A Sinister Light – das sind Fabrice Noir (Cabaret Bizarre; Link) und John Eastwood (DJ Blake). Mit ihrer Musik erforschen sie „die Grenzen zwischen Licht und Dunkelheit, Vernunft und Wahnsinn, Realität und Metaphysik.“ Kürzlich ist ihr großartiges Debütalbum Discerning spirits  über Cold Transmission Music (Link) erscheinen. Ein guter Grund, mehr über das Duo aus der Schweiz zu erfahren, das Darkwave-, Industrial-, Post-Punk- und Techno-Einflüsse zu einem fesselnden Sound verwebt.

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Who is behind A Sinister Light? What made you decide to start the project?  
A Sinister Light is the brainchild of long-term collaborators Fabrice Noir and John Eastwood, also known as Blake. Fabrice Noir, the visionary behind Cabaret Bizarre, one of the first dark cabaret shows in Europe, and Blake, celebrated for his post-punk and new wave „Cloak and Dagger“ nights, joined forces in 2020. Our mutual passion for exploring the darker, more introspective sides of music and culture led us to create A Sinister Light. We wanted to merge our individual artistic visions and delve into dystopian and existential themes through a fusion of darkwave, industrial, post-punk, and techno influences.

Can you tell us a few things about the connection between you two and your journey into music?
Our journey began in the underground music scene, where we both shared a fascination with the darker and more avant-garde aspects of music and performance. Fabrice’s theatrical flair from Cabaret Bizarre and Blake’s deep roots in the post-punk and new wave scenes created a natural synergy. Our collaboration is built on a shared musical aesthetic and a desire to push boundaries, both musically and conceptually.

How did your band name come about, and what does it mean to you?
Blake conceived the name „A Sinister Light“ to reflect our perception of the paradox in modern times, where light, symbolizing truth and love, is replaced by a deceptive darkness masquerading as light. This theme is central to our debut album, „Discerning spirits,“ and it resonates with our identities as Blake & Noir.
In „Evilution,“ we address societal decay, where the wealthy wage wars and the poor pay the price, longing for genuine past virtues. „Common sense“ critiques the erosion of rationality and resulting polarization. „Don’t be a stranger“ explores regret and reflects on souls being immortal after death. „Illegal truth“ illustrates the harsh consequences of standing up for what is right. „Eternal death“ and „Discern“ delve into internal conflicts and the struggle between right and wrong. „Too cold“ and „Lukewarm soul“ highlight emotional numbness and moral apathy. „Near-death experience (NDE)“ reflects on life’s fleeting nature and the possibility of life after death, offering a fresh perspective on our mortal lives. A Sinister Light encapsulates our mission to challenge and reflect on the moral ambiguities of our times through our music, urging listeners to question the truths presented to them.

If you had to describe your music in terms of not music … what would you say?
If we had to describe our music in terms of something other than music, we could compare it to navigating through a dense, mysterious forest at twilight. The light, which should guide you, often casts deceptive shadows, making you question what is real and what is not. Each step you take is a journey through complex emotions and moral dilemmas, where the familiar is turned on its head, and you’re compelled to look deeper into the heart of darkness to find the hidden truths.

What are you looking for in music? What are the boundaries that you look to explore with music?
We seek to create a cathartic experience that challenges listeners to confront their innermost fears and desires. Our music explores raw, unfiltered truths about society, personal struggles, and moral complexities, provoking thought and encouraging reflection. We push topical boundaries with themes of societal decay, the erosion of common sense, and the struggle for authenticity and purpose. Musically, we blend darkwave, industrial, and post-punk elements with EBM and techno. We explore boundaries between light and darkness, sanity and madness, reality and the metaphysical, aiming to inspire a deeper connection to the intricate tapestry of modern life.

