it as a band, saying, ‘We’re not going to worry about the industry, we’re not going to worry about writing a radio hit, we’re just going to worry about the fans, making fans, doing what we love.’ It’s very difficult not to let the business change you, because it seems like to get to the next level you have to worry about what’s marketable. It’s especially hard right now because we’re growing.”
Do you have any advice for the young, up-and-coming shock rockers out there?
“The best way I can say it is, you have to be genuine. For me, we’re not just putting on a costume. I’m not just throwing on make-up for the shock effect. It’s not a dress-up party for me. It’s the inner me on the outside, and expression of who I am. When there’s no barricade or we’re headlining, I literally grab people’s hair and scream in their face. It’s not choreographed, it’s in the moment. I’d tell anyone who wants to do some kind of costume and theater, be genuine about it. I don’t become Raven when I get onstage, I am Raven.”
An eccentric businessman or supernatural power-that-be shows up and gives you an unlimited budget for your stage show. What do you do with it?
“I’ve already offered my soul to the Devil to do just that, and am willing to pay back whatever that price is in my next life [laughs]. But in all seriousness, I want to make a difference in this life, and I want to go big. You know Cirque du Soleil? You know when you see the big white tent? I want a red and blacked striped tent that says that the Dark Metal Carnival’s in town. I want it to be Broadway on wheels, only it’s metal. It starts from the moment you buy your ticket – when you get the red-and-black-striped ticket in the mail, and get VIP treatment. There’ll be a maze tube funhouse around the tent with sense experiences, sights and sounds. And then there’ll be the carnival games, the merch area, all of that – and then you can go into the venue, and see the show.”
Watch Raven Black’s Hear Me Cry video below:
Here are 11 of rock’s most incendiary personalities who are good-natured everydudes behind the scenes.
“What I can do is ask publicly for ALT+LDN to remove Die Antwoord from this festival…” says Bob Vylan’s Bobby.