Uncovering the details of Mothmeister's dual costumed approach to this synth laden killer.
Whether it be Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, or any other horror entity across time, we all have a striking image of a killer engrained in our mind. That sinister look behind the mask and their methods for killing haunted millions upon viewing it on the big screen, a feat only possible thanks to the strong conceptual partnership between costume designers, writers, and rest of the creatives on board. It takes a village to concoct an effective monster, especially one that will be forever remembered across time. With the coming of the maelstrom of sound that is Skin Show, THE LION'S DAUGHTER have come together with the mysterious Belgian duo of Mothmeister to brew their own kind of killer, one that harnesses from Maniac (1980) to track its victims to the deadly synth metal hymns of the St. Louis trio.
Arriving on April 9th via Season of Mist, Skin Show stands as a testament to what results from years of organic evolution. What began as a loose rendition of blackened sludge has taken new form into a well arrayed composition that bridges synthwave, death metal, doom, and ambient instrumentals that seem as if they were pulled directly from the 80's playbook. It's tantalizing in every sense of the word and the band's collaboration with Mothmeister serves to expand upon that sonic experience with the creation of a masked being with a rosary stitched mouth. For as eery as the synth patterns on Skin Show happen to be, you'd be led to think that this mysterious killer is walking you down into your misery. This is one multi-sensory outing that invites dissection and full immersion into the physical package, which includes additional costume work and atmospheres by the talents of Mothmeister.
To provide a glimpse into the horror of Skin Show, we talk to THE LION'S DAUGHTER mastermind Rick Giordano:
Now a decade since your first musical incarnation, 2011’s ‘The Forgotten Masters’ EP, you’re back with what can very well be considered your most tantalizing effort yet, ‘Skin Show’. Your take on blackened sludge has evolved immensely since then, incorporating layers of synthwave and eerie passages that help immerse audiences into the experience. Where are you all as a band as you enter this new chapter?
Giordano: Hey thanks for actually doing your homework here, because that EP definitely was our very first release! Where are we as a band now? Really, the exact same place we’ve always been. St. Louis, MO would be the smart ass answer… but really we’re just a few guys making the music that we want to play and hear. It’s been a decade, yeah, but there are still roads we want to go down and things we want to explore.
For every one of those roads, there's a patient audience ready to witness it. With each passing album, you’ve never failed to deliver a great album cover. ‘Future Cult’ (2018) marked a shift from the traditional, hand drawn cover illustration to the haunting, cover photographs you’re utilizing now, which of course come courtesy of the Mothmeister duo. What marked this transition from Girardi’s fantastic oil painting for ‘Existence Is Horror’ (2016) to the bondage mask and goat mummy pair that fronts ‘Future Cult’?
Giordano: Cover art is super, super important obviously. I’m a visual learner and my brain has to associate sounds with images. As a kid, I didn’t even know if I really liked Iron Maiden but I had their goddamn posters all over my walls (come to find out, I liked them a lot). But here’s where I have to say you could’ve done a little more homework, haha…we’ve actually used photographs before Mothmeister. An artist named Josh Rowan did a photograph for 'A Black Sea' LP back in 2013. That was a collaboration with a fold group called Indian Blanket, and not a stand alone Lion’s Daughter album, so I guess I can let you off the hook there, haha.
We’ve used photographs, drawings, paintings… it’s all whatever the music calls for. The only thing we haven’t used so far is digital, and I can’t really imagine that we ever will, but not ruling it out either.
You almost got me there! But as you mention, it was a split so that I didn't consider it in the context of your standalone releases. Seeing how well the music of ‘Future Cult’ expanded on the cover image from their ‘Postmortem Fairy Tales’ series, was there ever any doubt that you’d enlist Mothmeister to return for the next album?
Giordano: We actually figured we wouldn’t, just because we always seem to do something different every time, but that seemed like a stupid rule to make for ourselves. Why constantly keep trying to reinvent the band’s sound and imagery from record to record when this worked so damn well? Mothmeister are so talented and capable of so much, it was obvious that we had more to explore together.
It's as they say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Visually, what were you looking for when commissioning the cover project for ‘Skin Show’ now that you had the opportunity to guide the direction in contrast to licensing the pictures for ‘Future Cult’?
Giordano: I really wasn’t sure. I wanted to give them a sense of how I wanted the artwork to feel and let them do their thing!
That said, were the photographs particularly guided to fit something you were envisioning or are they a result of Mothmeister’s interpretation of the concepts presented?
Giordano: Both. I’d give them some ideas, and they'd get back to me with their (much better) interpretation of those ideas.
They truly nailed it. As a horror driven record that draws from the 1980’s classic slasher ‘Maniac’, having an apt depiction of the killer is crucial. From a rosary ceiled mouth to the white and gold accents on the skull accessory, Mothmeister delivered well. Were there any particular horror icons, films, or inspirations in general that influenced the direction of the killer’s appearance?