What is sound to you?
To us, sound embodies emotion and expression. It crafts atmospheres, stirs memories, and guides listeners through emotional and intellectual journeys. Sound is the invisible thread that weaves our narrative, deeply connecting us with our audience and exploring the vast landscape of human experience. Though sound as a physical phenomenon involves measurable vibrations, its true power lies in the emotional, spiritual, and communicative aspects that transcend mere acoustics.

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What are your first musical memories? When did you first fall in love with sound? How have your early musical influences shaped your current music projects?
Fabrice: My first musical memories are of listening to Italian pop from the 1960s, thanks to my parents. Growing up in the 1980s also greatly influenced my musical taste. I studied classical guitar and played drums, which provided a solid foundation in music. In the 90s, during my teenage years, I discovered techno and started going to raves, leading me to become a techno and drum and bass DJ. Later, I delved into dark wave and EBM. In 2005, I started the Cabaret Bizarre event series, one of the first dark cabaret shows in Europe, focusing on dark wave, EBM, and dark electro. Influences like Fad Gadget, Throbbing Gristle, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and Coil have significantly shaped my musical journey.
Blake: My parents have often said that my musical journey began in infancy, listening to Ravi Shankar’s music while we free camped in Morocco. Later, in California, where we lived for a few years, I was enthralled by the exciting, bold, and technologically advanced aesthetic and music of the early 80s. This era’s music mirrored the optimism and consumerism of the time. There was something magical about this decade, which was evolving just as quickly as the 70s aesthetic was fading. When we moved to Europe, I remember „DJing“ my parents‘ cassette tapes on a karaoke machine strapped to the back of the passengers seat, including Neil Young’s „Trans“ and The Cars‘ „Door to Door,“ in a camper van across late 80s Europe. With my pocket money, I used to buy cassette tapes on gas station stops – from bands I’d hear on the radio and add them to the repertoire, sparking my passion for DJing – I was about 11 years old. Music television soon hooked me with videos from The Cure, New Order, Bronski Beat, and Echo and the Bunnymen. Our new home in Castel Gandolfo near Rome became TV-free, immersing my siblings and I in books and music. We discovered bands through pirate radio and attended underground gigs in Rome, experiencing acts like Scorn with Justin Broadrick when I was 15. Returning to California for high school, I balanced grindcore rehearsals in LA garages with listening to darkwave and industrial icons like Joy Division and Depeche Mode – particularly their Black Celebration album – and Godflesh and Ministry. Amidst the 90s musical upheaval, Nine Inch Nails‘ „Pretty Hate Machine“ captivated me, but I was left underwhelmed by their subsequent releases and so my heart remained mainly with 80s music. Moving to Oxford, UK, in the mid-90s, I experienced trip-hop, jungle and brit pop, while remaining fascinated with 80s sounds. I kicked off 2000 as a music TV presenter in the Philippines, hosting raves and gigs. My brothers and I also embarked on several musical projects, which extended to Italy and Geneva. In the early 2000s, I moved to London for university and performed with Venetia Obscura, inspired by Fad Gadget and Aubrey Beardsley. My playlist at the time would have included Cocteau Twins, The Sound, Bauhaus, Cabaret Voltaire, Parade Ground, Asylum Party, among others. Almost 15 years ago, I settled in Switzerland, DJing monthly in Basel to preserve post-punk and new wave and support EBM and techno bands and labels.

What impact do your surroundings have on your art?
Our surroundings deeply influence our art. Urban decay, historical landmarks, and places steeped in myth and legend contribute significantly to the atmosphere of our music. The locations we choose for our videos, such as the Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno, St. Margaret’s Church near Oxford, Tuscany, Gargano in Puglia, The Bone Church at Sedlec in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic – renowned for its interior decorated with the bones of an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 people – and various sites in Greece, among others, reflect the themes of our songs and enhance the overall narrative.

