I always felt out of step with the Modern world, ever since I was a child, I do even more so now.
Monica Richards is one of those names who doesn't need a further introduction. This year the goth icon will perform at the Black Easter festival in Antwerp, where she will play together with Anthony Jones. A great opportunity to talk with this multidimensional artist.
DE: You were booked for the Black Easter festival in 2016, but had to cancel due to health issues. I’m glad you’re better now, because it was quite serious Ward (organisation Black Easter) told me. Do you want to tell us about it, or rather not?
Monica: It’s thyroid, and unfortunately it’s a bit chronic. I was hit very hard in 2016, as it’s connected to my throat, and my voice was not in good form at all. I was facing surgery but the doctor decided to not to do that yet. At the same time, the band I was bringing were very relieved about the cancellation, we were due to arrive the very day the bombing happened at the airport.
DE: At this year’s Black Easter you will perform together with Anthony Jones, just like you did at the WGT last year. How did this collaboration came to life?
Monica: I have known Anthony for many years through the scene, and have admired him so much as an artist. His style and my own are similar in the World-music, electro-tribal One-Heart style. He got in touch with me about doing a live show two years ago at a time when I wasn’t really interested in performing. But Anthony had some wonderful ideas about putting some of my songs together for live performance as well as his own, so the idea took off from there.
DE: Together you both also released the EP SYZYGY. A term with various meanings but here refers to astronomy. A shared passion?
Monica: Anthony suggested this title and I looked into it. It is found in many sacred and philosophical texts. I went through some of my books and there it was. After I read from a few different sources, it seemed perfect.
DE: Are you also planning to record a full album with Anthony?
Monica: We are at work on it right now! We have a new song “Avalon” to come out end of this month (February).
DE: Also in 2017 there was a new album of goth supergroup The Eden House. Also in The Eden House is Evi Vine, who also plays at Black Easter. We wouldn’t be surprised if she also will share the stage with you for one of more song(s)?
Monica: I have not met Evi but really quickly, I think in Poland, 2010, when I jumped on stage for To Believe with the Eden House. I do hope to spend a bit of time with her in Belgium, and looking forward to her set, I think she’s brilliant! But we have not planned anything… Our time in the Eden House were different albums, so we have not shared the stage properly.
DE: Do you also have plans to record new work with Faith And The Muse. Because the last album’s already 10 years old, some people are wondering of FATM still exists?
Monica: No, that era has ended.
DE: Alongside your music, a few years ago you published a coloring book for adults, which was quite a hype. I know some people do coloring for some therapeutic reasons, was that also the reason why you’re interested in this kind of medium?
Monica: Cat Carnell from the brilliant classic 90’s Goth magazine, Carpe Noctem, (do you remember this mag)? She was publishing coloring books and asked if I would make one with her. My art style has always been with outlines very thick, so I thought it might be a nice challenge. It was actually very therapeutic to draw them, and then color them so that I could check the lines. It was a great project for that year.
DE: You’re a painter yourself, and a detail of one of your paintings is used for the poster of the festival. When I look at your paintings I see you often choose to paint with loud colours. My wife (who is a huge fan of you) also paints, and also uses this colors. In her paintings it is to make ‘dark’ themes more colourful. Is it also why you use these colors, or do you have another reason?
Monica: I am a giant fan of Art Nouveau, which can be very colorful. I have always loved working in color and patterns. Color can bring out a great deal of emotion. Black and white is wonderful, but add some color and BAM! you can change the whole feeling… Zeva seems to have a lovely style.
DE: You did not only publish the coloring books, but also wrote some actual books, like the graphic novel Anafae. Are you still writing, and if so, what are you working on?
Monica: I am writing all the time, mainly poetry. I have also many micro-stories. I have been working on a new classic work of music, so they are on the back burner. It’s very very hard in this new Modern online world to put out a book. Our attention spans have been severely damaged by social media and too much input. So I’m unsure when I will release new written work.
DE: Completely justified you’re called a goth icon. But, what does gothic really mean to you?
Monica: For me, a longing for a more classical time, a simpler beautiful time - but it is a reimagining of the past, not the reality of how hard it actually used to be. I always felt out of step with the Modern world, ever since I was a child, I do even more so now. So Goth and all of its classic splendor spoke to me, romantic, dark songs and clothing, depicting something dream-filled and deeper than life.