Giordano: You know, I think they could give you a much better answer to this than I could. But there were mentions of the Exorcist III, Hellraiser, etc. We didn’t want it to be too “on the nose” of looking like any certain killer, or really anything you could identify. I don’t see that character as a killer necessarily. They look like they could be there to help you. The character’s intention is intentionally left ambiguous. One thing is for sure though, things are definitely not going well if you are encountering them.
Let's hope we don't see these things at any time. Across Mothmeister’s portfolio, post-apocalyptic landscapes and attention to atmosphere are integral elements that complement their creature creation. For ‘Skin Show’, our protagonist walks along a lonely tunnel akin to that of a subway line. With New York as the setting, where did you look to take the character’s background?
Giordano: With the last record 'Future Cult' having a character outdoors with natural light, we wanted to do the opposite this time and put the character in a claustrophobic tunnel, bathed in abrasive, unnatural light.
I have my own ideas for the background of that character and I’m sure Mothmeister does as well… but I bet that we have totally different interpretations and I prefer it that way. I don’t want to explain too much of my take on it, because I don’t want to spoil how each individual may see it for themselves. That’s something that I think an amazing piece of art should do, give 1,000 different viewers 1,000 different ideas.
Definitely. The CD booklet contains an alternate look for the killer, switching out the white costume for a black one that finds the character amidst a different tunnel. The gold skull was also switched out for a bat, giving the character an even darker feel. Was there a particular intention behind this change?
Giordano: But I mean, is that the same person? Are they a killer? Maybe they’re an angel or some kind? I’m sorry to answer your question with more questions, but really that is kind of what I wanted to do here. There is a way that the two characters (or is it the same character??) connect, but again I don’t want to spoil it with my interpretation. You decide for yourself. Whatever answer you come up with is the correct one.
Whatever it is, it looks just as deadly as the white costumed version. Beyond just the cover photograph, the physical package comes accompanied by additional visuals that expand on the conceptual approach of the record, which we’re showcasing here. With streaming being the dominant form of music consumption, do you feel as though this additional element is unfortunately lost to those who don’t secure their physical copy? Sure, one can see the cover photograph on Spotify and whatnot, but it’s truly not the same.
Giordano: You’re right, it’s not the same at all. I hate it. Do people even try and squint and really look at the artwork when they stream music on their phones? I don’t think they do. We could’ve just made an all white square with our name on it really, because the image is maybe a centimeter or two on your lock screen when streaming with Spotify or whatever. It sucks. Artwork is super important and adds so much more to the experience of listening to an album. That’s why we always press vinyl and encourage listening to our music in that format any chance you can. I’ve sat with 'Skin Show' and listened to it with that LP in my hands, and man, I encourage everyone to experience it that way.
At times, it can be difficult to find like minded creatives that can fully understand what you’re envisioning. With Mothmeister, it appears you were both on the same page and the end result simply speaks for itself. How would you characterize your partnership with the duo despite their anonymity?
Giordano: I’d say it’s exactly what it needs to be. I know little more about them than anyone in the general public. Honestly, I don’t even know their first names, but I will say they are incredibly kind and pleasant to deal with. They’ve sent me holiday cards, haha! They also sent me the mask from the cover of 'Future Cult' as a gift. Really excellent human (I think) beings.
Musically, ‘Skin Show’ is a maelstrom that excites as much as it frightens, making it the perfect soundtrack for the conceptual New York killer you present. As we all know, a great score is crucial to the effect of a great horror film, as Ennio Morricone’s score for ‘The Thing’ (1982) and Jay Chattaway’s score for ‘Maniac’ can attest. What are some of your favorite horror scores?
Giordano: Yeah, you’re spot on here, and the score from 'The Thing' is one of my favorites. It’s interesting because its almost like Morricone, one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) film composers of all time, doing his take on a John Carpenter theme. I also really like the soundtrack to the 2012 'Maniac' remake done by an artist who just calls himself Rob. Obviously, the Halloween soundtrack (I think it’s better than the movie… sorry.) I also really like the soundtrack to 'Psychomania' which was done by a band that calls themselves The Frogs. That one is just a really cool spooky, psychedelic jam and it’s great.
Some great choices there! In closing, Rick, many will come to know of ‘Skin Show’ through Mothmeister’s haunting cover photography and they’ll be pleased to know that the music is just as grand. That said, was there ever an album, book, or even movie cover that has had the impact of making you pick it up without having prior knowledge of it?
Giordano: Oh, totally. As a kid in the 1980’s, my Friday nights consisted of this. I picked up countless VHS tapes based on the artwork alone. I discovered the band Grim Reaper that way as well. But that’s how it used to be back in the day. You picked up something based on the art and the title, and gambled the few dollars that you had to check the thing out.
Skin Show arrives on April 9th via Season of Mist. Order your copy of the record HERE.