New album ‘Blackwing’ out on 3.18.16
- Edge of Sanity*
- In My Nature
- Open Wide*
- Hell’s Frozen
- End of Line (remix)
- Sea Witch
RIYL: Depeche Mode, Siouxsie, VNV Nation, Swans, The Cure.
Seattle’s mood-masters Dark Matter Noise was created out of Goth-punk band leader Al Tompkins’ desire to experience evolutionary and sustaining. He had never experimented full on with an electronic sound, and it was time for changing up his total approach from his years in the Pac NW underground music milieu.
“Dark Matter accounts for most of the matter in the universal,” Tompkins explains the band’s name. “The theory that it has mass of some sort, you could conjecture the possibility of mass that could vibrate with sound. Of course there is no sound in space, so there is an oxymoron in the name. The other point of interest is pronouncing the acronym: Demon.”
DMN’s new album Blackwing finds Tompkins playing and producing all of the instruments on the record, except drums from Eric Peterson (Electric Hellfire Club) on the lynchpin track “Open Wide,” and the contribution of the song “End of Line” by Vladimir Potrosky. Renowned local performer Charlie Drown uses her own astonishing voice and lyrics on “Open Wide” as well as “Hell’s Frozen.” Drown, who is quite notable in the fact that she has produced hundreds of her own industrial/metal songs, and is well known in the Seattle goth/industrial scene, has headlined Hemp Fest. Also, one of Tompkins’ oldest friends is Tad Doyle (TAD, Sub Pop), who mastered the album (Al played a stint in his new band Brothers of the Sonic Cloth).
For examples of these new songs, the title track has “some of my best work, lyrically and musically. It’s a nightmarish-ghostly-witch-crow song. I wanted to mix industrial heavy with guitar, but also give it that electro-blend so added a dirty-sequencer. ‘Hell’s Frozen’ is an excellent example of Charlie’s talent, and certainly the most ‘pop’ track on the album, though it is deep from personal strife of hers. It was recorded specifically while experimenting with a new synth called HIVE. It combines what we do best — I have already leaked it to a couple of trusted DJ’s, and it works on the dance-floor.
“‘In My Nature’ is about the way we inherit what others tell us to do, think or feel. In the end, ‘tell me to kill and I will’ is the natural outcome of any society that has lived so long with war. It was one of those songs that came together as if it was writing itself.’ And Edge of Sanity’ is quite nice, too, and for its cinematic expansiveness I really strayed from my usual recording process.”
DMN’s last release was Together Alone in 2012, which was a somewhat collaborative affair with the production and musical assistance of Greg Gilmore (of Mother Love Bone and Ten Minute Warning). “Greg played on several of the tracks and remixed most of the material — not that I am complaining, he gave it quite a polish!”
That said, Blackwing is simply a much better performance by Tompkins, created out of years of experience and struggle, “and I controlled all of the mixes.” Blackwing is inevitably a more personal, self-autonomous, artistic statement. “The title came to me after a nightmare year that I experienced,” Tompkins admits. “The album is about loss, rejection, and inner strength. I was divorced after a long marriage in 2014, and I kind of fell in a slump while recording material that year. Then at the end of September 2014 I lost my basement studio years of recording, 2″ reels, cassettes, mastered DATS and cd’s. It was literally like my life had ended. Starting to write again was the only sane choice.”
Tompkins also does credit “great friends that really gave me the confidence to pick up the pieces, doing a fundraiser and benefit for me. My bandmates in Spiderface, Steve White of KMFDM, Eric Peterson, and my metal band Resonator’s guitarist Mike Canavan, Dawn Wood — even my ex-wife, which is awesome.”
“My ambition is to keep playing with friends, and sharing my music with others who experience loss and express themselves through the pain and healing. It’s really all about that anyway. I hope this album will help make that easier.”
Deep history: A true longtime Seattle music maven, Tompkins went to high school with Chris Cornell, and college with Matt Cameron, before they met each other. His first band Ebb and Flow got tons of airplay in 1983 for a gothic soundtrack tune that Jack Endino recorded as a test to get the job at Reciprocal, where Nirvana’s Bleach was recorded. In 1984 his second band Strange Bulge included studio work from across the rock star spectrum, with appearances by Greg Gilmore (Ten Minute Warning, Mother Love Bone), Jack Endino, and Matt Cameron playing on their first cassette release. “The band really had only one clear fan, Jon Poneman, who played it constantly during his sets on KCMU,” Tompkins laughs. From there, in1985, Tompkins founded Death and Taxes, and next Yeast, which in 1989 did a split single on CZ with Nirvana, Helios Creed, and Coffin Break. Yeast also opened for Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and The Fluid, and that year his next band Daddy Hate Box had a single on CZ and an album on New Rage Records. After that, Tompkins pursued his passion for metal for a while with Resonator, playing huge shows with The Gits, Napalm Death, The Pleasure Elite, and many others. Full circle into his original scene, Tompkins played keys in Tad’s doom metal band Brothers of the Sonic Cloth at Sub Pop’ s 20th Anniversary at the Showbox.
“Blackwing” comes out on the third Friday in March, and DMN will be playing out late march early April. A new keyboard player and drummer have been lined up for concerts to promote the record, the keyboardist being Potrosky who is also releasing “End of Line” on the last album for his metal band Gunmetal Grey.
Tompkins is excited about the elevation of dark music in the Seattle music scene. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says. “There is now WAY more unity among bands, more crossovers than ever, it’s gotten easier to book shows, and a lot of that has to do with folks in the scene like Big Freak and me. But mostly I think it’s the younger folk who have grown up around more acceptance for an alternative to the alternative. There are probably more people that have fallen through the social norm cracks as well. I joined the Blacklist (Facebook) and I think we helped to open doors for a few bands. That said, I am very excited that I can now find bands that fit for booking gigs and whatnot. Even a few years ago, we were inevitably booked only on Metal showcases. Now we have our very own scene alive and thriving.”