Interview with London After Midnight: ‘There’s Still A Passion And Drive To Create’

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Set up in 1990 by Sean Brennan, Californian (USA) based London After Midnight never stopped to increase their success and popularity. After having conquered the West Coast they progressively started to play world wide becoming a true phenomenon at the wider fields of Dark-Wave and Gothic music. While Sean Brennan is working on a new opus for several years now he this year unleashed the album “Oddities Too” featuring rare songs, alternative edits, cover versions and demos. The album has been released on Sean’s own label Darkride Records and is a true, artistic, creation mixing heavy Goth-Rock passages together with a Cinematic style. I talked about it all with Sean Brennan.

(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)

Q: The odyssey of London After Midnight started more than thirty years ago now. Can you draw up the balance sheet of this amazing and successful story?

Sean: LAM has experienced a great deal, both good and bad. In the end when reflecting back I mostly think of the music I was able to create and the people who it mattered to, rather than the struggles.

Q: Over the past thirty years you for sure have seen things changing/evolving. I’m thinking to aspects such as internet, streaming platforms vs. physical sales, new technologies and equipment, more and more labels closing doors, the growing importance of image, etc… What’s your perception of this entire evolution? What are the pros and cons?

Sean: In some ways it’s a devolution. But yes, a lot has changed with our culture in a relatively short time span. The internet brought about many problems- from impacting peoples’ mental health with toxic social media, the spread of disinformation and conspiracies, to the collapse of the music industry, but it has presented opportunities, too, like for people who are normally without a voice -some social media has provided a platform to challenge the powerful or raise awareness.

But it’s hard to gauge the pros versus cons because things have changed so radically and tumultuously in that time span -maybe now we’re so accustomed to tragedy and disaster and corruption and conspiracy that our standards have been lowered, so we accept the small benefits that come from the internet without questioning the costs. But I think generally, with a few exceptions, there are greater costs than benefits.

Q: How much of the ‘young’ musician you were early 90s do you still recognize in your approach today? And are there specific aspects you would have done differently?

Sean: Things have changed from that time, obviously, how I feel about it and how I view it now from external influences- forced upon me by the world. There’s still a passion and drive to create that’s always been there. How that might manifest itself in the future is unknown to me, but I will always love music.

Q: I think to remember you were working on a completely new album, right? How are things evolving and can you already reveal some details?

Sean: The all new album is about half recorded. It would have been much further along if not for the pandemic. I recorded some drum tracks before I moved out of Los Angeles to the east coast of the USA, where I planned to finish the albums. But then the pandemic hit (lucky timing for me, because being in over-crowded LA during the pandemic was reportedly a nightmare). So the pandemic delayed everything by at least 2 years.

I feel the all new album has my best work on it so I am very eager to get it released. I just have to finish up some lyrics and then do some final recording. There will be one cover song on it, the rest are all original, new songs. But the cover song is pretty special as it turned out quite nicely. It will probably be another unexpected cover-song like Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”-cover from “Oddities Too”, but quite emotional.

Q: In a previous question I was mentioning the streaming platforms. (Younger) people are no longer listening to an entire album but are making their own playlists featuring separate songs. So do you think  releasing an album still makes sense today?

Sean: In one sense you have to release a full album to earn enough to make it worth recording, to make the process pay for itself. Just a drum session in a real studio, for example, can cost a few thousand dollars. And then mixing and mastering will cost several more thousand dollars. If you release a 4 song EP then you sell it for far less than a full album and aren’t really able to earn those costs back to make the practice sustainable. And there are a lot of people who also still buy physical product, CDs or records, which my new record label I started in 2019 is releasing -Darkride Records.

And pressing CDs and LPs is another huge cost. So making physical products with fewer songs means lower pricing and a harder time earning back what you’ve invested. You can lose money releasing music, which is clearly not sustainable. But yes, it’s sad that people’s attention spans are so short now. Too often the music is just a playlist, background music, and people don’t even know who the artists are, despite all the effort and work the artists put into their creations.