DE: Gothic has become a ship with many flags, you have the old school gothic rock, deathrock and batcave who leans more to (post)punk. But you also have electronic music you only hear at goth clubs, a genre in which we find Anthony Jones. Dark folk, noise, industrial, minimal, medieval,... all completely different, but all present at big events like WGT. Are you a musical wolverene who swallows it all, or are there styles you completely don’t get into? Did you recently discovered some acts you really like?
Monica: Well, I came up in all of it while it was brand new, so it has all been alongside me on my path. You know my music was called “Doom and Gloom” before the term Goth came along! I think I am known for my diversity. With Faith and the Muse, we decided to do any and all types of music we wanted to, Medieval, Celtic, hard rock, death rock, Sea Shanty, even techno. I do what I like in my solo music, I’m more about the song than the style, if a song or lyrics move me, a melody or riff that’s really great. The highlight for WGT for me was seeing Warduna, just brilliant live. I’ve been listening to the band Clutch lately, great hard rock, good lyrics and musicianship - they are not in the ‘scene’ at all, but they’re really cool.
DE: One of my favorites of your solo work is the song ‘Like Animals’, especially because the lyrics are spot on. As I encourage a vegan lifestyle myself, I think it’s important people like you keep their audience aware of this subject. When it comes to animal rights, do you call yourself an activist?
Monica: Thank you! That song was actually originally in the 1960’s “Dr. Doolittle” which I adored as a child. For me, I do things in my own way, and I find people are more willing to look and listen. So I am not a hard-lined activist, but an InfraWarrior (warrior from within). I find it’s best to do your thing, and show why you do it, but don’t push anger and judgment upon others. We can look at the many new vegan products that are coming out, as well as their easy access in large grocery stores to show that Veganism is on the rise, be it for health or for animals, it is going in an upward direction globally, which is great.
DE: Hot topic today is global warming. You can be optimistic and say: better late than never but do we have a reason to be optimistic. Do you think our earth is doomed?
Monica: I think we can view it that way for humanity, especially while the insanity of religious dogma and the need for money and power prevail. This brand of philosophy is the definition of Disease. But there are thousands who are working hard on positive solutions, and we must look towards them, not only the negatives that are blasted at us all the time. We are dealing with rising weather events, which will change our ways of living more and more, and we are a very adaptable species at the core despite the insanity going on at the top. We have the ability to change our behaviors. I have a website about my work in Permaculture: infrawarrior.com which goes into finding my way to work with my desert land to live in harmony with Nature. (It actually needs to be updated with new work). In the next months, we are getting a greywater system to the house, so all showers and washers will go straight to the trees. When you are feeling despondent, look to people in Permaculture, there are so many at work all over the world in positive ways. The path itself can be the means, not where it ends but how you live, if that makes sense.
DE: You show interest in ancient mythology, but also Celtic, indian and Eastern wisdom like the Shinto religion. Would you describe your spiritual path as a hotchpotch of influences, or is it a well thought out own interpretation?
Monica: Well, the more you look, you more you can realize it is all the same, but differentiated by culture, climate and history. The basic truths in world-wide Matriarchal Mythology are: respect for Nature (animals as well as the earth), respect for each other (men and women together, neither is above the other), respect for ancestors and your elders and carry on the knowledge they have given you, adding to it with what you learn, live lightly and in harmony with Nature. Be honorable in your word. My path is as much that as I can be (though being human has its faults), I prefer my fingers in the soil, surrounded by Nature. And this is how I write my music, usually. My new album I am writing, “Hiraeth, is all entwined with this…
DE: You already did some (brilliant) covers of Bauhaus, Kate Bush, Dead Can Dance and The Chameleons. I was wondering, if you had to choose a song that’s not in the wave/gothic catalogue you had to cover, which one you should pick?
Monica: That is very hard as Underground music is in my blood, ha ha! In Strange Boutique, we did a cover of Bowie’s “Heroes”, does that count? Actually, I have always wanted to cover The Beatles “Within You and Without You”… probably an obvious choice for me!