Recently your debut album „Discerning Spirits“ came out. How does the birth of a new composition happen for you? How does your compositional process work?
Our compositional process is highly collaborative and intuitive. Noir generally handles rhythm and bass, while Blake takes care of lyrics, vocals, and guitar. Together, we develop the track with synths. Blake writes lyrics based on themes we’re passionate about and lays down the vocals. We experiment collaboratively with sounds and textures until we find the right sonic palette. Each track evolves organically, with both of us refining ideas to achieve the desired emotional and atmospheric impact. Also fine-tuning the tracks with the help of Dea Hydra was an absolute pleasure and has made this journey both smooth and rewarding.

How does the visual aspect relate to and reflect your music?
Music as an art form today is not merely about sound; the added element of video or imagery enhances the overall experience, including the artists‘ creative process. We are passionate about exploring the interplay between sound, lyrics, and video. For instance, Blake, as the lyricist, views lyrics as giving meaning, context, and narrative. Unlike poems confined to the page, lyrics must complement the rhythm and music of a track, emphasizing the theme the music itself conveys. Similarly, Noir focuses on sculpting sound to closely emulate the theme of the lyrics. Much of our creative thinking is visual. When working on a track together, we often discuss the music and lyrics in visual terms, and we consider video narratives and aesthetics before finalizing the lyrics or fine-tuning the sound. We understand the importance of visual imagination in our work. This interconnected interplay between sound, lyrics, and video fuels our passion and enhances our creative process.

What artistic influences, outside of music, have had a significant influence on how you approach your art?
Fabrice: Caravaggio has significantly shaped my worldview, particularly through his detailed use of light to influence perceptions of reality (suggesting there is no objective reality). In our music, from my perspective, we aim to accomplish what he achieved in his art. It was the Weimar cabaret of the 1920s and 1930s, Brecht and Weill, that inspired me to create Cabaret Bizarre. The dark and satirical creativity of that time also inspired The Doors and David Bowie. Literature: Orwell and Huxley, with their profound insights into dystopian futures and human nature, have also played a crucial role in shaping my artistic vision.
Blake: My method for translating themes into lyrics and sound for „Discerning Spirits“ was grounded in metaphysical exploration, encompassing socio-political landscapes spanning forgotten epochs, the present moment, and even envisioning the future. Drawing inspiration from pre-modern philosophers such as Aquinas and Augustine, alongside modern thinkers like G.K. Chesterton, I found it natural to shape my narratives and soundscapes to echo the common spirit I share with these profound influences. The impact of my great-grandfather, Edmund Blake, and his acting career profoundly shapes my artistic journey. By originating the role of Count Dracula on stage in 1924, he transformed the character from a mere literary monster into a sophisticated, suave, yet sinister icon. His legacy fuels my dedication to researching his work, often collaborating with experts in Dracula studies. Emotionally, my musical and lyrical output in A Sinister Light reflect an inner struggle reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley’s juxtaposition of the grotesque and the beautiful, interwoven with the determination of Van Helsing before his nightshift. My curiosity about overlooked historical narratives beyond traditional education drives me to explore lands rich in significance, from the realms of saints and druids to the sacredness of ancient wells. Additionally, I am fascinated by the essence of place, especially the contrast between timeless architectural styles like Gothic, Romantic, and Art Deco, and the stark modernism found in Brutalist, German architecture of the 30s and USSRs star-tipped monstrosities, as well as other more recent architectural forms.

How would you describe the world you are trying to create during your performances?
At the moment, we are not yet performing as A Sinister Light, but we have plans to integrate our music and concepts onto the stage and through other avenues in different ways before we perform, setting the stage for a more immersive experience that challenges perceptions and evokes deep emotional responses.

What’s next for you? What are you most looking forward to?
Fabrice: I’m eagerly anticipating holidays, Italian sun, food, beach life and relaxation.
Blake: Last month, I was in Derby to celebrate the centenary of Dracula’s stage debut, an event that took me back to the UK for several projects. This visit was particularly special as I met Dacre Stoker, the great-grand-nephew of Bram Stoker, for the first time after over a decade of intermittent correspondence. Now, I’m preparing for another trip to the UK in a few days, with exciting new projects on the horizon.

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