Q: In the meantime you released “Oddities Too” which became a mix of rare songs and alternative edits, surprising cover versions, demos and new material as well. How did this album saw the daylight and how was it working on it? And tell us a bit more about this amazing new song “October”?

Sean: “Oddities Too” started out as a 10 song sequel to the 1998 “Oddities”-album, featuring unreleased, re-imagined, and new material. But it has transformed into a double album including everything from “Oddities”. With my label, Darkride Records, I want to reissue all my past albums that are out of print, but make them better than they were by remixing them from the original multi-track master tapes. Doing this I am able to included missing audio elements cut from the original mixes due to limitations at the time, and even forgotten recordings. I always planned for another album like “Oddities”, and the time was right.

The song “October” is probably the first LAM song. I wrote it when I played keyboard for another band when I was a kid, just months before starting LAM. It was someone else’s band, but it fell apart after its first concert. So I started LAM and used the song as a starting point. A really rough recording appeared on LAM’s first 4 song self-titled demo cassette tape in about 1990 or 91. Then it was removed off the tape as I had just recorded “Selected Scenes From The End Of The World” in 1991 and I replaced “October” with the new song “Revenge”. Some people never understood “October”, so I just buried it. It was meant to be like a Goth-Punk version of “Timewarp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show, not literally but just a thing that wasn’t in any way serious. But people looking for a reason to attack me used the song to try and say I was claiming to be a vampire, or that I thought I was God’s gift to women or something. They wanted to pretend it was serious just so they could talk shit. I was shocked at how utterly stupid these people were, that they couldn’t understand a silly song. The humor and fantasy of the song was lost on them. But it’s always been popular with fans, I would still get requests for it even now, so I decided to include it on “Oddities Too” and see what happens. Hopefully the naysayers won’t resort to more insane accusations of me being a vampire this time around.

Q: There’s an important ‘Cinematic’ side featured at the album. Do you have concrete plans to release a Soundtrack and do you’ve favorite soundtrack composers?

Sean: I’d love to score film, but I’m actually getting more interested in making films rather than music for them. But we’ll see what happens. My first love was film Soundtracks and Classical music. I have records and CDs from childhood of film scores from Max Steiner, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, Ron Grainer, John Barry, John Williams and tons more. That’s the music I listen to most frequently.

Q: I really have to mention two cover versions featured at “Oddities Too”. I wasn’t surprised by the David Bowie cover but you took me by surprise covering Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”. I guess you covered “Hot Stuff” because of the lyrics? Does the BOWIE song have special meaning to you?

Sean: I covered “Hot Stuff” because I’ve always liked some of the music from that era, and I thought that song had a very cool guitar riff melody (which I play on keyboard in my version). I thought it could make for a sort of creepy, weird, dark song that might contrast in a funny way with the lyrics. “Scary Monsters” is a song that LAM used to perform live starting in maybe 2006, or so. So that’s just a little history of LAM. I was quite shocked after I released “Hot Stuff” that the guy who wrote the song for Donna Summer, Pete Bellotte, sent me an email saying how much he loved my cover. He said of all the covers he’s heard mine stood out as original, hypnotic, dark, and ‘great’. I was utterly floored, as he’s a sort of legend in the song writing world, having written songs for big artists.

Q: The ongoing pandemic seriously affected all artistic activities. How did you experience this situation and how does it feel to be back on stage again?

Sean: It was very difficult- LAM had some tour plans for 2020 to promote the re-release of “Selected Scenes From The End Of The World: 9119”, but those obviously had to be cancelled. Touring now is even harder than before because this readjustment period, when shows are starting to come back, is exposing the weaknesses of the music industry. Even major, top 40 bands, are posting to their social media about how they cannot sustain touring any longer due to costs or harsh schedules required or problems with cancellations, etc. So it’s kind of difficult at the moment.

Q: Any concrete plans for the coming months/year?

Sean: In regard to concerts LAM will perform at the Sick New World festival in Las Vegas in 2023 with Sisters Of Mercy, System Of A Down, Korn and many other bands. Then there should be a festival scheduled in Germany later in summer and maybe a few other shows. We’ll see. And I will continue with recording the all new album, as well.

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